Saturday, 17 October 2015


~and mowing mischief

texting mark ten

In the beginner's guide to divorce: a cosmological argument. Bones of contention thrown close to the bone, with the bone of my bone. Listen in, join in, alternate days on 07729056452

hop on, hop off, hope less is more?
one foot in sea, and one on shore?
the religiouse bid for divorce law's mores,
the fickly split pick the lock, they'd thrown the key for
He made the two one who'd do or die for
they made the one two who'd sue and lie for
yo ho, do-si-do, rent asunder. man's a giddy legal
oh Jesus, snakey friends? dis-Adam&Eve 's'all

Mk10v3-4 Do not put your marriage to the test, like, do not put your Lord God to the test. This is not a drill. This is not your insurance package. This is not convention or religion. This is not a contract. You don't get to use your marriage as a theory, a test exercise, a business deal or a means to an end, just as you don't get to use God as such. Take off your shoes, and don't mess around.

Mk10v5 Hard things. My heart is a hard thing, renitent, adamantine, # I am titanium.. Marriage is a hard thing. A hard thing, concrete and inelastic, not yielding to expedient redefinition, it is a thung thing. Tricky then when two hard hearts like square pegs seek to be hammered through the round hole of marriage in lived experience. What doesn't bend breaks? And so the preacherly dictate might issue: don't bend the rules, bend the knee. Yes, but see, marriage may be immutable, yet God bends himself to minister grace, contingency and healing to everyone facing every exceptional circumstance.

Mk10v6 And why is marriage hard? Less how, more why? From what Aristotelian four causes, to what final ends? Why is marriage hard? Why? v6 because gender. And why is gender? From the beginning of creation God intentionally created difference and assymetry. From the beginning of creation God made marriage hard, infinitely complex. We are purposively gendered, purposed toward the display of God's grace. Is it a text of terror, that claims that gender is? Jesus, the deft logician, is navigating fraught waters, fraught then, fraught now. Rabbis Hillel and Shammai espoused respectively lax and strict interpretations of marriage's permissibility. These positions are shades of grey on a sliding scale made possible by the tacit presumption that marriage is socially constructed powerplay. Jesus, the presuppositional apologist for stark and extremist theological positions, defers to a gendered created order to explain marriage. It is meant to be a hard text. Marriage is meant to be a hard thing.

Mk10v7-8 Leaving & cleaving. Timely, I know. Helpful to note that it is written that a man (rather than a woman) shall leave because in this culture a married couple stayed in the male family. It was assumed that she would 'leave' her family, but not so he. In what ways now do we assume we do leave & we don't leave? What does leaving look like, when presupposed here is that it needn't be a physical leaving? I know the textbook answers, but I want to know specifically particularly for me for us for now. Oh God, please give us your wisdom your kindness your words your pictures, that we might both leave & cleave more fully really deeply fearlessly.

Mk10v9-10 Yoked by God's joinery. We are cabinetry of the great ontological dovetailer. God's desire to unite, reconcile, cooperativise is pictured in marriage as but one of many sacred pictures crafted in God's obsession to illustrate a manual for overcoming division and for creating modes of relating that reflect the true truth of triunity. It has been helpful for me to consider marriage as the smallest church ~ the closest-to-home iteration in a fractal of modes of one-and-otherness. So church is a two-made-one Eph2v14 Gal3v28. One. One but not in an androgynous disindividuated symmetricality. How to? We moderns have almost forgotten. Sensations of oneness and immersive connectivity are for sale all around us, but this is the we-are-not-two-we-are-one of the Kinks and the New Age. Souping ontology in the Buddhist blender does profound violence to irreducible personhood. Jesus prays we would be one Jn17v22 in a yet-we-are-two-we-are-one oneness.

Mk10v11-12 Having mulled I think that the primary way to receive this is as a personal & specific claim rather than a claim about society at large. Jesus always calls me up on it, usually in the middle of the night, when I try applying such categories to others, probably because this always leads to some shameful or self-righteous comparison. (& our marriage is not in competition with anyone else's, the thriving of all marriages is our aim) But, like A&M say, "Divorce is not an option for us".

Mk10v13-14 We pondered what a Christian sibling looks like on Tuesday~ curiously commentary suggests the pronoun in 'they brought' implies siblings. 'Rebuked' Scolding as seeding and spring-loading adult unbelief: much atheology is post-rationalised cover for emotional compensation, intellectual balm for the once-rebuked, the great thou-shalt-knotted. Much church-pain is manifest in chronic acute sores of clipped wings chafing the shackles of prohibitive prohibitions. The emerging adolescent brain stifled, wounded by a well-intended disciplinarianism that wants church to be so decently-and-in-order 1Co14v40 that nothing gets done. Jesus calls not for permissivity per-se, but for welcome's emphatic and tactile embrace. And why? Because, Jesus-as-Rafiki, the babe-in-arms multi-tasker, claims v14 'the Kingdom belongs' to them, and the Kingdom is the ideal city, the world we all want. It is better that intergenerationality be energised by a self-interested pursuit of the good life than by tedious philanthropy.

Mk10v15-16 'Sarah Susannah, for you Christ Jesus came into the world, for you He died, and for you He overcame death. All this for you, before you even knew it.' Why infant baptism and dedication are one of the truest witnesses to the rest of the church and the world of the reality of Christ. How do we receive like a child? Precisely by doing nothing. All this for you little one, before you did a damn thing. Hallelujah.

Mk10v17-18 Far from the Christianity that trades in goods and services, Jesus deals in an infinitely polarised black-and-white morality. To we who are naturally religiouse, Jesus is a terrorist, a despairmonger issuing perfectionistic edicts: there are no shades of grey, there is no good-enough mothering, this is not a meritocracy, there will be no runners-up, no brownies points, no best-improved, your strongest efforts count as nothing. I have wasted so much life trying to earn life, so much energy spent on vain remorse, overcompensation, pedantic negotiation, post-justification. The only goodness is faith-in-the-God-who-is-good. You too have failed, you are fallen, you will fall short, only fall on Christ.

Mk10v19-20 Did the rich young man really believe that he'd kept all the commandments? By what measure does he (& we) think such a commandment is kept? Just-enough? Is his tone anxious, arrogant or ambivalent? 'Happy are those whose sins are forgiven, happy is the one whom the Lord does not accuse of doing wrong & who is free from all deceit' Ps32v1-2 Jesus frees us from our self-deceit, our deceit that we are without sin. This is freedom's way.

Mk10v21-22 'Sell all' but he doesn't mean it literally. This is bluffing brinkmanship in game theory, like a strange Rabbinic game of chicken, played to the pain.. He doesn't mean it literally Lk12v33. Zacchaeus didn't take it literally Lk19v8. The early church didn't interpret this literally Ac2v45, Ac4v34. 'You lack' lacking that essential have-less-ness. A humourous, counter-intuitive recalibration: To have-not is to have. An alien notion to we possessed by possessions, consumed by consumerism. On an evening, a few years ago, two fellows pulled me into Durweston Mews and relieved me of wallet, phone and ipod, emerging into York Street, I realised an entirely novel being-towards-the-city, a lightness that now no one could intimidate me or hold me to ransom for my possessions. 'loved him' Jesus in love raises the stakes, in love calls us to lose the game inside the game, in love seeks to save us from our stuff: to have without holding, to give without counting and to follow him.

Mk10v23-24 So. Yes. Hard. The costly cost of discipleship. Christian climbs the hill Difficulty, for 'better though difficult the right way to go'. Why is it hard? 1. Because to be faced with Christ is to be faced with oneself, which is hard, because there's a lot there I don't want to look at. 2. To face Christ is to know that there is a reason not to ignore, coast through or excuse the demands of this broken world. 3. To face Christ is to know ahead of time that you will face difficulties in your relationships with others for the sake of the Good, up to and including 1Th3v4 persecution. Money and its equivalent idols provide a buffer against all of these. But Christ leads us pilgrims up a mountain where all money runs out.

(and can I highly recommend a visit to Bedford's John Bunyan museum)

Mk10v25-26 Camels, born for such a parabolic purpose, like salt's saltiness. The ungainly spitting mammal with built-in baggage capacity, a lumbering hoarder with humps stored up. Invoked elsewhere by Jesus in his lady-who-swallowed-a-fly gnat parable Mt23v24. What does it mean that God has purposed such pejorativised species? A question to ponder when we consider the birds, and consider the lillies. The eye of a needle, paradigmatic tinyness, the narrowest road, slit for Fraunhofer's diffraction, it's how the light gets in. These are the same animals of The Weeping Camel, and these are the same implements that weave untold tapestries - there is the why. So, Jesus saves a stitch, wrangles a camel, dots an eye, threads a needle so that a Bayeux display of his story would be told in your life.

Mk10v27-28 'Jesus looked at them' or in the GNB 'Jesus looked straight at them.' Like 'The Look' in Sartre, here we know Jesus as subject, as person. I am apt to think of divinity as a vague cloud, a sort of progressive force underpinning the world that I have to try to situate myself in, but not a Look, a face that addresses me. Forgive me, I'm always talking about this, but only because it's still so hard to believe. Sartre was wrong about the looked-at, though. I don't become an object before Jesus, I become a subject, a person to. Dignified, worthy of specific personal divine address. I am not left behind. Jesus hard sayings are for me too.

Mk10v29-30 'Left' 'aphēken'(Gk) forsaken, abandonned, neglected.. (and Luke includes wife in the parallel Lk18v29). Gee. Zus. Who can live nuancing this savagely heightened language? After raging this morning against damage done by these verses, I have simmered down. It is 6am, London hums quietly outside. There must be reason for his hyperbole. I take for granted that Jesus intends a critique of nuclear family idolatry, and the paralyses of codependency, and the sick spiritual stiflement of sentimental romance. But could he not have said so in as many words. I am interested that he thought his divisive language a risk worth taking. There must be a reason for his hyperbole. Reason, perhaps, in the proportional force needed to prise us from the vice-like grip of our tacit default state. By default, no one who has wealth does not trust it to save them, unless they have reclassified their wealth-ownership as gift-couriership. No one. So too that other asset class of roots and relations, family and friends. We trust it to save us and to provide us an identity, we believe we deserve it, we enshrine the right to defend it, we idolise and embezzle it. Family-friendly commentators (and wounded MKs) fall sprawling: what about 1Tm5v8, 2Co12v14 etc? Yes, but only so far as provision for your family is for something beyond the fattening of self-relation and the enabling of escapism. There is a reason for Jesus' hyperbole, and I would do well to calibrate my attachments and focus my familying, with commensurate force.

Mk10v31 We love this verse, don't we? But what is firstness and lastness? Surely Jesus wants to challenge the idolatrous 'firsts' of our own hearts as well as the systems which favour the 'haves' over the 'have-nots'. What is your first? What is the total shape of life that you are a 5 for on the cardinal scale of desire? What if in this verse Jesus flipped your 1s and your 5s? So that you couldn't just use this verse to feel smug that you were lesser than a banker or a politican or a religious leader, but rather that you had to lay down the image of yourself according to whatever you value most, lay down even your false humilities, and discover that God is sufficient, in the midst of shattered idols. 

Mk10v32 Amazed and afraid. I realise how afraid I am to come into the presence of God, always fearful that God will demand something of me that I won't be able to come up with. Afraid of being convicted. And then God shows up again and I remember that He is Good and Strong and Glorious and there is no-where else I want to be and I am amazed. Ben talked last night about the lack of perspective and terror of the storm outside the presence of God, but that when we enter the inner sanctuary, things change perspective - it's a phenomenological claim, the shifting of the whole world around the centripetal point that is the Jesus that the disciples walked on the road with, and were afraid, and amazed.

Mk10v33-34 'And' Jesus is about to get chewed up And spit out And booed off stage. Jesus died for our sins. In stages. If Jesus had just wanted to die for our sins, orchestrating a single sniper's bullet would have been sufficient. What is irreducible about the distinct experiences of Jesus' total assassination: of being mocked And of being spit at And of being flogged And of being killed? In the mechanics of of salvation, somehow, suffering in every way allows Jesus to sympathise in every way and to atone in every way. His intellectual cause was mocked And his person's character was spat on And his body's physicality was flogged - the total devastation of mind And soul And body. // What is important about delivery to the priest And then delivery to the gentiles? Jesus saves all by being killed by all: the rich And the poor, the left And the right, the religious And the irreligious, there is a universal culpability in the agency of Jesus death. You And me And everyone we know.

Mk10v35-36 This question keeps coming up, no? It's why I keep coming back to Stalker. One feels that Jesus asks it with a smile or a knowingness: Jesus asks what we want in order to show us that what we think we want is not really what we want. Jesus questions us in order to show up our own bullshit. We are all lovers of kitsch, thanking Scruton & Kundera: we love to love ourselves loving something, we love the image of ourselves in the right seats. I am reminded of Reginald Williams short essay in Think 29(10) in which he argues that there is good reason to reject the existence of God 'because people have a deep-seated need to believe that good things exist when in fact they don't'. Maybe. But not this Christ-God. He takes all the good things our psyche thinks it wants and smashes them to pieces, destroying the wish-fulfilment god with His questions. He is our Desire Map, our true redemption.

Mk10v37-38 Here, Jesus-as-Zazu, counselling the excitables who just can't wait to be King. On Nov 22nd I'm preaching the St Marks evening service on Christ the King from Jn18v36: He's not that kind of King, it's not that kind of Kingdom, but. King Jesus, cryptic and patient, does not quite condemn J&J's desire and ambition. Contra Mr Robot which administers a defence of anarchism as a subtly escapist pill: Tyrell's caricatured power-as-only-and-always-delirious-machiavellian-lust-for-power comforts me in my immature wallowing, self-medicating, worldly sorrow ~ Thank God I am not like one of the suited. Rather, does not Jesus call us to raise our game, drink deep, be baptised by fire, and become elite CTOs exceptional in their turbo charged meekness?

Mk10v39-40 Jesus is our drinking buddy. Mixing my drinks and my metaphors, the Bible talks about the cup of wrath Is51v17, the cup of salvation Ps116v13, the cup of suffering Jesus faced Mt26v39.....What and how do we drink with Jesus? What is drinking? It involves the intimacy of taking something inside yourself and internalising it as part of yourself. It is lived and sensory, the balm of water and bitter of coffee harder to reify than where-we-sit (though still far from immune from the corruption of branding.) We are to drink-with Jesus, that is, experience-with Jesus, through prayer, meditation and Christian witness, to internalise-and-metabolise with Him, as his body, the sins of the world. And it is presence-to-him at the party of heaven at which we'll be drinking together forever Mt26v29. But also, He tells us that he is the drink as well as the drinking partner. Mt26v27. Jesus is the drink our soul longs and aches for Ps42v1 and the excess with which my cup overflows Ps23v5.

Mk10v41-42 The power of power-over, flaunting (NLT) absolute (GWT) power. 'katakyrieúō' (intensified 'kata' over-against + 'stréniaó' wantonly run riot luxuriously) and 'kateksousiázō' (intensified 'eksousía' wielded power) are in view here, the two words are used only here and in the parallel Mt20v25. The picture of the 1%'s very very very wild lifestyle, yes but, they are the tip of an iceberg we're all on, striving to build the slippery slope of a pyramid scheme, exerting tyrannical downward force to the diminution of the ruled, the manipulation of the voiceless, the trampling of nature, the dehumanisation of sweatshop labourers, contempt for the humanity of makers, growers, carers - those lowest geared cogs in the industrial machine. The exploitative structure of authoritarian concentrations of power is eventually and totally ruinous, draining the gift economy, bankrupting the NHS, stratifying London by have-nots housing crises.

Mk10v43-44 Head down, straight on to the tube, it's busy, but I really want a seat. I've got a long way to go, man. Easy to criticise DC for using the dehumanising language of 'swarms' of people...that's exactly my attitude at this moment. It doesn't register that these faceless obstacles might have more pressing needs for a seat. To live in a me-first world is necessary to live in a me-only world, it is to de-face the other. It is to live inside Flatland's hellish zero-point with no outside. As Levinas & the 12-step programme knows, the healthy & holy do not serve others as a nice optional extra once they are sorted. Service-of-others is a dimension of being necessary to the healthy & holy. & Christ, to whom we are united, is always driving us towards this health & holiness.

Mk10v45-46 'but to serve' The Son of Man ran the race to the bottom of the downwardly mobile. There is a race marked out. There is a great cloud of witnesses. The winner's podium is a step well ~ can we go deeper? Jesus comes, and by subverting subservience he knocks the teeth out of indentured slavery. I'm particularly struck by v43's 'not so among you'. Who is this you? Contra the system of leadership amongst the Gentiles, 'you' ~ the community of believers, the counter culture, the alternative economy conscientiously objecting to the market's hierarchy. We are that 'you' among whom exploitation is 'not-so'. We are that microcosm of financial restructuring, that proof of concept for a gift economy, that pilot of the possible in extreme and sacrificial service.

Mk10v47-48 Taking up space. 'Have pity on me', 'Have mercy on me'. Maybe there's a technical conversation about how when one asks such things for oneself one is asking for mercy, while when asks for others one is asking for justice. Interesting, but perhaps a distraction from how blind Bartimaeus might speak to my life. Who do we shush as they make petition? When do you allow your voice-on-behalf-of-yourself to be shushed? When do we feel the prickle of annoyance that someone or some group is playing the victim, always talking about how they're discriminated against or disadvantaged. Isn't it a bit embarrassing now? Aren't you a single issue party, a broken record? Bartimaeus knows his need, his lack, his disability, his disadvantage. He is unafraid to shout it louder, and the Son of David is listening. Speak up.

Mk10v49-50 Take Courage. tharseó. Be bolstered from within. Radiate warm confidence. Go forth with unflinching boldness. Take courage because your sins are forgiven Mt9v2. Take courage, because you know the ways your faith has made you well Mt9v22. Take courage, because Jesus is Jesus and Jesus is really real Mt14v27. Take courage, in the face of the world's tribulation, because Jesus has overcome the world Jn16v33. Take courage in the face of conspiracy against you, because God is invested in preserving your testimony Ac23v11. Take Courage, because He. Is. Calling. You. Mk10v49

Mk10v51-52 He's asking questions again: 'what do you want me for you?' One version of this question, paraphrased by JP on grace: 'where does it hurt?'. Please can we take the bible seriously? Jesus stands at the door of your heart this morning, this morning after the night before, and says 'what do you want?', 'where does it hurt?', 'what do you want me to do for you?'. Finding the words to reply is the first step to healing. Replying with hasty, inauthentic words will not do, just replying with the first thing that comes to mind or with the surface emotion will not do, shrugging your shoulders and not replying will not do. So many of our unhealings linger because we have not really tried to reply to Jesus as Bartimaeus does here. 'I want to see again'. Come Holy Spirit, give us the insight and truthfulness to tell Jesus what we really need.