Thursday, 31 August 2017
Lk5v1-2 "pressed in .. to hear the word of God" Have you known such a biblestudy mob surge as with a Boxing Day sale throng, pressing in, suctioned to the speakers tightly to glean a gram of life. Millennials, for all their privilege, are yet the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse teeming, the homeless tempest-tost. Where will they hear the word of God? Who will explain it to us? Who will explain it to them? What practice of an integrated life will make it real? Who will lift a lamp to such a golden door? The magnetic attraction of the coherence of the bible ~ I must not take it for granted, or grow glib, or settle for limited expectations. If anyone in the sound of my voice wants to read the bible together, let's.
Lk5v3-4 Jesus and consent. Interesting that in these few lines Jesus takes, assumes upon and uses that which is Simon's, then asks him to push the boat put further, then commands him to push out even further, to which Simon responds with submissive doubt. Acquisition, request, command, dialogue - all ways that Jesus will engage us. Sometimes Jesus seeks our permission and sometimes he doesn't. I don't think there is a single formula for how Jesus engages or captivates our will, though catchphrases abound insisting that there is a right way to understand this, from John Wesley's 'God does nothing except in answer to prayer' through to John Peters' 'the Holy Spirit is not a gentleman'. What then is our posture? I think: always seeking to give God permission, always grateful that He might not choose to seek it.
Lk5v5-6 "toiled and took nothing" Jesus calls you to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls you to implausible mission fields (trawling in broad daylight) precisely after the shame of failure (no fish) and precisely at the point of exhaustion after exertion (all night).
Jesus calls the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to move the strong, the obscure to calibrate the consensus, the unfortunate to counsel the lucky. So, who is on Jesus team? Fishermen that can't catch fish. Followers who can't follow Jn14v9, stammerers Ex6v30, sinners&stockbrokers Mk2v15, nobodies 1Sm9v21 from nowheres Jn1v46.
Jesus calls those in a dry and weary land Ps63v1. Jesus calls you when the figs #fail, the grapes #fail, the olives #fail, when we've no flocks no folds no herds in your proverbial stalls Hk3v17. Jesus calls those whose wine has run out Jn2v3.
"..at your word I will.." Jesus calls you specifically. You in particular for a particular task. General revelation counsels that there's plenty more fish in the sea: little comfort. Special revelation is a hotline to that cosmic power who moves the tides, who speaks to fishes, who brought ravens to Elijah 1Ki17v4 and a whale to Jonah Jh1v17.. Christianity's sense of call must be predicated on a spooky universe which is interfered with, otherwise all callings to go fish are simply a religiouse call to work harder and try more.
"..nets were breaking.." Jesus calls us to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls us for our joy and for his glory. Where he calls he equips. Where he calls he empowers. And he will not call you to more than you can bear 1Cor10v13.
Lk5v7-8 Go Away. Peter's response to Jesus here is so fascinating, so telling. Not-being-able-to-bear-being-near-Jesus. Trying to create distance between ourselves and Jesus is a classic shame response. Remembering Helen Merrell Lynd's profound analysis of shame: 'Experiences of shame appear to embody the root meaning of the word - to uncover, to expose, to wound. They are experiences of exposure, exposure of peculiarly sensitive, intimate, vulnerable aspects of the self...Discrepancy appears between us and the social situation...We have acted on the assumption of being one kind of person living in one kind of surroundings, & unexpectedly, violently, we discover that these assumptions are false. We had thought that we were able to see around certain situations and, instead, discover in a moment that it is we who are exposed; alien people in an alien situation can see around us.' Shame is a disorientation which begets a certain kind of fear. Jesus, of his nature, unmakes our world and alienates us from who we thought we were, it is wholly appropriate that we might respond violently, wanting distance. Yet Jesus words to Peter are those magic ones spoken again again so many times in scripture: 'do not be afraid'.
Lk5v9-10 "Jane looked; and instantly her world was unmade. .. Of course he was not a boy.. it was manifest that the grip of those hands would be inescapable, and imagination suggested that those arms and shoulders could support the whole house. .. the bright solar blend of king and lover and magician stole upon her mind .. King, with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy and power.. her world was unmade; she knew that. Anything might happen now" [CSL - That Hideous Strength]
😱 "..astonished" (Gk θάμβος περιέσχεν thambos perieschen) is literally "amazement *laid hold* of them.." Are you? Do you? Have you been? There is an *in-His-grip-ness* to Christianity. Ph3v12 "..but I press on to take hold of that for which *Christ Jesus took hold of me*." To be Christian is to be firmly grasped, seized by amazement, welded-into the vine, and the surgery of being grafted in begins with the wound of conversion. True and total union with Christ is precipitated by the crisis point Peter faces here as his world is unmade, his categories are exploded and his affections are taken captive, seized like fish out of the water, summoned gasping into the light.
"Do not be afraid.." I should need to hear this. God is big, and I am small, infinitely. Every quiet-time encounter with God, if it is an encounter with God, will pass across the high-wire sublime, to within the blast radius of the kabad (כָּבַד). Be afraid. And only then, do not be afraid.
"fishers of men.." I picture this as with dynamite. But it doesn't often feel that way.
Lk5v11 'You could not have been born at a better time than the present, when we have lost everything. ' - Simone Weil. // Holding before God the desolation of this generation, believing that there is a loss here, a death, from which a resurrection is possible. For revival, we ask to know how to pray.
Lk5v12 "Make me clean." Cleanliness is deeply rooted in the mind and the body as a Metaphor We Live By, and is so visceral and obvious that it almost doesn't feel worth trying to unpack. But meditating on this a little bit I was prompted to think about Kolnai's work on disgust - the claim that both physical and moral disgust are elicited by the mixing of organic & inorganic, of life & death, of health & decay. Leprosy, illness generally, and all small instances of uncleanliness speak more metaphysically of a world where entropy and decay rule. 'Make me clean' is a plea for grace, for reverse-entropy, for resurrection.
Lk5v13-14 "Be clean.." *What is unclean?* I would distinguish between the biologically unclean and culturally "unclean" ~ it matters little because Jesus cleans both, redeems both and renews all. However, I've spent a little time meditating on these, not quite arriving at an answer to this nor to the question *who would be the priest we show ourselves to today?* Answers on a postcard.
💩 *Unclean is not just ugly, is it dangerous* Unclean goes beyond the mere unattractive aesthetic of the slowly scuffed and sullied, beyond the sad inconvenience of entropic decay, unclean is more than merely worn out to be worn away, born bent to be broken down: the cookie crumbles calamitously. Unclean is urgent because it is unsafe, like shared needles and asbestos in the walls, dirty as dirty water, we are unclean and increasingly so, as yeast diffuses to contaminate the whole, as worn brakes put third-party lives at risk, we carry contagious liability chaotically, we carry nuclear waste in clay vessels, breath-takingly precarious.
🔞 At the same time *"Unclean" is myth signage* - (Ac10v15) the cultural codification of "called-unclean" conditions calculated for the maximum preservation of the fiction of clean-enough enclaves, and on this basis, human cultures unite as cleaning machines, boundaried by exponentially over-engineered damage-limitation quarantines. "Unclean" is unclean gone awry, co-opted by vested interests, weaponised by the have-yachts to justify the land and sea they put between themselves and the untouchable have-nots. "Unclean" is the denigrated Other, that I am given license to look down on. "Unclean" is the distortion of compassion, the misdirection of our best efforts' best intentions to keep vulnerable valuables safe by a coordinated apartheid of perceived risk. "Unclean" is a value judgement, given credence by the consensus of a personal populace, whose personal opinions are ratified by some dignified personality. The high priest. The priest as judge and jury, author and perfectionist, the squeaky obsequious clean freaking queen of OCD. As far as I have pinned my colours to their "Clean", I must participate in policing the brand of kosher, preserving the value-added of 'fairtrade', enshrining the mystique of clean-enough, differentiating the virtue signal from the virtue noise.
🚿 *Jesus cleans.* As a reverse-entropy tactician he wars against the unclean and the "unclean", touching the unclean, and dismantling the "unclean". "..tell no one .. show yourself to the priest.." Jesus' ninja healing for discretion designed to dampen hysteria notwithstanding, and Jesus' culturally appropriate and biblically mandated mode of restoring an invalid to the social notwithstanding, Jesus wars against religione with exleper torpedoes fired at the control room of project "clean". Have you been released from an "unclean-ness"? Such healing is an in-itself gift and for-itself gift, but it is also a testimony against death-as-death, an affront to all disease. No healing is merely some good news, (although it is), all healing is the good news. God is there and is not silent. God is involved and he is on your side. Project "clean" is over, the job-creation scheme of priesthood is redundant, logos on foodstuffs will pass away, everything everything is changed.
🙊 Why then "..tell no one.."? Pearls before swine notwithstanding, saviour-as-cosmic-slot-machine notwithstanding, I'm interested in the sort of effects Jesus would look to avoid, vain or counter-productive effects in a population so invested in project "clean". Jesus wars for the freedom of all. In this way, your testimony is not to become mere hearsay to be filed under general quackery, cosmetic surgery or hygenic fakery. Healing which does not dismantle project "clean" from the top is mere fuel to the fire of superstition, anecdotal reinforcement to the suspicion of a capricious God and the futility of all things. But cleanness ratified by the high priest, a cure acknowledged by the analgesic-monger, is game-over for religione.
Lk5v15 Simple prayers for healing for those on our hearts who are sick: L, R, V, D
Lk5v16 Comparing the lonesomeness of Jesus with the lonesomeness of the demonised man at Gerasa Lk8v27. Jesus' solitude pushes him towards God, the solitude of the man at Gerasa pushes him further towards demonic voices. As Henri Nouwen's contrast between loneliness and solitude, I identify both in myself. Prayer for good solitude, esp in this season where the call is to roots of prayer.
Lk5v17-18 "Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, [having] come from every village.." The boa constrictor tightens its grip, the KGB have tapped the phone of this boy genius, this unhinged rabbinic prodigy plays out a coldwar cipher, a synchodochal cosmic joust on a microcosmic board.
Not knowing the end of the story of Bobby Fischer, I was totally gripped by Pawn Sacrifice last night. Does he win the game? Will the CIA get him? And, who is behind the zoom lens we occasionally find we're viewing him through? Oh what it would be to have the story of Jesus unfold, episode by episode, game by game, as for the first time, with the ending yet uncertain.
Fischer is the pawn sacrifice, but who sacrifices whom? He goes out on a limb for the crazy joy of chess, or is he left out to dry by the American political machine, abandoned to wind up less than the sum of his mental health issues?
Jesus is the pawn sacrifice, he sacrifices himself, it is his initiative, his will, his glory Jn10v18 "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." And this message of the cross is foolishness 1Co1v18? And we should do likewise? A similar holy madness, battling an unseen enemy, trusting in unseen help, losing our life to gain it Mt10v39, laying down our life for another Jn15v13, offering our bodies as living sacrifices Rm12v1.
Lk5v19-20 In the parlance of our day, Jesus calls out victim-blaming Jn9v3, but he also doesn't allow the existence of victim-blaming to caricature the victim, as though the existence of systemic (and what seems like cosmic) injustice were the last word in a person's identity. Jesus dignifies all humans by allowing us to be complex, always a mix of sin and sinned against, dignifying us all by holding us responsible for what we are responsible for. In doing so He makes a path for transformation that is high, long, wide deep.
Lk5v21-22 "Why do you question in your hearts?" Why? From what cause? To what end? Toting up coincidences, the reading at 41's morning prayer today was the remarkably similar Jn18v19-24 "Jesus asks Caiaphas, "Why do you ask me?"" Why? Not all questions are equal, neutral or valid. Not all questions are honest. Not all questions actually want an answer from Jesus. Interrogating the motives of our own questions tells us much about ourselves. But there are better questions.
'You've seen my descent / now watch my rising' -Rumi
The Ps29 word of the Lord has done this.
Lk5v25-26 What is the practice of a post-healed life? What do you do as healed when you are healed as healed? "Rose up.. picked up bed.. walked home.." The doing of life's mundane necessities and in merely so doing you glorify God? Yes, but also, as-healed you cannot but do life necessarily newly in a self-aware and so proactive and so emphatic performance of life to the exploration and display of its restoration. And in this way, you can stick a present-participle *glorifying-God* on any other verb. You can wash the dishes, glorifying God, go to work, paint a wall, cook brunch, write a paper, glorifying God, doing all in an adverbially doxological mode, doing all of life glorifially. What does that look like? In my mind I picture him rising with a breakdancer's kip up and walking home like John Cleese, limit-testing the creative expression of all embodiment. If one can picture a choreography for the post-healed life, what might be a post-forgiven life's expression? The gait of one whose chains have fallen off, the affections of one whose heart was free, the adventure of one whose conscience is clear, whose sense of the possible is infinite. Therefore go.
Lk5v27-28 Reading again Wendell Berry on exploitative economies in his collection of agrarian essays is again thoroughly convicting and thoroughly overwhelming insofar as he articulates so eloquently how our economic system is set up to destroy itself and all of us with it, starting with the poor. This system is set up to alienate us from the land, the air, the water, from marriage & communities, from our own bodies, from God. Levi here is a picture of part of the exploitative economy, charging arbitrary and unfair rates to his fellow Jews for the middleman task of collecting taxes for the Romans. And yet here we have a picture of the redemption of economy, a personal jubilee. 'Leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus.' I am aware of the danger of this just being words, of the dangers of the money and status I still have, of the exploitative systems I still lean on for food and comfort. Jesus, this year, I pray for your fearsome work of jubilee in my life and in this whole global system. I pray for Levi transformation.
Lk5v29-30 Follow me, as I put these crayons to chaos, like getting the Mighty Ducks back together. Levi prepares a feast, like the Lost Boys in Hook. Let's do this. There is, and always should be, a boyish adventure to Christianity, a whirling winking winsome parade of exuberant bravery, a festival feast laid in the presence of mine enemies: Aggressively intentional hospitality fam.
Lk5v31-32 I've been reading Jude [and finding it difficult - recommendations of Jude resources welcome] and picturing myself as the v12-13 fruitless tree, foaming shame, wandering star. Thanks be to the Great Physician, who came for the sick. He has, will and continues to heal me.
Lk5v33-34 These few days we are in the middle of Luke's catalogue of Jesus stories on the theme of food. 🍜🍝🍲
1. Food: the controversial politics of eating with whom (Lk5v29-32)
2. Food: the cosmic symbolism of eating at what times (Lk5v33-35)
3. Food: the pursuit of the excellence of storage and culturing (Lk5v36-39)
4. Food: the provocative urgency of harvest's hunter gathering (Lk6v1-5 & Lk5v4-7)
🥛🍯 The whole food supply chain is sacremental.
⚔ The whole food supply chain is a pitched battle between two world views:
😇 *A. The religiouse diet*: restrictive, risk-averse, hysterically hypochondriac, exponentially ascetic. The calorie-counting worldview of gaunt anaemic guilt appeasement that eats timidly, pushing peas around the plate of proscriptive propriety, crushed beneath the snowballed schedule of a self-reinforcing, over-engineered How-Not-To-Eat exclusion diet tending asymptotically towards zero.
🍖 *B. The Jesus diet*: sucking on the marrow of life, munching through an all-you-can-eat ontological buffet of utter abundance, fundamental surplus, brimming over with the both-and of pie-in-the-sky and cake-on-your-plate. A view of food that is celebrating-about, we eat meaningfully about a greater reality, we eat parabolically, as parables-about.
👰🤵 The parable in view is the *wedding feast*: Now, weddings are complicated animals, often not more than the sum of their naivete, mired in a commercialised saccharine sentimentality, the wedding feast is so co-opted by cloying entitlement, lumbering as a virtue-signalling, people-pleasing millstone of debt around the necks of newlyweds. But even through all that, there is something in the wedding-feast-as-symbol which is resilient to still catch us off guard, the exception that defines the rule, a universal exemption where, for some reason, we suspend our disbelief and permit a diet consistent with partial, particular, personal universe. At the wedding we eat-about-something, we eat with abandon towards something, in view of, in the light of, towards the affirmation of something personal and peculiar.
~ So it is with Jesus. Such is the Christian's diet. Whilst we may fast sometimes, we have unlimited cause to feast, to build cathedrals with our food, to articulate a universe of infinite freedom and harmonic coherence in how, and when, and with whom we feast. 🍰
Lk5v35-36 A fasting that springs from the epistemology of the heartbroken wife. As I meditate on this I note that the few times in life I have fasted with my whole spirit, not constantly looking for loopholes, have been in moments of sorrow and loss in relation to my husband. I recall G and I identifying this phenomenon together in conversation, she similarly identifying times of distress in relation to men as the only times she would refuse food. Together we came to the conclusion that only when faced with pain this important do we dignify ourselves by refusing to numb this pain with food. Bridegroom pain is too important. But usually I am quite content to numb all the background things that are not-ok with food. Perhaps ways of fasting are gendered in ways that food is gendered - numbing the spirit with food a more typically female pathology? The fact that I can only fast when it really hurts shows that most of the time I'm happy to ignore what's really going on simmering underneath my literal and spiritual skin. So maybe I need to transpose these experiences of the loss of the bridegroom at a cosmic scale for all times and places, and let that motivate my fasting, which is to say, to dignify myself more readily by acknowledging my existential condition more honestly. Maybe this throws new light on v36 too: fasting is a refusal to patch over pain. Not pretending it's not broken. But grieving the torn garment, receiving from God the new one.
Lk5v37-38 🍶 We are vessels [we are clay jars 2Co4v7; clay jars formed by a potter Is64v8; clay jars for variable uses Rm9v21; clay jars of variable strength 1Pt3v7; containers to be filled and poured out defilingly Mt15v11; cups cleaned on the outside and inside Mt23v25; liquid spirit containers Ev36v27 (I'm sure there are more and better refs, if you want to send me some)]
🍶 We are vessels. The quality of a vessel, the jugliness of a jug, it's Heideggarian thinghood consists in the void sculpted by the potter. By contrast with the notions of a human person as:
🍖 a solid lump of biologically thick matter
🕸 a hyperconnected node in a data point cloud
🎞 a 2dimmensional image of a projected surface.
🍶 We are vessels, cavernously depthed, 🕳🕳 peer into the eyes of an other and see a chasm fathoms down. The verse today considers what ruptures that vessel, the split and the shatter. When we fail to contain, we fail to be, we are devesseled and unthung.
We are filled. We are vessels remade to be refillable, new covenant vessels, elastic and tonkable, no longer the card prototype of a human, no longer the dry-run dress-rehearsal prop, we are now the real deal. We have to be, and everyone you know has to be. Grace's superabundance will overwhelm your frail frame unless it is fundamentally reengineered. The split wineskin is such a vivid visual of superabundance, the effervescent liquid which presses up and bubbles out of a person. 🍾 The idea of an active and expansive liquid captures my imagination: the gospel is champagne, ready to pop, take the muselet off the bottle, it must be preached Ac4v20 Je20v9.
Lk5v39 This perplexing final statement to my mind makes an already ambiguous set of metaphors all the more so. For old wine (if this means matured wine) IS better...A standard reading of this seems to be that those who say 'the old is best' are resisting the new thing, which is the Spirit (vs the Law), so the old/new distinction here is one of chronological difference rather than mapping oenological quality. But maybe, as I tried to chew over when I preached on this passage a while back we'd do well to note that Jesus doesn't condemn 'the old' here, but rather notes that there are destructive ways of trying to put the old and the new together - ways that damage both old and new. Rather, we need ways of bringing together the freshness and the maturity of old and new testaments in a way that understands them singing in harmony. Chatting to P about this over potatoes he observed the dangers of trying to assume too much of new or immature Christians - that we can give them too much, causing them to 'burst', destroying new faith, rather than tracking the Spirit's own fermentation process. Things to ponder. (It's been interesting reading Luke over different timescales this year, it leads to a kind of virtuous looping back into sayings and stories at a high resolution, wheels within wheels.)