One Man's Web

There is a farm house out in the Hills which stands in a 30 acre paddock on some of the prettiest land in the state. Over the years, the owner has collected car bodies and old farm machinery which lines the farm drive, and is also scattered in a couple of hundred random clumps over the whole 30 acres like a demented mechanical cemetery.

I often wonder how some farming families can stand to have a dozen pigsties lining the drive up to their house— this place has pigsties as well, but this farm takes mess to a new level. 

Most likely, the cars, and the pigsties, are invisible to the owners. We become habituated to the place where we live, and blind to the features which seem most obvious, and even appalling, to fresh eyes. My wife could be tempted to suggest, at this point, that instead of talking about my desk, I simply clean it up! We are all like this.... Read on >>>>

We all know how hard life can be. I think most people have times when they'd just like to throw in the towel; it all gets too hard.

There are a couple of ideas floating around which really don't help us when life is hard.

The first idea is that some people have life all together. They are living the dream. They don't have problems. Everything is easy for them. Why can't I have that? In fact, we can beat ourselves up over not doing the right thing to get there,
...   or we can drag ourselves down with resentment.

There can be a grain of truth in the idea that some people are more fortunate. Life is easier without arthritis ... than with arthritis. It helps a great deal ... to have enough money to pay your bills easily. And it's far better to live in a place  where you are not being abused.

But what I notice, is that some folk who live, or have lived,  in absolutely terrible circumstances, seem remarkably at peace. They even have a level of ... contentment. And other folk who have everything--  it seems--  are miserable.

A whole life... a good, peaceful, purposeful life, doesn't necessarily correlate with fortunate physical circumstances-- you have probably seen the magazine articles about how winning the lottery often does not make people happy... Read on >>>>

anotherwayhomeI thought I might title this photo, "There's always another way home!" But sometimes, when you think you'll go a little further up the hill, and take a wider loop around to rejoin the route home, you miss the track that looked so obvious on Google Maps....  Read on >>>>

Subtitled: Reflecting upon the costs and consolations of discipleship in Matthew Chapters 10 and 11.

From the text:

Not even John the Baptist can see this new future! In many ways, his reform was about restoration rather than newness. Repent can mean to turn again, go back, do it again better, rather than do something new. Do it properly according to the law. Shoulder your burden, and God will be faithful. So the fasting John is himself suspicious of Jesus, who, eating and drinking, looks to John like one who is not shouldering the burden of faith at all.

Jesus said, "Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." There is a leap, a fundamental re-visioning of life, if we are to enter the kingdom with God. Matthew leaves us to wonder if John ever made that leap.

Unless we can take that leap of imagination, unless we can see Jesus' call as freedom, he presents us with an impossible burden! For his program of love and discipling in Chapter 10 undermines everything, provokes hostility from those who feel judged and destabilised, and simply makes us less secure in the world.... Read on >>>>

From the text:

When the lawyer tested Jesus— what must I do to inherit eternal life— Jesus replied, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ (Luke 10:26)

 James Alison says that this verse reflects the fact that the law, or any text, is never read in a vacuum. We read it through someone's eyes. There is a Rabbi, a teacher somewhere, who has taught us what it is that we read in a text, and how to read it. "And that meant, as they well knew, “Who is your rabbi? Through whose eyes do you read this text?” (James Alison Jesus the Forgiving Victim, Essay 2)

When we read the story of God testing Abraham, even when we warm to the insights of one commentator over another, we are reading through the eyes from which we have learned: that is, we are reading according to a Rabbi who has taught us.

I experienced our recent Synod here in Adelaide, with the usual mixture of being moved to tears of joy at the riches  we are given in life, and despair at our falling short in our life together. There is within us a conservatism which insists its view of the world is the only correct one. At our best we live, and let live, and even build each other up, within our churches. At our worst we are defensive, dismissive of others, immersed in our own pain and blind to the pain of others, and judgemental.

I recognise this because it is where I come from, and because it is still too much of what I am. I grieve that I might thrust upon others the blindness and the judgement which has so often kept me from the joy of a deeper and fuller life. How can I read according to my Rabbi, Jesus who is Christ? How would Jesus, for example, read Genesis 22, today? How would he preach it? Would he preach it? Read on >>>>

I am reluctant to work with these texts. What do I know about violence and persecution? I only know about fear. The text says "have no fear… do not fear… do not be afraid." (10:26, 28, 31) It is in confronting my own fears that I find some way into the text.

Matthew tells us that persecution begins as a response to the healing work of disciples. (10:1, 8) At its best the church is healing, not judging or condemnatory. But it is the healing and the love behind it which triggers the persecution! Last week I showed the close connection of love to forgiveness. We cannot love without forgiveness, and forgiveness highlights the destabilising nature of love. I said,

James Alison says of the text, "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matt. 10:16)" that

rather than this being an instruction about prudence, as it is usually made out to be, I suggest that this is what acting out forgiveness in the world looks like: it looks like knowing that you are dealing with dangerous people, who are more than likely to be deeply destabilized by your innocence and because of that to seek to lynch you. On Being Liked

Why are we sometimes destabilised, as Alison puts it, by love and forgiveness? What frightens us so much? To love and forgive is to accept loss of privilege, power, and possessions, rather than seek reparation. It is easy to scoff at this idea, but if it is put into action, then to love and to forgive is to cut across the good manners of family loyalties and vendettas. It ignores and undermines the established hierarchies of power.  Love and forgiveness sometimes frightens us so much that we cannot be healed. We can think only of self-preservation; that is, the maintenance of the false security that comes with privilege, so love and forgiveness does not bring peace to the earth but a sword... Read on >>>>

We could read this text as a kind of summation of the teaching and healing Jesus has been doing in Matthew since Chapter 4. It is there he first says the kingdom is at hand as a fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy

that 6 the people who sat in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
   light has dawned.’ 

Jesus now lives this out in "all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness." He models Kingdom, and directs the disciples to do the same. The wholeness of the kingdom, its restoration, and its coming fulfilment are symbolised by the number twelve, which is highlighted and repeated. Israel is  becoming what it was meant to be; the disciples are sent first of all to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. There is also a reminder of incompleteness and loss, for among the twelve is "Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him." One of those sent to have compassion upon the flock turns out to be on the side of the wolves, and in the future, (Matt 28:16-20) there will only be eleven. I take the reference to the eleven in last week's text to be a reassurance that even though we betray the kingdom, the task is not beyond us.

And then we have the great contrast to Kingdom, for those who are going out, moved with compassion, are told they will be hated because of their love.

I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves… they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me… 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22and you will be hated by all because of my name.

How does this work? How is this kingdom?... Read on >>>>

Listen here. The Hymn Bring Many Names can be found here on Youtube and in other videos.

Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

When did people decide there was something… behind the world? Nobody knows when we decided there is something greater than us, but we know that people called this "something" God.

And we know they thought there were probably quite a few of these Gods. You thought, or you hoped, that your God was the best God, or the strongest God. That's an understanding called Henotheism… you can see echoes of it in the Old Testament: God has taken his place in the divine council;    in the midst of the gods he holds judgement, says Psalm 82

But by the time of Jesus, Jewish people had come to understand there is only one God. That's called monotheism, and it's central to our understanding of God.

Monotheism says there is only one God. The rest are fakes... Isaiah 44 says a carpenter

plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it... 16Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it, and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, ‘Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!’ 17The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it, and worships it; he prays to it and says, ‘Save me, for you are my god!’

In the Old Testament, God is not merely a distant, high God. God is tender… When Israel was a child I loved him, says Hosea 11. ... Read on >>>>

In the Scriptures, which long predate the Doctrine of the Trinity, we see a basic tension. In answer to a question about which is the greatest commandment, Jesus said

The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12:29)

He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:4. The understanding that God is one was basic and central to his faith, and is basic and central to our faith. The same story is included in Matthew's gospel, yet at the end of this gospel, when Jesus meets the disciples on a mountain, the place where people meet God, the disciples worship Jesus.

It is no wonder that Jewish and Muslim folk wonder if we have abandoned monotheism! No mere man is worthy of worship.... Read on >>>>

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