The ruling by idiots
voted in by idiots
for the purposes of idiotically screwing the world

[Don’t do it America,
all the signs of what he is are there,
listen to everyone who cares,
don’t listen to him,
don’t become like him,
don’t vote for him]


resurrection in your bones

Resurrection in your bones

as you dip your toes
in the waters of life
testing the resurrection in your bones

prepare to be wounded
not only by what comes at you
but by the repeating litany of your failings

prepare to be tortured
the gap between what is and what will be
is the place you are to inhabit and you must remain unsettled

prepare to be tempted
people will demand clarity and you will seek to deliver it
even though it is next to impossible to explain what you have barely glimpsed

as you embrace the fears that threaten to contain you
and engage the forces that truly are fearsome
the One who sends the light will attend to that which is beyond your powers,
blessing you as you brace yourself against the ploughshare forged from the sword

martin stewart 2016

In memory of Daniel Berrigan SJ (9 May 1921 – 30 April 2016)

The Treadmill – Going for ages to get nowhere

In recent times an anomaly has occurred.  Humans (not beasts) have gone voluntarily to treadmills.


In ancient times the treadwheel was a machine driven by oxen or humans to pump water or grind grain.  The only way they worked was if the beast or human kept walking.  The beasts were tethered – they had no choice.  The humans protested.  Consequently tethered humans were used – people in prison.  Both were driven by the whip. Both beast and human were diminished by the experience.

In recent times an anomaly has occurred.  Humans (not beasts) have gone voluntarily to treadmills.  With hand grips and mechanised floors (adjustable for fast or slow, run or walk) these treadmills exist in gyms made of concrete, glass, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors.  They exist in abundance.  People pay to be tethered to them Continue reading

Santa’s new imposition

As if it isn’t enough that Santa has inserted himself into the Christmas story of the birth of Jesus, now Santa has imposed himself on the eucharist/holy communion  – at least here in NZ on the new Pack’n’Save supermarket billboards…

See what I mean

The old version – Da Vinci’s Christ at the Last Supper:

last supper

The new: Pack’n’Save’s Santa Last Supper, though I do not know which part of the eucharistic prayer has been reinterpreted as ’tis the season to be savey!
pacnsave last supper


Preening & Prancing and a Culture of Entitlement

Over the last few weeks Anne and I have been reflecting on the observations Jesus made (in Mark 12:38-44) about the preening and prancing of the scribes… “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

The contrast is the widow who gives her all, ironically, to fund the preening and prancing scribes.

A sense of entitlement is prevalent in our society and has been picked up by the advertisers who keep telling us that we deserve things.

I wonder about the challenges this sense of deserving more and more presents for our society and world?  It seems that we have developed an expectation that the world owes us a good living.  If that means that a significant proportion of the world’s human population has to live with the smallest proportion of things in order to prop up our lifestyles – then so be it.

Coupled with this is a mentality that the earth owes us something and we are prepared to plunder and exploit its resources for maximum profit and, if we cause climate change and some of our poorer low-lying countries sink, well, that is just collateral damage!

In Psalm 24:1-2 it states: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for God has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.’

I wonder where we got the idea that the earth is ours and all that is in it?
That represents a major theological shift from the stated position in Psalm 24!

In this land of plenty it is challenging to counter the cultural forces that suggest that we deserve more and more.

Maybe a way to live in another framework is to cultivate gratitude for what we have rather than give into the cravings for more.

Brené Brown has some useful things to say on this including this quote:
“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.”


NZ MMP voting and the demise of representation in the electorates

In NZ we have a Mixed Member Proportional voting system for our 121 member Parliament. The system was voted in in the 1990s.  I voted for it and would still advocate for a system that reflects the diversity of the populous rather than the straight first past the post system we had before that.

But there are losses.  The loss of the connection with the electorates being the major one as the electorates have become very large. Only 71 of the members of parliament represent electorates.  The others, put up by the political parties may be active in the areas where they reside, but the fact remains that there is a disconnect primarily in the area of accountability.  The votes to win in elections are the party votes as that ultimately determines the ruling party (either through a clear majority, or through some kind of coalition arrangement with other parties).  Thus, when the general election is held, the concerns of the regions of the country are secondary to the collective vote.

We vote for the party we want rather than the candidate who represents us.  In my view, this was accentuated in the last election where, in the area where I reside, the electorate MP, Hon. Gerry Brownlee, was voted in by a resounding majority, despite his virtual absence from the electorate, his unwillingness to participate in any pre-election ‘meet the candidate’ meetings, and his blatant bullying of the city of Christchurch in his role as earthquake recovery minister.  If only the man would demonstrate just an ounce of a capacity to listen!

By way of contrast, when an electorate by-election was held this year, an impoverished and considerably neglected electorate, Northland, got to stamp its feet and make a statement to the government whose party had won the seat in last year’s election by a considerable majority.  Granted, by-elections can be grump-fests, but it became very obvious that aside from fly-by visits and the promise of a few bridges ‘if they won’, the government had little sense of the needs of the electorate and next to no imagination in how to attend to the challenges.  It opened the door for NZ’s great fluffy-duck opportunist MP, Winston Peters to grab the limelight.  While that should never have happened, it is a far better situation for the electorate than what they had had to put up with for years under the previous MPs.

So what to do?  I am afraid that the middle ground voters who tend to decide NZ elections have been coaxed and manipulated into a dull stupor of indifference (‘I’m ok therefore everyone is ok’, when everyone is clearly not ok!), and, the people who could make a mark – some one million potential voters, simply don’t trust anyone so they stay away from the polling booths.

I like the idea of a clutch of seasonal electorate by-elections in mid-terms.  It is a way of forcing ruling governments to listen to the people and be accountable for their policies.  What say we had five of these each 3 years – just enough to make the majority coalitions nervous – just enough to check and balance the purpose of representation which is at the heart of a democracy.  Just a crazy idea from a frustrated voter.

Nelson Mandela

The final release has come for Nelson Mandela today…
Without a doubt he has been the highest profile world personality in my lifetime – a humble giant of a man who learned the ways of radical grace and non-violent peace-making despite being held captive by a racist and violent regime that believed it had some sort of biblical mandate for its actions.
I imagine he hoped for more than has so far been achieved in South Africa, but look at how much has been achieved!  In some ways the test of his leadership will be now when those who have revered him walk on into a new day without his presence.
Achieving greatness is not what can be said about many human beings – most people in power readily trip over themselves when overly adored by the crowd.  But Nelson Mandela was truly great – not in a shouting from the rooftops style (not great at all!), but in humble sacrificial service, wise and careful words, patience, kindness, gentleness…
The long walk to freedom has been completed.


silly old guy fawkes

Te Whiti being led from Parihaka - source: Wikipedia

Te Whiti being led from Parihaka – source: Wikipedia

This evening New Zealanders in their droves mark the failed bid to blow up an English parliament several centuries ago by lighting expensive imported fireworks of average beauty to the bewilderment of me (and others) and to the downright fear of my scared animals.

On this day, 5 November 1881, an illegal raid was carried out on the village of Parihaka in Taranaki on New Zealand’s North Island Te Ika-a-Maui where the peaceful protesters were either beaten, raped, or sent south to work in Dunedin as slave labourers held without trial.  The injustice was immense, but the thread of the gospel was stronger thanks to the stunning leadership of the chiefs Te Whiti O Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi.

Now that’s a story worth marking with decent celebratory public fireworks displays in the towns and cities of Aotearoa New Zealand each 5 November!

a murderous mob

I’m immersed in the John Dear book Jesus the Rebel.  Looking through the lens of a nonviolent Jesus (is there any other Jesus but a non-violent one?  Surely not a violent one!), Dear proceeds to tell the Jesus story – highlighting how Jesus stands against the systems that perpetrate violence on people – especially the poor.  In the chapter ‘The Mission’ he reflects on the passage from Luke 4 when Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue.  In announcing that the words are being fulfilled in the hearing of those gathered for worship, there is a reaction – “…the pious, religious congregation explodes with anger and violence.  Feeling insulted by Jesus’ political accusations [the references to Elijah and the widow, and the Syrians], the devout congregation screams, ‘How dare he ruin the liturgy by speaking of God consorting with the enemy and implying that we are not on God’s side in the pursuit of justice.'”
Dear goes on, “Luke describes the transformation of  a religious congregation into a murderous mob: The people are filled with fury; they rise up as one; they drive Jesus out of the town; they lead him to the brow of a hill; they intend to hurl him over the cliff.  How do the faithful respond to Jesus’ call for justice?  They try to kill him!  His words unmake their murderous hearts, their allegiance to structural injustice, and their hostility towards their enemies.  Jesus exposes them; they are not people of prayer and faith… rather, these devout people benefit from the empire’s oppression of the poor, its imprisonment of captives, its marginalisation of outsiders, and its class divisions that keep the land and economic resources in their pious and elite hands.”  Jesus the Rebel p18-19

I have observed earlier the behaviours of crowds and systems and how easily they become mobs.  In an attempt to do what they believe is right, they do wrong.  In the name of the One who is sent, by God, to be as one of us – sent to the margins to gather us in, we marginalize people whose differences we cannot accept.  We say that people who are of the same-sex cannot make covenants of marriage before God without first attending to how we handle ourselves and our power.  Just because we can, should the majority act in God’s name in ways that marginalize people?  Isn’t this contradictory with the heart of the reign of God as unfolded by Jesus?
This needs to be talked about – but the church I belong to, chose not to talk or even allow a conversation in the church about this issue.  No, in a spirit of pious certitude, the majority made its statement and insisted that there was no conversation to be had.  We not only marginalised people, but we chucked the possibility of discussion and discernment over the brow of a hill.
Jesus made his way ‘through the midst and went away.’ [Luke 4:30]
Later, much later, the mob finds its way to do the job properly – they side with their oppressors to create a superpower, they haul Jesus before their leaders and have him tried.  Flimsy evidence is empowered by a shouting crowd and the ultimate betrayal of God ‘We have no king but Caesar!’  He is whipped within an inch of his life and hung on a cross to die in agony.
But this reign of God is of such force that even death cannot stop it – on the third day he is raised.
Yet, here we are, after the fact, gathering as mobs and acting as if the reign/kingdom of God has not come and God’s will has not been done on earth as in heaven!  And what is worse – we do it in God’s name!  Blimey!