Monday, 13 June 2016
texting romans three
Rm3v1-2 The very words of God. I'm struck by the spaciousness evoked in me by the use of 'words' in the plural here. The oft used phrase used by Christians 'we're going to look at The Word' is a turn of phrase that has always jarred a little. Some possible reasons for this: (i) it jargonises and hence runs the risk of alienating those 'not in the know', (ii) it runs the risk of confusing scripture with Christ himself. Christ Jesus is The Word of God, the logos theos, Jn1v1. The Bible is not the Word of God but the words of God, (iii) How wide-open-space does the plural become, it seems to acknowledge the trinitarian multiplicity of many-words in divine dialogue, and the fact that God continues to speak, God heart is the revelation of Godself with words and more words, to his children. The Bible itself is like this, a multiplicity & a conversation within itself. We are apt to totalise it, to reduce it to one thing, because it's easier, tidier, more efficient to do so. But to be entrusted with the very words of God is to treasure them all in symphony.
Rm3v3-4 In the reality that is fractal, the Christ event is perennial, constantly a baton to be dropped between generations, a word to be lost in translation. Your Christian upbringing was Jewish. What advantage was it? Great in every respect, but.
Rm3v5-6 We love to fetishise our brokenness...'Welcome to my broken, messy glorious life' and a thousand other slightly inane equivalents strapline the Christian blogs aplenty (plus shiny smiley photo) that I am quite apt to digest as though it were real life. 'Brokenness' and 'darkness' are used unto death. Not to despise anyone's attempt to live faith in the public sphere, I do not know how to do it either, but I must remind myself that brokenness is to be loved, not to celebrated.
Rm3v7-8 God loves sinners. God seems to especially disproportionately offensively unjustly love sinners 1Co1v27 Mk2v16.. In the story of the prodigal son, the moral of the tale is: live fast, reckless, loose and shameless, so that God will come looking for you, reward you, kill the fatted calf for you Lk15v23. No? Where does a grasp of grace go awry? Something in me enjoys to be this surrealised consequentialist, competing in a rhetorical race for the bottom, freeloading on the blind watchmaker's cosmic slot machine. Freeloading is a phenomena that makes sense in a context of scarcity. Scarcity is a false premise.
Rm3v9-10 A bit like 2v1, God is in the habit of smashing every bit of self-righteousness we might indulge. Maybe true prayer and fasting is participation in pulling away this carpet from under us, a labour, through vertigo, to surrender all self-image. Help me to pray oh Lord.
Rm3v11-12 Paul collages a theology of total depravity using only soundbites from the Jewish Psalm book. Could he do such from our hymnal? My underdeveloped sense of the breadth and depth of my own corruption steers and is steered by selective song selection. So, sing forgotten songs, and liturgies of repentance and lament. Know, that through negligence, through weakness, through my own deliberate fault, I do bad things, I do wrongly, because I understand wrongly v11 and so desire wrongly v11 (and sing wrongly). Then, with better epistemelogical humility, know Jesus as the only sufficient subject for new desires, the only credible author of new understanding, and the uniquely capable engineer of a renewed heart and mind.
Rm3v13-14 Their throats are open graves. Interesting re our conversation on Saturday on venting vs bitching. What is an open grave? There's a death metaphor here of course, the way that words can be life-denying in all kinds of ways, but there's more to the metaphor . An open grave is an exposure of death, an active disregard for the health of others, a decomposing, contagious body left to rot, exposing the whole social environment to decay and disease. Words, like dead bodies, need to be appropriately contained. An open grave is also a hazard for others insofar as it can be easy to fall into, to find oneself down in the depths in a fumbling uncautious instant. An open grave further does not dignify death. Things do die. Things fall apart. But words, as graves, can either honour the personhood of those involved, or not. Words can dignify the reality of brokenness, or treat it cheaply. A prayer: may our words today be well-contained, transparently marked, and deeply dignifying.
Rm3v15-16 Footloose to bad blood. In this cascade of criticism cataloguing the complicity of various body parts in the enterprise of evil, 'feet' shed blood. Isaiah thought so Is59v7, Solomon thought so Pr1v16. Swift feet, like some Wile E. Coyote, speeding to mischief, why do I? My appetite for evil is not only pervasive, thorough, total and determined, it is also speedy, impatient, restless and always first on the scene. My speedy sins are sins of omission muchly, swift sins of neglect, expedient half-finished half-truths, I'm quick to quit, and in so fleeing I leave a world to bleed.
Rm3v17-18 The way of peace. I only made the connection for the first time in last night's meeting that the reason we 'share the peace' as part of the ritual of communion is because of the command to leave our offering at the altar and to make peace with brother & sister before bringing it to God. In communion we make peace by confessing and repenting of our sins before God, & also by intentionally blessing those with whom we do life, namely those who grieve us, & those whom we grieve. The fact I had always categorised this as an inexplicable Anglican quirk is telling, as is the way I enact this ritual, awkwardly, ironically, always slightly looking over their shoulder rather than into their face. God, in the reality of true grievances, we want to walk in the way of peace.
Rm3v19-20 Law, what is it good for? Say it again y'all. The re-emphasis is needed, again and again. Because this is not how we are taught to understand Law. Contrary to my every striving religiouse inclination, God's Law is not prescriptive, it is descriptive. God's perfect holy Law is not a kit of moral parts, it's not a road map to a good-enough threshold, it is an equation detailing an orb of mathematical infinity laser cut into a vacuum.
Rm3v21-22 Apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known. Christ is apart from the law. The law might point to Christ, & Christ might motivate us to keep the law for the right reasons, but insofar as God is made known to us Christ and the law are completely different categories. Often in thinking of Christ as the fulfilment of the law I think of Christ as like the law but just a bit more. And soteriological models that only focus on penal substitution picture Christ as simply returning us to a model of law. But Christ is a whole new dimension, a 3D of God where before we only had 2D. Like a helicopter lifting us of train tracks, to borrow an image. This is good news, for the law brings with it anxiety, Christ brings a wide open space. A completely different way of knowing God, which has always been true. So I want to understand Christ, where I doubt, I want the bigger dimension.
Rm3v23 Fall short. Did you ever play Prince of Persia? An 8-bit oblique isometric universe of swords, potions, gates, intrigue and the seeds of my architectural imagination. Certain jumps could be landed, certain jumps could be caught if made well timed from a running start, but fall short and you plummet through screen after screen of vertical scrolling. goo.gl/N5fWnd and goo.gl/9A4orT That visceral sensation of free-falling, that lurch in your stomach as the plane hits a front of low pressure, that cold creeping sense of falling behind with your repayments, slipping under into a murky subterreanean world of bottomless debt, guilt and shame. I fall short and keep on falling, screaming to a terminal velocity, being resigned towards death, and as we fall together everything in the cabin becomes relatively weightless.
Rm3v24 But you haven't fallen short. You haven't fallen short. He out-ran you to the bottom. You haven't fallen short.
Rm3v25-26 I struggle with prolific & throwaway references to 'the blood', perhaps in a similar way to use of 'the word'. Partly because it's become Christian jargonised and its meaning becomes lost, it's nuances blunted. We don't believe that Jesus' actual blood was some kind of magic potion, we don't believe in blood sacrifice...the death and resurrection of Jesus precisely overcomes the sacrificial system, it tells us that there is no superstitous quasi-quantitative transactioning of guilt for grace. Grace blows apart the whole system. Paul knows this when he tells us shortly that what it is to be a Christian is to die with Christ and to be raised to life again Rm6v4-7. An entirely different process. Let us take care with Paul's phrases, therefore, so ensure that we don't turn them back into law, striving or superstition.
Rm3v27-28 What then becomes of my-tits-are-more-feminist-than-your-tits? It is excluded. There is no comparative praise left, as there are no fractions of infinity. Don't wanna black-or-white you, but such is the law of faith, all a bit all-or-nothing. Terrifying, but that Jesus paid it all for nothing. While owing him everything, I can pay him nothing, but he still thinks I'm worth something. Boast in that. And speak that infinite-valuation over every soul who thinks their value exists as a vague shade of grey of on a sliding scale of one-up-man-ship notches.
Rm3v29-30 Of course He is. Of course God is God of Jews and Gentiles. Of course all true worship is of the One God. Of course all truth is God's truth, what other kind could it be? There is rest to be found in the logic of the infinite. There is no place on earth I can go, no person I can encounter, no dilemma too complex, that God is not already there and involved, the creator, sustainer, source. Breathe deeply: of course of course of course.
Rm3v31 More raw jaw on the law from Pau'? But much needed, because I resist the law, just as much as I fall from faith, perpetually. Paul is doing battle with my fundamental rationalisations, my deep system presuppositions, my reality structuring assumption which renders an infinite-personal-God as an oxymoronic dichotomy. God is just-and-merciful as he is infinite-and-personal: like an idiosyncratic circle? Yes. Perfect as a hovering white platonic cube in the void, and yet curiously besotted with Sarah, peculiarly empathetically morphable to her own unique brand of sinful disfigurement. And my experience of God as such is no particulate glitch or granular anomaly, no perceptual quirk in the continuum, God in his Godness has fashioned a universe which both-and conforms to mechanically just laws whilst being entirely satisfied and remedied through personal faith.