Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Monday, 23 October 2017

texting luke seven

Head over heals? Well healed? In my head, I get overwhelmed # the strange problem of goodness. A problem shared. 07729056452

Lk7v1-2 Heidegger is quite wrong that in being alongside the death of another I am 'just there too'. Being-towards-the-death-of-others shapes our own horizon in revealing our needs, dependency, fear and love. Prayers for those I know grieving this morning, for those with news of serious sickness in those they love, and for us all, to receive the seriousness of the mortality of those we love, & to take those fears and longings to Jesus.

Lk7v3-4 Who was this centurion?
~ An agent of empire? A noble savage? A killing machine, bristly-in-muscle and sleek-of-face? An authority on authority, he is listed on the leadership chart of a brutal regime - a centurion who commands the loyalty of a hundred men, to instill the Pax Romana in a volatile corner of an unstable country?
~ A member of the served classes with servants, the well-to-do waited-on, the middle-management middle-classes? A sensitive diplomat? A controversial compromiser? A synagogue-building appeaser? A faux philanthropist, the soft-touch, good-cop, bread-and-circuses, corporate-social-responsibility, agent of empire by stealth? Or a genuinely good man, a person of peace?
~ A homosexual? A pederast? (If we allow the Gk παῖς pais to carry the meaning that such as Jeffrey John convincingly, if controversially, want it to have, it is intellectually lazy to then be so quickly selective about what we infer Jesus would affirm). Is this centurion best read as a sensitive sentimental man trapped in the role of a soldier? A jealous-lover, a shame-carrying, frightened and far-flung victim of abuse himself?
~ ~ This miracle is as bizarre a proof-text for sexualities, as it would be for military-empires or for forms of slavery. Not simply because these details are incidental, but because these details precisely illustrate this passage's emphasis as the contrast between the Jewish elders notion of "worthy" (v4) and the only effective faith which is the recognition of "not-worthy" (v7)
~ ~ The centurion's beloved servant is not healed as an affirmation of anything the Jewish elders consider as qualifying as worthy, but quite the opposite. Jesus will hear the prayer of a imperially-violent, class-privileged, faux-philanthropic, sexually-broken Phil, if I can only recognise my unworthiness.

Lk7v5-6 Initially reading this, it sounds like the Roman officer is being problematically self-deprecating. I want the story to end with Jesus going to the house to demonstrate that he not only wills the healing of the servant but also declares the officer beloved and worthy. But Jesus doesn't go to the house. I want him to, otherwise it feels to me that Jesus is affirming the officer's statement that he shouldn't. Reading it a second time, however, I realise that this has more to do with how I use and receive statements such as these - I self-deprecate as power play, and try to meet other people's self-deprecation as people-pleasing. I see that the officer had a kind of maturity, confident enough in both Jesus and himself to not need Jesus to do the basics with him. How I long for that spiritual muscle memory - not that takes itself to be independent of Jesus, but the very opposite - so trained in walking the way of Jesus that there's no need for Jesus to keep walking me through the same steps again and again,  as though for the first time. For spiritual muscle memory, this I pray.

Lk7v7-8 Power and Authority. Dirty words to we freelance free-range libertarians, to we adolescent agitating anarchists, chaffing at the bit, raging against the machine, untethered from any shackles of responsibility or deference. Power and Authority - it takes one to know one.  In Authority <-> Under Authority : I cannot have one without the other, it would seem. I cannot understand the being-in-authority without appreciating being-under-authority.
- *Jesus has all authority* in heaven and earth Mt28v18
- *Jesus gives us authority* eg. over snakes Lk10v19
- *That we might contend with authorities* Eph6v12
and we must.

Lk7v9-10 Surprised by faith. Jesus responds. So often I feel like the Jesus of the gospels is locked in a glass box in my mind, separated from the cosmic Christ of the rest of the NT. I know the historical Jesus responded to people, but those were other people, limited by time & space. I know that the Christ is the way and the content of my salvation, but this quickly becomes something like an impersonal force field. After all these years of reading the New Testament I am praying for new and fresh understanding of the living connections that run between its two halves.

Lk7v11-12 "a great crowd with him ... a considerable crowd with her" ~ Two tribes ala Beat It ala West Side Story, two masses, two bodies corporate, both a humming teaming with emotion.
~ The one a funeral procession on their way to sepulchral caves beyond Nain, a Lacrimosa march. See she nameless that heads the dark column ~ eyes like sluices scarcely stem a crystal tide, sighs an infinite stormy day, harried by grief bent double to the loss of husband and now of son.
~ The other a parade, twelve feet tall and staggering, tied with bright red ribbons tinsel spangled raucous rambunctious.
~ She treads the path that she will untread again.

Lk7v13-14 Crying. What is crying like for you? Some of us cry easily and some of us don't, some can cry publicly and some of us don't know how, sometimes tears are a clear linear response to difficulty,  while sometimes tears come out later, after the fact, over some small thing that represents the bigger thing, sometimes we cry over the same thing repeatedly, sometimes we don't know why we cry other than an unnameable quiet desperation, sometimes we cry, like this woman, because life has been brutal and we have no idea how to bear our grief. The gospels record many people crying: Mt2v18, Lk7v38, Lk8v52, Jn11v33, Lk23v27. Jesus' responds each time, with compassion, truth, words and demonstration. In all cases, he works towards resurrection, though in some of these cases resurrection happens quickly, & in other cases not. The substantiality of resurrection is nevertheless central to all of Jesus' response to our tears, & our subterranean grief. When Jesus meets Mary crying in the garden post-resurrection Jn21v11 his words to her are different to those in the interactions above - he asks her why she is crying, offering not just comfort but reasons for the unmaking of her grief - that is, the resurrection of Jesus is the hope for all time that no grief has the final word: Rev21v4 is not a one-dimensional utopias but a ten-dimensional reality built on the foundations of resurrection.

Lk7v15-16 "Jesus gave him to him mother." You are given new life. Then, you are given. Resurrection is a gift, in-itself, for-itself, for-others. You are a gift given, symbol and substance, container and content, you, wrapped up in ribbons, are perpetually for someone. You are gifted. To whom? //  v16 Life, new life, which is within you, which in conquering death, is a fearsome force, a prophetic utterance, an affecting interference, restlessly benign, ecstatically in motion. Give your life to others. Give yourself away.

Lk7v17-18 Reports. Rumours. Stories. Sights. Each report contains the Eph3v8 'unsearchable riches' of Christ. Let us not cease to wonder at the treasure we bear.

Lk7v19-20 And so we are back at Lk7's John the Baptist. Today I'm struck again with a force by the couplet: the question by John in v19 is then repeated verbatim by John's disciples in v20. This parroting is a legitimate, effective, and urgent mode of discipleship for these under-directed times. Imitation is inevitable, therefore seek to be intentional in what _can_ be imitated from your life. Teaching your tutees to parrot is pathological only if they parrot pat answers. But *parroting questions*, opens up universes. What questions would you like the world to ask more? "Is Jesus the One? Is Jesus the One?" What other questions do you ask others to ask?

Lk7v21-22 It's ok if you don't like the word evangelism, & all the churchy forms of it you've been taught make you squirm. Just behold what Jesus is doing. And then just speak the truth.

Lk7v23-24 "..and blessed is the one who is not offended by me.."
*"blessed"* happy, lucky, better-off by..  vs.  *"offended"*, scandalised, embarrassed by..
~ Who finds Jesus offensive? My mind goes immediately to those who, today would find Christianity to involve a morality too conservative, a sacrifice too great, a philosophy too rigorous, too high a bar, too long a wait, too great a price, too vulnerable, too foolish ~ because they are Gentiles.
~ The statement here, however, is addressed to John and John's disciples. Very Jewish Jews scandalised as 1Cor1v23 at the stumbling block of Christ's liberty. The prodigal son's older brother, offended by too permissive a Jesus, too gracious a religion, too forgiving a judge..
~ To the extent that I am so scandalised by Jesus I forego blessing. More devoted to my own good works, my fragile ego cannot bear the idea that my energetic religious labour counts for nothing. I remain convinced that I have to earn something. I must be allowed to repay my debt. Outrageous and chaotic a universe that would be unleashed if everything was just forgiven. Och, I am so easily offended by Jesus, to quick judge, so slow to wonder, so averse to trusting in the capacity of his grace. And so I forego blessing.

Lk7v25-26 What did you go out to see? Jesus asks this as a kind of rhetorical question, leading straight to an answer. Rhetorical insofar as Jesus seems to want to convince his addressees that the most noble parts of themselves, are more real than the base parts. Initially the question as to whether we're searching for someone in 'fine clothing' might seem like a dig at our worst selves, dabbling 'in the shallows' of the fashions of instagram. But Jesus affirms that this isn't what we're looking for. We're looking for the prophetic, & for that which prophesy for beyond and for. That this isn't obvious is part of our fallenness, but our imago dei is still a more true truth about us, and the seat of our hunger for redemption. We tell ourselves we'd rather watch youtube than read poetry, but it's not in fact true. We tell ourselves that we more naturally crave entertainment than the gospel, & we have to work hard to desire the latter,  but this gets something wrong. We are hungry for the glory at the centre of the universe, let us not speak over ourselves and others that this is alien to us.

Lk7v27-28 *Later than:* Chronological mission: The world needs to know. But first. The world needs to know _that they need to know._ How will they know?
~ Christian harbingers, who are conscious of being within an unfolding, and humble to be invisible preliminaries, content to scaffold staggered stages of the Kingdom main event. Christ is always coming, always into Christ-shaped holes, holes given a delineated articulation by John the Baptists.
~ The world is a building missing it's capstone and cornerstone, if only we will draw it. The world is a story missing it's beginning and end, if only we will call it. The world a centrifuge without counterweight out of kilter chronically, if only we will spin it. The church is the world in miniature. We must be and speak a straightening, trust it, embody it, image it: proclaiming by doing by proclaiming the sufficiency of Christ for the Christ-shaped hole in all things.
~ *Greater than:* Hierarchies of greatness: Bigly, exponentially more than. >>> The later wine is better. The past is past, greater things are yet to come. There was no golden age but now. We carry the same truths forwards with resurgent force, on the wind of testimony, with the confidence of concrete history, but never nostaligic.
~ We embody the not-yet.
~ We proclaim a more-than.

Lk7v29-30 The tax collectors 'declared God just'. First, I note that I find this a funny turn of phrase in this context. The ESV notes the Greek is in fact 'they justified God', which, when contrasted with the alternative, namely 'they rejected the purpose of God for themselves', begins to look more like 'they recognised that God's purposes are justified' - that is, they were persuaded by reasons and reality outside themselves, and submitted to it. The people and the tax collectors recognised that the prophetic reality John declared was more true than their own wills, and they put themselves under it. Second, it is notable that the tax collectors here submit to God but the religious leaders do not. With yesterday's news about the Paradise Papers I would say that tax avoiders are comparable to the tax collectors of Jesus' day: seemingly using the leverage of power to play the system for financial gain, at the expense of 'ordinary folk'. As in Jesus day, it is easy to hold them in high contempt. We think them the furthest from submission to God. And yet here, the tax collectors were closer to recognising God's purposes than those in religious authority. Let all of us who hold some authority in ministry hold this fact in our hearts with fear and trembling: let us pray for the 'tax collectors' of our day, that they may 'declare God just', and let us pray for ourselves and our churches, that we would constantly scrutinise where we 'reject the purposes of God' through ignorance, weakness and our own deliberate fault. Come Holy Spirit.

Lk7v31-32 "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep." πŸš«πŸ€‘🚫😒 *Pharisaism is a numbing.* Definitionally. A bulletproof superego, overburdened with cerebral fortifications and self-made mendacity. Such cannot dance, and cannot cry.
πŸ€– Like a tinman tank engine, with stiff upper lip rusted into a wry grimace.  πŸ‘¨‍⚖ Stoic, legal and conservative, conserving all energy, risking no emotion, preserving the rigid justice and perfect peace of stasis.   πŸ™Š Can't dance and won't dance. How do we get this way?   πŸ˜Ά How is it the limber lisson Peej comes again to be creaky curt and counterballetic?    πŸ’Š How is it that again I retreat inside the makebelieve mood-stabilisation of glazed-over dull unadventure: aping faith as a language game and mere remembrance, simulating grace by synthetic forgiveness for respectable sins?   πŸ™‰ Against my better judgement, despite everything I've been through, forgetting all utterly, I am again a Pharisee, a weary robot couched in a coward's castle of verbiage, dancing nothing, mourning nothing. Why?   πŸ° Numb Pharisaism is a safe place to save my pride, a mask of silent aggressive competencies, inert invulnerable inaction, closed from eye contact, deflective of probing questions, busy.   πŸ™ˆ Busy, busy. *No one must see me presume to dance, no one must see me concede to cry.* No one must see me fail to be the impregnable Pharisee I pretend to be.

Lk7v33-34 Fasting and feasting. I'm interested in how v37, the assertion that Wisdom is justified by all her children, read through Jesus' claims about the kingdom of God is like and isn't like, illuminates the nature of wisdom. I am thinking about wisdom as I prep Eph5 at the moment, & this nugget speaks the same message. Wisdom is attunement to the Real, which feasting and fasting both do, but grazing, comfort eating and fad dieting do not. The latter enclose, entitle, muffle, cover over, and they do not align with the needs of the body or the soul, they are out of place, as per Jesus' previous criticism re dancing and mourning. Prayers for the week, prayers for the season: let's tune up, let's tune in.

Lk7v35-36 "Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” πŸ‘ΌπŸ»πŸ‘ΌπŸΌπŸ‘ΌπŸ½πŸ‘ΌπŸΎπŸ‘ΌπŸΏ
"Wisdom['s] .. Children" πŸ€° Ponder wisdom's fecundity. Ponder fecundity's wisdom. Multiply.
🌱 *~ What is wisdom?* Not surely mere dusty truistic platitudes. Wisdom is the very structural glue of truth itself, integrity's lively task force, the substance of sustainability, the blossom, leaf and root of flourishing. Wisdom, as the character of God, is the active personal weighty essence of holistic-being personified, an agile agent of the good, the true and the beautiful, and she is pregnant. Wisdom is the great grandmother of the church, the cosmic adoptress for every lost fool adrift, she calls us to herself, she raises us in the way we should go.. See, for example, Rm8v18-25 wisdom's children display and defend the fruit of wisdom in the care of creation. Multiply.
🀺 *~ What isn't wisdom?* See, Jesus parries with Pharisees, always, with rapier wit tickling the armour of religione, if his "wisdom" is read instead sardonically as "so-called wisdom", as pejorative invective against the counter-wisdom of Pharisaism. Thus with equal force we can say, "unwisdom is justified by all her children.." As in Mt23v15, those religiouse who cry-not and dance-not, they are twice the sons of hell. Twice perhaps because of the entrenching mechanisms of genetic disease, recessive alleles exponentially visiting the sins of the forefathers with redoubled cruelty and dogmatism onto subsequent generations. Multiply.
⚖ "..justified.." Ponder the reciprocal double entendre:
~ wisdom being justified *by* her children *actively advocating* a case *for* her justification
~ wisdom being justified *through* her children *passively exemplifying* a case *of* her justification.
So we are living justifications speaking justifications for the wisdom or unwisdom we make ourselves the children of. Multiply.
🌐 "..all.." Ponder "all" ~ for it is not all-each-individually, but all-only-in-sum. We children justify wisdom by our collective conduct, all together, all the time, in season and out of season, mourning and dancing with appropriate wisdom. Individualistic holiness is incoherent. Morality is relational. Wisdom's fruit is measured by the health of the whole of society, the multiple.
✖⚔ So, St Mark's evening services has Ephesians on my mind. Wisdom, in the character and event of Christ's sacrifice, makes the two one Eph2v14, every two, every division. Over and against the active forces that seek to disunite and divide the church against the church, gender against gender Eph5v22-33, generation against generation Eph6v1-4, colleagues against collaboration Eph6v5-9. Wisdom is justified by the diverse unity of all her children behaving, even eclectically, as a legible "all", according to the freedom given by a triune and all-wise God Col2v3 Rm16v27, who unites all things under him Eph1v10. So, wise ones, rather than dividing. Multiply.

Lk7v37-38 Thinking this morning about sinfulness and preciousness. Sin is complex, sin is many things: responses of fear, indifference and so on, but it usually involves some kind of disordered desire.  Sometimes Jesus calls us to go looking into those desires, to work out what's precious in them, and to pour them out at his feet, like perfume from an alabaster jar. We are bundles of energy, & where we just shut down thoughts & desires, they're just pushed further down into the deeps. Rather, the more laborious task of sifting through sin, looking at what these thoughts & desires tell us about ourselves, including what is precious - & then bringing it all to Jesus. Bring your energy to Jesus, every bit of it - bring every thought, every desire, everything that populates your imagination, bring your seeking, every eros yearning, every connection, all that your heart seems to treasure - for better or worse, bring all that causes you to wonder. Bring all your energy and pour it at Jesus' feet, re-direct it, don't repress it, let it be first transfigured into worship of Him, and then, let Him re-order your energies, using all that is in fact precious and beautiful in them to transfigure reality for good, not for ill. Perhaps all repentance needs this kind of extravagant worship, a true 'turning around', not only as thankfulness for God's grace, but as the very rechannelling of energy that repentance is by definition.

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Thursday, 12 October 2017

200words: Sackler Courtyard at V&A

A white wash that wasn't, more a blue rinse mottled in sum, grimey on the whole, London's no clime for a pastel piazza darlin'. The jazzy pinstriped porcelain patchwork of semaphore nautical flags would shimmer in Nice, but here, Blightily bedrabbed, the effect is all dusty soil scuffed self-pity. This bathroom refurb on a urban scale is the more gauche for it's boorish cafe lurching insoberly into the square, a shapelessly jagged axial jaunt, which instagram forgives, but, closer-to the junction details despise their inconvenient materiality. The adolescent squiggle of a lightwell, lurks murky, basking sharky and euphemistic. Downstairs acrobatically accomplished manouvres swoop and bevel in a tight latex of treacle black-lacquered lustre, beneath a ceiling rendered in an embarrassment of angles, sheared and gorged with murmurs of disquiet and..

"'ello Sir, I'm Angela [anxious.], and this is my colleague Lee [oleaginous]. He noticed you hanging around inside earlier, would you like to tell us what you're doing. [flashes badge]
"A spluttering architect, honest gov. Loves a white tile me?" 

No, my cordial exchange with the zero-hours class of London's privatisation enforcement was entirely without wit and was received utterly without humour. With a wimper, I went, out through the inch-thick milled metal barricade.

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