Archive for May, 2017


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This week The Carmelite Centre has hosted a Symposium called: The Once and Future Reformation: The Way of the Spirit.  The Symposium, 500 years on from Luther event, offers an opportunity to talk about the current need for renewal and reformation today, in the churches and in the world. The Symposium was diverse, ecumenical, and imaginative. Three days of lectures, reflections and discussion on ways of learning from the past, of living in the present and of looking to the future.

Dialogue Today & Tomorrow – Ken Petersen

O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts as at Meribah
Psalm 94

 

Contemplative listening requires the 3 R’s

Resonance – what rings true to your experience/affirms?
Resistance – what am I resisting?
Realignment – as a result has something shifted for you? what?

 

We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Dialogue is two-way communication speaking/listening, giving/receiving for mutual growth and enrichment.

  • human level reciprocal listening àinterpersonal communion
  • respect and friendship
  • religious plurality “all positive and constructive interreligious relations with individuals and communities of other faiths.

Dialogue is rooted in the nature of the person and their dignity.
Pope Saint John Paul II

Forms of dialogue: sharing life, action – liberation of people, theological exchange, religious experience. Praying is not about “talking” but listening. Why can’t we (people of different faiths) sit together in silence.

In true dialogue both sides are willing to change.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas.
In some ways it is always an exchange of gifts.
Pope Saint John Paul II

Hie ist gotes grunt mîn grunt und mîn grunt gotes grunt”: “Here, God’s ground is my ground and my ground God’s ground” – Meister Eckhart… then man is no longer simply on the way towards unity (unio). Instead, unity is something that has always already been achieved.

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Pierre Marie Teilhard de Chardin – A modern religious crisis – David Moore

Teilhard spent half his life in exile. Buried in New York an there were only 10 mourners. Teilhard illuminates:

  • new paradigm
  • long view-evolutionary
  • radiant example of a human being

Despite war, revolution, atomic threat, exile… Teilhard maintained constant optimism and held no bitterness… how? Mysticism.

Mysticism

  • unitive (vision for humankind and everything)
  • supreme loving consciousness “Without mysticism there can be no successful religion” love and fire (were the same thing as he writes it).
  • evolutive (sacred heart and evolution/science) Contradictory truths of faith and science. “I am a child of earth before I am a child of God” and “the nature of nature is to change”

What is your crisis? What is your diagnosis?

Matter becoming spirit – “spirit-matter” – the process that restores this dualism.

Materialism suggests “there is no mind because you can’t prove it” – we’ve got down to atoms and we know that there’s still more beyond that >> soul >>”spirit-matter”.

Scientific and religion crises are rooted in the same problem. Prognosis – need both. They are animated by the same life. Noosphere = interconnectedness of mind/consciousness e.g. precursor of internet. Humans need to fulfil our obligation. “We are the axis and the arrow of evolution” >> reciprocity.

God is the centre of the cosmos but evolution depends on both the human and divine energies.

DIAGNOSIS PROGNOSIS
GOD Externalised, concretised As: dynamic, Omega Point > towards completion
SPIRIT/MIND/

CONSCIOUSNESS

Severed from matter Unified: brain/mind/spirit
CREATION Static/fixed – separated from the Creator Dynamic, evolutive, unfolding process converging towards completion. “Complexity Consciousness”
CHRIST Single, individual superhero – law/judgement Archetype of consciousness, anthropogenesis, cosmogenesis àgenesis is still happening
HUMANKIND Mere spectators Creation becoming conscious
SALVATION Rescue, doctrines, fall/original sin Noogenesis >cost of labour and suffering

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Seeking the Way of the Spirit living Jesus’ commands to love: for Christians, our church in our world, learning from our past, for our future hope through Love in our present – Carol McDonough

Old ways as well as new ways.

  • roots, learn from tradition and current best practice
  • ways of learning from the past
  • ways of living in the present
  • ways of looking to the future

Popes of Coptics and Franciscans – blind child chooses from 3 envelopes > spirit-led

Sunni Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb and Pope Francis > inter-religious dialogue. There’s more that unites than divides us.

A reformation of hope requires a reformation of faith
Prof Jurgen Moltmann

“We will keep the earth alive
by our love and by our choices”
Fay White, Universe’s Daughter

The theological implications of the contemporary
move from a culture of dispute to a culture of dialogue.
Prof Jurgen Moltmann

This is precisely the time when artists go to work.
There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity,
no need for silence, no room for fear.
Toni Morrison

In such times of civilizational trauma, when the book of life itself seems to have come unbound, where are the artists?
Maria Popova

Nothing new would ever be built if nothing was ever broken.

Christ has no body now but yours – St Teresa of Avila

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Ancient Roots, New Expressions: How the Spirituality and Praxis of Christian Contemplatives are being reshaped by the demands of living in an Evolving Universe and a Planet in ecological crisis – Ruth Harrison

Call to live contemplatively in the everyday. Raimon Panikkar had 3 PhDs in philosophy, chemistry and theology… lived out of a space of intrareligious dialogue. Left home a Christian, became Hindu, left Buddhist but would say he never stopped being Christian.  “not alone with the Alone but a harmonious complexity

“Panikkar proposes that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity reveals a structure of reality that is comprehensively universal. ‘The Trinitarian intuition is neither exclusively Christian doctrine, no a monopoly of ‘God’. It reveals the most fundamental character of Reality. Being is trinitarian.’ [Program for the Gifford Lectures, 1988/89, 1, 5.]”
– Ewert Cousins, “Panikkar’s Advaitic Trinity”, pp. 119-120 in The Intercultural Challenge of Raimon Panikkar, ed. Joseph Prabhu. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1996.

Panikkar’s “Radical Trinity”

Comparing 3 ways humans approach the Divine with the 3 classical paths of the Bhagavad Gita…

HINDUISM

THE TRINITY

THE  TRINITY AND
WORLD RELIGIONS

Karma = action – of worship
The spirituality of the worship of God, through a divine name e.g. Yahweh, Allah
FATHER
Silence, transcendence
BUDDHISM
The religion on the silence of the Father
The Silence of the Buddha
Bhakti = devotion – personalism
The way of devotion and love, the gift of oneself to the Lord this way demands a meeting of persons
SON
Christ, logos
JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM
Revelations of the mystery of the Son
Jnana = advaita = not two – intimately related (not one) knowledge, pure contemplation
Spirit – of Absolute “being”
SPIRIT
Immanence
HINDUISM
As in the Upanishads
The religion of the unity of the Spirit

This intuition ultimately results from a mystical experience and as such is ineffable.  …It is the fruit of a simple and immediate insight which dawns upon Man’s awareness once he has glimpsed the core where knower, known and knowledge meet.

In this vision, the world is not a habitat or an external part of the whole or even of myself. The World is simply that greater body which I only imperfectly notice because I am generally too concerned with my own particular business. My relationship with the World is ultimately no different from my relationship with myself: the World and I differ, but there are not two separate realities, for we share each other’s life, existence, being, history and destiny in a unique way.

Panikkar

Man…is ultimately more than an individual.
Man is a person, a knot in the net of relationships…
reaching out to the very antipodes of the real… Man is only Man
with the sky above, the Earth below, and his fellow beings all around. But just as “individualizing” the human being is tantamount to
cutting the umbilical cord which gives him life, so isolating
Man from God and the World equally strangulates him.

Panikkar

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Holy Disruption: A Quaker Experience of Reformation Then and Now – David Buller

{have a time of meditation}
how was that? did you have your eyes open or closed? …I ask is my heart open or closed?

Quaker silence holds an anticipation that God will speak to us.

  • something of the divine is in every person
  • seekers and also finders
  • vision of the truth again and again, will grow and change.

This provides an inward teaching and there is no need for sermons/preaching.

Experience New Testament church without the cumber of previous generations.  He has come and is with us, we don’t need to wait.  He is not a Jew that is won outward but inward. Quakers believed you told the truth ALL the time. Often played a role as mediators.

Faith getting in the way of comfort. Quakers taken to court for possessions lost cases because they wouldn’t take the oath.

You can’t negate (kill) someone in whom God dwells.

No war tax/profit from violence/slave trade or asylums. The Retreat was a therapeutic model providing a humane space for those experiencing mental illness.

“The likeness we bear to Jesus is more important
than our notions of Him”
Lucretia
(hiding slaves and boycotting products)

Quakers work on education for peace, skills to handle violence, build peace, non-violent activism, engage with broader movements > Greenpeace, Oxfam, UN.

A Quaker who owned a factory might provide social housing for the workers employed and run a school providing education for women and children.

Sit in silence. Talking with God.
You’ll get a job to do.

“turning on a tap impacts others….
let me live as lightly and delicately as possible”.

 

Respond to the presence of Spirit, light and truth.
Recognise other wisdom – written and lived.

 

“This I know experimentally, ” Elizabeth Watson,
“we augment one another and we need one another”

The inner light is not frozen it is dynamic…

Ref: Quakers in Aotearoa booklet

A Holy Remnant – whatever other chaos is going on. Meet in North Melbourne in the Kathleen Symes Library. New building 484 Williams St. “Hold this in the light”

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Reform: Spirituality and the Person of Jesus: Christian Holiness as Deification (Theiosis) – Francis (Frank) Moloney

500 years on from Luther, I’m going to talk about reform, spirituality and the personification of Jesus.

Blessed Isaac of Stella, French monk 1100-1169, concept of theiosis “The faithful and spiritual members of Christ can say they are what he is” What is his nature, they are sharing; what he births, they adopt.

Pope & Emperor – the power of the two keys – corruption in Princes and church leaders.
11th century saw a shift from a Church whose foundation was law to Church preserved from secular authority.

1082-1084 Henry besieged Rome, forced Gregory VII into Castille > both died in exile. Isaac of Stella living in the midst f this.  Recaptured theiosis. Exiled for harbouring Thomas Beckett (1164) Isaac died (1169). Popes in Avignon. Schism resolved by Catherine of Sienna. Rome needed to be restored to its former glory – theological and spiritual dissatisfaction increased.

Martin Luther Oct 1517 affixed thesis – he didn’t come from nowhere, broke ranks.

  • lost touch with its roots
  • liturgical rhythms and practices
  • Word of God, Work of Jesus

“only Word, only faith, only Christ”.  Principle rejected everything that couldn’t be found in the Old Testament.  Purity of Christian thought and practice didn’t last – series of wars… Protestant town but then the next town Catholic… whatever the religion of the Priest, the region must take it.

Erasmus, Catholic priest. Back to beginnings. Church not perfect but self-sufficient. “Enlightenment” rejected as false, something that could not be proved.  US/Germany/ Russia revolution against Catholic church.

1870 Infallibility of Pope – Vatican I, took further than Council intended.

1491-1660 Frances de Sales, Vincent de Paul, Teresa of Avila… these figures living out the reform – cared for sick, dying…

Vatican II honoured what these people did and lived for.  What was considered dangerously close to Protestant thought now endorsed by the highest authority.  COuncil of Trent “return to the sources”. Fierce opposition to Pope Francis > he speaks to gospel and concern for humankind.  Time of rebirth. Divinisation of the individual at the heart of God.

Instead of a top-down reflection on who we are, return to sources in bottom up.  Whatever is honorable, pleasing… worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Paul) Christian humanism – benign relationship between nature and grace.

1965 Jesuit le mystere (the mystery of the supernatural)
Natural > supernatural > showed that to be a false idea. The development of human excellence depends on an understanding of what it means to be human.  Based on ‘do’ sport/IT/social… >sense of self-worth, used by Government, funding depends on it. Danger > lose sight of who we are, lose sight of that when we focus on what we can “do”.

Need to recognise every human as mystery at the core of their being.
Love and be loved.

Share faith and commitment with others…sexual desire, pain, crying… why is it so important to feel love then, from death or distance, loss? Gives great capacity.  These are things that matter for the human spirit.  You are the only you to have ever existed. We each have a unique history. We allow others to shape our human history and we shape theirs.

What matters is loving and being loved. Only free action we will perform – saying yes to God in moment of death.  What we do is not the final measure of who we are.

This is what is deepest in us but what forms us is beyond our control… it transcends us. Why did I cry? Why did I love that man/woman? It’s beyond us but forms us and the choices we make about our lives. I need to find the keys to my own heart (self) before finding keys for others.  Recognise the mystery of yourself as beyond your control. we have all experiences signs of the divine within us. Be open to and transformed by the transcendent. All human beings share in the divine.

Called to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – what does that mean? Lifestyle is directed by gospel values > exciting pathway to be authentically Christian. Yearn for divine home. “You have made us for Yourself, we are restless, until we rest in You”. Only human –  that’s not your weakness but your strong-point. Jesus blessed with the human and the divine.

To be Christian = to be like Christ.

Jesus was unconditionally human in all things but sin.  Loved, hoped, sang, danced, prayed, suffered… We sin when we do not respond out of our best humanity (selfish, jealous, arrogant…) Sin is rejecting the experience of divine within me that yearns for wholeness/fulfillment. John – “whoever says they are like Him must walk like Him”. Impact of our choices on how we live (gospel) > no one is talking about that.

A mystery of faith. In Jesus – the Divine Sphere invaded the Human. Good/bad, sacred/sinful… Jesus never reneged on the divine.  There was no ambiguity about His “yes” to all that was human within Him. “Abba” – unswerving commitment to living the presence of God as king.  Conflicted but trusting, not without fear or anguish but trusting God would have the last word.

The Human realised its potential and lived into the Divine in Jesus.

Christology and discipleship intersect.
Jesus’ life consisted of saying “yes” to God.
Jesus’ death consisted of God’s “yes” to Jesus.
Costs Jesus no less than everything.

Jesus could do this because He was Son, only one… can we do it?

We are all capable of repeating the lifestyle of Jesus and realising the fullness of God. Graced by baptism to have grace of discipleship. Paul: Blessed to cry out Abba Father to Romans/Galatians.

Betray our true selves, to be like unto God as Jesus was.  Called to recognise our dignity.  Revealed God to us and raised us to God.  The glory of God is the human fully realised.

There should be no separation between our secular life and Christian practice.  loving, laughter, mission, dancing, praying and eating… all form part of the journey to be as Christ was. Ref: Ignatius Loyola, Thomas of Aquinas, Karl Rainer…

I find myself in the world and on my way to God.
I find myself being both at once.
I cannot be one without the other.

John’s invitation: “Come and see…” (see joyful, loving, caring people > witness not word).

We are given chance after chance, after chance to respond in Christ-like ways… to say “yes” or “no”

Not “want you to be saved” but rather “sharing the invitation I know”.

Jesus: “Abba, I want this chalice to pass from me but Your will not mine”
John: “I will do the will of the One who sent me and brings it to perfection”

Obedience is an unconditional “yes” to God.

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This week The Carmelite Centre has hosted a Symposium called: The Once and Future Reformation: The Way of the Spirit.  The Symposium, 500 years on from Luther event, offers an opportunity to talk about the current need for renewal and reformation today, in the churches and in the world. The Symposium was diverse, ecumenical, and imaginative. Three days of lectures, reflections and discussion on ways of learning from the past, of living in the present and of looking to the future.

I was invited to present a paper, it was titled: Streets, Seminary and Sacred: Expressions of Theological Animation and Activism in Victoria –  Thirty years on from the publication of Ched Myers’ Mark-as-manifesto text ‘Binding The Strongman’ this session will introduce some local current and legacy-influenced expressions of alternative radical discipleship and explore what this model has already and could yet offer for personal discipleship and broader church renewal through photos, stories, liturgy and lectionary.


 

 

I’d like to start by acknowledge that we gather on the land of which the Wurundjeri people have been custodians since immemorial – sharing and hearing stories of the Creator Spirit in this place.  We acknowledge our elders past, present and future.

Thank you for inviting me to share today out of the radical discipleship expression.  Swiss New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer said: “discipleship is the only form in which faith in Jesus can exist.” Schweizers Australian student, Athol Gill’s, praxis-linked theological teaching, including Mark as a Manifesto for discipleship, animated church renewal movements across Australia in the 1970-80s – many here may have heard of the House of Freedom and the House of the Gentle Bunyip.

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A young Ched Myers carries this teaching back to the US and it influences his own community at Berkeley and presumably the study that produces the book “Binding the Strong Man” in 1988.  Although I have now read it myself I was fortunate enough to first be exposed to this idea of Mark as Manifesto by Marcus Curnow who managed, with Dave Fagg and drawing on the tradition of Quaker queries and advices to synthesise Myers 560-paged book into a single A4 page (there’s a copy here if anyone wants to have a look)

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I moved to Melbourne from Wellington, NZ in 2006 and started to attend an evening church service called Seeds based on this charism.  We met in a space called The Den on Little Collins St – which was and is still where the Youth & Schools team of Urban Seed operate from.

slide 4Urban Seed is an organisation that works with those who are homeless in Melbourne’s CBD –an outcome of discernment and response to Collins Street Baptist Church finding homeless people sleeping on their steps and seeking to ask, and answer, the question: “Who is my neighbour?”.

They invited young interns to move into the bslide 5uilding behind the church called Central House to engage these neighbours relationally. Jim Barr, Peter Chapman of Common Rule, Gordon Wild and Tim Costello ran various bible studies and seminar series reflecting on the work.

 

This radical model of hospitality and engagement is still practised now with Geoff and Sherry Maddock with their son Isaac who are currently living in.

 

 

Finding Seeds and Urban Seed slide 6was my first exposure to this lived expression of radical discipleship and the practice of the ideas of Street, Seminary and Sacred – that’s Ched’s language for the spheres of Christian expression: activism, education and church.

 

In Seeds we referred to these slide 7areas as Know, Grow and Go, they correlated to Urban Seeds areas of work: Street & Hospitality, Youth & Schools, Advocacy & Engagement

Jesus’ call to preach, heal and cast out…

and if I may presume perhaps the three threads of the Carmelites: stillness and silence, express and explore, embrace and act.

slide 8The bringing together of these ideas, or the power of what can happen in the space where these areas overlap is where I think radical discipleship happens.

 

 

 

The etymology of the word radical is from the Latin word radix meaning root. Ched refers to radical discipleship as an invitation to join the

“messianic movement of rebellion and restoration, of repentance and renewal, a “way out of no way”

In his book “Does God need the Church?” Gerhard Lohfink suggests:

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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit LA twice – living with Ched and his lovely wife Elaine Enns for a three month internship in 2012 and returning again for the Kinsler Institute in 2015 for two weeks and I found myself fascinated.

Ched believes there is a deepening gulf between these areas of Street, Seminary and Sacred as a result of a few factors:

  • Credentialing systems for theology students are set by the accrediting institution not the church
  • Professionalization means students need paid work to pay off student loans etc. and don’t always have the time or get given encouragement to engage in practical service to the poor or social movements
  • Regular church goers can be insulated from the insights of academics and the challenges and causes of activists
  • Faith-based activists can neglect disciplines of critical reflection – theological and political – of why they’re trying to change the world.

Ched believes these spheres are impoverished for being insulated from one another and says theological animation is key “to re-integrating the competencies of these alienated worlds of Christian witness”, believing that our focus instead should be in community formation, conscientization and capacity building in order to rehabilitate the church as a faith based movement of personal and social transformation. To provide some examples of what a re-integrated model might look like, I’m going to do an overlay now of a bible study series Ched did each morning of the Institute with some praxis examples from here in Melbourne and across Victoria.

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“Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordan”

With this action Jesus was apprenticing himself to the peripheral, radical edge of his own tradition. The Jewish temple used water immersion for ritual purification after contact with the dead but this idea of baptism went beyond that.  Jesus could have walked three steps behind a rabbi, gone to a good school but instead he choose the camel hair and honey guy.

slide 12While integration might have been Collins Street Baptist Church’s original vision (I don’t know) by the time I arrived at Urban Seed both the evening Seeds church and Tuesday morning Credo Gathering spaces were operating as distinct faith-expression spaces for staff, volunteers and community members or “punters” to gather.

This work needed its own faith expression, it’s own language, it’s own liturgy… many songs, stories and prayers have come out of these spaces… the Seeds Sacred song, the Gospel of Vic (a version of Mark contextualised for the Australian context based on a work by Athol Gill and his students called “Fair Dinkum Mark”), the Credo Lord’s Prayer… which I invite you to say with me now: “as we were taught”.

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Illustration by Chris Booth https://ordinarytime.com.au

As residents moved out of Central House, some asked of themselves again:

“Who is my neighbour?”

People consciously decided to move into areas identified as among the lowest socio-economic/ disadvantaged: Norlane in Geelong, Long Gully in Bendigo and Footscray in the inner-west of the city.

Each of these areas had their own Seeds church community – usually having 10-12  members – and these separate communities came together a few times a year to covenant and retreat forming the Seeds network.

For many years, Urban Seed only started projects and had paid staff beyond the CBD in areas where Seeds Network groups were established.

 

Each of these groups elected to exist in marginalised areas. While each group discerned the expression of Know, Grow, Go in their area, responsive to the particular needs and context of their community and locality, all of them shared in common projects of neighbourhood hospitality whether community dinners, craft or breakfast clubs, wood fired pizzas…  all spaces like Urban Seed’s Credo cafe where people from all walks of life: lawyers and homeless, financial traders and addicts, Richmond and Collingwood supporters… preparing and sharing a meal around a common table… people of all faiths and none but for many of those “discipling” this eating and drinking together is their expression and practice of communion and church.

 

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slide 20Jesus isn’t just baptised in the Jordan but into the watershed.  We understand the Holy Spirit not to exist only in people but in creation and the land… the Holy Spirit descends like a dove into Jesus.  The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus uses the water as a pulpit forming a natural amphitheatre, he uses farming parables, living vine and living water metaphors and calls us to ‘consider’ (learn from) the lilies. What does the land and creation have to teach us?

What are the stories specific to the places we live and what are the justice issues affecting our neighbours that the good news can offer hope for? Last month in Footscray we ran a Stations of the Cross walk for Easter – we call it the way of the Southern Cross because Aunty Doreen Wandin re-named Spencer St station this, as an intersection for bus, train, tram lines it’s where many paths connect that lead us home much as people navigated by constellations. Uncle Wanta Jampijinpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body.  At the Kinsler Institute, Bill Wylie Kellerman, United Methodist pastor and member of the Detroit Catholic Worker, ran a session saying that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said:

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What does it mean for us as Christians or people of any faith – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a position of this belief? Myers says:

“We need to reclaim scripture as
our most powerful weapon of resistance.
Stories are the best weapon we have”.

We wanted to localise this idea  here in Australia, the Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for working towards right relationship between people and with the land…

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slide 23This year’s walk visited seven sites from our shared history looking at issues we all grapple with:

What does it mean for us to stand outside the home of Sally Russell Cooper and talk about recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty – a thirst that has not been quenched we are given natives to take bear home with us and plant symbolic of the hyssop branch and our commitment to work for recognition and relationship in this land.

We stand outside Centrelink – “Woman, here is your son” who are we called to care for? As a parent to a child however could you count some cost of the the debt of raising up that is our privilege.

slide 24Standing under the Welcome Arch built by the grateful Vietnamese business community, we think of next-coming waves of refugees and asylum seekers setting out praying: Into your hands I commit my spirit…

There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.

As we hear the words of Christ on the cross, we ask what insight might his words spoken in pain tell us?

 

Continuing this idea of bible in one hand and newspaper in the other, Jon and Kim Cornfords work developing the Household Covenant bible study series, arising out of Ched’s book on Sabbath Economics and Matt Colwell’s followup Sabbath Economics: Household Practices, inspires minute incremental changes in the ways we consume that are based on biblical practices of stewardship and Sabbath and jubilee economics… from the way we see credit and debt, to growing, eating and preserving, seasonally and sustainably.

 

Introducing yourself as Jesus of Nazareth from Galilee is not dissimilar from saying “he’s a Yorta Yorta man from up Cummeragunja way”,  I’m living in Footscray by the Maribyrnong what does it mean for our discipleship to be placed within our locality and in relationship with the land?

 

 

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Urban Seed Credo Pain in the Arts program

“As it is written…” the land we live on is filled with stories – do you know them?

On the healing rites walk we told the story of deadly Aboriginal woman Sally Russell Cooper, of the transphobic attack on Starlady and her friends in Footscray, the tragic stories of Kirsty and Joan aliases used by a community lawyer talking about user-experiences at Centrelink for struggling families, the story of the Maria an asylum seeker from East Timor…

these stories aren’t ‘just’ political, they’re personal.  To be an active participant in restorative justice we need to know the problems of, and people directly experiencing, injustice.

What we know about Jesus birthplace is that it was a small village, about 4 miles (6.5kms) from Sepharus.   There was an uprising against the colonising occupation there and the Romans crushed Sepharus and enslaved everyone… Jesus would have been 10 years old when this happened.   Jesus and his Dad were tektons (labourers/carpenters/ construction workers) hired to help rebuild Sepharus… labouring under the bitterness of colonial occupation, this would shape your consciousness, this would have a huge impact… this is why context is so important. This is why story is so important. Jesus knows and quotes and draws on the history and experience of his people as relevant to speak into their current context and we need to do the same. The stories of Jordan, Israel and Egypt… for us might be the stories of a handful of dirt at Wave Hill, or the Franklin Dam that was never built…

slide 30People may well have heard of the Love Makes A Way movement of Christians engaging prayerfully and politically for the release, in particular of refugee and asylum seeking children, from detention.

What might be less known is that while some are participating in the action inside, others are participating outside: Keeping prayerful vigil, bearing witness, supplying snacks and singing.  There is a Love Makes a Way songbook – as this group was looking for inspiration they turned to the Freedom Songs of the civil rights movement.  Ched calls us to “sing about it until it can realised” and these songs call us into a place a freedom and hope that we will all “sit at the welcome table one of these days”  together.

This is a story we identified with and apprenticed ourselves to and “As I go down to the river to pray…” becomes “As I go down to Bill’s [Shortens] office to pray, welcome the refugee, let them stay” or “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” becomes “Were you there when they turned the boats away?”

Drawing on the style we progressed to writing our own  songs, and also asking ourselves whose are the local prophetic voices calling for change and Leunigs writing came to mind “Love is born… in the most unlikely place” (round), these are words we want to believe in these times.  Will you stand and sing them with me?

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Who are the writers in our context who are crying out for justice?  Whose stories do we make time to listen to? What stories and traditions will you apprentice yourself to?

-ooOoo-

Jesus was an apprentice, a disciple of kingdom, land and story… scripture study informed his political and theological practice. Our scripture study should inform our political and theological practice.

The Kinsler Institute in 2015 was called “40/60/100”: A celebration of radical discipleship – closely echoing the numbers of the surprising yield of seed in good soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Mk 4:8). But for this particular Institute, they alluded to two milestones that we were celebrating: Ched Myers’ 60th birthday, and his 40 years in the radical discipleship movement, those two numbers add up to 100—which is how many folks they were hoping would show up to join the festivities…. there were more than that: activists, academics and preachers – yes – but artists, liturgists, poets, practitioners, organic farmers, the undocumented, money lenders, elders and babies, from across America and across a breadth of faith expressions… I can’t idealise these models of community  – The House of the Gentle Bunyip didn’t last, Ched’s community at Berkeley didn’t last, the Seeds Network has not lasted what can’t be denied is that some expressions of the radical discipleship model continue to spring up – and, I think, are producing a surprising yield of seed.

Jokingly referring to the Institute as a clusterfest in his closing remarks on the last day Ched noted that when the people are gathered it should always feel part birthday party, part conference, part church, part action planning meeting… I hope I’ve been able to give you some small sense of this today. I want to close by saying to all of you the benediction we used in my Seeds community:

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I dream

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Rubem Alves tells a story of a spider, safe and happy over empty space – building her house – no hesitation and with precision. Fragile yet perfect, symmetrical, beautiful, fit to its purpose.     “…I did not see her first move, the move which was the beginning of the web, the leap into the void…” (p.3)

What the spider needs to fulfil her intention is within her body. “Her body knows, her body remembers. But we have forgotten it.” (p.4)

Rubem Alves tells a story of a boy who found the body of a dead man
washed up on the edge of a seaside village.

There is only one thing to do with the dead: they must be buried.

In that village it was the custom for the women to prepare the dead for burial,
so the women began to clean the body in preparation for the funeral.
As they did, the women began to talk and
ponder about the dead stranger.

He was tall… and would have had to duck his head to enter their houses.
His voice… was it like a whisper or like thunder.
His hands… they were big. Did they play with children
or sail the seas or know how to caress and embrace a woman’s body.

The women laughed
“and were surprised as they realised that the funeral had become resurrection:
a moment in their flesh, dreams, long believed to be dead,
returning… their bodies alive again”. (p.24)

The husbands, waiting outside, and watching what was happening,
became jealous of the drowned man
as they realised he had power which they did not have.

And they thought about the dreams they had never had…

Alves ends this part of the story by telling that they finally buried the dead man.
But the village was never the same again.

“The dead man did not say one single word.
He was full of silence.
And his silence was the space of remembrance.
His dead body was full of their lost memories…” (p.31)

“Hoc est corpus meum. This is the bit of my flesh which became alive again by the power of the silence of this dead man…

What are we without the help of that which does not exist? – Valerie”  (p.35)

Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

(NRSV)

Reading 1: (Read through twice) What word or passage touches/speaks to you?

Reading 2: How does this word/passage touch your life/experience?

Reading 3: How are we called into being/doing by this word/passage?

 

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God said: Let the dark be dark.
Let the stars shine properly.
And let darkness with no stars
heal the damage caused by light.
Men said: Let there be light all
night through, where there is no-one
much or no-one at all, let
the gathered haze from street-lamps,
undying brand-names, full-blaze
unpopulated windows
stain the undersides of clouds
even when nights are cloudless.
God said: Light itself needs rest.
Some things are best seen, unseen,
in darkness unhindered by
Great Light. Me, for example.

Robin Fulton Macpherson

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It’s a new day and I like it.

Soft folds of cotton wool mist crept in while we were sleeping and I don’t ask:

“What is out there?”

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but:

“What might be out there?”

As the shrouding evokes wonder and possibility.

 

The noise of the world seems slightly muffled and its bustle muted.

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Maybe in our bruised and weary brokenness God says I will hold you tenderly in cotton wool today and hold you safe.

A whimsy perhaps of my battered brain.

 

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“The idea that we live life in a straight line, like a story, seems to me to be increasingly absurd and, more than anything, a kind of intellectual convenience. I feel that the events in our lives are like a series of bells being struck and the vibrations spread outwards, affecting everything, our present, and our futures, of course, but our past as well. Everything is changing and vibrating and in flux.” 

 

In a rare interview since the death of his 15-year-old son, the singer reveals his struggle to write and reconnect with the world after the tragedy.