Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

How do we maintain security in a changing world? According to Tevye, the Jewish Milkman in the famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, the answer is “tradition, tradition, tradition”.

I think there was a time when I thought Christianity was protected by tradition, and that the traditions of Christianity could protect me from the evils of the world.  My post today is another in my “Amazing Meetings” series. It’s an interview with someone who puts a different slant on tradition in the amazing meeting he had with Jesus.

As you read this interview, please share your thoughts in the comments box, and refer this blog to your friends.

fiddlerHello. You’re described in Matthew’s Gospel as a disciple of John. Who is John and how did this meeting with Jesus develop?

Hi, John is actually Jesus’s cousin. But his mission in the early days was to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. He was what you may call a hippy. He lived in the desert, didn’t shave or cut his hair, wore alternative clothing and had a diet that was something else. There were a group of us who became his followers. We got into the alternative stuff like him and we were very serious about all the Jewish laws. Especially fasting.

Why was that?

Well, John believed that if we were serious about our religion we should follow the law right down to the last jot.

So why did you go to see Jesus?

Well, that’s the thing. John was really strong on keeping the law, but we watched Jesus and his disciples and they seemed to be the very opposite. They didn’t fast, and in fact they kept going to these parties with people like Levi and his slimy mates.

So a couple of us went to see Jesus’ and ask him what was going on. We wanted to know why John expected us to follow the law in everything, but Jesus didn’t seem to have the same constraints on his disciples.

So what did he say?

It was a fascinating answer. He basically told three short stories. First of all he said, how can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while is with them. Then he talked about putting a new patch on a piece of old clothing, and how the new patch is likely to stretch and pull away from the clothing. Then his third illustration was about not pouring new wine into old wineskins.

So was he talking about himself when referred to the first story?

Yes, I think so. As I watched his disciples I could see that being with Jesus was so good, that the religious traditions actually didn’t make any sense. He wasn’t bound by the law at all – really free – but he didn’t do anything wrong. He maintained a lifestyle that was enjoyable, but there was nothing about it that was offensive, or destructive, or selfish.

So what do you think he meant about the patch on the clothing and the wineskins?

What I thought he was saying was that the Jewish law wasn’t to be thrown out; the traditions of the past had their place. But if you’re introducing something new, it had to be brand new, and not influenced by the past.

The new movement that Jesus was introducing – he called it the Kingdom of Heaven – was so radically different and new that it wouldn’t be effective if it was tied down by traditional thinking and legalities.

Does that mean we should throw out all the old traditions?

No, Jesus was really showing that his teaching should interpet the traditions and old laws and not the other way around. If you pour new wine into old wineskins the old wineskins will burst and you’ll lose all the wine.  If Jesus new teaching was made to fit the old traditions and laws, it would irreparably damage all that was good in the past.

Instead, Jesus preserved the past as a way of preparing for the future, and implemented a whole new way of thinking about life.

Thanks for that insight. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the new ways of Jesus.

To read the story for yourself see Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:18-22, Luke 5:33-39

I thought it was time to dig back on some old posts on a previous blog I was writing for a while.  Coming from the background of a journalist, I thought I’d tell the stories of Jesus from the perspective of someone interviewing one of the people who was with Jesus at the time. Hope you find this helpful:

189 - Jesus is Anointed by the Sinful WomanHey Simon, thanks for the opportunity to talk to you. I’m told you had a rather interesting meeting with Jesus.  How did it come about?

I invited Jesus over to my place for dinner with a few friends.

But you’re a pharisee. Your lot aren’t exactly Jesus’ biggest fans

You’re right there. I’ve given him my fair share of criticism over the years, but there’s something about Jesus that I wanted to know more about.  I thought that if I had him over to dinner, we may get to understand where he was at.

Were you surprised that he accepted your invitation.

You bet. He has dinner with all the low life in town, but he doesn’t usually eat with us. Probably because we’re usually trying to trick him with our philosophical questions. It was a real honour that he accepted my invitation.

So I believe you had a gatecrasher?

Yes this woman walked in, right in front of us all. She was a real mess. She was crying as though something really bad had happened. I figured she must have been abused or something.

Did you know her?

Er… well… I didn’t actually know her.  But the other guys said she was a sex worker. They said she was pretty well known …that is … known by reputation.

So what did she do?

She went straight over to Jesus, got down on her knees and started washing his feet with her tears. Then she brings out this bottle of perfume. It wasn’t a little bottle, must have cost quite a lot, and began pouring it on him.

How did you feel about that?

I was mad as a cut snake. I mean I live in a respectable neighbourhood.  A nice dinner party with good friends. Everything was just right and in walks someone who I wouldn’t normally let anywhere near my house, and Jesus just allows her to blubber all over him. It was disgusting.  Funny thing, his friends didn’t seem to be worried about who the woman was.  They just complained about the waste of money because of the expensive perfume she was using.

Did Jesus say anything about what was going on?

Well he didn’t stop the woman. He just let her go, but he leaned over to me and tells me a story.

A story? What sort of story?

Well he said there was this businessman who was owed money by two people. One of them owed him five hundred denarii and the other 50. When they couldn’t pay, he said he would overlook the bill and let them both off. Then he asks, now which of them will respect the businessman more?

Did you answer him?

Yes, of course, I said it would be the person who was let off the biggest amount.

Did he agree with you?

He points to the woman and says, I’ve been in your house for dinner, you didn’t give me anything to wash my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears. You didn’t offer any sort of affection but this woman has been kissing my feet ever since she walked in the door. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, as the custom is, but she hasn’t stopped anointing my head with perfume.

That must have hurt?

Funny thing is it didn’t hurt. It just made me realise that here was someone who didn’t have any of the privileges I had, but she was offering Jesus a whole lot more than I was. When he said: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little loves little,”  I suddenly realised how little I was prepared to give to Jesus.

Will this meeting with Jesus have any ongoing effect on your life?

I’ve got to think about this a bit more. I feel as if there is something really special about Jesus. I’ve been pretty mean to him over the years, but he just accepted me, and seemed to really care about me.  He was quite right about how I had treated him. I gave him dinner, but it was probably more about the social acceptance than anything else. But this woman who had nothing going for her, expressed herself in a way I couldn’t. I think there must be something else that I need to do for Jesus.

Simon, thanks for sharing your story.

Read the story for yourself at Luke 7:36-50; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9

starMay the Fourth Be With You.  Yep, it’s International Star Wars Day and all over the world people are walking around saying “may the force be with you” – with a lisp. It’s an appropriate day to ask why themes of religion and philosophy and the battle between good and evil, prove to be such a winner in movies. From Star Wars to Matrix, the Lion King and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, we seem to have an interest in exploring deeper issues vicariously on the silver screen.

The “Force” in Star Wars is an energy that can be harnessed by those who have the ability to do so. It is an energy field that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. While the Jedi use the Force for good, the Sith use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy.

I suspect that our fascination with the battle between good and evil is because there is a reality about it that we bump into at various levels. Every day in the newspaper and on the TV news we hear about hoons, bashings, robberies and unsociable behaviour. We don’t like it and argue loudly that the government should do something about it. But deep down we know that we are only a step away from behaving badly ourselves.

There’s a sign of that struggle in the words of Jesus, when he said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The struggle between good and evil is evident at the deepest level of our beings and very often we find the drag towards the dark side stronger than the desire to do good. Even the Apostle Paul felt this struggle when he said, “what a wretched man I am” after making the comment: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

Fortunately, he finished off his rant by saying: Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is an answer to the ultimate battle between good and evil and it’s not in some nebulous “force”, but in the reality of Jesus who took the battle to the place of death on the cross where he became the ultimate overcomer, not through force but through love.

John put it this way: This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.






He was born like most people …

As we head towards Easter it’s a question we need to ask. Here’s what U2 frontman Bono has to say. What do you think?

We participated in a great activity at Messy Church on Saturday night, creating a web that filled the whole room.  We then pinned prayers to the web and reflected on the way in which God hears our prayers, no matter how messy the situation in which we find ourselves. Take a look at this video showing the results of the evening’s activity:

There are a few things that the church should be doing. The church was established to worship but it was also sent out to represent Jesus in the marketplace. At different times in history, and at different locations, the marketplace may differ.  For one person it is their place of work, to another their golf club, to another their school or university, and to another it is with their friends in the coffee shop.

Yesterday Maida Vale Baptist Church was at one of the marketplaces where we have found a spot each year for a number of years. We spent the day at the Zig Zag Art and Craft Festival in Stirk Park, Kalamunda, where we ran a kids craft activity.  It was a full day’s work, spending time with hundreds of kids and their parents and grandparents. We weren’t there to preach, but simply to represent Jesus and to make a contribution to the lives of people and to the community as a whole.

It was a joy to see the smiles on the kids faces as they participated in activities they had never done before, like gluing, creating, drawing, and enjoying the day with their families and friends. And it was good to hear the comments from parents and grandparents who appreciated what we were doing for their families.

It’s good for the church to be in the marketplace.





There are a few people who are “followers” of my blog which means that you get advice that I’ve made a new post and if you’ve got time you will read it.

Thanks for your support. I appreciate that people read what I have to say, and that they can benefit from my ramblings.

But I’ve been thinking about the Facebook type of following and the sort of following that Jesus talks about.

Yesterday in church I spoke about an incident that was recorded in Luke’s Gospel about a time when Jesus was walking along the road surrounded by a big group of people.

There were those people who we refer to as the “disciples” but there were others who joined Jesus and took part in a conversation about what it meant to be a “follower” of Jesus.

One man promised to be a follower of Jesus, but Jesus had to remind him that he didn’t  have a home of his own so following him would cause him to risk the usual comforts of life.

Jesus invited a second person to follow him, and he agreed to the idea, but put it off until some of his plans were sorted out. He made the comment that he needed to bury his father first.  I suspect that his father wasn’t even dead yet and following Jesus was something that would happen at a later, and more convenient, date.

A third person was really keen to follow Jesus but needed to go home and say goodbye to the family first. You still get the idea that it was a delaying tactic.

It seems there was a clear distinction between the disciples, that group of men who had given up their fishing, tax collecting, and other businesses, to follow Jesus, and some of the other people who were walking along the road with Jesus at that time, talking about the issue of following.

It seems that we can be fellow travellers with Jesus, but not followers in the way in which Jesus was inviting people to follow. That we can be like “blog followers” who can pick and choose what that following will look like.

When Jesus invited people to follow him, he didn’t just ask them to tick a box and read his blogs when we had time. He was asking for a level of commitment to him that involved putting him first in every aspect of our life.


I’ve added a couple of posts during the week that you may have missed. The Science of Happiness is a great video about the power of gratitude. And for a bit of light relief, look at The View from an Aeroplane Lavatory and follow the link to see some more great pics.

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

These are the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28 in “The Message”. When we feel under pressure, stressed or tired we need to find a way to re-energise ourselves, and Jesus says, walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it.”

As we read through the Gospels we discover that Jesus’ approach to life was like breathing – in and out.  He would spend time in high energy ministry, with people coming and going, constantly demanding his time.  The next minute you would find him alone on a hillside in prayer.

This is the dance of life, the unforced rhythms of grace …. taking time to gain sustenance from God away from the busy-ness of life, then giving out with enthusiasm and energy that had been gained in solitude.

I’m still learning this dance, but I hear Jesus’ invitation and it makes sense.


During October and November I will be doing a series of talks at Maida Vale Baptist Church on the subject of discipleship. What is discipleship? Well, the word comes from the group of 12 people who followed Jesus during his time on earth – disciples, followers, or learners.

Another word may be apprentice. An apprentice is someone who learns on the job. That’s the whole idea behind discipleship.  Not just following Jesus, but learning from him, and putting his teaching into practice … on the job.

The interesting thing is that not only did Jesus call 12 people to follow him, and learn from him, but he also told them to go and make disciples. It seems that part of learning on the job is passing on what you’ve learnt to another apprentice who passes on what they’ve learnt to ….

Here’s a video I have put together about the series, The Art of Discipleship.  Hope you like it.