Tag Archives: jesus

Let light shine into darkness

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
John 3:19-21

One of the many things that Jesus promises as part of his kingdom is to expose all the things done in the darkness and to make all things plain. Jesus himself is the shining light, revealing and judging all the evil, bringing justice into every sphere and situation. It makes me simultaneously terrified and excited that he is the Lord.

The TV and twitter are alive in our living room with the news that Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador. We can see images of London police standing at the embassy gates, overlaid with journalists talking about alleged sexual misconduct and file recordings of Hilary Clinton and US military spokesmen describing him as a threat to security.

Julian Assange is not Jesus. I’m also pretty sure he isn’t a Christian. But through Wikileaks he has fostered the exposing of evil things that were done in the darkness. He has exposed the times when soldiers killed civilians and the times when innocent people were detained and tortured in Guantanamo Bay. It turns out nations coming out of Christendom can do evil in the darkness too! Julian Assange may be against Jesus in his heart, in his own personal convictions, but the actions of Wikileaks have come incredibly close to the truth-exposing agenda of the Kingdom of God.

It makes me sick in my stomach to see all these nations conspiring to keep evil deeds hidden. But what scenario will make things better? Julian holed up in the embassy for the rest of his life? Some kind of miracle escape to a foreign country that he will never be able to come home from? And even if he ends up OK, what about all the other horrible and oppressive things that are done without anyone knowing.

The only thing that will make all things better down to their very core will be for the best, most righteous, most merciful judge to come back and shine his light into all the darkness. Come Lord Jesus!

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Prolific day

I have spent a large portion of the day working on a report on Spanish-speaking people in Sydney and the Illawarra. Now I am breaking for lunch – a very appropriate meal of leftover paella.

Digging up stats on people from Colombia is making me melancholy. Our friend Juan returned home to Colombia just over a week ago, after a three and a half year stint of studying, working and deciding whether to stay in Australia. It’s pretty lame not having him around anymore, especially because the change is so permanent. As Juan said just before he left, a part of his life is over, but it kind of feels like a part of Matt and my life is over too. It’s one thing to lose friendships because circumstances gradually change. It’s a completely different thing when a friend moves to the exact opposite end of the world, never to come back, to a place that you will never be able to afford to go to! It’s an irreparable end of friendship.

The one consoling thought is that that when Jesus comes back, hopefully we will all be there, united again despite space and despite language.

Time to get stats for El Salvador.

Scrubs and Suffering

Dr Cox: That was a coincidence.

Laverne: What?

Dr Cox: That knife. It just happened to go in at the exact right spot, you do not get a win for dumb luck.

Laverne: Look. If that’s the way you choose to see the world, then so be it. But don’t you dare try to take this away from me. I’ve been coming in here every day for twenty four years, watching children die and seeing good people suffer. And if I couldn’t believe that there was a bigger plan behind all this well I just wouldn’t be able to show up tomorrow. So just stop it!

Dr Cox: I’m sorry.

Laverne: It’s OK. You’d be surprised how many bad things happen around here for a reason.

Dr Cox: Well I wish I could believe that.

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A Christian perspective of suffering: Laverne is wrong.

The Shepherd is the Lamb

Shepherd is the Lamb – O.C. Supertones

So what becomes of those
small unwanted souls
Who spend their lives breaking their backs?
Those who dig the gold
for the rich and powerful
Who place their feet upon their necks?

I have owned a copy of this song for many years but only recently took the time to listen carefully to its lyrics.

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

“Shepherd” and “Lamb” are very loaded words in the bible, epecially the old Testament.

Why “Lamb”? Throughout Israel’s history, lambs took the place of human beings in sacrifice. In Genesis, Abraham is told to sacrifice his son Isaac, but God provides a lamb to sacrifice instead so that Isaac is spared. In the Exodus, every Israelite family sacrificed a lamb to spare the death of their eldest son during the final plague in Egypt. With the institution of of Israel’s law, lambs became central in Israel’s sacrificial system, regularly slaughtered to symbolise the weight of sin and the death that came from rebellion against God.

And “Shepherd”? The greatest shepherd in Israel was David, the shepherd boy who grew up to be Israel’s greatest king, leading God’s people as a flock.

Of course I get this song. It is about God’s utlimate king and shepherd, Jesus, becoming the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world! (c.f. John 1:29)

Where can the junkies go
when high has laid them low?
Are they truly on their own?
It seems we’ve lost our way
Like sheep we have gone astray
Can anybody lead us home?

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

But listening to it again over the last couple of weeks, I’ve realised that there is so much more to this song and the truth that it seeks to convey. Ultimately this is about the incarnation, the fact that in Christ, God has taken on human flesh and become just like us!

Why were all these lambs being sacrificed? Definitely not for the sake of sacrifice alone. The sacrifice of young sheep wasn’t an end in itself. Lambs were slaughtered because in that moment of being sacrificed they were identified with humanity. It’s not just that the Shepherd has become the sacrificial Lamb, it’s even more than that, it’s that he has become one of us, one of his own flock!

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

Who is the champion?
The friend of the suffering?
Of those who were never born?
The King with the crown of thorns

And I’ll consecrate a verse
To the kingdom in reverse
Where the least are most
And the last will be the first

Following Christ is living in a reversed kingdom. God the creator takes on the flesh of one of his created beings. The all-powerful king indentifies with the lowliest of his subjects. The least are the most. The last are the first.

It is an unsurpassable joy to be in his kingdom, one of his flock, one of his family. It is an unsuprpassable joy to see the world upside-down and to know that justice will come for all of those who are broken by the world.

The Shepherd is the Lamb
Do you understand
That God became a man?
The Shepherd is the Lamb

Summer School 2010 #1

Regarding the multitude of Christian conferences that I attend, I usually try to keep the livejournal record concise, cause I’m concerned about boring people, especially people who have never been on one before. But summer school has been way too awesome to say nothing. So here follows a short series of posts and comments about random things that have grabbed my attention.

We’re almost finished at CMS summer school this year and I’m taking advantage of the free wireless to update during the session. I’m sitting on the asphalt at the back of a giant shed listening to two thousand people singing to God and praying for his kingdom to come. There are a few hundred people singing along in tents outside because we don’t all fit here. When I go outside during the singing there are enough people for the singing to be out of sync. The speed of sound letting me here everyone is slower than the speed of light letting me see everyone. It made me realise just how crazy it could sound when Jesus comes back and the millions or billions of his people sing in all the world’s languages, out of sync due to the slow speed of sound. Crazy!

Dream jobs

I was off work sick yesterday with a headache exacerbated by allergies. In the morning it was a relief to stay home, but by the afternoon I was missing it and ready to go back.

Despite previously mentioned struggles with writing, I really love my job. I’m feeling it today when the writing has cultimated in completed reports. Two of them have reached some kind of end point today. The first one has been sent off to its stakeholders for review, and the second one is being beautified for public consumption. It feel so great when you can look over completed documents and think: here is the fruit of my labour.

Now that the writing is done, I have returned to GIS to fix up a series of maps so they are pretty enough for presentation. It’s nice to be on this software again, there hasn’t been any significant project work that required maps for a couple of weeks. But it’s taking an awfully long time for everything to load, which is bad news for my fingernails. At times like this, I just sit and gnaw at them absent-mindedly as I wait for the screen to load. So it seems a bit more fruitful now to open up notepad and work at an entry. My fingernails are grateful.

Being a researcher and GIS-pro is fantastic, and it’s nice to reflect on all the ways that God has prepared me for this through uni, and my personal interests, and the people who have influenced me. But there are some other dream jobs that I also wouldn’t mind having if I had the right skills and I didn’t have to go through even more training at TAFE or uni.

I love growing things, and I would love to have an outdoorsy job, like a landscape gardener or a conservationist job with National Parks and Wildlife services. Unfortunately, I have heard stories of the enourmous amount of work that my brother-in-law does as a greenkeeper and I’m sure that I don’t have the stamina for it. So my compromise is to wish that I had a more promising green thumb and a little bit of earth (like in The Secret Garden) to grow my own things.

I love making things look nice, and I would love to be some kind of graphic designer. It would be amazing to understand how colour works, and to be a little bit aesthetically sensitive. But I have realised that although I can appreciate things that look good, and I can sharpen up things so they look a bit better, I don’t have the streak of creativity that’s needed to create things from scratch. So I guess for the time being I will enjoy making things look good in the capacity I have: making maps and charts at work and making icons at home.

I love the adrenelin of the stage, and I would love to have a job being a part of it in any way – a musician, a set designer, a sound engineer, a director, a stage hand. As long as it was in the background. I have a big problem with nerves! But where do I even start getting skill sets like these?! And the contacts that I’d need to find a job! And similarly to my problem with being a designer – I lack the particular type of creativity that’s needed here. I’ll be content then with my mum buying me ballet subscriptions (she is fantastic) and trips to see chamber orchestras and gigs and musicals and dance classes at the Sydney Dance Company. Those things are awesome fun in themselves anyway.

I love helping people understand more about who Jesus is, and I would love to do that all the time. The thing is, I already strive to do it all the time. The question I’m only now beginning to ask myself is: Do I personally want to actually do that as a job? (Am I already doing that working for Anglicare?)

For the time being, I am so happy here at Anglicare. I love that my hobbies are my hobbies, and my work is my work, and striving to serve Jesus and the church and his world is a permanent reality that pervades it all. Yeah, I think that is what I have arrived at, and it is good.

Prisons and Jesus. And the Church.

This post is not very well structured…
Today was a prison day.

This morning on the train to work, I was doing my reading for a tute presentation I am doing soon. It’s for my Crime, Punishment and Society subject and it is on the sociology of prisons. I was expecting a history of prisons – the panopticon, and the theory behind why prisons are run the way that they are. Instead all of the readings were the stories of current prisoners in Australian gaols, with a focus on “restorative prisons”.

Reading about restorative prisons sounds like a fantasy. In restorative prisons crimes are presented not committed against the state, but against victims and the community. So victims and the community are involved in their sentence. Prisoners are made more aware of the effect of their crimes on their victims (somehow). The prisoners are given actual jobs to do inside the prison to give back to society, things like repairing goods and donating them to local and international charities. There is more interaction with the wider community. Restorative prisons are not just about running programs though, they are a holistic approach to prisons. All prison staff are taught about new restorative ideas and principles, so they can explore ways for their prisons to incorporate restorative principles, and to increase accountability among staff. A full-time restorative justice consultant works with the highest levels of management in each prison. New prisons are built with less imposing architecture. The goal is for prison to be an experience that helps to keep prisoners socialised and to smooth out their return to society so they are comfortable in the real world. Currently many prisoners re-offend because their lack of life skills and lack of support networks outside of prison leave them no option but to return to crime. Many of the interviewees in the articles expressed the feeling of helplessness outside of prison and the fact that prison becomes a home, despite the harsh conditions inside. It makes me think of the scene in the Shawshank Redemption where the nice old prisoner has been imprisoned for 20 years finishes his sentence and then tries to kill a fellow prisoner so he can stay inside.

Restorative justice sounds like an awesome response, but it has only been actually implemented in Belgium, which doesn’t bode well for liberal welfare states like Australia, the US and England. Scotland had one prison which changed to be more restorative, but I think its funding was cut. Australia has a restorative program in one prison, in Western Australia. It is privately run, and it allows an independent Christian group to run programs with restorative principles. However the prison itself hasn’t changed, and state run prisons around the country show no sign of changing their structures and methods of looking after prisoners.

After I got to work, I went along to the weekly devotion (which I can’t actually justify going along to weekly, because I am not full time, so I go occasionally). Today’s devotion was run by a man called Rob. He heads up the aged care department of Anglicare, but today he had a story about visiting a friend in prison. The whole morning has got me thinking about the crapness of prison and also the necessity of the church stepping up to do more to care for people inside and recently released from prison. If we wait for government policy to catch up, that will take forever. Anglicare has chaplains who go to all the prisons around Sydney, as do many other denominations and church groups, but what about the people who come out and struggle coping in the real world? I’m realising more and more that the church (particularly the one I am in) has immediate ramifications by being lazy about helping the marginalized. I mean, I know we try, but our efforts seem so pitiful. We know to look out for the homeless, new immigrants, the sick and the elderly – although in some of these cases we don’t do so well either. But there are so many types of people who just seem too distant from church culture, and I think that prisoners and recently discharged prisoners fall in the middle of that category.

Think of what Jesus has to offer every human being:
– unshakable love
– acceptance of us at the core of our being
– true humanity
– a resurrection!
– forgiveness for anything and everything we have done
– justice for the wrongs we see in the world
– a heavenly Father
– a global family – real and actual brothers and sisters

And now think about what that would mean to people who have spent years in an institution where they are a problem first and a human second, where no one from the outside can see them or wants to see them, where time passes and your life has no value or meaning. And think about how the church could show love to people who emerge from prison and have no where to go!

What do we do about it?