this innocent man

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I spent some time with the God-man, Jesus

He looked like any ordinary man –

in fact, he looked a bit like me.

I didn’t spend a lot of time with him,

but long enough.

I was not there at the beginning,

like Mary his mother;

full of trust and willing vulnerability.

Sometimes, at my best, I figure

there must be a God who is in control.

I did not see Jesus grow into a child,

then into an adolescent,

and finally a man.

I was not present – nor were any others

when after his baptism,

he was led into the desert for 40 days.

Here, his companion was the devil,

and here, he was tempted as all of us are.

But he did no wrong – unlike me.

I was not Peter, or James, or Bartholamew;

chosen to be close to the God-man,

chosen to be his constant companions –

his disciples, his friends.

Neither was I the mad man

who lived amongst the tombs;

denied any dignity of being human,

ruled by a legion of demons.

I could have been him –

God knows, I’ve been harassed

and taunted by the powers of evil.

Jesus freed this mad man

and restored his humanity.

No-one was beyond the God-man’s help;

all women, and men, were considered worthy.

Then, there were the children.

His friends tried to chase them away

No, no – ‘Let the little ones come to me

for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

Unless you have faith like them,

you will not enter my home.’

I was not the Roman officer whose servant was dying.

He said to the God-man:

‘Just say the word and he will be healed.’

What faith had he – and his servant was healed.

Or the father whose son was in trouble,

who said to the God-man:

‘I believe, help my disbelief.’

Or the non-Jewish mother,

who insisted Jesus heal her daughter:

‘Even the dogs under the table

eat the crumbs that fall from the table.’

All these had faith …

and were given what they asked for.

I was not at the temple

the day Jesus caused a scene.

I would like to have seen that.

He was angry –

the greedy exploiting the worshipper,

the Jew excluding the Gentile;

‘turning God’s house of prayer

into a den of thieves.’

Anyway, he turned the money tables over,

and drove out the culprits – and their animals

with an idle rope.

No-one got hurt –

only their pride suffered.

I was not Judas, Jesus’ friend,

who handed him over

to those who would kill him.

But I could have been Judas;

I have betrayed friends before.

I also know the pain of being betrayed –

it hurts.

Judas did it for thirty pieces of silver,

then threw it away and hung himself.

He couldn’t live with the remorse –

I don’t blame him.

But maybe he should have waited

for the story to finish.

No, I wasn’t Simon of Cyrene

who was prepared to carry

Jesus’ cross for a while.

The God-man had been beat up,

he couldn’t carry his own cross.

I carried mine.

And no, I wasn’t the good thief,

who turned to Jesus on the cross

in those final moments of life:

‘Remember me, Jesus

when you come as king.’

He was accepted, and promised:

‘Today, you will be with me in paradise.’

You see, I am the other thief;

the obnoxious thief,

the angry man,

the stubborn one,

the one with no fear of God.

‘Aren’t you the Messiah?’

I spat at him.

‘Save yourself, and us!’

I demanded.

Excruciating pain,

the anguish of certain death,

brought out my worst –

my fury.

If this God-man could save me,

Why wouldn’t he?

The other man rebuked me:

‘Don’t you fear God?

You and I are punished for guilty acts.

This man is given the same sentence,

yet has done no wrong.’

He has a point.

Whose justice is this?

This innocent man.

This innocent lamb.

The Lamb of God.

Learning Love

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(by Hannah Beattie)

What is the meaning of life?

This is one of the most well known existential questions. However, I think that many of us are perhaps more interested in knowing what is the meaning of my life. What is my purpose here on earth? What should I invest my time and energy in? I think that this question is pondered by atheists, agnostics, deists and theists alike.

The other day my boyfriend and I were reading about eternity. And I was suddenly struck by the question, what is my purpose on earth? I believe in life after death… But in the meantime…?!

As I thought about this, I was fairly certain that my purpose wasn’t the pursuit of fame and fortune. Nor was it even happiness, a house or the most meaningful and cool job. So what was my purpose here on earth?

In a drop down, light bulb moment, I felt that I understood my mission statement for life on earth. And I hazard to suggest that maybe, just maybe, it might be a mission statement for all of us.

To learn love.

Learn to love others. Learn to be loved by others.

Learn to love Creator. Learn to be loved by Creator.

And learn to love ourselves.

I couldn’t believe that my purpose on earth might be that simple!
I’m sure many of us have read wordy mission statements with their accompanying visions, values, objectives, sub-objectives, KPIs, deliverables etc etc. But this mission statement, to me, is delightfully simple. And I couldn’t help but think that in line with Creator’s grace and love of creativity, that it can be lived out as a teacher, mother, engineer, pastor, baker, grandpa, barista, volunteer, dog lover, student or nurse. Unlike many weighty, exhausting mission statements, I think that this mission statement is life-giving. Not burdensome. For me, as I’ve thought about it, it is not something that I feel I need to add to my list of things I should do. Instead I think it is a (great!) place to live my life from! To learn love.

So what does it all mean?! I think maybe our goal on earth is to learn, practice and grow in love. My understanding of eternity is that it is a place of perfect love, where we live in a perfect loving relationship with Creator and others. So, I think, that it makes sense that maybe we begin learning love here on earth…

the well

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(by Basti Meredith)

A captured soul

Strung to the world

A desolate man

Easily as broken as twine

Oh broken man

Lost in the dark

Oh weary shadow

Has your well run dry?

Why, in the depths,

Of the darkest night

Do you choose to dwell

Void of the light?

Oh don’t you see

The sea flowing blue

You blew your final wick

And the wicked fell to you

If a shadow I am

A shadow I’ll be

Blinded to light

Cursed to never see

Broken, wretched

Never to see

The sea of which you speak

It can’t be for me

I’m lost I’m cold

I’m scarred I’m numb

My well is dried

My waters wrung

If only I could see

This sea you bring

The brink of my undoing

Would flee within

Oh mighty shadow

Oh great one

You are barely broken

You’re just unstrung

I’ve planted a seed

That grows only by night

Soon it will blossom

And bring forth light

For what good is the sun

Without the moon

Plant your feet

You’ll see light soon

The moon is needed

To guide the sea

The waves they flow

By night indeed

I have no sight

For there is no light

This sea you speak

I’ll never reach

There is no light

In the depths of the deep

But you’ve seen the sea

It surrounds your feet

And what of my well?

Dried as it is

Without any water

I can not live

Oh weary shadow

How can that be?

No well can run dry

In the bottom of my sea

For the seed that I planted

Is your well in the dark

Let it fire your eyes

And light up your path

Missa Birrarung

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(by David Tuke)

Glory be to Eloihym our Creator;

Eagle powerful and knowing

Glory be to Eloihym the Christ;

Speaking to us at dawn and at dusk

Glory be to Eloihym the Spirit;

The land ever present beneath our feet

As it was in the Dreaming,

You are now in our songs as we travel

and ever will be

until we shall dream again …

The Pathfinder

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There is a bronze sculpture of a nude hammer thrower in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens that has always fascinated me. It was created by John Edward Robin in 1974. The hammer held by the figure has been stolen several times and duly returned or replaced by another. Recently, I discovered that this sculpture is called ‘The Pathfinder’.

Intrigued by its unexpected title, I tried to find out why it was known by this name. Maybe it harks back to Thor, the Nordic god of thunder but I found no evidence of this. I had assumed it was called ‘The Hammer Thrower’. This ‘why’ question remains unanswered … as do so many of my ‘why’ questions. However, the concept of a character who is known to be The Pathfinder grew in my mind.

2020 was a year that created so much change for all of us. For me personally, it also acted as a catalyst for a number of inevitable shifts. My youngest child moved out heralding the end of an intensive mothering season. At the same time, I moved from living in a rural environment to the centre of Melbourne City. Because I am a writer, my work life is unstructured and self-determined, and I now have no idea what to write about … or even what to think about. I envisage myself sitting on the ground surrounded by green grass and a convergence of possible paths. Immobilized by the chaos of 2020, I am not even sure I want to find a path … or my path.

Many of the projects that I have committed time and energy to in the past no longer entice me; I am not motivated or drawn by the same things. But, I still feel the need to be productive and contribute to the world around me. My question is ‘What is most deserving of my (our) attention and effort … What activities, or conversations, do I (we) need to be involved in now?’

I would like to speak with The Pathfinder. Or, perhaps a hammer thrower would do!

the mountains (of Mansfield)

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The muscles of the mountains;

the sinews of the hills

with scars across the ridgeline

… my heart and spirit fills.

Shaded shadows of the clouds

shrouding mysteries untold

Ancient omens from the mountains

tales of long-gone times of old.

Tethered to the earth …

yet reaching for the sky

Dressed with moods of the Creator

‘justice’ … is their cry.

Train travel, seed germination and change

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It started with a jolt … then creaking as the pace expanded … then came a quiet rumbling when the speed increased … and finally, ease and rhythm with a gentle rocking motion.

This describes the beginning of a long train journey we took recently. But, equally well, it could describe the germination of a seed as it cracks open the seed-coat that has held it in dormancy and begins to expand into cotyledons and the first root. With time, the buried plantlet rumbles it’s way through the dark earth and emerges into the light and air above the ground. Once there, the miracle of photosynthesis begins and the rhythm of plant growth and development is set in motion.

Perhaps this sequence of sounds and movement also describes aptly our experience of major changes or shifts in our human lives. As we begin 2021, while still living in the covid shadow of 2020, I believe we will be able to embrace a new normal that will enable us to make many bold changes that need to be made. Changes in the way we care for the earth. Changes in the way we share food, water, land and resources. Changes in how we relate to time, the ocean, other species, the wild places on earth. Changes in the way we regard money, work, progress, sustainability and waste. Maybe even changes in the way we view ourselves, our neighbours and our deity.

Whatever this year holds for you, we hope there is more kindness and that you get to take a long train ride!

What’s the good in Christmas?

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Maybe it’s the gentleness

 of a God who cares

 

Maybe it’s the compassion

of a God who wants things to be better …

fairer …

kinder.

 

Maybe it’s the humility

of God as a baby

 

Maybe it’s the vulnerability

of God entering humanity.

 

Maybe it’s the justice

of telling poor shepherds first.

 

Maybe it’s the miracle

of the unsuspecting virgin giving birth

… her husband confused

… and both misunderstood,

yet bold enough to trust

to trust in an unpredictable

and totally trustworthy God.

 

The God of Love

The God of Comfort

The God of Grace.

 

Maybe it’s the inclusion

of rich foreigners,

who do not  know the Jewish God

who have not heard of Jehovah

have not read the Book

are not expecting the new king to be God.

 

Maybe it’s the peace

of a sleeping newborn,

who promises to save us from our selves.

 

Maybe it’s the joy

of knowing the friendship of God,

a friendship that can’t be earnt

… only received.

 

Maybe that’s the good in Christmas!

 

(by Lyn Beattie)