Thursday, 23 February 2017

texting romans sixteen

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Rm16v1-2 Sister Phoebe. Grateful for the list of those who were there at the beginning of the early church, the taste of the new & the bold. But a depth, a maturity, also resonates from the list of thanks here, a steadiness of work coupled with the adventure of meaning & sacrifice. A church which knows how to give & to receive, to welcome & to thank, to serve & to preach & to rest & to thank & to be 'good friends' to one another. A church where men & women labour together in partnership. Gender remains a battleground in and outside the church, & I am here grateful for the unselfconscious picture of men & women labouring together well for the kingdom of God. I am grateful to be reminded of Sister Phoebe, a spiritual mother to us all, along with Priscilla & Mary & Junia. Grateful for the women who have run the race ahead of me, would I learn from their example.

Rm16v3-4 Oscar acceptance speech thanks and shout-outs and dedications and name-drops ~ how beautiful are those feat. on my new EP. Writing to the church in London, who would be on your list? Risk makes bands of brothers. Mission makes for meaningful mutually burdened co-labour. The urgent cooperative task of evangelisation is _the_ vital we-experience. I want to be the Hb12v1 cloud of witnesses, I want to be the runner, I want be the church in Rome, I want that 41 be such a crucial fellowship, for homegroup to be ernest kinsmen covenented to the task of risking necks.

Rm16v5-6 The church in their house. Timely today as prayers needed for the church in our house. How do we then House? How do we then Church, How do we then HouseChurch? God grant us wisdom, kindness, humility, joy. Teach us to forget self-help self-posturing inspirational sermon overthought silliness, & help us to breathe deep your reality, to drink from scripture simply & slowly, to look the real-life imperfect others in the face, and to let the Lord build the House, to know the Church as Christ's body.

Rm16v7-8 🙏✉ Beloved in the Lord, to my kith and kin, we should all write so. We should all, and all comms should be, a mode of submitting and commending. We should all write to commend. *Greet* as mutual pray-er and pray-ee well-seekers.. Prompted again to think broadly of the phenomenon of the Prayer Letter and how much more ordinary it could be.

Rm16v9-10 'fellow workers', 'dear friends', 'those who have proved their loyalty to Christ', 'those who belong to the [extended] family': all these different modes of relating, serving & belonging to one another packed into this quiet list of thanks. Let us labour, love & learn from one another, with such casual kaleidoscope beauty.

Rm16v11-12 'Household of Narcissus' (Commentaries presume this to be the same wicked Narcissus infamous secretary to Emperor Claudius) Amongst his household were Christians, known or unknown. So, greet those indentured to the Square Mile, which are in the Lord. Greet those ministering in the super-hard places, the thankless witness to the oligarchically lost. Bless and support those who are not in positions of honoured ministry, who doggedly invisibly conduct their faith on the very inside of the airless corridors of the political, legal and commercial elite.
'Labourers..who laboured hard' Faith without works is dead, but. What work? And how hard? Is there a pleasing muscularity to the doing of your life with the Lord? The breathless endorphin glow of a race hard run?  Tryphena and Tryphosa translate dainty and luxurious. Dear snowflakes, this is what some of us once were.

Rm16v13-14 Rufus' Mum has the gift of spiritual mothering. Another women in the history of the early church to give thanks for and learn from, knowing the imprint of maternal wisdom & kindness has left it's imprint on Pauline theology. I pray I might learn from her, the discipline, gift & fruit of spiritual mothering.

Rm16v15-16 K.I.S.S.I.N.G. So french, no? A touchy subject. ESVSB outdoes it's prudish self: "a 'holy kiss' would not convey the same meaning today that it did in the first century, and in most cultures it would be seriously misunderstood. Such commands are best obeyed by substituting an action such as a handshake"
Contextualisation to match a culture must not be a trump card to keep us from reforming culture, from setting the tone, and practising humanness in its richest and most redemptive. At the very least within the context of the community of believers, at the very least within your family, at the very least in contexts where this is possible to move towards this meaningfully and slowly by degrees and in discussion.
Contextualisation at the cost of kissing naively believes in the amorality and inconsequence of a culture's practice of embodiement. If Christianity is merely a modification of where you go to when you die, don't risk anything in the meanwhile and don't waste time nuancing the poetic of the time you are passing, inoffense always opts for inaction. Advocates of a kiss-less Christianity entrench a lowest common denominator, a passive embodiement hollowed of substance and meaning. And this at the loss of the urgent application of a ministry which the New Testament thinks to render in the imperative 1Co16:20 ; 2Co13:12; 1Th5:26; 1Pt5:14 repeatedly.
We read these verses to, and we practice church amongst, a context of the touch-starved, the touch-averse, and the touch-wounded. We speak to a culture fluent in sexual touch but illiterate in platonic touch. We move amongst a morass of untouched untouchables. Dear brethren, greet one another with a holy kiss.

Rm16v17-18 'avoid them'. How my heart lept when I read this verse - a biblical excuse for avoiding people! Brilliant. There's lots of people I'd like to avoid. Except that the people Paul cautions us to avoid are those who engage me with 'smooth talk & flattery' - basically those that make me comfortable, rather than those that make uncomfortable. Och.

Rm16v19-20 "Your 'obedience' is known ... but"  ~ A Pauline 'but'. What does it mean? What is beyond obedience? What is over against obedience? It is the jedi grasp of *wisdom vs innocence* that takes us beyond mere obedience, the Mt10v16 snake-dove comportment towards the socio-moral, the tricksy tensions and the shades grey. Part of me wonders if there is a Myers Briggs, carers-vs-truthtellers, priests-vs-kings, type split between doves-by-default and snakes-by-default. But I am by turns snarky and effete, by rickety bluster I achieve to be neither shrewd nor guileless, but rather merely obedient, merely, joylessly and only technically law-abiding. I pray this for you, the deepening of both these, both the sage prescience of laser sighted acuity to the straregically next-right-thing as well as the limitlessly gentle exploitable open-handed abandon to sooth as you hold a cruel world uncomfotably close. Please pray this for us, as we interface and boundary and become known to London, that we would be known for more than mere obedience.

Rm16v21-22 Ignatian contemplation is usually reserved for meditation and imaginative interaction with the gospels, but here at the end of Romans, where we're offered just a fraction of a glimpse into real personal relationships and interactions, I wonder if we can apply the practice here. Can I picture Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater & Tertius sat round a table together? What do they say to one another? How do they feel about one another? How do they attend to one another? How do they delegate work? What makes their relationship such that they can speak for one another. Invite the spirit into your imagination, what do you see between these friends? What might we learn?

Rm16v23,25 If nothing else, understand: You are called to a task that requires strength. God strengthens by the gospel. The gospel is not merely fire-proofing for the hereafter, it is bullet-proofing in the here and now, steel in your spine, nitro in your rocket fuel, the gospel is mechanically more-than, it is the titanium Sia is looking for. How? What makes you strong?
- Carbs, calcium, protein..? The gospel is wonder bread. Jn6v35
- That what doesn't kill you makes you..? The gospel produces strong endurance, which produces strong character. Rm5v3-4
- Mental and emotional propulsion? The gospel is the race marked out, the gospel is the cloud of witnesses, the gospel is the the joy set before us, the gospel is the prize. Ph3v14 Hb12v2
- Fall protection and PPE? The gospel is a helmet, the gospel keeps you from stumbling. Jd1v24 Eph6v17
But still, how? How does that work, and how does that help?
- I know a sin which so easily entangles, a self-interested embroilment in all that is less-than, an addiction to gravel, a compulsion to everything unsavoury. I know a God who intervenes, who cuts the appetite off at the pass, who woos me to a greater joy, who strengthens me by his gospel.
- I know the bleak blank discouragement of utter emptiness, the leaden cool of vast foreboding, the hollow clanking of an infinitely heavy day heaved through. I know a God who bears in, bears up and bears alongside, a warm God of infinite capacity tangibly close, who takes the tar and downs it, who releases me to bambi stagger with the new joy of new birth.
- I know the furious force of evil which wars against the hope for the good, which erodes instantly everything built slowly, which unravels everything we'd strained so hard to hold together, that strips dignity to the bone. I know a God whose healing is more-than, who can repair and will repair all things, all relationships, all projects, all bodies we shredded in our weakness.
God strengthens. Eph3v16.
Strengthen others. 1Th5v11, Hb10v24-25, 1Co14v26 1Sm16v23, 1Th3v2.

Pauline prose 
comes to a close 
through woes, 
Christ, who rose 
to disclose,
to dis-close,

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