And Jesus was like a breath of fresh air


Once upon a time in Jerusalem there was a church and Jesus blew through it like a breath of fresh air.

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Before the ending of the day 13

There was a garden in that place and a new tomb in which no one had been laid
John 19:41
I first visited the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem in 1988. I returned there to study at St George’s College ten years later and one afternoon re-visited the site and this describes what I saw. Continue reading

Another very influential man

marcus borgI wouldn’t want to be a Christian in the USA. The Christian community there seems extremely divided not only along denominational lines but also theological.

For instance, there is a very clear division between liberal and fundamentalist theologies. This has historic roots from the beginning of the last century. It appears in the educational institutions as well as churches.

This is the background to the life work of Marcus Borg who died in January this year. He was a liberal and progressive Christian believer. He spent his life as a University New Testament scholar and was amongst the founders of the Jesus Seminar. This brought together leading ‘progressive’ academics who attempted to identify what are likely to be the authentic words of Jesus in the gospels. While the venture foundered on its devotion to its chosen tools of analysis, Borg emerged as one of the most interesting and accessible writers of this exercise in liberal Christianity.

I first came across him when I was given a copy of his very personal book: Meeting Jesus Again for the first time. It was to set the tone and approach of many of his subsequent books. Here was no stuffy, argumentative, self- absorbed progressive but a believer who allowed his academic exploration emerge from and return to his own spirituality.

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The Wilderness Experience (2)

Sinai2The experience of a wilderness is often used as a metaphor of spiritual emptiness. In my last post, I described my own experience of staying in the Sinai desert. It taught me not to use the metaphor glibly.

Spiritual emptiness – by which I mean loss of direction and one’s hold on God or your own convictions – may be no more than lack of discipline and persistence. Time spent in a wilderness may be deeply challenging yet at the same time enriching.

Here is another piece I wrote after coming out of the Sinai. It starts with a question Jesus asked of people who went out into wild places around the Jordan valley to meet the prophet John.

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The Wilderness Experience

Sinai 1“Experiencing the wilderness is an expanding and uplifting sensation for the human spirit. It draws us out beyond our selves. An untamed environment, untouched by human beings, whether it is a vast ocean, rain forest, a desert, points to the ultimate mystery at the heart of the world which continually calls human beings to a deeper communion with the Earth and with God”. Sean McDonagh, Irish Columban Missionary and Eco-theologian

I don’t want to argue with Father Sean, but I fear we can be just a little too romantic about the benefits of wilderness spirituality. This is something I wrote after just a few days in the Sinai.

You tell me you are going through a ‘wilderness experience’ in your faith.

So does it mean?

You don’t know whether to sit, stand or walk

Because your backside is so sore?

You long for the sun because it’s so cold at night

And when it comes you are beaten down

By its unrelenting glare?

You’ve seen the tracks of an animal

Walk over you in your sleeping bag

But the maker of the tracks?

You’ve walked into a new place

And left only your footprints?

You’ve walked and walked

And found nowhere to go?

You’ve been confronted by so much honesty

That you feel stripped-bare?

You’ve been seduced?

You’ve felt you’ve lost everything

But been given everything too?

You’ve looked in every direction

And each way forward looks as

Confusing as the other?

And it’s been so quiet

You’ve been afraid to hear

Your heart beat?


Now think!

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The Garden


It is only a place.

A gracious place, somewhat chaotic;

But my sort of place.

Early morning is best.

Bird song and still air;

soft breeze and a kind sun.

It’s all growing well this year.

It was the mild winter:

they say.

But it did not grow.

It has died with the hint

of this season’s buds

in sight. Continue reading