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.