Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Waking - Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go

The Waking published in 1953 from The Complete Collected Poetry of Theodore Roethke

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Night at the Movies!

Cinema Nova proudly presents
A discussion on The Da Vinci Code

With RMIT academic John Lenarcic and chaplain Robert Whalley
A theoretical examination of the popularity of this cultural phenomenon.

Thursday May 25 at 6.45pm

Join Lenarcic and Whalley in an insightful forum as they consider the theoretical underpinnings of why THE DA VINCI CODE is so popular.

Lenarcic suggests that flirting as it does with the notion of "deity as goddess", Dan Brown's work is at heart a deeply feminist parable. This in part would explain its mega-success. His discussion will view THE DA VINCI CODE as a Rorschach test for modern society: a cultural phenomenon upon which the wider feelings of the interested community are projected - mistrust of authority, for example. In this skepticism of those in control there breeds an obsessive fascination with conspiracy theories in some (Just ask Oliver Stone!). Some would argue that THE DA VINCI CODE is just fiction. Yes, says Lenarcic, but it's actually more like "faction" - the blending of the real and the imaginary. The desire of the public to make it more real than it is perhaps is a reflection of a hunger for greater knowledge in the philosophical sense. The fact that we have THE DA VINCI CODE primers, guide-books, lectures and film forums is a positive sign: Consumers of pop culture don't just crave entertainment, some aspire to a deeper understanding of the experience.

To deepen your understanding of the experience – buy a ticket at the Cinema Nova Box Office today. Screening Followed by discussion. Bookings are essential. Tickets: $14.00/$10.00

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Sixth Sunday in Easter, St. Peter's Eastern Hill

The 20th century poet Robert Frost once wrote something to the effect that you should take the light things seriously and the serious things lightly. That line kept coming to mind this week as I was living with the Gospel for today which is John the evangelist at his most seriously sublime with words that, at least for me, point to the very centre of the good news of the saving love of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Listen:

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love... love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends.”

So how do we, can we, respond to these amazing words? How do we receive this message? How can we listen and live out our lives in light of the - almost beyond belief - possibility that this is all true, that the Good News is this good? That God is with us as a human being giving his life over as a gift, in order to share the road as a friend. God is my friend! I’ve heard that line before – we all have - but still, God wants to be, is willing to be, is here to be, my friend. That’s the line that stayed with me all week: a friend.

It is a surprising turn in this book of the New Testament. On the whole, the Gospel of John has a very high Christology. When he looks at Jesus, He sees a holy priest, a man with great authority who always is at the centre of the scene. That’s his take on it. You would never get a Jesus who is amazed at the disbelief of the crowds, as you do in Mark, you would never get a Gethsemane scene where he asks that cup might not come to him, there’s no sweating blood here. The Jesus that John describes lays down his life with serenity and ease. He proceeds through the actions, signs, miracles, teachings with the majesty of a master with his students, not unlike a Greek sage of the same time. He almost seems slightly above it all.

Except for this line: You are my friends. And that brings another level of discourse, another vantage point to the picture, a different focus, a spaciousness of understanding, of relationship and intimacy that would not be possible if it were not on the horizontal ground of being friends. Seeing God close-up is one thing, Moses sees that and takes off his shoes and trembles, but when God comes close to offer friendship it is another matter, it requires another posture, another response. In this case, this morning, it requires a bit of a detour, so bear with me.

Let me tell you about my friend Greg Eaves. I met Greg in the autumn of 1976. I was taking a seminar on the sociologist Peter Berger, and knew most of the people in the classroom that first day except for this English guy who showed up late and was funny and smart and a little shy. So, we talked a few times and went out for a coffee and a beer after that and the years went by. Now he lives in England and we talk every couple of months and whenever I get there I stay with him and his partner, Julia, and I am hoping that next year they’ll get here for a stay,

But there was one day, maybe six months or a year after we first met, when he was telling me something, and it might have been boring, or something I wasn’t that interested in, - because Greg has a way of going on sometimes, or maybe I was just in a different mood, I don’t know. But when I looked at him at that moment, nattering away about something, I realized that we were friends, not just folk who did stuff together sometimes, but friends. And I knew it was likely that it would be forever, and that who he was and what he did, was, would be, had to be, important to me, was tied up with who I was and what I wanted and this friendship was going to be something that mattered and lasted. And it hit me, in a way I find difficult to understand and not easy to articulate, that this friendship was and would be one of the most important things in my life. And so it has been.

Through good times and bad, job setbacks and personal problems, depressed times, the deaths of parents, health issuers, and breakup of relationships and work woes and all the struggles and pains and glories of being human together. We still get together, after all these years, and we look at each other. Two old guys somewhat battered about by time and toil, and somewhat surprised by the love, joy, life, in the middle of it. Greg plays the guitar and often we start singing old songs from the 60s or 70s, with great noise and rather badly I’ll admit, which Julia thinks is funny, if a bit trying, but she suffers it, as friends do. And it is one of the dearest parts of my life. For friendship is a very common and wonderful thing.

And Jesus, in the Gospel of John for today, calls us friends. That’s the amazing turn; in the middle of this epic prose poem, while the hero moves on towards his freely chosen sacrificial death, he gathers up this rag-tag group: folk who have been following along, getting whatever knowledge, techniques, reassurance, hope, they could gather from what he said and what they saw, and he turns to them and says, “you are my friends.” It is such a surprise, coming in John’s great and glorious Gospel, that this son of God, this sign of love, “how deep. How broad, how high”, should choose to pitch his tent with us in the middle of this muddy journey, as a friend on the way. The joyous scandal of John’s Gospel is that God’s very flesh comes that close, gets familiar with us, calls us to be friends.

Iranaeous, an early Bishop of the church, once said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. We have seen the face of the liveliest human in this Jesus, this Jesus our friend. And there is our hope, that beyond belief and disbelief, beyond doctrine and commandment. Beyond all the plans and politics of the church and the world, there is a relationship of acceptance and presence, of love and delight. God is with us as a friend, with each of us, with all of us! All of us, for friends take on the whole package: our whole selves, our souls and bodies, our doubts and loves, our triumphs and tragedies. With our greatest plans and our deepest fears and failures, the moments of majesties, the times of betrayal - both done to us and by us, bigger than all that. Closer than all that; as we go through all the sad tones and the great music that comes with being human, we find we don’t have to sing it out alone.

For now all this journeying, each of our stories and each of our separate lives are set in this new context, in the company of God, Jesus, as a friend. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, God is willing to come towards us, arms outstretched in friendship to join us, like the father of the prodigal, like love walking in with a human face. In the very middle of the way, every moment, every day, in the very midst of all the painfully outstretched contradictions that come in the business of being human.

Jesus our friend is willing and able to meet us in the very middle of everything, with all the fears of a tentative life and an empty death. He is willing to share the road to the centre of tragedy, to the wondering why, to the time and the site that makes no sense, to the very foot of the cross and further: willing to meet us everywhere, even there, and to be with us close through the middle of it all as a friend will. What if the world is truly that wrought, that complex, that intimate, and we matter that much, to God?

We are here to take that chance, to move into that relationship, to live into that lively truth, that God wills to be intimate with us. What amazing good news it might be! And Jesus said, “You are my friends”.

The Lord be with you.

Friday, May 19, 2006

and another wonderful poem

I read this almost 40 years ago when I was a sophmore at University of Oregon. 1968, when I am told I had a wonderful time. I've forgotten many things since then, but this poem always stays with me. Enjoy it.

On the death of William Butler Years, W.H. Auden

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Far from his illness
The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,
The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;
By mourning tongues
The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,
An afternoon of nurses and rumours;
The provinces of his body revolted,
The squares of his mind were empty,
Silence invaded the suburbs,
The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living.

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom, A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.


You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.


Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;

Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

Have a good Friday, with this wonderful poem!

We awaken in Christ’s body
as Christ awakens our bodies
and my poor hand is Christ, He enters
my foot, and is infinitely me.

I move my hand, and wonderfully
my hand becomes Christ, becomes all of Him
(for God is indivisiably
whole, seamless in His Godhood).

I move my foot, and at once
He appears like a flash of lightening.
Do my words seem blasphemous? - Then
Open your heart to Him

and let yourself receive the one
who is opening to you so deeply.
For if we genuinely love Him
We wake up inside Christ’s body.

where our body, all over,
every most hidden part of it,
is realized in joy as Him,
and he makes us, utterly, real,

and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful,
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in Him transformed

and recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in his light
we awaken as the Beloved
in every last part of our body.

Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)
translated by Stephen Mitchell