Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yesterday the concrete people put up a thing so that we can get through the laneway. For the last two weeks it's been completely blocked off, so it's good that we don't have to use the front door all the time now. It might mean there's more people coming to inject heroin during the day as well.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Cleaning the laneway

Me and Ray cleaned the laneway for the first time this morning. The nozzle for the tap was missing. It was probably left on the tap, and taken by someone, to dissolve their heroin in.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The hordes of street evangelists

I keep getting targeted by street evangelists, trying to get me to convert to their brand of Christianism: Bible-believeing, spirit-filled, faith-healing or New Testament Christianity - the list goes on. The guy this evening was trying to tell me that people aren't saved unless they speak in tongues.
Ahhh, Melbourne!


He [Jesus] also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.'
Again he said, 'What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.'
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
(Mark 4:24-36)
Reading this just before at Sacred Space, I wondered about whether it mattered for Jesus whether the people understood what his parables meant, and why he only explained them to his disciples. Is it necessary for us to understand what they mean?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How's the serenity!

When I moved in the weekend before last, the first few nights it was really difficult to get much sleep.To much background noise, particularly the fan just outside my window. And I'd get woken by the street cleaners at far too early o'clock in the morning.
After a couple of nights I got some earplugs, then I slept fine.
The last few nights I've been able to sleep fine without the earplugs, because I've gotten used to the noise.

But tonight I was planning to go to sleep early due to tiredness, due to it having been so hot today. But there's been so many people in town, making heaps of noise, because tomorrow's Australia(n Invasion) Day, so they won't have to go to work. So I haven't been able to sleep.
So I ended up going down to the Flinders Street steps to see if anyone I knew was around. There was one guy I know from Credo, sitting on the steps with two other guys I didn't recognise, so I hung around with them for a while.
So these two policemen came up to us and asked the younger one of the guys that I hadn't met before if he had any ID, because there was a Smirnoff bottle sitting next to him, and they didn't believe that he was eighteen. He gave him a Health Care Card, and they asked him what his name was, and his date of birth. He told them his name, but said he didn't know what his date of birth was. Because he wouldn't tell them his birthdate they said they'd have to arrest him for sitting on the steps (apparently against the Transport Act), although the two other guys were also sitting on the steps, and there were about a dozen other people sitting on the steps. He still wouldn't tell them, so they arrested him.
He came back about ten minutes later and told us that he'd given them his brother's Health Care Card because he was sacred of them, and thought he'd have to go to court for underage drinking. The cops came back again and the older guy that I didn't know told them the kid had given them his brother's card because he was scared. So the cops got the kid to come back into the station. They said he probably would be let off though.
I realise they probably just want to scare kids out of breaking the law, but if they hadn't tried to intimidate him he probably would've been more likely to tell the truth, although it probably still wouldn't have been likely. I don't know if what they did would just make him resent police officers and be less likely to trust them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Advocacy: social justice in Deuteronomy

Last Tuesday morning, after we looked at the passage in Leviticus, we looked at the fifteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, which was Moses' last speech before he died. It covers a lot of similar stuff to the Levicticus passage.
Some other stuff I noticed in this passage though, is that Moses doesn't tell the Israelites not to make money by lending to other countries. I suppose that might've been so that other countries who wouldn't be generous in return wouldn't be able to abuse the Israelite economic system. Dunno what I think about it though.
Another thing I noticed is that their slavery system seems a lot different to how Africans were enslaved to work in North America, or how Pacific Islanders were enslaved to work in Australia. Slaves had to be freed in the Jubilee year, and they had to be paid for the time they'd spent working for their masters. (12-18)

Monday, January 23, 2006

A little bird

This baby sparrow was sitting in one of the flower boxes out the front of Town Hall this evening, when me and Nomes stopped to ... admire ... the parsley that's there at the moment.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The laneway - whose space?

Tuesday afternoon we had a discussion about the laneway, and whose space it is. A lot of people use the laneway. The staff of Collins Street Baptist church park there. This morning most of the church people came in through the laneway. Last weekend we (the Urban Seed residents) moved all our stuff in via the laneway. Three days a week we'll be cleaning it up. Heroin users go to the steps at the back of the Victoria Hotel, just next to our garage, to inject. Foot Patrol come into the laneway every morning to empty the fit bin. People come into Credo lunches via the laneway. Green Collect (particularly EcoPaul) use the laneway a lot, because they keep their compost and recycling bins in the garage. Staff from the Vic's restaurant come out into the laneway for smoke breaks. As of last week a team from Sydney have set up scaffolding, so they can spend the next six months repairing the Vic's 'concrete cancer'. And during the Commonwealth Games there'll be a lot of police and security services around, because the Vic will be part of the International Village.
So the laneway is very much a shared space, between a lot of different groups.

We had a look at the final chapter of the letter to the Hebrews.
The author encourages the Jewish Christians to offer hospitality to strangers (1-3). The laneway is a place where we have an opportunity to do this, by keeping it clean and well lit, in order to minimise the harm of injecting drugs. It's also a half-way point between the street and the building, a kind of neutral ground where we can meet people from the street culture, and gain each others trust enough to venture into each others' spaces, such as our living room or the Flinders Street steps, where a lot of street people congregate.
The author also talks about how he (or she) doesn't consider him(or her)self to be part of the city, but is in fact looking forward to the new city that God is reconstructing (14). The laneway has the potential to be a gateway to God's city. I was talking today to someone who comes to Credo a lot, and he said, 'The thing I like about Credo is that the worst of enemies can come and eat together, and have a civilised conversation.' Sounded like God's city, and reminded me of what Isaiah prophecies about God's kingdom:

The cattle will graze among bears. Cubs and calves will lie down together. And lions will eat grass as the livestock do.
(Isaiah 11:6)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Advocacy: social justice in Leviticus

Tuesday morning we talked a fair bit about advocacy and social justice and stuff, and looked a bit at what the scriptures say about these things.

First we looked at chapter 25 of Leviticus, which was the ancient Israelites' law book. Here's some interesting stuff we noticed:

  • Every seven years there was a complete holiday, not just so the people could have a rest, but also for the land. (1-7)
  • Every fifty years (so, once a generation) the land had to be redistributed to it's traditional owners. Each generation would have gotten a new start, so there wouldn't have been as much opportunity for generational poverty to develop, like it has in Australian society. (8-13) Debts also had to be cleared every fifty years. (25-31)
  • The land isn't understood as being the people's property, but more like a loan from God. (23-24) Reminds me that the indigenous Australians didn't traditionally believe that they owned the land that supported them.
  • Poor people had to be supported by everyone else, and weren't to be charged interest if they got into debt. (35-38)
Tell me if you come up with anything else. Any thoughts on the slavery bits? (39-53)

'The heroin guilt trip'

THE tragic case of Nguyen Tuong Van has generated much debate about the appropriateness of capital punishment for heroin traffickers. His execution in Singapore late last year was felt by many to be appropriate because, as one columnist put it: "Heroin makes people do bad things to themselves and to others. We must ensure people don't use it."

But is it really the restriction of supply, through prohibition, that prevents the disintegration of society as we know it?
Read the whole article here.
Props to Mark.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Moved in

Okay, so now we've all moved into Urban Seed. The last few days we've been doing training on stuff like adovocacy, referring people to various welfare organisations, responding to an overdose, cleaning up the laneway. This afternoon we also had a discussion about the theology behind cleaning up the laneway. Last night I saw and held a baby who had been born that day, in the same hospital I was born twenty-two years and twelve days previous. Tomorrow we (the residents) are going down to Queenscliff for a couple of days of camping. I'll blog more about what we've been learning when we get back. For now, here's some pictures of my room:

Friday, January 13, 2006

Through the roof

Picture from 'What makes Jesus Christ so unique?'
Been reading the story where Jesus heals a paralysed man (Mark 2:1-12).

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
(Mark 2:1-4)
A couple of things surprise me about this story.
A lot of the time we Christians talk about 'coming to Jesus' as being a personal decision, or the initiation of 'a personal relationship with your Lord and Saviour'. The thing is, in this story, the sick guy is completely dependent on is friends to get him to Jesus so he can be healed.
Another thing I realised is that it would've taken a lot of guts for his friends to break through the roof. I'm sure the people inside wouldn't have been happy with bits of roof falling in on their heads. And the owner of the house mighn't have appreciated the new sky-light.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Back from Warrnambool

Got back from Warrnambool yesterday afternoon.
When I got there on Monday, the Ignite team were down at the beach running games of cricket and volleyball and rugby. Here's some photos from the rugby:
(They look really weird, because my phone's not meant for taking photos of people running around.)

Went and visited the Champion City (what used to be called SUFM) team after that. They have a new tradition that if someone says a particular word, they have to do ten push-ups. Rachel kept trying to trick me into saying it, so eventually I just thought that whenever she talked to me she was trying to get me to say the word.
This guy called Elliot, who was in the Universe group I was leading at the start of last year, and who has flouro yellow hair, has started another new tradition, of getting up at 6am for an extra prayer meeting.

Thursday afternoon Ignite ran a three-on-three basketball tournament at Jamieson Street Primary School. They got some guys from the Warrnambool Seahawks to come and ref. Here's some photos:
(These ones are funnier, because some of the players look all stretchy.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Going to Warrnambool

I'm going to Warrnambool tomorrow morning to visit the Scripture Union team there. Trav's been blogging about what's been going on there. I'll be back Wednesday. On Saturday I move to Urban Seed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

This is what I looked like twenty-two years ago, the day I was born:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


6th Century Italian mosaic

Epiphany is on Friday, so I’ve been reading over the story of the magi coming to visit Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12).
According to The People's New Testament, magi were 'an order of priests and philosophers which belonged originally to Persia and Media, and who were extensively distributed over the region of the Euphrates. Those described in the book of Daniel as wise men, astrologers and magicians, belonged to this order.'
I find it interesting that these foreigners, who likely practise magic and astrology, appear to be the only people in Jerusalem who realise that Messiah has been born. Even when King Herod asks the religious leaders about the expected conditions of Messiah’s arrival it doesn’t seem to occur to them that Messiah may have just been born.

King Kong

Went and saw Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong this afternoon (Tuesday).
My friend James, who I went to see it with reckoned it was to long, and that it took too long for them to the island and for Kong to come into the story. I didn't mind that though.
During one a scenes depicting a violent encounter between Carl Denham (Jack Black)'s film crew and the indigenous people of the island, I wondered how the story would differ if it was told from the point of view of the indigenouse people, who know they must sacrifice someone (preferabley not from their tribe) to appease Kong, but are also afraid of the strangers' guns.
At one point in the film several characters are attacked by what seem to be giant wetas - primative crickets from New Zealand, which Peter Jackson's special effects company is named after.