Monday, December 25, 2006
I did receive a few Christmas presents yesterday morning, but had already gotten a big one (ashes tickets for the first three days), but probably my favorite was a book on succulents. I have gotten into growing these little plants and am a bit obsessed.
We had an open dinner that a few friends came to in the evening, and we watched a dvd.
Now if we can all pray for the rain to stop for the cricket hours the next few days, and double up at night so the fires and drought will keep getting doused that would be great thanks.
ho ho ho
Saturday, December 16, 2006
We were playing the team at the top of the ladder and we weren't the strongest team to be fielded this year. So we started the game with the attitude of lets just have fun. And we really did. I kept til drinks, then Marcus took the gloves and I got a good long spell of bowling. We couldn't catch for most of the day, so we just took turns making fun of each other. Then we batted out our innings getting all the way to our number 11. So everyone got a bat, most of us got a bowl, and we had a lot of fun.
I found a bit of form with the ball, and they were so far ahead I got to bat against part time spinners mostly, which was fun. It was a great day, even though we lost.
After the game, our captain, who should be playing in a much higher grade but stays with us because he loves the fun of playing with a heaped together bunch of misfits, washed all the dishes, wiped the counters and the tables, and basically impressed me with his servant heart. I have lived long enough now to realize its the little things that prove a mans integrity. I pray I would be better at those little things, and you too.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
It was really great to have Jon come out to the Cave, we try to have someone come and speak once a month, and Jon was able to make it out. Jon works with UNOH, urban neighbors of hope, in Springvale, but is leaving next month to start a new chapter of UNOH in the western suburbs of Sydney. I really love UNOH and the work they do. They have learned to value the poor and marginalised, to truly live in community, and to strive for social justice. They are a great inspiration to my family, and Jon and his wife Lisa are a great inspiration to us personally.
Jon talked to us a bit about what it means to get an understanding of who we ourselves really are. He explained that often we cannot share ourselves and our faith with others, because we are so unsure of who we are, and who God made us to be. He invited us to remember the truths about our very nature, that we are made in the image of our creator. And then he asked us to take a piece of clay, and reflect something of the creative impulse, that is deep inside of us all.
We sat and worked on our clay while some music played, music that talked about how our hands can change the world, and how our lives are important. It was a great time.
For me personally I sensed how God works in my life, smoothing out the rough edges, sometimes roughly adjusting things that are out of balance, and creating more and more of himself into his work. We are reflections of our creator, and He is working with our lives to make us a clearer and clearer representation of that.
I am very thankful for people like Jon and my wife, who are able to teach us in ways that involve our senses. These experiences often fill us with truth on such a deep level, and the experiences in some cases really helps us to see things from a truly different perspective. It was a good night, and Jon is a wonderful man.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Sorry I haven't posted the last instalment of a sermon, nor had much time to do much here. I have been struggling with another kidney stone all week. Yes that is right a whole week. The pain got so bad on Wednesday night that I had to go to the hospital.
I learned a few things in the process:
Footscray hospital is filled with very competant and helpful people.
Morphine really works as a pain killer, but it doesn't feel like a jacuzzi in your body like I have been told.
I wasn't having a kidney stone I was having two, I should give birth to twins any day now.
Anyways, being on a bit of codeine, it didn't seem wise or appropriate to try and explain my last sermon for you. I will do so tomorrow I hope.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Nor was it the case, as some writers are fond of saying, that the idea of resurerection was found in religions all over the ancient Near East. Dying and rising "gods," yes corn kings, fertility deities, and teh like. But even supposing Jesus's very Jewish followers knew any traditions like those pagan ones nobody in those religions ever supposed it actually happened to individual humans. No. The best explanation by far for the rise of Christianity is that Jesus really did reappear, not as a battered, bleeding, survivor, not as a ghost (the stories are very clear about that), but as a living, bodily human being.
(I am skipping the next paragragh that talks about the nature of Jesus's body)
That kind of conclusion is always frustrating from a scientific point of view. Science, after all, rightly studies phenomena which can be repeated in laboratory conditions. But history doesn't. Historians study things that happened once and once only; even if there are partial paralledls, each historical event is unique. And the historical arguement is quite clear. To repeat: far and away the best explanation for why Christianity began after Jesus's violent death is that he really was bodily alive again three days later, in a transformed body.
I am not suggesting that this (or any other arguement) can force anyone to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is always open to anyone to say, "well, I haven't got a better explanation for the rise of Christianity; but since I know dead people never rise and never could, there must be some other explanation." That is a perfectly logical positions. The trouble is, ofcourse, that believing that Jesus was raised from the dead involves, at the very least, supending judgement on matters normally regarded as fixed and unalterable; or to put it more psitively, it requires that we exchange a worldview which says that such things can't happen for one embracing the notion of a creator God making himself known initially in the traditions of Israel and then fully and finally in Jesus, says that Jesus's resurrection makes perfect sense when seen from that point of view. Faith can't be forced, but unfaith can be challenged. That is how it has always been, from the very beginning when people have vorne witness to Jesus's resurection.
There are, in fact, partial parallels to this kind of thing precisely in the world of contemporary science. Scientists now regularly ask us to believe things which seem strange and even illogicial, not the least in the areas of astrophysics or quantum mechanics. With something as basic as light, for example, they find themselves driven to speak in terms both of waves and of particles, though these appear incompatible. Sometimes, to make sense of the actual evidence before us, we have to pull our worldview, our sense of what's possible, into a new shape. That is the kind of thing demanded by the evidence about Easter.
Pages 113 and 114
N T Wright, Simply Christian
hope you liked that
Had a very fun game today, good attitude from both sides for the most part. I actually top scored with the bat today, which would be quite an accomplishment usually, but we had a pretty bad day with the bat. But with the ball I just couldn't get it right. I would bowl a few really good balls and then a few really bad balls. Oh well!
I think what I like best about cricket is I can give it a full throttled go. As hard as I can, and I need something I can do as hard as I can. With wrestling, well, I just can't do it that hard anymore. Just spend most of my time trying not to get hurt.
Thank God for cricket,
Friday, December 01, 2006
I am often just shocked and saddened that this kind of thing is still being said, and that these attitudes still exist. I was talking to a very inteligent friend from another country and she said, "just because you can use chopsticks doesn't make you multicultural" and I laughed.
Perhaps I can continue to live my life in a way that is not sexist or racist, and do it very openly. Perhaps I can help to confront these issues by my example, but I wonder if its time for me to do a bit more with my mouth? Cause I just don't want to hear this rubbish anymore, but if I jump down somebodies throat for saying something stupid, am I destroying any future influence?
One thing I must say: I am not a racist. No buts.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Here is what Ash Barker has to say about it:
“Darren Cronshaw is an emerging Christian voice for our country. This new, inspiring book about models for Australian mission is drawn from characters in our founding as a nation. There is no sentimentality here, but neither is their cause for total despair. God has been and is currently at work in Australia. Darren shows us how to join this God who is found on the under-side of our history and offers us an opportunity to make a new, more just history too. This is the book every-one concerned with Australia’s future needs to read and take seriously. If you want to be both faithful to God and relevant to our times, then don’t miss out on ‘Credible Witness’.”
Director, Urban Neighbours Of Hope
you can get the book by clicking here.
I hope you do, Darren is a brillian thinker, has done heaps of research for this, and is a top bloke.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
A few things I am thankful for, the Ashes series starts today, and this year it will really feel like thanksgiving, instead of watching football all day and then eating a big dinner, I will watch cricket all day and then eat a big dinner.
Great friends, that are committed to living in community, and seeing the kingdom come.
My wonderful wife and daughters who are my pride and joy.
A mother who not only thinks the sun shines out of my ass, but makes up good reasons why this is a logical position to take.
Having had some of the best mentors a guy could have throughout my life, Butch Plumber, Buddy Suitor, Dave Everitt, Neil Cole, Sam Metcalf, Carlos Estrada Vega, Fr. Bill Moore, Phil McCreddon, Alan Hirsch and others, I am truly blessed.
My current ministry, that has me more excited and more supported than ever before.
The sixty plus people eating turkey with me tonight.
So in the spirit of thanksgiving what are you thankful for?
Monday, November 20, 2006
We were going to go to the beach for the day as it was supposed to be quite hot, and it actually was, but it was also very cloudy with a few rain drops. So we took Winston to the park for a run around. Winston hits the park and just starts running non stop till he is completely worn out. Then a woman walks by with one of the most beautiful little girls you have ever seen, my wife has taken some pics I'll try to put them up later. The little girl is terrified, and enthralled by Winston. So Raquel sits with Winston so she can pet him without being knocked over by his enthusiasm. We begin to speak with the woman who is from Sweden. It was a nice conversation and she tells us of her doctoral thesis, which is a study on "anti-Americanism" which I really would like to talk to her more about. We exchanged numbers and as they live around the corner will hopefully see them again.
Then we came home and did some planning for our Thanksgiving celebration. Just a chance to share our culture with our new friends and family. There will be about sixty eating with us this year. Lots to plan, three turkeys, three hams, and lots of recipes to be given out (aussies don't even know how to make candied yams with marshmallows).
Worn out by this we took a nap (sleeping too long and resulting in a bit of insomnia later)
We had a talk about our relationship and both decided we need to work on a few things, being on the computer less is my main objective.
Then we had a simple dinner.
And we watched Factotum, a movie based on a Bukowski novel. It was actually much more realistic than Barfly, with Matt Dillon playing a more subdued Bukowski than Mickey Rourke does. It was probably much truer to life but as such, was also a bit boring, and a bit depressing. But towards the end a poem is shared that I just love.
roll the dice
if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.
if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.
go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
how much you really want to
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
you can imagine.
if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with
do it, do it, do it.
all the way
all the way.
you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
Then we watched my favorite show on television, "Boston Legal" where there was an interesting line, "I almost died once, and at that moment I thought about who would miss me, I thought about who would be sad that I was gone, I wondered who out there loved me, at that moment I wondered if I was loved"
I know many of you who read my blog personally, and incase I haven't said it enough:
You are loved
Matthew chapter 5
An Eye for an Eye
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus starts this sermon outlining the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, he then begins to tell us of our calling, He moves on to morality, and now he begins to talk about justice. Now this isn't Jesus call for justice for the poor, or the marginalized, but rather our sense of self justice. And he starts right at the heart of the matter with the "old way".
He says that the old way of eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth is not the rule for this kingdom. He then says some very extreme statements. Do not resist and evil person! If someone strikes you do not strike back! If someone is trying to take away your shirt, give them your coat also! If someone compells you to go with them a mile, go with them two, and give to whoever asks to borrow from you!!! Jesus tells Jewish men, who abhor the Romans, and feel incredibly wronged to be under their rulership, and believe they are justified to fight against this oppression, that when a Roman soldier tells you to walk with him a mile and carry his pack (a legally acceptable practice that could not be turned down) rather than fight against this oppression you are to go with them twice.
This seems completely unfair does it not? Do not resist an evil person? Come on! I take a very unique and uncommon view here, I actually believe that Jesus meant what He said. I believe this because He then spends his life demonstrating it. He actually does it, and then His disciples do it. He did not live like this was just some hyperbole, to make a point, He actually lived it out. And calls us to follow Him.
He then explains that God allows both good and evil to cop both good and evil. That the Father often appears unfair in his dealings with the world, and also calls us to do the same. To be perfect in our love for those that are good and friends, and for those that try to hurt and injure us. This is not easy. Infact is is very very hard. Almost as hard as being told to sell everything you own, give the money to the poor and live a life as an itinerate preachers apprentice. Rather than try and make this softer, easier, more palatable, I would rather say: this is Christ's teachings, and though I fall short, I will fall upon Gods mercy and empowerment, and attempt to grow into this level of faith. Lord help my unbelief!
The road is narrow, and hard, and few choose to walk it, but it truly does lead to life. Jesus is telling us as we walk this narrow road, our sense of personal justice is to be sacrificed to a new law of love. The good news is, God's Spirit promises to empower us to do just that.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Jesus begins by talking about murder. Under the law it is wrong to murder, and if you murder someone you will be judged. But in the kingdom Jesus tells us that it is not only your actions towards your brother but the thoughts and words you have towards your brother that will condemn you. It becomes more than just a matter of your actions but a matter of your heart.
Jesus tells us that we should repair these relationships with our brothers and sisters, and even tells us that this is more important than religious ritual. Again saying that your rituals are not important, if your heart is not right.
Then he moves on to our sexuality. I saw a cartoon once where Moses comes down the mountain with the ten commandments and says, "I have good news and bad news", as everyone looks up expectantly he tells them, "the good news is I got him down to ten, the bad news is... adultery is still in". In regards to our sexuality, Jesus again tells us, it is said under the law that your actions will make you guilty or innocent, but in the kingdom, it is your heart that matters. Lusting after a woman is like commiting adultery in your heart. I know that is not what most of us men want to hear. It might make the girls feel better that Jesus doesn't specifically say you can't lust after a man, or even a woman for that matter, but I reckon its implied. It is our heart that is at issue here.
Then Jesus says a statement that has been misunderstood and actually regrettibly acted on in some severe moments of guilt. He says if your eye causes you to stumble pluck it out, or if your hand causes you to stumble cut it off. This use of hyperbole, it a teaching device to help us understand the point. The point is, sin is a matter of the heart, not our bodies. Our bodies do what our heart and mind tell us to do. Your eye cannot make you sin, and neither can your hand, but your heart and mind can and do. Jesus makes a nonsensical statement to help us get it.
He then goes on to tell us, stop with the pretense. No need for swearing, just do what you say you are going to do. If you say yes, you should be of enough integrity that that means yes, and the same with no. When you have to resort to swearing on your mothers grave, you are basically saying, "well I am usually a liar, but now I will tell the truth" it is all stupid Jesus tells us.
The key here is that morality becomes an issue of personal integrity, of our heart, and our mind. It becomes more than just an outward following of rules and regulations, of lists of do's and don'ts, but becomes a desire to follow the king, be the light of the world, and live in our world as a restorative, and pleasing flavour.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I would remind us of the context of this passage, first off this is the first "sermon" that Matthew gives us explaining what exactly this kingdom of God is, and we must understand it is set in opposition to the expected military and spiritual kingdom the Jewish believers are expecting at this time. We also must remember that in this crowd we would expect to not only see pharisees, but a crowd of people that look up to the pharisees as the true moral, and devout Jews of their time.
Jesus started out telling us the upside down nature of the kingdom through the beatitudes, and then tells us how important it is to live this kingdom, in all its difference before the world. That the way we live will cause others to glorify God. And now he begins to touch on the issues of morality.
The Fulfillment of the Law
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Remembering that the Jewish culture of this time would think that the entire basis for morality is the keeping of the law, including the temple sacrifices, Jesus gives us a radical new vision of morality. He will go more into the specifics in the next verses, but for now we are hit with a few startling claims. Let me first give my impression of 17 and 18:
Jesus is saying that the law is not to pass away until it is completed, or fulfilled. But Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. By His death and resurection all of the law is fulfilled, and finished. But these people are not listening post resurection, they are listening before that fulfilment. And they are therefore still under the law. Now there are those that would state that the law is still binding until the world passes away, and I will not argue this at this point, however I do believe Romans 7 explains that the law was indeed completed.
But regardless of your position on this point we wind up in a very difficult place now. For those that break the commands, and teach others to do the same will be called least "in the kingdom of heaven", but those that keep and teach them will be great in the kingdom. The point is, though they will be least they are still in the kingdom.
But then Jesus adds that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the scribes you won't even make it into the kingdom! Now we must understand that this crowd is made up of pharisees and those that believe the pharisees and scribes to be the best jews, the most righteous, the most moral, and they do not get into this kingdom. But those that do not keep the law, and teach others not to keep it, will be in, though they will be least. Isn't that a bit strange?
The point is that righteousness in the kingdom is no longer to be judged by adherance to the law, nor the result of temple sacrifices, but rather an issue of loyalty to the king, and to the law of love. Remember in this time these people thought that if they just keep the law well enough, and if they are devout enough, if they are Jews indeed and in deed, that God will overthrow the Romans and they will reclaim their right of rulership. Into this context Jesus says, no, the kingdom will not come by violence, it will not come in power, or political might, but it will come in being the example of people that truly are ruled by God, regardless of their circumstances. They are to enter this kingdom now, to live in this upside down kingdom of the weak are the strong, the poor are the rich, the suffering are the blessed. This is the kingdom, and righteousness is determined by your commitment to the king, not the law.
Even the most zealous keepers of the law the pharisees are not entering the kingdom of heaven until they lay down their worldly aspirations.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
But the strange thing that happened when I was reading this, was my missing fighting. Not the fights. But the training for fights. I wouldn't think it was strang to miss the fights themselves, the adenaline rush, the crowds cheering, the intensity of competition. I would understand missing that. But the training? Absolute hell, especially if you are cutting weight as well. I would do round after round of sparring with big guys who were only doing every fourth round. Getting hit, and slammed to the ground. Running sprints. 300 pushups and 500 sit ups everyday. Running stairs. The weight room. I felt like I was going to die for six weeks straight, and then to not be able to eat well on top of it. What is there to miss about that? I hated it.
But as I was thinking about it, I realized...
you have one goal, one focus. All of your energy, passion and drive is intensely focused on one thing. When that thing comes it may be great, it may be average, but it is the journey to that thing that is amazing in its simplicity. At that time it seems that everything else is just a blur, only one thing really comes in focus.
Raquel and the girls must have been very neglected at those times, as well as church and other friends. It is good that I have stopped fighting. But I do miss that intense focus.
And I wonder if we can have that kind of focus in our following Jesus. Ofcourse it would be much different, but can we get so intensly focussed on Jesus that we see him in every face we meet. That it effects all of our lives, what we eat, how we live, the sacrifices we make?
Monday, November 06, 2006
Jesus says, you are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its "saltiness" how can you salt it? It is worthless. Then he says, "you are the light of the world" and also shows us that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and if you hide the light it is also, worthless.
Now I have heard many sermons about this passage. It is infact a standard call for Christians to be the light of the world and salt to the world. Most of the sermons I have heard talk about the natures of salt, and the natures of light. And they are fine. It is true that light chases away darkness, and that salt is a preservative, and was a highly sought after and indispensible part of the culture. These are all true and they help us to grow. However, so often these become calls of morality. And I will get into that discussion in the next few messages as Jesus flips that on its head as well. However, I will contend that there is something much much more going on here than God asking us to be good little boys and girls.
There is no denying the absolute impact of these statements, I pray you can hear them again with fresh ears. No frail cliches these verses. Jesus says you are the salt of the earth, and if you are not salty then you are good for nothing. And says the same about light. The fact is, if we as the followers of Jesus, and the citizens of the kingdom of God, are not the radically different people that we are called to be, we are good for nothing in Gods kingdom. Jesus is telling us, if you are not the salt and the light, what good are you?
We must remember that in this culture, yearning for power, for freedom, for their pride to be re-established, their goal was conquest, and in their good Jewish minds this meant not only being militarily powerful, but also morally and ethnically pure. They were looking to sway God by their piety to redeem their place in the world. But Jesus tells this people, all the world looks to you. You are what seasons the world. You are what gives light to the world. And if you continue to merely imitate the desires and the lusts of this world, what good are you.
Now we are not talking about some silly morality. Let me say loud and clear there is nothing light giving about being Ned Flanders. If you avoid words on the naughty list, and dress conservatively, only listen to gospel music and go to church three times a week, you are not being salt. Now there is nothing wrong with these things, infact there is much right about them. But the message that we are to be good little boys and girls so we can be salt and light is just not true. Jesus goes on to say that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And please let me assure you, no one is praising the Father because you said shucky darns instead of shit!
We become salt and light to the world when we begin to live in this new order. When we esteem the least in the world, when we eschew power, when we love unconditionaly, and sacrificially. Remember the beatitudes set the tone here. We are called to live a life with such different priorities and focus that the world says, "well they may be crazy, but if everyone was that kind of crazy this world would be a better place" The world is looking, are we making the poor more important than the rich? Are we seeking after success and power just like everyone else? Are we looking out for number one? Are we actually living in a love for our brothers and sisters that makes others desire what God has given us? Are we truly leaving the kingdoms of this world, power, fame, self interest, self determination, consumerism, title and degree mongering, for the new kingdom of God. Are we losing our life to find it?
This is not moral encouragement, it is a declaration of independence. It is a revolution! It is the kingdom of God come!!!
Be salt!!! Be light!!! if you aren't, what good are you?
Sunday, November 05, 2006
We have been looking at the subversive nature of the book of Matthew. Not only is this book written by a tax collector, subversive enough for a 1st century Jewish person, but the things Matthew decides to include make me smile with a bit of anarchist glee. Matthew shows us a radically different Messiah than the Hebrews were expecting, infact, Matthew shows us a Jesus different than maybe we expect.
Jesus after beginning out on the margins preaching "the kingdom of God is come" is now explaining just exactly what this kingdom is. We cannot understand this properly if we do not understand the context of expectation of a political, military kingdom ruled by the Messiah who leads Israel to victory against the Romans because of their piety and refusal to fudge on their "Jewishness". Jesus begins to explain a kingdom that is radically different from this expected kingdom, and only seeing this as an answer to their expectations can we really understand the full, subversive and revolutionary message of this passage of scripture.
Jesus starts with the beatitudes as they are commonly called. The blessings. And as he does this, He right away turns everything on its head. As the crowd looks around at the others in their midst, and think of the temple, and the coming "kingdom" Jesus says, "blessed are those who are spiritual beggars, unable to care for their own spiritual nature theirs is the kingdom of heaven" And everyone sees the scribes and pharisees who are very confident in their ability to meet their own spiritual needs. Remember these people see the pharisees as the righteous people, as the true spiritual ones, and there is no neediness among them. And the revolution begins.
Blessed are the mourners, for they receive comfort. We find solace in Gods comfort, mourning isn't judgement on our sin, but rather the human condition that makes us find God.
Blessed are the meek, not the powerful, not the strong, not the holders of influence and the swayers of destiny. But the meek.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those who think they already have righteousness. I am reminded of the parable of the Pharisee who stands before God and says, "thank you Lord that I am not like those disgusting sinners, but I am a good guy, doing all of the great churchy stuff" I will mention as well that the Hebrew word for righteousness is very connected with the idea of justice, which should not be forgotten and has huge implications.
Blessed are the merciful. But wait, we are not to be merciful but to destroy sin and sinner in our midst so that God will pour out his vengence upon the Romans, and we will destroy them with no mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart. You mean not the pure in actions, in traditions, in lineage? Surely this Jewish purity is what will present our case to God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, as a quick view of the crowd will show zealotts with sharpened swords ready to do battle against their gentile rulers, the peacemakers not the holy warriors will be called sons of God.
Blessed are the persecuted. Not those sitting with stature, and favour and political and religious power. But those that are tormented for actually living out this alternative kingdom.
Jesus starts this announcement and primer on the kingdom by destroying our expectations. And though we must understand the context of the passage in its history in order to grasp it, we must also understand our context in order to live it. Does our Christian kingdom look like this? Are the poor and marginalized esteemed? Are the peacemakers looked at as sons of God? Or do we give honour to the powerful, the strong, the succesfull? Is our Christian culture a radical departure from the worlds worship of success and strength? Jesus starts His kingdom excercise telling us, everything has got to change.
The way things work is we take turns hosting our Sunday morning gathering. When it is at your home you are the curator. You don't have to do everything yourself, but you organize it. Including breakfast, and whatever we will do for our time together. Sometimes a bible discussion, sometimes communion, sometimes a lectio divina, sometimes a life conversation and prayer. But its your responsibility.
And last week one of our members took the responsibility to minister to the children seriously. He was going to tell a bible story using different kinds of dolls so the kids could enjoy an audio visual kind of thing. So it had a barbie that miraculously grew facial hair and had a camel hair vest which was ofcourse John the baptist. And had a "Zorg" that was the king. and some other dolls for other charactors. And then things got a bit weird.
Our considerate and thoughtful curator asked one of the children to come and perform the execution of Barbie John the baptist with a hack saw. So this young man removes the head of this plastic doll with a smiling relish as all of us adults gasped in appropriate horror. My wife and I were particularly worried about the concern of the sweet young lady we brought with us as a first time visitor.
All curator duties have been suspended til further notice, maybe its time to go back to a three hymn sandwich. :)
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Was great to hear from my mom, she may be a bit biased.
I have lots of things to post, and the continuation of the Matthew series so please keep checking in the next few days.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Some clever people have tried to make those that believe following Jesus means making a huge change in how your money is used, into some new breed ascetics that find some kind of personal piety in not having much. And they have profered this idea of stewardship as the proper balance between two equally extreme abherant teachings.
Well let me just put my opinion out there, and I hope you will all be able to understand where I am coming from: that is a pile of shit!
The accurate portrayal of the so called poverty gospel, says that we take the issue of stewardship to be part and parcel of the gospel. We see it as impossible to say we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday. We see the idea of living in splendour while people are starving all around the world, and people are dying because they have no clean drinking water, and people dying for lack of medicine for preventable disease, as all issues of stewardship. We believe that there is enough stuff to meet all of the needs of the world, but that our consumerist society has embraced this insane philosophy of more, to the detriment of our neighbors afar and close.
The "poverty doctrine" says that we will not only live more fulfilled lives but actually follow Jesus more accurately by living simply, so others might simply live. That if you have too much stuff, you have someone elses stuff.
This doctrine states that we are to be stewards of this world, and that means cherishing it and protecting it as the maginificent artwork God has created. To seek for ways to erase our dirty foot prints, and live in ways that are complementary to nature, not just consuming of it. This is all about stewardship.
However, this idea of stewardship is turned on its head by a faulty interpretation of scripture. The idea of stewardship becomes the idea of "God gave me all this money I should use it and invest it and make myself as secure as I can with it, so I am being a good steward of what God has given me. In other words, we have take our individualistic consumeristic culture and used it to turn Gods word into an excuse for us to take care of number one. It is simply a justification for selfishness. Or in some of our more virtuous friends, for familyishness. And it gets more extreme, "if I have this extra money I should invest it not give it to the poor, because then I can make more money, and then I will have more to give to the poor, but why shouldn't I invest that too? And ofcourse I should by a bigger house so I can use it for Gods glory, (which usually means I will have a church barbeque there once or twice a year and maybe have someone over for dinner, rather than taking in a single mother or asylum seekers. And ofcourse I should be the Mercedes, it has a higher resale value and is safer and I want to protect my family its all about being a good steward mate!"
Yes I believe in stewardship, but not in this Christian version of it, no thats not what I mean at all.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
What struck me particularly was the speach at the end of the movie by John Quincy Adams to the Supreme Court, where he reads a letter from one of the current US presidents high officials. This letter explains that for all of history people have taken slaves. That it was natural to have slaves, and was part of human nature that the strong would rule over the weak. That slavery was as much a part of the human condition as war. He then goes on to explain he has a different understanding of human nature, one that is based on Freedom.
But it does bring up the question, is it possible that the things we consider human nature now will someday be considered barbaric, and wrong?
I struggle to see how a society could ever tolerate the horrors of slavery, but not only did we, we still are in some cultures. But I can't understand how people accept war, and the death penalty either. Nor can I understand how we as a society can accept abortion as a legitmate medical precedure.
So where does this touch on my own personal message? Simply this, when we are willing to walk in the truth of the kingdom of God, then and only then can we truly hope for a day when the injustices of todays world are overturned, where the accepted wrongs of our day are found to be barbaric. If this world is to have a future worth staying alive for we must live in a way that protects our home planet, that seeks justice for even the least of us, that seeks to live a life that is sustainable, and to seek to live in the law of love.
I hope someday the world will be filled with people that look back on our day and don't understand how we could have justified the way we live.
Monday, October 16, 2006
So we have the Messiah, the Christ, the heir to the throne of David beginning His ministry out in the unwanted lands, among the unimportant people. And who does he pick for companions? Bible scholars? Religious leaders? The charismatic opinion makers of His day? No, he finds some fishermen, and their friends. Again, as this coming king, begins to announce His kingdom, he enlists an army of working class people, from working class lands far away from the pomp of the palace, and the glory of the temple. The kingdom is proclaimed out in the dark places, and the king is the friend of the ordinary bloke.
And what does he do? He heals broken, sick and hurting people. He brings hope to the poor, and cares for those that no one else cares for. This new kingdom does not start in the center, but on the edges. And the king at the center of it all, is a compassionate healer, who takes the time for those that others do not take the time for.
And he announces, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here. Turn away from your own kingdoms, for this kingdom is here now. And this revolution is starting among the normal everyday average people, in the everyday average neighborhoods.
God's kingdom doesn't start in places of power, and prestige, that is the old way. This new kingdom says the first are last, and the last first. This new kingdom starts not among the elite, but among the castaways. This new kingdom is heralded not from the temple, but from the dessert. And is not come by the voices of the priests, but rather a man of dubious lineage with a ragtag bunch of regular folk. Make no mistake though, the kingdom may start in capernum, and the decapolous, it may start in Riverside, and Sunshine and St. Albans. The march may start out in the fringes, in the trailer parks in Detroit, and the orphanages in Cambodia. And the kingdom revolution may start with fisherman, and builders, and street cleaners. But it always winds up confronting the powers that be. It may not start in Melbourne or Canberra, but it will wind up there. It may not start in the white house in Washington DC but it will march upon those steps. It may not start on the hills of Rome, but it will change everything there.
It is time we understand that this revolution starts with people like us, that believe a new way of life. That believe the promises of this world are hollow, untrue and fleeting. It is time we understand that as we walk out the kingdom of God, from our small places, and in our small lives that we will shake the world. Because it is always so, when the kingdom of God comes, eventually all other kingdoms will fall. Remember the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
It is also time we realize that the only way this ever gets overthrown, is when we sell out the kingdom of God, for the kingdoms of this world, including the kingdom of the church.
I pray that the spirit of revolution will awaken in me, and in you.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The story of Minucius is a beautiful glimpse of irresistible revolution. As a lawyer who was persecuting Christians, Minucius understood the empire and teh religious establishment well. But he soon caught the contagion of love. Here's what he had to say abou Christians before his conversion in AD 200: "They despise temples as if they were tombs. They despise titles of honour and the purple robe of high government office though hardly able themselves to cover their nakedness.... They love one another before being acquanted. They practice a cult of lust, calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately"
And here's what he says after his convesion: " why do they have no altars, no tmeples, no images? What temple shal I build him (GOD) when the whole world, the work of His hands, cannot contain him? SHould we not rather make a sanctuary for him in our souls? The whole heaven and teh whole earth and all things beyond the confines of the world are filled with God... I would almost say: we live with him. What a beautiful sight it is for God when a Christian mocks the clatter of the tools of death and the horror of the executioner: when he defends and upholds his liberty in the face of kings and princes, obeying God alone to whome he belongs. Among us boys and frail women laugh to scron torture and teh gallows cross and all the other horrors of executions" from The early CHristians in their own words by Eberhard Arnold
I think this is a very powerful little footnote. We should change the words a bit and see if it still fits. They despise big ornate buildings, They despise political office, and armani suits, and designer clothes, even though they are dressed in thrift store rags, they love and accept everyone even the homeless and the insane, and they are cultlike in the way they care for each other like everyone was part of one family.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
In Chapter four of Matthew we read about the forty days in the desert and the temptation of Jesus. There are some strange things going on here. Once again, Jesus starts His ministry out in the desert, on the fringe. He is lead by the Spirit into the desert suggesting both the fact that Jesus was lead, and that He was lead to temptation. And we see the devil quoting scripture, which can have some interesting discussions in and of itself. And we see Jesus embark on a natural fast, though a very long one. We can discern from this that Jesus was a healthy man, not overly large, probably wirey with a bit of insulation, to become hungry again at forty days rather than 21 to 30 would mean he did have some stored fuel.
But I would like to look at the three temptations.
The first was after He became hungry to make the stones bread. Now we are talking about Jesus here, he made water into wine, and multiplied bread, what is the problem with this miracle? Why would this be wrong? He was hungry, and dangerously needed food, this seems like a fairly routine little miracle. But Jesus, became man and layed down his divine attributes. His reliance was on the Father and the Spirit, just like our is. In order for Jesus to access the miraculous on His own, He would have to deny the incarnation and put back on His "Godly attributes" This temptation was to stop being a man, and return to being self sufficient. Jesus cannot truly ask us to follow Him if He is not followable. But didn't He do many miracles later? No, He acted as a conduit for the Father and the Spirit, just like we are called to. Jesus tells us, "I only do what I see the Father doing" Jesus, just like us, prayed for the sick trusting in the Fathers power. Even the resurection is explained through this grid, "the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead gives life to your mortal bodies". (After service I was questioned about this a bit, and good on them for doing so, 'but Jesus was God' yes He was, but becoming man He of His own volition layed down His Godly attributes and lived as we do. I affirm the absolute divinity of Jesus, as I also affirm the absolute humanity of Jesus)
The second temptation was to throw Himself off the temple and allow God's angels to rescue Him. Satan uses scripture here. But Jesus resists the temptation to spectacular, by quoting scripture himself. In this Jewish culture expecting the Christ, the spectacular was expected. This would have given Jesus instant credibility among the elite Jewish leaders. It would have instantly created a cult of personality, and a head on fight with Rome. Matthew instead shows us the coming messiah, as a humble man that says, "look, please don't tell anybody" He isn't looking for press coverage, but rather is looking to lead a revolution from the fringes, from the margins. A revolution that starts in the hearts of small insignificant people, and communities that accept the vision for the kingdom of God, for a completely new way of living, and thinking and loving. This revolution will not be televised.
The third temptation Satan offers is basically the entire world, all of its kingdoms and all of its power and glory. Jesus doesn't dispute Satans ability to deliver this promise. But he stands strong against it. You see Jesus was not coming to win over all of the kingdoms of the world, but rather to bring the kingdom of God into the world, and overwhelm these contrary kingdoms. You see all of these other kingdoms, and their glory are lead by the god of this world. There is no kingdom that is not under the power of the temptor.
Remember again we are talking to a Jewish people, who looked at satan not as some demonic figure, but as an agent of God sent to tempt people. This is the ruler of this world, who lures us towards power. The power of influence, and fame, and money and political might. All of these kingdoms are offered to Jesus, I will give you these kingdoms if you worship me. But Jesus understands that His kingdom is not built on the powers, but exists only as our hearts and love is given over to God rulership. Jesus must follow God to the cross, that is the kingdom, the kingdom of God comes from sacrifice, and losing ones life for others. There is no short cut from the cross.
The problem with our modern church today is not our understanding of Jesus cross. I think we understand it very well. We understand the love of God through it, forgiveness through it, atonement, and judgement and prophetic fulfilment through it. Our problem is not in misunderstanding Jesus cross, but not recognizing our own. We are called to lay down our life, like Jesus did. Though we are alive, still sacrifice ourselves for others. Romans 12 explains that this is our call, to be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God. I believe the devil tempts us the same way today, he asks us to surrender to the power of politics, and influence, to bring about the kingdom in another way, but the only way to bring God's kingdom is the cross. First through Jesus' cross, and now through our own. May we all find the truth in the scripture "she who seeks to find her life will lose it, and she who seeks to lose her life for my sake will find it"
Thursday, October 05, 2006
So I was picked in the thirds for this weekend, and I can't wait to play. Hope I get a few overs with the ball, and take a bag of wickets. :)
Cricket is a wonderful game.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
The book is called The Irresistable Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and you should read it.
This is a quote from Soren Kierkegaard:
the matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take an words in the new testement and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever got on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the new testement.
I am proud to be Danish when reading Soren's words.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Now the fact that this drama has already been entirely outside of Jerusalem is very subversive in a Jewish culture. Jerusalem is the center of their faith. It is the house of God, the promised kingdom, the home of David and the promise of Israel. This is where the people of God come to celebrate the feasts and to worship and to be forgiven of sins. And yet, out in the desert places, their lives a priest that preaches repentance. And the people wind up going to the margins, to find redemption.
Not only that, but this illustrates another point. When one works with the marginalised and the poor, particularly when one does so exclusively, you always get the questions, or accusations, "what about those that are not poor or marginalised don't they need Jesus too?" Well I believe this passage shows us that when you work on the fringe, away from the mainstream, and the center of power, and privlidge. When you work away from the center of worship, and religious heriarchy. These people actually come to the fringe, they make their way there. Even the leaders, the priests, the big shots. The reason why is when those that were hopeless have hope, those that think they have hope realize its all conditional, and they find themselves wanting that kind of hope that can shine in such darkness. Jesus, and John started on the margins as this is what opens the eyes of those at the center.
Again subversively Matthew tells of John's interaction with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Lets just say he wasn't very nice! YOU SNAKES, WHO WARNED YOU OF YOUR IMPENDING JUDGEMENT? DON'T COME OUT HERE AND TRY AN PLAY AT BEING SPIRITUAL, YOU MUST ACTUALLY CHANGE YOUR LIVES! hmmm not very pc John. Imagine being a first century Jew and reading about this prophet that gives no esteem to the leaders and teacher of your day. This mad man out in the desert in skins, and eating bugs. The hermit out in the wastelands, condemning the religious elite of the day.
And then Jesus comes to him, and asks to be baptised. John doesn't want to, it isn't right, you are the lamb of God and I am not worthy to tie your shoe, let alone baptise you. But Jesus insists, saying it is neccesary for righteousness. What does that mean? It means Jesus would not ask us to follow the course He did not take himself. Jesus enters the symbolic death and resurection, and then experiences the empowering of the Spirit for ministry, exactly in the same way he asks us to. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is so commited to this new way of leadership that he submits to baptism, and waits for God's Spirit before he goes into ministry. The subversive, revolutionary point is simple. Jesus will not ask us to do what he has not already done, even ritually. The new covenant was started with the creator of the world, entering into our new life path. And then the good shepherd says, follow me.
I love that.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I started by explaining how the Jewish culture of Jesus day was living in exile in their own land. They were being ruled over by people that did not believe what they believe, nor live the way they lived. It was a cultural, political and religious divide. And there were three ways that they chose to deal with this. These three ways were defined by three groups.
The pharisees and zealotts who believed that they must be good and righteous jews keeping all of the traditions strictly and God would come deliver them
The Sadducees who believed that they should work politically alonside of Rome in order to secure for themselves a good way of life. Don't be "too jewish" and lets all just get along.
The essenes who advocated leaving it all, forming their own communities and ignoring all outside.
We discussed how in our culture we face similiar things, and discussed how different Christian groups among us have chosen to deal with things in the same manner as our ancient Jewish forebears.
Please don't be offended these are gross generalizations
pharisees fundementalists, holiness groups
zealotts political right, we must take control
sadducees emerging church, seeker sensitive, prosperity gospel
essenes Amish, Christian youth culture, pentecostal church
But the truth is we all do a bit of each of these. But my point was that Jesus came to this culture, and these ways of looking for the kingdom of GOd, and brings a completely different idea. Infact He tells us to repent from these attempts and accept the kingdom of God, brought by Himself.
This kingdom says, do not be conformed to culture be salt to your culture, and if you are no longer salty you are really not good for anything. This kingdom says that by our good deeds and our love for others we will be a bright and shining light for all to see, and this will extend the kingdom. Jesus tells us to leave off our running away, because we cannot hid our lamp under a bushell. This is the new kingdom, an upside down kingdom where the least is the best, where the first will be last, and where love is the law. Repent and believe the good news, the kingdom of God is here, but you have to choose to live in it.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
She made Jesus one of the street people, and the disciples his friends. She made the sadducees the social workers, and the pharisees the governments case workers. And they were all together talking about homelessness, poverty, the drug problem. And the immoral despised woman, well shirley's retelling made the woman a police officer.
See these street kids got that Jesus would love them, and the immoral woman, but a cop!!! No way. But Jesus' ability to love those that we find unloveable was passed on, it just had to be contextualized. Thats what good missionaries do. They tell the same gospel stories, but do it in a way others can understand it.
What a blessing to have Shirley with us last night.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
76 St Leonards Rd.
Well, just incase any of you don't know that quote, it was a quote delivered by Jack Nicholson. The setting was a court room, and Tom (I am actually insane) Cruise was interogating the high ranking military officer played by Jack. Cruise' character realizes that the colonel will incriminate himself if given enough rope and sets about giving him that rope. The colonel is accused of ordering his troops to deliver some military justice to a young marine, that winds up dying from the abuse. He is an arrogant, intense, and very focused man. And he doesn't like this young punk lawyer disrespecting him.
At one point he needs to tell everyone what he is there for:
Son, we live in a world that has walls.
And those walls have to be guarded by men
with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You,
Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater
responsibility than you can possibly
fathom. You weep for Santiago and you
curse the marines. You have that luxury.
You have the luxury of not knowing what I
know: That Santiago's death, while tragic,
probably saved lives. And my existence,
while grotesque and incomprehensible to
you, saves lives.
You don't want the truth. Because deep
down, in places you don't talk about at
parties, you want me on that wall. You need me
We use words like honor, code,
loyalty...we use these words as the
backbone to a life spent defending
something. You use 'em as a punchline.
I have neither the time nor the
inclination to explain myself to a man who
rises and sleeps under the blanket of the
very freedom I provide, then questions the
manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer
you just said thank you and went on your
way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a
weapon and stand a post. Either way, I
don't give a damn what you think you're
Well, I had a bit of a difficult bit of self realization this morning. I act
like this sometimes. I say, "well I am an intense guy, I am the guy who will
say the things other people don't want to say, I am the ugly, mean, prophetic,
monster that is going to save everyone" What a crock of shit. I am an insecure
little man that wants his daddy to be proud of him. And this is how I try to
be a man, because as much as I know in my head that this is not true, I think
men are supposed to be harsh, fearless, unapologetic and warriors. Jesus wasn't
like Colonel Jessup, and I am not supposed to be either.
God help me.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
"my proposal is not that we know what the word god means and manage somehow to fit Jesus into that. Instead, I suggest that we think historically about a young Jew possessed of a desperately risky, indeed apparently crazy, vocation, riding into Jerusalem in tears, denouncing the temple and dying on a Roman cross - and that we somehow allow our meaning for the word god to be recentered around that point.
Let me recapitulate and develop something I said in the opening chapter of this book. After twenty years of serious historical-Jesus study I still say the Christian creeds ex animo, but I now mean something very different by them, not least by the word God itself. The portrait has been redrawn. At its heart, as disclosed in the biblical writings, we discover a human face surrounded by a crown of thorns. God's purpose for Israel has been completed. Salvation is of the Jews, and from the King of the Jews it has come. God's covenant faithfulness has been revealed in the good news of Jesus, bringing salvation for the whole cosmos."
wow! I really like the book and the author.
In chapter two we read about the visit of the Eastern royalty. Now we know these are not the first visitors to come and worship Jesus. In fact reading Luke we understand that on the very day of Jesus birth he was worshipped by some jewish shepherds out in the fields. And then on the eighth day after his birth, as is the Jewish tradition we come to the temple, where a prophet of God recognizes Jesus' call, and having been promised he would see the Christ before he dies, is happy to go do that now that he has seen Jesus. And another devout Jewish woman, who worships night and day in the temple worships Jesus as well.
But Matthew doesn't speak of these events. Matthew doesn't tell about family visits either. He tells of an event that happened over a year later. The visit of the magi, or astrologers from the East. Matthew tells his Jewish audience that the Christ, the king of the Jews, is born in Bethlehem, and the first people that he tells us about coming to recognize the king, are not only not Jewish, but those that practice astrology. And the current king of Jerusalem, wants to kill this baby, but these non Jewish foreigners actually hear from God and do their part in saving the child.
Right from the start of his gospel Matthew is showing that Jesus though Jewish himself, and as messiah the heir to the throne of David. Jesus who is the coming King, the saviour of Israel, is also destined to be the saviour of the entire world. And gives us a hint that in actual fact, the world will see this, and respond, when many Jewish men and women will not.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Now my contention is that somewhere along the line, we have rejected this command. We have not only rejected God as our ruler, but have set up another kingdom. The kingdoms of the church. We have found being ruled, and trusting the rule of the creator of the universe a daunting, and to be honest frightening task, so we have created a kingdom in His name, to help us feel more secure.
Now this is a very harsh thing to say, but lets take a closer look:
What do kingdoms do?
They create structures to protect, educate and control the people. In some cases they have a document, that has been ratified and accepted as the proper way to rule and govern, and call these constitutions, that provide a way to keep even the leaders in line. And they have special people that study these constitutions and make sure they are never broken. They have special people that are "qualified" to carry out the rule of the kingdom. They are often very capable, and qualified men, often very charismatic. They in some cases are elected, in other cases appointed, and in some cases inherit positions. And special people that enforce their rule. And they call these people public "servants". They create borders, if you are inside this border you are part of the kingdom, if you are outside you are not. They create armies of people to protect these borders, and to expel those that do not follow the dictates of the rulers. They have people that create propaganda to further the agenda of the kingdom, and they have others that are enlisted to battle against the "enemies" of the kingdom. They provide services for the people in the kingdom, they prepare roads, provide for the needy, educate those in the kingdom. And ofcourse all of the services and servants cost money so they charge a tax, a percentage of your income, in order to pay for all of these good things. They sing special songs and anthems about the kingdom. They have special days to celebrate the important days and people of the kingdom. They have special books, pledges, and covenents. I am sure this is sounding familiar. We have created new kingdoms, and these try to be the kingdom of God, but they are not.
Now I have been told I am advocating lawlessness. But I am not, I am advocating responsibility, and community, and the rulership of God. But who is to control things and keep them from getting out of line? Well seeing that a church able to even have people put to death wasn't able to curtail desent, I will just trust God to deal with it. What I am advocating for the people of God to return to the grass roots, diverse movement of our history. To relational authority. To an upside down kingdom that gives up power rather than protects it. That opens its borders rather than protects them. That actually requires of people that they leave the kingdoms of this world, and gives them no new kingdom in return, but allows God's rulership to take place.
Turn from the false kingdoms, and accept the only true king, Jesus the Christ.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
First off we must understand Matt. was written to the Jewish people. The fact that a tax gatherer (read traitor to his people), would write telling them the good news, is a bit subversive, even before we get to the text. But it is apparent in his writing that this is his primary target. He does not use the word God, or THE NAME vey often. In fact he uses the expession kingdom of heaven rather than kingdom of God. He also uses the phrase, "as was spoken of through the prophets" way way more than the other writers. He is mainly trying to witness to a Jewish audience.
Which makes the geneology so much more subversive. Matt starts with Abraham as a good Jewish boy would, being that the Hebrews counted being sons of Abraham as their ticket into God's good graces. But then he goes a bit crazy. Now, there was no need to mention any women in the geneology. Luke doesn't at all. But in this geneology Matty lists four women in Christ's lineage. And just who are these women? I might add all but one are part of Mary's lineage as well.
The first is Tamar, who has the dubious distinction of having her father in laws child. This woman after having her first two husbands die, then tricks her father in law into getting her pregnant. And I thought I had some strange rumours in my family tree.
The second is Rahab. Now most people know Rahab usually has a second name: the harlot. Rahab the second woman Matt decides to highlight was not only a harlot in Jericho, but was not Jewish. I don't know if you understand how scandalous that is to a Jewish reader, but to think Gods Son comes from the line of a non jewish harlot is quite the radical idea.
The third is an amazing woman, one of the heros of the old testement: Ruth. She is a truly righteous and Godly woman. But... not Jewish again.
and the last...
The last woman isn't actually named, but called "the wife of Uriah" In other words Bathsheeba, the woman who's beauty brought king David to his knees. This woman not only was impregnated by a man she was not married to, but then conspired to trick her husband into thinking he was the father. And when that didn't work married the father of her baby after he had her husband killed!
Now what is the moral of this story? I think it is this: Jesus does not come from a nice safe pedigree, the path God chose to enter the world is a wayward, sinful, scandalous path. And He does the same today, but through you and me. Jesus is not a safe, easy, pious Godman, but rather a subversive, dangerous, revolutionary Godman, who came to not only save us, but inspire us to take up His dangerous call. And I intend to do just that.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
It was very good for me to get away, and reflect, study, and pray. I struggled a lot with centering or abiding prayer. My mind is very unruly and I doubt I kept it focused for more than a few minutes at a time. I imagine as with all things this will take practice. Some of the phrases I chose to center on were, "Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world." just the name "Jesus" and the name "YHWH" but like I said it was hard to keep my mind running off chasing every rabbit that hopped up.
The main reason I decided to go away was to help get some resolve for a charactor issue. I explained before that I tended to crave the respect and admiration of men that I respect and admire. I had difficulty realizing that they were father figures in some way, as many of these men are my own age. It was only recently I reallized that my age, is actually the age my father was when I "came of age". So I am still the teenaged boy desperately wanting the approval of dad. And I put that onto God as well, thinking that my heavenly Father is maybe a bit disappointed in me as well.
The problem with the rejection of legalism is, however, that we are left with no objective standard with which to judge our standing with God. We wind up face to face with the Creator of the universe, with no lists with which to hide behind, and justify ourselves with. This is not always a comforting thought. As I seek my Heavenly Fathers approval, I cannot rely on a set of morals acts and ommisions to make me feel like everything is okay. So my weird mind has created this subconsicous way to get this acceptance and approval:
If men that I really respect as Godly, wise and inteligent, like me, and even admire me a bit, then God must be happy with me too.
Ofcourse it is all an attempt to be loved and accepted by God. Something that the bible tells us is already true. It comes back to faith, do I believe it or not? Well today I do!!!
The time away allowed me to understand this much better.
It also gave me a bunch of sermons that I cannot wait to preach on the gospel of Matthew. I will post them here after I have delivered them at the Cave.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Last night was a very good night at the Cave. We prayed for Andy who is going to New York for a few weeks to do a show. We looked at the need for us to pay attention not only to the spiritual needs of our friends and neighbors but the physical needs as well. I got to play lead guitar, and rocked a nice riff or two. And Anthony played some harmonica on one of the songs which sounded great. I really love the fact that we have people of four generations there, and people that were born in four different countries, there are five different languages spoken. Which might not be a big deal but in a church of twenty five it certainly is. I love the diversity, and the flavour each culture brings.
I enjoyed a nice quiet fathers day yesterday, got a new cricket ball, which is just what I wanted. And the mighty Pies won for me.
In the morning our house church talked about what we would be doing to reach out to those in need more directly. It seems everyone is trying to figure out how we can practice hospitality in one way or another. We are looking into foster parenting, taking in asylum seekers, or helping people that are mentally or emotionally challenged. We all have committed to tasks this week to draw us closer to realizing these dreams, and I can't wait to see what trouble we wind up in. :)
Have a nice week. I will post some of my reflections when I return.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
My wife is going to go up to the cabin with me and we will spend the Monday together bush walking and then she will leave me there. I will be picked up on Thursday morning. I am still not sure exactly how I should order my time.
And advice would be great. Also wondered if at silent retreats they speak prayers aloud? And is the goal not to write as well? Some things I have planned was scripture readings. Taking communion daily. And possible doing some painting. I am planning on having regular times of centering prayer, and trying to practice stillness.
I would rather get charged by a bull.
Monday, August 28, 2006
I will not go into too much about what was said, but if you have any questions about any of these things please just ask and I will try and give you the combined wisdom as I heard it. But what I did want to point out was the quality of teaching and instruction that came out of these sessions was very very strong.
As you may have recognized from my posts and maybe from me personally, I am not shy. I speak my mind quite freely, and usually believe I have something worthwile to say. And even if I don't I'll will speak up anyways :) But I really saw this weekend, that I always gave, just a piece of the picture. And when we had a group there was a more complete picture given. And thats not all, since it was not just one person speaking, the "audience" not only felt allowed to ask questions, but to offer their own answers as well. I hope to use this format more in FORGE, and I think it is something that church should be more about. The collective wisdom of a community of faithful disciples will always bring a more well rounded wisdom.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I thought I would share a few of the highlights for me, the first being Mick Duncan. Mick spent ten years of his life in a Manila slum. He speaks from a platform of both integrity and brokeness. He always, everytime, challenges me deeply. He is a great speaker, very powerful, but not always very fun to listen to. My friend Jon Owen described listening to him speak this way, "its like he smiles and then stabs you with a knife... and then twists it... and when you think you can't take anymore he pulls the knife out... and jabs it in again" Which isn't always true, but I think you get the picture.
In the first session Mick talked about our mind, and what we have mentally decided was our non-negotiables. He talked to us about God being the only thing allowed to be in that non-negotiable space, and anything else put there becomes an idol. At the end of the talk he asked us to take a time of confession. He asked us to kneel before God and confess the areas of our life that were not in obedience to God.
In actual fact, I believe that in my life I didn't think anything was intentionally above the line. I actually think I would do whatever God told me to do. But it is the nonintentional, as it is much of the time, that was and is giving me problems. My confession is one that probably won't shock you in the least, but I desperately look for the respect and admiration of other people. Particularly older men, or peers that I deeply respect. I really want them to be proud of me. And sometimes, well perhaps more honestly often, I am motivate by this rather than by my love and devotion to God.
I sat down with a brother in the Lord and told him about my struggle, one that has gone on for as long as I can remember. And he told me that Henri Nouwen also struggled with these things. He advised me that like Nouwen, I may find my struggle with this sin in my life, helped by times of solitude and silence. This confirmed my own thoughts about my need for this.
The problem is silence and solitude scares the hell out of me. I do not know if I can do it. But I need to. So when I am done writing this post, I will start looking for a place to have a time of silence and solitude. I am not sure if I will get a tent and just go to Wilsons Prom by myself, or go to a monastery of some sort. But I will do this in the next month...
unless one of you can suggest some really good excuses for me not to do it. Please!!!
Pretty full on, non stop for a few days. But there is a tiredness that is not weariness. I am thankful to have today off, to spend a day with my wife just relaxing. I am only writing here because Raquel is having a nap, and I cannot as I am having some sleeping problems at the moment.
I will write a bit about my personal experiences this weekend in another post, but I am just feeling the need to share my thankfulness for a busy, tiring weekend. It isn't a bad thing at all.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Now as you might know we live fairly simple lives, don't have a lot, don't really need a lot. But every once and a while we get a special treat. Last night as we celebrated our anniversary we were able to use a gift voucher for a beautiful, fancy restaurant in St. Kilda called the Stokehouse.
We were given this voucher as a thank you for the work we do with Red Network (formerly South melbourne restoration community). This allowed us to go and have a really nice night out, that we wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.
So we are sitting upstairs, looking over the bay, and enjoying the most beautiful food. I had potato and leek ravioli with parmesan encrusted pumpkin, and really nice glass of red wine from Spain and we shared a beautiful affogato with walnut liquer for dessert. My wife looked beautiful and we were enjoying the atmosphere.
Then my mate Jono from UNOH sent a text message. If you don't know Urban Neighbors of Hope, they are an amazing group of people that live in community with people below the poverty line. Some of the UNOH team live in the slums of Bangkok in what amounts to a shed, with their children. This amazing organization is worthy of your prayers and financial support if you want more info http://www.unoh.org/html/s01_home/home.asp?dsb=5 AND PLEASE GO TO THE SURRENDER CONFERENCE THIS MONTH
Well when I get Jon's text I am confronted with the amazing diversity of these two worlds. I am eating in this posh restaurant, and am communicating with a sacrificial missionary, who inpires me so much. The question is what do you do with this?
Now I could follow my good Catholic upbringing and jump right into guilt. I could also jump to my Pentecostal education and say "God wants me to have this wonderful meal as His blessing". But I found myself in neither of those camps. I sat with my wonderful wife, and enjoyed a gift, and also prayed that God would allow me to become more like Jesus, accepting life as it comes. Having a wonderful feast with some wealthy friends and experiencing hunger an homelessness the next. Accepting the annointing of oil with grace, and walking in absolute humility, even becoming the worst of slaves, by washing his disciples feet. That truly is a man to follow.
What about miracles? This next Sunday at the Cave we are gonna take a look at some miracles in the book of acts, and talk about miracles. We will discuss the different arguements for and against miracles both in the past and today. We will talk about a practical response to some of the problems and will even have some time for prayer.
I am a bit nervous talking about the subject, I find that so much weirdness in the church has made me reluctant to talk about the supernatural. And the typical attitude of "naturalists" to dismiss it as faerie tales and con men, doesn't make it any easier.
If you would like to share anything that might be helpful on the subject I would be grateful. In other words, help me do my homework!
Monday, July 31, 2006
Father, I ask you to forgive me for my sins this week. I have often been selfish, I have treated my wife and children with annoyance at times. I have often dwelt upon things I would like to have that would make my life more comfortable and easy. I have wasted time building my own kingdom, rather than participating in yours. I have gossiped, and let my toungue be unrestrained. Please forgive me Lord, and make me clean.
Please feel free to post a prayer of confession if you will, but if you want to post pictures I might have to edit them :)
The second is the Statement of our Faith, or the Apostles Creed:
I think again the words may sometimes fade into absent memorized nothingness. So we wrote our own statement of faith, and then we took communion.
I belive in Jesus, the center of all things. I believe He was sent by the Father to show us the way, to reveal the truth, and to give us life. I believe He became a man so that He could truely be our brother, and suffered the humilation of humanity. He died for our sins and rose again so that even death would be destroyed. He is the victorious saviour. I believe He sent the SPirit to guide, empower and instruct us. I believe we are now called to be Gods missionaries to all of the earth, until God brings the entire earth under the rulership of the kingdom of God.
Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Here's a song in your praise
Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind
O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning.
Lord of the starfields
Sower of life,
Heaven and earth are
Full of your light
Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you
O love that fires the sun
keep me burning
And spoke of our lack of creativity in describing God, and our limited vocabulary for praise. I pointed out that often we say or sing the same things over and over again, and they lose their meaning. I asked people to think of new phrases or words of praise for God.
Mine were maybe a bit cheesy, but so you will be inspired to do better here they are
Depth of the black hole
Please list what you come up with.
Please participate if you will:
We enter Gods courts with thanksgiving one of the psalms says. So we wrote down, or drew pictures of things that we wanted to thank God for.
I thank God for my family.
a great place to train
my puppy winston
And I am very thankful for what Jesus has done in my life, waking me up to the kingdom of God, teaching me about community, the primacy of the poor and the marginalized, the joy of discipleship. I thank God for the ministry I am now part of, and the amazing people I am walking the path with. I thank God for providing for my family. I am thankful that I know forgiveness, and love, and passion.
please post things you are thankful for
and then move to part 2
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Acts chapter 4
5The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. 7They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?"
8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: "Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11He is
" 'the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the capstone.[a]'[b] 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
13When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16"What are we going to do with these men?" they asked. "Everybody living in Jerusalem knows they have done an outstanding miracle, and we cannot deny it. 17But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn these men to speak no longer to anyone in this name."
18Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. 20For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard."
21After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
I looked at this passage from two points of view, the first was as a man discipled in a pentecostal tradition:
Peter and John had just accomplished an amazing miracle, Peter utters a great one liner "silver and gold we have not, but what we do have we give to you: In the name of Jesus, rise and walk" And amidst the commotion a crowd gathers, and Peter begins to preach about Jesus. Then the Jewish leaders and priests have them arrested. They are the ones that at the very least assisted in the death of Jesus. These leaders take Peter and John aside and ask what they are doing.
Now Peter, being his usual cautious self, basically tells them that they had Jesus killed, and that it was in Jesus name this happened. The leaders threaten them, and tell them to stop, then threaten them some more.
A bit later in the chapter we read the church praying for boldness to continue to share the message of Jesus. And this is what I was taught over and over again. To pray for boldness like the apostles did. The thing is, this seems really silly to me. What do I have to be bold about? Or what do I have to be bold in the face of. These men's very lives were in danger, their bodies would be beaten, they would be banished, excommunicated, and eventually killed. In the face of this they asked God for boldness. What do I have to worry about? Someone might not like me. Someone might think I am a weirdo!!! Hardly the same thing huh?
But the second point of view:
These educated leaders were amazed that these uneducated labourers were bold enough to stand against them. How could these low lifes imagine themselves to be worthy of even speaking to them!!! Yet somehow they not only stood in confidence before them, but actually contradicted them right to their face. Didn't they know who they were talking to!
And from this, they realized they had been Jesus' companions.
Perhaps we need to pray for a more complete relationship with Jesus, rather than for boldness. Perhaps we should concentrate more on spending time with the risen Jesus, than on working ourselves up to the proper lather to share our faith. Maybe its from this knowledge of Jesus, and His love, and His victory, and His grace, that we just naturally go about being Jesus to others, caring for the broken hearted, praying for the sick, sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. Maybe, once again our focus should be on Jesus, not on ourselves. I think then we wind up naturally being the light in darkness that we are told about.