Sunday, 3 November 2013
texting matthew twenty one
Mt21v1-2 The with-Christ life: voice-prompt-address-call-prophetic-command-listen-obedience-adventure. There is to be a literality to our listening & an unlikeliness to our joy.
Mt21v3-4 Jesus at his most Yoda. Christianity will be a prophetic adventure or it will be nothing. There are several prophetic knowings propelling the narrative here, the action is thick with impossibility. Prefigured in the old testament, predicted the donkey and colt, preempted the questions. Am I thus prepared? .. 'Anyone..anything' Discipleship training is being always being prepared to give an answer: 'the Lord needs it.' It: my life, my donkey, my all.
Mt21v5-6 Filmic; the divine use of foreshadowing, of recurring images, of cutting to, & back to, a portrait of the saviour, incongruous images, of the infinite inside the finite, of majesty on clunky donkey, of unofficial channels & unlikely heroes. Of this specificity, silently observe a moment, the director offers a long shot of the man on the donkey, he looks you in the eye. Then we cut to the scramble of disciples obedience, the film continues..
Mt21v7-8 Ornament. I don't even have to do violence to the text. Jesus loves ornament. Jesus is worthy of ornament. Jesus makes life worth decorating. The Christian life is the exuberant life of emphatic festivity, blazing celebrations of life, hope, song, foliage, colour, embodiment and the city transformed. The first Palm Sunday was no fusty stilted Anglican processional, no tidy column of the anaemic middle classes awkwardly clutching dry dessicated dusty present-at-hand palm crosses. No. Witness this exemplary piece of urban choreography that surpasses Holi or La Tomatina. The crowds lay out the robes in the aorist-tense, and then branch cutting ensues in a frenzy of imperfect-tense continuous action. Fresh cut, blood sweat and cheers, electric in its Zuhandenheit: unselfconscious participatory pop-up urbanism. Palm Sunday is a whirl of re-Edening a corridor through the city, engardening. Go.
Mt21v9-10 'the whole city was stirred', says the NIV, 'stirred up' says the ESV, 'thrown into an uproar' the GNB. Stirred: awoken, restless, roused, riled, moved, perturbed, wrestling at/with the Christ. & the whole city! The communal affect that comes with a hurricane, bending the city's thoughts, so we pray today the Christ would be for London.
Mt21v11 'from Nazareth' Where are you from? I urge you to consider your current 'from' in its very specific qualities, limits, needs and opportunities. But more than that, I urge you to consider 'from' as a key quality of our saviour and of all true salvation. 'Salvation is *from*' Jn4v22. God is concerned with the irreducibly specific, working out of personal places and necessarily humble origins. Being-from is vulnerable and offensive: fromness, locality, and particularism are associated with parochial presumptuousness and powerless poverty. The good life for minorities, the misfortunate and me, must come by generic means, regulations, impersonal minimum standards. Thus, I suggest a life learnt under social bureaucratism undergirds theological universalism. See also, our mythic saviours are orphans, superheroes with obscured origins. Being-from an offense to Jews and a stumbling block to us.
Mt21v12 Timely for my essay, this familiar passage comes today to suggest a comportment architects might adopt towards the marketplace of 'ethics', quacks and quangos, peddlers of certificates of legitimacy, arbitrary constructions of moral justification, green intermediaries between the 'environment' and business, coercive carbon-money changers, organic kosher fairtrademongerers, opportunistic legislators, regulators, obligators: civil disobedience.
Mt21v13-14 My body is the temple of the holy spirit, yet I populate it with cluttered, shallow, exploitative, self-serving desires, exchanges & propagations. My heart is a den of thieves, pockets of enemy stronghold: Jn10v10 robbing, killing, destroying. But the Christ comes to turn over the tables, to strip away, to make me again a place of prayer & meditation, to still me, to heal me, to reclaim this temple for his own.
Mt21v15-16 Inconceivable! Incontraceptable. Us kids know.
Mt21v17-18 Sleepy hungry saviour, limbs & brain tissue. Wanting to note more than wonder at the incarnate God. What does it mean to be incarnate? What is it like to be hungry? What does it teach us? Levinas states a man-god would be too great a triumph of immanence over transcendence, jarring with the God who veils & unveils. Many replies, but as i think on the hunger-lack, the in-between of sleep, these themselves contain perhaps a veiled/unveiled?
Mt21v19-20 Figs. The found figs of Bonnington, the harvested figs of the Doddington: these are heaven breaking in. This fig however faces a more annihilationist eschatology: this little figgy went to hell. The ax is laid to the foot of some trees Lk3v9. Jesus is not only a hippie riding a donkey. He will be judge and king Ps105v33. Judge my fruit? Jn15v2. Assess my flavour? Jm3v12. Are my texts fruitful to multiply? Or are they fig leaves to cover my shame? Gn3v7
Mt 21v21-22 on having a high view of words, just as listening for the specificity of worded commands about donkeys needed by the lord, so too speaking worded petitions & commands...these exemplar words are words spoken to the mountain itself, an act of joint attention with God? A heart so surrendered in faith, so sured in the face-to-face, paying attention to Her voice, that words spoken to objects continue as acts of communion. Words from Faith = Power.
Mt21v23-24 Exousia. I'm in charge now. Jesus was killed for this. INRI is his death sentence. Jesus is King, and kingship is... I forget. Our constitutional monarchy displays all the trappings and none of the substance of personal sovereign authority. Thus the challenge for the Christian is to live as legible definitions of a forgotten obscured (and as J. encouraged last night, impossible) concept: being-in-authority. Authority demands, obliges, structures. Authority rules, reigns, directs. Authority is hierarchical, and singular in its source, non-Inclusive. Jesus' authority confronts the committee of me, myself and my iphone, who generally vote for ourselves. The authority of Jesus is total, terrifying and utterly undemocratic. Yet it is good? The servant king's authority empowers, envalues, defends and takes responsibility. Jesus is Lord is the gospel. Jesus' authority is contested while teaching. We teach. If we live we teach, we preach with our lives, we structure the world towards his authoritative pattern. Preaching contends both that 'authority' is, and that 'authority' is from of for Jesus Mt9v6. And we know 'authority' by experience of being-under-authority Mt8v9. And Jesus gives us authority Mt10v1 to minister; Jesus, with all authority in heaven and on earth, sends us Mt28v18. Therefore go.
Mt21v25-26 Arguing amongst them(one)selves, the mark of the compartmentalised, the many-faced, the double-minded. There are different rooms of this house for the Christians & the philosophers & the parents & the hipster cool kids I wish I were like. Different answers in different rooms, so the awkwardness of the compartmentalised life, out of step with itself. The integrated life begins with the i-surrender-ALL to Christ, who has authority, & makes-whole.
Mt21v27-28 Do not know, cannot know, will not know. Indiscrimination, agnosticism, willed ignorance, feigned epistemological humility. Be careful, if you resist knowing, you may resist the one who longs to know you, be careful, Mt7v23. v28 Christianity wants your convictions to become words, and your words to become actions. You 'know' John's baptism is from God? Show me. You believe Jesus is the Christ? Feed his sheep. If you know you're loved by the King, sing sing sing; if you know you're loved by the King, live for him, live for him. Evil prevails when good people say nothing and good speakers do nothing. Daughter, go.
Mt21v29-30 on having a low view of words, or rather, holding together with v21-22's text, their insufficiency. That is, words without substance or embodiment become ashes in the mouth. 'the testimony of the Lord is sure', says our late night Ps19v7. Testimony is storytelling, claiming, promising & persuading, but in a way that is true. Go & do likewise, as you see your Father doing, uncompartmentalising your words & deeds.
Mt21v31-32 Oh fidgety Phil, flimsy and fickle, faffing and fussing, never quite getting all the way to work, not actually achieving the doing of going and telling, perpetually theologising inaction as 'waiting on the Lord', incorrigibly perfectionist, ponderously religiouse, exporting a lackadaisical theology of grace to legitimate my addiction to indecision. I am the second son. I'm not not-going, just, you know, not-yet. My very-long-engagement to Jesus has been over-thought no small amount. Ours is an age of epidemic dithering: having been given such unprecedented opportunity, it seems reckless, presumptuous and unchristian to be other than uncommitted towards our present particulars. Christianity speaks of 'the father's will' with some expectation that we, in our broken limited ways would apply ourselves to pursuing it, doing it, going to the vineyard. You will, however, be more highly thought of by non-Christians and Christians if you construct your life more primarily as an epic epistemological struggle, rather than a worksy reductive application of doing. Oh Phil. Go to the vineyard. The harvest is plentiful. The *workers* are few. Do it. Go for it. Have a go. Learn by doing. If you say you're on mission, go, mission is a going. How's it going? How are the vines? Where's my wine? Have you seen my vat? ..No condemnation. Perpetual re-invitation. There is a girl on crutches here. Will I pray for her? Will I seize the pray? Carpe Deum? And other Latin puns, symptomatic of one resisting the vineyard. No more buts, no more ifs, no more not-yet. Today, I, with what little I know, commit to live the but-if-not.
Mt21v33-34 This is Gn1-3; what is the vineyard, the winepress, fence, watchtower? What is the journey the master goes on? To another country, the hidden God, the invisible God. I don't meditate on the invisibility of God much, preferring to focus on the 'visible' of Col1v15. The God you cannot quite put your hands on, an uncanniness aching at the winepress, a longing, Heidegger's not-at-home-ness, like waiting for your husband to come back from Wales...Where is He? Because these traces tell me He is real.
Mt21v35-36 How beautiful aren't the feet that bring 'good news'? Jesus is Lord is not good news to natural ears, and it is on the issue of his Kingly sovereignty that Christianity transitions from vague fuzzy salvation metaphors to efficacious redemption. I am in that transition. Oh we all are gradually, but I think there is a line you cross, a stance you take, a knee you bow, a totality of a submitted life which I yet resist. This passage is about a landlord, it is about a father, it is about a king. It is about the rage you feel against your father and the contempt you harbour against all authority. If you could kill God would you? You would. I would. For every ounce of toil that has gone unrewarded, for every systemic injustice suffered that he could have prevented, for every unreasonable command I couldn't keep; for every expectation and taxation, for all that God allows, for every derivative abuse of authority, for all misogyny by male masters, all latent withholding of my squatters rights and every neglect of His duty, for every institutionalised structure that disempowers and displaces, at the gate of every absentee landlord I will rail against their export of the indifferent and the abstract. I will edit God, mute his prophets, distort his reflections, soften his claims, dilute his absolutes, muddy his expression, tarnish him by association. I will water down his sovereignty that I might increase and he would decrease. .. Kingship is an abomination to my modern sensibilities, and thankfully there is a mode of Christianty sanitised of such anachrona. We can have a grace with holiness, sex without marriage, freedom without responsibility, a theology of Kingdom with no king. No king! No king! Woe is me.
Mt21v37-38 What is happening in my heart when i try to kill God? I want the inheritance, that is, I want to appropriate God, I commit to the illusion that i control, that i have power, to manipulate even the mind of God. A poverty of imagination is at play, both in failing to glimpse a fraction of God's reality & holiness, & in failing to conceive the joy possible. I think joy is found in my own status as vineyard owner, I really do, I like the way it makes me look in photographs, i like to see it written down on paper, I love it, the image of myself with these vines. I AM THE VINEYARD OWNER. Forgetful that joy comes swellingly, ungrasping for free in being the adopted daughter of the house. The Son comes to ask me to be his sister, but i have traded the truth of God for a lie, & so I kill Him.
Mt21v39-40 "What will he do?" Jesus asks, knowing that you know the answer. Every runner knows the answer. Every escapee dodging their comeuppance. I am shot through with guilt and shame. All of life is Bonnie and Clyde, On The Road, through the Badlands. Because we know what he will do. We construct our universes around this question. Epistemological smoke and mirrors, incognito browsing, net curtains, distractions. They are profitable enterprises that supply services to the displacement industry of running away and the deflection industry of disguises. New Year, new you, no history, no relations, no knowledge, no condemnation. Niggas can't hit niggas they can't see. So I hide, not in God, but from God, in my job, my busy-ness, my Christianity. Because I know what I deserve. Because I know what he will do.
Mt21v43-44 Taken away away from you, once-Christian England. What were we with, what is it to be taken from, withouted, withdrawn-from? There were stones our house was built on, England, there were patterns, predicates, principles, and ultimately the good news of a person who saves. How did those becomes offensive? How did a gospel become so distasteful to a people who had so known its fruit? Because is an affront to our self-reliance.
Mt21v45-46 my deepest hope & greatest fear, longing & terror, knowing that Christ is talking about me. That conviction exposure which pierces the everyday complacent i'm-okay, forgiveness&healing-are-for-other-people, and also the deeper belief that i am not seen, unworthy of recognition, voyeuring on other people's stories because there's nothing of me to be seen. There are no wallflowers left my this holy fire, not even me.