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.
Ladies & Gentlemen would you take your seats
Would you look real deep
Contemplate what's incomplete.
Love's supreme virtue: attentiveness' feat
Behold the Christ: awake from sleep
Lk4v21-22 👏 "And all spoke well of him.." // Lk6v26 ⚠ "Woe to you when all men speak well of you.." (...Lk4v29) Fam, it's a narrow gate, to a long road of suffering violence, dying to self, hating your mother and father, making yourself a slave, turning the other cheek, letting them have your last cloak, going a second mile, counting all gain as loss, all pain as sanctifying, all maligning as witness, all persecution as glory. "When they speak well of you..", when they speak well of me, when I am wooed by a premature well-done-good-and-faithful humanitarian, for my crowd-pleasing performance of a tolerantly inoffensive moral life, rendered in my own strength, propping up the mild-mannered myth of self-salvation and good-enough goodness, woe to me when they speak well of me, the allure of men's fleeting and fickle praise, the tacit 'Peace, Peace..' when there is no peace, there is no good-enough, all self-saved good works are worth less than worthless. Christianity that clings to Jesus alone is beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked, adrift on the open sea, in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, sleepless, hungry, cold and exposed. 2Cor11v25-27. Woe to me when I settle for less-than. Oh Phil, be so careful when they speak well of you, when they laud 41, when they make much of me in my own strength.
Lk4v23-24 'It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home' -Adorno ...and part of prophecy too? Easy to say, difficult to judge what counts as healthy rootedness and what delusional comfort. What is holy disruption and what is pathological unboundariedness. Likewise the scepticism of 'heal yourself' - what counts as good critical thinking, and what hubristic untrust. Some measure of good prophetic disruption in the home will be the Isaiah fruits of v18-19 - does it bring liberty to captives? Does it bring sight to the blind?
Lk4v25-26 The God which a befamined Breaking Point austerity-Britain, is looking for, is one who will help us Make America Great Again, will help us Take Back Control. No? The Jesus-loves-you-but-I'm-his-favourite antidote to stern, impersonal, the-gods-are-angry notions of God, is helpful up to a point, but it contains within itself no self-limiting principle to constrain it from an entitled America-first America-first sense of what that love looks like. Jesus loves you way too much to leave you as you are, loves you better than to subsidise your cliquing, loves you too much to enable the patterning of stodgy stagnant parochial self-interested love-ins. The love of God is a gushing torrent, fam, he's out in the yard, he's romping over the hills. You may have to cross the sea to see the cross because Aslan is on the move, the wild goose of the spirit is ecstatic, the Kingdom of God is restlessly inclusive. Pause to build tents and you'll miss it, let alone walls. And yet my faith and mental landscape is so divided, so closed bordered. I often feel like I'm on the wrong side of a glass partition, gazing through a one-way mirror at an alluring miraculous possibility, pawing at the panes of soundproofing which keep me from supernature, gasping inside an airless church of my own making. The bible says Go. For God's sake Go. For your own sake Go.
Lk4v27-28 They were furious. What is fury? There are at least as many types of fury as there are fear, I should know. What's going on at this moment with Jesus? Is the fury of these people a true indignation, founded straightfowardly on a sense of their entitlement and standing in the world, a fury founded in a worldview so entrenched that it can't conceive of it's categories being transgressed? If so there's a purity to this fury, though it is based on a terrible falsehood. Or is it an anger founded in a known guilt? When I'm told that I've spoiled something I feel like I'm already guilty and shameful, I might as well act accordingly. As Freud observed, destructive fury can be a way of inhabiting our guilt, willing our own punishment, in a way that refuses to accept redemption as a possibility. Or is it an anger that masks a fear? Is it the rage that spills over when faced with unsafety? Did something in Jesus provoke a deep distress that he may be saying something true, that we might not be safe in the world because God might ask something more of us than our inheritance. How terrible, how fearful. This fury is the fight instinct of the trapped animal afraid for its life. Sometimes the first anger is a defence against the second. Sometimes the second is a defence against the third. They were furious, why am I?
Lk4v29-30 (Sacred Texting and 41's morning readings conspire together today) // “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to [me], and not to the world?” Jn14v22 // Jesus loves _me_. *Me*. // How does God manifest himself to _me_? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for me to me?
*The scandal of selective love.* A God who loves with a selective love cannot be inferred abstractly.
*The scandal of selective love.* A personal God is never the conclusion from an impersonal method.
*The scandal of selective love.* Is infinitely more than I justly deserve.
*The scandal of selective love.* Extreme, divisive, uncomfortable, this sort of love killed Jesus.
*The scandal of selective love.* This sort of love is not what I want to hear.
*The scandal of selective love.*
"To consider Europe alone, the sense of the person remains embryonic throughout antiquity until the dawn of the Christian era. The man of antiquity is absorbed in the city and the family, subservient to a destiny that is blind, nameless and stronger than the gods themselves. The philosophers value only impersonal thought and its static order, which is the order of nature as well as of ideas. To them the singular appears as a blemish, whether in nature or in consciousness. Plato is tempted to reduce the individual soul to a participation in nature plus a participation in the city; whence his 'communism'. And for him as for Socrates, individual immortality is only a beautiful, bold hypothesis. Aristotle indeed declares that there is no reality except the individual; but his God cannot will with a particular will, nor can he know essence in the singular, nor love with a selective love." // "It is Christianity that, first of all, imports into these gropirgs a decisive notion of the person. We can hardly comprehend today what a complete scandal this was to the thought and sensibility of the Greeks. Whilst for them, multiplicity was an evil inadmissible to the spirit, Christianity made it into an absolute, by affirming the creation exnihilo, and the eternal destiny, of each and every person. The supreme Being which through love brings them into existence no longer mikes the world a unity through the abstraction of the idea, but by an infinite capacity for the indefinite multiplication of these separate acts of love. Far from being an imperfection, this multiplicity, proceeding from superabundance, bears that superabundance in itself as an illimitable interchange of love." Emmanuel Mounier // ~ Jesus loves you. *You*. // How does God manifest himself to you? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for you to you?
Lk4v31-32 Authority. Authority is a fascinating concept - cutting across traditional philosophical wrangles about objectivity and subjectivity. Authority comes from something external, the experience of authority is nothing but the experience of something outside yourself that makes a claim on you. But the recognition of authority is different to coercion - authority makes a claim on the will, rather than flattening it. Authority requires autonomy & heteronomy, self & other to both be active, in asymmetrical ways. 'The call' that philosophers, theologians & poets speak of is the call of God, the call of the cosmic Christ. It is equally incoherent to propose a life lived without any appeal to authority as it is to propose an appeal to authority that has no connection to lived response - the caricature of the Christian in a closed loop who says the bible has authority only because the bible says it has authority, without trying to demonstrate what it is about the scriptures that is (literally) captivating, without making room for the call to reverberate. I pray for more v32 amazement as I journey into deeper understanding of Christ's authority.
Lk4v33-34 Luke, the good physician's pity ponders the possessed patient's predicament. "spirit of an unclean demon.." What is not tautological in this expression ~ where any one of those three words would have sufficed?
"Spirit" Both the internal pervasiveness of a blood alcohol level diffused into the whole and the external aroma of that active corruption, the atmosphere of a thing leaking from the pores of the creature, wheezing a grey mist of decay. The spirit of a thing is both the sum of its parts and the centre of its character, both its headline identity and a catalogue of its disastrous effects.
"Unclean" A sticky viscous shame, a socially-learnt soiling of your Sunday best, a filthy mind's abhorrent stained vestments made double conspicuous by a clingy contaminant. The variously demonised keep themselves invisible with acrobatic ingenuity, beneath the concealer, just above the cuff of the immaculate long sleeves, under the veneer of a well-adjusted upstanding citizen is the bare zombieform of contagious pollution, shame shaming shame, infectious embarrassment.
"Demon" This agent of active personal evil possesses people because demons are possessive people, parasitic and unstable. Demons are a voice, primarily, voice is their mode and form, because that is the nature of untruth personified, it embodies as the verbalisation of deceit, they possess by a verbal contract, they woo by lies, they war by words. And so when threatened the voices become exponentially shrill, rising disruptively to a rowdy snarl, summoning the plural first person, conjuring the spectre of the suprahuman force that lays a hold of a person. Just now, I'm thinking about social media's grip, I'm feeling for the equipment to diagnose it, to nuance a description of it, to communicate the effect and to propose proportionate action. I'm not making the strong claim that social media is not innately evil, but.
~ Social media is pervasive as a spirit-of, invisible and internal, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, it has seized a hold of language, perception, memory and relationships from the inside.
~ Social media covers and carries clean and unclean judgements, likes and unlikes, representations and identities, it is the simulacrum of a superpower to self-save the image of yourself - whilst the physical incarnation of yourself offline wastes away surrounded by unclean plates, unclean clothes strewn offscreen amongst the unhygenic totality of the neglected real.
~ Social media is the voices, shrill voices rendered in the we, presenting as consensus, deafeningly close, funded by adverts that profit by exploiting insecurities with untruths.
Do we know what we mean today when we say, "we wrestle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Eph6v12 what are we looking for? And how do we fight?
"Let *us* alone" The _we_ of the demonic, the plural chorus, the massing swarm of indefinite number. Versus you, the holy _one_ of God. Always outnumbered, never outgunned. Eph6v13-18
Lk4v35-36 Red letter words to speak to your voices: be quiet and come out. Say less, show more, that is: let me see what you are, where you've come from and what your motives are. Dear voices: I see you. You get less driving power, more exposure. This is the work of Christ the light of the word.
BE QUIET AND COME OUT!
And come out.
Lk4v37-38 "..reports spread.." *Vague reports.* Rumour and hearsay. Abstracted tracts and yesheis links (ishn't she?). Chinese whispers mingle signal and noise. Nah fam it actually happened. Happened to me, it can happen to you. It happened like this. Christianity is bespoke, precise, local, nuanced, intensely close to the bone: with mine own eyes, to mine own life, he is mine own saviour saving me from my very detailed brokenness into an elaborate salvation replete with minutiae, three-dimensional in its complexity, immersive in its totality. To the numbered hairs on my head, the report of Jesus is not vague. *Old reports.* Somewhat as old news re-posted becomes fake news. Recycling the Good News of the testimony of Toronto's 90s.. Wilberforce's 1800s.. the middle ages.. the early church. Back in the day. Way back when in the golden age of Gothic, when community was authentic, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.. Christianity is now. Christianity is ongoing, going on and on, day to daily day. Christianity is a new start to a new life with a new song. The immanence of Christ is timely, tailored to the language of right now, perpetually rerelevanted to the infinitesimal slice of this hairbreadth of eternity. And the trajectory of the Kingdom is towards greater-things Jn14v12, more-than-you-can-imagine Eph3v20.. the action we report will be ever at the brink of what we have concepts for. The old stories are great, but Christianity is the promise of new news. *Dull reports.* Second-hand strained accounts of someone else's salvation, de-risked arms-length and wistful retellings of plagiarised testimony. Timid and incompetent reports which settle for the diminishing return of a photocopied gospel, the cancer of inorganically replicated church. But Christianity is all risk, and the risk is the danger of the specific, the boldness of the great unknown, the adventure of the unprecedented. Christianity is a terrifying done-unto. Christianity is a terrifying do-likewise.
Live a story worth telling
Tell a story worth living
Lk4v41-42 "departed to a desolate place" Barely one chapter in to his adult ministry and Jesus makes time to take time to breathe. Away from the demonic chorus (v41), and also far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, taking momentary respite from the baying mass (v42). Jesus' self-care routine makes no virtue of being eaten alive, or busied to death, glorying nothing in premature martyrdom at the hands of the inevitably perpetually urgent scope of vast human need. A word to people-pleasers, to the sentimentally compassionate, to the fussy fixer-uppers, to those like me, dying to look busy :~ if rest is good enough for God.. leave by a side door, turn your phone off, pace yourself, Christianity is the long haul.
Lk43-44 "Preached." Rob Bell talks of the sermon as an artform, and surely Jesus' preaching should be thought of as such, the well placed parables & poems, questions & commands that we're about to see in abundance in his preaching ministry Lk6v17-46 are breathtaking in form as well as content. Jesus' preaching is playful & responsive, convicting & confounding, sometimes direct, sometimes sideways on, unformulaic, aesthetically rich. I pray that we might learn from the master good principles for preaching. It is an artform, but more of us are artists than we think, & the holy spirit within us convicts, coheres, & creates things with our words. Jesus, we pray for our preachers and our preaching, for more depth, more life, more Christlikeness.