|Pen and Ink Reflections||
The traditional patterns of the Christian season of Advent are difficult to maintain in our contemporary Australian culture. Yet its themes of hope, peace, joy and love are as essential as they have ever been. They bring us back to the heart of biblical faith and its meaning for us all. In a real sense they are the true gifts of what we receive at Christmas. This is certainly true of today’s gift – that of hope – so vital for our times. For when we look at our world it can be easy to feel despair. There are also plenty of people ready to play on our fears and anxieties: cynics and doomsayers who suggest that the conflicts we see are only going to get worse and that there is little cause for hope. Yet there is nothing new in this. Our gospel reading today was written in just such a time of fear and anxiety and it invites us above all to wake up and to pay attention to the things of God, when we find ourselves in times that promote fear…
The great English cricket commentator John Arlott once flew to South Africa during the apartheid era. As the plane neared South Africa, he was given a landing card to fill in. The first question asked for his name - no problem. The next question however asked for his race – a much more difficult query, loaded with political and other consequences. So Arlott thought for a moment and then he wrote down the word ‘human’. When he handed the card over at arrival, the South African border control officer looked at it and glowered at him furiously. Arlott was immediately denied entry and put straight back on a plane to the UK. So, I wonder, what would you or I write in such a circumstance? Today’s Gospel reading has a similar ring. Pilate, following so many others in his day, was trying to stick a label on Jesus, to pigeon-hole him so that he could be fitted in or excluded. Jesus, however, was having none of it. ‘What is truth?” Pilate said. It is a question which continues to reverberate down the centuries, especially when we are tempted, and even encouraged, to define and label others...
If we were police detectives trying to work out why someone had died, we would try to retrace that person’s last steps, wouldn't we? We would work out where they had been, what they were doing, and, crucially, who they were with. For this would, very likely, help give us a picture of why that person had died. Yes? So what happens, do you think, if we look at the last steps of Jesus? Where was Jesus in his last days? What was he doing? And with whom was he associating? The answers are illuminating. In Mark’s Gospel particularly, they are all connected with justice…