Wednesday, 27 July 2016
texting romans five
Rm5v1-2 Faith is Peace is Grace is Hope is Glory is Bla de la bla bla. These vanilla honourifics, lowest common denominator keywords.. am I alone in battling for a fresh linguistic encounter? Jargon Creep is a cancer of the lectionary, a trap of tropes, a diabolic plague stultifying once vital words, hollowing out these nimble crustacean idioms to leave only ossified verbal coral pieces: pretty and brittle and sunbleached and dead. In aggregate, a seashore of cliches waiting for fridgemagnet platitudes to plant tired footsteps across. There must be more to "life" v17 than this.. So, textees, let's electrify somber Christianese. Take every abstract noun in v1-2 in turn, and then play with each verb and preposition. Hence we stand in grace struck me as a glowingly odd phrase to lectio, and to read back to the rest of the passage, so to ponder the stance of standing and the domain I'm in. What strikes you?
Have you read Kenneth Bailey on 1Cor? He critiques western translations for being too abstract, and highlights concrete imagery in Paul. eg. 1Cor13 contains three refs to Corinthian brass work apparently. Not sure how he wd treat Rm5 but maybe important link to theme of access in Eph2.
Rm5v3-4 Wondering about the inverse formula: comfort produces resigned entitlement, which distorts character, leading to rage, cynicism & despondency. A caution. Rather rejoicing in hope, to play prepositions & nouns as per yesterday's invitation. Rejoicing-in hope, & to be inside it you must be immersed in it. When hope springs from perseverance rather than cheap or empty words then you are already inside it, it will be your landscape, your materials, your breath, your tacit knowledge of the world. I want to build my hope muscles.
Rm5v5-6 "Hope does".. what hope does and does not do is presumes on it's present tense substantiality. Hope is not the ephemeral hope, the floaty middle-distant future wished away, that hope deferred which maketh the heart sick Pr13v12. Neither is Hope the had-hoped Lk24v21, the been-and-gone backed-the-wrong-horse hope. Hope is very present, immanently within you 1Pt3v15, a living Hope 1Pt1v3. Then there is this image of Hope not putting us to Shame, like an unburstable balloon, we are filled with Love. The Love that casts out all Fear, gives a Hope that casts out all Shame. By this volumetric displacement, I consider Christians as the timber formwork to poured concrete Hope, casting Hope and casting out Shame, all air bubbles vibrated out by God's holy hammer drill of suffering? Perhaps. Your Hope is a done deal, has been poured in, has been given, so now, now, live in, on and through that Hope.
This unpacks one of my favourite concepts. Hope that is both present and eternal. Hope the noun
Rm5v7-8 Sat in the Electric Elephant a while back, I said to God: 'I feel so helpless'. The next thing I read was 5v6: God does speak, though I am quick to forget. & v6 builds to v7&8 to make up a life verse. This is the substance of Christianity. This is the good news that my hungry hurting heart forgets it knows. I have been finding it hard to pray because I feel that I do not do at the same time. Maybe there are shades of untruth in this thought itself. But even if it true, that the most true thing about me is my egoism or hypocrisy, it makes no difference insofar as I am beloved nevertheless: For while I was still. Even here. In the midst of all this. God loves me. But God. Even so God. And yet God. Nevertheless God.
We are justified by Jesus' blood, yes,
→ (much more) we are saved by *Jesus*.
We reconciled by Jesus' death, yes,
→(much more) we are saved by *Jesus' life*.
→(much more than all that) we *rejoice*.
I think I am arriving at an appreciation of Paul's many "fors" and "therefores", which I have tended to find logically tenuous and so expositionally nauseating.
Rm5v1-11 Is the gospel according to *more-than*. The cumulative effect of each more-than clause in between is not necessarily served by being carved up into memory verses. More-than takes your default paradigm, your resting pulse, your you-have-heard-it-said, and cranks it up, and cranks it up, and adds kerosene. Rhetorically working up through almost a parody of boyband key changes. If you thought that Jesus unicycling was cool, zoom out and see he is pedalling across a highwire, zoom out and see that the wire is held in flamingos beaks across a ravine.. etc. The effect leads us not, as key changes, into emotional affect, but into the true truth of more-than.
Rm5v1-11 is bookended by rejoicing (v2, v11) and the poetic emphasis of the passage carries us from glory to glory, from a rejoicing hypothesis to rejoicing conclusion, from an meditation on the legal technical *reconciling power* of Christ's death to a meditation on the expansive *saving power* of living with his new life. If you thought that was cool, there's more, there's always more.
Rm5v11-12 The 'one man' of Adam here of course to mirror the 'one man' of Christ in v18-19. It's not mathematics or mechanics or linear literalism that's important here, but rather another astounding picture of the two ways: the way of nature and the way of grace. Entropy and reverse-entropy. In the way of nature one drop of poison contaminates the whole. Tearing at one's skin just once leaves them damaged even if the rest of the week was ruled by peaceful self-control. The way of grace is like light: shining in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it. In the way of nature evil overcomes good. In the way of grace, goodness has the final word. And the Sun will rise with healing in it's wings.
Rm5v13-14 Ah Adam, the first in a line of dominoes leading to Philip Larkin's fucked up parents, who filled him up with the faults they had, and added some extra, just for him, and who taught him this verse:
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
So, Sin: a systemic contamination, a family affair, an inherited foible, a blood disorder, even a Y-Chromosome deficiency? Christianity satisfies a hunger reflected in the trope of the orphan superhero? Christianity grafts us into a new patriarchal line because Christianity springs from an immaculately conceived Jesus? Christianity changes how we have been fathered and how we father.
I wonder if there are any self inflicting stress related human only conditions not shared with animals. And if that stress is societal based. Does sin = stress, or society compound the need for that stress.
Christianity - the one birth that conquers death?
Rm5v15-16 The gift is not like the trespass. Interesting to note that both are kinds of transgression, both move across a boundary and break something. Sin breaks the order of the cosmos, & grace breaks us out of ourselves. One breaks life down into death, the other breaks the power of death by resurrection. We are broken down by trespass & we need to be broken open by the gift.
Rm5v17-18 "What is sin?" asks J, "Is sin a human condition distinct from our animal counterparts?" "Is sin society's self-inflicted 'stress' wounds?" I have never thought of sin in this way. Between Paul and J, I'm being opened to a bigger Christ, whose healing is vast. You have heard it said, that sin is the naughty things your mother told you not to do, demerit points for willful culpable misbehaviours, a black book of guilty thou-shalt-nots. But, what if sin is not simply you weeing in the swimming pool? Sin is the pre-weed swimming pool, hence, I was Born This Wee. The preexisting contamination of all social activity, an inherited set of CAD drawings where the reference grids are out of align, and iteratively exponential confusion means objective right angles are now utterly impossible. We, socially, we, intergenerationally, we, back to Adam, we are inflicted by and inflict sin, we are told half truths and we pass them on.
And so, stress. The anxiety and mental-emotional strain when social demands exceed your personal resource. Those demands are distorted, they are part of a sin system of untruth that is self-inflicting, self-re-enforcing and self-re-entrenching, as Hans Selye said of Stress: “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” Adam caused the first sin-stress, Adam weed in the pool, Adam referenced the wrong grid.
Faith in Christ's death and resurrection fixes this? Part of the offence of Jesus' substitutionary atonement is the personalist intensity of the claim, it is a kind of Ad Hominem fallacy, unless an infinite personal universe is in fact structured that way. My liberally religiouse proclivity twitches to fashion a filtration system, a salvation by water works, a vast impersonal program to clean the pool. But Christ has drained it, That vast pool of lies that told me who I should be, that demanded what I should do, that ocean of condemning voices, all the dirty water of pathological stress, the drew me under a poisonous rip tide of despair. It is all gone, absorbed, finished. Freely. v17
If your born with your sins, as in the pre-weed, then doesn't that make a farce of trying not to add any extra sons to your list? There is a difficult paradigm to understand between living in sin and not sinning (new sin presumably)
Re inherited sin: 1 Pet 1:18 ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers. This encourages me that we are not bound to copy all the faults of our parents.
Rm5v19-20 Grace abounded all the more. A meditation on the english word 'abound'. It means 'existing in great numbers or quantities', & so yes, there is a greater quantity of grace than sin: infinite grace that never bottoms out. The translation to 'abound' evokes more than greater quantity in my mind though, I think of bounding, moving, teeming - that not only is grace bigger, but it is more dynamic than sin. This morning I picture grace as a spaniel, limitlessly excited & energetic to fetch back the things sin hurls into in distance, to lay them again at one's feet. And a-bound, like bound-less, also evokes the tireless conscious personal energy & intention that is God's grace, & the transgression that grace is. Enjoying chewing this word, even if not from the Greek... 'hypereperisseusen' sounds like spaniels to me though. 🐶
Rm5v21 Sin reigned, but now Grace reigns. In the cosmic cake or death, cake-on-the-plate is in charge now. I often think of Grace as merely reparative, an ontological Toupret, talking of Grace 'covering', Grace as sufficient Savlon in response to life's bumps. Yes, but no, Grace is more than ~ it abounds quantitatively, and it does so superlatively, it is the more-than-est force in the universe. In this way Grace is structural and directive. Grace is the new order of things. Grace calls the shots. Your life is now within Grace's jurisdiction. Grace is no mere new code of life hacks, it is new life. Grace is not a reshuffled cabinet for the same austerity regime, it is a total coup upside-downing all norms. Grace is a new power from a new source. And Grace is in charge now.