From Athens, a message of inclusion rather than exclusion. . . I was struck by the powerful speech delivered by the mayor of Athens, expressing her belief that the [Olympic] Games would touch not only the soul of Athenians, but also the soul of the world. The speech, given under the shade of an ancient olive tree, was powerful and symbolic.The city is significant to us all, for while the Roman Empire was the political master of the world of Jesus' day, Christianity was nurtured within a Greek world. Within this Hellenistic culture Christianity became truly incarnational; immersed in the daily lives and rhythms of people, it took flesh. Rather than being frightened by the beliefs and customs of the world of the time, Christianity took them and clothed them afresh with the truths of the Gospel.. . . In contrast, I find it increasingly concerning that the voice of a narrow and fundamentalist, Christianity, a Christianity that apparently sees the world as the enemy, seems to be gaining greater and stronger momentum, with the result that many people assume that this is what the majority of Christians think.Perhaps it is a cycle we are passing through, but whether it be the extreme religious right of America, or the apparent views of some 'Christian' candidates standing for Parliament at the forthcoming [Australian] election, a narrow and moralistic, rather than a just, balanced and equitable view of the world seems to be presented.. . . I have sometimes been asked why I am not more vocal on "moral" issues, which almost invariably means matters relating to homosexuality. The answer is that I will always be outspoken where the lives of one group clearly diminish and threaten the lives of others. The vast majority of homosexual people simply do not threaten or diminish the lives of others. On the contrary, like the family next door, they live good lives and contribute to the stability of the community at large.On the other hand, there are aspects of our consumer-driven society that diminish all of us and goals of the so called free and first world that contribute to the developing world remaining poor and marginalised. Our security is far more dependent on raising the standard of the world's poor, so that the recruiting grounds for terror are diminished, than it is upon military alliances.
Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side of the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder
Wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.
James Agee (1909-1955) , "Description of Elysium", from Permit Me Voyage, stanzas 6-8, published 1934.
The oldest was this picture of Loch Awe and Kilchurn Castle in Argyll, Scotland which I passed during my visit in September 1979. I love the Scottish countryside and I think I could be happy living there -- though Australia is a lot warmer, more diverse and our food is better!
Icons have their own power. They are a form of pictorial scripture. Growing numbers of people in the West, who have been starved for something more intuitive to balance western rationality, have found them to be a window to divine mystery. They are profoundly interesting. Because they come from the East, they transcend all the divisions we have experienced in western Christianity. Maybe it's through icons that we are receiving a sense of mystery that has been so much a part of eastern Christianity.
Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.So wrote C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed (London: Faber and Faber, 1966, p.23). He was reflecting on his experience of grief following the death of his wife, Joy.My experience of (an admittedly lesser) grief following the death of my aged mother has been different. Being the intellectual he was, I think Lewis writes of a consolation or comfort of thought. Religion does little to satisfy wonderings about the whereabouts of one's dead (not 'departed') loved one or the possibility of reunion. But gathering with 'religious' and other friends has been the most comforting thing in dealing such grief as I have experienced.I was cautioned that feelings of grief could pop up without warning, even when I thought I had things well in control. And so it was.James and I went to church in my parent's town the day before my mother's funeral. On the way out, I paused to light a candle (not something I would usually do) and the tears hit me for the first time since her death. A week later, in our home church in Canberra, the same thing happened as the congregation paryer for 'those who mourn'. Tears are a comfort and, unlike Lewis, I experienced comfort most strongly through the practice of 'religion'.Actually, it's the presence of the Holy Spirit that is the true comfort. The old translations call the Spirit 'The Comforter', after all (John 14.16,26; 15.26; 16.7 KJV).
It can be argued that banning gay marriage undermines family values because it denies the ultimate expression of commitment to homosexual couples. Certainly the ban will fan intolerance, and that is a most potent reason for not proceeding with it. If the Parliament must vote on the issue (and there appears to be no pressing reason for the legislation) it would best be decided by conscience vote rather than by party directive. It appears Labor may have agreed to the ban in order to neutralise it as an issue before the election. If so, this is cynical politics that weakens the society our parliamentarians are meant to serve.The Labor Party has swung to where its sees there are votes. They would have little chance of of my vote, but for the fact that the alternative is worse. Labor has promised changes to tax, superannuation, family and immigration laws to remove discrimination against gays and lesbians. But can they be trusted to do this?The legislation may possibly be be unconstitutional and a High Court challenge is possible. This is the first time in Australian history that a law has been changed to deliberately limit the rights of gay and lesbian people. The bill was pushed through the Senate using a guillotine (time limit) for the first time in years, and passed 38 votes to seven.Australian Democrats sexuality spokesman Brian Greig said it was deeply offensive for anti-gay campaigners to argue that love and commitment between gay people was less or different to that between people of the opposite sex. Greens leader Bob Brown accused the Prime Minister of "hate legislating" and refused to apologise when the Senate president described his words as unparliamentary language.I'm not sure how to respond to all this -- something between resignation and anger.
In this house which is America, my friends, men from various nations of the world have conspired together in order to disappear in a new man, who is not yet embodied in any one of us and whom we shall already call an "Argentine" so as to begin to raise our hopes. This is a confederacy without precedent: a generous adventure by men of different bloodlines whose aim is not to persevere in their lineages but to forget those lineages in the end; these are bloodlines that seek the night. The criollo is one of the confederates. The criollo, who was responsible for creating the nation as such, has now chosen to be one among many.I am struck by the parallels and contrasts this has with the Australian experience. People of many nations (including Australia's indigenous peoples) are indeed 'conspiring' together to form a common, new, identity. We of British origin have been the Australian equivalent of the criollos. Now we are but one of the many cultures of Australia. Australia's cultures have not disappeared in a 'new man' as Borges foresaw. Embracing the sometimes-maligned idea 'multiculturalism', we enjoy a fabulous array of cultures, in music, languages, food, dress, religions, and social customs. These make Australia a fascinating home.
"There was young Mozart and wisdom-of-ages Mozart, dazzling, dreamy Mozart, warmly coloured Mozart and lean-and-hungry Mozart, ending with one of the most vigorously brilliant musical thoughts (the finale of the Jupiter Symphony) ever to enter human cognition.". . . In the Jupiter Symphony . . . the orchestra's care with shaping phrases and concentration in collective expression was bracing and exciting. Paradoxically, a danger of the orchestra's vitality is over-emphasis. The minuet was a model of how its approach can shed such problems, while the finale was a miracle of bracing cogency, as it always should be. "Brilliant playing on the edge of the abyss."
The 'Jupiter' symphony is very special to me. Listening to it has often lifted my spirits when engulfed in a bout of the blues. I had just learned that my mother was possibly dying, and the concert was comforting beyond words. The playing by Richard Tognetti's band was thrilling and one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. No wonder this man is an Australian Living National Treasure.
God our Father, we thank you that you have made each of us unique and special, and given us talents with which to serve you. We thank you for June, the days and years that we shared with her and the beauty that we saw in her. Now give us strength and courage to leave her in your care, confident in your promise of eternal life, in Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.
My deepest thanks to those who have sent messages of comfort to James and me on the death of my mother eight days ago. This is the last picture taken of her -- on Christmas Day 2003. The funeral was yesterday and I was honoured by my Dad's request that I take the service. I hope you will forgive me the indulgence of posting this short biography of my mother, which was read at the service. There was also a short homily, The lover's house.
June was born at home on 31 May 1922 in Edithvale, Victoria. She was the elder daughter of William and Frances Judith Hitchcock -- Bill and Judy. Her sister is Nanette.Early in June's childhood they lived in rural New South Wales to farm wheat. It was a tough life, with drought and economic depression. They moved to Geelong in Victoria when she was in high school.June finished school a couple of years before the World War II and took up office work. During the war she served in the Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force (the WAAAF) for three and a half years as a telegraphist and telephonist.June and John met as the war was ending.
-- She called him 'Mac'.
-- They were married on 7 Dec 1946 at All Saints' Anglican Church in Geelong and honeymooned in Tasmania.
-- as far as I know, that was the only time she traveled by air.John and June's first son, Brian, was born in 1948 while John was studying to become a primary teacher. Robin followed in 1951. Two daughters came some time later, Pauline, and Noella Ann, June's last child, who died at birth.John's career meant that, as well as living in the city they spent enjoyable but challenging years at bush schools in the Western District of Victoria and later lived for some time in Mooroopna and in Morwell, where Dad held senior positions. All in all, there was a fair bit of moving about and turning of houses into homes -- which June did brilliantly.At the conclusion of John's career, they retired to the South Coast of New South Wales and then moved to Albury about about 1994 years ago. Albury has been a good place for them.June was a Christian all her life, building on foundations she learned from her mother, Judith, who was a strong Christian and life-long Anglican.Encouraged by a friend and colleague of John's, in 1961 June and John joined a church in Frankston Victoria where they were refreshed in their Christian faith and filled with God's Spirit. From then on, they were much involved in church life, Christian friendship and ministry. June loved worship, prayer and singing.One of my strongest impressions of my parents is that they were a true partnership. They shared together in John's teaching career and their life in the church. I can remember long conversations in the kitchen at home
-- about the doings of the day,
-- about the next move in Dad's career,
-- about the best way to make the church a place of life and blessing;
-- and about what was best for us all.
Even in their final months together, June and John took on her hospitalisation as a challenge to be shared together.June was a wonderful listener, and always good to talk with. Even in recent years, when she was usually not able to talk for a long time, she would listen powerfully to what we had to share and often had something keen-witted but kind to say. She didn't laugh much, but smiled a lot, was very witty and amusing to talk with and to be with.June was a great letter writer (until the telephone took over).
-- In the seventies, I spent two years overseas and there was a steady stream of nourishing letters from Mum at home.
-- When we lived in the bush in the 50's, Mum would read to me parts of the steady stream of letters that flowed back and forth between her and each of my Grandmas.June loved gardens and knew quite a lot about shrubs and flowers. She loved the beauty of nature and the things of God's creation, especially the Australian countryside. On holidays and early in their retirement, my parents traveled about by car and caravanMost of her life, June had to cope with painful health problems. Sometimes it was difficult for her get out and about much. Perhaps to the outsider, her life may have seemed a simple one. But those of us closer to her caught glimpses of her inner being. In her spirit, June was an adventurer, searching to know more of this beautiful world and its Creator -- a person with many gifts that she used to encourage and bless others.June McKinlay was above all a woman of courage, and optimism and faith.
This picture is about 16 years old and sits on my desk in a small silver frame. It reminds me of her love of life.
We pray for John, my Dad, my brother and sister, and June's three granddaughters.