Category Archives: Culture

Love all the one anothers (Easter 6, 10 May 2015)

Readings
Acts 10.44–48
1 John 15.9–17

Love, and do what you will.—St Augustine, Homilies on 1 John VII:8

Before we go on today, I’d like you to close your eyes and be still. Just for a few moments… Ok, that’s fine.

I wonder what you were most aware of? Perhaps some of you just started to drift off. Others may have suddenly remembered they need to get milk on the way home. Yet others may have become more aware of their breathing.

Those last few may have also been more aware than usual of something we all take for granted. We are surrounded by air. It’s all around us.

I’m usually totally unaware of air unless I’m conscious of my breathing, or the winter westerlies are blowing, or there’s a cyclone.

But it’s there, all about me. And I am alive because of it. Continue reading

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NRA: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink

Fred Clark is again blogging about the Left Behind series. Terrible novels, terrible understandings of what it is to be human as well as execrable theology.

But Fred’s critiques are brilliant, hilarious and right on the money.

NRA: Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

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No other name…but other sheep (Easter 4, Year B, 29 April 2012)

Readings
Acts 4.5-12
1 John 3.16-24
John 10.11-18 

I was sitting in my office one day. Not here, it was a few years back when I was head of the Pastoral Care Department of The Wesley Hospital. I’d just picked up the phone. There was a very angry woman on the other end, who was a member of the Uniting Church.

Let me start at the beginning. The chapel at ‘the Wes’ is open 24/7. As you’d expect—people want to come in and pray in a hospital chapel at all sorts of times. Sometimes, staff came in to pray too. There were a couple of staff members who at that time were coming daily to pray.

One had been coming for some time; she was almost part of the furniture. The more recent ‘pray-er’ was a student in the hospital. Like the first, she’d come in around mid-morning to pray. Unlike the first, she’d unfold her prayer mat, kneel and bow low to the ground. You see, unlike the first, she was a Muslim.

Sometimes, the two women would be in the chapel at the same time, the Christian and the Muslim each at prayer in their own way. The angry woman who rang me thought we were setting a very bad example to ‘young people’ by allowing this student to use the chapel to pray her Muslim prayers. She wanted to know why we hadn’t forbidden her.

I told her we were showing hospitality to a stranger in our land. That’s quite a biblical value, by the way, and to her credit she realised straight away that it was. She didn’t give up her objections, but she did eventually run out of steam.

What do you think our responsibility was in this situation? Especially in the light of Peter’s confession of faith to the leaders of his people:

There is salvation in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

If there is ‘no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved’, should we have done something different? Should we have offered her another space to pray? Should we have told her that Jesus is the Saviour of the world? I’m comfortable with what we did, though I do understand that for some people it’s not clear that we were right.

‘There is salvation in no one else…’ What does that mean?

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Timothy Noah: When Did ‘Christian’ Become A Synonym For ‘Conservative Evangelical’? | The New Republic

I saw this today (h/t @edrescherphd). While it’s from a US-centric perspective, there are places where things are becoming pretty similar here in Australia. ‘Christian’ is in danger of becoming a franchise rather than a way of describing a way of being a disciple of the Risen One.

Timothy Noah: When Did ‘Christian’ Become A Synonym For ‘Conservative Evangelical’? | The New Republic.

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The inspiring story of Pete Eckert

Pete Eckert is a blind photographer—yes, you read that correctly. His story inspires awe in me; read it here.

Here are two of his images:

Cathedral


Stations

See more of his work here.

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Let’s try to rediscover the spirit of Christmas

From Barney Zwartz, religion editor of The Age (read more of Barney’s articles here):

FRIEND took his daughter to the Myer Christmas pageant recently. Unsullied by any religious references, it had floats featuring various toys available at the store—a fact the master of ceremonies was at pains to emphasise—as well as the obligatory few footballers (because AFL is so relevant to Christmas) and the Chinese New Year dragon (ditto).

Australia’s greatest festival is nearly upon us, and all round the nation people are stressed about what offerings to lay at its altar: the cash register. They are maxing their credit cards and preparing to devour—before debt, in turn, devours them. Should we spend less than last year, the media will present it as an economic disaster.

Isn’t it wonderful what secularism can do to a religious festival? In many shops, schools, councils and government departments we can’t even call it Christmas any more, because that’s insufficiently inclusive. Never mind that I never met a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or Hindu who resented Christmas. Indeed, they welcome it, and hope only that their religious festivals might also get a modicum of recognition.

It’s not followers of other religions who are making Christmas ever-more bland and banal, ever-more distant from the supposed spirit, though they are usually invoked. It’s the secularists—some with naive good intentions, some determinedly with malice aforethought — who are trying to eliminate Christ from the festival that bears his name. Thus we receive festive cards wishing us season’s greetings or happy holidays, decorated with snow-clad conifers; primary teachers no longer put up nativity scenes; and we sing Jingle Bells rather than O Come, All Ye Faithful.

Mind you, religion is not entirely eliminated. The vacuum is being filled by worship of another omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent deity: the one in Coca-Cola red with a bushy white beard and a sack over his shoulder (though even he is too “religious” for some).

None of this is new, of course. I am not simply railing against commercialism. That battle was lost long ago. Nor am I suggesting Christmas should be a uniquely Christian festival, because non-believers are just as entitled to a holiday—and they are welcome to share mine. Nor can Christians tell pagans to find their own festival. They will rightly retort that December 25 was theirs first.

In fact, many Christians have been ambivalent about this holy day that arrived late on the liturgical calendar.

Some Christians oppose celebrating Christmas because they fear it offers nominal Christians and non-believers a veneer of sentimental religiosity that tides them through the rest of the year, while others see it as a welcome opportunity to give the Gospel message to a once or twice-a-year audience.

My plea is to keep some spiritual relevance in Christmas, for believer and atheist alike. For Christians, Christmas is pre-eminently about grace, the incarnation, God entering human history to redeem and restore. It marks something transcendent and sacred. But secular people, too, are spiritual, and they too are impoverished in the absence of anything transcendent and sacred. They will not find it in a festival to Mammon.

The tragedy is that for so many people Christmas has become an ordeal, and its hopes and expectations have been postponed to the holiday that begins the day after.

You can be spiritual without religious belief, but you can’t be spiritual if you are enmeshed in the joyless, stressful pursuit of a mirage. Just watch the desperate faces of shoppers in the last few days before Christmas, the pressure parents feel to do something exceptional. When did the mark of how much you love someone become how much you spent on them?

Even the celebratory nature of the feast has receded now that we live in a time of perpetual overindulgence.

It’s hard to suggest this without sounding naive and sentimental, but perhaps Christmas can be reinvented. Perhaps we can rediscover the innocence and wonder with which it is at least ideally associated.

This Christmas, we could all pause and reflect, take time to be grateful, count our blessings (or their secular equivalent).

Are we living in accord with our best beliefs, our purest conscience, and how can we do it better?

So, my compliments of the season, and have a relaxing but reflective festival. And, if you are a Christian, happy Christmas.

My comment: I love this: ‘secular people, too, are spiritual, and they too are impoverished in the absence of anything transcendent and sacred. They will not find it in a festival to Mammon’. This is so true! We are all lessened by the way Christmas/the holidays/whatever is celebrated these days.

Barney suggests we rediscover the ‘innocence and wonder’ which accompany Christmas—certainly, an innocence and wonder we knew as kids. Perhaps this is the way we ‘become as little children’ (Matthew 18.3) for Christmastide?

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The Wiggles do U2

I’ve mentioned before how I love Spicks and Specks on ABC TV. Which other show would have the Wiggles singing a U2 song?

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