Here on earth: an argument for God

Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594
Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594

When Jesus told his small band of  followers that they would make him known to the ends of the earth, he unleashed a socio-spiritual revolution that continues to change our world today.

And the message they would carry was that as we learn to love God, love our neighbour and love ourselves – in that order – a new community of grace and truth is possible.

These largely uneducated and insignificant disciples never conceived of this mission and the community it would produce as being possible apart from a living encounter with the words and very reality of Christ himself.

On Monday, Tim Flannery released his new book Here on Earth: An Argument for Hope and some of what he proclaims sounds eerily similar to the mission proclaimed by Jesus, but with a new god at its core.

An extract from the book appeared in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald under the heading, ‘To the ends of the earth we must go’ – either an accidental or deliberate recalling of Christ’s words.

And while the focus of the extract is human responsibility for causing – but also potentially repairing – environmental degradation, there is a deeply spiritual tone to the article.Read More »

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Religion of hate loses touch with God of love

‘Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.’ – Senior Iranian cleric,  Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, as quoted by Iranian media. 

‘Thank God for eight more dead troops. We are praying for 8,000 more. We’ve turned America over to the fags; they’re coming home in body bags.’ April 16, 2010 Press Release from Pastor Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church, Kansas, US. 

If Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps met in the street they would no doubt be mortal enemies, except they are speaking from the same script. One believes God is sending earthquakes to Iran due to short dresses and the other believes God is sending home dead soldiers because of the US tolerance of homosexuality. 

While these two ‘clerics’ might seem to be at opposite ends of the religious spectrum (Muslim v Christian) they are actually of the same religious spirit, just wearing different colours. 

Religion is a set of laws that people observe externally with scant regard for the state of their heart, or other’s. Power is gained by asserting these laws in ever-increasing measure to affirm one’s own superiority and to ensure the others sublimation. 

It is true that we live in a moral universe and that there is a way of living that is right before God. But none of us attain it and our only hope is not more religion, but a freeing relationship with the one who is always truth, and love.When the religious power-mongers of Jesus’ day brought an adulterous woman before him, he first reminded them of their own sin and then dealt graciously with the woman. ‘He that is without sin, throw the first stone.’ No stones were thrown and the only one entitled too, Jesus, chose to love, forgive and gently direct the woman to a better life – one that she found in following him. 

Now if Jesus didn’t cast a stone, how is that Mr Sedighi and Mr Phelps (and, let’s be honest, occasionally you and I)think they can? Because they have lost sight (or never known) their own brokenness before God and that in Jesus, judgement has fallen, been met, and the way thrown open for new life. Does God hate sin? Yes, because of what it does to people. Does God hate people? No, he died for them. All of us. 

A certain Australian pastor, who I’ll refrain from naming at this point, made some frighteningly similar remarks to these vengeful clerics in the context of the Victorian bushfires last year. It is to be hoped that he submits his theology to the crucible of his peers before making any more remarks like that… 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

Where we were once slaves

‘I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: “The Voice of the Irish”. As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea – and they cried out, as with one voice: “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us”.’ Patrick of Ireland from his letter, Declaration.

A great deal of history, legend, folklore and truth swirls around the great name of St Patrick, especially recalled today, St Patrick’s Day.

In his own words, we learn of a call, not unlike Paul’s to Macedonia, to go to Ireland, where he had previously been a slave, and ‘walk among us’.

The same God calls us today to walk in places where we were once slaves, and graciously and lovingly demonstrate the love of God.  The God of redemption takes the very prison that enslaved us and turns it into a field of salvation, if we choose to walk there. PH