Bobby recovering after his first fight

The Violence begins at Home

[Jesus said] “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.”   

(John 15:26-16:3)

Hi Fighter,

You’ll forgive me for being a bit mischievous with this week’s Bible reading (printed above). The official Gospel reading for this Sunday, as determined by the greater church, starts with John 15, verses 26 and 27 (as above) which talk about the coming of God’s Spirit, and then it skips to chapter 16, verse 4. It leaves out all the nasty stuff where Jesus talks about the opposition His followers will experience, and instead jumps back into the discussion about the coming of the Spirit.

The authors of the lectionary don’t explain why they leave out these verses about being ‘thrown out of the synagogue’ and ‘killed’, but it’s been suggested that such verses could stoke antisemitism, and church bodies today do work hard to prevent antisemitism, and stay away from anything that might encourage it.

Such efforts are understandable as there has been a long and terrible history of antisemitism in the church. Even so, it means that quite a few Bible verses – particularly in John’s Gospel – rarely get read in public nowadays. John’s Gospel refers to ‘ioudaios’ (normally translated as ‘the Jews’) more than 70 times, and they are almost all references to the enemies of Jesus (eg. John 15:14-18).

We don’t want to stoke antisemitism, and far too many people have used passages from John’s Gospel to advance their own racist agendas. Even so, it’s easy for us to forget that when John spoke of ‘the Jews’, John was a Jew, and so were most of his first readers. In other words, if there’s an ‘us’ and ‘them’ dichotomy in John’s Gospel between the ‘ioudaios’ and the followers of Jesus, it’s a complicated one as the ‘them’ are actually ‘us’. The violence and betrayal is happening within their own tribe.

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, which celebrates the foundation of the church as a distinct spiritual community. Most of the readings for this Sunday focus on the way this new community drew people together from across a broad spectrum of racial and language groups. The flip side of this though was how the church disrupted its parent community – creating mayhem in the synagogue and generating alienation!

You can’t have one without the other. You can’t start something new without doing damage to the old. Every time the Spirit of God makes a move in the community, spreading love and joy and peace, there will inevitably be another group who feel alienated, and even violated.

This week my friend, David McBride, received a sentence of almost six years in prison for sharing the truth about war crimes in Afghanistan. Along with our dear brother, Julian Assange, I see David as a modern-day prophet, speaking truth to power. I believe both men should be lauded and applauded, but of course there are others who would sooner see them both ‘thrown out the synagogue’ and ‘killed’.

This week I was surprised to find myself nodding along as I listened to Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran. He was speaking of his admiration for American university students who are standing up for Palestine. I admire them too, as I do their Australian counterparts. Of course, there is likewise no shortage of people who detest these protestors – both locally and globally.

Change will always generate friction. What Jesus warns us in this week’s Gospel reading is that we can expect this opposition to begin from within our own ranks. That has certainly been my experience. I’ve never had any problems with ‘ioudaios’ (which was John’s tribe). Those who have done me damage have almost all been white Anglican Christians (my tribe). That’s how it works. “No prophet is welcome in his hometown” (Luke 4:24). “Your enemies will be right in your own household!” (Matthew 10:36) The violence inevitably starts at home.

That’s a grim note to finish on, and perhaps I should have extended today’s reading beyond those rogue verses. Indeed, the point of Jesus’ greater dialogue with His disciples, as recorded in John 15 and 16, is that the Spirit of God is on the way and will give us the support we need.

Yes, there will be opposition, and, yes, we can expect it to start from within our own tribe, but be patient, for God is sending us His Spirit to inform, uplift, strengthen and support us, so that the work of truth-telling, and the spreading of love, joy, hope and peace can continue.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:12-13)

Our Sunday Eucharist

We had another powerful Sunday Eucharist last weekend. My sincere thanks to Father Mark and Rob for their wonderful company on the panel. Our numbers were down a bit, no doubt due to it being Mother/s Day. Even so, some important insights were shared, some of which have been preserved in the Shorts you’ll see below.

Shorts are, by definition, less than one-minute long each, so I encourage you to give each of them a quick play. One short you must listen to is the first one of Father Mark talking about his upcoming pilgrimage to Palestine, scheduled for this coming November – a pilgrimage that you are invited to join!

Mark has led more than a dozen pilgrimages to Palestine though perhaps none at such a critical time for the region. I would love to go myself but was given a clear message when I left after my one-and-only visit to Israel in 2004 that I was not welcome back. More on that another time. If you’d like to find out more about Mark’s pilgrimage, watch the Short below, download the Palestine Conference Tour 2024’ PDF (click here), and then make contact with Mark.

This coming Sunday I’m looking forward to having Karyn Hemming and Andrew Logan with me on the panel, with our Swedish brother, Father Ola, joining us with a pre-recorded reflection on the Epistle. We will be be streaming from midday at, and on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Streamyard. I do hope to be able to share this Eucharist with you. 😊

Let me work your corner

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What’s On?

We had a big night of boxing last Friday, with our boy, Bobby Habib, making his amateur debut at ‘The Roundhouse’ in Kensington. Bobby’s performance was remarkable. He went the distance and narrowly lost on points which was remarkable, given that he dislocated his shoulder in the first round but managed to pop it back in and fight on nonetheless!

I didn’t find out about the shoulder until after the fight was over which is probably just as well as I would not have wanted the bout to continue. Even so, it turned out to be a great experience for Bobby as is captured well in the Short above.

Our small boxing team is grieving Bobby’s departure to the UK this weekend and, while no one can take his place, we are hopeful of getting a few more fighters to join the team. Are you able to join us? In my 35 years as a trainer, I don’t think I’ve yet had anybody tell me that they regrated the decision to train with me.

Give me a couple of months and I promise that I’ll do more than turn you into a lean, mean, fighting-machine. I’ll probably also add ten years to your life by teaching you my BLEST system (Breathing, Listening, Eating, Stress and Touch).

If you can’t train with me, please do me a favour and help promote my Boxing Academy. The easiest way to do that is just to share the Short about Bobby’s fight, featured above. It includes my phone number and email at the end. You might also consider sharing the other Short I created that appears below. It features my daughter, Imogen’s, partner, Hamish. I apologise for not seeking the permission of Imogen or Hamish before creating this Short but they both seem to be OK with it.

OK. That’s it for this week. Keep praying for Palestine, for Julian, for me and for each other.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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