“As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”” (John 9:1-2)
Our Gospel story this week is all about challenging the narratives – narratives about Jesus and about God, and those communal narratives that we feel pressured to buy into, even when they don’t seem to make a lot of sense.
We begin with the disciples asking Jesus an uncomfortable question about a man who had been born blind. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:12) Behind this question is a narrative that says, “if you are suffering, it’s because you did something wrong. God is just, and no one who lives a virtuous life will suffer like that.” You’ve heard this narrative (or some variation on it). It’s as popular today as it has always been. According to the philosopher, Immanuel Kant, it is an expression of the most fundamental and universal of all religious intuitions – that good must be rewarded, and evil, punished.
I still remember my one and only trip to the Philippines in the 19080’s. I was there at a time of great political turmoil and violence. An Anglican priest there told me of how he was on a bus that suddenly pulled up alongside a grotesque pile of bodies that were riddled with bullets. He said his fellow passengers looked briefly at the bodies and said to each other, “they must have done something really bad” and then looked away. This narrative – that only evil people meet with these sorts of disasters – helps make life manageable. We are good people. Things like that will never happen to us.
Jesus doesn’t debate this narrative with His disciples. He suggests instead that the man’s pain, rather than presenting them with a theological problem, gives them an opportunity to do something positive. Jesus heals the man, which should have led to a community-wide celebration, except that the miracle itself challenged another dominant community narrative.
It all happened in Jerusalem – a city swarming with educated religious people, most of whom were convinced that Jesus was a charlatan. For these people to acknowledge the authenticity of Jesus’ amazing miracle would mean abandoning the charlatan narrative – something they were not willing to do. Instead, they got stuck into the man who had been blind and tried to find holes in his story!
I remember in the early 2000’s, showing an American friend a video of the collapse of Building 9 in the 9/11 tragedy of 2001. She said, “that can’t be true, because, if it were true, that would mean my government is lying to me, and I can’t accept that.” Kierkegaard said that “all obscurity is a dialectical interplay of knowledge and will”. In other words, when we don’t know something, it’s partly because we genuinely don’t know it, and partly because we don’t want to know.
I think beliefs work like a game of Jenga. If you don’t know the game, it involves constructing a tower out of wooden sticks, after which the participants remove one stick at a time, trying not to let the tower fall. Our beliefs are like sticks in the Jenga tower. Some beliefs can be easily discarded without threatening the greater tower, but others are foundational, with so many other beliefs resting on them, that if one of those is threatened, the whole pile could fall!
Foundational beliefs include things like:
- The people who say they are my parents really are my parents.
- God is just and is looking after me.
- My government would never lie to me.
Though we may feel a degree of certainty about beliefs like this, we might not be able to point to any specific pieces of evidence supporting them. Often, what holds these sorts of beliefs in place is not any evidence supporting them but the fact that so many of our other beliefs have been built on top of them!
Our Gospel story begins with a blind man begging for support from his community. It ends with him no longer needing to beg, but also no longer having a community! The once-blind man falls foul of his community’s gatekeepers because he buys into the wrong narrative.
It’s creepy how little things have changed. Those of us who challenge today’s dominant narratives likewise risk exclusion from our communities. If we question the COVID vaccines, the value of lockdowns or masks, the wisdom of going to war with Russia (or China), or the assertion that Julian Assange threatens global security, we can get ourselves cancelled, deplatformed and silenced. In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth Is a revolutionary act.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” (John 9:39).
Our Sunday Eucharist
We had another wonderful Sunday Eucharist last weekend. It was great to welcome Father Mark Battison to the panel, and benefit from his wisdom. We also had Rob Gilland with us live and Joel Jammal via a pre-recorded homily. My brother, Rob, rounded out the team with a song.
This week we have another great line-up: Karyn and Sam will join me live, and Father Ola will join us from Sweden with a pre-recorded homily and a song. I’m very much looking forward to it. Please do join us this Sunday at midday via www.thesundayeucharist.com or via your favourite social media platform: Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram (if I can get Telegram working).
Let me work your corner
Times are tough but we continue to survive thanks to those of you who support Fighting Fathers Ministries through your prayers and financial contributions. If you’re not a financial supporter yet and you can afford to be, please go to Patreon.com and sign up as either:
Middleweight – $10/month (community mentoring)
- Enrol in the Fighting Fit training program
- Access member-only training videos
- Engage in the members-only forum (see below)
- All of the above +
- One-on-one mentoring via email, phone, or Skype
- All of the above +
- Unlimited training at Father Dave’s Old School Boxing Academy
- All of the above +
- One weekend per month at Binacrombi Bush Camp.
Every dollar helps keep the wheels turning – the websites, the newsletters, the broadcasts, the boxing club and the bush camp. Sign up at Patreon.com.
What’s coming up?
- Saturday, March 18th – Boxing from 3.00 pm @The Fight Lab
- Sunday, March 19th– Our Eucharist from midday @thesundayeucharist.com or via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram
- Tuesday, March 21st – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Thursday, March 23rd – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
- Friday, March 24th to Sunday, March 26th – @Binacrombi. Join me for a weekend in the bush and grow in your physical and spiritual health.
- Saturday, April 29th – Down the Rabbit HoleBall @The Epping Club.
Plenty to pray about
We indeed have a lot to pray about this week, from the ongoing battle for our friend, Julian Assange, to the never-ending crisis in Syria, to looming wars with Russia and, possibly, China. I want to ask you first though to please put in a prayer for Binacrombi and for our work there.
Binacrombi has been threatened by fire this week. Just when we thought the fire season was over, the fires crossed the road towards our property. Thankfully, thus far, we have been spared. Even so, when I spoke yesterday to Bob, the caretaker, he was coughing uncontrollably, indicating the level of smoke on the property.
Ironically, we had our own smoking ceremony there last weekend and I’ve included a photo below. Sadly, no photographic image can capture what an intense experience that was. Our friends Col Watego (senior) and Col Junior – who are both Christian pastors as well as Indigenous elders – led us in a time of deep prayer and singing and smoking. It was an experience I will never forget.
All this leads me to say that I want to make the most of our time at Binacrombi, and I want to use that space as best I can to help others develop their physical and spiritual fitness. I’ve even started a series of ‘Between Rounds’ videos to promote these training weekends. You can see the pilot below.
My plan is to run a structured weekend once per month, starting next weekend (March 24 to 26). I’m working on a training system that has five key elements to it:
As you can see, these elements give us a nice acronym: BLEST😊
I appreciate that the promise of ‘stress’ doesn’t sound too inviting. It is, of course, why we exercise. We stress our muscles and our cardio-vascular systems so that they will adapt and grow. Similarly, we can stress the body with extreme heat and cold to develop resilience. As Nietzsche famously said, “those things that do not kill us make us stronger”.
If that still sounds off-putting, be assured that no element in my training regimen is compulsory. I’ll do my best to get you breathing, listening, eating right, pushing your body, and connecting, but it’s up to you whether you take any of it on board.
Either way, please schedule a weekend with me. Let’s see what we can achieve together. You can let me know by email, call on 1800 620 706, or connect via Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn. or Telegram. Next weekend is still open if you’re up to it.
OK. Let me conclude by saying something about Syria and about the Down the Rabbit Hole Ball .
You may have heard that the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (the agency responsible for enforcing US sanctions) claims to have made an “exception” to its regulations for the sake of Syrian earthquake relief by issuing “General License 23”. Unfortunately, GL23 makes it no easier to deliver food, medical supplies, equipment or foreign expertise needed for the emergency, and banks and other major companies are still blocking all forms of interaction with Syria. You can read more on the ‘sanctions-relief trick’ here.
Thanks be to God, Paul Larudee and his team at the Syria Support Movement are continuing to get money and supplies through the blockade to those who need it most. Please consider making a donation here.
Finally, we need you to purchase your tickets now to the Down the Rabbit Hole Ball, scheduled for April 29. This is a fundraiser for Fighting Fathers Ministries and I would be personally very grateful if you come. Head to Trybooking.com and grab tickets for yourself and for as many of your friends as you can afford to take.
I appreciate that not many people want to pay $130 just to hear me speak, but I would pay that to hear Professor Gigi Foster, whom I’m privileged to share the platform with. I’m also trying to get my nemesis, ‘Wild’ Bill Kinbacher, to join us, to see if we can’t do an exhibition boxing round (though if he knocks my teeth out, it will inhibit my ability to speak afterwards). Either way, we’ll be doing our best to make it a fun and entertaining night, and you’ll be in great company. Book here.
Till next time May the Lord bless and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.
P.S. If you couldn’t attend the unveiling of the “Anything to Say” sculpture last Friday, you can read an abridged version the address given there by John Pilger here.
About Father Dave Smith
Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four