Sunday, 23 June 2013
texting matthew fifteen
Mt15v1-2 Not washing hands, as protest, as freedom, as a new theology of the body? Against fixation on one's hands, hatred of the body, fear of dirt & sweat, the uncanny ambiguity of blurred boundaries between inside & outside in the eating process & at the fingertips. Against these fears: freedom in Christ, whose experiences of his body & of food preparation challenge the things behind our categories, & ask for unclenched hands. Christ's body, our daily bread, the most sanctified, not by washing. He, safe, knows himself in sacred space, knew the benediction of God in the unsanitised. This is an easy many-metaphored thing to blur, perhaps...what to say? That the enforced specificity of a general principle becomes a suffocating death? Or that where we put faith of salvation in common sense principles we tred the path of a well-ordered death? Rather, grubby-handed breakfast on the beach, please.
Mt15v3-4 Why does Jesus counterargue the handwashing accusation with parenthonouring? Handwashing, hygiene and divisive sanitising express your belief in the locus of evil: these ablutions apprehend an evil whose source is out-there, by contrast with a humility which confesses a greater evil in-here. The consequence of a handwashing-theology-of-evil is disunity, discontinuity, them-and-us-ism. Handwashing is an act of detachment, a dis-worlding, a putting-some-space-between. The handwasher is self-cleansed, self-reliant, self-saved. Whereas, one can never be self-made in the very conscious enparenting of honouring or ascribing our born-ness. Thus there is a close tie between coming-as-a-child and honouring-thy-mother-and-father. Paul reinforces honouring in Eph6v2's contribution to his unity manifesto. Sin's cause is not our parents, global warming is not the Boomer's fault, we're in this together.
Mt15v5-6 Deceptive ways we tell self & other that we set aside for God. this is really what taking the Lord's name in vain amounts to. As using scripture for one's own ends, as Satan. Spiritual blackmail that leads to the church pain of last night. the idolatry of God, in which we try to make a fool out of God. What a thing to be feared! For God is no-one's fool. the incredulity in Jesus' tone here is just for me. Did I really believe that God didn't see? Noting 'corban' as a label. We are particularly apt to act in this Pharisaical way where words & categories are prevalent. When we preach, when we philosophise, these are the times we must fear ourselves before the true God the most, to note we must fear ourselves before the true God the most, to note another Rollins title, how we are not to speak of God.
Mt15v7-8 'You hypocrites!' is a cry enjoyed by the press, because it is enjoyed by us. It feels so good to blame goo.gl/msIqoe But unlike the malevolent glee with which we enjoy to see expenses/sex/taxes/other scandalees hoisted with their own petard, Jesus loves the Pharisees. He quotes Is29v13 to an Isaiah fluent crowd, as if a verse to a popular chorus, as if I were to shout 'I'll buy you diamond rings my friend..' And what is the popular chorus? Is29v4 'Therefore, behold, I will again do wonder upon wonder..' Jesus can't help himself, he is the God who meets our sin with love, who absolves our guilt, pursues us in our folly, hounds us with his grace, seeks our flourishing despite our desert. In Mt23 he does the same, woeing these Pharisees (of which I am the worst), before wooing them, Jesus would gather these Pharisees, as a hen collects her brood under her wing. What love is this?
Mt15v9-10 Vanity is entropy, the pouring of energy into something that comes to nothing. God meets us in our experience of vanity, as Ecclesiates 'Oh vanity of vanities', but vanity unacknowledged, as here, runs itself out into a slow exhausting desert, as Ps127v1. The vanity here is found in the attempt to disconnect or compartmentalise worship from the rest of life. This makes the object of worship not-God, for worship of the true God requires the whole of oneself. Part-worship will defeat itself, it is a labour in vain. So hear & understand, with all your depth, all your reserve. God's sufficiency the un-vain infinity.
Mt15v11-12 'Slim, it's a touchy subject, try and just don't mention it..' Jesus at his most battle rap, rapping effluent allusions, rhyming offensive impropriety, scatalogically prodding the anally retentive. If one is to talk of sin it will get messy and frankly colonoscopic. Jesus rolls up his sleeve and reaches his hand down into my heart, a vessel full of shit Ph3v8 and menstrual rags Is64v6. Is it just me who's just obscene? Dear values.com, I'm not basically good, I'm not simply forgetful, I don't merely do bad things, I am bad: filled with all manner of unrighteousness Rm1v29, no good dwells in me Rm7v18, my throat is an open grave and out of that heart, that will, that throat, my mouth speaks. Dear values.com, please be offended, I am totally depraved. But God.
Mt15v13-14 There's still a depth dimension to this spiritual blindness yet to be understood, but what the triffids tells us that blindness need not simply connote a not-seeing, but the ugly viciousness which arises with the fear of not-seeing not-knowing, & so with the fear of survival the quickness of our retreat into abuse & grasping & the destruction of the other's 'speaking face'. So our blindness can be. But might we be a different blind? The blind led by the one who sees, rather than blindly leading. Padraig's 'I once was blind now I'm blinder still' something of the humility of unsight, hand in hand vulnerability of exposed seen unseeing, that doesn't lash out but unfurls, in fear & trembling. Teach me my right blindness, that I might know the shepherd's voice.
Mt15v15-16 “We're not blind. We've got eyes in our heads.” “..they must be darn good ones if you can see in here..” “In where?” “Why you bone-head.. in this pitch-black, poky, smelly, little hole of a stable.” “Are you blind?” “Ain't we all blind in the dark!” said Diggle. “But it isn't dark..” said Lucy. “Can't you see?..” - What. Do. You. See? Am8v2 Jr1v11 Zc5v2.. The celebration of blindness out of humility or compassion quickly crosses from we-don't-yet-know (v16) to we-cannot-know (v14's blind *guides*). Jesus may be incredulous at the disciples limited perception but he is scathing of the Pharisees, whose blindess is wilful, saying of what light there is that it is not, construing life as a language game, as a hunt in a dark room for a black cat that's not there, fumbling in a dirty stable (and so handwashing). Truly, we see only in part 1Cor13v9, and not all of us are 'eyes' 1Cor12v17 but those who 1Tim3 'oversee' must see.
Mt15v17-18 Jesus uses story & metaphor where needed, miraculous demonstration & compassionate touch where needed, & here, rational argument as needed. Here in praise of sensible logical inference, against superstition & the over-spiritualising of the everyday-spiritual, which leads at best to a foolishness, & quickly to its worst: presumption at god, abusive power dynamics with others. There is a deep sanity to the gospel not undermined by its mystery.
Mt15v19-20 When I hear 'Guard your heart..' I tend to consider my heart as the Mona Lisa, guarded in the Louvre, precious, priceless, defended, lest anyone steal my heart. Not this heart. Guarding this heart is house arrest, it's a pit-bull on a leash, it's a padded cell. Guard my heart, save me from myself. And what is a heart? Where is it located? Centre or whole, vessel or guts, soul or force? Is your picture of the heart a glowing orb humming benignly just beneath the surface of your form? An undefiled idyll landscape complete with bunny rabbits and candy cane, lining the interior of your being? Not mine. My heart is a ravenous dragon captaining a graveship; mine is the rotting core of a piston engine pushing treacle though gangrenous veins; my heart is unsleeping greed, unceasing quarrel, bottomless pride, vanity without end. Jesus, I beg you, create in me a clean heart.
Mt15v21-22 Mercy justice, right & gift. Lord have mercy. Mercy & boundaries. Mercy & shift. Mercy & ambiguity. Mercy & this. Mercy & the dance here. Mercy & appeal. Mercy & misfortune. Mercy & sin. Mercy & faith, hope & love. Have mercy.
Mt15v23-24 Picture the silhouette of a tree. Picture Manhattan's street plan from space. I propose that there is a shape to the evangelistic expansion of Jesus' ministry, a distinct topology, an architecture even. I consider two paradigms of poiesis. One construes the world as an infinitely extended and undifferentiated plain, a vast grid populated by abstract need, to be colonised programatically by a mechanically reproducible distilled gospel formula for salvation. the other form is a viral, fractal, rooting, organic, expanding form, developing in a Christopher-Alexanderian mode of unfolding wholeness. Obviously the latter is the truer, more personal, more beautiful..? But uncomfortably so. Even for all the distance we have travelled in our flight from Modernism, we would still love power and salvation to come packaged abstractly, ahistorically. But Christianity is Jewish, salvation is from the Jews. do you see the difficulty? We all would love the living water of salvation bottled, a static commodity, a dislocated product procured from nowhere in particular. At first, the Canaanite woman appears to petition for such power, mere magic effects, but crucial to her faith for her request is ascribing the source of Jesus' power, describing that the kingdom of jesus' healing does not expand through bottled water but by the extension and routing of water mains. She is recognising that her receipt would be an inheritance, and thus there is a lineage, that what we have received we pass on, that this gift water is to be kept in motion. In our cascading champagne tower there is one waiter pouring the wine, and we pass on the overflow we receive. Thus the universe is centred, thus our gratitude has an orientation, and this because salvation is from the Jews.
Mt15v25-26 Psychology & scholarship become ground to His figure. The tug of His voice, His Thou speaks. His knowing knows my fragility and my strength with smiling. So. Go boldly as Ephesians's third. Addressed, confessed, redressed & blessed. 'Come, let us reason together.' The terms are yours. The pursuit is life. 'Lord help me.'
Mt15v27-28 Jesus bitchin' again. What's a dog? What's a dog's life? What is it like as the underdog? Do you know yourself labelled in doggy derogatory ascriptions, do you know how it is being a Battered sea dog? The Greek here is kynarion, puppy dogs, affectionate perhaps, but the prospects are still bleak, plaintively Page France put it: goo.gl/zHgYq.. We are such dogs. Not despised, but still undeserving, still outsiders, still in need of adoption. Such a state should lead one to pray. Such a state leaves us to faith in grace alone. Such a recognition of our dog's desert is the faith that Jesus praises. Note her wit, Jesus loves banter. Faith hopes in a comic, not a tragic, arc.
Mt15v29-30 they came, he helped. 'asking for help is a big number in psychoanalysis.' the active & passive parts of our faith, except that the active part is also a gift, because the ability to ask for help depends on the security of the base from which one asks. Bowlby's secure base is the care-giving Other. So Jesus: both the foundation from which we ask for help & the help we ask for. He walks by your maritime analogies & mountain paths. Before & behind.
Mt15v31-32 “..so that the crowd wondered.” Philosophy begins with wonder. How do you wonder? Malick plays with this in titling To The Wonder. Beyond a preposition of going-to the so-called 'wonder of the western world' Mont St Michel, he would encourage us, by his photography, in the buffaloes, in the stretch of skies above, in the richness of stained glass, he would draw us to seek out a being-towards wonderment, a yearning dazzling behelden beholding. And yet there is a query in the word, perhaps intentional in Malick's agnostic hesitations. Do you wonder about God, or do you wonder at God? How do you wonder? Christopher Alexander argues from the wonder, seeking to redress modernity's poverties reductions abstractions, via the visceral phenomena of a wonderfilled world. Malick and Alexander's wondering if there is a God beyond becomes an ache. Oh wanderers, be amazed, stand amazed, at Jesus the Nazarene.
Mt15v33-34 'What do you have?' thrown, situated, being-there, seven loaves. Home is where we start from. Then transcendence happens, for God's here is not static. But the miraculous often seeks to transform rather than tabula rasa...what do you have?
Mt15v35-36 Haven't I texted this already in Mt14v19-20? Surely this must be a copy error, a glitch in the first century text-messaging? Jesus just fed the 5k, surely the disciples cannot be so forgetful. If I had been on the hill, if I had been tasked with feeding, I would have had faith if in deja vu alone.. And yet probably not. Faith is easiest in retrospect: when faced with four thousand starving, all former miracles evaporate from my mind in the present moment. So, Phil, remember: Ours is a theology of multiplication. Ours is a theology of multiplication. Gonna say it again 'case you missed it. Jehovah Jireh, and then some, and then a bit more. On the off chance that you thought the first time was a fluke. Ours is a theology of multiplication
Mt15v37-38 ' They ate & were satisfied.' Jesus' hospitality & the importance of feeding-others. Eating-together is more than the sum of its parts, it should be a levels, bringing us all the the recognition of our vulnerability & our basic need to survive. It should be a nurturing, it should be the beginning of language, as it is developmentally, the sharing of ideas & experience. So, be aware how you use food so as not to do violence to this glory. If food is used with an agenda, as a power-over or a means of trying to prop up one's smug self-image it will lose its holy magic. How do we keep ourselves feeding as Jesus did? In how we buy food, serve food, talk about food? In how we acknowledge the gift of it, as Jesus gave thanks, not just within Christian circles but as an imperative in all awkward-making contexts? In humility for this undeniable basic good feed & be fed. Thanks be to God.
Mt15v39 Reading so slowly as we are diffuses some of the intensity of Jesus' hyperactivity: debating, teaching, healing, feeding, eating, feeding.. This verse is a semibreve. Rests are not derelict space, offcuts from the design, afterthoughts, inefficiencies. Rests are the volume for the bouquet above the wine in your glass, the frame for roses to climb above the porch to your front door, the necessary and delightful ground to your figure, the procession which makes the altar an altar. Rests are the boundaries, borders and framing devices which make a thing thingly. It is through rests that an infinite extension is chaptered and parcelled, whereby time becomes event, and space becomes place, and persons outline their prescencing, and so also are enabled to tell their stories. Jesus doesn't agglomerate the 5000and the 4000 to rally a politically useful tidal wave, rather the two feedings are discrete events, like water droplets on waxy leaf, each an end in itself.