By His Wounds


Alleluia. Christ is Risen!

Thomas wants to see the wounds, to thrust his hand into Jesus’ torn
hands and ruptured side. He wants to know that this Jesus is the same
Jesus who died on the cross.

But this is more than an identity parade for Thomas. Yes, this is
Jesus. But there is something about the wounds themselves that draws
Thomas.

St John’s Gospel compares Jesus to the Passover lamb, the sacrifice
that was made annually to celebrate the freedom of the Jewish people.
Their freedom was conditional: the Jews were under the brutal rule of
the Roman Empire, so the freedom they celebrated was a freedom of the
mind and of the heart. No occupying power could take away their
interior freedom, so it was worth celebrating.

John’s idea is that Jesus is himself the sacrifice. The strange thing
is that, for a sacrifice, Jesus doesn’t fit the expectations of the
Jewish people. The lamb to be sacrificed, according to Exodus 12:5,
must be ‘without blemish’. The New English Translation says that the
lamb must be ‘perfect’.

Jesus’ wounds are significant. He is not an unblemished lamb. He is
marked and disfigured by the wounds of the nails and the spear. 400
years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah had a flash of insight: ‘By his
wounds we are healed’. (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus the blemished lamb is
offered to God. The empty tomb on Easter morning proclaims that the
blemished offering is accepted by God.

It is good news that, as a sacrifice, Jesus is not ‘perfect’. It means
that we too do not have to be ‘perfect’ to be acceptable to God. We
come to God wounded and scarred by life and we can have confidence
that God loves us, not despite our imperfections, but with our
woundedness and hurt. By our wounds, we are healed.

The Easter proclamation is that heaven is for human beings –
imperfect, blemished, scarred. God does not ask for our perfection;
like Thomas, God asks to see our wounds. God asks for the marks to
prove we have opened ourselves to love, that we have been vulnerable,
and we know the pain that scratches all our attempts to love.

+++

I’ve tried to express this in sonnet form:


Behold, the blemished Lamb of God, and scarred
with unhealed woundings of the nails and spear,
Thomas seeks to know what it was that marred
pure God to now mutilated appear.


Thomas had seen his rising power before,
No question that God could raise the son of Nain,
But why upend complete Prophets and Law
and accept a sacrifice of bloody stain?


And then he saw altar priests cutting throats
and the violent contest of sacred police,
then the deep purpose of the Bible’s quotes:
to bring violence to an end with world’s peace.


The end of religion flashed before Thomas:
in faith and love alone the godly promise.


–       John 20:24-31
–       Luke 7:11-17

The shroud of Turin. Image Kelly P. Kearse was

The suffering, the forgotten: Good Friday


The Disappeared
(The Dictatorship, Argentina, 1976 – 1983)

They’re rolling bodies from the soiled airplane,
they’ll hose the cargo hold when all are gone.
Did they cry ‘Our Father’ before were slain
not by the sea but by all who looked on?

Truth: so hard to hear that we dismiss it.
With Pontius, hands are washed in hypocrisy.
Not us, in crimes in our name complicit,
We choose systemic evil not to see.

We leave to Jesus burden of the cost,
to carry the pain, to accept the blame.
We roll him out and dump him with the lost:
For this he was born, and for this he came.

Look on, he becomes our mocking mass song.
Onlookers, felons – we compose the throng.

  • Lamentations 3:63
  • John 18:37
  • Ted Witham
  • Published in Sonnets for Sundays
The mothers of the disappeared – Argentina

This Good Friday I pray for the poor and oppressed.  

Jesus suffering on the cross is Jesus suffering with the oppressed.

  • I pray for children and women and men in refugee camps in Syria and in neighbouring countries and around the world.
  • I pray for the people of Gaza.
  • I pray for people in the slums of Mumbai and Lagos and in the barrios of Rio de Janeiro.
  • I pray for women and other vulnerable people trafficked in many parts of the world.
  • I pray for civilians caught up in conflict situations.
  • I pray for health-workers, including Médecins sans frontiers, and for other humanitarian workers, who are dedicated to helping the poor and oppressed.

On these people, and people like them, the heaviest burden of the Covid-19 pandemic will fall.

Refugee camp, Somalia – courtesy UNHCR

The featured image, ‘Jesus Falls for the Second Time’, comes from the Stations of the Cross, Church of Notre Dame des Champs, Normandy, France.
Image courtesy: Paul Davis

Talking the Talk


Israel Folau has been sacked. Rugby Australia could have handled the situation differently. But in the end, it was Folau’s own doing, and he knew it, so cannot escape responsibility. To his credit, it appears that he accepts his punishment.

Folau knew how his post would be heard. He claims it was written in love:  what he posted was bound to be heard as the opposite.

I think I have some credibility to comment on this: for four years I was the CEO of an inter-denominational Christian agency. Our main ministry was in a secular context. I learned that I was constrained in what I could say. Very constrained. But paradoxically, I learned that I could say anything at all – if I said it the right way. 

Effective communication requires you to think yourself into the shoes of the audience. It requires understanding their context, and, specifically, to communicate Christian truth, you must appreciate their beliefs: what they believe and how they express it.

Israel Folau’s post was based on I Corinthians 6:9-10. He added to it the command to ‘Repent’ and ‘Jesus saves.’ He invokes God’s mercy for repentant sinners, a central Christian teaching. However, I Cor. 6:9-10 was not written for non-believers: it was written for ‘brothers and sisters’. What is more, it was written for believers of the 1st Century. Its language does not cut through in the 21st Century; or it cuts through in the wrong way.

Folau’s Instagram followers include non-believers. If he was genuinely warning sinners to repent, then he should have known that they would not hear his message that way. He had already amended I Cor. 6:9-10 to include mercy for the repentant: he could have ditched “hell” and crafted a sermon to be heard!  

A Date with Australia

Should they protest until change happens, or should change happen by changing the mainstream celebration?


Ngaala kaaditj Noongar moort keyen kaadak midja boodja

On Australia Day in 2013, I blogged as a native, but not indigenous, Australian that we should prize the anger that comes from seeing this day as Invasion Day: anger that fuels social justice and reconciliation. I believed that we should celebrate the Aboriginal culture, with its complexity, subtlety and beauty, that has survived as Survival Day, and even rejoice in the culture that came from Europe but which has now been modified by its exposure to Aboriginal culture.

Australians all, let us rejoice seemed to be the theme of my blog six Australia Days ago. I still think my piece said it well for a whitefella.

But there has been a change in six years. The #changethedate campaign has made Australians more uncomfortable about celebrating on Invasion Day. But that campaign and others has also had another effect: it has empowered Aboriginal people to make something else of Australia Day.

Yothu Yindi. Photo Mushroom Music

Yesterday on the ABC I watched a smoking ceremony, I was welcomed to Eora country, I heard Yothu Yindi sing Tjapana and Treaty, I thrilled at superb didjeridoo playing, I was intrigued by those who spoke in language, and I felt unexpectedly proud when Advance Australia Fair was sung in an Aboriginal tongue.

It was an ABC concert, so I wasn’t surprised that actor and PlaySchool presenter Luke Carroll acted as one of the hosts, but his presence was a pointer to the extent to which the concert was coloured black! It was an Aboriginal takeover, and I felt moved. I felt pride that this was our land, and I felt warmly welcomed into its deep culture. 

There were intense emotions expressed on the streets of capital cities at Invasion Day marches, and it is obvious that not all Indigenous people agree on strategy: should they protest until change happens, or should change happen by changing the mainstream celebration?

Source: Getty

Whichever is the most effective strategy, Aboriginal people are speaking loudly. They must say whether Australia Day can be rescued or whether we can only express our belonging together on a day without the historical resonances of invasion and frontier wars.

I for one look forward to a celebratory date with Aboriginal and all Australians.

How to Use Power to Make a Better World


1743540132-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Jeremy Heimans & Henry Timms, New Power: How power works in our hyper-connected world – and how to make it work for you, Sydney: Macmillan 2018.

ISBN 9781743540138; Available online from $25

 

Reviewed by Ted Witham

You would have to say that the Coalition Government is terrified of the progressive membership organisation GetUp! Not only are there more members of GetUp! than there are of the two main parties combined, but GetUp! has proven expert in using ‘New Power’ to advance specific agendas. Despite two attempts to pass legislation to clip GetUp’s power, the Government has not succeeded in destroying the organisation.

New Power reveals some of the thinking behind GetUp! and its international counterpart Avaaz. Heimans and Timms describe ways to mobilise a community using social media, how to spread ideas, raise funds, and gather participants for action. They use case-studies like Uber, Donald J. Trump, #MeToo and Reddit to show how people seeking change blend old power with new power to influence others.

 

Participation Scale
page 71

 

Some like candidate Trump used new power to consolidate old power values. The TED organisation spreads ideas by mixing old and new power to retain quality control of TED talks and invite wider participation through TEDx talks. Through this blend of power, Pope Francis and Candidate Obama are ‘Crowd Leaders’ using new power techniques to further new power values. After his election, however, President Obama became more a ‘Cheerleader’ using the old power structures of the presidency to further new power values.

ISIS is a clever manipulator of new power techniques in the service of old power.

The authors of New Power, Australian Jeremy Heimans and Briton Henry Timms write from experience. Heimans, co-founder of GetUp, began that organisation in 2005, before smart-phones and the spread of social media, with the intention of harnessing the internet to spread progressive ideas and change Australia for the better.  Timms is CEO and President of 92 Street Y, a ‘cultural and community center that creates programs and movements that foster learning and civil engagement’.

I read the 324-page book in a 48-hour period. The writing is engaging; the stories are fascinating. The implications for action, whether in leadership or in engagement with one’s community are clearly described.

Anyone interested in changing the world – bringing home the refugees from Nauru, stopping the environmental depredations of Adani, or just reminding your politician that you vote – will find good food for thought in New Power.

 

 

 

Poems A Head


Head coverIvan Head, The Magpie Sermons: Poems 2005-2017, Sydney: St Paul’s College 2017.  

Hardcover. Available for $35 from 48header@gmail.com 

Reviewed by Ted Witham  

This collection of nearly 50 poems is the second for Ivan Head. Dr Head is a West Australian priest, former director of AIT and Canon of St George’s Cathedral, who has spent the last 27 years as Warden first of Christ’s College in Hobart and then of St Paul’s College within the University of Sydney. He and his wife Christine are now moving into retirement in Sydney. 

Many of the poems have been published in Quadrant (where Les Murray is the poetry editor), the West Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. Their presence in those publications suggests their high quality. 

Ivan is a poet who celebrates birds and flowers, trips by train and trips to London and the US. In some the words tumble just to celebrate language: 

Montezuma met a Puma going to the fair
Said Montezuma to the Puma let me taste your ware. 
Said the Puma
to Montezuma  
No I prefer my fare rare and so he ate him then and there.  

Many of the poems are complex with multiple levels of meanings. I enjoy recognising the double- or triple-meaning, but also knowing there may be more levels that I don’t get. In Swan River, Ivan reflects on boyhood memories of throwing a kylie, or thrusting a home-made gidgie towards a Cobbler.  And then: 

A boy knows that prawns rest beneath the sand by day. 
It is like knowledge of the Pleiades. 
Under the Narrows Bridge I stood for hours and left a line out all night just in case 
Something big went past.  

After the series of Noongar words and the reference to arcane knowing, the pleasure of ‘Something big’ might mean a fish to catch, or, it might mean deep knowledge of culture, Aboriginal and Western. And it might mean something even bigger.  

An undercurrent of Christian faith and theology, which on occasion rises to the surface level of the poems, holds them in a strong web of meaning.  

Ivan has a strong ear for the music of words, their sound and rhythm. All his poems are free-form and show the influence of modernist and Beat poetry.  

I found real pleasure in their Australianness. The poems are about the plants and animals of Cookernup (near Bunbury), Perth and Sydney. They are about our childhoods in the 1950s. Even when the subject is not directly Australian, Ivan’s attitude is. He punctures pomposity. Here he reduces the English Reformation to Henry VIII’s armour. 

…. And now he’s gone, 
the ghost isn’t in the machine. 
Just the carapace remains 

And what the commentator 
gawks at for the screen 
is the gigantic iron cod-piece 

With nothing in it.  

The Magpie Sermons is printed on quality high-gloss paper and bound simply in a hardcover embossed with gold leaf.  

Poetry lovers will enjoy reading, and re-reading, these poems of celebration, irony, contemplation and joy.  

 

 

9661-004-427119f4
Narrows Bridge 1963