Archive for March, 2023

“Beyond the Obvious”

Posted: March 29, 2023 in Uncategorized

“Beyond the Obvious”

The fool on the donkey receives the accolades of success, the adulation of the emperor, the recognition of real power, truth and enlightenment. Wait! Is this the wrong procession? Should this not be the other path? The one with the standards, the creaking of leather and the clinking of steel, the snorting of horses under bit of controlled aggression and might. What does this dichotomy mean? Which one is true? Which path is the right one?

On this sun roasted day are we witnessing a living testament that nothing lasts in the form it is first constructed or understood? In the shimmering light of a later time with the Forum and Coliseum silhouetted one behind the other and the Dome of St Peter’s lit by the golden shafts of sunlight is the signal of the dichotomy that the Rome of the time was accessible through what was about to disappear?  Is it possible that in the splendour, pomp, power and empire, the spiritual materialism become temporary specifics, have their moment and then are gone. That the human ideas and human endeavour find their fullest form as the beautiful ruin. The emperor on the back of an ass, the snorting of the horse, the heehawing of the donkey. The shouting of obedience as the waying of bits of trees. Caesar stands proud listening for divine transcendence and the bestowing of the future as the foolish lover hangs on to the ridge on the backside of the ass. Where is the truth here? Where is the beauty of this picture? What story is the one we should choose? And why? Is it power and powerlessness? Is it Triumph or Passion? Where, is the aesthetic? And what does that mean?

Bernard Meland says that “Being aesthetic means reaching out beyond the obvious and the useful to the vaster and richer content that environs us. This aspect he says, is the opposite of standardization. It tends toward innovation. It cultivates spontaneity, originality, deep insight, and broad sympathy. It gives dimension and intensity to life. The only way to achieve this aesthetic measure of life is by frequently exposing one-self to the awesome, the mystifying, and the inspiring. Live in the presence of that which gives altitude to emotions. Enter frequently into deepening contact with the wide cosmic expanse of life. Turn from the critical mood occasionally to see life in synthesis. See the world synthesized in a flower, a sea, or in a human being. Catch glimpses of the whole of reality. Contemplate your own life blended with the total movement of life. Envisaging these wider reaches of reality not only enlarges the scope of living, but it sensitizes our feel for life and beautifies its quality.” (Meland 1934:288)

Maybe the choice we have in this Palm Sunday reflection is to step back and look at the bigger picture. Recognise that the two options are real and that a third is to evaluate each in their ability to last and to enable across time and space.

Another way the dichotomy of our Palm Sunday stories might be to step back and contextualize them in today’s concerns? Perhaps the wisdom of poet Mary Oliver—another Pulitzer Prize winner might help in the context of a world facing the climate change implications. Oliver has a strong sense of place, and of identity in relation to it, as central to her poetry. Her creativity was stirred by nature, and her poems are filled with imagery from daily walks: shore birds, water snakes, the phases of the moon, and humpback whales.

“Just pay attention to the natural world around you—the goldfinches, the swan, the wild geese. They will tell you what you need to know.” (Franklin 2017)

When reviewing Oliver’s work one literary critic wrote: “Her poems are firmly located in the places where she has lived or traveled… her moments of transcendence arise organically from the realities of swamp, pond, woods and shore.” While, another commented: “At its most intense, her poetry aims to peer beneath the constructions of culture and reason that burden us with an alienated consciousness to celebrate the primitive, mystical visions of the natural world.” Pay attention!  Experience! Imagine! Such attention and experience comes, from being immersed in what is, and seeing the overlooked.

As another has said: we are cosmic and we are local. (Fleischman 2013:165) The natural world is all around us, and we are an integral part of it. Appreciation of the benefits of nature—of being at home in the universe and the environment in which we must fulfil our lives— is an ancient wisdom we are only barely beginning to regain, as the Earth heats, glaciers melt, rainforests are logged, and species vanish.

At times we will seek to critically understand and to use those environing realities. And a poetic response is often the most appropriate and shrewdest analyst of social concerns including frustrated hopes and political skulduggery. At other times we will respond appreciatively to the deep significance of these environings.

As Rex Hunt has said on another occasion: we need both the voice of the rational —to keep any community free from sloppy sentimentality— as well as the concern of the creative artist —the rich, deep, not entirely rational forms of expression shaped by metaphor, the poetic, myth and parable—to strike a chord and resonate within.

But it is at the level of the imagination that any full engagement with life takes place.
Thus, what is now required is a different religious sensitivity. In the case of the Palm Sunday dichotomy, the choice of path, the seemingly foolish clownlike no change Way or the obvious outcome driven, successfully clear option is the choice. The obvious real or the aesthetic beyond the real option. Today the choice is an obvious economically sound option or a natural spirituality or an ecological spirituality. Like the choice to walk the way of the obvious foolhardy idealistic expensive way the natural way is the thread that completes the tapestry of life. “Whether or not we believe that there is something more, nature is so significant that all our beliefs must be reformulated so as to take nature into account.” (Hefner 2008:x)

The Palm Sunday foolish path is religion born out of the sense of wonder and awe of the majesty and fearsomeness of the universe itself. (Berry 2014:74) But religion is also poetry—at least according to ‘geologian’, Thomas Berry.

In an interview with Australian church historian and former priest, Paul Collins, Berry claimed:
“Religion is poetry or it is nothing! How can a person be religious without being poetic? Certainly, God is a poet; it is God who made rainbows, butterflies and flowers. It is the most absurd thing in the world to think of dealing with religion in any other way than poetry or music… You cannot do it any other way.” (Collins 2010)

But then Collins went on to add: “Deprived of nature with its beauty, multiplicity, mystery, complexity and otherness, our imaginations would shrivel up, and we would lose our ability to perceive and experience the deeper feelings and intuitions that give real meaning to our lives. For nature is the source of our origin and the context of our continuing evolution and spiritual development. Without imagination we would lose all sense of ourselves as human beings.”

Life glows on! Such is the poetics of life.  All those many things and experiences which enhance life with mystery, colour, and fragrance!

“As we consider this Earth, our home, and we, our presence upon it, may we be moved to see ourselves as particles of the whole and walk in reverence.” (Vosper 2012)

I would put this; “As we consider and seek clarity in the relationship with this planet may we be moved to see beyond the obvious. To see ourselves as the embodiment of the more than the sum of the parts and walk with confidence into the discovery of the novel beauty of realization.”

“Eccentric Tree” by Diana Butler Bass (2016)

Eccentric tree,
lofty and lithe:
shadeless rod with
roughened fronds—
misfit wood.

You alone from forests of arborial majesty
offered expectant masses
sacred fans for fervid alleluias
and carpeting grace.

Gazing from holy height
Did you join the song?
Or bow in the holy breeze As the One rode by?

Perhaps in doing so, you redeemed your race:
For another of your kin, a more mundane timber, gave stake and beam,
But you gifted glory.


Berry, T. Selected Writings on the Earth Community. Introduction by Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grim. Maryknoll. Orbis Books, 2014Collins, P. “Religion is Poetry or it is Nothing!”. ABC Religion & Ethics. 10 December 2010Eliot, T. S. “The Waste Land”. 1922. Poetry Foundation. <>Fleischman, P. R. Wonder. When and Why the World Appears Radiant. Amherst. Small Batch Books, 2013Franklin, R. “What Mary Oliver’s Critic Don’t Understand”. The New Yorker. Books. 20 November 2017. <>
Hefner, P. “Forward” in J. A. Stone. Religious Naturalism Today. The Rebirth of a Forgotten Alternative. New York. State University of New York, 2008
Logan, J. “The Resurgence of Life”. Poetry Soup. 22 March 2021 <>
“Meaning and Symbolism of Hyacinth”. Teleflora. n.d. <>
Meland, B. E. Modern Man’s Worship. A Search for Reality in Religion. New York. Harper & Brothers, 1934
Monahan, J. “Bite into Poetry…” The Ledger. January 2005. <>
Vosper, G. We All Breathe. Poems and Prayers. Toronto. PostPurgical Resources, 2012

‘Do Not Be Afraid’

Posted: March 22, 2023 in Uncategorized

‘Do Not Be Afraid’

Easter is traditionally regarded as the most important church season in the liturgical life of the church. Its stories are passionately told every year often without critique. In the text I chose for today is a story from a bloke we call Matthew. So we begin by asking what his special take on all this is as we unpack his story seriously, rather than literally.

Before we do I have to admit some preferences such as a preference for the Christmas Story as opposed to the Easter story. My reasoning is that my humanism suggests that the Christmas story reflects the beauty of the human species in its desire for the new, the novel and the birth of a child symbolizes the magnificence of this newness, this new life that is the innate desire for embodiment. For me the ‘incarnation’ as metaphor for the divine human relationship is underrated when the commercialization, the idealism and the story is trivialized.

But today is about readiness for the Easter week and it is a time I suspect for the challenge of the execution of Jesus and the story of his ‘resurrection’ or more importantly how the story of his resurrection impacted the followers of the Jesus Way I put the struggle down as the wrestle with the individualization of the understanding of the ‘Resurrection’ proposed by Greek and Roman Thought and the more ‘Universalistic’ Resurrection of the Ancient Hebrew and Judaism. This is a very important distinction to make when coming to the Easter Story in that the Western world can very easily miss the richness of the challenge with its obsession with the individualism, and I am not referring to the value of the individual nut rather to the destructive limiting obsession with individualism which manifests itself as me over others, the one over the many and isolates and belittles those who struggle to keep up, succeed etc.

In his book ‘The Matter with Things’ McGilchrist, quotes Schelling as saying that there is no higher revelation in all of science, religion or art, than that of the divinity of what he calls the ‘All’; but this comes on the back of his recognition that each sphere of intellect and spirit – science, religion and art – sees something particular and special. In those ages, he warns, where we are mindful of this unity, a culture enjoys vigour, and vitality, and the fruits of the collaboration of the arts and sciences: but the price of losing that vision is the loss of everything we value. We struggle, he says, to put things together, adding grain of sand to grain of sand.

Unsurprisingly the left hemisphere, having dismantled the universe, it is at a loss to know how to put it together again. …… We need both, and each gives rise to the other, not in sequence but simultaneously. Once again, the opposites that are indicated by the One and the Many, the unique and the general, remain opposite, while being nonetheless coincident; and hence generative. Note that both the uniqueness of the individual case and the oneness of the whole are dependent for their appreciation on the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere substitutes membership of highly generalized categories for uniqueness, and then tries to achieve a sense of the whole by aggregating these categories. It is part of the unifying disposition of the right hemisphere to see similarity within difference, and part of its capacity for fine discrimination to see difference within similarity, whereas the isolating disposition of the left hemisphere sees similarity and difference as a simple opposition, at loggerheads with one another.

But that is not a bad thing in itself, there is a role here for the left hemisphere – provided, as always, its contribution is in service to that of the right. In short I think the above is suggesting that the Christmas myth is as important in the Jesus story as is the Easter Story with its recognition of the limitedness of humanity (The Cross and all its reason for being) and its recognition of the social, interdependent beauty and synergy of the collective, universal resurrection, renewal, reconciliation, and wholeness of the species. Let go of the importance for the individual for a but and discover the power and beauty of the collective.

Another way of saying this about the efficacy of a wholistic understanding of the Jesus story is to be able to say with Christmas;

Glorious are you, Mystery of Life,

Essence of all creation.

You are the symphony of stars and planets.

You are the music of atoms within us,

You are the dawn on mountain peaks,

The moonlight on evening seas.

Forest and farm, the rush of the city,

Everything is embraced in your love.

And at Easter to be able to say at Easter’

Glorious are you, O Jesus Christ,

Cosmic love in human flesh,

You graced the smallness of time and place

To teach us to dance to the music,

You walk on our seas and heal in our streets.

You make your home in out lives,

Revealing that cross and resurrection

Are one on the road to freedom.

And holding together Christmas and Easter say;

Glorious are you O Spirit of Truth,

Wisdom and breath of our being.

You are the wind that sweeps our senses.

You are the fire that burns in our hearts

You are the needle of the inner compass,

Always pointing to true North,

Guiding us on the sacred dance

Into the Mystery of Life.

Having encouraged  another look at the Jesus story we acknowledge that each so-called Easter morning story has its own distinctive slant on things. Matthew’s story alone recounts an earthquake. Only Matthew’s story has an angel rolling the stone away and then sitting on it. And Matthew has a most distinctive story element: fear. And its this I want to spend a bit of time on today. First because the above suggestions go to the very core of the Jesus story and are a challenge to centuries of creation. They are suggestions that context matters and that theology must be an applied art of it is to survive.

Out of ‘fear’ the guards become lifeless, and run scared to the authorities. The angel tells the women not to ‘fear’. After an encounter the women leave quickly ‘with fear’. Jesus says to the women: ‘Do not fear… go tell’. There are four occasions where Matthew says the dominate emotion was ‘fear’.

We too live today in a culture often dominated by fear, and nurtured by media headlines and graphic film footage. Just listening to the concerns around ‘Climate Change the other day I realized that all through the need to awaken awareness is the cultivation of a level of fear so as to engender urgent action. I am not saying this is bad but I question whether it is the only way to motivate humanity to take seriously its interdependent rich and important relationship with the planet and in fact the cosmos. When are we going to stop polluting space with or junk?

Gene Robinson, now retired, was the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States. He was the first openly gay man to be elected and consecrated a bishop, in a so-called ‘mainline’ church. In a very moving 2005 article, he tells of the preparations that were going on around him prior to his consecration as Bishop, and of the fear some had, if his consecration went ahead… “I was getting a lot of death threats.  Preparations were being made for the consecration security, and I was asked for my blood type, so that preparations could be made for immediately beginning medical treatment on the way to the hospital, should something violent take place.

“I remember saying to our two grown daughters, who were worried and anxious about my well-being, ‘You know, there are worse things than death.  Some people actually never live – and that is the worst death of all.  If something does happen, remember that the God who has loved me my whole life, will still be loving me, and I will have died doing something I believe in with my whole heart’.

He continued: “As I strapped on my bulletproof vest just before the service, I remember feeling blessedly calm about whatever might happen.  Not because I am brave, but because God is good and because God has overcome death, so that I never have to be afraid again.  That is the power of the resurrection.  Not in what happens after death, but what the knowledge of our resurrection does for our lives… before death.” (Robinson.

I want to add here that there is another dimension to this lack of fear and it is to be found in the collective, the communal and the togetherness of what it means to be human.

Matthew’s story slant is important. There is much ‘fear’ around and within the Easter story.
As there is much ‘fear’ in our world today. Jesus’ death was primarily the result of ‘fear’.
The fear of one insecure and unstable Roman Prefect. The fear of religious and community leaders as to what might happen should political trouble break out.

Over the years the early Jesus followers sought to make sense of his death. Now modern scholarship in our time has identified at least three ways these followers interpreted what happened:

  • as victim of Roman power,
  • as martyr for the Empire of God, and
  • as sacrifice that bound together a new community

Stephen Patterson. Suggests in one of his articles the following.

“I have become convinced that in each of these ways of interpreting Jesus’ death, the followers of Jesus were in fact drawing attention to his life.  His death mattered to them because his life had mattered to them.  They spoke of his death in ways that affirmed his life, and reaffirmed their own commitment to the values and vision stamped into his life by his words and deeds.  To the followers and friends of Jesus, his death was important in its particularity – as the fate of him who said and did certain things, who stood for something so important to him that he was willing to give his life for it.  That something was the vision of life he called the Empire of God.  They too believed in this vision of a new empire.  And if this vision was indeed God’s Empire, then the bearer of this vision was not dead.  No executioner could kill what he was.  To kill Jesus, you would have to kill the vision.  This is what the cross could not do.” (Patterson 2007:77)

I think Patterson is taking the so-called Easter stories seriously, not literally. And that is what we are invited to do every time we hear biblical stories. For many of us today who have been brought up in the traditional or so-called orthodox teachings of the church, Jesus’ death has been separated from, indeed lost all connection to, the real human events of his life which brought about his death. As Stephen Patterson has also said: “Jesus’ death has become… a mythic event connected to the universal problem of death and the mysterious and frightening end of human life.” (Patterson 2007:78)

Traditionally this has been given the lofty name of ‘The Theory of Substitutionary Atonement’. This theory is expressed well in the propaganda from many fundamentalist Church. The message of that sort of Easter says “He (Jesus) made you good enough through His sacrifice and resurrection.  He knew your shortfalls in advance and out of love paid the price with His life.  He didn’t want humanity to live with condemnation or fear or a cycle of sin-shame-forgiveness-sin-shame-forgiveness over and over.  So, the Father gave His son Jesus to pay a permanent price in advance”. They then it goes on to say it is like post-paid verses pre-paid credit on one’s mobile phone. “Option 1, post-paid, is to accumulate a debt and try to pay for it later.  Option 2, pre-paid, is to have the credit to pay for it always available.  All we need to do is look to Jesus and what He has already done”. I among many of you and many scholars today say without apology, this is theological rubbish! Such a ‘theory’ is an absolute disaster for the church. A ‘theory’ which has no concern whatsoever for Jesus’ life or what he said or did or stood for.

All that – what Jesus said or did or stood for – has been diminished. Now we have all the elements of a cosmic drama, enshrined in fossilized creeds and the heavy-handed traditionalism of sin, guilt and forgiveness – He came to die for our sins!

Matthew Fox, when commenting on the title of the Living the Questions DVD study called “Saving Jesus”, said: “Of course saving Jesus is important.  It’s an interesting title.  Saving Jesus from whom?  I guess from the church… We have to break our tea-cup talk about Jesus…”.

Back then, Jesus was killed because of what he said and for what he stood for. The problem now is we, the church generally, are trying to kill him all over again. His humanness has been killed off! Jesus has helpfully been described as a secular sage or a prophet. Both these professions earned their living by what they said and did. But for many today, raised within traditional or fundamentalist Christianity, “his words and deeds mean little to us, if anything at all.  We do not look to Jesus for a way of life, but for salvation. ‘He died that we might live’…”. (Patterson 2007:80)

To mimic Matthew Fox. We need to end this tea-cup stuff And end it by sound, scholarly, biblical theology.

The message of Christmas/Easter is that he somehow still offers us the vision of a new Empire, into which we are still invited in a real way… a real invitation into a way of life we can see reflected in his own life.  If there is any valid fear it is that: When the life of Jesus no longer matters to those who would claim him as Lord and Saviour, then the life that changed the lives of many finally will have come to an end.” (Patterson 2007:80)

The story of Christmas and Easter is not what happens after death, but what the knowledge of the words and deeds and the way of the one we call Jesus, does for our lives… before death. Amen.


McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (p. 1338). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition.

Patterson, S. J. “Killing Jesus” in (ed) R. J. Miller. The Future of the Christian Tradition. Santa Rosa. Polebridge Press, 2007.
John Prine. “Jesus: The Missing years”. <> Accessed 22/4/2011.

RAE Hunt

‘Change is Life Refusing to be Embalmed Alive’

Helen Garton in her book ‘Courage to Love’ wrote: “As he went on his way he saw a woman who had been gay from birth. His disciples asked him: ‘Rabbi, whose sin caused her to be lesbian? Hers or her parents’ sin?’ Jesus answered: ’Neither she nor her parents sinned; she was born that way so that God’s work might be revealed in her. While the day lasts, we must carry on the work of God; night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world I am the light of the world.’ With these words, he spat on the ground and made a paste with the spittle; he spread it on the disciple’s eyes and immediately her pain eased and she was able to be herself.

It is a bit of a truism for sure to say that ‘nothing in life is permanent except change’. We grow up, meet new people and move to different places. We lose loved ones along the way as well. The reality is that the whole universe is alive and changing, continually co-creating new possibilities of life are always emerging. “The world is a web of changing individuals and systems and cultures and truths, interacting with, affecting, and changing each other… Change occurs from moment to moment in our daily lives as we are acted upon and act, exercising creative freedom.” A serendipitous creating ever present process. And there is a school of thought that asserts that knowing we will not stay the same from day to day, from moment to moment, “is what makes life interesting and worth living.”

We have not always thought this. Traditional western thinking, influenced by none other than Plato, saw change as equaling decay and death. And when this thinking moved into western religion, the Divine/God was seen as ‘unchanging’, existing totally apart from the changing world. Many of us sang and still do sing hymns such as: “Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise” or “You are the Lord, you Changeth Not” or “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand” but many of us no longer can sing these other than as historic songs since outdated in their theology and use of words. Many of us are of a mind to deal with the thought that the so-called ‘divine plan’ was not written in stone at the beginning? That the Divine/God works in and through the changing world as part of it or more correctly as the very process by which it exists. This question is a must for all novel, and radical ideas in western thinking and religion? Some would say it is already too late given the demise of the institutional church that we are experiencing. What is happening is that Climate Change as an outcome of human interruption of the planets systems is demanding of theology a thorough revisioning and rethinking of religion and theology? And this is more than just theism verses atheism or religion verses secularism or science verses faith. These dichotomies are stale bread in the face of the ontological argument (that relating to the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.) and we need a new story of ‘change’ as a result.

The anonymous biblical storyteller we call John, while not a ‘modern’ in any sense of the word’,
is also faced with the need for change within his small community. So he/she invites their exploration through a story of a blind man and his estimate of Jesus’ words rather than echoing something Jesus said. As a warm up we might need to say a couple of things at the beginning.
Because both biblical scholarship and one’s integrity require it.

The first is that this story is not a media report of an actual event. The subject of the story was not a real person “but a representative symbol.” (Spong 2013:143) As Bishop John Shelby Spong suggests in his Commentary: “He stands for the members of the Johannine community, who saw themselves as having once lived in the darkness of not seeing, but having been changed when ‘the light of the world’ permeated their darkness. That light brought to them a new perspective, which relativized everything that they had once assumed was ‘truth’.” (Spong 2013:143)

The second is that this raised another problem for the community. And it was that such ‘change’ as that advocated brought with it a real taste of ‘anxiety’. Spong continues his Commentary: “Would they simply stave off the threat—[embrace the light or deny it]—and then seek to rebuild their security walls and settle into the known routines of their past, or would they step into the light and walk with courage into the unknown, exposing themselves to the new realities that living in the light always brings?” (Spong 2013:143)

We know that context is always important when looking at and listening to a story. And the context in this biblical story is change that caused a split from the Jewish synagogue. Remember that there is always contention between groups of followers. Conflict between the Jewish Johannine community and the Jewish synagogue leaders was intense. At the time of writing and at many other times also. But here in the late 1st and early second century the result was Anger. Frustration. Anxiety. Change. Denunciation. Expulsion…. “as religious defenders of the faith are prone to do.” (Spong 2013:149)

In so many words, the storyteller is quite direct…  “If the Jewish traditionalists could not move out of the past… they were choosing to live in darkness, to hide in the religious security of yesterday… to refuse to step into the new life being offered, the new consciousness that invites the world into a new and unlimited understanding of what .life is all about.” (Spong 2013:150, 151) And we know from experience that at any time change can be either a threat
or what makes life interesting and worth living

We humans, born from 14 billion years of Earth’s invention, creativity, and increasing complexity, are the ‘ultimate dream animal’. Of all Earth’s species, we are the lucid dreamer.  “Through the profound mystery of conscious self-awareness, the human reaches a depth of seeing never before achieved in the history of life; and depth of seeing is depth of being.” (De Boer 2020:1)

Put another way… We are the species that sees but doesn’t only instinctively respond to what we see. We internalize it, engage with it emotionally. We seek to find meaning in the cosmic picture; its place in life and our ‘seeing’ and ‘discerning’, is our examining of it thoroughly in minute detail and then passing it back past the cosmic picture giving it meaning and purpose in the largest picture beyond our questions. One danger of recent times is that we have not completed the discernment process preferring to not step outside the confinements of a limited experience. We have made change a negative, unwanted part of life whereas it cannot be that without cost to what it means to be human. Change has been seen as the enemy of certainty as opposed to a vital part of its creation.

Pulitzer Prize winner. Mary Oliver (1935-2019) was a well-known and much-loved poet. Her ability to ‘see’ and ‘discern’ the world in which we all live and are a part, was central to her poetry. Her creativity was stirred by nature, by wonder, by discernment, and her poems are filled with imagery from daily walks: shore birds, water snakes, the phases of the moon, and humpback whales. Of her philosophy of life another has said: “Just pay attention to the natural world around you—the goldfinches, the swan, the wild geese. They will tell you what you need to know.” (Franklin 2017)

Nature is not a thing to be known. It is a process to be lived. A poem such as “What Can I Say” invites that ‘attention’…

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.

It is a privilege of being human that we are curious creatures
—remember Nicodemus of a couple of weeks ago—
with a capacity for wonder.

Mary Oliver loved to wonder while she wandered. because wonder… Opens the door to beauty, “to muse about what fascinates us”. (Gleiser 2019) It also brings us into the richness and fullness of the present. Helps us detox against the frivolous ‘influencers’ of smart phones and selfies, and it asks questions aboutendless dependent growth policies, and of theories with measurable outcomes and assumptions of betterment. It invites critical thinking not as an adjunct to life but as intrinsic within it. Process and change demands it.

By ‘seeing’ more deeply, by increasing the scope of our sensitivities, we will all come to live more deeply as mor human and we can love the way this richness of the now makes us feel. Life refuses to be embalmed alive! Amen.

Christ, C. P. She Who Changes. Re-Imaging the Divine in the World. New York. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003De Boer, K. L. “Toward a New Cultural Reverie: A Cosmological Basis for the Ecological Citizen” in Minding Nature 13, 2, 2020. <> Franklin, R. “What Mary Oliver’s Critic Don’t Understand”. The New Yorker. Books. 20 November 2017. <> 
Gleiser, M. “I Wonder as I Wander. Why we need Sacred Places” in Orbiter Magazine, Vol 54 (12 December 2019). (Accessed 21 December 2019)
Spong, J. S. The Fourth Gospel. Tales of a Jewish Mystic. New York. HarperCollins, 2013

Hunt RAE

A Creative Transforming Non-interventionist God…

Its possible that in attending a Baptism you might have heard the words “Water is everything. Water is life…” They are often said as a way of focusing on the active, dynamic symbol of water. As does the story we read from the storyteller/mystic we call John. And if we can remember for just a moment that we are in the middle of the season called Lent, which begins with stories around a time in the desert, a place of little to no water, we might find today’s story a lovely juxtaposition. Dryness, drought, climate change and wilderness, temptation and an arid place and time. And we know how precious water is.

And when it comes to the nature of flow, the dynamics of flow the river is an interesting symbol the invites us to explore the nature of life as a journey. Numerous travelers, from the early explorers through to present day beginners have perished for lack of water as well as underestimating its living dynamic reality. No water, no life. Too much water and no life. Water and life go together. To survive in the arid desert or wilderness is to know the sources of moisture and how to tap into the water table and in the lush green freshness of the flowing river is to know its power and its perpetual nature.

What we should never do is underestimate it as something that must be conquered. That is a mistake, we humans have made since the enlightenment at least. For the early people of human social political and economic development the earth could be a hostile and barren place and they could never dream of co-operating with it in the face of oppression and empire.

When we look closely at many indigenous peoples, we find they treasured the earth and cooperated with it rather than conquer it and they often memorized every watering hole. Especially so in the dry inland places.

From one generation to the next, and we know from the Australian Aboriginal that they sang songs which were like maps of their territory.  And in these song-maps the precious water holes were prominent. They treasured water. It meant life.

To put the importance of understanding the nature and purpose of water we might read a little about flow and movement. A River of water is always flowing, it always appears to be a linear movement going in one direction but whirlpools and eddy’s suggest otherwise. What is it that water becomes when it becomes a whirlpool? What is it saying about the nature of water and its importance?

Democritus said “The cause of coming-into-being of all things is the vortex.” (a mass of fluid (such as a liquid) with a whirling or circular motion that tends to form a cavity or vacuum in the center of the circle and to draw toward this cavity or vacuum bodies subject to its action) Isaac Newton said “I do not define … motion, as being well known at all” McGilchrist says “Movement is reality itself.” Schelling’s description of causative chains is that “the individual successions of causes and effects, (that deceive us with the illusion of a mechanism) (left hemisphere bias)  disappear, being infinitely small straight lines in the universal curvature of the organism, in which the world itself runs continually onward.” We see the water as linear flow when water in its ability to become vortex shows us that life is more vortex like than linear in other words the symbol becomes more real than what we thought? In its flow, its motion, its dynamic nature it becomes real life. Life is never what it seems because it is always dynamic evolving and progressing and can be mistaken as linear when it might not be so.

Another reflection in this light. ‘Water spiralling down a drain’ … This point is worth pausing on. Because the water going down a drain is the best possible demonstration of a moving, ever-changing, ever-evolving, indivisible motion: a vortex. It is never, except artificially, frozen into a coherent image; and it is a constantly self-reforming asymmetrical structure.

Now a quick look at the collection of stories told by John. They shows that he tells several stories using water. Water turned into wine. Water to wash disciple’s feet. Jesus walking on water. And of course, there are all those exciting fishing stories, which only someone with the name of Hay might claim are the really, good bits! (Mr Hay is a friend some of you might know as an avid fisherman)

Today’s story of a Samaritan woman Jesus met at a well, belongs in this collection. In this story John has Jesus asking the woman for a drink of water. It is said that this conversation between the two, is the longest of any Jesus is supposed to have had with anyone. Traditionally, the substance of the story is said to be about a ‘liberal’ Jesus talking to a close to a non-mechanistic Samaritan is another name for Northern Jew (One whose heritage is post Kingdom of Israel as opposed to Judean Jew) And, so this line of interpretation goes, Jesus issues a call to her to: “clean up her act, get right with God, and join the Jesus team to preach God’s word of forgiveness and love”.  (McKinney. PST Web site, 2008)

But as many scholars have pointed out, this and similar interpretations are an awful misreading of an important story. However staying with the story… with the help of Amy-Jill Levine, the Jewish new testament scholar:

Rick Marshall, suggests that: Taking John’s image of a well and the rising up of the water says; “Who knows where (the water) comes from.  But we drink it and go on living our lives…  That’s how the creative, transforming power of God is:  Who knows where it comes from, but it sustains us and we go on living our lives.  We are called to trust the ‘Living Water’.” (Rick Marshall. P&F Web site, 2005) I might suggest we are being called to trust in the ’Almost’, the “not yet but about to be’ is more akin to the vortex like experience we call life. This power of God we call life sustains us and we go on living our lives. “We experience the creating, transforming power of ‘Love’ routinely, quietly moving through life, our life.” I wonder if this is also what the storyteller, we call John had in mind, in a context of plurality, of civilization change). Post Greek and changing Roman thought, theology and social and political change and when he told the story of Jesus asking a woman for a drink.

A reflection I can confirm is nice to hear and found in the following story. The story goes that the preacher was a great success.  Thousands came to learn wisdom from him. then they got the wisdom, they stopped coming to his sermons. And the preacher smiled contentedly. For he had attained his purpose, which was to bow out as quickly as possible for he knew in his heart that he was only offering people what they already had, if they would only open their eyes and see.  (Anthony de Mello)

Remember, here as well the description of the logician: ‘Having in fact left the curve of his thought, to follow straight along a tangent, he has become exterior to himself. He returns to himself when he gets back to intuition.’ He finds God, he recognizes Jesus for the first time.

That and the above story suggests it seems that the above is how the transforming present-ness of Creativity God or serendipitous Creativity God or ‘Almost’ God is at work. It sustains us as we live our lives, quietly moving through life, our life. Like a vortex hiding in the image of linearity and yet whirlpool like so that we might live life to the full, love wastefully, and be all that we can be.  (John S Spong) Amen.

Anthony de Mello, A. The Song of the Bird. 10th edition. India: J. Chryssavgis. The Desert is Alive. Melbourne. JBCE, 1990.

Levine, A-J. The Misunderstood Jew. The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus. New York. HarperOne, 2006.

McGilchrist, Iain . The Matter With Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World (p. 1445). Perspectiva Press. Kindle Edition.