Easter, Passover, Refugees & Memory Loss

This excellent article by Andrew Hamilton in Eureka Street speaks so much to the themes of this past week as well as being a timely reflection on the long Aussie weekend about to begin:

Easter memory loss makes plastic of the present – Eureka Street.

Holy Week Action

330px-El_Greco_016The story of Holy Week sometimes begins with Jesus “cleansing the Temple” – turning over money trading tables and driving out sacrificial animals being sold under extortion. An arresting offence, no doubt, and certainly would have been a factor in his eventual capture and trial a few days later.

In Perth we see Holy Week begin with the arrest of 11 protesters following a deliberate and similarly prophetic action. The best account of what happened and why is found in their own words. Read it at: Why we held a sit-in over child detention ahead of Easter.

What is evident in their story and the varied community reactions is a refusal to allow focus to be diverted from the initial purpose of drawing attention to the 1000 plus children of asylum seekers held in detention. Following the best non-violent practices of Dr Martin Luther King, they hope to turn the tide of public opinion towards abhorrence of this cruel practice, eventually leading to a humane bipartisan approach for a regional response to all men, women and children who flee danger.

But this is only the beginning of Holy Week. The Easter story tells of passion, trial, pain, crucifixion, deposition, desolation and finally new beginnings through resurrection.

Followers of the Way know that all these may be encountered before purpose is realised.

Divergent at Easter

1200px-Eccehomo1Matthew 27:11-31 is loaded with drama. Jesus stands silently before Pontius Pilate – both men are under judgement.

Where will the gavel fall in favor – maintenance of the status quo, control and order; or the brazen, divergent reign of the Prince of Peace, a reign that is not of the current scheme of things?

Divergent is the title of a freshly released movie set in a dystopian post apocalyptic future. The cohesion and security of the city is assured by dividing its citizens into factions, according to temperament and related tasks. Those who don’t fit any of the nominated categories are deemed divergent and dangerous, and are either marginalised or disposed of. Themes in the screenplay seem sometimes in close parallel with the drama unfolding on Pilate’s podium. For example it is interesting that the faction marked by “selflessness” is deemed the most threatening by two of the more powerful blocs.

Pilate’s message is “Conform, submit, play by our rules.”
Jesus’ response is silence. Pilate’s demand cannot contain the wholesome reality of the reign of heart and mind that Jesus represents and envisions.

Pilate attempts first to neutralise and marginalise Jesus by offering the release of Barabbas in his place. This tactic fails, and Pilate hands Jesus over for execution.

Lent draws to a close, the journey into Holy Week begins.

Replacing Cornerstones – a subversive action!

from Wikimedia Commons

from Wikimedia Commons

The music of  Psalm 118 celebrates turned tables – two well known phrases “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever” and “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” appear here.

This alludes to something of the subversive nature of lived out faith.  “Subversion refers to an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of powerauthority, and hierarchy…” (See full Wikipedia article here). The article gives many instances and examples of harmful subversion, whereas today’s Psalm points towards subversion towards an integral and wholesome society. 

Indeed transforming social order has been both the intention and the outcome of the spread and acceptance of the Christian story – beginning with the teachings of Jesus, his acts of compassion, the manner of his living, the ignominy of his death, and the power of his resurrection demonstrated in the transformed lives of his early followers through to the present day. All of this is subversive!

Any strategy, program, policy, project, action or campaign that does not meet the criteria spelled out by Jesus in his teachings, actions and life is fair game for subversive action, underpinned by the “steadfast love of the Lord [that] endures forever” as “the stone that the builders rejected” takes its place as the foundation block for a transformed society.

It’s a work in progress!



What drives Palm Sunday Peace Parades?

downloadOn Sunday, many thousands will march for peace. In Perth, leaving from St George’s Cathedral at 1 pm, those gathered will join others around the country in marching for justice for refugees.

Inspiration for Palm Sunday Marches has a long tradition of drawing on the story of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the eve of his Passion. Like a king of ancient times, he rides through the city gates, not as a conquering despot, but as a focus for the kind of peace the Bible calls shalom – complete integrity for all of creation expressed in whole relationships, especially in terms of justice and righteousness. Today’s text, Matthew 21:1-11, gives one rendition.

Marcus Borg draws attention to two triumphal entries into Jerusalem that day. One by Roman governor Pontius Pilate, representing the power and military might of empire to keep order and maintain the status quo – the other by Jesus, ushering the dawn of a new era heralding justice and peace. What these two triumphal entries represent is the continuing tension between the push to maintain the comfort of order and equilibrium, no matter how unjust, and the pull towards transformation towards comprehensive healing, integrity and wholeness.

Jesus’triumphal entry into Jerusalem thus becomes a powerful focus and icon for many who will march this Sunday.

Love finds a way…

Protesters on the roof of the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, 2011 (from Wikimedia Commons)

Protesters on the roof of the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, 2011 (from Wikimedia Commons)

Hyperbole and one-up-man-ship often mark the national discourse where controversy is concerned. In the midst of the sloganeering and major political parties competing to see who can offer the greatest deterrent to “stop the boats,” are men, women and children detained in off-shore prisons awaiting their indefinite and uncertain fates.

On the reception of asylum seekers, the Church in this land is also divided. Immigration control vs humanitarian response to people in distress! The former suggests a pre-occupation with the concerns of empire, while the latter reflects the kernel of the focus of God’s realm. Our Lenten readings from the prophets, the gospels and the letters of Paul indicate as much.

So how does the follower of Jesus emulating the latter respond to opponents even within his/her camp. “With this mind,” says Paul as he launches into the Church’s well known and favourite credal hymn – the touchstone of what we’re all about in today’s Lenten text  Philippians 2:5-11.

The focus for all Christians, no matter what persuasion, even in the divisive asylum seeker debate is – serve one another with the mind and heart of Christ. This is what changes the world for the better.

The one who marches out of step…

… may be the only one who is in step!

from Wikimedia Commons

from Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 50:4-9a is one of the so-called Suffering Servant songs. Appropriated by the Early Church to describe the Passion of Jesus, it initially describes the despair and desolation of the people of Israel as they are led off in chains into Babylonian exile.  Suffering the indignity of oppression and humiliation, the composer nevertheless remembers who YHWH has called him to be – one who teaches that the glory of God is a person fully alive (if I may time machine Irenaeus back into the experience of the exiles!), for after all, this composer is a teacher of Israel.

The matter of another people in exile vexes me right now as the question of Australia’s imprisoned and hidden asylum seekers becomes ever darker and more sombre. The voices that seek to amplify their silenced voices are few and far between in the Australian population – such has been the success of politician and media mogul in demonising them. The role of the teacher is to call people to a heart and mind understanding of our true story against the popular myth that is designed for short-term gain.

The story of Israel, the Way of Jesus’ cross and the cry of asylum seekers seem to merge at this point. Isaiah’s poet clutches hope in the most dire of circumstances.

Let’s try for the same!

Spanning pain and love


From Wikimedia Commons

From Wikimedia Commons

Romans 8:1-27 is its own commentary

It speaks cosmologically of the restoration of all creation and how the followers of Christ are called to emulate him in, as N.T. Wright says, standing “between the pain of the world and the love of God,” not as a wall or barrier, but the span of a bridge, or a linking arm.

This ultimately is what the cross of Christ stands for. It is transformed from a shameful and cruel instrument of execution to a symbol of transforming love.

Zesty Zeke…

Ezekiel's vision from Wikimedia Commons

Ezekiel’s vision from Wikimedia Commons 

When the molasses are thick, what keeps some folk swimming while others succumb?

Ezekiel seems quite upbeat in the midst of most depressing circumstances. He is a welcome guide as we tread the heavy Lenten journey to Jerusalem and the cross. Todays text, Ezekiel 37:24-28,  holds out to exiled Israel a beatific vision of a restored and unified realm. No wishful thinking or trite optimism here. Ezekiel grasps the desperate reality of his current circumstances. Rather than sink, however, the troubles become a foothold for hope.  His grasp of the faithfulness of God’s intentions is so strong he can only see the fulfilment of a process towards the realisation of “rightness.”

Victor Frankl observed similar phenomena as a survivor and observer of the Holocaust, resulting in his well known “Man’s Search for Meaning” and the practice of logotherapy.  A relentless sense of purpose can see a person survive the most dire situations. Zesty Zeke helps lead the way.

The next blockbuster?

Ezekiel by Michelangelo - from Wikimedia Commons

Ezekiel by Michelangelo – from Wikimedia Commons

Now that Noah has wowed the big screen, will Ezekiel be far behind?

Ezekiel was a multi-media entrepreneur. As our current Lenten guide, he uses the stuff Hollywood loves to use to relieve the burden of getting his message across – the triumph of God’s love expressed through people so oriented in a desolate and barren landscape. Yesterday it was the vision of reversed decay as a battlefield of skeletons is revived to full vigour and strength.

Today is a simple object lesson performed with two sticks joined together, symbolising the re-unification of a divided people. See Ezekiel 37:15-23.

The over-riding themes and visions of Ezekiel point to the power of God’s Spirit to revive, enliven, embolden and inspire when all around seems hopeless and in despair.
The big screen seems to reflect the mood of the age.

Some producer somewhere may well be contemplating an Ezekiel blockbuster.



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