Sunday, February 25, 2007
Lord, as we part and go our different ways
it is our prayer that you will give us, each in our own way,
the passion for living and loving,
the courage for daring and hoping,
the freedom for growing and receiving,
the capacity for giving and receiving,
the humility for learning,
the tenderness for understanding,
the strength for enduring,
the trust for believiing,
and may your grace and your peace,
which is not the absence of conflict,
but the presence of all that makes life whole,
be with us and go with us.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
I wonder whether we might give up credit cards, or television. For some that might be more challenging. How about giving up the computer? Arrgghhh! Could I really survive? One writer suggested giving up supermarkets.
The original focus was food related, which is why the last day before Lent commences is Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Tuesday. It was the feast which removed all flour from the house: the symbolic leaven which turns our focus towards purification. If food was the major symbol of that which distracts us from God in ancient times, we might ask where our poverty lies today: time? technology? consumerism? How can we adopt a purifying approach to that which dilutes our humanity most and reminds us of our dependence upon God, or at least creates space for us to give this greater consideration. Perhaps a greater commitment to recycling, eating locally produced foods, leaving a smaller footprint upon the planet... So many challenges, choosing one could be life-giving in so many unexpected ways.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
It is amazing how often this distraction occurs when we read the text of scripture, brought home powerfully last night as we reflected on the beatitude: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied". The distraction in the beatitude is the word "righteousness", one which doesn't get good press these days. Particularly when it is combined with the word 'satisfied', and its implied partner 'self'. We typically begun by analysing the word righteousness, and what it means. Last night we turned it around, focussing on the last word "satisfied".
What is it that offers us satisfaction today? The Rolling Stones seems to have made a modern anthem of its tune "(Can't Get No) Satisfaction". In spite of the burgeoning consumer culture, whereby we earn 5 times what our parents did, live in larger houses with smaller families, and have much more in our possession and at our disposal, we aren't exhibiting the same level of satisfaction that the advertisers suggest these products will bring. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite... The incidence of mental illness has increased ten-fold, the top ten diseases affecting young men in Australia are either psychological disorders or substance-abuse, nearly one in four Americans is taking mood-altering drugs, and anxiety and depression is regarded as an epidemic. In the midst of prosperity, we have “spent ourselves sick”, according to Clive Hamilton in his book Affluenza. Satisfaction clearly does not come from the sources our consumer culture suggests.
When we accept that the present focus for satisfaction falls short, we are forced back the first part of the Beatitude: where do we find satisfaction? In a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Not by being (self-)righteous, but through a desire for righteousness. Here we are faced again with the example of Jesus, who pushes us away from traditional understandings of righteousness (all the way through the Sermon on the Mount, and throughout the Gospels) into a new place: where we follow his example: service, love, giving... In other words the focus of satisfaction is found not in trying to obtain it for ourselves, but to work for others.
I would suggest that the many things our consumer culture suggests we go out and obtain for ourselves are really by-products. We do not gain love by forcing or demanding it from others, we receive it by giving. We find happiness not by looking for what makes us happy, but by working for the happiness of others. We do not find hope alone or selfishly, but by living hope for others. These things are by-products.
In the same way, satisfaction is a by-product of hungering and thirsting for righteousness... by choosing an alternate pathway to the consumerist culture. In some senses it is a bit like turning the canoe around in a fast-flowing stream and seeking to row back to the source... we will find ourselves making little headway initially, and tiring easily. But hungering and thirsting to go another way is the first step. Simply going with the flow keeps us on the same course. The destination may be elusive, but if we are facing the right way, we are closer to reaching it than otherwise.
Satisfaction - itself an elusive term - becomes the window to understanding this Beatitude. By realising that the present system doesn't offer it, we are forced to look into alternatives, which is perhaps Jesus' point. The Sermon on the Mount goes a long way towards redefining righteousness away from the unsatisfying models we are all familiar with. It certainly isn't made easy, but it offers a pathway of hope, and life.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Friday, February 16, 2007
B-Best Friend? Definitely my wife
C-Cake or Pie? Mostly a cake person - chocolate!
D-Drink of Choice? Coke, hot chocolate (European variety)
E-Essential Item? Computer
F-Favorite Color? Blue
G-Gummi Bears or Worms? Worms - not to eat, but we have a wonderful worm farm which keeps the household waste down
H-Hometown? Born in Adelaide, South Australia, but lived in Melbourne most of my life.
J-January or February? What's not to like about January? Middle of summer, school holidays, cricket, tennis...
K-Kids and Names? Caleb, Rachel and Samuel
L-Life is Incomplete Without? Times of quietness
M-Marriage Date? 30-4-1983
N-Number of Siblings? 2, one of each, both older!
O-Oranges or Apples? Oranges if they are juiced, apples if solid
P-Phobias/Fears? Snakes and I have a wonderful agreement: I don't go near them and they don't come near me.
Q-Favorite Quote? Everybody has a choice. You just have to be prepared to live with the consequences.
R-Reason to Smile? Life itself is a reason to smile
T-Tag 3 People Martin, Megan, Rick
U-Unknown Fact About Me I can't tell you, can I? Then it would no longer be unknown! How about... I was expelled from prep!
V Verrrrry interesting... but stupid! (guess the TV show!)
W-Worst Habit? T?
X marks the spot!
Y-Your Favorite Food? Chocolate (is there any other?)
Z-Zodiac? Is this a new type of sweetener?!
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Here's one answer: "It is God’s will that you cannot say anything meaningful about God’s will in three seconds." Read the author's original comment when caught off guard by the question.
Today I thought I heard the person leading the prayers of the people pray 'for those in authority under us'. I thought I was sure I misheard (and, asking later, this was verified), but what a neat image. We're so used to authority being 'over' us, as if to keep us down, or keep us in line, put us in our place. What if authority is something 'under' us, to support us, uphold us, lift us? This would be a way of construing what true authority is in the church: service. And the greatest will be called servant of all. This is a service and authority which elevates people and makes possible the fullness which God intends for us, an authority authorised by the very flourishing it gives rise to.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
- Create a good space
- Raise your status
- Be social
- Don't be too social
- Learn to switch off
- Modern stress-busting (activities to dissipate stress and its effects)
It is part of our nature to hold to goals and ideals which are beyond us, which call us forward into a better future. This is the nature of hope - to keep us dissatisfied with what is so that we work to create what can be.
Certainly the advice in the article is helpful, but its premise needs to be questioned.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Brian Eno asks us to consider living in "the long now".
Saturday, February 10, 2007
And to read more of the present-day situation in relation to slavery, read Jim Wallis.
Friday, February 09, 2007
2. Say and do things that are guaranteed to make religious people want to kill you. Repeat again, and again, and again, and again, and again—don’t stop unless forced.
3. Do amazing things for people and ask them to not tell anyone.
4. Hang out with the most despised, marginalized, looked down upon, and shunned people you can find.
5. When possible, forgive and restore people, even if they betrayed you.
6. Live in a way that provokes gossip.
7. Win the most grace competition.
8. Keep the party going.
9. Serve people (note: nose plugs may be required).
10. If you’re sad cry.
11. Empower people to do the extraordinary.
12. Act like a rock star in a
13. Radically simplify theology.
14. Break human-made religious laws. Repeat consistently.
15. Prioritize the most important over the important.
16. Let women with “questionable” backgrounds pay your bills.
Some interesting additions in his comments also.
Does Jesus love evangelical poster art?
by Kristine Morrison
As signs proclaiming that Jesus loves Osama adorned mainstream protestant churches this week, the deluge of media interest appeared to require some explanation. Baptist spokesperson and Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics, Rod Benson, fleshed out some or the detail in Soundings no. 45 (1 February), assuring enquirers that Jesus did in fact love Osama bin Laden and many other evildoers of our planet and our time.
It appears that it wasn't such a serious question after all. The answer was so simple. There is a seamless and uncontroversial Christian approach that claims that any human being, no matter how reprobate, has claims upon the love of God.
What then was the point of the question? I'm a sufficiently conversant participant in evangelical culture to be very clear on the point of the question. The point was to assure non-believers - the unchurched, those who are "not-yet-Christian" - that in their reflective moments they ought to banish any thoughts that they are beyond the reach of God's love because, if God can love Osama, then God can love them.
Did the poster succeed in conveying that message of unconditional love? Well, yes, the poster was technically correct but it fell well short of answering some important human questions.
I'm glad for several reasons that the infamous poster was not displayed on the front wall of the local church I attend. First, because the question betrays an ignorance of the kinds of questions that non-believers ask themselves. Current evangelical practice relies on persuading people that they are sinners.
It is true that many modern people possess an inner anxiety. The anxiety, however, is not so much about the magnitude of evil they have committed. Society could not function if it were populated with multiple Osamas. People's consciences are much more likely to be troubled by the way they do things rather than what they do. They wake in the night not because they didn't pay their bus fare but because they were impatient or dismissive of the bus driver. They didn't necessarily do anything bad; rather, they could have done better.
Most people do not consider themselves anywhere near as bad as Osama bin Laden. This is not to say that they cannot appreciate the fact that they fall short of ideal human behaviour. The common everyday experience of human failure lies more in the realm of character than actions. The Osama question does not arise for most people, and it is therefore not an effective evangelistic approach.
The second reason I am glad this poster did not appear on our church wall is that it pays far too much attention to the perpetrator of evil and fails to appreciate the hurt of the victim. It is a pastoral faux pas on an all too public scale. When people who have been victims of abuse witness the church proclaiming happy days for the perpetrators of evil it is as though they are wounded again.
The question most likely to be occupying the minds of passers-by is, "Does Jesus love the victims of Osama?" Human suffering, whether personal or that which we see in others, is a profound stumbling block to the acceptance of Christianity. Christianity offers serious answers to the problem of human suffering but there were no pointers to these answers in this poster. The poster raised the problem of human suffering but provided no answer and gave the impression of being more interested in reconciling with the perpetrators of injustice than supporting the victims.
Third, perhaps the answer to the question of God's love for Osama is more ambiguous than it seems. We may agree that all humans are loved by God but is it possible to engage in such widespread and systematic practices of evil that a person can disqualify him or herself from being human?
Can we degrade ourselves so completely that we are no longer recognisable as humans? If a person is no longer human then is that person outside the orbit of God's love? In ordinary conversation behaviour that is good, generous and kind is described as humane, while practices that are deliberately and systematically cruel are described as beastly, animalistic or inhuman.
A modern rendition of the animalistic human is the human as machine. We describe people as machines when they appear to have lost any human feeling and they have become totally functionary beings. The idea that human beings can lose their humanity is not a totally foreign one and therefore makes the issue of God's love for bin Laden less of an open and shut case than has perhaps been demonstrated.
Poster Christianity is perilous witness. Simple truths, simply stated can be less than helpful to those with whom we desire to communicate, notwithstanding the goodwill of those who develop these posters. We can be encouraged, within our churches, that people do read our advertising signs. But we can also be challenged to consider the pastoral implication and the wisdom of using some of our available promotional material.
Not all publicity is good publicity.
Kristine Morrison is a midwife at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and a member of the Social Issues Committee of the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Ryan Bolger takes another look at numbers:
We needed to take another look. Are numbers always evil?
This is a video response to Web 2.0
Matt Glover lets the distinction between emerging and traditional church dissipate as he ponders his journey through intensive engagement with both in a post entitled Why I chose NOT to critique the emerging church.
There are millions of different expressions of church, and I like some far more than I do others. But that doesn’t make them any more or less church. I’m fairly certain that the expressions I struggle with, God likes quite a lot. I’m absolutely certain that the average guy that I meet down the street who has no church experience couldn’t care less about what form a church takes.
Not strictly blogosphere, but Michael Duffy reflects on the Australian psyche:
We Australians like to think of ourselves as larrikins and rebels, but the truth is we're a bunch of sheep. This nation is one of the most overgoverned and overregulated on Earth. Foreign visitors often comment with surprise on local behaviour such as compulsory voting, almost unknown elsewhere in the civilised world, and pedestrians' reluctance to cross against the red light, even when a road is empty of traffic.
Here's a well-thought out Missional Apologetic Manifesto.
John Smulo has a rather more discomfiting description of what it means to "be like Jesus"
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
MLK's dream still stands largely unfulfilled some 44 years later, but it has not lost its power or its pertinence. Significant gains have been made in some quarters, smaller ones elsewhere, and a large reservoir remains unmoved. His passion is grounded in reality, grounded in scripture, and grounded in hope. Though society has changed significantly, it resonates at many levels.
MLK's speech is an interesting frame through which to view the Sermon on the Mount. It is tempting to view the SM through a rigid theological frame, as a simple critique of society, or as a (quasi-academic) treatise rather than hear its passion, be moved by its vision, and embraced in hope. Yet rather seeing the SM as offering an unrealistic burden, we need to encounter it as a paeon of hope, a harbinger of a new way of being, a manifesto of radical living. Its groundedness is evident, its challenges very pointed. As one observer noted: the SM has more often than not left untried because it is too hard. Such sentiments did not deter MLK, Gandhi, Wilberforce, and a litany of others who have been driven by a higher ideal.
Take careful note of the movement in MLK's speech as you watch: when he moves from the text to the heart (not that the two are mutually exclusive). Know that the dream is not pie in the sky. Then when it is finished, turn to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It will take you less time to read than to listen to MLK. Be inspired and challenged. Dare to live the dream!
I'm mostly sorry I've squandered resources like time, money, talents, and LOVE that are so freely bestowed on me undeservedly...and instead griped and used them for my own ego and gain. God, forgive me. World, forgive me.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Is this like having "the gift"... being a wonderful preacher, but socially inept, unable to communicate except to large crowds while standing behind a pulpit and spitting into the first two rows?
Monday, February 05, 2007
This has generated some interesting responses from Paul Roberts, himself an Anglican priest, who unpacks these challenges in a thoughtful way. While the terminology and construct is generally Anglican, the questions he addresses have relevance across denominational spectrums, challenging the way we see ministry and leadership. There are four posts in Paul's response: (1) Clergy Stress; (2) The role of the priest, with the unusual title, "If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him"; (3) On visiting; and (4) You get the priests you plan for.
As one who serves in three part-time capacities, alongside a post-graduate study project, the work-life balance has been a hot topic of discussion and reflection both personally and in our household. Leaving behold old models of ministry is not as easy as it sounds either - with the boundaries and challenges uncertain (or liminal!) not allowing one to necessarily 'turn off'. Whilst I recognise that this is increasingly a phenomenon for all people, with 'flexible work hours' and the 'mobile office' become much more in vogue, there are unique aspects to church ministry which make it more than a personal lifestyle/vocational issue.
I'd be interested in reading others' thoughts...
There are deep resonations around our community about the pressure to be more efficient, and the lack of time for relationship that leaves. Does that resonate?
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
Maggie Dawn has made some insightful comments about the status of the emerging church movement, questioning whether it is even important that it is new, and at the same time drawing on the biblical notion that "there is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl 1:9 - my words, not hers).
Perhaps one of the real tragedies of considering the emerging church as something of a novelty (in the deepest sense of the word) is that it isolates the deep questions which undergird the movement from churches who do not consider themselves in any sense emergent. Yet for the most part the questions which drive the varied manifestations of the emerging church are fundamental to the future of the church as a whole, even if they exist in the context of broader questions. But the 'isolation' of the emerging church from the mainstream conversation has created a sense for many that it is an irrelevant phenomenon, and that the questions it is asking (and forming responses to) are uniquely theirs.
But these questions (should) trouble us all. Some which are presently being grappled with in the context of the emerging church include:
How much is the gospel become captive to the modern world-view?
How can we form community in ways which reflect present concerns and dynamics?
What is the ultimate purpose of the church, and how does it sustain its life and witness where the structure of everyday life has been radically changed?
What is truth? Can we ever know "pure" truth, or is our view always coloured by where we sit?
In what sense do we serve the structures of the church, and is this necessary for the mission of the church?
What does it mean to be authentically christian in this global village with all of its attendant challenges?
Is society something more than an economy?