Wednesday, March 18, 2009


It’s getting on towards Good Friday and Easter. It’s a time where, for 2000 years the followers of Jesus Christ have reflected on the facts of the events of his life and his death, and of his person, and on the meaning of what God does and how he operates. The Gospel tells us that in Jesus Christ God was doing his speaking, and speaking his doing.

Now it’s one thing for God to speak. It’s another for us to hear. Often enough we hear what we want to hear or expect to hear. And sometimes we are so badly tuned or trained that we might as well be deaf.


Consider Jesus and his disciples in Mark’s Gospel. They travel with Jesus on his mission, often struggling, or failing, to understand. Finally in Mark Ch 8 Peter ‘gets it’. “You are the Christ,” he blurts out. Finally they see him for who he is. Alleluia!

Jesus immediately began to teach them what he had withheld from them to this point:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this…(Mark 8:31-32a)

Peter hears what Jesus says – and protests strongly.

…and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:32b)

‘No Jesus, you are the Christ, and no Christ of mine is going to be killed!’

Jesus tells him off. And not subtly either. ‘Out of my sight, Satan!’ He then proceeds to tell them that anyone who want to come with him is going to get a cross for his trouble, not glory.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34)

You want to live? Then die. You want to save? Then lose. If there’s going to be glory, it’s in and beyond your dying.


In Mark 9, Jesus repeats his earlier prediction.

He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31-32)

And they truly don’t get it. “A cross gentleman, a cross!” The disciples? Arguing about who will be the greatest. Children, children, can’t you hear? Want to be first? Be last. Want to be the greatest? Be least! A cross gentlemen, a cross! Get ready to die.


In Mark 10 Jesus repeats the prediction a third time.

"We are going up to Jerusalem," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mark 10:33-34)

Glory? Only through death.

James and John are thinking ahead. A cross for us? No! We want the best seats in the house!

"Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." (Mark 10:37)

No gentlemen, no! A cup of suffering, and baptism into death. I’m surely offering you a role. But as servants. With a cross. You want to lord it over others? You want to have authority? Only as you are slave of all.

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(Mark 10:42-45)

How then shall we live? As he did. The call is to live (and die) within his story, in his footsteps. And what did he do?

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Bless you people. Happy Good Friday and happy Easter.


Friends, I’m taking leave of absence from the Parish Ministry from Easter Sunday. This will be the last blog for I don’t know how long. I hope this has been a blessing for you, and that maybe you have found inspiration for sermons, or personal devotions. In the main it’s been great fun writing these, and I’d encourage any of you to do similar things.

Over and out…

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The Good Weekend Magazine (SMH 22/11/08) featured a quick quiz called “Upfront” for Dave Hackett. He’s an author, cartoonist and part time actor.

At one point he was asked his “most humiliating moment”.

“After I played a murder suspect as an extra on Australia’s most wanted, I was spotted in a shopping centre by an old lady, who started pointing at me, yelling, “That’s him! That’s the criminal!”

Fortunately I’ve never been called a criminal. For some of my youthful indiscretions I probably should have been. But how often don’t we experience cases of mistaken identity. Some years ago I waltzed up to a bloke at Central Station and welcomed him to Sydney. (He was from Wagga!) He looks at me and says “Never been to Wagga, mate!”

Mistaken identity! Reminds me of something Pastor John Sims said to his congregation when I was in my training with him. “Jesus told us to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sometimes when I observe you it seems I’m looking at a sheep in wolves clothing.”

Clever heh. But he has a point. Our outer lives are meant to match the inner reality of forgiveness and love, and being a “child of God”. That’s what God wants from us in this life. And it’s why James the apostle cries out , rather like a exasperated tailor, “It’s not fitting…”. Mistaken identity.

Jesus Christ’s life is fully in us. So that’s what is now free and able to seep, ooze, flow out of us.

We do get it wrong. Sometimes in a moment, without thinking. Sometimes, though, we are unrecognisable as Jesus’ brothers and sisters. It is not fitting! The way we talk, the language we use, the stories we tell, (or send on the internet), the drinking we do, the compromises we make, the selfish ambition we pursue, the harshness or bitchiness we show in our relationships – all of these do not reveal Jesus Christ to a broken, way off track world.

Hope? Yes. Constant forgiveness as we identify and acknowledge the failure. Also the Holy Spirit revealing Jesus identity to us and giving us the gumption to live it out. AND ALL OF IT BASED ON THE FACT THAT IMMANUEL, GOD WITH US, EMBRACED OUR SINFUL BROKEN IDENTITY, ON THAT CROSS, AND SET GOD FREE TO GIVE US THE JESUS CHRIST IDENTITY WE NEED. And that resurrected (born again?) CROSS BEARER, says to me and you “FOLLOW ME”.

Bless You


Wednesday, March 04, 2009



There was powerful ‘letter to the editor’ in the GoodWeekend Magazine (SMH) of November 8-9 2008. It was written in response to an article in the same magazine on October 11 about the destruction of habitat for silverback gorillas in Africa. The editor gave the letter a title: GUERILLAS IN THEIR MIDST. I repeat it below, in full.

“Man (as in all humanity) never ceases to disgust me. We rape, pillage, pilfer, murder… and will continue to do so until there’s nothing left. It broke my heart to read what the beautiful, majestic mountain gorillas of the Congo are up against, and I cried when I saw that sad picture of a murdered silverback (October 11). We really make me sick.
Marie Mast
Montrose, Vic.

There is no indication that this lady is a Christian. But it is a rare thing indeed to find someone who can look out over the endless messes of humanity and use that 2 letter word “we”.

“WE rape, pillage, pilfer, murder…WE really make me sick.” As has been obvious in debates about ‘stolen generations’ the idea of corporate, (as in all of us), responsibility is anathema to many, if not most of us. That goes for Christians too! So how refreshing to see someone, somewhere, pick up and run with that royal WE.

In her letter Marie Mast’s sense of ‘we’ is global and geographic. In scripture it’s global and geographic too. It is also across time! Let me give you 2 examples.

1. Good old Daniel. Generally I don’t much like Daniel – he’s so good and always
focussed on God that I always feel guilty when I read about him! It’s exactly that, however, which makes one of his prayers hit between the eyes.
“ I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
"Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you.”
Daniel 9:4-7
See the ‘WE’? – Daniel refuses to separate himself from his people. It’s not ‘I’ and ‘them’, not ‘they’, but ‘we, we, we, we, we’! It’s about knowing that there is something about identity, guilt, forgiveness and freedom that is tied up with the community we belong to.
2. Here’s some of Moses’ words to the Israelites which he tells them to use in their place of worship at least once a year.
“ Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: "My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the first fruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.”
Deut 26:5-10a
The Jews still speak these creedal words today. It’s not that they (ie the forefathers) were rescued from Egypt. No, it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’. Once again the line between past and present becomes invisible. When God rescued the generations from Egypt he rescued us from Egypt as well. When God made a covenant with that generation, it was with us as well. “You may not separate me from my community in either its history or its future” is what a faithful Jew would say.
Let’s chew something. Jesus Christ came among us as Immanuel. As Robin Mann’s song has it, “One with us, one with earth”. According to his life, utterly guiltless. According to his identity as human, no distinction made and accepts all our sin and failure as his own sin and failure.
You know what happened after that. Our story became his cross story, and then his story becomes our story. And the rest is eternal history.
WE shy away from the idea of being responsible for communal sin or failure, but we sure don’t mind taking communal credit when there is success and victory. WE beat the POMS at cricket. Didn’t we?