Monday, 1 April 2013
texting matthew twelve
Laud of the Sabbath. I'm here all week: 07729056452
Mt12v1-2 The disciples were hungry so they ate. There is something of the child in this, perhaps, & to continue the meditation on childishness & childlikeness, we might understand this as childlike. The body wants food, & is safe in the knowledge that it is free to eat; the social custom has no child. So our mandated childlikeness is the unlearning of lifeless laws or customs. We know that this freedom is not a radical caprice, rather the maturely childlike discerns what is worth being bound unto & what is not. Part of the difference between childish & childlike is perhaps whether you are bound to laws or to covenant in decision-making. We contrast the disciples here with their falling asleep in Gethsemane, where they are perhaps more childish. The body wants to sleep, but the relationship & promise to Christ should have kept them awake. So. What binds you?
Mt12v3-4 Our God is sabbatical. We Sabbath because to Sabbath is to express the character of God. What is the character of God? (1) Not impersonal pedantry. (2) Not point-scoring superstition. (3) Not elitist injustice. (1) Pedantry and the danger of sacred texting: 'Have you not read..' As Jn5v39 'you search the scriptures but..' or Mt13v13 'seeing yet they do not see..' - there is a way of reading that reads onto a text and so obscures the person of Jesus, reading that projects assumptions onto the character of God, the presupposes impersonality, that labours a pre-emptive penance as the prodigal son's legal defence in Lk18-19, because it believes God is only justice and not mercy. What good is a quiet time if you are unable to speak, disabled by a mute prejudice that God doesn't hear, doesn't care, makes no exceptions, has no mercy. That has never been God, have you not read Ho11v8? (2) Sabbath is not a means, it is an ends primarily – its own reward. You are not saved by the Sabbath, you are saved for the Sabbath. Its not the break you have to take, it is the time you get to make. It is Heschel's 'cathedral in time'. But that edifice is not built by law but by joy. Does Jesus protest here because it is more damaging to hold a superstitious belief that my little Sunday holiness routine will save me than it is to not Sunday at all? By contrast to the hope for magic saving power through obscure obediences, Jesus affirms the superheroism of his 'Mighty men', that is, the priesthood of all believers: you who can eat the consecrated bread. (3) Elitism. Pharasaism necessarily defends vested interests of the subscribers, who distinguish themselves and their 'holiness' by acts which they, by accident of circumstance, are capable of. Somewhat as certain 'environmentalisms' are a virtue achievable only by the disposable income of the middleclasses.
Mt12v5-6 the Symbolic is not the Real. The Symbolic is necessary. The Symbolic will fast become an idol. The Symbolic is alive, don't kill it. Don't legislate it or let it legislate. Let is speak. Let is shimmer with another world. Take buildings seriously & hold them lightly. See beyond them. Let the ritual hold you, not take hold of you. The Sabbath is a portal, * this life is quite the adventure aye.
Mt12v7-8 'If'. Enough food for everyone if.. '..if you know what “mercy-not-sacrifice” means'. Eating¬-eating, the details of feasting&fasting, are justice&mercy issues, justice issues concerning the nation. Jesus is caught eating with the 'wrong people' in Mt9v13 and so quote Ho6v6 in defence (for 'wrong people' see Gloria Morrison of JENGbA on the injustice of Joint Criminal Enterprise at London Riots, LSE, 6.3.13) And, Jesus is caught eating at the wrong time in mt12v1 and so quotes Ho6v6 in his defence. Why Hosea? Hosea is a prophet for a time of acute social injustice, he calls us away from bad religione and foodlaw powerplay, from ugly hedonism and extremes of wealth polarity, from ill-motivated works-sacrifice and the 'condemning' of the weaker it entails, from these Hosea calls us back to our first love's embrace. How we eat and who we eat with reflects our belovedness and brings about much consequences of social justice.
Mt12v9-10 What is work & what is rest? Is it work to heal? Pray without ceasing? Rejoice in the Lord always? These things are not the Gn3v19 sweat of our brow? One does not fast worship, one always fasts to make space to worship. Work can be worship, only if structured by Sabbath, but the Mt10v8 mandate is the redemptive work itself within which the work-sabbath structure sits? Yes? Not? In danger of a sacred-secular split? What is rest & what is work?
Mt12v11-12 Why do I not help men out of their pits? And I rarely do! Because (1) I misconstrue the pit and (2) I misconstrue the Sabbath. See London is full of the deeply-inpitted and the decadently well-besabbathed. I know which I am, and selfishly so. (1) The pit is where a weaker breed of man is fated to fall, the undeserving poor, the feral underclass, those statistics who are not persons, the utility valueless.. (2) The Sabbath is an exclusive form of leisure for the privileged, the just dessert for the meritocratically valued hardworker, the sufficiently young, those considered attractive. May this never be! Our Gad is sabbatical, our God is the good shepherd, our God 'takes hold of us', our God 'lifts us out', our God values man. To imitate the good shepherd is to value people as persons and to understand the Sabbath and all comfort as a gift, not a right – for of such I am ill-deserving.
Mt12v13-14 Stretch out your hand, dear heart, to receive the healing that makes vulnerable infants wiggle forward with curious joy, & provokes violent rage in those who think they are powerful: the political & corporate powers at the top of the arms trade, & my own hidden ways of seeking power-over-others. Holiness & help & hereness is at hand, so stretch out your hand, dear hands.
Mt12v15-16 The first rule of Fight Club is.. What sort of movement is Jesus building? What sort of cause are we fighting for? What sort of conspiracy opposes this? What sort of King do we serve? What so of mediating is suitable to his remediation? How should we then not tell? How should we then Sabbath? When should we then heal?
Mt12v17-18 The ambiguous 'this' of withdrawing, blessing people & not-telling the story of it, a particular season to centre & refine one's motives, apt as I am to idolise all healing & good works. The compulsion to serve people as characters in our own story rather than as persons is rooted in a failure to believe in one's belovedness. Jesus fulfilled scripture in being the beloved, the chosen – before & regardless of whether the story was told. This heart alignment is necessary to be a servant, & to be an agent of mercy-justice. When I view my life & ministry through the lens of reporting it back, rather than the freedom of relational giving-alongside, I am trying to elevate myself, which tries to take power-over, which is injustice-unmercy. Lord Jesus, thank you for you way, please kill this thing in me particularly in this season, that I might imitate you.
Mt12v19-20 'Behold, my servant, Sarah, whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Sarah, and she will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. .. a bruised reed Sarah will not break, and a smouldering wick she shall not quench, until she brings justice to victory..' Remember in Mt5v15-16 Jesus told you that 'You, Sarah, are the light of the world.' Isaiah (Is42-53) plays a similar declaration over Israel: they *are* this servant, they *await* this servant. If Jesus is the true Jew, if Christianity is Jewish, if we are 'in' Christ, we are heirs to these Israelite promises concerning our Identity, our Purpose, and our Character. You are saved to save, served to serve. When you feel, as I today, like a smouldering wick, take heart, Christ is in you, you are the light of the world.
Mt12v21-22 Gentiles will hope. Hope is held in contempt by the Stoics, in its indication of lack, in its implication of dissatisfaction with what-is towards an always-elsewhere. Does hope run contrary to our here-&-now? Does it bring us to Seneca's good life, stripped of hope & fear? Such an argument misunderstands hope in part by misunderstanding the God-longing, the there's-always-more rather than there's-nothing-here. & it misunderstands hope in misunderstanding meaning. Hope doesn't locate meaning in a currently-inaccessible Platonic heaven, but rather, human & divine meanings, symbols within symbols, & Christ is my hope in unlocking, cohering & embodying all these. My hope is in Christ, the authentic adventure of the meanings of my life. Praise God.
Mt12v23-24 'A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.' Who was this Jesus? A very Easter question .. At least the Pharisees' response is passionate. Conceivably they are even well-intentioned, reformers reforming, ministering to a Roman-occupied Jewish people who may have been church-pained by the religious disillusion wrought false prophets, and the military retributions wrought by their foreign government, and into this context perhaps a well-meaning Pharisee would seek to care as best they could for a people suffering a messiah fatigue? How do care for the church-pained? How do we discern, and so express concern for or disapproval of the motives and consequences and side-effects of such extreme and controversial healing ministries as Todd Bentley or Exodus International? There is a mode of compassionate critique tainted by prejudice that risks tacitly demonising. I am a Pharisee whenever I speak hopelessness or exaggerated concern over church problems or ministry dilemmas. I am a Pharisee, Lord, help my unbelief.
Mt12v25-26 First, that He knows my thoughts. Second that He speaks a principle less for Satan, more for me. Satan may not be divided against himself, but I am. Double-minded, two-folded, & I will lay waste without everyday purification-integration of my heart. Bringing divided things before the Christ's cross this Good Friday. Specific things. Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open..
Mt12v27-28 A timely verse for Black Saturday, the day of the Harrowing of Hades, a day to consider Jesus' power over evil. But first, one has to make an argument to refute denials of the supernatural, denials of Two-ism, of Hell, of God's goodness, so to arrive at an unobscured encounter with Jesus' loving power. Jesus is a forceful logician, in v27 he compellingly shows the Pharisees' (and so my own) self-deception to be self-related and self-refuting. And in v28 he reveals the motive force behind such a doubleminded worldview: we self-justify in order to escape God's judgement fearing that if the Kingdom of God is come, then I am not God. .. O God, please show me the incoherence of my many layered hypocrisies and the elaborate logical fallacies which my deceit employs. .. I love that 'come upon you' translates a verb connoting unexpected prematurity. The Kingdom that is come is Here! Now! Already! Ahead of time! And this because the King of that Kingdom, the one who casts out demons, has come running to meet us, while we were yet far off.
Mt12v29-30 hopes & fears, prayers & tears today, 'cause its a terrible thing to not be-with Jesus, & so to run against him. The jarring, splintering wrench of These Things not-with-Jesus. These Things need binding, before they can be overcome. I might be needed in naming & acknowledging strongholds, but it is Jesus who binds them & throws them out, & repeats the process when they prowl around the door or even find a way back in. Christ have mercy.
Mt12v31-32 Unforgiveable sin. One could deflect this whole challenging passage by debating the apparent injustice of other people condemned for their ignorance. Jesus is not talking about other people here, he is talking to me: me and my openness to the Spirit, me and my response to what I do know, me and my heart position to Jesus and his many disguises. .. I am struck by this: Jesus comes in unexpected everyday ways, this meaning is made clearer if we substitute 'Son of Man' for 'Son of Bob' or 'Ordinary Joe', better English idioms to connote the God who hides himself in the ordinary of humanity that he would adopt such an idiom with the definite article. He is The Ordinary Joe. But if you deny that an Extraordinary Spirit is at work in ordinary Joes, you saw off the olive branch you are standing on. Don't rule yourself out. Don't rule yourself out.
Mt12v33-34 Viperhearted, selfish, competitive, unkind: out of the heart the mouth speaks. Marriage offers conditions for being forced to examine the anger & ugliness of one's words, & so, in tracing back the overflow, the wounds & corruptions of one's heart, the tree gone bad, the death & rotting within. A tree within a whitewashed tomb, wrestling involved finding the tree in the dark, bringing the fruit into the light. Create in me a clean heart oh God.
Mt12v35-36 This is semiotics. Every ad word betrays your agenda, all your doublecode fools no one, all allusion, all suggestion is all culpable. For, out of the abundance of the heart my phone texts. And, in my abundance of words my heart sins, cajoles, deflects, deceives, with even the tiniest words. So I must give an account for every 'argos' (gk) word. Every idle word. Every empty word. Every careless word. Every insignificant word. Every thoughtless word. I will give an account. Time is short. Words are powerful. God, help me choose them wisely.
Mt12v37 You will be saved or condemned by words (also, Mt11v19 wisdom is justfied by her deeds, also, 1Sm16v7 man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart. That is, God sees & works through every grain of my totality, correctly discerning the deeper motives & consequences all my being, & seeks to refine me.) Words are powerful, that's why it matters how we speak or don't speak. Words have saved me or condemned me before so I know its possible. Be holy as God is holy. Use words as God uses words. A reason to lectio divine, to absorb the diction you want to speak. Sufjan & Rumi together tell me today that Jesus sought me when a stranger, & no longer a stranger, I spend all day listening to these crazy love-words. Words of life can save, & Jesus speaks words over me. All. The. Time. Listen. To speak. Salvation starts.
Mt12v39-40 An evil adulterous Phil asks for a sign. Was not Easter enough? It not scripture sufficient? If the Bible is true, if words are powerful, if the gospel story is all my heart seeks.. What more signage to I need? All further miracles are a grace, an icing over icing, accessory and gratuitous, when sat beside the main miracle. To 'demand' signs is to position one's heart in such a way that no sign would eventually be sufficient. 1Co1v22 convicts me and my impatience with we-preach-Christ-crucified versions of Christianity. Jews demand spectacle; Greeks are impressed by speeches; the over-educated want footnotes; the well-meaning demand social-impact; people-pleasers demand community, before they can believe. I am all of those. Despising the humility of mere Bible study, the stumbling block of sola scriptura, and the urgency of an epistemology of Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know-for-the-Bible-tells-me-so..
Mt12v41-42 Faces & voices, eyes & accusations, all justice, all truth. Grievance & grace, to be once again face-to-face. Asking for insight, equipment & courage (mainly courage) to love these eyes before us well. Cut to the heart, moved by love, to connect the dots, to Christ crucified. In spirit & truth, this 8th of the month, for ones we know, for the unexpected, today.
Mt12v43-44 Of habits, addictions, demons, attititudes, loves, fears not-of-God: Repent. Receive. Rebuke. *Replace*. Or else. .. So, I've purged pornography, I've scrubbed the floor of my soul, you could eat off it, a spotless, lustless apartment, strainedly sanitised. A spirit of self-righteousness is a ready tenant in waiting, unless I install Christ as tenant in every room and allow him to decorate a healthy sexuality throughout. I would venture this vulnerability-following-healing applies also to having-been-sinned-against. So, I've overcome some historical church-pain grievance, I've cleaned out the wound, I've processed the tragedy, but unless I sew closure to it, unless I fill the hole it tore in my faith and identity, and allow Christ to rechurch me, I will shiver chill bitter sarcasm at the wind that the enemy actively blows though the hole that remains. Replace by knowing Christ, for there is no neutrality.
Mt12v43-44 Housing v29 & v44. Always interesting to ask of Jesus' parables if whether we've retained a healthy familiarity with the sheep/new-wine/seeds/harvests/yeast/etc which Jesus deliberately employs in order to graphically describe the Kingdom's organic and everyday and delicious and infectious and urgent and abundant and personal and risky etc realities. eg. If you have never harvested a literal harvest, how much more shallow and unexuberant must your grasp of his analogy be? So with housing, if we, as a culture dwell only lightly in mere dormitory environments, this Your-Home-May-Be-Repossessed-If-You.. threat will be somehow less visceral. The house here operates as a metaphor for contested territory within a spiritual landscape, not of inert volumes in need of decluttering, but of occupied territories worth fighting for. So should our housing be! You steward pregnant metaphors in your spring cleaning.
Mt12v45-46 Running my fingers up against the edge of these fenced-off habits, needing Jesus to draw me back to the centre, the health of talking with Jesus incarnate everyday vs the sickness of the seven who prowl at the door. I can name them all. These crossroads, will I be better or 'worse that before'? Jesus, once more be my every replacement. I need thee every hour, stay thou close by. I need thee, I need thee, I need thee every hour.
Mt12v47-48 Whence Blud? Wherefore Fam? If you do God's will, you are Jesus' sibling! Or, more humbly, if you have been doing the will of God, it was only because you were already Jesus' sibling. But importantly, here is the declaration: We. Are. Family. We already are. And Jesus puts family first.
Mt12v49-50 My brother knows me in an unmediated way, there is an always-already dimension to our relationship, it is a relationship which in part formed me, in a totally unselfconscious way. The name he calls me is normal, familiar. Grateful for the brothering that leads to a meditation on being-Christ's-sister (too quickly we look at being sister-in-Christ before being sisters-of-Christ). Easter in ordinary, is this kind of love today