Monday, 11 March 2013
texting matthew eleven
Mt11v1-2 Be taught like the disciples. Be teaching like Jesus. Be inquiring like John the Baptist. Love God with all your mind. And so go and tell. Have an answer for the hope. Delight to use words. Find words, good words, strong words. Be so known. Be heard about in the prisons. Be conspicuous. Be question-able. Be on mission. .. This verse transitions us from the Mission Discourse to a new chapter, just as we begin also a new season, now. And the shift is ec-static. Jesus' appeal is expansive. Being on mission is being on a ripple outwards: that gospel which Jesus teaches us in small groups (v1a), those methods we learn through one-off events, the joyful licence Jesus gives us to play the trumpet there: (v1b) '..go on from there to teach that to the cities..'
Mt11v3-4 Jesus the phenomenologist. What do you hear and see? Stretch out your senses, taste & see, hear & smell & feel. You saw once, John, you baptised him, you declared that he was the One. & then life is messy & confusing & it's hard to be sure. Even the wild close-by baptiser doubted. So, taste daily bread, memory alone cannot sustain. Put your hands to His scars, here & now. Hear & see, dialogue & witness. Seek truth in the poetry of your experience.
Mt11v5-6 Stative and dynamic, inchoative and progressive, continuous and non-finite. Our healing verbs are present tense participles because the Kingdom is a happening. It IS as I AM is. Love wins. Jesus walks. The deaf hear. The dead are raised. We are here. This is now. What do you see? There is a promise contained in this. We hope in the was-&-IS-&is-to-come-ness of Jesus' power to heal, the norm of the supernatural, the constancy of his faithfulness, the persistence of his Spirit. .. Is the v6 'offence' also contained in the verbs? Because they make ongoing, universal, non-finite claims but attach their redemption to so awkwardly specific and personal a source as this humble Galilean carpenter. Really? This is something of the offence of the personhood of a personal God. It claims the parallels of our axonometric masterplan converge in him. That our present tense continuous healing has its beginning and end in him.
Mt11v7-8 Jesus who calls us on our voyeurism? Bent grass & fancy clothes, train wrecks of addiction, divorce & that, air-brushed red carpet poise, these two streams fill the magazines, our compulsion to glory in other people's failure or to make their so-called success our idol, I see it in my own heart. Jesus goes on to tell us that our heart longs beyond these to the prophetic & the salvific, that is – a word that shatters these images: transcendence.
Mt11v9-10 I travel the world on the seven seas, everybody is looking for something. 'What then did you go out to see?' 'I tell you .. more-than a prophet'. Everyone is looking for more-than. Eternity, as set in the heart of man Ec3v11. Eternity is transcendence is more-than. God is more-than. And he desires your more-than. A quick glance at more-thans in the esv: 2Ki6v16 'Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more-than'; Ps40v5 'you have multiplied wondrous deeds, yet they are more-than'; Mt18v13 'truly he rejoices over [the lost sheep] more-than'; Lk12v23 'Life is more-than'; Lk12v23 'And the body is more-than'; Rm8v37 'No, in all these things we are more-than' .. these verses are more than mere comparative praise. God is more-than, he is overflow, he is superabundance, he is a fractal of constantly more-than. This is what John's disciples went into the wilderness to find. More-than. Ps130v6.
Mt11v11 Comparative praise? Or the hope that comes with knowing that the end is never reached with God, there's always more. As Jesus' declaration that we will do Jn14v12 greater works than Him, not utopian vision of progress but infinity's inexhaustibility. Our children may know wider horizons, more authentic humilities, deeper joys than we, & in this I rejoice.
Mt11v12 What does it mean to try to take the kingdom by force, with violence? Force is physical: mass x acceleration, even in analogy, it functions as such. It works at the level of objects not subjects. Yet it is at the heart of human subjectivity that the seed of divine transformation germinates & flourishes. Stop philosophising with a hammer, cup your hands for the mustard seed, and all that means today.
Mt11v13-14 (1) 'All' - All of scripture is God-breathed, the whole is affirmed by Jesus, everything converges, the OT is vital. Do I know it? Do I care? (2) 'prophesied' - Why? Why words, why anticipation, why wait, what profit the prophetic? God designed human history, and the saving of it, to suit human ways of knowing and being-saved: through time and narrative. We are saved historically. (3) 'until' - The end of history, the radically discontinuity, the planned obsolescence of Judaism, the tearing of all timelines dividing BC's we-used-to-wait, from AD's Anno of our Domini's favour. We are here and this is not and The Christ is come. He is with us indeed! Hallelujah! (4) 'willing' - Am I? Willing to accept the uncomfortably specific claim that all hopes, needs and expectations, all answers, justice, blessing, meaning have but one source? My heart is often unwilling, for this changes everything. Oh, fear not!
Mt11v15 I want to hear, tired of missing it. The frustration of not-knowing with not-hearing, when someone shouts something from another room, knowing something has been said, some information put out into the world, but not-knowing, & more than that, put out with the arrows of intentionality from the Thou to the I, & so what is lost in the not-knowing is more than information, but the the knowing-the-other in the communication they gift. Despair has no ears.
Mt11v16 Observing that these verses are subject to inverse interpretation towards noting the difference between childishness & childlikeness become empty quickly if not tied to my lived life. There is a pain in the ambiguity of interpretation, a dizzying uncertainty. Should I be dancing? Is this here now a worshipful celebration or a wilful escapism? Who calls who & how am I called & what am I called on? Without ears, oh lord, I am sick with questions.
Mt11v17-18 One of three verses on a theme that particularly stabs my conscience – Rv3v16 'Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth' and Mt25v24-5 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, so I was afraid, and hid your talent in the ground...' If we project a harsh-taskmaster, red-in-tooth-and-claw, onto ultimate reality, we will live timidly, in lukewarm protectionism. If we arrive at a worldview beyond good and evil, we will create a market place without dancing or mourning, a Bothersome Man universe, with no alarms and no surprises. These are verses for overthinkers, such as I, those with a critical spirit, Jesus calls us to consider how kids play. Such are Christians: more excited and more appalled by the state of the world, so partying harder and grieving more authentically. For we have had our consciences resensitised by the wilderness.
Mt11v19 Wisdom is justified by her deeds? Which presumes a certain intuitionism about goodness & fruitfulness? Fruitfulness can't be just the absence of an absence. A little tangled, after reading Nietzsche's declaration of the same, but his content askew. I do see ways that people eat & drink & fast & say yes & say no that are attractive, & ways that are not. Is this sufficient justification? How does one engage a clash of intuitions? Maybe Jesus tells us here that we don't have to? That though a superficial analysis of ideas often leads to impasse, the lived life of goodness truth beauty cannot but shift hearts. Give me faith to believe, & energy rightly directed, that this demonstration might be first to myself. Give me ears to hear.
Mt11v20 Cities again. How can a city be denounced, if, as we note, the city is necessarily a mass, an abstract? Does Jesus draw attention to my relationship to the mass by denouncing the city to be of? How does the mass determine my singularity, for better or worse? What of London in me does Jesus condemn, what of the spirit of a place that resists miracles is mirrored in my own resistant heart, only able to be refined out of me in an I-Thou wrestle?
Mt11v21-22 Who is Jesus speaking to about Hell here? It is to his chosen ones, the chosen nation, the notionally Hell-exempt. His chosen ones, 'this generation' v16, it is to us kids in the marketplace if we neither dance for joy at our salvation, nor grieve for our own sin, it is to me, unrepentant of my lukewarmth. There are degrees of Hell, suggested in the comparative 'more', and mine is an acute one: to have known God and yet chosen religione, to have know grace and yet chosen law, to have heard the gospel and yet said nothing. A day of judgement will come, as they do from tie to time, and on that day my colleagues will say, as the shipmates to Jonah Jh1v10 ' You knew God?!'. Numb comfort is not victimless. Woe is me if I have settled for a very-near-imitation of God, woe to my moralistic therapeutic deism, woe to my less-than-fully-urgent mysticism, woe to my language of mere tolerance, woe to my theology of excuses, woe to my social gospel of people-pleasing.
Mt11v23-24 Sins of unrisk, sins of smallness. Oh audience, what do you want? It will be worse for you. Worse to hear & see & to do nothing, unaffected, these particular sins of omission are the most ugly & boring, worse for you than the colourful transgressions symptomatic of the restless heart...better restless than dead, for God is God is the God of the living. Worse for you to be asleep than wrestling in the dark. Wake up on sleeper, oh Sarah, oh heart.
Mt11v25-26 What is a child? My most powerful, most subtle, most destructive Temptation may be childishness, and the related bending of grace and blurring of such verses to conflate humble childlikeness with my own escapist desire to remain immature. Jesus will use the weak ones in the world to shock the overeducated, and Jesus does bid us come to him as weak ones, but they are cult-leaders and dictators who desire their followers be kept enfeebled. It is do subtle, the way the city nurtures extended adolescence, celebrating the innocence of passive pliable pawns useful to the devices of a market economy, broadcasting the affected helplessness of a plaintive falsetto, suckling an infantilised and irresponsible Phil on the milk of cheap oil from the teat of perpetual online distraction. Come as a child, retain that humility, but 1Pt2v2 'grow up', Rm16v25 'strengthened' to 1Co13v11 'put away childish things'.
Mt11v27 Does the 2nd person of the trinity actually relate to the 1st person of the trinity as a parent? Trying to avoid tangles of systematic theology in favour of a meditation on how this might change how I live & how I pray...this group psychology of the trinity – there's a parent-child relationship that I observe, which invites me in. I am the adopted child C relating to the A-B of Father-Son (or the D of the Father-Son-Spirit's A-B-C) I know A via B, that is, B is transformed by his relationship to A, such that he can extend to D, we are sucked into a relational vortex of increasing glory. How do I witness the A-B-C. This is my question again, somehow it is the question of the Christian life. What is the phenomenology of the trinity? The spirit interprets? Christ the revealer speaks out loud the Father's whisper & the Spirit interprets this into the language of my heart?
Mt11v28 You shouldn't have more than you can bear, with Jesus. I want to declare this over one we know. Please show that you are who you say you are to her. Ease her yolk, oh as Hosea 11, do not give her up, please give her what she needs for ease and light, in your precious name.
Mt11v29-30 Easy. Like EasyJet? The word seems picked from the disingenuous vocabulary of the marketeer. And it is a relative term: Easy for you to say! Commentators would point to the kindred Greek noun used in 2Co6v6, Tt3v4, Ga5v22, Ep2v7, Rm2v4, Lk5v39 and so render Christ's yoke 'wholesome, serviceable, kindly.' Yet Christ's yoke is easy thus: Christianity is the only creed in the whole world which is not impossible. Every other uneasy faith and ism commends the lifting of immovable objects up insurmountable hills with insignificant resources. See the futile environmentalism Wall-E labours under, picture the washing up pile from Sward in the Stone, consider Mendoza's burden hauled up hill in The Mission. But now. Because he paid the price we could not pay, everything is affordable. Not only that but profitable: 'Christ's yoke is like feathers to a bird; not loads, but helps to motion' (Jeremy Taylor)