Fans Arise!! When nothing is too esoteric to be outraged by

Fans Arise!! When nothing is too esoteric to be outraged by

I’m no Star Wars fan. If you ask me, most of those movies are sort of okay. Some are literally unwatchable. So, I find myself on the outer when it comes to fan fights about the minute esoterica of a film series with which I’m not terribly familiar. I don’t care that replacing Anakin at the end of Return of the Jedi made no sense. I’m not gonna fight about whether it’s believable that a bunch of Ewoks could defeat the Galactic Empire. Jar Jar Binks has zero effect on me. And I have no opinion on whether Han shot first. In fact, reading the high dudgeon being expressed by fans over whether The Last Jedi burns the franchise to the ground or not is kinda quaint to me, actually. When fans start carrying placards protesting that Disney has ruined Lucasfilm, I might look up from my breakfast cereal for a second, but, meh, I don’t care. Good for them. All power to them. I’m gonna keep scrolling through my newsfeed. Which might be the same reaction most of the world has when Christians start splitting hairs and debating the minutiae of their doctrine. Like Star Wars fans, we can get so outraged so quickly by the tiniest difference of theological opinion, while most onlookers are, like, huh? This happened this

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The Gifts of Advent 4: RECONCILIATION

The Gifts of Advent 4: RECONCILIATION

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks is an Amatjere woman, born in the outback in 1937 at the height of Australia’s so-called assimilation policy. At that time, it was believed that Aboriginal peoples were so vastly inferior to the culture of white settlers that they would soon die out altogether. The government adopted a policy of forcibly removing indigenous children from their families in order to be assimilated into white society, for “their own good”. (Think Rabbit Proof Fence, if you’ve seen that film) Children were taught to reject their indigenous culture and history and to adopt the ways of white society. Their names were often changed, and they were forbidden to speak their traditional languages. Some children were adopted by white families, and others were placed in institutions, many of which were run by Christian denominations, where abuse and neglect were common. Little Rosalie Kunoth was nine-years-old when her father naively took her to Alice Springs, 260 kilometres from Utopia Cattle Station (Arapunya) where she was born, to “get some white education.” To his horror, his daughter was taken from him permanently and made a ward of the state. “We put our heads in the noose, and it tightened very fast,” is the way Rosalie Kunoth-Monks describes it. Little Rosie was assimilated. Raised and educated in a Christian boarding school, she went on

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The Gifts of Advent 3: WHOLENESS

The Gifts of Advent 3: WHOLENESS

[This is the third in a four-part series on the gifts of Advent. The first post explored BEAUTY and in the second I looked at JUSTICE]   Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. ~ Leonard Cohen The song Anthem first appeared on Leonard Cohen’s 1992 album, The Future, and quickly became one of his most enduring and oft-quoted lyrics. Typical of Cohen’s work, it contains allusions to his Jewish background, as well as references to the Buddhist religion of his adulthood and the Christian faith that continued to intrigue him. These are the words of a man searching for human wholeness. It’s this, the healing and renewal of human beings, and indeed all of creation, that I want to explore in this post. Wholeness is the third gift of Advent.   RING THE BELLS THAT STILL CAN RING When Cohen calls on us to ring the bells that still can ring, he’s urging us to keep searching for the holy, to not give up the hope that there is healing in the offing. In his book Diamonds in the Line, he wrote of this lyric, I mean, you have to come up with a philosophical ground. We’re in a dismal situation… and the future

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The Gifts of Advent 2: JUSTICE

The Gifts of Advent 2: JUSTICE

[This is the second in a four-part series looking at the gifts given to us in the coming of Jesus. The first gift I explored was BEAUTY. You can read it here.]   One of the most powerful ways to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. ~ Tim Keller   In his first advent Jesus promised justice for the oppressed, something that will be ultimately and completely dispensed in his second advent. In this vein, at Christmas we often hear preachers refer to the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, such as those in Isaiah 9: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. (Isa 9:6-7) The first advent of King Jesus heralds the establishment of a just and equitable kingdom of God on earth. NT Wright calls it “…the explosive news of a different empire, a different emperor, a different kind of emperor.” He continues, Jesus isn’t simply another politician on whom everyone can pin their hopes and who will then let them down. His way

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The Gifts of Advent 1: BEAUTY

The Gifts of Advent 1: BEAUTY

Beauty – Katrina Lambert Beauty lives In the hollow of the itch you can’t reach. Its first gift is a jolt of recognition – A reflection of something Deep and hidden within us.  Beauty lies In the stitched line of the horizon. Its second gift is the joy of communion – A joining of our inner world  With the boundless sky of billions of heavenly bodies. Beauty inhabits A time beyond time. Its third gift is the glory of eternity – As we are pulled through a pinhole in the present To the infinite beyond that is our true home coming.   The best poetry doesn’t need analysis, but the author of this poem is also a preacher and her thoughts on beauty are as sharp as they are splendid. Katrina Lambert recounts the three gifts of beauty and I want to use her thoughts to explore beauty as a gift in itself, that is, as a gift of God, given in the first advent of Christ and promised in his second.   1. THE JOLT OF RECOGNITION According to Lambert, beauty presents us with that taste of something delicious we’ve been hungering for, or as she describes it “a reflection of something / Deep and hidden within us”. When we encounter beauty it tugs at our spirit. It triggers a sense

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Advent – you might be doing it wrong

Advent – you might be doing it wrong

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya   In recent years, even the most non-liturgical branches of the church, those who usually recoil against anything that even smacks of ritualism, have discovered the Christian season of Advent. But typical of someone a bit late to the party, many of them seem to have missed the memo on what it actually means. Contrary to all the Baptist and evangelical websites proclaiming that Advent is all about “getting ready for Christmas”, the season has a far richer meaning, one usually entirely overlooked by low churches. The word itself is derived from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming,” but the coming that we celebrate during Advent isn’t just Jesus’ first arrival as the babe of Bethlehem. Advent is the time to also focus on Jesus’ second coming. Advent is a four-week season, usually beginning on the last Sunday in November (this year it begins on Dec 3) and ending on Christmas Eve, where we celebrate the revelation of God in Christ, through whom all of creation might be reconciled to God. The First Advent of Christ inaugurates that reconciliation, a process in which we now participate. And the Second Advent signals its consummation, something we anticipate. Participation and anticipation are

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Nonviolence is our Strength: bringing justice and power together

Nonviolence is our Strength: bringing justice and power together

Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. ~ Pascal   This week I participated in another nonviolent direct action (NvDA) to highlight my government’s mistreatment of hundreds of asylum seekers under their jurisdiction. Along with several other Christian leaders, I chained myself to the gates of the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence and refused to leave when instructed to by Australian federal police. We were eventually cut free by Police Search & Rescue and arrested for trespass. It wasn’t the first time I’d been arrested for such an action, and inevitably my decision to participate in it has attracted criticism from some Christians who believe it is wrong to disobey our political and legal authorities. But nonviolent direct action is, in my opinion, an entirely Christian act. NvDA refers to any method of protest, resistance, or intervention without physical violence in which the members of the nonviolent group do, or refuse to do, certain things. Other names for it are people power, civil resistance, satyagraha, nonviolent resistance, pacifica militancia, positive action, and more. When Christians undertake an NvDA we are rejecting the use of physical violence to fight injustice because we know that violence cannot be overcome by more violence.   As followers of the Prince

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Doing what we should have always been doing

Doing what we should have always been doing

When Danica Roem became the first transgender person elected to a state legislature in Virginia last month, there was outrage from some sectors of the American church. One affronted church leader tweeted, “Christian parents, the nation’s first transgender elected official enters American history tonight. What are you doing to prepare your children for that?” In response, bestselling author and University of Houston professor, Brené Brown tweeted:   We’re doing what we should have always been doing: loving God and loving others. But are we? Is that what we’ve been doing, because if it isn’t, I suggest the church should get back to it. In my homeland of Australia, we recently had a national survey on the question as to whether same-sex marriage should be legalized by the parliament. There was a hard-fought campaign waged on both sides of that debate. It wasn’t always very pretty or edifying. In the end, the Yes vote romped it in – 61.6% to 38.4%.  For some perspective, if a federal election was won by that margin it would be the most comprehensive landslide in Australia’s history. As a result, many church leaders are asking a similar question to the one we began with here: what are we doing to prepare ourselves for being the church in the new era of Australian society in which

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Which Christ are you trying to keep in Christmas exactly?

Which Christ are you trying to keep in Christmas exactly?

Why is it that the people most likely to demand that we “keep Christ in Christmas” seem to know so little about the historical birth of Jesus! If they did, they would have no sentimental attachment to traditional nativity scenes and they definitely wouldn’t want to have them placed in centers of commercialism like shopping malls. This isn’t so much to grouse about the chintz and cheesiness of traditional Christmas celebrations as it is to bemoan the widespread ignorance of the gospel story by the very followers of Jesus.   If you knew and believed the story of Christ, you’d know a trad nativity scene is a cartoonish representation of what really happened in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. This was highlighted for me again when I read about Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler defending the actions of senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of initiating several sexual encounters with teenage girls, including one who was only fourteen, when he was in his thirties. Ziegler’s justification for Moore’s behavior was breathtaking (and not in a good way): “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” Aside from the reprehensible action of using the gospel

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A sign pointing to God

A sign pointing to God

In his best-known book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Nobel laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of an isolated jungle village called Macondo in which the entire population has become infected with insomnia and associated amnesia. To avoid forgetting important things, the inhabitants begin labeling everything. One of the first signs they erect reads, “God exists”. But the main protagonist José Arcadio Buendía begins to dread what will happen when the Macondans have even forgotten how to read. He sets to work trying to make a daguerreotype (photograph) of God, to prove His existence and help everyone not to forget Him. I fear we live in a similar time. Our culture is in danger of forgetting that God exists.   But God’s intention was that the church would be the sign that would help people never to forget. This is why some people talk about the church being “the hope of the world.” Technically, the church isn’t the hope of the world – Christ is (Col.1:27). But the church is the sign, the last hope for a world suffering from spiritual amnesia, saying “God exists.” Sadly, while José Arcadio Buendía’s fear was that his village would forget how to read, ours might be that our neighbors can read only too well. When they look at the contemporary church, instead of reading “God

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