Thursday, 8 November 2018

texting luke nineteen

In for a penny, in for a pound. Alternate mornings on Luke slowly. 07729056452

Lk19v1-2 Noticing for the first time that Luke puts Zacchaeus, who is v3 "trying to see who Jesus was" directly after the restoration of the sight of the blind man. Physical blindness and lack of height: there are different ways we might extend these by analogy to forms of a lack of sight in the spiritual. To be short is a relative term, Z was short because he was shorter than average, shorter than everyone else. It is understandable that, unchecked, this could develop into a sense of victimhood or competitiveness with others. There are ways that we are all born with advantages and disadvantages to our spiritual sight, which seem so unfair, and are apt to put us on our guard that the resources of sight that we do have must be protected from others, who are a threat to it. Jesus shows us in both cases that this attitude to seeing him is unnecessary. It is unnecessary because it is not inevitable that you are destined to be who you have always been - Jesus offers new vistas, new optics. Healing is possible, both physical and relational. It is also not necessarily to compete with others for sight because Jesus has the time and resource to see you (before you see him). He stops for you, crying mercy in the street, clambering up the tree. He sees you first, you specifically.

Lk19v3-4 πŸ‘€πŸ‘€πŸ”­πŸ”¬ "seeking to see.." Active looking-for, Ps63v1 earnestly, holistically, desperately, Lk11v9 ask-seek-knock seeking. What is the measure of sufficient seeking? What is sustainable? How does one comport oneself towards the examined life with a level of intensity that is actually effective? Zac "..ran ahead and climbed.. to see.." What is that for me? What is ahead? What is my sycamore?

Lk19v5-6 Hurry. We don't know how to hurry well, I certainly don't. We are caught in all kinds of hurrying around, in life and work and church and culture and people and chatter, but we know that we are, and we constantly reflect on it. It is a staple of any kind of reflection or sermon on the pace of life that we all need to chill out a bit and Sabbath better and not define ourselves by work etc etc. 'Ruthlessly eliminate hurry', an oft-quoted and indeed clearly manifestly wise Dallas Willard nugget. But I wonder that this anti-hurrying mantra (which is a mantra because for all the talk is we're still terrible at it) fails to attend to what Jesus tells us to hurry for, and how to hurry and why. We are to be peaced-out Marys rather than bustling Marthas, yes, but when we're at the top of the tree of alienation, desperation and longing, the word of Jesus to us might be 'hurry down!', which is to say 'hurry here!' 'I am staying with you, I am visiting your home - today! Get a move on!' Simply staying in an all-hurry-is-bad-hurry-and-I-must-hurry-less mindset is a negative, focusing on  what must be eliminated without an eye to what must replace it, and it runs the risk of failing to recognise the great urgency of our need for help and salvation. Wisdom hurries over things worth hurrying for, and doesn't hurry over things not worth hurrying for. Hurry to be close to Him. Hurry to embrace the good, hurry to put yourself in the right position *so that* you can receive all the refreshment and rest that your soul needs. Good-hurry more and better so that you can bad-hurry less.

Lk19v7-8 πŸ“– How do you read the Bible? How do you really really read the Bible? I bore myself with a hackneyed mode of interpretation and application. We all like _x_ have gone as _x_ and so should instead do proportionally x in the light of the Jesus encounter. Perhaps the trope's ennui raises it's head most vigorously in well-worn passages that have been flogged into a stale veggietale broth of overfamiliarity.
≠ Thus, the default reading: while we're not corrupt tax collectors per se, we are corrupt tax collectors in the grand scheme of the moral universe. And, we're not the grumbling crowd per se, but we are a grumbling crowd in the grand scheme of the moral universe.
πŸ‘₯ Is this always a relevant reading? Am I like every single character in the Bible? Is there always an application from every passage? What principle would prevent specific sins' salience from becoming a generic grey of misc rebellion? How do you read yourself into situations in the bible proportionally? And my how? there is not a rhetorical how? as if to exclaim that it-can't-possibly-be-done because it-can't-perfectly-be-done, but rather a plain practical how? question to crowdsource from textees a different and more effective mode of interrogating the situations of scripture and applying them. 
How do you read and apply sin from the Bible?
⚖ Scale? How big is your sin? One "sin" fits all sin, it's all definitionally infinite, there are no shades of grey, it is all a binary missing the mark, all a total falling short of the only sufficient perfect glory, it all needs Jesus's perfect sacrifice the same amount? Self-reflection and humility should come from considering the limitless holiness of God and the limitless and varied ways I fall short. Living out from that humble basis should mean I live a better calibrated life before an audience of one. But. Is that enough? Is that practical? Are there not different sins, with different consequences and differently appropriate proportional practical responses? Can we talk of major and minor problems - even within my own catalogue of predisposed pathologies? Some require surgery. Some disqualify you from ministry, some disqualify you from company direction. Some can be repaid. Some can only be forgiven.
πŸ™‹‍♂ Subject? I bet you think the Bible is about you? Because surely the wrong way to read the Bible is the Thank-God-I'm-Not-Like-One-Of-Those modes of applying it to others. But. When is the Bible legitimately not about you? The gospel writers have a category "tax collectors and sinners". It is not nothing. It has thinghood. Categories may be self-fulfilling, socially-constructed, socially-relative but they are also autopoetic, self-reinforcing, electively engrouped and collectively responsible for the actions of a type, such as culpably self-identifying as tax collectors within a corrupt professional framework. So, am I a tax collector? No. But. While I may allegorically be a prostitute, and be subject to metaphorical slavery, and murder people proverbially, and conduct an embezzlement via neglect of responsibility in less measurable transactions than tax.. Repentance and healing for those actual predicaments is bespoke and distinct from the language game of moral similes.
✅ Solution? Is there a solution? Can we, should we, extrapolate spiritual practices from Zaccheus' response? If we extrapolate, it shouldn't be dogmatically literal. If we extrapolate, we should contextualise. If we extrapolate from Zaccheus' actions, it mustn't setup any tacit salvation-by-works formula. So, should we extrapolate anything? Can we extrapolate anything at all, except a lowest-common-denominator suggestion to be generous? If more than that, then how?
I am struck for the first time that Zaccheus pays in two distinct ways:
πŸ’΅/πŸ’Έ % of what he has "half my goods" This references in no way the scale of his sin. He gives in-itself, for-itself as a cut of his total legit/illegit net-worth. An expression of remorse but also an expression of faith. What would your life look like if you took scissors through the middle of all your assets, in a gratuitous divorce settlement, downsizing to half a house, riding in half a car.. It no mere tithe, it is slashing the capital in which you find your security. Half your squirreled nest egg, half your pension, bonds and investments, half your cash in the attic.
πŸ“Š % of what others haven't "restore it fourfold" [struck by the order, which may not be intended as significant, by after splitting his assets, he then pays reparations out of what he has left] He makes available his entire remaining estate for unlimited claims made to it. Relative and consequential compensation at 4x. This is repentance? This is freedom? This is faith? Admitting fault and writing a blank cheque to building back better.
Should we extrapolate from this?
Should we allegorise?

Lk19v9-10 Initially I find Jesus' wording here hard to understand. Why focus on the fact that Zac is a son of Abraham? It feels like he is focusing on Z's Jewishness as a condition of his salvation, which could be read as narrow and exclusive. Sitting with it a bit it comes to clarity a bit more that of course Jesus is always expanding people's understanding of who can be saved (Who? v10 the lost. Who is lost? Every freaking one of us) but rather than developing a totally different language and understanding of salvation from scratch, he incorporates this universalism into the particularity of Judaism. Paul as we know states this more systematically in Rm4v10-12. The sons and daughters of Abraham become an expanded category rather than a category to be done away with. This project, of expanding and re-integrating our understanding of existing religious language, rather than scrapping it and starting again, is important for our time, especially in the Evangelical church, which in many parts has tried to strip out religious language in pursuit of being 'relevant', but has empoverished itself in the process. Jesus wasn't afraid to use ideas and language from old-time religion, and neither should we, so long as we are prepared to (i) re-imagine these ideas, allow the Spirit to breathe new life and new understanding into them, revealing something thicker richer deeper about the Trinitarian God. Jesus constantly uses Torah to point to the one who surpasses Torah, we must be the same with our use of religious language. (ii) We must clearly explain our use of this language and invite people into it. Religious language can be a barrier or a gateway for people, but again, anxious Evangelicals have often fixated on making it not-a-barrier rather than on making it a gateway. People are hungry for the language of the sacred, surely this is part of why Jesus continued to speak in Abrahamic terms - these terms bear more meaning than a language created from scratch could. Let us feed people with scripture, liturgy, doctrine etc that is full of the resonance of centuries of saints, communicating clearly to people that this ancient sacred that they long for is very close to them, invites them in, and will cut to their hearts with an ever-newness. In Rachel Held Evans' words, we should 'keep the church weird'  Keep it religious, keep it weird, like Jesus did. The church, like Jesus himself, is a strange particularly, with room for absolutely everyone.

Lk19v11-12 "because he was near Jerusalem.." What is it about this proximity that necessitates this parable?
πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™ Jerusalem is a city All cities, as London, are magnetic centripetes accentuating all dimensions, foibles, glories and pathologies of the human condition. All cities are always concentrating a catalytic powder keg of antagonistic heterogenous powerplay and its compensations. All cities are temporal instantiations of an eternal tension between Zion and Babylon. All cities are lightning rods for spiritual forces.
πŸ•πŸ¦ Jerusalem is more than that - it is the city of cities. By cosmic accident, Jerusalem is _the_ actual mythic archetypal city, providentially perfectly quintessentially the epicentre and apex of religious and political power. Those powers in that Jerusalem are exquisitely corrupt and compromised. The Judaism on display reaching peerless and paradigmatic and literal Pharisaism. The occupying Pax Romana likewise being the very textbook of systematic oppression.
⚖ Here, the majority is ruled by a minority. An external occupying force is exploiting a domestic geography. All of life and justice is out of kilter, off balance, egregiously inhumane, necessarily unsustainable.
πŸ”œ Jesus must go to Jerusalem. Everything thus far has led to exactly this point. Like a marble down a track, like a tidal wave approaching shore. What is Jesus? And, what is Jerusalem? What about Jesus pulls him as an iron filing to Jerusalem's horseshoe magnet? And in this, when are you Jesus on your way to a Jerusalem?
πŸ™ A city should be treated as an agent a collective agent, as a personal-spiritual thung thing, more than the sum of its multipersonal parts. A city is a mob ruled by albeit fickle consent. A city is a spiritually choreographed murmuration of diverse nodes, united approximately by self-interest, rallied to that moment's expedient totem, a version of a leader. In this way, a city has a will, an appetite, an effect.
- See Mt2v3 all of Jerusalem was troubled when Herod was troubled..
- See Mt23v27 Jerusalem is culpable of murder and thus a subject of Jesus' vain compassion
πŸ™πŸ“œ All cities beg reform. All reformers beg a city.
🀴⚒ The city is the powertooling extension of a singular will - it is a King's Kingdom. Jesus is the seed point of an alternative city, an incorrigible muster point, a snowballing coalescence of a counter culture. A new order springs from his very being and no town can abide dual allegiance. Thusly the two entities are locked into a collision course.
πŸŒ†πŸ™ƒ Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the counter-city. In all, he has displayed a will to reform, the power to reform, and has promised reform: "The Kingdom of God is at hand.." In his yet frail human frame, he is conspicuously possessed of a  plausible super-human ability to counter the city's supra-human effect.
πŸ“– So, "As they heard these things.. he proceeded to tell them a parable.." What is it about "these things" ~ Zacchaeus's salvation juxtaposed with city proximity that necessitates this parable? This parable is to establish the interpretative key for the *city-engagement* to follow, in the light of the Zaccheus-engagement which has just happened.
πŸ’£ Lest an over eager mob interpret the Zacchaeus event as a reform of a taxation system, Jesus tells them a parable, on the eve of entering the city. Thus I read this hinge point as promoting an interpretation of the Zacchaeus event as a call to personal responsibility which is will also be the salvation of the city - the salvation of a household of households.
πŸ“ˆ Zacchaeus is one of the servants who had been stewarding the minas, and he is able to be reformed, and he needs to be reformed. The city is full of Zacchaeuses that cannot and must not be overthrown merely systemically by abstract revolution, but rather, individually, by each facing the minas they have, and considering how they steward them.
⏳⌛ In this way, the Kingdom of God is, thankfully, not appearing immediately. The city is an incendiary place of anxious impatience. We steward humbly and justly, with a sense of urgent purpose, but not devolving to violent revolution. Jesus comes to our Jerusalem, to nurture economic reform, where each soul transitions to operating on the basis of his abundance, and so a city is saved.

Lk19v13-14 But the citizens hated him. Stop there. Note that. This passage is so well known and yet this throwaway comment at the beginning, which I never have in mind as the point of this passage, contains fundamental facts at the heart of it. What is going on behind all the tangles about how much to risk or not risk? Hatred of God. Resistance to his rule. I vote we all spend less time trying to strain to work out exactly what counts as the perfect formula for stewardship in any situation, and spend more time identifying, repenting of, and replacing the Heb12v15 bitter roots that more fundamentally cause us to hate and resent God and to resist His authority.

Lk19v15-16 Make more. More of what? More of what you have been given. How do you measure that?
πŸ‘›πŸ”’πŸ“œ I like the way the parables of the talents/pounds/minas inadvertently obscure a too-quick financial reading of the story because of their antique medium of exchange. But I end up reading it financially anyways. Or, perhaps more troublingly, it is read as an edict or enticement to a notches-on-bedpost form of evangelistic metricisation.
🎁 What have you been given? How do you measure making more? And when measured, what sort of more is good-enough stewardship?
πŸ“‰ MichΓ¨le Lamont's public LSE lecture this week (Having to Being: Self Worth and the Crisis of American Society - mp3 on podcast RSS feed is not appearing in their player where it should) touched on this idea of making more - it is key to the American Dream, and that dream is fading. She cites Raj Chetty's study of declining social mobility: 90% of those born in 1940 compared to 50% of those born in 1984 would earn more than their parents. The American Dream may have been a problematically narrow neoliberal private economic ambition, which has become a socially divisive engine where increasingly infertile and fraudulently meritocratic winners take all, while a stigmatised 99% become existentially excluded but. It was a narrative of hope. Against current pessimism, she suggests applying ourselves to a wider plurality of criteria for evaluation. So that an enfranchised working class, a patronised artisan fringe, an energised care sector might *make more.* There is such dignity is making more. How do you measure this except financially?
πŸ’Ή Crypto offers a way, making fungible what is unpriceable and making measureable that which intangible.. See Galia Benartzi's Bancor prototype "heart" currency tokenising the exchange of favours like childcare and volunteering. Elsewhere, Effective Altruists believe that traceable tokens enables a sort of pseudo-liquidity where Social Capital can be spent in exchange for Social Impact.. I remain blockchain agnostic, but the notion of considering the intangible relational or personal capital and talent we have as tokens to multiply 10x by trading, finds a great deal to analogise in the work going on in Crypto.
Kenneth Bailey's chapter on this passage is also interesting. Adding peril into the assessment of the transaction. More on that story, later.
πŸ“ˆ Make more. More of what? More of what you have been given. How do you measure that?

Lk19v17-18 [w Mt17v20, Ps84v3]
very small.
even the sparrow
nests trees
seeds cities
& mustards minas
planting small faith
(good and faithful)
in His large faithfulness

Lk19v19-20 πŸ“¦ "kept laid away.." So JC would say to the blockchain. Don't hodl, buidl. There is so much value in this world locked away, rainy-day reservoirs kept in reserve, untapped genius, mere perpetual potential, depreciating assets rusting in self-storage units. Hoarding is stealing from the commons. Negligence is not nothing. You are responsible to sweat your assets, you are a link in the chain a vital part of the team.
🧀 "handkerchief" ΟƒΞΏΟ…δαρίΟ‰ͅ or sudarium ~ a sweat band - such handkerchiefs were for mopping the sweat from the brow of earnest toil - never needed because such was never exerted. Rather it is employed hilariously as an accessory to the servant's cowardice, his brittly precious, bubble wrapped, white-glove serviced faith, neatly tidied in a delicate doily. Rather, your faith is to be well-thumbed, dog-eared, battle-scarred, stone-washed, and heavily distressed. God has gifted you an industrial strength opportunity to ruggedly tonkably go forth and risk.
πŸ• Because, ours is a faith of the great outdoors.
Lk9v5-6 Agile evangelists believe in pragmatic providence, nimbly knowing that all timing is God's timing, they weather rejection lighty, relishing to suffer with Christ, they fail early, fail often, fail forward.. Bootstrapped and unsentimental, they move fast and break things. But who is called to that? .. If I was to assess the deficit in my life and in the church at large it would call me to be more barrelling forth, at the expense of less noodling at home. "Dust" Dust's dustiness is a musty stasis, the detritus of life, the flakes of decay, the aroma of death, which clings to disuse, which settles on and settles for and settles down. No church should be dusty, and not by neurotic vacuuming, but by being-unsettled. *The Christian is a kite in a hurricane, ours is a faith of the great outdoors* thieves cannot break in and steal, moths will find nothing there ~ we are romping through town, anti-static, and squeaky clean.
Rm14v5-6 Christianity is total freedom. Christianity knows no ritual, brooks no compunction, and shreds the obsequious fuss of Jewish calendar nerds. *Christianity is iconoclaustic, restless for justice, a muscular faith of the great outdoors,* it is tireless to cross borders, languages and cultures to set ablaze a pragmatic reformation of authenticity. The Gospel renders the everyday sacred, it is an explosive and ecstatic imperative to unstinting prayer and rejoicing 1Th5v16, hard work 1Co15v10 and emphatic irreligion. Over and against the suffocating sentimentality of sickly Sunday-Christians garbed in their Sunday bests, Christianity is man alive, we are bound only by the law of love. For the Christian, every day is Easter Sunday, every day an adventure, every day a new creation.

Lk19v21-22 Hard. Severe. I am fairly certain one should not over-read this analogy of the master on to God, for God is also the Father who 15v11-32 runs to meet us when we have wasted everything, and brings us back into the centre of the household. But I have been thinking about the hardness of God, the severity of God, within this framewprk of God's love. God is a Father. Fathers should perhaps bring a certain hardness, a certain severity - this is easily misunderstood or abused, but equally it is often forgone, with consequences. Fathers are supposed to be substantial, to provide solidity, to make clear where the sharp edges of reality are. This can feel like severity to the unaccustomed. I want to submit myself to the hard edges of God, the substantiality and solidity of God, which can be hard to receive, which can feel like severity, like God trying to pull more out of me than is fair, reaping what is not sown. I want to be submitted to this, I pray for the wisdom, grace and insight to receive this as love.

Lk19v23-24"why then did you not.." You have to make an account to God for the things that you didn't do. Damned if you do, damned if you don't? Or at least chastened if you don't? Your-home-maybe-repossessed-if-you.. ~ Yes, there is much to fear if you presuppose scarcity. Yes, the risks of investment are prohibitive in a closed universe, negatively marked by a disgruntled teacher. But is that the universe? Why did _you_ not ______?
πŸ’° "my money.." Kenneth Bailey's chapter on this parable changes a number of face-value readings, the nobleman going away to receive a Kingdom should have called to mind Herod in the attention of his listeners - he had made such a trip to Rome. A divisive figure, whose Kingdom was not a foregone conclusion. Investing his money on his behalf in his absence would have been an activity not without risk of partisan opposition. Investing God's money, flying that flag, seeking to multiply that capital ~ it's not nothing. So, placing a lamp under a basket and other fire-hazards - it's a hodler's tale, cautious, anxious but self-fulfillingly self-defeating. Why do we do it?
πŸ“ˆ "with interest.." Not clear if this is hyperbole or a license to charge interest. There is a subtle spectrum of ways to charge interest, from the positive and proportional redistribution of abundance amongst cooperative stakeholders, to the enslaving dehumanising transfer of wealth from the poorest borrowers into the pockets of the richest lenders. It is possible to conduct loans for the common good - see the last GodPod episode
πŸ―πŸŒ‰ SB, this week, has become the first company in the world to have a license to offer loans on tokenised titled assets - that is, without intermediaries, you are able to lock the title deed for your car in a digital wallet and borrow cryptocurrency against it. It is like remortgaging your house, but you can turn it on and off at any time, on your own terms. The result is acccess to liquidity at all times on the basis of assets you already own but can't otherwise exploit. It is quite literally the ability to do what the nobleman asks of his even cautious servant. We are now without excuse.
πŸ”‚ "Take the mina from him and give it.." Life is a use it or lose it affair. Life is a winner takes all affair. Again, Bailey's Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes allows this parable to be read open-endedly, with a wink. The master as clearly been generous throughout, and so removing this unused token from the servant who has demonstrated no use for it seems a fairly intuitive move in a fairly simple negotiation, and it is not then conclusively shown that the servant does not repent.

Lk19v25-26 My being and body understands this spiritual principle, even though it is quite hard to codify, it is open to poor readings, bad intellectualising and problematic theologies. It is not that God is impressed by the successful, indeed, God's investment portfolio is not a safe bet. Rather, it is a principle on this side of the divine-human dance, that attentiveness to God begets greater transformation of heart, which begets greater attentiveness to God - this is a virtuous circle built into what it means (and has to mean) to spend time with the source of life - we get more life. Just as it can become a vicious cycle of resisting God because he is opaque to us, and his being opaque to us because we resist him. Life begets life, more begets more. Because the Kingdom of God is fractal, the Kingdom of Ends is always also a Kingdom of Means, further up and further in.

Lk19v27-28 πŸ“•πŸ†šπŸ“— This parable of the minas is very crucially different from the parable of the talents in Mt25v14-30
Mt - Master goes on journey v14
Lk - Nobleman goes on journey to become a King v12
Mt - Master gives 3 servants 5,2,1 talents v15
Lk - Master gives 10 servants 10 minas v13
Mt - n/a
Lk - Citizens of nobleman hate him, rebelling and rejecting his leadership v14
Mt - Master returns and calls account v19
Lk - Master returns and calls account v15
Mt - Servants have variously made 2x, 2x, and 0x v17-18
Lk - Servants have variously made 10x, 5x and 0x v16-v19
Mt - Profitable servants are called good and faithful v21 v23
Lk - Profitable servants are called good and faithful v17
Mt - Unprofitable servant calls master a hard man and was afraid and buries talent v25
Lk - Unprofitable servant calls master a severe man and was afraid and lays mina away in handkerchief v21
Mt - Unprofitable servant should have put talent in the bank and is condemned as "wicked and slothful" and is ordered to be cast into outer darkness with gnashing of teeth v30
Lk -  Unprofitable servant should have put talent in the bank and is condemned as "wicked" v22-23
Mt - n/a
Lk - The citizen/enemies are ordered to be slaugtered v27
⚔ The v27 "enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them.." refers to v14 the "citizens hated him .. saying 'We do not want this man to reign over us..'" This book-ending of Luke's account with the cultural context radically transforms this moral tale about good stewardship.
πŸ‘©‍🏫 So the different parables teach:
Mt: Make good use of the talents you have.
Lk: Make good use of the talents you have over and against those who would oppose so doing.
πŸ‘Ί Opposition. In this case, and in all cases, there is no mere household management. Nothing is ever merely administration. It is all spiritual warfare. It is all played out in the light of eternity. It all requires courage, and faith in God's final justice and vindication.
🎭 Culture. We make economic decisions in the context of a culture which is partisan to the core. We transact is an emotionally-loaded and perillous economy. It is not enough to encourage people to make good and work hard. Acknowledge that there is another side on the pitch. But. Then, have confidence that God is bigger-than.
🦁 Sloth. The sluggard says there is a lion in the street. (Pr26v13, Pr22v13). The wicked servant claims God is a hard man, as bluster to cover the fear-of-man. However, there are lions in the street. There is a Survivorship Bias. The citizen/enemies didn't lynch the faithful servants. But they could have. How then do I conduct my business, and tell my testimony and exercise my gifts? With the bold confidence that God will be just in the end if I will be faithful in the moment?

Ahead of you
Out of view
Time overlaps
These inter-saps
Prophetic signs 
An ancient road 
He newly rode
So is and was and is to come
Where colts are tied, they are undone

Lk19v31-32 "Follow the white rabbit.." The Matrix engages many layered, archetypal and fundamental symbolisms in this opening scene. We are Neo. We are searching. We are in Room 101, with illicit code for sale inside Baudrillard's tome. Troy and Dujour stand at the door and knock. Neo is their Jesus, and they believe mescaline is the only way to fly. Reality is being interfered with. There are no coincidences. And animals point the way.
πŸ‡ Animals point the way. Jesus is acquianted the pervasive mischief of the animal kingdom's symbollic agents and their participation in God's work. As Elijah's ravens, Noah's dove, Jonah's whale and worm, Balaam's ass, Elisha's she-bears, Daniel's lions..
πŸ‡ Colts are infant animals, irreligous as Lk18v15's infants, they are the cute sprite kittens of the equine world. White rabbity pure and skittish tiddly nimble trip trapping.
We seem to read the Palm Sunday verses on the approach to advent ~
Nov 2015 
~ Mk11v1-2 "..John Lewis hails the official start of little-donkey-little-donkey season.." 
~ Mk11v5-6 "..Oi oi GTA donkey rustlers I see you hauling ass.."
Nov 2013 
~ Mt21v7-8 "..The first Palm Sunday was no fusty stilted Anglican processional, no tidy column of the anaemic middle classes awkwardly clutching dry dessicated dusty palm crosses.."

Lk19v33-34 The 'because' matters, the why, the reason, the cause and constitution. God, please show us the same Because, let it be the one the Lord has need of.

Lk19v35-36 πŸ§₯πŸ‘• "..cloaks on the colt.. cloaks on the road.."
πŸ‘‘ Because donkeys foreshadow the Jewish kingship Ze9v9 1Ki1v33 the commentaries also want disrobing to carry peculiar Israelite association, eg with Jehu 2Ki9v13.
🎩 Clothes are to do with power and human individuation - they are perhaps our preeminent facility for this. Ruskin's interlocutor Carlyle made much of this in Sartor Resartus: "..Clothes have made men of us.."
πŸ”€πŸ’ƒ Worship is a transfer of adornment, an act of civic adornment. When considering the Palm Sunday procession, I have previously meditated on the upholstered urban splendour of a bedraped, begarbed avenue of alfresco soft furnishing rendering the city commons a domestic haven. Such is worship, the harmonic and effulgent commons, a tapestry of diverse contributions displayed.
πŸ”€πŸ§–‍♂ Worship is a transfer of adornment, an act of personal unadornment. See David in 2Sm6v22 will become yet more undignified in worship, see also Jesus in Lk6v29 considers the transfer of clothing to be an act of jiujitsu civil disobedience. We must come naked to God. This is not some peculiar near East tradition. See someone has gone to the trouble of making a compilation thusly.

Lk19v37-38 As he drew near to Jerusalem, the whole of His disciples began to shout out in worship. I have always assumed this to be a calculated move on the disciples part, playing their part in pointing towards the fulfillment of Zec9v9 in a conscious way. But as I read this today I sense in these verses that something is stirring here beyond what any of the disciples know or understand. Not that they are whipped up into pseudo-worship crowd-mentality. Rather, the Spirit seems to hover over the deeps of their collective unconscious, and prompts them to collectively declare, worshipping, that the God Incarnate is close to the zenith of his mission. MS recently told us of his practice in his Bible group of reading each chapter in a gospel in a way that doesn't draw on anything that has not yet happened in the account - no assuming on the knowledge of how it ends. Imagine reading this account for the first time, not knowing that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die. You would sense, I think, that the scene was being set for *something*, that the forces of the universe were conspiring to show that something epic was about to go down. This perhaps is why Jesus says that if the disciples do not worship here then the rocks will cry out - there is something going on here that is beyond individual human wills, it is the whole cosmos screaming and cheering and groaning for its redemption and the donkey and its infinite cargo take a step closer and closer to the black hole of the death of God and the white hot explosion of resurrection.

Lk19v39-40 "Stones would cry out" is there any way to read this that doesn't fall into empty hyperbole or weird literalism? The Bible has plenty of proto animism, Rm8v22's creation groaning in eager expectation and Is55v12's hills breaking forth in song, trees of the field clapping their hands, and perhaps the most interesting Hk2v11's stone's crying out from the wall and the beam from the woodwork responding. ~ Maybe the rocks won't literally cry out. But. It behoves anyone who allegorises these verses and relegates the language to mere hyperbole to justify that as a faith decision measured by the fruit it bears. Allegorisers must gird up their metaphorical loins and live more like a symbol. If they believe that a literalistic reading is inaccurate, their claim would be most fully demonstrated by showing that derivative literalist praxis is unattractive and unprofitable, by comparison to the joy of a more conservative reading. Maybe the rocks won't literally cry out, but if that is the case, it should still be possible for a casual observer of the church to be made to wonder if it could be a live possibility given the earth-shaking effulgence of radical and unfetterable worship going on.
~ Maybe the rocks will literally cry out. It seems a simple thing for those who come-as-children to suspend their disbelief on this matter. I was put in mind of a childhood game Zoombinis which features many talking rocks. I was put in mind of Noel Moules' Q&A here last year on Christian Animism, fashioning "Rocks are persons" as a provocation -  I was put in mind of Levi Bryant's Flat Ontology at the spooky deep end of speculative realism - there is undeniably a need to re-enchant the version of nature which modernity as so totalised. But, Animism is problematic. Even Panentheism is unboundaried. They have no self-limiting principle and obscure a responsible moral distinction between the human and non-human, taken seriously it is either sentimental or terrifying, a privileged metropolitan thought experiment - which I tried to express in my response to Peter Buchanan’s Big Rethink
What's the worst that can happen in seeking to push the inanimate to within an inch of its metaphor - surely better church architecture at least?
Rm8v19's groaning of nature is it waiting for the sons of God to be revealed, that is us taking our right place in the natural world, as servant participant gardeners, cooperating with nature in right reverence.

Lk19v41-42 What is it to have the things that make for peace hidden from one's eyes? This feels like such a poignant and frustrating phrase. I am one who Ps120 longs of peace, but yet do not seem to know the way of peace. There is something needed to unlock or understand that is hidden? Why was peace hidden from Jerusalem? v44 'because you did not know the time of your visitation'. What does this mean? Not recognising Jesus when He is already there, already in visitation, already present? Not believing that He is already in our midst? I do not know what I do not know. Oh God, give me eyes to see.

Lk19v43-44 Jesus weeps for Jerusalem and her children. The city-as-mother trope pervades literature and language ~ metropolis deriving its root from gk mαΈ—ter mother, and it pervades scripture Is66v7-11 "For as soon as Zion was in labour she brought forth her children.. ..Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast.."  The allegory implicates how we think about both motherhood and cities and how we conduct ourselves as offspring and citizens.
😒 Jesus weeps for the tragedy of a city-as-mother subjected to judgement, he weeps in light of comparison, the tragic is not inevitable, another city was designed, another city is possible.
πŸ€°πŸ™ Mothering-as-City is a many layered metaphor concerning a caused and causing, relationally dynamic, total prevenient environment
- Mothering can be caused by: violent injustice of abuse (Sad) or calculated callous infidelty (Bad) or faithful intimacy (Glad)
- Mothering can be performed: without support or hope (Sad) or with selfish cynical neglect (Bad) or costly nurture (Glad)
Scouting out city-as-mother in the bible, Gal4v24-27 offers a complex analogy of city-mother in Sarah: free (Glad) or in Hagar: slave (Sad) and then, within Ez16 and Is1v21 and Ho2v3 we find city-mother as Gomer: whore (Bad) - Jesus here weeps for Jerusalem-as-whoreon the brink of her destruction. The tragedy is acute as it is relative to what a glad city could have been and how she has distorted that. This is a new way of thinking about cities for me, more dimensioned than the Zion:Babel scale (sorry it is forming a slightly long thought-in-process)
πŸ‘° City Dressed. The city, in God's design, is supposed to be adorned as a bride, as a symphony of a festive commons Ez16. Any city should be blessed by Christians generally planting trees etc Jr29v7, but also specifically and symbolically, in the theatrical costumed effusive enactment of the spectacular advent of the peculiar Christ event. Dressing up the city in perennial and persistent explication-of and embodiment-of the incarnation-as-wedding-feast. The church is a bride Eph5v25 2Co11v2, but further, the city is a bride Is52 (partly because the church is a city (within a city)). Being-as-bride is not a private sentimental contract but rather more a public performative symbolism - where dressing is the necessary signposting for a bride's transformed and transforming social role.
🧟‍♀ City Stripped. The city-whore-mother picture is viscerally completed in the juxtaposition of Palm Sunday's exuberant city-adorning (Lk19v36 "spread their cloaks on the road" / Is52v1 "put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem") with Harrowing Prophetic cruel city-stripping (Lk19v44  "tear you down to the ground.." / Ho2v3 "strip her naked .. make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land..")  Good-enough mothering here considers marital faithfulness to be the supply of its sufficiency, without which the city-as-mother's adornment flickers out like the Piccadilly Circus lights off in 28 Days Later.
 πŸš..🏜 City Destroyed "not leave one stone upon another" The disciples elsewhere comment Mk13v1 "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones.." painting a picture of Jerusalem as conspicuously adorned. Cities are adorned, and it may be impossible to tell wheat form tares, as it pertains to ethics of adornment as they present. Clearly Jesus encourages the display of urban adornment rendered in the Palm Sunday parade. Against this, Jesus' comment just prior that the Lk19v40 "the stones would cry out.." cannot have been unaware that the last stones to cry out were Habakkuk's, who did so as a cry for help under the crushing strain of injustice. Where a city-as-mother is embellished by injustice it/she self-destructs and buries her children with her. Her children are inextricably oedipally bound up in her totality for good or ill. Thusly we, until we are in-but-not-of, are coddled into immaturity by London, smothered culpably.
"knew not the time of your visitation.." This reads like innocent ignorance ~ as if Jerusalem just didn't get the memo..  I can't find exact commentary to back this up, but it doesn't sit well. The implication of "because" is that this destruction is a reasonable response to willed ignorance, blinded their own eyes, choosing to not hear Ze7v11 Ac7v57 2Ti4v4. Partly, this is the same Jerusalem that had been through all the OT's cycles of rebellion, repentance and rebuilding. Partly, it is always the time of your visitation, every day is the last day, like the parable of ten virgins with oil lamps, it is always the eve of the wedding, we are always culpable.

Lk19v45-46 This morning,on the tube, or wherever you are, remember - 1Cor6v19 your body is a temple, Eph2v19-22 your community is a temple, Col1v16-17 the cosmos is a temple. May you know the Christ wreaking havoc throughout the whole, and specifically at each of these scales. The self contains a den of robbers, so does the church, so does the world. Christ turns the tables in the heart, in relationships, in global systems, to return each to a place of prayer. May it be.

Lk19v47-48 πŸŒ…πŸŒ„ "daily" What do you do *daily?* There is a role for relentless rhythms. The day-in-day-out day-to-day of reliable robust rinse-repeat routines. The nearest thing to *daily* that we have are devotional times, promoted as therapeutic behavioural change, pious gym regimes, habit forming methodologies for a private faith in personal holiness. Corporate public *daily* expressions of disruptive earnest social change? Those are risky high-maintenance hassles.
πŸ§™‍♂πŸ‘¨‍⚖🀴 "priests, scribes, notables" Jesus is shot from both sides. Or even from all three sides of an unholy trinity allied against his peculiarly offensive person and doctrine. Jesus undermines conservativism, socialism and liberalism all at once. Three doctrines of combatively exclusive political philosophy, self-selecting the predisposed to defend their respective system motivated by pride to manage manufactured scarcity. Three united, only briefly, and without irony, by a common enemy: Jesus. Jesus' doctrine of abundance undermines the three cartels: the priests moral influence, the scribes technical influence, and the chief's economic/political influence. Do you?
πŸ•³ "destroy" (The will to annihilate comes from moral disgust: see Lk9v53-54) How do you provoke this in people? What sort of relationship and behaviour has this sort of response? What is like to get up in the morning with the mindset that I am a virus in mainframe of modernity, I am a chink in the armour of London, I am a fly in the ointment of therapeutic moral deism.. What is it to obnoxiously revel in being abhorrent to such as those? "..their scorched earth annihilation bids through the lens of Jonathan Haidt's Moral Disgust. There is necessarily a trajectory towards genocide in the religiouse mind, and it stems from disgust. Whereas you run or freeze in the face of Fear, in the case of Disgust you have to destroy or expel the infection, drown the witches, swat the cockroaches 
🚑 "hanging on his words" Do you? Do they? I picture a man suspended over a precipice, hands clenched in a white knuckled clasp for-dear-life onto the serif of a vast neon sign. I picture his kids clung to his trousers. I picture rope thrown down to his whole household. What word is it for you? Blameless & Beloved.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

texting luke eighteen

Honest questions. Recently pondered, at some length and obscurity. Not without a sense of irony. All are welcome to come and think with us, to moderate the language, and triangulate the thinking - together - that we might all come as children - together - predicated on the village it needs to raise them. 07729056452

Lk18v1-2 Okay, fine. I'll ask again.

Lk18v3-4 πŸ‘¨πŸ»‍⚖Who is God? What picture of God incites you to pray? What picture of God would you use to motivate others to pray without ceasing?
πŸ•· Jesus conjures a world in which we are widows. We are widows. Tragic precarious characters in a callous universe controlled by selfish genes, random chance and cruel fate, an existence pitted against nameless adversaries. We are hard-done-by ones, carrying a victim complex entitlement curdled in a survivor’s guilt. We are bitter black widows armed with the fury of being spurned by the cosmos, abandoned in an act of God, infinitely vulnerable we have nothing left to lose in gaming compassion and unabashedly importuning fate, raging at the night sky, calling down curses at the absurdity of an indifferent infinity.
πŸ‘°πŸ€΅ But we are not widows. We know secure attachment as the infinitely beloved bride of Christ. He, our cosmic husband, he is alive. So, why then speak of us as widows and the universe as an unjust judge?
~ The parable works if we are not widows and as such should ponder how far from widow we are, thus as an a fortoriori argument - as being much more then how much more should we enjoy to pray constantly.
~ The parable works if we consider all the ways we are widows in the not-yet dimension of our now-and-not-yet of our being - and in such we should be persevering in prayer.
πŸ™❔ What, then, is prayer?
πŸ™❔ What is it?
πŸ™❔ What do you do in the doing of prayer that would and should be persistable resilient perseverent? I have struggled to categorise my unease with the Pray Until Something Happens bracelets. Is prayer itself not it’s own form of a Happening? What are the sufficient conditions for 'Something’?  How do you pray relentlessly without superstition? I want to learn to pray. I consider two proverbial widows: Muslims and the Occupy movement.
πŸ•Œ Muslims. Five-a-day as if it be the food of love. Do you talk to God with others that often? Islam looms as a glaring a fortoriori indictment of Christian lukewarm pragmatism and our contemporary allergy to collective praxes. It is quite humanly possible to muster a community to convene to speak to a cruel and unspeaking God, how much more so we who believe in more-than? Hb10v25
Occupy. Bolshy askers who unabashedly demand justice, orphan anarchists railing to the barricade, laying their lives down. Prayer is desire. Prayer is holistic prophetic embodiment. Prayer is resistance. Prayer should risk to wear you out, or otherwise, why would Jesus have made time to encourage us not to grow faint. Christianity is an affair of the heart, it is the heart’s desires which God engages. Ps37v4
~ Desire God. Desire a world other than it is. Do the desiring together and do not grow weary. In this way, pray.

Lk18v5-6 The unjust judge is ultimately unjust because he does not rightly hold the parts and the whole. This judge ultimately caves into justice for the sake of order, he wants the whole to be less chaotic. There is something in him of the detached politician who doesn't really care about individuals but cares about 'society as a whole', cares that there are people who are not too upset or angry or revolutionary, because that makes the whole unstable. The unjust judge does not care so much for the widow, but cares if she wails outside the door making a fuss, he cares that she's a bother. This desire for peace and order in society, untethered from care for the individual, represents God's heart in the former but absolutely distorts God's heart in the latter. God is interested in justice for the sake of both the parts and the whole, the means and the end, the individual and the collective. A just society is a better society (the spirit level, and all that) and so even a theology that over-emphasises the collective and under-emphasises the individual can be made to recognise the individual through persistance. This is the heart of activism, which rails against dehumanisation. This parable tells us something about how we can pursue justice in a broken world, then, and also something about God. There are different strategies for pursuing justice in a broken world - if eliciting empathy and recognition of personhood does not work, then civil disobedience might. Insofar as the parable tells us something about God it is that God is unlike the judge in that God does not only care about creating a well-oiled society (he does, but not this alone), but also cares absolutely and deeply for the individual. Levinas highlights that in life together we must always hold together a sense of the objective ordering of society with an absolute intersubjective concern for the individual face to face. And God is the zenith of both prongs of justice.

Lk18v7-8"speedily" A relative term, in the light of eternity. It would be possible to get hung up on a metric for this speed as if to ponder a theology of speed along the lines of: πŸ‘ΌπŸ‘ΌπŸ‘ΌπŸ“if angels can dance at the speed of light, how many of them could be said to fit on the head of a needle in a given perceivable moment. Speedily is in the eye of the beholder. It is a relative term. It is an honourific. How fast is fast enough to qualify as speedily? The world wants fast.
πŸ“’ What do we want? Justice!
πŸ“’ When do we want it? Now!
⏱ The bible recognises the value of speed, the prescience of efficient reconciliation, the non-linear relationship of delays to entrenching bitterness over time.
Mt5v25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary.."
Eph4v26 "Don't let the sun go down on your anger.."
⏱ This is a quality of God which we can practice, like operating on the basis of abundance, but in the domain of time. Operate on the basis of urgent prescience. Forgive first and fast.
"will he find faith on earth?" Have you found faith? Elusive commodity that it is. As fast as justice is, it is held in loving tension with patience:
2Pt3v9 "not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient.."
Rm5v6 "At just the right time.."
Too quick justice would doom us all.
This is a quality of God which we can practice. Being long suffering, bearing up in God's strength in the not-yet for the not-yet. Waiting patiently with God, as the vast human oil tanker of the cosmos is nudged round in its orientation, by a million acts of loving forbearance and miraculous reconciliation.

Lk18v9-10 The GNB translates this: "Sure of their own goodness, but despised everyone else." The NIV: "confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else." The ESV: "trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt." Strong and evocative words. We all have a complex set of feelings about ourselves and about others, and these are interconnected. So many feelings, so much energy, so many arguments and so many stumbling blocks are the result of the tangle of deflated and overinflated self-understanding and other-understanding. We are liable to think both too much of ourselves and not enough of ourselves, and we are liable to think too little of others and too much of them at the same time. In Transactional Analysis one is encouraged to move away from [1] 'I'm ok, you're not ok' thinking and [2] 'I'm not ok, you're ok' thinking towards [3] 'I'm ok, you're ok' thinking.  Some version of this is right, we need a recovery of common creatureliness and belovedness which puts all parties in a place of safety, grace and original imago dei from which to engage one another. This also needs to be coupled with [4] 'I'm not ok, you're not ok' thinking, a sense of the thread of brokenness that runs through both self and other. Holding together the true tension of [3] and [4], rather than an unstable oscillation between [1] and [2] prompts both humility and bearing-with, rather than pride, contempt, self-denigration or idolisation.
Easier said than done. So help me God.

Lk18v11-12 Thank God I'm not like one of those, cryptobros in drop-top lambos. I tell you, it's hard being this holy, tithing my bitcoin.. Dear Christian, it is a dangerous thing to be the good-guy-over-and-against, it is a risky presumption to believe you are A Better Way.

Lk18v13-14 'All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted'. Why is this? Not because God arbitrarily likes humility more than exaltation and rewards the former and condemns the latter, but rather because the internal logic of self-exaltation means that this method quickly runs out of itself and blocks the way of the infinite. Our egos so quickly artificially inflate and stifle the natural flow of God's power and glory and grace, whereas humility puts us in the more tender place of surrender and attunement to the already-at-work trinitarian abundance, where we join in the dance of Father exalting Son exalting Spirit. We get to join in! When not preoccupied with our own small souls.

Lk18v15-16 It's been the emotionally busiest week of the year. And then these verses. I took off for a walk with God, yesterday, Saturday, phone-off, striking out to Clapham's coffee, thence winding in the sun to Brixton. Aching, at length, What is a child..? A dusty Coldharbour Lane's hum dappled by autumn was hosting a dispute in the distance, a hundred yards closer to and he was bellowing at she screaming at him. Their bus stop twitched anxiously. "You're not going to keep the child. I've got a son already.." So loud. She stepped into the bus lane to hail the P4. He wrangled her from the door and pinned her painfully against a wall. "Get rid of it." So loud. The mustered poses of the bus stop intended to intervene. She tore on to the bus. He slunk away. All of reality is shattered. It is no heroic ruin, but a soiled mediocre edifice, crumpled in a tawdry amateur social-realist film. I sat down on one of those awkward one-person benches. The unbearable banality of all my own helpless but culpable evil. The triviality of pondering what is a child? ~ Everything in me full of pride and death lurks in the discipleship on display in these verses.
πŸ‘Ά What is a child? It's not self-evident what exactly the disciples see and rebuke in the bringing of children. It is preached somewhat intuitively that we are to come God as children, children qua small and humble. But somehow, the children in these verses must have been offensive to the disciples, and offensive by virtue of some childic quality other than their innocuous compact frames. All around me children are obscured, prevented, excluded and generally anathema to the elaborate system of London without, and anathema to the plausible praxis of responsible mental frailty within. Why? How might it be otherwise? What is a child?
πŸ‘Ά A child is a display of the Kingdom. Not incidentally. Where children are, there the Kingdom is. It would be too strong to say, where children are not, there the Kingdom is not, but. But there is something unabstractable about a child, that cannot learnt elsewhere. There is a quality of the Kingdom which is exclusively to be understood in the close observational study of children, and by study of one's self as you are transformed by the intimate responsibility for an infinitely dependent tiny human.
πŸ‘Ά A child is irreducible. A child is a distinct thing. No mere sum of abbreviated parts, no mere adult in waiting, not merely a coincidence of the qualities of physical vulnerability and prepubescent underdevelopment. A child is not a scaled-down, dialed-down adult, they are not an echo suggesting their future utility, they are a distinct things in their own right. They have their own unique ability to contribute to the well-being of society. They are agents they are participants, and, properly engaged they are a cure for many ills.
πŸ‘Ά A child is an end in itself, but never apprehensible as an end in itself. No one is capable of desiring (or undesiring) a child abstracted from its social and economic signification, the mire of idolatry, powerplay, insecurity, which a child makes itself a conduit for. We are only capable of desiring the presence or absence of children in corrupt and half-formed ways, we a moved by those ends to which a child is the means, the heaven or hell it promises, the extrinsic cost or reward. The human heart is selfish above all, and a child is fuel to that fire. No child needs to be born as their parent's salvation, no child can bear that toxic mantle. No child should be unborn as their parent's salvation. Oh what a wretched man I am.
πŸ‘Ά A child is cherubic innocence. A child is a trophy of purity and everything you could have been. A child is a blank slate, a vessel for the projection of ideals. These untarnished future humans are the solution to every contemporary problem of mankind. A saccharine and sentimental salvation, they are flaunted as tacit bundles of a fecundity gospel misreading 2Tim2v15 as a biological reward from the prosperity God's cosmic slot machine Ps127v3 Mt19v29 Pr3v9-10.. A child is a status symbol, a luxury accessory, the fruit of obedience to the cultural mandate Gn9v7. Queen Bey knows it; Children of Men captures it.  A child is an emotional cheat code, a totem of phenomenal influence, a lightsabre of coercive cute.
πŸ‘Ά A child is an investment. A speculative investment with ROI in about 30 years. A child is a slowly appreciating asset, a nest egg, a capital growth plan. A child is a massive gamble, plurally they are a hedged bet on your pension future, so have a quiverfull Ps127v5.
πŸ‘Ά A child is a side effect of intimacy. A byproduct of love within a controversially gendered, controversially heterosexual universe. A multitude of children would be the default course of action. So much so that the burden of proof should fall on our onanistic [Gn38v9] and ruthlessly contracepted civilisation in which children are not seen and not heard and not born. The abortion debate is not a niche ethical concern, it is a conerstone of modernity, Alastair Roberts draws this out into deeply uncomfortable waters. What would the opposite of our civilisation look like, wrt fertility? What would the opposite of the invisibility of children be? What furnishes a universe with that plausibility? What sort of no-holds-barred intimacy, what sort of macro finance, what sort of relentless and reconciled grandparenting, what sort of unsiloed despecialised industries of care, what sort of asymmetrically gendered self-understanding.. what would undergird a procreation of the many and not the few?
πŸ‘Ά A child is a person. Awkwardly there. Undeniably infinite in value. Helplessly incapable of self-care. You were once one - embarrassing to say. There are no shades or gradients in their personhood, while their strength, size and savvy may grow, their personhood is obnoxiously binary. The newborn is unlimited intrinsic value, and zero or negative utility value. This gnaws at the pride of the disciples, it unsettles materialists. A child is uncomfortably and devastatingly a person - they are perhaps the supreme testimony to this - if only we would have more of them, more conspicuously around.
πŸ‘Ά A child is link in an intergenerational continuum. Christianity is an intergenerational continuum. We are formed in such a full stack, full spectrum, holistic communion of generative generations. A child is the cause and the effect, the means and the end of enduring and adoring familiality. Have children. Bring the infants to Jesus. Contra protestantism's sterile individualism, that de-venerates Mary and disavows paedobaptism, and that so elevates a workplace work ethic as to subtly devalue non-fungible labours of care. Blessed are the breasts that nursed Jesus? Lk11v27 No. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Thusly, believing that Jesus was raised on formula. We razed the villages needed to raise a child. We have atomised faith, and abstracted family and obscured the idea of children. Christianity is something that we do and we can do it in degrees of excellence, together.
πŸ‘Ά A child is a personal liability. “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days..” Luke 21:23; “they will say ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.'" Luke 23:29 A child is a symptom of peace. A child is a canary in a coalmine: the first to go when things turn sour. Things have turned sour. These are the last days. Motherhood is a modern death, suburban slavery foretold in Revolutionary Road, marketed to as victims accordingly.
πŸ‘Ά A child is a political liability. Children are a plague, the most eradicable form of the human virus. So Herod Mt2v16, so Pharoah Ex1v16, so capitalism commitment to entrenching silos of the exploitable sexless ageless childless invulnerable worker - by a similar expedient genocide. A child is an afterthought, an externality, a fly in the ointment of a robotic future. Children are voiceless and voteless in all democratic systems of government, and children a burden to the economy for longer than the political term of any democratic system.
πŸ€— "Come to me" Let them. Come to Jesus - he is necessary, he is sufficient. For your inner child. For your future child. For your estranged children. Stop preventing them from coming to Jesus.
πŸ€— "Touch them" Christianity is negotiated contact time. Christianity is haptic and tactile. Christianity is proximity to brush up against.
~ Allow it. God, please.

Lk18v17-18 Receive like a child. Often I hear in Jesus' words here an emphasis on simplicity and security, and I think this is part of it, but today I am struck that what it is to come as a child is to come confused and unknowing but capable of learning. To come as a child is to come as clay to be moulded, it is to come with a heart for formation. Come to Jesus overwhelmed and overstimulated, flailing and out of sync, but in all this oriented towards learning, being taught, both in the what and the how. To come to Jesus as a child is to come immature, but to be on a trajectory towards maturity. Come as a child. Come as a child. Come as a child. I want Jesus to teach me what I cannot teach myself.

Lk18v19-20 Good. Good enough. Goods and services. Goodness gracious. Goodie two shoes. The good stuff. What good is it? There is a gooey sort of good. A vague nicety. A tolerable vanilla. Is your God good? Ref Tomlin's tautological father here transposed 
God is good? All the time.
All the time? God is good.
Is your God's goodness merely a negation of the negative? That's not bad. The only sufficient goodness is superabundant prevenient self-sacrificial goodness. When the world sees a church that doesn't murder, steal or lie ~ the world yet knows, that is not good enough.

Lk18v21-22 Follow. It's hard to hear and analyse the word 'follow', so ubiquitous is it to hear the phrase 'follower of Jesus' that I find it hard to wade through the meaning of the word and pinpoint what it is that Jesus asks us to do when he asks us to follow him. The word is 'akolouthei', and Strong's tell me that the word origin is 'union' and 'a road' - to follow is to be united on the road. It involves being in the same place as someone, being present to them, and becoming like them, in some sense, in the context of a trajectory. Following follows the person to be close to them but it also follows them where they are going. There is surrender in following, both to what is unknown and unpalatable in the other's will, and to the unknown and unchosenness of the future, specifically the unknown of the place that he other may lead you to in the future. Following involves this double surrender. Tonight we discuss something of leading and following. It is not for us to tell others how to follow, so I commit this to the Holy Spirit. But we pray that as we try to image and incarnate the Kingdom of God in concentric circles, that we would model what it is to follow the Christ, to double surrender to the otherness of His will and otherness of His future, to actively choose this following. This passage is a warning about the things that stop us from following - comfort, entitlement and material goods being a common blockage, but there are other things we cling to which prevent our surrender. Spirit, we pray for the understanding, the grace and the courage to 'sell everything' that keeps us from following.

Lk18v23-24 "Difficult.." Ξ΄Ο…ΟƒΞΊΟŒΞ»Ο‰Ο‚ dyskolōs I really want this phrase to mean something precise, I want some reference to nuance and triangulate what exactly this "difficult" is. The phrase only occurs here and in the parallels.
Mt19v23 - Rich is always the guy on £3k more than you..
Mk10v23 - Christian climbs hill difficulty..
Part of the difficulty, is the epistemological difficulty of knowing what wealth means. We did the pejorativisation of wealth in Lk16v23-24, and a discussion with Peter ensued which I haven't otherwise revisited. Christians should create value and steward resource and have much to give much. But. I think "wealth" is not merely unfortunately ambiguous, it is actively problematic. "Wealth" can and should be excised from a vocabulary of legitimate Christian pursuits, in favour of a notion of value-stewarding which carries more intrinsic generosity.  Because "Wealth" has already been clearly defined in the popular imagination Hence presuming to be merely neutrally "wealthy" and remaining a Christian, this is extremely difficult. And, I would argue, impossible.
I want to acknowledge the range of meanings for "Wealth" and suggest that within that range there have been both good and bad meanings. This ambiguity is exploited, linguistically and so in life, by individuals trying to sell wealth products, and by the enemy trying to whitewash a deep pathology. Thus, I want to provoke, by a pejorative reading of "Wealth", a re-vocabularisation of the how we speak about money's danger and responsibility.
The range:
Good "Wealth" is Value. "Wealth"-creation is Value-creation, we are value creators, dazzling displays of the fruitful stewards bring about rich and flourishing commons, over and against all that devalues, distorts and destroys. "Wealth" is a reflection of justice in production and distribution, wealth is shalom is heaven is abundance. "Wealth" is poetic, it's a sunrise, its a rainbow, it is the commonwealth of the common good.
Bad "Wealth" is stored private equity. "Wealth" is an unfettered license to building bigger barns for the hoarded accumulation of private capital. "Wealth" is wealthier-than, it is always relative to the lower-middle-classes, "Wealth" won over and against the Jones. "Wealth" is GDP. "Wealth" is the entrenchment of the marketisation everything and rendering everything as fungible and defining all humans as producers and consumers only.
The ambiguity:
"Wealth" is a seductive word, it conjures comfort easily won, it suggests the business of high level abstraction. Would a dairy farmer identify as a "wealth" creator? would a mid-wife? would a dancer? ~ "Wealth" is a flabby vague idiom, comfortably blurry at the edges.
A friend in Nottingham wanted to cook some chicken. Do you want legs, brest, thigh, wings? No, do you have any general body meat? I his mind there was such a category, a none of the above, just meat without previous utility. So "wealth" hints at world where things have only market value* - if this wasn't the case you would talk of industry-creators etc - specific artifacts and specific processes engaged in the production of unabstractable things.
So, "Wealth"-Creators-for-Christ, who wouldn't want in on that sanctified fast-track to the middle classes. The ambiguity is exploited by well-intentioned ones such as Lausanne - who dangle the carrot of nice wealth, but I would say that they are naive to assume that "wealth creation" is a self-evident activity totally distinct from any Rich Young Man dilemma; naive also to assume that a note against "wealth hoarding" is a self-evident activity that can easily be extracted from the intrinsic mechanisms of fashioning "Wealth"-as-"Wealth"- and even if you could cleanly delineate wealth hoarding, I think it is grossly to underestimate it to think a caveat in a manifesto is proportional to Jesus' view on wealth hoarding. I think their whole project would be better served by a word other than "Wealth".  In promoting wealth creation, I'm sure Lausanne don't want to multiply a band of rich young men, an army of stock piling little emperors - but it won't not happen be merely asking.
SB are building a platform for tokenised payments on the blockchain that is different to bitcoin in a salient way - it advantages you in no way to hoard it. It is an entire economy that only realises any value when it is in use as a discount token against that use. You can make SWC work really hard, but you can't speculate on it. Amongst the things motivating this startup is the hope to enable an enfranchised middle, and in certain people's language that would be to facilitate wealth creation, but I think my own current thinking is that it is Utility and value creation. I think wealth has many positive connotations, but in sum, I find it a tainted word with too much baggage to make a manifesto for.
I'm not making a point against the private property, and certainly not a political point that any good can come of centralising the administration of resources at inappropriate scales.
"Wealth" is dewealthed in/by the subsidiarity of household management weaponised as a tool for the task of Kingdom Home Economics. Everything should be tooled towards the activity, nothing should be lumpen capital. Urgently.
This is difficult.

Lk18v25-26 Jesus used surrealist humour before surrealist humour was a thing. A camel through the eye of a needle? We've become so familiarised with this phrase that we forget it's absurd comedy. Jesus uses absurdities and incongruities to draw our attention to the impossibility of the Kingdom within our own tidy logic and effort. He playfully brings us to a jarring halt, causing us to see reality itself differently.  Allow yourself to hear the playful absurdity in Jesus' words, to feel their uncanniness. Let them unsettle you and amuse you both, insofar as both of these responses may lead you to give up your illusion of your control, of your safety and security in your own strength. The world is much much weirder than you think, the Trinitarian God wants to take everything away from you and give far more back. Don't be so fearful of this strangeness that you cling more tightly to your wealth or other comfort, lean in to the perplexing but captivating logic of the Godhead, that turns everything upside down and fits the whole cosmos into a stable. Help us, God.

Lk18v27-28 "We have left our homes." Or in KJV and others, "We have left all.." Left all. In the wake of Banksy's shredding incident, other auto-destructive artworks have been reflected on. Michael Landy's Break Down involved all his possessions being destroyed.  Where does my sense of the plausible come from? My stuff is the facility of my horizon that boundaries my possible. What if we reconfigured all stuff as dead weight? What if the human race was a race to the bottom of emptied pockets generously disgorged?
Impossible is nothing.
~ Anxious Phil believes: Impossible is no-things, the voids, the tightrope walk with no rope - it can't be done.
~ Faithful Phil believes: The so-called "impossible" is nothing, it is bluster, exaggeration and distortion, by the Prince of the air, who's only power is to rebrand possible anxiously.
"We have left all.." Peter's evidence of the impossible? Peter protesting his own salvation? Jesus, am I poor enough? The world does not need put-upon bleeding heart martyrs pity parading their beneficence. Sacrifice is searingly relative - giving up chocolate for Lent is both significant and trivial at the same time.
Operating on the basis of abundance never sacrifices anything. See David Livingstone:

Lk18v29-30 Money is one thing, but for some of us the more fundamental, wide-reaching and habit-forming idol is our relationships. When she heard these things she went away sad, because she had lots of relationships. She went away sad because there were lots of opinions that mattered to her. She went away sad because her relationship status told her who she was. Husband. Parents. Brother. The children I desire but don't yet have. Colleagues. Students. Housemates. Friends. I have to 'give up' each one as the measure of my inheritance of eternal life.  God, lead me from this sadness to surrender.

Lk18v31-32 πŸ‘€ "See.." Don't you see? The attentive life. What would Jesus have you behold? Look where you're going, why don't you? We are always going up to Jerusalem. All of life is the final countdown. All of life is a long march to the dΓ©nouement. Behold.
"Everything.." The full set. All of Ps22. All of Is53. A brutal totality. A comprehensive abasement, the systematic destruction of a person, utterly in all the ways you can unmake a man. Why is that important? Why was it not enough that Jesus be merely executed? If Jesus-died-for-my-sins is a substitutionary transaction, surely the unembellished extinguishing of a life for a life would accomplish this? Was Jesus death a superlative death? Is that important? How should I then live, and die?
πŸ† "Accomplished.." What have you accomplished? In the downwardly mobile Christian life, there are in fact a number of axes on which to seek to accomplish sacrifice, suffering and servanthood: physically, financially, sociopolitically..
Lk14v27-28 The cross is no mere execution, it is peerless torture porn, perfected cruelty, stress-testing the human body to the point of failure. The cross is a definitionally excruciating death, caused typically by asphyxiation, where the exertion of lifting one's broken body to breath exceeds the tormented body's capacity to resist the pain of so doing. The cross is organised persecution by a calculating enemy, gratuitous enhanced interrogation with no questions and no answers, it is a political death fashioned to be emblematic of failure through perfect public abasement and superlative shame.
Mk10v33-34 'And' Jesus is about to get chewed up And spit out And booed off stage. Jesus died for our sins. In stages. If Jesus had just wanted to die for our sins, orchestrating a single sniper's bullet would have been sufficient. What is irreducible about the distinct experiences of Jesus' total assassination: of being mocked And of being spit at And of being flogged And of being killed? In the mechanics of of salvation, somehow, suffering in every way allows Jesus to sympathise in every way and to atone in every way.

Lk18v33-34 They did not understand any of these things. What is the place of confusion and non-understanding in the Christian life? On the one hand 'God is not a God of disorder but of peace' 1Cor18v33. A well-ordered life involves some epistemic order, involves understanding, the trajectory is always towards greater understanding. But it is important for us to recognise (esp those of us who spend their days hungry for understanding) that (i) the road to understanding often involves confusion, and (ii) that epistemic order is not the only kind of order. 
Of (i), understanding often involves unlearning of old presuppositions. Deconstruction for the sake of deconstruction is quickly a boring game, but often deconstruction of something old is needed to clear the road of the current aporia. Sometimes we have to sit down on the road, or walk backwards or across in order to find our way. This quickly feels like it becomes a vague fetishisation of 'I'm just in process, man', and there's lots of that around in the ether and in my lazy heart. But this doesn't mean that it's not true that robust dialectic towards ever expanding knowledge and understanding does in fact often involve a process of re-evaluating, unpicking presuppositions, laying things out and taking time to think about what was previously hard or even impossible to think about. The process of understanding is a genuine labour, involving huge amounts of not-understanding and confusion along the way. It seems very time inefficient - surely it would be better if we could receive divine data downloads with correct presuppositions in-built? The narrative of Jesus with the disciples illustrates that the process of coming close to the divine is typically very unlike this. It involves time, dialogue, repeating oneself, embodying the assumptions, getting it wrong, more dialogue. Bear with me, as I seek understanding in and through this messy process. In this drawn-out process, the disciples spend time with Jesus, which is part of (ii): epistemic and existential confusion invite us to draw close to the Christ in the space of unknowing itself, and there is an ordering of one's heart, one's attitudes, one's desires, one's loves which, while not divorced from understanding, exceed understanding. Richard Rohr's meditations this week have all been on this famous Cloud of Unknowing, and the opportunity it gives us to 'beat on that thick cloud of unknowing with the sharp arrow of longing and never stop loving', or with Merton to assert in truth that 'I die by brightness and the Holy Spirit': that I am in fact transfigured by all that God does outside the horizon of my understanding.
I pray for both prongs of the path from confusion, for myself and for you: (i) God, draw us from chaos to order, towards deeper, sharper, taken-apart-and-put-back-together mindful understanding of your Being, and (ii) God, draw us in our confusion not only towards knowledge but also towards surrender, towards trust, towards love, towards all holy longing uncodified by the spectrum of knowledge-ignorance. I recognise huge reservoirs of confusion in my life. Come with light and come with love. Amen

Lk18v35-36 "a blind man.. begging.." The Blind Beggar pub on Whitechapel Road is aptly named. Whitechapel having qualities of the Jericho road, a likely context for the ambush of Lk10v30's pilgrim making the same journey, the pub witnessed the Kray twins murder George Cornell at its saloon bar. The Blind Beggar was also the location of wandering evangelist William Booth's initial outdoor preaching that led to the formation of the Salvation Army in the East End.
There is special spiritual interest in these strategic geographies of flux, the grey no-man's-land at the urban periphery, where a frisson of fringe interests brush against the city proper. All arteries of power and traffic must cross a contended terrain, an interstitial sub-urban halo, littered with the long tail of human marginalia, the polluted detritus of perennial battles for the city's edge condition: the expelled and quarantined, also-rans and have-nots.
The blind beggar is the archetypal denizen of this realm. A transgressive domain neither the nether reaches nor too close to home, a convenient motel heterotopia. Jesus is at work there, the pathway to Calvary always travels through it. We are blind beggars. All around us, blind beggars, "inquiring what this meant.."

Lk18v37-38 'They told him 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by'. He called out 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!'.' On me. On *me*.  Much of what I am circling back around at the moment, as I try to locate and understand the voices that speak truth and lies to me, is that I believe that Jesus is 'passing by' me, and I do not have the courage to shout at him, I do not believe that he would engage me personally, would look me in the face, would have any specific love or mercy directed at me personally. I must take responsibility for having to courage to shout out at Jesus for specific mercy, I must ask him to see me specifically. This feels like such a Christianity 101 thing to be struggling with - God is personal! God loves you! These are still the absolute hardest and most unbelievable things to me. Sometimes when I try to inhabit the space in which Jesus sees me specifically and talks to me as Sarah (rather than treating myself simply as a conduit for a spiritual something, vaguely 'tapping into the Spirit' or 'being attuned to' the work of a vague transpersonal divinity, as I am apt to) I freak out. I am overwhelmed by shame, fear, a sense that it is disgustingly entitled to presume that the God would speak to me specifically. I do not want to put myself before his gaze, I want to remain in the crowd and later report to others about his goodness in a general sort of way. God is personal! God loves me! This is so hard. Please pray for breakthrough in this area, that I might hear it in the second-person from the person of Jesus, without flinching or running away: 'receive your sight'. 

Lk18v39-40 πŸ“ΏπŸ“’ Jesus Christ. Son of God. Have Mercy on me, a sinner. The Jesus Prayer, wikipedia tells me, has its origins in Lk18, combining the publican/taxcollector's v13 "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" with the blind beggar's v38 "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" and then, v39 "all the more.. "Son of David, have mercy on me!"" - building through a quick crescendo from a catechism into a mantra into a bellowed slogan. He is ripe strawberries ripe. And I am a sinner.
πŸ›‘ "Those in front of him" [in their Toyotas.] I tend to think of "the crowd" as a uniform ubiquitous dull mob bustled about Jesus with a consistent tenor of vanilla adulation. A crowd is fickle and varied - swelling as a singular swarm capable of an agency more than the sum of its corrupt parts - so we become "those infront of him" by accident by default, unless you actively resist the phenomenon you will huddle tribally.
🀫 "rebuked" the tsking NIMBYs, theatrical shushers in a Punch&Judy call-and-response. He's behind you.. "rebuked" as the disciples issued to the children in v15. The crowd wants to dictate the terms of the environment by some sort of 1Co14v33 regulative principle, collectively to curate some experience without children and without blind beggars. When, and in what ways, is it wrong to rebuke? When I am in context sufficiently heterogeneous to need policing? When am I in contexts sufficiently needy, that such policing should be over-ruled by mercy?

Lk18v41-42 'What do you want me to do for you?' I started a list of specific things, big healings and hopes that I want Jesus to do for me. It is good to be specific, but I realise also that all these things come under a desire to receive spiritual sight and the ability and capacity to act accordingly. I want to see. Amen.

Lk18v43 πŸ‘€πŸŽ‰πŸ‘€πŸŽ‰ "..sight .. glorifying .. saw .. gave praise.." Commentaries observe that Luke is fascinated by the phenomena of responsive doxology: Lk5v25-26 Lk7v16 Lk13v17 Lk17v15 Lk23v47 Ac3v8 Ac14:10-11 And it is fascinating, worship is peculiar. Emotional beings that we are. Affective, declarative, storied, relational, harmonic, corroborative.. Worship _can_ happen alone, but it is exponentially a collective phenomena. There is, here, worship leading to worship, a recursive or viral mode that effects a cascade of praise. You are a link in a responsive chain. We are the ripple. Faith builds faith. Testimonies beget testimonies.
πŸ‘€ The blind man's praise comes from seeing from Jesus.
πŸ‘€πŸ‘€ The crowd's praise comes from seeing seeing and its explication in the praise attributing it from Jesus.

Friday, 12 October 2018