Monday, 28 May 2018
~ Cut crisp in Panamas with florid accessories, the waspish Waitrose card carrying preening priestly class drawls reedy dry Henley vowels, vestigial of an invisible Raj. This crystal cathedral a refuge to the raffish cad’s saviour complex.
~ Banker dad bods dazed and blasé clique with like listless paternity leavers, pouting preppy with an all-terrain Bugaboo swagger, self-medicating the horror of fatherhood with a domesticated mother nature, tamed, contained and wipe-clean.
~ Bushy eager ‘lotment gardeners leaned ont spade stoic doffing floppy oilcloth capped over weather winked cagoules. Stooped and mellow fruitful, two pilgrim soil-scuffed spiral-bound sweethearts, joint attending in furtive reverent whisper, this is holy ground.
Richmond’s rusting ruin-ready skeletal Angkor Wat has been tamed, the gnarly triffids trimmed, the heavy hulking jungle pruned. The lazy gutsy grandeur of truss trellising and galloping rivets, are now squeaky and synthetically shades of white and magnolia. A sterile anaemic modernity draws charmless stainless service trunking through the ironwork and plaster festoonery, the data veins of a parasitic plant cabletied in place. This is the stage set for aestheticised STEM porn.
Sunday, 20 May 2018
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Lk12v1-2 Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy. saying one thing, doing another. Pretending. One of the easiest sins, and to Jesus, it seems, the worst of all sins. And as a yeast, it gets into everything, it bloats and flavours everything. It is Ananias and Sapphira's sin unto death (Ac5), as it is for all of us. The deeper into 'ministry' or 'leadership' one goes, the more likely hypocrisy is, because one's ministry has a label, an image, an 'integrity' to it that will necessarily be breached by your being a flawed human being. I long for the wisdom of intentional, stepped-up, discipiling which nevertheless assumes the brokenness and ordinariness and the ongoing-wrestling of the unsanctified nature of my own heart. We say this, of course - every leader will repeat that they are 'not perfect' as part of the image itself, if nothing else, but there is still so often in me a prison of expectation, a fear, which leads to hiding, which leads to hyprocrisy. In many ways I would rather not be a labelled minister with a ministry as this creates more opportunity for hypocrisy. So pray for me, that I would not shy way from leadership and ministry simply to avoid hypocrisy ~ which is perhaps one of my tendencies, but rather, to really be in the midst of it with a profound sense of my ordinary and ongoing brokenness. Wisdom is needed in how to communicate this to others. Only this honesty can lead to a path of purity. Pray that I would learn better how to wear my weakness, so not to sin.
Lk12v3-4 v2-3 Yesterday, listening to Jonathan Freedland's Long View neatly mapping the Facebook data breach onto the history of the Reformation. A previous generation's social network, the Catholic church, which heard our secret confessions, which managed our identity from birth to death, was rocked by a scandal of how it monetises our insecurities. Five years ago, we were reading this in the Matthew parallel Mt11v27 at the time that Jesus Hearts Wikileaks. So now, again, Cambridge Analytica's whistleblower bringing to light that which was in the dark. It is still a true truth.
v3 Yesterday discussing religione with K. How does it happen? How is it that dry desiccated churches persist, with their appalling vacuity and utter irrelevance, labouring through turgid sombre liturgies of hypocrisy. Surely it's self-evidently wrong-headed. And yet it happens. Yeast is one of Jesus most potent parables, capturing the works, effects, motives and conditions for the multiplication of religione. The potential is in all of us, wild yeast is in the atmosphere everywhere, and given the right conditions, spontaneous fermentation will start, dormant yeast, activated, will eat out all the sugar in a church converting it to a dry, woozy, pungent community. At 41 we ferment barrels under the stairs, beside the hot water tank, the warmth and the darkness nurture perfect conditions for yeast to fester, culture, multiply and organise. More visible in bread, yeast's sophisticated structuring of the dough, binds the whole into an integrated sourdough architecture of clingy complicity. Religione is the inevitable sum of our latent yeast run wild, unchecked, in the willed darkness of lazy lukewarm middling mediocrity. Beware the yeast.
v4 Yesterday discussing killing with J, 2Sm1. David kills the Amalekite. Was it an emotional reaction? Was it the logical extension of an obedience to a revelation of God's character: the purity which Saul had encountered in God's character, but refused to practice? Engage and fear the severe holiness of God, the death-desert of us all, the wretched contamination of our total being. Killing the body in the tribal genocides of the Old Testament - these grasp the gravity of a call to holiness. But. In Christ, infinite holiness is compatible with infinite mercy, and there is sufficient supply for the risk of letting the Amalekite live.
Lord of both the dead and the living,
whose authority stretches
beyond the body
and the breath,
Teach us all that’s hidden in the flutter of a sparrow’s wings
that we might know the deeps beneath the trap door of grief
And may live in the security and worth of each soul’s substance
through Christ our Lord,
Lk12v7-8 🔢 🧛♂ "..numbered" Who counts? 1⃣🙋♂ Christianity is radically specific, searingly bespoke, irrationally, fussily, singularly personal. You should be unsettled by the absurdism, the peculiar miniaturism, the offensive parochialism of Christianity's devotion to the one lost follicle, one lost sheep, one lost coin. In Christianity there is no pew-fodder, no collateral, no dead weight, no also-rans, no B-team, no statistics. Nothing is average, nothing is generic, nothing is calculated. When the church is a collective it is no matted aggregate of anonymised data points synthesised, groomed, combed, stylised to the tousled quaff of a clump of hair. Over and against a metric scientistic culture labouring to damage-limit quantitised problems at a total population level, Christianity is willfully and wastefully invested in the personal, the all-for-one one-to-one.
💈🥨 "hairs" We are hairs. Related to numbered hairs, I was meditating earlier this week about the topological difference between a two strand cord and a three strand cord Ecc4v12. 2⃣➿ Take two threads, knot them at the top, plait them in a tightly entwined twist. Pull the two ends. The whole spins and unravels until is it extends to appear as one cord, twice as long. Two cords is the folded mirror, uncalibrated, unmediated, untriangulated, a dyadic totality. 3⃣🔱 Take three threads, knot them at the top, plait them. Pull at the three ends. The whole draws into itself, clenching a tighter bind. Three cords is the beginning of tapestry, macrame, shibari.
Lk12v9-10 You can sin anything against Jesus but not the Holy Spirit? I’ve been trying to ponder this most famous of contested and confusing verses over the last few days, reading some of the commentaries on it and trying to formulate a trinitarian equation for how to understand it, and I know that there’s more mystery here than I am close to grasping. The thought I have come to is that Jesus’ flesh is the hiding place for all sin (put to death, of course, and raised to life). There is nothing that cannot be absorbed into Christ’s Being in and through our Union with Him. Just as the only way to the Father is through the Son, so too the only way to the Spirit is through the Son also, because Jesus is the site of Union with God. This is why Union with Christ really is the key to the whole of reality and redemption. I pray for deeper understanding of this, the key to everything.
😨 "do not be anxious.."
~ Being anxious. Fraidy. Brittle Being. Scratching at the soured teeth on edge ~ prissy fussy nervy fretful flighty fidget-spinning with utterly retreated tendrils all tinny tiptoe on eggshells. The shallow breath of a veneer's squeeze. Stuck tongue tip tied to arid arch, feint rasp misting a milky glass barely there shading a wisp of unbeing. Unbecoming.
~ Saying anxiously. What do you say when you are anxious? The vorpal snickersnack of apologetic tactics, tendentious tropes, tired tracts, timorous appliqué woad paint, adrenal falsetto febrile bluster, mechanical machismo.
~ Being unanxious. Ununctious. Unflapped and unperterbable. Broad-shouldered deeper vowels, the girded gutsy caribou. The fibre and bone of shalom. Be what you are, as you are, ageless, oaky, eagle. Bear all breakers and weather well.
~ Saying unanxiously. Steady stable, heather tough, fragrant frugal, easing with the ample muscularity of generous testimony with patient words in a capacious Aslan exhale.
🕍/👑/🌍 "synagogues / rulers / authorities"
~ Pondering the things which are out there available for us to be afraid of: fear of the future, fear of abandonment, fear of dark forces, fear of death, fear of chaos. [For this anatomy of disciples' fears]
~ Pondering also the possible parts of myself which are imperilled by these things: Dangers to my body physically, danger to my mind's psychological health, danger to my soul's integrity. And, danger to my identity and value, insofar as these are learnt and calibrated socially and relationally.
~ So, pondering then the domains within which these are sources of an imperilment to my self's value and identity: the synagogues, rulers, authorities are perhaps mappable onto:
- family, tribe, nation
- religious/culture, state/goverment, unseen/spiritual
- self-similar, adjacent-other, impersonal-system
How do these domains threaten you? What do you owe them? How do they own you? How can you be held to ransom by them? How can they demand an account from you? Why would they be interested in your faith, be threatened by your faith, and persecute you unto peril on account of your faith?
🙊 "What you should say.." What should you say? Don't say nothing vs as all it takes for the prevailing of evil is for good people to say nothing.. Say something. A preemptive cover-all, a truism, a platitude? Better than nothing? Why is it so hard to say the right thing at the right time? What stands against my being true to my conviction and call?
🕰 "the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour." Holding this in tension with always-be-prepared-to-give-an-answer-for-the-hope, there is an under-emphasised maxim that apologetics must be prophetic. You are making supernatural claims about knowledge, only supernatural knowledge will really cut it. Conjuring the timeless in a timely way, perfectly, only God can. And in that very hour he will.
Lk12v13-14 Seriously Jesus? I was told that justice was a big deal to you. I have been WRONGED and you're coming at ME with questions? How dare you! I only came out here to prove a point. Don't you think fair distribution matters? Fair arguments, fair opinions? I want you to tell him he's wrong. Because of justice of course. It would be so easy for you to show him that he's in the wrong. Isn't this what living to God is about? No? Fucking unbelievable. Jesus. Now I'm angry.
Lk12v15-16 ⚠💰💎 🏆💹🏘⚠ "Take care.." Beware. Wealth is so dangerous. Remember the rich young man. Remember Nabal (On this, at 44:20-51:30) "Rich people, on the whole, don't create culture" Grayson Perry. Bigger barns heaving with the clingy clink of coinage, leveraging your limbo twixt a mire of never-enoughs, whirling a bling-blinded lunacy through the savage vanity of brash abundunce spilt on tedious exorbitance. Take care. Beware. Wealth is so dangerous. Remember the rich young man. We wealthy ones, our life is a bad parable, a crystal unadventure, a tragic pathology, a self-harm trope. The free-falling middle class, sunk beneath the waves with bullion in our Burberry back pocket. Take care. Beware. Wealth is so dangerous. Remember the rich young man. ⚠💰💎 🏆💹🏘⚠
Lk12v17-18 What is the actual folly here? Hoarding. What is foolish in it? The selfishness or individualism of it? Or the thought that it will last? The false certainty seems to be what Jesus is particularly putting his finger on. The foolishness is the energy invested in it given its uncertainty. That is, not that storing up is itself an issue, but rather, the focus, time, energy and hope invested in the storehouses is foolish, because it will be taken away from you at some point, it might be taken away from you at any point .. and that there is something more important upon which to focus time, energy and investment first.
[...some text missing]
🧞♂ "Soul.." Self talk. Like the Psalmist in Ps43v5, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Reflective self address. Do you talk to yourself? How do you speak of yourself to yourself? When does self-conscious self-awareness err into introspective self-absorption? What chivvies, what nurtures, what reminders, what stays, what stirs your soul? Speak to your soul. Preach to your soul. Awake my soul! Come on my soul!
🧖♂ "relax.." says a liberal and permissive Frankie, a glutted sluggard taking-grace-for-granted. When is it wrong to be at ease? Whence comes balance, on the arête between workaholism and passivity? When is it right to be at ease? To be-chill-and-know.. Ps46v10 What are the right conditions for rest in good conscience?
👨🏿🏭 "Fool!" says a twitchy, judgmental Mr T. a scowling older brother. Who is a fool? Who can call out a fool? Surely God can, but otherwise? Mt5v22 fool-calling is murder. How foolish are we? As with total-depravity in the domain of moral action, so too in the realm of thought, our thinking thinker is corrupt, if not utterly to its worst degree, but certainly it is tainted throughout. The Cogito Ergo Sum subtly presumes an unflawed thinker, but even in cool detached thinking about thinking, I am beset by folly, partiality, wilful self-interest. I am fool, if not perfectly or archetypally or infinitely, I am fool sufficiently to need to be urgently cautious as I comport myself towards my accrual of wealth: confessing my weakness, living desperately in search of true freedom found in proper humble gratitude.
🍗 "eat, drink, be merry.." Consume. Man's gotta eat ~ when does it become a pathology? When does wealth begin? Rosling et al's Factfulness currently doing the bestseller rounds, and absorbable in this lecture, argues that we are worse than ignorant about our privilege, we are actively misinformed. This is folly. Ideological possession nurtures willful blindness. This is folly. Our eating-drinking-merry-making is beyond any Ps34v8 tasting-and-seeing God's good creation, it is out of all proportion or sustainability, bloating into a domain of pathological, entitled, indulgent, escapist and rapacious consumption.
Lk12v21-22 "Do not be anxious" - a life verse. Specifically here: do not be anxious about (i) your life or (ii) your body, qualified as (i) what you will eat and (ii) what you will wear. We might further elaborate these two basic categories that Jesus presents as the command not to be anxious about (i) your survival needs or (ii) your social standing, about (i) what you will have to do to succeed or (ii) whether you will be accepted by others. Both of these are types of fear, but at a stretch I think (i) is a guilty fear and (ii) is shameful fear. Lying in bed this morning I was thinking about the old mantra of blamelessness and belovedness. If it's true that I have been made blameless and am set free to walk in blamelessness then I am (i) free to step outside survival-of-the-fittest, what-will-we-have-to-compromise, fretting-about-how-we'll-live modes of being. If it's true that I'm beloved, I don't need to live in (ii) constant fearful shame, fantasy or self-loathing. Now seems like the right moment to make this promise foreground again: blameless & beloved, blameless & beloved, blameless & beloved.
Lk12v23-24 "Life is more than food .. the body is more than clothes.." God is more-than. The Christian life is more-than. What do we mean when we say more-than? What do you consider life and the body to be, as they relate to the food you put in to it and the clothes you put on to it?
🆚 more-than vs merely
🆚 more-than vs other-than
🍗 Life is merely food. Life is but biology: voracious in will and bottomless in appetite, but even mere-food is not reducible to surviving starvation. Food is a very sufficient religione, a complex game of virtue signalling and self-medication. I am what I eat and I do so expertly. Life is won by wine snobbery, the competitively nuanced palate of the connoisseur. The good life is measured on the chromatic variance of your Instagram feed, compressing a dizzying density of sensory experience into life's short span.
🚭 Life is other than food. Over and against carnal hedonists, whose stomach is their God. Life is spiritual, food is an inconvenience, flavour a temptress, calories the enemy. Life is an enlightened dietary calculation, anorexically assymptotically ascetic, Straight-Edge being towards bare nothingness and how to disappear completely.
👙 Life is merely clothes. To be human is to dress, and urgently flamboyantly so, ornament distinguishes us from apes, clothing is language and language is all we have ~ a semantic game of distraction, frenetic fashion signifiers, babelling ecstatic noise to cover a nude emperor. Life is a stage, and we conduct our being performatively, combatively, we power dress. Life is mere clothes because images live forever. Life is mere clothes because modernism failed, pomo is more fun, and there is a consensus that man is hollow. Life is mere clothes because everything is veneer, everything is only language, nothing has substance, so savour sweetly the sensation, spectacle and affect that clothing conjures, a retinal analgesic for a fading world.
🧖♂ Life is other than clothes. Bold and noble, heroically dour dowdy, in contempt of colour and tone, there is a more honest way to attire man as the machine he is. Rationalistic, deterministic, gnostic, iconoclastic, utilitarian, stoic and nude beneath a functional outfit. Life is other-than clothes: Nude is Prophetic Is20, Nude is Political Polemic Lk6v29, Nude is our original purity Gn2v25.. Disrobement is an act highlighting justice issues, there is an earnest, visceral transparency to a life other-than clothed, with a scathing critique of a corruptly clothed civilisation.
~ Contrary to all the above our life is more-than food and more-than clothes, that is, inclusive-of-and-exceeding. We get both to savour the taste-and-see feasting of a water-to-wine Jesus who was called a drunk in his time and to engage also a critical righteousness in life exceeding the Pharisees. In our walk round Mull we pondered food and the rhythms of eating which would make it fearless and excellent. Pray for us in this season to go deeper on this particular foray into being bodies.
Lk12v25-26 "Who of you can add a single hour to your life by worrying about it?" One obvious response to this is that one can actually add hours to one's life by worrying, thank you very much Jesus, because worrying flags danger and risk, and avoiding danger and risk can in fact add all manner of hours to one's life. The opposite of worry, then, cannot be blind indifference to the world and its troubles. Maybe this then helps us to distinguish 'worry' in this anxious sense that Jesus calls us from, over and against Pr24 right concern & planning. 'Do not worry' is not a call to fatalism, to 'whatever will be will be'. 'Worry' then, is definitionally that which does not contribute to preservation or flourishing. Worry adds nothing, it only destroys. Worry is not care-full concern, it is not a constructive red flag. It is its own universe. Worry becomes a place we live and it fosters indecisiveness rather than enables decisiveness and forward motion. Perhaps anxiety has its roots in a basic healthy survival mechanism needed to navigate wisely through chaos, but left unchecked and uncalibrated by the consideration of God's ultimate goodness, accessed by the consideration of the birds of the air, it replicates and multiplies in a cancerous way. It traps, it becomes its own chaos, it prevents rather than preserves. A way of assessing whether my concerns are well triangulated by God or not, then: do they lead to action, to the fruit of goodness? Do they add something? Do they add a single hour? And can they be left behind once this action has been taken? Or do they spin frictionless in the void, leaving me helpless? If the latter, then I must pause, go outside, consider the ravens, and pray.
Lk12v27-28 😨 "O you of little faith!" Faith. In a passage commending unanxiety, the key is faith, the opposite of anxiety is faith. Switch your faith convictions: from a concept of ultimate reality as a malevolent father tyranising a precarious universe, to a concept of ultimate reality as a peculiarly and specifically benevolent father nurturing a meaningful flourishing world. In that faith lies the root of unanxiety. Where does that faith come from?
🌸 "Consider the lilies" Jesus argues from the lilies, that is, 1. an argument from beauty, and, 2. Jesus argues a fortiori ~ from the lesser to the greater: more-than.
1. Beauty is. Consider nature, birdwatch, binge Blue Planet, arrange flowers, hoard and catalogue and observe the glitter and abundance of biology at every scale, become attuned to the seasons. Engage observational drawing, attempt representational ornament, curate symphonies of nature's artefacts, unfetter science from utilitatarian sponsorship, decouple science from ideology and allow wonder to unsettle your presuppositions. Beauty is. Beauty is, and, were it not for the heavy tinted glasses we obscure it through, and the abstractions with which we vandalise it to reductive quanta, we would be unmade ourselves by beholding a kernel of nature's terrible beauty. Allow it. Consider the lilies.
2. If-then. A minore ad maius. Dwell on the cut flowers fading in the vase on the kitchen table. Are you of more value than them? I cannot think that it is possible to live consistent with a framework of equity with the non-human, as Deep Ecologists profess to. You must discriminate. You must prefer humans. Only nihilism can flatten a world, only recklessness and narcissism can self-deceive a world without peculiar human rights and corresponding peculiar human responsibilities. If-then. If you give an inch to this disparity, what then? The world is unflat riven with ontological unjustice, unequity, and privilege. From this you must infer upwards, to grasp the alarming more-than-lilies truth that God supplies all and more-than you need for the beautiful flourishing of his Kingdom, his gospel, his creation, patterned in excess of lilies, ornamented more-than.
If there is a God, if his lilies are beautiful, if you are worth more than lilies, then infer how much more will he supply for the unanxiety of his children. This was a lesson from Mull, huddled in a tent in the ruins of a chapel, on the edge of the Atlantic, laying a hold of the truth of God's faithful and beautiful provision, as the antidote to anxiety.
Lk12v29-30 Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink. This is a season of reckoning with food. Facing the realities of addiction, habit, idol, cheap comfort, sense of entitlement, exploitation, thoughtlessness, gluttony. Do not set your heart on food. Rather Col3v2 set your heart and mind on higher things. This simple-but-impossible-without-God task first: developing a taste for the presence of God more than food. It should be obvious but it isn't - in my habits and desires I choose food first, believing it is my best comfort, that without it I will be wronged, and I will surely die. Do not set your heart on food.
Lk12v31-32 🐑 "Fear not, little flock.." I am struck by how long and uncomfortable this treatise on fearless Kingdom economics has been:
v2 don't fear, don't hide, don't be thus hypocritical
v4 don't fear killers of the body
v5 don't fear for your value
v11 don't fear litigation, authorities or words in general
v15 don't fear poverty
v22 don't fear hunger or nakedness
v25 don't fear generally
v26 don't fear generally
v29 don't fear about provisions
v32 don't fear
v33 be actively fearless, invest in the unanxious bank of God
🧟♂ Cowardice might be my primary vice, the timidity which shrinks all and sinks all and pales to a slack slunk scurried away version of myself. The negation and omission, the redaction and inaction, the blank withdrawal, the limited ambition, the gainless fear of shame and pain leading to stasis, frozen fright between flight and fight. Fear is a hollowing force, a catalyst for antagonism. Fear stress-hardens into brittle resentment, it leads to the dark side. Fearful Phil's is an undead life unlived as a weightless shadow self.
👨👦 "it is your Father's pleasure.." Don't fear a tyrannical father, don't fear a devouring mother. Don't fear culture, don't fear nature. Don't fear order, don't fear chaos. Etc. Don't fear. The antidote to fear is faith, and faith is a knowing the Father's pleasure, hedonistically. We live for the joy.
💱 ".. to give you the Kingdom.." In this we conceptually and radically transition from squabbling over scarcity to negotiating abundance. At 41, it is our hope to operate on the basis of abundance, presuppositionally. Sacrificial generosity in God's economy is not sacrifice, but reinvestment: giving what we cannot keep, to gain what we cannot lose.
Lk12v33 This one is for the secret place. What does Jesus ask of your possessions this day?
Lk12v34 Thinking about the link between one's heart & one's treasure with Is45v3 also: "I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name." We talked about a hoarding mentality as we walked: food, money, travel, etc. God promises unhoarded hoards in the secret place, the place that has given everything away and only has God left. Discipline must start with this sense of what is precious. I am still in the process of having this sealed in me. I believe, help thou my unbelief.
Lk12v35-36 👀 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning.." Jesus, the original #staywoke. Wakefulness as analogue for faith's earnest attention, lucid anticipation. The opposite of being woke is sleepwalking and the secular prophets The1975 are currently plastering Is6v9-10 on London phoneboxes, raging against modernity's sleepfulness.
🌃 Life's tragedy and need is 24/7. Albeit cynically, the famous street pastor McDonalds gets this opportunity: If you're awake, we're awake. ~ Always be ready to give a burger for the haste that is in you..
🚑 Life's tragedies and need for Christ are 24/7. Mt25v40's least of these don't wait to present during office hours. You are the world's existential emergency services, with ontological ambulances, a philosophical fire engines. To be woke is to serve, conscious of the purpose of consciousness, ready with a default availability, serving to enable the many ways that Christ is perpetually returning in the guise of the strange stranger - if I would only let them in.
👬 "like men who are waiting.." plurally, organised, as a watchnight service waits. I, individually should be woke and should be ready, but further, we, the church, corporately can be always-on, always attentive, always ready. How are we on call, how do we rota readiness, how might the church missionally extend ourselves to serve to the night shift gig economy's unreached people groups?
👗🧥 "dressed.." having called us a few verses ago to consider the lilies. The attire here is purposed, tooled for the task of welcome, service and celebration. How do you picture this clothing ~ pragmatic, warm, exuberant? How do you dress for service, how do you dress for celebration?
🔦 "lamps burning.." fuel and aforethought. The virgin vigil vigiliantes considered that light needs fuel.
Lk12v37-38 These verses and surroundings are about paying attention and posturing oneself with readiness to the inbreaking of Jesus at all times. I am thinking about this as I prepare to speak on 2Sam6 also, that my posture towards God's sheer glorious reality is often (i) passively unthinking, as Uzzah, (ii) actively fearful & withdrawn, as David, or (iii) actively entitled and distainful, as Michal. Against all these: active attentive submissive love: Love of the master, love of his house, love of the work to be done, attentiveness to his unseen closeness, to the certainty within the uncertainty, to the detail of preparation. Come Lord Jesus, teach me to mean it when I say it, in all times & all places.
Lk12v39-40 "at what hour the thief was coming .. the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.." 📆 Christianity is bivalent anticipation, a dynamic tension, a double edged sword, and it stands on a knife edge of nuance over against misemphasis and misinterpretation. In one both-and event our saviour & our judge comes, a lover & a thief comes, a prize & a peril, a day of reunion & a day of reckoning. We await the end & the beginning.
🧠💪 Consider the psychology and activity of waiting. Consider the house we steward and the preparations required to facilitate the event of celebration and to resist the event of calamity. Both require engineering ~ the excellent exuberance of preemptive fairy lights, the safe sufficiency of precautionary fire doors. Our house is ready to usher in kingdom of heaven, our house is ready to stand against the gates of hell, ready with contingency for every possible d-day.
If I could characterise two churches simplistically:
💯 one grasps grace's infinity, and rests in the rich assurance of God's unconditional kindness, this church operates on the basis of abundance in the great freedom of license to supply every creative endeavour.
🆘 one grasps sin's infinity, and faces the world, the flesh and the devil with appropriate gravity, humility and urgency. This church, intimately acquainted with the awful suffering of a corrupt world in distress, engineers considerable premptive and protective compassion.
Both over-realised eschatologies bear distorted fruit.
Better by far to be both-and ready.
Lk12v41-42 Universal or particular? For those who are chosen or for those who choose? Both both. All. Both And Both. Foreknown yet unfolding. Fated yet freely found. Formed first yet fought for. // I have been thinking about the strange mystery of grace and causation this week, with the settling of this strange peace. It seems both so hard-won, so prayed and sought for, and yet also totally utterly gifted. All without expectation is the master's, the servants have much to do.
Lk12v43-44 🏠 I am finding it so interesting that this passage about eschatological anticipation is framed as being stewardship of a "household" v42 Axiomatic household responsibility here is made actively and strongly imperative thus:
⚖ Household responsibility is held to account with terrifying severity: our delegated household responsibility is power, the abusive abuse of that power is punishable v45, but, what is more harrowing, the negligent neglect to exercise that responsibility is also punishable v47.
🏆 Household responsibility in a limited domain is is subject to performance review, rewarded with responsibility in an unlimited domain "set him over all his possessions.." v44
🏡 What is a household? A couple of days ago, Alastair Roberts posted these thoughts on a theology of the household The household is a rooted, unabstract, parabolic place of relational integration, economic productivity, holistic apprenticeship..
👥 A household is intersubjective. A couple of days ago, Giles Fraser wrote of Peterson's Pelagianism. Which led us to a discussion to define JBP's short-comings. While affirming much of his John-the-Baptistic social critique of desert-path-straightening-room-tidying and his rich revival of a theological archetypal poetic, I would say Peterson's psychocentric and left-critical affirmation of the divine individual errs to the obscuring of good being-collective, tacitly and explicitly framing corporate-enterprise-generally and the-church-specifically as less-than-the-sum of their hypocritical codependencies. For all that is right about considering-the-spec-in-your-own-eye and getting-your-own-house-in-order, household-wise, Tidy Your Room, at least as it is soundbited, inculcates a miniaturist morality, satisfied by the perfectability of monad's household, a monk's cell.
👴👨👶 An intersubjective household is intergenerational - profitably, even necessarily, where 'generation' is rightly defined. I've been thinking about generations. An ambiguous term, 'Generation' conjures a range as follows: the biological begats of 1Chr1, basic birthing of life, generative as it exponentially multiplies numbers of a tribe, as promised Gn17v2. In this way, the kingdom pervades generations Ps14513 by the commendation of God's acts Ps145v4-5 and by the passing down of God's wisdom unto generations Ps78v4-6. Thus it is a true truth that we exist as extensions of generations, as karma's nature nurtured us in the ways Larkin's parents fucked us up Dt5v9-10.
~ Then. Out of this tribal morass of homogenised repercussions, [Jr31v29 “In those days they shall no longer say:‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.’" pondered during the latest beer brew] Now we're no longer that sort of intergenerational community.. [Jn9v2 "who sinned, man or father..?"] it's upside-downed. A new birth is spoken, disrupting and reframing generationality [Mk3v35 "Who is my mother and brother.?"] Seeds of the gospel lead to new life, new generationality, new integenerationality 2Tm2v1-2
🍛🍛 Intergeneration household provides food assymetrically. See management concerns the giving of a "portion of food" v42 - that is, practising the presence of Jehovah Jireh - cake on their plate while you wait.
I preach to myself, mostly. The above stream of thoughts leads me to two refreshed convictions.
Household responsibility (which is urgent today) which is necessarily relational is assymetrically generational and concerns the provision of food.
Generational ministry (which is urgent today), definitionally is a taking-responsibility-for - the most effective vehicle and most productive context for gifting the Other with a taking-responsibility-for-them, is the household.
Lk12v47-48 🙈🙉 "that servant who knew.. severe beating" ... "the one who did not know.. light beating" We know this. And so we long to not know. Rudd wanted to not have known about Windrush. Trump wants to not know about collusion. We all want deniability, and achieve this by gymnastic willed imprecision, a smoke and mirrors charade of civic discourse, the noisy noise of opiate fake newsery. "Everything clarified and articulated becomes visible; maybe neither wife nor husband wished to see or understand. Maybe they left things purposefully in the fog. Maybe they generated the fog, to hide what they did not want to see." (JBP p274)
Friday, 23 March 2018
Lk11v1-2 "Teach us to pray.." What is prayer? 🙏🤲👏🛐 What is prayer such that it could be taught? What is prayer such that this is what would be taught? What exactly is being taught here that we should extend both by direct imitation as 'The Lord's Prayer' and by extrapolation as a broad principle in life? How do you pray? How do you teach others to pray? What of posture, tone and content is necessary and sufficient to the prayeriness of prayer? What is not prayer? If you asked Jesus, "Teach me to pray" what would you be hoping to gain ~ what output or impact in your life would you hope for as a result? If he answered you with this prayer, what would you do with that?
Prayer begins with a direct address: "Father" ~ intimate, singular, archetypally masculine, responsible and not tyrannical, protective and providing, confronting and enworlding.. What is the richest possible interpretation of Jesus' choice of addressing God as Father, as Abba, and how do we practice and export the coherence of this signifier?
Establishes the relative position of the addressed: "hallowed" ~ being superlatively above me, utterly other, we are talking to infinity, total and unbounded power, total and unblemished purity, unabstractable and irreducible, more-than. The passive voice of hallowed tends to sound generalised or historic, as-has-been-hallowed, and, while it is a true statement of fact, God's name is hallowed regardless of whether we hallow it actively, what is said by saying it? What is emphasised, what is implied, what is required to say the hallowed with impunity?
States our common cause: "Kingdom" ~ that it would come, not wistfully but declaratively, in us individually, in the households and churches we constitute, and in the world beyond us, the Kingdom's character and structure, the quality of the King's kingship reign over us, the quality of the King's administration between us. The Kingdom is us, and it is beyond us, in that we are not-and-not-yet, yet in the now, we are the Kingdom, we are it's citizenry, it's ambassadors, the means and measure of it's constitution in the world. Thus for his Kingdom to come, we must go.
Lk11v3-4 Noting perhaps for the first time that in the prayer Jesus taught us we're invited to ask for our daily bread before asking for the forgiveness of our sins (both, of course, after recognising that God is our Father). Can we dare believe it? This seems so against the grain of what we're constantly taught in evangelical circles - that we have to deal with sin & repentance & forgiveness first, and only then can we access the abundance, provision, grace & expansiveness of relationship with the Father. In all prayer, all theology, all comportment towards God, others, ourselves, the rest of creation and the intertwining narratives of all these, we are taught: ask forgiveness first, only then can you contemplate or lean into the provision of God because only then are you in right relationship. But Jesus puts these the other way round. Again I am put in mind of the merciful spacious place as the positive place in which we first find ourselves in Christ, the spacious place which in which there is even room for our sin. Of course, when we recognise really truly that God is our Father and the source of our daily bread, we will naturally turn to repentance, that is, turn from the idols born of pride, fear and small-mindedness, to align ourselves with the heartbeat that orders the spacious place. We will turn from our sin. Asking for forgiveness of our sins is crucial, but if it doesn't flow from recognition of God as Father and Provider, it's just sin-management, just a sin-confession cycle (and addiction), just surface and superstitious. Maybe I would have a more appropriate relationship with my sin and brokenness if I took seriously the fact that Jesus orders prayer this way? Less obsessive, less panicked, with greater faith for actual transformation? What if I tried praying more of my prayers in this sort of order, including asking and assuming for the strength, nourishment & care of God before then turning to examine sin and brokenness and then seeking repentance? Let's try it.
Daily Bread v3 is for your Friends v6.
Your Friends are on a Journey, at Night, without Food.
Grace fails not in Production but in Distribution.
God's reality is Grace.
Our participation in Hospitality is Justice more than Mercy.
Hospitality is Grace conduited.
Full receipt of Grace is contingent on our Perception.
Our Perception is obscured by our Fallibility, Dullness and Self-relation
~ Prayer is a Dialogue between the Finite Fallible and the Infinite Infallible --> Persist in Prayer proportionally to mitigate the consequences of Fallibility.
~ Prayer is Conscious Clarification by Explicit Articulation of the World's Need --> Persist in Articulation of Need proportionally to unlearn Dullness.
~ Prayer for Hospitality's provisions is Intercession is compassionate World-facing --> Persist in Intercession proportionally to combat Self-relation.
Lk11v7-8 This is a bit of a perplexing analogy, and I'm sure there is more to be mined, more to lean into. Pitfalls of prosperity theology and works-based righteousness on every interpretative side. Noting that it's not evident to me that we're supposed to analogise the reluctant friend to God at all from Jesus' words, but in any case holding all this in tension for the time being, I've been rolling this phrase from v8 around my mind: 'shameless audacity' (NIV) 'imprudence' (ESV), 'not ashamed' (GNB), 'importunity' (KJV) , 'shameless persistence' (NLT). This is the posture we're allowed and invited to take before God in the face of our frustration. The space we're in is large and expansive. There is space for literal shame-less-ness. There's space for audaciousness, there's space to not give up on your desires at first frustration, space to articulate your most complicated longings, there is space to make a fuss, there is space to state your desires for yourself and your desires for others. Reflecting on Ps109 in a group a couple of weeks ago someone remarked that they would be pretty happy if, in their most frustrated, persecuted and rage-filled moments they were able to at least bring their desire for vengeance to God, to articulate these excessive feelings in the light rather than in the darkness. I am an excessive being, I realise. I feel absurdly and confusingly complex, disproportionate, overthought, sensitive, needy. I am these things whether I bring them to God or not, but where I am ashamed to bring these things to God, which I often am, they leak out everywhere else instead. There is room for this excessiveness before God, this parable suggests to me today, room to demand, room to rage. Before God, and nowhere else, is the right place to be imprudent. (Imprudence before God is the condition of prudence before others, perhaps - taking those feelings and needs to the right place, getting the bread from the right place, not demanding it from the wrong place, and so having excess bread to give away when face to face with friends.) So loosen up.
Lk11v9-10 👏 If the implausibility of "everyone who asks receives" is too much, and if the caveat by ESVSB is dryly unsatisfying: "does not mean that believers always receive what they ask for, because God is wiser than they are and has better plans for his children than they could imagine" what to do?
🏆 There is a general you-have-to-be-in-it-to-win-it maxim extractable from the advice, rather like the God-blesses-those-who-turn-up kind of thing.
🙈🙉🙊 Then, self-evidently, but actually quite provocatively, consider: it would be peculiar for the door to be opened to you if you didn't knock, for you to find something specific that you weren't looking for, to get an answer to a question that you definitely weren't asking. Going slightly further. I receive that Jesus aggressively presumes on the God hypothesis, poking me do the doing of belief in the God that I surprise myself that I actually believe in. If there are no atheists in the trenches, and if this is not just toying with wish-fulfilment. If any part of you is not completely nihilistic, if one the worst day ever you might pray to God, if there is any coherence to that worldview at all.. then what would it look like to live not minimally, but maximally, in a way that is consistent with the God hypothesis. Scary. Asking, seeking, knocking is often too much for my pride. British-mustn't-grumbleisms, keep-calm-carrying-onisms, ask-not-what-your-country-can-do-for-youisms, the subtle self-reliant self-identity that never asks for anything from others, and so certainly doesn't ask it from God. To ask is to concede lack, and that is a hard thing. And then, what if God answered your prayer, a doubly scary thing, an appalling responsibility, akin to survivor's guilt, the awkward gravity of gratitude. Christianity is not so much something that people have tried and found wanting, it is something that has been found hard and has been left untried.
😱 Ask. Seek. Knock. ~ for one thing every day that scares you.
Lk11v11-12 What are these verses for? On the tender subject of earthly fathers, on the fraught topic of analogies and disanalogies between divine and human fathering. Jesus here suggests that however bad our earthly fathers are, we should recognise that they are not actively malevolent. The implication being that their brokenness comes from confusion, apathy, unprocessed emotional dysfunction of other kinds, but not active malevolence. One immediate response is that it's not evident that this is actually true in all cases. One hears terrible stories, of fathers who actively will evil on their children, who wish them ill, who give them scorpions and snakes entirely as a means of wielding power, vengeance, hatred. This is not nothing, but I suppose this is the exception rather than the rule, and in my own case I can repeat these words in truth: my father is not actively malevolent. Whatever his weakness, he has never been out to trick me, out to harm me. He is not oriented towards my harm. This is, of course, not sufficient as a picture of God's fatherliness towards us, but maybe it is a good place to start, an entry point for meditation on the Father Heart of God, particularly for those of us who don't really understand the analogy, who find the concept of Father hard to grasp even. God is not actively malevolent. It's so interesting that even holding that basic truth before the heart for a while reveals that in some ways I disbelieve even this. In some ways I believe that God is out to get me. I believe that God's feelings towards me are that of disgust, revenge, trickery. I believe that God might give me scorpions. I don't trust Him at all. There is more that's needed here, this meditation must go beyond God's non-malevolence through His non-indifference (& so perhaps disanalogies with human fathers), to recognise His active overflowing grace & love. But start here: God is not out to get you. Allow your muscles to untense as you recognise areas of active distrust. The distrust has to be unweeded if every other flower of surrendered trust is to flourish.
I am reminded of the need for an apophatic meditation:
1. God is a Father
2. God is not a Father
3. God is not not a Father
These levels of meditation invite us to wrestle with the analogies & disanalogies between God and our earthly fathers, recognising God's ultimate transcendence.
Lk11v13-14 ".. [v9 ask, seek, knock..]: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"
🗣 "Ask" Verbalise it, springing from your centre, out of your own poverty, be unfurled, be vocal, comport yourself, dispose yourself, orient your being in recognition of your need and as an articulation of God's available supply. Ask for the Spirit. Ask aloud. Interrogate. The Spirit is the answer to your question.
🔭🔬 "Seek" Go into the world and catalogue the variety of a diverse and God-breathed world, explore the infinity of God's provision and character, discern and receive, filter signal from noise, scour. Seek the Spirit. The Spirit is the destination you are looking for, the treasure hidden, the prize waiting to be found, a revelation discovered rediscovered and incrementally expanded in scope by ever more by earnest research.
🚪 "Knock" For there is something to knock. Between you and the Spirit's abundance there is a wooden panel, an opaque membrane, a slammer in the aperture of revelation. There is an architecture to unbelief, somewhat of our own making, tap at it, for where it resounds hollow, there is the Spirit's dwelling, there is where we have encased him. Knock on the timber you've boxed the Spirit in with, let him out, let him in, by knocking.
Lk11v15-16 Initially a bit perplexed by this - surely the demonic way is one of division, disunity, fragmentation, chaos? But thinking about this a little more it makes sense that evil has to presume on good. Evil can't not use God's resources, because God's resources are the foundation of reality. The Satanic spread of disunity has this hypocritical quality - Screwtape's nephew can only divide humanity by collaborating with his uncle. Super-villians and evil geniuses have to rely on virtues of co-ordination, intelligibility & strategy, which are godly virtues characterised by unity. How embarrassing for them demons - there is nothing useful that's originally theirs. It's all borrowed. The goodness of God is more fundamental than the distortion of evil, it's further down, more original, it's the condition of all coherence, even coherence used for distorted ends. You cannot escape God, you cannot get outside God, there is nothing you can do that doesn't presume upon the creation, sustanence and order of God. Don't be like the demons, leading a double-minded existence, trying to use a reality that already belongs to God against Him. Rather, recognise that the principles of unity that run through every dimension of the universe and make anything possible are in fact principles to submit to, to align yourself with. At some level you have to do this anyway, why not surrender all you are in a joined up way, why fight the source of life?
Lk11v17-18 👑💔 "..every kingdom divided against itself falls.." Unity is a military imperative and we are at war. Our orchestra coach tour carries a diversity of instrumentalists to play a diversity of tunes but, to the extent that we are on the same bus, we have to want the same destination, probably by the same route, probably at the same speed. This wisdom principle which should guide 41, St Marks and the PJs also applies as an cautionary observation of evil's unity as being a one thing ~ Jesus has a concept of the organised evil which we are to oppose. Beyond mere honour amongst thieves, or pragmatically allied supervillains, Jesus opposes a singular diabolical conspiracy. Healing, exorcisms, preaching the gospel - these are doing battle against one enemy, a breaking in and breaking out captives from the hegemonic totality of imperial evil.
💪👹 "..for you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.." The people of Jesus' day observed that power was at work in this display of exorcism. They logically considered it must have been rendered by the greatest greater-than. What is the most powerful force in the world? Death. Death and its entropic entourage are what we orient our being around resisting, that which we pay greatest heed to. In that universe all power is tyrannical, all masculinity is patriarchy, all motives are ulterior, all politics are realpolitik, everything is untrustably selfish all the time. Unless. Unless there is a different ultimate force, unless resurrection is real, unless love wins. The victory of Jesus is a victory of power, and power has always been suspect because the greatest power has always been death. But this has changed.
Lk11v19-20 Drawn to this phrase 'the finger of God'. Why does Jesus use this phrase? The internet is full of theories as to the right interpretation of this phrase, with many suggesting that it is primarily evocative of God's power (even His little finger is more powerful than demons, etc). This is surely part of what's going on here, but as I think about this this afternoon I'm drawn to the other use of this phrase in Exodus 32v18 on Mount Sinai, and the what-it-is-like to do something in the power of God. The 'finger of God' could evoke a dramatic lone figure on a hilltop, theatrically pointing this 'finger' at the demons to be cast out, the wrongs to be righted, the mountains to be moved. Hunting baddies with the mighty power of Roald Dahl's Magic Finger..
And yet. This isn't what the finger of God is like in Ex32v12-18...this is one of the most intimate, dialogical moments between God and Man that we find in the OT. God converses with Moses, they are close like friends, and in offering the Commandments, truths sculpted for the freedom of the human heart, God puts His finger on the human heart. Moses experiences God putting his finger on him, touching him. Touch is a form of communication (I have just been writing this morning)...the finger of God is a communicative act by God, and when Jesus says that he casts out demons, I wonder that he means that he knows the touch of the Father as the source of His power. The Father puts his finger on the place to pray into, and Jesus, who knows how to listen, follows the finger, feels it pressing on him in communicative love, and so does what he feels his Father doing.
Lk11v21-22 👹🌍 The world as we know it is a "palace" belonging to a "man" who is sufficiently "strong" and appropriately "armed" to keep his "goods" "safe".
🖥🏯 In the storehouse of another's wealth, we were the swag. The analogy works elegantly transferred to the world of social media giants for whom we are the product, we are pixels on their screen, we are pods in their matrix of value extraction, we are indentured clickbait, we are tradable entities racked inside their elaborate warehouse palaces of data-mining.
🔗 The facebook parallel is neat but flimsy by comparison to the moral universe where all of life is a system of slavery. The world could delete facebook and unplug the whole internet and they would still be labourers under an inherited curse, still stuck in a system of working off the debt of their fathers.
🎢 The system is a "palace" - a dreamworld, a not entirely uncomfortable containment, and the world (esp digital natives) is born into a sort of Stockholm syndrome.
⚔🔫 The system is a subjugation by a "strong man" who is also "armed" ie. if you could riggle out he could still shoot you, if you could call for a friend's help he could shoot them. The world is in a predicament that they cannot be merely educated out of.
🆓 But we are free. Set free for freedom Gal5v1. So, be free, actively, intentionally and with a profound and grateful sense of the undeserved gift of it, and with a sense of the time-limited urgency to summon all the inmates inside to the breach in the prison wall.
Lk11v23-24 Those not gathered with Jesus scatter. This I think is in part just an articulation of the true truth that to be ungathered _is_ to be scattered. What is it to be scattered? It is to be cut off from, at a distance from, one's people. It is for the distribution and communication between these people to have no pattern, no rhythm. To be scattered is to live an arbitrary intersubjectivity, leading to loneliness and ineffectiveness. If your world is not characterised by gathered centres of people with whom you regularly and rhythmically do your life, then you are leading a scattered life. London is a place set up to scatter people - many are the connections, but their disordered hit-or-miss once-in-a-while nature means that it's easy to slide through life without real gathering-with, and so it is to live scattered. We're apt (culturally and otherwise) apt to think that there is a neutral state of not-gathered-with-others-but-neither-scattered, the lone individual first, and from this starting place we can either be gathered with others or scattered, but this is not true - as soon as you are not gathered-with, you are scattered. So to with God. If your life is not gathered regularly and rhythmically into the life of the trinity, you are already spiritually scattered.
Lk11v25-26 🚯 Tidy your room.
"Put your house in order." Is38v1
"Wash yourselves.." Is1v16
"Create in me a clean heart.." Ps51v10
"~ manage your household, if you want to take care of the church.." 1Ti3v5
"..take the log out of your own eye.." Mt7v5
Tidy your room.
But. It is not enough to merely tidy your room, as evil can abide in a tidy room more efficiently.
Lk11v27-28 And so I can trust that even if my worst fears come to pass, I still have everything I need. May I know it in my knower. Amen.
Lk11v29-30 "An evil generation seeks a sign." 🚸💥 A cosmic sign rendered in the sublime. Settling for a signifier, we are satisfied by the significance of mere signification. Everything that leads us to savour surface and simulacra is a substitute saviour. Jesus will not be a substitute for himself. Proto-modern and post-imperial, consciences seared by Roman occupation, these Jews, as we, pursue pornographic power-over ~ the brutalistic justice of and against an infinite machine. Resentment seeks spectacle: a visual vandal's visceral revenge? Show us whatcha got Jeezus.
🐋 Not Jesus. He goes beneath surface. As Jonah. To hidden depths.
Lk11v31-32 We're always navigating a historical perspective which neither falls into a naive myth of progress nor a luddite nostalgia for the past. With this in mind, the thought that Jesus puts before us here, that our ancestors will be incredulous at what our generation failed to see, failed to pursue, failed to labour for - is a thought we can heed whatever our generation. Each generation takes for granted different things, comforts themselves in different ways, has been hurt by the previous generation in different ways, faces a different cultural and technological landscape. I pray for eyes to see the ways I am formed qua millennial, and thus a better sense of my blind spots. May I learn all the more a queenly wisdom and a prophetic conviction that breaks in from outside my specific cultural moment. Amen.
See saw sight with a swop shop sheen
Give lights out, let light in
Glean light's gleam and reflect.
Lest a dash dot darker darken
Rather look like light alighting lightly.
And let it.
🔦🕶 “No one after lighting a lamp hides it in a cellar" who is the agent of these two verbs? Who lights it? Who hides it? Me? But this is not to frame Christian revelation as self-aware enlightenment. But what then? What is my agency in the light which is in me? Sight is elective. Sight is subjective. Sight, like a laser sight, goes out from you, a reader-response rendering of reality? Sight is lensed, filtered, and fundamentally augmented by belief. Seeing is believing. Sight is an act of faith. Seeing is receptive but also projective - a worldview is worldforming.
"..so that those who enter may see the light.." 11v9 "seek.." // 11v29 "don't seek.." The sight and light of Christianity is different to sign-seeking. Signage is monological and totalitarian, a broadcast fiat, an autarch's injunction. There is no negotiating with traffic lights. Don't seek a sign. Rather seek to dialogue with the light and thence to take that dialogical approach to light and sight to the world. Rather seek to be a conduit of light, perpetually translating and refracting.
“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a basket" Why not?
🔥 Fire hazard? What is the danger of your light under a bushel? Lk24v32 heartburn. Rm12v20 headburn. We are combustible people. Burn rightly.
⛽ Opportunity cost? What is the cost of your light under a bushel? Wasted fuel. Time is short.
Lk11v35-36 "See to it then, that the light within you is not darkness."
Q: How? Don't eyes adjust to the light they're in?
A: Ps36v9 In your light we see light.
Lk11v37-38 "..astonished that he did not first wash.."
🕵♂ Wednesday in Holy Week is Spies Wednesday. I was meditating earlier that it is strange that Jesus should have needed to be betrayed with a kiss - that is, to be marked out and distinguished because he was otherwise indistinguishable from the mass, a spec amongst the great unwashed. No special hat, no special glow, no special cleanliness.
🧜♂🚿 The character Strickland in The Shape of Water is portrayed as measuring a man by his bathroom routine - real men only wash their hands before they pee.. Cleanliness is next to oddliness, clinical madness, vain OCD Pharisaism, peculiar anxieties about the appearance of things and contagion. As with thoughts on David's murderous instinct - religione's inherent moral disgust must lead to genocide as the only form of cleansing, in a world without grace.
🤢 Moral Disgust: (On this, at 35:50)
Lk11v39-40 Reading this alongside our Maundy Thursday reading: Jn13v6-9, we see Jesus resisting washing and insisting on washing respectively. In both cases he uses metaphor to invite his interlocutors into a symbolic understanding of a literal transaction. With the Pharisees he refuses ritual as a way of trying to disrupt them, as a means of trying to bring their attention to something under their skin, a confrontation with their hearts. With the disciples he institutes a new ritual, a new sacrament, to hallow their imaginations into a realisation and remembering of their communion with the Christ. We too must hold our rituals with both these prongs, using discipline and disruption both as a way back to the deeper magic of Christ.
Lk11v41 "Give." Because giving is "cleaning". A generous giver is a jet-washer, the gushing aeration of a stagnant commons. Give because having is an impediment to being. Having desiccates. It is the taxidermy of reality's golden-egg-laying goose. Give because Wealth-Ownership is anathema to the Kingdom, your stuff is sanctified as holy only when it rendered wholly as Gift-Couriership. Give against the peril of wealth (On this, at 44:20-51:30) Give because evil is a distortion as an accretion, like a tumour on an aerofoil. I often think of evil is a distortion as a subtraction, as a sinned-against stolen-from ~ which it is also sometimes. More often for me, evil is my bloatware, my Mt18v6 drag-net ball-and-chain, my Hb12v1 clings-and-entangles cluttered inventory of mediocrities. Give because property is theft - it's all ill-gotten if you presume to hold on to it. Give your whole self - material privilege is as much a conceit as a Pharisee's presumption of moral and social privilege. Give even and especially that away. Strip yourself of the illusion of righteousness and the paraphernalia of privilege, on this, Good Friday of all days. Yesterday the boys of Boys Breakfast discussed betrayal and death, and I pondered Jesus' many deaths: physical, but before that emotional, political, relational. Then last night watching The Passion of the Christ, the flayed flesh from bone, the visceral harrowing of dignity. Give that away.
Lk11v42 How shall we give? Give like you give an uncensored flying fuck. Give until it hurts. Give to within an inch of your life. Give something primary, sacrifice something structural not ornamental, cut meat not herbs. Why give? Imagine a world where fundraising was redundant. Imagine there was no charity 'sector' but that everything and all was total compassion, a social commons of frothing unfettered bubbling abundance. Contra the appalling bureaucratic banality of the contemporary bootstrapped third sector serving on a shoestring, mere palliative foodbanks eeking out corrupt representation in the market place for virtue signalling, fighting over the breadcrumbs that fall from the spice rack of an anaemic commons. Jesus contrasts the mere charity of mint-tithing with "the neglect of both justice and the love of God" Fussing over quotas, subsidising social provision, these necessarily obscure and displace the proper concern for justice and its proper calibration by God's infinite love. The whole orientation of guilt offerings and coin boxes is wrong. The therapeutic generosity of texting BEAT to 70200 to give £3 on your commute is a game of distraction. It is not even close to appropriate justice. So, give. Give yourself away. And to that end, know yourself, then self-understand as given to giving.
Lk11v43-44 "You are like unmarked graves, which people walk over, without even knowing it." This is such an evocative image for me. Think of all the pre-conscious death that I've absorbed from my interactions with others throughout my whole life, that I am still unaware of. Think of all the ways in which all that is a trajectory towards death, decay and sin in me, has been absorbed by others, transforming them, without them even knowing it. We are always in a network of unconscious transactions, which is why life-to-God has to be bone-deep-transformation rather than behaviour modification. We are transmitting and receiving more than we know, so we have to be transformed all the way through, rather than simulating a life that we think we should be living 'as a Christian'. If it hasn't gone all the way through then it won't touch what is happening 'without knowing it' - and these are the primal things that form us. This is a huge and daunting challenge, it asks us to invite the Holy Spirit to show us all the unmarked graves we've ever walked across without knowing it, and it asks the Spirit to show us where we are buried in the cold ground, and where we are apt to 'contaminate' others with this death of ours. Finally it asks for the faith to believe and lean into the truth that the Father has united us with the Son, and so we can participate in his resurrection all the way through - this too 'before we even knew it', as we say at the infant's baptism or dedication. This too is true. This was my prayer for Easter: "teach us...and before you teach us, birth us," for we need to be transformed, both in and before our knowledge.
Lk11v45-46 v42 "Woe to you Pharisees.." I think I know who the Pharisees are, and I've pondered this species of religiose leadership variously previously
- Mt23v4 The Pharisees' burdens are barea and dysbastakos: heavy and awkward, the rucksack is weighty and poorly packed, you're pulling a train and by hooks in your flesh, you know when your muscles shudder because the load is both very massive and very unstable.
- Mt22v17-18 ..concerned with thresholds of permissibility, housing regulations, minimum standards, abstracted principles..
- Lk7v31-32 Pharisaism is a numbing. Definitionally. A bulletproof superego, overburdened with cerebral fortifications and self-made mendacity. Such cannot dance, and cannot cry.
"Woe to you Lawyers.." Luke distinguishes between the Pharisees, woed in 11v37-44 and the Scribes/Lawyers woed in 11v45-52. The distinction is subtle, but informative. Religione is a corporate animal, a multipersonal complexity, an organised crime. Religione exploits the charismatic as well as the bureacratic.
- Pharisaism is characterised in three woes:
1. v42 hypocrisy of mint tithing,
2. v43 pride of loving the best seat
3. v44 stealth of being death disguised.
- Scribic Lawyerism by nuanced contrast is woed thus
1. v45 miscalibrated moral quantification as it pertains to the present
2. v47 re-writing history as it pertains to the past
3. v52 controlling interpretation as it pertains to the future.
~ These are assistant sins, we scribes are technicians, ISTJ religiose administrators, oiling the entrenching mechanisms of dogma. Knowledge, as we think we know it, is not neutral. Scribing is so value laden, so dangerous. Being a civil servant in religione's administration is a culpable evil.
- Be careful how you invoke oughts as these are deadly.
- Be careful how you speak of history, what you omit and what you lionise.
- Be careful the (mis)interpretations you make, and how that suffocates hope for everyone who hears.
Lk11v47-48 Prompted by PPJ's observation (45-46) that Luke has Jesus rebuking both the Pharisees and the Scribes with different woes: PPJ notes the distinction between personality types - public, extroverted types vs behind-the-scenes introverted types - and the different weaknesses in these that lean to different forms on sin. I would add that this might also be read as through the lens of the two big 'factions' in the Evangelical church - Charismatic and Conservative. Those who lean to the former perhaps lean towards the sins of spectacle in the marketplace and more of a complacency in the application of faith to ethics. The latter perhaps lean towards the sin of legalism and the dulling of prophecy. The passage doesn't quite map perfectly here, holding this lightly, but the thought that our Christian sub-culture defines our weaknesses as well as our strengths is worth critical reflection, and provides a reason for trying to practice a broad church, an ecumenicism, rather than a tribalism, for the greater sanctification of the whole body.
Lk11v49-50 Fifty years ago yesterday, Martin Luther King was assassinated. A prophet, an apostle, persecuted and killed. Who killed him? 🙋♂ I did.
- Prophets are perennially inconvenient.
- We are perpetually evil.
Jordan Peterson, notedly not a historian, nevertheless makes the valid observation from Browning's Ordinary Men and Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago about who perpetrated evil in history. The honest answer is that I did. Evil is not so much out-there, as it is in-here. My depraved capacity in another context is capable of untold evil. Within me is a selfish monster, vindictive, corrupt, shameless, and Mt5v21-22 - it's all murder.
Lk11v51-52 "This country is fed up of experts"? The ugly pseudo-public-discourse which pits elitism against anti-intellectualism serves no-one, and re-enforces both of these vices. As per coffee snobbery/excellence discussions at the weekend, the key to knowledge does exist - scripture and nature hold keys to life and are worth studying at ever high-resolution, for the glory of God. To reject expertise altogether is to barricade oneself out of the Real. But it is possible for experts to hold this key and never use it, to barricade themselves and others out of whole-hearted knowledge of the Real and so out of the Kingdom through abstraction, compartmentalisation, hypocrisy, disembodiment, alienation, self-seeking, pride. Whether your proclivity is to reject expertise altogether or to use expert knowledge as a weapon to protect self and choke others: be released, for the way, the truth & the life of Jesus is a challenge and a freedom from this proclivity. Access to the Kingdom is the easiest of access, open to children and fools, and it is also the deepest densest ever-more real reality that will always exhaust your taste for detail and excellence. Rather than being locked in a conflict at the gate, know that all are welcomed in with ease, and that there's space inside for every manifestation of Kingdom-life with whatever is at hand. Commit in this space, to a life of learning from the multi-faceted expertise of others.
Lk11v53-54 "Provoke him to speak about many things" Ancient whataboutery, a hypothetical hoo-ha rising to a red herring's rhetorical raucous ruckus. Hairsplitting verbal bluster. Self-defeating defensive conjecture. My life is an intellectual edifice, a ferociously busy construction site perpetually scaffolded, paradoxically and Escheresquially elaborate. Riddled. His yoke is easy. Jesus says: "learn from me, for I am gentle" Mt11v29
Friday, 2 March 2018
Lk10v1-2 For my husband: You're my primary pair, my first two, my prime number, my dyad 'til death. Here we are in year 5, and it's serious now. We've 9v28-35 beheld some mountain tops and v46-50 we've argued ages on the road, and I'm declaring that this symbolic now, on this threshold, this year Jesus sends us two by two, to be labourers of the harvest. So let's do this fam. Let's actually seriously definitely do this. Let's labour hard, harvest, pray, multiply. Let's do kingdom things all the way through now. You & Me, combined harvesters.
Lk10v3-4 "no moneybag, no knapsack.." Be ninja fam, tread lightly, seriously. You are lambs, so be lambs and do lambliness deftly and totally. Why be only semi-vulnerable, neither-nor, presenting as partly at-risk but with a back-up plan. Christianity is urgent, and it's message is its medium which is carried by vulnerability because to the extent that you can display your vulnerability, you can display your invulnerability in God. Everything in me which clings to my stuff, which has a programmatic and pragmatic sense of the social aims of the Kingdom considers that this sort of travelling light is inefficient, it seems foolhardy now, naive and exploitable, a hangover from simpler times, stoic early christians who had less to lose, pre-ironic times when the world was more earnest and more receptive to that sort of display of vulnerability?
Lk10v3-4 "lambs in the midst of wolves" Go as a lamb, .. What is a lamb? They can't fight, they can't hide, they can't run, a bleating herd, eminently edible, utterly fluffy, exquisitely vulnerable. Like, come as a child, lambiness is a true, noble and counterintuitively powerful mode of being.
~ True - being vulnerable is the most authentic expression of being human in the cosmos.
~ Noble - meekness is the highest form of machismo.
~ Powerful - there is something disarming about vulnerable non-violent resistance.
But, there are no prizes for blythe moot mutton mincing. Matthew adds Mt10v16, wise-as-serpents advice to the go-as-lambs command. There is a choreography to tactical sheepliness in the face of antagonism, which demands expedient discretion, ninja lambing which does not cast its pearls before swine and does not simply walk into Mordor.
Lk10v5-6 "Peace to this house." What could the shape of my life look like if every time I entered a new space, crossed a threshold, I spoke these words in honest prayer? It's a prayer that is both a declaration and an invitation, a blessing on the known or unknown other apart from me. But it's also a way of asking God for eyes to see, an invitation to one's own soul to tune back into the spiritual atmosphere around, to re-orient to people as people not things, and to move towards them accordingly. I'm reading these words on the Northern Line, running late for a meeting. I try to declare peace to this train carriage, but it's a struggle to mean it, to even silently proclaim God's reality truthfully to and for this carriage of people, let alone to open myself to allow God to speak to me about them. I want to practice this discipline of declaring peace at the crossing of each threshold, slowing down to see where the peace is received, to lean to the work of the spirit. Maybe this is my task for Lent. Ask me, at Easter, what it was to speak peace at the door.
v7 "abide.. (with constituent participles, eating and drinking)" (menete μένετε Imperative Active)
v8 "eat.." (esthiete ἐσθίετε Imperative Active)
Eat it. Imperative. Do it. Get what you are given. Receive hospitality. Imperative. Eat Pray Love. Imperative. It seems secondary, it seems silly, but it's serious, the imperative is missional. You must go, then you must stay, then you must eat.
1. Eat it - for the sake of the evangelist. An evangelist's remuneration is not charity, it is justice. Evangelism is a costly labour which generates value, translating and exporting the ineffable into the practical, the mysterious into the transformative. Evangelism sings for its supper, and rightly understood, is entitled to be paid, and as a venture it is kept in the real by a calibration against a market for other goods and services.
2. Eat it - for the sake of the evangelised. The evangelised are image-bearers of God, and that is the message itself which is carried by the medium itself. You cannot tell people they are divinely crafted image-bearers, but treat them transactionally utilitistically statistically. The evangelised must be treated as equals, treated with dignity, treated as reciprocal producers of value, conduits of a divine economy, participants in an activity of dominion, members of God's family.
3. Eat it - for the sake of a gift acknowledged. Evangelism is the export of the gift of Christ's incalculable sacrifice, carried by evangelists who have internalised that gift as fuel for their gift of their own incalculable sacrifices. The giftiness of the gift is dangerous. An actual acknowledged gift creates a bond of reciprocal relationship. Whereas, a gift obscured, masks a power which creates debt. Philanthropic condescension creates two codependent classes of sub-Christian individual who are complicit in a lazy exchange of sham beneficence traded with sham poverty.
4. Eat it - for the sake of a world remade through hospitality. Gerard Lemos goes as far as to define homelessness as a 'want of conviviality' (2000). Eat. Imperative. The encouragement to aggressively intentional community goes both ways, it is awkward for both parties, host and hosted. Help them. Be a good hosted, be fully present, Stay&Pray. Abide without awkward tentativity, let your host do the good they want to do, let them unapologetically pay the piper, not that they would call the tunes by so doing, but that by so doing they would participate in the gift economy that God has been so gracious to let us join.
Lk10v9-10 "Near." The Kingdom of God has come near to you. A major theme of this season is recognising my own lack of desire, or at least lack of understanding of desire. Habituated into negating or smothering true desires, I don't know what I want, I don't know what I love. This is a recipe for a boring and distant life. And the unwillingness to commit to desires is bound up with a disbelief that the Kingdom of God has come near. Nearness elicits desires, whether positive or negative. Nearness elicits: fear, disgust, longing. Comfort, intimacy, thrill. Safety, danger, invasion. Contamination, healing, love. To know that something other than oneself is frighteningly or breathtakingly near is a route into desiring God and into fleeing evil. The discovery of nearness is the discovery of love, and you are what you love, as James K.A Smith wants to tell us. So nearness elicits love elicits healing. Declare it then to your own soul, declare it to each other, that we might be lovers of the one who met us when we were still far off, and brought us home.
Lk10v11-12 ⏱ "on that day.." The declaration of the Kingdom comes tinged with apocalypse, because all of life anticipates the perpetually imminent peril of overwhelming calamity, conflict and suffering. Life itself is such a daily urgent time-limited invitation to an all or a nothingness. Everyday is that day, a d-day, a judgement day, every moment is a decision for Christ, when weight is applied, the mettle is tested, and the structure of your life stands or falls on the basis of its foundations.
👑 "The Kingdom" The invitation to participate in the Kingdom is a doubly urgent and ultimate invitation. It is the last train, a final edition, the only way, the definite article. The Kingdom is a mode of rule: there is a King. The Kingdom is a mode of ordering life on earth between people in the light of that rule, it is a system of civic life, a pattern for multipersonal cooperation, and it is near and it is now, it is a happening, a flourishing economy.
🌆 "your town" The invitation to the Kingdom addresses a you-plural, a collective. So we comport ourselves towards towns, communities, systems as wholes which are unKingdom and which elect to be antiKingdom. The King of this Kingdom desires towns, he desires to reconstitute your town onto a basis of life rather than death, grace rather than works, a Kingdom rather than our own cartel. This Kingdom is near, healing is within reach. Another London is possible.
💨 "the dust" In the ancient mind's taxonomy of substance, we are made of dust (Ps103v14), and life is lived from dust to dust, and as it flakes away from us, it carries with it our essence as a corrupt permeation. So that which is within me becomes an airborne particle, the detritus of my decay becomes that fine silt that clogs filters, sticks gears and smears lenses. There is a genius locii and it is stuck to you, as death clings, it is the black lung of London and it is within you.
Lk10v13-14 Jesus says hard things, and indeed looking ahead to v18-19, weird things. I do feel myself squeamish and embarrassed by Jesus being difficult and weird at this point. This perhaps a bit like being married. I find the husband embarrassing sometimes, in the strength, tone and content of what he says publicly. Often I try to interpret, hide, distance, dilute. This is hurtful to him. This leads to grievance between us. So too Jesus and I? With the husband it has been important to remember that it is these points of otherness that were and indeed are points of greatest attraction, inspired most by his strength and otherness, his willingness to speak the hard and weird things that I never would. Day after day together and I stop 'seeing' him, the hard and weird things are apt to just annoy and embarrass me, but really, when I pay attention, I remember that they are part of the reason I fell in love with him initially, and love him still, the reason it is he that I love and not the version of him I would construct. So too with Jesus? I've known Jesus all my life now, I am habituated to life together that I don't know how to 'see' him, but I wish he would stop being so difficult in public. I want to remember, recover or maybe discover anew that this strangeness and hardness is what inspires my love of Jesus, and to in this love, to submit.
Lk10v15-16 "heaven?.. hell." It is coming. We enjoy such a heaven at present, such peace, such privilege, such a long post-Christian hangover of personal integrity and political transparency, such stable philosophical underpinnings found in the sense of the glory of the divine person, the dignity of work, the poetry of material being, the purpose of gender and relation and covenant, the truth of history, the intrinsic value of creation, the humility of our place in the cosmos. This civilisation we enjoy, has Christian foundations with mechanisms for tempering the concentration of wealth funding a functional commons. We are as Capernaum, much has been given, much is expected. We are as Capernaum, prospering as a cultivated city twinkling on the shore of Gennesaret. We are as Capernaum, a city established by God's chosen people. Barbarians wait at the gate, waiting for us to unmake ourselves in rejecting God and choosing those hells of self-reliant religione, self-made-wealth, self-satisfied ignorance, self-important irony. We will be brought down to Hades.
Lk10v17-18 I saw Satan fall like lightening. Apt for the morning after a lunchtime discussion about Satan. Privation of being or active agent? I think surely both. Satan is like the dot of one-dimension in Flatland, compared to the trajectory towards the three-dimensionality of the Kingdom of God. God is Being, Satan is nothingness. We all choose to inhabit more reality or less. More truth, more risk, more compassion, more healing, more faith, more prayer, more love - or less. The disciples, in stepping out on the road in pairs to declare the Kingdom of God, shivering with dependence, chose the more. The battle between good and evil in our own souls is always a case of battling to perceive the bigger better reality. It is true that Satan is part of God's good creation and is therefore a distortion of something good. Evil is not an equal and opposite force, the devil is not the yin to the divine yang, evil is the distortion of the good, it is a weakness, a brokenness, it has no higher or secret power that God has no access to. This is important to hold on to, as was expressed yesterday, for not losing hope. But this doesn't mean that Satan is impersonal passivity either: demons must be cast out, Satan must fall. We know from our own personalities that we can tend towards being or towards nothingness, that we can actively distort, actively negate, actively destroy. This is Satan's work, active distortion through lies. Lies are not overcome simply by accumulating more knowledge, but also through the exposure of lies as lies, light must be shone on them, to cast them out as active, personal distortions. Light to lightening, freedom through fall.
Lk10v19-20 🐍🦂🐍🦂 "authority to tread on serpents and scorpions.." Well, I'll remember that when I meet one.. Literal interpretations about exotic biblical concepts are strangely easy. But, what about proverbial serpents? Symbolic archetypal parabolic mythic serpents of the type that recur in my life? What is Jesus saying to me about them?
Noted from Jordan Peterson's Twelve Rules for Life:
🦀 Stand up straight with your shoulders back. "Walk, tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence." Be more lobster. Participate in authority structures Lk7v8. *Tread,* do the treading-on, the stepping-out, the striking-forth.
⛑ Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping "The worst of all possible snakes is the eternal human proclivity for evil. The worst of all possible snakes is psychological, spiritual, personal, internal. No wall, however tall, will keep that out" Tread on serpents, for surely they are everywhere, within and without, with their tactical toxic toxins and slippery arguments, they are all scuttley deceitful weaponised and animate beings.
In these, I receive from JC and JP, two convictions. Christianity is a true truth. No other description of the world is so coherent, fruitful, psychologically re-integrating, socially reforming. Jesus is, serpents are, you exist, life is ~ this is all the real real in which we really wrestle and contend within truth equipped for precisely so doing by Jesus' counterintuitive and unprecedented truth. *Christianity is heroic.* An endurance sport, an over-and-against, a long hard suffering against suffering, a battle versus. Petersonians should note that not all heroism is Christian, but we should note that all Christianity must be heroic.
🚷 "..Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this" Christianity is true, and it is heroic, and you can step on dragons and tidy your room, but this is not the main event, this is not the goal, this is not the greatest cause for rejoicing. Rather, rejoice, "that your names are written in heaven.." What is Jesus saying?
👣 "tread" = a doing
📜 "are-written" = a being
Rejoice on account of who you are as being in Christ.
Lk10v21-22 Trinity's children sing sweet songs / hanging in hammocks / hung on cords braided triple /not easily broken /chords in chorus to their beginning and end /each tied to each other / knotted crown and gordian / swinging and singing nursery rhymes praise
Lk10v23-24 👀👂 "many prophets and kings desired.." Many are the daydream believers clutching at a wish-fulfilling God-hypothesis, tortured by hope deferred, speculating on the mystery hidden for long ages, and settling for a substitute. Many still are the prophets today who sense the spirit of the age, who read the signs of the times, who know what they lack and who know the shape of the saviour they need. Many still are the kings who cast social utopias and who render powerful political solutions forcefully to address the human condition.
Whether by dint of time and geography this peculiar revelation was unavailable to them, or for reasons of seared-conscience or damage-done-to, they had insufficient will to seek the unblinkered encounter with the divine. The why of those blind back then is God's to make an account for in the redemption of all things in eternity. They missed it. They missed what is infront of you now, the more-than, the better-than, the plot twist, the unprecedented option to start over, to start new, to build back and reverse entropy and engage resurrection. Now. Now in Christ everything has changed.
"see what you see.. hear what you hear.." What do you see? Look for it, look at it, look into it deeply and actually see. Listen out, listen in, listen close, do not merely hear about. Mindfulness towards the world as it presents to our senses. Christian hedonism is a sensate seeking, a hunger with your eyes, longing to behold. Ask and you shall receive the highest possible good, ask for more voracious eyes more physically and metaphysically attentive.
Lk10v25-26 What must I do to receive eternal life? We speak of God's 'accidental properties', including His property of 'offerer of eternal life'. Pray that we might do it in such a way that enables others to ask in truth what it is to receive eternal life, rather than just playing a philosophical game, rather than, as the teacher of the law here, trying to catch God out on a point of inconsistency. Pray that we take seriously Mk9v42, that we see this as an opportunity to place words in just the right way - to ask Socratic questions as Jesus does to this man here, but in such a way as to shift the conversation away from mere safe academics. I can't do this well in my own strength, so pray for wisdom in my words selected today. Pray for all who hear us, that they would glimpse a picture of the thickness and beauty of the life eternal on offer.
Lk10v27-28 💓 On the same morning that I'm reading Eph3v14-21 with the boys. Rooted in belovedness, we love one another and so know the love of Christ. Love is beloved lovers loving. Love is the answer to the lawyer's question, and he answers it himself, because we already know, that love is the answer. But. What is love? Distinct from mere affection, different from respecting your neighbour. Love. What is love?
If love is love it is ultimate. The eternal life that we want prerequires an eternal quality of love, an unconditional self-giving, a sacrificial utter risk. Love is the answer when it is a 1Cor13 love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.. Therein if found the eternal life. But how?
Eph3 The how-to of love.
v14 : Pray to the Father
v16 -> the Father's power strengthens us by the Spirit
v17 --> by that strength you can bear Christ dwelling in you
v17 ---> and by being so bedwelt-in your being is rooted in love and grounded in love
v18 ----> rootedness in love gives we-collectively strength to jointly attend to the dimensions of Christ's love
v19 -----> and by so attending we can know love
v19 ------> But. The love that we know is a love that is more than we know.
So, pray to the Father, for the capacity to love with an irreducible unabstractable more-than kind of love.
Lk10v29-30 Who is my neighbour? This little turn of phrase has been so prolifically (and not illegitimately) smeared across advertising for Christian humanitarian and global mission work that it's hard to come at it afresh. I feel like my brain has been taught that the right interpretation of this verse and this story is that everyone is my neighbour, and that wherever global media is able to show me pictures of emotional, physical and spiritual suffering, I am called to near neighbourliness with them. I don't think that this is altogether incorrect, but it opens the floodgate to constant potential guilt, failure and compromise. It strikes me as interesting, reading this passage again, that in his answer Jesus in fact flips the question. He is asked 'who is my neighbour?', but in his answer confronts the question v36 'which one of these _was_ a neighbour?' i.e. what is it for me to be a neighbour to others, regardless of this question of who I consider my neighbour to be. He shifts the question away from the task of trying to codify who I have neighbourly responsibility for and who I don't, and towards the virtues of grace-saturated grace-enabled neighbourliness. I suggest to my own soul then, that I focus more on allowing the Spirit to enable and saturate each interaction, to build the muscle of neighbour-love in all things, for each person I encounter, each breath, each small thing, rather than trying to impose neighbour-love top-down onto myself as a tick-box exercise for specific people. There is a freedom to this, which re-sets the circuit of love for both self and other.
Lk10v31-32 🎲 "Now by chance.." Apparently this phrase appears only here within the New Testament, and it seems Jesus speaks this with a certain irony. What is your theology of chance? Of luck? Of fluke..? Imagine a world in which there are no coincidental encounters, a reality where everything is uncanny, synchronous, and serendipitous all the time. A conspiracy theorist's very multivalent tangle of pathetic fallacy and implied causality.. Jesus winks at such a God-addled subjunctive universe in which circumstances are rendered parabolic and allusive by a mischievous and interfering God. For those with ears to hear.
"..passed by on the other side .. passed by on the other side.." There is a spatiality to disgust which is motivated to quarantine contamination against death. What is your road? Where does death lurk? How is your walk? Do you create safe spaces? One of the key studies needed for the progress of drone tech is the development of sense&avoid systems. Danger is everywhere, collisions seem inevitable and will be cataclysmic to life. So, pass by on the other side? When is that the wrong answer?
This parable is commonly employed to advocate instances of proactive compassionate charity in the face of a tragic event, but the question it is answering is more universal and total, that is, prejudicial barriers to mere neighbourliness. Who is my neighbour? And why does it matter?
👥 A society, a church, a household which achieves to be a unity more-than-the-sum-of-diverse-parts must wrestle with the difficulty of neighbourliness, negotiated adjacency, which is a tension of appropriately boundaried engagement. Neighbourliness must be more than tolerance, more than merely the accommodation of minorities, it must be reciprocal and relational, must cost something and cannot be reduced to philanthropy by the apparently more materially well-off. The vision is for a Kingdom of total flourishing, a coherent symphony of parts, in which a true diversity of ages, races and political/psychological consititutions are brought to cooperative engagment. It will not be achieved by caricaturing the priests and levites as the bogiemen of this parable.
🙋♂ I'm speaking to myself (in a slightly convoluted way this morning) recognising my own disgust at their disgust. We, the 99%, leftleaning guttersnipes, are guilty of a peverse form of disgust, a contempt for conservatives, a selfrighteous poverty, an unneighbourly discompassion for those inclined to learnt orderliness, and a disregard for the complex responsibility for the preservation of hygiene for the sake of the tribe.
🔐 How should we then live? My default position is on the other side of the road, with a locked front door and passworded computer, to boundary and preserve those of first importance against the wild of violent robbers seen in v30. The robbers' chaos is a form of death, engaging that environment is risky, there is a significant tension. The answer cannot stop there however. Living in the tension results typically in stasis over the point of your status quo. What is needed is a call from the outside, to determine the instance of Kingdom risk. What is needed also is a system-changed-by-nudges, toward more relationally engaged Othering at all levels of privilege ~ starting (As Peterson's posters are currently telling the tube) with my household.
Lk10v33-34 When JT preached on this passage last year he reminded us that while we're apt to think about how we could be more like the Good Samaritan, the first thing to remember, to orient oneself inside, is that it is Jesus who is the Good Samaritan. He bandages your wounds, He soothes you with oil and wine. The road between Jericho and Jerusalem was notoriously difficult, called 'The Way of Blood' for being such a dangerous route. I imagine myself in the ditch, broken, hating myself for making such a bad decision in walking this route, aware that I put myself in such a dangerous position in the first place, unable to do the basics of taking care of myself or my possessions. But. Rm5v6 while we were still helpless, Christ died for us. He tends your wounds, he tends mine. He puts us gently on His donkey and takes care of you and me both. This is the freedom, grace and comfort constantly open to me, so regularly forgotten. This is the freedom, grace and comfort out of which the ethics of the Good Samaritan should flow.
Lk10v35-36 💰 "proved to be a neighbour" The measure of being a neighbour, actively, rather than by mere accident of adjacency, actively, with neighbour as an honourific, when good neighbours become good friends, so to speak.. Being such a neighbour pays a blank cheque in advance, absorbing open-ended responsibility for hospitality and healing, for a stranger. Surely the onlooker and innkeeper would ask: Who is bankrolling this? What motivates this level of generosity? For surely also the samaritan has an answer: from and for the joy ~ such is the hedonism of giving in God's economy.
Lk10v37-38 "Mercy." Thinking about mercy again in this season, it was whispered two years ago and I didn't know why. I have in previous seasons defined mercy as not getting what we deserve (vs grace, getting what we don't deserve). It's a distinction I like, and helpful in lots of ways. But I sense God saying to me that mercy isn't just the act of not getting what we deserve, but also the condition, container or framework in which we live, which then transforms how we understand the response to our shortcomings, and perhaps even the nature of these shortcomings themselves. Speculatively, I think in the life of the divinely simple trinity, mercy and justice must be exactly the same thing. Usually as we use these terms humanly we're thinking about the way they interact with brokenness, but this isn't the only (or most complete?) definition of either mercy or justice, I don't think. I can more easily glimpse what justice-in-a-context-without-brokenness would be: it makes sense that a context without brokenness _would be_ a context of perfect justice: everything in its right place. It's harder to conceptualise mercy in the context of nothing-broken, it seems that in order for mercy to be mercy there needs to be something going wrong that is then responded to, as in this parable. But maybe actually this responsive-mercy is drawn from a deeper posture of mercy, a basic condition of mercy, which is the position that the members of the trinity take up towards each other, as is the condition in which we should understand ourselves to live. I have been thinking about this a lot after the weekend just gone with the Navs in Blackpool. R spoke of the 'spacious place' of Ps31v8-9 (God has always spoken to me of this place from Ps119v45). I have always thought of the spacious place as a promise for the time when I conquer sin and live aligned with my resurrected life, a place I do not yet sustainably find myself. But R spoke of this place as the place we are already in, the place where there is _space_ to bring all one's brokenness, and space for this brokenness to not be a disaster. This spacious place is a place we should, in Christ, know we can already take up in our spiritual imagination. She contrasted this with the imaginative experience of walking along an arete - one false move and you plummet to your death, it's a disaster, it's over. I realise that this is often how I imagine the spiritual landscape to be. One tiny mishap and I spiral into self-loathing and catastrophising, which makes the whole thing a hundred times worse. I get resurrection, I get that I keep getting a new dawn, but this landscape in my imagination is full of precipices with trampolines underneath, it's constant falling and bouncing back, which is exhausting. What if I re-trained my imagination to believe and inhabit a spacious place in the now? What if this is the deeper condition of mercy, that pre-exists even my failings? What if I could relax into this landscape, knowing that the mercy backdrop means that failings are not a disaster? Yes, they need weeding out, sanctifying, but only so that I can better enjoy and fit the spacious place to which I am already permitted access. We get to enjoy the inner life of God, which is the mercy of spaciousness.
Lk10v39-40 What is a Christian theology of the domestic sphere, ambiguated as it is now by unlimited technology, antagonised as it is now by feminist histories of injustice? In the old days Abigail's mastery of the domestic 1Sm25v18 was precisely a contending for God deftly over-and-against a world of male-male conflict, in the persons of David/Nabal. Just as the Pr31 woman works, makes, trades goods, helps the poor, as an agent of formidable force from/through the weaponised domestic. In the old days Gideon was called out of that notedly female domain of wheat threshing in the winepress to contend for God against the Midianites Jg6v11. Just as the divine individual, a man, shall leave his father and mother Gen2v24, shall leave his father and mother Mk10v7, shall leave his father and mother Eph5v31. Submission to archetypal asymmetry conjured distinctive realms for relevant contextual heroism, profound and unabstractable heroism. Men were to explorationally form the world, women were to invitationally fill a world. Encultured and apprenticed to a family-resemblance achieving excellence through codes of duty and instrumentalised domains. But now, Mary's dissident discipleship is a lesson in a new liberation, a new Kingdom in which there is no male or female Gal3v28, where home and work are perfectly androgynised, and heroism is found in the singular task of sitting at Jesus feet? If so, how so? If not, how not?
Lk10v41-42 The One and the Many. I'm in the middle of a discussion with a dear atheist friend about this article. Is there any honest sense in which I can still trust in reality as ultimately coherent and ultimately good? Belief in the One Thing can be naive, reductive, boring, sentimental, uncritical, a form of denial that will eventually crash and burn as the reality of the Many Things cannot be denied. Complexity, ugliness and incoherence eventually breaks in on the illusion, fragmenting the heart into splinters of dread. How could it possibly be true that only One Thing is needed? It sounds plausible that maturity looks like resignation to chaos. And yet, as the dust settles of the pieces of the old idol of the One, I find the the One is deeper down, right at the root beneath all the Manyness, still holding it all together, the Source, the Tree of Life. Jesus embodies the intersection between total simplicity and total complexity in this moment, pure presence, infinite beyond. And for _this_ reason, anxiety flees at his feet.