Author Archives: wonderingpilgrim

Advent Voices: homeless Robbie and Dominique

In the UK, street living Robbie offers stranded Dominique his last three pounds for a fare. Dominique declines, but is so moved by Robbie’s gesture that she reciprocates. These are Advent voices. Read what happened from there!

 

Advent Voices: the strong voice of Mary

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. The white lily in the angel's hand is symbolic of Mary's purity [1] in Marian art.[2]. Public Domain

Annunciation by Paolo de Matteis, 1712. The white lily in the angel’s hand is symbolic of Mary’s purity [1] in Marian art.[2]. Public Domain

Today’s text, Luke 1:26-38, is illustrated throughout our world’s art galleries and museums as the “Annunciation.”  The imposing and other-worldly figure of Gabriel is depicted speaking words of life-changing import to a young woman, Mary, who seems simultaneously beatific and non-plussed. Tradition has emphasised her piety and holiness. The narrative in the text highlights her perplexity at being told that she will bear a child of divine import and the manner in which she will conceive. The personal and social impact of Gabriel’s announcement might have been most troubling.

Mary’s final response is, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

These are strong words – more than mere submission. They are alignment with revealed purpose – and thus a true Advent voice!

Advent Voices – #illridewithyou

#illridewithyouThe aftermath of yesterday’s siege in Sydney with this morning’s tragic loss of life occupies the airwaves. Community empathy washes on two shores. Hearts go out to the victims and their families.  They also reach out to apprehensive Muslim communities, who are also shocked and appalled by what took place in the hands of one mentally sick individual acting out under the discourse of their faith. Based on precedent, adherents of Islam brace themselves for community backlash.

The hashtag #illridewithyou has shifted what might have become an ugly undercurrent in reactions to the siege. It originated with Sydneysider Rachel Jacobs who noticed a young woman fearfully removing her hijab while riding public transport. She urged her to put it back on, saying, “I’ll ride with you.”  Shortly after, she described her experience on Twitter, using the now viral hashtag #illridewithyou.

The phenomenal power of social media was almost instantaneous. Even, while the siege continued, something happened to the zeitgeist of fear that loomed over the city and nation. #illridewithyou trended as men and women from all walks of life reassured their Muslim neighbours and even strangers, “We’re all in this together.”

It is as if the whole Australian community has found a rallying point around a simple sound-byte that carries so much punch – a simple set of words that helps the community overcome recent times of political and media manipulated polarisation across a range of public issues. Yes, it is still possible to claim the oft trumped nation’s ideal of unity in diversity against the most horrendous circumstances.

“I’ll ride with you.” Truly today’s Advent voice!

Advent voices – where does YHWH make a home?

A model of Herod's Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Public Domain

A model of Herod’s Temple adjacent to the Shrine of the Book exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Public Domain

Nowhere we design – that’s for sure! What church, temple, synagogue or mosque could hope to house the pervasive, restless nature of a presence that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent? David, newly enthroned King of Israel, self-consciously wrestled with the contrast of his cedar palace and the tent that had symbolised  YHWH’s nomadic presence with the people (2 Samuel 7:1-11). Nathan helped him to see that it was in YHWH’s intrinsic nature to choose when and how to be present.  By now David should have grasped that YHWH would always be present to his people without the benefit of a house. David eventually built a temple. We build our chapels and cathedrals.

In this season, we prepare to celebrate how YHWH deigned to be revealed in a person, Jesus of Nazareth. Because of Jesus of Nazareth, we have been able to understand more clearly how to be come temples, homes for the presence of YHWH, ourselves.

Advent Voices – the subversive Magnificat

What a strong, evocative, celebratory song is Mary’s Magnificat!
And it is highly political, even seditious. If an agent of either Caesar or Herod the Great had been eavesdropping on Mary as she visited her cousin Elizabeth, neither of these women would have survived to tell the story.

Mary’s song, however, has become a trans-seasonal reminder, not of how “truth speaks to power,”  but of how truth is claimed and celebrated in the face of the kind of tyrannical force that suppresses and smothers abundant shared life. And so the “proud are scattered in the thoughts of their heads” and the “powerful are brought down from their thrones.”  The “lowly are lifted” and “the hungry are filled with good things.”

This is why this week’s prayer meetings in electoral offices by Christian leaders have been quietly respectful, peaceful and poised. There is no need to strive for truth to be spoken, it only needs to be present.

And the powers and principalities of the land can’t stand it!

Unmasking Humourless Powers

wonderingpilgrim:

Much has been said in relation to the events of last Wednesday as around 50 Christian protesters were arrested ansd some strip-searched. Ted Witham nails the dynamics of whats going on…

Originally posted on Mind Journeys:

I salute my colleagues who were detained and strip-searched yesterday. I salute their courage, their grace and humour. Especially their humour. At the end of the day it is not they who stand naked and humiliated. It is the system that allows children to be indefinitely locked up in third world conditions.

I am outraged, but not surprised. Jarrad and Lorna, I know, have read Pace e Bene non-violence training; they have read Walter Wink; they have read Martin Luther King Jr. They know to expect the full response of the law if they go down the path of civil disobedience: fines, jail and all the police procedures that may go with them. They were prepared to pay the full price.

And they also know from their training that their opposition to the status quo will make it unstable, and their disobedience will provoke unexpected reactions. For their…

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Advent Voices – “Do not despise the words of prophets…”

Nauru_regional_processing_facility_(7983319037)The words of prophets nudge – sometimes even shove – us from our comfort zones. When the Apostle Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, advises us to take it on the chin, he also gives us an out: “Test everything, hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

That is,  listen to the words of the prophets without dismissing them out of hand, but use wise discernment in weighing them. And let the spirit of God expressed through the witness of Jesus Christ through the community that follows Christ’s way be a guide. Further, the context is this: always rejoicing, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances.

Around fifty Australian church leaders from across the whole Christian spectrum took the opportunity to test this passage last Wednesday, International Human Rights Day, as they publicly protested and endured arrest on behalf of asylum seeker babies bound for Nauru under new legislation enacted by Federal Parliament..

Advent Voices – the Pointers

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There have always been those who point the way – often only to the next marker, for even they cannot see beyond the fog. John’s gospel (ch 1:6-8, 19-28) introduces us to one who points to the source of life and light. Such pointing often leads to confrontation with those who are committed to pointing only  to the next visible marker – often in the shape of short-term, easy-fix, immediate satisfaction goals.

Witness the peaceful protests by fifty Australian Christian leaders yesterday concerning children in detention and the imminent deportation of 25 infants to the hellish conditions on Nauru. Temporal political point-scoring may be a desirable outcome for a nation that has lost its way. Pointing to the Logos, the source of light, life and truth, illumines the fact that, no matter how attractive these short-term markers are – they are going the wrong way.

John the Pointer (aka the Baptist) was an irritation to leaders whose hearts were set on their markers then. It seems that Christian pointers in Australia, who submit to arrest and even strip-search to highlight the way illuminated by the Source, are as much an irritation today.

Advent Voices – Human Rights Day

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This day’s reminder to respect and uphold universal human rights is more than the left of centre pre-occupation – it is fundamental to maintaining and enhancing our integrity as people. The beatific vision of Isaiah 65:17-25 that rhapsodises new heavens and a new earth, while initiated by YHWH, can be imagined to be addressed through people given to the vision of the reign of shalom. Such is granted for the removal of barriers that prevent access to full health, education, nutrition, shelter and meaningful vocation. Such universal “reminder” days help us to maintain focus and direction, particularly when tempted to succumb to lesser self-serving narratives.

Advent Voices – plain speaking

Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah, 18th century (iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia). Public Domain

Russian icon of the Prophet Isaiah, 18th century (iconostasis of Transfiguration Church, Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia). Public Domain

“For I, YHWH, love justice…”

So continues the rest of the oracle in Isaiah 61:8-11.

Isaiah’s euphoric response to God’s affirmation assumes a community that is equally responsive, having embraced an equal love for justice tempered with loving-kindness and mercy.  It is infused with the life-giving Spirit that binds all together.  This reality goes far beyond personal belief that is merely assent to a set of propositions. It is faith and love in pro-active vigour – creative imagining of how even the least regarded within the community can enjoy a transformation. It is an infusion of the manifesto of the chapter’s beginning into daily experience.

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