The fourth and final 2016 edition of Pres Life, news magazine of the Presbyterian Church of Queensland has been released.
The pdf is available for download here, or you can use the issuu online reader edition.
Submitted to our local paper, the Border Watch.
The Easter weekend is now over. Seeing how many people were out and about on the day before Good Friday it seemed that lots of people were having a longer weekend than the four days from Friday to Monday. The wrench of returning to work was hopefully softened by a four-day working week until the next weekend.
Christians started preparing for Easter back on February 9, Shrove Tuesday. The supermarkets started preparing for it during the first week of January when the Hot Crossed Buns went on sale.
During the Easter week some churches held services on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For many Christians it’s the busiest time of the year.
More than a few folk will ask if we’ll be glad when the weekend is over.
It’s a funny question, really.
For while it is a good feeling when the Easter weekend is ended, for the Christian Easter never ends.
Every Sunday is just as much centered on the resurrection of Jesus as Easter Sunday. Every Sunday engages with the event of Jesus’ crucifixion as pivotal in the relationship between God and his people.
More than that, these events are central to every single day of a Christian’s life.
Many of us are familiar with family heirlooms, crockery and cutlery sets that are only used on special occasions like Christmas, birthdays or anniversaries. On ordinary days other ‘everyday’ plates and eating utensils are used. I suspect some of us even have special crockery sets that have never been eaten off because no occasion is ever special enough to merit their use.
Perhaps that’s how some people think about Easter: that on Easter Sunday and Good Friday the resurrection and the cross are central, but on the other weeks of the year focus can fall on other themes.
The reality for Christians is that the truths of Easter are for everyday. They’re not just special occasions.
Our everyday living is anchored in the life of the resurrected Jesus.
Our everyday motivation in love and service for others flows from an experience of the victory and transformation of the resurrected Jesus.
Our everyday hope is grounded in the reality of a life that lasts forever, stretching beyond the darkened times so many of us experience now into everlasting light because of the resurrected Jesus.
Easter is not just one aspect of Christian experience; Easter is not a part of our calendar; Easter is the power that instructs, enables, and fuels our lives as followers of Jesus.
Easter is past for 2016, but Easter never ends.
An Easter reflection for our local paper, The Border Watch.
There are times when you revisit something from the past that reminds you of the changing nature of your own life.
Go back to the place where you first went to school; it’s likely you’ll think it’s so much smaller than you remember it. School hasn’t shrunk, but you’re a lot bigger than you were in first grade.
Along the same line, that teacher who seemed so old when you were in school was probably in their early to mid twenties. It’s always disconcerting to realise that you’ve had more birthdays than those people that you used to think were so old when you were a child.
Year after year I revisit the familiar narrative that is the Easter story. Four perspectives unify into multifaceted account of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The story remains the same, but each year different details seem to come to catch my attention. The details aren’t new; they’ve always been there. But they remind me that I’m changing as I pass through life’s seasons.
This year the part of the Easter story that grabs my attention is Jesus’ prayer ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
It seems our culture is more committed to justice and accountability, but less able to forgive. Judgment is quick, but the pathway to restored relationship seems absent. There is a readiness to condemn character with a harshness that does not suggest a pathway forward.
Difference becomes division.
Though he spoke about forgiveness, Jesus does not say ‘Father, I forgive them’. His anguished prayer is motivated by personal forgiveness, but asks for something more. In asking for God to forgive those who had put him to death Jesus acknowledges that our individual failings are part of a bigger picture.
The problem is in each of us.
In a culture that cultivates and demands a sense of outrage, we would do well to understand that outrage is a sign that something needs to be done, but it’s no solution in itself. The solution is bound up in recognising the same human weakness in ourselves that is shown in the failings of others. It should draw us together as human, not drive us apart. Jesus understands that weakness all too well.
His prayer also indicated Jesus’ belief, even as he was dying, that rejection of him was also rejection of God. He alone had no failings of his own to confess, so he confessed the failings of the rest of us on our behalf. The Easter message of new life is essentially the new beginning that is experienced when God forgives those who acknowledge their own failings in sorrow to him.
If you have the opportunity to hear the Easter story again this weekend, please take the time. Even if you think you know it all, you’ve changed and grown since the last time you heard it. Let it speak to you anew and reveal fresh understanding of yourself, others, and God.
This is written for our local paper, The Border Watch.
Lately space concerns have seen these articles crowded out of the Friday edition, but they should appear some time or another.
Guess there are too many prize pumpkins, lost dogs, or the like to write about at the moment.
So, I’ve been watching My Kitchen Rules again this year. Unlike other television cooking competitions, MKR doesn’t seem to be content with encouraging its audience to imagine they may be better cooks than the competitors, but rather it invites us to assert that we’re better human beings.
Admittedly the producers of the program propel the whole process along with editing that makes it impossible to miss who are the villains of the piece. The only way they could make it more obvious would be to make them wear black capes and long moustaches that they could twirl.
Other programs of this type establish their contestant’s ‘narratives’, their life stories in order for us to identify with them. Everyone can find a contestant they identify with. What does it say about us when a program invites us to watch on the basis of wanting to see a detested archetype get their comeuppance? I’m sure lots of viewers are getting flashbacks to their days at high school.
We might be inclined to think that surely personalities so negative and so flawed would never exist in the real world. But then we change the channel to the United States presidential primary elections, take fright, and scurry back to MKR where the worst outcome seems to a meal of raw meatballs. If only real life was so benign.
But why would we rush to judgment on people that we don’t really know? As if the worst of people’s behaviour is the sum expression of all we ever were, are, or could be. Not knowing the history, the circumstances, or even the physical or psychological situations of others, but proceeding to make unilateral moral judgments about character is presumptuous and destructive.
It also tempts us into blindness about our own failings.
Jesus told a story about a man who had two sons. You may have heard it. One of the sons estranged himself from the family and went off and wasted all his money on wild living.
In time he came to the point of view that he was a sad, bad, and futureless figure. All that was left was to seek a menial position on the family property. After he arrived home he found his brother agreed with this self-evaluation. The brother thought he was a waste of time as well.
The only one who disagreed was their father. Having seen the estranged son in the distance he raced out to greet him and welcome him back into the fold. Rather than engaging in character assessment, all the father wanted to think about was that someone who was lost had been found. The father invited both of his sons to experience this joy.
The apostle Paul explains that those who are disciples of Jesus are no longer regarded on the basis of their failings, but on the basis of the acceptance that God has for his son.
Jesus invites us all to experience a relationship with God where condemnation no longer defines our thoughts about ourselves or others.
The Pulse, news magazine of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales, seems to have adjusted its publishing release date by a month, so instead of Feb/Mar we get Mar/Apr.
Apart from that, new editor-in-chief Jeof Falls introduces an issue of similar style and quality to its predecessors.
This issue of the Pulse is available at the PCNSW website for download, along with past editions.
The pdf can be accessed directly at this link.
Another article for our local paper.
I spent most of Wednesday positioning myself near windows so I could see the rain falling. And, as boring as it is supposed to sound, hopefully I’ll be able to watch grass growing over the next couple of weeks.
Once upon a time rainy days were times to be dreaded, hours of lost opportunity. Now the sound of water running down the roof brings a feeling of reassurance about the continuity of life.
The thought of being eager to see grass, or any other plants for that matter, growing was far from my mind. It seemed to invoke the though of more time lost pushing the mower through a thick rich matt of ankle high kikuyu that had only been cut a week ago.
Now the thought of walking on grass and not hearing it crackle underfoot is an enticing prospect.
Time and circumstances can change perspectives.
Sometimes it takes a long dry summer to change your mind about a rainy day and lush grass.
But why should time and circumstances change our perspectives?
When you think about it, a half-year of parched surroundings only helps me to appreciate what I should have appreciated all along. It really brings me no credit to realise what I really should have known the whole time.
It would be better to develop the same appreciation without being forced to. It would be better if the appreciation grew from within instead of being mandated from outside.
In the thirteenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel there is a troubling account involving some people who asked Jesus about his opinion of some people who had been subject to an atrocity. It seemed that the questioners were motivated to reflect on the tragedy in terms of what it might mean for themselves.
Sometimes we might do the same. We hear that something bad has happened to someone and we think about why that might have happened to them; we also think about what we might change about ourselves in order to avoid a similar occurrence.
There’s nothing really wrong with this in itself. It is good to learn positive lessons from other’s negative experiences.
It’s only problematic when this is the only way we learn about ourselves.
Surely our life and destiny are more important than to only think about it at times of bad news and funerals?
Jesus answers his questioners in a way that confounds their desires to exercise control in the situation, and, in effect, turns the question around on them.
The questioners wanted to know why the others had died, and what they could learn from that.
Jesus asks the questioners why are they still alive, and what could they learn from that.
It’s a harder question. The answer is not so obvious. It takes time to work out.
The weeks leading up to Easter serve many Christians as an intentional time to ponder issues such as what our continued years of life really mean, in this life and beyond.
These weeks of introspection culminate in Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, events in which God answers the question ‘What is my only hope in life and in death?’ by the death and resurrection of Jesus.