Monday, 7 December 2015
Let's pray names with clicks to the clock,
Best we lay shame to the school of hard knocks,
Text its all gain. Or its not.
~ Alternate mornings. 07729056452
Mk12v1-2 Apt that we enter a parable about our relationship to the God who has left us, on this first week of advent. The God we either wait for or forget, as Caroline's sermon last night goo.gl/42bwKB and Simone Weil on 'the absence of God' as 'perfect love' to me this week. I am forgetful and complacent, and yet I breathe in the possibility of another way in this renewed season of waiting, of letting the head-knowledge percolate to the heart and the hands as we together meditate on the fact that I did not plant this vineyard, I did not build the fences or the watchtower. Traces. And further, I know in my bones that I am a tenant here, not an owner, and when I act as though I am the latter I end up faced with the existential incongruence of it. The memory of the tenancy contract is seared into my chemistry, if I would just let my body remember. God, I'm waiting.
Mk12v3-4 The pathos of 'and' 'and' 'and' invoked again as Jesus builds a cascade of prophet punchups. More subtle than the simple illustration that mutineers mute modes of mediation violently, Jesus is developing a portrait of entrenchment mechanisms. Beware, Christ-avoidance always escalates. But, note also, grace escalates, God ups the ante, desperate to make contact, relentless.
Mk12v5-6 I have more sanitised ways of killing the prophetic, with food, fantasy and philosophy. Why do we kill? To pretend to ourselves that we are the owner of the vineyard. Such fantasies have a bloody cost, unsustainable self-denial and violence towards the other. v6 the Son is coming, this Christmas & at every moment, into the midst of this murderous hot-blooded self-defense of my heart (bad king that I am). I can shut him down & kill him. Or. Or.
Mk12v7-8 Heir of the God and a slippery slope argument. We kill Jesus for many reasons, violence inevitably begetting more violence being one of them, but in these verses 'inheritance' is invoked. There is something of the goose laying golden eggs about this. There is an attitude towards the divine that looks to cash-in a one time dividend. This a risk-averse comportment towards providence, that is selfish, impatient and anti-relational, but above all, it is a static and entropic understanding of reality. Like the prodigal son, we take our inheritance now, because there is only now, in a futureless short-termism, we spend our fossil fuel capital as if it is income, we burn up a world bound for destruction.
Mk12v9-10 Jesus speaks of his own rejection, his own pain, his own hope. Following the paper trail back to Ps118 we are reminded of the way that Christ enters into every corner of our humanity. Imagine Jesus inhabiting this Psalm he is quoting, the v5 searching distress, the v10-12 experience of being overwhelmed, & the v1-4, v28-29 assurance & worship of the true God. And of the rejected cornerstone we feel all the contingency of being chosen or chosen or not chosen. This contingency, the arbitrariness of things: this is much harder to accomodate than suffering, in many ways. Yet Jesus enters into even the contingency of our humanity, & overcomes it by being both the unlikely cornerstone of the temple and the v19 gate to its heart.
Mk12v11-12 There are two architectures (see Malcolm Hardman's case against secondary arch vs Levi Strauss' bricoleur) divided by the approach they take to cornerstones. Top-down architects: whose utopian and propagandistic forms exist in a gallery-hung vacuum, chiselling brittle monoliths polished to exquisite precarity. vs Bottom-up barefoot architects: tooled up with Zuhandenheit, rooted in landscape, reconciled to the accidents of a material world. Observe the quarried mass rejected by one world system is the other's treasure: this is more than a biblical mandate for recreational upcycling, this is a description of all redemptive reality being irreducibly and fundamentally dedicated to energetic upcycling at all times. We, the redeemed, reclaimed and restored follow such a saviour, the chief dumpster-diver, the relentless recycler. "Parable against them" recycling is not merely an economic convenience, environmental imperative or vintage aesthetic, it is a weaponised mode of making that wars against a religiose market economy.
Mk12v13-14 Jesus in a double bind, the system designed to damn him however he responds. I want to learn from the master the skill of transforming the conversation like this, rather than submitting to the rage or resignation that wait on either side. We often note that Jesus subverts question with question, but I note also (looking ahead to v15) that he responds by engaging the Pharisees in Joint Attention. I wonder if this is a levelling move, designed to shift the power dynamic of the frontal-accusative face-to-face to a more equal footnoting. In joint attention one is invited to co-experience, even in a minimal sense - to co-recognise the same coin, the same figure. Maybe there is something in this that jars the original question and is part of the subverting act. Further I note that v17 Jesus doesn't try to offer them any new information or to propose a new system, but rather states something obvious, to make salient their game-playing. Jesus, teacher, show us how to speak like you.
Mk12v15-16 What is money? Hold a tenner in your hand until it becomes clammy, fold it long, fold it short, hold it to the light, run a montage in your mind of every transaction this note has witnessed. What is money? Bare paper bruv. A faith-based system of IOUs. An arbitrarily valued scarcity-predicated gold-backed mechanism of empire control. The root of all evil. What is money? Jesus is less interested in tax advice than he is in disentangling our hypocrisies. Texting this text has been a strain all week. While Jesus *is* an economic revolutionary, 'render unto Caesar' seems to me to be rhetoric, unconcerned with tax politics, weaponised only to highlight a Pharisee's complicit duplicity. The question of tax remains. Should we pay taxes to Trident?
Mk12v17-18 I haven't ever really drilled down into this phrase...of course everything belongs to God, so Jesus is not suggesting that there is some golden percentage distribution between God and emperor. Rather, one should give to the emperor as part of the whole one gives to God, & only then. I realise this question is even more subversive than I think - an invitation to dialogue with Roman interlocutors about the nature of living within the whole that is the true God? Reading Simone Weil yesterday: 'we are a part which has the imitate the whole.' Fractals innit. Jesus invites us to consider how each monetary exchange (taxes, each small part) imitates the whole (all belongs to God)
Mk12v19-20 A conundrumathon, now taxes, now death, text on this. I feel Jesus' heart break. Jesus, whose mind crenelated conch shells, whose eyes dazzled butterflies into being, Jesus, architect and engine room of a boundless more-than reality. Here, amongst his bickering children, taunting tangles of their own sophistry. The faulty premise in our pharisaic problematising philosophy is a less-than reality, less-than life before a less-than resurrection, less-than marriage before a less-than eternity. On these less-than foundations we seek the wrong less-than answers to the wrong less-than questions, we are a cruel parody of ourselves. Such small-minded ambition seeks only damage limitation, devising contingency for an eternity spent with some spectre of se7en serially killing Shipmans. My own bleak forecasting is built on the same less-than foundations. May it never be!
one or two
zero or seven
looking for the formula
of marriage and heaven
wanting the doctrine
priming the sums
Jesus the disturber
leaves my algebra undone
Mk12v23-24 As I was going to St Ives, I met Elizabeth Taylor, whose seven husbands' cats' kittens riggled and riddled me into an Interstellar resurrection hypothesis of wormholes and nonsense. No, it is not that. Jesus is countering cynical pragmatism with more-than but he is not merely arguing that infinity addles calculations as if to undermine all reasoning, as if marriage's mystery legitimised unlimited sentimental interpretations or as if eternity's complexity was pure license for convoluted eschatological not-knowing. He reasons with the Sadducees, presuppositionally. The prerequisites for right thinking are right reading and right relating. A Godless hermaneutic will always make a muddle of marriage. Without the sails of my knower being filled with an experience of God's power the scripture I soundbite will be but a millstone round my neck, when it could be a wind-powered breadmaker.
Mk12v25-26 Confusing at first glance that Jesus seems to offer corrective knowledge in v25 followed by a chastisement of the premises of the conversation itself in v26 (which would surely include his own corrective), but meditating on the claims of v25 a while I think that both points funnel towards the same point, which is to demarcate the horizon of our contemplation. To tell us that in some way we will be like angels post-resurrection is to tell us nothing concrete, to tell us nothing of how bodies, space, time, relations & romance will or will not in fact be in the new creation. These questions are beyond our horizon. But Jesus invites us to make the burning bush the centre of our vision, the blazing I AM who is at the centre and at every point and beyond the circumference of ourselves. Take off your shoes. For here. In Jesus.is Holy ground.
Mk12v27-28 v27 Quite Wrong (NIV) Serious Error (NLT) Badly Mistaken (ISV) Badly Deceived (HCSB) Greatly Astray (YLT) Ye therefore do err greatly. To err as the Sadducees do in their theology of marriage and resurrection is to err (planasthe - Gk) greatly (poly - Gk). What work is this 'greatly' doing? To establish the gravity of such error as more than semantics, beyond the divisions of technical nuance into the realm of paradigmatic waywardness and fundamental contradiction. In so far as your theology of marriage and resurrection is derived from the character of God, erroneous theology directs all consequent life and worship towards the wrong God, the God of the dead. Jesus thinks it right to establish priorities of wrongness ~ this need not denote actual distinctions between the infinite rebellion of every/any sin, but Jesus' selective emphasis should give us heed to consider action with urgency commensurate with degrees of consequence and in proportion to our propensities. v28 Jesus thinks it right to establish priorities of rightness. He makes a case for focused partiality discriminating between commandments, based on our finity. Surely 'love God', technically covers all the commandments like a category umbrella, but this is more than reign-protecting word-play. Explicitly and actively to love God - how is that discerned as a legible priority in my life?
Mk12v29 The Lord is One. I need to hear it again, living as I do against bad Oneness Hypothesis & emphasis of sameness. In my work I want to emphasise the multiplcity and otherness within the Truine God, in our relationship with God and with each other. But the Oneness folks are right in some crucial sense. God is One. God is Total. God is Infinite. God's centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere. God has total integrity, bearing the same mark all.
Mk12v30 'What is the love of God that is befitting? It is to love God with a great and exceeding love, so strong that one's soul shall be knit up with the love of God such that it is continually enraptured by it, like love-sick individuals...even intenser should be the love of God in the hearts of those who love Him; they should be enraptured by this love at all times.' - Maimondes.
Mk12v31-32 'As yourself'. Love, tend, nurture, defend, cherish, esteem and bless your neighbour as much as often as deep as long and as thoroughly as if they were you, as if they were ontologically a part of your youness, an extension of your being. Terror. Pick a neighbour, insofar as love is necessarily personal, love must be one to one, one at a time. Love one that cannot repay you Lk14v13-14, love sacrificially without limit Jn15v13 and without expectation of return Lk6v35. Value them above yourself Ph2v3, above your net worth, above your utility value, above your indexed status or priority, position them with every privilege above you. And do unto them as you'd have them do for you Mt7v12, do serve, do encourage, invest in, seek specific enrichments for.. this is not the justice of don't-do-what-you-would-not-want-them-to-do-to-you damage limitation. This is a 'do', to do actively, imaginatively, do maximally invent novel ways of seeking the well-being of the ill-deserving.
Mk12v33-34 Two things to ponder here. 1. Jesus affirms the teacher for what could just be parroting back what he has said, but clearly isn't. Jesus the good teacher sees that this one gets it. Explain it back to me, give an example or an application. Animal sacrifices, yes exactly, you've got it my dear. Perhaps something in the way, the manner, the face-ness, that the teacher gives his reply that Jesus recognises the cognitive & existential 'got it' which is the breaking-in of the kingdom into the heart & the mind. We must long for such moments in all those under our pedagogical care. No parrots please. 2. Why does nobody dare ask Jesus questions after this exchange? Is this a right fear or a bad fear that holds them back? Do they fear competitively & anxiously that they will not hear the 'you're close my love'. Do they see an authentic interaction & (rightly) feel their own inauthenticity? Let us remember our blamelessness & belovedness, on which we might fulfill the mandate to Hb4v16 approach His throne of grace with confidence, so that we might receive mercy.
Mk12v35-36 Advent, aggressively. Advent against the myth of a closed universe. Once upon a time, just beyond the horizon of living memory, there was a golden age of good old days, a nobler time, back then there were heroes, in a time before facebook, a time before cancer, a time innocent of modern vice. That time is over. Pluperfect. We had hoped Lk24v21. The DNA of those heroes has been diluted with the mudbloods, and now we're a species capable only of 1.5-2° damage limitation as our priests strain to stem the great entropic tide of corrupting inertia. You say that out of this swamp can come a cure? You profess that from this many times re-re-translated text can come any authoritative truth? How? Really how? How can the derivative have authority over its original? How can a faxed copy correct the Mona Lisa? In an open universe. In a more than universe. When the one yet to come is greater Mk1v7. When he promises you will do greater things Jn14v12. Unto such as us such a child is born.
Mk12v37-38 Brewing for days how to say in a new way how the desire to be greeted, seen, & seen to be greeted recurs in an infinite mental regress of magazine cut-outs and blog posts, but Auden says it better: 'Because in Him the Flesh is united to the Word without magical transformation, Imagination is redeemed from promiscuous fornication with her own images.' Amen.
Mk12v39-40 A priest's gotta eat. At the end of a year which has seen the death of Olive Cooke and the collapse of Kids Company, how should we then charity? Is it good/best/helpful/sustainable/christian to give to charity, to receive from charity, to ask others for charity money? From chuggers to suckers-lists, what does the trajectory of fundraising do to the soul? And what does a conspicuous gift instill in the giver's identity? What incentive to brand oneself as the pliable and useful poor of the philanthropists does organised giving give platform to? A priest's gotta eat. But. When you need to eat, ask rightly Jm4v3 to the one who feeds the birds Mt6v26. And when you ask, pray and close the curtains Mt6v6. And if you're going to give, don't let your left hand know Mt6v3. Be pious but don't eat the widows. Be radically in-need, but finally dependent on God alone. Be charitable but be so ninja, as your Father in heaven is ninja.
Mk12v41-42 Being a poor widow is premised on knowing oneself a prodigal son welcomed home. This is my prayer for myself and my people this 2016.
Mk12v43-44 We all know Jesus' analysis of the giving of the widow is a lesson in proportional-giving-as-a-symptom-of-a-heart-position, a moral tale about sacrificial giving. But, I am massively more willing to hear the critique of the scribes and (eg goo.gl/1BocKF) the ineffectiveness of the Chan Zuckerbergs' $45bn than I am to hear an exhortation for a Pawlett Jacksons' £450.. Conspicuous philanthropy is just paternalistic power-play, corrupt, self-aggrandising, and famously counterproductive.. But the effectiveness of my widow's mite, that's just magical thinking.. The world has a heart problem, and hearts change hearts, stories move hearts, and sacrificial risk ratios create the only stories which change hearts, and that drama is your finances and the world is the stage. A human life is of infinite value, stake that in giving 'all she had' and the multiplication is vast. No one is stirred to match-fund the billionaire's earnest but recreational exercise in conscience-clearing.