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.
Lk2v27-28 "came by/in the Spirit" Do you? Coming and going and being, by and in and of the Spirit. What does that look like? What does that look like for you just now? What will that look like in your older age after a lifetime of steady intensification? One could extract generic maxims from this, a bland encouragement to be more 'spirit'ual... But the Spirit, He is personal, and the spirituality he bestows on you is bespoke, and the fruit it bears should be bizarre. I am thinking about about this theme of radically ecclectic energetically extremist spiritualities for 9th July preaching on Lk7 "played the flute..sang a dirge" upto v35 "Wisdom is justified by *all* her children." What is the shape of your spiritual peculiarity? We meet Simeon and Anna. They are operating in the Spirit, according to their peculiar calling as seers, they are wizened oracles seeing with a beady glint, deliriously tuned to the hidden geometry and serendepitous scheduling of a providential totality. I see them, curious lightning conductors, eccentric holy fools, wiry sages with an electric shock of hair, full-time, full-on, year on eager year intensifying and curdling a rich hunger and vivid charismatic mania for a prophetic sensitivity. Is this you? Is this your call? Some of us are called to such a Yoda ministry, some of us are called to minister as architects Ex31v2, lion tamers Jg14v6, mothers Lk1v41, politicians 1Sm16v13, political agitators Lk1v15... All these ecclectic callings, all need, emphatically, to be practised in the Spirit. Do it. Go bananas. What is your call?
~"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.