The Invisible Man

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 April 2013.

Invisible ManEric Bird was (and still is!) a great believer in the Invisible Man.

In the space of a few short weeks, Eric’s health seemed to rapidly ebb away, and on Tuesday night he died, more confident than ever in the Lord who he had served so faithfully for almost all of his 85 years.

For decade upon decade, Eric lived his life for a man he had never seen: Jesus, who walked this world in the flesh two thousand years ago, but now waits in heaven for the day of his return. He is invisible to us, and yet we trust him. “We live by faith, not by sight,” the Scriptures tell us.

Eric, like any of God’s people, sought to emulate this Man, and one thing he excelled in was cultivating his own invisibility. Whatever Eric was engaged in, he wanted us to look past him and see Jesus instead. There was no showboating, no narcissism, no ego. Eric’s goal was to point beyond himself to the Lord of Glory, and we are all blessed that he was so good at doing just that.

There is a third sense in which Eric was a believer in the Invisible Man, and perhaps this is the most comforting of all. Eric lived and died in the hope of the resurrection, and so now he lives, invisible to our eyes for now, but more alive than ever.

While we grieve for our loss, we would do well to remember what Eric wisely said only a few months ago. We have not lost him at all; he is not misplaced! We know exactly where our brother is, and we rejoice in his reward.

The Case of the Curious Crime

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 05 April 2013.

Perry MasonI have to confess: I wasn’t at my most studious in the days before my HSC exams. How could I be? Perry Mason was on TV every day at 2 o’clock - and if you’re going to eat lunch at 2, then you need to sleep in each morning...

Yes, that’s right. I studied Perry’s cases more than any of my other subjects. How could you not like the intriguing titles, the unusual characters, the shocking denouement?! Perry was intelligent, determined, compassionate and fierce - not a bad combination in a main character. And he always seemed to win somehow.

We turn to the book of Job today, and we could do with Perry around. It seems like Job is accused in a mock trial that he’s not even aware of, and the motives of the two competing attorneys are a little murky. The details in the case are sketchy; we don’t even know when the trial was held. Some have even suggested that it’s a fictional narrative.

Our task over the next few months will be to sift the evidence. We’ll hear from a number of witnesses, unsure of the accuracy of their testimony. We’ll have a chance to hear from the accused in his anguish. And perhaps, by the end of it, we’ll have figured out who is really on trial in the book of Job.

Tune in each week for the next episode. Just don’t call me Della Street!

Happy Feaster

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 28 March 2013.

Hot Cross BunsWhile Christmas dinner might make us feel a little green around the gills, Easter food is another matter. Hot cross buns are a nicely sedate seasonal food - nobody gorges on them. Chocolate, on the other hand, can be a problem.  It tends to come in volume, especially if you’re a kid, and you can be sure that somewhere along the line, everyone has made themselves sick at Easter.
But why so hungry? What we mark at Easter is in fact a death. While it’s polite to serve food at a wake, generally speaking it’s not the kind of food that gets eaten in quantity. Funerals are sombre affairs, not given over to indulging our stomachs.
So why do we associate food with Easter? Christmas has the pressies as well as the parties, but Easter is exclusively a food holiday. The reason is simple: it was Jesus’ idea.
No, not the chocolate bilbies or the marshmallow bunnies. Not even the eggs or the buns...though they come closest. At his last meal, Jesus invited his followers to feast on bread - every time they remembered his death. More provocatively, he told them the bread was  his flesh, his body.
An odd metaphor, for sure, but full of meaning. What we eat sustains us, gives us life, fills us with energy. That is what Jesus’ death means for us: a life-giving feast!

457s and the Leadership Spill

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 22 March 2013.

Cranmer - OldWhat a day we had on Thursday - two Prime Ministers in one day, and both of them Julia Gillard. I doubt we’ll see a day like it for a long time.

But Thursday was also the anniversary of another leadership spill. 457 years ago, Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake: an Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the English Church, executed for supposed heresy. It was a leadership spill, and there was no chance of going back.

The Cross and the Church are connected in more ways than one. As Cranmer waited in prison, knowing what awaited him, he managed to smuggle out a letter to a friend on the continent in which he expressed his confidence. The church was in dire straits, and that could only be proof that she would be restored. The life of the church follows the way of the cross, the path through the valley of the shadow of death.

On a day when one former leader announced that he would stick by his word, and  the PM declared herself humbled, it was good to be reminded of old Cranmer, humiliated in death but faithful to the end. His last words, aptly enough, were borrowed from Stephen - the first martyr, and the first to be executed by a kangaroo court - “Lord Jesus, receive my Spirit...I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

They were, of course, both following their leader, and ours. The cross birthed a church in his image...

Near Death Experience

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 15 March 2013.

Cliff EdgeFor some people, there are few things more interesting than hearing about the testimonies of those who claim to have had some kind of near death experience: dark tunnels, moving towards the light, choosing to turn around and so on. Whether their experience resulted from some traumatic accident or a mishap on the operating table, the common themes are seen to provide some insight into the nature of life and death.

For others, the near death experience is to seek out new thrills, to challenge the limits of what is and isn’t possible for a human body. Whether it’s walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls or escaping from a locked box submerged underwater, racing around a speedway track or scaling the highest peaks, it doesn’t matter. As long as the adrenaline flows, it’s good.

The reality is that we all have a near death experience: it’s called life. Our existence is so fragile; we depend on a steady supply of food, water, air, relationship - the list goes on. The smallest illness under the wrong circumstances can be enough to kill us. The tiniest germ can fell even the strongest ox.

The funeral service in the Australian Prayer Book says, “In the midst of life we are in death. From whom may we seek for help, but from you, Lord God, though you are justly displeased on account of our sins?”

The link between Jesus’ death and our resurrection is vital in the true sense of the word!

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