Wednesday, August 31, 2005

From Google

From Google
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

OK, I did a search on my name, and this came up under images, need I say more?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Holy Sonnet

Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue,
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy,
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne (1572 - 1631).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Life, Death, Resurrection, Return - a sermon

One of the great things about St. Peter’s hosting the chaplaincy to RMIT happened last Monday morning when 40 students enrolled in a course on Globalization and Religion came to St. Peter's to hear about Anglicanism. We all sat in the church for almost three hours and had a wild conversation about everything: architectural and migration, meaning and myth, religion and spirituality, politics and scripture. They had some wonderful questions, made some great comments, and I only hope it was as good for them as it was for us: but I think it was, I think we all learned something.

So there’s a lot of good learning going on at St. Peter's: several series of Bible Studies on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons, as well as the monthly meetings of the Canterbury Readers, who discuss essays by Rowan Williams. Good learning, good work. Looking deeply into these texts can sometimes be difficult, but it is worth the struggle, because when you really wrestle with the words, you find them pointing to a reality that is more than just words, more vibrant, something that pushes back; like human flesh, like God meeting human flesh.

So it is worth it: to study scripture, to work through theology, to meet in a church and talk together about what matters in the end. It is important to make room for raw questions and concerns to be heard and shared: the heart of God has room for that.

Our Anglican tradition makes room too, with a model for learning and discernment that uses the image of a four-legged stool - with one leg each in scripture, tradition, reason and experience. It’s a way we keep our faith spacious, balanced and honest.

First, we are people of the Scripture, and our daily lives need to be seen and understood in the history, poetry, genealogy, prophesy, revelation we see in the Hebrew Scripture, which we call the Old Testament, as well as in the Christian Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation that we know as the New Testament. That is foundational.

We are also a people who have gathered, prayed, considered, and reflected in the light of those books for the last two thousand years. So there is an immense body of work, more writings, poetics, prophesy and politics, that need be considered: the work of the community gathered prayerfully throughout history, a deep and profound tradition that resounds and responds to the mighty acts of God over time, to the present day. So, Scripture and Tradition.

Then, we are a people who believe as well that the Spirit of God never ceases working in the whole world. In that light we use our reason to evaluate all good thoughts and actions, from all peoples and places and cultures, through education, the social and natural sciences, all technology, art and media, as ground for inspiration, redemption, recreation. We are not afraid to use our God-given reason.

And, finally, in light of the incarnation of God in Christ; we honour our very own lives, our corporate and personal experience. Here we take the chance that each and every one of us here, and everywhere, is a word of God, a gift of God: a place where God’s creativity, redeeming love, intimate conspiracy can come to new birth and speak in a new way. So Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience: The four components in this Anglican way.

The Gospel for this morning has four parts as well. Remember, what we just heard comes right after Simon-Peter’s confession of faith, right after that great moment when Peter had identified Jesus as God’s anointed one, the saviour, and Jesus had called him Petros, the Rock. So now we have the unfolding of another level of who the saviour is and how that saving life lives out in history. So, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

Poor St. Peter! Think what it must have been for him, just after he is called the Rock, after all that clarity, that light and glory, after he got it right! To start to look ahead at the dark and dirty death of all this love, all he had staked his life upon. You can see why he speaks up, as Peter so often does, “Wait! Now that we know what is right, what is good; it can’t go this wrong, this bad!” Everything in him rails against this new road.

But Jesus rebukes him: “You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things…[For]If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it…For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”

So, four more things to deal with; four very big things: life, death, resurrection and return. Poor Peter, poor us! How can we live with life writ this large, life asking this much? How do we follow the way of Jesus into these depths? How do we take this in and live this out? How can you get there from here?

Here’s a story. This last Friday I had lunch with two friends, and we were talking about what brings people to St. Peter’s. I said I thought in the end it is vocation, responding to an individual call that come in each of their lives, a call that bids come live life within the Christian story, and maybe that is where we go from here,

For each one of us here has had a moment, and maybe more than one, where God opens our eyes to glory, care, compassion; to the fragile beauty of what it means to be on this tenuous human journey together. Maybe that’s what some mean by being born again, for I think that is when our individual participation in Christmas comes: when Jesus – God’s word and work of love and acceptance and hope - is born in our lives. And that reality grows up and moves out into our world, begins to enlightens us and lighten up the world we live in, just like the Epiphany, where people come ‘round, see the difference, note the newness and the change.

But, for a lot of us, most of us, almost everyone, it often doesn’t last that long. Real life has a way of turning things around. The road gets narrow, the shadows of sin, accumulations of shortcuts and easy ways, our own and others, throw us into a desert of questions and conundrums where we walk the way of faith more slowly. It is the arid land of Lent, We’ve all been there, we know the story of the times that can take us where we might seem to lose the way; where we might feel lost. And here the man on the cross is a silent and eloquent picture for each of us, a picture of each of us in the place where hope falls silent and where we lose our lives, where all we know of faith falls dead.

But by grace a glory can come here, because the reality of the life and love of God rises up above all false accommodations, all less than adequate ways of seeing how big life is, for God’s life even has room for death. By grace we wake up to Easter! When our faith opens by grace to a new world, where there is a hope that is bigger than we know; and this hope often takes us to an understanding of - not only how big God is - but how intimate, how close God can come. Where we can arrive at a place where the whole creation seems to be speaking out in every language, in all deeds and words ands ways, even in a fertile silence, nothing less than the mighty acts of God. We come to a kind of Pentecost where the deep intimacy of the Holy Spirit enlivens our lives and reforms our relations and our understandings. It may not always last, it usually doesn’t. But you will remember.

Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost! Life, Death, Resurrection, Return! We come here every Sunday with all the contradictions that come in living life on life’s terms, showing up and trying to be whole and human and holy, and Sunday after Sunday we stand in the middle of our lives, in the middle of this place, and say, Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again! Life, death, resurrection, return!

12 years ago, when I was the chaplain at San Francisco State University, a really narrow, terribly unpleasant Christian pastor looked at me and asked, “Have you been born again?” And I said, "On a good day, at least four times!" The way God we follow is both that big and that intimate. As Thomas Merton puts it, we are called "to be repeatedly born in the spirit, in light, in knowledge, in unknowing, in faith, in awareness, in gratitude, in poverty, in presence, and in praise." Moving every instant: into a continuing and deeper participation in God’s creativity, God’s pilgrimage in flesh and history, God’s loving and continuing intercourse in the intimacy of the spirit. It is a wide way, a deep way, a wonderful way, a way that will grow you up and bring you home. So we come here to learn what it means to be alive, dying and rising in a world where Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. We come here to learn who we are.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Roots are important

Roots are important
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

For Anyone Besmitten by Cats

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him. …
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.

Christopher Smart

St. Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne

St. Peter's Eastern Hill, Melbourne
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

Early in the morning it is very quiet.

Talking Religion, Spirituality and all that...

On Monday morning about 40 students from an RMIT course on Globalization and Religion came to St. Peter's to hear about what Anglicanism might mean. We all sat in the church for almost three hours and talked about everything from architecture to migration, meaning to myth, scripture to politics. They had some wonderful questions, made some great comments, and I hope it was as good for them as it was for us.

The Vicar and I were talking afterwards about how energysing it was to deal with that level of questioning and discussion. I think that "Christian Education" can degenerate into some pretty cloying sessions where everyone agrees that, "Jesus really is great, isn't he," and we go on to have tea. But there is so much that is absurd, beyond belief, needs to be taken out and shaken, pulled apart and looked through, probably with something stronger than tea on hand.

We are doing a lot of that at St. Peter's and, as I learn more about the two Universities where I am working, I will put more out there. One program we started at this parish has been the Canterbury Readers, where up to 12 people get together monthly for an evening to discuss a recent essay by Rowan Williams. He's sometimes a difficult writer, but worth the struggle, because when you really wrestle with what he's putting into words, you find it pointing to a reality that is (surprise) more than words, more vibrant, something that pushes back; like human flesh and God.

And it is worth it. There is reality, deep and good, under all the stained glass visions and ecclesial voices. And it is important to make room for raw questions and concerns to be heard and shared. The reality of God has room for that.

Thanks to all the people that showed up from RMIT on Monday, you gave me a great day!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Santa Sophia Meditation Centre

Santa Sophia Meditation Centre
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

Where I led a weekend retreat on Thomas Merton which went very well. Cool rainy weather, giant green tree ferns, good food, silence and talk. God, I love my work!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I observe, remember and archive

Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

Coming home on a commuter train last night.

Monday, August 15, 2005

From the tram into Melbourne on a winter afternoon.

From the tram into Melbourne on a winter afternoon.
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

A Sufi Poem

Now is the Time
Now is the time to know
That all you do is sacred.
Now, why not consider a lasting truce with yourself and God.
Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you finally live with truth and love.

My dear, please tell me
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?
What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred
This is the time
For you to deeply compute the impossibility
That there is anything
But Grace
Now is the season to know
That everything you do is sacred.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bill Viola...

Bill Viola
Originally uploaded by Chaplinesque.

is a video artist, a visionary and a prophet. I saw a show of his at SF MOMA years ago and still recall it. An exhibition of his stuff open at the National Gallery in Canberra soon. It's worth the trip.

In The Name of Shameless Self-Promotion...

Santa Sophia Meditation Community
Dammans Road
Warburton 3799

“A Centre In Which All Things Converge”

a weekend retreat for meditation, discussion, reflection, silence and renewal.

August 19 – 21, 2005

As a fully formed religious in mid-life, Thomas Merton found renewal in the way he saw and related to the world. From his narrow beginnings, the centre of sanctity was now seen in the daily interactions of human beings within their whole lives. From this new standing place, Merton drew refreshing conclusions for a holistic spirituality that continues to enrich people. This weekend will enable us to reflect on our own journey in the light and life of the life and message of Thomas Merton who was one of the great spiritual writers of the 20th century and an early pioneer of inter-religious dialogue Come prepared to pray, learn, journal relax and laugh together.

Facilitated by Robert Whalley,
Chaplain, La Trobe University, Bundoora, RMIT University, Melbourne
Director of The Merton Centre @ St. Peter’s Eastern Hill, Melbourne.

All weekend retreats begin at 8:00 PM on the Friday night and end on Sunday at 4:00 PM.
Cost: Live in $175.00
Live out $125.00

Monday, August 08, 2005

This is a little wordy, but very good!

From Zen and the Birds of Appetite
By Thomas Merton

Is there some new possibility, some other opening for the Christian consciousness today?

If there is it will have to meet the following great needs of men:

First, the need for community, for a genuine relationship of authentic love with his fellow man. This will also imply a deep, in fact completely radical, understanding in approaching those critical problems which threatens man’s survival –war, racial conflict, hunger, economic and political injustice, etc. It is true that the ancient and classic positions, which their counterparts in the East- have too often favored a kind of quietist indifference to these problems.

Second, Man’s need for an adequate understanding of his everyday self in his ordinary life. There is no longer any place for the kind of idealistic philosophy that removes all reality into the realm of the celestial and makes temporal existence meaningless. The old metaphysical outlook did not in fact do this, but in proportion as it was idealistic it did tend to misconstrue and depreciate the concrete. Man needs to find ultimate sense here and now in the ordinary humble tasks and problems of every day.

Third, Man’s need for a whole and integral experience of his whole self on al its levels, bodily, as well as imaginative, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. There is no place for the cultivation of one part of human consciousness, one aspect of human experience at the expense of the others, even on the pretext that what is cultivated is sacred and all the rest is profane. A false and divisive sacredness can only cripple man.

Let us remember that modern consciousness deals more and more with signs rather than things, let alone persons. The reason for this is that signs are necessary to simplify the overcrowding of the consciousness with objects. The plain facts of modern life make this unavoidable. But it is also very crippling and divisive.

But it is wrong to assume that these great needs demand the hypertrophy of self-consciousness and the elephantiasis of self-will, without which modern man tends to doubt his own existence. On the contrary, may I suggest a fourth need which is precisely liberation from his inordinate self-consciousness, his monumental self-awareness, his obsession with self-affirmation, so that he may enjoy the freedom from concern that goes with simply being what he is and accepting things as they are in order to work with them as he can.

For all these needs, and especially the last, the Christian will do well to well to return to the simple lessons of the Gospel and understand them, if he can, not in terms of an imminent second coming, but certainly in terms of a new and liberated creation “in the spirit.” Than he can be delivered from obsessions of a culture that thrives on the stimulation and exploitation of egocentric desire.

But he will also do well, perhaps, to turn Asian religion and acquire a more accurate understanding of its “unworldliness.” Is the basic teaching of Buddhism – on ignorance, deliverance and enlightenment – really life denying, or is it rather the same kind of life-affirming liberation that we find in the Good News of Redemption, the Gift of the Spirit, and The New Creation?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Thursday Afternoon

And it has been an odd week. Sometimes I wonder if there are viruses around which consists of moods, so that you don't get cold or flu, but you get angry or sad, bewildered, tentative; stuff like that.

So this week I've felt like I was carrying around the weight of someone else's mood, detached, tired, sore in my legs and feet; wanting to hide under the covers and whimper softly with a cat to warm me and the light soft behind the closed drapes - which is how I spent yesterday, in bed with nascent symptoms of the cold-flu which never quite matured. So maybe they were vestiges of someone else's bad day, hurtling through the ozone, that landed on my head. Perhaps they came from a family member, maybe not. Maybe someone I never knew sneezed out all the dis-ease they were carrying and I caught it. Stranger things have happened: the universe is pretty big.

But today got better, I prayed some, ministered a bit, got ministered to in return, listened and talked to varous folk, felt chaplinesque enough, like I was doing what I am paid for, what I am supposed to do. Maybe I even needed that day in bed with the psychic flu, I am surely better for giving in to it.

I am very lucky that God - and some very nice people too - loves whimps.