Tuesday, 3 May 2016
texting romans one
Rm1v1-2 The form, as well as the content, of these verses is striking. There is a function to a salutation, it is not nothing, it is not merely convention. "Paul, is a something-unusual, from a something-unusual, for a something-unusual.." and has sufficient confidence in that something's substance to announce it, and has sufficient conviction in the urgency of that something's effect to be compelled to foreground its pronouncement. Do I feel so entitled to title? Do I have such a self-awareness that self-understands: this is what I am, where I'm from, what I'm about? What is your something? Announce it to your Monday morning, preface it to this chapter of your life, speak it over the details of your day. "Sarah IS Christ's servant, Sarah WAS called by Christ, Sarah WILL do the work of an apostle for Christ in Oval, Sarah's life is an epistle to the Londoners" There are no mere memos, this is the signal to the noise of life.
Rm1v3-4 Concerning His Son. Repeats through the train carriage and gets into my teeth like almonds. Concerning His Son. This is Christianity at its most and least attractive. Concerning His Son. Let's take this season slowly, these three words an invitation, a question, a prayer for more. Concerning His Son.
Rm1v3-4 'Concerning his Son' - which parent has never been concerned for their child? Which father for their son? But the Father of all never worried that His Son would rebel, or deviate from the optimal route - rather he looked with sadness on the hurt His Son underwent. 'Descended from David' - an alliterative turn of phrase that skips over the long line of broken families and bastards in Jesus' earthly family tree. Jesus may be descended from a King, but the incarnation does not escape the ancestral backstory littered with miscalculations, aberrations and blood. But redeemed. Local boy done good. He turned out well. Thus we too, from our flawed familial clans, can hope.
Rm1v5-6 Paul's prepositional apologetics: all for to by from. Romans is a homeletic spirograph, intentionally necessarily employing multivalent grammatical structures for a gospel that is fractal, layered and dynamically active though a grace that is from and for and through Christ. v5 "we" ~ every way this pronoun can be read is interesting, commentators prefer a royal-we reading ~ surrogate "I". Don't read a false modesty into this pluralisation of the singular first person. Even if Paul's received "apostleship" rests actively in him only, it is received by the we-plural in our corporate we-expression, head-to-body interdepartmental interdependence. What is his is mine, and what's ours is particular to the Christian faith: apostleship's confidence in the witness of the resurrection. v5 "obedience of faith" : faith works faith to work faith working faith, this is the piston at the heart of Paul's glittering steam punk mechanism, both-and more-than, this is the cog in the spirograph drawing all to Christ.
[Rm1v5-6] Commentators are fools. "We" are all heirs of the apostolic assignment / missionary mandate of Genesis 12, blessed to be a blessing. Each with our unique (and vitally so) testimony of how we heard Christ 's call. But that Paul does not think himself uniquely unique is evident from 1.12. .. Paul may be the last and least (ie. Greatest!) of the eyewitness Scripture-writing apostles, but he is also simply the first (and therefore least! ) of the post -ascension Ephesians 4 not-exactly-eyewitnesses apostles. (I don't blame the Corinthians for a little confusion :P )
Rm1v7-8 Grace & peace. charis & eirénè. How quickly I tend to skip over this little blessing which contains within it the whole Christian life. Meditating this morning on different ways we might think of the distinction & relationship between grace & peace, there's a quasi-spatial phenomenology here: Grace is form and peace is content. Grace expands our world and peace deepens it. Grace extends, and peace makes whole. Charis hymin kai eirénè apo Theou.
Rm1v9-10 "..succeed in coming to you" Wish you were here? Wish I was there. Paul's ministry to the Romans is prayer and presence and prayer for presence. Preaching itinerance, Paul traverses a geography of supernature, contending with physical spiritualities of distance, and the irreducible genius loci of place. Paul, and we, are travelling embodiments of and for prayer evangelism. Dear Pilgrim, holiday thusly: where you go, pray; and wither you pray, go. v11-15 Expands what Paul believes presence and prayer makes possible, why it is both imperative and mutually beneficial to go and be gone to. Who do you long to see, who do you long to see converted? Pray. Go. Prego.
Rm1v11-12 Longing and mutuality. Equal parts longing for giving-receiving. Longing to see you because of what I receive from you for my sake, and longing to build you up for your sake: you're not a project nor a competitor, but a dazzling desirable Other. Hedonism vs disinterestedness becomes a false dichotomy. So receive love, give love, repeat.
Rm1v13-14 A 'harvest': the faith of others is bare fruit to savour and long long for, it is the honey dew succulent flesh of mango, that heady aroma of a summmer warmed strawberry patch, the crack of a braeburn bite, milky shavings of coconut flesh, the ice fresh splash of fresh squeezed new wine. Such sensate phenomena constitute the precious hedonism found in forging the faith, the maturity and the flourishing of others. v14 'Obligation' we'll rake this over and over to a crescendo in Rm6: the life and love we get to live we have to, we cannot but. To be caught up in grace is to be a conduit, as an electric current must be connected at both ends, thusly are we compelled, bound as slaves of righteousness. v14 the so-called 'wise' and the so-call 'foolish' [who's who?], to the have-nots and have-yachts, to the minority interests and moral majority, to the illiterate and those educated beyond their intelligence, to the in-crowd and down-and-out, and to the other others, I am obliged.
Rm1v15-16 Complete confidence / eager to preach. M & I talking this morning about knowing my own desires, & being able to speak them. It is a labour to recognise with Paul's integrity and confidence the gospel, that is, the good & beautiful, for oneself. & to speak it, in truth, out loud, without fear. In TA, the markers of this confidence are awareness, spontaneity & intimacy; & my prayer is that I would speak the gospel thus.
Rm1v17-18 Faith is the magic with God. Prepositional Paul wants us to know God *from* faith *for* faith .. so to live *by* faith. What is faith? A blind posture? A leaping manoeuvre? A superstitious reaching out with your feelings Luke? Verging on the tautological, Hb11v1 offers that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But, Hb11 goes on. It goes on to tell a dozen Old Testimonies, because faith's faithiness is known in and made known by narrative in context (vs formula in concept). Faithing is both the fuel and the forward motion of the believing steam engine. Faith's piston of prayer, a steady heart beat from-for-from-for faith is the reciprocal inhale-exhale communing with an interactive God in collaborating on ambitious, impossible, high-risk projects. In all the small things. Faith is From/For/By: Answered prayer. Requited love. Met expectations. Return on risks taken. The sum of these invisible transactions is a life *lived*. Help! Mk9v24
Rm1v19-20 Some suggest that v18-32 is used by Paul as a rhetorical device of the oral tradition, in increasing violently caricatured Greek, to try to lure the listener to a point of judgment of those portrayed here, only to sucker-punch the listener with 2v1 as the crescendo, to help us catch ourselves in the act of judgment. This lens is apt given this week's Jn8v1-11 meditation, on how judgmentalism indicates my failure to trust God. Find me out oh God.
Rm1v21-22 [knew God → no thanksgiving → futile thinking → darkened hearts?] Thinking about thinking, the mind is on my mind. We know God, significantly, through the mind: a precision instrument exquisitely tuned for perception and logic, yet, so vulnerable to suggestion and so incapable of self-awareness. ~~ 1. I thank therefore I am. The cogito calibrating role of thanksgiving in shaping the life of the mind and mental health. Gratitude positions the mind: thankful *for* thankful *to*. Try it. 2. The mind is contested territory 2Co10v4-5. Enjoining right and thankful thinking is all good and well, but there is also an enemy on the pitch, an enemy utterly invested in addling the mind. See Mt16v23 Peter's mindset of Satan. Yesterday, Ed Silvoso defined spiritual strongholds for me as mindsets of settled hopelessness, masquerading in good intentions, partitioning the mind in response to trauma, resulting in emotionally unstable double-mindedness. # I shall not cease from mental fight.
Rm1v23-24 On images, on imagination. After a discussion at l'abri on the second commandment in Feb I felt the need to pray into the redemption and expansion of my imagination. I keep praying this prayer, for myself & for you & for the world. I have a glimpse of understanding now, I think, of the truth of this well-worn platitude that we can imagine redemptively. For a long time I have only believed this theoretically, but in my bones believed that all imagining could only ever be this false-image-idol-making. God does not call me simply to cull my addiction to images in a vacuum, but calls me to expand my imagination as and for worship of the true God, to reveal something of divine depths, images that are icons rather than idols. I believe this is true of others out there, of 'artists', but struggle to believe this could be true of my calling, which is a lie. Expand me, oh God.
Rm1v25-26 Paul is arguing from sexuality towards an understanding of God. Literally WTF. Do you? Can we? The world is so broken, sexualities are so far and so often so shattered, Christianities have for so long so eagerly invented so many new and complex hangups and judgementalisms wrt sex. Is it really worth the the risk and the collateral? Can we really argue from sex? Even in abstract? Even on a good day? Yes we can. Yes we must. The desires, the mechanics, the poetics, the causes, the effects of assymetric sex ~ there is design in these, they are for something, they are about something, they can be brought to an excellence, they can be held in contempt. The exchange is subtle. Exchanging creature for creator as a surrogate logic clause in the praxis of embodiement is like a smuggled piece of malware simulating a UI over a mutant OS. God, I beg you, shatter my constructs, my strongholds, my learnt defenses. Give me honorable passions to worship and serve the Creator, in all things.
Rm1v27-28 This notion of bringing punishment on oneself articulated here, Rm13v2 & Ac5v1-11 refer to sex, power & money respectively, the big three that make themselves so available to abuse, addiction & self-reinforcing destructive cycles. This strikes fear into the heart,(Ac5v11) as I felt the right fear at N's exposition of A&S. I feel Jesus speaking to the pharisees in Jn8v24. But. Terror does not have the last word. I was dead, Eph3v5. But God.
Rm1v29-30 Bad. Bad. Really, really bad. Paul rises to a hyperbolic crescendo in a homeletic drive-by. Total depravity, pervasive perversity, who amongst us has not dabbled in these thought-crimes 'avarice' 'faithlessness' 'whispering' just the once? Sanctimonious readers smugly affirmed in their contempt for the ickiness of earlier verses' sexual sins now find themselves facing their own gallows. This savage form of preaching we also considered last night in Jn8v44, terrifying and devisive, but essential and effective? There is a diversity of sins, but one cause ~ suppressing the truth of God's Godness. The world needs to know the extents and the mechanics and the consequences of this their catalogue of corruption. Then they need to know that it need not be so.
Rm1v31-32 Approving of the bad in the other, a version of envy, which denigrates the good in the other? This betrays our disbelief in the goodness of goodness - we are much more interested in our heroes' flaws. I remember a reviewer of MR's Gilead noting that she had done a rare thing in writing the character of John Ames as a good man who was also deeply interesting. Taste and see that the Lord is good, Sarah, a tree of life, always begetting goodnesses.