One Man's Web

there is no beach
the water is heaped dead against the land
it should flood into this depression but gravity itself is drained
even the light is dead.

the light  shines in the darkness
wrote john
and the darkness did not overcome it
but in this place darkness has stripped the colour from it

miserable winter swamp where the sun  will not go down
a sheol
neither  dead nor alive
drawn in bilge and sludge
uncaring smudged sketches of life
which  contain   miseries of  unexpected detail

silent silent forest
no birds
the sound sucked out of it
branches rotting as they fall
the substance is gone from everything
it drips

yet you beset me behind and before
to whom else can i go

Andrew Prior [Archived here]

The chocolates at the checkout are surrounded by gossip magazines. I've seen our local supermarket almost run out of milk, but I can't recall empty spaces in the magazine racks.

Look at the gossip magazines. They idolise and they hate. They invite readers into in a vicious cycle which goes nowhere. They encourage prurient, bitter envy— even hatred,  which nonetheless copies the hairstyles and the clothes. They invite us to be trapped in a cycle of pettiness, a diminished life which allegedly finds some meaning in "being famous for being famous." And there's even magazines for we also-rans: "My mother stole my boyfriend," screams the headline for some poor kid in suburbia whom the magazine invites us to despise for her neediness, and yet envy for her front cover.... Read on >>>>

He snorted as the boy quoted some dictum from the Presbyterian minister in town.

"You're a heretic, Dad."

The man wondered what grace he would be shown when he was old.
He walked with half an eye to the sun. Why do we bother to hunt pigs?— there'll always be more.
"The minister's sitting in his own silo,"he grunted. "Counted up every last grain of wheat, he has, but never stood up to look outside. It doesn't matter how good his counting is—  he doesn't know what he's got. He doesn't know what he's looking at."

"Don't you worry for your eternal soul?"

Bathurst Burr this far into a state forest!? What have we done to the place? 
"Son, the good Lord gave that minister the same brains as the rest of us, yet he says your mum's not fit to be and elder. Every last one of 'em in that church knows she's holier than he'll ever be, but they take direction from a dope who'd get lost in a fallow paddock."

"Dad, the Bible says— " The words choked off as his father slammed the bolt open and sent the cartridge spinning into the bush.

"Sit down."
He shoved the magazine into his pocket.
"Look at this place. Forest, pigs and roos. Apostle birds tipping off the pigs. Bloody cathead—  even here!
He kicked at it with his boot.

"You can't stitch this all up in a book. You can't make God tidy like a Sydney suburb.

"I got lost out here once— when I was a kid your age. I didn't have the sense to read the sun. You can die out here, and I nearly did.

"I met Him, you know— God. There's power past what that fool in town ever dreamed of.

"You know how I got out? Light. I walked towards the light at the edge of the forest—  'cept I was miles in from the old highway by then. Shouldn't have been able to see it. He's... wild, son. Not this weak vengeance is mine stuff—  He's wild. It's dark in this forest, and it's His dark.

"You want my advice? You listen when he says to do what Jesus did, but you make sure you read it for yourself. And look at your mother, and pay no attention to what he says about women, or you'll have a miserable wife for your whole life.

"And remember this forest. Every time he acts like that book's got God stitched up in a box, you remember this forest.

"Come on. Pigs can wait."
He glanced at the sun and stumped off.

Andrew Prior Jun 2015 Archived here

Meet Fred. Fred has done well. He has worked hard on his business. He’s honest. He’s well respected. He’s not one of those rich people who suck the rest of us dry. Fred is a good man, and he gives back to the community.

Fred also has a conscience. He’s always understood that a fair bit of his success in business was plain luck... Read on >>>>

The old priest stands at the lights
hands thrust into his night black coat
against the cold
then crosses the highway.
No grassy park this
but an untamed place
feral olives
and a wild creek
down from the hills.
Each evening he walks
where the welcome relief from the suburbs
turns into unreasonable darkness 
    two scandal seeking teens
    fled to the safety of the school security lights
while he clambered through the gorge
to the bare hills and the wind.
And would return pale
sleeping exhausted into the morning.
And broke the untidy loaves
with clean hands
and a calm heart.

Andrew Prior [Archived here]

Jesus has already 'been to the lake' in Mark 3:7 but now gives some extended teaching at its edges. He teaches the crowd from the shallows— always in parables that hint at greater depths, and then takes the disciples out over the deep. Not surprisingly, the deeps strike back. The boat is already being swamped by the time they can wake him.

Jesus stills the storm. This is an act of power over the deep. Jesus is the one in control. When he arrives in strange territory— the place where one's God might be expected to have less power—  the forces of the deep counter attack. ... Read on >>>>

As I seek to discern my calling in a possible change of employment... 
and reflecting further upon this week's lectionary readings...

Our world is falling apart. As Christians this ought not surprise us. We are a tradition which understands that the world is far from perfect, and which hopes for God's completion of all things.  Depending on our "theological dialect," this may be an apocalyptic vision of destruction and the re-establishment of a new earth, or it may be a vision of slow completion where the  desires of God are brought to fulfilment, even with us as co-creators. But however we see this hope being worked out, we are clear the current world in which we live is not the final reality. It is not "Kingdom of God."

Any age lives with its own fears about the future.  We live with the reality of nuclear weaponry which could wipe us out in a few hours, and know we have come perilously close to such a war. We have read Rachel Carson— we know it is unsafe to drink from the rivers— and we live post-thalidomide... Read on >>>>

My father taught me to fence when we replaced a portion of the bottom boundary. Two enormous strainer posts defined the new fence; one against Heaslip's boundary and the other still serving as a bottom gate to the farm after fifty years. He strung a single high tension wire between them— 500 yards or more, and I walked with Grandpop's old surveyor's chain, and directly under the wire, marked off a post every 22 yards. Then he loosened the top wire and we began to auger in the post-holes.

Kingdom is different.... Read on >>>>

I've recently taken a couple of day trips up into the Barossa and back through the Hills. Read on >>>>
This reading is a Markan sandwich. It begins with Jesus family coming to "restrain" him, but the story is interrupted by the "scribes who came down from Jerusalem," and must wait for Jesus to deal with them before it comes to its conclusion. The sandwich structure is important. We can take a lesson from the words on family, and we can take a lesson from the words about Beelzebul, but Mark's intent is to be found in the relationship of the two.... Read on >>>>

It is clear at the beginning that Jesus has come from God. Even the leadership of "the Jews" gets it: "we know that you are a teacher who has come from God…" The sectarian impulse which lurks in John intrudes even into this most profound of readings. Nicodemus, humble searcher that he is, is nonetheless used as a stereotype of the Jewish leadership's culpability: we know.  And Jesus replies with "the royal we." Only it is not Jesus at all. It is the community of John setting the local Jews right: "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony." (3:11)

It is a humbling reading, and a warning to us. John talks about sacred and profound insights into being human, insights our age really needs to hear, and yet it is done in the context of "we know the truth and you don't." Human love, and human wisdom about spirit, has its limits.

The good news is that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

The tough news is that our conventional faith is often... Read on >>>>

Maybe it was the Auntie who kept getting healed at the Pentecostal assembly, yet was so clearly not healed; 
maybe it was the observer part of me keeping me honest when I went to church with the Pentecostals in Alice Springs: "You're faking it… and maybe they are too";
maybe it was the recognition that big worship experiences where I am told the "Spirit really flowed" are often as stage managed as a Nuremberg rally;
but something in me is deeply sceptical about our popular traditions surrounding Pentecost and God's Spirit. I keep thinking the emperor is wearing no clothes... Read on >>>>

I tell myself that our nation has been built upon violence and injustice from the beginning. We were a penal colony of the Empire, the invader's gaol. I tell myself that Australia has not suddenly gone bad. We simply have a leadership who seem to be without shame and who use our already present greed as a key political strategy. Despite them there remain "7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (1 Kings 19:18) Neither are we much different from any other country.

It's not working... Read on >>>>

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in Jaipur, in India. One of the residents is Muriel Donnelly, a bitter, sick, and appallingly racist English woman who has come to India for cheap hip surgery. She finds herself being wheeled into an unfamiliar part of the city, and learns that she is being taken to the home of Anokhi, a Dalit serving girl at the Hotel... Read on >>>>

Overnight I had been thinking over an excursion well out of my comfort zone into David Jones. It, too, raised strong feelings. The refined environment, so carefully designed to appeal to the 1% of Adelaide failed to attract me. Of course, in my Target jeans and t-shirt I was well out of place... Read on >>>>

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