Let it Be

A meditation on the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat

There are rotten folk among us while we are trying to do good
While we work to patch the world up, they’d prevent us if they could.
Let’s raise a holy army to rout them out with glee.
But You come and tell a story that counsels “Let it be.”

Manus, Nauru, Villawood – you’d not let us have our say?
Uluru and its Statement, surely this reflects your way?
Why should we sit and watch while injustice has its spree?
How can You sit and advise us to just let it be?

“You misunderstand the import of the way My Kindom lurks.
Yes, you labour on the land and your good deed often works.
The outcome is not yours to determine or to see.
Discernment and trust is required to let it be.”

Do not be alarmed if your labour seems in vain
Justice has a long arc that bends towards its reign
Time will bring an answer for all the world to see
The work of transformation oft includes just “Let it be!”

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43


Wasted Words?

A reflection on the Sower Parable in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

“Words are trucks full of meaning,” he said.
Sent out from the source of our head.
The import bestowed on those so endowed
With hearing determines their spread.

A reach to the heart is what’s needed
And life throws out much to impede it.
Words and deeds go to waste, even done without haste
Although some dig deep and are seeded.

So fling good words around and let them abound
The bin is full and replete with much grace
Let them land where they will; some will multiply still
And fill lives where there was once empty space.




But John held up a mirror…

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My experimental “bush poetry”approach to the lectionary has elicited a mixed reaction. Some love it; others plead with me not to give up my day job (but I’m retired!) Anyhow, here’s a go at the Gospel for this Sunday, which is:

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
‘But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
   we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ …

… At that time Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’

Yeah, in this game there are no winners
We all compete amongst sinners
Each knows what is best, and with lots of zest
Seek to prove that we’re not beginners.

But John held up a mirror
We hid and decried him as queerer
The Human One came; we said much the same
and urged him to come no nearer.

Wisdom evades those deemed “wise,” said he
‘Tis the simple who ‘get’ mystery
‘Twas so ordained, though you all complained
That your efforts leave little to see.

If life proves tough following me
You’re right as right as can be
But come have a rest; indeed, be my guest
and together, we’ll set people free.

Meet the Pub Test!

I’m trying something different after decades of writing homilies guided by the Revised Common Lectionary. Two years after release from the weekly necessity to deliver, I still find myself wedded to the rhythm of the three year cycle, particularly where the Gospels are concerned. Although I am occasionally granted the opportunity to deliver a harangue I find myself looking for a different medium to keep exploring the rich depth of the Gospel pathways to Christ-likeness.

Then it hit me – Bush Poetry – Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson knew how to get to the nub of things with this oddly Ocker laconic gifting to the literary world. Their works have sat on my shelves since forever.

So let’s give it a go with this Sunday’s text from Matthew 10:40-42:

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

I rode the rails the other day; the car was in the shop.
A bit of strife, however – my Smartrider was a flop.
Expired it was, a quandary dire, no cash to buy a pass.
Up stepped a bloke to pay my way, I said “You’ve got some class!”

“No worries, mate! One day ’twill be your turn.
Just pay it on – it’s something we can learn.
Last week I found myself a little in a pickle
No water coming from my taps, not even a bitty trickle.

Bills were paid, the meter made – I searched the reason why
I scratched my head ’til I was red, then Joe came breezing by.
‘It’s roots!’ he said. ‘They’ve choked off your supply.’
A plumber he, he set to work. The hours they flew by.

The water flowed and Joe packed up, his work was done at last.
‘What do I owe?’ and Joe just grinned; he thought it was a blast.
‘On the house! What are good neighbours for?’
With that he winked while I just blinked as he went out the door.

‘Holy Joe’ the street had called him, as he drove round in his van.
Somehow the word had got around, “There’s Joe – a Jesus fan!”
I found it wasn’t in his Bible, it wasn’t in his speech.
It was in his welcome and his deeds, that’s how he spread his reach.”

So all you holy rollers, take heed of Holy Joe
If you would welcome Jesus, ’tis the stranger where he’ll show
“Preach gospel, and if need, use words,” St Francis said it best.
And when you dare to try it out, make sure it meets pub test.

DJR

Well it may improve with practice!












Into the Hole He Goes!

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“In the name of the Father, the Son and into the hole he goes!”

Thus a seven year old evoked the blessing of the mystery of the Trinity as he buried his deceased canary.

Over fifty years of church ministry, I have never been able to satisfactorily explain to Western conditioned minds the phenomenon of Trinitarian theology. As Trinity Sunday approaches, I muse on my frustration.

Trinity Sunday on the traditional church calendar is the Sunday after Pentecost. It seems as though we’ve been on this long, and deep spiritual journey – 100 days, in fact, from the time some disciples witnessed an event on top of a mountain that suggested there was more to Jesus than met the eye. From that occasion there was the fraught Lenten journey to Jerusalem, the arrest, trials and crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection appearances, ascension and descent of the Holy Spirit and her charge to be the presence of Christ throughout the world for all time to come. The teachings and formulas of Trinity Sunday can seem almost as if this process can be tied up in a neat bow and put on a shelf. It can divert us from the wonder of the continuing journey and replace it with confusion and argument.

My conclusion is that you cannot explain Trinity. It is best to see that it is about relationship and live accordingly. We have the mechanical formulae and its attendant dangers of error that can divert us from the reality of the experience – that God catches us up in the lived unity of the ways in which God reveals God-self through creation, incarnation and Spirit. I have sometimes mused that the call for humanity to be caught up in this loving dynamic makes for a “quadricity” but this would only add to philosophical confusion.

Maybe the child burying the canary in sweet innocence has the best grasp of it all!

Stage 3 – Worth Celebrating?

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Glory be! Yesterday our Premier announced Stage 3 – the lifting of many restrictions on daily life due to COVID-19. Today’s media is full of celebration in anticipation of life in the city and across the state becoming almost “normal.” Physical distancing will reduce; cafes and restaurants can seat more patrons; cinemas and theatres, gyms and playgrounds will open their doors again. Freedom! As long as you keep washing your hands and keeping watchful – because the virus still lurks and prowls!

Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Pentecost – the culmination of a hundred day journey that began with the transfigured human Jesus. We then progressed through his painful journey to Jerusalem where he was executed. We wondered and reflected as he was raised as the victorious Christ, and unified with his followers. Tomorrow we celebrate the sealing with the overwhelming descent of the Spirit as a promise of presence and empowerment to all peoples.

Now that’s a Stage 3 worth celebrating!

Unity & Pizza

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One of Australian TV’s most “swallow me now!” moments was when the pizza “make me one with everything” gag backfired as it was told to a somewhat bemused Dalai Lama. Click here to view the excruciating moment.

The journey to the depth of union, however, is at the heart of the quest for all world faiths. The hundred day journey from The Mount of Transfiguration to Pentecost peaks this Sunday with Jesus’ prayer for unity that all who follow the Way may be one, even as God the Father and he are one, that the whole world may “believe” (that is, follow the Way).

Such is the Christian discernment of the quest – that the Way has been revealed and is acquired by union with the Creator through an engaged relationship with the Christ, empowered by his risen presence at large among them and within them, and soon, through Pentecost, to empower them for the way ahead.

Beats pizza made with everything anytime!

The Dread of Mileposts

Looks like I drafted this 11 months ago but never posted it! It’s strangely prescient. Soon after I wrote these words we were plunged into a collective housing and financial security crisis as victims of fraud and regulatory negligence.  With fellow survivors, we are campaigning towards the conclusion of a heroic journey marked by drama, tragedy, comedy and startling revelations. Vindication, restitution and prevention are the boons we seek. Onward and upward!  

There is something about mileposts – or way markers – whichever one prefers. Passing them can mark an exhilarating achievement or bring to the fore awareness of a looming background of existential dread. For me, this year marks 40 years of soul partnership in marriage with Jenny, 45 years since ordination as a Churches of Christ minister and 70 years since being born onto this beautiful and challenging planet. There will be celebrations, but I look over my shoulder and perceive the black clouds of failed ventures, broken dreams and unrealised ideals. The numbers 40 and 70 have spiritual significance in our ancient sacred texts. They signify liminal spaces, unfamiliar borders between what was and what is to come. Hence the children of Israel cross into a Promised Land after 40 years in the wilderness, honing the temperament and culture necessary for the transition from slavery to nationhood. Jesus emerges from 40 days of wilderness preparation for world-changing ministry and mission. Notional borders are crossed. 70 years, of course, is the biblical span of years allotted to us (80 if you’re worthy), marking the nearness of the liminal space we traverse from this life. It’s right to mark the dread, and wonder if it might instead be awe, the apprehension of something far bigger, wilder and all-embracing of anything we’ve ever experienced. 

A deeper way of seeing!

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There are things I heard and believed in my youth that I see quite differently from this high up the mountain on life’s journey.

Take some sound bites (as often employed)) from the passage set for the fifth Sunday of Easter – John 14:1-14 – part of the monologue presented as Jesus’ final conversation with his disciples! Just three will do for now:

  • In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… I go to prepare a place for you … (verses 2,3)
    Frequently quoted at funeral services, sometimes offering an assured view of the afterlife beyond the present experience of those now living.
  • Jesus said … “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (verse 6)
    Often used as a slam-dunk defense against views that question a narrow perspective on personal salvation.
  • I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. (verses 13,14)
    A frequently heard admonishment for persistence in prayer that raises expectations that are sometimes naive and superficial.

Further up the mountain, we see that this passage appears on the calendar that celebrates the Christian story as told near the culmination of the pilgrims’ 100 day journey that begins high on the Mount of Transfiguration, and climaxes at the celebration of the feast of Pentecost. The whole journey is bathed in the Christian experience of union with Christ, hence the frequent references to the Gospel according to John.

  • In union with Christ, the “dwelling places” are always now, no matter what. This is an eternal truth.
  • The Christ who dwells within and who is always accessible to those who are fully awake and receptive daily reveals the way. the truth and the life as we negotiate and transact our life relationships.
  • The Christ who dwells within prays our prayers – we cannot ask for that which is not in line with what is “in his name” or character. Prayer is a relationship rather than a shopping list.

It is no accident that this passage follows closely on the Good Shepherd passage (John 10) from the previous Sunday. Again, when we have the eyes to see, we can see this truth in places we have never dreamed of looking before. When we have the ears to hear, the most simple and mundane conversations carry its depth.

Shepherding in COVID Times

This week’s challenge was to respond to an invitation from Wembley Downs Uniting Church to prepare and present an online service for the fourth Sunday of Easter, typically Good Shepherd Sunday. So wrestling with PowerPoint and video-clips, plus sitting in rabbinic style while preaching into my computer, the final result can be seen by clicking here.

Or here is part, a simple reflection on John 10:1-10 if you are so inclined. I’m not as angry as I look!