Tuesday, 18 February 2014

texting matthew twenty five

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Mt25v1-2 Some were wise & some were foolish. 'wisdom & insight' said the girl on the tube. How can I be wise & not foolish? Thinking against a background of proverbs these last few days that there is no magic bullet for wisdom. The Pr1v7 fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, this is the foundation, the necessary condition. But the practice of wisdom involves many things in many contexts, this is why proverbs often seems like such a jumble of thoughts. Wisdom is concerned with sleeping eating building working neighbouring debating cultivating emotions & hundreds more. Pertinently for Matthew's 10 wise & foolish, wisdom concerns planning, Pr27v12. Scottish Widows' breathtaking advertising campaign in Oxford Circus tries to latch onto this: 'life is good/better/inspiring/complete when you have a plan.' No, the plan will not save you, but the wise woman plans ahead. Spirit we ask for good planning.

Mt25v3-4 Light metaphors continue. Here we consider fuel for the fire: the momentary moment of peak oil vs the sustainable faith of 'slow but sure combustion'. If you are to 'let your light so shine..' Mt5v16 What is your fuel? How are you going to keep the lights on? How are you going to keep the flame alive? Dear twenty-somethings, there is no reason to believe that every subsequent season after this one will not be harder: you will yet be enmortgaged, you will yet be married, yet have children, yet be empty-nested, yet be as Tony, yet be sans teeth and sans everything. What then? How are you hoping to keep on keeping on? What have you laid up, patterned in, rhythmed through your lifestyle? Is your faith running on non-renewable fuel? Are your good works powered by adrenaline and caffeine? Cometh the hour, cometh the fuel poverty: what is in your tank? The Christian is a vessel, a container, a would-be reservoir stored up in Heidegger's jug, in a jar of clay 2Cor4v7, within a temple containering the Holy Spirit 1Cor6v19-20. By contrast with the hypocrites of surface, image and Baudrillard's ecstatic 'communication', you are to be depthed deeply, a well of potential, filled to over flowing. Holy Spirit, please fill Phil and keep on filling, lest he burn out.

Mt25v5-6 on waiting for the bridegroom, Is62 - because you will be given a new name: Sought Out, Delighted In. This is the promise to cling to for my healing, and where i am angry and weary that i am not yet healed, and would like to fall asleep, God tells me not to stop demanding of him: Is62v7 do not let God have any rest until you are fully restored, fully whole, fully healed. Keep So3v2 looking for the One loved & longed for, (for Dt30 the lord is your life). Ask the watchmen & women, you you try to keep watch, as you try to stay awake. It is God who Is62v6 made you to watch and not stay silent at the first. 

Mt25v7-8 'trimming the wick' this morning with a bit of self-examination, house-keeping and taking-stock of your salvation: are you? How are you? You.. Run dry? v8 'give us your oil' Alas, the oil of salvation is non-transferable, no man can die for another, you can't travel on your parent's passport any more. Christianity is accused, the reformation in particular, by Lynn White in his environmental critique, of pathological individualism. Rather, correctly understood, Christianity's personalist understanding of the human person is its glory. It is on the basis of your specific agency that you can participate delightfully in the wedding feast: there is no pew-fodder, no wage-slaves, no hangers-on, no also-rans. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a mob, and not a mass (of Buck-Morss' modernity), (and thus we don't believe in mass housing.) Unlike tribal notions of 'us', ontologically collectivised notions of a generalised humanity, *you* are not saved in general. You are saved in particular, you are picked out as a bride, you are cherished specifically, because you are face-to-facing with Jesus. When community is framed as the antidote to individualism, by means of 'Ubuntu' ('I am because we are..') - a notion popular in this networked age - there is a real danger that this over-compensation smuggles in a dissolution of personhood. Dear facebookers, community organisers, workaholic team players, find a moment for silence and solitude to check your oil level, today, before it is too late.

Mt25v9-10 the wise said no. Basics on boundaries and principles of giving, needed in such a time as this. Sacrificial giving does not mean spreading the oil so thin between everyone that no-one has quite enough & everyone burns out. God gives infinitely, but doesn't make us infinite. God will always require of us wisdom's difficult task of managing finite resources. Know when to keep your oil, to burn brightly, to bless best. Real life is harder, of course, true generosity will cost you, no mistake, but as a burning bright rather than a burning out. So, dear heart, sometimes 'no' is a gift from God.

Mt25v11-12 'I do not know you.' Horror and terror. 'I do not know you.' Eternally and infinitely unbeknown, jilted and spurned without limit or measure. What is it to be known? What is it to be known and then not? It has interested me that 'know' functions euphemistically both in Hebrew's yada (Gn4v1) and Greek's eginĊsken (Mt1v25) (perhaps derivatively). Although the word here is in fact oida (Gk), the idea that 'knowing' finds an analogue in intercourse is yet profound. Knowing and being beknown are not mere 'knowing-about', nor even intimate-familiarity-with, rather, it is a decisive act: a perpetually active, covenentally singular, vulnerable act. Now withheld. Is it better to have loved and lost? We are the lost, now rebeloved. Known and loved. Blameless and beloved. If only we would let him.

Mt25v13-14 on being given a property to steward, a timely one. What parable are our lives told and telling with this house question? Last night, a picture of a house inside the biggest tree trunk, like the kingdom of God, in which the birds make their nests. Yes to a vision, yes to writing it down, yes to stewardship that multiplies. The kingdom of heaven is like this. 

Mt25v15-16 How many talents did you get? It is a test. To whom much is given, much will be required Lk12v48. But, God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your ability 1Co10v13. You have enough, you are enough, God's grace to grace is more than enough. Whereas, the popular myth of scarcity is murder to the energetic having-dominion which would work out into creative entrepreneurship, it makes us hoarders and hiders, Pharoahs and monopolisers (http://goo.gl/4dS1fW). If I want to change the world with what I have, I need to change my attitude to what I have. I have exactly the right amount, for exactly the call I'm called to, to bring exactly the financial/social return which God expects from me. No more, no less. Or as my boy Lecrae gives his two cents: Why stay the same for the change, let’s talk ‘bout change for a change.

Mt25v17-18 What are you hiding? Why are you hiding? We've been hiding since the first garden, we've been hiding from God, we've been hiding from each other, we've been hiding from ourselves. As hider - anxious ashamed guilty fearful hateful. As hidden from - aching hurting confused raging lonely. Hiding makes us strangers. I still remember the woman at the Mary Ward Centre telling me about the breakup of her marriage: 'we were two strangers after all'. Hiding is a brokenness and a choice. The freedom course places telling a narrative (exposure) and moving out of denial (owning your feelings, your story, reality, responsibility, the lot the master left) as a needful part of the healing process. 'How long will you hide your face from me?' says the one who loves. How long will you hide your talent your gift yourself in the ground? Oh. Jesus sought me when a stranger. So. Please, please, don't hide. Seek.

Mt25v19-20 How long is Christianity? ~ Not like a piece of string. Christianity is not nebulous, it is always and certainly long enough to get invested, long enough to sow seeds and wait for a return. 'After a long time..' may sound like a nothing phrase, but it is the affirmation (1) We need to be in this for the long haul, but also that, (2) God knows that doubling your money will take a long time. Perhaps I am pressing this parable too far, but I derive that our God is a patient investor, He isn't impressed by high stakes and quick fixes, He is not anxious for an aggressively quick return on investment, God loves a steady rate earned through faithful stewardship. It's not that simple though. There are no risk-free investments. There are, but that is not what we are about. I am struck this morning by the 3 options in this parable: 1. put your talents to work; 2. bury them in the ground; 3. put them in a bank. Option 2 is bitter, angry and passive-aggressive. The risk averse option 3 would have you join a commercial firm, take a pew, tread water, wait to die, and just don't do too much sinning. Option 1 is the right answer. Option 1 is risky. You are risking your father's money. He has considered the risks. He loves you yet unconditionally. Therefore go.

Mt25v21-22 the second-personal address i long to hear, though too often it has been connected in my experience with conditionality, performance, pride. Let me bear Gl5v22-33 the spirit-fruits of goodness & faithfulness, of joy & all the rest. That is, fill me first, holy spirit, rushing waterfall, comforter, helper, parakletos, advocate. Fill me first with yourself, that goodness may not only follow me, but follow.

Mt25v23-24 As goes your theology of God, so follows your attitude to stewardship or not, your motives for multiplication or not, and your capacity for joy or not. One commentary has this tidy summary of the 'hard man' rendering of God's character: "...'exacting what was impracticable, and dissatisfied with what was attainable.' Thus do men secretly think of God as a hard Master, and virtually throw on Him the blame of their fruitlessness." The sins of embittered non-multiplication and solipsistic passivity are two of the most invisible, most legitimised, most comforting, most deathly. It is ironic the compensatory technology invented to enable an escape from a illiberal, evolutionistic, 'hard man' conception of an negligent ultimate reality founded by the absent fathers of impersonal modernity. God is not such.You can fight with God, but he's a lover not a fighter.

Mt25v25-26 So i was afraid. But with words the spirit of fear has been rebuked. 2Pt1v7 For God gives us a spirit not of fear but of power & love & self-control. Or translated, a spirit of courage, of love & of a sound mind. In Christ I have all the resources to understand that I don't need to act out on my anxieties, that God has designed me to be courageous. (thank you God, for these words spoken.) & as 2Pt1 continues v14 by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us guard the good deposit entrusted to you. To risk mixing metaphors, but reiterating that the spirit must come first, I must receive the Holy Spirit's fierce love courage understanding in order to guard fight-for invest multiply, even a little bit, with faltering steps towards a lot. Come Holy Spirit.

Mt25v27-28 True evil prevails when good people do nothing, and even giving money to the bankers is better than that. There is no reason to believe that bankers in that day were any more ethical those responsible for our current economic predicament - the 'interest' gained from the Jewish bankers suggests they were disobeying law against usury anyways. Jesus purpose here is polemic, intending to illustrate the scale of the absurdity of the contradiction implicit in my apathy, when I have such a good God. Basically, if you are going to call God a bad man, then at least be consistent and be a bit harsh yourself with what he's given you, go on, put your money away in Lockheed and BAE, at least they'll give a return on it. Go on. Don't do nothing. Risk doing something good, with the good gifts your good father has entrusted you with. He has and he does. This is the adventure.

Mt25v29-30 On the haves having more & have-not having taken away, on virtuous & vicious cycles, this statement of Jesus is not so strange, for life begets more life, while lies beget more lies. The difference between running through the park of crocuses as Paul's keep on keeping on, you've seen nothing yet c'mon more more more! and scrivener's running down anorexia hill, the weight of sin & sickness destroying more & more as it spirals. The starting point of the spiral is what matters, what kernel, what seed? Is it the spirit of fear? Or is it the spirit of love, power, self-control? Come Holy Spirit, come today.

Mt25v31-32 Be more sheep? Should we? Ovine to haedine, caprine to hircine, in the end times there are binary lines drawn. But for now. Think you a better breed? Born of a better seed? Give then to those in need v35-6. Is it helpful to ponder a caricature of benign sheep, set against the goats of wrath? Maybe. Jesus is trying to conjure something from this pasture, to evoke a dichotomy, to draw us to his Kingdom way, where the slave of all is rewarded, where a prince's inheritance v34 is given to the least and least likely. Strangely, as tools for this metaphorical task, sheep and goats are blandly much of a muchness, all fluffy four legs grazing in the same pasture.. Such are we all at a glance. But some of us know we are loved by the King, some of us know the inheritance that awaits, some of us have found license to give ourselves away. Sheepliness is belovedness, it may be invisible and upside-down, but it makes all the difference, both in the now and the not yet. And where is it found? Before the throne of glory. Seek and savour the glory, this Lent.

Mt25v33-34 'come & possess what I've prepared for you in advance': words we hear in order to speak them forward. As we go deeper into Jesus' hard words on the imperative of hospitality we remember that it is framed first by God's radical hospitality. We welcome because he first welcomed us. He has been preparing grace for us since the creation of the world. God welcomes even where we choose not to enter in. & so as we learn to say more & more boldly to others (as this passage demands) 'come & possess what has been prepared for you', we do it because God has said it to us, resoundingly, & because through God's spirit, we get to 2Pt1v3 participate in the divine nature. Christ the great host, make us hostlier we pray.

Mt25v35-36 Thusly has Sarah been God (v40) (or an angel Hb13v2) to Lisbon in her reception of hospitality from strangers and the healthcare system.. Timely, no? Oh for eyes to see eternity permeating these everyday encounters, and not also to stray into at least two obvious heresies: [1] access to heaven is compensation for charitable works [2] God is only found in the human other. Everything seems to hang on a nuance of emphasis, why does Jesus do that? ~ except that it really is that close to call. Blink and you'll miss it. [1] Grace alone through faith alone, ought to lead to such energetic gratitude that, uninterrogated, a bystander might be tempted to call it salvation by works. [2] Without setting it against his transcendence, I dare you, to go and risk overemphasising God's immanence, he really is as close as breathing, as near as hands and feet.

Mt25v37-38 Not really sure what to do with the righteous' professed unknowing. Being told to be (& hence to be intentionally, consciously) unselfconscious is oft the recipe for knots & tangles. One can consciously identify & try to give over motives of 3rd-person knowingness, of concern for the way the thing presents, perhaps. Further, we ask that to our faith is added goodness. This spirit-fruit speaks of the integrity of our virtue, if we have yet given ourselves to the total ontological change of new creation, where christlikeness cannot but flow out: jp's 'if they cut you open what would you bleed.' Come holy spirit, change me all the way through, through christ, amen. 

Mt25v39-40 '..the least of these' [1] in what does their leastness consist and [2] why is it important? [1] A provocative interpretation considers that the leasting refers to the brotherliness of the brother helped - what ever you did for the most un/anti-christian 'brother', most unfollowing follower, most obstreporous brother devoid of philia, you did for me. However, 'least', more straightforwardly, refers to the 'low income' or similar as a measure of a lack in the capacity to reward or reciprocate assistance given.  [2] On any given scale, if you begin at the bottom, no one is excluded - God's heart is for such inclusivity. God may permeate the whole scale, but I would argue that God's presence begins at the bottom, so, begin with those, the least, the last and the lost, the down-trodden, the back-slidden, the undermined, the bottom rung, the long forgotten, the overwhelmed. This seems straight forward. However, 'least' is superlative, and there are always easier cases to fix that the certified 'least'. Serving mild needs is more expedient often more rewarding. Would that God graded us on a curve, and assessed us on society's neglected middle. Seeking to improve the lot of the modal voter is a politician's game, raising the mean income, playing with statistical averages.. God cares for the specific and unabstract, the lost sheep, the last to get picked, the least of these. How are your least? Begin there.

Mt25v41-42 How to take this seriously, without panic or unhelpful self-flagellation (which leads to grace assuaging panic, but then oft to skip the seriousness). How to look squarely at moral demandingness and the problem of an egoistic 'moral responsibility' that this passage could elicit? I think this passage needs to be understood as spoken to the body of Christ as a whole. I alone cannot house every homeless and feed every hungry, but between us - that is, the church in the world - we can, actually, & I must take seriously my part to play. The structure of justice is necessarily multipersonal. So in order to fulfill Jesus' terrifying command here, the church must communicate, delegate, task, equip & demand of itself, humbly. What overall justice vision do i see the church pursuing? Do I hold it in my mind? The local church the hope of the world? & where then am I church-hands, feeding?

Mt25v43-44 Why say again in the negative what was made clear in the positive? Because Christianity is more-than. More-than damage limitation, more than brownie points. More than commission of bad things, Jesus is concerned about the omission of good things: through negligence, weakness and our own deliberate fault. Father forgive. Where we have left undone those things which we ought to have done. Father forgive. These are the parts of the bible which are so much more challenging than its prohibitions. Where we have wasted time bickering. Father forgive.

Mt25v45-46 Not-helping forges a certain type of relationship, a relationship of death, we are told here, rather than a relationship of life. Dt30: 'I am setting before you today life & death, blessings & curses, says the Lord...Choose life.' The definitions of helping & not-helping are tricky, aye, but this is the path that love & wisdom is asked to tread. I am setting before you faces of others, choose life! Choose life-life, choose the way of life, which is the great wave of restoration that is the work of the kingdom of God already in play. Know the truth that the other's best can be your highest joy in the economy we get to operate in. Show me more of this, I pray, make it more real in my life. Choose to join in, choose to play now, this is really living, choose to help, choose life! 

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