This is more of an interview I'm transcribing, between John Chapman and Kel Richards, from a bit earlier this year. Check yesterday's piece of brilliance, On dying.
This starts in on the Christian life and somehow transmutes into a meditation on the possibilities and deep desire for the new creation.
Kel: And what is the best thing about the Christian life?
John: Ah brother, it’s all good. It’s all good. I remember hearing a bloke telling us about becoming a Christian, he was asked that question; he said, the whole box and dice!
See what could be better than to know your sins are forgiven? What could be better to know that you’re friends with God?
When I was a boy my father hardly ever called me by my Christian name. The only time he ever called me John was when I was in deep trouble. And I always went to ground when he called ‘John’. He called me Ned and I would call him George, neither of which were our names, but they were intimate names of affection—
Kel: Friendship names
John: Yes. And it just said ‘I love you’. I care about you.
And I can’t think of anything better than to be able to call God Father. Paul says when we cry ‘Abba Father’, it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And to have God as a loving, caring Father—I know that some people have had fathers who aren’t—but ‘Father’ is a big word, it’s not a little word, it means more than ‘my father’, and to have God as Father, oh man, that is really something.
It’s great to know that God keeps guiding you through life, he said ‘I’ve got my hand on you for good. I’m going to see that the best things happen for you’. [See Jeremiah 24:6] Well that’s, nothing wrong with that is there? And the retirement benefits are great.
You see to look forward to the new creation—there’s a lovely poem in Isaiah [Isaiah 11], it says, ‘In the new creation the lion will eat straw with the ox’, that’s very good news for the ox isn’t it? He normally gets eaten by the lion.
And best of all, ‘the child will play at the nest of the viper.’ My observation is that people spend hours seeing that their kids are not in danger. But in the new creation you won’t need to worry, there’ll be nothing’ll hurt them. Nothing’ll destroy them.
This is a wonderful world. I’ve been on the top of Niagara Falls in high spring, on the Canadian side there’re all tulips and two enormous magnolias. The daffodils grow wild on the edge of the fall. And there’s always enough mist blown up for a big rainbow. It’s perfect. It’s just lovely.
I’ve been in the Western plains of New South Wales, where ninety percent of the scenery’s sky, the horizon’s about that far off the ground, and at night time the whole thing’s a blaze of lights. And like a little child I’d say to God ‘Do it again, do it again’, it’s so beautiful.
I was at a performance of the Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company and I laughed so much I fell out of the chair onto the floor. And I thought, it is so brilliant, people are so clever.
In the aftermath of the opening of the Sydney Opera House I went to a concert where Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra played Beethoven, and Kirsten Flagstad, that great soprano, the German soprano, sang ‘Elizabeth’s Greeting’ from Tannhauser. When she came onto the stage she was like a battleship in full dress. And I thought—the orchestra began to play—and I thought, there is nobody who can sing above that din, I’ll never hear her.
And suddenly a voice rang out, like a canon and as clear as a bell, and there followed the most brilliant twenty minutes of music making I’d ever heard. And I was beside myself. I didn’t have enough limbs to clap and stamp with. And the guy in front looked around, I said ‘Shout, shout, she might just do it again!’ And it’s brilliant.
But it is all so mucked up, isn’t it? I saw the other night on television a million Soviet soldiers were killed in the Siege of Leningrad. A million! That’s like one in every twenty Australians! And you say to yourself, Oh, if only I could get rid of that rotten part.
One of the old ladies in this village had her purse snatched, it had five bucks in it! And the damage that’s been done to her is like a million bucks. She’s frightened to go out of the front door, that’s wicked, do that to a poor old thing.
And it’s both breathtaking and horrifying at one and the same time.
And when I think about the new creation, brother, it’s just like the sunset and the rainbow and Kirsten—I know Kirsten Flagstad’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but you’ll have a cup like it. And you say, gee this is a marvellous world.
I remember when I was diagnosed as a diabetic, I was on the brink of going to England and I said to my specialist, I was planning to go overseas. He said, to where? I said to London. He said ‘this may surprise you, they know about diabetes in London.’ And you say to yourself… do you know they’re doing experiments now where they’re activating pigs’ livers to create insulin, I think in a decade there’ll be a cure for it. And you say, isn’t that brilliant? That people put their mind to that?
And I want that world that’s just brilliant without the wretched parts to it. And being a Christian I think has helped me to be a realist. I used to be a romantic, but it’s helped me to be a realist, and say, we have mucked this world up properly. We really have mucked it up. With terrific potential, we use it for terrible evil. Why am I like that?
And Kel it sounds like a sermon coming on doesn’t it?
Kel: A build-up to it certainly
John: Yeah! Quite a good one, I think I’ll make a few notes cause I tend to forget things these days.
Kel: They’ll give you a copy of the tape, then you can jot them…
John: Oh good.
The whole interview links in part to Chappo's new book, Making the Most of the Cross".