Sunday, 27 November 2016
Rm10v1 My heart's desire and prayer to God for [X] is that they may be saved.
Rm10v2 Paul goes on to say that the knowledge unknown is the righteousness of God, & in the absence of such knowledge we try to create our own righteousness. Isn't this true of all my religiousness, both self-comfort and self-harm: a category mistake, a failure to grasp the height depth breadth of God's love and the freedom it brings.
Rm10v3-4 Righteousness, when it is of-God, is not a code or system, not a kit of parts, not a summing up of deeds. It is its own thing. An active party. Ignorance of the righteousness of God is not a complete ignorance of righteous symptoms and side effects, nor a lack of sensitivity to the malady of unrighteousness, but rather it knows righteousness only in silhouette, and so assumes it is 2 dimensional, it knows righteousness only in a given moment and so assumes it is static, it knows of righteousness second-hand and so assumes it is as abstract as the language used to conjure it. Righteousness is not merely a quality, it is a person. Goodness in the world has a source and a purpose, an author and agent, a beginning and end. The law is as iron filings, and Christ is the magnet.
Rm10v5-6 The danger of thinking about the righteousness of Christ in distorted top-down ways. The danger of projects, of vision statements, of revisionary systems. God, deliver us from searching the heights when you call us to start with the breath.
(v5) You have heard it said, Christianity is a star chart, cosmological potty training, spiritual CBT. The good life comes by point scoring in the moral resolve to personal betterment. If I take Moses' law to be prescriptive rather than descriptive, ~ as an imperative code to strive to reach the first rung of the ladder, then I adopt a divisive religione that leads to pride and despair, pride and despair, pride and despair.
(v6-7) You have heard it said, Christianity is a vast game of snakes and ladders, up and down the precarious tightrope to holiness. Ascending to Heaven, Descending to Hell ~ a daily rollercoaster of ferocious self-abasement and redoubled reform. Mendoza's contrite yoyo perpetually clawing up the bank of a ravine. If life is a snakes and ladders game, it is like Flatland, and God addles our 2 dimensional map to the good life. He tilts and folds the board we've be sliding our little plastic counters around, as the Christ event reveals the Escher of all our laddered constructions that we so meticulously rendered in 2d ~ in this sense rightly do the prophets say no hell below us, above us only sky ~ the geometry of the spirit is far more complex.
(v6-7) You have heard it said, Christianity is mountain top experiences, and valleys of shadows of death, analogies to exceptional geographies where God is found apart from the everyday, the mundane, and the 99%. Heaven is elsewhere, the good life is later, we hold out for the ever-after, we delimit Sunday experiences and reinforce those with the earthquake&wind&fire of smoke machines and a language of sacred places which instills a notion of strangely selective loci where God is manifest, and the result is a Christianity of holiday brochures, a consumable geography of being made clean or unclean by association, by that which is external, by that which we consume.
(v8-9) You have heard it said Christianity is measured by what goes into a man, behaviours of intake, codes of moderation and propriety. The fastidiously fairtrade, the vegan, the unleaded .. my counterfeits are more feminist than your counterfeits.. Mt15v11 it's what comes out of one's mouth. And that should be the word of life, that is what changes the world.
Rm10v9-10 Sobered at this tightly interlocked relationship between the heart and the mouth, as Lk6v45. And 'tis an interlocked relationship which speaks of my own trajectory towards the kingdom of light or darkness. I need prayer for my heart-mouth system, currently a dark place. Full of cursing & huffing & rebuking on the one hand, limp & watery on the other. Jn6v68 to whom shall I go?
Rm10v11-12 Who you gonna call? We call on him Rm8v15. We call on him as "Abba, Father". We call on him and are saved.
To be saved ~ smudgey grammar makes for blurry salvation. At the very centre of Christian rhetoric is this orphaned passive participle in an ambiguous tense, soundbited without subject, footnoted without context. Are you saved?
I've been saved. Like, I've been married? Like, I've been filled with the Holy Spirit? Go on.. [Eph5v18 plērousthe πληροῦσθε ~ we go on being filled..] Saved like a one-off windfall from the cosmic slot machine? Saved into a new folder, saved like a backup, saved like coins for a rainy day? Saved unto a Christianity preoccupied with the threshold rather than the hearth? Have you been saved?
I am saved. Adjectivally. But saved from what, saved for what, saved by what?
~ Saved from God's wrath, saved for God's glory, saved by God's mercy?
~ Saved from yourself, saved for good works, saved by grace?
The 'saveds' abridged of any from/for/by makes for an identity adrift, a freedom untethered, a vague sense of malaise against which we are approximately 'saved'. Are you saved?
I am being saved. Like church is a salvage yard, like we are in furniture restoration, like painting the Forth Bridge? Christianity is a process not a product, a covenant to a perpetual maintenance contract, 2Cor3v18 a being transformed from glory to glory... Are you being saved?
I will be saved. The home-and-dry in the here-after, the but-if-not in the come-what-may, the happily-ever-after beyond the here-and-now.. Pie-in-the-sky is a signifier needing signfieds in the now, fractal theology's imperative to display the anticipated in miniature, to rehearse heaven in prototype. 1Pt1v5 "guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Will you be saved?
~ Has the perfect assurance of a binary state whilst being also infinitely deep.
~ Has the humility of a passive voice whilst being also an invitation to participate intimately.
~ Has the definitive completion of a past tense whilst being an open door to a progressive and expansive domain of salvation.
Rm10v13-14 Proclaiming. Thinking about this even before coming to this verse this morning. I tend to think I pray best by journalling, by writing. Writing is my most natural prayer language. And this is good. But there is a 'voice' I access in writing that doesn't always make it into my whole body, into my speech. This is not to deny that writing can be a form of proclamation or that it is good that different people have different gifts, but I felt God suggest that this discepancy in my writing life and speaking life reflects a compartmentalising on my part, that he would wish to break down. I pray for my voice, and for yours, for speaking out loud the depth and breadth of the gospel, praying for teaching, preaching, performing, that I and you would find integrated ways and voices, as part of my own healing and wholeness, as well as to the end of communicating life to others.
Rm10v15-16 Like eating glass? Like fire shut up in my bones. Body ache for something better. Go all in, fall in, feet first, less a fist fighting more a foot fetish. Head and shoulders knees and go? We go toe to toe. Do si do, yo ho, we go go going gone, sent across seas to step up, step 2, we're standing on all four paws and more, holy trotters what, we kick a hip hop hoof, we break a hole in Rick Ross' roof. Man dwells balletically.
Rm10v17-18 Natural theology means we have to pay attention to the earth. But revealed theology means we have to talk to one another.
Rm10v19-20 This Peej is a 'nation' scapegoating scrape coating the kettle's laq calling the pots bible black. This Peej is nowt but a bitter brother older who knows neither bolder or wiser ways to stem v19's 'anger' and 'jealousy'. A bitterer fool, pity the petty Peej pained to be pipped at the post, still convinced second generation Christians are second rate. Stop. Suck on the marrow of scripture, Peej, with less Joycean garble, Peej.
We make a nation great again, through repentance. Such a nation starts with me. Spake another fool with less folly, (in quite another storm with no brolly):
When usurers tell their gold in the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to ...
What's your Albion going to come to? Answers on a postcard.
Rm10v21 All day long (while you daydreamed, while you cycled, while you slept) I held out my hands (while you clamped up with petty stresses and distractions) to welcome (while you sat with your abstractions) a disobedient and rebellious people (while you swore and smirked and lied and chose the easier unkindness). All day long. God holds out Her hands. To welcome. A disobedient and rebellious people.
Monday, 14 November 2016
Rm9v1-2 'Christianity is Jewish' (E. Schaeffer), and we're called to be 'true Jews' (Piper on Rm2), but, when I'm borrowing these claims in their reductive form, I tend to have in mind an approximate and metaphorical Hebrew culture because claims about literal Judaism and the actual people of Israel tend to tread too impossibly fine a line between Zionism and anti-Semitism. So I prefer to keep this vague.
Christianity believes the world is sick. In God's hospital, the venous catheter breaks skin in one place, the seed of humanity's rebirth is planted in specific soil, out of that singular historic root an unbroken chain of inherited salvation spreads its branches into all countries and places until it reaches me. But I prefer to keep this vague.
~ In keeping this vague, I make my account of the God of the Old Testament obscure, and so I dull the radical saving story of God's peculiar love, which, being personal, must be particular.
~ In keeping this vague, I satisfy my own deep desire to make God more generic, a more modern remedy to a mere statistical program error. I want salvation as but a software update, downloaded in the background onto a billion devices.
~ In keeping this vague, I resist a doctrine of depravity. Ecologists make a more frank assessment than Christians do: the picture is not of broad sustainability with occasional mistakes:~ human ethical behaviour in realm of biosphere is a story of relentless and unmitigated exploitation, with occasion flashes of self-interested repair.
~ In keeping this vague, I resist election. God choosing Israel, is the prototype for God choosing me, it is not a visit to Tiffany's to choose a ring, it is a visit to the toxic dump for the laborious recycling of a waste product at great cost.
~ In keeping this vague, I subtly protest the idea of undeserved election. I deserve election. But beneath that front I fear my privelege implies responsibility. Responsibility Rm1v14.
Paul experiences 'great sorrow and unceasing anguish' for the literal Jewish people. Do I? Not really at all.
Rm9v3-4 Thinking about my people. There are people who are my people, my kith & kin, in different ways, as a result of shared histories & identities. A few spring to mind this morning and it serves to read v4 over them as a prayer, a declaration of what has and is true, as the basis upon which to pray for more of what they need going forward, asking for the spirit to move anew.
Rm9v5-6 Dems your peeps blud:
Litch sons of bitches [Mt15v27], snitches [Jn8v44]
Quids' kitsch is for the muddled, blud.
Fam a Lamb, we're a mongrel mafia:
Not who you're born with, not to die for,
The true Jew, bruv, has been died-for.
Rm8v7-8 Promise. R spoke yesterday about Peter demonstrating the desire to force God's hand in the Garden of Gethsemane. Abraham too, in begetting Ishmael, tried to force God's hand. But a promise isn't like this. A promise can only be fulfilled by the one who makes it. Anything you gain through your own force or manipulation is not born of the promise. And what you gain thus you never really have. A promise is a gift, you have to trust it. So quickly I want to construct a narrative for how I think God will work in this season. This is to fail to trust the promise of God. Heb13v20-21
Rm9v9-10 It is not enough for Phil to simply know the goodness of God, nor to self-understand as an elected agent of his goodness, nor to enjoy the boundless adventure of being on mission with a crowd of witnesses to his tangible goodness, nor to have my world upside-downed by the startling and inexplicable revelation of his undeserved and unbidden goodness. I have to know how. _"I must get out of here. I must get free and in this mind is the key, my key. ... I need the codes. I have to get inside Zion, and you have to tell me how.."_ I must reverse engineer the system of salvation, dissect the golden goose, break open the blackbox and derive a formula for eternity. Like many Jews before me, reducing God to a formula is convenient: If God choose Abraham's line, he chooses all of Abraham's lines ~ a sort of localised universalism, which Paul indicates is transparently fallacious.
Universalist by omission, I problematise predestination, I construe a capricious God in an entirely arbitrary game of Duck-Duck-Damned, I pick this fight for a number of reasons: ~ because I am unwilling to let go of those individualistic presuppositions in which I cling to a savage epistemological pride which brooks no mystery and pretends no finitude to my own capacity to know and so engages in bizarre agnostic superstition, the have-cake-and-eat-it of salvation without a saviour, grace with no gratitude, a personal universe with no central personality. By resisting election, I resist my election, and I put off the responsibility to be an active agent of goodness. Ultimately I am far more afraid of what I understand than what I don't understand, and problematising predestination, and arguing from its misuse, this is the front I put up to put off the terrifying liberty God has chosen me to enjoy.
Rm9v11-12 All this for you, before you even knew it. Today praying for insight into some thought or intention God from before I was born
Rm9v13-14 Haters gonna hate? Love food, hate waste? Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love us to hate us, but don't slate us? Hate leads to the dark side? From pet hates to hate speech. Strange marmite idioms ~ there is a complexity to hate in translation, and commentaries are keen to note that the word in view here μισέω is used also in Lk14v26 hating one's parents..
Caveating that the soundbite is not helpful to be broadcast without context, and that there is a question of proportion but, how does God hate me?
My basic behateability, my fundamental not-fit-for-purpose-ness, my obnoxiously contemptably destructive default setting. I am bad, I do bad things, my total being is invested in the rampant spoliation of planet earth, I am abusive, coercive and self-related, prone to bouts of exploitation, escapism, indulgence and self-deceit. Fate and the universe ought to hate me, my karma comeuppance bears down on me.
Against this, and despite my self. God actively loves me, out of his superabundance, in a currency of grace not desert.
Rm9v15-16 Mercy. 'Merciful' has been the word on my mind these last few days, & here God speaks it again. In view if God's mercy 12v1; mercy prayers this morning. I tend to think of mercy as another word for forgiveness i.e. the holding back of that-which-is-deserved, that-which-justice-requires, and so only think of mercy as a term that applies to matters of sin or transgression. But I am prompted in these last few days to think that mercy is much broader and richer than this. All withholding of power is a kind of mercy, not just the power to enact justice. So all of God's initiation and communication is a mercy, a constraining and a holding back of that which would otherwise dazzle us to decimation, in order than we might understand a glimpse. So we live inside mercy even before we can think about a need for forgiveness. This is perhaps why the Hebrew 'hesed' means both 'mercy' and 'covenant love'. Somehow this word 'merciful' seems important for the season we're about to embark on, though I can't really say why. V16 to declare over 41 again & again & again.
Rm9v17-18 Hardened like hammered steel, like a tin of old paint, like bread left out.. like I. Am. Titanium.. We are hard people, Londoners. And there is something entrenching about kettling hard things together, iron hardening iron, a bag of nails jostling in the tube carriage, your supple hope pummelled on the anvil of a cruel market economy, the callused over wound in your back, the mascara suit of armour. Nothing. Touches. Me. So, God hardens? Like the sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay. He cannot but, he is blazing brilliance, he is pure warmth, he is radiance itself. Take my lump of clay, splosh me back in the stream of living water, knead me back to maleable compassion and sensitive responsibility, oh God, my potter.
Rm19-20 A lot going on in these verses to çhew over, but in the end I'm struck by the thought that Paul is speaking in the second-person to 'the teacher' & through him to the Jewish people he loves, to provoke them to put *themselves* in question, rather than to put others in question. Rm9 has to be read alongside Rm11, esp Rm11v29. Levinas talks of an asymmetry to suffering, that one can offer theodicies pertaining to one's own suffering, but that it's not our job to do so for others, we are instead called to respond to the suffering of others. Something comparable is true for salvation: we can put ourselves in question before God in a way asymmetrical to others: our job is not to create a systematic of salvation but to demonstrate God's saving grace.
Rm9v21-22 Pondering every Londoner as such a saucepan, bought and sold, caught and moulded, hot and colded, hammered out, fraught and folded. Knackered consumables, some ENPS, some camping aluminium, tarnished detritus from every florid decade, we're all bound for the knacker's yard, we all know wrath, and it's imminence is surely enough.
The offer is the joy of a redemptive trajectory which breaks into the present, the creeping future glory of ceramic mosaiced, the Stomping panhandling holy foolishness of chorded heterogency in an eschatological steel drum band whose melody reverberates back through the structural junctions in eternity's concrete frame ~ as Zumba into the Monty flat echo chamber.
Rm9v23-24 For those of us prone to anxiety the notion of a capricious God is thd ultimate fear, it is, alongside the fear that there is no God, ultimately the fear that we are not safe in the world. Paul dismantles the Euthypro Dilemma deftly, and speaķs to the fear. Yes, of course God enjoys utter freedom, but no, this doesn't make God capricious, for true freedom is not caprice, we just tend to think it is. In God's freedom God is always steadfastly working to (i) reveal glory & (ii) show mercy. These are bedrocks of divine reality and ways that divine freedom is expressed. The story of the Jews & the Gentiles is a story in which God consistently reveals glory & shows mercy. So fear not, dear heart, Rm2v4.
Rm9v25-26 In the very place. Christianity is platial, but not as we know it. Wendall Berry says goo.gl/rHpNVK "there are no unsacred places, only sacred places and desecrated places." True. And. It is in that very desecrated place, the shattered and shat upon, the exquisitely unclean, the utterly desolated, the polluted tarnished no-go area of 'desecration'. At that point, just in time, in that very place, despite all you've done, despite the journey and your history, despite coming, as the film Shame's character Sissy, "from a bad place".. God adopts you. He calls you his own.
Rm9v27-28 As Paul makes clear in Rm11, this statement taken & used from Isaiah is not literally true, but is being used to try to stir up Jewish listeners to repentence and faith in God's grace. This causes me to reflect on styles of speaking, preaching, prophesying. I strongly favour clarity, taking pains to make clear what is literal & what is metaphorical, at pains to avoid being misinterpreted. There is, I don't doubt, a great value to this, including a helpful corrective to those in the body who emphasise differently (as per 1Cor12-27), but I do want to note for myself how God's great prophets often speak with wild passion things of great urgency in a way that is easily misinterpreted or unclear...and the holy spirit is right in this. I am tasked with both listening to the spirit's prophetic promptings and being unafraid to speak in when my bones are on fire, even when the word is confusing, and I am tasked with interpreting the prophesies of others to co-labour with the whole church in making them clear, so that we might all know God more fully.
Rm9v29-30 Offspring. Today the spectre of extinction seems closer than ever, the lineage of the good and the godly of yesteryear is ebbed away by attrition and infertility and the remnant eating itself. Cuarón's Children of Men was reviewed as portraying _'warzones of extraordinary plausibility'_ ~ plausible and visceral to an audience that daily inacts a zombie culture, willing Melancholia's waltz of auto-destruction in slow motion. This pervasive sense of imminent annihilation permeates a church culture built for the cold war, the siloed mono-generational model, the single-use consumer goods, the ungainly behemoth moribund institutional faith. And I am complicit. I am Sodom, I am Gommorah, I am the cynic, I am the nostalgic, I had hoped.
But Isaiah is concerned with birth and perpetuation and hope, as he is in the Nativity reading (Is9v6..). And in some sense every birth is poetically Christmas, every rebirth a bolt from the blue, an immaculate conception. Hope surprises, hope wins, and hope endures.
Rm9v31-32 One of the chief dangers of this time is that I'll think I'm doing OK because we're trying to do a 'ministry' and so God must be around somewhere, & that I think I'm 'praying' because I'm in lots of contexts of organised 'prayer'. I am still leaning on a law to save me, rather than cultivating the inner life of true faith as a response to grace, out of which flows true worship and service. This point is as old as the hills but I'd value your prayers for me on this at this moment, struggling to make time in true prayer in the blur of things.
Rm9v33 When is a stone a stumbling stone? What is stumbliness as a quality? Christ is a stumbling block, but by contrast with what? By contrast with the smooth space of a well-oiled platonic universe, a parametric paraboloid in CGI, a total environment of lickably slick seamless surfaces. We desperately want God to be impersonal, codifiable, predictable, generic. But. We stumble into the quiddity of Christ, the very this-ness, the strange haecceity that says, Christ is this and not that, here and not there, a person not a program. Christ is the monstrous carbuncle on the face of the law's abstraction, an obnoxious protrusion of artefactual specificity. So, the gospel is a tear in the veil, it disrupts, it is a trip switch, a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.