Thursday, 20 July 2017
Lk4v1-2 A call to Christian extremism is a call to the radical Real, inclusive of a radical self-knowledge through radical self-denial. You know yourself only sufficiently through God who knows you perfectly personally and objectively. How do you know God? ~ be full of the spirit // be led by the spirit // go into the wilderness. // By contrast, I don't step up to ministry, I never come of age, I don't go into the wilderness, never testing my limit conditions, never knowing myself, never lighting a single pixel on Satan's radar of threats to his empire. // And what is not wilderness? The padded and synthetic life of cheap grace and fossil fuels, algorhythmically cuddled inside a self-reinforcing social media filtered bubble, the painless risk-free, lukewarm banality of the unexamined life. Exmoor, bring it on.
Lk4v3-4 Food & fasting, something I've been thinking about a lot of late, & the task of self-control we are called to. Fasting is made possible by self-control, but as Jesus demonstrates with his words to the devil, in order for the self-control to be true self-control, a fruit of the spirit - rather than an unsustainable & damaging negation and modification of one's will in one's own strength - it must be grounded in the insight, knowledge and security of the spirit, namely that it's really true that 'man does not live by bread alone.' Most of the time, it is embarrassing to admit, I don't believe this. When I'm hungry I believe quite fervently and justify to myself very often and convincingly that I should break fast. At some level I don't rest in the knowledge of God. I don't believe that reality is set up to sustain me spiritually. This is perhaps why knowledge precedes self-control in the list in 2Pt1v5-7. Pray for me, that I might grow in faith, that I might believe that God's reality will sustain me, pray that it would lead me to self-control - in my emotional life, my relationship with food, & my BFRB tendencies, the lack of self-control at the heart of all I see as connected. Jn6v35
Lk4v5-6 </Exmoor> Jesus' wilderness is no recreational wilderness, and he is not refreshed and replenished after communing with a bucolic idyll. In hunger and exhaustion you will know yourself and you will know God. // The more powerful temptations are not temptations for the wrong thing, but the right thing in the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, on the wrong basis, by the wrong means. The Kingdom is not ends-justified, the kingdom is a journey-to, a becoming, a perpetual happening. // Jesus doesn't dispute that Satan could bestow authority and glory.
Lk4v7-8 This funny back-and-forth between the Devil and the Christ at one level reads like a comedic play. The layers within layers and loops within loops whereby the devil convinces himself that he is Godlike enough to use the stuff God had given him to trick God into treating him (the devil) as God becomes a hilarious farce, except that we recognise this tendency within ourselves, so the comedy is also a tragedy. The devil sounds like one deeply insecure, trying to play it cool...I has all the powers yo, but pls like? Worship meeeeeee. //Jesus' "worship God only" can be as snarky as it is sober, the divine punchline to all and any power play or insanity we find ourselves entangled in.
Lk4v9-10 We watched Whiplash last night. Is Fletcher the Devil? Is Fletcher the Wilderness?
Lk4v11-12 It's not a new observation to note that Satan uses scripture to try to tempt Jesus into disobeying the Father, & thus a cautionary tale for all time on the possible abuses of scripture. Nothing is so easy, lazy, inauthentic and potentially damaging as proof texting. I am guilty of this. We align ourselves with Satan when we misuse scripture - by being casual, careless, over-confident or under-contextualised in conclusions drawn from the bible, and commands taught to others accordingly. Jesus demonstrates a critique of superficial appeal to scripture in a way we can all model - by having such an overview of the whole, a sense of the multifaceted nature of scripture and it's deep connection to reality, that appropriate triangulation with and by other parts of the text can be given. In this vein and more specifically Jesus must have a sense of the true safety described by Ps91, a sense of safety both less and more literal than the devil hopes to persuade unto. I pray for such a sense of ultimate existential safely, for a deep reading of the bible, and the wisdom and discernment that flow thus.
Lk4v13-14 🐅 "An opportune time." *Do you believe in active evil?* Do you believe in active evil, and does your life, your prayer, your relationships, the seriousness with which you guard your heart eyes wallet tongue, the urgency with which you seek the good true beautiful humble noble.. - do these priorities in your life speak an urgent ernest belief in an active evil? Regardless the literality of the lion that prowls around seeking to devour 1Pt5v8, would your life be engineered proportionally to resist such an evil which was active, a devil who was tactically timing and strategically scheming malice against you? Do you believe in active evil? You are being fattened to be eaten, lulled into carelessness, troubled into inaction, inured into apathy. The Christian life is a battlefield, a mental fight, the navigating of an unscrupulous and unfair landscape of landmines and dirty tricks set by an intelligent life calculating your demise. There are two sides on the pitch, and one of them is interested to see that you do not end well, an enemy who knows precisely the lies you need to hear, both where you are weak, and _when_ you are weak. // "An opportune time." *Is your prayer life timed?* Is your faith in Christ well-timed and timely at all times? It is not an if but a when you will be vulnerable, angry, hungry, tired, lonely. What then? What are you then? What assumptions are your default? What habits form your normal, constant, in-and-out-of-season standard? Christianity is not a series of moments, mere flashes of spiritual brilliance; Christianity is the long haul, a patient permanence. And, Christianity is not done alone, a one man pill-box; we are a body, a defensive line standing in each other's gaps in time Ez22v30. We make no time opportune for the Devil: Redeeming time because the days are evil Eph5v16 // Don't give the devil a foothold: don't let the sun go down on your anger Eph4v27/26 // Don't give up meeting together Hb10v25 // Pray continually 1Th5v17 // Rejoice always 1Th5v16
Would you be upstanding
Would you show your understanding
Not mere innovative branding
But a life lived ampersanding
Luke 4v17-18 ⬇ "The Spirit of the Lord is upon [you]" Ponder uponnness. As hand on shoulder, as hat on head, the Spirit is switched on, pressed in and pressing on and on and anon. The Spirit-of, the presence-of, the character-of, the very-particular-person-of God in his nimble invasive form *Is. On. You.* These Georgian ceiling heights leave room for a genie brooding upon, the flaming torch blazing from the crowns of the crowned image bearers of God, the towering dignity of the Spirited-Upon. Now, and on-going, therefore go. Because the same Spirit is upon you (Rm8v11); Be lead and be carried away by such a Spirit-upon (Lk2v27 Ac19v21); See and speak by such a Spirit-upon (Rv21v10 1Cor12v3); Pray in the Spirit's power (Eph6v18); Participate in the Spirit's love (Ph2v1); Be alive because the Spirit of the Lord is upon you (1Pt3v18) // 📯 "Good News" Oh but not to me, not in my Nazareth, too broke and parochial, too far flung, too far gone. I'll settle for Good-enough News, mere reminiscences about the Good-Old days, the fairy-tale pluperfect Kingdom that was and might have been. Oh God.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
Lk3v1-2 This could be the desert, this could be the time. Already I am thinking of ways to cheat feeling thirsty. Maybe now is the time to be thirsty. Now is the time to be cut to the heart. Now is the time for the word of God to come. Now is the time for history not to repeat itself. Now is the time for true metanoia. Come, word of God. Teach me the courage, discpline & generosity to receive your word.
Lk3v3-4 Election Day, an unrepentant country will get the politicians they deserve.
We repent the divisive rhetoric of blame and shame.
We repent mispent wealth and privelege abused, banal cynicism and tax avoidance.
We repent self-righteous leftism and saving faith in state giantism.
We repent opaque machines of bloated self interest.
We repent the glee of too eagerly consuming twitter's cynical rumour mongering.
We repent ethical outsourcing and the privatisation of everything.
We repent the creep of cruelty, the idolatry of personality.
We repent everything escapist, everything smothering, everything untrue.
We repent complicity in systemic pessimism and limited ambition.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts..
Lk3v5-6 Shall. Will. Repeated five times in these two verses - the done deal of God. Those valleys, those mountains, the crooked and the rough, all that and whom are now yet unredeemed? They are gonna get redeemed. It will literally happen. All things. Shall. This is the source of true hope, true lightness, true freedom. Lots of chat about hope this morning, as our political landscape shifts about us [God, we invite you in] but true hope bounds forth from this perspective of God's reality: every valley shall be filled, all flesh shall see the salvation of God. No really, it shall happen! What a strong and stable reality we actually live in, as Jesus speaks to us in today's other reading: "abide in my word...& you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free" Jn8v31-32. Abide in this: the crooked shall become straight. Rough places shall become level. Shall mate. Julian got Jesus right - All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. Amen
Lk3v7-8 Do you ever feel John's rage? The excoriating arid heat of palpable fury, fury at those who should know better, fury at the church-raised over-educated ever-so-busy, fury at the cosy comfortable privileged ambassadors of turgid laissez-faire Christianitised blah. Fury at those who mingle vague social concern with an utter lack of urgency, fury at those who brew a sloppy semi-faith that's neither hot nor cold, a merely linguistic affair of intriguing philosophical complexity and delicious escapist ambiguity. Fury at those who idly mingle curt de-churched bitter bickering with aloof Guardian sardonic posturing with truculent self-pity dabbing solipsistically at a putrid self-inflicted wound. Fury at those translucent moral entities who export vague guilt without hope and who always told-you-so. Fury at the vipers, a brood who breed intergenerational viperhood, curdling toxic misinformation with self-interested fantasy.
Wrath is coming. Everyone knows this. D-Day is always on the horizon. Judgement Day is always imminent. At every moment we are on the eve of making an account for ourselves.
John asks "Who told you to flee..?" Rather as God asks, "..who told you that you were naked?" Gn3v11. What have you 'told' your friends?
- Run from God's wrath?
- Deconstruct 'God's wrath'?
- Face God's wrath with repentance through Christ?
~ If you're going to run, run from sin 2Tim2v22, and run towards God Pr18v10
Lk3v9-10 Axed. Uprooted. Destroyed. Reading John Stott's 'The Radical Disciple' this week he ends his final book with some thoughts on the deaths we must die as disciples: the role of dying in salvation, discipleship, mission, persecution, martyrdom and the practice of literal mortality. Of 2Cor4v10-11 he says: 'This extraordinary statement declares that we can experience both the death and life of Jesus simultaneously.' This is my prayer, that I would check out of the painful process of the axe at my roots. That I would always be being cut down, that I would always be growing new life.
Lk3v11-12 "Teacher, what shall we *do*" What does repentance look like? It is a doing. The gospel of repentance is active, personal and political. Faith is works, and works is a doing is a giving.
"Whoever.." The revolution starts with you, double tunicker. Before you get stoning Two Jags, take the backup plan out of your own eye. God is your piggy bank for a rainy day. God is your but-if-not. God is your come-what-may. Note 'whoever' is an if clause, predicates radical generosity on abundance, but calibrates abundance as being within everyone's reach.
"Two Tunics.." If one tuxedo is enough for Obama.. ~ Your untaxable personal allowance is one tunic, and above that threshold the tax rate is 100% (but perhaps tax is an unhelpful analogy here). As entrepeneurs, if you are to be a disruptor, keep your life lean and nimble. How do you measure abundance? What do you have two of?
"..share with him who has none.." It's more blessed to give etc. It is more interesting. It packs a better punchline. Giving is more fun for all involved. And giving changes everything. The true truth of all-as-gift-given rendering all-as-gift-givers is the essence of Christianity, the definition of grace, the mode of its infection. When the Kingdom of God comes, Capitalism won't work, and Communism won't be necessary. Capitalism is fueled acquisitive avarice to stock-pile more-than-one. Communism flatten this property theft to the counter-generous universal unownership of less-than-one. Both are structured responses to the lie of scarcity.
Lk3v13-14 Money. John makes clear that different people need to hear different specific things about their attitude to money. Everyone agrees greed is wrong, but John puts his finger on more subtle ways that money gets under the skin: falseness, disatisfaction, legally sanctioned exploitation, thinking oneself more entitled than others, treating 'what I can get away with' as the measure of a.legitimate attitude towards money. These are not just attitudes to point out in the world at large, but which jostle under my own skin. Come Lord Jesus.
Lk3v15-16 "straps of whose sandals I'm not worthy to untie..." 👞👞 Coming soon is the one man who is not actually too big for his boots. Jesus, the cosmic CEO who pulled the whole universe up by his own bootstraps. Jesus, suited, booted and atop the sheer cliff of the company hierarchy that we find ourselves in. Jesus. He is not like other prophets, he not an extension of a vague continuum of do-gooders and well-wishers. The one who comes after me is wholly other.
"He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.." 🔥🔥 These are no mere props to his cuz in the family business. John is in End-Is-Nigh mode: We baptise with water pistols, Jesus brings the artillery. Jesus will mess you up. As Grenfell Tower hurls harrowing visuals into public consciousness, as if we were in any fuzziness about fire's fearsome potency. Baptism into Christianity is not the arrangement of tea lights around a fusty icon, it is man-as-powder-keg furiously ablaze, utterly and horrendously undone, the screaming hissing wood, the crackle and white-hot roar of a soul consumed. As Tim Farron has just said so publicly, this fire demands my life, my soul, my all.
Lk3v17-18 And the line between wheat & chaff runs right through the human heart. I am much worse and much better than I believe. I am much less respectable much more redeemable. I am much more glorious, much more ruined. Sarah qua chaff needs incinerating in a furnace that puts her own hot emotions to shame. Sarah qua wheat gets to be made beautiful, bread to be broken, food to sustain and hearten others.
Lk3v19-20 Herod. Trump. Phil. "#You're just as boring as everyone else, When you tut and you moan and you squeal and you squelch..." 🍆🍑 These grisly übermensch, sick as fuck, sick and boring. See, lust is a gateway sin, an open wound exploit, money-sex-&-power is a three corded gordian noose, and the tawdry threads are each unravelled twines from the tapestry of a meat market mode of considering the human person. The banality of this worldview was and is and is to _come_ in oily overripe euphemisms, spidery claws scrawling an SOS in fluid leaking from the cadaver of the rubberised human, this total worldview is a perennial shallowing, a lascivious addiction to hands and feet, a fearful world becoming exponentially more abstract, the logical extension of which is the body terminally commodified in the beheading of John the Baptist. What is it to take one's brother's wife? What is porn? What makes it's reproof so political?
Lk3v21-22 All the things going on in these 2 famous verses: baptism, prayer, revelation, trinitarian relationships, belovedness, conditions for ministry... I'm stuck this morning by the fact that the holy spirit 'descended...in bodily form'. I've never thought before that we get a micro-incarnation of the holy spirit here. It's hard to know what 'like a dove' really means, but taking it at face value - God became bird, and dwelt among us. It was not beneath God to become part of creation, to embody feathers and beak, to limit Himself to the vulnerability and simplicity of a creature without language. This thought makes me behold the incarnation of Christ again with incredulous wonder - we think it a little step down from God to man, but no, it is a total scandal.
Lk3v23-24 Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. What am I going to do when I grow up? What will I do with that nebulous mature manhood somewhere at the rainbow's end of asymptotic adolescence? And in the week after Father's Day, Luke couples this ready-set-go of Jesus ministry with a genealogy [yawn?], sons of Adam's sons, fathers fathering father since the dawn of time. Notably this opens the pickle of who was Joseph's father? ~ Heli, as Luke supposes // or Jacob, as Matthew supposes. Commentators speculate a range of interpretable fatherhoods: physical, legal, adoptive, and via levirite marriage. Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. Pray for us as we wrestle with qualitative fathering and the nurture of Tony's legacy.
Lk3v25-26 Matthew starts with Abraham and works forward to Jesus. Luke starts with Jesus and works back to Adam, the son of God. Jesus: alpha & omega, all things run towards Him, from Him all things proceed.
Lk3v27-28 Christianity is and must be intergenerational. A baton relay cooperating. Paul planting, Apollos watering, all the while God making to grow 1Cor3v6. Lois passes to Eunice passes to Timothy 2Tim1v5. Relentless, perpetual, unceasing, You are neither source nor terminus but a participant in one long unbroken fibreoptic cable of the Christ light through the days and decades.
Lk3v29-30 Lots of familiar names, but these are not yet the characters we know, but those named after them, those labouring under the same stories. When parents name they declare meaning over their children, an early act of grace. But a name given with intent can be a burden to those of us who feel we haven't lived up to our name's inspiration. Isn't all grace like this? How quick we are to turn grace into something we must earn. You name is a gift, and the stories woven into it can always be a hope to set before you. A prayer for the littlest J I know (& his siblings) this morning, and for all those little ones entrusted to our prayer, that they would grow to know their names as the symbol of a great & true treasure, of divine foreknowledge and grace.
Lk3v31-32 Who do you think you are? Who am I? 📜 The prominent inclusion of genealogies in the bible is striking to me. For me who forgets names with a ferocious efficiency calculated to assuage the pains of perpetual departures. For me who holds a mild contempt for historical preoccupation as a nostaligic activity never more than the sum of its sentimentalities: a modern form of ancestor worship. For me who caricatures an image of dusty and deranged archivists in bondage to a manic determinism and a sort of ruin lust, creaking around card index files, venting their mid-life crises down the well of history through the digital seance which is ancestry.co.uk: "who am I?" For me who lives thinly and monogenerationally in a slithered slice of siloed demography: bare millenials kettling their amnesiac unwisdom together, drafting disruptive manifestos enshrining chronological snobbery with self-righteous melancholy.
And I think the bible agrees with my dim view of ancestry geeks:
Lk11v47 "Woe to you who build tombs for the prophets!"
Lk8v27 the Gadarene demoniac lived "amongst the tombs"
Lk24v5 "Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead?"
Jn5v39 "You search the scriptures but..."
Ph3v13 "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.."
And yet, these genealogies are there in the Bible as an encouragement to do likewise: to ponder our inheritance. There is a right way to look back, a right retrospective, the telling of testemony, the display of how far God has carried you, and your family. Vitally and personally, this cosmic Christ comes out of such a microscopic lineage, this collection of briefly and parochially significant names: David, Jesse, Boaz.. they are but an artefact of noise, a blip in the sweep of history. The film Lion meditates on such a search for origins and identity through the magic of Google Earth, poring over the vast Indian urban landscapes viserally captured, to bring to the fore the true truth of one lost sheeps vital and infinite significance. Trace history and tell history because history is going somewhere. History has a beginning and an end, and that is Christ.
Lk3v33-34 Luke stretches the genealogy back beyond Abraham, bringing into focus universal humanity - something more ancient than Judaism. Luke is famously a gentile with a vision of the Christ for all, including those on the margins. Because Jesus inhabits our common humanity and not just our initiation into the covenant, our humanity can inhabit Jesus. Let us give thanks for this mystery, & let us pursue him where he is to be found.
Lk3v35-36 Son of a begatten bigot, Noah and the ne'er-do-wells, last in a long line line of lamentable losers: Jesus' genealogy is "#collecting the names of the lovers that went wrong..", the tried-and-faileds, the still-born saviours, the all-fallen-short-of-glory. But now. In a new Adam we have a new father, a new inheritance, and in being born-again, the lever of pollution's plumbing is cranked backward, like a ethical Archimedean screw pumping debt back up Calvary's hydroelectric hill. No longer is man handing misery onto man - the downstream effluent piped into today's youth is reversed. We are no longer the Leftovers, no longer eeking out a precarious existence at the fringe of a gig economy, no longer pawns in a corrupt housing market, no longer less-than-the-sum of our negative equity. To every prodigal son. The father makes the first move.
Lk3v37-38 The same week as reading Jn10v34-35 and 2Pt1v4. Jesus is the Son of God. We too are sons & daughters of God, siblings & co-heirs with & in Christ. We are participants in the divine nature. This has always been something I have held at a distance, smothered in caveats, fearful of claiming too much. But no, this is what it is to live the life resurrected, it is to know ourselves 'gods' in the way Jesus tells us we are, that is, 'Godly', 'divine participants', 'sons & daughters of God'. This switch in perspective transforms my sense of the possible, enlarges both my freedom and my humility. God, let us not dishonour what you have made holy, let us not settle for lives which are anything less than entirely caught up in yours.
Monday, 15 May 2017
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Lk2v1-2 Syria. A country often on our lips but one for whom I struggle to know how to pray for. How does one pray for a nation? How does one pray for a government? How does one pray generically for the suffering and intentions of thousands upon thousands? When I lead a service at church I find myself googling for world events that need intercessory prayer in a way that I don't usually - perhaps this is a virtue of communal prayer, that it forces us to think of prayer for those beyond ourselves, but equally this behaviour is indicative of the fact that I haven't internalised prayerful habits for nations and places in need. God, teach me to pray. I pray for the people of Syria, I pray your light, your love, your armour of protection. I pray for Syrians in the UK, prompt me, us by your spirit to be a place that demonstrates your kindness, your refuge. worldvision.org/refugees-news-stories/syrian-refugees-prayer
Lk2v3-4 Davidic lineage. Man hands ministry onto man, it, too, deepens like a coastal shelf, if we would only let God.. By individualising against familiality we have not escaped the formative damages of childhood development, while we have aggressively shed those benefits of being intergenerationality triangulated and of being deepened in the peculiar ministry of our tribe. Being of a lineage is a given given, you are cast in the mould of even absent negligent parents recursively. You have only the choice of whether you face this consciously or no, in the counselling of the everyday or the counselling of a psychotherapist. For better or worse, you are your father's son. God's vision for humanity is for better, redeeming families to be more than the sum of their pathologies, and He considers their idiosyncratic gifts as the irreducible building blocks of a personalist Kingdom of Heaven. God's plan for the world is the long game, the patient ground swell of lineages, like giant oil tankers, brought slowly round the long of arc of redemption.
~ Town of Bethlehem. We go to the ends of the earth, _from_ a somewhere. "Y'all know where I'm from: 01 to the 21.." to the farthest flung you are still inescapably from. Watching Caitlin Moran's Raised by Wolves is a little essay in such Genius Loci. Hilarious and uncomfortable home truths. So too, God works through the complex tapestry of place. The Emperor Quirinias and his nativity crew, political projects, armies and subsequent empires breeze through the land fleetingly, God has been orchestrating a much bigger story. He is orchestrating a much bigger story, for London, for 41.
Lk2v5-6 The time came. 'God's timing is perfect', 'trust in God's timing' are phrases I've never liked or used. Maybe the mire of tangled philosophy behind these phrases makes me keep them at arms length but also because the way these phrases are used tends to conjour in my mind a god as a super-person, who floats just slightly higher off the ground than human beings and can see a little further into the distance, who has some magic powers to move middle-sized dry goods around a bit, a god who wants to bring about the same things that I want, but just at a slightly different time, so I can feel a bit smugly vindicated in the end that I got the thing we wanted, but oh how humbly I also learnt to wait for god's timing. This picture seems to get wrong both God's transcendence and God's immanence. For in some sense all timing is God's timing (Ec3v1-8, what other kind could there be?) And in another sense our sense of time is so shaped by the contours of our own consciousness that cosmic time and deep time are beyond our grasp (2Pt3v8). This is a mystery, I don't know how to comport myself to God's 'time'. I think the 'timing' of God must have an ethical (Ec3v16) and an aesthetic dimension (Ec3v11), & I think we see glimpses of this. We sometimes see how things 'fit', we can tell events as narrative for the glory of God. Sometimes God speaks specific things, like 'wait' or 'go for it'. God is both nearer and bigger than we think, the events around us today already contain a language that speaks of God, the time is always coming, the time is always more than us.
Lk2v7-8 "No room at the inn.." Plan B was always Plan A: The bolt from the blue for the broken is a backstreet bleak and insanitary birth wrapped ragged with what's ready-to-hand. Harsh like Calais Jungle improv, Christ is born at the edge in a brutal theatre of unsentimental favela energy. Behold a sticky God, messy, he makes do to mend. Just about mangering, God takes brinkmanship to the borderlands to display enoughness itself.
~ "No room at the inn.." Outsiders, outliers.. Jesus' birth is not incidentally outside. The outsideness is vital. Beyond the city gates. From-the-outside is where the energy to reverse entropy comes from. Outside of the closed loop of recursive recurrence, God is.
Lk2v9-10 More fear. Interesting to note that the shepherds proclaim joy to be the antithesis of fear, rather than peace, comfort, stillness or courage, as we might expect. I realise that I tend to think of joy as being an extra and optional variable on top of some basic level of existential security that I'm supposed to feel. Not so, dear shepherd-heart, quaking in the early morn. Behold! The joy of your life is close by. Allow joy to master you first, for joy frets nothing, joy panics nothing, joy is a right response to the good, the true, the beautiful. Joy is a right response to belovedness, that which casts out all fear.
Lk2v11-12 Saviour. Christ. Lord. Blurry tautologians, note:
~ Saviour (ctrl+shift+S): From the world, the flesh and the devil. From sins of thought and word and deed. From negligence, weakness and our own deliberate fault. Saviour Jesus saves. Perpetually present tense. Over and over and over. Again and again and again. You and you and you. Jn5v17
~ Christ (adj. 'annointed'): Annointed Prophet. Annointed Priest. Annointed King. Christ Jesus ministers. A supernatural multi-tool, a kit of gifts, commissioned to assume roles mediating spiritual power via a threefold office.
~ Lord (, The): Preeminent over all. Preexisting before all. Prevailing beyond all. Lord Jesus is. Total Boss. Last word. Definitionally superlative. Utter and ultimate. Unparseably vast. Being in its utmost form. More than more than.
~~ Saviour. Christ. Lord. // Does. Has. Is. // Action. Power. Title. // Effecting. Ministering. Being.
Lk2v13-14 Heavenly host. Thinking about the we-yous of angelic-human interactions. There is a collective subject that is the heavenly host who can, it seem, address us, and to whom, it seems, we can reply. Speculation on the inter-group dynamics of a band of angels isn't something we're given much insight into here, but we do see their unity in joint action, collective proclamation, shared purpose, communal worship. We see angels attending to Christ together and turning to face other others to speak of him. Our tasks might differ from the angels in some ways, but there is obvious similarity, overlap and ultimate shared purpose of the worship of the true God. So too then the church, that we are called to attend together to Christ, coordinating ourselves to labour together as one. Prayer this morning for the grace, wisdom, co-ordination, right focus and love that we need for one another as the church, small scale and world wide.
Lk2v15-16 "Let us go.." It is a tidy and dazzling coincidence that we should have considered precisely this notion at such length this weekend from Ps84 'Blessed are those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.' Pilgrimage is a 'going': a sense that there is a point A and a point B. // a conviction that I cannot stay at at A. // a counting the cost of the distance to B. // And then, a going.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go together*, withwards, speaking a "let us" to one another - such is a sacred texting.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go in hope* for a thing which already "has happened" but which is revealed as future tense not-yet seen.
~ And we, like the shepherds, *go "in haste"* knowing our need, knowing time is short, knowing that this makes all the difference. ~ And we, like the shepherds, *go looking* with an earnest yearning seeking scouring eye, a raking and close meditating attentive attention "and found Mary" - ἀνεῦραν is no mere stumbleupon, but a discovery after searching.
and shepherds, bored
woke, and wonder gnawed
Beheld the Lord!
made known abroad,
of one accord,
absurd to hoard
the treasure stored
the spirit broad
their guilt unscored
Far more, and less, than they could afford.
Lk2v19-20 "treasured up .. pondered" What do you store away? What do you commit to memory? What do you bottle up? What promises have you preserved? What tapes do you play? What have you tattooed to your eyelids, what have you carved to your desk? Memory is everything. It is your only interpretative lens, it is the calibration tool of all experience, the bedrock of all language, the means by which we self-identify at all. The modern mind is amnesiac, a flickering light on a blank slate, delible words on disposable architecture, we are committed to nothing and commit nothing to memory, we are flimsy and forgettable flash drives *But you can choose to remember.* And you can choose what you remember. Selective memory is inevitable, so select well. I can give you more verbatim Eminem than I can any writer of anything more edifying. I have not selected well. And thus polluted, the lens by which I describe reality through is tinted and tainted by untruth, subtly shifting my sense of the real, my definition of normal, and my measure of the possible. Scripture memorisation is nothing to boast in, it is an epistemological life-jacket, it is windscreen-wash for our journey through a sandstorm, it is the control test against which all other variables are wildly field tested. // One could contrast "treasured up" two ways. It is *not-forgetting the foundations of your identity*, but it also implies *not-broadcasting boasts of bravado.* The Christian is a depthed being, withdrawing from the ecstasy of communication, and the noise of the present, into the steady and eternal certainties of treasure treasured up. Or so says this introvert..
Lk2v21-22 The naming of Jesus. Sat in the College garden this morning I took out Hudson Taylor's 'Union and Communion with Christ' then put it away again, feeling self-conscious. Among the philosophers and theologians I feel awkward about the name 'Christ', and 'Jesus' is even worse. I'd much rather talk about 'the divine', or maybe 'the Trinitarian God' if I'm feeling brave. I'm quick to un-name Jesus, fearing association with a caricature of the one-dimensional cheesy evangelical. Why have I let myself associate use of the name of Jesus with this fear? I pray that I might be in the business of loving the name and naming the love of Jesus. Out loud: 'Jesus'. May remember, reassociate, recognise the depths of his name.
Lk2v23-24 Christianity is Jewish. Judaism entails certain contextual practices which are now redundant, but also, certain practices which reflect broad human universal practical necessity and enduring poetic relevance. Maternity leave is such a universal practical necessity. Lv12 makes this provision in a language very alien to us: *Uncleanness* ameliorated by *Sacrifice*. The modern mind dismisses these as crude anthropological curiousities. The evangelical mind dismisses these through Jesus: Christ makes all things clean. Christ is a once-for-all sacrifice. I want to briefly and inconclusively speculate on these two themes:
~ *Unclean* as a word conjures in the mind an icky naughtiness, it is a cruel pejorative, a slur brought against the helpless to add insult to injury. It renders a world irredeemably polluted, and the pursuit of personal hygiene stands as a barrier to mission (Ac10v14 etc). However, not all modes of quartering the world into geographies of quarantine are equal. It is possible to establish categories of time space and matter according to their contagious influence or immune nonresistance and to make contingency for compassionate cushioning for the protection of the vulnerable. Maternity leave is such a bracketing. And it is notable that in Judaism the leave is total, short (33 or 66 days), celebrated publically upon readmittance, and varied according to the child (in this case by gender which is another discussion, but it is enough to note that the leave is bespoke).
~ *Sacrifice* usually emphasises a vertical dimension to our spiritual life, a theatrical death of a hapless creature to placate an irate deity. Or in more modern modes, like secular Lent, it is the dramatic death of a pleasure or the onerous foregoing of some privilege in order to placate an infinite moral misdemeanour - smoking or crimes against the body beautiful. Sacrifice in Judaism is notably more person-centred as a ritual, and even horizontal in its orientation, the cost varied according to the economy of her means and the meat would then be eaten by the offerer.
Lk2v25-26 As per discussions about Simeon in Advent, considering that this revelation is comparable to someone now having revelation that they will witness the second coming before they die, which I would dismiss as craziness. As I all the more encounter different types of people with different styles and convictions I ache for discernment and openness both in full measure that I might be able to be aligned with the work of the Spirit who transcends subjective conviction. Come Holy Spirit, give us knowledge, make us wise, draw us close.
~"Death" It is interesting to me that they both have a story with death (v26 "see death" and v37 "widowed"), as if the Spirit were a Thestral, we are beings-toward-death, but over death, we talk down to Death on first name terms, 1Co15v55.
Lk2v29-30 Breath to breath / birth and death. Birth and death heighten everything, neither are capable of telling lies. Both tell us things matter. Both make us responsible. Both tell us we must surrender. Both tell us we can't run on default. Both are unknowns. This is life alive to God: alive to the mystery and pain of birth and death.
Lk2v31-32 "..Salvation .. Light .. Revelation .. Glory.." Generic Christian honorifics prompt an overfamiliar drowsy nod-along response in me. The light metaphor, however, never gets old, never bottoms out, never ceases to draw my imagination to the nooks of new possibility. Light: emitted, transmitted, reflected and absorbed. From the rectilinear propagation of an evangelion, to living in the light's warming glow and nuanced colour, to the casting of light and shadow onto the relief of a textured universe. The world is divided here for Simeon, as for Paul, into Jew and Gentile, a world yet united under a banner 'all peoples' who will yet be brought to light.
~ The Jews, that is, the church qua existing covenant community, has a *light-for-glory*. Light from within, Christ the filament gloriously emitting light outwards from the bulb of the church. Christ's coming into the world is light-for-glory, your glory, Christian. Christ-In-You-the-[luminous]-Hope-of-Glory.
~ The Gentiles, that is, the world, your colleagues, your family, your housemates, have *light-for-revelation*. From this moment, they can now see their hand in front of their face. Radiant light transmitted through the ether from the lit-for-glory saved-ones, casts a world brighter and more shapely, coherent and navigable. Light-for-revelation is task lighting, lamps-unto-paths, neon signage.
_# I will hold the Christ-light for you_
_in the night-time of your fear;_
Lk2v33-34 Rise and Fall First the falling, then the rising. Dragging my soul kicking and screaming to believe Col2v12-15 this morning. Unadorned prayers: First death, then resurrection. Praying for a fuller measure of understanding.
Lk2v35-36 Mary's bleeding heart. No glassy scarlet bead etched with a scalpel, no needling switchblade idly toyed with. The blade ῥομφαία in view here is a blazing barbarian cutlass, the greek mentioned only elsewhere in Rv1v16's double-edged samurai sword, the WMD of sabre sports. Like Mary, we bear Christ, and if we suffer we will reign Rm8v17. Against sanitised Christian suffering, we are lambs to the slaughter, church should be a bloody mess.
Lk2v37-38 Considering what it would be to "never leave the temple". I suspect that Anna is someone else I would dismiss as a bit crazy if I met her. Worshipping night and day? Isn't it a bit...extreme? One-sided? A dangerous echo-chamber? The latter prompts thoughts on what makes for a pathological 'Christian bubble' vs discerning a right calling to primarily or even exclusively invest in worship, prayer and prophecy in the temple. A 'Christian bubble' perhaps involves none of the risk, challenge or labour of life 'out in the world' but also none of Anna's fervour. It takes God-language and church-habits for granted but can operate on an otherwise functional atheism. Where we find ourselves called to life in the temple it must surely be a life of costly rather than cosy.
Lk2v39-40 Jesus "grew" and "became strong" and was "filled with wisdom" and.., like Team America, this needs a montage. The Exploding Calendar trope, set to Eye of the Tiger, we see JC manning up. When we pop out the end of our extended adolescence, what have we become? What manner of manhood have we acquired?
Jesus' incarnation involved birth and death, weakness and temptation, family and friendship, hunger and thirst, dirt and cleaning, anger and intellect, physical pain, emotional pain, and in this verse, 'growth'. To grow is inevitable. But to grow up to become other than merely boys-who-can-shave is not inevitable. Being human involves a growing into an adult form of the species, quantitatively bigger, but what is the quality of being a grown-up, which Millenials are accused of delaying? Many answers could be discussed, but these verses offer these three for starters:
~ *1. Strength.* What did Jesus need strength for? His calling in life was to die for sinners - no strength needed? Additional to that, to preach - no strength needed? And to perform healing - no strength needed? This popular construction of an abridged Jesus in a body-optional mode of his embodiment offers very little to provoke we the reedy, cybernetic and metrosexual towards a muscular Christianity. Jesus grew strong. Christian! Become strong, increase in vigour, Do Hard Things! (Alex & Brett Harris)
~ *2. Wisdom.* Against the myth of the genius, the magic-thinking shortcut to the right answer, there is a wisdom into which one grows. Jesus _was being filled.._ present-participle of a process ongoing. In an wiki age of networked mind, what does one bother to commit to memory, what mental fight is worth the effort, what sort of a knower does one want to become? In an age of mere data processing, what is wisdom? It is still "the art of living skilfully..", it still begins with "the fear of the Lord.." and it remains a prerequisite for mature adulthood. Would that we, 41 and the rest of our generation would set our hearts on a sage gravitas, slowly earnt, long fermented and hard tested. Wisdom wars for true truth, against constructions of reality based on unrelational knowledge and disembodied being. Jesus grew in a wisdom.
~ *3. God's favour.* Indefinite teenagers: there but for the Grace of God go I. The answer to growing up is not simply to work harder and do more. The gift, the privelege, the resource to be the grownup you are called to be, this comes from God. Recieve it by faith. Seek it. Flex the muscles of faith, grow into the use of it, know more the need of it, so seek more of it. And so then Lk2v52: "increase in this grace and favour of God". God grant us grace to grow up.
What is in your Rocky montage?
Lk2v41-42 Jesus was a church kid, like me. He knew the deal, he breathed the alloyed oxygen of genuine faith and compromised religion all about him, his body knew the rituals, his memory was populated by these annual church weekends away in Jerusalem. A prayer this morning for the church kids, for myself, for Phil [et al]. We're all church kids. All the churched and de-churched and re-churched and the not-sures and just-beginnings. For the idol of church to be broken in us all. For the love of church to be a true safety and calling. For true church. For new church. For freedom in realising that Jesus is not the small-c church, for the joy and hope of realising that the big-C church is Jesus, the true vine. God, come save us church kids.
Lk2v43-44 Struck by two things:
 Becoming adult
 Being chill
~  Travelling parties to Jerusalem would have travelled in two groups: the men, and the women&children. Jesus here is older than Nancy Cameron left in the Plough Inn, and the focus here should not be on negligent parenting, but on the unavoidable ambiguity of adolescence. And considering that, then pondering what are the sufficiently safe, sufficiently challenging conditions for the eager developing mind to make radical choices not to follow the inevitable path of his father and uncles, but to carve a divergent road less travelled. The church, as the temple in that day, should be that third space. And perhaps 41 might be such a context for the church. Run this story of Jesus coming-of-age with the parallel prodigal son parable, or with a more contemporary Into The Wild, a note the will to inividuate and the youthful vigour, curiosity and sense of justice, is constant, but how easily this drifts restless and uncontained into the twenties, and even thirties. Kettled, coddled, indulged, suffocated - the world is wasted by the youths we squander.
 Being Chill vs Judgemental Phil who is baffled that this behaviour should be called love. Jesus callous disregard for the practicality of The Plan, what is he thinking!? Och, Phil. The God has these things in hand, and it is so important to retain a sense of proportion, and an openness to the self-ordering of the universe, and the capacity of grace to come in from the outside to bear up these practical things. Jesus is relentlessly relational and impractical, because he could be, and can be. He holds the universe in his hand. As if this were Lion in every moment, knowing that it ends happily ever after, knowing that all things work for good, that we will be reunited, and that everything broken will be repaired.
Lk10v41-42 "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
Ps46v10 "..Be chill, and know that I am God."
Lk2v45-46 I wonder how Mary & Joseph felt during this search for Jesus, especially Mary. She tells us afterwards of her v48 "great distress". Did she know in her depths that Jesus would be ultimately be safe, drawing on the 1v32-33 prophetic promises of God and the 2v19 deep-buried treasures of testimony in her heart, despite surface anxiety? Or did she wonder with deep-seated fear and confusion whether this event unfolding was the 2v35 sword that would pierce her? How did she pray? With anger? With surrender? Reminding God of his words? With loss of certainty as to whether any of it has been God at all? How do we live with the specific direct things we think God has spoken to us - with faith but not entitlement or hubris? What do we do with hard words? How search for Jesus in the hub-bub of the city without over- or under-interpreting our own calling? It can all be a bit loud and frantic, this search, God...teach me the how as well as the where.
Lk2v47-48 In the life of the mind, what made Jesus 'Jesus'? We know Jesus' Jesusness was not found in any "form nor comeliness". It was not any "beauty that we should desire him" Is 53:3. It was not an immunity to hunger Mk11v12 or sleep Mk4v38. Neither was it omniscience, for he had to learn wisdom Lk2v52. But what about his mind? He "astonished in his understanding and answers".. When the God of the universe elected to become flesh, did he fashion a version of a man with a peculiar mental capacity, a superhuman intellect? Should we consider Jesus intelligent, above average intelligent, in the top 1% intelligent, or beyond that, a superlatively intelligent genius operating with an inaccessible giftedness? And what does that genius alter in the way we relate to our friend and saviour, our brother and exemplar?
OR. Can it be claimed that Jesus was an ordinary human, of ordinary build and ordinary intelligence, distinguished only by sinlessness? Genuine question.
To meet a simple mind long shaped by grace, an average mind not blinded by sin, not hostage to sinful appetites, not corrupted in its thinking - such a mind would think astonishing thoughts. There would the weak and foolish things shame the wise. For, sin impairs thinking, the mind turned in on itself is epistemelogical self sabotage. There is a virus-of-the-mind aspect to our captivity to sin. And the corrupt mind's ideas have consequences for mental health, and the total effectiveness of a genius.
But an average mind, that has learnt to kill sin? That would be astonishing.
Lk2v49-50 Jesus embodies Ps84, obv. And the search for him draws us towards the Father's house, the holy of holies, a clearer signal of that Trinitarian love. The adolescent Jesus does a sneaky Jn17v24-26 on his parents. Go searching.
Lk2v51-52 "#..you too will get old; and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders..."
~ *Jesus submitted.* Be like Jesus. Imitate his civil disobedience. Imitate his submission. In this portrait of a saviour-in-formation, we see the adult Christ forged in the profoundly ordinary process of humble submission.
~ *Jesus submitted.* Even the peerless Jesus. Especially the peerless Jesus. Jesus submits because Jesus knows that the truest true greatness comes through submission. It is in submission that we find the all-sufficient resource, for the needed efficacy to overcome the utterly pervasive brokenness of the world. Submission is not incidental. Submission is essential. Submission is not merely a scout badge amongst other good behaviours. Submission is the training for, and the substance of, _the_ battle against the human problem: the rebellious unsubmissive selfish heart. *Submission is the antithesis of individualism.* And, individualism is _the_ drug of our age. It permeates every presupposition, every snowflake lifestyle expectation, every disruptive business plan, every party political manifesto. It colours marriages, it shapes architectures, and it renders community antagonistic and impossible. We measure ourselves and 'the good' against a false freedom, the myth of autonomy. And toward that vision, our modern saviour will come unfettered, so we must be unfettered. Our rugged individualist saviour will move fast and break things to bring us the salvation of invulnerable podular existences and technologies which mitigate all contexts for possible submission.
~ *Submit because Jesus submitted.* You are not the exception. A life-unsubmitted is not merely flimsy and sentimental, it is untrue and ineffective. You are not better than Jesus.
~ *Submit as Jesus submitted.* Jesus submitted to inadequate authorities, uncomprehending parents ultimately through to duplicitous disciples and corrupt government. Jesus submits, he takes no power over, he seeks the good of and serves, he plays by their rules, he dies by their sword.
~ *Submission is the substance of peaceful community* Eph5v21 Submission moves the heart. Mary was taking notes anyway, but this episode commits itself as a memory bookending Mary's understanding of the Christ's formation. And it is in this way of impacting the heart that *submission is the armoury of effective conflict* Rm12v21 Mt5v39 1Pt3v1 etc. Submission is the non-violence which heaps burning coals, overthrows empires and wins unbelieving spouses to faith.
Friday, 31 March 2017
Lk1v1-2 Eye-witnesses. Here we are in Luke, the least familiar of the gospels to me. Ambivalent feelings emerge about eye-witnesses: gratitude, jealousy, doubt, a sense of inaccessibility. My prayer for Luke is for eyes to see, for imagination opened, to witness-with and witness-through this eye-witness account, amen.
Lk1v3-4 An "orderly account" leads to "certainty". Music to this INTJ. There is a danger in reductio-ad-MyersBriggs, but. Your account should be orderly, as libraries should be alphabetised. Your testimony should offer certainty, as life-jackets should be airtight. But how? In thinking recently about prayer-letters, Luke's missive here is an example in the format. We write. We write not to coerce, but we do write to convict 1Co14v24 and to compel Lk14v23. We write to structure worldviews. We write sequels to Luke-Acts. We write about the perpetual Christ event, synoptic accounts of his birth into the life of 41 in 2017. Donald Miller's theologisation of Robert Mckee's theory of story makes an imperative of structuring life, risk and punchline through the lens of faith using this equipment of Story. We root for heroes who risk something and narrative only progresses through conflict or crisis. Our hero is Christ, who risked and risks everything for you. Now he writes us in to his story, we should expect a risky ride, and we should plan to write an orderly account of it.
Lk1v5-6 Blameless but barren? Faithful but fruitless? Let us not skip too quickly to the culmination of Elizabeth & Zechariah's story but remember the long years that preceded it. Was God there? Read in the light of Lk6v20-26, there are woes and blessings we don't expect, for mysteriously God is at work in the unfulfilment of our desires. Where are you poor? Where are you dissatisfied? Blessed are you. Where are you satisfied quickly? Woe to you have already received your comfort.
Lk1v7-8 Picture Liz and Zach, wizened oaks, they are the leathery well-weathered ones. Stricken in years: they are old when that was noble. Afflicted in body: they are infertile when that was biologically opaque, morally ambiguous but just as tragic as now. They are bastions of perfect metaphorical force, faithful in the face of misfortune, they stand also at the spring of cliche, icons for our own cultural infertility, prophets to our own wasted youth. Children are our primary perpetuity, our most conspicuous come-what-may, children are the fruit of hope, an emblem of optimism, the gurgling forth of the possible. Childlessness, elective or subjected, pragmatic, physiological or philosophical, all bear the same wound. The myth structure of the bible claims for every event here described, not only that it happened, but it happens. And into every childlessness, every entropy, every blocked well, every literal and metaphorical crisis of fertility, God speaks a new word, to the priests on duty.
Lk1v9-10 Incense burnt in the Holy of Holies, while outside the people prayed. A commentary tells me those outside would pray in 'profound silence'. We're about to keep silence together this evening, and I'm struck by the thought of a connection between incense, silence & prayer in scripture here and elsewhere: Ps141v2-3 'Receive my prayer as incense, my uplifted hands as an evening sacrifice / Lord, place a guard at my mouth, a sentry at the door of my lips.' And in Rv8, a picture of heaven v1 'When the Lamb broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour' - followed by the angels burning incense, which are the prayers of the saints. So as we take silence this even, would it become true incense, true prayer, may we know ourselves at the threshold of the Holy of Holies.
Lk1v11-12 Wizened, Zach steps inside, stately in to consecrated space. Turban tousled by arid Arabian air and brow beat by a caustic whip of sandy wind. Pastorally Zach steps in, into the humid courtyard hues. Heavy the breath of human bustle in earnest prayer in the minor-key broken-hearted chorus of longing. By an outside chance, Zach steps in, an insider-traded pebble on the roulette wheel of a God-addled universe: temple lots drawn by an ancient fate that leaves nothing to chance. And so, Zach steps in. Steps long echoed on stone through the heavy cool and creaking dust of a gothic inner gloomth. Into a totality of blackened gilding under wax accretion, incensed in the aroma of velvet bronze and leather teak. Beady lamp lights blur as liquid crystals in the billows of presence, Zach inhales the very thickness of a substantial cosmos. Zach steps in, he treads the angelic threshold, the fearful angelic threshold, the precipice of the Other City, patrolled by agents of infinity, searing Sorn slivers of blinding arc-welded current as celestial dimensions short-circuit in human form. Zach steps and stumbles. The God we say we believe in turns up. The hurricane of the possible, the superstructure behind the veil, a deafening superabundance. Everything, every but-it-not, everything is yes and amen in that moment.
Lk1v13-14 There are many types of fear, and many categories of fear. One distinction between fears is the fear that God doesn't exist or isn't good vs the fear that God does exist and is good. Zachariah's fear here is the second, the sudden jolt of realising that God's reality is close and might disrupt my world, the Ps76 recognition that God is God. The angel tells him to be unafraid - we aren't meant to remain paralysed by holy fear, it is supposed to lead us to worship, joy, delight, obedience, freedom. It is the Pr1v7 beginning of wisdom, but it is only the beginning. I wrote this text yesterday but still spent the morning anxious - I wasn't even in the second fear but the first, the Lk10v41 and worse anxiety, distrust. My prayer for myself and you today is for the jolt of holy fear, so that an angel of the Lord might lead me from there into the wide open space of God's reality.
"Great." What is greatness? It is within the realm of possibility that you would be great, become great, be involved in achieving great things. The trajectory of being Christian goes beyond grasping the revelation that you are a unique special snowflake beloved by God (which you are), and beyond acquiring Christ's healing and wholeness (which you can), towards Christian greatness, in breadth and depth of impact. "..before the Lord" ~ Greatness is a quality which God observes? What is this greatness? It is not a kit of parts achieved by eating locusts and being a vociferous political commentator, greatness is contextual according to calling. JtB's greatness consisted in courage, zeal and self-abnegation. I was struck yesterday by Jerram Barrs' describing that Mexican workers on his father-in-law's farm desired to raise their children to be like him who gave them such profound dignity in all his dealings. I want that, not so much the reputation, per se, but the sense that I might, by Christ's resource, participate in something great enough to transcend my immediate sphere, and bring life to a third and fourth generation.
"Wine." Thinking in Lent about appetite. Thinking in Lent about vows. JtB's peculiar call is to sober extremism. What is yours? We revisit some of the strategic provocation that motivates JtB's tee-total calling in Lk7v33-34: abstinent JtB is called demonised, drinking Jesus is called a drunkard. Which am I? Which controversial extremism is my calling? What is my circumstance? What is my gift? It has been interesting also in Lent to think about personality types, perhaps as a way to access calling. Go ye with your enneagram MBTI love languages and ponder a Lenten SWOT diagram for your kung fu veganism, or other idiosyncratic lifestyle vow.
"Holy Spirit." There is a Holy Spirit. This is not nothing. This is not a mild honorific or spiritual analogy. JtB will be indwelt by, possessed by, summoned into energetic dialogue with, thrust forth and empowered by a personal Spirit with infinite power and insight. Christianity needs super-powers. Greatness needs super-powers. Sober Extremism or Wine Connoisseurship need super-powers. In JtB the abstinence from strong spirits is a canvas the display of the Holy Spirit, whose similar hilarious disinhibition are crucial to the Holy Fool calling to which JtB is called. What is your canvas, what is your call.
Lk1v17-18 Thinking on these verbs used here: turn (epistrepsai) and prepare (hetoimasai). We turn in order to be prepared for God. Actually, God turns us in order that God might prepare us for God's self. It is the holy spirit through JtB who turns hearts, opens up a different posture, and this turning is a movement which 'prepares' us, 'makes us ready' for God. This is the virtuous circle of grace: it is Christ who prepares us (Jn14v2) and Christ we are prepared for (Jn14v3). Noting also the two types of turning mentioned here as preparation for Christ: relational reconcilation between generations, and a posture of openness to wisdom rather than disobedience, which is to say to true reality rather than constructed reality. Today I pray that God might turn my heart in the right direction that I and you might be prepared for more of God, grace upon grace.
Lk1v19-20 State your name, cuz. Gabriel init. Mention my name in your tweets. Oi rude boy Shut Up. And so. [..
..] A deafening silence, a pregnant pause. Zach on mute: A gagging order, a super injunction, a divine NDA, the solitary exile of the naughty corner, the respite of the quiet carriage, the heterotopia of a silent retreat, negative space of a blank slate, the signal sounded by noise cancelling clarity?
Really hard to say what is intended by deaf-muting Zach, but it is possible to read in this silence a disciplinary response to faith faltering, appropriately punitive, graciously corrective, but in some way logically self-fulfilling. I say this as: 1. I have known unbelief lead to silence. 2. I have known silence as a seedbed for belief
- 1. There is a time for silence, and all that Ecc3v17, but, faith by and large, is outspoken, it makes a joyful noise Ps98v4, and if it doesn't it is fire shut up in my bones Jr20v9, and if I don't the rocks will Lk19v40, and if I don't, then how will the world hear Rm10v14, and when I don't, when I hang up my harp, there is Babylon Ps137v2. It is an entropic universe that tends towards silence, a cosmic cover-up, joyless minimalism and the shame of nothing-nice-to-say, the fingers-in-ears willed amnesia of a bloody 20th century, reductive science and the redacted intermediate-scale.
- 2. But. Into that silence, there speaks a still small voice. Out of that scorched earth, a blossom buds. Ex nihilo, when your wine has run out, when everything you've done have come to nothing. There is God. There is God. So, as Christians, we should give silence, offer spaces for silence, frequently forging stillness into our rhythm, embellishing gaps as sanctuaries. Because in this world noise is oppressive, unjust and political, noise is the default, and it damages the least well-off the most. Matthew Crawford goo.gl/HVE7wq observes this, that silence has become a luxury good that the wealthy can buy in first class lounges. We spent a couple of hours in silence as a house last Saturday, allowing Lent to body forth in the void. We'll do it again. Join us.
Lk1v21-22 Zechariah tries impromptu sign language. Apt that I am currently reading Oliver Sacks' 'Seeing Voices' and thinking about sign as language. Zechariah here of course doesn't smoothly lapse into an indigenous sign language but a crude attempt to signal key reference points, pointing at objects, as though a child. This 'making signs' has no grammar, it is communication at its least nuance, as shown up in the distinction between 'Signed English' which is 'mere transliteration and lacks the structure of genuine sign language' vs BSL and all the true sign languages, which enable and communicate nuanced thought. I think of Zechariah, robbed of his first language and needing to learn a new one with his hands from scratch. Thinking of these first clumsy attempts. Thinking of this particularly in the light of communication difficulties. 'Maybe many of our misunderstandings are stylistic' - Yes, maybe they are, maybe we speak as though a different grammar even if our nouns and verbs are the same. Zechariah had to learn a new language, a new way to speak and sign at this point of crisis, and in response to holy, weighty experience. My prayer is that we might learn the new languages we need, to communicate to one another what happens in the Holy of Holies.
Lk1v23-24 After Inconceivable. Ninja Elizabeth withdraws to a stealth maternity, this agent goes to ground. Why? And when should we?
- Practical? youtu.be/2VT2apoX90o ~ This is the Sigur Ros moment, this is the strings rising. Serious holy mischief is afoot, and so serious equal-and-opposite opposition awaits. Do I consider what I carry? Do I consider what stands against it?
- Personal? Mt6v6, go, close your curtains. Preparation for the holy birth is a private matter, an intensely internal affair. What is the timing of the broadcast of my good news, what are the conditions for effective communication?
- Poetic? Just like Jesus slips in and out of the public, in an on going divine withdrawal choreographing revealing and concealing. Lk4v30 Jesus slips away, Lk5v16 Jesus often withdrew.. The boundary between his self and the throng, the spatial containing of his divine essence. There is a quiet-time, which is more than merely convenient headspace, but is a true truth about personalism's individuation. What is my quiet time for?
Lk1v25-26 I would like to be more like Elizabeth insofar as I would like my disgraces to mismatch public and private like she. She was v6 privately faithful and v25 publicly disgraced, the opposite of Mt23v27 whitewashed tombs, of Lk11v39 clean cups of violence. I am that hypocrite. And I am a fool, because 11v40 God who makes the outside also makes the inside, because 12v3 what I have done in the dark will be shouted from the rooftops.
Lk1v27-28 How does one hail a Mary? How does one flavour a gravy? Favour-found is found apart from desert. None achieve goodness, we have goodness thrust upon us. Mariology is the rock and the hard place of male commentarians treading the neither-nor of anti-catholic-over-reaction, on the one hand, and the masculinisation-of-all-things-divine, on the other. Mary was favoured to carry Christ. So are you. That is enough. That is an infinitely far reaching claim. ~ We can learn how to do this well, from Mary, full of Grace.
Lk1v29-30 Fear again, resassurance again. Mary tries to figure it out, she's a thoughtful one, she wants to understand, as surely we all do. Knowledge is our best first defense against fear, and this is no bad thing. But in the economy of holy fear and it's transfiguration, knowledge alone is not enough, it will take some v38 surrender too. Ps131.
Lk1v31-32 Why did Jesus have to be born, as opposed to being brought into being another way? Sure, pregnancy and birth and early years are necessary aspects of fully sympathetic vulnerably embodied incarnation, but is that sufficient cause? What does the birthiness of Jesus' birth speak to all subsequent births and conceptions and theologies of so doing? Why did Jesus birth involve a human woman, but not a human man? Were the reverse possible, what would be the poetic of that? If, for argument's sake Jesus could have been Joseph's son through a surrogate angel, what would that imply for our gendered redemption and our redemptions of genders? The circumstances of conception carry so much meaning, the hopes and fears of all the years.. Such is any baby, in a fractal universe of signs and transcendental signifiers, pointers-to and explications of the Christ-as-baby event. Christ's humanness in his Christness, that which we look to to imitate, that which we commend and speak of as divine, tends almost exclusively to be the adult Christ, fully grown, the teaching and healing and murdered and risen Christ. But he was equally a baby, he was an unborn person, and he was no less the Christ in that. So, insofar as we look to Christ-as-example, so should all our babies poetically be.
Lk1v33-34 Ask. In pursuit of the kind of knowledge that would make her powerful like God, Eve asks God no questions, she simply eats the fruit, tries to short-cut using non-relational appropriation, devouring - I'm struck for the first time that the only questions in Gen1-3 are those God asks humanity, none vice versa. Mary on the other hand, asks a question. Not to know the answer for the sake of knowledge, but to know as relation to God. A timely word. // Irigaray: "Eve wants above all to know, which includes knowing things that have a relation to the divine. Now God cannot be reduced to knowledge. Wanting to appropriate knowledge of the divine, Eve consumes a breath that is irreducible to knowledge...Mary retains a relation to life, the soul, to love, particularly divine love, that is neither appropriation nor consumption of the self, nor of the other, nor of God."
Lk1v35-36 Vexingly, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you" explains very little as to the mechanics of Mary's legitimate "How?" It's still basically Deus Ex Utero via magical thinking. God however, is not satisfied to leave us to fumble amongst superstitions, frustrated by arbitrary interventions. What is interesting to me here, is the mode of prophecy confirmation. The prophecy related to Elizabeth is a sort of epistemelogical downpayment and a double-blind proving of the Jesus hypothesis. What a precious confidence this would be. This is the triangulation of intuitions, Liz & Mary jointly-attending to that which is unseen. The precedent God sets here offers an imperative to discern prophecy and to discern prophecy in community. As he does further elsewhere 1Cor14v29. Not-despising-prophecy (1Th5v20) must be a speaking of it, towards a growing in confidence that your intuitions of God's spirit come from a reality outside yourself and influence a reality outside yourself.
Lk1v37-38 v38 Nothing is impossible for God. Thinking in terms of possibility is a necessary condition of being able to think at all, as the philosophers love to tell us. If we had no categories of would-have-happened-if-X or could-have-happened-but-Y then we'd be stuck inside a 2-dimensional time-less causation-less flat literal actuality. We think in possibilities, we must, but we think in limited possibilities. This is one way in which God is different to us - in omnipotence, divine thought is structured by every possibility there is, for nothing is impossible. Not at random, but in terms of limitless connections, limitless meaningful possibilities that we don't, can't or tend not to see. How technicolour the trinitarian thought life must be! How expansive! How big! Of course we profess to know this, but a little reflection opens up a chink through which the dizzying wonder of 'nothing is impossible' serves as a gateway into worship. It is surely the divine thought-life structured by every possibility that artists and prophets tap into. A prayer for you and us this week, for the eyes to see. // v39 Surrender. Needs to be my word for 2017 if anything is. I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said. Surrender vs Guilt, Blame, Manipulation, Anger or Indifference. Most of the time I can't pray this in truth, but I want to: I am the Lord's servant / May it be to me as you have said. Amen
Lk1v39-40 Scary for contrary Mary, young wise and nimble, a zen broody Yiddish kid, a bairn, skittish, hid. Considered as birds, see she a blue tit quits her twig. A survivor fittest flitted a flight from the city's lights on restless prying eyes, sighs, tuts, lies and Sweeny meatmarket pies chewed through veiled disgust at the baby inside. Mary, endangered as a prophet in her own mews, and very estrangered as the bearer of bad news. Embryo canary to the empire hustle, even unborn, Jesus brings no peace but a scorn to the messenger. // A pregnant pause. Mary withdraws. Are you an outcast? Are you an artist? Are you a Christian? Are you a refugee? Are you an unknown quantity? What do you bear, and how do you bear it? Where do you go? How do you consolidate prophecy? How do you prepare for the danger of faith? Mary withdraws to a priest's house. Are you a priest's house, are you a refuge? Where is your front door? Where is your side door? What will you feed them? How will they know they can come?
Lk1v41-42 come holy spirit // no bullshit /// cells singing // life leaping /// prophecy umbilical // most rich in love /// come holy spirit
Lk1v43-44 "Why is this granted to me?" Community is such a privilege. We have considered in the past how homegroup, and indeed 41, might be modelled after AA, as a 12 step program, admitting we are powerless over our brokeness, making a fearless moral inventory of our wrongs, confessing and journeying to wholeness with a sponsor, sponsoring others, being indefinitely in recovery. An urgently needed model for the Christian life? This encounter of a very-old and very-young first-time-mother, suggests to me NCT as a model for homegroup. Where NCT is peer support with an acute emphasis on locality. NCT is an aggregator and incubator of basic human wisdom tailored to the timely nuance of a specific culture and climate. NCT is an equipping for task of nuture beyond our individual capabilities. There is an attractive bond of NCT sisterhood, one of right fear and utter wonder, knowing privilege and awesome responsibility. So too the Christian life is joint attention to the novel experience of Christ in yous the hope of glory.
Lk1v45-46 Magnify. Thinking about this English translation of Mary's famous opener [megalynei] and the fact of the literal impossibility of magnifying the infinite, insofar as magnification is 'making something appear larger than it is'. Mary's soul doesn't magnify the Lord by making God bigger than God is, but rather by attunement to the Spirit magnifies by seeing and reflecting in higher resolution than our spiritual eyes usually see the detail of divine reality - she sees the [teleiosis] God is here weaving, the fulfillment of promise is magnified in Mary as a microscope magnifies hydrogen atoms - all around us, invisible, holding the fabric of reality together. A soul so attuned reflects reality in detail to second & third persons. From the first person this magnification is indistinguishable from worship, exaltation, praise. My soul doth magnify the Lord.
Lk1v47-48 Mary sings. Do you sing? What do you sing? When do you sing? How do you sing?Mary's "soul rejoices" There is a physiology to rejoicing, you sing with your whole body poised and alive to a rhythm and tone. The trained diaphragm that instrumentalises the chest cavity as a tool tuned for the task of a life harmonic in vocal range and reach suited for broadcast. [From the gutsy mustered bellow of How Great Thou Art, to the over oxygenated headrush of Beautiful One, you sing with your body, for better or worse.] There is poetry to singing, the articulation of words and signs, universes of complexity, structures of argument and nuance layered through vocabularies of reference and emotion and meaning. Songs describe realities and declare realities, bringing worlds into being. You sing with your whole mind. There is an experiential springboard to singing. You sing with your whole past. The long run up into a song's burst, latent melodies released in the momentary revelation event that brings pen to page and bow to string. There is a ontology to singing, a theology, an emotional substance, you sing with your whole heart as an imperative necessary claim about ultimate reality.
Singing, the shape of it and the lack of it, has been on my mind. Mary's Christianity, Magnificatic Christianity, if you will, is an argument made for God, made from the Joy, expressed in Song. God → Joy → Song
- God. Have you had an unambiguously confirmed encounter with an infinite personal God with a direct saving interest in you?
- Joy. Have you known the exuberant coherence and the dazzling new light it casts on all circumstance? Joy in an infinite security, a depthless resource of pleasure, personally tailored and directly at hand.
- Song. Have you written your own song, sung you own story, inhaling grace, exhaling worship, declaring explicitly and precisely what God has done, reinforced in the tongues of preconceptual melody?
Magnificatic Christianity is a disinhibited Christian hedonism that is emphatically ornamented, legibly harmonic, and memorably articulated.
Lk1v49-50 Mary in two breaths speaks specifically of what God has done 'for me' and of what God does 'from generation to generation'. She pays attention to the parts and the whole, for attention to God requires both. She sees herself as more than a mere conduit and takes her own experience seriously but situates herself in the context of her ancestors & her descendents, knowing the sweep of the Spirit and the largeness of God's mercy exceeds her. She is both an analytical and a gestalt thinker, an analytical and gestalt worshipper of the one God.
Lk1v51-52 The proud are scattered. Having been gathered, as brains once mustered for battle, we, the proud, are defused in the presence of God. He breaks the concentration of a cluster. The scattering of the metropolitian elite is needed again to disenclique us, to prise us from the suprahuman edifice we are so busy castellating in London. The Kingdom of Heaven is a centrifuge, it is distributive justice in an even spread to the four corners of the ends of the earth. And this is no mere goes-around-comes-around karma comeuppance, no, God _does_ it. And God does it through the Boss Baby in Mary's womb, God does it by the same spirit which is in you. God is up-side-downing the world, where the weak overcome the strong, where the foolish shame the wise, where babies take on empires.
Lk1v53-54 As Ps107v33-35, the God who gives and takes, gifts & breaks, parches & slakes. We think of these are two different things, as two aspects of God's character - mercy & justice perhaps, but actually this is all part of the same divine movement towards wholeness & holiness, towards shalom. As modern intersectionality theories tell us, there is no such thing as pure privilege or pure underprivilege, we are almost always both, in different ways, & God meets us in both, works shalom in both, by comforting us where we are troubled, troubling us where we are comfortable.
Lk1v55-56 We speak about a God who spoke, and who speaks and whose will speak the first and last word on all things. We pray promises, which were, which are being, which will be, made and fulfilled. We live confidently in a historical continuity, then and now, now and not yet. Did God speak to Abraham? IFTTT Listen. Did God speak to Abraham? IFTTT Trust. Did God speak to you?
Lk1v57-58 I am most likely to compare myself to and to be jealous of other Christian women, of their joys, their 'success', their victories, even their prayers. The holy spirit offers a different way, the way of rejoicing with those who rejoice. Christ-conditioned compathy. So I will rejoice with you sister; we will rejoice with you.
Lk1v59-60 "he shall be called John" What's in a name? Zachariah: YAHWEH remembers. John: YAHWEH is gracious. A minor point perhaps, but we are daily involved giving and recieving names. As Adam in the garden, this is dominion, in this way we describe and prescribe realities. Naming is the hammer and forge by which we shape identities, be they pejorative slurs or honorific banners over. By naming, by calling out qualities, by prophesying over, we make external and explicit that which is invisible, we make public that which is tacit, we make now that which is not-yet.
- "called him after his father.." "..not so, his mother answered.." What's in a renaming? #GSAP: I'm Alison's yout, but I'm God's son. A roundhouse blow to patriarchy? John is named neither by nor after his father.. What does it mean? Who is allowed to name and rename you, whose view of you defines you? God extracts you from the default, from the tribal morass, from the man-hands-misery-on-to-man, from whatever some of you once were. Jacob now Israel, Simon now Peter, John and James now Boanerges. You are the artist-formerly-known-as _________
Lk1v61-62 #everydaysexism #menexplainthingstome ? This feels like a classic, the double-pronged (i) 'explaining' to Elizabeth why she's wrong (as if she were unaware of Jewish naming custom, or is just being silly) then (ii) talking past her so that her man can speak for her, implying no agency or reasoning of her own. Zechariah proves himself a good man & a good husband in many ways, including v63 his simple cut-through affirmation of Elizabeth's voice, her capacity to speak as and for part of their asymmetric but mutually participatory 'we' too.
Lk1v63-64 Naming names. Zac etch-a-sketching the name John releases Zac to speak again. There is power in the act of naming, it is definitive and reality changing because we are conjuring an irreducible personal universe in a shift from a prisoner-24601 to a my-name-is-neo notion of urgent and effective personalism. Thanks everyone who replied with thoughts and resources on names last time. Hello friends! This along with WomansHour's Monday episode on Names, and that I was rota'ed this week to preach on JtB from Lk7v18–31 July 9th, I have felt a strange inundation on a theme.. What does it mean?
- "Many things about life in Pakistan seem much closer to 'bible times' than our 21st century British / Western points of reference, including naming. There is honour associated with naming - entirely weirdly to my cultural background I was given such an honour by our refuse collector - and meaning is important - you'll be asked the meaning of your and your children's names. Knowing this played a bit of a role in why we named our boys their names."
- "Thinking about new names, I was reading this recently: 'You will be called by a new name... No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land Beulah (married); for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.' Is62."
- "[Re:RHE on 'Named Beloved' ] Brought up in a non-conformist evangelical church where believer's baptism was taught, I never heard that being 'named beloved' could be for me. Baptism was all about belief and obedience. Not identity and beloved-ness. It has had a profound effect on me, and I've allowed this teaching to sit with me and shape me since."
Lk1v65-66 Fear again, again, though this might be holy fear. From the R.Fyall book on Job I'm reading at the moment: 'Now, depending on our faith at any given moment, the fact that God is in control may cause us to thank him or dread him. Probably all of us have had the kind of experience where the problem is not that we do not believe God to be in control, but that we secretly do not trust God to work out a scenario we will like. We do not doubt that God is in control, nor even that ge has our best interests at heart. What we do doubt is that he knows as well as we do what our best interests are.' Or indeed, I reflect, we fear because we know he knows what our best interests are, but what is in our best interests is fearful to us.
Lk1v67-68 "filled with the Holy Spirit.." ~ Oh for a fuller Phil to flow. Zac brims, bubbles and bursts forth with a breathless benediction in a single long sentence. Fill to full: the fluid dynamics of the spiritual life is a question of the flow rate of an incompressible inviscid spirit.. Oh broken vessels, oh torn wineskins, oh mops rung out, oh parched and weary lands, tap the source, plug in to a trickle down, open the floodgates, let it rain, soak in his presence, be planted by streams... How do you consider your soul as a reservoir, what are your inlets, what are your outlets, how are you porous, what do you soak up, what do you filter, how do you keep the fuel flowing, where are the keys to the sluice gate of your being? "he has visited and redeemed.." As, ten thousand years, Genie, can give you such a crick in the neck. But now.
promises become premises,
protending, not pretending, that provision's way is paved,
and he pre-conditions praise.
Prince, prophet, priest,
prepared for, peace.
Lk1v71-72 To insert ourselves into Zac's song:
~ 1. *We are John-the-Baptists* who would provoke such songs from such Zac's. JtB's future ministry, described in v76-77, will have the effect of displaying the God of v68-75, JtB's ministry _already_ has the effect of eliciting the cascade of praise - it has this effect even in anticipation of that which is not-yet, latent, undeveloped, only just born. In small ways and big, visibly and invisibly, insofar as God's gives you the grace, you are called to JtB' *ministry of path-straightening* (Mk1v3), of calling people to repentance, of preaching the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. So, minister in such a way that rests in the promises of God, displays the fulfilment of the promises of God, and so confirms the promises of God as true for others, applicable, imitatable, and worthing singing about.
~ 2. *We are Zacs* who would be provoked to such songs by recognising the work and future work of God in the lives of others. Zac's *ministry of spiritual fathering* sings what he sees with the eyes of the spirit, speaks out prophetically the work of God present and future. So I should feel like singing the future glory of each germinating minister at 41, St Marks, GRR..
~ We are JtBs and we are Zacs on a battlefield. This song renders the Christian life combatively, foregrounding that there _are_ "enemies". You will be spiritual fathers who send their precious path-straightening offspring to contend with "haters", to suffer trials, and to risk death (Mk6v25-28).
Lk1v73-74 Scouring Genesis 12-18 I can't find any specific promise that God makes to Abraham that his descendents would 'serve him without fear'. This suggests that Zechariah doesn't have a merely literal or thin relationship to scripture & tradition, but a full-blooded, living, imaginative, talmidic & spirit-sensitive relationship to scripture & tradition. By the spirit he can see connections between the writing of scripture and the unwritten meanings it has for his life-to-the-full, our life-without-fear. I want this.
Lk1v75-76 Christians are tasked with similar "go before the Lord to prepare his ways", insofar as the Christ-event is perpetual, he is ever at-hand, ever in-breaking, there are ever new contexts for Christ to be born into. So we, as harbingers, go with JtB to 'prepare'.
~ "Prepare" Like setting up the marquee before a ball, like a soundcheck before a rally, like the warmup act before the main event? Is that it? The Bible offers various preparations, agricultural analogies of soil for seeding Lk8v15 / 1Co3v6, bridal allegories of biding time for a late groom Mt25v3, OCD notions of steamrollered flat straight clean Roman roads through organic wildernesses Is40v3, all in anticipation of that Day-of-the-Lord moment. This is the pre-evanglist's ministry, a busy tidying, a fussy readying, a scene-setting something-or-other.. before the ta-da! of God's coming.
~ Yes to the energy of this, but, what are we preparing again? God comes to people, we prepare people. And their wilderness is the conceptual chaos of hearts and minds without a vocabulary or grammar for sin or salvation. Standing with a placard at Oxford Circus is just noise unless the words signify something in the hearer's experience. The "knowledge" spoken of in v77 is experiential knowledge:
~ "gnōsis derived ginōskō, "experientially know" – working-knowledge gleaned from first-hand personal experience, connecting theory to application; application-knowledge gained by a direct relationship ... "knowledge" of this is not merely, notional and speculative, but experimental, approbative, fiducial, appropriating, sure, and certain.."
~ How will they know? By life-on-life witness, your life's highs and lows lived transparently alongside theirs, to see, to feel and to know that sin is real and to know that repentance is necessary and above all to know the reality of saving love which surpasses knowledge Eph3v19.