Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Australian Easter

I celebrated the Easter weekend in Darwin, Northern Territory. Talk about hot! But Br. James Andrew's house is set to capture any breeze blowing through, and it was fairly comfortable. I preached on good Friday at the little Anglican Church in Palmerston that Br. James attends. After that we had a picnic on the beach. Easter Sunday we were back in Palmerston.

I've just finished reading a couple of great books: Rob Bell's "Love wins" and Eugene Peterson's "Practicing Resurrection." Rob's book had been coming up on my Amazon "recommended book list" for several days, but it wasn't until after I read a review of it in the UK Church Times that I got it. Apparently he gets protesters appearing when he speaks about this book because he holds out the possibility of heaven for everybody who wants it, and insists that Jesus is the "Way" meaning it in the broadest possible terms: even people who aren't Christian but practice love and compassion and justice are part of Jesus' Way. It's depressing to think people would get angry about that.

Practicing Resurrection is another very helpful book. Peterson is the author of "The Message," and after listening to Br. Tom read from it during my stay in Los Angeles, I was intrigued to see what the guy has to say. The book is a fairly thorough exegesis (study) of the Letter to the Ephesians. I found it very liberating to read.

Lots of time to read because it is wet weather here in Brisbane, Australia. There is more flooding to the west of the city, but the part the brothers live in is high and safe from the floods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fine Fall Days Down Under

I spent a week in New Zealand, with the Brothers at Hamilton. Hamilton is a small city on the North Island, far from Christchurch and the earthquake. But we were not isolated from the effects of the earthquake--being a small country, the brothers knew of plenty of people who'd been affected directly. And there are lots of fundraisers for the earthquake victims being advertised on T.V.

Br. Simone and I enjoyed a day out, going to visit several places where volcanic activity was bubbling to the surface. Steaming rivers and boiling pools of mud are big tourist attractions in New Zealand. Best was swimming in the hot springs at Rotorua.

Here we are standing on a beach with the Pacific ocean stretching out behind us.

Brothers Damian Kenneth and Brian hosted a dinner party during my stay. It was a very ecumenical affair with Roman Catholic, Anglican and Romanian Orthodox clergy.

Another evening Simone and I visited a homeless shelter where he volunteers. We took some food, then stayed to talk. I was impressed by the experience--we could have been in New York, Washington or California. Its depressing to think homelessness is such a universal experience. The major difference here is that the men were mostly Maori. The other universal quality is the selflessness of the volunteers, the sign of never failing grace and generosity and that where homeless exists and the worst of urban life, there is always it seems right alongside it, the very best of human behavior: generous, caring and creative in the face of tremendous need. I was reminded of a line of a liturgy from the 80's: God came not to take away our suffering but to be with us in it. Yet with some political determination and a minor allocation of resources (compared to, say, defense budgets) we could make homelessness history.

The last weekend I was there I gave a quiet day for about 10 people: "Remember who you are" was the theme. I told them "be who you are before God: be simply yourself." The desire to do this is evidence of God's action. We spent the morning remembering family, hometown, the costs of forgetting our background: vulnerability to social marginalization, addictions. Remembering brings the will to work for healing and can unleash creativity. In the afternoon we spent time remembering who we are in God's eyes: beloved, worthy, empowered, forgiven. And to remember that we ARE the church. I ended up with the words of Eugene Peterson: Now God has us where he wants us--with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us.

Now I am in Australia. We spent the other day digging trenches to divert rain water, and since then we've not had any rain: glorious early autumn weather. Generally though getting spiritually ready for Easter and the cold winter months.

It is such a head trip switching hemispheres!!