Good Anzac

While leaders erred their courage held
Bloodied birth waters for a young nation
Anzac Day.
Not so far from there a crowd yelled
Bloody minded in their mob betrayal
Good Friday.

Quiet days that soar still on our modern calendars
Far places weighing on our clever consciences
Calvary and Anzac Cove say, ‘Not my will, lest we forget’.
Great defeats born with blood, borne by love
Teaching us still decades, centuries, eternally
That winning is not always won in victory
But sometimes by the brave, in loss.

The good die young, die in sand and mud, die in their thousands
And we remember them, more than ever, more than mostMoved and strangely weeping.
But listen, echoing along with shuffling feet on dawn’s street
The sound of metal striking metal
Wood giving way, and flesh
And the cry of an only Son
Who dies on a tree, dies with scorn, dies alone
Not my will, lest we forget.

Peter Hallett

Good Friday Fashion

Pockets of unbelief
Some bulging overcoat-size, fit the world in here Doctor Who style
Others faux, stitched, finger-blocking and smug, for appearance
Many inside jackets, back of jeans, silently or savagely stashed

Superior, mildly scornful, more dismissive, of my
Happy Easter greeting, not returned.

Broad swathes of just-believing cloth
But blowing in the wind, somewhat faded, trouser leg
Or sensible dress, unbuttoned sleeve, residual with faith’s fragrances
Pinched and creased and stained by paedophiles and penchants and pus

Didn’t even mention, neither for or against
Unobtrusive, benign, begrudging, slightly bitter? God, it’s Easter.

Collars, cuffs and hidden hems of belief
Heady justification, muddy footslog trailing threads and quick cuffs
Plunged diabolically or deliberately into pockets stirring
Or dipped in sweat of need or heartfelt hidden, hemmed in at home

Not just another day, more than a holiday
The core of my being, nothing more or less, forgive me Easter.

Good Friday fashion eternally of choice and destination
One garment disdained, gambled and divided and sworn
Another devotedly wrapped and wrapped and tears
And what will we wear world, garment of praise, garment of the age?

Lying still, pause for breath if nothing else
It’s a day that defies the pace and my mind turns to, strangely
Good Friday Fashion

…they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
…took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth

PH

Christmas speaks to the messy, bloody birth waters of our soul

Birth of Jesus by RembrandtChristmas as we know it has been culturally crafted over thousands of years around a base narrative concerning a family in Roman-occupied Israel.

Each December various scientists, atheists and pot-shotters are trotted out with their latest theories debunking Christmas and erstwhile Christian intellectuals and apologists bravely rally to defend the seasonal ground. Others argue over various cultural accoutrements to Christmas such as dates and customs and commercialistation. They act as if the average person is not intelligent enough to distinguish between later attempts to mark something significant and the significant thing itself.

Certainly the habitual attacks on the historical origins of Christmas or Easter or any Christian belief along with the confusing but largely irrelevant criticisms of the cultural artefacts that accompany those traditions, have a gradual, destabilising effect on the faith of the wavering or nominal who are probably the majority of believers in our nation. Around the globe however the effect is infinitesimal and Christian faith continues to thrive and multiply in amazing diversity with scant disregard for broadsheet column centimetres.

That is because at the heart of it, the Christmas story – to quote myself – ‘a base narrative concerning a family in Roman-occupied Israel’ is so shockingly familiar to our own human experience it reaches us where the debunkers and apologists never could, in the messy, bloody birth waters of our soul.

Here are just a few examples, in no particular order:Read More »

Anzac more prevalent but Easter infiltrates

There has been some comment that Anzac Day on April 25 trumped Easter Sunday on April 24 with the SMH reporting that, ‘Media Monitors says there were 1878 mentions of the word Anzac in broadcast media over the long weekend, compared to only 44 resurrections.’

The unusual conjunction in the Australian calendar of the two ‘key foundation stories’ meant that the devout may have found themselves at a dawn service two days in a row!

No doubt coverage of Anzac Day did outstrip Easter commemorations, one reason being that most Anzac Day events took place out in the community with a degree of effort taken to ensure everyone was made welcome to attend. In many case Easter services took place behind church walls with the uninitiated left to work out for themselves how to attend.

For example, holidaying a long way from home, we received invitations both verbal and written, to the Anzac Dawn Service in the small town in which we stayed but were left to search Google to see if there was a church within walking distance. There wasn’t.

It may be that in some cases, the church has given up trying to make the amazing message of Easter accessible to all while momentum for Anzac Day continues to grow. I would say – more power to Anzac Day, but those of us who know the power of Easter truth should not be afraid of taking our joy outside in genuine, unself-conscious and welcoming ways.

The Divine may yet have the last headline in any case. Media commentators may not be aware, but in many Anzac Day commemorations, large and small, around the nation, Christian ministers are invited to give the address and invariably draw comparisons between the self-sacrifice, giving of life and courage embedded in Anzac Day and likewise in the Christ of Easter.

There is nothing closer to a national Christian service than Anzac Day, even though it is a secular event. The sentiments expressed are often as close to the Christian message as they two days were on the calendar this year.

God in action for Easter at Trinity Beach

The European name for the area known as Trinity Beach, far north Queensland, originates from Captain James Cook’s exploration of Australia in 1770.
He passed by this section of coastland on or near Trinity Sunday, June 10, 1770. The traditional owners of the region are the Gimuy Yidinji.
It is the first time possibly in my life that I did not attend a church service over Easter but being surrounded by family and God’s preaching through creation,  ensured a deeply spiritual experience.
A band of cloud crosses the reflected light of the moon producing the image of a cross. The light also produces a key-hole shape.
 
After a cross-shaped image created by the full moon on Good Friday, Easter Sunday's sunrise did not fail to bring a powerful feeling of resurrection.

New Last Supper theory interesting, but not so new

Media outlets are today reporting claims from a new book that Easter celebrations are a day late in marking the celebration by Jesus of the Passover before being crucified.

Many close readers of the Bible who have studied the Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life would have already considered the possibility of the Last Supper occurring on the Wednesday, rather than Thursday, before Good Friday.

The Gospels are not motivated by a desire to inform readers of exact dates – presuming early Christians were already well aware of these,  or because they were focused on the content of Jesus life and teaching rather than chronology.

However as an historic faith, it is heartening to see scientists seeking to test accounts and find explanations for these eye-witness accounts, handed down over many centuries.

And while this latest book is unlikely to change the way Christians celebrate Easter (although perhaps we could argue for an extra Easter holiday?) it is a useful reminder that Easter is more than religious tradition, it remembers extraordinary events in the lives of real people, one in particular.

“‘One of the most famous meals in history is commemorated a day late, a new  book by a Cambridge University physicist claims,” the SMH report says.

“Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, who was knighted last year for his  contribution to science, argues that the last supper Jesus Christ shared with  his disciples occurred on Wednesday, April 1, AD33, rather than on a Thursday as  traditionally celebrated in most Christian churches.

“The theory would explain the apparent inconsistencies between the Gospels of  Matthew, Mark and Luke – which say the Last Supper was a Passover meal – and  that of John, which says Jesus was tried and executed before the Jewish  festival. It would explain another puzzle: why the Bible has not allowed enough  time for all events recorded between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.

“Sir Colin’s book, The Mystery of the Last Supper, out this week, uses  astronomy to re-create  calendars, plus  detail drawn from texts such as the  Dead Sea Scrolls  to propose a timeline for Jesus’s final  days.”

Read more at the SMH’s New theory on date of last supper.

Check out a previous Easter Utterance post

Christian Obama urges commitment to Micah’s challenge

Unprecedented coverage of the religious views of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and more recently Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has shifted today to focus on possibly the world’s greatest religious enigma, US President Barak Obama.

President Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast yesterday (April 6) with 90 guests including leaders from most major denominations, the National Council of Churches, leaders of small and large churches and well-known Christian identities such as Bill Hybels and Joel and Victoria Osteen.

In America, where the appearance of Christian faith is almost obligatory for politicians, President Obama has been somewhat reticent to be seen as too firmly placed in that ‘corner’ and has not joined a church since moving to Washington.

As he welcomed people to the breakfast, he noted that the White House had also held a Seder to mark the Jewish Passover and an Iftar with Muslim Americans during Ramadan.

However, in his eight minute speech at the breakfast, President Obama clearly identified himself as a Christian, ‘Today, I’m particularly blessed to welcome you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, for this Easter breakfast.’

Later, reflecting on what Easter meant to him, Obama said, ‘…as Christians, we believe the redemption can be delivered – by faith in Jesus Christ… And the possibility that redemption can make straight the crookedness of a character, make whole the incompleteness of a soul. Redemption makes life, however fleeting here on Earth, resound with eternal hope.’

Recalling the words of the prophet Micah – championed by Micah Challenge,the social justice arm of evangelical Christians – Obama encouraged those present to commit their spirit ‘to the pursuit of a life that is true, to act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord.’

Read More »

Strong God factor on Reserve Bank board

Two members of the Reserve Bank Board, one of Australia’s most powerful economic institutions, gave clear personal testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ in the lead up to Easter.

Speaking at Wesley Mission’s annual Easter breakfast, the Reserve Bank governor, Glen Stevens, was asked about his belief in God, to which he replied:

‘I would say that despite claims to the contrary there is a God. This is worth checking out and the critical issue people have to deal with is – was Jesus Christ who he claimed to be. If he wasn’t then you can forget about it; and if he wasn’t then I am living in a fool’s world.’

Read More »

Between our worst and his best…

Between the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ there was an agonising pause for his disciples.

Faint memories of a promised return battled with abject shame, guilt, confusion sorrow and fear.

This pattern is often repeated in life. The despair of our worst is tested by time – the wait, the replays, the not knowing, the what-ifs, the wondering if God might still intervene.

If only we knew that amidst the dark soil of our worst is the good seed of God’s best. Like all seeds, it is a few days before the first inkling of new life, new hope, is evident.

Somehow stay in reach of his resurrection. Be a Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb; be a Peter or John grieving together; be a Thomas, wanting but doubting; be an Emmaus pair walking and talking, if not understanding.

Between our worst and his best is a wait. God never said it would be pleasant, only that it would end well. PH

Jesus’ heavenly appearance at Easter Show

 

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Utterance reported on Wednesday that the Royal Agricultural Society, organisers of Sydney Royal Easter Show had refused the Bible Society of NSW a stall on the basis that it was of a ‘religious nature’.

More than 200 volunteers and thousands of resources had been arranged for the Easter, All About Life stall that was to be linked to the recent Jesus, All About Life media campaign.

Fittingly, Jesus did make an appearance at the Show today about 1pm thanks to the heavenly intervention of a sky-writer.

With the sun as an exclamation mark, Jesus All About Life appeared brightly in white against a brilliant blue sky, easily visible at the show in Homebush Bay. The words spread broadly in the gusty wind covering the whole city.

They made quite an impression in Sydney’s inner west where I managed to take the photos above on my trusty Nokia E71 phone and also an Olympus MU9000. Of course, the mandatory buildings, telegraph wires and even an obliging plane accompanied my city pics.

It’s good to be reminded that even the day the Jesus was crucified is Good and is all about life! PH

Transcendent story of Easter

 

E – everyone, everywhere

A – all the time, all year round

S – story to begin, end, transcend all stories

T – The… The Christ, The Lord, The Word, The Lamb

E – ending sin, death, the work of religion

R – rising, ever risen, the first of us

Photos: Man-made blue cross on church; God made cross structure in Whirlpool Galaxy. Happy Easter. PH

Seeking the face of Jesus in Turin’s Shroud

A screen shot showing 3D modelling in progress.

‘You have to really seek the face of Jesus if you’re going to find it,’ says 3D computer graphics artist Ray Downing, the man responsible for an ambitious project to recreate the actual face of Jesus from the faint image on the Shroud of Turin. 

‘Something extraordinary had happened here. Something beyond human reason,’ said Ray describing his experience in working with the Shroud.

The incredible results feature in the History Channel’s premiere documentary, The Real face of Jesus, which screened in the US on March 30 and will again on April 3. It is unclear when it will screen in Australia. 

The 2D Shroud image transformed by 3D computer graphics

The History Channel said, ‘For the devout and curious alike, this documentary feature may bring us the closest we have ever come to seeing what Jesus actually looked like. 

‘Science and religion join together, bringing cutting-edge computer technology to an ancient stretch of fabric, and creating a living, moving 3D image of the man many believe to be Jesus Christ.’

Read More »

Royal Non-Easter Show bans Jesus

The Bible Society NSW  has been excitedly informing churches about its Easter All About Life stall at the Sydney Royal Easter Show with more than 200 volunteers arranged and thousands of resources purchased.

Then news broke that the stall would not go ahead because it was of a ‘religious nature’ and so the Bible Society hurriedly organised to re-distribute the Easter eggs, tracts, and Scripture resources to churches and Christian organisations for use in their own Easter activities.

Bible Society NSW, organiser of the Jesus All About Life (JAAL) multimedia campaign, has expressed dismay at not being allowed to have a JAAL stall at the Show.

‘It’s a curious thing that an event bearing the name “Easter” has disallowed anything to do with the very thing Easter is all about – the death and resurrection of Jesus,’ says CEO of Bible Society NSW, Daniel Willis.

Curious indeed… Perhaps it is concern that if one religious group is allowed entry then the floodgates will open. Surely it would be possible to carefully monitor this without the need for outright bans.

Or perhaps it is that the focus is agriculture but if that is the reasoning, they should say goodbye to side-shows and other entertainment. Afterall, it is in the country areas of Australia where churches traditionally play such a huge part in community life so to keep them out of the show seems downright un-agricultural!

Maybe the right response of the church is to withdraw permission for the Royal Agricultural Society to use the word ‘Easter’ in the show’s name on the basis that it is not of a religious nature… PH – with thanks to Eternity newspaper for some details.

Why die, why rise?

This is my take on connecting with our community this Easter.

‘Christian tradition, pagan festival, money-making exercise… what exactly is Easter?

If it is about someone dying on a cross, and rising from the dead, why?

If it is supposed to have something to do with me, why? If it is supposed to change the world, why?

Easter 2010 at Eternity Christian Church is an opportunity for asking and answering questions; for reflecting, belonging and celebrating.

You may leave with as many questions as you came with or you might just feel you found something…’

The painting is by Canberra artist Ben Sherwood who did this pastel on cardboard piece in about 30 minutes during an Easter service at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre quite a few years ago (if your out there somewhere Ben, drop me a line!) It now hangs in our church and is one of our favourite works of art.

We borrowed the Good Friday Candlelight Service idea from a church in Port Macquarie (saw their posters one year) and it works nicely with the quieter, reflective feel of Good Friday.

Anyway, beyond all the ideas, the spin, the occasion – we really do long to see the mystery of His cross and resurrection undone in our own hearts and for others too.  PH

Easter symbolism ‘abounds’ in Sydney

As we approach Easter Holy Week it is no surprise that even secular Sydney is abounding in religious symbolism.

Taking pride of place in Martin Place, resplendent in gold and several metres high, is the well-known pagan symbol for fertility, the rabbit.

Alongside this touching symbol, I’m sure I caught a glimpse of the post-modern symbol for significance, the $. Of course we are well accustomed to finding this crafty, curly symbol lurking somewhere around ancient Christian festivals.

Mmm… Must be time for a hot cross bun. I wonder what this cross business is all about? PH

Growing through serving

Often our greatest growth comes in the act of serving because the act of serving exposes our greatest vulnerabilities.

Whether these are fear, frustration, impatience, weariness, anger, pride or apathy – once exposed, we have a powerful moment of clarity in which to give our weakness to God and allow him to teach and counsel us.

If we hadn’t served – forcing ourselves to be stretched by circumstance, sandpapered by people and sifted by our own emotions – we might have never realised our need, and remained unchanged.

As we approach Easter we recall two friends of Jesus whose vulnerabilities were shockingly exposed as they served and followed their Master. One acknowledged his grief and drew close to his companions, putting himself in reach of resurrected restoration. The other hated himself and withdrew in shame, positioning himself for self-destruction.

Whether sitting in a conference or working on the streets, both moments present an opportunity to take in and give out. If we make it either/or, we have already stalled our growth. PH