Friday, 21 March 2008

Which side is Jesus on?

There may be two sides to every story, but there's nothing right about that club hanging over the woman's bare head. Which side of the shields does Jesus choose to stand?

Thanks to crookedshore for sharing this. As I'm reflecting on the Sufferings of Jesus on his way to the cross, here's the photo.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Of Holocausts and Crucifixion

There hasn't been much time to reflect upon the sufferings of Jesus and the significance of his death and resurrection lately. But one thing that has struck me is a development of my Christmas revelation.

It occurred to me before Christmas that Jesus represents the inverse of the "gods" of this world. Those who can, use their powers to save themselves from pain, from suffering, from hard work. The powerful cushion themselves as far as possible by making others do the hard work on their behalf; by letting others suffer in their place.

And the Incarnation - the idea that God became human in Jesus - means that the God of the "New Testament" embraces a world of suffering, coming to serve rather than to make others serve. The crucifixion of Jesus brings this to its climax - or perhaps its nadir. The depth to which this God-Man will sink. Humiliation, nakedness, clubbed and torn open, dragged out to the city dump, Gehenna, the place of uncleanness of every sort. Treated as unworthy of any sort of dignity or even of life itself, God-in-Jesus not only identifies with, but joins the ranks of, the world's scum, those whose lives are not only of no value, but whose breath is considered an active waste of oxygen.

Earlier this month I visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was such a beautiful day, it seemed sinful to enter those dark doors to face those grim realities. Yet I knew I would be failing the next generation, if I failed to take the step of informing myself. And there, in the ashes of the human beings discarded whilst their hair and shoes were stored as of, at least some value, I breathed the words of Jesus:

"Insomuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."
Matthew 25

Tonight, my brain made the connection. Our Holocaust is a Global one. The poorest of the poor deprived of their homes and subsistence by expanding deserts and torrential floods, increasingly powerful hurricanes and typhoons, and more of them; rising sealevels threatening vast expanses of inhabited land and the inevitable demographics of migration, economic refugees... Like most of us during the Third Reich, we can just go on assuming that it's not really as bad as they say...
Though it has to be said, there isn't going to be much left even for the rich if we don't act now to save the poor.

Another Word echoes: (The additions in brackets are my commentary.)

For whoever wants to save his life(style) will lose it,
but whoever loses his life(style) for me will save it.
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world,
and yet lose or forfeit his very self?
Luke 9: 24, 25

Monday, 10 March 2008

Water of Life

Hey, look at this! Thanks to for the happiest news this century.

Water Pumps powered,
not by the virtual or literal enslavement of women,
but by children at play.

What an inspiration! Clean, eco-friendly, fun-powered renewable technology.
And the water is clean, drinkable, and without disease.
See Playpumps International for the dénouement.

There has to be more of this type of community development out there...
If you can better that, I want to hear about it!

Deepening Prayer

I sat with two other people, back straight, feet planted firmly on the floor,
and eyes closed, listening.
Alan said to imagine the gaze of God upon us.
So I did.
Although he said to sense the warmth of the light of God,
instead of sunshine,
what I felt was like water.
Cleansed, washed.

I remembered my little girl as a baby, loving her bath,
gazing into my face as she splashed and wriggled in the water.
The most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
(Is this how God sees me?! THAT much love?)

And the day - maybe she'd been splashed -
she decided that wet hair was for her no more.
No matter how I coaxed, reassured, or carried on regardless,
that trusting gaze was lost, and the fun turned into a nightmare.

My delight in her now mixes with fury.
She makes herself so miserable, and for what?
(Is this anything like the "wrath" of God?)
So angry with her for pointlessly refusing
the love and joy and peace that is here for her,
if only she would choose trust, rather than her own way.

She's sleeping now, at last.
Finally given in to her body's clamouring for rest.
God's grace is greater even than
her capacity for fighting sleep - and that's saying something!

And Alan read of the man covered in leprosy, who came to Jesus,
threw himself down in front of him and said,
"Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean."
And Jesus touched the leper... and said,
"I do want to."
And the man was cleansed.
Me too, it seems!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Is THIS what Jesus told you guys to do? (again)

Made - or rather, received the gift of, a new friend today. Another American... and a delight.

She gave us the excuse to visit Fitzroy Presbyterian again, which was a blessing on lots of levels.
About seven people smiled and said hi before we even got in the front door - and they didn't ALL recognise me from previous visits, I'm sure.

I might have been the only ordained clergy in the building, and I was in a pew, holding a toddler. But the spirit of Ken Newell was there, even if he was away. That is, his faith in the Holy Spirit to empower the Church to be the Church, even without clergy present! My guess is that Roberta the Administrator played no small part in putting this together. That Blessed Gift of Administration, without which, ministers fall on our faces. They had a good range of different faces and voices contributing to a well-planned and well-led time of worship, reflection and family interaction. There was enough indication of engagement in making the world a better place to show this is a group of people for whom faith is bound in shoe-leather.

Even Littlun sang along - and stayed and listened to the whole service. Keith Lockart started and ended his "sermon" with a song - what a beautiful voice, guitar, and picture-painting story-telling songwriter! His day-job's architecture; but I like to think that using these gifts builds a cathedral of practical praise.

Afterwards, we met for bread, soup and cheese, enjoyed each other's company and raised money for Tearfund. Then our new friend came and inhabited our messy space with her earthed and joyful presence.

Is this what Jesus told us to do? Well not entirely. But it helps to meet and remind each other what he did tell us to be and do. I'm glad I went to Church today!

Washington DC

If I'd had a wireless connection on my laptop, and a less clunky, heavy one, perhaps I'd have taken it to the USA and blogged through my recent experiences of seeing faith-based community work, social action and political engagement around the Capitol... But I've noticed that Gordon McDade has blogged most of it (if not the childish hilarity of certain moments) with insight and passion, so I'll send you there.

Photos, though, are something else. You can find them at

Washington DC - March 6