Friday, 30 October 2009


This poem by Walt Whitman, Reconciliation, was set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams:

Word over all, beautiful as the sky!
Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in time be utterly lost;
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly softly
wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world:
... For my enemy is dead--a man divine as myself is dead;
I look where he lies, white-faced and still, in the coffin--I draw near;
I bend down, and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.

If you want to hear our choir sing this (and the whole work by Vaughan Williams), then the details of the concert are here.

It's this Sunday at 5.

We're also premiering a new work by Australian composer Andrew Schultz, Beach Burial. Flutes that sound like incoming missiles!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Here's a way for the government to increase happiness

It comes from Ross Gittins:

Many people may doubt whether personal happiness is a matter governments should or could get involved in. Just how would governments go about increasing national happiness?

Well, one good way is to reduce egregious instances of unhappiness. And I'm pleased to see that the Productivity Commission, which you might have thought of as a leading advocate of economic growth as the cure to all ills, agrees with me - at least in relation to one great source of unhappiness: gambling.

According to the commission's draft report, Australians spend - that's to say, lose - about $18 billion a year on gambling. This is about as much as we spend on alcohol and represents about 3 per cent of consumer spending.

Yep; the suggestion is to reduce gambling. Excellent idea!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

When you put it all together and shake it up

Bill Mounce:

When you put it altogether and shake it up, the ESV felt (in line with its translation procedures) that “letter” was too difficult in v 27 and went with “written code.”

If you have even a teensy bit of understanding of New Testament Greek, Bill Mounce is going to help you with his weekly posts on Koinonia. Here's the latest.

You can work out whether his argument succeeds, but it helps understand why, time and again, the ESV footnotes make the ESV a translation worth preaching on.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Jonah 1 and the fear of the LORD

Have you ever noticed that Jonah 1 is chiastic? Start in verse 4 to pick it up

1:1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”

3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.

*A* 4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up.

*B* 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god.

*C* And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.

*D* 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

*E* 7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.

*F* 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”

*G*9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

*G’* 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

*F’* 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

*E’* 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.

*D’*14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.”

*C’* 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging.

*B’*16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

*A’* 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

That is to say, A corresponds to A', B corresponds to B', C corresponds to C', all the way through to G.

The effect of this structure is to make the fear of the LORD the centrepiece, and invite us to compare Jonah's faith with the faith of the pagan sailors, who really do fear God.

Isn't that great?

Fear God!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Friday, 23 October 2009

Obama attempts press censorship

It seems extraordinary for a leader to define a news organization as not a news organization, yet this is what has happened. Obama is not a man who likes criticism.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

This is so important

Here are the two most significant paragraphs in Peter Jensen's address to the gathered Anglicans in Sydney:

I do not doubt, therefore, that our commitment to conservative theology and to a high view of scripture is entirely correct. Only this will carry Christianity forward in a culture such as Australia in the next fifty years. However, I do see signs in our midst of a tension:

I think that some of us will more readily come to terms with culture for missionary
reasons, but not being as careful as we should be about the purity of doctrine, we will
lose the structure of the faith and become effectively Unitarian. The theological weakness will begin, I think, with an impoverished doctrine of sin. From this will come a semi-pelagian anthropology, an exemplarist soteriology and a humanistic Christology. It will probably develop two forms - a wet pietistic one which will still look for spiritual experience, and a dry intellectualist one which will embrace cultural respectability.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Spilt milk

Our friend Sarah's in the paper.

I AM still trying to work out how it happened. How did I buy all that milk and then not notice that it never made it to the fridge?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Spring cleaning

What a simply super idea.

So, once a year, you look around at the pigsty that your house has become.

You take action.

Biggest pile, out the door.

Next biggest pile, out the door too.

Keep going, keep going.

Then when you get to the pile with the Stradivarius and the old stamps, have a break.

Then come back next year, and do it again.

Don't do too much inbetween, and especially, don't buy anything.

The stuff that goes out the door, make sure that the charity of your choice gets first go at it.

"Hello, is this [charity of my choice]?"


"I put some stuff out the front of my house, including the violin that didn't get made by Stradivarius, but by his brother Nokov. Could you come and take it away by Monday please, except for what you don't want?"


Then you sells the rest on eBay, or the council comes by and removes what you couldn't.

You need never clean again, until next time, or until the Lord returns.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A new blog for ministry wives

Nicole Starling and two of her friends have started a new blog for ministry wives, In Tandem.

May our Lord prosper your work!

The art of losing

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

This is a beautiful, shocking poem. Read the whole, here.

by Elizabeth Bishop.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Atheists are fools

Good on you Chappo:

‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”’ (Psalm 14:1)

Psalm 14 knows nothing of political correctness. With disarming clarity it states that the person who claims that there is no God is a fool. I find this a wonderful relief. The atheists I have met always appear to be so sophisticated and clever. I am tempted to feel inferior in their presence and I have been encouraged to hear God’s assessment of them. They are fools.

That's John Chapman speaking in the latest Australian Church Record. Download it and you can find a great, short article by the man himself.

Let's people smuggle

Buried in the last few paragraphs of Miranda Devine's opinion piece in today's SMH is a great idea from Fred Nile:

If Rudd really wanted to show compassion he would back the audacious plan of the Christian Democrat Fred Nile and go into the people smuggling business.

Hosting a meeting yesterday at NSW Parliament House for Christians from Egypt, Iran and Iraq, the upper house MP said he was worried about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, who were desperate to come here and make good migrants. In Iraq, says the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, there are only 400,000 Christians left, down from 1.4 million in 1987. Australia has a special responsibility for the Iraqi people, and from a self-interested viewpoint, Christians are likely to settle more easily into a Christian country than Muslims.

"It's a desperate situation," said Nile. "They're being told 'convert or die'."

Seeing how free and easy the Government has become with boat people, Nile has hatched a plan to bring a boat of 2000 Christian asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia. He wants donations and he dares the Government to stop him.

So how about it?

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A small victory for Roman Catholicism

Mark Thompson notes a small victory for Roman Catholicism:

But the word 'Catholic' literally means 'according to the whole'. The alternative to 'Catholic' in the early centuries was one or other of the schismatic groups — 'Donatist', 'Arian' etc. — which had broken from 'the whole'. (There is, of course, a tremendous public relations coup in the Roman Church labelling itself the 'Roman Catholic Church'.)

Old songs

Phillip Jensen's latest blog entry has a great twist.

You can either click here and read it, or look at the quote below, which ruins the surprise but saves you time:

But there is another lesson that we can learn from this advertisement. It is to have more confidence in our own Christian culture. So often we ape the world and its culture, instead of confidently asserting our own. Here is a song that if we were asked to sing in church, Christians would complain: ‘It is too old fashioned’, ‘does not communicate with the modern age’, ‘is musically very limited’, etc. Yet the world of big advertising budgets listens to that song and hears such a powerful communication possibility, that they make it central to their promotion.

This is what we'll be doing soon.

The Dutch did it

In 1983 Australia won the America's Cup.

I remember waking up early to watch this historic victory.

Now it turns out we lied to make it happen, and Alan Bond (who was behind the effort), was a crook in this matter as in many others.

4:1 Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.

4 Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.

(Ecclesiastes 4)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sick leave

I'm on sick leave with erratic computer access for a week or so, so business on blog and facebook will be slow.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Jesus—all about advertising.

Or something like that.

I have a wee bit of a rant about it on the Sola Panel, here.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Krazy Kat goes a—wooing: Boxcar Blues

[Facebook readers—you gots to click through to see this classic]

2 min 21 sec. Worth it. Slide guitar by Tedd Smith.

Scripture in schools

The dispute over Scripture in schools continues in todays SMH. Hendry Wan got a good one in:

Cameron Sach, a teacher (Letters, September 30), says teachers are engaged in crusades to “instil” (read indoctrinate) ethical attitudes and behaviour in their students from 9am to 3pm, five days a week. If true, why is there a need to have another hour for a special ethics class? Thanks, Mr Sach, you have just made a brilliant argument for special religious education.

Hendry Wan, Matraville

And ths one was terrific as well:

Howard Packer says the education minister will require "the wisdom of Solomon" to sort out the dilemmas surrounding ethics programs and special religious education.

I agree, and I note that when that same King Solomon realised he needed help in ethics ("distinguishing between right and wrong", 1 Kings 3, 9), he sought his ethical wisdom not from the electorate, but from the Lord.

How apt. Apparently Solomon thought knowing the Lord rather than knowing an ethics syllabus was what enabled people to distinguish right and wrong.

Reverend Graeme Howells, Miranda

See more here.

I wrote another letter but it didn't get in. This is what I said:

Cameron Sach (Letters, Sep 30) spectacularly misses a point and shoots
an own goal in the process. I repeat, Scripture classes that I teach
involve almost no ethical instruction whatsoever. They are about
Jesus, his death and resurrection, and how to be rescued from your
sins. But if, as Cameron suggests, the teachers are crusading to
instil ethics 5 days a week, he merely reinforces how unnecessary an
extra hour of such instruction would be. What's left but to agree?

This is a significant battle for people in NSW. I am sure we will keep needing to fight this one, and as part of that we ought to be praying for our kids.