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March 31, 2005

Pet Fish

In our kitchen sits a fish bowl, the first major purchase of our eldest son C. His investment at the time encouraged the two younger ones to get their own pets. So it has been that three goldfish do regular laps of the fishbowl...

Until about six weeks ago, when R's (our daughter) fish died. She was devastated, and conducted a full funeral and burial in the front yard. Our youngest S broke his heart: must have some Italian blood, such was the power of his lament. A few days later we ventured back into the pet shop...

So, when I noticed the new fish foundering at the bottom of the tank yesterday morning, I took the chicken's option and returned to the pet shop for a look-alike, certain the other one was on its way out. All went according to plan last night, as the switch went unnoticed.

Unable to flush said foundering fish down the toilet before its time, I set it in a glass of clean water and put it out of sight. Again, no problems, as the fish stayed in the sunshine unnoticed. But...

Today this fish has experienced something of a renaissance. It can be found swimming happily and upright around the glass. So... we have a problem! How to explain four fish where once there was three.

Which only goes to show: don't try to hide death from the kids. It'll come back to bite one way or another.

Posted by gary at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2005

A Rousing Start to the Day

The curtains were up early - so were the kids this morning. They love a celebration, and were jumping all over the bed to wish me a happy birthday this morning.

What a wonderful day to be alive!

Posted by gary at 03:29 PM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2005

Easter Signboard

Our community maintains a signboard which offers quotes and thoughts for passers-by. Most are from historical figures, but the one at Easter was an original. It read

God raised Jesus from the dead: what gets you out of bed in the morning?

What do you think?

Posted by gary at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2005

100 up

Yesterday's entry was the hundredth posted. I wonder if it is significant that it occurred on Easter Sunday?

Posted by gary at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2005

Sunrise Reflections at Easter

Our community gathered in the park this morning to reflect upon the resurrection of Jesus. It was a peaceful morning as we heard the stories of those who appeared at the tomb that morning. The air was still and crisp, the grass still bearing the dew, yet to be dried by the sun. Hot-air balloons launched from a nearby park against the backdrop of a full moon still waning from the sky.

The park was empty, the only message being "he is not here", just as the women were told that first Easter morning, and a promise of meeting him at another time and another place.

We reflected on stories of redemption from the Hebrew Bible: Noah... Abraham and Isaac... Jonah and Nineveh... Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We remembered how much of the Easter story unfolded in the darkness: the last supper, prayer in Gethsemane, the arrest, the trial... and the resurrection.

When we had read the account of John 21, we shared fish and bread together, then recommitted ourselves in the pattern of Jesus' re-commissioning of Simon. To hear the words "Do you love me fully?" as we remember the resurrection and our own denials of Jesus in word and deed, this challenge spoke powerfully.

The rising sun gradually warmed our gathering as we shared the refrain: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!!

Posted by gary at 12:16 PM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2005

Holy Saturday

It’s a nuisance when chocolate Easter eggs begin to appear in stores as outside temperatures reach the high 30s – it becomes awfully difficult to consume all the chocolate before it begins to melt! ‘Tis a sad waste of a wonderful delicacy to wash it away with soap… Yet this inconvenience is but a minor challenge for those who celebrate Easter in the Southern hemisphere – away from the emerging season of Spring so intricately woven into the traditional understanding of Easter we have inherited from our northern cousins. Christians in the fourth century found it uncannily expedient to attach celebrations of the death and resurrection of Jesus to an earlier pagan festival marking the commencement of spring: the themes of new life, rebirth and renewal already irresistibly embodied in the festival, waiting to be impregnated with christian meaning. The emergence of new life in creation as trees and plants begin their regeneration and new growth was a powerful symbol of new life to reflect upon in the light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But does the springtime fully represent the meaning of events surrounding the passion of Jesus? Are we in the antipodes somehow deprived of a full appreciation of the Easter miracle? Or does this almost exclusive focus on new life mask something more profound about the life and teaching of Jesus?

Here in Australia we celebrate Easter as trees shed their leaves, as fading light gives way to increased darkness, accentuated on this Holy Satuday which is lengthened by one hour to accommodate the move away from daylight saving time. The Autumn equinox marks the shift from days where light is the greater part of the day towards ever-increasing darkness. Daylight saving ends, creating the impression of a sudden darkness as evening falls will fall much earlier from tomorrow in our working day. For the next three months the days become shorter, colder, somehow more alienating. We watch creation enter the throes of deconstruction. Animals begin to hibernate, some birds spread their wings for warmer climes, many flowering plants shut down production, and deciduous trees shed their leaves, ultimately lending a more sober and subdued – even dreary – hue to the landscape. While we begin to feel some sense of relief at the passing of the scorching heat of summer, there appears little to celebrate, little sign of the new life which is integral to the Easter story.

It seems that the Australian context has yet to find its place in the celebration of Easter in the christian church. Alongside our borrowed Christmas symbols of snow and holly, our celebration of Easter strikes a discordant note with the landscape, creation somehow out-of-sync with the Creator’s actions. Either we need to relocate the celebration of Easter to a more appropriate time of year, or look for themes and messages more consistent with the voice of creation. If an authentic and relevant spirituality reflects and shapes the rhythms of human life, then how are we to ground the christian message in the experiences and symbols common in the wider community – as it seems to have been the practice of the early church. Is this possible
with Easter?

My discomfort with the way in which Easter, and more particularly Good Friday, is celebrated in many churches within the Protestant tradition extends beyond its dissonance with the surrounding landscape. The celebration of Easter within the church reflects society’s broader reluctance to grapple with any sense of pain and loss. Rarely have I sat in a Good Friday service without there being a strong proclamation of the resurrection: a thought not found in the original experience of the disciples, who instead were enveloped with despair as they watched Jesus die. This shadow was deepened by their own complicity in his death through either their denial of him, or their abandonment in his time of need. In the death of Jesus they believed their hope had also died. The dream Jesus had instilled in them had dissipated at the cross.

Yet rarely have I experienced this in a Good Friday service. The death of Jesus is almost trivialized against the backdrop of the resurrection, the struggle and pain of the disciples glossed over, their sense of loss given scant regard. Standing as we do on this side of the resurrection it is difficult to fully appreciate the emptiness they felt, yet I sense that it is essential to the journey of faith that we endeavour to enter that same space today.

In the celebration of Easter, what is often overlooked is the means through which this new life was brought into being. The Easter story is marked by an all-pervading gloom, as many of the critical events took place under cover of darkness: Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, his trial before the Sanhedrin, the denial by Peter, even his death took place as darkness spread across the land. The resurrection hope only came through the despairing death of Jesus – the death of the one christians call the Son of God. Jesus’ disciples, the Jews, and the Roman authorities clearly could not reconcile the two. To them, Jesus’ death appeared as conclusive proof that he could not be who he claimed to be.

If we allow our focus to fall primarily on the resurrection without contemplating the circumstances by which it was made necessary, we merely echo the message of many a motivational speaker that failure is not the end, merely an opportunity to learn and grow. The Easter story is no tale of persistence through tragedy. But for the action of God in raising Jesus from the dead, Jesus’ death WAS the end. The act of God was the only source of light in an otherwise dark tale – and yet an overwhelming source of hope. Jesus died as the result of his deliberate submission to the purposes of God. It was an act of obedience and surrender, an embodiment of his teaching that the way to life was to lose it, to surrender it to the purposes of a Heavenly Father. Instead of seeking to preserve his own life for his own sake, Jesus gave it up for a greater purpose.

And creation at Autumn in Australia echoes that same truth, as flora and fauna ‘die off’ for months, a necessary prelude to the new growth which the Spring generates. The symbols of death are all around us: autumn leaves dancing their finale across the streets, driven by the autumn winds; lengthening sunsets and cooler evening winds driving us into shelter earlier each day, just as much of the animal world retreats to cosier places; the cries of the summer birds are slowly silenced, as creation slows its pace. As winter begins to dawn, and winter blues cast their shadow over life, we may despair of ever seeing the warm summer sun once more. Yet this too is part of the Creator’s plan, clearing away the old in preparation for the new. It is only as these sights and sounds die that they can be born afresh, in all their wonder.

But new life – the springtime - stands now only as promise, just as resurrection was promise to the disciples, just as the new life is the promise to all who would follow Jesus. Born out of death, resurrected from the passing away of the present, new life comes. It is a way to life that few choose, preferring to trust in their own strength than to surrender into the hands of another, to hold on rather than let go. To truly live, we must be prepared to die.

Posted by gary at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2005

Good Friday

It is very difficult for christians to commemorate the events of Good Friday without reference to the resurrection. While the link is understandable, and reflects our desire to tell the whole story, it was clear that the disciples of Jesus had no idea about the resurrection at the time of Jesus' death. Even the first reports of the resurrection were treated with some skepticism, such was their lack of understanding.

So then... what did those disciples think on that first Good Friday: those who had given up everything to follow Jesus? Now that he was dead, their whole world collapsed. They scattered, Peter having a last memory of his denial of Jesus. What did they think, feel, and do in the aftermath?

While we continue to proclaim the resurrection on Good Friday, we trivialise the events, as if the death of Jesus were only a blip in a much greater story. But for the disciples - and the early church - it was the central aspect. "For we proclaim Christ crucified..." says Paul.

To look into the reality that the one anointed by God should die, being rejected by the very people he was sent for... that is something we need to ponder, resurrection or no. And perhaps those of us who are religious more so.

Posted by gary at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2005

Prayer Labyrinth

If you've never tried a prayer labyrinth, set aside about half an hour for this one...

Posted by gary at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

An Easter Reflection

An interesting visual reflection... here

Thanks Rowland!

Posted by gary at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

2005 AFL Ladder prediction

Today my eldest C asked me to nominate my ladder for the AFL at the end of the home and away season. I'll record it here for posterity.
1. Port Adelaide (hard to go past at this stage)
2. St Kilda (perennial bridesmaid)
3. West Coast (strong midfield)
4. Brisbane (ageing, but still strong)
5. Sydney (some good up-and-coming players)
6. Geelong (could go better, but they've stolen Ottens)
7. Fremantle (just 'cos they need to)
8. Richmond (I'm ever the optimist!)
9. Carlton (Can't bring myself to let them in the top 8)
10. Kangaroos (Still not strong enough)
11. Essendon (How long can you win off Hird? Getting too old, not enough new blood)
12. Collingwood (And that's optimistic!)
13. Western Bulldogs (Slowly on the improve)
14. Melbourne (It's an odd-numbered year! --- and I had left them out inadvertently until here!)
15. Adelaide (who have they got?)
16. Hawthorn (they don't seem like too happy a team at the moment)

Seal up the box until the end of August.

Season kicks off on Thursday. First tip? Brisbane... or St Kilda!

Posted by gary at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

A Beautiful Boat

It may not have been fast. It may not have gone far. But in the beauty stakes, it takes a lot of beating.

(If you look closely, you will see a huge catamaran waiting to dock. Such is the power of our small craft!)
P.S. This is the last post on this subject. To read others, click here, and here, and here.

Posted by gary at 10:50 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2005

Palm Sunday Peace Vigil

This year we supported the peace rally organised by the Victorian Council of Churches, who brought along speakers from Young Ambassadors for Peace. One of the speakers - a young lady in her early twenties - told of Burma's civil war, which has been continuing since 1949. It struck me that this woman was born into conflict - an inescapable conflict, with potential and real high cost. Many lives have been lost in this war, one which the West has been largely oblivious to and/or impotent in relation to.

But it struck me that the quest for peace is obvious in such an environment. Is it equally so in Australia? We fight wars seeking to bring peace to others: Iraq, Vietnam... yet the peace we offer is something that leaves us deeply discomfited. Despite a healthy democracy and a rising standard of living, the levels of dispiritedness and despair continue to rise, reflected in rising suicided rates, increased gambling, and greater evidence of mental ill-health. There is an insidious war at work stealing peace from us, yet we aim to bring it to other places.

That Palm Sunday represents the commencement to Holy Week provides a pointer to the pathway necessary to find peace. The One is whose name peace is celebrated today began a journey which took him to the cross. A journey of sacrifice, of surrender... a journey of giving up his rights for the sake of others. The peace he brought came at a high price. But with a deep and lasting value. How are we to gain this peace? By walking the same path: not by claiming our own rights and authorities, but by service, surrender and sacrifice - seeking to live for others and invest ourselves in others.

Jesus' injunction "all who would be my disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me" applies most evidently to the events of this week.

We are born into a war zone: one more insidious than we know. Dare we live for peace in its midst?

Posted by gary at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2005

Fast and Furious - The Full Story

We have reflected on our boat-building experience. Here are the facts, the reasons, and the excuses in full detail. You can decide which is which.

* None of us had ever built a boat before, or seen such a challenge in action.
* The two winning teams had professional boat-builders.
* We were the only ones to build for wind-power.
* Our boat, called "Noah's Tarp", was big enough for two animals of every kind.
* We used more wood than anyone else.
* We didn't sink (one boat did)
* We didn't finish last.
* We didn't finish the course (Didn't even complete half a lap!)
* The two winning teams contained professional boat-builders.
* There were only two female entrants in the event - and they were on our team!
* We didn't sink (did I mention that already?)
* We were out on the water so long, we held up a commercial ferry.
* The two winning teams had professional boat-builders (Did I already mention that?)
* When we finally got out of the water, it was getting dark.
* We had a lot of fun.
* Emma and Asher kindly took the first lap, meaning Ev and I didn't get wet.
* Our only progress in the sailing was when I towed Emma and Asher nearly half way around the course.
* We had a lot of fun!

One of us reflected (no naming names) that we were a living parable of the church at the end of the twentieth century: still on the water struggling to make progress, and unable to catch the winds of the Spirit.

Next year we will return somewhat wiser... with a different design!

Check out our events page for some pictures.

Posted by gary at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2005

Fast and Furious...

Two things about the Fast and Furious Boat Building Challenge.
1. We didn't sink
2. We didn't win.

Our boat was the largest of the fleet, the only wind-powered vessel, and the only one requiring to be towed back to the dock.

We've learned a valuable lesson for next year.

Stay tuned for photos...

Posted by gary at 09:42 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2005

Being Human... being Spiritual

The suggestion in the movie "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring" that being truly spiritual is to cast off all human passions is a commonly held belief in many religious traditions. The ascetic experience of withdrawal is to separate ourselves from the world in order to discover spirituality. It is the basis for the monastery and the convent, alongside our prevailing notion of church: which takes place inside a somewhat strange and alien building. It is built in some sense on the otherness of God, and the need to recognise that there are aspects to the character of God which are apart from who we are.

The problem is that there are not many of us who can afford that lifestyle: either economically or personally. We are built for community and for relationship with other humans. The implication that to be spiritual is to deny our humanity is a strange yet not unfamiliar call.

In reflecting on the story of Jesus and the raising of Lazarus last Sunday night (see Image of the Week), we truncated the story so that we did not hear the part about Lazarus being raised. In the absence of that stands an interesting dialogue between Jesus and Martha, and the obvious unwillingness of Mary to come and meet Jesus. They are both clearly in grief at Lazarus' death - one which Jesus could have (in their minds) clearly have prevented. Why did Jesus wait until Lazarus had died before coming to them? Why does he talk to Martha about resurrection in the street at their first meeting? And what does this have to do with my opening remarks?

Plenty. Jesus spoke to Martha and then Mary in the context of their emotional pain. When he spoke of Lazarus being raised, Martha's response was of the classic theological persuasion: "I know that in the last day..." Nice, dispassionate, distant theology. Implication: this distant hope must have something to do with what I am feeling right now, but it isn't helping. When Jesus follows up by questioning Martha as to whether she believed that Lazarus would live again, Martha's response is classical evangelical-ese: "I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God". There is no expectation - from Martha or Mary - that Jesus would do anything. In an other-world spirituality, why would we?

Yet Jesus' response challenges this: he expresses his emotions, then responds with the raising of Lazarus. There is a passion in this story which is quintessentially human and equally divine.

This story is but one of many which build a bridge between human experience and divine. To be christian is to be engaged with the world, to be immersed in human passion, human emotion, human desire, not to be immune to it. God in Christ entered our world and suffered with it as well as under it. The call to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength' is all-embracing, not sub-human. Sure, we need to recognise the 'otherness' of God, but at the same time affirming the incarnation of God into human experience.

Isn't that partly the story of Easter also?

Posted by gary at 05:01 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

Fast and Furious Boat Building Challenge

Our community has decided to enter the Dockfest "Fast and Furious Boat Building Challenge", which requires a group of four people to construct a boat out of supplied materials in two hours, then sail it twice around a designated course. Without power tools. The largest thing I have ever built sans power tools is a pencil box, and then it took four weeks under the careful guise of a woodwork teacher. I guess I'll find out how cool the water is in the harbour... unless, of course, I can be in the team which sails the second lap....

Posted by gary at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2005

And nobody noticed

Finally had enough of the facial growth tonight after three years, so took off the bearded section. (Can't go without the moustache: it's been there for over 20 years!) But it took nearly ten minutes before my beloved noticed, while the kids had to have it pointed out to them. The photo is of its penultimate outing yesterday in the city.

I'm not sure if I feel naked or released?!

Posted by gary at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2005

Changing Melbourne

A public holiday provided opportunity to enjoy some of the sights and sounds of Melbourne with the family. And the experience was symptomatic of Melbourne’s changes: not one thing we explored existed over 20 years ago... we began with a stroll down to the City Circle tram which took us down through Melbourne’s Docklands on our way to the Melbourne Aquarium. We headed from there along the Yarra banks, crossing the river to Southgate, where we stopped for a bite to eat before crossing Yarra again (via the Princes Bridge) to Federation Square, where we enjoyed the Ian Potter Gallery of the National Gallery of Victoria, and ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image). When the kids were exhausted, we caught a water taxi back to New Quay, then walked the rest of the way home. It was a relaxing day before heading into our Movie Night.

It struck me how much our journey was symptomatic of the changes in our city, with its shift in focus from land to water, and of the wider shift in culture from fixed to fluid.

While I stated that nothing existed 20 years ago, it is only partly true: the river, the trams, the bridges, the spaces have been there for some time. Now they are being utilised, explored and experienced in new ways. While Moomba’s 50th celebrations took place, their flavour and expression reflect the changing hues of the city and its peoples.

Isn’t it the nature of life itself – to grow and change?

Posted by gary at 06:40 PM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2005

A tilt at being sub-urbanised...

Today I purchased my first lawn mower. For over 20 years I have made do without one, but no longer. Am I being domesticated? Acquiescing to suburbia? Maybe now my first child is old enough, I've got someone who can use it????

Posted by gary at 08:51 PM | Comments (1)

March 12, 2005

And then there were 12

It’s a long weekend in Melbourne, and we have had a household of 12. It’s an adjustment from our normally boisterous five to add another seven, with just about every decade represented in the house. In the early days of our relationship, Ev and I spoke about having a large family. Being from smallish household ourselves, we idealized the large family. If any thoughts remained, the birth of our third extinguished them completely (he was born at 24 weeks).
It hit me in the quiet of the evening that the households of old were as large as we have experienced (with some adjustment) today. Extended families, servants, villagers, all gathered around the table. I wonder if the noise level matched ours… But then, I suspect that their lives were generally less noise-affected outside the table.
I wonder if living in cities, with all their attendant noise, give us less emotional energy for the relationships which are the currency of life in the first place.

Posted by gary at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2005

You won't know what you've been missing...

...until you have grown your own tomatoes!

Being in the inner city, we have allowed three summers to pass without a vegie garden, until this year when our children planted tomatoes and pumpkin. Now let me tell you that we live 5 minutes walk from the best fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere, and its tomatoes are head and shoulders above those in the supermarket. But for REAL taste, you can't beat them fresh from your own garden!

Some things in life just can't be bought.

Posted by gary at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2005

Drowning in little things

An ancient form of torture involved drops water falling on to the forehead of the victim (or should that be interviewee?). These tiny droplets of water were enough to drive a person insane. I'd suggest that if the person was placed in a bath there would be a double threat, as the water would gradually accumulate and drown them...

At the moment I feel I am drowning in little things: so many untidy ends and small chores which need to be done. The big stuff is missing the boat this week. Hope it is just a one-off phenomenon!

Posted by gary at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005

These things we have lost

Our Sacred Space on Sunday night reflected on the formative influences of our understanding of truth, which we all agreed were dominated by the rational, with a small influence of various authorities (parents, tradition, etc.) As we reflected on "being children of light" we realised that one light does not reveal everything. Certain realities are only revealed under blue light, red light, x-rays, and ultra-violet light just to name a few. But we had shone one, maybe two lights on our faith, and lived in the light of that for some time. So what had we lost?

We created a list of things we needed to recover, both in worship, and in our own journey of discipleship. Here are some:
* Intuition
* Mystery
* Imagination
* Questions without answers
* Play
* Creativity

It was recognised that this was not a case of either/or, but of the need to create space for these in our worship and community life together.

Anything you would add to the list?

Posted by gary at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2005

Now here's an interesting spiritual gift...

Not sure if you'll find this gift on too many surveys.

Posted by gary at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Jesus Talks with a Gay Man

Interesting re-telling of the story of the woman at the well. Might be a confronting read for some...

Jesus talks with a Gay Man

Posted by gary at 09:35 AM | Comments (1)

New monkey discovered

Bolivian Monkey
Australian scientists discovered a new species of monkey in Bolivia's Madidi National Park in 2002, and have auctioned off the naming rights in order to raise money for its protection. The auction sold the rights for $US650,000.

That we can still be finding new species in the world is amazing, given the advances in technology and science over the last century, particularly in light of the comment of Charles Duell, Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents in 1899, when he stated "Everything that can be invented has been invented. It is a call to openness: to recognise that we do not know all that is to be known, and still have much more to discover.

The scientists were concerned that the blonde monkey might be named "Parishiltoni"....

Posted by gary at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

Saving Life and Losing It

When Jesus said "Those who seek to save their life will lose it," I wonder if he meant that of the church as a whole? With the church in the West so under threat, a lot of energy has been expended to preserve it, shoring up its theological and moral position in the midst of an increasingly pluralistic culture. We are keen to defend and express spirituality in explicitly christian terms (which usually means mentioning the name of Jesus, or pronouncing some empty theological truism like 'God loves you') lest we be mistaken as "New Age", or "liberal" or ---insert your own anachronism---.

The more we seek to justify our position or demonstrate our success, the more we are seeking to "preserve our own life" in a sense.

At The Eighth Day, we do not try to foist our views or doctrines on others. Rather we seek to serve our local community and its members, for the purpose of making West and North Melbourne a better place to be. We seek to draw people together, offer opportunities to reflect, create, explore and discover together. We do not back away from the fact that we are christians, but neither do we impose that on others.

When we changed the name from West Melbourne Baptist Church (WMBC) to The Eighth Day, it was partly due to a recognition that "West Melbourne", "Baptist", and "Church" carry a lot of baggage that we do not wish to perpetuate. It wasn't that we want to deny that heritage, we didn't want to rest on it or recreate it. We believe that God is asking us to be something different: to not try to bring people into a building, but to be a people in the wider community. An interesting sidelight of the name change was that people began asking what we are about. Previously when we had said "WMBC", we were given a knowing look of resignation, and swift end to the conversation. Now, we get one of two responses: from christians we get "why The Eighth Day?", and from others, "Wow, that's great... I love the image", or "tell me about it..."

We have lost the sense of identity that went with the previous name, and the security that goes with it. The way we are seen is up to us - the way we live in the community. It's a little scary, but exciting at the same time.

Posted by gary at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2005

What is Church?

Is church something that we do, or something that we have done to us?

Posted by gary at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2005

Turning the Light On

With children in the family, and coaching Under 12s in basketball, I have discovered that it is not enough to simply turn the light on. Many family conflicts emanate from a discussion where two people standing in the same room are clearly not seeing things the same way. Similarly with my basketballing boys. We can run through a drill (on more than one occasion) at practice, yet when they come to the game simply act as though we had never practised it. Occasionally, though, the light goes on...

I saw it quite clearly in a game situation... the young lad under pressure from the defense stopped, thought, and then perfectly executed the pass we had practised in a drill. What made the difference? Not the light from the outside, but from the inside.

It is one thing to bring people into the light, it is quite another for the light to be switched on in them. If I am honest, I would have to say the same about myself.

Juan Carlos Ortiz, in a book called Disciple commented that Western Christians are educated to an average of three years beyond their level of obedience. Impossible to prove, but the imagery is poignant. We have the light on the outside, but it doesn't impact from within.

As a parent, a teacher, a pastor, a human being, the challenge I often face is to lead people into the light. But I can't turn the light on from the inside. That is the work of the Spirit.

And of course the danger facing the church is that we spend so much time trying to turn that light on for others that we neglect it for ourselves.

Posted by gary at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2005

Australian Grand Prix

Melbourne is abuzz with the sounds of Formula 1 vehicles. The high-pitched buzz in the distance is somewhat akin to an approaching swarm of bees. For the past 10 years, along with many others, I have endured the gradual strangulation of access into and around the Albert Park area, which I frequent at least once a week. Perhaps it is some form of strange karma that slows down all the local traffic for three months or so: all that lost speed is absorbed into the frenetic pace of the F1 teams. I am forced to chug along at 40 km/h on the same track that these vehicles cover at 300 km/h.

Whether it is driving in the area, jogging around the lake, or utilising the facilities (our basketball competition loses this week every year), everything is pushed aside for this grand, swift, and somewhat predictable parade.

Am I bitter? I hope I don't sound so... I was grateful that last night gave me opportunity to visit my folks - something I wouldn't have been able to do if it weren't for the Grand Prix, as I would have been playing basketball.

Nothing is ever all bad ;^0

Posted by gary at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 03, 2005

Theological terminology

One of the great challenges facing the church is the recovery of theological terms from political interest groups. Terms like evangelical, fundamental, charismatic, liberal, salvation, and many others carry a lot of baggage which speakers might not intend. The temptation is to leave the terms behind and make new ones. While sympathetic, I believe that we have both the responsibility and the challenge of redeeming the language so that the full meaning in all its breadth and depth might be able to stand.

Not an easy task, and the risk of being misunderstood and misinterpreted is great, but an important one.

Posted by gary at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

A Generous Orthodoxy (early reactions)

I know it's unfair to comment on a book before you have read it through, and perhaps I am not actually commenting on the book at all, but... Chapter 0 of this book strikes me as a long apologetic before anything is said. Is this indicative of the response to bold and creative thinking about church life? God help us if it is.

Posted by gary at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2005

Heaven again...

Attended a funeral today - a two-hour drive each way, but this was for a gentleman from our previous church who we had great respect for, and had grown close to. It was a wonderful celebration of his life of faith. Aside from rekindling a scad of memories, the service hit on the topic of a recent post, and another article.

The term "life after death" frequently recurred through the service, a phrase evangelical christianity has used extensively, particularly in relation to evangelism. But the implication today, clearly not intended, was that only now -in death - would this man reap the benefits of a life of faith, in spite of the eloquent testimony of the way in which it had shaped his life on earth.

Now, maybe I am a little over-sensitive, but does this convey that the only benefit of christian faith is "pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by when I die?" Ought we not be speaking of life through death? The christian faith talks of transformation in the here and now, which continues on beyond the grave.

While the focus of gathering is on a life now ended, with all its questions for each of us about death, ought we not also place the call back into life? The reason the christian ought not fear death is because he knows who meets him on the other side, and has already lived in ways which foreshadow the kingdom, and which reflect kingdom experience...

This same discussion was started by our children the other day, as the image of heaven they had received was boring, one they weren't keen on: angels on clouds playing harps and singing boring church songs... When we began to share images of heaven which better reflect the priorities of Jesus and God's kingdom, they were much more animated and excited - because they knew they could live and know them (at least in part) now.

Posted by gary at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

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