Wednesday, 24 April 2013
texting matthew thirteen
Mt13v1-2 'Beside the sea' Come Lord Jesus to these shores. VisitEngland we pray, for here there is “more sea to be beside”, more beaches to beach mission, more beach combing to seek and save lost metaphors, more crowds to gather, more work to be done. Here we see Jesus in FatBoy Slim mode a la Live on Brighton Beach, 2002. .. And note that it is 'That same day..' - a relentless preaching schedule. Let's be so, and prepare to be so, and so strengthen ourselves for the many works God would have us do today. .. 'Sat down..' - it was a Jewish teaching posture, but there are other seated allusions. Jesus will sit in judgment, on a throne. And there is a reclining at table mode of sitting-with. There is something peculiarly incarnate about sitting: we set on his know because he first sat down.
Mt13 What is the seed? What is the seedbed? Where is the soil? Who is the sower? Ours is a parabolic life.
Mt13v3 The kingdom of heaven is like a window looking onto a field of planted seeds, from within a room covered in old photographs.
Mt13v4 We know one who is such a seedling, along with all her class. Seeds & time. Where do you throw, where does it grow? What seeds get planted at dinner parties? How do we then sow? Where & how? Here & there? Or? De-weed in me a clean heart oh God, un-pave me here, help me see these birds for what they are. My heart is a tumbling composter, mixed up to hope to be fertile ground. We the soil, the sower, & the seed. Trees by grace through faith.
Mt13v5-6 Often when the bible talks of roots and shoots etc it is we who are the proverbial plant. As in the complexity of Rm11's grafting in, of Eph3v17's 'being-rooted in love' or Col2v6's 'rooted in Christ'. Here however we are the soil: that substance whose key quality is its capacity to contain, absorb, nurture and support. How can we learn so deep a capacious receptivity to grace but by coming to know that earthy soily one in whom we are likewise and thereby rooted. Meditate on his depth, his constancy, his boundless capacity to hold. So, no longer to be but a thin veneer of soil, but a heavy barrel of compost, fertile, potent and fruitful.
Mt13v7-8 'but some..' in the GNB. Casts the mind to our Dn3v18 'but if not', Eph2v4 'but God', Lk15v20 'but when he was still far off'. Distinct things happening in each of these, yet again in each this 'but' absorbs the full reality of the reasons for despair that has preceded it, looks it in the face, & speaks a victorious word of hope & life. & a double hope in the face of this untransformation in self & others: this will be a 'some' someday.
Mt13v9-10 v9 Ears: We all have ears no? What then is Jesus emphasising about such a quality of perceiving? That parables especially require a deliberate hearing, an intentional listening? .. v10 Why parables? But really why? What are the four causes of Jesus' parabolic discourse? (Please correct me) 1. Materially. Because the Kingdom's very substance is poetry, made of layered layers, a pregnantly fractal thing found at work in a million metaphors. 2. Formally. The Kingdom as a whole is a giant poem, all parables function in conformity to the essence of the whole, parabolism is a true Truth. 3. Efficiently. Because Jesus' mind is fervently creative, bubbling over with allusion and metaphor, constantly buzzing with this-which-is-like-that. 4. Finally. Towards the parabolisation of his listeners, dignifying them with poetry, the engagement of true-hearing of which is itself healing. We hear miraculously.
Mt13v11-12 Vicious circles & virtuous circles. & more than this, probably, I have thought today. What are the motivations for your parables? They are not told to conceal but reveal. Secret meanings that only those in the know will know, but they'll know the meaning because of the limit of its knowness, you know.
Mt13v13-14 Again, why does Jesus speak in parables? (Thanking Evelyn for her note about this parable's concern for the self-identity definitions of the listener) Why does Jesus speak in parables? 1. Jesus makes clear in this verse that his parables are *not* mere illustrative allegories or quaint memory aids. 2. Also, while they rely heavily on listener participation, they are *not* relativistically vague, they are not a Change-We-Can-Believe-In presentation that allows everyone to vote for the Obama they feel able to project their own Hope onto. Parables engage your projected hopes but offensively, even divisively. They engage preconceptions, but critically? 3. I would argue that, while cryptic, it is to misrepresent the character of Jesus if we consider his code as secretive communication to those cruelly predestined. Rather, 4. I, perhaps ambitiously, find parables to be designed as imaginative environments in which your identity is engaged, revealed and challenged. Somewhat like that moment in the Matrix where Morpheus loads Neo and himself into a training program: 'This is the Construct. It's our loading program.. Your appearance now is what we call “residual self-image.” It is the mental projection of your digital self..' Jesus cares about your identity, the self-image you practice faith with, your self-understanding, your projected comportment. Why does Jesus speak in parables? Because the medium is the message, and his message concerns your identity, and your identity is defined by your parable reception: you are your ability to receive parables, you are the person your reception of a parable transforms you to be. Faithing is an exercise of entering the parabolic. (You know kung-fu? Show me.) And thus Christianity is the wildly imaginative life. We tell stories to reveal our listeners predispositions and then to redisposition them. In this way, I believe in redestination.
Mt13v15-16 We participate in certain ways of looking hearing to resist our own healing. Fixation on details fill the mind to protect oneself from the glory of God. The fear of the calling that is already spoken if only our hearts would allow attunement within the fear & trembling. Afraid of the exposure of such a clear bight light. Afraid that Christ won't rush in as promised, perhaps, & the texture of broken skin serves as a barrier against the emptiness inevitable if Christ does not dwell in the heart. Details distract from atheism's void. Caught between the fear that God is real, & the fear that God is not real, I do not lift my eyes to the Lord, & so I am not healed. God, have mercy, teach me to fight to see today, where, what, how to see.
Mt13v17-18 This is Jesus' listening campaign , railing against out diversity of deafnesses and distractions. V18 He instructs in the imperative, assuming that you're got to decide to listen, intentionally. So, defog your goggles, turn up your hearing aid, calibrate your knower, find a quiet space, make a quiet time, turn on, tune in, turn up, tune up, listen hard, listen close, deliberately. v17 Listening/looking's (1) motivation 'longed' and (2) destination 'it'. (1) Are my efforts to listen in my quiet times desperate? Ps63v1 'earnestly' I seek you..? 1Pt1v12 Angels 'long' to look into..? (2) 'It'. Some say they don't need salvation, but everybody is looking for something. Jn1v38 'What are you looking for?' Big bangers are searching the skies Mt16v3, exegetes are searching their sacred texts Jn5v39, but it is not enough to look earnestly, you have to have humble eyes that would acknowledge a God if found.
Mt13v19-20 v20 Spiritual known unknowns & v19 unknown unknowns, or perhaps convicted unconvictions & unconvicted unconvictions. Both are a spiritual battle with the flesh, the world & the devil, distracted unattention by the self & active assault by the evil one. Unsnatched, sunk-in words of life & healing take the heart's wrestling-with &resting-with Jesus. Equip me for both, oh Lord my God.
Mt13v21-22 Unfruit. What is this 'fruit' of which Jesus speaks? Gal5v22-23? Fruit of Love Joy peace etc? Or Jn12v24? Fruit containing multiplied seeds? Seeds (as sex) serve analogies for both flavour and fertility, both pleasure and procreation. Today, perhaps exacerbated by our v22 'riches', these metaphors struggle to find simple traction and intellectual integration in the imagination of this Christian who lives so far from the agrarian base on which these allegories lie. Today, given the preeminence of contraception, we might do well to revisit Dawson Trotman's Born to Reproduce, even with its glaring overemphases. Today, when it seems coherent for Monsanto to patent genetic-use-restriction or the 'terminator technology' of suicide seed, we should consider the spirituality of seed-saving. .. Riches are deceitful, they are brambly strangly sterilising flavour-robbing parable-addlers. Be weeding.
Mt13v23-24 With the ending of 'sower' & the beginning of 'weeds' it is amazing to me that the latter is as unfamiliar to me as the former is familiar, it is like reading it for the first time. Jesus the depth psychologist, Jesus the high priest, speaking Aramaic poetry under the same sun trying to shine this morning in London. Time & space & translation would pull at the meaning of your words, dear Christ, but I do long to receive them in my heart. Both parables speak of the reality of transformation, of seed-like new-life reality, really, really, this is what the universe is like, take & eat. Reading this week Aaron Beck's 'Cognitive Triad' of clinical depression is the experience of the self as worthless, the world as meaningless, & the future as hopeless – & so we need these parables, at whatever scale or intensity we believe this triad of lies, we need Jesus parabolic truth-seeds sown deep in us.
Mt13v25-26 The Kingdom of Heaven is like the Wacky Races, subject to dastardly schemes and frustrations. The Kingdom is like a movie sequel: the parable of the Sower Part Deux, Reloaded, Back with a Vengeance. One can see why this extension to the popular tale of a happy sower and good soil is neglected in popular preaching because 1. we're accused of sleeping (v25), then 2. our agrarian idyll is interrupted by the active evil of biological warfare by invasive species – an unwinnable battle (v29), and 3. it is made bearable in the now only by a doctrine of final judgement in punitive hell or at least annihilationism (v30) ~ tricky. .. Sleeping. Commentaries divide over napping's culpability, suffice to say, asleep you are vulnerable, and as good soil you are attractive (somewhat as the tidied flat in 12v44) so as Christians and leaders we should be wary of who we allow to go sowing in our field.
Mt13v27-28 If the field is the world, then the parable is a theodicy (is it?) how is it different from pie-in-the-sky platitiudes? & are we the workers, asking Jesus questions on how to root out evil, receiving prohibitive answers? What are the limits of justice in the not-yet, & why? What evil do we surrender to Jesus? All that damages so much as it heals? How is this different to a crass hedonistic calculus? The master's face & voice? Asking...
Mt13v29-30 To weed or not to weed. Weeding seems a noble cause. Good-enough mothering of the squash seedlings on the window sill before me would leave the 99 and weed around the one lost seed. v29 'But he said, “No”' Man, don't do it, it's not worth it to risk it.. What does one risk by weeding? One risks an untruth about God's character by cruelly over-emphasising one aspect, rather, God in his exuberant sufficiency and generous patience causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust Mt5v45. By contrast weeding is gloomy noodling, pedantic procrastinating, obsessive navel-gazing, which considers God as a calculating taskmaster Mt24v25 – so I, the weeder, bury my talents beneath distracting minutiae. Weeding is like our litigious bureaucracy whose preemptive precaution pulls up much good seed. Let go and let God. Chuck handfuls of seed on path, stone and field. Slosh on the water. Be hyperactively hopeful.
Mt13v31-32 Jesus makes mischief. After struggling with the parable of the weeds, I see the glint in his eye with this one. Mustard plants forbidden under rabbinical law, as weeds, & so the last parable perhaps needs reading in the light of this one: not everything that, at first glance, looks like a weed is a weed. Some 'weeds' are the Kingdom breaking in curling up going crazy all over this garden. Mischief, & I want to play. Urgent, untamed, shelter.
Mt13v33-34 It is interesting to compare the juxtaposed mustard seeds and yeast. Perhaps through the two 'all's of Eph1v23. Jesus 'fills all in all', (or all in y'all perhaps.) His gospel spreads extensively as mustard seed proliferates into the cracks everywhere. His gospel spread intensively as yeast permeates across every inch of your person. Unstoppably God is spreading into all of you, through all of yous. (Many useful you-plurals in dialect) .. Consider yeast. Making bread is a dramatic Igor-It's-Alive! sort of thing. Before the gospel we are as dust, flour, lacking that active ingredient. But, once infected we are animated and transformed. Am I? .. So this woman prepares three satas of flour – as much as one can sensibly make in one batch. Have I? What am I using the kitchen for? .. Hidden. Stowaway poetry, importing the gospel in unexpected ways. The kingdom of parables is like a box of chocolates..
Mt13v35-36 Secrets revealed, v36 explanations asked for. Secrets, like v11, 'kekrymmena', 'things hidden', & hidden from the foundation of the world. What is hidden? There are things hidden in my unconscious, hidden from others, hidden in the past, buried in the ground, locked up in organic matter, flung out into deep space, stories of civilisations unspoken..which is the theme of Ps78 from which Jesus draws his claim. The Jewish story, made know to future generations, that it might now be lost in being hidden. Reminds me of 'Nostalgia for the Light', of searching for that v36 explanation, in one's personal social & cosmic history. All mixed up, the story of civilisation one of Ps78v61-64 personal grief. Search the sky, search the desert for dry bones, search the archives, search for the questions to ask the living, search your self. And. Ask the Christ. Who is both the revelation and the revealed. Here he says he reveals the mystery, but Eph1v9 he IS the mystery, the secret plan made known. Each search is an identity question, a hidden plea towards hiddenness, an am I real? Am I good? & the secret says, yes, Eph1v3-14 chosen beloved, from cosmic past through culture's filter to present heartbeat, I love you. & I will keep trying to tell you that I love you in parabolic ways, which is the play of the hidden & the revealed. Baudrillard: 'Looking implies that the object viewed covers & uncovers itself, that it disappears at every instant, for looking involves a kind of oscillation.. While everything is of equal visibility, everything shares the same shallow space.' Dear one, I use parables to speak depths of love, seek & you will find.
Mt13v37-38 This parable gets no easier. There is good seed & weeds: there are cops & robbers, cowboys & indians, goodies & baddies. Oh Jesus, don't you black-or-white me! - it's easy to read Jesus as polemic, partisan divisive, platonising some corny monoculture. Isn't good seed an anthropocentrism anathema to the deep ecologist's esteemed biodiversity. What is a weed anyways? Is good seed 'good' only because it is currently culturally found to be nutritious? - Don't you know I was sown this way. But Gaga's determinism is turned on its head. You were born this way, and you were bought at a price, and you were made distinct and are doubly distinguished. All is not one, you are chosen: creation and election are privileges with incumbent duties. (Kurokawa would have us blur away such accountability.) If you find yourself as good seed, don't just grow with the flow, grow against the crowd, be nutritious.
Mt13v39-40 Angels, with their own eschatological tension to live in. The angelic condition catches the popular imagination in dogma etc.. because they are like & yet unlike us? Easier to mythologise & hold at a distance, along with the raw reality of this spiritual battle ongoing towards its resolution of fire, which denatures all slack apathetic masks. I co-labour & worship-with the angels this sleepy Monday morn, as reminded. Come on my soul.
Mt13v41-42 The Son of man is calling all avenging angels.. but it's ok, this the end of the age. Such esoteric eschatological estimations are academic? Better easier to leave off endings, leave out the hereafter and to erase hell. Matthew believes in hell: no more sigh-no-mores, no ifs, no buts, and certainly no but-if-nots, hell is beyond any 'but-God's. Luckily, I don't believe in hell, I mean, not very much, not like this, I mean, less of the gnashing of teeth 8v12, gnashing of teeth 13v50, gnashing of teeth 22v13, 24v51, 25v30, less fiery, less melodrama, more subtle, more genteel, more English. Don't you know, the road to churchpain is paved with well-intentioned hell-fire preaching. If I believed in heel, I would live a twitching urgent preaching reaching hoping speaking desperate, dentistry-motivated conspicuous explicit life displaying the possibility of redestination via Jesus' “but'God”.
Mt13v43 Shine. Not like Christmas-tree-shiny-things, for the distraction of kittens & magpies, but shine like the sun, Dn12v3 the sky, Ph2v15 the stars. Like sunrise over these chimney tops from our Oval window, like the silver clouds over Vauxhall One which make the heart burst into song, like the sky of Sky! So we shine in reflecting God's shininess when we Ex34v29 talk to God. A sky's glow, a vastness, a luminance, a mystery that demands further searching, as while the light reveals, there is always more to see, there are depths of colour & tone that invite the soul in, that keep the heart looking. A glow is irreducible, I have thought just now, like colour, you just have to receive it. Beauty is. & we are made beautiful. & good & true, for the stars speak to crookedness, Moses received holy norms. So should our faces speak to the world. We were Before Sunrise, but God shone on us.
Mt13v44 Evocation, exultation, imperative. Oh. Why are you here? Why does it stir you so? Is45v3 Treasures in dark places, hidden & found, for the purpose of I-Thou, the God of Israel have called you by name.' The secret is all mine, the risk is all joy. Oh. Come. On.
Mt13v45-46 v44's find is a bit more cowboy, a lucky strike accidental lottery. I remember finding a geocaching box under Hay Tor, I wasn't looking for it. v45's merchant appeals to my sensibilities, a pearl expert, the discerning connoisseur knows his stuff, he's worked for this, treasures are nuanced. However. This won't do. He is irrational. In selling all he has, he ceases to be a merchant, he opts out of the market from this point, pearls cease to be a tradeable means to a commodified end, he emerges with one flipping massive, flawless, completely unsellable ornament, what is he going to do with that? You can't eat a pearl. 'Merchant' is past tense and pejorative ~ as you cease to be a punter when you marry the priceless prostitute? The pattern of selling up, selling out, going all in, to go all out, putting all of your eggs into one uninsurable basket is a pattern established by Jesus. You are his pearl.
Mt13v47-48 'How are you & God? She asked. Which is always the question, & it is a being-towards-final-judgement, in the very same way that being-towards-death is to be understood, which is that it is not about death, but living knowing one will give an account of one's life. So how are you & God today? Wondering what can be said on the containment of containers & the fishiness of fish.. what does it smell like, your with-God life today? Rotten or raw?
Mt13v49-50 We, the fish, were by nature spawns, small fries and fingerlings of wrath. But God.. We were bad fish. But God.. What is a bad fish? ESVSB refers to Lv11v9-12 to define bad fish as those eely ones without scales – unclean, unkosher fish; Carson says 'bad' fish has no moral overtones, and that while 'sapron' (gk) could mean decayed, here it simply means worthless, not ceremonially suitable, not large enough for eating.. So, this fishing trip at the end of the world. Not every fish is caught, not every caught is kept – a selectivity: Mt7v21-22 not every fish who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom. Hb6v5-6 having been caught in a net of the goodness of God, some fish persist in crucifixions and faithless immaturity. There's no gnasher like a semi=christian gnasher, I know the angst of being a funny fish, one foot in sea, one on shore. Be sure. Be a big fish. For God, being rich in fishfood..
Mt13v51-52 Verses for academics. This is why we write, because some old things come together in a certain way, they 'click' in the mind & the heart to a new emergent understanding of the kingdom of God. Though I might exercise greater tentativity than the disciples at the ' all these things', yet there are somethings where a new understanding of something is up ahead, sneaking glances round the corner. So we write, we scribe, for the sake of the kingdom of God, for God is always bringing out treasures old & new, & that is what writing done well is. This is the adventure of the human life with-God, the more than surviving, the discovery of what the kingdom is like, ancient of days, newly originally formed from one's creatively wrestling for understanding, pen in hand. Come Lord Jesus a timely prayer, we pray it over our writing, conversations, further study hopes. Thy Kingdom Come
Mt13v53-54 v53 'Jesus .. finished' Jesus begins and ends an appointed work. He metes tutes and leaves, he goes on and then goes away, he speaks balm then carries on. It is easy to take for granted how difficult it is to have that timed timelyness and purposeive placelyness which constituted his itinerancy. He moved on, but by what propulsion? There is a difference between being mobile and being mobilised .. v54 'wisdom .. mighty works': Young man up on the hillside / teaching new ways / each word winning them over / each heart a kindled flame // his rage shaking the temple / his word to the wise / his hand healing on the seventh day / his love wearing no disguise ~ What was Jesus secret ambition? What's yours? Where did Jesus get his wisdom? Where do you get yours? How did Jesus do his mighty works? How do you do yours? Where do you go to? Whom do you turn to? And where do we go now?
Mt13v55-56 The Nazarenes apply a genetic fallacy to Jesus, & I am guilty of this impulse, I feel that these verses are for now, for another one of these habits that holds me captive. There is a deeply held captive belief that if I know everything from a past I will understand it. All these compulsions betray a belief that the past explains away the present, that the past is more important than the present. It is a destructive unredemptive unfree way. How do we then relate to the past? Psychoanalysis is right that we bring our past with us, & where Christianity has used a 'blank slate' analogy regarding forgiveness, however understandable, it can be misleading, it can try to sever or erase the past in the wrong way. Reflecting on redemption, on the experience of one's transformation, we find, I think, that the present changes our relationship to the past. Something which hurt in the past can be looked back on without pain in the face of healing. With-God, the present is more important than the past, it changes the structures & power of the past. We once were dead but God made us Eph2 alive in Christ. More than the blank slate, this is a change in out biology, our ontology, which doesn't deny the past but declares that it has been made new, made alive, made different. Our present is more than the sum of our pasts. Here & now, with-you, with-Jesus-the-Nazarene. More than. Thank you God.
Mt13v57-58 Jesus is not still Jenny from the block. He's changed. As in 'As It Is In Heaven', the musician returns to his home town, despised for his talented Otherness. Why? Apart from the mild schizophrenia of our mob Palm Sunday / Good Friday oscillation. Why? The village pathology encountered in Nazareth Jesus encounters in me. I reject him as a threat to my tribalist mediocre mutually aclustered complicity in the sin of unadventure. Jonathan Hale paraphrased Harman last night saying that when architecture gets too relational it becomes ecology. Autopoesis dissolves God-given authorship. Such is an unhealthy villagism: the pursuit of objectless consensus or submission to impersonal objectlessness. Jesus objects, he is intrusively thingly. In such a village Merlieu Ponty's spoken speech (everyday) meets speaking speech (poetic). The later having power for 'coherent deformation': this is what prophets are about