Sunday, 14 July 2013
texting matthew sixteen
Mt16v1-2 Passages aligning as though to answer the request that God teach us how to pray, how to ask & when & why. Even if Pascal's heart-and-reason distinction is not exactly what's at play here we can still say that a wrong heart attitude looks wilfully for reasons of the wrong kind. Conversation on Monday about how the Met Office bracketing rainfall in percentiles of ten was a weird one, giving us 0% chance of rain today, weirder though is 72.4% chance of emotional turmoil. So weather & the heart. So inappropriate measuring sticks. You want a red-sky sign so that you can reason from manifest to manifest, but Jesus wants to reason from manifest to latent. & the heart resists. Jesus, put our hearts in question, that we pray reason of the right kind.
Mt16v3-4 'sign from heaven' (v1) What is your heaven? What are its signs? Idols function at two levels: transcendent & immanent; faraway & near (Dick Keyes); deep & surface (Tim Keller); pie-in-the-sky & cake-on-the-plate; conceptual & tangible; Platonic & Aristotelian; ready-to-hand & present-to-hand.. Does this make sense? We exist in an everyday world of signs, symptoms, appetites, lusts, disorders and addictions, many of them quite conscious, if overpowering. And then there are our gods, more unconscious, but these are the vision of ultimate reality that we have, from which divine signs come, and towards which we spend our energies. Heaven & its signage. Heaven is at the top of a ladder; signs are the rungs we climb by, signs reveal on what wall the ladder is leaning, signs are a foretaste, a derivative, a down-payment from that heaven. Jesus doesn't give the Pharisees a sign and he can't give you a sign, if your ladder of signs is leaning against the wrong wall. There is a God, he does speak through signs, there is a Kingdom of Heaven, it is in-breaking into our present reality, we should expect signs, Jesus says we should have eyes to see the signs which are happening all around us. However, there is a not inconsiderable difficulty of semiotic dissonance, seeking the signs, from the wrong place, and ascribing the wrong meaning. The prosperity gospel is a case in point: if you get the car, this signifies God's approval.. Sign-reading is further addled by ads: the goal of advertising is to forge new, mysterious, convincing associations between Heavens (comfort, approval, power, control) and the advertised product. So Babel's semiotic dissonance frequently affects our assessment of the good as it pertains to salvation, as it pertains to lifestyle. Why 'adulterous generation'? Adultery pursues immanent sexual signage, because the faraway God is also misplaced. Extra-marital or pre-marital sex are efforts to foretaste marriage misconstruing a connection between the present reality and the thing to come, it is a ladder leaning on the wrong wall. Rather seek the sign of Jonah: if heaven is the good life and the good life is death to self, service of others and submission to God, then signage which anticipates that is likely to be of a similar flavour? The idolatry here, just as Samson's serving other gods, is terrifying places to dabble: see Jesus left them Mt16v4, as he left Samson Jg16v20.
Mt16v5-6 Yeast really can't be compartmentalised aye. It influences the whole. & we are wholes, the images we see, words we hear, anxieties we bury, they touch every point, the replicate in each cell. There is no way of de-yeasting bread, except by transubstantiation. It cannot be extracted, only transformed. Total transformation can noly happen with total surrender. So again again, while foraging through yellow stickers in the 4pm bread bins: surrender.
Mt16v7-8 'O ye of little faith!' In what does 'little faith' consist? Three possibilities: 1. In not grasping the metaphor. The faithing mind is a parabolic mind, it believes in more-than, it understands reality as meaning-laden, pregnant with possibility, an allusive adventure furnished with mustardseeds, pearls-of-great-price, lost-sheep, lamps, bushels, wedding-feasts, fig-trees.. (the Kingdom of heaven is frankly object-oriented..) 2. In not giving due heed to the fearful implications of yeast. Yeast is an active ingredient. Self-righteousness, spectacle-centred-epistemology, hypocrisy, religione – these are an active evil, even a tiny amount added to the dough of your life will insidiously, infectiously, rot you, actively. 3. In not taking your quandaries to Jesus: 'why are you discussing amongst yourselves?' rather, 16v16 is the response of faith: worship, with open eyes and open mouth.
Mt16v9-10 Knowledge, perception & memory, oh my. goo.gl/VN4Ni Remembering, repeating & working-through, that too. Goo.gl/AdbGJ the stories we tell? Goo.gl/xlG68 The bread we ate? Teach us, God, how to remember the bread we take? Forgetting Jg8v4, but knowing, the Lest-I-Forget of faith Ps137v5-6
Mt16v11-12 'How is it that you fail to understand..' - What do the disciples lack? How should we judge this lack? Is it possible to condemn them as obstinately bread-obsessed literalists, exegeting with their stomachs, superstitiously following Jesus for selfish reasons. But this takes for granted the luxury of parabolic thinking. They lack the fullness of symbolic awareness, but don't we all, sometimes. Symbolic thinking requires a secure environment during a child's development, such security is a gift now to be taken for granted. Thinking symbolically rightly, associating correctly, this is the gift of interpretation. It is a gift. And, contrary to certain blasé Heideggerians, dwelling poetically is not an obvious thing, or some lost default state, it is miraculous. The disciples are likely adolescent, learning to learn still. Jesus speaks cryptically also because intensive study is rewarding.
Mt16v13-14 Who do they I am? Always already thrown into things other people say about Jesus. Somebody first spoke his name to you. Cultured & conspiracy theoried & caught up. What have they told you about him? Reincarnation, myth, saviour? & why did they say it & what can be discerned? If the elephant can talk though, it makes the difference. The separation of what-others-say-about-Jesus & what-Jesus-says-to-me can become problematically solipsistic & arrogant. Yet. The latter should not be reduced to the former. There is a something leftover when the words have been taken apart, or hidden within that explodes into fierce, behelden surprised by joy. So towards v15-16, this much I know.
Mt16v15-16 “Who do you say I am?” It matters who you think Jesus is, but subtly, that's no what he asks. Who do you say he is? Say is, aloud. To curtains glowing in the sunrise, to your neighbour's armpit on a crowded tube, to your ten free most-dialled numbers, or just text me back. Jesus is... Use words (because you have to). 'legete' (gk): to conclude, pronounce, put forth, declare.. Who is Jesus for you? Who do you say he is? What have you found him to be? Mine is too often too tacit a faith to be useful or authentic or delightful. Encourage me.
Mt16v17-18 Churchly fabric, what is church? Build on a person, based on a declaration, enduring forever. The foundation of the church is embodied persons declaring as best they can (i) the divinity of Christ & (ii) His living salvific relationship with the world. The declaration is Christ's own impulsive joy. Christ loves to be known. Church begins with Seeing Christ, as we Gn16v13 are fully seen. This the foundation, the building is another story..
Mt16v19 Your confessing “Jesus is the Christ” has the power to be bind&loose people (interpreting the 'whatever' as persons (in the context of the 'keys of the kingdom' (via Carson and esvsb)) – persons as opposed to demons or broken-hearts or rules-of-conduct or other bindables etc..) Confessing or proclaiming “Jesus is the Christ” has this dividing power in the same way that magnets have the power to attract and repel; in the way that this heatwave's sunshine both melts the ice and hardens the clay; in the same way that we, in being the aroma of Christ, are death to death and life to life 2Co2v16. Being a keyholder to this garden is a massive massive responsibility, see Mt23v13! Don't get locked out.
Mt16v20 “tell no one..” is about the practical challenge of 'saviour'-subversion and the definitional challenge of non-violent semiotics. Walter Wink makes much of the hegemonic myths of redemptive violence and systemic domination, where all power is for power-over, all heroism is Hollywood, all sufficient victory always entails the violent overthrow of another. Into this unanimous expectation for a bread-making Mt4v3, gravity-defying Mt4v6, militarist mt4v9, Jesus enters as a 'hero', but so radically different a hero as to demand a redefining of the word 'hero'. So his ministry is spent in efforts both to-be non-violent and to-be-understood-as non-violent. Tell-no-one, is a sort of, don't-open-the-oven-door-while-the-cake-is-rising, Jesus is brewing a redefinition, vulnerable at every moment to misappropriate in the hands of our expectations and projections. Such rigorous, non-violent intentionality should mark our own incarnations. Gently now.
Mt16v21-22 Jesus began to show them. Show show show. Show me, God. Show me who you are & what you're thinking. Show me what thoughts & emotions point to. Show me what you're doing & what you will do. Show me the meaning of suffering, show me the meaning of words. Show me things I don't understand. Confound me in your showing, & then fight with me, as I with you, as one who loves you. Show me instances & particulars, show me a bigger song, show me redemption colours. Bear with me when I pronounce otherwise, forgive me when I'm wrong. Good marriage advice for the bride of Christ: never say never, never say always. So the constant fearsome openness to the new dynamic the Other of God. The subversion of even subversion. Here I am.
Mt16v23-24 'Jesus is the Christ' is rockly, you can build a church on it or you can trip over it. 16v18's 'Petra' now becomes the stumbling 'skandalon' (gk) of 1Cor1v23. Carson puts it thus, 'Peter did and did not understand..'. Somewhat as Samson is and is not a type of Christ. Crucial is the fullness: justice & mercy, king & servant. (Eph4v13 similarly encourages pursuit of fullness in your grasping, imaging, representing Christ) If you make a part truth a whole truth, the resulting untruth may not merely be unfortunate, it may be Satanic. This is not an argument for obsessing over obscurer extremities of the 'fullness', but rather those toughest, most subversive aspects: Jesus death. 'Set your mind' on those things, Rm8v6. Set your mind on the things of God. Set your mind on Ph1v21: to live is Christ, to die is gain. Set your mind on Christos kerdos. Be set on that.
Mt16v25-26 I am inclined to think about this in terms of lived subjectivity vs self-objectification, one of my favourite drums to bang, the 'saving' of one's life the 'Save As' of a CV-accruing blogged-subjectivity I am still at war in myself over. It is this, but more than this. 'Deny' & 'lose', says Jesus. He asks for more than life in the present, He asks that my here-&-now be kenotic, that it be self-emptying. This is the overcoming of one's ugly totalising self. It is a new orientation not only to the now but to the other, human & divine. It is the active unlearning of inherited niceties so that this orientation can be authentically wrenched out of oneself. It is unto death. I agree with Carson that this is an eschatological orientation, but that that orients us towards the end. If Bultmann is right as to the eschatological slumbered in the present, the orientation is here. Both then.
Mt16v27-28 When? Ps13v1-2 How long, how long, how long? The Christian life is lived in the tensions of tenses, learning patient participles. Amongst the concepts wrestled-with-during and imaged-by premarriage are the difficulties of time, teleology and reward. Reward. V27 'then he will reward..' render, repay, requite.. This is not a mercenary's abstract remuneration, but the proper reward of a lover's delayed gratification. Over-realised eschatology applied to engagement plays out an over-reaction against the supposed (and sometimes evident) world-negation of apocalyptic eschatology. Reward. We live at The World's End, amongst a dying, distracted, and impatient people, for whom there is no reward, no not-yet, nothing worth waiting for in their world-view. However, under-realised eschatology is equally damaging. v28 promises Life before death. For to live is Christ – it's own reward, but one for which you will be yet further rewarded.