Monday, January 31, 2005

Sunday thoughts

Our minister R2 has been to the beach:

"On Australia Day" he reports, "my wife and I joined many others and braved the heat to attend the citizenship ceremony at Sandy Bay for Mary [one of the Sudanese among our congregation]. It was my first such ceremony and I would recommend the experience to help in appreciating what it means to be a citizen of our nation. As Christians our allegiance is higher than a national one, but it is good to learn to be grateful for what we have.

Considering the political and moral threats to our society, we realize the importance of preserving our Christian heritage. It was an encouragement to hear their oath of allegiance “being under God”!

If you ask Mary and her family what it meant to them, I’m sure you will hear a very deep gratitude. New citizens know what it means not to have what many of us have lived with all our lives. It was a great day!

It made me think of the passage in Phil.3:20 where Paul says that 'our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus'.

The Lord mayor reminded us all that being a citizen of Australia brought responsibility as well as privilege. It is the same being a citizen of heaven. We look forward to the privilege of our salvation in Jesus. Some of that we experience now, along with the responsibility to serve God in this life on Earth. How are you doing?"

In church this morning, R2 began a new series from the book of Samuel in the Old Testament. "Hannah: Woman of God" looks at chapter 1 and the plight of Hannah who was infertile at a time of history when that was what defined a woman's identity.
Instead of railing against God and his injustice towards her, she prayed that she would be allowed to have a son – and that she would dedicate this son to serving the Lord.

God is always waiting to hear our prayers – they may not always be granted but they are always heard.

Well, the rest is history (literally). Hannah did conceive. She had acted in true faith, recognizing God's hand is in everything in life.

Nobody could have seen in this commonplace domestic drama a historic moment – that this child would grow up to anoint Israel's greatest King, a significant step towards the arrival of Jesus Christ.

News from Rome at the weekend – the Shroud of Turin actually might date from Jesus' time after all.

FRANCES D'EMILIO of Associated Press reported that a chemist who worked on testing of the Shroud of Turin says new analysis of the fiber indicates the cloth that some say was the burial linen of Jesus could be up to 3,000 years old.

The analysis, by a scientist who was on the original 1978 team that was allowed to study tiny pieces of the cloth, indicates the shroud is far older than the initial findings suggesting it was probably from medieval times, and will likely be seized on by those who believe it wrapped the body of Jesus after his crucifixion.

"I cannot disprove that this cloth was the burial shroud that was used on Jesus," Raymond N. Rogers, a retired chemist from the University of California-operated Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a telephone interview Friday from his home.

"The chemistry says it was a real shroud, the blood spots on it are real blood, and the technology that was used to make that piece of cloth was exactly what Pliny the Elder reported fort his time," about 70 A.D., Rogers said, referring to the naturalist of ancient Roman times.

"It's a shroud from the right time, but you're never going to find out (through science) if it was used on a person named Jesus," said Rogers, whose findings were published recently in the scientific journal Thermochimica Acta.

Rogers wrote that in 2003, the scientist advising the cardinal of Turin, where the shroud is kept, provided him with pieces of thread taken from the radiocarbon sample before it was distributed for dating.

The American chemist said he decided to analyze the amount of vanillin, a chemical compound that is present in linen from the flax fibers used to weave it. Vanillin slowly disappears from the fiber over time at a calculated rate, he said.

Judging by those calculations, a medieval-age cloth should have had some 37 percent of its vanillin left by 1978, the year the threads were taken from the shroud, Rogers said. But there was virtually no vanillin left in the shroud, leading the chemist to calculate it could be far older than the radiocarbon testing indicated, possibly some 3,000 years old.

Asked why carbon-dating might have been off, Rogers contended that "the people who cut the sample didn't do a very good job of characterizing the samples," that is, taking samples from many areas of the cloth.

Rogers said he sent the results of his vanillin testing to the offices of the Turin cardinal and his scientific advisers but hasn't received a response.
The Vatican, which does not claim that the shroud is authentic, said Saturday it had not comment on the new testing. Officials at the Turin archdiocese could not be reached for comment.

The chemist said he doubted the shroud could be reliably tested any more, contending that a top-secret restoration in 2002 likely would influence chemical results.
In the restoration, centuries' old patches were removed and a backing sewn on centuries ago was replaced. At the time, Shroud experts around the world were angered by the project, which they said should have had more outside collaboration.

The Shroud is a strip of linen more than four meters (about 14 feet) long and one-meter (3 1/2-feet) wide that is marked by an image of Jesus. Believers say the image was left by Jesus' body after being taken down from the cross.

Disputes have flourished over the 1988 declaration by the scientific team that carbon-dating indicated the cloth came from medieval times. Researchers at The Hebrew University has said that pollen and plant images on it put its origins in Jerusalem sometime before the eighth century.

I don't have much truck with the whole "relics" business myself, but this is certainly an intriguing development for those of us who remember the whole Shroud controversy in the '70s.

A letter published in my local paper is annoyed by a column in the Sunday paper that supports Christian concepts. "Every man of science knows there is no God," grumbles the letter-writer.
How does he know for sure? Well, I guess he just has to take it on faith....


I have been thinking about my mother a lot this month. Her birthday is in a fortnight – the second one since she died. It stirs up emotions that I thought had died down.

I guess the feelings will never go away. Like a chronic pain, the best one can hope for is that it will recede into the background for most of the time.

The weather continues to be too warm for comfort. Anything over 27° - about 80° in the old scale – is getting too hot for me. On these warm sunny afternoons the back of the house heats up steadily and only the sea breeze makes it habitable.

The cat thinks this is fine. If we have all the windows open, he's free to go outside, curl up under one of the rose bushes and return when it suits him.

Conditions in the kitchen mean a few changes. To keep the ants at bay, for example, I have to put the cat's food in one of those dishes-with-a-moat and at breakfast I have to use diet marmalade (the ants are drawn to the sugar in normal marmalade and jam).

Had breakfast this morning while listening to the David Jacobs show on the BBC Radio website. To my surprise he dredged up from the archives three Cole Porter songs that I've never heard before: "I'm In Love Again", "Use Your Imagination" and "Ev'rything I Love".

It just goes to show that even the most famous artist has some lesser-known stuff tucked away.

Julie has been having a bit of a spending spree on Ebay, buying shoes. At least she's confined herself to Australian vendors, so the shipping charges are moderate.

For some reason the people involved only want Paypal transactions from international customers. This means that Julie has been traipsing around all the banks sending money to various accounts.

Personally I don't think I'd buy shoes by mail order. I like to be able to try them on before deciding to take them or not.

One pair of shoes that arrived today would have been perfect yesterday, she moaned. They matched perfectly the outfit she wore to the Ladies Day race meeting.

"Next year I'm going to enter the 'Fashions In The Field' contest," she said. "First prize was a brand new Mini Cooper worth $35,000!"

Wow. For a prize like that I think I'd be tempted to enter (and I look bloody awful in a dress!).

They're digging up the streets wherever I go lately. It's all to do with the introduction of gas to Tasmanian consumers.

When they announced a few years ago that gas was coming back after a generation, I was puzzled how it would be delivered. "They can hardly dig up every street in the city and lay new pipelines," I mused.

Apparently they can.

This week marks the start of the year for the television networks. After the "silly season" months of summer, we are now suddenly being offered a raft of new programmes.

  • Cold Case returned with new episodes. This has been one of the most popular American cop shows, perhaps because its strong female perspective gives it a slightly different feel to most of the police dramas.
  • She Spies is a tongue-in-cheek thriller about three beautiful girls paroled to act as undercover agents – sort of Charlie's Angels crossed with the Dirty Dozen. The writers are trying for VIP-style "quirky" and it could be fun.
  • Desperate Housewives Teri Hatcher in a comeback role. Sort of like Knot's Landing crossed with Twin Peaks

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