Reflections of a Broken Man

A Question of Blindness by StephenMac
November 11, 2008, 7:24 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**Currently listening to “Define the Great Line” – Underoath. I think the opening words of “In Regards to Myself” (Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!) seem somehow appropriate**

I’m currently “studying” for my NT exam on Wed, and I’ve been struck by some of the themes in Mark. When we started the year, our lecturer proposed the theory that Mark is actually a literary narrative (as opposed to a history or a biography). And so NT class felt very much like an English class (perhaps the reason for my initial dislike). However, upon reflection, I’ve found simply the depth of Mark’s narrative to be especially challenging and hopeful. Let me explain:

In Mark, we have I think a distinct structure. There are two halves, with the “turning point” being Peter’s confession of Christ in 8:27-30. Within the first half, the characters seem to ask “Who is this” (or variations on that theme) in response to Jesus’ actions/teaching. By chapter 4, Jesus calms the storm, and there are three questions which set up the rest of the narrative, but more than that, are the three big questions of the Gospel. The first is the panic of the disciples “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”. The second is posed by Jesus “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”. The third is again by the disciples “Who is this?”

These three questions seem to drive the whole story. But it seems as though the disciples need the first one answered before they could even comprehend the others. And so after a little while, we come to the second sea story, where Jesus walks on water. The language there reminds us distinctly of the LORD “passing by” Moses on Sinai, and Jesus’ reassurance of “I am” (ἐγω ἐιμι) seems to point distinctly to Jesus’ divinity. And yet, the disciples still do not see it. The final sea journey occurs after the feeding of the 4000. Jesus overhears the conversation of the disciples, and chastises them for still getting him wrong. All the miracles, they point to who he is, and yet Jesus still must ask them “Do you still not understand?”face-eye copy

However, I think that the key miracle is in the very next episode. Jesus heals a man of blindness, and yet, it takes two goes. The first time, the man can see, yet it’s nothing more than shapes. The second time, he sees in full. The reader must then ask, well, if Jesus can heal this man of blindness, can he heal the disciples of their blindness too? Upon Peter’s confession of faith, we hope that the blindness has been healed. But Peter still does not fully understand, he sees, but only in part. He rebukes Jesus for his prediction that he must die. Jesus in turn rebukes Peter for thinking on the ways of man, and not of God.

For the second half of the the book of Mark, we therefore have an expectation. Sure, we know now that Jesus is the Christ, as Peter’s blindness has been partially healed. The disciples question “Who is this” is almost answered… And so the second half of the book is bound up with this question, perhaps characterised by the disciples’ first question: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” What does it mean for Jesus to be the Christ? Well, as the story continues, we see that the Christ must die, so that man may not, so that man may not be punished for his sins, a punishment he so justly deserves. Jesus dies, so that we don’t have to. This is what it means for Jesus to be the Christ. In doing so, Jesus answers the question of “Don’t you care if we drown?” with an emphatic “YES! I do care. I care so much that I would die so that you don’t have to!”

While this post is in part a way for me to think about Mark, and to reaffirm the truth’s of Christ, I ask myself, am I as blind as the disciples? Not in regards to Jesus, but in terms of seeing people for what they are (perhaps a poor application point, but hey, I’m not preaching to you). Yesterday, I had a revelation about a friend which seriously struck me. I had no idea where they were at… and when I found out, well, I couldn’t believe I was so blind. There are a number of other relationships where I still can’t see what’s going on. And it scares me, because like the disciples, I may be missing something, and that something is really really important. Other times, that something could be trivial. Yet I have to ask, if I am so blind in answering the question “Who is this”, then when it comes to the important things, how can I be a good friend?

I think the other point of reflection is that there are some things that force me to crawl out of my own self-induced depression, to see the world how it truly is. To see that life is bigger than me, to see that my problems (aka exams, relationships etc etc) are seriously pitiful when they compare to some of the needs other friends have. Am I so blind that I can’t look beyond myself?


Obama: A New Hope? by StephenMac
November 6, 2008, 9:31 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**still listening to New Surrender… iTunes tells me that I listen to this album ten times more than any other music in my collection… including the rest of the Anberlin collection**

(h/t Byron for his thoughts on this topic)

In preparing for my sermon on evangelism and the churches role in mission (yes, conflating two distinct topics…) I was struck by Jumbo’s FB status which said that he was “watching the world crave a saviour”. Within two hours of Obama’s victory, stock markets all over the world were reporting increases. Rob Henderson, head of market economics with National Australia Bank in Sydney, said: “Well, it can’t be negative for markets. It’s a vote for change and has to inject a degree of optimism that America can again reinvent itself.”

obama1“A degree of optimism”… well, according to the SMH, Kenyans are so optimistic that they declare today to be a national holiday…

I don’t want to sound cynical, but I would have to suggest that the world is seeking a saviour, and the rhetoric of American exceptionalism (with all due respect to my American readers) seems to point the world to this. I am by no means claiming that Obama genuinely thinks that he is the salvation to all the world’s ills, but it seems to me that the world over is seriously looking not just to Obama, but to a “reinvented America” to solve the world’s problems. The world craves a messiah.

The American election received attention the world over. I’m ashamed to admit that there were quite a few number here at college who spent the day in front of the TV, not playing the xBox or Wii, but watching the election coverage. This is news that the whole world wanted to know. This is news that the world thought important enough that they should pay serious attention to.

Barack Obama, despite now being the most powerful man in the world, leader of the most powerful nation in the world, has got nothing on Jesus. And yet, the world still cries out for a saviour. News about Obama’s victory spread rapidly around the world – how quick are we to tell people of the news of the victory of Christ, a real saviour, who brings real change, whose leadership is not four, or even eight years, but eternity? This news is the Gospel. This news will bring real change and real hope.

Sermon – Thinking Big, Praying Big by StephenMac
November 4, 2008, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Sermons | Tags: ,

I feel a little self-conscious about posting sermons online, especially as I make no claims about how good they are. But I would love your thoughts. The sermon is the sixth I’ve preached, given to the morning congregation at Liverpool South Anglican Church ( Its on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Eph. 3:14-21.Ephesians3 I think that Paul is, among other things, encouraging us to think big, to remember how big our great God is, and to pray accordingly, to remember that our God answers prayers in ways that we could not even comprehend! It was especially challenging, as prayer is something that I struggle with, and so by about my third or fourth reading of the text, when I was really beginning to understand what Paul is actually praying, I really felt the weight of this text. Anyhoo, the moral of the story: the first application in a sermon must always be to oneself (h/t HK for that tip. Thanks brother).

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When Life is in Discord, Praise Ye The LORD by StephenMac
November 1, 2008, 8:27 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

**Currently listening to: Never Take Friendship Personal – Anberlin**

OK, time is 10:13pm Friday 31st (delayed upload). I’ve just returned home from one of the worst weeks. Nothing, it seems, has gone right. But no, I think that I can only blame myself. THe reason for this most recent outpouring of despair is that I have just return from youthgroup. This is the ministry that I helped to set up two years ago, and that I have grace to continue to work in it. Yet while God has afforded me this opportunity, in fact it should be recognised as not actually requiring me, but I am able to share in His work only by His grace. So why does it cause me so much pain? Sure I see that my kids (the primary school aged peeps that I get to hang with each week) are growing, and that is really awesome. I can’t believe the way that God is working there. SP0003723LBut the older group whom I’m sometimes involved with, as I was tonight, cause me nothing but trouble. Well, not all of them, a select three.

But not them, me. This morning, we heard God’s word from Colossians 3:5-14. The message: rid yourselves (put to death) sexual misconduct, but also filthy language. And so sure enough, I therefore tonight lose my temper and swear. Bad language is a habit that I haven’t ever been able to kick completely, but never to my youth group kids before. And as I was driving home this evening, I’m wondering what is it that causes me to sin so badly?!? To forget what I had heard mere hours ago, and do the complete opposite?

This evening, I seriously wondered why I am in ministry. I still have no idea what I want to do after college, but nothing has torn me like this. Nothing gives me great joys, but seriously low lows. I don’t think I’m cut out for this. I have no idea how to handle these pressures. And this current context is light compared to what full-time paid ministry will be. If I’m screwing up so badly now, how would I ever be able to handle it in the future?

Life is chaotic at the moment. Exams, ministries, social stresses. One of the youth group kids told to stress less. God bless him for that, because if they can notice it, then it must be pretty bad. I remember that someone told me that if life isn’t difficult, if you aren’t struggling with your Christian walk, then perhaps the Devil is leaving you alone, because you are where he wants you to be. It’s only when you’re on the right path that temptation comes to cause you to stumble. Perhaps there is more wisdom that I previously understood in the Anberlin lyric:

When life is in discord, praise Ye the Lord
Paperthin Hymn