I have just collected my sister at the airport and Melbourne is flourishing with flowers to mark the occasion.

We’re walking home through the city following dumplings in Little China town on our way to the station, we go to cross Swanston Street near the State Library and we hear a voice exhorting in a microphone.

“What’s going on there?” asks my spiritual-not-Christian sister.

We have wandered along Southbank earlier tonight and watched the Crown flames shooting high against the dark night sky, seen a jugglers routine, listened to a buskers rendition of an Elton John classic… the city is in fine form but I sigh to see Cross Cultures church steps covered in handpainted signs saying:

“Repent!” and “Jesus gave his life for you!”

“Sorry,” I say, “someone soap-boxing repentance.” (I can’t even ad-lib here for you because I don’t remember what the words were they seemed so empty to me, I couldn’t hold them)

“Why are you sorry?” she asks.

“It offends me he can stand there and assume we don’t know God.  Everyone here (sweeping arm canvasses Melbourne nightlife) was made by God, in the image of God and is in a relationship with God whether they acknowledge it or not – his God is small, static, fixed and I imagine he puts more people off than he draws in… it puts me off!”

“Doesn’t any of it connect with you, speak to you,
remind you of old times?”

“No.” I respond flatly. But words of old times prompts the tune of Be Thou My Vision to mind and I lose track of the conversation for several metres… naught be all else to me save that Thou art, Thou and Thou only, Thou first in my heart, O be Thou my vision…

That was a close-ended answer. Answered for myself, out of my own filter and judgmental in its own way.  You have to think about what prompts a question and, defensive of potential association with street-side evangelisation, I did not inquire “Did any of it connect with you?”


I don’t suppose that an old man on the steps with his carefully handpainted signs and fervent faith is any threat to me so I don’t know why I need to set myself in opposition per se… are we ‘fighting for the same side’ or am I taking him down with ‘friendly-fire’? That has sometimes been the difference between good and evil winning in some significant cultural narratives. Ambitious in-fighting on the dark side vs. a coalition of goodies working together – Star Wars; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; Lord of the Rings… do you believe in fairytales?  Do I? Is that where I would look for answers? for truth?  Jesus set himself against the Pharisees, hanging out with Samaritans offended the Jews… he set himself against things as an outsider, ignored class rules and hung with homeless people and lepers.  Some of these stories have someone on the darkside who turns at an epiphany moment – Anakin Skywalker, Edmund, Boromir… and heroes that will die to achieve a greater good in Aslan and Frodo (although he doubts himself there at the end of all things)… at different points each lead has a mission they have to fulfill on their own, their own battle to fight in the bigger picture. Does it seem silly to try and use stories and ideas we already have to try and understand another Story?

We all choose stories to live by – from our families of origin, from our friends, gang, from TV/movies, books… but how many of us consciously choose what story we want to live by?

We have the power and the freedom to elect that as if our life were our very own pick-a-path adventure.

I went to see The Desolation of Smaug with friends and one commented upon coming out their frustration that “there’s no one in that film to look up to!” Thorin refuses to keep his promise to the people of Laketown, the people of Laketown get angry about that and side with the Elves who bring them food and supplies, the King of the Elves wants some of the treasure under the mountain for himself… the hero is the Hobbit yeah?  Bilbo may be keeping  the heart of the mountain to himself (albeit not for himself) so he’s not looking that good either… what a responsibility to have rest on individual people to see and work for a greater good that isn’t apparent to others and will cost you friendships and family along the way.

But what can you do to be in a position to see or know what the greater good is?

How do you know if your version of the truth or what you believe in will come to pass?  There must be a moment of risking everything, not knowing what will come of it, but knowing you have to make the next choice because it is necessary right in that moment and whatever comes next is beyond that.

What stories will you live by?

What stories will you choose by?


I followed up with my sister the next day:

“That guy, from the steps last night, did any of that connect with you?”

“Nah, I think I counted the word hell seven times
and didn’t see the word love once”