Few people understand the way of the cross.
We think of Jesus’ cross as something that relieves personal guilt. We don’t realize the cross is the instrument for restoring God’s reign. We don’t see how the cross has power to free the world from what crushes it.
Continue reading “The folly of the cross”
This Aboriginal dance group did more than entertain me. They reached out to me across Australia’s cultural divide.
Dance isn’t my thing, but Djuki Mala was hilarious, possibly the best entertainment at Perth Fringe Festival this year. These five dancers might be the most entertaining representatives of Aboriginal culture in Australia.
They started by introducing themselves as Yolngu people from Arnhem Land, a culture much older than ours. They built rapport through honesty, acknowledging the clashes between their ancestors and ours, and how Aboriginal people were treated as non-persons (not even able to vote until 1967). They also shared the struggles of their community, and the story of the grandfather who inspired them to dance.
It was breathtaking: traditional dance in moody lighting, with campfire scenes screened on the backdrop. I felt more like a guest than an observer, as if they’d invited me into their culture. Continue reading “What I learned from Djuki Mala”
It makes a difference who we label as “enemy.”
Turkish people are fascinating. The merchants of Turkey engage you in conversation, showing an interest in you as a human being before they try to sell you something. There’s one conversation I’ll never forget.
He had camels for hire. I mean, the camels were rather obvious. He walked with us for a bit. Learning we were Australians, he asked, “You’re visiting Gallipoli?” Gallipoli is the stuff of legend. The ANZAC troops landed there in World War I to capture the strategically important Dardanelles for the British. They held out bravely, though thousands lost their lives. 100 years later, Australians still remember the ANZACs with a public holiday each April. Continue reading “Who is our enemy? (Matthew 5:43)”
You can’t love your enemies unless you believe God will sort them out.
Open Matthew 5:43-48.
Picture yourself in the crowd on the mountainside listening to the Messiah talking about the restoration of God’s kingdom. For you, the word neighbour means your fellow Jews, those who belong in God’s chosen family, the people who will be part of the kingdom when David’s son reigns.
The word enemy means those who’ve attacked your nation: Canaanites, Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Arameans, Edomites, … The worst enemies were the ones that destroyed God’s nation, making you part of their empire instead: Assyrians, Babylonians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, and in 63 BC the Romans.
You’ve been raised to hate the monsters who debased God’s kingdom. They’re not just your enemies: they’re God’s enemies:
Psalm 139:21–22 (ESV)
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
That’s why you sit there like a stunned Saint Peter’s fish, incredulous of what Jesus has just asked you to do. Continue reading “Enemy love (Matthew 5:43-48)”
What do you do when it costs too much to make things right?
Open Matthew 5:23-26.
Three times a year, observant Jews were to take time off work and travel to Jerusalem for the big festivals. They didn’t go empty-handed: they always brought God a gift that expressed their submission to his kingship, a sacrificial animal that acknowledged their place at God’s table.
So you’ve gone all the way to Jerusalem, bought the approved animal, and you’re leading it to the temple grounds. You’re meditating on how good it is to have a place in God’s family, when it reminds you of that guy who’s not so glad you’re in the family. He thinks you’ve treated him unjustly, charged him an unfair price, taken advantage of him when he was in trouble. The memory messes up your feeling of belonging.
Jesus says you stop at this point. Return the sacrifice animal. Seek out your estranged brother and be reconciled. Only then can you truly celebrate your place in the family. You can’t have a place at God’s table if you can’t share the table with that guy. Continue reading “Reconciliation or retribution? What do you want? (Matthew 5:23-26)”
How do you sort out a relationship with someone who wants you dead?
Jacob fears for his life. Esau will kill him if he believes he’s coming to claim the inheritance. Why else would he bring a posse of 400 men (32:6)? Continue reading “Jacob’s reconciliatory gift (Genesis 32:13-21)”
Jacob has a history of running instead of sorting things out. Remember how he ran from Esau? Well, it’s happening again. It tends to do that when you don’t resolve things. Continue reading “When running is bad for your health (Genesis 31)”