Confused World

I have been watching with concern and bemusement the attempts of our government to halt the execution of two Australians in Indonesia.  My hope and prayer is that they succeed even though this seems very unlikely.  However, this situation highlights the inconsistency of our society.  While huge efforts are being put into saving these two, thousands of unborn children are murdered every year without the legal challenges and TV and newspaper headlines.  The moral outrage at killing two Australians doesn’t match our government’s efforts with asylum seekers in detention.

The 6th Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” is a declaration of the importance and value of life. It reminds us that humanity was created in God’s image.  In the words of John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” Human life is precious but governments and corporations have devalued them to “economic units”.  Movie producers and and game designers have made death a form of entertainment.  Even religions murder others to advance and justify their beliefs. Worse still, we have come to believe many of the corrupted messages that swirl around us today. In my naive and simple way I believe it is time to reclaim two truths: 1. Humanity was made in the image of God (a huge discussion just by itself!) and because of that, 2. Human life is precious. If we believed that passionately it would change the tenor of our discussions and behaviours.  Our view of others would begin to change and our view of ourselves would change.

As a Christian I understand that only the Holy Spirit changes hearts but we have a challenge and responsibility to remind ourselves and the world what a gift life is.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, community, Life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Certainty in Uncertainty

After having written about my growing uncertainty about previously held facts and truths, my wife, as is her habit, challenged me to reflect further.  From a Christian perspective what is the value of this uncertainty?  Does it aid the Christian walk?  Does it help us grow?

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We can feel as though we are  tossed about but that need not be the reality

This made me think and ponder even further.  As I stated previously, uncertainty hasn’t weakened or unsettled my faith.  The reality is that it drives me more into “the arms” of God.  It makes me more reliant on Him and increasingly highlights my own inability to know or understand all things.  There is a subtle (or maybe not that subtle) message in our rationalistic age that says we can know and discover all things.  But the old adage is true, “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.”  Personally I have discovered this to be true and I am at peace with this because I know my Creator.

One more point: I remember years ago a friend was given a chart by his brother of sins and virtues and my friend’s brother was ticking off those virtues he had achieved and those sins he had conquered.  I have found reality to be far different.  The older I have become the more I have discovered that things need to be added to the “sin list”. My heart’s deceptiveness has shown itself more devious than I imagined as a 25 year old.  And my virtues maybe not as virtuous as I thought.  I remember when (a long time ago) for a moment I was quite proud of my humility until the irony of that hit me like a Mack truck.

This again drives me into the arms of a the God who loves me despite my foolish mind games and my uncertainty.

There is certainty but it lies far, far away from me.

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Uncertainty

As I was sanding down an old cot this morning, in preparation for our first grandchild, my mind started to wander.  Afterall, sanding is boring. I reflected on the fact that the older I have become, the less certain I DSC_0432am of many things.

Views that I had held solidly in the past, now, were not as concrete as I thought.  I hasten to add that my faith, belief in God and Scripture are not among these uncertainties although interpretations of some key ideas are.  Some of these uncertainties may include interpretations of Scripture, but others are social and environmental. I was very conservative when I was younger but now I realise that I am on the left of many of my friends. Subtly and imperceptibly I have shifted over time.

I can think of a host of examples where my thinking has changed or mellowed. Whereas once I was a staunch supporter of the 6 twentyfour hour day version of creation – now I see many more (Biblical) possibilities. The role of women in church, the environment, my political views are just some more examples of where my black and whiteness has morphed into something far less concrete and certain.

Being certain has a comfortableness about it. I miss that. In many areas of life I can no longer say with unwavering confidence, “This is the truth and if you don’t believe it, you must be wrong.” You may have a point after all (Michael).

As I was sanding down the frame I wondered why this had happened.  Is it that the realities of life have washed over me?  Is it that now I see some many more complexities though simple experience?

I came to another conclusion although the above might also be true. I think it is mainly that my God is far bigger and more majestic than I ever imagined  60 or even 30 years ago.  The God of Scripture, the universe and life itself has a complexity and omnipotence that cowers my certainty.  His Word has a depth in which I often feel out of my own depth! My brothers in the past said with utmost certainty and conviction that the world was flat and at the centre of the universe.  What do I say now which must cause God to laugh at my puniness and ridiculousness?

That is why I am more uncertain than ever before – and in a way – I am content to be so.

 

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Carols of Contrast

When I heard Christina Rossetti’s carol for the first time I became intrigued by the idea of how climate affects the carols written within a culture. I have contrasted this with an Australian carol by John Wheeler.  They also explain why barbecues are popular during Christmastime in Australia and not in the UK.

The North Wind is Tossing the Leaves

John Wheeler

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Wombat State Forest

1.
The North Wind is tossing the leaves,
The red dust is over the town,
The sparrows are under the eaves,
And the grass in the paddock is brown;
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ-Child the Heavenly King.
2.
The tree-ferns in green gullies sway;
The cool stream flows silently by;
The joy bells are greeting the day,
And the chimes are adrift in the sky,
As we lift up our voices and sing
To the Christ-Child the Heavenly King.

 

In the Bleak Midwinter

Christina Rossetti
1.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Dorchester near Henley on Thames

Dorchester near Henley on Thames

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
 2.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
 3.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
 4.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
 5.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

 

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Advent Poems

The following poem by T.S. Eliot is thought to be a reflection on his own journey towards faith.

The Journey Of The Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,DSC_0003crop
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot

(The Lion Christian Poetry Collection)

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Reports, Graduations and Thanksgiving

It is that time of year again.  The general populace is thinking of Christmas but teachers are busily finishing off reports and reflecting on creative ways of telling the truth without engendering the wrath of protective parents.  Do I write, “Johnny is an enthusiastic student whose energy knows no bounds” or “Johnny is uncontrollable and has no sense or discipline or self-control”?  Do I write, “Mary is unmotivated“ or “Mary reflects all the sloth of her parents”?  Um, I wonder?

Before the report writing there was the marking.   Exams, essays and other pieces that would provide evidence for the reports, all had to be assessed.  Writing and meaning had to be deciphered.  By this stage of the year the shoulders are hunched, the eyes bleary and the footstep slow.

The Thanksgiving and Graduation evening is special.  Students who have worked hard and achieved highly are acknowledged.  My favourite awards are for students who have worked hard and progressed but have not necessarily achieved high marks but need to be encouraged for their effort.  Also students graduate from one section of the school and move to the next and the Year 12 students are acknowledged as they leave the College.  This year, after being, homeroom teacher to the same group of students for the last three years I have that nagging parental conflict of hope and fear, and excitement and trepidation as another group of Year 12 students step out into the next stage of their lives.  May God go before them.

And then, next year, I can start all over again …

Categories: christian education, Education | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Advent Poems

The following poem, written in 1915, is by Thomas Hardy.  The background includes a belief by some of the country folk of the day that on the stroke of midnight of Christmas Day the animals in the barns would kneel for the baby Jesus.  Being written during the Great War it could be seen, in part as longing for the past. The last line could also be seen as a plaintive cry for a lost faith.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.Mr Spears Allansford
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

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Reprise: Advent Poem

Today’s poem is not a poem by a famous poet but one of mine from last year.

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.’

Gen 3:15

sunrise new

 

The first morning glimmer
of light
tells us the sun is coming:
A new day
A new hope
And eternal possibilities.

The dawn light
is a daily
covenant promise
that the son is coming:
who with a bruised heel
would crush
the enemy’s head
forever.

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Advent Poems

That Holy Thing

mary crop

From the walls of the Keldby Church, Mons, Denmark

George MacDonald (1824-1905)

They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes, and lift them high:
Thou cam’st a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.O son of man, to right my lot
Nought but thy presence can avail;
Yet on the road thy wheels are not,
Nor on the sea thy sail!

My fancied ways why shouldst thou heed?
Thou com’st down thine own secret stair:
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer!

Categories: Advent, Faith, Poem, poetry | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Advent Poems

In this Advent poem the Australian poet, Henry Lawson, connects the first and second Advents and links it with the need for social justice.   You may not necessarily agree with his theology.

In the StreetMary

Where the needle-woman toils
Through the night with hand and brain,
Till the sickly daylight shudders like a spectre at the pain –
Till her eyes seem to crawl,
And her brain seems to creep –

And her limbs are all a-tremble for the want of rest and sleep!
It is there the fire-brand blazes in my blood; and it is there
That I see the crimson banner of the Children of Despair!
That I feel the soul and music in a rebel’s battle song,
And the greatest love for justice and the hottest hate for wrong!

When the foremost in his greed
Presses heavy on the last –
In the brutal spirit rising from the grave-yard of the past –
Where the poor are trodden down
And the rich are deaf and blind!

It is there I feel the greatest love and pity for mankind:
There – where heart to heart is saying, though the tongue and lip be still:
We’ve been through it all and know it! brother, we’ve been through the mill!
There the spirits of my brothers rise the higher for defeat,
And the drums of revolution roll for ever in the street!

Christ is coming once again,
And his day is drawing near;
He is leading on the thousands of the army of the rear!
We shall know the second advent
By the lower skies aflame

With the signals of his coming, for he comes not as he came –
Not humble, meek, and lowly, as he came in days of old,
But with hatred, retribution for the worshippers of gold!
And the roll of battle music and the steady tramp of feet
Sound for ever in the thunder and the rattle of the street!

Henry Lawson 1894
(Source: http://www.ironbarkresources.com/henrylawson/InTheStreet.html
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