Sunday, 27 November 2016
Rm10v1 My heart's desire and prayer to God for [X] is that they may be saved.
Rm10v2 Paul goes on to say that the knowledge unknown is the righteousness of God, & in the absence of such knowledge we try to create our own righteousness. Isn't this true of all my religiousness, both self-comfort and self-harm: a category mistake, a failure to grasp the height depth breadth of God's love and the freedom it brings.
Rm10v3-4 Righteousness, when it is of-God, is not a code or system, not a kit of parts, not a summing up of deeds. It is its own thing. An active party. Ignorance of the righteousness of God is not a complete ignorance of righteous symptoms and side effects, nor a lack of sensitivity to the malady of unrighteousness, but rather it knows righteousness only in silhouette, and so assumes it is 2 dimensional, it knows righteousness only in a given moment and so assumes it is static, it knows of righteousness second-hand and so assumes it is as abstract as the language used to conjure it. Righteousness is not merely a quality, it is a person. Goodness in the world has a source and a purpose, an author and agent, a beginning and end. The law is as iron filings, and Christ is the magnet.
Rm10v5-6 The danger of thinking about the righteousness of Christ in distorted top-down ways. The danger of projects, of vision statements, of revisionary systems. God, deliver us from searching the heights when you call us to start with the breath.
(v5) You have heard it said, Christianity is a star chart, cosmological potty training, spiritual CBT. The good life comes by point scoring in the moral resolve to personal betterment. If I take Moses' law to be prescriptive rather than descriptive, ~ as an imperative code to strive to reach the first rung of the ladder, then I adopt a divisive religione that leads to pride and despair, pride and despair, pride and despair.
(v6-7) You have heard it said, Christianity is a vast game of snakes and ladders, up and down the precarious tightrope to holiness. Ascending to Heaven, Descending to Hell ~ a daily rollercoaster of ferocious self-abasement and redoubled reform. Mendoza's contrite yoyo perpetually clawing up the bank of a ravine. If life is a snakes and ladders game, it is like Flatland, and God addles our 2 dimensional map to the good life. He tilts and folds the board we've be sliding our little plastic counters around, as the Christ event reveals the Escher of all our laddered constructions that we so meticulously rendered in 2d ~ in this sense rightly do the prophets say no hell below us, above us only sky ~ the geometry of the spirit is far more complex.
(v6-7) You have heard it said, Christianity is mountain top experiences, and valleys of shadows of death, analogies to exceptional geographies where God is found apart from the everyday, the mundane, and the 99%. Heaven is elsewhere, the good life is later, we hold out for the ever-after, we delimit Sunday experiences and reinforce those with the earthquake&wind&fire of smoke machines and a language of sacred places which instills a notion of strangely selective loci where God is manifest, and the result is a Christianity of holiday brochures, a consumable geography of being made clean or unclean by association, by that which is external, by that which we consume.
(v8-9) You have heard it said Christianity is measured by what goes into a man, behaviours of intake, codes of moderation and propriety. The fastidiously fairtrade, the vegan, the unleaded .. my counterfeits are more feminist than your counterfeits.. Mt15v11 it's what comes out of one's mouth. And that should be the word of life, that is what changes the world.
Rm10v9-10 Sobered at this tightly interlocked relationship between the heart and the mouth, as Lk6v45. And 'tis an interlocked relationship which speaks of my own trajectory towards the kingdom of light or darkness. I need prayer for my heart-mouth system, currently a dark place. Full of cursing & huffing & rebuking on the one hand, limp & watery on the other. Jn6v68 to whom shall I go?
Rm10v11-12 Who you gonna call? We call on him Rm8v15. We call on him as "Abba, Father". We call on him and are saved.
To be saved ~ smudgey grammar makes for blurry salvation. At the very centre of Christian rhetoric is this orphaned passive participle in an ambiguous tense, soundbited without subject, footnoted without context. Are you saved?
I've been saved. Like, I've been married? Like, I've been filled with the Holy Spirit? Go on.. [Eph5v18 plērousthe πληροῦσθε ~ we go on being filled..] Saved like a one-off windfall from the cosmic slot machine? Saved into a new folder, saved like a backup, saved like coins for a rainy day? Saved unto a Christianity preoccupied with the threshold rather than the hearth? Have you been saved?
I am saved. Adjectivally. But saved from what, saved for what, saved by what?
~ Saved from God's wrath, saved for God's glory, saved by God's mercy?
~ Saved from yourself, saved for good works, saved by grace?
The 'saveds' abridged of any from/for/by makes for an identity adrift, a freedom untethered, a vague sense of malaise against which we are approximately 'saved'. Are you saved?
I am being saved. Like church is a salvage yard, like we are in furniture restoration, like painting the Forth Bridge? Christianity is a process not a product, a covenant to a perpetual maintenance contract, 2Cor3v18 a being transformed from glory to glory... Are you being saved?
I will be saved. The home-and-dry in the here-after, the but-if-not in the come-what-may, the happily-ever-after beyond the here-and-now.. Pie-in-the-sky is a signifier needing signfieds in the now, fractal theology's imperative to display the anticipated in miniature, to rehearse heaven in prototype. 1Pt1v5 "guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Will you be saved?
~ Has the perfect assurance of a binary state whilst being also infinitely deep.
~ Has the humility of a passive voice whilst being also an invitation to participate intimately.
~ Has the definitive completion of a past tense whilst being an open door to a progressive and expansive domain of salvation.
Rm10v13-14 Proclaiming. Thinking about this even before coming to this verse this morning. I tend to think I pray best by journalling, by writing. Writing is my most natural prayer language. And this is good. But there is a 'voice' I access in writing that doesn't always make it into my whole body, into my speech. This is not to deny that writing can be a form of proclamation or that it is good that different people have different gifts, but I felt God suggest that this discepancy in my writing life and speaking life reflects a compartmentalising on my part, that he would wish to break down. I pray for my voice, and for yours, for speaking out loud the depth and breadth of the gospel, praying for teaching, preaching, performing, that I and you would find integrated ways and voices, as part of my own healing and wholeness, as well as to the end of communicating life to others.
Rm10v15-16 Like eating glass? Like fire shut up in my bones. Body ache for something better. Go all in, fall in, feet first, less a fist fighting more a foot fetish. Head and shoulders knees and go? We go toe to toe. Do si do, yo ho, we go go going gone, sent across seas to step up, step 2, we're standing on all four paws and more, holy trotters what, we kick a hip hop hoof, we break a hole in Rick Ross' roof. Man dwells balletically.
Rm10v17-18 Natural theology means we have to pay attention to the earth. But revealed theology means we have to talk to one another.
Rm10v19-20 This Peej is a 'nation' scapegoating scrape coating the kettle's laq calling the pots bible black. This Peej is nowt but a bitter brother older who knows neither bolder or wiser ways to stem v19's 'anger' and 'jealousy'. A bitterer fool, pity the petty Peej pained to be pipped at the post, still convinced second generation Christians are second rate. Stop. Suck on the marrow of scripture, Peej, with less Joycean garble, Peej.
We make a nation great again, through repentance. Such a nation starts with me. Spake another fool with less folly, (in quite another storm with no brolly):
When usurers tell their gold in the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to ...
What's your Albion going to come to? Answers on a postcard.
Rm10v21 All day long (while you daydreamed, while you cycled, while you slept) I held out my hands (while you clamped up with petty stresses and distractions) to welcome (while you sat with your abstractions) a disobedient and rebellious people (while you swore and smirked and lied and chose the easier unkindness). All day long. God holds out Her hands. To welcome. A disobedient and rebellious people.
Monday, 14 November 2016
Rm9v1-2 'Christianity is Jewish' (E. Schaeffer), and we're called to be 'true Jews' (Piper on Rm2), but, when I'm borrowing these claims in their reductive form, I tend to have in mind an approximate and metaphorical Hebrew culture because claims about literal Judaism and the actual people of Israel tend to tread too impossibly fine a line between Zionism and anti-Semitism. So I prefer to keep this vague.
Christianity believes the world is sick. In God's hospital, the venous catheter breaks skin in one place, the seed of humanity's rebirth is planted in specific soil, out of that singular historic root an unbroken chain of inherited salvation spreads its branches into all countries and places until it reaches me. But I prefer to keep this vague.
~ In keeping this vague, I make my account of the God of the Old Testament obscure, and so I dull the radical saving story of God's peculiar love, which, being personal, must be particular.
~ In keeping this vague, I satisfy my own deep desire to make God more generic, a more modern remedy to a mere statistical program error. I want salvation as but a software update, downloaded in the background onto a billion devices.
~ In keeping this vague, I resist a doctrine of depravity. Ecologists make a more frank assessment than Christians do: the picture is not of broad sustainability with occasional mistakes:~ human ethical behaviour in realm of biosphere is a story of relentless and unmitigated exploitation, with occasion flashes of self-interested repair.
~ In keeping this vague, I resist election. God choosing Israel, is the prototype for God choosing me, it is not a visit to Tiffany's to choose a ring, it is a visit to the toxic dump for the laborious recycling of a waste product at great cost.
~ In keeping this vague, I subtly protest the idea of undeserved election. I deserve election. But beneath that front I fear my privelege implies responsibility. Responsibility Rm1v14.
Paul experiences 'great sorrow and unceasing anguish' for the literal Jewish people. Do I? Not really at all.
Rm9v3-4 Thinking about my people. There are people who are my people, my kith & kin, in different ways, as a result of shared histories & identities. A few spring to mind this morning and it serves to read v4 over them as a prayer, a declaration of what has and is true, as the basis upon which to pray for more of what they need going forward, asking for the spirit to move anew.
Rm9v5-6 Dems your peeps blud:
Litch sons of bitches [Mt15v27], snitches [Jn8v44]
Quids' kitsch is for the muddled, blud.
Fam a Lamb, we're a mongrel mafia:
Not who you're born with, not to die for,
The true Jew, bruv, has been died-for.
Rm8v7-8 Promise. R spoke yesterday about Peter demonstrating the desire to force God's hand in the Garden of Gethsemane. Abraham too, in begetting Ishmael, tried to force God's hand. But a promise isn't like this. A promise can only be fulfilled by the one who makes it. Anything you gain through your own force or manipulation is not born of the promise. And what you gain thus you never really have. A promise is a gift, you have to trust it. So quickly I want to construct a narrative for how I think God will work in this season. This is to fail to trust the promise of God. Heb13v20-21
Rm9v9-10 It is not enough for Phil to simply know the goodness of God, nor to self-understand as an elected agent of his goodness, nor to enjoy the boundless adventure of being on mission with a crowd of witnesses to his tangible goodness, nor to have my world upside-downed by the startling and inexplicable revelation of his undeserved and unbidden goodness. I have to know how. _"I must get out of here. I must get free and in this mind is the key, my key. ... I need the codes. I have to get inside Zion, and you have to tell me how.."_ I must reverse engineer the system of salvation, dissect the golden goose, break open the blackbox and derive a formula for eternity. Like many Jews before me, reducing God to a formula is convenient: If God choose Abraham's line, he chooses all of Abraham's lines ~ a sort of localised universalism, which Paul indicates is transparently fallacious.
Universalist by omission, I problematise predestination, I construe a capricious God in an entirely arbitrary game of Duck-Duck-Damned, I pick this fight for a number of reasons: ~ because I am unwilling to let go of those individualistic presuppositions in which I cling to a savage epistemological pride which brooks no mystery and pretends no finitude to my own capacity to know and so engages in bizarre agnostic superstition, the have-cake-and-eat-it of salvation without a saviour, grace with no gratitude, a personal universe with no central personality. By resisting election, I resist my election, and I put off the responsibility to be an active agent of goodness. Ultimately I am far more afraid of what I understand than what I don't understand, and problematising predestination, and arguing from its misuse, this is the front I put up to put off the terrifying liberty God has chosen me to enjoy.
Rm9v11-12 All this for you, before you even knew it. Today praying for insight into some thought or intention God from before I was born
Rm9v13-14 Haters gonna hate? Love food, hate waste? Love the sinner, hate the sin? Love us to hate us, but don't slate us? Hate leads to the dark side? From pet hates to hate speech. Strange marmite idioms ~ there is a complexity to hate in translation, and commentaries are keen to note that the word in view here μισέω is used also in Lk14v26 hating one's parents..
Caveating that the soundbite is not helpful to be broadcast without context, and that there is a question of proportion but, how does God hate me?
My basic behateability, my fundamental not-fit-for-purpose-ness, my obnoxiously contemptably destructive default setting. I am bad, I do bad things, my total being is invested in the rampant spoliation of planet earth, I am abusive, coercive and self-related, prone to bouts of exploitation, escapism, indulgence and self-deceit. Fate and the universe ought to hate me, my karma comeuppance bears down on me.
Against this, and despite my self. God actively loves me, out of his superabundance, in a currency of grace not desert.
Rm9v15-16 Mercy. 'Merciful' has been the word on my mind these last few days, & here God speaks it again. In view if God's mercy 12v1; mercy prayers this morning. I tend to think of mercy as another word for forgiveness i.e. the holding back of that-which-is-deserved, that-which-justice-requires, and so only think of mercy as a term that applies to matters of sin or transgression. But I am prompted in these last few days to think that mercy is much broader and richer than this. All withholding of power is a kind of mercy, not just the power to enact justice. So all of God's initiation and communication is a mercy, a constraining and a holding back of that which would otherwise dazzle us to decimation, in order than we might understand a glimpse. So we live inside mercy even before we can think about a need for forgiveness. This is perhaps why the Hebrew 'hesed' means both 'mercy' and 'covenant love'. Somehow this word 'merciful' seems important for the season we're about to embark on, though I can't really say why. V16 to declare over 41 again & again & again.
Rm9v17-18 Hardened like hammered steel, like a tin of old paint, like bread left out.. like I. Am. Titanium.. We are hard people, Londoners. And there is something entrenching about kettling hard things together, iron hardening iron, a bag of nails jostling in the tube carriage, your supple hope pummelled on the anvil of a cruel market economy, the callused over wound in your back, the mascara suit of armour. Nothing. Touches. Me. So, God hardens? Like the sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay. He cannot but, he is blazing brilliance, he is pure warmth, he is radiance itself. Take my lump of clay, splosh me back in the stream of living water, knead me back to maleable compassion and sensitive responsibility, oh God, my potter.
Rm19-20 A lot going on in these verses to çhew over, but in the end I'm struck by the thought that Paul is speaking in the second-person to 'the teacher' & through him to the Jewish people he loves, to provoke them to put *themselves* in question, rather than to put others in question. Rm9 has to be read alongside Rm11, esp Rm11v29. Levinas talks of an asymmetry to suffering, that one can offer theodicies pertaining to one's own suffering, but that it's not our job to do so for others, we are instead called to respond to the suffering of others. Something comparable is true for salvation: we can put ourselves in question before God in a way asymmetrical to others: our job is not to create a systematic of salvation but to demonstrate God's saving grace.
Rm9v21-22 Pondering every Londoner as such a saucepan, bought and sold, caught and moulded, hot and colded, hammered out, fraught and folded. Knackered consumables, some ENPS, some camping aluminium, tarnished detritus from every florid decade, we're all bound for the knacker's yard, we all know wrath, and it's imminence is surely enough.
The offer is the joy of a redemptive trajectory which breaks into the present, the creeping future glory of ceramic mosaiced, the Stomping panhandling holy foolishness of chorded heterogency in an eschatological steel drum band whose melody reverberates back through the structural junctions in eternity's concrete frame ~ as Zumba into the Monty flat echo chamber.
Rm9v23-24 For those of us prone to anxiety the notion of a capricious God is thd ultimate fear, it is, alongside the fear that there is no God, ultimately the fear that we are not safe in the world. Paul dismantles the Euthypro Dilemma deftly, and speaķs to the fear. Yes, of course God enjoys utter freedom, but no, this doesn't make God capricious, for true freedom is not caprice, we just tend to think it is. In God's freedom God is always steadfastly working to (i) reveal glory & (ii) show mercy. These are bedrocks of divine reality and ways that divine freedom is expressed. The story of the Jews & the Gentiles is a story in which God consistently reveals glory & shows mercy. So fear not, dear heart, Rm2v4.
Rm9v25-26 In the very place. Christianity is platial, but not as we know it. Wendall Berry says goo.gl/rHpNVK "there are no unsacred places, only sacred places and desecrated places." True. And. It is in that very desecrated place, the shattered and shat upon, the exquisitely unclean, the utterly desolated, the polluted tarnished no-go area of 'desecration'. At that point, just in time, in that very place, despite all you've done, despite the journey and your history, despite coming, as the film Shame's character Sissy, "from a bad place".. God adopts you. He calls you his own.
Rm9v27-28 As Paul makes clear in Rm11, this statement taken & used from Isaiah is not literally true, but is being used to try to stir up Jewish listeners to repentence and faith in God's grace. This causes me to reflect on styles of speaking, preaching, prophesying. I strongly favour clarity, taking pains to make clear what is literal & what is metaphorical, at pains to avoid being misinterpreted. There is, I don't doubt, a great value to this, including a helpful corrective to those in the body who emphasise differently (as per 1Cor12-27), but I do want to note for myself how God's great prophets often speak with wild passion things of great urgency in a way that is easily misinterpreted or unclear...and the holy spirit is right in this. I am tasked with both listening to the spirit's prophetic promptings and being unafraid to speak in when my bones are on fire, even when the word is confusing, and I am tasked with interpreting the prophesies of others to co-labour with the whole church in making them clear, so that we might all know God more fully.
Rm9v29-30 Offspring. Today the spectre of extinction seems closer than ever, the lineage of the good and the godly of yesteryear is ebbed away by attrition and infertility and the remnant eating itself. Cuarón's Children of Men was reviewed as portraying _'warzones of extraordinary plausibility'_ ~ plausible and visceral to an audience that daily inacts a zombie culture, willing Melancholia's waltz of auto-destruction in slow motion. This pervasive sense of imminent annihilation permeates a church culture built for the cold war, the siloed mono-generational model, the single-use consumer goods, the ungainly behemoth moribund institutional faith. And I am complicit. I am Sodom, I am Gommorah, I am the cynic, I am the nostalgic, I had hoped.
But Isaiah is concerned with birth and perpetuation and hope, as he is in the Nativity reading (Is9v6..). And in some sense every birth is poetically Christmas, every rebirth a bolt from the blue, an immaculate conception. Hope surprises, hope wins, and hope endures.
Rm9v31-32 One of the chief dangers of this time is that I'll think I'm doing OK because we're trying to do a 'ministry' and so God must be around somewhere, & that I think I'm 'praying' because I'm in lots of contexts of organised 'prayer'. I am still leaning on a law to save me, rather than cultivating the inner life of true faith as a response to grace, out of which flows true worship and service. This point is as old as the hills but I'd value your prayers for me on this at this moment, struggling to make time in true prayer in the blur of things.
Rm9v33 When is a stone a stumbling stone? What is stumbliness as a quality? Christ is a stumbling block, but by contrast with what? By contrast with the smooth space of a well-oiled platonic universe, a parametric paraboloid in CGI, a total environment of lickably slick seamless surfaces. We desperately want God to be impersonal, codifiable, predictable, generic. But. We stumble into the quiddity of Christ, the very this-ness, the strange haecceity that says, Christ is this and not that, here and not there, a person not a program. Christ is the monstrous carbuncle on the face of the law's abstraction, an obnoxious protrusion of artefactual specificity. So, the gospel is a tear in the veil, it disrupts, it is a trip switch, a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.
Saturday, 1 October 2016
*Therefore.* Romans, and indeed Christianity, is a structured argument, an article accelerator, a rhetorical cathedral, a homeletic centrifuge, channelling explosive doxological compenents through 'therefore'-pipes to the combustion chambers in the engine of your soul. Rm7 ∴ Rm8 ∴ go and sin no more, live for free, enjoy peace, make much of God.
*Now.* We are here, and this is now. Now. On Thursday morning. Now. In 2016. Now. In this infinitesimal slice through the soup of time's continuum. Now. On the cusp of history, on the brink of eternity, after waiting for so many BC ages, we're AD from this moment. Now. In the blink of blurry morning, as autumn dawns over London, as the guard changes. Right now. Christianity is now. Active. Present. Intense. Perpetual.
*No condemnation.* No comeuppance. No shame and no blame. There is nothing outstanding to pay, nothing unsightly to hide, there is nothing you can be condemned for, there is no one you can be condemned by. No one can lay a finger on you because there are no charges to press, no debts, no fetters, no caveats, no latent clauses, no loopholes, nothing to bite you in ass later, nothing to regret, no apologies to make. You can go into work with the shields down and armour off. You can be vulnerable because you are fundamentally invulnerable. You can risk everything and lose nothing.
Rm8v3-4 The law is part of the reality of God, or a picture or a representation of the reality of God, but the old self struggles, for the reasons of Rm7, to be present to, to connect with, to live inside this reality. The law remains the ultimate external environment, but the law in itself can't enable is to be present to it. Yesterday in unrelated reading I came across this cog sci definition of presence: 'The feeling of being & acting in a world outside us'...'A subject is 'present' in a space if she can act in it.' Resurrection reality, through Christ, is alive to the Spirit. The Spirit is an internal and and an external reality, bridging the gap. Through the Spirit we can be present to God's reality, and able to act within it.
Rm8v5-6 What's your mindset?
*Flesh.* σάρκα And not in the good sense, not in the honorific sense of enfleshed embodiment which Christ made glorious by his own incarnation. Flesh in the carnal carnage of a car crash at a carvery sense. Flesh in the blood smeared streets around Smithfield Market at 7am, a rotting meat market mentality of rancid rare steak left out in the sun. The mind set on the flesh is a savage mind that grills the goose that once laid golden eggs. People become flesh when you take the immortal life out of them. You become mere meat as you consider yourself as a tradable commodity, a pound of flesh extracted and exchangable, a zombie kit of parts stitched back together.
*Spirit.* πνεῦμα And not in the ethereal, escapist, vegetarian sense. Spirit not in any dualistic sense that pours scorn on the physical world of wonder, colour and form. The mind set on the Spirit is charged with the electricity of the God-encounter, life lived before his shining face. In this mindset you have met no mere mortal friends, and designed obsolesence is anathema, so when we build let us think we build for ever.
What's your mind set upon?
a hasty host
of hostile hate
this harboured heat
He who yet hallows
Dwell, dwell, dwell. Dwell is one of my favourite words, conveying purposive qualitative depth to ordinary inhabitation. Dwell is a word mudanely practical but richly and necessarily poetic, casting all the artefacts of regular furnishing into a Heideggerian cosmic fourfold of earth and sky, gods and mortals.
SPJ made the point last night evocatively, preaching on Jn14v10 goo.gl/9R40NA that the Trinity is a community of mutual indwelling, and we participate in the Trinity by dwelling-in and being-dwelt-in.
Dwell-in: In your Father's house there are many rooms, and the preparation of those rooms by Christ for your dwelling-in Jn14v3 is no mere lick of paint, no simple sprucing up or hasty papering over: the place he prepares, the plans he has, these are the tailoring of heaven's interior design for you, furnishing for dwelling for relating and enjoying God forever.
Dwelt-in: In your reciprocal hospitality, your 1Co6v19 temple, your Rv3v20 rooms which are in view here in Rm8. There is an architecture to the Spirit's presence in your life, minimally there is a door with Holman Hunt's inner handle, and there are the facilities within to dine-with. So, enjoy God, dear Christian, furnish your soul to dwell-with, enjoy life in all of it's ζωὴ with, life is single malt sipped by the fireside with, shelter from the storm with, jointly attending to the task of householding with. The Spirit of God dwells in you, let him dwell richly Col3v16 maximally ~ very dwell.
Rm8v11-12 The same Spirit who raised Jesus from death dwells in my body, bringing new life. That to say, the union with Christ that enables death to old self and my own new creation life *is itself* a work of the Spirit. The Spirit enables the union which enables resurrection which enables us to know the Father. The life trinitarian, where life begets more life.
Rm8v13-14 Sons of God. Sons here is (υἱός/huioi) the term Paul prefers, which can be contrasted with John's preferred (τέκνα/tekna). Both are true.
John's nurtured infants are (re)born into a quasi-biological lineage ~ passive, dependent descendents, collectively a brood of new-Jews, a new tribe with new fam, a we-experience of care.
Paul's adopted heirs are individuals considered worthy, through Christ, to be legally partners in the family business, included now in the God&Sons painted on the back of the truck. A more filial relation which carries with it privilege and dignity.
One of the commentaries speaks of these in the phrase "felt sonship", how does it feel?
Rm8v15-16 Could there be a more unanxious, more trinitarian set of verses? Utterly apt for this day and this season, these words ask not to be commented on but surrendered to: the Spirit of God causes us to be free. The Spirit of God unites with our own spirit. In this unity we discover that the Creator is also our Father. I commit this day to the stability, freedom, risk, play, joy, care and truth of God the trinity.
Heir apparent. IFTTT.
Suffering shared. Brownlee.
Merked so it's #Merky.
Have to vs Get to. Glory.
Rm8v19-20 Listen to creation, take her seriously. She too is speaking of God, waiting for God. We can jointly attend to God with created nature, which is perhaps like discovering God anew for ourselves revealed in creation. A powerful convicting theme of the summer: creation care is essential, and it is essential for many reasons, but one reason is this, that when we alienate ourselves from nature we alienate ourselves from a source of knowing God. Spend time with a tree today, listen to what it says about the Creator.
Rm8v21-22 Creation is subject to decay. Creation waits. Creation groans. Creation will be set free. What is creation? Or even, who is creation? For these are verbs conjuring actions of agency.
Creation groans. Do you hear it? How does it sound? Like Michael Jackson's crying Earth with weeping shores? Like Pocahontas' mournfully aphoristic Grandmother Willow? Like Hurrican Katrina's devastated fury screaming up the coast? Or the more passive groan of an battered accordian kicked into the corner wheezing it's dischordant last. Fearing the bogey pantheism, we err towards the latter, the passive, inert, dead view of nature, a creation groaning like the creaking of a ship. Lynn White has angrily and influentially claimed _"Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects."_
Creation waits. Waits for the children of God. Waits for such as I, such as we are. Waits for us to be revealed. Does it have to wait all day?
Rm8v23-24 This ache is inherent, indeed it swells the closer one gets. This is our posture: not static certainty, not despair, not distraction, but the painful hopeful longing of love, that can know in some ways and not in others, yet stakes its life. 'My contemplation is an excruciation only because it is also a joy', to borrow and transpose from De Beauvoir. God help me to sit here, in the structure & substance of Hope.
Rm8v25-26 v26 'pray as we ought' Prayer has an ought? How then ought we? Prayer is groaning: v22 Creation *groans* waiting for sons of God; v23 the sons of God *groan* waiting for the Spirit; v26 the Spirit *groans..*. By prayer we are a cosmic conduit for these subsonic reverberations, we pray in the resonant frequency of infinite longing. Prayer is the legitimate exclamation of a thing broken, and needs no justification, explanation or diagnosis, no apology or caveat. God, let Hb5v7 be my 'prayer voice'. Prayer is translation: *Prayer translates what we do not see into what we cannot say* Rendering the invisible in the inexpressible, and the impossible in the imminent. Prayer is synaesthesia of the void. Prayer demands the gifts of tongues and a life balletic, music and artistic practice, intuition and preconceptual emotion, raw and unmediated and untransposable expression. Prayer is patience. Not if but when. Oh but when, God, and how long?!
Rm8v27 On Thursday a theologian declared that we live in a world that is 'in' the 'in-between' the Father and the Son. Yes. But so too in the in-between the Father and the Spirit. Can we picture ourselves 'in' the in-betweens, and even in the in-betweens of the in-betweens on the trinity? Surely this would change how we pray, how we breathe.
Rm8v28 The signature in all things is redemption, if I learn how to look in-love.
Your future is future proofed, neat gin.
Now your name is a new start, Genesis,
Christian, born of the spirit you were cis gin
And now (Jd1v24, Ac2v15) to the G they be the same thing.
You're branded with a fresh face, contour.
Christ our lights and foundation, concealer,
You're branded by his grace, conformed.
And your brother is a rock star, Knophler.
Sinning by ommision, you're a blank page, white trash?
Now your glory is a done deal, hard cash.
Pauline fatigue got me 'hashtag rapping', a tad hash.
And tho I'm justified by grace .. it'still a car crash.
Rm8v31-32 J preached a compelling sermon on Romans yesterday, suggesting that the tortured neurosis of Rm7 is Paul's caricature of the person who has not grasped the height & depth of the grace of God, the 'no condemnation' of 8v1, the goodness and for-us-ness of God in these verses. We tend to prefer an addiction to a guilt-confession-forgiveness cycle, but freedom from sin means not having to obsess about sin all the time, as Rm7, but rather it is Rm8: to fix one's mind on Christ, to allow the fruits of the Spirit to burst forth, to be swept up by the Father who is for us, & gives us all things.
Rm8v33-34 *Who?* In the nuclear bunker of my identity, my bulletproof hermetic ontology, I hear a noise. Huddled in my hall of shame, with the blinds down, the drawbridge up, and there's a distinct scratching from within the walls. The fear creeps over cool, the icy hand of 6am anxiety pins me and tingles shooting pain through my heart's plumbing. Somebody knows I'm here. Like every horror movie ever, the fear is not of a what, but of a *who*, a someone, a personal, infinite, justifiably angry someone with ample cause to hurt me with vindictive force.
In the peace of my own meditation, calmly collecting my own selfunderstanding, arranging the library of my soul, there is a whispering in the aisles. The needling voice of condemnation, a chorus of second-personal pronouns in a surging hum of noice. The viciously effective, self-fulfilling voice of shame: you are a dirty person who does dirty things, you are a liability, you are a person of no value who will never amount to anything. Who said that? Called down the street, bellowed into the cosmos. Who?
Rm8v35-36 We can live dangerously if we're already safe. We can live dangerously. We're already safe.
Rm8v37-38 *More than.* Has 'more-than-conquerors' struck you as strange? If you're #1.. where do you go from there? It has been helpful to consider (via J) that Rm7 can be read in the sardonic voice. This then frames 'conquer' almost pejoratively. That in this race of life there is a striving runner who speaks to his limbs thusly:
"I delight in the law of God, in my inner being [a conqueror's mindset?], but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! [conqueror becomes the conqueree?]" [7v22-24]
This Rm7 runner gets off on the wrong foot; preoccupied with mere conquering, he sets out on this race, and tangles up in himself internally. It is a vain desire to conquer as if it were in any way not assured; it is a vain desire to conquer rather than a resting-easy that you have so-much-more-than-merely-conquered. The pressure to be a successful Christian, the onus on me to be busy, look busy, and demonstrably play a part in engineering victory, invariably degrades to a just-enough form of conquering, a time-management approach portioning my finite energies to the task, a focus on minimum standards, the just-in-time, cost-engineered minima of bounded-set 'Christian' ethical living, lowest common denominator church unity, the letigiously defensive, over-cautious, heaven-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth forms of striving.
God is not interested in you marginally scraping over the line, God wins with us and for us, by a country mile. Your salvation, your sufficiency, are secure. Secure in the face of tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and other miscellany from a catalogue of an ordinary day at 41.
Rm8v39 Seperation anxiety. I can be inside an infant's total terror and desperate clinging, utter bodily fear that the parent will leave and therefore I will not be okay. Yet all cosmic separation anxiety is founded on illusion. God is union, & we are in union with God. Jn14v18 we are not left as orphans, so Ps131v2 dear heart, nothing in creation could leave you abandoned.
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
Rm7v1-2 Initially this reads as a confusing bunch of mixed metaphors. The death needed seems to shift from the subject to the spouse in this metaphor. I (wife) am subject to the law while I am alive, so surely it is I who must die? But it is the husband who must die in order to free me from it. Initially I assumed that the husband in this picture was the law, that the old self is locked in a covenant with the law, and this is true, but in fact it makes more sense to say that the spouse in this picture is the old self itself. So close is the oneness of marriage that this metaphor works as an understanding of the complex whole of self. And this makes sense, because it is not simply being a widow to the law that sets me free, but rather v3 re-marriage to Christ. Resurrection is re-marriage to Christ. Which is also the resurrection of the new self, such is the oneness, for Gal2v20 it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables
Paul's Shakespearean tragedy litters the stage with dead spouses. What a vast and precious universe is contained in monogamy's metaphors! It is precisely interesting that the objects of Paul's analogy drift, the argument being equally true first considering the death-of-husband-Law to us, and then considering the death-of-us to husband Law. In both, we are then the bride of Christ. So, to understand this love, I'm interested to compare and contrast the use of spousal-love language to speak of our relation to God, and the use of Fatherheart-love language to speak of our relation to God. Fatherheart language is a much needed remedy to a poverty of experience of and expression by, millenials. However, perhaps we should be wary that parental love is today's preeminent Ideal love, cloying with its marketable cooption, doubly crushing wherever it falls short of idealisation. Husbandheart language, (to coin a ministry) is the trickier, the culturally blurier, it is, by contrast to parental love, the more exclusive and reciprocal and elective. Widowed once we are rewooed and wedded to a jealous and romantic lover, we are spousally fettered, legally entwined, ontologically united, til death do us part. Dear widow makers, lock away the razors and save your lovely wrists: Someone like Him exists. We exist to make that sort of love known.
Rhythm not rule
Life not letter
Dance the other side of death
In God the freedom fetter
with no law there's no sin
with no air there's no wind
with no shore there's no land
to fight for.
the Mosaic law's an enticement
an incitement that invites men
which excites them to spite them
in Paul's book the law's vault's
a pandora's box of thou shalt nots,
prised by a fox, prized by the lot
So, I bleed to know I'm alive
And, I speed to show I've arrived
I explete so you know I despise
I can covet, so I will covet, cos
I'm a rebel without a cause
rebelling against the uncaused
So it has been shown that you live longer when you have less stress and a more peaceful life with no niggling frustrations. You could say living peacefully is less sinful, less requirements for rights and less need for them, a greater collective community, no need to prove to others, living peacefully has an immediate understanding that living practically is more effective than academically, and people are influenced more by role models than fictional characters. Jesus should live for ever? So does that technically mean he was more peaceful? Or is part of the sacrifice of taking on stress for human kind/others, become a collective responsibility for sin? That is my question today for you.
I've been thinking the last few days about your earlier questions. But, poeticism, I was just in that sort of mood, but as you say, sometimes it sprawls a little far to follow. So, to try to answer/unpick/challenge your theses: 1. The Stress Sin Syllogism. // 2. Inner Peace vs World Peace // 3. Practical Actual Faith vs Psychosomatic Self Help. // 4. Atonement for Stress
1. The Stress Sin Syllogism: Sin reduces/end life // Stress reduces/ends life // ∴ Sin = Stress
I believe it was you who first told me about roses which flourish more under a certain form of stress.. Clearly there is stress= *healthy resistance* but also and different stress= *pathological strain*. I'm not perfectly sure where the line is drawn between these two, a bit like the question, if you stub your toe in Heaven will it hurt? Leaving that aside, I think there is a stress which is sin, where *sin is a distortion of the real* ~ sin is lies, untruths, misconstructions, corruptions, put out into the world to damage people. eg1. The truth is that it is more blessed to give than receive, but the sin/stress perspective erroneously believes it is happier to store up wealth for yourself. The result is damage to self through a selfish society. eg2. The truth is that you are an exquisitely made human being of infinite value, but the sin/stress perspective erroneously claims that he is not good enough and that he must make up the difference. The result is damage to society through a striving self.
2. Inner Peace vs World Peace: Here you're blurring two Peaces. Sin is real in the world, in society, in our systems and relations. Your inner faith and personal practice could be as Zen and quiet and innerly peaceful as you like, but you would still be subject to the damaging effect of external turmoil, peril, poverty, coercion, and violence. The "need for rights", I think, concerns the definition of self in the context of social relations, and managing those boundaries justly, transparently, equitably, sustainably. The language of rights _can be_ coopted or abused, and turned into a system of claiming entitled rights without commensurate responsibilities ~ but it shouldn't. I also have a certain privileged Western white male middleclass sense that the world is fine, and that my primary concern is to keep my own inner peace, and that good faith is a private matter, and that suffering is all in the mind. Christianity, claims that Jesus transforms your inner world AND the world beyond. Jesus transforms the world through AND quite apart from you. This is the Grace system that I am reading about in Romans, that over and above the lies of sin, there is a total world change which we get to participate in, with Jesus.
3. Practical Actual Faith vs Psychosomatic Self Help: Is Jesus a thought experiment? A grand analogy for self-actualisation? Is Christianity only therapeutic? Are Jesus' parables about salvation merely self-fulfilling prophecies, which change the world only psychologically? I would like to pray for you today, tell me what I can ask God to change in your ready-to-hand experience of London, life, love and the warts-and-all world of being physical.
4. Atonement for Stress: Your question, I think, is: does Jesus take on our stress? The correct Christian answer is: Yes (kids in Sunday school chanting "cast all you cares on Jesus.. he offers a peace which passes understanding.. etc etc). Buts that my experience? Sometimes. I'm not a very good Christian, I'm a poorly tuned radio, a rusty bike chain, a comfortable rich young man. Conceptually Jesus is the answer to my questions, but in life I let him be so only occasionally.Perhaps the question could be: Is stress even transferrable? Can the lies we believe be erased? Can the damage-done be undone? So many glib Christian answers are available.
Rm7v9-10 I once was alive apart from the law? As an infant, unselfconscious, ungodconscious, others assimilated into my oceanic state, the world had no boundaries, I floated in a void. Then came the Reality Principle, a recognition that I am not alone in the world, the world is edges & shapes, & there are rules that govern the world of mother & molecules. Law pins me down. It is the painful awareness of self, others, creation, God. My blundering proximity thereto. There is no Ps119v45 wide place that hasn't been through the transformation of law's contours, this the difference between agoraphobia and spaciousness.
Rm7v11-12 The Good. Can sin distort all Good? All good weights as bludgeons, all good ropes as nooses, all good edges as cleavers, all topography as a chance to get one up on a neighbour. Legally enshrining the Good creates entitlement and a system of loophole exploits; a self-righteous class and a despondent outsider; shame and perverse incentives. So a world with no Good? The alternative is a sinless padded cell of stasis, a guiltless universe of relativism, the porridgey dissolution of one and other. We must define the Good, absolutely and extremely. Whether it is housing justice or sexual ethics, it is a prophetic act to speak a vision of the uncompromised Good, the black-and-white of ought and imperative. Knowing that the purpose of defining the Good in law is not to make us be Good, but to make us desperate for the God who enables the Good despite us and apart from the law. Housing policy isn't working, the dysfunction of social provision is exponentially more cynical. No carrots and no sticks are immune from the human will to subvert. What is needed is the Goodness of good housing which exceeds that of the Pharisees Mt5v20.
Rm7v13-14 The rhythm of God is the good, & the law manifests the rhythm, then the law shows us how we are out of rhythm. Henri LeFebvre on rhythms: 'The everyday reveals itself to be polyrhythmia from the first listening...Rhythms unite with one another in the state of health, in normal (which is to say normed!) everydayness; when they are discordant, there is suffering, a pathological state (of which arrhythmia is generally, at the same time, symptom, cause & effect). The discordance of rhythms brings previously eurthymic organisations towards fatal disorder.' I find this helpful picture of the relation of law & sin.
Rm7v15-16 I don't mean to be mean it's just me? It's just me and the latent neural pathways of a bitter bad workman blaming his tools of habituated evil. But why stay the same? Forgetfulness? Inertia? Strongholds? Ignorance? Paul says he 'doesn't understand his own actions..'. So know thyself? Know thyself as a vessel borne on the wind of warped moral appetites, a cargo bike carrying broken ideological equipment, a torn musculature of broken social habits. Christianity is change management. Romans 8 is coming.
Rm7v17-18 Paul evidences psychoanalytic insight before it was cool. Compare Alice Miller: 'Hatred...poisons & blinds the soul, devours the memory & the mind, kills the capacity for compassion & insight. Its destructive power stems from a history of horror that has been repressed & stored in the body, with...no direct access to the conscious mind.'...'Mere words, however skilled the interpretation, will leave unchanged or even deepen the split between intellectual speculation & the knowledge of the body, the split fom which [I] already suffer.'...'Contemptuous attitudes show themselves in a patient's relationships & will continue to torment her as long as they function in the cells of the body.' Sin is literally stored in the body, hidden from the mind, not because the body is bad, but because it stores knowledge, pain & desire in a way that the conscious mind can't grasp if it other than by experiencing through the body. Paul's claim here is not a mandate to wage war on the body but to be reconciled to it, to the greater reconciliation of mind & body, so that the hatred & contempt stored in my cells, which the law shows up, can be brought into consciousness, brought into the light, towards true metanoia.
Rm7v19-20 'dwells..' οἰκοῦσα from oikos. What dwells in me? 7v20 sin dwells. My heart is not the blank slate of a free agent, my heart is a crowded house of good intentions and evil appetites: hopes, habits and house guests, my heart is a sin squat. While on Islay, days away from other humans, miles away from work, far out of twitter's earshot, the house of my heart was quiet, but not silent. There's a scratching in the attic, a rustling from the Anne Frank annex, as I walk the halls of my mnemonic architecture I meet the Grady twins in Shining corridors. Sin dwells in me, it brawls out of closets, it prowls about the garden, it rattles at the windows, sin seeks to derail by intimidation, to puff up by adulation, to augment the architecture of my heart and vandalise my capacity for good. Undistracted on Islay, I felt the full and fragile weight of my own fallibility, my rickety mental health, my spinning moral compass. Sin dwells in me, hissing lies like leaking pipes, a tinnitus of misinformation. But. And. More-than this. 8v9 the Spirit of God dwells, that is 8v11 the Spirit of him who raised Jesus dwells. Stirring a stew on the Aga, God dwells richly; tightening a suring prop on the formwork of my renovation project, God dwells, securely; pruning the orchard topiary, God dwells in my heart as the active agent, the ecstatic tenant, the rightful owner, the returning restorer. God dwells.
The ideals of living longer and having a clearer conscience have been disrupted by modernity. The problem with modernity is that we sell our future through mortgages and debts to be paid back. We strive for long term security by earning and owning more, hoping if will offset our unknown length of see-saw scale health/security (and our families), only predicting we have created so much sin to offset. But in reality we all die the same way... without much control, waiting on our health, we are all worth the same, there is no illusive balance. We must learn to live without regret, to learn to live and strive with our sin, only through others can we negate our regret and truly live longer.
Rm7v21-22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. I sense the possibility of a deeper delight in the law of God & I want it. My chief prayer for this coming season is that I might be able to pray Ps119v41-48 for myself in spirit & truth. The law of God is not a human law, or rather, not a merely human law. The law of God = the rhythm of God, which contains us. It is the heartbeat of God that is alive, producing beautiful diversity within itself, it is not a static deadening of fear-inducing bureaucracy & loopholes. I want to know & love the rhythm of God in a way I currently don't. For evil is close at hand, & evil is hard to discern when I'm not attuned to these divine laws. Show us yourself, oh Lord.
Rm7v23-24 My pesky parts, wandering eyes prone to wander, they are a law unto themselves. Twitchy, like the devil makes work for idle hands, restless de la Tourette's, I'm juggernaut of carnality, an unstoppable cacophony of wriggly mischief, a sickly tic tangled in habituated caution entitlement sloth bravado, all waging smutty war against my better self, holding my me to ransom. Wretched man that I am, damned in my body, but damned if I disembody. Danger is everywhere.
Rm7v25 Wrestling, always, to try to understand the Jesus of the Christian faith. God enfleshed, that the law of our own flesh might be transubstantiated? Union with Christ transforms the law of our flesh, & sanctification is the process of discovering this? Malcolm Guite on union with Christ a la Jn15 helpful for meditation on what a greater fullness of this recognition might be like:
"How might it feel to be part of the vine?
Not just to see the vineyard from afar
Or even pick the clusters, press the wine
But to be grafted in, to feel the stir
Of inward sap that rises from our root,
Himself deep-planted in the ground if Love."
Wednesday, 27 July 2016
Rm6v1-2 Paul's 'By no means' a call to shed our misunderstanding of sin. Why would you ask if you're allowed to put the old self back on? Why would you ask if it's okay to go back to the false reactive damaged self if you recognised that this is what has been put to death? Why would you ask if it's okay to stay inside illusions & defense mechanisms & an anxious enslaved way if being in the world, if you understood that this is what you had been freed from? Taste & see.
Rm6v3-4 Shall we carry on sinning? No, obvs. But it's not obvs. Because your definition of sin has to change. I am trying to move my own understanding from:
- Sin-is-naughtiness and Grace-is-an-alibi
- Sin-is-a-code and Grace-is-a-hack
- Sin-was-a-system and Grace-is-a-revolution.
- Sin-was-a-microcosm and Grace-is-a-tidalwave
Fundamentally: *Grace is bigger than Sin*
It makes sense to carry on sinning, if it is a get-out-of-jail card within a code of sin, a glitch that would allow us to game the system, to get one over on our fellow sinners. As if a small God had introduced a patch into a system bigger than him. In our experience sin is a total system, a zero-sum whole, a hegemonic paradigm. Sin is all we know. So, shall we carry on sinning? No. Not because you oughtn't but because you needn't.
And the language here on new birth is vital:
~Grace is not free cocaine offered to one with a prenatal coke addiction. Grace is a cure, it is a new appetite, for a higher high.
~Grace is not good money after bad to one with unmanageable inherited debt. Grace is the collapse of a debt based banking system.
~Grace is not flattery to those insecure, raised on lies and unreasonable expectations. Grace is a bulletproof new identity.
You're a new soul, in a new and strange world. And so, you're in all kinds of trouble now, the kind where you wake up on a train and everything, everything’s strange.
Rm6v5-6 Meditating on hiding this week I realise that the theology of the cross I have assimilated or myself mangled in the past is one of trying to hide from God using Jesus. This mechanism of hiding from God has to be broken, it is grounded on the same denial & fear as every other kind of hiding from God. It is an unstable theology leading to anxiety. So listen to Paul, dear heart, he repeats the mystery of the cross: Jesus does not 'stand between' you & an angry God, Jesus does not trick God into thinking you're better than you are, when all the while you continue to know your own dirty truth. Jesus does not 'hide' your sin in this sense. Rather, Jesus offers union with himself, just as you are. Through union with Christ, the old self of sin is exposed to be (actually) put to death with Christ, & a new self, which can (actually) stand before God is resurrected with. For v8 we live WITH Christ. This theology will save my life. I believe, Lord, help thou my unbelief, purge the ghosts of a bad theology of a cross & bring me into your glorious new creation.
Rm6v7-8 'Has been set free!' Matrix analogies breakdown, but I'm really fixated right now on this idea of sin as a system, a closed, bounded subset of reality, a construct of lies, and its greatest coup is convincing us that it is all, that sin is all and that there is nothing outside of it. Sin, a state of incurvatus in se, has even convinced itself of its own totality, death is its trump card, holding us to hostage. Death is the mirrored black wall of our cell, the precipice that holds us compliant in sin's system. With Christ we plunge through death, we drop off sin's radar, outside of sin's domain. With Christ we are nursed back to health. With Christ we live on the basis of another system, the wide open real world. And from that we plug back in ~ in but not of the Matrix, to dismantle the sin city from the inside..
I am also interested as our own paradigm as a system of restriction in the same way in which society creates/sun create our paradigm, and we find it hard to break free. We take the normal academic route because it's safe, because we worry of hitting into sin. When we need to learn to set ourselves free, creativity, on our own path finically (self employed), love life (our own decisions from the heart rather than from friends or family), making decisions is about breaking with paradigms
It reminds me of what I read on Desiring God's Solid Joys devotional today: Resist him, firm in your faith. (1 Peter 5:9) The two great enemies of our souls are sin and Satan. And sin is the worst enemy, because the only way that Satan can destroy us is by getting us to sin. God may give him leash enough to rough us up, the way he did Job, or even to kill us, the way he did the saints in Smyrna (Revelation 2:10); but Satan cannot condemn us or rob us of eternal life. The only way he can do us ultimate harm is by influencing us to sin. Which is exactly what he aims to do. So Satan’s main business is to advocate, promote, assist, titillate and confirm our bent to sinning. We see this in Ephesians 2:1–2: “You were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked . . . according to the prince of the power of the air” (NASB). Sinning “accords” with Satan’s power in the world. When he brings about moral evil, it is through sin. When we sin, we move in his sphere, and come into accord with him. When we sin, we “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27). The only thing that will condemn us at the judgment day is unforgiven sin — not sickness or afflictions or persecutions or intimidations or apparitions or nightmares. Satan knows this. Therefore his great focus is not primarily on how to scare Christians with weird phenomena (though there’s plenty of that), but on how to corrupt Christians with worthless fads and evil thoughts. Satan wants to catch us at a time when our faith is not firm, when it is vulnerable. It makes sense that the very thing Satan wants to destroy would also be the means of our resisting his efforts. That’s why Peter says, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” It is also why Paul says that the “shield of faith” can “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). The way to thwart the devil is to strengthen the very thing he is trying most to destroy — your faith.
Rm6v9 Almost more astonishing than the fact that Christ created a wormhole and broke out the sin-death system is that He entered into it in the first place. In incarnation Christ subjected himself to the mastery of death, that is, his body & being really was subject to entropy, resurrection wasn't an illusion of death, but a rewriting of the principles of life within cells & spirit.
Rm6v10 To God. v8 with Christ and v10 to God the Father, sounds like a joint attention structure to me. Though I realise I'm too quick to try to tidily codify the trinity and I can't at all...if anything the members of the trinity are always shifting their attention and always attending to everything, and to each other, and to me directly all at once and it's a big weird divine tangle if love and revelation. Nevertheless useful to think about such structures in turn. How does 'facing' the Father 'with' Christ in our periphery change what we see?
Rm6v11-12 Self-pity's cool tonic. Lust's warm embrace. Pride's heady rush. Sin reigned in me as it rewarded, I contracted my mortal body to sin as a calculated transaction, I gave my pound of flesh, my blood for oil, I obeyed its passions for the buzz, the flex, the power. Previously sin reigned, it had a right to rule, I had signed away a tenancy agreement on my soul. I am given to think of the mechanics of compulsion, how was I obliged to sin? I allowed sin to hold my security, my identity, my pleasure to ransom. Subtly complicit in a system, I was a hostage with Stockholm syndrome, willing the enterprise on, entrenching my own captivity. But now, there is no profit in propping up that racket, perpetuating boasting, covering lies with lies, exploiting the weak, seeking sordid and illicit versions of the the pleasure God intends, Now, sin can threaten me with nothing worse, and sin can bribe me nothing better, sin cannot compel my participation. Sin reigned in me, but now. I am as a dead light bulb in sin's circuit, and inert element in its furnace. I drift through McDonalds after a wedding feast, I smell the simmering burgers, the richly melting cheese, the scintillating salty nuggets, but I have no appetite, I am already sated. ..ok, maybe just a few chips, I know they're made of cardboard, but Rm7v19.
Rm6v13-14 Give yourself. My imagination immediately pictures myself reaching inside my chest and handing over my neatly packaged chunk Cartesian soul to Jesus, but this imaginative exercise has consequences, it fails to embody what it is to give oneself. To give oneself is a disruptive restructuring of subjectivity itself. To give *up* oneself evokes something closer to this. 'Surrender your whole being'.//
Whose love holds us captive, whose freedom binds us fast,
Master us, we pray,
That we may no longer live in fear of every death, but in humble surrender to every resurrection,
Through Christ our Lord
Rm6v17-18 two types of freedom, the kind where we're free to choose the less-than-best and the kind where we're so gripped by the good that we are necessitated by it, just as epistemic freedom is the capacity to be necessitated by the truth.
Rm6v19-20 You gotta serve somebody. A one body. You cannot serve two masters, it is not possible to serve two masters. Be all in. Be all in because you cannot but be all in. There is no halfway house, there is no no-man's-land, there are no part time roles. You are freed from sin, but not free-floating. Sin is a ship, righteousness is a ship, no one has a foot in both, no one is adrift. I am thinking again about the sin system, the singularity. When I was a slave of sin, I was a member of its crew, an oarsman in the engineroom of a battleship, I derived my wage, my security, my identity, my pleasure from this exclusive membership. Aboard this ship I was unconnected from the final economy of participating in righteousness, I had no way to access the eschatological project of the good. My random acts of kindness were vain as gifts exchanged between Kamikaze pilots. But now. I can derive no wage from sin, no pleasure, no forward movement. Cannot. So, rally my members to the gift of good work, I'm aboard a wholly other vessel, cooperating in a project of lasting worth, why would I not be all in? My tricksy members, zombie disembodied hands clawing their way across the floor to old habits. I think of Liar Liar's "this-pen-is-blue", but the slavery to righteousness is not so robotic, automatic, or coercive. You are on a new ship, free to make all things beautiful.
Rm6v21-22 Fruit that leads to life & the fruit that leads to death. Thinking about different ways that the fruit of fruit trees can 'lead to' life or death, the mix of causation & constitution in a favourite tree metaphor. Fruit can lead to it's own death if it is sterile, if it contains no seeds within it that lead to resurrection after death when blown on the wind of the spirit. Fruit can lead to death when eaten by something that isn't supposed to eat it, in a clash of purposes, a failure of wisdom to co-ordinate flourishing - fruit leading to the death of others. Fruit can lead to it's own death & the death of others when it looks good but contains poison, mould, inorganic chemicals, which can damage a whole system. Fruit that leads to life springs from the deep roots of prayer and depends on a healthy integrated system in which all parts are considered, it is capable of reproduction and compatible with the biology of it's recipient, which is to say aligned with the purposes of the Spirit.
Rm6v23 In the great hereafter there is eternal cake or eternal death, but in the mean time, we conduct life and death transactions piecemeal, we self-understand, we anticipate, we practise, we are owned by one system or another, we are active in a market economy of death in a closed system of scarcity, or we are engaged in a gift economy of Life in an open system of superabundance. Paymaster General Sin pays contractual wages: portioned death, death by installments, ever diminishing remuneration at ever greater cost, mercenary iterations of exploitation and depletion, scraps divided parasites feeding out of a finite system subject to corruption and decay. *Shame (v21) is death by installments.* Paymaster General God gives covenental unmerited gifts: pieces of sanctification v22, ever-increasing 2Co3v18, life in its fullness, foreshadowings of glory, gifting the basis and the substance of your holiness. *Sanctification (v22) is life by installments.* And this Life is (v23) *in Christ Jesus*. That infinite quality of Life expanded in depth now is deep *in Christ Jesus*. That infinite quantity of Life expanded in length then is long *in Christ Jesus*. Are you in?
Rm5v1-2 Faith is Peace is Grace is Hope is Glory is Bla de la bla bla. These vanilla honourifics, lowest common denominator keywords.. am I alone in battling for a fresh linguistic encounter? Jargon Creep is a cancer of the lectionary, a trap of tropes, a diabolic plague stultifying once vital words, hollowing out these nimble crustacean idioms to leave only ossified verbal coral pieces: pretty and brittle and sunbleached and dead. In aggregate, a seashore of cliches waiting for fridgemagnet platitudes to plant tired footsteps across. There must be more to "life" v17 than this.. So, textees, let's electrify somber Christianese. Take every abstract noun in v1-2 in turn, and then play with each verb and preposition. Hence we stand in grace struck me as a glowingly odd phrase to lectio, and to read back to the rest of the passage, so to ponder the stance of standing and the domain I'm in. What strikes you?
Have you read Kenneth Bailey on 1Cor? He critiques western translations for being too abstract, and highlights concrete imagery in Paul. eg. 1Cor13 contains three refs to Corinthian brass work apparently. Not sure how he wd treat Rm5 but maybe important link to theme of access in Eph2.
Rm5v3-4 Wondering about the inverse formula: comfort produces resigned entitlement, which distorts character, leading to rage, cynicism & despondency. A caution. Rather rejoicing in hope, to play prepositions & nouns as per yesterday's invitation. Rejoicing-in hope, & to be inside it you must be immersed in it. When hope springs from perseverance rather than cheap or empty words then you are already inside it, it will be your landscape, your materials, your breath, your tacit knowledge of the world. I want to build my hope muscles.
Rm5v5-6 "Hope does".. what hope does and does not do is presumes on it's present tense substantiality. Hope is not the ephemeral hope, the floaty middle-distant future wished away, that hope deferred which maketh the heart sick Pr13v12. Neither is Hope the had-hoped Lk24v21, the been-and-gone backed-the-wrong-horse hope. Hope is very present, immanently within you 1Pt3v15, a living Hope 1Pt1v3. Then there is this image of Hope not putting us to Shame, like an unburstable balloon, we are filled with Love. The Love that casts out all Fear, gives a Hope that casts out all Shame. By this volumetric displacement, I consider Christians as the timber formwork to poured concrete Hope, casting Hope and casting out Shame, all air bubbles vibrated out by God's holy hammer drill of suffering? Perhaps. Your Hope is a done deal, has been poured in, has been given, so now, now, live in, on and through that Hope.
This unpacks one of my favourite concepts. Hope that is both present and eternal. Hope the noun
Rm5v7-8 Sat in the Electric Elephant a while back, I said to God: 'I feel so helpless'. The next thing I read was 5v6: God does speak, though I am quick to forget. & v6 builds to v7&8 to make up a life verse. This is the substance of Christianity. This is the good news that my hungry hurting heart forgets it knows. I have been finding it hard to pray because I feel that I do not do at the same time. Maybe there are shades of untruth in this thought itself. But even if it true, that the most true thing about me is my egoism or hypocrisy, it makes no difference insofar as I am beloved nevertheless: For while I was still. Even here. In the midst of all this. God loves me. But God. Even so God. And yet God. Nevertheless God.
We are justified by Jesus' blood, yes,
→ (much more) we are saved by *Jesus*.
We reconciled by Jesus' death, yes,
→(much more) we are saved by *Jesus' life*.
→(much more than all that) we *rejoice*.
I think I am arriving at an appreciation of Paul's many "fors" and "therefores", which I have tended to find logically tenuous and so expositionally nauseating.
Rm5v1-11 Is the gospel according to *more-than*. The cumulative effect of each more-than clause in between is not necessarily served by being carved up into memory verses. More-than takes your default paradigm, your resting pulse, your you-have-heard-it-said, and cranks it up, and cranks it up, and adds kerosene. Rhetorically working up through almost a parody of boyband key changes. If you thought that Jesus unicycling was cool, zoom out and see he is pedalling across a highwire, zoom out and see that the wire is held in flamingos beaks across a ravine.. etc. The effect leads us not, as key changes, into emotional affect, but into the true truth of more-than.
Rm5v1-11 is bookended by rejoicing (v2, v11) and the poetic emphasis of the passage carries us from glory to glory, from a rejoicing hypothesis to rejoicing conclusion, from an meditation on the legal technical *reconciling power* of Christ's death to a meditation on the expansive *saving power* of living with his new life. If you thought that was cool, there's more, there's always more.
Rm5v11-12 The 'one man' of Adam here of course to mirror the 'one man' of Christ in v18-19. It's not mathematics or mechanics or linear literalism that's important here, but rather another astounding picture of the two ways: the way of nature and the way of grace. Entropy and reverse-entropy. In the way of nature one drop of poison contaminates the whole. Tearing at one's skin just once leaves them damaged even if the rest of the week was ruled by peaceful self-control. The way of grace is like light: shining in the darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it. In the way of nature evil overcomes good. In the way of grace, goodness has the final word. And the Sun will rise with healing in it's wings.
Rm5v13-14 Ah Adam, the first in a line of dominoes leading to Philip Larkin's fucked up parents, who filled him up with the faults they had, and added some extra, just for him, and who taught him this verse:
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
So, Sin: a systemic contamination, a family affair, an inherited foible, a blood disorder, even a Y-Chromosome deficiency? Christianity satisfies a hunger reflected in the trope of the orphan superhero? Christianity grafts us into a new patriarchal line because Christianity springs from an immaculately conceived Jesus? Christianity changes how we have been fathered and how we father.
I wonder if there are any self inflicting stress related human only conditions not shared with animals. And if that stress is societal based. Does sin = stress, or society compound the need for that stress.
Christianity - the one birth that conquers death?
Rm5v15-16 The gift is not like the trespass. Interesting to note that both are kinds of transgression, both move across a boundary and break something. Sin breaks the order of the cosmos, & grace breaks us out of ourselves. One breaks life down into death, the other breaks the power of death by resurrection. We are broken down by trespass & we need to be broken open by the gift.
Rm5v17-18 "What is sin?" asks J, "Is sin a human condition distinct from our animal counterparts?" "Is sin society's self-inflicted 'stress' wounds?" I have never thought of sin in this way. Between Paul and J, I'm being opened to a bigger Christ, whose healing is vast. You have heard it said, that sin is the naughty things your mother told you not to do, demerit points for willful culpable misbehaviours, a black book of guilty thou-shalt-nots. But, what if sin is not simply you weeing in the swimming pool? Sin is the pre-weed swimming pool, hence, I was Born This Wee. The preexisting contamination of all social activity, an inherited set of CAD drawings where the reference grids are out of align, and iteratively exponential confusion means objective right angles are now utterly impossible. We, socially, we, intergenerationally, we, back to Adam, we are inflicted by and inflict sin, we are told half truths and we pass them on.
And so, stress. The anxiety and mental-emotional strain when social demands exceed your personal resource. Those demands are distorted, they are part of a sin system of untruth that is self-inflicting, self-re-enforcing and self-re-entrenching, as Hans Selye said of Stress: “Stress in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.” Adam caused the first sin-stress, Adam weed in the pool, Adam referenced the wrong grid.
Faith in Christ's death and resurrection fixes this? Part of the offence of Jesus' substitutionary atonement is the personalist intensity of the claim, it is a kind of Ad Hominem fallacy, unless an infinite personal universe is in fact structured that way. My liberally religiouse proclivity twitches to fashion a filtration system, a salvation by water works, a vast impersonal program to clean the pool. But Christ has drained it, That vast pool of lies that told me who I should be, that demanded what I should do, that ocean of condemning voices, all the dirty water of pathological stress, the drew me under a poisonous rip tide of despair. It is all gone, absorbed, finished. Freely. v17
If your born with your sins, as in the pre-weed, then doesn't that make a farce of trying not to add any extra sons to your list? There is a difficult paradigm to understand between living in sin and not sinning (new sin presumably)
Re inherited sin: 1 Pet 1:18 ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers. This encourages me that we are not bound to copy all the faults of our parents.
Rm5v19-20 Grace abounded all the more. A meditation on the english word 'abound'. It means 'existing in great numbers or quantities', & so yes, there is a greater quantity of grace than sin: infinite grace that never bottoms out. The translation to 'abound' evokes more than greater quantity in my mind though, I think of bounding, moving, teeming - that not only is grace bigger, but it is more dynamic than sin. This morning I picture grace as a spaniel, limitlessly excited & energetic to fetch back the things sin hurls into in distance, to lay them again at one's feet. And a-bound, like bound-less, also evokes the tireless conscious personal energy & intention that is God's grace, & the transgression that grace is. Enjoying chewing this word, even if not from the Greek... 'hypereperisseusen' sounds like spaniels to me though. 🐶
Rm5v21 Sin reigned, but now Grace reigns. In the cosmic cake or death, cake-on-the-plate is in charge now. I often think of Grace as merely reparative, an ontological Toupret, talking of Grace 'covering', Grace as sufficient Savlon in response to life's bumps. Yes, but no, Grace is more than ~ it abounds quantitatively, and it does so superlatively, it is the more-than-est force in the universe. In this way Grace is structural and directive. Grace is the new order of things. Grace calls the shots. Your life is now within Grace's jurisdiction. Grace is no mere new code of life hacks, it is new life. Grace is not a reshuffled cabinet for the same austerity regime, it is a total coup upside-downing all norms. Grace is a new power from a new source. And Grace is in charge now.
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Rm4v1-2 The meaning of 'but not before God' seems ambiguous in every translation I've looked at. Of course, the whole deal here is that we're not put right by works but by faith, & so we have no reason to boast at all. But the wording here seems to imply that even if we were put right by works, we still wouldn't be able to boast before God, even if we could before others - for the capacity to do works is itself a gift from God. Breathing, thinking, reasoning, responding - all grace. Grace all.
Rm4v3-4 For all I've done.. God owes me nothing. There is no cake-or-death, just death. Christianity is not a meritocracy of the moral, it is not a star chart for good behaviour. Religione is wage slavery as a total worldview, a striver's charter, an infinitely precarious sense of self built on imaginary entitlement. Everything I've ever done is tainted. All my doing is doodoo Ph3v8 Is64v4. So, deedless and undone, unwaged and bankrupt, I throw myself on God's gift economy, and that which he gives on account of who I am-in-Christ, despite everything I've done.
Rm4v5-6 I'm struggling with Paul today. I'm lagging behind because his turn of phrase is confusing and annoying me. I'm glad he quotes the psalter; that's all I've got today, and I can pray it with Paul, & with David, in truth. Thank God for Psalm 32: // v7 You, God, are my hiding place...v11 be glad & rejoice because of what the Lord has done.//
Rm4v7-8 "Blessed" is a construction in the passive-voice, a done-to state, the well-done-good-and-faithful-servant, ultimately, is more like a steak is well-done. You are blessed, you are well-done, because your sins are covered and your sins are not counted. "Covered", epikaluptó ~ used only here, it means covered, or even over-covered, epi-covered. Compare Mt10v26 'there is nothing kekaluptó that won't be apokaluptó' ..except for our epikaluptó sins. "Counted", logizomai ~ our sin problem, from a logistical nightmare to a logic gate scandal. Paul uses this accountancy principle, this counter argument, if you will, the same word, throughout Rm4: v3 counted as righteous, v9 not counted as gift, v8 not count sin, v9 v10 faith was counted, v22 v23 v24 count count count.. Like the memories in Inside Out, strung on an abacus, then emptied into a cosmic memory dump, into God's great forgettery. And you get Christ's credit.
Ah. The beauties of whatsapp. And Inside Out. And grace grace grace grace. Made me think of this... youtube.com/watch?v=af96ZiubQtE
Rm4v11-12 "Sign" ~ that is, a signifier of a signified. A sign is *about* something, it is a transparent artifact of language that casts the mind's eye beyond the item at hand, it is both-and the present and the potential, it is both-and the as-is and the as-if, circumcision's main substance is subjunctive in its symbolic function describing another reality ~ as opposed to circumcision being superstitiously in-itself valuable or in-itself virtuous. Christianity is full of such signs: baptism, communion, marriage,invaluable language assets speaking of a reality beyond themself and speaking that reality into being by being so spoken. "Seal" (Es8v8, Gn41v42 etc) ~ you brand that which you already own, you offer your signature when the detail of the deal is already done. "Father" ~ Signage is but the documenting, and sealing is only the ratifying, of Abraham's faith, and it is this faith which is the qualification for his fatherhood. Does understanding faithers as fathers, suggest Christianity positively as a faith-triarchy? Are some fathers more father than others? Does this help deepen an understanding of a savourable qualitative fathers-heart? How can I better be a spiritual father in this tradition, with this inheritance?
Rm4v13-14 Paul invites us to examine Gen15 - Abraham's faith as a pattern for our own. There are many striking things about A's conversation with God here: the way that he v8 asks questions while v9-10 responding with sacrifice, that he hears God v12-16 speaking terror, yet v18 covenanting in the midst of it. But the thing that strikes me most is that God's first command is 'do not be afraid', God's first promise here is to be Abraham's shield. Faith like Abe's knows first that it is safe in the world. That is the v6 trust that pleases God. Don't be afraid, do not be afraid.
Rm4v15-16 Paul doesn't mention 'law' (nomos) until Rm2. As if, in an approximately chronological argument, there are God's invisible qualities (aorata) Rm1v20, and God's righteous judgement (dikaiōma) Rm1v32, which give individuals a sense of conscience and consequence, but then, into the room God sends Mrs Law, a utopian herald of his radical Kingdom's future perfect community. She sets up a curious triangle out of any already fraught dyad, she is a know-it-all, backseat-driving gooseberry. Mrs Law is a Third, and as such presents herself for cooption in the staging of our competitive comparative structures ~ shame, pride, etc. Paul says, v16, "where there is no law there is no transgression" - which makes a different claim to the sin established in Rm1. Law is the descriptive roadmap of where we are going, an impossible social blueprint for God's new society.
Consider cannabis (by way of happily extra-biblical analogy not an argument for ethics of legalisation) Consider the way the drug's relative legality changes your heart, and your sense of righteousness, and how Law's peculiar lawness creates a world of triangular meta-transgressions: ~ To the extent that you pharisee believe Mrs Law is on your prohibitionist side, law itself increases self-righteousness, which self-reinforces self-justifying self-understanding. ~ To the extent that you pothead understand yourself to have fallen foul of Mrs Law's grand plan, then law increases shame/despair: you are outnumbered by the pharisee and Mrs Law, and so despair's learnt helplessness gives rise to a vindictive nothing-to-lose rebelliousness. In both cases sin increases Rm5v20. But.
Rm4v17 Thinking about inheritance today with Løgstrup's emphasis on life as gift, thankful for biological & spiritual parents stretching back to Abraham as part of the gift. Various attempts to secularise 'life as gift' here, & I'm struck by how this is maybe just about possible for the creation & sustainance of life...but not resurrection. Life can't resurrect itself, only God can give life to the dead.
Rm4v18 Hope against hope, what a strange phrase. I've had various conversations about hope in the last week or so, in the midst of various chaos. Hope against hope = true hope against false hope, where false hope is escapist denial or vague optimism, both of which are simply the other side of the coin of despair. True hope, via ruin, emerges from the ashes of false hope. Hk3v16-19.
Rm4v19-20 Hope. 1Pt3v15: Do you have an answer for the Hope that you have? Can you explain and describe Hope? Hb11v1: Do you have assurance of things hoped for? Can you defend and advocate Hope?
- Hope speaks to us, that still small voice, that voice of one calling in the wilderness, that sheep-whisperer's tone.
- We speak to Hope, we go into our room and close the door and pray, we bellow full throated lament from the mountains, we dialogue with the Almighty.
- We speak of Hope, that hypothesis, that Kingdom Come, that but-if-not, we go out to the highways and hedges inviting all to Hope.
And Faith? Faith is participation in Hope.
- Faith is living a future reality within the present, placing breakable objects within our realm of the seen onto a table in the realm of the unseen.
- Faith is a visible praxis of pointing to God, it is a risk-taking exercise in active anticipation, a Doing of a life in the light of new information.
- Faith is infectiously imaginative culture-making, bringing the art of the possible urgently into the actual, bringing the impossible into the realm of the very real, catalysing an apetite for ludricous things.
Abraham grew in faith. Such do I want for you: increasingly more more-than in your sense of today.
Rm4v21-22 Being fully persuaded. Hard verses for us doubt-filled. This is the only place this plērophero is used. It's easy to read as one-dimensional: belief as binary, as on or off - on means a pass, off means a fail. But a short meditation on the word itself brings out more nuance. Definition: 'to bring full measure, to carry out fully, to discharge completely, to be fully established in a matter of certainty, to be fully convinced, assured.' There is something active & ongoing in this word, it doesn't start from certainty but moves towards it. It can be a prayer - persuade me oh God, assure me fully, that I might understand righteousness.
Rm4v23-24 Death, so magnificent, so completely awesome, just so full, and man so small. Perennially, I am swept up in death's cult, enamoured at the sheer sublime totality of death's figure, a muscular stallion shimmering in the blackest black, there is a harrowing thrill in being reverberated by death's deafening tornado, there is comfort in the clutch of the dragon's infinitely vice-like grip. This is the most authentic submission to the most powerful and finally ultimate force in the universe. All other objects of devotion, all other artifacts of culture, all other points of reference, are shallow diversions, escapist candyfloss veils over ultimate reality. Those who peddle lives less than this, fritter frothy poodle pop parades floating down anaesthetic rivers of glibly translucent mediocrity. Come, be towards death, come bow before it and relish the raw intensity and screaming certainty of the melancholic totality. Death, for being the ultimate experience, for having the last word, is the basis for authentic living. Unless there is something more ultimate. Unless another word has the last say.
Rm4v25 'FOR our sins...FOR our justification' (NIV)? Prepositions and theology. The meanings of these 'for's blurs into confusion. The GNB is more precise here: BECAUSE of our sins...IN ORDER TO put us right with God.' The clarity helps remind us that it is actually not Christ's death alone that puts us right with God, but his resurrection. The resurrection is not an add-on to atonement, it is its substance. In death Christ comes into the human order of things, & in his resurrection we are brought into the Christ order of things. Because...in order to: from death to life.