I'm not like one of those.
I'm bluster stuck on pause.
I've broken glass in clenched claws
I'm better-than a comparative clause
I'm not like one of those.
Coward's castle concrete rebars.
A storage hater heats my heart.
A cynic hoisted on his own petard.
This pent up gall dam debars
me from grace.
I'm not like one of those.
Rm2v3-4 The kindness of God. What is kindness? Even detailed studies of kindness seem to pitch it as 'sympathy', which surely is in the same family of attitudes, but I wonder misses something. The English 'kindness' comes from 'kin'. What strangeness, as we reflected, at the baptism of the little one yesterday, that we are kin to the creator. That we can say 'abba', to the shimmering translucent spirit that abides deep beneath the foundation of the world. Receiving kindness is like receiving daughterhood. It is the definitional picture of grace. Kindness is a soft-heartedness, a tender-heartedness, contrasted with the hard-heartedness of v5. To have contempt for God's kindness is to have contempt for the whole character of God. & we do, we are contemptuous of softness, 'soft in the head', 'soft on sin' both perojatives. Let us realise that God is indeed soft on sin, utterly, and rightly understood. So quick to qualify this! God is soft-hearted towards us, & we do not want to receive it, as we read of Jane in This Hideous Strength last night: 'for a moment, Mrs Dimble became simply a grown up as grown-ups had been when one was a very small child: large, warm, soft objects...[to be] resisted as an insult to one's maturity.' Oh Christian, do not have contempt for the kindness of God - do you not know it is to lead you to repentance?
Rm2v5-6 The spectre of wrath conjures, traditionally, prevalently: Fear. Shame. Guilt. respectively in Africa. Asia. Europe. It was interesting to chat cross-culturally last week about these phenomena. However, it is possible to dull any of these sensitivities, to deflect repercussions, to fashion a sinless, wrathless, universe of inconsequence. Such a glib frame weaves desperate sophistry and exaggerated victimhood in a post-guilt, post-judgement, post-everything defense. [So, Sissy in Shame, "We're not bad people, we just come from a bad place"] This mindset is self-reinforcing, iteratively entrenching and exacerbating itself, exponentially ever more hardened of heart. So preach wrath? Yes, but, if the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay, then to break the cycle we need a new heart. How?
Rm2v7-8 Seeking glory. We tried to unpack glory a little last Tuesday, but it does seem to escape clear definition, spilling over the horizon of meaning in divine excess. The Greek is 'doxa', from which we get doxology. That which we worship. Praying today for the doxa of God to be known by us and in us.
Rm2v9-10 "and then" ~ Moral impartiality. Temporal partiality. The not-yet. The and-then. The creep, the drift, the trickledown. True love waits? True wrath's late, it ticks, tocks, trickles as it topples contingent dominoes, patiently. I've been thinking this morning about literal Jews and equivalent Jews, after Ed Silvoso suggested in our round table that many millenials (of which only 2% in London attend church) may be God-fearing gentiles understandably resistant to the circumcision which the church prescribes. Jew→Gentile : The Christ event switches the operation from the clique to the commons, from the churched to the unchurchable, from gateway drugs to the hard stuff, from the temple to the ekklesia, from Judea to the ends of the earth. 'Jew' is not quite pejorative, but it is a temporary status legitimate only as a caterpillar is bound-toward-cocooning, thusly we Jews-of-a-sort should church towards today's gentiles, as butterflies bound-towards-flight.
Rm2v11-12 A meditation on otherness & belonging this morn, apt given the conference I'm here for. Reading v9-10 evokes in me a sense of my otherness, for I am a gentile, on the flipside of the privileged narrative, & even the Paul the friend of gentiles wants to tell me that I 'come second' to the Jews, in some way. I am Other. And yet apparently this is God showing no favouritism. The differences between Jew & gentile are real differences, but we both belong to God through Christ. Our relationship to the law is different, but in this we both manifest the truth of God, of the consequences of life with or without Him. God models to us how to belong to each other in our otherness.
Rm2v13-14 Law. What is it good for? Though seared or distorted, every human person has a conscience. Consensus on that tacit conviction is codified collectively by a social we as 'law', Mosaic or otherwise. Law inherited as descriptive is bequeathed as prescriptive. To the cynic and the younger son, this blueprint for utopia consists in an arbitrary and impossible infrastructure of sticks and carrots ~ strictures to kick against. To the presumptuous religiouse older son, this blueprint for utopia offers fuel to divisive rhetorical magic thinking ~ structures to kick others against. Technically, 'doers' who achieve the Law's damage limiting minima 'will be justified', but this is Paul taunting law-knowers. It can't be done. The Law is meant to make us desperate, humble and saviour-seeking.
Rm2v15 The conscience is a point of meeting God for all humans in all times & all places. We serve people by finding ways to cultivate and speak undistortion over their consciences, as quickly do they become so, leading to that fear, guilt & shame that we spoke of. The conscience is an interpersonal affair, note how Paul assigns it a second-personal role: accusing, defending, witnessing. Freud was right that internalised Others play a role in the formation of conscience, though he was wrong in his reductive analysis. We, church, have a role to play in being the kind of voice internalised that will bring all humans in all contexts to a point of meeting with God.
Rm2v16 In the end, there are no secrets. In the end there are no secrets! Put that in your existential congruence and smoke it awhile.
Rm2v17-18 You give love a bad name. Paul harangues Jewry generally, and their leadership in particular, in an extended sardonic tirade. Potent especially as these verses have the knowing flow of one listing his former credentials, the jargony shorthand, the insider boasts, trite and jinglistic. Like his Ph3v1-11 Hebrew-of-Hebrews redundant CV rhetorically flipped and weaponised. It gives me to ponder the language I use and have used to insinuate my own sufficiency, labouring, twittering, texting to be thought missional, intentional, evangelical, inclusive.. Dear second-generation Christians, the raw revelation of the fallacy of your former utter religiousity, the devastation of everything you were taught to obey to be ok, that very iconoclasm is your testimony ~ to the extent that you can articulate it, you can free others.
This little light of mine
I'm gonna let it whine,
to entwine and confine,
to hardline and undermine,
to set up my own shrine:
because of my hotline,
personal, to the divine.
No superstitious bloodlines.
I'm letting my light shine.
Rm2v21-22 Teach first? Paul says, teach yourself first. As not many of you should be teachers Jm3v1. If any Jn8v7 Mt7v1 etc. Oh the things I've got to unlearn first to then teach. I'm the blind leading the blind limping, I'm all fraud. I'm unteachable. But by grace I might become such a self-taught servant, a rehabituated liar who's unlearnt helpnessness and unbought prejudice and unfought reform. God unmake me, disentrench me, teach me, because, I'd like to teach the world to sing..
Rm2v23-24 Honour & shame. We shame God, we dishonour God, when we do certain things. Shame is about how one is *seen* by others, & in a triadic move, we can shame God in the eyes of others. They 'see' him as worthless, as less-than, for shame travels by association, across relationships, hence tight-knit family set-ups beget honour cultures. To honour God is to allow God to be seen by others as God is: to be the light of the world is a triad of honour.
Rm2v25-26 Circumcision: a sensitive, subtractive, superstitious sign that establishes systematic mutilation as a national identity and moral principle? A touchy subject, try and just don't mention it. And definitely don't google it.. God ordained circumcision, for a time, as a sign, valid only in its being really about something else. So, some speculations I have on what circumcision anticipates ~ Christianity is: an identity-as-redeemed through the shedding of blood. Christianity is: a procedure done to you. Christianity is: a male meekening. Christianity is: a transformation of your organ of multiplication. Christianity is: enacted at your point of greatest sensitivity. Christianity is: a de-partition rendering the subject more naked, more vulnerable, more present to the incarnate world. Discuss.
Rm2v27-28 Those five people you meet in heaven, am I paying attention now? Mt25v31-46.
Rm2v29 Inside out praise. Praise: as commendation, value, affirmation, chapeau, ascribing worth to a thing.. I picture the outline of a person, a Flubbery elastic malleable boundary to the sense of self. In the one case, the shape is formed by forces outside, a flattered and massaged ego, buffed and puffed vanity, a crowdsurfing parametric jelly moulded by the many hands in a wave of crowdsourced glory ~ this is external circumcision, being considered a cut above. In the second case, the same bounded form is structured from within, muscle and bone knitted together by praise from God in the quiet place through the still small voice, a groundswell of invincible fortitude that knows its infinite value and beloved identity. This is the circumcised heart. Your praise comes from God, your praise comes from God, your praise comes from God.