The Nobel Peace prize winner Alexandr Solzhenitsyn knew first-hand the harsh realities of suffering.
He spent over ten years imprisoned in a Soviet gulag. It seems that the daily deprivations of prison life were somehow able to stimulate a creative genius in him. His books are now literary classics. His novel, One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, the book Solzhenitsyn considered his best, focuses on a prisoner, Shukov. This remarkable man accepted horror, pain and suffering as normative. A typical day would consist of forced labour, tiny rations and brutal guards, with disease and death never far away. Continue Reading
Some years ago I received several prank calls, the ones where the phone rings and there is no one on the other end.
It was rather unsettling to answer and find silence, when I expected a voice. For some of us, there are times when God appears silent. Maybe we have made an emergency call to God in the form of a desperate prayer and God didn’t seem to answer: we didn’t get the job we hoped for; the health of a loved one did not improve; or the conflict we faced got worse, not better.
In wrestling with God in prayer, we must recognise that God is not a divine Santa Klaus whose main job is to favourably answer all our requests. God is not at our beck and call. Disciples of Christ are invited to serve God and others, rather than behave like religious consumers who think that God should always be serving me.
Sometimes, I think that prayer is paradoxical; God answers prayer and God does not answer prayer. Jesus taught us to have a faith that will move mountains, not just smile at them. In the garden of Gethsemane, perhaps Jesus’ darkest moment before the cross, he agonised about doing God’s will. His trust in God is amazing, he cries out, “Abba Father, all things are possible for you”. Continue Reading
Most of us have probably had the experience of going through the security checks before boarding an aircraft. The routine goes something like, keys and coins out of pockets, belts off, laptop out of bag and all items placed in trays before they are x-rayed for any security risks.
I was recently at an airport going through this routine when out of the blue a security man looked at me and said, “What is the Uniting Church’s view on homosexuality and what is your personal view?”
He caught me completely off guard. Not wanting to hold up the queue or totally avoid the question, I said something like, “We are engaged in respectful conversations about this sensitive issue, and at this moment, I am not prepared to share with you my personal view.” Continue Reading
Some people love a good controversy. They write letters to the newspaper, attend rallies, join movements and engage in vigorous debates.
I am not such a person. I have, however, attended a number protest marches. My first was at the age of nineteen when I joined a couple of hundred other Christians, carrying crosses near a nuclear shipyard that planned to name a new nuclear submarine ‘Corpus Christi’, Latin for ‘the body of Christ’. We could not reconcile giving such a sacred name to a weapon of mass destruction.
More recently, I spoke at a rally on behalf of the suffering Rohingya people, and at Palm Sunday peace rallies I have felt compelled to join many other people giving support and solidarity to poorly treated refugees. I have reluctantly at times engaged in controversial issues, sometimes forgetting that Christ, who I claim to serve, was controversial. It seems that on some of the issues of the day, Jesus entered the controversy. Continue Reading
It is nearly fifty years since my wife, Jill, and I moved to Western Australia. The plan had been for us to stay four years, but Perth made such an impression upon us that we never left.
We have so many vivid memories from those early days in Perth and one of those for me is of the beautiful Reflection Pond in front of Winthrop Hall at the University of Western Australia (UWA). The Memorial Seat that looks down the length of the pond from the eastern end bears the inscription: ‘Verily by beauty it is that we come at wisdom’. The motto of UWA itself is: ‘Seek Wisdom.’
In the season of Lent that will be just concluded by the time this edition of Revive is published, I’ve been prompted by a few things to reflect upon the nature of wisdom, within the context of a Benedictine concept of renunciation.
What is truly important in the journey of following Christ, and what should be renounced in order to pursue it more fully? Continue Reading
A very belated Happy New Year!
As I write this we are two weeks from 1 January, the day that some of us made New Year resolutions. Typically at the beginning of a new year we start to think about some changes that might help that year go better than the old one.
According to my Google research, the big four resolutions are: aiming to be fit and healthy, vowing to lose weight, trying to enjoy life more (less stress) and spending time with people we care about.
Other standard resolutions include spending less, getting more sleep and watching less television.
I wonder if you made a resolution. Mine was not so much a resolution but a reminder verse for the year: “. . . the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I started to think about how this sense of the joy of God might become increasingly part of my daily life. That started me thinking about the difference between trying and training. Continue Reading
By the time you read this the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation may well have faded from your memory.
For a week or so in late October and early November, suddenly we were made aware of our history. Most Protestant churches paused to remember what a mild mannered Augustinian German monk did on 31 October 1517. He nailed, some argue pasted, his defiant ‘95 Theses’ to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg.
He brazenly charged the church with corruption. He fiercely objected to the practice of the faithful throwing a coin or two in a coffer to buy their way out of purgatory or worse. He probably had no idea of the seismic effects his protest would have on the European church and politics. Continue Reading