Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beginnings and Continuings – A Reflection by Wally Stratford

See the source imageOnce upon a time – in the time before time began, a large ball of energy – a seething mass of grumblings and groanings, of flashes and fire, of bumblings and bouncings, floated here and there. Then one day – in that time before time began – it exploded with a tremendous bang and bits and pieces of energy flew far and wide – continuing to this day. The Universe was born!

Many, many, many years later than that time before time began, a group of scholars – probably all men – probably all elderly men, gathered to reflect on the world they knew – their aim, to write about its beginnings. This a really impossible task so they decided to tell it as a story.

It began – “In the beginning …” and went on to tell of the way God went to work to create the world. It was a story of great acts by God out of which the world was assembled. They write “God said let there be this, and let that occur…” and they added, “and it was so” as each action was completed. The picture that may be imagined is of a powerful – remote – God sitting some distance away and creating by decree. It all happened, wrote the scholars, and the earth became a finished article. (Genesis 1&2).

But then the story changes and the God of decrees becomes a worker of dust. (Genesis 2:7) “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground.” I wonder if you have ever tried to form anything from dust – it is an impossible task- the dust remains a pile of dust.

The story persists – and God persists, and the human form takes shape – but without life. And then God draws even closer and “breathes into the man’s nostrils.” Perhaps you have never breathed in anyone’s nostrils, but if you ever decided to do that – how close would you need to be? Very close!

One might imagine hearing God say as breath was breathed, “The life of God for the life of humankind.” And the man lived!

The man received a gift of life – a gift handed to him in the action of the God whose spirit had a major part in creation. The breath, we may claim, contained something of the breather, and imagination can show us that something, as the presence of God – not from a distance but in intimate contact.

We know and understand that our breathing is an absolute necessity for the preservation of life. If we stop breathing, we stop living. The breath contains the elements necessary to energize the activities of our body.

The imaginings in right brain thinking, remind us that with breath comes the presence, or spirit of God, in whom life is enriched. As we cannot survive without breathing, so also, we cannot not receive the Spirit. They are fundamentally linked as foundational for life, the gift that knows no boundaries. There is more!

If we now take something of a giant step forward in time, we will discover Moses talking to a bush. (Exodus Chap.3 But this was no ordinary bush. Moses was soon to discover that this bush and its surround were emblematic of sacred presence. Even the ground on which he stood was sacred.

From the bush a voice called Moses to return to Egypt, there to challenge Pharoah to let the Israelites go free. This was a daunting task and Moses was loath to take it on. The challenge continued, so Moses asked for some identification. It would be useful to know who or what it was that was speaking to him. “Give me your name…”

What he received was not a name but an enigmatic statement of being. I AM! Then for further affirmation a reminder of an ongoing presence from the God of their ancestors. Transliterated in English as YHWH the term is unpronounceable but most expressive as a doorway to understanding presence. Finding security in this presence Moses took on the task and confronted Pharoah. Pharoah had to learn to his considerable cost, that this presence was not going away, and finally set the people free.

My name for this presence is YHWH-Spirit. It makes sense for me when linked to the story of beginnings and humankind’s gift of life. YHWH-Spirit fed and led the Israelites away from slavery into a desert, there to wander for some time. Visible as smoke in the day and fire in the night YHWH-Spirit guarded and guided the Israelites as they continued their journey home – to the place originally promised to Abraham. As they travelled, they had to learn again the true nature of the covenant to which their ancestors had committed their lives in the gift of the life given.

The life that each has is what it is. The profile of life is the same for all and is not affected by shape or colour or creed or behaviour. So, how do we account for the range of difference among the many lives being lived?

If I decide to present you with a gift (for whatever reason), and carefully wrap it securely in attractive paper, you may be very pleased and even find the wrapping expressive of my feelings in giving it to you. But you will know nothing of its contents until you remove the covering.

If life is to take on meaning and find expression in your daily peregrinations, it must like any gift, be unwrapped. Unwrapping life does not, and indeed cannot occur in a moment. Life is always continuing and expanding. This changing condition of life requires a progressive unwrapping – always more is revealed.

There is, however, abundant evidence to suggest that the unwrapping is not proceeding well and, in many cases, not at all. I wonder if many are fearful of what they might find.

Failure to unwrap, it might be suggested, leaves the gift languishing on the table; we pass by daily.

Rev Walter Stratford  28th August 2021

oOo

THIS IS THE TIME TO BE SLOW (POEM)

Source: Progressive Christianity Aotearoa

John O’Donohue’s poem


This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

© John O’Donohue


Excerpt from his books, To Bless the Space Between Us (US), Benedictus (Europe)
Ordering Info: https://johnodonohue.com/store
Co. Clare, Ireland

From johnodonohue.com
“John’s legacy directs our search for intimacy to crucial thresholds: tradition and modernity, past and future, life and death, the visible and the invisible world. At the heart of John’s awakened beliefs was the premise that ancient wisdom could offer desperately needed nourishment for the spiritual hunger experienced in our modern world. John is fondly remembered by an international readership as one who could blend critical analytic thought with imaginative evocation, enabling people to release themselves from the false shelter of the familiar and repetitive to become agents of transformation and change.”

oOo

Literal reading of the Bible, source of many social problems

Evangelical churches believe men should control women. It can lead to domestic violence – ABC Report 9th December 2019

An ABC investigation last year showed how conservative Christian churches both enable and conceal domestic violence.

Vicki Lowik’s and Annabel Taylor’s ongoing research shows this is exacerbated by what’s taught in evangelical church communities, creating fertile ground for domestic violence, its justification and its concealment.

Traditional understandings about male headship, both in the family and the Church, were promoted as being ordained by God. This meant the authority of men and the subordination of women were considered to be “permanently binding” principles.

Conservative evangelical Christians enthusiastically embraced this as a form of resistance against the feminist movement, and still support these “permanently binding” principles today.

Sadly, there are no statistics on the prevalence of domestic violence in the Australian Christian community, but it’s addressed in international research. More Australian research is needed urgently.

For the full report go to: Conversations

oOo

The latest from Kevin Treston now available

Opening Doors: A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. (Revelation 3:20) Opening Doors: A Seeker’s Reflections on the Rooms of Christian Living takes seriously the invitation of the Lord for us to open the door to him, and with confidence consider how our faith may be enhanced and energised through the wisdoms of contemporary theology and spirituality.
The book is written for those whom Charles Taylor describes as ‘seekers’ – Christians who are searching to reconcile their faith with emerging insights from modern science, cosmology and consciousness.
We are invited to open eleven doors and enter eleven rooms of Christian living. Each room offers a flavour of each of the topics in the Christian Story followed by focused questions for individual reflection and shared conversations in self-directed groups. The topics of the rooms include everyday spirituality, the universe story, humans and religion, the mystery of God, meeting Jesus, the church, ministry, women and faith communities, a Christian ethical way of life, Christian spiritualities and faith communities in a global world.
Kevin Treston graduated BA (Hons), MA (Hons), MEd., PhD (University of Notre Dame USA) and pursued post-doctoral studies in Washington, Boston and Chicago. He was visiting Scholar at Boston College and is a member of the Association of Practical Theology Oceania. He has worked in ministry across Australia and many countries.
To order online go to: www.coventrypress.com.au
Phone: 0477 809 037
Email: enquiries@coventrypress.com.au
Post to: Coventry Press, 33 Scoresby Road, Bayswater Vic
Opening Doors @ $24.95
*Postage: $9.95 for 1-3 books; $11 for 4 and more; free freight for orders over $100
OPENING DOORS
A Seeker’s reflections on the rooms of Christian living
Kevin Treston
Coventry Press
9780648566106 — $24.95

oOo

Climate Action Petition

Silence is no option – Speak Up For Earth

Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea started this petition to Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison and 5 others

A list of candidates can be accessed here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candidates_of_the_2019_Australian_federal_election
You are invited to sign our petition and send an important message on climate action to the next Australian Government.

The growing climate emergency means that we must ensure that climate concerns be given top priority during this Australian election.
Australia needs to elect a government whose members recognise the reality of a changing climate and who can develop credible policies, plans and actions to address this emergency.
The Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea encourages you to email and write to politicians, candidates, and newspapers, and to meet your local representatives.

The petition can be found at – http://chng.it/HXL9TZHhfB

Please note, we ask you not to donate to this petition. Sign the petition and share on social platforms instead. Thank you.

oOo

Redcliffe Explorers next gathering

A quick reminder that we’ll be meeting next on Monday 1st April (yes, April Fools’ Day!) in the functions room on the ground floor at Azure Blue (91 Anzac Ave, Redcliffe, Qld).

Please remember the new starting time – 6 p.m. for coffee and chat!

At 6:30 the two Graemes (Adsett and Foon) will be leading a discussion on the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week event which was held on 3 February at the Brisbane Baha’i Centre of Learning in Milton. The discussion will also, I’m sure, benefit greatly from the input of two visitors – Lorraine Powers and her friend Bonnie – who will be happy to inform us and answer our questions about the Baha’i faith.  

Hope to see you there.

Shalom

Ian (Dr Ian Brown) Enquiriesbrowniw5@optusnet.com.au

[Ask Ian about access to the venue before coming.]

oOo

Book: The Ending of Mark’s Gospel: the key to understanding the gospels and Christianity

Dr Peter Lewis has kindly made available his new publication at cost to interested readers. You can get this from Peter for $20 posted in Australia.  It has 56 A4 pages and contains three of his articles plus an Introduction and other material. To reduce the cost it has wire binding. Enquiries to pelew3@gmail.com

See our recent post – An Explanation for the Abrupt Ending of Mark’s Gospel for some background to Peter’s research.

oOo

 

A New Template for Religion ….

Following the posting of Michael Morwood’s New template for Religion on the Catholica blog a very healthy discussion followed. Following this discussion Michael posted a follow up summary of a set of core values.

Both make interesting reading.

  1. Michael Morwood’s New Template for Religion
  2. Michael Morwood’s Rethinking some of our core beliefs

Catholica, “an excitingly different way of looking at faith and spirituality”, can be accessed at;  https://www.catholica.com.au/

It is managed by Amanda McKenna and Brian Coyne.

oOo

God, the Trinity and Panentheism

by George Stuart (see bio details at the end of this article.) 

Note: Following posting of Rodney Eiver’s article Our Father Who Art Up There, George has kindly given us this chapter from a book he is currently drafting. George Stuart has crafted the popular series of songs and music entitled Singing a New Song .

***

I am in the process of writing my theological autobiography entitled, ‘Rekindling Christianity by Journeying with Jesus, Starting all over again’. One of the sections has to do with my concept of God, my version of the Trinity. It is rather long but you may be interested.

I begin by saying that my present beliefs are panentheistic. I understand panentheism as the belief that God is ‘in’ everything and everything is ‘in’ God. This sets a completely new path for me, from which to view reality, the cosmos, humanity and the meaning of everything, including Jesus and his cross. This supersedes any anthropomorphic (human like) image of God. It replaces what I understand to be, the misleading idea about the separation of God from humanity – God, a separate entity, being away and distinct. It also precludes any violence in God. God being in control also becomes irrelevant. These are all built on anthropomorphic images and ideas.

This is so, so different to what I have believed previously, however, I still have connections with the Bible, with church teachings and some of what I experience in the current church services I attend.

I replace the anthropomorphic images of God with more complicated, mystical images of spirit and energy. These are somewhat abstract, and thus maybe more difficult to embrace. I am reminded of teaching in a gospel conversation that Jesus has with the woman of Samaria.
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24.)
Certainly not the easiest to comprehend. In this quotation, God is not ‘a spirit’, but ‘spirit’. For me, the two are different and the quote points beyond the dominant biblical images of God.

The quote includes, ‘those who worship him…’ (John 4:24.)
This falls back into anthropomorphic talk which, for me, is a pity. God again, becomes a ‘him’
I do not find the word ‘energy’ in my biblical concordance, so I’m not sure that this concept is present in the biblical way of thinking. Energy is not a first century concept but it is central to modern thinking, particularly with the explosion of scientific information and the current way of understanding the cosmos.

I also find it significant that God is referred to as ‘love’, see 1 John 4:16a, and not ‘a loving person’. Again, the two are very different for me. The first is mystically abstract but the second sounds very anthropomorphic.

Continue reading