Saturday, 21 May 2016

texting romans two

Judge for yourself. 07729056452

Thank God,
I'm not like one of those.
I'm bluster stuck on pause.
I've broken glass in clenched claws
I'm better-than a comparative clause
Thank God,
I'm not like one of those.
Coward's castle concrete rebars.
A storage hater heats my heart.
A cynic hoisted on his own petard.
This pent up gall dam debars
me from grace.
Thank God,
I'm not like one of those.

Rm2v3-4 The kindness of God. What is kindness? Even detailed studies of kindness seem to pitch it as 'sympathy', which surely is in the same family of attitudes, but I wonder misses something. The English 'kindness' comes from 'kin'. What strangeness, as we reflected, at the baptism of the little one yesterday, that we are kin to the creator. That we can say 'abba', to the shimmering translucent spirit that abides deep beneath the foundation of the world. Receiving kindness is like receiving daughterhood. It is the definitional picture of grace. Kindness is a soft-heartedness, a tender-heartedness, contrasted with the hard-heartedness of v5. To have contempt for God's kindness is to have contempt for the whole character of God. & we do, we are contemptuous of softness, 'soft in the head', 'soft on sin' both perojatives. Let us realise that God is indeed soft on sin, utterly, and rightly understood. So quick to qualify this! God is soft-hearted towards us, & we do not want to receive it, as we read of Jane in This Hideous Strength last night: 'for a moment, Mrs Dimble became simply a grown up as grown-ups had been when one was a very small child: large, warm, soft objects...[to be] resisted as an insult to one's maturity.' Oh Christian, do not have contempt for the kindness of God - do you not know it is to lead you to repentance?

Rm2v5-6 The spectre of wrath conjures, traditionally, prevalently: Fear. Shame. Guilt. respectively in Africa. Asia. Europe. It was interesting to chat cross-culturally last week about these phenomena. However, it is possible to dull any of these sensitivities, to deflect repercussions, to fashion a sinless, wrathless, universe of inconsequence. Such a glib frame weaves desperate sophistry and exaggerated victimhood in a post-guilt, post-judgement, post-everything defense. [So, Sissy in Shame, "We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place"] This mindset is self-reinforcing, iteratively entrenching and exacerbating itself, exponentially ever more hardened of heart. So preach wrath? Yes, but, if the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay, then to break the cycle we need a new heart. How?

Rm2v7-8 Seeking glory. We tried to unpack glory a little last Tuesday, but it does seem to escape clear definition, spilling over the horizon of meaning in divine excess. The Greek is 'doxa', from which we get doxology. That which we worship. Praying today for the doxa of God to be known by us and in us. 

Rm2v9-10 "and then" ~ Moral impartiality. Temporal partiality. The not-yet. The and-then. The creep, the drift, the trickledown. True love waits? True wrath's late, it ticks, tocks, trickles as it topples contingent dominoes, patiently. I've been thinking this morning about literal Jews and equivalent Jews, after Ed Silvoso suggested in our round table that many millenials (of which only 2% in London attend church) may be God-fearing gentiles understandably resistant to the circumcision which the church prescribes. Jew→Gentile : The Christ event switches the operation from the clique to the commons, from the churched to the unchurchable, from gateway drugs to the hard stuff, from the temple to the ekklesia, from Judea to the ends of the earth. 'Jew' is not quite pejorative, but it is a temporary status legitimate only as a caterpillar is bound-toward-cocooning, thusly we Jews-of-a-sort should church towards today's gentiles, as butterflies bound-towards-flight.

Rm2v11-12 A meditation on otherness & belonging this morn, apt given the conference I'm here for. Reading v9-10 evokes in me a sense of my otherness, for I am a gentile, on the flipside of the privileged narrative, & even the Paul the friend of gentiles wants to tell me that I 'come second' to the Jews, in some way. I am Other. And yet apparently this is God showing no favouritism. The differences between Jew & gentile are real differences, but we both belong to God through Christ. Our relationship to the law is different,  but in this we both manifest the truth of God, of the consequences of life with or without Him. God models to us how to belong to each other in our otherness.

Rm2v13-14 Law. What is it good for? Though seared or distorted, every human person has a conscience. Consensus on that tacit conviction is codified collectively by a social we as 'law', Mosaic or otherwise. Law inherited as descriptive is bequeathed as prescriptive. To the cynic and the younger son, this blueprint for utopia consists in an arbitrary and impossible infrastructure of sticks and carrots ~ strictures to kick against. To the presumptuous religiouse older son, this blueprint for utopia offers fuel to divisive rhetorical magic thinking ~ structures to kick others against. Technically, 'doers' who achieve the Law's damage limiting minima 'will be justified', but this is Paul taunting law-knowers. It can't be done. The Law is meant to make us desperate, humble and saviour-seeking.

Rm2v15 The conscience is a point of meeting God for all humans in all times & all places. We serve people by finding ways to cultivate and speak undistortion over their consciences, as quickly do they become so, leading to that fear, guilt & shame that we spoke of. The conscience is an interpersonal affair, note how Paul assigns it a second-personal role: accusing, defending, witnessing. Freud was right that internalised Others play a role in the formation of conscience,  though he was wrong in his reductive analysis. We, church, have a role to play in being the kind of voice internalised that will bring all humans in all contexts to a point of meeting with God.

Rm2v16 In the end, there are no secrets. In the end there are no secrets! Put that in your existential congruence and smoke it awhile.

Rm2v17-18 You give love a bad name. Paul harangues Jewry generally, and their leadership in particular, in an extended sardonic tirade. Potent especially as these verses have the knowing flow of one listing his former credentials, the jargony shorthand, the insider boasts, trite and jinglistic. Like his Ph3v1-11 Hebrew-of-Hebrews redundant CV rhetorically flipped and weaponised. It gives me to ponder the language I use and have used to insinuate my own sufficiency, labouring, twittering, texting to be thought missional, intentional, evangelical, inclusive.. Dear second-generation Christians, the raw revelation of the fallacy of your former utter religiousity, the devastation of everything you were taught to obey to be ok, that very iconoclasm is your testimony ~ to the extent that you can articulate it, you can free others.

This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it whine,
to entwine and confine,
to hardline and undermine,
to set up my own shrine:
because of my hotline,
personal, to the divine.
No superstitious bloodlines.
I'm letting my light shine.

Rm2v21-22 Teach first? Paul says, teach yourself first. As not many of you should be teachers Jm3v1. If any Jn8v7 Mt7v1 etc. Oh the things I've got to unlearn first to then teach. I'm the blind leading the blind limping, I'm all fraud. I'm unteachable. But by grace I might become such a self-taught servant, a rehabituated liar who's unlearnt helpnessness and unbought prejudice and unfought reform. God unmake me, disentrench me, teach me, because, I'd like to teach the world to sing..

Rm2v23-24 Honour & shame. We shame God, we dishonour God, when we do certain things. Shame is about how one is *seen* by others, & in a triadic move, we can shame God in the eyes of others. They 'see' him as worthless, as less-than, for shame travels by association, across relationships, hence tight-knit family set-ups beget honour cultures. To honour God is to allow God to be seen by others as God is: to be the light of the world is a triad of honour.

Rm2v25-26 Circumcision: a sensitive, subtractive, superstitious sign that establishes systematic mutilation as a national identity and moral principle? A touchy subject, try and just don't mention it. And definitely don't google it.. God ordained circumcision, for a time, as a sign, valid only in its being really about something else. So, some speculations I have on what circumcision anticipates ~ Christianity is: an identity-as-redeemed through the shedding of blood. Christianity is: a procedure done to you. Christianity is: a male meekening. Christianity is: a transformation of your organ of multiplication. Christianity is: enacted at your point of greatest sensitivity. Christianity is: a de-partition rendering the subject more naked, more vulnerable, more present to the incarnate world. Discuss.

Rm2v27-28 Those five people you meet in heaven, am I paying attention now? Mt25v31-46.

Rm2v29 Inside out praise. Praise: as commendation, value, affirmation, chapeau, ascribing worth to a thing.. I picture the outline of a person, a Flubbery elastic malleable boundary to the sense of self. In the one case, the shape is formed by forces outside, a flattered and massaged ego, buffed and puffed vanity, a crowdsurfing parametric jelly moulded by the many hands in a wave of crowdsourced glory ~ this is external circumcision, being considered a cut above. In the second case, the same bounded form is structured from within, muscle and bone knitted together by praise from God in the quiet place through the still small voice, a groundswell of invincible fortitude that knows its infinite value and beloved identity. This is the circumcised heart. Your praise comes from God, your praise comes from God, your praise comes from God.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

texting romans one

All roads have been leading here. Latinate texts every other morning, come dig deep the depthless wonder of gospel given poetic articulation by Paul. 07729056452

Rm1v1-2 The form, as well as the content, of these verses is striking. There is a function to a salutation, it is not nothing, it is not merely convention. "Paul, is a something-unusual, from a something-unusual, for a something-unusual.." and has sufficient confidence in that something's substance to announce it, and has sufficient conviction in the urgency of that something's effect to be compelled to foreground its pronouncement. Do I feel so entitled to title? Do I have such a self-awareness that self-understands: this is what I am, where I'm from, what I'm about? What is your something? Announce it to your Monday morning, preface it to this chapter of your life, speak it over the details of your day. "Sarah IS Christ's servant, Sarah WAS called by Christ, Sarah WILL do the work of an apostle for Christ in Oval, Sarah's life is an epistle to the Londoners" There are no mere memos, this is the signal to the noise of life.

Rm1v3-4 Concerning His Son. Repeats through the train carriage and gets into my teeth like almonds. Concerning His Son. This is Christianity at its most and least attractive. Concerning His Son. Let's take this season slowly, these three words an invitation, a question, a prayer for more. Concerning His Son.

Rm1v3-4 'Concerning his Son' - which parent has never been concerned for their child? Which father for their son? But the Father of all never worried that His Son would rebel, or deviate from the optimal route - rather he looked with sadness on the hurt His Son underwent. 'Descended from David' - an alliterative turn of phrase that skips over the long line of broken families and bastards in Jesus' earthly family tree. Jesus may be descended from a King, but the incarnation does not escape the ancestral backstory littered with miscalculations, aberrations and blood. But redeemed. Local boy done good. He turned out well. Thus we too, from our flawed familial clans, can hope.

Rm1v5-6 Paul's prepositional apologetics: all for to by from. Romans is a homeletic spirograph, intentionally necessarily employing multivalent grammatical structures for a gospel that is fractal, layered and dynamically active though a grace that is from and for and through Christ. v5 "we" ~ every way this pronoun can be read is interesting, commentators prefer a royal-we reading ~ surrogate "I". Don't read a false modesty into this pluralisation of the singular first person. Even if Paul's received "apostleship" rests actively in him only, it is received by the we-plural in our corporate we-expression, head-to-body interdepartmental interdependence. What is his is mine, and what's ours is particular to the Christian faith: apostleship's confidence in the witness of the resurrection. v5 "obedience of faith" : faith works faith to work faith working faith, this is the piston at the heart of Paul's glittering steam punk mechanism, both-and more-than, this is the cog in the spirograph drawing all to Christ.

[Rm1v5-6] Commentators are fools. "We" are all heirs of the apostolic assignment / missionary mandate of Genesis 12, blessed to be a blessing. Each with our unique (and vitally so) testimony of how we heard Christ 's call. But that Paul does not think himself uniquely unique is evident from 1.12. .. Paul may be the last and least (ie. Greatest!) of the eyewitness Scripture-writing apostles, but he is also simply the first (and therefore least! ) of the post -ascension Ephesians 4 not-exactly-eyewitnesses apostles. (I don't blame the Corinthians for a little confusion :P )

Rm1v7-8 Grace & peace. charis & eirénè. How quickly I tend to skip over this little blessing which contains within it the whole Christian life. Meditating this morning on different ways we might think of the distinction & relationship between grace & peace, there's a quasi-spatial phenomenology here: Grace is form and peace is content. Grace expands our world and peace deepens it. Grace extends, and peace makes whole. Charis hymin kai eirénè apo Theou.

Rm1v9-10 "..succeed in coming to you" Wish you were here? Wish I was there. Paul's ministry to the Romans is prayer and presence and prayer for presence. Preaching itinerance, Paul traverses a geography of supernature, contending with physical spiritualities of distance, and the irreducible genius loci of place. Paul, and we, are travelling embodiments of and for prayer evangelism. Dear Pilgrim, holiday thusly: where you go, pray; and wither you pray, go. v11-15 Expands what Paul believes presence and prayer makes possible, why it is both imperative and mutually beneficial to go and be gone to. Who do you long to see, who do you long to see converted? Pray. Go. Prego.

Rm1v11-12 Longing and mutuality. Equal parts longing for giving-receiving. Longing to see you because of what I receive from you for my sake, and longing to build you up for your sake: you're not a project nor a competitor, but a dazzling desirable Other. Hedonism vs disinterestedness becomes a false dichotomy. So receive love, give love, repeat.

Rm1v13-14 A 'harvest': the faith of others is bare fruit to savour and long long for, it is the honey dew succulent flesh of mango, that heady aroma of a summmer warmed strawberry patch, the crack of a braeburn bite, milky shavings of coconut flesh, the ice fresh splash of fresh squeezed new wine. Such sensate phenomena constitute the precious hedonism found in forging the faith, the maturity and the flourishing of others. v14 'Obligation' we'll rake this over and over to a crescendo in Rm6: the life and love we get to live we have to, we cannot but. To be caught up in grace is to be a conduit, as an electric current must be connected at both ends, thusly are we compelled, bound as slaves of righteousness. v14 the so-called 'wise' and the so-call 'foolish' [who's who?], to the have-nots and have-yachts, to the minority interests and moral majority, to the illiterate and those educated beyond their intelligence, to the in-crowd and down-and-out, and to the other others, I am obliged.

Rm1v15-16 Complete confidence / eager to preach. M & I talking this morning about knowing my own desires, & being able to speak them. It is a labour to recognise with Paul's integrity and confidence the gospel, that is, the good & beautiful, for oneself. & to speak it, in truth, out loud, without fear. In TA, the markers of this confidence are awareness, spontaneity & intimacy; & my prayer is that I would speak the gospel thus.

Rm1v17-18 Faith is the magic with God. Prepositional Paul wants us to know God *from* faith *for* faith .. so to live *by* faith. What is faith? A blind posture? A leaping manoeuvre? A superstitious reaching out with your feelings Luke? Verging on the tautological, Hb11v1 offers that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But, Hb11 goes on. It goes on to tell a dozen Old Testimonies, because faith's faithiness is known in and made known by narrative in context (vs formula in concept). Faithing is both the fuel and the forward motion of the believing steam engine. Faith's piston of prayer, a steady heart beat from-for-from-for faith is the reciprocal inhale-exhale communing with an interactive God in collaborating on ambitious, impossible, high-risk projects. In all the small things. Faith is From/For/By: Answered prayer. Requited love. Met expectations. Return on risks taken. The sum of these invisible transactions is a life *lived*. Help! Mk9v24

Rm1v19-20 Some suggest that v18-32 is used by Paul as a rhetorical device of the oral tradition, in increasing violently caricatured Greek, to try to lure the listener to a point of judgment of those portrayed here, only to sucker-punch the listener with 2v1 as the crescendo, to help us catch ourselves in the act of judgment. This lens is apt given this week's Jn8v1-11 meditation, on how judgmentalism indicates my failure to trust God. Find me out oh God.

Rm1v21-22 [knew God → no thanksgiving → futile thinking → darkened hearts?] Thinking about thinking, the mind is on my mind. We know God, significantly, through the mind: a precision instrument exquisitely tuned for perception and logic, yet, so vulnerable to suggestion and so incapable of self-awareness. ~~ 1. I thank therefore I am. The cogito calibrating role of thanksgiving in shaping the life of the mind and mental health. Gratitude positions the mind: thankful *for* thankful *to*. Try it. 2. The mind is contested territory 2Co10v4-5. Enjoining right and thankful thinking is all good and well, but there is also an enemy on the pitch, an enemy utterly invested in addling the mind. See Mt16v23 Peter's mindset of Satan. Yesterday, Ed Silvoso defined spiritual strongholds for me as mindsets of settled hopelessness, masquerading in good intentions, partitioning the mind in response to trauma, resulting in emotionally unstable double-mindedness. # I shall not cease from mental fight.

Rm1v23-24 On images, on imagination. After a discussion at l'abri on the second commandment in Feb I felt the need to pray into the redemption and expansion of my imagination. I keep praying this prayer, for myself & for you & for the world. I have a glimpse of understanding now, I think, of the truth of this well-worn platitude that we can imagine redemptively. For a long time I have only believed this theoretically, but in my bones believed that all imagining could only ever be this false-image-idol-making. God does not call me simply to cull my addiction to images in a vacuum, but calls me to expand my imagination as and for worship of the true God, to reveal something of divine depths, images that are icons rather than idols. I believe this is true of others out there, of 'artists', but struggle to believe this could be true of my calling, which is a lie. Expand me, oh God.

Rm1v25-26 Paul is arguing from sexuality towards an understanding of God. Literally WTF. Do you? Can we? The world is so broken, sexualities are so far and so often so shattered, Christianities have for so long so eagerly invented so many new and complex hangups and judgementalisms wrt sex. Is it really worth the the risk and the collateral? Can we really argue from sex? Even in abstract? Even on a good day? Yes we can. Yes we must. The desires, the mechanics, the poetics, the causes, the effects of assymetric sex ~ there is design in these, they are for something, they are about something, they can be brought to an excellence, they can be held in contempt. The exchange is subtle. Exchanging creature for creator as a surrogate logic clause in the praxis of embodiement is like a smuggled piece of malware simulating a UI over a mutant OS. God, I beg you, shatter my constructs, my strongholds, my learnt defenses. Give me honorable passions to worship and serve the Creator, in all things.

Rm1v27-28 This notion of bringing punishment on oneself articulated here, Rm13v2 & Ac5v1-11 refer to sex, power & money respectively, the big three that make themselves so available to abuse, addiction & self-reinforcing destructive cycles. This strikes fear into the heart,(Ac5v11) as I felt the right fear at N's exposition of A&S. I feel Jesus speaking to the pharisees in Jn8v24. But. Terror does not have the last word. I was dead, Eph3v5. But God.

Rm1v29-30 Bad. Bad. Really, really bad. Paul rises to a hyperbolic crescendo in a homeletic drive-by. Total depravity, pervasive perversity, who amongst us has not dabbled in these thought-crimes 'avarice' 'faithlessness' 'whispering' just the once? Sanctimonious readers smugly affirmed in their contempt for the ickiness of earlier verses' sexual sins now find themselves facing their own gallows. This savage form of preaching we also considered last night in Jn8v44, terrifying and devisive, but essential and effective? There is a diversity of sins, but one cause ~ suppressing the truth of God's Godness. The world needs to know the extents and the mechanics and the consequences of this their catalogue of corruption. Then they need to know that it need not be so.

Rm1v31-32 Approving of the bad in the other, a version of envy, which denigrates the good in the other? This betrays our disbelief in the goodness of goodness - we are much more interested in our heroes' flaws. I remember a reviewer of MR's Gilead noting that she had done a rare thing in writing the character of John Ames as a good man who was also deeply interesting. Taste and see that the Lord is good, Sarah, a tree of life, always begetting goodnesses.