A Jesus party!

Rowan Atkinson: (just for fun)

Jesus and twelve of the disciples walk into a bar.

Jesus says to the person behind the bar, thirteen glasses of water please, turns to the disciples and winks.

Did Jesus like a good party and collecting wine?

Or is the story of Jesus first miracle at a wedding of turning water into wine more than about the wine and the marriage feast?

This story is like a mini drama, a marriage was big do in the cultural context, the embarrassment as the host didn’t order enough wine from the local wine merchant Theophilus Murphy, Jesus mother getting involved and the wait staff watching with interest to see how this disaster would play out.

If NetFlix was around at the time of this story it would have made a mini -series of it and imagine the Twitter FB frenzy!!

What was going on? was it as one of my mates says, shows Jesus knew how to party? did it show Jesus understood the customs and culture of the time, maybe, or is there more to this story?

There is one account of this event, there are witnesses to this event, which is interesting because there were stories going around of others turning water into wine.

Some other questions we might ask ourselves.

Was Jesus just a magician?

What’s this calling Mary Woman and not Mum (Mom)?

Was Jesus a party animal?

Was this event a significant shift in history?

Was the incarnation about to get really serious?

I have read several blogs and articles story, some are helpful, some use it as an opportunity to ‘dismantle’ other peoples’ theological thoughts.

Take some time to listen to the piece of music attached called Water into wine by Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn and as you do close you eyes or read the story again. YouTube Bruce Cockburn Water into wine.

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Category : #Jesus , Uncategorized


Jonah and the deep

Jonah and the Whale …

…  or big fish, or Kraken, your choice of HUGE underwater beast that can swallow a man whole.  I’ve heard this story described as a fish story, one of those exaggerated catch, “It was a meter if it was an inch!” kind of things.  And it might need, irony, humour and laughter are just as important for our understanding of God as awe and miracles.

I grew up with a little stained-glass blue whale, with a man sitting in his belly, hanging in the back window, no more than 10cm long.  When my parents moved, Jonah went too and hangs in the kitchen window now. He’s always been there, reminding me of … well, whatever it was that I needed reminding of when it came to life, faith, and journeys.  My mother provided the image for Friday’s clue.  She cross-stitched one of her favourite images of Jonah and the whale for my ordination because I tried to run away from God’s call to ministry.  See, I don’t think I am very good at it – I lack patience, and understanding, and will NEVER know as much as some do about the Bible.  She joked that she had to hurry to Nineveh because I ended up finishing seminary two years earlier than anticipated, so she stitched in the car, and every spare second she had to get it done in time. 

Jonah is complicated.  It’s a delightful story in and of itself.  It uses irony and allegory, it has symbolism of birth and death, there’s faith and questioning, miracles and moaning, humour and horror – the open sea, and the deep depths, and what is in it, is a fear I share with the folk of the 5th or 4th century BC.  I am delighted every time I hear Jonah complain to God that OF COURSE God forgave Nineveh, so why did he have to go through all that he went through in the first place?  I hear that is so many different tones, the snarky sarcasm being my favourite.

https://picryl.com/media/jonah-from-bl-yt-14-f-70v-1fedbc

One scholar writes that he “sees Jonah as a thoughtful prophet who comes to religion out of a search for theological truth and is constantly disappointed by those who come to religion to provide mere comfort in the face of adversity inherent to the human condition. “If religion is only a blanket to provide warmth from the cold, harsh realities of life,” David Bashevkin imagines Jonah asking, “did concerns of theological truth and creed even matter?”[i] The lesson taught by the episode of the tree at the end of the book is that comfort is a deep human need that religion provides, but this need not obscure the role of God.

And so for me, Jonah is a companion.  God is always present, haranguing me, harassing me, humouring me.  I do occasionally miss the presence of God, overlooking it or getting so wrapped up in myself that I simply forget to look up, but it doesn’t matter.  Like that little stained-glass in the window, God simple IS present, for all of us, a constant.


[i] Bashevkin, Dovid. “Jonah and the Varieties of Religious Motivation.” Archived 2016-10-12 at the Wayback Machine Lehrhaus. 9 October 2016. 2 October 2017.

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Category : #Bible , Uncategorized


Godsmacked

To be Godsmacked is to be left speechless by the Almighty. Like its secular sibling, ‘gobsmacked’, Godsmacked implies an unexpected event. In the book of Acts in the bible Paul is Godsmacked on the road to Damascus; Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration could justifiably be called Godsmacked, that of course is not to mention how Joseph, Mary and the shepherds felt at various points in the Christmas story.

The action of being Godsmacked is not limited to the New Testament there are many examples in the Old Testament as well; Goliath – literally Godsmacked, Nebuchadnezzar on seeing Shadrack and his friends in the fiery furnace – Godsmacked, talking donkeys, heavenly ladders, large floods and burning bushes – all Godsmacking.

These are just a few of the many examples of scriptural Godsmacking. There are of course many other stories of people being Godsmacked – some dramatically like Martin Luther, others are Godsmacked more slowly like C.S. Lewis. However it happens being Godsmacked is not something you can ignore nor can you miss it.

Most Christians I have talked to have had a Godsmacking experience, for some it is a one off, never forgotten event for others God smacks them time and time again. There is no right and wrong when it comes to being Godsmacked – as there are millions of, as Larry Norman termed us, ‘Jesus freaks’ so there are millions of ways of being Godsmacked…

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fanpop.com%2Fclubs%2Fgodsmack%2Fimages%2F19204673%2Ftitle%2Fsmack-art-fanart&psig=AOvVaw2QvPYylu9v-JXacMoeZTlE&ust=1594519005674000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCJjJqreMxOoCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

Winds and waves.  

My first recollection of being truly Godsmacked was sitting, in my college room  in Aberystwyth, gazing out of the window one dark and stormy night in November many years ago, but before we stare out of that window here’s a brief history of how I got there.

I am one of those Christians who cannot put a definite time on my conversion – having been taken to church at the tender age of 6 months (it would have been earlier but I was incubated for about 5 months, I hope it didn’t involve a large hen sitting on me but it might have done, I don’t really remember and in all the photos I’m obscured by feathers ). I cannot remember a time when God was not a normal part of my life. Understanding grew as I got older, I asked questions and made decisions about God and Jesus and miracles and church etc and my faith grew. I cannot say there was a definite moment of conversion, over time my prayers became more fervent and my conviction that I needed Jesus far more than he needed me became more acute. I moved from a church going child to a church going youth and then to a calling myself a Christian for I found  that I was following Jesus and was getting to know him as I read and prayed more and more.

Before you get the idea that the author was and is a boring God botherer it should be noted that on this slide towards Christ there were many high points – parties, lots of drinks, fast driving, accidents, loud bands, late nights and early mornings, fights, long hair, friends, mistakes, more parties, more drinks, road trips, weekend concerts, leather jackets, dinner jackets, flack jackets and lots of fun. The wonderful thing is most of them still happen, it just now Jesus comes with me. I’m not sure if the Son of God enjoys heavy metal concerts but he’s been to a few and I’ve never heard him complain (it is true I can’t hear much for days after a concert but I figure Jesus made the blind see so if he didn’t want to go AC/DC again I’m sure I’d get the message).

So after many adventures, a brush or two with very nice policemen, taking some orders from some very scary men in uniforms  and a bit of traveling I ended up being accepted into the hallowed halls of academia or at least the bleach smelling halls of The United Theological College, Aberystwyth. I was there to study theology, but in reality I played lots of sport, drank loads of whiskey and did just enough work to scrape through my degree.

And so you find me at my desk one night in November, starring out of the window, trying to write an easy on the use of duct tape in Sunday School or some such interesting topic. Looking for distractions from this engaging topic proved easy – my window faced west, over Cardigan Bay and the ever changing vista of the sea was a constant draw for my duct tape weary eyes. This night was special however.

Many times I had sat in that self same seat and watched as storms came in over the sea. The lightning was always spectacular as was the effect the wind had on the waves but that  night was different. It was differenter from any other night I had witnessed there – I was about to be well and truly, completely and utterly Godsmacked.

Looking out I could see the storm building in the north and driving huge clouds ahead of it over the hill. It was black and bleak and brilliant. I always looked the other way (south) towards the harbour to see if all the boats were safely moored and as I did I saw the reflection of the storm in the window. That couldn’t be right, it wasn’t the reflection it was another storm been driven up from the south on a collision course with its northern brother.

In awe, and I use those words as they are truly meant, I watched as the winds grew stronger and the waves grew higher, as the lightning lit up the sky and the thunder deafened the town. But the best was yet to come, all the lights of Aberystwyth went out in a sudden flash and then night became day as the two storms met in the middle of the bay and literally tore each other apart.

The sight was unlike anything I have ever seen, and I watch the Discovery Channel A LOT. I could see everything from horizon to horizon. The lightning wasn’t coming in flashes but was a constant burn in the night sky. The noise was horrendous as peel after peel of thunder echoed again and again and again. The rain lashed, the winds howled, the sea vented its fury against the land. Rocks were hurled 100s of feet into the air and flew just as far inland, windows were smashed, cars wrecked and some were even dragged by the fingers of the waves back into the watery depths to be driven by Davy Jones on the way to his locker. I learned later that no one had been seriously hurt but the damage bill ran into the 100’s of thousands of pounds.

It was In the middle of this natural pyrotechnical display that I was Godsmacked – it came over me like one of the claps of thunder and lit up my mind like one of the flashes of lightning, a couple of  verses of scripture, I didn’t (and still don’t remember the reference, without looking it up) but I clearly heard the voice of my old Sunday School teacher saying, “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”” (It’s actually Luke 8 v 24 & 25, but I had to look that up.)

Watching those storms hit the Bay and seeing the power they unleashed and then remembering that even the winds and the waves obey him, Godsmacked me. I was utterly speechless before the power of nature and the even more awesome power of God. I had found, or maybe re-found, the faith the disciples were rebuked for not having. If he can control all that fury he is worthy of the title THE ALMIGHTY, no arguments from me!


Good Samaritan

I’m not sure what annoys me most about this story.

Is it then way the term Good Samaritan is used in good news stories, to describe when someone helps someone out? or the fact we still debate who is my neighbour? you get the drift.

Many words like neighbour and hospitality mean different thinks to people from different cultures.

We have narrowed them to mean, the people next door, or people like us, or having friends over for a BBQ and a drink.

I was reminded of this last year when door knocking with VVCE after a incident in the suburbs where murder had taken place in a park.

We were following up people in the street to ensure they were able to access any support they might need.

The person I was working with knocked on one door, the occupants were from the Middle East, we were invited in as strangers, given water and offered food.

Offering hospitality and concept of neighbour to ‘other’ is understood by many cultures quite differently to how we see it as Westerners (although we are learning).

Context means everything and to understand this story.

There has been many conversations about why the people who didn’t stop didn’t stop, some reasons have been suggested however there appears to be no such discussion in the biblical account of the story.

The point seems to be that people didn’t stop because the main character was from an ethnic group who were not liked, in-fact they were hated.

Please note the difference of not loving is not hate, it is indifference, and Samaritans were hated.

People did not just walk past, they stopped weighed up the options and made a decision to keep walking.

Does the story raise questions for you and your understanding of neighbour and hospitality? It does for me.

Illustration Taken from the Complete Works of Henry Lawson

Australian Poet henry Lawson wrote several poems using biblical stories here is one.

He comes from out the ages dim—

The good Samaritan;

I somehow never pictured him

A fat and jolly man;

But one who’d little joy to glean,

And little coin to give—

A sad-faced man, and lank and lean,

Who found it hard to live.

His eyes were haggard in the drought,

His hair was iron-grey—

His dusty gown was patched, no doubt,

Where we patch pants to-day.

His faded turban, too, was torn—

But darned and folded neat,

And leagues of desert sand had worn

The sandals on his feet.

He’s been a fool, perhaps, and would

Have prospered had he tried,

But he was one who never could

Pass by the other side.

An honest man whom men called soft,

While laughing in their sleeves—

No doubt in business ways he oft

Had fallen amongst thieves.

And, I suppose, by track and tent,

And other ancient ways,

He drank, and fought, and loved, and went

The pace in his young days.

And he had known the bitter year

When love and friendship fail—

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear

That he had been in jail.

A silent man, whose passions slept,

Who had no friends or foes—

A quiet man, who always kept

His hopes and sorrows close.

A man who very seldom smiled,

And one who could not weep

Be it for death of wife or child

Or sorrow still more deep.

But sometimes when a man would rave

Of wrong, as sinners do,

He’d say to cheer and make him brave

‘I’ve had my troubles too.’

(They might be twittered by the birds,

And breathed high Heaven through,

There’s beauty in those world-old words:

‘I’ve had my sorrows too.’)

And if he was a married man,

As many are that roam,

I guess that good Samaritan

Was rather glum at home,

Impatient when a child would fret,

And strict at times and grim—

A man whose kinsmen never yet

Appreciated him.

Howbeit—in a study brown—

He had for all we know,

His own thoughts as he journeyed down

The road to Jericho,

And pondered, as we puzzle yet,

On tragedies of life—

And maybe he was deep in debt

And parted from his wife.

(And so ‘by chance there came that way,’

It reads not like romance—

The truest friends on earth to-day,

They mostly come by chance.)

He saw a stranger left by thieves

Sore hurt and like to die—

He also saw (my heart believes)

The others pass him by.

(Perhaps that good Samaritan

Knew Levite well, and priest)

He lifted up the wounded man

And sat him on his beast,

And took him on towards the inn—

All Christ-like unawares—

Still pondering, perhaps, on sin

And virtue—and his cares.

He bore him in and fixed him right

(Helped by the local drunk),

And wined and oiled him well all night,

And thought beside his bunk.

And on the morrow ere he went

He left a quid and spoke

Unto the host in terms which meant—

‘Look after that poor bloke.’

He must have known them at the inn,

They must have known him too—

Perhaps on that same track he’d seen

Some other sick mate through;

For ‘Whatsoe’er thou spendest more’

(The parable is plain)

‘I will repay,’ he told the host,

‘When I return again.’

He seemed to be a good sort, too,

The boss of that old pub—

(As even now there are a few

At shanties in the scru .

The good Samaritan jogged on

Through Canaan’s dust and heat,

And pondered over various schemes

And ways to make ends meet.

He was no Christian, understand,

For Christ had not been born—

He journeyed later through the land

To hold the priests to scorn;

And tell the world of ‘certain men’

Like that Samaritan,

And preach the simple creed again—

Man’s duty! Man to man!

‘Once on a time there lived a man,’

But he has lived alway,

And that gaunt, good Samaritan

Is with us here to-day;

He passes through the city streets

Unnoticed and unknown,

He helps the sinner that he meets—

His sorrows are his own.

He shares his tucker on the track

When things are at their worst

(And often shouts in bars outback

For souls that are athirst).

To-day I see him staggering down

The blazing water-course,

And making for the distant town

With a sick man on his horse.

He’ll live while nations find their graves

And mortals suffer pain—

When colour rules and whites are slaves

And savages again.

And, after all is past and done,

He’ll rise up, the Last Man,

From tending to the last but one—

The good Samaritan.

Henry Lawson


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