Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Lk6v1-2 Many questions follow from this irreligious grazing incident. What is the rest of rest? What do you do when you stop stopping? What doing is permissible, what doing is profitable, and what doing is actually rest? I regret to say that I have no great new thoughts about Sabbath.
Lk6v3-4 Chats about this via Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. There are specific laws and specific prophecies - there have been and there still are and there will be to come, but there some deeper structural form to the Law and the Prophetic which is timeless, universal, part of the fabric of Godself. Here I don't think that Jesus discounts Law, but demonstrates that specific laws manifest a bigger Law, that is, the shimmering, dazzling Order of Things that is the God-structure of Reality.
Lk6v5-6 "On another Sabbath." Week in, week out. I love the way Luke draws out the labour of Pharisaism. Into v7 "watched him" eyes asquint and bloodshot, the watcher a'waiting, the sun comes up on their stake-out shifts, gonna getcha getcha getcha, that Geezus, up to no good, frackin' varmit.. The law is infinite, and policing it is a superhuman task. We don't keep the Sabbath, so much as the Sabbath keeps us. By Grace.
Lk6v7-8 Jesus knew their thoughts. Knows my thoughts. Meditating on this a little I realise that while I believe that God knows my thoughts I've internalised a sense that God must relate to human thoughts a bit like I relate to the internet. If God has access to everyone's thoughts then God must not care about any of them too strongly, apart from the really extreme ones maybe. My thoughts must blend into the dull roar of the ocean of all the thoughts in the world, a boring and exhausting wave of information for our deity, in which I probably don't expose myself too much by comparison, and I can probably slip by unnoticed or am quickly forgotten by something else making the headlines in an heavenly infinite scroll. As such this is how I relate to my own thoughts, taking neither sin nor inspiration very seriously for very long, easily compartmentalising thought and behaviour. Jesus here reminds us that the divine knows our thoughts at infinite depth as well as infinite breadth. God holds each thought as weighty, God is prepared to speak into every thought. Pay attention, oh my soul.
Lk6v9-10 Sabbath is a true truth, a maxim that pervades the universe, an objective eurhythmia beating a drum through eternity. One in seven, one in seven, one in seven. If you do not take rest, rest will take you, it will catch up with you, and time takes no hostages. Just as also, the Year of Jubilee is a latent imperative, a self-fulfilling force, not so much an advisory principle to note, as an active force in the universe to be ware of: the debt-based society will collapse in periodic financial crises unless we recognise the Year of Jubilee. Time itself is setup that way, rigidly karmic ~ the hands of the clock are against us, reaching to grip a creature by the throat, time polices it's own law and is a stickler for justice, order and timeliness. Time is jealous for her Sabbaths. But.
But Jesus is the Time Lord, he can pause time, stretch time and turn it back ~ reverse entropy is a turntable in rewind in many senses. The rules which he wrote are his to bend and break. Jesus makes time for you, he can hold the sun in the sky for you, he can remix and syncopate rest into your rhythm, his heart is to skip a beat for you, a semibreve ahhh. Be chill and know that I am Lord, of the Sabbath.
Lk6v11-12 The night. As summer dies and nights draw in, let's see the invitation to pray at night. Night time tends to be the time of exhaustion, the let's-not-have-difficult-conversations-after-10pm night time. But let us pray in the dark. Jesus' actions reflect today's psalm (playing catch up): Ps42v8 'By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.'
Lk6v13-14 "Jesus chose..":-
"..and all night he continued in prayer.." Jesus had to pray all night, wanted to pray all night, decided to pray all night by way of demonstration, and Luke feels led to make this emphasis, that this _is_ leadership? Pray long, pray hard, pray late? RelationalThinking refreshed the notion that the currency of relationship is time. And time is depthed by it's exclusive investment - prayer such as this is time spent alone together, and nights are reservoirs of undistracted unalloyed time, mainlining relationality with the Father, only out of such prayer time all effective action proceeds, all wisdom is gained, all power is supplied ~ all depth dimensions of ministry are plumbed.
"chose .. twelve" What is happening in the formation of this group? A crack team. A small group. A motley crew. Shortlisting, and whittling down to Gideon's arbitrary elite division Jg7? What paradigms of group-size do you carry? I'm interested in certain thresholds of critical mass in community size. Our household is quite different when it is 6, different again when 8, different again when 12.. Why 12, what is the twelveyness of it? Whom are you 12 with? Who are you when yous are 12?
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, the disciples are formed as the first church? So we, under Christ should be and do likewise, united under him, patterned as an elect hierarchy of equals, gathered, divisibly, organically, fractally, self-identifying as teams with a subsidiarity of delegated ministry. We are chosen into his church as a team for a task. At great cost, at great length, Jesus has prayed for you in the role he has brought you to, to the people he would have you serve.
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, Jesus is the first church leader? With finite time, we make choices. We are agents with agency. We choose. Towards a finite cause, within a finite geography, with invest selectively, choosing this and not-this, them and not-them, now and not-then. We choose. A sleepless night is not enough for the sprawling contingencies which follow from such selections, subtle, divisive, them-and-us's. God, please meet me in prayer, in the choices I must make, in the people I am with, in the task that we are called to.
Lk6v15-16 The subgroups within subgroups of Jesus' disciples which make up a healthy relational stucture for life and church is often mentioned, & I spend quite a lot of time thinking about how subgroups can interact with each other in different ways. So too here, the 'we' of the inner circle of 12 gets to interface with as well as alongside with the wider circle of disciples. I've never really appreciated however this picture of Jesus picking the 12 in the context of the others - it could read like a kind of american high-school basketball film - a cruel act where the cool kids get chosen and those who don't make the cut are publicly exposed as not-good-enough. This however perhaps betrays more about the human need to be in the inner circle, in C.S. lewis' terms, than it does about our desire to know and love Jesus. There are contexts in which I'm on an inner circle and contexts I'm in an outer circle, and both provide opportunities and relationships to be pressed into. What are the contexts (family, work, church, etc) in which you are in the outer circle - in the 72 but not in the 12? How do you interface with and alongside the inner circle well - serving their particular needs, giving them space when needed, doing behind-the-scenes work that would slow them down - knowing that you're part of both a we-yous and a bigger we. Jesus carved out this space, let us celebrate it and press into it in the places we find ourselves in it.
Lk6v17-18 "Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk they drew near to a very miry slough, that was *in the midst of the plain*; and they, being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. *The name of the slough was Despond*. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire." (Pilgrim's Progress)
"he came down with them and stood on a level plain.." There is something to be gained in pondering the up and down of stage directions in the gospels (as in Babel's Gn11v7 "Come let us go down..").
Matthew's sermon on a mount, Luke's a sermon on a plain, these both/and/either are a similar sermon spoken in two locations, a relative term for topology in Matthew vs Luke's estimation, or a plausible synthesis in a single event of a sermon spoken from a mound towards a plain. The effect however in invoking a plain, a wide expanse of vanilla geography (and mainly rainy for Henry Higgins), reinforces in my imagination the vexed tumult of the helpless mass. This congregation is not of the hill walking set, no rambler's association booted and begoretexed. Not even just-about-managing, these are left behind leftovers beneath the bottom rung, Jesus comes down to such as these, such as we, mired in the slough of despond.
Lk6v19-20 Blessed are the poor. Not 'the poor in spirit', here in Luke, which I feel more comfortable interpreting vaguely, but rather 'you who are poor', contrasted clearly with the woe to the rich in v24. My inclination here is to panic that we have too much money, feel guilty, try to give some away thoughtlessly to assuage the guilt, & then to forget about it completely. This is not the point. Let's take this slowly, let's not panic. I think that Jesus is highlighting a true spiritual principle in this two-sided blessing and woe, which is that where money and comfort fill our practical, emotional & spiritual space, such 'consolations' quash the spirit of God, they dull our spiritual senses. As per my thoughts on Rm13v13-14, & as per Paul's invitation to be very-alive in Christ in Eph4v17-24 & 5v14-21. If you have already received your consolation insofar far as you are rich and can subsist without hard work or hard prayer, normalise luxury, can distract yourself with 'treats'...these things are apt to dull the spirit, & it takes more work to wrestle them into submission before God. God, teach us how to live more simply, closer to the ground, closer to the spirit. Not as a trendy 'simple living' movement, not to tell anyone about a 'lifestyle', but to be set free to be more alive to your spirit.
Lk6v21-22 💰💰 "hungry now" Rather have a dollar in my pocket than a million? Mo' money mo' problems is a true truth, a perpetual reality. But that is not to advocate crude "poverty theology" as an bludgeon antidote to the middle classes' essential-but-tacit "prosperity theology", or is it?
⬇⬇ Could we should we always go for downward mobility? How poor is poor enough? How hungry is hungry? You can always be more humble, you can always give more away, your meek modesty will ever be but pale shades of God's condescension in his ever becoming man, even less in his living homeless and dying a criminal. Go low go low fam.
The church (that is the church of me, to speak for me and my household) could go a long way down before it was accused of brinkmanship in this department, or of overegging the ascetic dimension of spirituality. Veins clogged with the banal detritus of bland entitlement, stodgy status quo status symbols, treacly tawdry normed wealth calibrated against tv's confected fantasy and the filtered flickering glitz of other people's newsfeeds.
"when people hate you" not if but when fam.
"Blessed" in being "hungry" and "weeping" ~ these are states of longing, a recognition of the present state and an openness to future promise, a conviction in the fulfilment of future promise.
😂 "shall laugh" Faith is a hunger, faith is a weeping, and then faith will have the last laugh, the hilarity of the long comic arc of eternity's narrative, that bends towards poetic justice, that arrives at last at the God who laughs Ps2v4.
Thursday, 31 August 2017
Lk5v1-2 "pressed in .. to hear the word of God" Have you known such a biblestudy mob surge as with a Boxing Day sale throng, pressing in, suctioned to the speakers tightly to glean a gram of life. Millennials, for all their privilege, are yet the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse teeming, the homeless tempest-tost. Where will they hear the word of God? Who will explain it to us? Who will explain it to them? What practice of an integrated life will make it real? Who will lift a lamp to such a golden door? The magnetic attraction of the coherence of the bible ~ I must not take it for granted, or grow glib, or settle for limited expectations. If anyone in the sound of my voice wants to read the bible together, let's.
Lk5v3-4 Jesus and consent. Interesting that in these few lines Jesus takes, assumes upon and uses that which is Simon's, then asks him to push the boat put further, then commands him to push out even further, to which Simon responds with submissive doubt. Acquisition, request, command, dialogue - all ways that Jesus will engage us. Sometimes Jesus seeks our permission and sometimes he doesn't. I don't think there is a single formula for how Jesus engages or captivates our will, though catchphrases abound insisting that there is a right way to understand this, from John Wesley's 'God does nothing except in answer to prayer' through to John Peters' 'the Holy Spirit is not a gentleman'. What then is our posture? I think: always seeking to give God permission, always grateful that He might not choose to seek it.
Lk5v5-6 "toiled and took nothing" Jesus calls you to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls you to implausible mission fields (trawling in broad daylight) precisely after the shame of failure (no fish) and precisely at the point of exhaustion after exertion (all night).
Jesus calls the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to move the strong, the obscure to calibrate the consensus, the unfortunate to counsel the lucky. So, who is on Jesus team? Fishermen that can't catch fish. Followers who can't follow Jn14v9, stammerers Ex6v30, sinners&stockbrokers Mk2v15, nobodies 1Sm9v21 from nowheres Jn1v46.
Jesus calls those in a dry and weary land Ps63v1. Jesus calls you when the figs #fail, the grapes #fail, the olives #fail, when we've no flocks no folds no herds in your proverbial stalls Hk3v17. Jesus calls those whose wine has run out Jn2v3.
"..at your word I will.." Jesus calls you specifically. You in particular for a particular task. General revelation counsels that there's plenty more fish in the sea: little comfort. Special revelation is a hotline to that cosmic power who moves the tides, who speaks to fishes, who brought ravens to Elijah 1Ki17v4 and a whale to Jonah Jh1v17.. Christianity's sense of call must be predicated on a spooky universe which is interfered with, otherwise all callings to go fish are simply a religiouse call to work harder and try more.
"..nets were breaking.." Jesus calls us to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls us for our joy and for his glory. Where he calls he equips. Where he calls he empowers. And he will not call you to more than you can bear 1Cor10v13.
Lk5v7-8 Go Away. Peter's response to Jesus here is so fascinating, so telling. Not-being-able-to-bear-being-near-Jesus. Trying to create distance between ourselves and Jesus is a classic shame response. Remembering Helen Merrell Lynd's profound analysis of shame: 'Experiences of shame appear to embody the root meaning of the word - to uncover, to expose, to wound. They are experiences of exposure, exposure of peculiarly sensitive, intimate, vulnerable aspects of the self...Discrepancy appears between us and the social situation...We have acted on the assumption of being one kind of person living in one kind of surroundings, & unexpectedly, violently, we discover that these assumptions are false. We had thought that we were able to see around certain situations and, instead, discover in a moment that it is we who are exposed; alien people in an alien situation can see around us.' Shame is a disorientation which begets a certain kind of fear. Jesus, of his nature, unmakes our world and alienates us from who we thought we were, it is wholly appropriate that we might respond violently, wanting distance. Yet Jesus words to Peter are those magic ones spoken again again so many times in scripture: 'do not be afraid'.
Lk5v9-10 "Jane looked; and instantly her world was unmade. .. Of course he was not a boy.. it was manifest that the grip of those hands would be inescapable, and imagination suggested that those arms and shoulders could support the whole house. .. the bright solar blend of king and lover and magician stole upon her mind .. King, with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy and power.. her world was unmade; she knew that. Anything might happen now" [CSL - That Hideous Strength]
😱 "..astonished" (Gk θάμβος περιέσχεν thambos perieschen) is literally "amazement *laid hold* of them.." Are you? Do you? Have you been? There is an *in-His-grip-ness* to Christianity. Ph3v12 "..but I press on to take hold of that for which *Christ Jesus took hold of me*." To be Christian is to be firmly grasped, seized by amazement, welded-into the vine, and the surgery of being grafted in begins with the wound of conversion. True and total union with Christ is precipitated by the crisis point Peter faces here as his world is unmade, his categories are exploded and his affections are taken captive, seized like fish out of the water, summoned gasping into the light.
"Do not be afraid.." I should need to hear this. God is big, and I am small, infinitely. Every quiet-time encounter with God, if it is an encounter with God, will pass across the high-wire sublime, to within the blast radius of the kabad (כָּבַד). Be afraid. And only then, do not be afraid.
"fishers of men.." I picture this as with dynamite. But it doesn't often feel that way.
Lk5v11 'You could not have been born at a better time than the present, when we have lost everything. ' - Simone Weil. // Holding before God the desolation of this generation, believing that there is a loss here, a death, from which a resurrection is possible. For revival, we ask to know how to pray.
Lk5v12 "Make me clean." Cleanliness is deeply rooted in the mind and the body as a Metaphor We Live By, and is so visceral and obvious that it almost doesn't feel worth trying to unpack. But meditating on this a little bit I was prompted to think about Kolnai's work on disgust - the claim that both physical and moral disgust are elicited by the mixing of organic & inorganic, of life & death, of health & decay. Leprosy, illness generally, and all small instances of uncleanliness speak more metaphysically of a world where entropy and decay rule. 'Make me clean' is a plea for grace, for reverse-entropy, for resurrection.
Lk5v13-14 "Be clean.." *What is unclean?* I would distinguish between the biologically unclean and culturally "unclean" ~ it matters little because Jesus cleans both, redeems both and renews all. However, I've spent a little time meditating on these, not quite arriving at an answer to this nor to the question *who would be the priest we show ourselves to today?* Answers on a postcard.
💩 *Unclean is not just ugly, is it dangerous* Unclean goes beyond the mere unattractive aesthetic of the slowly scuffed and sullied, beyond the sad inconvenience of entropic decay, unclean is more than merely worn out to be worn away, born bent to be broken down: the cookie crumbles calamitously. Unclean is urgent because it is unsafe, like shared needles and asbestos in the walls, dirty as dirty water, we are unclean and increasingly so, as yeast diffuses to contaminate the whole, as worn brakes put third-party lives at risk, we carry contagious liability chaotically, we carry nuclear waste in clay vessels, breath-takingly precarious.
🔞 At the same time *"Unclean" is myth signage* - (Ac10v15) the cultural codification of "called-unclean" conditions calculated for the maximum preservation of the fiction of clean-enough enclaves, and on this basis, human cultures unite as cleaning machines, boundaried by exponentially over-engineered damage-limitation quarantines. "Unclean" is unclean gone awry, co-opted by vested interests, weaponised by the have-yachts to justify the land and sea they put between themselves and the untouchable have-nots. "Unclean" is the denigrated Other, that I am given license to look down on. "Unclean" is the distortion of compassion, the misdirection of our best efforts' best intentions to keep vulnerable valuables safe by a coordinated apartheid of perceived risk. "Unclean" is a value judgement, given credence by the consensus of a personal populace, whose personal opinions are ratified by some dignified personality. The high priest. The priest as judge and jury, author and perfectionist, the squeaky obsequious clean freaking queen of OCD. As far as I have pinned my colours to their "Clean", I must participate in policing the brand of kosher, preserving the value-added of 'fairtrade', enshrining the mystique of clean-enough, differentiating the virtue signal from the virtue noise.
🚿 *Jesus cleans.* As a reverse-entropy tactician he wars against the unclean and the "unclean", touching the unclean, and dismantling the "unclean". "..tell no one .. show yourself to the priest.." Jesus' ninja healing for discretion designed to dampen hysteria notwithstanding, and Jesus' culturally appropriate and biblically mandated mode of restoring an invalid to the social notwithstanding, Jesus wars against religione with exleper torpedoes fired at the control room of project "clean". Have you been released from an "unclean-ness"? Such healing is an in-itself gift and for-itself gift, but it is also a testimony against death-as-death, an affront to all disease. No healing is merely some good news, (although it is), all healing is the good news. God is there and is not silent. God is involved and he is on your side. Project "clean" is over, the job-creation scheme of priesthood is redundant, logos on foodstuffs will pass away, everything everything is changed.
🙊 Why then "..tell no one.."? Pearls before swine notwithstanding, saviour-as-cosmic-slot-machine notwithstanding, I'm interested in the sort of effects Jesus would look to avoid, vain or counter-productive effects in a population so invested in project "clean". Jesus wars for the freedom of all. In this way, your testimony is not to become mere hearsay to be filed under general quackery, cosmetic surgery or hygenic fakery. Healing which does not dismantle project "clean" from the top is mere fuel to the fire of superstition, anecdotal reinforcement to the suspicion of a capricious God and the futility of all things. But cleanness ratified by the high priest, a cure acknowledged by the analgesic-monger, is game-over for religione.
Lk5v15 Simple prayers for healing for those on our hearts who are sick: L, R, V, D
Lk5v16 Comparing the lonesomeness of Jesus with the lonesomeness of the demonised man at Gerasa Lk8v27. Jesus' solitude pushes him towards God, the solitude of the man at Gerasa pushes him further towards demonic voices. As Henri Nouwen's contrast between loneliness and solitude, I identify both in myself. Prayer for good solitude, esp in this season where the call is to roots of prayer.
Lk5v17-18 "Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, [having] come from every village.." The boa constrictor tightens its grip, the KGB have tapped the phone of this boy genius, this unhinged rabbinic prodigy plays out a coldwar cipher, a synchodochal cosmic joust on a microcosmic board.
Not knowing the end of the story of Bobby Fischer, I was totally gripped by Pawn Sacrifice last night. Does he win the game? Will the CIA get him? And, who is behind the zoom lens we occasionally find we're viewing him through? Oh what it would be to have the story of Jesus unfold, episode by episode, game by game, as for the first time, with the ending yet uncertain.
Fischer is the pawn sacrifice, but who sacrifices whom? He goes out on a limb for the crazy joy of chess, or is he left out to dry by the American political machine, abandoned to wind up less than the sum of his mental health issues?
Jesus is the pawn sacrifice, he sacrifices himself, it is his initiative, his will, his glory Jn10v18 "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." And this message of the cross is foolishness 1Co1v18? And we should do likewise? A similar holy madness, battling an unseen enemy, trusting in unseen help, losing our life to gain it Mt10v39, laying down our life for another Jn15v13, offering our bodies as living sacrifices Rm12v1.
Lk5v19-20 In the parlance of our day, Jesus calls out victim-blaming Jn9v3, but he also doesn't allow the existence of victim-blaming to caricature the victim, as though the existence of systemic (and what seems like cosmic) injustice were the last word in a person's identity. Jesus dignifies all humans by allowing us to be complex, always a mix of sin and sinned against, dignifying us all by holding us responsible for what we are responsible for. In doing so He makes a path for transformation that is high, long, wide deep.
Lk5v21-22 "Why do you question in your hearts?" Why? From what cause? To what end? Toting up coincidences, the reading at 41's morning prayer today was the remarkably similar Jn18v19-24 "Jesus asks Caiaphas, "Why do you ask me?"" Why? Not all questions are equal, neutral or valid. Not all questions are honest. Not all questions actually want an answer from Jesus. Interrogating the motives of our own questions tells us much about ourselves. But there are better questions.
'You've seen my descent / now watch my rising' -Rumi
The Ps29 word of the Lord has done this.
Lk5v25-26 What is the practice of a post-healed life? What do you do as healed when you are healed as healed? "Rose up.. picked up bed.. walked home.." The doing of life's mundane necessities and in merely so doing you glorify God? Yes, but also, as-healed you cannot but do life necessarily newly in a self-aware and so proactive and so emphatic performance of life to the exploration and display of its restoration. And in this way, you can stick a present-participle *glorifying-God* on any other verb. You can wash the dishes, glorifying God, go to work, paint a wall, cook brunch, write a paper, glorifying God, doing all in an adverbially doxological mode, doing all of life glorifially. What does that look like? In my mind I picture him rising with a breakdancer's kip up and walking home like John Cleese, limit-testing the creative expression of all embodiment. If one can picture a choreography for the post-healed life, what might be a post-forgiven life's expression? The gait of one whose chains have fallen off, the affections of one whose heart was free, the adventure of one whose conscience is clear, whose sense of the possible is infinite. Therefore go.
Lk5v27-28 Reading again Wendell Berry on exploitative economies in his collection of agrarian essays is again thoroughly convicting and thoroughly overwhelming insofar as he articulates so eloquently how our economic system is set up to destroy itself and all of us with it, starting with the poor. This system is set up to alienate us from the land, the air, the water, from marriage & communities, from our own bodies, from God. Levi here is a picture of part of the exploitative economy, charging arbitrary and unfair rates to his fellow Jews for the middleman task of collecting taxes for the Romans. And yet here we have a picture of the redemption of economy, a personal jubilee. 'Leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus.' I am aware of the danger of this just being words, of the dangers of the money and status I still have, of the exploitative systems I still lean on for food and comfort. Jesus, this year, I pray for your fearsome work of jubilee in my life and in this whole global system. I pray for Levi transformation.
Lk5v29-30 Follow me, as I put these crayons to chaos, like getting the Mighty Ducks back together. Levi prepares a feast, like the Lost Boys in Hook. Let's do this. There is, and always should be, a boyish adventure to Christianity, a whirling winking winsome parade of exuberant bravery, a festival feast laid in the presence of mine enemies: Aggressively intentional hospitality fam.
Lk5v31-32 I've been reading Jude [and finding it difficult - recommendations of Jude resources welcome] and picturing myself as the v12-13 fruitless tree, foaming shame, wandering star. Thanks be to the Great Physician, who came for the sick. He has, will and continues to heal me.
Lk5v33-34 These few days we are in the middle of Luke's catalogue of Jesus stories on the theme of food. 🍜🍝🍲
1. Food: the controversial politics of eating with whom (Lk5v29-32)
2. Food: the cosmic symbolism of eating at what times (Lk5v33-35)
3. Food: the pursuit of the excellence of storage and culturing (Lk5v36-39)
4. Food: the provocative urgency of harvest's hunter gathering (Lk6v1-5 & Lk5v4-7)
🥛🍯 The whole food supply chain is sacremental.
⚔ The whole food supply chain is a pitched battle between two world views:
😇 *A. The religiouse diet*: restrictive, risk-averse, hysterically hypochondriac, exponentially ascetic. The calorie-counting worldview of gaunt anaemic guilt appeasement that eats timidly, pushing peas around the plate of proscriptive propriety, crushed beneath the snowballed schedule of a self-reinforcing, over-engineered How-Not-To-Eat exclusion diet tending asymptotically towards zero.
🍖 *B. The Jesus diet*: sucking on the marrow of life, munching through an all-you-can-eat ontological buffet of utter abundance, fundamental surplus, brimming over with the both-and of pie-in-the-sky and cake-on-your-plate. A view of food that is celebrating-about, we eat meaningfully about a greater reality, we eat parabolically, as parables-about.
👰🤵 The parable in view is the *wedding feast*: Now, weddings are complicated animals, often not more than the sum of their naivete, mired in a commercialised saccharine sentimentality, the wedding feast is so co-opted by cloying entitlement, lumbering as a virtue-signalling, people-pleasing millstone of debt around the necks of newlyweds. But even through all that, there is something in the wedding-feast-as-symbol which is resilient to still catch us off guard, the exception that defines the rule, a universal exemption where, for some reason, we suspend our disbelief and permit a diet consistent with partial, particular, personal universe. At the wedding we eat-about-something, we eat with abandon towards something, in view of, in the light of, towards the affirmation of something personal and peculiar.
~ So it is with Jesus. Such is the Christian's diet. Whilst we may fast sometimes, we have unlimited cause to feast, to build cathedrals with our food, to articulate a universe of infinite freedom and harmonic coherence in how, and when, and with whom we feast. 🍰
Lk5v35-36 A fasting that springs from the epistemology of the heartbroken wife. As I meditate on this I note that the few times in life I have fasted with my whole spirit, not constantly looking for loopholes, have been in moments of sorrow and loss in relation to my husband. I recall G and I identifying this phenomenon together in conversation, she similarly identifying times of distress in relation to men as the only times she would refuse food. Together we came to the conclusion that only when faced with pain this important do we dignify ourselves by refusing to numb this pain with food. Bridegroom pain is too important. But usually I am quite content to numb all the background things that are not-ok with food. Perhaps ways of fasting are gendered in ways that food is gendered - numbing the spirit with food a more typically female pathology? The fact that I can only fast when it really hurts shows that most of the time I'm happy to ignore what's really going on simmering underneath my literal and spiritual skin. So maybe I need to transpose these experiences of the loss of the bridegroom at a cosmic scale for all times and places, and let that motivate my fasting, which is to say, to dignify myself more readily by acknowledging my existential condition more honestly. Maybe this throws new light on v36 too: fasting is a refusal to patch over pain. Not pretending it's not broken. But grieving the torn garment, receiving from God the new one.
Lk5v37-38 🍶 We are vessels [we are clay jars 2Co4v7; clay jars formed by a potter Is64v8; clay jars for variable uses Rm9v21; clay jars of variable strength 1Pt3v7; containers to be filled and poured out defilingly Mt15v11; cups cleaned on the outside and inside Mt23v25; liquid spirit containers Ev36v27 (I'm sure there are more and better refs, if you want to send me some)]
🍶 We are vessels. The quality of a vessel, the jugliness of a jug, it's Heideggarian thinghood consists in the void sculpted by the potter. By contrast with the notions of a human person as:
🍖 a solid lump of biologically thick matter
🕸 a hyperconnected node in a data point cloud
🎞 a 2dimmensional image of a projected surface.
🍶 We are vessels, cavernously depthed, 🕳🕳 peer into the eyes of an other and see a chasm fathoms down. The verse today considers what ruptures that vessel, the split and the shatter. When we fail to contain, we fail to be, we are devesseled and unthung.
We are filled. We are vessels remade to be refillable, new covenant vessels, elastic and tonkable, no longer the card prototype of a human, no longer the dry-run dress-rehearsal prop, we are now the real deal. We have to be, and everyone you know has to be. Grace's superabundance will overwhelm your frail frame unless it is fundamentally reengineered. The split wineskin is such a vivid visual of superabundance, the effervescent liquid which presses up and bubbles out of a person. 🍾 The idea of an active and expansive liquid captures my imagination: the gospel is champagne, ready to pop, take the muselet off the bottle, it must be preached Ac4v20 Je20v9.
Lk5v39 This perplexing final statement to my mind makes an already ambiguous set of metaphors all the more so. For old wine (if this means matured wine) IS better...A standard reading of this seems to be that those who say 'the old is best' are resisting the new thing, which is the Spirit (vs the Law), so the old/new distinction here is one of chronological difference rather than mapping oenological quality. But maybe, as I tried to chew over when I preached on this passage a while back we'd do well to note that Jesus doesn't condemn 'the old' here, but rather notes that there are destructive ways of trying to put the old and the new together - ways that damage both old and new. Rather, we need ways of bringing together the freshness and the maturity of old and new testaments in a way that understands them singing in harmony. Chatting to P about this over potatoes he observed the dangers of trying to assume too much of new or immature Christians - that we can give them too much, causing them to 'burst', destroying new faith, rather than tracking the Spirit's own fermentation process. Things to ponder. (It's been interesting reading Luke over different timescales this year, it leads to a kind of virtuous looping back into sayings and stories at a high resolution, wheels within wheels.)
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Lk4v1-2 A call to Christian extremism is a call to the radical Real, inclusive of a radical self-knowledge through radical self-denial. You know yourself only sufficiently through God who knows you perfectly personally and objectively. How do you know God? ~ be full of the spirit // be led by the spirit // go into the wilderness. // By contrast, I don't step up to ministry, I never come of age, I don't go into the wilderness, never testing my limit conditions, never knowing myself, never lighting a single pixel on Satan's radar of threats to his empire. // And what is not wilderness? The padded and synthetic life of cheap grace and fossil fuels, algorhythmically cuddled inside a self-reinforcing social media filtered bubble, the painless risk-free, lukewarm banality of the unexamined life. Exmoor, bring it on.
Lk4v3-4 Food & fasting, something I've been thinking about a lot of late, & the task of self-control we are called to. Fasting is made possible by self-control, but as Jesus demonstrates with his words to the devil, in order for the self-control to be true self-control, a fruit of the spirit - rather than an unsustainable & damaging negation and modification of one's will in one's own strength - it must be grounded in the insight, knowledge and security of the spirit, namely that it's really true that 'man does not live by bread alone.' Most of the time, it is embarrassing to admit, I don't believe this. When I'm hungry I believe quite fervently and justify to myself very often and convincingly that I should break fast. At some level I don't rest in the knowledge of God. I don't believe that reality is set up to sustain me spiritually. This is perhaps why knowledge precedes self-control in the list in 2Pt1v5-7. Pray for me, that I might grow in faith, that I might believe that God's reality will sustain me, pray that it would lead me to self-control - in my emotional life, my relationship with food, & my BFRB tendencies, the lack of self-control at the heart of all I see as connected. Jn6v35
Lk4v5-6 </Exmoor> Jesus' wilderness is no recreational wilderness, and he is not refreshed and replenished after communing with a bucolic idyll. In hunger and exhaustion you will know yourself and you will know God. // The more powerful temptations are not temptations for the wrong thing, but the right thing in the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, on the wrong basis, by the wrong means. The Kingdom is not ends-justified, the kingdom is a journey-to, a becoming, a perpetual happening. // Jesus doesn't dispute that Satan could bestow authority and glory.
Lk4v7-8 This funny back-and-forth between the Devil and the Christ at one level reads like a comedic play. The layers within layers and loops within loops whereby the devil convinces himself that he is Godlike enough to use the stuff God had given him to trick God into treating him (the devil) as God becomes a hilarious farce, except that we recognise this tendency within ourselves, so the comedy is also a tragedy. The devil sounds like one deeply insecure, trying to play it cool...I has all the powers yo, but pls like? Worship meeeeeee. //Jesus' "worship God only" can be as snarky as it is sober, the divine punchline to all and any power play or insanity we find ourselves entangled in.
Lk4v9-10 We watched Whiplash last night. Is Fletcher the Devil? Is Fletcher the Wilderness?
Lk4v11-12 It's not a new observation to note that Satan uses scripture to try to tempt Jesus into disobeying the Father, & thus a cautionary tale for all time on the possible abuses of scripture. Nothing is so easy, lazy, inauthentic and potentially damaging as proof texting. I am guilty of this. We align ourselves with Satan when we misuse scripture - by being casual, careless, over-confident or under-contextualised in conclusions drawn from the bible, and commands taught to others accordingly. Jesus demonstrates a critique of superficial appeal to scripture in a way we can all model - by having such an overview of the whole, a sense of the multifaceted nature of scripture and it's deep connection to reality, that appropriate triangulation with and by other parts of the text can be given. In this vein and more specifically Jesus must have a sense of the true safety described by Ps91, a sense of safety both less and more literal than the devil hopes to persuade unto. I pray for such a sense of ultimate existential safely, for a deep reading of the bible, and the wisdom and discernment that flow thus.
Lk4v13-14 🐅 "An opportune time." *Do you believe in active evil?* Do you believe in active evil, and does your life, your prayer, your relationships, the seriousness with which you guard your heart eyes wallet tongue, the urgency with which you seek the good true beautiful humble noble.. - do these priorities in your life speak an urgent ernest belief in an active evil? Regardless the literality of the lion that prowls around seeking to devour 1Pt5v8, would your life be engineered proportionally to resist such an evil which was active, a devil who was tactically timing and strategically scheming malice against you? Do you believe in active evil? You are being fattened to be eaten, lulled into carelessness, troubled into inaction, inured into apathy. The Christian life is a battlefield, a mental fight, the navigating of an unscrupulous and unfair landscape of landmines and dirty tricks set by an intelligent life calculating your demise. There are two sides on the pitch, and one of them is interested to see that you do not end well, an enemy who knows precisely the lies you need to hear, both where you are weak, and _when_ you are weak. // "An opportune time." *Is your prayer life timed?* Is your faith in Christ well-timed and timely at all times? It is not an if but a when you will be vulnerable, angry, hungry, tired, lonely. What then? What are you then? What assumptions are your default? What habits form your normal, constant, in-and-out-of-season standard? Christianity is not a series of moments, mere flashes of spiritual brilliance; Christianity is the long haul, a patient permanence. And, Christianity is not done alone, a one man pill-box; we are a body, a defensive line standing in each other's gaps in time Ez22v30. We make no time opportune for the Devil: Redeeming time because the days are evil Eph5v16 // Don't give the devil a foothold: don't let the sun go down on your anger Eph4v27/26 // Don't give up meeting together Hb10v25 // Pray continually 1Th5v17 // Rejoice always 1Th5v16
Would you be upstanding
Would you show your understanding
Not mere innovative branding
But a life lived ampersanding
Luke 4v17-18 ⬇ "The Spirit of the Lord is upon [you]" Ponder uponnness. As hand on shoulder, as hat on head, the Spirit is switched on, pressed in and pressing on and on and anon. The Spirit-of, the presence-of, the character-of, the very-particular-person-of God in his nimble invasive form *Is. On. You.* These Georgian ceiling heights leave room for a genie brooding upon, the flaming torch blazing from the crowns of the crowned image bearers of God, the towering dignity of the Spirited-Upon. Now, and on-going, therefore go. Because the same Spirit is upon you (Rm8v11); Be lead and be carried away by such a Spirit-upon (Lk2v27 Ac19v21); See and speak by such a Spirit-upon (Rv21v10 1Cor12v3); Pray in the Spirit's power (Eph6v18); Participate in the Spirit's love (Ph2v1); Be alive because the Spirit of the Lord is upon you (1Pt3v18) // 📯 "Good News" Oh but not to me, not in my Nazareth, too broke and parochial, too far flung, too far gone. I'll settle for Good-enough News, mere reminiscences about the Good-Old days, the fairy-tale pluperfect Kingdom that was and might have been. Oh God.
Ladies & Gentlemen would you take your seats
Would you look real deep
Contemplate what's incomplete.
Love's supreme virtue: attentiveness' feat
Behold the Christ: awake from sleep
Lk4v21-22 👏 "And all spoke well of him.." // Lk6v26 ⚠ "Woe to you when all men speak well of you.." (...Lk4v29) Fam, it's a narrow gate, to a long road of suffering violence, dying to self, hating your mother and father, making yourself a slave, turning the other cheek, letting them have your last cloak, going a second mile, counting all gain as loss, all pain as sanctifying, all maligning as witness, all persecution as glory. "When they speak well of you..", when they speak well of me, when I am wooed by a premature well-done-good-and-faithful humanitarian, for my crowd-pleasing performance of a tolerantly inoffensive moral life, rendered in my own strength, propping up the mild-mannered myth of self-salvation and good-enough goodness, woe to me when they speak well of me, the allure of men's fleeting and fickle praise, the tacit 'Peace, Peace..' when there is no peace, there is no good-enough, all self-saved good works are worth less than worthless. Christianity that clings to Jesus alone is beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked, adrift on the open sea, in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, sleepless, hungry, cold and exposed. 2Cor11v25-27. Woe to me when I settle for less-than. Oh Phil, be so careful when they speak well of you, when they laud 41, when they make much of me in my own strength.
Lk4v23-24 'It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home' -Adorno ...and part of prophecy too? Easy to say, difficult to judge what counts as healthy rootedness and what delusional comfort. What is holy disruption and what is pathological unboundariedness. Likewise the scepticism of 'heal yourself' - what counts as good critical thinking, and what hubristic untrust. Some measure of good prophetic disruption in the home will be the Isaiah fruits of v18-19 - does it bring liberty to captives? Does it bring sight to the blind?
Lk4v25-26 The God which a befamined Breaking Point austerity-Britain, is looking for, is one who will help us Make America Great Again, will help us Take Back Control. No? The Jesus-loves-you-but-I'm-his-favourite antidote to stern, impersonal, the-gods-are-angry notions of God, is helpful up to a point, but it contains within itself no self-limiting principle to constrain it from an entitled America-first America-first sense of what that love looks like. Jesus loves you way too much to leave you as you are, loves you better than to subsidise your cliquing, loves you too much to enable the patterning of stodgy stagnant parochial self-interested love-ins. The love of God is a gushing torrent, fam, he's out in the yard, he's romping over the hills. You may have to cross the sea to see the cross because Aslan is on the move, the wild goose of the spirit is ecstatic, the Kingdom of God is restlessly inclusive. Pause to build tents and you'll miss it, let alone walls. And yet my faith and mental landscape is so divided, so closed bordered. I often feel like I'm on the wrong side of a glass partition, gazing through a one-way mirror at an alluring miraculous possibility, pawing at the panes of soundproofing which keep me from supernature, gasping inside an airless church of my own making. The bible says Go. For God's sake Go. For your own sake Go.
Lk4v27-28 They were furious. What is fury? There are at least as many types of fury as there are fear, I should know. What's going on at this moment with Jesus? Is the fury of these people a true indignation, founded straightfowardly on a sense of their entitlement and standing in the world, a fury founded in a worldview so entrenched that it can't conceive of it's categories being transgressed? If so there's a purity to this fury, though it is based on a terrible falsehood. Or is it an anger founded in a known guilt? When I'm told that I've spoiled something I feel like I'm already guilty and shameful, I might as well act accordingly. As Freud observed, destructive fury can be a way of inhabiting our guilt, willing our own punishment, in a way that refuses to accept redemption as a possibility. Or is it an anger that masks a fear? Is it the rage that spills over when faced with unsafety? Did something in Jesus provoke a deep distress that he may be saying something true, that we might not be safe in the world because God might ask something more of us than our inheritance. How terrible, how fearful. This fury is the fight instinct of the trapped animal afraid for its life. Sometimes the first anger is a defence against the second. Sometimes the second is a defence against the third. They were furious, why am I?
Lk4v29-30 (Sacred Texting and 41's morning readings conspire together today) // “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to [me], and not to the world?” Jn14v22 // Jesus loves _me_. *Me*. // How does God manifest himself to _me_? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for me to me?
*The scandal of selective love.* A God who loves with a selective love cannot be inferred abstractly.
*The scandal of selective love.* A personal God is never the conclusion from an impersonal method.
*The scandal of selective love.* Is infinitely more than I justly deserve.
*The scandal of selective love.* Extreme, divisive, uncomfortable, this sort of love killed Jesus.
*The scandal of selective love.* This sort of love is not what I want to hear.
*The scandal of selective love.*
"To consider Europe alone, the sense of the person remains embryonic throughout antiquity until the dawn of the Christian era. The man of antiquity is absorbed in the city and the family, subservient to a destiny that is blind, nameless and stronger than the gods themselves. The philosophers value only impersonal thought and its static order, which is the order of nature as well as of ideas. To them the singular appears as a blemish, whether in nature or in consciousness. Plato is tempted to reduce the individual soul to a participation in nature plus a participation in the city; whence his 'communism'. And for him as for Socrates, individual immortality is only a beautiful, bold hypothesis. Aristotle indeed declares that there is no reality except the individual; but his God cannot will with a particular will, nor can he know essence in the singular, nor love with a selective love." // "It is Christianity that, first of all, imports into these gropirgs a decisive notion of the person. We can hardly comprehend today what a complete scandal this was to the thought and sensibility of the Greeks. Whilst for them, multiplicity was an evil inadmissible to the spirit, Christianity made it into an absolute, by affirming the creation exnihilo, and the eternal destiny, of each and every person. The supreme Being which through love brings them into existence no longer mikes the world a unity through the abstraction of the idea, but by an infinite capacity for the indefinite multiplication of these separate acts of love. Far from being an imperfection, this multiplicity, proceeding from superabundance, bears that superabundance in itself as an illimitable interchange of love." Emmanuel Mounier // ~ Jesus loves you. *You*. // How does God manifest himself to you? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for you to you?
Lk4v31-32 Authority. Authority is a fascinating concept - cutting across traditional philosophical wrangles about objectivity and subjectivity. Authority comes from something external, the experience of authority is nothing but the experience of something outside yourself that makes a claim on you. But the recognition of authority is different to coercion - authority makes a claim on the will, rather than flattening it. Authority requires autonomy & heteronomy, self & other to both be active, in asymmetrical ways. 'The call' that philosophers, theologians & poets speak of is the call of God, the call of the cosmic Christ. It is equally incoherent to propose a life lived without any appeal to authority as it is to propose an appeal to authority that has no connection to lived response - the caricature of the Christian in a closed loop who says the bible has authority only because the bible says it has authority, without trying to demonstrate what it is about the scriptures that is (literally) captivating, without making room for the call to reverberate. I pray for more v32 amazement as I journey into deeper understanding of Christ's authority.
Lk4v33-34 Luke, the good physician's pity ponders the possessed patient's predicament. "spirit of an unclean demon.." What is not tautological in this expression ~ where any one of those three words would have sufficed?
"Spirit" Both the internal pervasiveness of a blood alcohol level diffused into the whole and the external aroma of that active corruption, the atmosphere of a thing leaking from the pores of the creature, wheezing a grey mist of decay. The spirit of a thing is both the sum of its parts and the centre of its character, both its headline identity and a catalogue of its disastrous effects.
"Unclean" A sticky viscous shame, a socially-learnt soiling of your Sunday best, a filthy mind's abhorrent stained vestments made double conspicuous by a clingy contaminant. The variously demonised keep themselves invisible with acrobatic ingenuity, beneath the concealer, just above the cuff of the immaculate long sleeves, under the veneer of a well-adjusted upstanding citizen is the bare zombieform of contagious pollution, shame shaming shame, infectious embarrassment.
"Demon" This agent of active personal evil possesses people because demons are possessive people, parasitic and unstable. Demons are a voice, primarily, voice is their mode and form, because that is the nature of untruth personified, it embodies as the verbalisation of deceit, they possess by a verbal contract, they woo by lies, they war by words. And so when threatened the voices become exponentially shrill, rising disruptively to a rowdy snarl, summoning the plural first person, conjuring the spectre of the suprahuman force that lays a hold of a person. Just now, I'm thinking about social media's grip, I'm feeling for the equipment to diagnose it, to nuance a description of it, to communicate the effect and to propose proportionate action. I'm not making the strong claim that social media is not innately evil, but.
~ Social media is pervasive as a spirit-of, invisible and internal, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, it has seized a hold of language, perception, memory and relationships from the inside.
~ Social media covers and carries clean and unclean judgements, likes and unlikes, representations and identities, it is the simulacrum of a superpower to self-save the image of yourself - whilst the physical incarnation of yourself offline wastes away surrounded by unclean plates, unclean clothes strewn offscreen amongst the unhygenic totality of the neglected real.
~ Social media is the voices, shrill voices rendered in the we, presenting as consensus, deafeningly close, funded by adverts that profit by exploiting insecurities with untruths.
Do we know what we mean today when we say, "we wrestle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Eph6v12 what are we looking for? And how do we fight?
"Let *us* alone" The _we_ of the demonic, the plural chorus, the massing swarm of indefinite number. Versus you, the holy _one_ of God. Always outnumbered, never outgunned. Eph6v13-18
Lk4v35-36 Red letter words to speak to your voices: be quiet and come out. Say less, show more, that is: let me see what you are, where you've come from and what your motives are. Dear voices: I see you. You get less driving power, more exposure. This is the work of Christ the light of the word.
BE QUIET AND COME OUT!
And come out.
Lk4v37-38 "..reports spread.." *Vague reports.* Rumour and hearsay. Abstracted tracts and yesheis links (ishn't she?). Chinese whispers mingle signal and noise. Nah fam it actually happened. Happened to me, it can happen to you. It happened like this. Christianity is bespoke, precise, local, nuanced, intensely close to the bone: with mine own eyes, to mine own life, he is mine own saviour saving me from my very detailed brokenness into an elaborate salvation replete with minutiae, three-dimensional in its complexity, immersive in its totality. To the numbered hairs on my head, the report of Jesus is not vague. *Old reports.* Somewhat as old news re-posted becomes fake news. Recycling the Good News of the testimony of Toronto's 90s.. Wilberforce's 1800s.. the middle ages.. the early church. Back in the day. Way back when in the golden age of Gothic, when community was authentic, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.. Christianity is now. Christianity is ongoing, going on and on, day to daily day. Christianity is a new start to a new life with a new song. The immanence of Christ is timely, tailored to the language of right now, perpetually rerelevanted to the infinitesimal slice of this hairbreadth of eternity. And the trajectory of the Kingdom is towards greater-things Jn14v12, more-than-you-can-imagine Eph3v20.. the action we report will be ever at the brink of what we have concepts for. The old stories are great, but Christianity is the promise of new news. *Dull reports.* Second-hand strained accounts of someone else's salvation, de-risked arms-length and wistful retellings of plagiarised testimony. Timid and incompetent reports which settle for the diminishing return of a photocopied gospel, the cancer of inorganically replicated church. But Christianity is all risk, and the risk is the danger of the specific, the boldness of the great unknown, the adventure of the unprecedented. Christianity is a terrifying done-unto. Christianity is a terrifying do-likewise.
Live a story worth telling
Tell a story worth living
Lk4v41-42 "departed to a desolate place" Barely one chapter in to his adult ministry and Jesus makes time to take time to breathe. Away from the demonic chorus (v41), and also far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, taking momentary respite from the baying mass (v42). Jesus' self-care routine makes no virtue of being eaten alive, or busied to death, glorying nothing in premature martyrdom at the hands of the inevitably perpetually urgent scope of vast human need. A word to people-pleasers, to the sentimentally compassionate, to the fussy fixer-uppers, to those like me, dying to look busy :~ if rest is good enough for God.. leave by a side door, turn your phone off, pace yourself, Christianity is the long haul.
Lk43-44 "Preached." Rob Bell talks of the sermon as an artform, and surely Jesus' preaching should be thought of as such, the well placed parables & poems, questions & commands that we're about to see in abundance in his preaching ministry Lk6v17-46 are breathtaking in form as well as content. Jesus' preaching is playful & responsive, convicting & confounding, sometimes direct, sometimes sideways on, unformulaic, aesthetically rich. I pray that we might learn from the master good principles for preaching. It is an artform, but more of us are artists than we think, & the holy spirit within us convicts, coheres, & creates things with our words. Jesus, we pray for our preachers and our preaching, for more depth, more life, more Christlikeness.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
Lk3v1-2 This could be the desert, this could be the time. Already I am thinking of ways to cheat feeling thirsty. Maybe now is the time to be thirsty. Now is the time to be cut to the heart. Now is the time for the word of God to come. Now is the time for history not to repeat itself. Now is the time for true metanoia. Come, word of God. Teach me the courage, discpline & generosity to receive your word.
Lk3v3-4 Election Day, an unrepentant country will get the politicians they deserve.
We repent the divisive rhetoric of blame and shame.
We repent mispent wealth and privelege abused, banal cynicism and tax avoidance.
We repent self-righteous leftism and saving faith in state giantism.
We repent opaque machines of bloated self interest.
We repent the glee of too eagerly consuming twitter's cynical rumour mongering.
We repent ethical outsourcing and the privatisation of everything.
We repent the creep of cruelty, the idolatry of personality.
We repent everything escapist, everything smothering, everything untrue.
We repent complicity in systemic pessimism and limited ambition.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts..
Lk3v5-6 Shall. Will. Repeated five times in these two verses - the done deal of God. Those valleys, those mountains, the crooked and the rough, all that and whom are now yet unredeemed? They are gonna get redeemed. It will literally happen. All things. Shall. This is the source of true hope, true lightness, true freedom. Lots of chat about hope this morning, as our political landscape shifts about us [God, we invite you in] but true hope bounds forth from this perspective of God's reality: every valley shall be filled, all flesh shall see the salvation of God. No really, it shall happen! What a strong and stable reality we actually live in, as Jesus speaks to us in today's other reading: "abide in my word...& you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free" Jn8v31-32. Abide in this: the crooked shall become straight. Rough places shall become level. Shall mate. Julian got Jesus right - All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. Amen
Lk3v7-8 Do you ever feel John's rage? The excoriating arid heat of palpable fury, fury at those who should know better, fury at the church-raised over-educated ever-so-busy, fury at the cosy comfortable privileged ambassadors of turgid laissez-faire Christianitised blah. Fury at those who mingle vague social concern with an utter lack of urgency, fury at those who brew a sloppy semi-faith that's neither hot nor cold, a merely linguistic affair of intriguing philosophical complexity and delicious escapist ambiguity. Fury at those who idly mingle curt de-churched bitter bickering with aloof Guardian sardonic posturing with truculent self-pity dabbing solipsistically at a putrid self-inflicted wound. Fury at those translucent moral entities who export vague guilt without hope and who always told-you-so. Fury at the vipers, a brood who breed intergenerational viperhood, curdling toxic misinformation with self-interested fantasy.
Wrath is coming. Everyone knows this. D-Day is always on the horizon. Judgement Day is always imminent. At every moment we are on the eve of making an account for ourselves.
John asks "Who told you to flee..?" Rather as God asks, "..who told you that you were naked?" Gn3v11. What have you 'told' your friends?
- Run from God's wrath?
- Deconstruct 'God's wrath'?
- Face God's wrath with repentance through Christ?
~ If you're going to run, run from sin 2Tim2v22, and run towards God Pr18v10
Lk3v9-10 Axed. Uprooted. Destroyed. Reading John Stott's 'The Radical Disciple' this week he ends his final book with some thoughts on the deaths we must die as disciples: the role of dying in salvation, discipleship, mission, persecution, martyrdom and the practice of literal mortality. Of 2Cor4v10-11 he says: 'This extraordinary statement declares that we can experience both the death and life of Jesus simultaneously.' This is my prayer, that I would check out of the painful process of the axe at my roots. That I would always be being cut down, that I would always be growing new life.
Lk3v11-12 "Teacher, what shall we *do*" What does repentance look like? It is a doing. The gospel of repentance is active, personal and political. Faith is works, and works is a doing is a giving.
"Whoever.." The revolution starts with you, double tunicker. Before you get stoning Two Jags, take the backup plan out of your own eye. God is your piggy bank for a rainy day. God is your but-if-not. God is your come-what-may. Note 'whoever' is an if clause, predicates radical generosity on abundance, but calibrates abundance as being within everyone's reach.
"Two Tunics.." If one tuxedo is enough for Obama.. ~ Your untaxable personal allowance is one tunic, and above that threshold the tax rate is 100% (but perhaps tax is an unhelpful analogy here). As entrepeneurs, if you are to be a disruptor, keep your life lean and nimble. How do you measure abundance? What do you have two of?
"..share with him who has none.." It's more blessed to give etc. It is more interesting. It packs a better punchline. Giving is more fun for all involved. And giving changes everything. The true truth of all-as-gift-given rendering all-as-gift-givers is the essence of Christianity, the definition of grace, the mode of its infection. When the Kingdom of God comes, Capitalism won't work, and Communism won't be necessary. Capitalism is fueled acquisitive avarice to stock-pile more-than-one. Communism flatten this property theft to the counter-generous universal unownership of less-than-one. Both are structured responses to the lie of scarcity.
Lk3v13-14 Money. John makes clear that different people need to hear different specific things about their attitude to money. Everyone agrees greed is wrong, but John puts his finger on more subtle ways that money gets under the skin: falseness, disatisfaction, legally sanctioned exploitation, thinking oneself more entitled than others, treating 'what I can get away with' as the measure of a.legitimate attitude towards money. These are not just attitudes to point out in the world at large, but which jostle under my own skin. Come Lord Jesus.
Lk3v15-16 "straps of whose sandals I'm not worthy to untie..." 👞👞 Coming soon is the one man who is not actually too big for his boots. Jesus, the cosmic CEO who pulled the whole universe up by his own bootstraps. Jesus, suited, booted and atop the sheer cliff of the company hierarchy that we find ourselves in. Jesus. He is not like other prophets, he not an extension of a vague continuum of do-gooders and well-wishers. The one who comes after me is wholly other.
"He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.." 🔥🔥 These are no mere props to his cuz in the family business. John is in End-Is-Nigh mode: We baptise with water pistols, Jesus brings the artillery. Jesus will mess you up. As Grenfell Tower hurls harrowing visuals into public consciousness, as if we were in any fuzziness about fire's fearsome potency. Baptism into Christianity is not the arrangement of tea lights around a fusty icon, it is man-as-powder-keg furiously ablaze, utterly and horrendously undone, the screaming hissing wood, the crackle and white-hot roar of a soul consumed. As Tim Farron has just said so publicly, this fire demands my life, my soul, my all.
Lk3v17-18 And the line between wheat & chaff runs right through the human heart. I am much worse and much better than I believe. I am much less respectable much more redeemable. I am much more glorious, much more ruined. Sarah qua chaff needs incinerating in a furnace that puts her own hot emotions to shame. Sarah qua wheat gets to be made beautiful, bread to be broken, food to sustain and hearten others.
Lk3v19-20 Herod. Trump. Phil. "#You're just as boring as everyone else, When you tut and you moan and you squeal and you squelch..." 🍆🍑 These grisly übermensch, sick as fuck, sick and boring. See, lust is a gateway sin, an open wound exploit, money-sex-&-power is a three corded gordian noose, and the tawdry threads are each unravelled twines from the tapestry of a meat market mode of considering the human person. The banality of this worldview was and is and is to _come_ in oily overripe euphemisms, spidery claws scrawling an SOS in fluid leaking from the cadaver of the rubberised human, this total worldview is a perennial shallowing, a lascivious addiction to hands and feet, a fearful world becoming exponentially more abstract, the logical extension of which is the body terminally commodified in the beheading of John the Baptist. What is it to take one's brother's wife? What is porn? What makes it's reproof so political?
Lk3v21-22 All the things going on in these 2 famous verses: baptism, prayer, revelation, trinitarian relationships, belovedness, conditions for ministry... I'm stuck this morning by the fact that the holy spirit 'descended...in bodily form'. I've never thought before that we get a micro-incarnation of the holy spirit here. It's hard to know what 'like a dove' really means, but taking it at face value - God became bird, and dwelt among us. It was not beneath God to become part of creation, to embody feathers and beak, to limit Himself to the vulnerability and simplicity of a creature without language. This thought makes me behold the incarnation of Christ again with incredulous wonder - we think it a little step down from God to man, but no, it is a total scandal.
Lk3v23-24 Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. What am I going to do when I grow up? What will I do with that nebulous mature manhood somewhere at the rainbow's end of asymptotic adolescence? And in the week after Father's Day, Luke couples this ready-set-go of Jesus ministry with a genealogy [yawn?], sons of Adam's sons, fathers fathering father since the dawn of time. Notably this opens the pickle of who was Joseph's father? ~ Heli, as Luke supposes // or Jacob, as Matthew supposes. Commentators speculate a range of interpretable fatherhoods: physical, legal, adoptive, and via levirite marriage. Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. Pray for us as we wrestle with qualitative fathering and the nurture of Tony's legacy.
Lk3v25-26 Matthew starts with Abraham and works forward to Jesus. Luke starts with Jesus and works back to Adam, the son of God. Jesus: alpha & omega, all things run towards Him, from Him all things proceed.
Lk3v27-28 Christianity is and must be intergenerational. A baton relay cooperating. Paul planting, Apollos watering, all the while God making to grow 1Cor3v6. Lois passes to Eunice passes to Timothy 2Tim1v5. Relentless, perpetual, unceasing, You are neither source nor terminus but a participant in one long unbroken fibreoptic cable of the Christ light through the days and decades.
Lk3v29-30 Lots of familiar names, but these are not yet the characters we know, but those named after them, those labouring under the same stories. When parents name they declare meaning over their children, an early act of grace. But a name given with intent can be a burden to those of us who feel we haven't lived up to our name's inspiration. Isn't all grace like this? How quick we are to turn grace into something we must earn. You name is a gift, and the stories woven into it can always be a hope to set before you. A prayer for the littlest J I know (& his siblings) this morning, and for all those little ones entrusted to our prayer, that they would grow to know their names as the symbol of a great & true treasure, of divine foreknowledge and grace.
Lk3v31-32 Who do you think you are? Who am I? 📜 The prominent inclusion of genealogies in the bible is striking to me. For me who forgets names with a ferocious efficiency calculated to assuage the pains of perpetual departures. For me who holds a mild contempt for historical preoccupation as a nostaligic activity never more than the sum of its sentimentalities: a modern form of ancestor worship. For me who caricatures an image of dusty and deranged archivists in bondage to a manic determinism and a sort of ruin lust, creaking around card index files, venting their mid-life crises down the well of history through the digital seance which is ancestry.co.uk: "who am I?" For me who lives thinly and monogenerationally in a slithered slice of siloed demography: bare millenials kettling their amnesiac unwisdom together, drafting disruptive manifestos enshrining chronological snobbery with self-righteous melancholy.
And I think the bible agrees with my dim view of ancestry geeks:
Lk11v47 "Woe to you who build tombs for the prophets!"
Lk8v27 the Gadarene demoniac lived "amongst the tombs"
Lk24v5 "Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead?"
Jn5v39 "You search the scriptures but..."
Ph3v13 "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.."
And yet, these genealogies are there in the Bible as an encouragement to do likewise: to ponder our inheritance. There is a right way to look back, a right retrospective, the telling of testemony, the display of how far God has carried you, and your family. Vitally and personally, this cosmic Christ comes out of such a microscopic lineage, this collection of briefly and parochially significant names: David, Jesse, Boaz.. they are but an artefact of noise, a blip in the sweep of history. The film Lion meditates on such a search for origins and identity through the magic of Google Earth, poring over the vast Indian urban landscapes viserally captured, to bring to the fore the true truth of one lost sheeps vital and infinite significance. Trace history and tell history because history is going somewhere. History has a beginning and an end, and that is Christ.
Lk3v33-34 Luke stretches the genealogy back beyond Abraham, bringing into focus universal humanity - something more ancient than Judaism. Luke is famously a gentile with a vision of the Christ for all, including those on the margins. Because Jesus inhabits our common humanity and not just our initiation into the covenant, our humanity can inhabit Jesus. Let us give thanks for this mystery, & let us pursue him where he is to be found.
Lk3v35-36 Son of a begatten bigot, Noah and the ne'er-do-wells, last in a long line line of lamentable losers: Jesus' genealogy is "#collecting the names of the lovers that went wrong..", the tried-and-faileds, the still-born saviours, the all-fallen-short-of-glory. But now. In a new Adam we have a new father, a new inheritance, and in being born-again, the lever of pollution's plumbing is cranked backward, like a ethical Archimedean screw pumping debt back up Calvary's hydroelectric hill. No longer is man handing misery onto man - the downstream effluent piped into today's youth is reversed. We are no longer the Leftovers, no longer eeking out a precarious existence at the fringe of a gig economy, no longer pawns in a corrupt housing market, no longer less-than-the-sum of our negative equity. To every prodigal son. The father makes the first move.
Lk3v37-38 The same week as reading Jn10v34-35 and 2Pt1v4. Jesus is the Son of God. We too are sons & daughters of God, siblings & co-heirs with & in Christ. We are participants in the divine nature. This has always been something I have held at a distance, smothered in caveats, fearful of claiming too much. But no, this is what it is to live the life resurrected, it is to know ourselves 'gods' in the way Jesus tells us we are, that is, 'Godly', 'divine participants', 'sons & daughters of God'. This switch in perspective transforms my sense of the possible, enlarges both my freedom and my humility. God, let us not dishonour what you have made holy, let us not settle for lives which are anything less than entirely caught up in yours.
Monday, 15 May 2017
If you'd like to read it with us slowly, alternate mornings, let me know. +44 (0) 7729056452. We share these on Whatsapp, so, happy sweep international numbers into the mix.
Lk2v1-2 Syria. A country often on our lips but one for whom I struggle to know how to pray for. How does one pray for a nation? How does one pray for a government? How does one pray generically for the suffering and intentions of thousands upon thousands? When I lead a service at church I find myself googling for world events that need intercessory prayer in a way that I don't usually - perhaps this is a virtue of communal prayer, that it forces us to think of prayer for those beyond ourselves, but equally this behaviour is indicative of the fact that I haven't internalised prayerful habits for nations and places in need. God, teach me to pray. I pray for the people of Syria, I pray your light, your love, your armour of protection. I pray for Syrians in the UK, prompt me, us by your spirit to be a place that demonstrates your kindness, your refuge. worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/syrian-refugees-prayer
Lk2v3-4 Davidic lineage. Man hands ministry onto man, it, too, deepens like a coastal shelf, if we would only let God.. By individualising against familiality we have not escaped the formative damages of childhood development, while we have aggressively shed those benefits of being intergenerationality triangulated and of being deepened in the peculiar ministry of our tribe. Being of a lineage is a given given, you are cast in the mould of even absent negligent parents recursively. You have only the choice of whether you face this consciously or no, in the counselling of the everyday or the counselling of a psychotherapist. For better or worse, you are your father's son. God's vision for humanity is for better, redeeming families to be more than the sum of their pathologies, and He considers their idiosyncratic gifts as the irreducible building blocks of a personalist Kingdom of Heaven. God's plan for the world is the long game, the patient ground swell of lineages, like giant oil tankers, brought slowly round the long of arc of redemption.
~ Town of Bethlehem. We go to the ends of the earth, _from_ a somewhere. "Y'all know where I'm from: 01 to the 21.." to the farthest flung you are still inescapably from. Watching Caitlin Moran's Raised by Wolves is a little essay in such Genius Loci. Hilarious and uncomfortable home truths. So too, God works through the complex tapestry of place. The Emperor Quirinias and his nativity crew, political projects, armies and subsequent empires breeze through the land fleetingly, God has been orchestrating a much bigger story. He is orchestrating a much bigger story, for London, for 41.
Lk2v5-6 The time came. 'God's timing is perfect', 'trust in God's timing' are phrases I've never liked or used. Maybe the mire of tangled philosophy behind these phrases makes me keep them at arms length but also because the way these phrases are used tends to conjour in my mind a god as a super-person, who floats just slightly higher off the ground than human beings and can see a little further into the distance, who has some magic powers to move middle-sized dry goods around a bit, a god who wants to bring about the same things that I want, but just at a slightly different time, so I can feel a bit smugly vindicated in the end that I got the thing we wanted, but oh how humbly I also learnt to wait for god's timing. This picture seems to get wrong both God's transcendence and God's immanence. For in some sense all timing is God's timing (Ec3v1-8, what other kind could there be?) And in another sense our sense of time is so shaped by the contours of our own consciousness that cosmic time and deep time are beyond our grasp (2Pt3v8). This is a mystery, I don't know how to comport myself to God's 'time'. I think the 'timing' of God must have an ethical (Ec3v16) and an aesthetic dimension (Ec3v11), & I think we see glimpses of this. We sometimes see how things 'fit', we can tell events as narrative for the glory of God. Sometimes God speaks specific things, like 'wait' or 'go for it'. God is both nearer and bigger than we think, the events around us today already contain a language that speaks of God, the time is always coming, the time is always more than us.
Lk2v7-8 "No room at the inn.." Plan B was always Plan A: The bolt from the blue for the broken is a backstreet bleak and insanitary birth wrapped ragged with what's ready-to-hand. Harsh like Calais Jungle improv, Christ is born at the edge in a brutal theatre of unsentimental favela energy. Behold a sticky God, messy, he makes do to mend. Just about mangering, God takes brinkmanship to the borderlands to display enoughness itself.
~ "No room at the inn.." Outsiders, outliers.. Jesus' birth is not incidentally outside. The outsideness is vital. Beyond the city gates. From-the-outside is where the energy to reverse entropy comes from. Outside of the closed loop of recursive recurrence, God is.
Lk2v9-10 More fear. Interesting to note that the shepherds proclaim joy to be the antithesis of fear, rather than peace, comfort, stillness or courage, as we might expect. I realise that I tend to think of joy as being an extra and optional variable on top of some basic level of existential security that I'm supposed to feel. Not so, dear shepherd-heart, quaking in the early morn. Behold! The joy of your life is close by. Allow joy to master you first, for joy frets nothing, joy panics nothing, joy is a right response to the good, the true, the beautiful. Joy is a right response to belovedness, that which casts out all fear.
Lk2v11-12 Saviour. Christ. Lord. Blurry tautologians, note:
~ Saviour (ctrl+shift+S): From the world, the flesh and the devil. From sins of thought and word and deed. From negligence, weakness and our own deliberate fault. Saviour Jesus saves. Perpetually present tense. Over and over and over. Again and again and again. You and you and you. Jn5v17
~ Christ (adj. 'annointed'): Annointed Prophet. Annointed Priest. Annointed King. Christ Jesus ministers. A supernatural multi-tool, a kit of gifts, commissioned to assume roles mediating spiritual power via a threefold office.
~ Lord (, The): Preeminent over all. Preexisting before all. Prevailing beyond all. Lord Jesus is. Total Boss. Last word. Definitionally superlative. Utter and ultimate. Unparseably vast. Being in its utmost form. More than more than.
~~ Saviour. Christ. Lord. // Does. Has. Is. // Action. Power. Title. // Effecting. Ministering. Being.
Lk2v13-14 Heavenly host. Thinking about the we-yous of angelic-human interactions. There is a collective subject that is the heavenly host who can, it seem, address us, and to whom, it seems, we can reply. Speculation on the inter-group dynamics of a band of angels isn't something we're given much insight into here, but we do see their unity in joint action, collective proclamation, shared purpose, communal worship. We see angels attending to Christ together and turning to face other others to speak of him. Our tasks might differ from the angels in some ways, but there is obvious similarity, overlap and ultimate shared purpose of the worship of the true God. So too then the church, that we are called to attend together to Christ, coordinating ourselves to labour together as one. Prayer this morning for the grace, wisdom, co-ordination, right focus and love that we need for one another as the church, small scale and world wide.
Lk2v15-16 "Let us go.." It is a tidy and dazzling coincidence that we should have considered precisely this notion at such length this weekend from Ps84 'Blessed are those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.' Pilgrimage is a 'going': a sense that there is a point A and a point B. // a conviction that I cannot stay at at A. // a counting the cost of the distance to B. // And then, a going.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go together*, withwards, speaking a "let us" to one another - such is a sacred texting.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go in hope* for a thing which already "has happened" but which is revealed as future tense not-yet seen.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go "in haste"* knowing our need, knowing time is short, knowing that this makes all the difference. ~ And we, like the shepherds, *go looking* with an earnest yearning seeking scouring eye, a raking and close meditating attentive attention "and found Mary" - ἀνεῦραν is no mere stumbleupon, but a discovery after searching.
and shepherds, bored
woke, and wonder gnawed
Beheld the Lord!
made known abroad,
of one accord,
absurd to hoard
the treasure stored
the spirit broad
their guilt unscored
Far more, and less, than they could afford.
Lk2v19-20 "treasured up .. pondered" What do you store away? What do you commit to memory? What do you bottle up? What promises have you preserved? What tapes do you play? What have you tattooed to your eyelids, what have you carved to your desk? Memory is everything. It is your only interpretative lens, it is the calibration tool of all experience, the bedrock of all language, the means by which we self-identify at all. The modern mind is amnesiac, a flickering light on a blank slate, delible words on disposable architecture, we are committed to nothing and commit nothing to memory, we are flimsy and forgettable flash drives *But you can choose to remember.* And you can choose what you remember. Selective memory is inevitable, so select well. I can give you more verbatim Eminem than I can any writer of anything more edifying. I have not selected well. And thus polluted, the lens by which I describe reality through is tinted and tainted by untruth, subtly shifting my sense of the real, my definition of normal, and my measure of the possible. Scripture memorisation is nothing to boast in, it is an epistemological life-jacket, it is windscreen-wash for our journey through a sandstorm, it is the control test against which all other variables are wildly field tested. // One could contrast "treasured up" two ways. It is *not-forgetting the foundations of your identity*, but it also implies *not-broadcasting boasts of bravado.* The Christian is a depthed being, withdrawing from the ecstasy of communication, and the noise of the present, into the steady and eternal certainties of treasure treasured up. Or so says this introvert..
Lk2v21-22 The naming of Jesus. Sat in the College garden this morning I took out Hudson Taylor's 'Union and Communion with Christ' then put it away again, feeling self-conscious. Among the philosophers and theologians I feel awkward about the name 'Christ', and 'Jesus' is even worse. I'd much rather talk about 'the divine', or maybe 'the Trinitarian God' if I'm feeling brave. I'm quick to un-name Jesus, fearing association with a caricature of the one-dimensional cheesy evangelical. Why have I let myself associate use of the name of Jesus with this fear? I pray that I might be in the business of loving the name and naming the love of Jesus. Out loud: 'Jesus'. May remember, reassociate, recognise the depths of his name.
Lk2v23-24 Christianity is Jewish. Judaism entails certain contextual practices which are now redundant, but also, certain practices which reflect broad human universal practical necessity and enduring poetic relevance. Maternity leave is such a universal practical necessity. Lv12 makes this provision in a language very alien to us: *Uncleanness* ameliorated by *Sacrifice*. The modern mind dismisses these as crude anthropological curiousities. The evangelical mind dismisses these through Jesus: Christ makes all things clean. Christ is a once-for-all sacrifice. I want to briefly and inconclusively speculate on these two themes:
~ *Unclean* as a word conjures in the mind an icky naughtiness, it is a cruel pejorative, a slur brought against the helpless to add insult to injury. It renders a world irredeemably polluted, and the pursuit of personal hygiene stands as a barrier to mission (Ac10v14 etc). However, not all modes of quartering the world into geographies of quarantine are equal. It is possible to establish categories of time space and matter according to their contagious influence or immune nonresistance and to make contingency for compassionate cushioning for the protection of the vulnerable. Maternity leave is such a bracketing. And it is notable that in Judaism the leave is total, short (33 or 66 days), celebrated publically upon readmittance, and varied according to the child (in this case by gender which is another discussion, but it is enough to note that the leave is bespoke).
~ *Sacrifice* usually emphasises a vertical dimension to our spiritual life, a theatrical death of a hapless creature to placate an irate deity. Or in more modern modes, like secular Lent, it is the dramatic death of a pleasure or the onerous foregoing of some privilege in order to placate an infinite moral misdemeanour - smoking or crimes against the body beautiful. Sacrifice in Judaism is notably more person-centred as a ritual, and even horizontal in its orientation, the cost varied according to the economy of her means and the meat would then be eaten by the offerer.
Lk2v25-26 As per discussions about Simeon in Advent, considering that this revelation is comparable to someone now having revelation that they will witness the second coming before they die, which I would dismiss as craziness. As I all the more encounter different types of people with different styles and convictions I ache for discernment and openness both in full measure that I might be able to be aligned with the work of the Spirit who transcends subjective conviction. Come Holy Spirit, give us knowledge, make us wise, draw us close.
~"Death" It is interesting to me that they both have a story with death (v26 "see death" and v37 "widowed"), as if the Spirit were a Thestral, we are beings-toward-death, but over death, we talk down to Death on first name terms, 1Co15v55.
Lk2v29-30 Breath to breath / birth and death. Birth and death heighten everything, neither are capable of telling lies. Both tell us things matter. Both make us responsible. Both tell us we must surrender. Both tell us we can't run on default. Both are unknowns. This is life alive to God: alive to the mystery and pain of birth and death.
Lk2v31-32 "..Salvation .. Light .. Revelation .. Glory.." Generic Christian honorifics prompt an overfamiliar drowsy nod-along response in me. The light metaphor, however, never gets old, never bottoms out, never ceases to draw my imagination to the nooks of new possibility. Light: emitted, transmitted, reflected and absorbed. From the rectilinear propagation of an evangelion, to living in the light's warming glow and nuanced colour, to the casting of light and shadow onto the relief of a textured universe. The world is divided here for Simeon, as for Paul, into Jew and Gentile, a world yet united under a banner 'all peoples' who will yet be brought to light.
~ The Jews, that is, the church qua existing covenant community, has a *light-for-glory*. Light from within, Christ the filament gloriously emitting light outwards from the bulb of the church. Christ's coming into the world is light-for-glory, your glory, Christian. Christ-In-You-the-[luminous]-Hope-of-Glory.
~ The Gentiles, that is, the world, your colleagues, your family, your housemates, have *light-for-revelation*. From this moment, they can now see their hand in front of their face. Radiant light transmitted through the ether from the lit-for-glory saved-ones, casts a world brighter and more shapely, coherent and navigable. Light-for-revelation is task lighting, lamps-unto-paths, neon signage.
_# I will hold the Christ-light for you_
_in the night-time of your fear;_
Lk2v33-34 Rise and Fall First the falling, then the rising. Dragging my soul kicking and screaming to believe Col2v12-15 this morning. Unadorned prayers: First death, then resurrection. Praying for a fuller measure of understanding.
Lk2v35-36 Mary's bleeding heart. No glassy scarlet bead etched with a scalpel, no needling switchblade idly toyed with. The blade ῥομφαία in view here is a blazing barbarian cutlass, the greek mentioned only elsewhere in Rv1v16's double-edged samurai sword, the WMD of sabre sports. Like Mary, we bear Christ, and if we suffer we will reign Rm8v17. Against sanitised Christian suffering, we are lambs to the slaughter, church should be a bloody mess.
Lk2v37-38 Considering what it would be to "never leave the temple". I suspect that Anna is someone else I would dismiss as a bit crazy if I met her. Worshipping night and day? Isn't it a bit...extreme? One-sided? A dangerous echo-chamber? The latter prompts thoughts on what makes for a pathological 'Christian bubble' vs discerning a right calling to primarily or even exclusively invest in worship, prayer and prophecy in the temple. A 'Christian bubble' perhaps involves none of the risk, challenge or labour of life 'out in the world' but also none of Anna's fervour. It takes God-language and church-habits for granted but can operate on an otherwise functional atheism. Where we find ourselves called to life in the temple it must surely be a life of costly rather than cosy.
Lk2v39-40 Jesus "grew" and "became strong" and was "filled with wisdom" and.., like Team America, this needs a montage. The Exploding Calendar trope, set to Eye of the Tiger, we see JC manning up. When we pop out the end of our extended adolescence, what have we become? What manner of manhood have we acquired?
Jesus' incarnation involved birth and death, weakness and temptation, family and friendship, hunger and thirst, dirt and cleaning, anger and intellect, physical pain, emotional pain, and in this verse, 'growth'. To grow is inevitable. But to grow up to become other than merely boys-who-can-shave is not inevitable. Being human involves a growing into an adult form of the species, quantitatively bigger, but what is the quality of being a grown-up, which Millenials are accused of delaying? Many answers could be discussed, but these verses offer these three for starters:
~ *1. Strength.* What did Jesus need strength for? His calling in life was to die for sinners - no strength needed? Additional to that, to preach - no strength needed? And to perform healing - no strength needed? This popular construction of an abridged Jesus in a body-optional mode of his embodiment offers very little to provoke we the reedy, cybernetic and metrosexual towards a muscular Christianity. Jesus grew strong. Christian! Become strong, increase in vigour, Do Hard Things! (Alex & Brett Harris)
~ *2. Wisdom.* Against the myth of the genius, the magic-thinking shortcut to the right answer, there is a wisdom into which one grows. Jesus _was being filled.._ present-participle of a process ongoing. In an wiki age of networked mind, what does one bother to commit to memory, what mental fight is worth the effort, what sort of a knower does one want to become? In an age of mere data processing, what is wisdom? It is still "the art of living skilfully..", it still begins with "the fear of the Lord.." and it remains a prerequisite for mature adulthood. Would that we, 41 and the rest of our generation would set our hearts on a sage gravitas, slowly earnt, long fermented and hard tested. Wisdom wars for true truth, against constructions of reality based on unrelational knowledge and disembodied being. Jesus grew in a wisdom.
~ *3. God's favour.* Indefinite teenagers: there but for the Grace of God go I. The answer to growing up is not simply to work harder and do more. The gift, the privelege, the resource to be the grownup you are called to be, this comes from God. Recieve it by faith. Seek it. Flex the muscles of faith, grow into the use of it, know more the need of it, so seek more of it. And so then Lk2v52: "increase in this grace and favour of God". God grant us grace to grow up.
What is in your Rocky montage?
Lk2v41-42 Jesus was a church kid, like me. He knew the deal, he breathed the alloyed oxygen of genuine faith and compromised religion all about him, his body knew the rituals, his memory was populated by these annual church weekends away in Jerusalem. A prayer this morning for the church kids, for myself, for Phil [et al]. We're all church kids. All the churched and de-churched and re-churched and the not-sures and just-beginnings. For the idol of church to be broken in us all. For the love of church to be a true safety and calling. For true church. For new church. For freedom in realising that Jesus is not the small-c church, for the joy and hope of realising that the big-C church is Jesus, the true vine. God, come save us church kids.
Lk2v43-44 Struck by two things:
 Becoming adult
 Being chill
~  Travelling parties to Jerusalem would have travelled in two groups: the men, and the women&children. Jesus here is older than Nancy Cameron left in the Plough Inn, and the focus here should not be on negligent parenting, but on the unavoidable ambiguity of adolescence. And considering that, then pondering what are the sufficiently safe, sufficiently challenging conditions for the eager developing mind to make radical choices not to follow the inevitable path of his father and uncles, but to carve a divergent road less travelled. The church, as the temple in that day, should be that third space. And perhaps 41 might be such a context for the church. Run this story of Jesus coming-of-age with the parallel prodigal son parable, or with a more contemporary Into The Wild, a note the will to inividuate and the youthful vigour, curiosity and sense of justice, is constant, but how easily this drifts restless and uncontained into the twenties, and even thirties. Kettled, coddled, indulged, suffocated - the world is wasted by the youths we squander.
 Being Chill vs Judgemental Phil who is baffled that this behaviour should be called love. Jesus callous disregard for the practicality of The Plan, what is he thinking!? Och, Phil. The God has these things in hand, and it is so important to retain a sense of proportion, and an openness to the self-ordering of the universe, and the capacity of grace to come in from the outside to bear up these practical things. Jesus is relentlessly relational and impractical, because he could be, and can be. He holds the universe in his hand. As if this were Lion in every moment, knowing that it ends happily ever after, knowing that all things work for good, that we will be reunited, and that everything broken will be repaired.
Lk10v41-42 "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Ps46v10 "..Be chill, and know that I am God."
Lk2v45-46 I wonder how Mary & Joseph felt during this search for Jesus, especially Mary. She tells us afterwards of her v48 "great distress". Did she know in her depths that Jesus would be ultimately be safe, drawing on the 1v32-33 prophetic promises of God and the 2v19 deep-buried treasures of testimony in her heart, despite surface anxiety? Or did she wonder with deep-seated fear and confusion whether this event unfolding was the 2v35 sword that would pierce her? How did she pray? With anger? With surrender? Reminding God of his words? With loss of certainty as to whether any of it has been God at all? How do we live with the specific direct things we think God has spoken to us - with faith but not entitlement or hubris? What do we do with hard words? How search for Jesus in the hub-bub of the city without over- or under-interpreting our own calling? It can all be a bit loud and frantic, this search, God...teach me the how as well as the where.
Lk2v47-48 In the life of the mind, what made Jesus 'Jesus'? We know Jesus' Jesusness was not found in any "form nor comeliness". It was not any "beauty that we should desire him" Is 53:3. It was not an immunity to hunger Mk11v12 or sleep Mk4v38. Neither was it omniscience, for he had to learn wisdom Lk2v52. But what about his mind? He "astonished in his understanding and answers".. When the God of the universe elected to become flesh, did he fashion a version of a man with a peculiar mental capacity, a superhuman intellect? Should we consider Jesus intelligent, above average intelligent, in the top 1% intelligent, or beyond that, a superlatively intelligent genius operating with an inaccessible giftedness? And what does that genius alter in the way we relate to our friend and saviour, our brother and exemplar?
OR. Can it be claimed that Jesus was an ordinary human, of ordinary build and ordinary intelligence, distinguished only by sinlessness? Genuine question.
To meet a simple mind long shaped by grace, an average mind not blinded by sin, not hostage to sinful appetites, not corrupted in its thinking - such a mind would think astonishing thoughts. There would the weak and foolish things shame the wise. For, sin impairs thinking, the mind turned in on itself is epistemelogical self sabotage. There is a virus-of-the-mind aspect to our captivity to sin. And the corrupt mind's ideas have consequences for mental health, and the total effectiveness of a genius.
But an average mind, that has learnt to kill sin? That would be astonishing.
Lk2v49-50 Jesus embodies Ps84, obv. And the search for him draws us towards the Father's house, the holy of holies, a clearer signal of that Trinitarian love. The adolescent Jesus does a sneaky Jn17v24-26 on his parents. Go searching.
Lk2v51-52 "#..you too will get old; and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders..."
~ *Jesus submitted.* Be like Jesus. Imitate his civil disobedience. Imitate his submission. In this portrait of a saviour-in-formation, we see the adult Christ forged in the profoundly ordinary process of humble submission.
~ *Jesus submitted.* Even the peerless Jesus. Especially the peerless Jesus. Jesus submits because Jesus knows that the truest true greatness comes through submission. It is in submission that we find the all-sufficient resource, for the needed efficacy to overcome the utterly pervasive brokenness of the world. Submission is not incidental. Submission is essential. Submission is not merely a scout badge amongst other good behaviours. Submission is the training for, and the substance of, _the_ battle against the human problem: the rebellious unsubmissive selfish heart. *Submission is the antithesis of individualism.* And, individualism is _the_ drug of our age. It permeates every presupposition, every snowflake lifestyle expectation, every disruptive business plan, every party political manifesto. It colours marriages, it shapes architectures, and it renders community antagonistic and impossible. We measure ourselves and 'the good' against a false freedom, the myth of autonomy. And toward that vision, our modern saviour will come unfettered, so we must be unfettered. Our rugged individualist saviour will move fast and break things to bring us the salvation of invulnerable podular existences and technologies which mitigate all contexts for possible submission.
~ *Submit because Jesus submitted.* You are not the exception. A life-unsubmitted is not merely flimsy and sentimental, it is untrue and ineffective. You are not better than Jesus.
~ *Submit as Jesus submitted.* Jesus submitted to inadequate authorities, uncomprehending parents ultimately through to duplicitous disciples and corrupt government. Jesus submits, he takes no power over, he seeks the good of and serves, he plays by their rules, he dies by their sword.
~ *Submission is the substance of peaceful community* Eph5v21 Submission moves the heart. Mary was taking notes anyway, but this episode commits itself as a memory bookending Mary's understanding of the Christ's formation. And it is in this way of impacting the heart that *submission is the armoury of effective conflict* Rm12v21 Mt5v39 1Pt3v1 etc. Submission is the non-violence which heaps burning coals, overthrows empires and wins unbelieving spouses to faith.