Thursday, 19 September 2013
texting matthew nineteen
Mt19v1-2 Galilee to Judea, Lyon to Cornwall, England to Malaysia. Moving & making, inheritance & adventure, the roots & wings of the Christ life. Thankful for a journeyed holiday, words heard, hands touched. Praying discernment for those we know for the question of journey, adventure, influence, joy. To places, as Wesley on his horse, for a reason. Going & staying for a reason. So here Jesus, for more & deeper in Oval, wellsprings of life to manifest.
Mt19v3-4 Would someone else text on these hard verses.. The divorce question killed John the Baptist, it'll kill you, there is so much at stake: marriage, identity, covenant, gender, the imaging of God. On questions such as these and generally, we war against religione. Religione, even/especially that of secularity, is the code of permissibility that is always working to define and defend the limit conditions for which it's adherents are still 'OK', selling them a set of minimum requirements which allow them to offset an otherwise selfish, misogynist, lusting comportment of their sexuality. Jesus speaks these verses to an age not unlike our own: '(in many Pharisaic circles) the frequency of divorce was an open scandal' (Hill). However, in his time he was able to deflect/clarify/subvert the partisan divorce debate by issuing a return to origins: God created.. As if gender was a sufficient stable state to talk about normal norms and prescriptions of normativity. Have you not read, God create them xx and xy and xxy and all that's in between? What is a man? God created them, GIJoe and Barbie, he created them? What is a man? The defence of gender, the presumption of heterosexual normativity, these are hard teachings indeed. What is a man? What is a woman? Have you not read?
Mt19v5-6 Mighty (marriage) counsellor, Prince of (marital) Peace. The peace of shalom between & within us, in marriage, is a wholeness, fullness, oneness, holiness, premised on grace, possible through forgiveness. All that threatens the holy whole gapes, aches & breaks. Like our unity with Christ, it is now & not-yet. Complete & binary, messy & in-process. We bring out wounds to Jesus, & Jesus speaks again that he makes us one. It is a profound mystery.
Mt19v7-8 v7 Pharisees: 'Moses commanded..'; v8 Jesus: 'Moses allowed..'. In my sinful heart I work subtly to stretch similar loopholes of tolerance into exaggerated defensive normative structures, in a sort of 'but daddy said we could..' Petitioning for a liberal permissivity from exceptional contingency. Rm5v20 captures the irony and beauty of God's plan and our tendency to misunderstand it: good law of ideals is given --> unlawfulness increases due to despair and simple rebellion --> thus grace is called for even more. The law (in this case, of the holiness of marriage) is an impossible code of ethics (two finite asymmetric sinners locked into an infinite contract ~ Mt19v10 so hard it is better not to!), designed primarily to cast us upon Christ, our willing and sufficient saviour, in whose strength alone we can risk to get married and determine to stay married and be vigorous in the defence and commendation of Christian marriage.
Mt19v9-10 The small-hearted would rather not stake themselves on or to anything than not have a get-out clause. Such a commitment 'must not be entered into lightly...but reverently...after serious thought.' Marriage is an absolute picture of commitment, the kind that absolutely changes our ontology. The picture speaks of something of how our God-relationship should be, but also casts its eyes on all commitments we make. How do i think about where it is permissible to leave a commitment, & where not? Not all commitments are like marriage, some are seasonal, but what might marriage reveal about all commitments? Their seriousness? Their consequence on self & other? Their capacity to declare or distort the living God? Jesus, teach my heart right commitment, passion, fidelity, in all things, teach me to take seriously committing, & not-committing, where it cannot be done well.
Mt19v11-12 It is hard to understate the offensive extremity of Jesus' radicalised dichotomy of Being-Married and Being-Single. Today there is a blur: an ironic mix of (1) wedding mythology ('Nothing solves everything forever like a wedding!' Marge Simpson; also see more ernestly Pride&Prejudice etc in tvtrope:Weddings-For-Everyone) and (2) profound cynicism ('So he marries me for a gas fare..' OnTheRoad etc). The idolisation displayed in Disney's impossible happily ever after of assumed marital bliss necessarily disappoints and collapses into demonisation and so evolves a hegemony of grey: 'it is better not to marry' ~ better, easier, safer to date, cohabit, and muddle along indefinitely. Note, the disciples do not advocate eunuchhood, only 'not-marriage'. It is Jesus who radicalises. Marriage and singleness are irreducible and non-comparable modes of being, not on a sliding scale, they are unique: unique in their opportunities/value, unique in their responsibilities/cost. ~ 'for the Kingdom..' - *for* - the notion of accountably purposive sexuality is terrifying. What is a romantic relationship *for*? What possible service, ministry, art, opportunity are you single *for*? Equally, of marriage, how am I stewarding this gift, how am I embezzling its value, how am I obscuring the purpose it is *for*? How can I, in God's strength, so labour for marriage's excellence, its exclusivity, its weighty imaging of God, that onlookers might say, 'but for the grace of God it is better not to marry'? .. Finally, of churching and singleness, note: unlike Judaism, which excluded eunuchs Dt23v1, Christianity (when it is not busy stratifying demographically) calls everyone, baptises everyone, purposes everyone Ac8v38. Jesus, teach us how to excellently be these, radically, as a community.
Mt19v13-14 Oft-quoted, Jesus taps multi- and depth-dimensions in this one simile. Which aspect of your childlikeness does Jesus prod today? Your trust, vulnerability, boldness, imagination, playfulness, wonder or unselfconsciousness? Your capacity to pronounce that found to be true, or of asking questions into the unknown? I still remember visiting underground caves in slovenia, aged about 16. They were epic in scale, layered in nooks & crannies. I had the experience of realising that years earlier i would have automatically populated this splendor with magics & stories, but now it required some intentionality to see the details and the more-than. This is why parabolic realism requires a fight. This is one strand of the many ways we are forgetful of the child. Prompted also in this space to take the-child-i-was to jesus, for the healing of wounds and patterns which damage(d) the child. Healing.
Mt19v15-16 'And he laid hands on them..' So shall we this evening, come and get involved if you're near SW11. Hands up if you have the spirit of God in you, hands up if your embodiment is not incidental, hands up if what you do with your hands is important Ec9v10 and spiritual 1Ti2v8. If you never lay on hands, you may have cerebralised your faith, intellectualised your being, (and moralised your purpose as v16's Rich Young Man) to an unhealthy degree. See Ordination, Healing, Blessing, the Holy Spirit, come through: Jacob's hands Gn48v13; Moses' hands Nm27v18; Peter and John's hands Ac8v17; Ananias' hands Ac9v12; Paul's hands Ac28v8. The Gift of God, that is, not of timidity but of power&love&discipline, come by laying on hands 2Ti1v6. I need those more than ever. Come Holy Spirit.
Mt19v17-18 why do you ask me about what is good? The question that turns the searchlight back on the questioner, the Christ who wishes to put us in question, for his name's sake, for honest answers to honest questions must reveal the Christ-shaped space in the universe. Why do you speak of goodness? What is it you recognise? Why you speak of meaninglessness do you see that even this meaninglessness cries out for meaning & points to it? That goodness cannot be without the Source, the Giver. Only God is good. So today, these philosophers examining the moral emotion. Why do you ask me about what is good?
Mt19v19-20 What do I still lack? What the RYM lacks is a sense of the absurd, the incalculable hilarity of the Spirit of Life, the 'Law'-less superabundance of the total reality and reciprocal economy of Grace. There is a telling of the 'gospel of grace' which explains the transaction as a covering-over of your shortcomings with regards to the law; this is gospel minimalism, just scraping through. This conservative estimation is fairly easy to flog as good news. But while I'm holding this gospel-lite, I will tend to then distractedly mis-emphasise and deflectively problematise this RYM encounter on two grounds: (1) Professed Perfection. Obviously the RYM is being disingenuous? He hasn't kept the law? Neither did Paul Ph3v6? What if they did.. To the extent that you 'keep the law', to the extent that I understate my unlawfulness, to the extent that I trivialise forgiveness to a magic formula, to these extents also I will ask 'What do I still lack' Not recognising myself as the Mt18's massively forgiven but Unforgiving Servant. (2) Private Property. A distracting debate, defending against communism, or the so-called social gospel. 'All' your possessions? Really? Really. Rm8v32 Dear Rich Young Man, grace is so much more massive than a the static writing-off of your shortcomings, it is a grotesque over-payment on God's part, you are rolling deep in the gift economy now, if you would like to come and play. What do I lack?
To Jesus, who highlights my idols of lack & plenty, takes hold of my heart, and dares me to move.
Mt19v23-24 What is rich? What is rich? Rich is always someone else. Rich is the guy on £3k more than me. They're the camel in the room. #checkyourprivelege. Indeed get an other to check it, get a handful of your least-like-you friends to crit your bankstatement, to audit your self-deception, the items you'd redact. This is for the brave, it is the last taboo. If my life is a nonprofit, my accountability is unconscionable. Text back if you'd like to help.
Mt19v25-26 to the voices that say i haven't got the formula right, that accuse my mouth & heart, that point to my fumbling theology, & the fact that i don't even understand what is required of me when i am told to 'be perfect as my father in heaven is perfect', let alone have the boldness or goodness to live it out. To the salvation question: with Sarah, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.
Mt19v27-28 Jesus' surprising response to the prosperity gospel. So the RYM has just turned on his Nikes and rolled away in his droptop Kompressor. The disciples (likely teenagers who have pawned the favourite slingshots/dinghy/licorice and other JustWilliam wealth) petition Jesus with a mixture of envy, 'I wish i was a little bit taller, wish i was a baller..' and selfpity, 'this is the future, where is my jetpack..'. Jesus doesn't rebuke their sense of entitlement. 'Give to get', my brother? Get a load of this. You're not expectatious enough, I'm going to blow your mind. The 'compensation'/'reward' if you can call it that, is out of all proportion to anything you think you've sacrificed. But don't presume a premature welldone-good-&-faithful-servant til you finish well, and then don't think you've earnt it 20v16. I feel Peter's self-pity, and when I do my capacity to be a joyful giver dries up. Silly.
Mt19v29-30 its just that it's true that Christ is the way, the truth & the life. It's just that it's the case that being is being-as-communion, & so our being is hundreds of multiples more alive in extended fellowship with the God who is there. Choose, here, not to grasp any other thing or person first, but first - waves of the Christ, la vie éternelle, knowing that a clutter of second-bests doesn't aggregate to an overall best, only The Life will do.