all it takes is the right question


Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.

Banksy: Thanks

Old man: We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.


i kept thinking when i was planning yesterday’s worship that it just wasn’t right, that i’d missed the point by a fraction of an inch, but that meant i had missed it entirely. i knew it was wrong because i had the message that i wanted everyone to hear, and that’s never a good sign. i knew it was wrong because the question i’d come up with to get to that message wasn’t a fair question… we were talking about the swords and ploughshares… and the question i was asking [embarrassingly predictably] was ‘what is the world you waiting for’.

i figured it out this morning when i woke at 3 [literally] with that conversation between banksy and the old man playing back in my head. ‘what am i waiting for?’ is a question i certainly need to ask myself, from within my privileged world – just like i need to see banksy’s pictures on the segregation wall. but for many of those who see the wall every day, the question is asked into a world that’s irredeemable. you can’t speak of a different world, it’s an insult to the all-absorbing, unrelenting horror of this one.

this morning i had coffee with a chaplain from one of our major hospitals, who works primarily in the psych unit. she talked about worship she’d led this week, asking the question of the same passage, ‘what is the waiting like?’. that’s exactly the question i needed to ask yesterday – it’s a question i can’t know the answer to, it’s a question that honours the moment, it’s a question that places the listener right, squarely, in the story of the incarnation.

and thanks to that conversation this morning, i’m suddenly feeling advent and christmas in this context are indeed possible… we’re skipping isaiah… we’re going straight to mary and joseph, and the bits that aren’t written into the gospels of how the pregnant waiting must have seemed unending, agonising, exhausting. we’re going to honour the interminableness of the wait, history holding its breath until it no longer has breath to hold … and just maybe we’ll get to the point where we might discover that you can do that only if you catch a moment of possibility, a hint and a glimpse… of a magnificat, for example.

well, it’s working in my head anyway.


  1. Your recent entries have been wonderfully good at bringing things into perspective. Rather than simply rushing forward with ideas of how ‘I can change the world’, it is much better to allow the space and emptiness to speak, and let the healing come from that place. It is all too tempting to create an agenda, and then see that get squashed by reality and opposition.

    I guess this is where I would place alternative worship; it is not the standard singing songs as prescribed, rather it engages that space within all of us that reaches for awe and mystery. That is far from a fad.

  2. Kel

    i love the artwork on the wall, the story on the link is good, thanx for sharing it

  3. I have a vague memory reading something of the work of the Catholic theologian Richard Rohr back in the 80’s, & one of the thoughts that he was mulling over was that he faced the distinct possibility of having spent most of his early training (& ministry), preparing himself to answer questions that the the people he was seeking to serve simply weren’t asking.
    I remember that what transpired since that epiphany saw him delve more fully into building Christian communities founding the New Jerusalem Community in the 70’s. It’s a scary thought for one to face & yet if my life is being true to my own real questions then I guess there is some sanctuary in at the very least being on that path.
    For me that whole concept highlights the tension between the truth being the truth, & the desire/need/ability/inability of the church to be relevant to this time & place. I’ll ponder this some more before I rattle off into my own private cyber musings.
    I too join with the others in declaring my thanks Cheryl. You have an uncanny knack of scraping the permafrost off some things that I used to care & think a great deal about, & whilst not always comfortable, I enjoy the challenge

  4. When I first saw the photo, I thought it was somewhere in suburban Australia; an estate wall built to keep out noise and intruders! The sad part is that it could be.

    I love the transition of your question. Is that the real meaning of Hope? To offer a hand of friendship in the here and now rather than visions of the future that could just result in despair?

    I’m not sure if I’m making sense with all that. Mondayitis!

    I think I read somewhere else on here that you work in the centre for theology and ministry in Melbourne? If so, keep your eyes out for a couple of my photos that might appear on your walls – “Solitude” and “Easter”.

  5. Cheryl

    hi Peter, no, the centre for theology and ministry thing is just a persistent rumour. i work in at little collins street. if i’m out at the ctm i’ll keep an eye open, though!

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