Searching for ‘tweets’ in the writings of iconic Australian social reformer and evangelist Rev Robert Hammond, this comment stuck in my thinking:
‘The Lord’s Prayer does say: “And forgive us our debts,” but first it says “Give us this day our daily bread.”‘
In context, Hammond was suggesting before we worry about someone’s sin (wrongdoing), we should see to their daily needs of survival, in keeping with his commitment to practical Christianity.
This morning I woke early, and was thinking, among other things, of what other divine prioritisation we might see in a form of praying that came directly from Jesus. Whatever you think of Jesus, you would have to agree, understanding how he ordered his view of the world is worth considering.
Here’s a few early morning thoughts.
Our Father in Heaven: Not just God first, but relating to God so intimately that it transcends all of life and reaches to where God exists.
Hallowed (praised) be your name: Our choice to honour God’s identity, character, presence.
Your kingdom come, your will be done: His explanation of how to live purposely and perfectly now.
On earth as in heaven: Completing the circle – intimate relationship that honours the character and ways of God leads to a heaven on earth potential.
Give us this day: Not just ‘forever’ but living for today.
Our daily bread: Be practical about our (individual and communal) whole and healthy life
And forgive our sins: Be accountable for your own choices before God.
As we forgive others: Having the humility to acknowledge our own shortcomings means we might be able to release others from theirs.
Lead us not into temptation: Prepare for what choices we will face today by relying on God’s goodness.
Deliver us from evil: Prepare for the choices of others and the randomness of a broken world by relying on God’s goodness.
Your’s is the kingdom, power and glory forever: Come what may, be wrapped up in God’s completeness.
Amen: So be it.
The Lord’s Prayer, as it is commonly known to Protestant Christians, or the Pater Noster (Our Father) to many Catholics, is not so much a prayer, but a way of praying.
And as we have seen, it is also a way of living and seeing, today and forever.
Working on a project last week, I read a quote from an amazing Australian social reformer who should be better known to us than he is. Hopefully I can have a part in changing that shortly.
Anyway, he wrote that “most people move forward backwards”. The reason is that the future is “dark” in the sense that we cannot see one minute into the future (although we can imagine or project our ideas of what the future might be). On the other hand, the past is like a “blazing light” – we can see its details clearly and so although we may well feel we are moving forward, we do so with our eyes towards the “light” of the past.
But, he says, there are some people who move forward looking forward, watching carefully to see and embrace what emerges from the “dark” of the future. Something like watching the world take shape as night gives way to dawn.
These people, moving forward and looking forward, are those that are “truly alive”, he concludes.
I think we can convince and comfort ourselves we are moving forward when really in life there’s not much choice, as time and our beings go relentlessy where they haven’t been before, whether we like it or not. But are we looking forward.
It’s easy to step into the next thing life offers but have a good measure of our heart and at least one eye on something of the past that shines particularly brightly, even if it is the glistening of tears, or the rich glimmer of a golden time, or the sparkle of youthful innocence.
Move forward looking forward and save your best for what is and is to be. The past will take care of itself – which could be what Jesus meant when he gave the call to follow and said, ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’
I’m not saying it’s easy, or that I’m any good at it. But it makes sense, I reckon.
Don’t tell me there’s a
book, blog or documentary
pope, priest or commentary
that will make it alright
Can’t yell me to believe in
better educate them
to take away the fright
I’m not going for no
expert’s free endorsement
to mitigate the sight
22, Chenpeng children, kitchen-knife stabbed, village school 20, Newtown little ones, gunshot dead, kindergarten classroom 10, Dawlatzai innocents, bombshell bled, collecting firewood And that’s just this week
I don’t wanna make sense of
Everything that’s senseless
Everything that’s broken
to help me through the night
There’s nothing you can show me
That undoes all the madness
Liberates the sadness
Or sends all the children home
But I can still remember
A broken twisted traitor
Who said he was a Saviour
Who radiated right
And I can still feel
A resonance of matter
Perpetuance of laughter
An ever outsourced light
“But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.” Jesus – Matthew 5:39
Turning the other cheek is easily misunderstood.
The story is told of how the great Australian social reformer and evangelist, Rev Bob Hammond, was once confronted with this verse by a heckler. As Rev Hammond preached on the tough streets of Sydney around the time of the Great Depression, the heckler called from the crowd:
“If I was to come up there and hit ya in the face, would ya turn the other cheek?”
Rev Hammond confirmed that he would. So the man walked through the crowd and hit him in the face. Rev Hammond – true to his word – made no effort to retaliate and went to continue with his message.
Not content, the attacker struck him on the face again, and this time the Rev Hammond looked at the man and said, “Jesus never said what I was to do when being struck on the other cheek.”
And with that, the large preacher who played in a premiership-winning Essendon football team as a young man, gave his assailant a hiding. Or so the story goes…
The illustration ‘turn the other cheek’ which Jesus gave as an alternative to seeking revenge is rarely done well.
Many when who think they are ‘turning the other cheek’ are actually just turning away, either in bitterness and smug superiority or in fear and self-loathing.Read More »
Growing up in Taree from about 1967-72 I was the proud owner of a purple dragster bicycle.
High-rise handle-bars, a T-bar gear shifter midway along the top-tube (in hindsight, perilously located), and banana seat with sissy bar meant I was the height of late-60s, early-70s bike-riding fashion… something that escaped me as a nine or ten-year-old.
I can still recall riding around Nicoll Cres with my friends singing Bopping the Blues (Blackfeather, 1972 – not that I actually knew who the band was at the time) or pedalling down to the corner store for a 15c can of soft drink. Saxby’s I think.
I can also recall my mother giving me a sheet of flouro pink stickers that had Christian mottos or sayings on them for the purpose of encouraging people to think about God.
When I started riding the bike to school, we attached a bike rack at the back (I’m finding this hard to imagine but I know it’s true because my school case once fell off it in the middle of the road outside Taree West Primary School and while scooping my belongings back in, I found about 15 cigarettes lying there and scooped them in too – but that’s another story).
Anyway, we used to park our bikes in racks at the side of the school and I can distinctly remember two boys, walking past as I was preparing to leave for the day, stopping, reading the sticker, laughing and moving on.
The good news was that they appreciated the humour of the flouro pink sticker and this saved me from a moment of ridicule which I had been fully expecting.
The sticker read:
‘If God seems far away, guess who’s moved?’
Now, in 2012, this is an extremely old line which still gets trotted out. But in the late 60s, early 70s – it was brand new.
And the saying has remained associated with these memories ever since. Of my purple dragster, of my mother’s eager new faith and desire to share it with others, of my own childlike faith and an innocence in putting my beliefs on the line, of wearing green button-up shirts to school, drinking warm flavoured milk in small foil-lidded bottles at recess and falling off the monkey bars and smashing my head open one lunchtime (yet another story).
Forty years on and recently I have paused to reflect on the whole idea of our relative location to God and the reality of him feeling far away.
If I had my time again, and was a wise nine-year-old, I would say to those two older boys, as I say to you:
‘Everyone is moving all the time and often without even knowing it. But wherever we go and how ever we get there, God is never far away, even if that’s what we feel. We may take 10,000 steps away from him but it’s always only one step back.’
The past few years have seen some changes in my life that I could never have anticipated, to do with who I thought I was and what I was doing with my life. A lot of movement occurred, often outside my control, but thankfully the most important things of life – faith, marriage, family, health – have remained true and near. God has indeed seemed distant, often, and yes, it was me who moved in those times.
But if God seems far away to you today, he isn’t. He’s close enough to whisper in your ear and know the longings of your heart.
“When you think about it, I was holding something together that was time to let go.” So began some spontaneous writing in the middle of one of many nights when I’ve sat up awake, considering the unfolding of some difficult times. “It’s hard for me to admit that I’m better off letting it go completely. […]
The Power Index has published The Christmas Power List with, in their view, the top 10 power-mongers of Christmas – as if it is even possible for those two concepts to go together with integrity given the origin of Christmas is the birth of a baby in a stable to teenage parents. Nevertheless The Power […]
Christmas 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 »
Speaking in tongues has finally come to ABC News as journalist Amy Simmons investigates why Pentecostalism is “attracting the Sunday masses” and examines the rise of Pentecostalism in a separate story.
The article covers some familiar territory – it seems each new generation of journalist keeps “discovering” the non-traditional traits that have made the Pentecostals the fastest growing Christian movement across the globe in the past century.
There’s plenty in the article to allow people to make up their own minds about Pentecostal churches and some areas of belief such as healing and speaking in tongues.
Of course, most Pentecostals would rightly point to Jesus as being at the centre of their beliefs and that without a clear understanding of and vital relationship with the Son of God, then the other elements of faith are worthless.
Academic Associate Professor Rick Strelan of the University of Queensland is called on to deliver the “objective expert” view and is reasonable in most of his comments, which is noteworthy in that Pentecostals are not overly accustomed to having their faith and practice discussed in a reasonable way.Read More »
The Amazing Race Australia on Monday, July 18 will feature some of the four remaining teams carrying large wooden crosses through the streets of Jerusalem as part of the episode’s challenges. Check out a preview.
In a city so taut with religious and cultural tensions, it is a daring and perhaps provocative act, that recalls for Christians the crucifixion of Christ.
One of the effects of global tourism is to take long-held cultural, religious and historical events, locations and practices and make them marketable commodities for tourist consumption. While there are respectful ways of doing this, the Amazing Race epitomises the dilemma of rich tourists enjoying foreign lands while running the risk of carelessly trampling upon them.
In this case, a deeply significant religious symbol and act is incorporated into a reality show game in a city which is sacred for three world religions. It is an ‘amazing’ clash of ‘realities’ and hopefully will provoke thought about the interactions of tourists and destinations; and even more so, about the meaning of ‘carrying your cross’.
The wooden cross (the exact shape is debated, but not important) was used for capital punishment in Roman occupied Israel around the first century AD. Part of the cruelty was at times to humiliate the condemned person by forcing them to drag the heavy implement through the city before they were nailed, tied and hung from it, dying a slow and painful death.
The New Testament records this being inflicted on Jesus, after a heavy beating, and is known by some as the passion of the Christ. This term encompasses not just his physical and mental anguish, but spiritual as well.
From a theological perspective, this was God in human flesh, suffering the worst humanity had to offer as identification with us but also as a substitution. Though perfect, he allowed himself to be punished as the worst of criminals and cut off from God so that we might be forgiven and re-connected to God.
So the cross is a powerful symbol of God’s grace extended to all. Perhaps it’s fitting that the show Amazing Race is also AmazinGrace…
At another level, Jesus often used the phrase, ‘carry your cross’ as a way of describing the challenge of following him. This must have been powerful imagery for his first century audience.
They would have seen or heard of the terrible journey through Jerusalem and other occupied cities of cross-laden people, heading for their deaths, under the ruthless eye of their Roman rulers.
To liken the life of a Christ-follower to carrying the cross, was a clear sign that it involved selflessness, vulnerability, suffering, obedience and a stretching of every fibre of being.
Not unexpectedly, it may not be the most popular influence for Christians (or anyone else) when making life choices, but thankfully we have the Amazing Race to bring it back to our attention.
While the cross-bearing exploits in the Amazing Race are a pale imitation of the real event, what’s more important is what we all do without the silent witness of the cross and the call of Jesus to carry it.
You may have never even heard of this call but it resonates through history and awaits your decision. After you watch the show, give the cross more thought…
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.Matthew 16:24-25
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
If you happen to commute along the M4 and also Victoria Rd (you are to be deeply pitied for that commute) then you may feel like you’re in the middle of a friendly, billboard-sized banter between a Christian and a Muslim. And the topic? Jesus.
Imagine a large billboard in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan saying, ‘Jesus Christ, greater than Mohammad’. Not going to happen.
Happily, Australia is a land of freedom of speech and religion which is why the Islamic group, MyPeace, is able to display a billboard on one of Sydney’s busiest roads, declaring, ‘Jesus A prophet of Islam’.
My Peace also plans other advertisements to join the first on Victoria Road, with slogans such as ‘Holy Quran – the final testament’ and ‘Muhummad: mercy to mankind’
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the organiser of MyPeace, Diaa Mohamed, as saying the campaign was intended to educate non-Muslims about Islam. He said Jesus was a prophet of Islam, who was to come before Muhammad. ”The only difference is we say he was a prophet of God, and they say he is God,” Mr Mohamed said. ”Is it thought-provoking? Yes, it is. We want to raise awareness that Islam believes in Jesus Christ,” he said.
Interestingly, many Christians use the same tactic (referring to Jesus as part of Islamic tradition) in communicating with people of Islamic faith, but with the reverse conclusion. The pivotal issue being not if you believe in Jesus, but who you believe him to be.
Bishop of South Sydney Rob Forsyth, also quoted by the SMH, rightly points out that the Islamic group is free to express their views and if he could afford it, he would put up billboards countering those of MyPeace and suggested atheists put some up as well, in the spirit of engendering discussion. At some point, we all need to make a decision as to whether Jesus is God or just another man.
Another important discussion would be the relative freedoms of people of different faiths in Islamic countries…
The inevitable failure of Harold Camping’s prediction that the world would end on Saturday, May 21 once again confirms the infallibility of Jesus’ own words about his return.
Knowing that we would be inclined to want to pin down his return to a day and hour and knowing that people like Harold Camping would claim to do just that, Jesus said (2000 years ago), ‘No one knows about that day or that hour…’ (Matthew 24:36).
Knowing that earthquakes, disasters and wars would start us thinking that perhaps the end of the world was near and knowing the advent of instant worldwide communication would mean we hear about more earthquakes, disasters and wars than ever before, Jesus said, ‘You will hear of war and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is yet to come… famines and earthquakes in various places… the beginnings of birth pains.’ (Matt 24:6,8)
Knowing that people would try to cash in on the uniqueness of Christ and claim to be him, such as the recently publicised Alan Miller, and knowing that many are desperate for a tangible, physical sense of hope and will follow these false Christs, Jesus said, ‘…if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or “There he is!” do not believe it.’ (Matt 24:23)
And knowing that many who were among the first to hear the message of the Gospel would forsake it; the Western world for example, which has grown so fat and comfortable and clever in its own eyes, Jesus said, ‘at that time many will turn away from the faith… increase of wickedness… love of most will grow cold’. (Matt 24: 10,12)
Thank you Harold Camping for confirming once again that Jesus’ insight into human character and history is impeccable, infallible, believable.
Alan John Miller, 47, met Mary Luck, 32, in the lounge room of her parent’s home. The only thing unusual is that Alan makes straight-faced claims to be Jesus Christ and says Mary Luck is really Mary Magdalene who just happened to be living nearby. The Apostle John, a first century disciple of the historical Christ, is also living in Australia, according to Alan Miller.
Miller says that there are probably a million people who say they are Jesus Christ and ‘most of them are in asylums. But one of us has to be. How do I know I am? Because I remember everything about my life.’
Interviewed tonight (May 16, 2011) on A Current Affair, Miller came across as reasonable, calm and gentle (oh, there was that small thing about meeting Elvis) and several of his followers were interviewed and clearly have a strong belief in his messianic claims.
Up to 40 people have moved to the tiny town of Wilkesdale near Bundaberg and hold meetings on a 16 ha property, where they plan to build an international visitors centre. This is despite claiming Alan does not desire a following.
Of course where there is a Jesus claim, there are also miracle claims as well. News outlets are reporting that a giant cross has been inadvertently created by land clearing near the cult’s property.
‘In a bizarre coincidence, land clearing has created a giant cross on neighbouring properties that can be seen from space using Google Maps. Local residents insisted it was not carved deliberately,’ News Ltd reports.
And while Miller says that all he wants to do is communicate Divine Truth that people can choose to accept if they want, he seems to be ignoring the truth of the first century Jesus who warned his followers about false Christs.
‘At that time if anyone says to you, “Look, here is the Christ!” or, “There he is!” do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. See, I have told
you ahead of time.
‘So if anyone tells you, “There he is, out in the desert,” do not go out; or, “Here he is, in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.’ Matthew 24:23-27Read More »
When we see people in the Middle East rejoicing in the streets over the death of Westerners in a terrorist attack, we feel outraged. We struggle to understand the world view that would cause one person to celebrate the needless death of another.
And while it may be a poor comparison, seeing Americans cheering in the streets over the death of Osama bin Laden doesn’t sit well with me either. While it could be argued that his demise is a justified casuality of war or a just result for a terrorist, surely it is still an overwhelmingly sad moment.
Sad that it continually comes to this in human history – someone must die for others to feel safer, freer, stronger.
I don’t judge those that are cheering – so many were touched by the 9/11 attacks and many other tragic killings around the world, it is understandable that there would be a sense of relief and victory and yes, even celebration.
But in the cold light of day, people will soon realise that the world’s problems, America’s problems, have not gone away and the struggle that has gripped humanity since Cain and Abel goes on unabated.
President Obama said that people who love peace and human dignity would welcome bin Laden’s death. Maybe so.
But only One Man’s death has ever truly provided for peace and human dignity in a profound, eternal and ultimate way. And his undeserved death was for thieves, murderers and, yes, scandalously, even terrorists.
See how some of America’s Christians are responding:
The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Dr Richard Chartres gave a stirring Address at the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Miss Catherine Middleton.
Billions around the world heard Rev Chartres urge William and Catherine and all listening to set the world on fire by being who God meant us to be.
He also highlighted that every wedding is a royal wedding in the sense that every bride and groom are kings and queens of creating new life.
Rev Chartres said that in marriage we are to make our spouse our ‘work of art’ while at the same time not placing on them a burden of expectation that only relationship with God can carry.
Interestingly, the sermon included a prayer composed by William and Catherine which asks God’s help in keeping their eyes fixed on what is real and important and to help them to be generous with their lives, ‘to serve and comfort those who suffer’.
Read the full sermon:
‘“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.
‘Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.
In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.Read More »
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.”
Two prime time television shows and classic re-run featured characters discussing the merits of church attendance and Christian faith in the past week.
Channel 7’s Packed to the Rafters this week had character Nick ‘Carbo’ Karandonis telling his girlfriend Loretta ‘Retta’ Schembri that she would have to convert to the Greek Orthodox faith for them to be married. She replied she would not convert as she didn’t believe and it would be hypocritical. She also questioned the sincerity of Carbo’s faith, given that he claimed to be Greek Orthodox and never attended. So they attend church together and afterwards Retta says she felt the spirituality of the service and wants to attend every Sunday. Carbo is horrified that she might take faith seriously and the theme is set to continue in the show – next season.
Channel 10’s The Good Wife saw Grace Florrick challenging her mother Alicia about belief in Jesus. Mrs Florrick, the good wife, replies she believes Jesus was a person who lived 2000 years ago and she couldn’t see what impact he had on her life. grace replies that you either ‘love Jesus or hate him’, there’s no middle ground. She further argues that she is an intelligent person who believes in Jesus, and that the two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The episode finished with Mrs Florrick agreeing to take her daughter to church.
And a classic episode of Everyone Loves Raymond screened on one of the digital channels. Titled The Prodigal Son, it features Raymond arguing with his parents about going to church. Also, his wife and children go to church every week but Raymond refuses to go. After some hilarious interactions, the episode concludes with a serious discussion of church going and faith between Raymond and wife ?
‘Why don’t you go to church Raymond?’ she asks. And after complaining that all the kneeling is hard on his knees, the focus moves to ideas such as parents wanting to pass on their values, feelings of guilt and the need to believe in and be part of something bigger than ourselves.
When Raymond turns the questioning back on his wife, ‘Why do you go to church?’ she replies, ‘To say thanks for you and the children… and to pray for strength to get through another week with you and the children…’
Hopefully Australian households are discussing faith in a similarly open and revealing way and perhaps these episodes are a case of art imitating reality.
While the conclusions drawn, arguments used and theology displayed are not always satisfying, it is encouraging that writers and producers are willing to include spiritual, faith and religious issues (very occasionally) as themes for their shows.
Check out a small part of the final ‘church’ conversation in Everybody Loves Raymond…