Saturday, 16 January 2010


Accidentally apt in a recent trickle of films on this bleak theme. I promise to stop talking about Hell soon, and stop branding any glimmer of dystopia as yet another burning layer of sheol..

Here as Jordan Scott arrives in the cliquey world of film, heir to the Scott reputation, she is unreasonably savaged (see Time Out) for a film that I found subtle and rewarding. Offering a striking parallel to her Spanish aristocrat protagonist who likewise arrives to be unduly abused on account of supposed favouritism.

The film addresses the popular narrative device of an isolated, self-contained reality, a boarding school on an island, which might offer a control test for the human condition but invariably catalyses vice by reducing the feedback delay of the consequences of unrestrained Desire and by stagnating the pool, closing it's gift economy to inlets of possible forgiveness. As a construction in common with psychological space drama, crime on an orient express, horror in a snow bound cabin, what accounts for our fascination by which this vehicle has become a cliché? I want, at a leap, to suggest from this theme that our suburban castles (the source and the fruit of our fascination with isolation I would argue) might be more socially porous and by that derive quite reasonable, if self-serving, impetus for a hospitality imperative?

The recurring notion of homesickness in Cracks also bears some meditation, it is supposed to be something we grow out of, and yet at what cost given the damaging ways it is grown out of here? Miss G collapses any sense of objective home and allows myth, fiction and the memoirs of others to write over her own pain and by them vicariously to imagine herself elsewhere, as the product of another, happier story. Di, whose pained sense of her inevitable and indefinite homelessness leaves her to derive Homeness and its security from unstable sources. It is Fiamma whose memory of home is sufficiently fresh, and most persistently anticipated to allow her the confidence to share her stuff, and it is she who in death the Bri would christen the Christ figure of this piece.

The film luxuriates in a wealth of photography, an edit that some might find too slow. There is a sense of inevitability or at least unsurprise at this little princess drawing to a Lord of the Flies conclusion. There are some powerful moments in its character study although the evolution of the characters leapt over explanation rendering Miss G's later madness less satisfying. In all, rewarding but not unmissable.

Friday, 15 January 2010

love lost

love lost, displaced, forlorn,
now rent from whence was born.
was i meant for so much more
than plent and glut and porn?

friends don't let friends

I'm hypermobile, I have hypermobile friends
We confect needs and we blur our means and ends
We empathise addictions and reckless ways we bend
Nature to our comfort, placeness to our whims.
Facebook lets us leave and never make a mends
To the ground we tore flying to our hypermobile friends.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

on wine

The intersection of readers here and the gathered on a Sunday evening is likely nil, either way here are my thoughts ahead of Sunday, more than their 15minutes will permit. Posting allows for a sort of protospective feedback, a sort of wiki-preaching by committee – so a prize to anyone who can email the nine main points alliteratively or acrostically. I wrestle with the conviction that in sermon writing the impulse to pen something clever, or worse, something novel, is as irresistible as it is counter-productive and unedifying.. and there is that haunting fear that bad preaching has limitless potential to be poisonous.

- A Wedding Feast - John 2:1-11-
150 gallons of wine. If your Christian friends are not in the regular habit of hosting parties of the sort that 150 gallons of wine need be called upon, then speak gently to them, but they may have missed a conspicuous and central priority of the faith they profess. This is a passage much preached on and one still challenging in its implications. There is a lot of good news here, the first and possibly biggest challenge here is believing it, of taking it in by our tiny eyes, submitting to the glory of it.

1. News is Good News.
So, lest we take news for granted. The atheist bus campaign goes something like this “There probably isn't God, so just muddle along and have a nice day..” That is not good news essentially because it is not news, it is speculation. It is not positive observation, it's word play. I want to know the answer to painful questions: Does this story end well? Is all I do for nothing? And while agnosticism is a valid position, no one should pretend it is worth preaching, just as the channel tunnel is a valid route to France, no one pretends the tunnel to be a nice spot to pitch a tent in; it is dark, damp and boring.

Not only is speculation insufficient, it can be wielded woundingly: “My friend has just been hit by a car, is there a hospital nearby?” “Maybe... maybe not.” Not helpful, callous even. We are waiting for news, someone who knows the area, someone who can offer us an account we can wrestle with, an eyewitness testimony, news, data, someone who has found a hospital. John here has no time for ponderous bus campaigns; he claims to have seen God in the flesh, doing God stuff. So, Christianity is story, the story relating what it looked like when God came into flesh 2000 years ago, and Christianity is the story relating what it looked like when God came into my flesh 2000 years later.

2. God can be known through the senses and he is glorified in our satisfaction.
“Good” wine (v10)

In the beginning God created light and it was good, sky and it was good, land and it was good, vegetation and it was good... In Cana a man came, claiming to be God, this man created wine and it was declared by the master of the banquet to be? Good. Do you declare the Goodness of the things you see? God only does good; God is working all things for the good. In declaring goodness, you are observing God at work. The alternative is to say: things happen, coincidences occur, flavour is no more that primary appeals to basic survival instincts of biology.

In declaring 'good' wine, you are entering into a relationship with God which recognises his provision. This provision, this giftness of the gift nature of all of reality is good news. The alternative to gift is a debt unpayable for the undeserved privilege of that sunset, the wonder of that snow, the sheer sensory beauty that offers itself to us every morning. Few appreciate this with the clarity of the deep end of the Deep Ecology movement who venture that the Earth would be better without humans, such is the beauty of creation and our inability to pay for our tenancy. God wants us to let him provide for us, when God became a man this is how he wanted to be known, as our all-providing bridegroom.

And this is the experience of God, this is the manifestation of his glory (v11). I am willing to concede a certain mystery in the distinction between God and his gifts, but the Psalms encourage us to Taste and See that the Lord is good (Ps34:8). Do you talk in such experiential language about God? We should be encouraged knowing that the news about God is intellectually credible, but this scene in Cana wants more than that, here we are presented with an account of a God who would be existentially satisfying. Even existentially overwhelming, this is no meagre topping up of half-full bottles. If someone brought that much wine to a party at mine I’d have to think of options for bottling the vinegar.

3. God meets us in our shame.
“They have no wine...” (v3)

At a wedding like this it was the bridegroom's responsibility to supply the wine, at a wedding like this in those days, everyone was there, the whole community from miles around the village, for several days. And to compound this, in the ancient near east, in eastern societies now, they have a far deeper and more clearly articulated culture of shame and honour than perhaps we are familiar with.

So, have you let people down? Have you failed to live up to your own low standards? Have you aimed and fallen short? We know shame, we inherit cultural notions of what an adequate human being should at least manage, and then in our weakness don't come close. We are forgetful, we get sick, we get distracted, we find ourselves trapped juggling too many things, and cracks appear and the mask slips. Jesus offers a manifesto for us, for those who have let the wine run out, “Blessed are you, Blessed are the poor in Spirit..” He comes to our failing wedding party, crumbling marriage, fraught degree and announces, it is going to be alright, this story is going to end well, I am with you, I am on your side.

He meets us in our shame, when we've run out of wine, when we've let the world down. He lets us know he is working this out for the good. If I know that, Know that, then I can face anything.

? [(On shame and cultures of shame. I find the expression 'a shame-based culture' fascinating and foreign. Presumably we, in 21st century secular Britain, are just as likely to fail our ideals, just as weak to fulfil our aspirations, and I want to venture that this notion of a culture of shame is foreign because it is predicated on a quality of community now absent, or at least a proximity and longevity of relationship. So if shame is bound up with identity in community, we have saved ourselves from a ' 'culture of shame' in part because technology makes our identity more fluid and individual affluence has allowed us to move, to escape those people who would shame us and our past failures which would shame us. Christians should not be blind to this, the privatisation of shame.. we must put ourselves in the way of failure and allow ourselves to be known. Anyone?)]

4. God does not want us to be religious.
“...six stone water jars there for Jewish rites of purification” (v6)

So, these stone water jars, heavy jars daily carried down to the well lowered in, heaved up, heaved home. There are still such labour intensive rituals that we pin our hopes on, these fruitless, exhausting, cosmetic things we do to feel like we're OK. We are so desperate to cover our own brokenness, we perform elaborate, largely superstitious, displays of self-mortification, driving your fair-trade wine bottles to the recycling in that hemp bag on the back seat of your Prius. And all the armour we put on before a party like this, the names we drop, the tidy house we present, labouring that we might look like we're got it together. So too the Jews at this wedding, by scrubbing between their toes, making sure they didn't dirty themselves by touching gentiles, making sure they tithed their mint and dill, hoped that they might be thought a good person, holy and acceptable to God. This is religion, this is behaviour modification, and it is completely futile. Either you succeed and end up proud that you managed to make your feet a shade cleaner than Bob's, but pride a sin so you're back to the beginning. Or after forty years of scrubbing, your feet are no cleaner, you've scrubbed to the bone and the bones dirty, and you have only despair. [(Perhaps it is stretching the metaphor to say that the reason your feet are dirty after all this time because you had to be walking back and forth to the well filling the stone jars when they got empty..?)] Pride and despair are the two quantities religion trades in, religion only makes the problem worse. (Rom5v20?)

So if Jesus turns this water into wine how is the game changed? That which was done outwardly under the old covenant, those things we and the Jews do to fix things were a limited picture of what Christ would go on to do, finally, conclusively and prefectly when his 'time' came, on the cross. No longer are we cleaning ourselves to get up to him, he is come down that we might savour him as wine here.

5. God is jealous for the goodness Creation, his concern to restore is a picture of Heaven in-breaking.
“ have kept the good wine until now” (v10)

There is good news in this passage because of what wine represents. Wine in OT prophecy is a sign of Shalom. Jesus here, with a precise intentionality, chooses a wine-less wedding to make wine his first miracle, aware of the meaning this held and prophecies it fulfilled, as there presumably had been other opportunities to start out his road to Calvary, miraculously turning wood shavings into coffee or clay pigeons into living birds at any point previous in 33 silent years.. To say that Jesus found himself accidentally at a wine-less wedding and decided then to begin a ministry would be to have things in reverse. Jesus is on a mission to proclaim a Kingdom which fulfils some of these prophecies which are anticipating the Messiah:

Isaiah25:6 - Jeremiah31:12 - Joel3:18 - Amos9:13-14

All of them, looking from a place where everything, the very creation, seems broken, all of them looking towards the coming Shalom, towards the coming New Creation, where a Messiah will come and everything will be rebuilt, redeemed, restored, renewed in those times, new wine will flow. Jesus is saying loudly and clearly: this is happening now, here is the new wine now, here I am the beginning of a restoring work of all creation.

Note in these prophecies, just like the wine they use as a picture, the new creation is earthy, it is being reborn out of the soil this creation (Rom 8:22?).

Wine is interestingly apt, it can be seen as representing both the ecstatic sensation of the Kingdom and the grace-filled and abundant economics of the Kingdom.

[(Note also John's parallels with the creation narrative, 1:1 in the beginning…, 1:3 names God as creator, then in 2:10 it is declared good just as in Gen1.)] [(“..until now.” There is temptation to look back, and to say oh things back then.. What does it mean of the new creation that ‘good’ is used as sufficient adjective on its own to set it apart from the old?)]

6. God has written a Bible we can trust
For me there is a reassurance in having a book which, while sometimes complex, again and again offers a robust internal coherence of anticipating things prophesied and then observing its fulfilment.

Are you comforted, excited by that? It is easy to take for granted. We live under that arch of promises that have been made, anticipating their fulfilment. Given their fulfilment in John's account we should have license to a reckless confidence of obedience now.

[(Further, there is something reassuringly unspectacular and domestic about this miracle, 'Social Embarrassment Avoided at Wedding' is not selling me your newspaper. If fictional or embellished, a mythologized Jesus ideally ought to grab my attention with a something bigger, or at least more humanitarian, political and useful. That text doesn't give us that is because, conceivably, this awkward miracle really was.)]

7. God is concerned for the peripheral, God is present in the nowhere places.
“at Cana in Galilee..” (v1)

So, there they were, broken under Roman rule, holding out for a hero. Just as we now hope some messianic politician would stand up at COP15 and fix pollution, that Bono would sing some world shifting song at Live Aid and fix poverty, because that is where change happens, the sort of big change we need, the sort of change that we can believe in.

Where are you looking for your rebuilding, renewing, restoring to come from? Where are justice and the good life going to come from for you? Lobbying central government? A new flat in next best postcode? A career in London? Cana is a nowhere place, the sort of place you have to spell out on the phone to the bank, Bethlehem and Nazareth were fairly peripheral, Cana was a satellite of Nazareth, archaeologists aren't sure where Cana was any more precisely than that. Yet, and yet everything we have in the new Testament, then the Jesus movement and its worldwide consequences up to and including our standing here now was catalysed in that obscurity, and from there to the Jerusalems and Romes of that world, from there. This is good news for every forgotten and unimportant square inch of earth, God is there restoring and rebuilding.

8. God is not a tribal deity, He will not be coerced.
When Jesus addresses his mother as 'Woman'(v4), his tone is brusque. (I love the word brusque). While not disrespectful, there is a hint of rebuke in this, we can understand Jesus here, as elsewhere in lk11:27-28 and mk3:32-33, as straining earnestly to confront the assumption of the day, that Yahweh was their tribal God, a private saviour, a politicking side-taker. Nothing could be further from grace.

What is your evangelical pedigree? Do you struggle with your family's faith? Just as God doesn't privilege the geographies we consider important, neither are we privileged into or ruled out of his goodness by dint of biology. Whatever your family upbringing. So, the good news we take with us is that Christianity is not a western thing, not a Jackson thing, its not a middle class middle England thing, the message of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is true truth for every man, woman and child who opens themselves to receive it, drink it in, and dance under it.

9. God is not a pragmatist. Extravagant worship and extravagant evangelism are appropriate for an infinitely good God.
Jesus here is intentional and explicit about the details as well as the symbolism of his actions. He does what he does here because he had a message to proclaim and a message to embody. So do we. There is something offensively unpragmatic about 150 gallons of wine, just as there was in the spilling of perfume lk7:36-50. What is the message that Jesus is embodying? How do we, in the small things in our own lives, point to the wedding feast the Jesus has initiated? We should allow ourselves to be challenged by the application of these.

I believe Jesus wants to save us from our narrow definitions of utility. Some of the commentaries cite weddings in the 1st century where guests might sue the host if the wine ran out, which may well be have been an issue here, and the temptation, quietly, is to reduce this ridiculous miracle into one of fiscal utility.

[(Please picture yourself, family gathering over Christmas, Uncle B is a bit late, rings to ask if there's anything he can pick up on his way over, “Oh yes, we're running out of drink could you grab some.” Half an hour later he's there with a trailer full of champagne, the good stuff, from the top shelf, with the security tags on. “Thanks, things were getting a bit awkward in there..” or even “Thanks, you saved me the petrol of popping out to Sains myself.” Don't be silly. Don't miss the glorious absurdity of Cana.)]

In applying this I would caution against thinking in terms of expense, an acutely post-industrial temptation. Rather think of the breadth of talents you have. If I spent a few days carving a sculpture to give as a gift for she that I love, if she then were to ask how much it was worth, it would be to miss the point entirely.

I should keep myself from applying this for you, as I will only work myself up into rant about stone and stained glass but these would be two points it seems not unbiblical to consider:

9.1 A rule of sevenths and Sabbath. Which is in this passage: this wedding happens on the seventh day of John's account of Jesus ministry, in the only passage where John makes a numbering of days [(counting with Carson who reasonably assumes 1:40 begins a new day, as Jesus spends the day with the Baptist's disciples before Andrew brings Peter the day after.)] We submit our calendars to God who has said that we only need work 6 days of the week and that he will provide for the seventh. On that day we should play, thrive and Be, be at Rest, rest in Wonder. It is possible even for an extended period to burn the candle at both ends, to work seven days out of seven, and it is profitable – it advantages your career, Eric Liddell could have run and presumably won his Sunday heats. But there is a bigger story going on, life in all its Lifeness is not found in making things faster, in reaching the top sooner. So, just as we can submit our calendars to God, we can submit everything else to God, and by Sabbathing those demonstrate His provision. Does your architecture, do your weekends, does your dining table offer pauses, ornament, candles, flowers, embellishment celebrating simply Being? Are they one seventh redundant? Are they one seventh playful?

9.2 A rule of craft and soil. Jesus chooses wine to do his miracle through, significantly because it fulfils a slew of OT prophecies and by those it draws on a cultural association of wine with Shalom. It is worthwhile to ponder why wine, and what does wine represent and practically involve even still now. To those who have taken the time to learn wine a single glass speaks of what grapes in what soil in what season, the wine betrays the tradition of the craft specific to that region, the oak of the barrel, the weather of that year and the age of that bottle. Wine is a superlative celebration of dominion done well, of that subtle relationship between man and nature, and the tacit knowledge of an ancient craft. What better way to epitomise Shalom. Now, just as then, do we affirm craft, excellence and agriculture in our community?

Miscellaneous Applications~
1. Pray
See how Mary speaks her situation to Jesus (v3) and asks Jesus for help. She does this because she knows his power and because she knows his character. On this basis we can be bold enough to pray. Contained within the act of prayer is obedience (v5), by which we are made conduits for the power we petitioned for.

2. Live symbolically
If Jesus is our model we should consider the extensive ways he worked to make clear and to embody the metaphors by which he defines his true nature and the nature of reality. This whole wedding scene so weighted with the poetic as to prompt some commentators to suggest it was in fact a parable. It is our prerogative to demonstrate otherwise, to do so intentionally.

3. Celebrate
We are to take responsibility for our joy, even, some have constructed, to initiate a 'Discipline of Celebration'. Christianity is not a glum deism it is a wedding feast, if we are not celebrating it is not for lack of good news.


a community in ideals

“What is your community dream? Can you write it down and email me? I want the ideals at this stage – what does that look like for you? Hope you're doing well. a”

What is my community dream. I was this week challenged to consider my ambitions.. I guess this is a second prompting. On this theme of things hoped for, of which community occupies a central junction, I am looking for a hope of a mode of direction, a force of purpose that has all of a zest for life in its specificity without committing itself to the tidy bounds of my imagination and my present blindnesses of circumstance, I'm looking for a hope measurable without being modernist, observable without a suppression of mystery, hopeful without resorting to a loose canon naiveté.

The question is not unlike my own favourite, “What home are you hoping for?” I will try not to write my own question over yours, however indivisible the two notions are.

What is my community dream?

I think at the end I want my life, relationships and education, home, resources and energy to have born fruit of Place, ornament, and adventure. A community I hope in will entail a relentless commitment to hospitality and intergenerationality and learning and Sabbath. I want to see a household so ordered as to catalyse healing, a body quietly committed to the knowledge that there is a God whose will it is that dead people come alive.

With knowing reservations about the term 'ideal' I use it as it was in the question, but hope it will not induce notions of Platonic form or utopian dreams.

An ideal of agriculture, or redeeming soil, of knowing the freedom, if one of poverty, that comes in being submitted to the weather, rather than the oil economy. Not a paranoid self-sufficiency, religiously fair-trade, pathologically localist, neurotically organic, but rather a happy abandon and on going pursuit of the possibilities of imperfect foods nurtured by friends from their patch of Earth towards a gradually more completely integrated, relational, gift sort of diet..

An ideal of art, music and poetry. The pleasure of participation in imperfect art, providing space for the expression of story, legitimising ornament. Yes to an artist in residence, yes to film nights and formal occasions, but above and beyond that, slow space in the everyday for impromptu collaboration, I'm not sure how to aim for this without it being contrived. A precedent needs to be set that legitimises the frivolous, and affirms excellence, and laughs at silly things made along the way. This is a fruit we will know community by rather than the blueprint of some 'ideal' wrought by force of will, conformed by the discipline of the unwilling. To allow a community to be organically creative, it seems to me, needs to be freed from whatever it is that so suffocates the larger part of the world that settles for a blandly-culture-consuming, one-dimensionally-pragmatic, brutally-elitist or religious-prohibitionist approach to art and delight.

An ideal of intergenerationality. I think fleeting gaggles of dinky twenty and thirty somethings can do a pretty good run at playing community, burning the candle at both ends, hindered by no weaker parties, no kids, no aged relations. And within the limits of a project, phenomenal good can be effected, poor served, hungry fed, schools built. There is a better use for these the most energetic years of life, indeed a better arena in which to dream and effect those same saving, school building dreams. I believe that if we have kids and parents on board, with the baggage that entails, and if we submit ourselves to the inconveniences of place over time, we lay the foundations for such joy, wisdom and efficacy. I do not want to die the long death of the demographic ghetto, of cruise ships and bridge clubs and wasted old age, but I will unless I earn the right to serve within an intergenerational community now. Further I do not want to see my kids for but an hour a day and a few holiday weeks of the year, these are the death of wisdom for the young and the theft of all that Fox and Amie offer to our view of the world, all the refreshing colour, surprise and imagination. So, the ideal of intergenerational community so to set in motion something which at least has the potential to live breathe and grow in perpetuity.

An ideal of growth. Unbranded but infectious, unselfconscious but purposive. Growth is a tainted word, for me evoking number bashing church growth types hoping to calculate the world into the kingdom. Growth should imply life, and importantly it should celebrate that a consistent DNA is at work and effective regardless of size, and by this give hope that here in the mustard seed knot of two or three of us gathered is the beginning of something. So growth is to say that size categorically doesn't matter. Perhaps this leans on the hospitality imperative.

An ideal of industry, craft, the provision of work. So to prevent the creation of a dormitory ghetto that retreats and serves only itself and relies on an economy beyond. An ideal of a provocative economy. Any household is an economic identity, a tool for conducting dominion through, a order for managing resources through, and here in Oval we are not doing anything radical, we are in all fairly self-serving, but people are startled at what I pay to be here. It is good, because it allows me to volunteer in Singapore next year, and it is good because it allows me to imagine the possibilities that exist in the given fabric of London.

An ideal of learning. I would have bookcases for walls. This may be my own delight rather than a theme applicable to a whole community. I love the thoughts of thinkers. I love the feel of books. I am concerned at the disembodied head space of academia. I want for a mode of knowledge that is meaningful and every day.

An ideal of leadership and accountability. I'm not sure about this. The management of a body, the degree of submission, a line before cultdom, the role of belief, the nature of democracy.. There needs to be a cause beyond the comfort of the parties involved, both/and God and something geographic.. Not sure.

How are these, are they making sense as a whole? I want a big front door which is never locked, a long dining table, gathered strangers about the piano, high chairs and wheel chairs and miscellaneous reclaimed chairs, a workshop out back beyond a long allotment garden, a bike rack hallway, semi-autonomous cells fused under a shared architecture in wood and stone, every colour joinery, murals we made, space to work from, rest under and play between..

of being sent

I knew where I was in London, here I'm not so sure.


Because the readership of phil-blogs enjoys polemic to chew on and because this house is so empty - I've only the parents to banter these with and that only after they've burnt their day trying to keep the NHS from toppling over - I am posting these here. They are not questions keeping me up at night or unravelling faith.

Of Mission and the Environment: I am over-due posting “On why I am not an Environmentalist”. It can be reduced here to the conclusion that it is an -ism predicated on guilt-driven behaviour modification rather than grace-fuelled heart change, it is too small an '-ism to ascribe value to nature, too small to motivate saving action and ultimately never far reaching enough to tackle the issue at the root of environmental degradation. However, to we who believe we have an -ism big enough, in the -ism become flesh who dwelt among us, the challenge presents itself: How shall we then fly? Shall we then fly? Neatly and savagely worded by the man himself in Matt 23v15. Modern mission carries with it all the colonial baggage of former folly if we are uncritically complicit by flying on, and thereby preaching the Good News of, imperially cheap oil.

Of Prayer Letters: There is a typology of dispatch assigned its own genre, the prayer letter, it presupposes a certain christianism in its readership that I would be at error to presume, further, it implies that there should exists non-prayer letters, ones concerned to be celebrating with gratitude every gift gifted and expressing with humility those needs needed. So these letters will be letters.

Of Prayer Letter etiquette: I'm just going to batch you all who RSVP to my first in a spiritual spam bcc, I cannot say that this is what Jesus would have done, and I am not unaware of the contradictions of its disintimacy. Anyone on this, advice on carbon copying, techonology and authenticity?

Of Praying and Receiving Prayer: Something else I have given time to chewing on in this empty house, a fear of what may tacitly affirm an arbitrary dichotomy of those whom we send in prayer, and those, the civilian laity, who do so called ordinary work - a divisive splitting of ones whom the church supports financially and those expected to make their own tents. So I will venture timidly on but probably make no great length answering accusations of a brazen sense of entitlement or unqualified notion of the desert of this cause over and above the urgent and glaring needs of the global unfed and enslaved and the more local unreached or unhoused.

Of self-conscious 'Christian' work: There are two soundbites which sound great in a sermon but muddy the water somewhat when wrestling with the imminent practicalities of christian work in a mission context 'Mission is not crossing the sea, it's seeing the cross' and 'Christian: good noun, poor adjective'. The first, valid at one level that the sum of mission is not the airfare, tacitly makes light of the challenge of crossing the sea. The latter, again valid in trying to reign in the nominal and shed the sprawl of paraphernalia calling itself 'Christian Shampoo' risks losing a category of helpful distinction. That which we create both aids us in our task of, and is imprinted with the image and story of, patience, generosity, self-control, joy.. If we are going to discount 'Christian' for this purpose, RB should supply us with another and better adjective to label our ambitions.

Of Sending and Being Sent: For those considering mission themselves I would stress the importance of a meditation on Rom10v15, to which must be added in its tidy cascade, "..And how are they to be sent unless they pause long enough to belong?"

-- addiction to hands and feet.

Monday, 4 January 2010

the bothersome man

Here was a very strong film, accidentally apt in my recent trickle of films on this bleak theme. I was not alone in being remembered of Kitchen Stories, further, the blurb cites Jacques Tati as precedent comedy, this film would have sat happily on the bill of the Bri's last film weekend, and joins a cloud of urgent appeals to reflect on the Hells we build for ourselves. Other rememberances included the conversion by music piped into the dusty cracks of socialism's architecture as the Lives of Others. And the heroic tunnelling of Shawshank. And the childlessness of Children of Men.

“Nothing tastes..”

We know Hell when we see it, we know it, no one need invoke Theology, we know the grind of number punching in a bleak dead end nameless cubicle, affection without commitment, food without flavour, fact without meaning. Hell is as close as breathing, as near as hands and feet.

Cycles, circles, repetition and Hell. Nothing ends, nothing begins, nothing risks, nothing hurts, most of all nothing hopes. There are no children, no age, no birth, so the fire of the present state burns without ceasing yet does not consume. In Hell, we find ourselves going through the contextless motions of a closed circuit reality, our bus has arrived from nowhere and this never ends, all that we have left to do is rearrange our measurable utilities, ordering our lives as an elaborate game of distraction.

Polygamy and Hell. How shall we then love? We all watching winced audibly at the Hell of his wife's apathy, her concern privileging the trivial and practical over any zest for life, love or meaning. There equally is a Hell in his hypocrisy and commitment-averse, covenant-averse connubial dabblings. So enter the Great Divorce.

'Azure', 'Cool Coral', and the Hell of branding's assault to language. Here we see that in Hell nothing has a quality of its own, only those relative and feeble assigned titles claimed by Babel's brands under whose banners we find security. Pointed that, of all things, they should discuss colour in a world so desaturated, in a film whose palette is all of shades of grey. Here in Bothersome, where colour has ceased even to be a memory, these blind semantic jousts hold table in knowing small talks debating branded colours, so now for us, sometimes, with 'community'.

On that, shallow expression, dispassionate small talk, and the Hell of social niceties. Everything is easy, everything is polite, everything follows its predictable, appropriate, conservative course. Can we ascribe moral categories to the gravity of that absent in small talked exchanges, what consequences a lack of imagination, what fallout propriety's sacred monopoly?

Further Hells are here shown in numb comforts, sound-proofed, swept-clean, sanitised, uncluttered, hard-landscaped urban environments, unstoried, anonymous and hermetically sealed.

Could we discuss: Potted plants, affected nature and Hell. Gratuitous gore, Derrida's zombies and Hell. Mies furniture and Hell. Electric cars and Hell. The slow sliding camera pan, inhuman in its calculation and Hell. Watch this film, beautifully-crafted, it offers layers of metaphor beyond even its own challenging thoughtful intentionality.

So, Hope breaking in, hope of sponge cake, a memory of former order, Hope in the sweat of physical work, real work alongside fellow Hopers. Hope breaks in phenomenologically. Hell's antithesis Is as it is beheld, it Is as it is anticipated. The Bothersome Man would have us be God-botherers just as zealously as we are bothersome to our given city by so doing, and praying and digging a Heb13:13 tunnel, never surrendered to the ever-pressing banality of empire.