|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the particular spiritual sayings I often return to is from the Irish poet-priest John O’Donohue: ‘When you see God as an artist, everything changes.’ We are so used to hearing about God as a law-giver, an instructor, and/or a judge, that we can so easily miss this central truth of living faith. Of course, law and specific guidelines and moral codes can help us in our lives. Yet we have often so over-emphasised the will, and judgement, of God almost to the exclusion of the imagination and creativity of God. That is one reason to look at Van Gogh’s great painting of the Sower at Sunset alongside the parable of the Sower and the Seed in today’s Gospel. For we are helped by viewing the parable as art. Indeed, we might see Jesus’ life and teaching as so much more a great artwork than a set of rules, never mind a clear blueprint for living. Like a great artwork, the parables particularly invite us into fresh perspectives, and encourage us to become artists of our own lives, sharing in God’s imagination and creativity…
If, metaphorically speaking, one of the capital cities of Australia represented the earliest forms of the Christian Church, which would it be? One answer, for me, at least in terms of an old joke, would be Perth. For remember how that old joke went: in Sydney, they ask ‘how much money do you have?’ – little sadly has changed in recent decades; in Melbourne, they ask ‘which school did you go to?. in Adelaide – times have changed - they ask ‘which church do you go to?; and, in Perth, they ask ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’
Now, there is a good deal more to it than that. Yet, when they gathered together, there would have been a degree of truth in some of the earliest Christians asking one another ‘so what did you come here to get away from?’ That, as we can see from Gospel passages such as that we heard today (Mark 6.1-13), is part of the early Jesus movement story. It was also very much about where Jesus and his earliest followers were headed to. Yet what they were getting away from is vital to understand. For why did Jesus do no great deeds in his hometown? And why did he counsel his first followers to travel light, and be prepared to shake the dust off their feet, even if it meant enduring the metaphorical equivalent of crossing the Nullarbor?...
Today’s Gospel lectionary reading (Mark 4.20-34) invites us into Jesus’ way of communicating, which is not just about speech, even accompanied by silence and action. It is a way of being, a way of living: a way of living as parables, a way of being as artists…