I attend a KNOW YOUR BIBLE (KYB) study group each week and this term we are studying the Old
Testament book of Daniel – which tells the powerful story of Daniel and his three friends
experiencing God at work in their lives.
This leads to some big questions for us to answer and we are all challenged to remember a time in
our lives when, like Daniel and his three friends, God allowed suffering in our personal lives.
I was brought back to the day in 1959 when I was at home in Australia on furlough from Western
Samoa where I had been working for the growing Methodist Church in their newly opened Wesley
Bookshop. I was shocked and very disappointed to receive a letter telling me I was not needed to
But I did not challenge my faith, but I experienced the peace of God as I asked why? And I was led
on to work through the upsetting days, and then the Methodist Church Overseas Mission Board sent me
to All Saints Missionary Training College in Sydney and from there was appointed to the Mission
Station at YIRRKALA in ARNHEM LAND in the Northern Territory.

God allowed this experience in my life
– challenged my faith but led me on through the 19 years of challenging and rewarding years of knowing His love, guidance and the amazing blessing of being able to be used in the developing of the Aboriginal communities at YIRRKALA and ELCHO ISLAND
in Arnhem Land – and it challenged me.

• ELCHO ISLAND, known to its traditional owners as Galiwin’
• Aboriginal community at YIRRKALA

The question in our Bible Study group for the first week of this term still remains –
did God allow suffering in your life and did it affect your faith?
And the answer is YES & NO – God did allow me to suffer and it challenged me, but it did not affect
my faith in any way.
I don’t even remember ever questioning God in that way and I am thankful for the wonder of the
on-going love, strength, leading and guidance through the days of my life, right through until this
very time.

Mary Fletcher

Rev Ian has given us a fascinating article on the Geography of Jerusalem in association
with Biblical Accounts. This is published in three episodes in May, June & July.

JUNE: Geography and Easter: Part 2 (continued) Rev Ian Stehbens

Geography is used by the Gospel Writers to express the drama in the story

Mark has an extraordinarily strong and clear geography. His geographical construct is dialectical and purposeful. From Chapter 1-8, the narrative is set in Galilee. It is in Galilee that Jesus is revealed as Son of Man (100% human), calls disciples and as they exercise ministry together, Jesus’ authority and purpose are demonstrated. The Galilean section
climaxes in the Transfiguration as Jesus is identified as Son of God (100% divine). At this point the disciples are told that this now means going to Jerusalem (8:31, 9:31, and 10:33) where betrayal, condemnation by national authorities then suffering, flogging, death at the hands of the occupying power will occur.
(And all this will be followed by resurrection.)

The disciples resist this proposed journey and reveal their inadequate understanding of the role of the Messiah/Christ. He cannot suffer such a fate. They do not want to go to Jerusalem. For the rest of the Gospel of Mark (Chapter 8-16) the geography shifts towards and into Jerusalem. There Jesus
experiences at the point of his deepest tribulation, a coronation on a cross.
Luke’s Gospel is written in the Greco-Roman world, distant from Jerusalem. [Dr Luke as he has been called, warrants a PhD in Geography.] His geography inverts the roles of Jerusalem, Jericho and Emmaus. Jerusalem revered as the elevated holy city, is brought low: “Daughters of Jerusalem, so not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed! Then they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” (Luke 23:28-30) Way below Jerusalem, deep in the rift valley is Jericho. Jericho, a place despised by the Jewish people through their history, was cursed by Joshua in the earliest pre-Jerusalem history. But in Luke’s geo-theological construct it becomes the place of revealing the thrust of Jesus’ ministry: the blind see, the despised are invited into fellowship, the rejected and wounded are responded to with pity and active compassion, enemies are treated
as friends. This is the setting for the calling of the followers of Jesus into a ministry of hospitality (Luke 10:30ff). And whatever such ministry costs, “When I return” says Jesus, “I will repay”. Joshua’s curse (Joshua 6:26) is abolished at the cost of God’s Son, whose work is to be completed by his followers. Emmaus, down the Roman Road of oppression, identified with the camp of the occupying military forces, becomes the place where the resurrected Jesus enters and is recognized. With haste those who recognize him return at once to Jerusalem to declare to the gathered group of disciples that Jesus was recognized by them when he broke bread. Then Jesus himself stood among this assembly greeting them with “Peace be with you”. The scourged Emmaus and the cursed Jericho both physically in the low country, one to the east, the other to the
west, are thus raised up by grace, whilst the Holy City potentially faces destruction by Roman forces. Luke thus answers the question, ‘Is the power of grace, the power of Jesus Christ, greater than the power of Rome and greater than an ancient curse?’ The geographical constructs of both these gospels, as examples, are designed to intentionally carry the power of the message the writers seek to deliver.