Looking South East from Hilltop Farm, Gladstone South Australia

One Man's Web

Mark Twain said, "Many people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those which I do understand."

The end of Chapter 8 in Mark is very clear; I do understand.

‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, “you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (21:18) I remember it this morning, because I feel bound, pulled by a constant calling to discipleship that is tiring and frightening.

Is there good news in the words of Jesus this week?... Read on >>>>

Sunday is the beginning of Lent. What are we seeing as we begin to prepare for Easter?

In Jesus, I see a man who tells us that the way to life is through death; through following him along the way of compassion, despite the cost. That is my basic faith.

I see a world living in complete contrast to this way; seeking to avoid death. We argue about the sin of taking life, fretting over euthanasia and assisted suicide, and keep people alive in an appalling state, when any merciful consideration would let them die. This is mostly not because of our esteem for the holiness of life; we are afraid of death, and cannot let it happen even when it would be a mercy.... Read on >>>>

As posted, this sermon is still very much in draft form. It takes religious experience seriously, and for real. But not everyone has such experiences, and I'm not sure it matters in the least!  The experiences point to something else.  I've quoted a deal more of Mark 9 than the set text for the week.... Read on >>>>

Thirty years ago I had a religious experience on the road. It was a remote desert road, and late at night. I was sitting in the truck, watching myself, ecstatic, lifted out of my brain at 110 kilometres an hour. I spent three weeks, maybe four, on an extended high. A visiting jackeroo thought I was on drugs. One of my friends said he’d been at a pub on the same road, at Kulgera, and bloke came in, spaced out, high, mind-blown, just like me. It happens. And like Peter, we don’t understand. I’d be tempted to say I’d imagined it all, but my wife was with me, and woke up with me driving like a maniac, singing at the top of my voice!  It happened.

What I’m saying is that this experience in Mark is real... Read on >>>>

This is a hard reading. Who is this Jesus?

There is a textual uncertainty that makes it even more difficult. Does Mark’s original story say that Jesus was orgistheis; angry, or that he was splagchnistheis; filled with compassion? There are manuscripts with each of these readings... Read on >>>>

Last week we saw Jesus going to the synagogue and preaching about the good news of God’s kingdom. He told people that God’s plan for putting the world to rights had begun.

And in the synagogue, a man with an unclean spirit tried to shout him down. An unclean spirit is a spirit which is separated from God; against God, in fact,  and Jesus showed he had more power than such spirits. He had God’s power. He was the real thing!

In this week’s reading, Jesus leaves the synagogue, and we see that his power is not just about religion. It is not just power for church. He heals a woman in her home; a woman with a fever. The kingdom of God, which Jesus is preaching and bringing, is for ordinary people, too. It is for all of life.

There is something else happening with this story, which is central to the gospel of Mark. We need to understand this, or we will miss a key message about God’s love, which the gospel is trying to communicate to us.

To understand this, we need to go to the end of the Gospel.... Read on >>>>

In The Piano, the woman is being rescued; taken away in the boat. The piano goes with her, that enigmatic symbol. She calls them to halt, out over the deep sea, and directs them to tip it overboard. This seems right. It is a shedding, a stepping into freedom. What follows is a marvellous piece of artificiality, which is one of the deepest parts of the movie....

It is a most artificial event, staged, planned to the half second, and yet that event of uncoiling, hissing, snake-like rope,  stretches into minutes in my memory as I meditate upon my inability to let go of the things which entrap me. The filmmaker has taken something unreal, artificial, most unlikely, carefully constructed, and told a profound truth.

I want to do something like this when I make the movie Mark.... Read on >>>>

Back in August last year, there was a truckies’ protest in Canberra. The truckies had well known shock jock Alan Jones, speaking at the rally. He was one of the radio announcers implicated in the cash for comment affair at 2UE in 1999. So a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald asked him if he was being paid to appear at this protest. Jones was outraged.... Read on >>>>

Any regular participant at church teas knows sandwiches require attention and discernment.  The bread can tell you a lot; some is cut too thick, or is dry. Other bread seems to have a moistness that borders on the culinary sublime; what’s more, the artists can do it with the crusts left on. The filling is crucial; thin, oily slices of meat can compromise beautiful bread.  In contrast, someone in my congregation cuts thick slices of bread, which look dry and unappetising. Yet their curried egg filling makes the bread delicious. Somehow, the filling and the thick bread are made for each other.... Read on >>>>

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