Thursday, 12 October 2017
"'ello Sir, I'm Angela [anxious.], and this is my colleague Lee [oleaginous]. He noticed you hanging around inside earlier, would you like to tell us what you're doing. [flashes badge]"
"A spluttering architect, honest gov. Loves a white tile me?"
No, my cordial exchange with the zero-hours class of London's privatisation enforcement was entirely without wit and was received utterly without humour. With a wimper, I went, out through the inch-thick milled metal barricade.
Made.com sponsor the show, wedded as they are to crystalising the myth of ply. The mythology of simpler times, elemental materials shaped by chipper chippies in the first industrial revolution, for dreamy surfboarders riding a wave of mid-century optimism. Things were good back then. Oh to be Post-war perennially, swinging home with the swagger of the sixities, all tongue and groovy with military derivatives into domestic contexts, a sailor home on leave. I'll make you a chair to remember me by, bent gymastically, a mandala warp, a mobius loop..
Ply, a synthetic and compound material, ever an allegory for modernity's pliable masses, the chips and splinters of empire pressed into a mould.
Ply, a precarious material, ever an allegory for modernity's fragile self. Halfway between cardboard and CLT, ever a prototype for something else. It's fairface scratched by a careless mover, and in tearing the veneer, one shatters the whole.
Ply, a weaponised material, then, as now, the robots take over and nature is bent to concentrate wealth and slicken our future.
Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Lk6v1-2 Many questions follow from this irreligious grazing incident. What is the rest of rest? What do you do when you stop stopping? What doing is permissible, what doing is profitable, and what doing is actually rest? I regret to say that I have no great new thoughts about Sabbath.
Lk6v3-4 Chats about this via Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. There are specific laws and specific prophecies - there have been and there still are and there will be to come, but there some deeper structural form to the Law and the Prophetic which is timeless, universal, part of the fabric of Godself. Here I don't think that Jesus discounts Law, but demonstrates that specific laws manifest a bigger Law, that is, the shimmering, dazzling Order of Things that is the God-structure of Reality.
Lk6v5-6 "On another Sabbath." Week in, week out. I love the way Luke draws out the labour of Pharisaism. Into v7 "watched him" eyes asquint and bloodshot, the watcher a'waiting, the sun comes up on their stake-out shifts, gonna getcha getcha getcha, that Geezus, up to no good, frackin' varmit.. The law is infinite, and policing it is a superhuman task. We don't keep the Sabbath, so much as the Sabbath keeps us. By Grace.
Lk6v7-8 Jesus knew their thoughts. Knows my thoughts. Meditating on this a little I realise that while I believe that God knows my thoughts I've internalised a sense that God must relate to human thoughts a bit like I relate to the internet. If God has access to everyone's thoughts then God must not care about any of them too strongly, apart from the really extreme ones maybe. My thoughts must blend into the dull roar of the ocean of all the thoughts in the world, a boring and exhausting wave of information for our deity, in which I probably don't expose myself too much by comparison, and I can probably slip by unnoticed or am quickly forgotten by something else making the headlines in an heavenly infinite scroll. As such this is how I relate to my own thoughts, taking neither sin nor inspiration very seriously for very long, easily compartmentalising thought and behaviour. Jesus here reminds us that the divine knows our thoughts at infinite depth as well as infinite breadth. God holds each thought as weighty, God is prepared to speak into every thought. Pay attention, oh my soul.
Lk6v9-10 Sabbath is a true truth, a maxim that pervades the universe, an objective eurhythmia beating a drum through eternity. One in seven, one in seven, one in seven. If you do not take rest, rest will take you, it will catch up with you, and time takes no hostages. Just as also, the Year of Jubilee is a latent imperative, a self-fulfilling force, not so much an advisory principle to note, as an active force in the universe to be ware of: the debt-based society will collapse in periodic financial crises unless we recognise the Year of Jubilee. Time itself is setup that way, rigidly karmic ~ the hands of the clock are against us, reaching to grip a creature by the throat, time polices it's own law and is a stickler for justice, order and timeliness. Time is jealous for her Sabbaths. But.
But Jesus is the Time Lord, he can pause time, stretch time and turn it back ~ reverse entropy is a turntable in rewind in many senses. The rules which he wrote are his to bend and break. Jesus makes time for you, he can hold the sun in the sky for you, he can remix and syncopate rest into your rhythm, his heart is to skip a beat for you, a semibreve ahhh. Be chill and know that I am Lord, of the Sabbath.
Lk6v11-12 The night. As summer dies and nights draw in, let's see the invitation to pray at night. Night time tends to be the time of exhaustion, the let's-not-have-difficult-conversations-after-10pm night time. But let us pray in the dark. Jesus' actions reflect today's psalm (playing catch up): Ps42v8 'By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.'
Lk6v13-14 "Jesus chose..":-
"..and all night he continued in prayer.." Jesus had to pray all night, wanted to pray all night, decided to pray all night by way of demonstration, and Luke feels led to make this emphasis, that this _is_ leadership? Pray long, pray hard, pray late? RelationalThinking refreshed the notion that the currency of relationship is time. And time is depthed by it's exclusive investment - prayer such as this is time spent alone together, and nights are reservoirs of undistracted unalloyed time, mainlining relationality with the Father, only out of such prayer time all effective action proceeds, all wisdom is gained, all power is supplied ~ all depth dimensions of ministry are plumbed.
"chose .. twelve" What is happening in the formation of this group? A crack team. A small group. A motley crew. Shortlisting, and whittling down to Gideon's arbitrary elite division Jg7? What paradigms of group-size do you carry? I'm interested in certain thresholds of critical mass in community size. Our household is quite different when it is 6, different again when 8, different again when 12.. Why 12, what is the twelveyness of it? Whom are you 12 with? Who are you when yous are 12?
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, the disciples are formed as the first church? So we, under Christ should be and do likewise, united under him, patterned as an elect hierarchy of equals, gathered, divisibly, organically, fractally, self-identifying as teams with a subsidiarity of delegated ministry. We are chosen into his church as a team for a task. At great cost, at great length, Jesus has prayed for you in the role he has brought you to, to the people he would have you serve.
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, Jesus is the first church leader? With finite time, we make choices. We are agents with agency. We choose. Towards a finite cause, within a finite geography, with invest selectively, choosing this and not-this, them and not-them, now and not-then. We choose. A sleepless night is not enough for the sprawling contingencies which follow from such selections, subtle, divisive, them-and-us's. God, please meet me in prayer, in the choices I must make, in the people I am with, in the task that we are called to.
Lk6v15-16 The subgroups within subgroups of Jesus' disciples which make up a healthy relational stucture for life and church is often mentioned, & I spend quite a lot of time thinking about how subgroups can interact with each other in different ways. So too here, the 'we' of the inner circle of 12 gets to interface with as well as alongside with the wider circle of disciples. I've never really appreciated however this picture of Jesus picking the 12 in the context of the others - it could read like a kind of american high-school basketball film - a cruel act where the cool kids get chosen and those who don't make the cut are publicly exposed as not-good-enough. This however perhaps betrays more about the human need to be in the inner circle, in C.S. lewis' terms, than it does about our desire to know and love Jesus. There are contexts in which I'm on an inner circle and contexts I'm in an outer circle, and both provide opportunities and relationships to be pressed into. What are the contexts (family, work, church, etc) in which you are in the outer circle - in the 72 but not in the 12? How do you interface with and alongside the inner circle well - serving their particular needs, giving them space when needed, doing behind-the-scenes work that would slow them down - knowing that you're part of both a we-yous and a bigger we. Jesus carved out this space, let us celebrate it and press into it in the places we find ourselves in it.
Lk6v17-18 "Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk they drew near to a very miry slough, that was *in the midst of the plain*; and they, being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. *The name of the slough was Despond*. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire." (Pilgrim's Progress)
"he came down with them and stood on a level plain.." There is something to be gained in pondering the up and down of stage directions in the gospels (as in Babel's Gn11v7 "Come let us go down..").
Matthew's sermon on a mount, Luke's a sermon on a plain, these both/and/either are a similar sermon spoken in two locations, a relative term for topology in Matthew vs Luke's estimation, or a plausible synthesis in a single event of a sermon spoken from a mound towards a plain. The effect however in invoking a plain, a wide expanse of vanilla geography (and mainly rainy for Henry Higgins), reinforces in my imagination the vexed tumult of the helpless mass. This congregation is not of the hill walking set, no rambler's association booted and begoretexed. Not even just-about-managing, these are left behind leftovers beneath the bottom rung, Jesus comes down to such as these, such as we, mired in the slough of despond.
Lk6v19-20 Blessed are the poor. Not 'the poor in spirit', here in Luke, which I feel more comfortable interpreting vaguely, but rather 'you who are poor', contrasted clearly with the woe to the rich in v24. My inclination here is to panic that we have too much money, feel guilty, try to give some away thoughtlessly to assuage the guilt, & then to forget about it completely. This is not the point. Let's take this slowly, let's not panic. I think that Jesus is highlighting a true spiritual principle in this two-sided blessing and woe, which is that where money and comfort fill our practical, emotional & spiritual space, such 'consolations' quash the spirit of God, they dull our spiritual senses. As per my thoughts on Rm13v13-14, & as per Paul's invitation to be very-alive in Christ in Eph4v17-24 & 5v14-21. If you have already received your consolation insofar far as you are rich and can subsist without hard work or hard prayer, normalise luxury, can distract yourself with 'treats'...these things are apt to dull the spirit, & it takes more work to wrestle them into submission before God. God, teach us how to live more simply, closer to the ground, closer to the spirit. Not as a trendy 'simple living' movement, not to tell anyone about a 'lifestyle', but to be set free to be more alive to your spirit.
Lk6v21-22 💰💰 "hungry now" Rather have a dollar in my pocket than a million? Mo' money mo' problems is a true truth, a perpetual reality. But that is not to advocate crude "poverty theology" as an bludgeon antidote to the middle classes' essential-but-tacit "prosperity theology", or is it?
⬇⬇ Could we should we always go for downward mobility? How poor is poor enough? How hungry is hungry? You can always be more humble, you can always give more away, your meek modesty will ever be but pale shades of God's condescension in his ever becoming man, even less in his living homeless and dying a criminal. Go low go low fam.
The church (that is the church of me, to speak for me and my household) could go a long way down before it was accused of brinkmanship in this department, or of overegging the ascetic dimension of spirituality. Veins clogged with the banal detritus of bland entitlement, stodgy status quo status symbols, treacly tawdry normed wealth calibrated against tv's confected fantasy and the filtered flickering glitz of other people's newsfeeds.
"when people hate you" not if but when fam.
"Blessed" in being "hungry" and "weeping" ~ these are states of longing, a recognition of the present state and an openness to future promise, a conviction in the fulfilment of future promise.
😂 "shall laugh" Faith is a hunger, faith is a weeping, and then faith will have the last laugh, the hilarity of the long comic arc of eternity's narrative, that bends towards poetic justice, that arrives at last at the God who laughs Ps2v4.
Lk6v23-24 Having thought about the law of the law & the prophets last week, this is an invitation to think about the prophets, overlapping with our conversation with E last night, & with Richard Rohr's morning provocations. RR says: 'Prophets, by their very nature, cannot be at the centre of any social structure. Rather, they are 'on the edge of the inside'. They cannot be fully insiders, but they cannot throw rocks from outside either.' So in thinking about being on the outer circle of a group a few days ago - this is a prime position for inhabiting the prophetic voice. And just as it is blessed to be poor or hungry insofar as this can make space to be alive to the pricks & promptings of the spirit, not numbed by food or comfort, so too, a good reputation & a comfortable network of friends is a easy substitute to dull the voice of God, unless we work hard to bring these things under God. This is not to fetishise hunger, poverty or social alienation, but rather an invitation to look at the shape of our lives and where comfort and social ease cover over the pressing things of the spirit just below the surface.
Lk6v25-26 Sting in the tale of woe. Those who weep will laugh. Those who laugh will weep. What goes around comes around, and my eschatology is thrown into Confucian.. Do we _really_ believe what Jesus is saying? The full upside-downness of the good life, the counter-intuitive register of what is worth aiming for? Do I consider these principles without caveats, with a strength of conviction sufficient to make sacrifices by, with a strength of conviction sufficient to warn others by? Flee from wealth's trappings, be ware the tendrils of entitlement, the poppy field of mild-mannered privilege, the slippery slope of creature comfort. Those fallen parts of me are quick to debate for my exceptions rather than calibrating the principle of the matter, I'm quick to caricature ascetics, to bogeyman iconoclasts, to paint as irrational and unsustainable those who advocate abstemious Christianity. Whilst I wallow in the illgotten fullness of petrol-fed beef and slave-sewn brogues. Mine own comeuppance is coming. But more than that, wealth is its own comeuppance. I am robbing myself of adventure in the now, the good life in the now, the buzz of the downhill slalom of faith, the nimbly unburdened and balletically uncluttered life.
Lk6v27-28 Bless those who curse you. There is a holy non-reactiveness which is a real fruit of union with Christ. I have in the past been suspicious of such an idea, as it sounds like a form of Buddhist detachment that I've tended to think is counter to the Christian life, arguing that the latter is one of greater attachment not detachment, deeper desires not serene calm. And there is something quite true about this, the holy life is not one of an absence of desire or emotion. But I have come to see that it's quite true that Jesus teaches us to be non-reactive in the way that we're so apt to. There's a chasm of difference between staying inside cycles of response and responded-to that follow the emotional patterns subconsciously laid down by childhood emphases and lacks. Jesus wants to put my reactive spirit to death, to resurrect a spirit of grace & nonviolence - a spirit that does not deny pain or injustice but which is able to respond with blessing. Convicted very much this week by the Vow of Nonviolence made by members at the Centre for Action & Contemplation. I have been trying to make this vow each day. Pray that I might be non-reactive and resurrected today.
Lk6v29-30 Love Your Neighbour.*
*Terms and Conditions apply? Christianity: "A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.." youtube genius
Lk6v31-32 Jesus makes the case for other others. This means that the golden rule can't be conceived as a copy-paste identical mirroring between dyads. Sometimes this universal principle is bandied around this way, I think, as though you were to transpose your own needs and desires onto all others identically, and to then treat them as though they were identical to you. But Jesus already notes at least this one distinguishing feature between the various others in your life: there are those that love you, and those that do not. The call is to love each one regardless, but the shape of reciprocal love and non-reciprocal love is different, there are different virtues and pitfalls to each. The call to love the neighbour is hence not a call to treat everyone exactly the same, nor to love 'humanity' abstractly, but to be responsive to the particularities internal to each relationship with the grace of God.
Lk6v33-34 *Love.* Love all. Love long. Love hard people, in hard places, at hard times. Love without exception. Love without assessing the risk and without counting the cost. Love without discrimination. Love til death. Love to the pain. Love to the very bottom. Love and seek the unsiloed wellbeing of all, love lands yet unseen, love generations yet unborn. Be love as a total disposition, love with an holistic unfettered, uncaveated love.
*How?* How do I fight my tendency to be tribal, swimming against the tug towards merely loving those whose reciprocal love is more easily won, whose experience of life is more like my own, whose language is simple, whose approval is forthcoming, who cost less and reward more? How?
Because I must, we _must_, if love is to be love. I've pondered this quote often lately (not quite by Luther) , that to retreat in some small part is to compromise the whole, in the domain of truth, so also, in the integrity of love. “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth [/love] of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
So London. I ❤ London. But selectively. I love London as a scarcely symbiotic and largely Faustian pact, an exploitative codependent bond, I love to consume London. I love its goods and services. I love London on my terms, as a means to an end, I love the boost it gives my brand, I love the importance it makes me feel. My love for London is a sort of lust, warm fuzzies for the novelty of of new powerplay.
Love. Really love with a real love. Even sinners do CSR, there is honour amongst thieves, and even (/especially) loan sharks lend to the needy, it is the opposite of charity, the antithesis of love.
Love. Love hard. But how? Start with the trickiest in your neighbourhood and work upwards from there. Love as if you love with a resource from the outside. Love on the predication of a benign universe of abundance. Love without fear because all fear has already been loved out of you. Loving begins with belovedness, daily, hourly. The quiet time is the bank vault of love, the armoury, the fuel. Be loved to love.
Lk6v35-36 Measure rattles round the house anxiously, while Mercy chills in the hot tub singing songs that fill every room
Lk6v37-38 "Judge not, and *you will not be* judged.." " *will not be* condemned.." "*will be" forgiven" "*will be* given to.." " *will be* measured back.."
Jesus uses the passive voice ('will not be judged' which ESVSB wants us to read as 'God will not judge'). Jesus uses the passive voice. Why? Because, it's like that, and that's the way it is? It's the what will be that will be? It's just the way it is? A truth universally acknowledged regarding the self-fulfilling moral fabric of the universe? What is the implication? What is Jesus' emphasis? True truths become mere truisms in the blink of a nuance. Is there a cosmic promise I can lay a hold of in this passage?
1. Horizontal? People who are judgmental will invariably be judged harshly by others? People who give freely are freely given to? Smile and the world will smile back at you? Is this your experience? Sometimes. The cause and consequences are subject to chaos and complexity, sometimes the diagram of virtue's reciprocity is clear, sometimes a smiling giver is kicked in the teeth.
2. Vertical? People who are judgmental will be subject to God's vindictive retributive judgement? People who give to get, get from God's cosmic vending machine? God helps those who help themselves? God shines his light specially on those who have the self-made moral fibre and mental fortitude to be good upstanding citizens? God offers a hereafter reward scheme, an incentivised behaviour modification. Is this your faith? Is this Christianity?
I am judgmental. Chronically. Vicious and in a vicious cycle of judgement and self-fulfilling condemnation. In this passage. to my mind, Jesus describes the condition of sin which he has come to save me from. I will not be judged, because I _can_ now judge-not, but _only_ because I have not-been-judged already by Jesus. Jesus is the chicken and the egg of reverse entropy, Jesus is the cart and the horse of new life, Jesus supplies the new heart with new desires for new ethics with new consequences.
Lk6v39-40 Leading blind and blindly led. I am both. A call to both humility & responsibility to others on one side, & self-respect & responsibility to self on the other. The flight from hubris and the flight from self-contempt. These are two sides of wisdom, two sides of discernment, two sides of responsibility to God. Notable that this little Christ aphorism comes between thoughts on not judging others. Wisdom is itself a process of treading a golden mean, as is the relationship between the good judgment of wisdom and the bad judgment of judgmentalism. Jesus surely puts these thoughts together so that we would pay attention to the excesses we are apt to fall into on every side of wisdom, to keep us tentative in our footing, ever consulting our guide.
Lk6v41-42 "..your own eye.." The new Blade Runner opens with a shot of an eye, a vast orb gazes out of the cinema screen, an azure landscape in microcosm teaming within the detail of an iris. A world, created by a worldview, is itself in view in the film. And the shot cuts to a boundless extra-urban landscape of grey solar arrays, glittery geometries of light refraction bent to serve up the neon and holographic fantasisies of a projected dystopia.
- God is light. 1Jn1v5
- We are eyes. Mt13v15-17, Eph1v18
- But, we don't understand light. Jn1v5
- And, if we see at all, it is through glass darkly 1Cor13v12
The bible has a low view of sight:
- Blessed those who see not but believe Jn20v29
- We live by faith, not by sight. 2Cor5v7
- Faith is faith in the unseen Hb11v1
The bible has a low view of sight. Apt for an age of simulacra, such as our own, such as our own as portrayed in Blade Runner. The concern of these verses is not the blindness of v39, but *partially-sightedness*. Perhaps the more dangerous. Those who believe they see impartially, those who drive recklessly through their blindspots, those who build greyscapes because they tint it rosey, the fantasist wedded to a lie. Dangerous. Relationally ruinous. And illustrated at a macro level by the way democracy is imperilled by the partiality of our sight, the cooption of our view of the world through the sale of our lenses to the world, the ad-funded and algorhymically filtered social media feeds which show us the reality we want to see.
"..your brother's eye.." How do you take the spec out of your brother's eye? How do you take the spec out of your eye? Physician, how does one heal thyself Lk4v23? Being beloved before loving. Being qualitatively fathered before presuming to father. P drew my attention to Rio Ferdinand's moving documentary. Here briefly and abridged. Just so, how am I going to love 41? *I need help.*
Lk6v43-44 A good tree fruits because her hidden roots of prayer go deeper into the ground of God than the height of her branches. A fruiting tree remains connected to her source and humbly allows the work of the ground and the elements to produce life, and so thrives without trying to control the process herself: Jn15v4.
Lk6v45-46 As we considered in Lk5v37-38 🍶 We are vessels, containerised content carriers. What is in you? When you are cut, what do you bleed? When knocked, what do you spill? When pushed, what comes out under pressure? What, in your vino, is your veritas? You are a vessel, more than you are face on a screen, name on a badge, node on a network, a cog in a machine, meat in a foodchain, more than these, humans are a vessels. You are a vessel, more than you are what you do, who you know, where you're from, rather, you are what you carry. The heart is a pantry, a reservoir, a filing cabinet, a tanker, and in this verse, a treasure chest. You are what you carry, and you carry what you treasure. What is in you? What is your treasure? // It is the alchemist, engaged in magical thinking, who believes you can treasure a catalogue of evil and then give out good from that tank. Less superstitious than that, but only slightly, are we who believe I can CBT myself into a modified moral entity, as if filtration by strength of will were the answer, as if there were a face mask sufficient to keep the contagion contained. I have wrong appetites, I am a hooverbag of death, I've been hoarding evil upstairs for 30 years, I am the swamp, my pump is primed with pride, murder, adultery, slander.. Ph4v8 suggests I feed on the noble, pure, just and lovely.. God, give me such an apetite.
Thursday, 31 August 2017
Lk5v1-2 "pressed in .. to hear the word of God" Have you known such a biblestudy mob surge as with a Boxing Day sale throng, pressing in, suctioned to the speakers tightly to glean a gram of life. Millennials, for all their privilege, are yet the tired, the poor, the wretched refuse teeming, the homeless tempest-tost. Where will they hear the word of God? Who will explain it to us? Who will explain it to them? What practice of an integrated life will make it real? Who will lift a lamp to such a golden door? The magnetic attraction of the coherence of the bible ~ I must not take it for granted, or grow glib, or settle for limited expectations. If anyone in the sound of my voice wants to read the bible together, let's.
Lk5v3-4 Jesus and consent. Interesting that in these few lines Jesus takes, assumes upon and uses that which is Simon's, then asks him to push the boat put further, then commands him to push out even further, to which Simon responds with submissive doubt. Acquisition, request, command, dialogue - all ways that Jesus will engage us. Sometimes Jesus seeks our permission and sometimes he doesn't. I don't think there is a single formula for how Jesus engages or captivates our will, though catchphrases abound insisting that there is a right way to understand this, from John Wesley's 'God does nothing except in answer to prayer' through to John Peters' 'the Holy Spirit is not a gentleman'. What then is our posture? I think: always seeking to give God permission, always grateful that He might not choose to seek it.
Lk5v5-6 "toiled and took nothing" Jesus calls you to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls you to implausible mission fields (trawling in broad daylight) precisely after the shame of failure (no fish) and precisely at the point of exhaustion after exertion (all night).
Jesus calls the foolish to confound the wise, the weak to move the strong, the obscure to calibrate the consensus, the unfortunate to counsel the lucky. So, who is on Jesus team? Fishermen that can't catch fish. Followers who can't follow Jn14v9, stammerers Ex6v30, sinners&stockbrokers Mk2v15, nobodies 1Sm9v21 from nowheres Jn1v46.
Jesus calls those in a dry and weary land Ps63v1. Jesus calls you when the figs #fail, the grapes #fail, the olives #fail, when we've no flocks no folds no herds in your proverbial stalls Hk3v17. Jesus calls those whose wine has run out Jn2v3.
"..at your word I will.." Jesus calls you specifically. You in particular for a particular task. General revelation counsels that there's plenty more fish in the sea: little comfort. Special revelation is a hotline to that cosmic power who moves the tides, who speaks to fishes, who brought ravens to Elijah 1Ki17v4 and a whale to Jonah Jh1v17.. Christianity's sense of call must be predicated on a spooky universe which is interfered with, otherwise all callings to go fish are simply a religiouse call to work harder and try more.
"..nets were breaking.." Jesus calls us to a task less nothingy. Jesus calls us for our joy and for his glory. Where he calls he equips. Where he calls he empowers. And he will not call you to more than you can bear 1Cor10v13.
Lk5v7-8 Go Away. Peter's response to Jesus here is so fascinating, so telling. Not-being-able-to-bear-being-near-Jesus. Trying to create distance between ourselves and Jesus is a classic shame response. Remembering Helen Merrell Lynd's profound analysis of shame: 'Experiences of shame appear to embody the root meaning of the word - to uncover, to expose, to wound. They are experiences of exposure, exposure of peculiarly sensitive, intimate, vulnerable aspects of the self...Discrepancy appears between us and the social situation...We have acted on the assumption of being one kind of person living in one kind of surroundings, & unexpectedly, violently, we discover that these assumptions are false. We had thought that we were able to see around certain situations and, instead, discover in a moment that it is we who are exposed; alien people in an alien situation can see around us.' Shame is a disorientation which begets a certain kind of fear. Jesus, of his nature, unmakes our world and alienates us from who we thought we were, it is wholly appropriate that we might respond violently, wanting distance. Yet Jesus words to Peter are those magic ones spoken again again so many times in scripture: 'do not be afraid'.
Lk5v9-10 "Jane looked; and instantly her world was unmade. .. Of course he was not a boy.. it was manifest that the grip of those hands would be inescapable, and imagination suggested that those arms and shoulders could support the whole house. .. the bright solar blend of king and lover and magician stole upon her mind .. King, with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy and power.. her world was unmade; she knew that. Anything might happen now" [CSL - That Hideous Strength]
😱 "..astonished" (Gk θάμβος περιέσχεν thambos perieschen) is literally "amazement *laid hold* of them.." Are you? Do you? Have you been? There is an *in-His-grip-ness* to Christianity. Ph3v12 "..but I press on to take hold of that for which *Christ Jesus took hold of me*." To be Christian is to be firmly grasped, seized by amazement, welded-into the vine, and the surgery of being grafted in begins with the wound of conversion. True and total union with Christ is precipitated by the crisis point Peter faces here as his world is unmade, his categories are exploded and his affections are taken captive, seized like fish out of the water, summoned gasping into the light.
"Do not be afraid.." I should need to hear this. God is big, and I am small, infinitely. Every quiet-time encounter with God, if it is an encounter with God, will pass across the high-wire sublime, to within the blast radius of the kabad (כָּבַד). Be afraid. And only then, do not be afraid.
"fishers of men.." I picture this as with dynamite. But it doesn't often feel that way.
Lk5v11 'You could not have been born at a better time than the present, when we have lost everything. ' - Simone Weil. // Holding before God the desolation of this generation, believing that there is a loss here, a death, from which a resurrection is possible. For revival, we ask to know how to pray.
Lk5v12 "Make me clean." Cleanliness is deeply rooted in the mind and the body as a Metaphor We Live By, and is so visceral and obvious that it almost doesn't feel worth trying to unpack. But meditating on this a little bit I was prompted to think about Kolnai's work on disgust - the claim that both physical and moral disgust are elicited by the mixing of organic & inorganic, of life & death, of health & decay. Leprosy, illness generally, and all small instances of uncleanliness speak more metaphysically of a world where entropy and decay rule. 'Make me clean' is a plea for grace, for reverse-entropy, for resurrection.
Lk5v13-14 "Be clean.." *What is unclean?* I would distinguish between the biologically unclean and culturally "unclean" ~ it matters little because Jesus cleans both, redeems both and renews all. However, I've spent a little time meditating on these, not quite arriving at an answer to this nor to the question *who would be the priest we show ourselves to today?* Answers on a postcard.
💩 *Unclean is not just ugly, is it dangerous* Unclean goes beyond the mere unattractive aesthetic of the slowly scuffed and sullied, beyond the sad inconvenience of entropic decay, unclean is more than merely worn out to be worn away, born bent to be broken down: the cookie crumbles calamitously. Unclean is urgent because it is unsafe, like shared needles and asbestos in the walls, dirty as dirty water, we are unclean and increasingly so, as yeast diffuses to contaminate the whole, as worn brakes put third-party lives at risk, we carry contagious liability chaotically, we carry nuclear waste in clay vessels, breath-takingly precarious.
🔞 At the same time *"Unclean" is myth signage* - (Ac10v15) the cultural codification of "called-unclean" conditions calculated for the maximum preservation of the fiction of clean-enough enclaves, and on this basis, human cultures unite as cleaning machines, boundaried by exponentially over-engineered damage-limitation quarantines. "Unclean" is unclean gone awry, co-opted by vested interests, weaponised by the have-yachts to justify the land and sea they put between themselves and the untouchable have-nots. "Unclean" is the denigrated Other, that I am given license to look down on. "Unclean" is the distortion of compassion, the misdirection of our best efforts' best intentions to keep vulnerable valuables safe by a coordinated apartheid of perceived risk. "Unclean" is a value judgement, given credence by the consensus of a personal populace, whose personal opinions are ratified by some dignified personality. The high priest. The priest as judge and jury, author and perfectionist, the squeaky obsequious clean freaking queen of OCD. As far as I have pinned my colours to their "Clean", I must participate in policing the brand of kosher, preserving the value-added of 'fairtrade', enshrining the mystique of clean-enough, differentiating the virtue signal from the virtue noise.
🚿 *Jesus cleans.* As a reverse-entropy tactician he wars against the unclean and the "unclean", touching the unclean, and dismantling the "unclean". "..tell no one .. show yourself to the priest.." Jesus' ninja healing for discretion designed to dampen hysteria notwithstanding, and Jesus' culturally appropriate and biblically mandated mode of restoring an invalid to the social notwithstanding, Jesus wars against religione with exleper torpedoes fired at the control room of project "clean". Have you been released from an "unclean-ness"? Such healing is an in-itself gift and for-itself gift, but it is also a testimony against death-as-death, an affront to all disease. No healing is merely some good news, (although it is), all healing is the good news. God is there and is not silent. God is involved and he is on your side. Project "clean" is over, the job-creation scheme of priesthood is redundant, logos on foodstuffs will pass away, everything everything is changed.
🙊 Why then "..tell no one.."? Pearls before swine notwithstanding, saviour-as-cosmic-slot-machine notwithstanding, I'm interested in the sort of effects Jesus would look to avoid, vain or counter-productive effects in a population so invested in project "clean". Jesus wars for the freedom of all. In this way, your testimony is not to become mere hearsay to be filed under general quackery, cosmetic surgery or hygenic fakery. Healing which does not dismantle project "clean" from the top is mere fuel to the fire of superstition, anecdotal reinforcement to the suspicion of a capricious God and the futility of all things. But cleanness ratified by the high priest, a cure acknowledged by the analgesic-monger, is game-over for religione.
Lk5v15 Simple prayers for healing for those on our hearts who are sick: L, R, V, D
Lk5v16 Comparing the lonesomeness of Jesus with the lonesomeness of the demonised man at Gerasa Lk8v27. Jesus' solitude pushes him towards God, the solitude of the man at Gerasa pushes him further towards demonic voices. As Henri Nouwen's contrast between loneliness and solitude, I identify both in myself. Prayer for good solitude, esp in this season where the call is to roots of prayer.
Lk5v17-18 "Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, [having] come from every village.." The boa constrictor tightens its grip, the KGB have tapped the phone of this boy genius, this unhinged rabbinic prodigy plays out a coldwar cipher, a synchodochal cosmic joust on a microcosmic board.
Not knowing the end of the story of Bobby Fischer, I was totally gripped by Pawn Sacrifice last night. Does he win the game? Will the CIA get him? And, who is behind the zoom lens we occasionally find we're viewing him through? Oh what it would be to have the story of Jesus unfold, episode by episode, game by game, as for the first time, with the ending yet uncertain.
Fischer is the pawn sacrifice, but who sacrifices whom? He goes out on a limb for the crazy joy of chess, or is he left out to dry by the American political machine, abandoned to wind up less than the sum of his mental health issues?
Jesus is the pawn sacrifice, he sacrifices himself, it is his initiative, his will, his glory Jn10v18 "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." And this message of the cross is foolishness 1Co1v18? And we should do likewise? A similar holy madness, battling an unseen enemy, trusting in unseen help, losing our life to gain it Mt10v39, laying down our life for another Jn15v13, offering our bodies as living sacrifices Rm12v1.
Lk5v19-20 In the parlance of our day, Jesus calls out victim-blaming Jn9v3, but he also doesn't allow the existence of victim-blaming to caricature the victim, as though the existence of systemic (and what seems like cosmic) injustice were the last word in a person's identity. Jesus dignifies all humans by allowing us to be complex, always a mix of sin and sinned against, dignifying us all by holding us responsible for what we are responsible for. In doing so He makes a path for transformation that is high, long, wide deep.
Lk5v21-22 "Why do you question in your hearts?" Why? From what cause? To what end? Toting up coincidences, the reading at 41's morning prayer today was the remarkably similar Jn18v19-24 "Jesus asks Caiaphas, "Why do you ask me?"" Why? Not all questions are equal, neutral or valid. Not all questions are honest. Not all questions actually want an answer from Jesus. Interrogating the motives of our own questions tells us much about ourselves. But there are better questions.
'You've seen my descent / now watch my rising' -Rumi
The Ps29 word of the Lord has done this.
Lk5v25-26 What is the practice of a post-healed life? What do you do as healed when you are healed as healed? "Rose up.. picked up bed.. walked home.." The doing of life's mundane necessities and in merely so doing you glorify God? Yes, but also, as-healed you cannot but do life necessarily newly in a self-aware and so proactive and so emphatic performance of life to the exploration and display of its restoration. And in this way, you can stick a present-participle *glorifying-God* on any other verb. You can wash the dishes, glorifying God, go to work, paint a wall, cook brunch, write a paper, glorifying God, doing all in an adverbially doxological mode, doing all of life glorifially. What does that look like? In my mind I picture him rising with a breakdancer's kip up and walking home like John Cleese, limit-testing the creative expression of all embodiment. If one can picture a choreography for the post-healed life, what might be a post-forgiven life's expression? The gait of one whose chains have fallen off, the affections of one whose heart was free, the adventure of one whose conscience is clear, whose sense of the possible is infinite. Therefore go.
Lk5v27-28 Reading again Wendell Berry on exploitative economies in his collection of agrarian essays is again thoroughly convicting and thoroughly overwhelming insofar as he articulates so eloquently how our economic system is set up to destroy itself and all of us with it, starting with the poor. This system is set up to alienate us from the land, the air, the water, from marriage & communities, from our own bodies, from God. Levi here is a picture of part of the exploitative economy, charging arbitrary and unfair rates to his fellow Jews for the middleman task of collecting taxes for the Romans. And yet here we have a picture of the redemption of economy, a personal jubilee. 'Leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus.' I am aware of the danger of this just being words, of the dangers of the money and status I still have, of the exploitative systems I still lean on for food and comfort. Jesus, this year, I pray for your fearsome work of jubilee in my life and in this whole global system. I pray for Levi transformation.
Lk5v29-30 Follow me, as I put these crayons to chaos, like getting the Mighty Ducks back together. Levi prepares a feast, like the Lost Boys in Hook. Let's do this. There is, and always should be, a boyish adventure to Christianity, a whirling winking winsome parade of exuberant bravery, a festival feast laid in the presence of mine enemies: Aggressively intentional hospitality fam.
Lk5v31-32 I've been reading Jude [and finding it difficult - recommendations of Jude resources welcome] and picturing myself as the v12-13 fruitless tree, foaming shame, wandering star. Thanks be to the Great Physician, who came for the sick. He has, will and continues to heal me.
Lk5v33-34 These few days we are in the middle of Luke's catalogue of Jesus stories on the theme of food. 🍜🍝🍲
1. Food: the controversial politics of eating with whom (Lk5v29-32)
2. Food: the cosmic symbolism of eating at what times (Lk5v33-35)
3. Food: the pursuit of the excellence of storage and culturing (Lk5v36-39)
4. Food: the provocative urgency of harvest's hunter gathering (Lk6v1-5 & Lk5v4-7)
🥛🍯 The whole food supply chain is sacremental.
⚔ The whole food supply chain is a pitched battle between two world views:
😇 *A. The religiouse diet*: restrictive, risk-averse, hysterically hypochondriac, exponentially ascetic. The calorie-counting worldview of gaunt anaemic guilt appeasement that eats timidly, pushing peas around the plate of proscriptive propriety, crushed beneath the snowballed schedule of a self-reinforcing, over-engineered How-Not-To-Eat exclusion diet tending asymptotically towards zero.
🍖 *B. The Jesus diet*: sucking on the marrow of life, munching through an all-you-can-eat ontological buffet of utter abundance, fundamental surplus, brimming over with the both-and of pie-in-the-sky and cake-on-your-plate. A view of food that is celebrating-about, we eat meaningfully about a greater reality, we eat parabolically, as parables-about.
👰🤵 The parable in view is the *wedding feast*: Now, weddings are complicated animals, often not more than the sum of their naivete, mired in a commercialised saccharine sentimentality, the wedding feast is so co-opted by cloying entitlement, lumbering as a virtue-signalling, people-pleasing millstone of debt around the necks of newlyweds. But even through all that, there is something in the wedding-feast-as-symbol which is resilient to still catch us off guard, the exception that defines the rule, a universal exemption where, for some reason, we suspend our disbelief and permit a diet consistent with partial, particular, personal universe. At the wedding we eat-about-something, we eat with abandon towards something, in view of, in the light of, towards the affirmation of something personal and peculiar.
~ So it is with Jesus. Such is the Christian's diet. Whilst we may fast sometimes, we have unlimited cause to feast, to build cathedrals with our food, to articulate a universe of infinite freedom and harmonic coherence in how, and when, and with whom we feast. 🍰
Lk5v35-36 A fasting that springs from the epistemology of the heartbroken wife. As I meditate on this I note that the few times in life I have fasted with my whole spirit, not constantly looking for loopholes, have been in moments of sorrow and loss in relation to my husband. I recall G and I identifying this phenomenon together in conversation, she similarly identifying times of distress in relation to men as the only times she would refuse food. Together we came to the conclusion that only when faced with pain this important do we dignify ourselves by refusing to numb this pain with food. Bridegroom pain is too important. But usually I am quite content to numb all the background things that are not-ok with food. Perhaps ways of fasting are gendered in ways that food is gendered - numbing the spirit with food a more typically female pathology? The fact that I can only fast when it really hurts shows that most of the time I'm happy to ignore what's really going on simmering underneath my literal and spiritual skin. So maybe I need to transpose these experiences of the loss of the bridegroom at a cosmic scale for all times and places, and let that motivate my fasting, which is to say, to dignify myself more readily by acknowledging my existential condition more honestly. Maybe this throws new light on v36 too: fasting is a refusal to patch over pain. Not pretending it's not broken. But grieving the torn garment, receiving from God the new one.
Lk5v37-38 🍶 We are vessels [we are clay jars 2Co4v7; clay jars formed by a potter Is64v8; clay jars for variable uses Rm9v21; clay jars of variable strength 1Pt3v7; containers to be filled and poured out defilingly Mt15v11; cups cleaned on the outside and inside Mt23v25; liquid spirit containers Ev36v27 (I'm sure there are more and better refs, if you want to send me some)]
🍶 We are vessels. The quality of a vessel, the jugliness of a jug, it's Heideggarian thinghood consists in the void sculpted by the potter. By contrast with the notions of a human person as:
🍖 a solid lump of biologically thick matter
🕸 a hyperconnected node in a data point cloud
🎞 a 2dimmensional image of a projected surface.
🍶 We are vessels, cavernously depthed, 🕳🕳 peer into the eyes of an other and see a chasm fathoms down. The verse today considers what ruptures that vessel, the split and the shatter. When we fail to contain, we fail to be, we are devesseled and unthung.
We are filled. We are vessels remade to be refillable, new covenant vessels, elastic and tonkable, no longer the card prototype of a human, no longer the dry-run dress-rehearsal prop, we are now the real deal. We have to be, and everyone you know has to be. Grace's superabundance will overwhelm your frail frame unless it is fundamentally reengineered. The split wineskin is such a vivid visual of superabundance, the effervescent liquid which presses up and bubbles out of a person. 🍾 The idea of an active and expansive liquid captures my imagination: the gospel is champagne, ready to pop, take the muselet off the bottle, it must be preached Ac4v20 Je20v9.
Lk5v39 This perplexing final statement to my mind makes an already ambiguous set of metaphors all the more so. For old wine (if this means matured wine) IS better...A standard reading of this seems to be that those who say 'the old is best' are resisting the new thing, which is the Spirit (vs the Law), so the old/new distinction here is one of chronological difference rather than mapping oenological quality. But maybe, as I tried to chew over when I preached on this passage a while back we'd do well to note that Jesus doesn't condemn 'the old' here, but rather notes that there are destructive ways of trying to put the old and the new together - ways that damage both old and new. Rather, we need ways of bringing together the freshness and the maturity of old and new testaments in a way that understands them singing in harmony. Chatting to P about this over potatoes he observed the dangers of trying to assume too much of new or immature Christians - that we can give them too much, causing them to 'burst', destroying new faith, rather than tracking the Spirit's own fermentation process. Things to ponder. (It's been interesting reading Luke over different timescales this year, it leads to a kind of virtuous looping back into sayings and stories at a high resolution, wheels within wheels.)
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Lk4v1-2 A call to Christian extremism is a call to the radical Real, inclusive of a radical self-knowledge through radical self-denial. You know yourself only sufficiently through God who knows you perfectly personally and objectively. How do you know God? ~ be full of the spirit // be led by the spirit // go into the wilderness. // By contrast, I don't step up to ministry, I never come of age, I don't go into the wilderness, never testing my limit conditions, never knowing myself, never lighting a single pixel on Satan's radar of threats to his empire. // And what is not wilderness? The padded and synthetic life of cheap grace and fossil fuels, algorhythmically cuddled inside a self-reinforcing social media filtered bubble, the painless risk-free, lukewarm banality of the unexamined life. Exmoor, bring it on.
Lk4v3-4 Food & fasting, something I've been thinking about a lot of late, & the task of self-control we are called to. Fasting is made possible by self-control, but as Jesus demonstrates with his words to the devil, in order for the self-control to be true self-control, a fruit of the spirit - rather than an unsustainable & damaging negation and modification of one's will in one's own strength - it must be grounded in the insight, knowledge and security of the spirit, namely that it's really true that 'man does not live by bread alone.' Most of the time, it is embarrassing to admit, I don't believe this. When I'm hungry I believe quite fervently and justify to myself very often and convincingly that I should break fast. At some level I don't rest in the knowledge of God. I don't believe that reality is set up to sustain me spiritually. This is perhaps why knowledge precedes self-control in the list in 2Pt1v5-7. Pray for me, that I might grow in faith, that I might believe that God's reality will sustain me, pray that it would lead me to self-control - in my emotional life, my relationship with food, & my BFRB tendencies, the lack of self-control at the heart of all I see as connected. Jn6v35
Lk4v5-6 </Exmoor> Jesus' wilderness is no recreational wilderness, and he is not refreshed and replenished after communing with a bucolic idyll. In hunger and exhaustion you will know yourself and you will know God. // The more powerful temptations are not temptations for the wrong thing, but the right thing in the wrong way, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, on the wrong basis, by the wrong means. The Kingdom is not ends-justified, the kingdom is a journey-to, a becoming, a perpetual happening. // Jesus doesn't dispute that Satan could bestow authority and glory.
Lk4v7-8 This funny back-and-forth between the Devil and the Christ at one level reads like a comedic play. The layers within layers and loops within loops whereby the devil convinces himself that he is Godlike enough to use the stuff God had given him to trick God into treating him (the devil) as God becomes a hilarious farce, except that we recognise this tendency within ourselves, so the comedy is also a tragedy. The devil sounds like one deeply insecure, trying to play it cool...I has all the powers yo, but pls like? Worship meeeeeee. //Jesus' "worship God only" can be as snarky as it is sober, the divine punchline to all and any power play or insanity we find ourselves entangled in.
Lk4v9-10 We watched Whiplash last night. Is Fletcher the Devil? Is Fletcher the Wilderness?
Lk4v11-12 It's not a new observation to note that Satan uses scripture to try to tempt Jesus into disobeying the Father, & thus a cautionary tale for all time on the possible abuses of scripture. Nothing is so easy, lazy, inauthentic and potentially damaging as proof texting. I am guilty of this. We align ourselves with Satan when we misuse scripture - by being casual, careless, over-confident or under-contextualised in conclusions drawn from the bible, and commands taught to others accordingly. Jesus demonstrates a critique of superficial appeal to scripture in a way we can all model - by having such an overview of the whole, a sense of the multifaceted nature of scripture and it's deep connection to reality, that appropriate triangulation with and by other parts of the text can be given. In this vein and more specifically Jesus must have a sense of the true safety described by Ps91, a sense of safety both less and more literal than the devil hopes to persuade unto. I pray for such a sense of ultimate existential safely, for a deep reading of the bible, and the wisdom and discernment that flow thus.
Lk4v13-14 🐅 "An opportune time." *Do you believe in active evil?* Do you believe in active evil, and does your life, your prayer, your relationships, the seriousness with which you guard your heart eyes wallet tongue, the urgency with which you seek the good true beautiful humble noble.. - do these priorities in your life speak an urgent ernest belief in an active evil? Regardless the literality of the lion that prowls around seeking to devour 1Pt5v8, would your life be engineered proportionally to resist such an evil which was active, a devil who was tactically timing and strategically scheming malice against you? Do you believe in active evil? You are being fattened to be eaten, lulled into carelessness, troubled into inaction, inured into apathy. The Christian life is a battlefield, a mental fight, the navigating of an unscrupulous and unfair landscape of landmines and dirty tricks set by an intelligent life calculating your demise. There are two sides on the pitch, and one of them is interested to see that you do not end well, an enemy who knows precisely the lies you need to hear, both where you are weak, and _when_ you are weak. // "An opportune time." *Is your prayer life timed?* Is your faith in Christ well-timed and timely at all times? It is not an if but a when you will be vulnerable, angry, hungry, tired, lonely. What then? What are you then? What assumptions are your default? What habits form your normal, constant, in-and-out-of-season standard? Christianity is not a series of moments, mere flashes of spiritual brilliance; Christianity is the long haul, a patient permanence. And, Christianity is not done alone, a one man pill-box; we are a body, a defensive line standing in each other's gaps in time Ez22v30. We make no time opportune for the Devil: Redeeming time because the days are evil Eph5v16 // Don't give the devil a foothold: don't let the sun go down on your anger Eph4v27/26 // Don't give up meeting together Hb10v25 // Pray continually 1Th5v17 // Rejoice always 1Th5v16
Would you be upstanding
Would you show your understanding
Not mere innovative branding
But a life lived ampersanding
Luke 4v17-18 ⬇ "The Spirit of the Lord is upon [you]" Ponder uponnness. As hand on shoulder, as hat on head, the Spirit is switched on, pressed in and pressing on and on and anon. The Spirit-of, the presence-of, the character-of, the very-particular-person-of God in his nimble invasive form *Is. On. You.* These Georgian ceiling heights leave room for a genie brooding upon, the flaming torch blazing from the crowns of the crowned image bearers of God, the towering dignity of the Spirited-Upon. Now, and on-going, therefore go. Because the same Spirit is upon you (Rm8v11); Be lead and be carried away by such a Spirit-upon (Lk2v27 Ac19v21); See and speak by such a Spirit-upon (Rv21v10 1Cor12v3); Pray in the Spirit's power (Eph6v18); Participate in the Spirit's love (Ph2v1); Be alive because the Spirit of the Lord is upon you (1Pt3v18) // 📯 "Good News" Oh but not to me, not in my Nazareth, too broke and parochial, too far flung, too far gone. I'll settle for Good-enough News, mere reminiscences about the Good-Old days, the fairy-tale pluperfect Kingdom that was and might have been. Oh God.
Ladies & Gentlemen would you take your seats
Would you look real deep
Contemplate what's incomplete.
Love's supreme virtue: attentiveness' feat
Behold the Christ: awake from sleep
Lk4v21-22 👏 "And all spoke well of him.." // Lk6v26 ⚠ "Woe to you when all men speak well of you.." (...Lk4v29) Fam, it's a narrow gate, to a long road of suffering violence, dying to self, hating your mother and father, making yourself a slave, turning the other cheek, letting them have your last cloak, going a second mile, counting all gain as loss, all pain as sanctifying, all maligning as witness, all persecution as glory. "When they speak well of you..", when they speak well of me, when I am wooed by a premature well-done-good-and-faithful humanitarian, for my crowd-pleasing performance of a tolerantly inoffensive moral life, rendered in my own strength, propping up the mild-mannered myth of self-salvation and good-enough goodness, woe to me when they speak well of me, the allure of men's fleeting and fickle praise, the tacit 'Peace, Peace..' when there is no peace, there is no good-enough, all self-saved good works are worth less than worthless. Christianity that clings to Jesus alone is beaten with rods, stoned and shipwrecked, adrift on the open sea, in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, sleepless, hungry, cold and exposed. 2Cor11v25-27. Woe to me when I settle for less-than. Oh Phil, be so careful when they speak well of you, when they laud 41, when they make much of me in my own strength.
Lk4v23-24 'It is part of morality not to be at home in one's home' -Adorno ...and part of prophecy too? Easy to say, difficult to judge what counts as healthy rootedness and what delusional comfort. What is holy disruption and what is pathological unboundariedness. Likewise the scepticism of 'heal yourself' - what counts as good critical thinking, and what hubristic untrust. Some measure of good prophetic disruption in the home will be the Isaiah fruits of v18-19 - does it bring liberty to captives? Does it bring sight to the blind?
Lk4v25-26 The God which a befamined Breaking Point austerity-Britain, is looking for, is one who will help us Make America Great Again, will help us Take Back Control. No? The Jesus-loves-you-but-I'm-his-favourite antidote to stern, impersonal, the-gods-are-angry notions of God, is helpful up to a point, but it contains within itself no self-limiting principle to constrain it from an entitled America-first America-first sense of what that love looks like. Jesus loves you way too much to leave you as you are, loves you better than to subsidise your cliquing, loves you too much to enable the patterning of stodgy stagnant parochial self-interested love-ins. The love of God is a gushing torrent, fam, he's out in the yard, he's romping over the hills. You may have to cross the sea to see the cross because Aslan is on the move, the wild goose of the spirit is ecstatic, the Kingdom of God is restlessly inclusive. Pause to build tents and you'll miss it, let alone walls. And yet my faith and mental landscape is so divided, so closed bordered. I often feel like I'm on the wrong side of a glass partition, gazing through a one-way mirror at an alluring miraculous possibility, pawing at the panes of soundproofing which keep me from supernature, gasping inside an airless church of my own making. The bible says Go. For God's sake Go. For your own sake Go.
Lk4v27-28 They were furious. What is fury? There are at least as many types of fury as there are fear, I should know. What's going on at this moment with Jesus? Is the fury of these people a true indignation, founded straightfowardly on a sense of their entitlement and standing in the world, a fury founded in a worldview so entrenched that it can't conceive of it's categories being transgressed? If so there's a purity to this fury, though it is based on a terrible falsehood. Or is it an anger founded in a known guilt? When I'm told that I've spoiled something I feel like I'm already guilty and shameful, I might as well act accordingly. As Freud observed, destructive fury can be a way of inhabiting our guilt, willing our own punishment, in a way that refuses to accept redemption as a possibility. Or is it an anger that masks a fear? Is it the rage that spills over when faced with unsafety? Did something in Jesus provoke a deep distress that he may be saying something true, that we might not be safe in the world because God might ask something more of us than our inheritance. How terrible, how fearful. This fury is the fight instinct of the trapped animal afraid for its life. Sometimes the first anger is a defence against the second. Sometimes the second is a defence against the third. They were furious, why am I?
Lk4v29-30 (Sacred Texting and 41's morning readings conspire together today) // “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to [me], and not to the world?” Jn14v22 // Jesus loves _me_. *Me*. // How does God manifest himself to _me_? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for me to me?
*The scandal of selective love.* A God who loves with a selective love cannot be inferred abstractly.
*The scandal of selective love.* A personal God is never the conclusion from an impersonal method.
*The scandal of selective love.* Is infinitely more than I justly deserve.
*The scandal of selective love.* Extreme, divisive, uncomfortable, this sort of love killed Jesus.
*The scandal of selective love.* This sort of love is not what I want to hear.
*The scandal of selective love.*
"To consider Europe alone, the sense of the person remains embryonic throughout antiquity until the dawn of the Christian era. The man of antiquity is absorbed in the city and the family, subservient to a destiny that is blind, nameless and stronger than the gods themselves. The philosophers value only impersonal thought and its static order, which is the order of nature as well as of ideas. To them the singular appears as a blemish, whether in nature or in consciousness. Plato is tempted to reduce the individual soul to a participation in nature plus a participation in the city; whence his 'communism'. And for him as for Socrates, individual immortality is only a beautiful, bold hypothesis. Aristotle indeed declares that there is no reality except the individual; but his God cannot will with a particular will, nor can he know essence in the singular, nor love with a selective love." // "It is Christianity that, first of all, imports into these gropirgs a decisive notion of the person. We can hardly comprehend today what a complete scandal this was to the thought and sensibility of the Greeks. Whilst for them, multiplicity was an evil inadmissible to the spirit, Christianity made it into an absolute, by affirming the creation exnihilo, and the eternal destiny, of each and every person. The supreme Being which through love brings them into existence no longer mikes the world a unity through the abstraction of the idea, but by an infinite capacity for the indefinite multiplication of these separate acts of love. Far from being an imperfection, this multiplicity, proceeding from superabundance, bears that superabundance in itself as an illimitable interchange of love." Emmanuel Mounier // ~ Jesus loves you. *You*. // How does God manifest himself to you? // How does God make manifest his atoning love for you to you?
Lk4v31-32 Authority. Authority is a fascinating concept - cutting across traditional philosophical wrangles about objectivity and subjectivity. Authority comes from something external, the experience of authority is nothing but the experience of something outside yourself that makes a claim on you. But the recognition of authority is different to coercion - authority makes a claim on the will, rather than flattening it. Authority requires autonomy & heteronomy, self & other to both be active, in asymmetrical ways. 'The call' that philosophers, theologians & poets speak of is the call of God, the call of the cosmic Christ. It is equally incoherent to propose a life lived without any appeal to authority as it is to propose an appeal to authority that has no connection to lived response - the caricature of the Christian in a closed loop who says the bible has authority only because the bible says it has authority, without trying to demonstrate what it is about the scriptures that is (literally) captivating, without making room for the call to reverberate. I pray for more v32 amazement as I journey into deeper understanding of Christ's authority.
Lk4v33-34 Luke, the good physician's pity ponders the possessed patient's predicament. "spirit of an unclean demon.." What is not tautological in this expression ~ where any one of those three words would have sufficed?
"Spirit" Both the internal pervasiveness of a blood alcohol level diffused into the whole and the external aroma of that active corruption, the atmosphere of a thing leaking from the pores of the creature, wheezing a grey mist of decay. The spirit of a thing is both the sum of its parts and the centre of its character, both its headline identity and a catalogue of its disastrous effects.
"Unclean" A sticky viscous shame, a socially-learnt soiling of your Sunday best, a filthy mind's abhorrent stained vestments made double conspicuous by a clingy contaminant. The variously demonised keep themselves invisible with acrobatic ingenuity, beneath the concealer, just above the cuff of the immaculate long sleeves, under the veneer of a well-adjusted upstanding citizen is the bare zombieform of contagious pollution, shame shaming shame, infectious embarrassment.
"Demon" This agent of active personal evil possesses people because demons are possessive people, parasitic and unstable. Demons are a voice, primarily, voice is their mode and form, because that is the nature of untruth personified, it embodies as the verbalisation of deceit, they possess by a verbal contract, they woo by lies, they war by words. And so when threatened the voices become exponentially shrill, rising disruptively to a rowdy snarl, summoning the plural first person, conjuring the spectre of the suprahuman force that lays a hold of a person. Just now, I'm thinking about social media's grip, I'm feeling for the equipment to diagnose it, to nuance a description of it, to communicate the effect and to propose proportionate action. I'm not making the strong claim that social media is not innately evil, but.
~ Social media is pervasive as a spirit-of, invisible and internal, first thing in the morning, last thing at night, it has seized a hold of language, perception, memory and relationships from the inside.
~ Social media covers and carries clean and unclean judgements, likes and unlikes, representations and identities, it is the simulacrum of a superpower to self-save the image of yourself - whilst the physical incarnation of yourself offline wastes away surrounded by unclean plates, unclean clothes strewn offscreen amongst the unhygenic totality of the neglected real.
~ Social media is the voices, shrill voices rendered in the we, presenting as consensus, deafeningly close, funded by adverts that profit by exploiting insecurities with untruths.
Do we know what we mean today when we say, "we wrestle against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Eph6v12 what are we looking for? And how do we fight?
"Let *us* alone" The _we_ of the demonic, the plural chorus, the massing swarm of indefinite number. Versus you, the holy _one_ of God. Always outnumbered, never outgunned. Eph6v13-18
Lk4v35-36 Red letter words to speak to your voices: be quiet and come out. Say less, show more, that is: let me see what you are, where you've come from and what your motives are. Dear voices: I see you. You get less driving power, more exposure. This is the work of Christ the light of the word.
BE QUIET AND COME OUT!
And come out.
Lk4v37-38 "..reports spread.." *Vague reports.* Rumour and hearsay. Abstracted tracts and yesheis links (ishn't she?). Chinese whispers mingle signal and noise. Nah fam it actually happened. Happened to me, it can happen to you. It happened like this. Christianity is bespoke, precise, local, nuanced, intensely close to the bone: with mine own eyes, to mine own life, he is mine own saviour saving me from my very detailed brokenness into an elaborate salvation replete with minutiae, three-dimensional in its complexity, immersive in its totality. To the numbered hairs on my head, the report of Jesus is not vague. *Old reports.* Somewhat as old news re-posted becomes fake news. Recycling the Good News of the testimony of Toronto's 90s.. Wilberforce's 1800s.. the middle ages.. the early church. Back in the day. Way back when in the golden age of Gothic, when community was authentic, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.. Christianity is now. Christianity is ongoing, going on and on, day to daily day. Christianity is a new start to a new life with a new song. The immanence of Christ is timely, tailored to the language of right now, perpetually rerelevanted to the infinitesimal slice of this hairbreadth of eternity. And the trajectory of the Kingdom is towards greater-things Jn14v12, more-than-you-can-imagine Eph3v20.. the action we report will be ever at the brink of what we have concepts for. The old stories are great, but Christianity is the promise of new news. *Dull reports.* Second-hand strained accounts of someone else's salvation, de-risked arms-length and wistful retellings of plagiarised testimony. Timid and incompetent reports which settle for the diminishing return of a photocopied gospel, the cancer of inorganically replicated church. But Christianity is all risk, and the risk is the danger of the specific, the boldness of the great unknown, the adventure of the unprecedented. Christianity is a terrifying done-unto. Christianity is a terrifying do-likewise.
Live a story worth telling
Tell a story worth living
Lk4v41-42 "departed to a desolate place" Barely one chapter in to his adult ministry and Jesus makes time to take time to breathe. Away from the demonic chorus (v41), and also far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, taking momentary respite from the baying mass (v42). Jesus' self-care routine makes no virtue of being eaten alive, or busied to death, glorying nothing in premature martyrdom at the hands of the inevitably perpetually urgent scope of vast human need. A word to people-pleasers, to the sentimentally compassionate, to the fussy fixer-uppers, to those like me, dying to look busy :~ if rest is good enough for God.. leave by a side door, turn your phone off, pace yourself, Christianity is the long haul.
Lk43-44 "Preached." Rob Bell talks of the sermon as an artform, and surely Jesus' preaching should be thought of as such, the well placed parables & poems, questions & commands that we're about to see in abundance in his preaching ministry Lk6v17-46 are breathtaking in form as well as content. Jesus' preaching is playful & responsive, convicting & confounding, sometimes direct, sometimes sideways on, unformulaic, aesthetically rich. I pray that we might learn from the master good principles for preaching. It is an artform, but more of us are artists than we think, & the holy spirit within us convicts, coheres, & creates things with our words. Jesus, we pray for our preachers and our preaching, for more depth, more life, more Christlikeness.