Wednesday, 22 January 2014
texting matthew twenty four
Mt24v1-2 Prayer: Sarah points something out to Jesus. Jesus pays attention. Jesus points something out to Sarah, related but unexpected. Hermeneutically hand-in-hand He & i, He leading.
Mt24v3-4 'When?' When's it going to end? How long, oh Lord? Jesus says: the end is not near, it's here. Gradually, constantly, increasingly, the kingdom is a happening. We live in the death throes of a terminal condition, the closing chapter of an apocalyptic volume. Look around you, this is what the end of the world looks like. Make note however, Christianity is not the only creed to frame life eschatologically. It is a true truth, powerful and emotive. So, beware. The endiness of the end gives rise to the nihilism, hedonism, canned-goods-stacking, fossil-fuel-burning, reckless, rapture-ous, escapism of secular and religious consumerism. Beware the saviours you seek in the context of calamity.
Astray, awry, asunder,
A drift, a thought, a wander,
Misspent, distraught, a blunder,
We trade in what we long for.
Who leads whom astray and how? Who? False Christs. Whom? Seekers of salvation. How? My thesis in this text is that the force of the fault of false teachers lies in the longing we have for their message. I don't need Moonies or Mormons, sufficient for me is the comfort i find in more mundane escapes. Oh Phil, beware the saviours you make, the shelter you take and the sanctification you fake. There is but one who can sufficiently save, shelter and sanctify. Tis not I, nor my iPhone.
Mt24v5-6 Battles near & far, says the GNB. Battles deep & big. Battles, fighting, conflict, incongruence. Battles between angels & demons, between the false messiahs & the true, between good & evil: the battleline, Solzhenitsyn's human heart. My heart. Battles so near that they're under the skin, i squirming & screaming to try to root them out. This whole chapter is a strange one. In this world you will have troubles? But. Take heart. Christ has. Overcome.
Mt24v7-8 Nation against nation. Wars are. Quintessential false teaching subtly pretends wars aren't. And so equips no-one for ministry in the context of battle. Do I? Does small group's crisps & wine speak a 'peace, peace..'? Or does it ready us with ruthless rationing and first aid skills for front-line service of a world being torn apart? v8 'birth pangs' as Rm8, a midwifery mentality is the antidote to escape or despair in the face the world's anguish.
Mt24v9-10 The war all around looks like hate, looks like betrayal. Hate & betrayal paradigm exemplars of un-love. Active desire to maim, indifference to the end-in-itself of personhood. Both present temptations of the war under the skin. But reading 1Cor13v4-8 with uncynical new eyes. Love. Love will save the world. Love will save me. Love is so gentle & fierce & unnatural & unexpected. Love will change all plans into kingdom-building. So i ask that all these plans & words & seeming good intentions spoken this weekend get swept up in Love, changed by Love. By patience & kindness & endurance. Wrung out of jealousy, conceit, pride, ill-manners, selfishness, irritability & record-of-wrongs-keeping. Love that delights in the truth & so admits of arrest. Let us be lovers. The greatest of these.
Mt24v11-12 'the love of many will grow cold' - a more realistic claim than 'Christians make better lovers'? Do I? Jesus might but I'm still too cool, too chilled out, too lukewarm. Where is the salt to grit the pavements of this one's heart? To find love in a lawless place, eschew the glib and the ironic, break the ice with something warmer. To make a christian connection, catch on fire and let them come and watch you burn. So to speak.
Mt24v13-14 'the one who holds out', 'the one who endures'. The 'But' beginning this sentence constrasts endurance with a lack/loss of love. & Love 1Cor13v7 bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. How does one keep going well, keep holding things up, together, out? This in my mind this morn before reading, & a picture of a boat's deep-down ballast. The ballast is Joy, i thought, & the ballast is Love.A
Mt24v15 'caused' causation. What abomination causes desolation? What sort of parliamentary bill causes flooding? Daniel speaks of such difficult things Dn9v26-27. And rightly does Matthew add the strange parenthesis 'reader, be sure to understand what this means' ie. don't be claiming trite causalities. And yet, what am I to do with causation in a supernatural universe, how am I to understand judgement and its right foreshadowing? Super hard verses these.
Mt24v16 Literal explosive evangelism. Go! Shake the dust off. Go! Go tell it on the mountains. Go! This is a Flight from the City (Johann Johannsson), but play it in a major key. Contrary to the city fanatics, the Kellers and the Driscolls, sometimes you've got to abandon the city. Sometimes the city can only be subverted from without. Sometimes we need to be more Anabaptist, more Amish, more agrarian. So leave. But don't leave the city unchanged.
Mt24v17-18 like Lk12v16-21 building barns unto death, running for one's things, one's cloak, in the face of death (& we always are being-towards-death) reveals the Mt6v23 misapprehension, 6v21 mistreasuring by the heart. & i do just want my cloak. If i can just be snuggly & not too harassed & have a hot chocolate it will all be okay. This is often my practical eschatology, combating the flipside of a scratchy anxiety. So with buying a house, & dreaming a dream: we could do it anxiously, to try to save ourselves. Or we could do it as a denial of the need to be saved, as an investment in our own brand of Lk12v19 snuggliness. But Jesus says: Mt6v16 look at the birds. Look at the birds of the air, look at the wild flowers. I'm not a metaphor - go and look, & surrender your cloak for the kind you Lk15v22 can't buy.
Mt24v19 'Alas the pregnant in these days..' Do you feel this? Contraception: a symptom of the end of the world? It's an act of faith to be fruitful and multiply? McCarthy's The Road shows we shouldn't and Children of Men shows a world where we don't. And we, many of us, believe them. Biological & spiritual childbearing is too great a burden in the face of calamity but what if it's not the end? What if this is the beginning of all thing new? Go, multiply.
Mt24v20 'Pray that your flight may not be on a Sabbath..' See Jesus assumes the Sabbath is no day for long journeys. Do you? I flew Singapore-Manila on a Sunday wondering all flight, 'Am I part of the problem..?' The only day left in London that gives any hint of what sabbath could be is Dec 25th. Imagine. Imagine the profound consequences to urbanism of staying put, sitting down, unplugging, neighbouring not TfLing, street-partying. Oh be chill and know.
There used to be much more of a taboo on Sunday travel. Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' mentions Sunday travel as an indicator of impiety in a suspicious character. The working class Worcester lady, born around 1900, whom I visited as a schoolgirl, had 'Sunday travel is bad/unlucky' in her mental furniture.
Mt24v21 There will never be a greater tribulation? Are we talking about Jerusalem here? What's going on? Nobody seems quite sure. Carson says that while there have been greater numbers of deaths and desolations under regimes, pointedly the Holocaust, the Fall of Jerusalem is the most devastating occurrence to have happened in human history to a particular city. I cannot say. In its speculation, at least, prompts back to the conversation on Could London Implode? If not the torment of widespread slaughter, then up to what desolation does one hold one's city in fear and trembling? If there's something in these words to speak to the way we make and love this city I ask for revelation within revelation.
Mt24v22 Less a particularly spooky intervention, more the reality that God draws to all things to an end, to begin again. God cuts short. God summons us to his throne. God cuts short our sin and our suffering. You will never have time tomorrow to prepare. Rompre.
Mt24v23-24 Are we nearly there yet? Have we suffered long enough? This extremely-advertised age manifests exactly the crescendo of false promises that we should expect. You have been forewarned, be then also forearmed, be unbelieving, Jesus says. Sony budgeted $100m in 2010 for its 'make.believe' campaign - that is a lot of smoke and a lot of mirror, targeting the entitlement of an age where, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. With wealth comes the exponential increase in the availability of substitute saviours, premature happy endings, creature comforts. Subtly I seek an out, I expect it easy, I distract myself devising cunning self-salvations. Grumpy entitlement: This is the future, where is my jetpack? I make saviours of the gifted, the eloquent, the comforting, the humanistic, ready to hand, already-now heavens. Dear Phil be forearmed in Christ against anything advertised.
Mt24v25 Foretelling. For all the worrying that it's a problem if God knows the future, or how God communicates outside time. For all the need to perhaps re-emphasise the God-in-time to counter the de-emphasis over time. Still. to Stop. to Remember. That God is bigger than time, somehow. Christ alpha and omega, beginning and end. Prophecy reminds us that even in the present itself God fills the past the present and the future, and loves to whisper, flash and look with eyes that contain the bigger story.
Mt24v26 The deserted place or the hidden place of esoteric false messiahs is contrasted with the visible-to-all lightning of v27. Light metaphors yo. This is what God is working towards, this is where the kingdom wants and will go: total exposure, total light.
Mt24v27 Always a bolt from the blue for the broken. Lightning carries all the strength of other light metaphors Mt5v14 (city on a hill), Is51v4 (light to nations), Ps119v105 (lamp to feet), 2Cor4v4 (gospel of light), Col1v12 (kingdom of light), Eph5v8 (children of light), Jn8v12 (I am the light). But lightning carries more than this - it speaks of that moment of light's production, where vast unseen swells of atmosphere spark electric touching ground.
Mt24v28 Vultures to carrion. Commentaries commenting on commentaries make much of the multiple interpretations of this metaphor. What should be conjured? Birdiness? Featheriness? Speediness? Paracitism? The body broken? The Roman eagle? I consider there is a simple spatial/diagrammatic parallel. Vultures and lightning are both icons of a certainty linking events in the air to events on the ground plane at a distance to an observer. So lift your eyes up. More than that. Consider the kingdom as a van de Graaff generator: ministry now, in the laying-on of hands, passes on a positive charge. A time is coming, however, when we will see the Tesla coil of heaven touching earth: a permanent visible axial located discharge of God's constant blazing energetic presence to earth. At that time it will be as an ultimate light-to-light(ning) for some and the aroma of death-to-death for vultures 2Cor2v16?
Your text makes me think of Psalm 29. The awesome terror of God as encapsulated in his stormy cedar breaking power that causes the whole earth to cry GLORY and yet, somehow, simultaneously, this same terrible power speaks to his people of his peace. Aromas of life and death indeed.
Mt24v29-30 No sun or moon or stars? This morning's golden sky but a shadow of Christ's glory, for Rev21v23-24 when all things are made new, the lamb will be our only light. For we 1Cor13v12 now see dimly & in part, but when we see the Real face-to-face, all the light metaphors will fall away, perhaps, the blinding beauty of each will be understood fully, where now we grope in analogies and whispers, then shall we know fully, as we are fully known.
...Why does Piper's stained glass of the heavenly Jerusalem [St Peter's West Firle The Tree of Life, (John Piper, 1985)] have a sun and a moon in it? Why does it keep appearing? Where do these metaphors begin and end?
Mt24v31 Blud, when you hear them sirens coming: we are the diaspora, a dispersal running. We are spread abroad, sent to spread abroad something, news of Jesus coming that you'd all be humming. Look busy, get busy.. and get ready for the next episode. Hold up. .. I am struck in this by the phenomenon of premature gathering. Centripetal forces act on us constantly, settling, Babeling, mega-churching, urbanising.. Can you hear the siren of eternity in the distance.. Run then, with a right restlessnes, the race marked out, to the four corners, make sure they all know.
Mt24v32 Arboreal dendroidal parabolic realism: we live in a reality that is budding.. 'He took on our frailty, He took on all-comers, To turn all our winters to glorious summers.'
Mt24v33-34 A Padraig poem that often surfaces from deep: quietly now / for she is very near / and though she doesn't frighten easily / you must know by now / that you do//...very near, the three syllables that inspire awe & wonder, fear & trembling. Very near, just by the gates, the one i long for, Ps42 thirsty. & when they ask 'where is your God?', i will say, with wondered remembering & renewed responsibility, 'very near'. Often this my chief lack & forgetting. I don't now the correct scholarly commentary on v34 but it serves as a meditation on the near & now, he is near to me in my generation, he is at the gate of my life, invited in and very near.
Mt24v35-36 'What do you do when you don't know?' asks Hoffman's character in the opening sequence of Doubt. Jesus knew a not-knowing. His finitude during his incarnation is in view here, and we learn that incomplete knowledge is not insufficient. The boldness of his ministry, the strength of his leadership, the power of his preaching, his faithfulness unto death, his prophetic insights into unspoken thoughts, were not contingent on omniscience and, thus, are available to us as finite knowers. What was it that Jesus *did* know? He knew he was beloved Mt3v17, he knew the bible's commands Mt4v4,7,10, and it's promises 4v16. What do you know? What are you doing with what you know? Bertrand Russell complained to God of 'not enough evidence..'. There is a way of life that 'sees in part and knows in part' 1Co13v9 and yet has saving knowledge 1Ti2v4. What do I know? What do they know? Therefore, go.
Deut 29:29 of course x
lest i forget.
Holy Spirit flood us,
that when the floods come up
it is You
we're swept away in.
Mt24v39-40 'knew not' 'they were unaware' What would it look like to be aware, Dawlish, what could you have done to have been kept from being swept away? Noah built an ark. What should I build in my life? And what should I build my life in? For a flood is coming certainly, while storms batter Britain now, we are yet antediluvian. When the tumult of life breaks over me, what are my canned goods, where is my liferaft? Do I find them in Christ? When the skies are clear and the ground is dry, am I storing canned goods, am I inflating my liferaft? Am I doing so in Christ? Do I call others to join me, have I welcomed them in? People will think I'm silly. People thought Noah was silly. Even in the now there is v40's binary distinction, between the silly who walk on water, and those who are skeptical of impossible things.
Mt24v41-42 Stay alert & awake, but don't be anxious. Like yesterday's thought, be passionately in love, but don't compulsively Gal5v15 bite & devour. Except that its really hard to know the difference from the inside. Impossible often. Only with God are these things possible, I am not able to calibrate myself. Please, oh Christ, do a work in me, on my ardour & awakeness, my freedom, my sleep. Refine me with love, amen.
Mt24v43-44 Ready or not? 'erchetai' (Gk) - Jesus comes. He comes, now (and then), here (and hereafter). There is a nowness to his coming, which Mt25v40 will make much more of. Jesus comes in the face of the other, in the now, in the needs of the least of these, all the time. Are you ready? Am I ready? Ready to give an answer? Expecting the unexpected guest? The household that is ready for Jesus coming has its pantry stocked for the stranger, knows its first aid, has prepared for the eventuality of the poor you will always have with you. Are they with you? I take for granted that waiting-on-the-Lord is active - not one of hibernation. But further, it is not sufficient to be event-based, Jesus doesn't wait for City Lights, his needs aren't always on Sundays, you cannot set an alarm for this break in, the Kingdom breaking in.
Mt24v45-46 Feeding, maybe importantly literally as metaphorically. I was struck by Sara Miles' autobiography 'Take this Bread', in which she became a Christian after taking communion, then started feeding people obsessively. Those with responsibility for the flock are to feed His sheep. With these babies it is the act of feeding that constitutes a primary care, and though one cannot live my bread alone, by mere bread, there is much bread that is not mere bread, feeding that feeds more than the some of its parts, no mere bodies, but embodied souls, who take the bread and drink the wine, for Christ's sake.
Mt24v47-48 This side of eternity, we steward time. In the film 'In Time' Timberlake's character is advised to "slow down to blend in with the rich.." In just such an age of 'killing time', we steward time. Are you loving each day as if it's the last day? Whom are you loving each day? We steward time. v45 Being ready is readying others, feeding others, giving them the time of day. v47 'all his possessions' Christians are rich; even now, the eternal life, the Sabbath, is our wealth in the currency of a scarce resource, therefore be generous with your time, urgently. v48 'My master is delayed..' What do you do if your train is delayed? Tonight's tube strike is a chance to consider time, a chance to fill a minute with sixty seconds of a different distance run. We steward time, and every moment is a chance to love well and speak Jesus. Teach me to number my days Ps90v12, like a glowing clock on my arm.
Mt24v49-50 Violent thoughts & behaviour towards others, the compulsion of comfort eating, the escapism of drunkenness - all are retreats into the self, a turning away from reality, a surrender to instinct, habit & blindness, rather than the surrender to the God of light. Praying always & still that Jesus the carpenter re-works re-grooves our minds into new creations, that we don't run to our go-to places, our reactive unkind places. Praying this over all of today, for myself & those closeby. We are seen, & as such our instincts do not get to win. Rather love, love wins. Come Lord Jesus.
Mt24v51 Hypocrisy, faciality and the end times. A lot about face in this little verse, bear with me. Hypocrisy is fundamentally about the face, two-facedness: hypocrite: hupo creno (Gk) (the 'actor' 'beneath' [the mask]). It is the face beneath the face of the masked masquerader. We are all such. Veiling our shame. Branding ourselves. Overcladding a tired facade. Putting on a brave face. One day, however, we will, with unveiled faces 2Co3v18, see him face-to-face 1Co13v12, Re22v4 just as Jacob saw him face-to-face Gn32v30.. How? Jesus describes a eschatological face-lift, there is a cutting apart to reveal a gnashing of teeth and weeping tear ducts - like a muscular anatomy diagram in my mind's eye. The Christian life at the end, and in progress, is no saving face, it is a saving-from the faces we have adopted, saving by such a surgical de-facing. Is there, then, or will there be, such a thing as a Christian physiognomy? Lewis speaks of the 'Till We Have Faces' face as one which is unmasked, speaking with its own voice - so certainly there is an unadornment and authenticity, but further, Moses' face was radiant Ex34v35, and Stephen's was as the 'face' of an angel Ac6v15? Today, tomorrow, what are you facing? Who are you face-to-facing? How is your face?