Saturday, 27 April 2013
Friday, 26 April 2013
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Mt13v1-2 'Beside the sea' Come Lord Jesus to these shores. VisitEngland we pray, for here there is “more sea to be beside”, more beaches to beach mission, more beach combing to seek and save lost metaphors, more crowds to gather, more work to be done. Here we see Jesus in FatBoy Slim mode a la Live on Brighton Beach, 2002. .. And note that it is 'That same day..' - a relentless preaching schedule. Let's be so, and prepare to be so, and so strengthen ourselves for the many works God would have us do today. .. 'Sat down..' - it was a Jewish teaching posture, but there are other seated allusions. Jesus will sit in judgment, on a throne. And there is a reclining at table mode of sitting-with. There is something peculiarly incarnate about sitting: we set on his know because he first sat down.
Mt13 What is the seed? What is the seedbed? Where is the soil? Who is the sower? Ours is a parabolic life.
Mt13v3 The kingdom of heaven is like a window looking onto a field of planted seeds, from within a room covered in old photographs.
Mt13v4 We know one who is such a seedling, along with all her class. Seeds & time. Where do you throw, where does it grow? What seeds get planted at dinner parties? How do we then sow? Where & how? Here & there? Or? De-weed in me a clean heart oh God, un-pave me here, help me see these birds for what they are. My heart is a tumbling composter, mixed up to hope to be fertile ground. We the soil, the sower, & the seed. Trees by grace through faith.
Mt13v5-6 Often when the bible talks of roots and shoots etc it is we who are the proverbial plant. As in the complexity of Rm11's grafting in, of Eph3v17's 'being-rooted in love' or Col2v6's 'rooted in Christ'. Here however we are the soil: that substance whose key quality is its capacity to contain, absorb, nurture and support. How can we learn so deep a capacious receptivity to grace but by coming to know that earthy soily one in whom we are likewise and thereby rooted. Meditate on his depth, his constancy, his boundless capacity to hold. So, no longer to be but a thin veneer of soil, but a heavy barrel of compost, fertile, potent and fruitful.
Mt13v7-8 'but some..' in the GNB. Casts the mind to our Dn3v18 'but if not', Eph2v4 'but God', Lk15v20 'but when he was still far off'. Distinct things happening in each of these, yet again in each this 'but' absorbs the full reality of the reasons for despair that has preceded it, looks it in the face, & speaks a victorious word of hope & life. & a double hope in the face of this untransformation in self & others: this will be a 'some' someday.
Mt13v9-10 v9 Ears: We all have ears no? What then is Jesus emphasising about such a quality of perceiving? That parables especially require a deliberate hearing, an intentional listening? .. v10 Why parables? But really why? What are the four causes of Jesus' parabolic discourse? (Please correct me) 1. Materially. Because the Kingdom's very substance is poetry, made of layered layers, a pregnantly fractal thing found at work in a million metaphors. 2. Formally. The Kingdom as a whole is a giant poem, all parables function in conformity to the essence of the whole, parabolism is a true Truth. 3. Efficiently. Because Jesus' mind is fervently creative, bubbling over with allusion and metaphor, constantly buzzing with this-which-is-like-that. 4. Finally. Towards the parabolisation of his listeners, dignifying them with poetry, the engagement of true-hearing of which is itself healing. We hear miraculously.
Mt13v11-12 Vicious circles & virtuous circles. & more than this, probably, I have thought today. What are the motivations for your parables? They are not told to conceal but reveal. Secret meanings that only those in the know will know, but they'll know the meaning because of the limit of its knowness, you know.
Mt13v13-14 Again, why does Jesus speak in parables? (Thanking Evelyn for her note about this parable's concern for the self-identity definitions of the listener) Why does Jesus speak in parables? 1. Jesus makes clear in this verse that his parables are *not* mere illustrative allegories or quaint memory aids. 2. Also, while they rely heavily on listener participation, they are *not* relativistically vague, they are not a Change-We-Can-Believe-In presentation that allows everyone to vote for the Obama they feel able to project their own Hope onto. Parables engage your projected hopes but offensively, even divisively. They engage preconceptions, but critically? 3. I would argue that, while cryptic, it is to misrepresent the character of Jesus if we consider his code as secretive communication to those cruelly predestined. Rather, 4. I, perhaps ambitiously, find parables to be designed as imaginative environments in which your identity is engaged, revealed and challenged. Somewhat like that moment in the Matrix where Morpheus loads Neo and himself into a training program: 'This is the Construct. It's our loading program.. Your appearance now is what we call “residual self-image.” It is the mental projection of your digital self..' Jesus cares about your identity, the self-image you practice faith with, your self-understanding, your projected comportment. Why does Jesus speak in parables? Because the medium is the message, and his message concerns your identity, and your identity is defined by your parable reception: you are your ability to receive parables, you are the person your reception of a parable transforms you to be. Faithing is an exercise of entering the parabolic. (You know kung-fu? Show me.) And thus Christianity is the wildly imaginative life. We tell stories to reveal our listeners predispositions and then to redisposition them. In this way, I believe in redestination.
Mt13v15-16 We participate in certain ways of looking hearing to resist our own healing. Fixation on details fill the mind to protect oneself from the glory of God. The fear of the calling that is already spoken if only our hearts would allow attunement within the fear & trembling. Afraid of the exposure of such a clear bight light. Afraid that Christ won't rush in as promised, perhaps, & the texture of broken skin serves as a barrier against the emptiness inevitable if Christ does not dwell in the heart. Details distract from atheism's void. Caught between the fear that God is real, & the fear that God is not real, I do not lift my eyes to the Lord, & so I am not healed. God, have mercy, teach me to fight to see today, where, what, how to see.
Mt13v17-18 This is Jesus' listening campaign , railing against out diversity of deafnesses and distractions. V18 He instructs in the imperative, assuming that you're got to decide to listen, intentionally. So, defog your goggles, turn up your hearing aid, calibrate your knower, find a quiet space, make a quiet time, turn on, tune in, turn up, tune up, listen hard, listen close, deliberately. v17 Listening/looking's (1) motivation 'longed' and (2) destination 'it'. (1) Are my efforts to listen in my quiet times desperate? Ps63v1 'earnestly' I seek you..? 1Pt1v12 Angels 'long' to look into..? (2) 'It'. Some say they don't need salvation, but everybody is looking for something. Jn1v38 'What are you looking for?' Big bangers are searching the skies Mt16v3, exegetes are searching their sacred texts Jn5v39, but it is not enough to look earnestly, you have to have humble eyes that would acknowledge a God if found.
Mt13v19-20 v20 Spiritual known unknowns & v19 unknown unknowns, or perhaps convicted unconvictions & unconvicted unconvictions. Both are a spiritual battle with the flesh, the world & the devil, distracted unattention by the self & active assault by the evil one. Unsnatched, sunk-in words of life & healing take the heart's wrestling-with &resting-with Jesus. Equip me for both, oh Lord my God.
Mt13v21-22 Unfruit. What is this 'fruit' of which Jesus speaks? Gal5v22-23? Fruit of Love Joy peace etc? Or Jn12v24? Fruit containing multiplied seeds? Seeds (as sex) serve analogies for both flavour and fertility, both pleasure and procreation. Today, perhaps exacerbated by our v22 'riches', these metaphors struggle to find simple traction and intellectual integration in the imagination of this Christian who lives so far from the agrarian base on which these allegories lie. Today, given the preeminence of contraception, we might do well to revisit Dawson Trotman's Born to Reproduce, even with its glaring overemphases. Today, when it seems coherent for Monsanto to patent genetic-use-restriction or the 'terminator technology' of suicide seed, we should consider the spirituality of seed-saving. .. Riches are deceitful, they are brambly strangly sterilising flavour-robbing parable-addlers. Be weeding.
Mt13v23-24 With the ending of 'sower' & the beginning of 'weeds' it is amazing to me that the latter is as unfamiliar to me as the former is familiar, it is like reading it for the first time. Jesus the depth psychologist, Jesus the high priest, speaking Aramaic poetry under the same sun trying to shine this morning in London. Time & space & translation would pull at the meaning of your words, dear Christ, but I do long to receive them in my heart. Both parables speak of the reality of transformation, of seed-like new-life reality, really, really, this is what the universe is like, take & eat. Reading this week Aaron Beck's 'Cognitive Triad' of clinical depression is the experience of the self as worthless, the world as meaningless, & the future as hopeless – & so we need these parables, at whatever scale or intensity we believe this triad of lies, we need Jesus parabolic truth-seeds sown deep in us.
Mt13v25-26 The Kingdom of Heaven is like the Wacky Races, subject to dastardly schemes and frustrations. The Kingdom is like a movie sequel: the parable of the Sower Part Deux, Reloaded, Back with a Vengeance. One can see why this extension to the popular tale of a happy sower and good soil is neglected in popular preaching because 1. we're accused of sleeping (v25), then 2. our agrarian idyll is interrupted by the active evil of biological warfare by invasive species – an unwinnable battle (v29), and 3. it is made bearable in the now only by a doctrine of final judgement in punitive hell or at least annihilationism (v30) ~ tricky. .. Sleeping. Commentaries divide over napping's culpability, suffice to say, asleep you are vulnerable, and as good soil you are attractive (somewhat as the tidied flat in 12v44) so as Christians and leaders we should be wary of who we allow to go sowing in our field.
Mt13v27-28 If the field is the world, then the parable is a theodicy (is it?) how is it different from pie-in-the-sky platitiudes? & are we the workers, asking Jesus questions on how to root out evil, receiving prohibitive answers? What are the limits of justice in the not-yet, & why? What evil do we surrender to Jesus? All that damages so much as it heals? How is this different to a crass hedonistic calculus? The master's face & voice? Asking...
Mt13v29-30 To weed or not to weed. Weeding seems a noble cause. Good-enough mothering of the squash seedlings on the window sill before me would leave the 99 and weed around the one lost seed. v29 'But he said, “No”' Man, don't do it, it's not worth it to risk it.. What does one risk by weeding? One risks an untruth about God's character by cruelly over-emphasising one aspect, rather, God in his exuberant sufficiency and generous patience causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust Mt5v45. By contrast weeding is gloomy noodling, pedantic procrastinating, obsessive navel-gazing, which considers God as a calculating taskmaster Mt24v25 – so I, the weeder, bury my talents beneath distracting minutiae. Weeding is like our litigious bureaucracy whose preemptive precaution pulls up much good seed. Let go and let God. Chuck handfuls of seed on path, stone and field. Slosh on the water. Be hyperactively hopeful.
Mt13v31-32 Jesus makes mischief. After struggling with the parable of the weeds, I see the glint in his eye with this one. Mustard plants forbidden under rabbinical law, as weeds, & so the last parable perhaps needs reading in the light of this one: not everything that, at first glance, looks like a weed is a weed. Some 'weeds' are the Kingdom breaking in curling up going crazy all over this garden. Mischief, & I want to play. Urgent, untamed, shelter.
Mt13v33-34 It is interesting to compare the juxtaposed mustard seeds and yeast. Perhaps through the two 'all's of Eph1v23. Jesus 'fills all in all', (or all in y'all perhaps.) His gospel spreads extensively as mustard seed proliferates into the cracks everywhere. His gospel spread intensively as yeast permeates across every inch of your person. Unstoppably God is spreading into all of you, through all of yous. (Many useful you-plurals in dialect) .. Consider yeast. Making bread is a dramatic Igor-It's-Alive! sort of thing. Before the gospel we are as dust, flour, lacking that active ingredient. But, once infected we are animated and transformed. Am I? .. So this woman prepares three satas of flour – as much as one can sensibly make in one batch. Have I? What am I using the kitchen for? .. Hidden. Stowaway poetry, importing the gospel in unexpected ways. The kingdom of parables is like a box of chocolates..
Mt13v35-36 Secrets revealed, v36 explanations asked for. Secrets, like v11, 'kekrymmena', 'things hidden', & hidden from the foundation of the world. What is hidden? There are things hidden in my unconscious, hidden from others, hidden in the past, buried in the ground, locked up in organic matter, flung out into deep space, stories of civilisations unspoken..which is the theme of Ps78 from which Jesus draws his claim. The Jewish story, made know to future generations, that it might now be lost in being hidden. Reminds me of 'Nostalgia for the Light', of searching for that v36 explanation, in one's personal social & cosmic history. All mixed up, the story of civilisation one of Ps78v61-64 personal grief. Search the sky, search the desert for dry bones, search the archives, search for the questions to ask the living, search your self. And. Ask the Christ. Who is both the revelation and the revealed. Here he says he reveals the mystery, but Eph1v9 he IS the mystery, the secret plan made known. Each search is an identity question, a hidden plea towards hiddenness, an am I real? Am I good? & the secret says, yes, Eph1v3-14 chosen beloved, from cosmic past through culture's filter to present heartbeat, I love you. & I will keep trying to tell you that I love you in parabolic ways, which is the play of the hidden & the revealed. Baudrillard: 'Looking implies that the object viewed covers & uncovers itself, that it disappears at every instant, for looking involves a kind of oscillation.. While everything is of equal visibility, everything shares the same shallow space.' Dear one, I use parables to speak depths of love, seek & you will find.
Mt13v37-38 This parable gets no easier. There is good seed & weeds: there are cops & robbers, cowboys & indians, goodies & baddies. Oh Jesus, don't you black-or-white me! - it's easy to read Jesus as polemic, partisan divisive, platonising some corny monoculture. Isn't good seed an anthropocentrism anathema to the deep ecologist's esteemed biodiversity. What is a weed anyways? Is good seed 'good' only because it is currently culturally found to be nutritious? - Don't you know I was sown this way. But Gaga's determinism is turned on its head. You were born this way, and you were bought at a price, and you were made distinct and are doubly distinguished. All is not one, you are chosen: creation and election are privileges with incumbent duties. (Kurokawa would have us blur away such accountability.) If you find yourself as good seed, don't just grow with the flow, grow against the crowd, be nutritious.
Mt13v39-40 Angels, with their own eschatological tension to live in. The angelic condition catches the popular imagination in dogma etc.. because they are like & yet unlike us? Easier to mythologise & hold at a distance, along with the raw reality of this spiritual battle ongoing towards its resolution of fire, which denatures all slack apathetic masks. I co-labour & worship-with the angels this sleepy Monday morn, as reminded. Come on my soul.
Mt13v41-42 The Son of man is calling all avenging angels.. but it's ok, this the end of the age. Such esoteric eschatological estimations are academic? Better easier to leave off endings, leave out the hereafter and to erase hell. Matthew believes in hell: no more sigh-no-mores, no ifs, no buts, and certainly no but-if-nots, hell is beyond any 'but-God's. Luckily, I don't believe in hell, I mean, not very much, not like this, I mean, less of the gnashing of teeth 8v12, gnashing of teeth 13v50, gnashing of teeth 22v13, 24v51, 25v30, less fiery, less melodrama, more subtle, more genteel, more English. Don't you know, the road to churchpain is paved with well-intentioned hell-fire preaching. If I believed in heel, I would live a twitching urgent preaching reaching hoping speaking desperate, dentistry-motivated conspicuous explicit life displaying the possibility of redestination via Jesus' “but'God”.
Mt13v43 Shine. Not like Christmas-tree-shiny-things, for the distraction of kittens & magpies, but shine like the sun, Dn12v3 the sky, Ph2v15 the stars. Like sunrise over these chimney tops from our Oval window, like the silver clouds over Vauxhall One which make the heart burst into song, like the sky of Sky! So we shine in reflecting God's shininess when we Ex34v29 talk to God. A sky's glow, a vastness, a luminance, a mystery that demands further searching, as while the light reveals, there is always more to see, there are depths of colour & tone that invite the soul in, that keep the heart looking. A glow is irreducible, I have thought just now, like colour, you just have to receive it. Beauty is. & we are made beautiful. & good & true, for the stars speak to crookedness, Moses received holy norms. So should our faces speak to the world. We were Before Sunrise, but God shone on us.
Mt13v44 Evocation, exultation, imperative. Oh. Why are you here? Why does it stir you so? Is45v3 Treasures in dark places, hidden & found, for the purpose of I-Thou, the God of Israel have called you by name.' The secret is all mine, the risk is all joy. Oh. Come. On.
Mt13v45-46 v44's find is a bit more cowboy, a lucky strike accidental lottery. I remember finding a geocaching box under Hay Tor, I wasn't looking for it. v45's merchant appeals to my sensibilities, a pearl expert, the discerning connoisseur knows his stuff, he's worked for this, treasures are nuanced. However. This won't do. He is irrational. In selling all he has, he ceases to be a merchant, he opts out of the market from this point, pearls cease to be a tradeable means to a commodified end, he emerges with one flipping massive, flawless, completely unsellable ornament, what is he going to do with that? You can't eat a pearl. 'Merchant' is past tense and pejorative ~ as you cease to be a punter when you marry the priceless prostitute? The pattern of selling up, selling out, going all in, to go all out, putting all of your eggs into one uninsurable basket is a pattern established by Jesus. You are his pearl.
Mt13v47-48 'How are you & God? She asked. Which is always the question, & it is a being-towards-final-judgement, in the very same way that being-towards-death is to be understood, which is that it is not about death, but living knowing one will give an account of one's life. So how are you & God today? Wondering what can be said on the containment of containers & the fishiness of fish.. what does it smell like, your with-God life today? Rotten or raw?
Mt13v49-50 We, the fish, were by nature spawns, small fries and fingerlings of wrath. But God.. We were bad fish. But God.. What is a bad fish? ESVSB refers to Lv11v9-12 to define bad fish as those eely ones without scales – unclean, unkosher fish; Carson says 'bad' fish has no moral overtones, and that while 'sapron' (gk) could mean decayed, here it simply means worthless, not ceremonially suitable, not large enough for eating.. So, this fishing trip at the end of the world. Not every fish is caught, not every caught is kept – a selectivity: Mt7v21-22 not every fish who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom. Hb6v5-6 having been caught in a net of the goodness of God, some fish persist in crucifixions and faithless immaturity. There's no gnasher like a semi=christian gnasher, I know the angst of being a funny fish, one foot in sea, one on shore. Be sure. Be a big fish. For God, being rich in fishfood..
Mt13v51-52 Verses for academics. This is why we write, because some old things come together in a certain way, they 'click' in the mind & the heart to a new emergent understanding of the kingdom of God. Though I might exercise greater tentativity than the disciples at the ' all these things', yet there are somethings where a new understanding of something is up ahead, sneaking glances round the corner. So we write, we scribe, for the sake of the kingdom of God, for God is always bringing out treasures old & new, & that is what writing done well is. This is the adventure of the human life with-God, the more than surviving, the discovery of what the kingdom is like, ancient of days, newly originally formed from one's creatively wrestling for understanding, pen in hand. Come Lord Jesus a timely prayer, we pray it over our writing, conversations, further study hopes. Thy Kingdom Come
Mt13v53-54 v53 'Jesus .. finished' Jesus begins and ends an appointed work. He metes tutes and leaves, he goes on and then goes away, he speaks balm then carries on. It is easy to take for granted how difficult it is to have that timed timelyness and purposeive placelyness which constituted his itinerancy. He moved on, but by what propulsion? There is a difference between being mobile and being mobilised .. v54 'wisdom .. mighty works': Young man up on the hillside / teaching new ways / each word winning them over / each heart a kindled flame // his rage shaking the temple / his word to the wise / his hand healing on the seventh day / his love wearing no disguise ~ What was Jesus secret ambition? What's yours? Where did Jesus get his wisdom? Where do you get yours? How did Jesus do his mighty works? How do you do yours? Where do you go to? Whom do you turn to? And where do we go now?
Mt13v55-56 The Nazarenes apply a genetic fallacy to Jesus, & I am guilty of this impulse, I feel that these verses are for now, for another one of these habits that holds me captive. There is a deeply held captive belief that if I know everything from a past I will understand it. All these compulsions betray a belief that the past explains away the present, that the past is more important than the present. It is a destructive unredemptive unfree way. How do we then relate to the past? Psychoanalysis is right that we bring our past with us, & where Christianity has used a 'blank slate' analogy regarding forgiveness, however understandable, it can be misleading, it can try to sever or erase the past in the wrong way. Reflecting on redemption, on the experience of one's transformation, we find, I think, that the present changes our relationship to the past. Something which hurt in the past can be looked back on without pain in the face of healing. With-God, the present is more important than the past, it changes the structures & power of the past. We once were dead but God made us Eph2 alive in Christ. More than the blank slate, this is a change in out biology, our ontology, which doesn't deny the past but declares that it has been made new, made alive, made different. Our present is more than the sum of our pasts. Here & now, with-you, with-Jesus-the-Nazarene. More than. Thank you God.
Mt13v57-58 Jesus is not still Jenny from the block. He's changed. As in 'As It Is In Heaven', the musician returns to his home town, despised for his talented Otherness. Why? Apart from the mild schizophrenia of our mob Palm Sunday / Good Friday oscillation. Why? The village pathology encountered in Nazareth Jesus encounters in me. I reject him as a threat to my tribalist mediocre mutually aclustered complicity in the sin of unadventure. Jonathan Hale paraphrased Harman last night saying that when architecture gets too relational it becomes ecology. Autopoesis dissolves God-given authorship. Such is an unhealthy villagism: the pursuit of objectless consensus or submission to impersonal objectlessness. Jesus objects, he is intrusively thingly. In such a village Merlieu Ponty's spoken speech (everyday) meets speaking speech (poetic). The later having power for 'coherent deformation': this is what prophets are about
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
“When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19v22
The William Morris Museum would like to be a monument to Marxian means of maximalist manufacturing, displaying joy in Sennett's sacred acts of making glorious many crafts in colour, form and varied texture. Truly, it is a lovingly laboured piece of museum design, richly furnished with surprisingly extensive artefacts from Morris' endlessly fertile visual imagination. Artefacts whose longevity and versatility and delight are borne out in application onto every available surface: etched, projected and woven, it is a wonderful thing to be enswathed in so profoundly playful a visual adventure. Indulgent even? A twinge of unease occurs in the café, too much of the English condition is displayed too transparently. I find myself waking inside a luxurious memorial to the patron saint of champagne socialism, a tribute to that pioneer of middle-class marketing. Mid-mouthful, my hand-made, home-baked, free-range dessert allegorises over-sweetly. From one rich young man to a younger, from beyond the grave, Morris seems to mourn his life-long search for authenticity: it is all but the decoration of melancholia, the melancholia of decoration.
In his Earthly Paradise, 'wanderers' and 'elders' meet monthly to share poetic accounts of their frustrated searches for paradise. Such communion was his vision for a brotherhood, such might two-hundred-words be. Only let us be more hopeful.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013
“..for you are like whitewashed tombs..” Matthew 23v27
“My buildings are paper..” (Horace Walpole, August 1761)
“My buildings are paper..” (Horace Walpole, August 1761)
Following nearly in the footsteps of Robinson, I quit my Vauxhall for Strawberry Hill pondering if two hundred words of commentary on such a romantic London cannot but be tinged with Keiller’s jaded utopian discontent? It is too easy, almost, to despise Walpole's confectious pile: this many rendered thing, mawkish with its belaboured slathers of fake frippery and indulgent organised silliness. Stark, awkward, castellated and now aggressively white, the renovations appear cynically determined to emphasise the shallow intellectualism of the ornamental language games wrought by this melancholy man of letters. What was he looking for? In its new birth, his now spruced-up, pimped-up, papier-mâché pastichery begs to be found endearing and eccentric by the clientèle targetted by the recent committee of curators conspicuously marketing to the revenue stream of wedding cake styled wedding venues. Modern marriage is a gothic tale, it seems: nostalgic in extreme, aesthetically melodramatic, and finally tragically pessimistic. What are they looking for? Inside, one meanders vacuously between little islands of opulence, obsessively gilded period features, doubly garish in their isolation, swimming in a sea of Baltic pine flooring. The effect combines the nouveau riche extremity of Harrods’ gaudy spectacle with the charmlessly generic, utilitistically plain, utterly unlived-in feel of an international conference centre. What was I looking for?
Monday, 1 April 2013
Laud of the Sabbath. I'm here all week: 07729056452
Mt12v1-2 The disciples were hungry so they ate. There is something of the child in this, perhaps, & to continue the meditation on childishness & childlikeness, we might understand this as childlike. The body wants food, & is safe in the knowledge that it is free to eat; the social custom has no child. So our mandated childlikeness is the unlearning of lifeless laws or customs. We know that this freedom is not a radical caprice, rather the maturely childlike discerns what is worth being bound unto & what is not. Part of the difference between childish & childlike is perhaps whether you are bound to laws or to covenant in decision-making. We contrast the disciples here with their falling asleep in Gethsemane, where they are perhaps more childish. The body wants to sleep, but the relationship & promise to Christ should have kept them awake. So. What binds you?
Mt12v3-4 Our God is sabbatical. We Sabbath because to Sabbath is to express the character of God. What is the character of God? (1) Not impersonal pedantry. (2) Not point-scoring superstition. (3) Not elitist injustice. (1) Pedantry and the danger of sacred texting: 'Have you not read..' As Jn5v39 'you search the scriptures but..' or Mt13v13 'seeing yet they do not see..' - there is a way of reading that reads onto a text and so obscures the person of Jesus, reading that projects assumptions onto the character of God, the presupposes impersonality, that labours a pre-emptive penance as the prodigal son's legal defence in Lk18-19, because it believes God is only justice and not mercy. What good is a quiet time if you are unable to speak, disabled by a mute prejudice that God doesn't hear, doesn't care, makes no exceptions, has no mercy. That has never been God, have you not read Ho11v8? (2) Sabbath is not a means, it is an ends primarily – its own reward. You are not saved by the Sabbath, you are saved for the Sabbath. Its not the break you have to take, it is the time you get to make. It is Heschel's 'cathedral in time'. But that edifice is not built by law but by joy. Does Jesus protest here because it is more damaging to hold a superstitious belief that my little Sunday holiness routine will save me than it is to not Sunday at all? By contrast to the hope for magic saving power through obscure obediences, Jesus affirms the superheroism of his 'Mighty men', that is, the priesthood of all believers: you who can eat the consecrated bread. (3) Elitism. Pharasaism necessarily defends vested interests of the subscribers, who distinguish themselves and their 'holiness' by acts which they, by accident of circumstance, are capable of. Somewhat as certain 'environmentalisms' are a virtue achievable only by the disposable income of the middleclasses.
Mt12v5-6 the Symbolic is not the Real. The Symbolic is necessary. The Symbolic will fast become an idol. The Symbolic is alive, don't kill it. Don't legislate it or let it legislate. Let is speak. Let is shimmer with another world. Take buildings seriously & hold them lightly. See beyond them. Let the ritual hold you, not take hold of you. The Sabbath is a portal, * this life is quite the adventure aye.
Mt12v7-8 'If'. Enough food for everyone if.. '..if you know what “mercy-not-sacrifice” means'. Eating¬-eating, the details of feasting&fasting, are justice&mercy issues, justice issues concerning the nation. Jesus is caught eating with the 'wrong people' in Mt9v13 and so quote Ho6v6 in defence (for 'wrong people' see Gloria Morrison of JENGbA on the injustice of Joint Criminal Enterprise at London Riots, LSE, 6.3.13) And, Jesus is caught eating at the wrong time in mt12v1 and so quotes Ho6v6 in his defence. Why Hosea? Hosea is a prophet for a time of acute social injustice, he calls us away from bad religione and foodlaw powerplay, from ugly hedonism and extremes of wealth polarity, from ill-motivated works-sacrifice and the 'condemning' of the weaker it entails, from these Hosea calls us back to our first love's embrace. How we eat and who we eat with reflects our belovedness and brings about much consequences of social justice.
Mt12v9-10 What is work & what is rest? Is it work to heal? Pray without ceasing? Rejoice in the Lord always? These things are not the Gn3v19 sweat of our brow? One does not fast worship, one always fasts to make space to worship. Work can be worship, only if structured by Sabbath, but the Mt10v8 mandate is the redemptive work itself within which the work-sabbath structure sits? Yes? Not? In danger of a sacred-secular split? What is rest & what is work?
Mt12v11-12 Why do I not help men out of their pits? And I rarely do! Because (1) I misconstrue the pit and (2) I misconstrue the Sabbath. See London is full of the deeply-inpitted and the decadently well-besabbathed. I know which I am, and selfishly so. (1) The pit is where a weaker breed of man is fated to fall, the undeserving poor, the feral underclass, those statistics who are not persons, the utility valueless.. (2) The Sabbath is an exclusive form of leisure for the privileged, the just dessert for the meritocratically valued hardworker, the sufficiently young, those considered attractive. May this never be! Our Gad is sabbatical, our God is the good shepherd, our God 'takes hold of us', our God 'lifts us out', our God values man. To imitate the good shepherd is to value people as persons and to understand the Sabbath and all comfort as a gift, not a right – for of such I am ill-deserving.
Mt12v13-14 Stretch out your hand, dear heart, to receive the healing that makes vulnerable infants wiggle forward with curious joy, & provokes violent rage in those who think they are powerful: the political & corporate powers at the top of the arms trade, & my own hidden ways of seeking power-over-others. Holiness & help & hereness is at hand, so stretch out your hand, dear hands.
Mt12v15-16 The first rule of Fight Club is.. What sort of movement is Jesus building? What sort of cause are we fighting for? What sort of conspiracy opposes this? What sort of King do we serve? What so of mediating is suitable to his remediation? How should we then not tell? How should we then Sabbath? When should we then heal?
Mt12v17-18 The ambiguous 'this' of withdrawing, blessing people & not-telling the story of it, a particular season to centre & refine one's motives, apt as I am to idolise all healing & good works. The compulsion to serve people as characters in our own story rather than as persons is rooted in a failure to believe in one's belovedness. Jesus fulfilled scripture in being the beloved, the chosen – before & regardless of whether the story was told. This heart alignment is necessary to be a servant, & to be an agent of mercy-justice. When I view my life & ministry through the lens of reporting it back, rather than the freedom of relational giving-alongside, I am trying to elevate myself, which tries to take power-over, which is injustice-unmercy. Lord Jesus, thank you for you way, please kill this thing in me particularly in this season, that I might imitate you.
Mt12v19-20 'Behold, my servant, Sarah, whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Sarah, and she will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. .. a bruised reed Sarah will not break, and a smouldering wick she shall not quench, until she brings justice to victory..' Remember in Mt5v15-16 Jesus told you that 'You, Sarah, are the light of the world.' Isaiah (Is42-53) plays a similar declaration over Israel: they *are* this servant, they *await* this servant. If Jesus is the true Jew, if Christianity is Jewish, if we are 'in' Christ, we are heirs to these Israelite promises concerning our Identity, our Purpose, and our Character. You are saved to save, served to serve. When you feel, as I today, like a smouldering wick, take heart, Christ is in you, you are the light of the world.
Mt12v21-22 Gentiles will hope. Hope is held in contempt by the Stoics, in its indication of lack, in its implication of dissatisfaction with what-is towards an always-elsewhere. Does hope run contrary to our here-&-now? Does it bring us to Seneca's good life, stripped of hope & fear? Such an argument misunderstands hope in part by misunderstanding the God-longing, the there's-always-more rather than there's-nothing-here. & it misunderstands hope in misunderstanding meaning. Hope doesn't locate meaning in a currently-inaccessible Platonic heaven, but rather, human & divine meanings, symbols within symbols, & Christ is my hope in unlocking, cohering & embodying all these. My hope is in Christ, the authentic adventure of the meanings of my life. Praise God.
Mt12v23-24 'A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.' Who was this Jesus? A very Easter question .. At least the Pharisees' response is passionate. Conceivably they are even well-intentioned, reformers reforming, ministering to a Roman-occupied Jewish people who may have been church-pained by the religious disillusion wrought false prophets, and the military retributions wrought by their foreign government, and into this context perhaps a well-meaning Pharisee would seek to care as best they could for a people suffering a messiah fatigue? How do care for the church-pained? How do we discern, and so express concern for or disapproval of the motives and consequences and side-effects of such extreme and controversial healing ministries as Todd Bentley or Exodus International? There is a mode of compassionate critique tainted by prejudice that risks tacitly demonising. I am a Pharisee whenever I speak hopelessness or exaggerated concern over church problems or ministry dilemmas. I am a Pharisee, Lord, help my unbelief.
Mt12v25-26 First, that He knows my thoughts. Second that He speaks a principle less for Satan, more for me. Satan may not be divided against himself, but I am. Double-minded, two-folded, & I will lay waste without everyday purification-integration of my heart. Bringing divided things before the Christ's cross this Good Friday. Specific things. Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open..
Mt12v27-28 A timely verse for Black Saturday, the day of the Harrowing of Hades, a day to consider Jesus' power over evil. But first, one has to make an argument to refute denials of the supernatural, denials of Two-ism, of Hell, of God's goodness, so to arrive at an unobscured encounter with Jesus' loving power. Jesus is a forceful logician, in v27 he compellingly shows the Pharisees' (and so my own) self-deception to be self-related and self-refuting. And in v28 he reveals the motive force behind such a doubleminded worldview: we self-justify in order to escape God's judgement fearing that if the Kingdom of God is come, then I am not God. .. O God, please show me the incoherence of my many layered hypocrisies and the elaborate logical fallacies which my deceit employs. .. I love that 'come upon you' translates a verb connoting unexpected prematurity. The Kingdom that is come is Here! Now! Already! Ahead of time! And this because the King of that Kingdom, the one who casts out demons, has come running to meet us, while we were yet far off.
Mt12v29-30 hopes & fears, prayers & tears today, 'cause its a terrible thing to not be-with Jesus, & so to run against him. The jarring, splintering wrench of These Things not-with-Jesus. These Things need binding, before they can be overcome. I might be needed in naming & acknowledging strongholds, but it is Jesus who binds them & throws them out, & repeats the process when they prowl around the door or even find a way back in. Christ have mercy.
Mt12v31-32 Unforgiveable sin. One could deflect this whole challenging passage by debating the apparent injustice of other people condemned for their ignorance. Jesus is not talking about other people here, he is talking to me: me and my openness to the Spirit, me and my response to what I do know, me and my heart position to Jesus and his many disguises. .. I am struck by this: Jesus comes in unexpected everyday ways, this meaning is made clearer if we substitute 'Son of Man' for 'Son of Bob' or 'Ordinary Joe', better English idioms to connote the God who hides himself in the ordinary of humanity that he would adopt such an idiom with the definite article. He is The Ordinary Joe. But if you deny that an Extraordinary Spirit is at work in ordinary Joes, you saw off the olive branch you are standing on. Don't rule yourself out. Don't rule yourself out.
Mt12v33-34 Viperhearted, selfish, competitive, unkind: out of the heart the mouth speaks. Marriage offers conditions for being forced to examine the anger & ugliness of one's words, & so, in tracing back the overflow, the wounds & corruptions of one's heart, the tree gone bad, the death & rotting within. A tree within a whitewashed tomb, wrestling involved finding the tree in the dark, bringing the fruit into the light. Create in me a clean heart oh God.
Mt12v35-36 This is semiotics. Every ad word betrays your agenda, all your doublecode fools no one, all allusion, all suggestion is all culpable. For, out of the abundance of the heart my phone texts. And, in my abundance of words my heart sins, cajoles, deflects, deceives, with even the tiniest words. So I must give an account for every 'argos' (gk) word. Every idle word. Every empty word. Every careless word. Every insignificant word. Every thoughtless word. I will give an account. Time is short. Words are powerful. God, help me choose them wisely.
Mt12v37 You will be saved or condemned by words (also, Mt11v19 wisdom is justfied by her deeds, also, 1Sm16v7 man looks at the outside but God looks at the heart. That is, God sees & works through every grain of my totality, correctly discerning the deeper motives & consequences all my being, & seeks to refine me.) Words are powerful, that's why it matters how we speak or don't speak. Words have saved me or condemned me before so I know its possible. Be holy as God is holy. Use words as God uses words. A reason to lectio divine, to absorb the diction you want to speak. Sufjan & Rumi together tell me today that Jesus sought me when a stranger, & no longer a stranger, I spend all day listening to these crazy love-words. Words of life can save, & Jesus speaks words over me. All. The. Time. Listen. To speak. Salvation starts.
Mt12v39-40 An evil adulterous Phil asks for a sign. Was not Easter enough? It not scripture sufficient? If the Bible is true, if words are powerful, if the gospel story is all my heart seeks.. What more signage to I need? All further miracles are a grace, an icing over icing, accessory and gratuitous, when sat beside the main miracle. To 'demand' signs is to position one's heart in such a way that no sign would eventually be sufficient. 1Co1v22 convicts me and my impatience with we-preach-Christ-crucified versions of Christianity. Jews demand spectacle; Greeks are impressed by speeches; the over-educated want footnotes; the well-meaning demand social-impact; people-pleasers demand community, before they can believe. I am all of those. Despising the humility of mere Bible study, the stumbling block of sola scriptura, and the urgency of an epistemology of Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know-for-the-Bible-tells-me-so..
Mt12v41-42 Faces & voices, eyes & accusations, all justice, all truth. Grievance & grace, to be once again face-to-face. Asking for insight, equipment & courage (mainly courage) to love these eyes before us well. Cut to the heart, moved by love, to connect the dots, to Christ crucified. In spirit & truth, this 8th of the month, for ones we know, for the unexpected, today.
Mt12v43-44 Of habits, addictions, demons, attititudes, loves, fears not-of-God: Repent. Receive. Rebuke. *Replace*. Or else. .. So, I've purged pornography, I've scrubbed the floor of my soul, you could eat off it, a spotless, lustless apartment, strainedly sanitised. A spirit of self-righteousness is a ready tenant in waiting, unless I install Christ as tenant in every room and allow him to decorate a healthy sexuality throughout. I would venture this vulnerability-following-healing applies also to having-been-sinned-against. So, I've overcome some historical church-pain grievance, I've cleaned out the wound, I've processed the tragedy, but unless I sew closure to it, unless I fill the hole it tore in my faith and identity, and allow Christ to rechurch me, I will shiver chill bitter sarcasm at the wind that the enemy actively blows though the hole that remains. Replace by knowing Christ, for there is no neutrality.
Mt12v43-44 Housing v29 & v44. Always interesting to ask of Jesus' parables if whether we've retained a healthy familiarity with the sheep/new-wine/seeds/harvests/yeast/etc which Jesus deliberately employs in order to graphically describe the Kingdom's organic and everyday and delicious and infectious and urgent and abundant and personal and risky etc realities. eg. If you have never harvested a literal harvest, how much more shallow and unexuberant must your grasp of his analogy be? So with housing, if we, as a culture dwell only lightly in mere dormitory environments, this Your-Home-May-Be-Repossessed-If-You.. threat will be somehow less visceral. The house here operates as a metaphor for contested territory within a spiritual landscape, not of inert volumes in need of decluttering, but of occupied territories worth fighting for. So should our housing be! You steward pregnant metaphors in your spring cleaning.
Mt12v45-46 Running my fingers up against the edge of these fenced-off habits, needing Jesus to draw me back to the centre, the health of talking with Jesus incarnate everyday vs the sickness of the seven who prowl at the door. I can name them all. These crossroads, will I be better or 'worse that before'? Jesus, once more be my every replacement. I need thee every hour, stay thou close by. I need thee, I need thee, I need thee every hour.
Mt12v47-48 Whence Blud? Wherefore Fam? If you do God's will, you are Jesus' sibling! Or, more humbly, if you have been doing the will of God, it was only because you were already Jesus' sibling. But importantly, here is the declaration: We. Are. Family. We already are. And Jesus puts family first.
Mt12v49-50 My brother knows me in an unmediated way, there is an always-already dimension to our relationship, it is a relationship which in part formed me, in a totally unselfconscious way. The name he calls me is normal, familiar. Grateful for the brothering that leads to a meditation on being-Christ's-sister (too quickly we look at being sister-in-Christ before being sisters-of-Christ). Easter in ordinary, is this kind of love today