Friday, 31 March 2017

115


texting luke one

Take a closer Luke with us. 07729056452

Lk1v1-2 Eye-witnesses. Here we are in Luke, the least familiar of the gospels to me. Ambivalent feelings emerge about eye-witnesses: gratitude, jealousy, doubt, a sense of inaccessibility. My prayer for Luke is for eyes to see, for imagination opened, to witness-with and witness-through this eye-witness account, amen.

Lk1v3-4 An "orderly account" leads to "certainty". Music to this INTJ. There is a danger in reductio-ad-MyersBriggs, but. Your account should be orderly, as libraries should be alphabetised. Your testimony should offer certainty, as life-jackets should be airtight. But how? In thinking recently about prayer-letters, Luke's missive here is an example in the format. We write. We write not to coerce, but we do write to convict 1Co14v24 and to compel Lk14v23. We write to structure worldviews. We write sequels to Luke-Acts. We write about the perpetual Christ event, synoptic accounts of his birth into the life of 41 in 2017. Donald Miller's theologisation of Robert Mckee's theory of story makes an imperative of structuring life, risk and punchline through the lens of faith using this equipment of Story. We root for heroes who risk something and narrative only progresses through conflict or crisis. Our hero is Christ, who risked and risks everything for you. Now he writes us in to his story, we should expect a risky ride, and we should plan to write an orderly account of it.

Lk1v5-6 Blameless but barren? Faithful but fruitless? Let us not skip too quickly to the culmination of Elizabeth & Zechariah's story but remember the long years that preceded it. Was God there? Read in the light of Lk6v20-26, there are woes and blessings we don't expect, for mysteriously God is at work in the unfulfilment of our desires. Where are you poor? Where are you dissatisfied? Blessed are you. Where are you satisfied quickly? Woe to you have already received your comfort.

Lk1v7-8 Picture Liz and Zach, wizened oaks, they are the leathery well-weathered ones. Stricken in years: they are old when that was noble. Afflicted in body: they are infertile when that was biologically opaque, morally ambiguous but just as tragic as now. They are bastions of perfect metaphorical force, faithful in the face of misfortune, they stand also at the spring of cliche, icons for our own cultural infertility, prophets to our own wasted youth. Children are our primary perpetuity, our most conspicuous come-what-may, children are the fruit of hope, an emblem of optimism, the gurgling forth of the possible. Childlessness, elective or subjected, pragmatic, physiological or philosophical, all bear the same wound. The myth structure of the bible claims for every event here described, not only that it happened, but it happens. And into every childlessness, every entropy, every blocked well, every literal and metaphorical crisis of fertility, God speaks a new word, to the priests on duty.

Lk1v9-10 Incense burnt in the Holy of Holies, while outside the people prayed. A commentary tells me those outside would pray in 'profound silence'. We're about to keep silence together this evening, and I'm struck by the thought of a connection between incense, silence & prayer in scripture here and elsewhere: Ps141v2-3 'Receive my prayer as incense, my uplifted hands as an evening sacrifice / Lord, place a guard at my mouth, a sentry at the door of my lips.' And in Rv8, a picture of heaven v1 'When the Lamb broke open the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour' - followed by the angels burning incense, which are the prayers of the saints. So as we take silence this even, would it become true incense, true prayer, may we know ourselves at the threshold of the Holy of Holies.

Lk1v11-12 Wizened, Zach steps inside, stately in to consecrated space. Turban tousled by arid Arabian air and brow beat by a caustic whip of sandy wind. Pastorally Zach steps in, into the humid courtyard hues. Heavy the breath of human bustle in earnest prayer in the minor-key broken-hearted chorus of longing. By an outside chance, Zach steps in, an insider-traded pebble on the roulette wheel of a God-addled universe: temple lots drawn by an ancient fate that leaves nothing to chance. And so, Zach steps in. Steps long echoed on stone through the heavy cool and creaking dust of a gothic inner gloomth. Into a totality of blackened gilding under wax accretion, incensed in the aroma of velvet bronze and leather teak. Beady lamp lights blur as liquid crystals in the billows of presence, Zach inhales the very thickness of a substantial cosmos. Zach steps in, he treads the angelic threshold, the fearful angelic threshold, the precipice of the Other City, patrolled by agents of infinity, searing Sorn slivers of blinding arc-welded current as celestial dimensions short-circuit in human form. Zach steps and stumbles. The God we say we believe in turns up. The hurricane of the possible, the superstructure behind the veil, a deafening superabundance. Everything, every but-it-not, everything is yes and amen in that moment.

Lk1v13-14 There are many types of fear, and many categories of fear. One distinction between fears is the fear that God doesn't exist or isn't good vs the fear that God does exist and is good. Zachariah's fear here is the second, the sudden jolt of realising that God's reality is close and might disrupt my world, the Ps76 recognition that God is God. The angel tells him to be unafraid - we aren't meant to remain paralysed by holy fear, it is supposed to lead us to worship, joy, delight, obedience, freedom. It is the Pr1v7 beginning of wisdom, but it is only the beginning. I wrote this text yesterday but still spent the morning anxious - I wasn't even in the second fear but the first, the Lk10v41 and worse anxiety, distrust. My prayer for myself and you today is for the jolt of holy fear, so that an angel of the Lord might lead me from there into the wide open space of God's reality.

Lk1v15-16
"Great." What is greatness? It is within the realm of possibility that you would be great, become great, be involved in achieving great things. The trajectory of being Christian goes beyond grasping the revelation that you are a unique special snowflake beloved by God (which you are), and beyond acquiring Christ's healing and wholeness (which you can), towards Christian greatness, in breadth and depth of impact. "..before the Lord" ~ Greatness is a quality which God observes? What is this greatness? It is not a kit of parts achieved by eating locusts and being a vociferous political commentator, greatness is contextual according to calling. JtB's greatness consisted in courage, zeal and self-abnegation. I was struck yesterday by Jerram Barrs' describing that Mexican workers on his father-in-law's farm desired to raise their children to be like him who gave them such profound dignity in all his dealings. I want that, not so much the reputation, per se, but the sense that I might, by Christ's resource, participate in something great enough to transcend my immediate sphere, and bring life to a third and fourth generation.
"Wine." Thinking in Lent about appetite. Thinking in Lent about vows. JtB's peculiar call is to sober extremism. What is yours? We revisit some of the strategic provocation that motivates JtB's tee-total calling in Lk7v33-34: abstinent JtB is called demonised, drinking Jesus is called a drunkard. Which am I? Which controversial extremism is my calling? What is my circumstance? What is my gift? It has been interesting also in Lent to think about personality types, perhaps as a way to access calling. Go ye with your enneagram MBTI love languages and ponder a Lenten SWOT diagram for your kung fu veganism, or other idiosyncratic lifestyle vow.
"Holy Spirit." There is a Holy Spirit. This is not nothing. This is not a mild honorific or spiritual analogy. JtB will be indwelt by, possessed by, summoned into energetic dialogue with, thrust forth and empowered by a personal Spirit with infinite power and insight. Christianity needs super-powers. Greatness needs super-powers. Sober Extremism or Wine Connoisseurship need super-powers. In JtB the abstinence from strong spirits is a canvas the display of the Holy Spirit, whose similar hilarious disinhibition are crucial to the Holy Fool calling to which JtB is called. What is your canvas, what is your call.

Lk1v17-18 Thinking on these verbs used here: turn (epistrepsai) and prepare (hetoimasai). We turn in order to be prepared for God. Actually, God turns us in order that God might prepare us for God's self. It is the holy spirit through JtB who turns hearts, opens up a different posture, and this turning is a movement which 'prepares' us, 'makes us ready' for God. This is the virtuous circle of grace: it is Christ who prepares us (Jn14v2) and Christ we are prepared for (Jn14v3). Noting also the two types of turning mentioned here as preparation for Christ: relational reconcilation between generations, and a posture of openness to wisdom rather than disobedience, which is to say to true reality rather than constructed reality. Today I pray that God might turn my heart in the right direction that I and you might be prepared for more of God, grace upon grace.

Lk1v19-20 State your name, cuz. Gabriel init. Mention my name in your tweets. Oi rude boy Shut Up. And so.  [..
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
..] A deafening silence, a pregnant pause. Zach on mute: A gagging order, a super injunction, a divine NDA, the solitary exile of the naughty corner, the respite of the quiet carriage, the heterotopia of a silent retreat, negative space of a blank slate, the signal sounded by noise cancelling clarity?
Really hard to say what is intended by deaf-muting Zach, but it is possible to read in this silence a disciplinary response to faith faltering, appropriately punitive, graciously corrective, but in some way logically self-fulfilling. I say this as: 1. I have known unbelief lead to silence. 2. I have known silence as a seedbed for belief
- 1. There is a time for silence, and all that Ecc3v17, but, faith by and large, is outspoken, it makes a joyful noise Ps98v4, and if it doesn't it is fire shut up in my bones Jr20v9, and if I don't the rocks will Lk19v40, and if I don't, then how will the world hear Rm10v14, and when I don't, when I hang up my harp, there is Babylon Ps137v2.  It is an entropic universe that tends towards silence, a cosmic cover-up, joyless minimalism and the shame of nothing-nice-to-say, the fingers-in-ears willed amnesia of a bloody 20th century, reductive science and the redacted intermediate-scale.
- 2. But. Into that silence, there speaks a still small voice. Out of that scorched earth, a blossom buds. Ex nihilo, when your wine has run out, when everything you've done have come to nothing. There is God. There is God. So, as Christians, we should give silence, offer spaces for silence, frequently forging stillness into our rhythm, embellishing gaps as sanctuaries. Because in this world noise is oppressive, unjust and political, noise is the default, and it damages the least well-off the most. Matthew Crawford goo.gl/HVE7wq observes this, that silence has become a luxury good that the wealthy can buy in first class lounges. We spent a couple of hours in silence as a house last Saturday, allowing Lent to body forth in the void. We'll do it again. Join us.

Lk1v21-22 Zechariah tries impromptu sign language. Apt that I am currently reading Oliver Sacks' 'Seeing Voices' and thinking about sign as language. Zechariah here of course doesn't smoothly lapse into an indigenous sign language but a crude attempt to signal key reference points, pointing at objects, as though a child. This 'making signs' has no grammar, it is communication at its least nuance, as shown up in the distinction between 'Signed English' which is 'mere transliteration and lacks the structure of genuine sign language' vs BSL and all the true sign languages, which enable and communicate nuanced thought. I think of Zechariah, robbed of his first language and needing to learn a new one with his hands from scratch. Thinking of these first clumsy attempts. Thinking of this particularly in the light of communication difficulties. 'Maybe many of our misunderstandings are stylistic' - Yes, maybe they are, maybe we speak as though a different grammar even if our nouns and verbs are the same. Zechariah had to learn a new language, a new way to speak and sign at this point of crisis, and in response to holy, weighty experience. My prayer is that we might learn the new languages we need, to communicate to one another what happens in the Holy of Holies.

Lk1v23-24 After Inconceivable. Ninja Elizabeth withdraws to a stealth maternity, this agent goes to ground. Why? And when should we?
- Practical? youtu.be/2VT2apoX90o ~ This is the Sigur Ros moment, this is the strings rising. Serious holy mischief is afoot, and so serious equal-and-opposite opposition awaits. Do I consider what I carry? Do I consider what stands against it?
- Personal? Mt6v6, go, close your curtains. Preparation for the holy birth is a private matter, an intensely internal affair. What is the timing of the broadcast of my good news, what are the conditions for effective communication?
- Poetic? Just like Jesus slips in and out of the public, in an on going divine withdrawal choreographing revealing and concealing. Lk4v30 Jesus slips away, Lk5v16 Jesus often withdrew.. The boundary between his self and the throng, the spatial containing of his divine essence. There is a quiet-time, which is more than merely convenient headspace, but is a true truth about personalism's individuation. What is my quiet time for?

Lk1v25-26 I would like to be more like Elizabeth insofar as I would like my disgraces to mismatch public and private like she. She was v6 privately faithful and v25 publicly disgraced, the opposite of Mt23v27 whitewashed tombs, of Lk11v39 clean cups of violence. I am that hypocrite. And I am a fool, because 11v40 God who makes the outside also makes the inside, because 12v3 what I have done in the dark will be shouted from the rooftops.

Lk1v27-28 How does one hail a Mary? How does one flavour a gravy? Favour-found is found apart from desert. None achieve goodness, we have goodness thrust upon us. Mariology is the rock and the hard place of male commentarians treading the neither-nor of anti-catholic-over-reaction, on the one hand, and the masculinisation-of-all-things-divine, on the other. Mary was favoured to carry Christ. So are you. That is enough. That is an infinitely far reaching claim. ~ We can learn how to do this well, from Mary, full of Grace.

Lk1v29-30 Fear again, resassurance again. Mary tries to figure it out, she's a thoughtful one, she wants to understand, as surely we all do. Knowledge is our best first defense against fear, and this is no bad thing. But in the economy of holy fear and it's transfiguration, knowledge alone is not enough, it will take some v38 surrender too. Ps131.

Lk1v31-32 Why did Jesus have to be born, as opposed to being brought into being another way? Sure, pregnancy and birth and early years are necessary aspects of fully sympathetic vulnerably embodied incarnation, but is that sufficient cause? What does the birthiness of Jesus' birth speak to all subsequent births and conceptions and theologies of so doing? Why did Jesus birth involve a human woman, but not a human man? Were the reverse possible, what would be the poetic of that? If, for argument's sake Jesus could have been Joseph's son through a surrogate angel, what would that imply for our gendered redemption and our redemptions of genders? The circumstances of conception carry so much meaning, the hopes and fears of all the years.. Such is any baby, in a fractal universe of signs and transcendental signifiers, pointers-to and explications of the Christ-as-baby event. Christ's humanness in his Christness, that which we look to to imitate, that which we commend and speak of as divine, tends almost exclusively to be the adult Christ, fully grown, the teaching and healing and murdered and risen Christ. But he was equally a baby, he was an unborn person, and he was no less the Christ in that. So, insofar as we look to Christ-as-example, so should all our babies poetically be.

Lk1v33-34 Ask. In pursuit of the kind of knowledge that would make her powerful like God, Eve asks God no questions, she simply eats the fruit, tries to short-cut using non-relational appropriation, devouring - I'm struck for the first time that the only questions in Gen1-3 are those God asks humanity, none vice versa. Mary on the other hand, asks a question. Not to know the answer for the sake of knowledge, but to know as relation to God. A timely word. // Irigaray: "Eve wants above all to know, which includes knowing things that have a relation to the divine. Now God cannot be reduced to knowledge. Wanting to appropriate knowledge of the divine, Eve consumes a breath that is irreducible to knowledge...Mary retains a relation to life, the soul, to love, particularly divine love, that is neither appropriation nor consumption of the self, nor of the other, nor of God."

Lk1v35-36 Vexingly, "the Holy Spirit will come upon you" explains very little as to the mechanics of Mary's legitimate "How?" It's still basically Deus Ex Utero via magical thinking. God however, is not satisfied to leave us to fumble amongst superstitions, frustrated by arbitrary interventions. What is interesting to me here, is the mode of prophecy confirmation. The prophecy related to Elizabeth is a sort of epistemelogical downpayment and a double-blind proving of the Jesus hypothesis. What a precious confidence this would be. This is the triangulation of intuitions, Liz & Mary jointly-attending to that which is unseen. The precedent God sets here offers an imperative to discern prophecy and to discern prophecy in community. As he does further elsewhere 1Cor14v29. Not-despising-prophecy (1Th5v20) must be a speaking of it, towards a growing in confidence that your intuitions of God's spirit come from a reality outside yourself and influence a reality outside yourself.

Lk1v37-38 v38 Nothing is impossible for God. Thinking in terms of possibility is a necessary condition of being able to think at all, as the philosophers love to tell us. If we had no categories of would-have-happened-if-X or could-have-happened-but-Y then we'd be stuck inside a 2-dimensional time-less causation-less flat literal actuality. We think in possibilities, we must, but we think in limited possibilities. This is one way in which God is different to us - in omnipotence, divine thought is structured by every possibility there is, for nothing is impossible. Not at random, but in terms of limitless connections, limitless meaningful possibilities that we don't, can't or tend not to see. How technicolour the trinitarian thought life must be! How expansive! How big! Of course we profess to know this, but a little reflection opens up a chink through which the dizzying wonder of 'nothing is impossible' serves as a gateway into worship. It is surely the divine thought-life structured by every possibility that artists and prophets tap into. A prayer for you and us this week, for the eyes to see. // v39 Surrender. Needs to be my word for 2017 if anything is. I am the Lord's servant, May it be to me as you have said. Surrender vs Guilt, Blame, Manipulation, Anger or Indifference. Most of the time I can't pray this in truth, but I want to: I am the Lord's servant / May it be to me as you have said. Amen

Lk1v39-40 Scary for contrary Mary, young wise and nimble, a zen broody Yiddish kid, a bairn, skittish, hid. Considered as birds, see she a blue tit quits her twig. A survivor fittest flitted a flight from the city's lights on restless prying eyes, sighs, tuts, lies and Sweeny meatmarket pies chewed through veiled disgust at the baby inside. Mary, endangered as a prophet in her own mews, and very estrangered as the bearer of bad news. Embryo canary to the empire hustle, even unborn, Jesus brings no peace but a scorn to the messenger. // A pregnant pause. Mary withdraws. Are you an outcast? Are you an artist? Are you a Christian? Are you a refugee? Are you an unknown quantity? What do you bear, and how do you bear it? Where do you go? How do you consolidate prophecy? How do you prepare for the danger of faith? Mary withdraws to a priest's house. Are you a priest's house, are you a refuge? Where is your front door? Where is your side door? What will you feed them? How will they know they can come?

Lk1v41-42 come holy spirit // no bullshit /// cells singing // life leaping /// prophecy umbilical // most rich in love /// come holy spirit

Lk1v43-44 "Why is this granted to me?" Community is such a privilege. We have considered in the past how homegroup, and indeed 41, might be modelled after AA, as a 12 step program, admitting we are powerless over our brokeness, making a fearless moral inventory of our wrongs, confessing and journeying to wholeness with a sponsor, sponsoring others, being indefinitely in recovery. An urgently needed model for the Christian life? This encounter of a very-old and very-young first-time-mother, suggests to me NCT as a model for homegroup. Where NCT is peer support with an acute emphasis on locality. NCT is an aggregator and incubator of basic human wisdom tailored to the timely nuance of a specific culture and climate. NCT is an equipping for task of nuture beyond our individual capabilities. There is an attractive bond of NCT sisterhood, one of right fear and utter wonder, knowing privilege and awesome responsibility. So too the Christian life is joint attention to the novel experience of Christ in yous the hope of glory.

Lk1v45-46 Magnify. Thinking about this English translation of Mary's famous opener [megalynei] and the fact of the literal  impossibility of magnifying the infinite, insofar as magnification is 'making something appear larger than it is'. Mary's soul doesn't magnify the Lord by making God bigger than God is, but rather by attunement to the Spirit magnifies by seeing and reflecting in higher resolution than our spiritual eyes usually see the detail of divine reality - she sees the [teleiosis] God is here weaving, the fulfillment of promise is magnified in Mary as a microscope magnifies hydrogen atoms - all around us, invisible,  holding the fabric of reality together. A soul so attuned reflects reality in detail to second & third persons.  From the first person this magnification is indistinguishable from worship, exaltation, praise. My soul doth magnify the Lord.

Lk1v47-48 Mary sings. Do you sing? What do you sing? When do you sing? How do you sing?Mary's "soul rejoices" There is a physiology to rejoicing, you sing with your whole body poised and alive to a rhythm and tone. The trained diaphragm that instrumentalises the chest cavity as a tool tuned for the task of a life harmonic in vocal range and reach suited for broadcast. [From the gutsy mustered bellow of How Great Thou Art, to the over oxygenated headrush of Beautiful One, you sing with your body, for better or worse.] There is poetry to singing, the articulation of words and signs, universes of complexity, structures of argument and nuance layered through vocabularies of reference and emotion and meaning. Songs describe realities and declare realities, bringing worlds into being. You sing with your whole mind. There is an experiential springboard to singing. You sing with your whole past. The long run up into a song's burst, latent melodies released in the momentary revelation event that brings pen to page and bow to string. There is a ontology to singing, a theology, an emotional substance, you sing with your whole heart as an imperative necessary claim about ultimate reality.
Singing, the shape of it and the lack of it, has been on my mind. Mary's Christianity, Magnificatic Christianity, if you will, is an argument made for God, made from the Joy, expressed in Song. God → Joy → Song
- God. Have you had an unambiguously confirmed encounter with an infinite personal God with a direct saving interest in you?
- Joy. Have you known the exuberant coherence and the dazzling new light it casts on all circumstance? Joy in an infinite security, a depthless resource of pleasure, personally tailored and directly at hand.
- Song. Have you written your own song, sung you own story, inhaling grace, exhaling worship, declaring explicitly and precisely what God has done, reinforced in the tongues of preconceptual melody?
Magnificatic Christianity is a disinhibited Christian hedonism that is emphatically ornamented, legibly harmonic, and memorably articulated.

Lk1v49-50 Mary in two breaths speaks specifically of what God has done 'for me' and of what God does 'from generation to generation'. She pays attention to the parts and the whole, for attention to God requires both. She sees herself as more than a mere conduit and takes her own experience seriously but situates herself in the context of her ancestors & her descendents, knowing the sweep of the Spirit and the largeness of God's mercy exceeds her. She is both an analytical and a gestalt thinker, an analytical and gestalt worshipper of the one God.

Lk1v51-52 The proud are scattered. Having been gathered, as brains once mustered for battle, we, the proud, are defused in the presence of God. He breaks the concentration of a cluster. The scattering of the metropolitian elite is needed again to disenclique us, to prise us from the suprahuman edifice we are so busy castellating in London. The Kingdom of Heaven is a centrifuge, it is distributive justice in an even spread to the four corners of the ends of the earth. And this is no mere goes-around-comes-around karma comeuppance, no, God _does_ it. And God does it through the Boss Baby in Mary's womb, God does it by the same spirit which is in you. God is up-side-downing the world, where the weak overcome the strong, where the foolish shame the wise, where babies take on empires.

Lk1v53-54 As Ps107v33-35, the God who gives and takes, gifts & breaks, parches & slakes. We think of these are two different things, as two aspects of God's character - mercy & justice perhaps, but actually this is all part of the same divine movement towards wholeness & holiness, towards shalom. As modern intersectionality theories tell us, there is no such thing as pure privilege or pure underprivilege, we are almost always both, in different ways, & God meets us in both, works shalom in both, by comforting us where we are troubled, troubling us where we are comfortable.

Lk1v55-56 We speak about a God who spoke, and who speaks and whose will speak the first and last word on all things. We pray promises, which were, which are being, which will be, made and fulfilled. We live confidently in a historical continuity, then and now, now and not yet. Did God speak to Abraham? IFTTT Listen. Did God speak to Abraham? IFTTT Trust. Did God speak to you?

Lk1v57-58 I am most likely to compare myself to and to be jealous of other Christian women, of their joys, their 'success', their victories, even their prayers. The holy spirit offers a different way,  the way of rejoicing with those who rejoice. Christ-conditioned compathy. So I will rejoice with you sister; we will rejoice with you.

Lk1v59-60 "he shall be called John" What's in a name? Zachariah: YAHWEH remembers. John: YAHWEH is gracious. A minor point perhaps, but we are daily involved giving and recieving names. As Adam in the garden, this is dominion, in this way we describe and prescribe realities. Naming is the hammer and forge by which we shape identities, be they pejorative slurs or honorific banners over. By naming, by calling out qualities, by prophesying over, we make external and explicit that which is invisible, we make public that which is tacit, we make now that which is not-yet.
- "called him after his father.." "..not so, his mother answered.." What's in a renaming? #GSAP: I'm Alison's yout, but I'm God's son. A roundhouse blow to patriarchy? John is named neither by nor after his father.. What does it mean? Who is allowed to name and rename you, whose view of you defines you? God extracts you from the default, from the tribal morass, from the man-hands-misery-on-to-man, from whatever some of you once were. Jacob now Israel, Simon now Peter, John and James now Boanerges. You are the artist-formerly-known-as _________

Lk1v61-62 #everydaysexism #menexplainthingstome ? This feels like a classic, the double-pronged (i) 'explaining' to Elizabeth why she's wrong (as if she were unaware of Jewish naming custom, or is just being silly) then (ii) talking past her so that her man can speak for her, implying no agency or reasoning of her own. Zechariah proves himself a good man & a good husband in many ways, including v63 his simple cut-through affirmation of Elizabeth's voice, her capacity to speak as and for part of their asymmetric but mutually participatory 'we' too.

Lk1v63-64 Naming names. Zac etch-a-sketching the name John releases Zac to speak again. There is power in the act of naming, it is definitive and reality changing because we are conjuring an irreducible personal universe in a shift from a prisoner-24601 to a my-name-is-neo notion of urgent and effective personalism. Thanks everyone who replied with thoughts and resources on names last time. Hello friends! This along with WomansHour's Monday episode on Names, and that I was rota'ed this week to preach on JtB from Lk7v18–31 July 9th, I have felt a strange inundation on a theme.. What does it mean?
- "Many things about life in Pakistan seem much closer to 'bible times' than our 21st century British / Western points of reference, including naming. There is honour associated with naming - entirely weirdly to my cultural background I was given such an honour by our refuse collector - and meaning is important - you'll be asked the meaning of your and your children's names. Knowing this played a bit of a role in why we named our boys their names." 
- "Thinking about new names, I was reading this recently: 'You will be called by a new name... No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her) and your land Beulah (married); for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.' Is62." 
- "[Re:RHE on 'Named Beloved' ] Brought up in a non-conformist evangelical church where believer's baptism was taught, I never heard that being 'named beloved' could be for me. Baptism was all about belief and obedience. Not identity and beloved-ness. It has had a profound effect on me, and I've allowed this teaching to sit with me and shape me since." 

Lk1v65-66 Fear again, again, though this might be holy fear. From the R.Fyall book on Job I'm reading at the moment: 'Now, depending on our faith at any given moment,  the fact that God is in control may cause us to thank him or dread him. Probably all of us have had the kind of experience where the problem is not that we do not believe God to be in control, but that we secretly do not trust God to work out a scenario we will like. We do not doubt that God is in control, nor even that ge has our best interests at heart. What we do doubt is that he knows as well as we do what our best interests are.' Or indeed, I reflect, we fear because we know he knows what our best interests are, but what is in our best interests is fearful to us.

Lk1v67-68 "filled with the Holy Spirit.." ~ Oh for a fuller Phil to flow. Zac brims, bubbles and bursts forth with a breathless benediction in a single long sentence. Fill to full: the fluid dynamics of the spiritual life is a question of the flow rate of an incompressible inviscid spirit.. Oh broken vessels, oh torn wineskins, oh mops rung out, oh parched and weary lands, tap the source, plug in to a trickle down, open the floodgates, let it rain, soak in his presence, be planted by streams... How do you consider your soul as a reservoir, what are your inlets, what are your outlets, how are you porous, what do you soak up, what do you filter, how do you keep the fuel flowing, where are the keys to the sluice gate of your being?  "he has visited and redeemed.." As, ten thousand years, Genie, can give you such a crick in the neck. But now.

Lk1v69-70 
promises become premises,
protending, not pretending, that provision's way is paved,
and he pre-conditions praise.
Prince, prophet, priest,
prepared for, peace.

Lk1v71-72 To insert ourselves into Zac's song:
~ 1. *We are John-the-Baptists* who would provoke such songs from such Zac's. JtB's future ministry, described in v76-77, will have the effect of displaying the God of v68-75, JtB's ministry _already_ has the effect of eliciting the cascade of praise - it has this effect even in anticipation of that which is not-yet, latent, undeveloped, only just born. In small ways and big, visibly and invisibly, insofar as God's gives you the grace, you are called to JtB' *ministry of path-straightening* (Mk1v3), of calling people to repentance, of preaching the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. So, minister in such a way that rests in the promises of God, displays the fulfilment of the promises of God, and so confirms the promises of God as true for others, applicable, imitatable, and worthing singing about.
~ 2. *We are Zacs* who would be provoked to such songs by recognising the work and future work of God in the lives of others. Zac's *ministry of spiritual fathering* sings what he sees with the eyes of the spirit, speaks out prophetically the work of God present and future. So I should feel like singing the future glory of each germinating minister at 41, St Marks, GRR..
~ We are JtBs and we are Zacs on a battlefield. This song renders the Christian life combatively, foregrounding that there _are_ "enemies". You will be spiritual fathers who send their precious path-straightening offspring to contend with "haters", to suffer trials, and to risk death (Mk6v25-28).

Lk1v73-74 Scouring Genesis 12-18 I can't find any specific promise that God makes to Abraham that his descendents would 'serve him without fear'. This suggests that Zechariah doesn't have a merely literal or thin relationship to scripture & tradition, but a full-blooded, living, imaginative, talmidic & spirit-sensitive relationship to scripture & tradition. By the spirit he can see connections between the writing of scripture and the unwritten meanings it has for his life-to-the-full, our life-without-fear. I want this.

Lk1v75-76 Christians are tasked with similar "go before the Lord to prepare his ways", insofar as the Christ-event is perpetual, he is ever at-hand, ever in-breaking, there are ever new contexts for Christ to be born into. So we, as harbingers, go with JtB to 'prepare'.
~ "Prepare" Like setting up the marquee before a ball, like a soundcheck before a rally, like the warmup act before the main event? Is that it? The Bible offers various preparations, agricultural analogies of soil for seeding Lk8v15 / 1Co3v6, bridal allegories of biding time for a late groom Mt25v3, OCD notions of steamrollered flat straight clean Roman roads through organic wildernesses Is40v3, all in anticipation of that Day-of-the-Lord moment. This is the pre-evanglist's ministry, a busy tidying, a fussy readying, a scene-setting something-or-other.. before the ta-da! of God's coming.
~ Yes to the energy of this, but, what are we preparing again? God comes to people, we prepare people. And their wilderness is the conceptual chaos of hearts and minds without a vocabulary or grammar for sin or salvation. Standing with a placard at Oxford Circus is just noise unless the words signify something in the hearer's experience. The "knowledge" spoken of in v77 is experiential knowledge:
~ "gnōsis derived ginōskō, "experientially know" – working-knowledge gleaned from first-hand personal experience, connecting theory to application; application-knowledge gained by a direct relationship ... "knowledge" of this is not merely, notional and speculative, but experimental, approbative, fiducial, appropriating, sure, and certain.."
~ How will they know? By life-on-life witness, your life's highs and lows lived transparently alongside theirs, to see, to feel and to know that sin is real and to know that repentance is necessary and above all to know the reality of saving love which surpasses knowledge Eph3v19.


...

Thursday, 23 February 2017

against sherlock

Provoked by discussion with fof.

I saw the last two episodes of the recent Sherlock. Ep2 was pleasingly contained, a plausible vessel for an albeit blunt political allegory, the villain and crime were far-fetched (perhaps deliciously so, in the surrealist Black Mirror macabre sense) and/but approximately worth the suspension of disbelief, allowing the more totally indulgent narrative nonsenses and deadend teasers and nonsequitor japes to sit in the background adding vigour to the tipsy but largely coherent ensemble.

Ep3 was doubly infuriating for having previously tantilised us that the ship Sherlock was not Lost, and that the sprawl of high-budget tropes actually served the cause of an elegant cryptic crossword. Sleepless fury ensued. Sherlock is a galling insult to the intelligence of it cast and audience.

The bloated swaggering episode was doubly cloying for its superlative bravado in the face its vacuity, the detective equivalent of tinny over-amplified canned laughter, rolling puns with no punchline, like a winking emperor, knowing himself naked, but now revelling in the joke being on others. The pandora’s box of grave nonsense for grave nonsense’s own sake sprung open by Nolan and now spread abroad by a host of lower budget long-form imitators.

There is a rant I have pent up since the Leftovers, which gathered further bile behind the dam after MrRobot Series 2.0. It is an anger mixed with a grief mixed with a lingering fear for the future of mankind. For being an open-ended, hypertexted, character-driven-ish, streamable serial, Sherlock elbows in amongst longer siblings, but it is, nevertheless, a mature specimen of the long-form drama.

The long-form drama is worse than a mere soap opera for sophisticates, one doesn’t binge on Corrie with anything like the same self-congratulatory air. The sprawling vomit of narrative is an irresponsibility, a dizzying assault on language, an opiate of the worst kind, an introvenous sentimentality piping self-pitious escapist sensation into the darkened cells of the attention deficit generation whose twitter-augmented interaction with the narrative of all of life is rehearsed in the same wry interactivity via cliquing in-jokes which Moffat has made his millions by provoking. It is a deft exploit, it serves a felt need ~ Sherlock was always frothy, but was kept from mere froth where a coherent twist dignified the viewer with salient questions of memory, death and the real. Much as MrRobot achieved to an even richer end, political and psychological insight of a razor sharp piece urgent cultural criticism in Series 1.0, then utterly hollowed itself out along with the whole project, by franchising itself to the narrative equivalent of suburban sprawl, a grey, occasionally titillating morass of narrative semis and white picket plot twists.

home



texting romans sixteen


Greeter love has my man Paul's props. Oh that we would be such a we. Join us 07729056452

Rm16v1-2 Sister Phoebe. Grateful for the list of those who were there at the beginning of the early church, the taste of the new & the bold. But a depth, a maturity, also resonates from the list of thanks here, a steadiness of work coupled with the adventure of meaning & sacrifice. A church which knows how to give & to receive, to welcome & to thank, to serve & to preach & to rest & to thank & to be 'good friends' to one another. A church where men & women labour together in partnership. Gender remains a battleground in and outside the church, & I am here grateful for the unselfconscious picture of men & women labouring together well for the kingdom of God. I am grateful to be reminded of Sister Phoebe, a spiritual mother to us all, along with Priscilla & Mary & Junia. Grateful for the women who have run the race ahead of me, would I learn from their example.

Rm16v3-4 Oscar acceptance speech thanks and shout-outs and dedications and name-drops ~ how beautiful are those feat. on my new EP. Writing to the church in London, who would be on your list? Risk makes bands of brothers. Mission makes for meaningful mutually burdened co-labour. The urgent cooperative task of evangelisation is _the_ vital we-experience. I want to be the Hb12v1 cloud of witnesses, I want to be the runner, I want be the church in Rome, I want that 41 be such a crucial fellowship, for homegroup to be ernest kinsmen covenented to the task of risking necks.

Rm16v5-6 The church in their house. Timely today as prayers needed for the church in our house. How do we then House? How do we then Church, How do we then HouseChurch? God grant us wisdom, kindness, humility, joy. Teach us to forget self-help self-posturing inspirational sermon overthought silliness, & help us to breathe deep your reality, to drink from scripture simply & slowly, to look the real-life imperfect others in the face, and to let the Lord build the House, to know the Church as Christ's body.

Rm16v7-8 🙏✉ Beloved in the Lord, to my kith and kin, we should all write so. We should all, and all comms should be, a mode of submitting and commending. We should all write to commend. *Greet* as mutual pray-er and pray-ee well-seekers.. Prompted again to think broadly of the phenomenon of the Prayer Letter and how much more ordinary it could be.

Rm16v9-10 'fellow workers', 'dear friends', 'those who have proved their loyalty to Christ', 'those who belong to the [extended] family': all these different modes of relating, serving & belonging to one another packed into this quiet list of thanks. Let us labour, love & learn from one another, with such casual kaleidoscope beauty.

Rm16v11-12 'Household of Narcissus' (Commentaries presume this to be the same wicked Narcissus infamous secretary to Emperor Claudius) Amongst his household were Christians, known or unknown. So, greet those indentured to the Square Mile, which are in the Lord. Greet those ministering in the super-hard places, the thankless witness to the oligarchically lost. Bless and support those who are not in positions of honoured ministry, who doggedly invisibly conduct their faith on the very inside of the airless corridors of the political, legal and commercial elite.
'Labourers..who laboured hard' Faith without works is dead, but. What work? And how hard? Is there a pleasing muscularity to the doing of your life with the Lord? The breathless endorphin glow of a race hard run?  Tryphena and Tryphosa translate dainty and luxurious. Dear snowflakes, this is what some of us once were.

Rm16v13-14 Rufus' Mum has the gift of spiritual mothering. Another women in the history of the early church to give thanks for and learn from, knowing the imprint of maternal wisdom & kindness has left it's imprint on Pauline theology. I pray I might learn from her, the discipline, gift & fruit of spiritual mothering.

Rm16v15-16 K.I.S.S.I.N.G. So french, no? A touchy subject. ESVSB outdoes it's prudish self: "a 'holy kiss' would not convey the same meaning today that it did in the first century, and in most cultures it would be seriously misunderstood. Such commands are best obeyed by substituting an action such as a handshake"
Contextualisation to match a culture must not be a trump card to keep us from reforming culture, from setting the tone, and practising humanness in its richest and most redemptive. At the very least within the context of the community of believers, at the very least within your family, at the very least in contexts where this is possible to move towards this meaningfully and slowly by degrees and in discussion.
Contextualisation at the cost of kissing naively believes in the amorality and inconsequence of a culture's practice of embodiement. If Christianity is merely a modification of where you go to when you die, don't risk anything in the meanwhile and don't waste time nuancing the poetic of the time you are passing, inoffense always opts for inaction. Advocates of a kiss-less Christianity entrench a lowest common denominator, a passive embodiement hollowed of substance and meaning. And this at the loss of the urgent application of a ministry which the New Testament thinks to render in the imperative 1Co16:20 ; 2Co13:12; 1Th5:26; 1Pt5:14 repeatedly.
We read these verses to, and we practice church amongst, a context of the touch-starved, the touch-averse, and the touch-wounded. We speak to a culture fluent in sexual touch but illiterate in platonic touch. We move amongst a morass of untouched untouchables. Dear brethren, greet one another with a holy kiss.

Rm16v17-18 'avoid them'. How my heart lept when I read this verse - a biblical excuse for avoiding people! Brilliant. There's lots of people I'd like to avoid. Except that the people Paul cautions us to avoid are those who engage me with 'smooth talk & flattery' - basically those that make me comfortable, rather than those that make uncomfortable. Och.

Rm16v19-20 "Your 'obedience' is known ... but"  ~ A Pauline 'but'. What does it mean? What is beyond obedience? What is over against obedience? It is the jedi grasp of *wisdom vs innocence* that takes us beyond mere obedience, the Mt10v16 snake-dove comportment towards the socio-moral, the tricksy tensions and the shades grey. Part of me wonders if there is a Myers Briggs, carers-vs-truthtellers, priests-vs-kings, type split between doves-by-default and snakes-by-default. But I am by turns snarky and effete, by rickety bluster I achieve to be neither shrewd nor guileless, but rather merely obedient, merely, joylessly and only technically law-abiding. I pray this for you, the deepening of both these, both the sage prescience of laser sighted acuity to the straregically next-right-thing as well as the limitlessly gentle exploitable open-handed abandon to sooth as you hold a cruel world uncomfotably close. Please pray this for us, as we interface and boundary and become known to London, that we would be known for more than mere obedience.

Rm16v21-22 Ignatian contemplation is usually reserved for meditation and imaginative interaction with the gospels, but here at the end of Romans, where we're offered just a fraction of a glimpse into real personal relationships and interactions, I wonder if we can apply the practice here. Can I picture Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater & Tertius sat round a table together? What do they say to one another? How do they feel about one another? How do they attend to one another? How do they delegate work? What makes their relationship such that they can speak for one another. Invite the spirit into your imagination, what do you see between these friends? What might we learn?

Rm16v23,25 If nothing else, understand: You are called to a task that requires strength. God strengthens by the gospel. The gospel is not merely fire-proofing for the hereafter, it is bullet-proofing in the here and now, steel in your spine, nitro in your rocket fuel, the gospel is mechanically more-than, it is the titanium Sia is looking for. How? What makes you strong?
- Carbs, calcium, protein..? The gospel is wonder bread. Jn6v35
- That what doesn't kill you makes you..? The gospel produces strong endurance, which produces strong character. Rm5v3-4
- Mental and emotional propulsion? The gospel is the race marked out, the gospel is the cloud of witnesses, the gospel is the the joy set before us, the gospel is the prize. Ph3v14 Hb12v2
- Fall protection and PPE? The gospel is a helmet, the gospel keeps you from stumbling. Jd1v24 Eph6v17
But still, how? How does that work, and how does that help?
- I know a sin which so easily entangles, a self-interested embroilment in all that is less-than, an addiction to gravel, a compulsion to everything unsavoury. I know a God who intervenes, who cuts the appetite off at the pass, who woos me to a greater joy, who strengthens me by his gospel.
- I know the bleak blank discouragement of utter emptiness, the leaden cool of vast foreboding, the hollow clanking of an infinitely heavy day heaved through. I know a God who bears in, bears up and bears alongside, a warm God of infinite capacity tangibly close, who takes the tar and downs it, who releases me to bambi stagger with the new joy of new birth.
- I know the furious force of evil which wars against the hope for the good, which erodes instantly everything built slowly, which unravels everything we'd strained so hard to hold together, that strips dignity to the bone. I know a God whose healing is more-than, who can repair and will repair all things, all relationships, all projects, all bodies we shredded in our weakness.
God strengthens. Eph3v16.
Strengthen others. 1Th5v11, Hb10v24-25, 1Co14v26 1Sm16v23, 1Th3v2.

Rm16v26-27 
Pauline prose 
comes to a close 
through woes, 
knows 
Christ, who rose 
to disclose,
God 
to dis-close,
me

Saturday, 4 February 2017

texting romans fifteen

Love thy neighbour? Good fences are not for the sitting on. 07729056452

Rm15v1-2 Our neighbour to one side of us is a hollow shell, a burnt-out wreck, a glowering monument to the devastation of a man whose extreme loneliness was muddled with flamable carelessness. So latterly our neighbour is the scorched earth of the London property market, land commodified and relentlessly resold, the prostitution of air, the auctionable abstraction of confected scarcity conspiring to squeeze the breath out of the town. Oh neighbours, there is so much to build up.

Rm15v3-4 There are many ways of engaging scripture, some better than others. It is, I think, generally unhelpful to be formulaic about how to read scripture, but it is always worth looking at the fruit of our scripture-engagment as a way of thinking about our praxis. v4 offers three little metrics: does your engagement with scripture make you (i) more hopeful, (ii) more patient, (iii) more encouraged?

Rm15v5-6 "The God of encouragement.." How does God encourage? How does one encourage? How do you give courage, how do you transfer current across the void, or fan a flame across a forest firebreak, or propel invisible momentum through Newton's cradle? What, indeed, is courage? What is the substance of this confident vigour beyond merely assured bravado? (Rowland Manthorpe asks similar last week bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08bb33j) For surely the world needs encouragement, over against anxiety disorders, and imposter syndrome, and the timidity of reedy Christian voices muttering a plaintive "Yes, We Can" into their decaf. 2Co1v4 be encouraged to encourage.
"...and endurance" Christianity is an endurance sport. It is the long haul. Eternity. How to keep on keeping on?  As persistent widows weather what a weary world wears down by its withering bluster.. how much more so we whose perfectly just judge is unconsionably generous and whose deeply involved father gives good gifts, we whose sense of eternal reality is a strong tower, an ultimate shelter in the storm. We can be stoic without being callous, ebullient without being naive, anchored without being sunk by the tide's range. We are load-bearing beams with scriptural rebars, we are tonkable tankards.
"Grants yous harmony" I have the image of Christians as town bells, not muffled by caution, not cracked by experience, not warped by theory. We are tonkable instruments tooled and tuned for the task of broadcast. We are hung heavy, rung public, and we are melodic when struck hard. Being-church in harmony requires a God of encouragement and endurance, because there is so much discouragement which leads so quickly to dischord, so much burnout which leads to disharmony.
"So yous glorify God with one voice" Oh that church unity, might be unison, the exquisitely practised acapella of close harmony communication. Art brings order in the face of chaos, glorying in the statistical improbability of life's form, colour and motion. Language speaks of a God who speaks, a God who put meaning into the mouths of sign users. Christianity is a joy surprised by signal-to-noise, we call out to deep space, and it answers not in mere morse code, but polyphonic surround sound declaring a dancing God of many persons singing creation into being as with one voice.

Rm15v7-8 Sat with this verse a few days, feeling my own proclivity to wax lyrical the virtues of hospitality into my echo chamber, a slight distaste at the thinness, the hipster cliche of talking about welcome without substance. So considering some of the things welcome is not:
~Welcome vs Envy - I'm preparing to preach on Cain & Able this Sunday. Envy & competitiveness, which lead to destruction,  are the first fruits of original sin. All my relationships, all my encounters,  contain such a thread, & will overcome me, unless I receive the mind of Christ. Welcome is the inverse of competition,  it tries to enlarge the other rather than cut them down. Welcome hence has to start with my own safety & security in God.
~Welcome vs Pretence - There is a truthfulness to welcome otherwise it is not welcome. How often I 'welcome' people into our home without taking off my mask or letting them take off theirs. This is not how Christ hosts us. This morning's Ps62v4 a reminder of the kind of doublemindedness that I use as a defense against others. In many cases I feel as though I really don't know how not to. Help me, God.
~Welcome vs Weariness - I am tired of your otherness, your truth. Dulled to your difference. Indifferent to your story. Overwhelmed. Let us Ps62v1 for our renewal, as Christ rests in the love of the Father.

Rm15v9-10 "in order that" Christ served the circumcised (v8) .. "in order that" the Gentiles would hope in Christ (v12). What are we? // In embodiment and imitation we are Christ // In being a community of covenant we are also the circumcised. // Thusly, we serve we in order to save the Gentiles?
- We-serve-we sounds self-serving?  The trinity is a we-serving-a-we in-order-to save by a sweeping up of the other and the outsider into the we's excess. So Christian community likewise and reciprocally, fractally, and hedonistically abounds in hope and peace and in joy for joy (v13) which overflows out of that interactive we-serving we-experience to an _in-order-that_ derivative and ecstatic evangelism.
- Paul's bold, but observable, case for "in-order-that" causality gives impetus to deeply-do church (church qua equivalent circumcision) in order that the city might richly glorify God (city qua equivalent Gentiles). So we capaciously conspicuously do the doing of, by the serving of, church. Emphatically. // We are church for the sake of the non-church. // We are 41 for the sake of 39 and 43. // We are us for the sake of them. ~ We are a faith community. ~ More than that, we are a from-faith-to-faith community Rm1v17. Our we is so built on the basis of a faith hypothesis, that others observing can draw a faith conclusion. Our life of faith, as Christ's life on earth, extrapolates unseen promises, immanentises the eternal, and realises heaven. Being church is supernatural. In serving the church you participate in a plausibility structure for a redemptive, relational and personal cosmos, conclusively.
- Thus: Prototypical faith becomes catalytic faith. // Incubated faith becomes contagious faith. // A faith practised becomes a faith broadcast. // The promised fulfilled in our us, is a promise being made to the other. // This follows that. // Faith begets faith. // And it is all joy.

Rm15v11-12 The reference back to Isaiah serves as a point of meditation on this universal praise of the one God. Read Is11v1-16 as a meditation on the person of Christ and on what the telos of humanity looks like under Christ. We are following Genesis in the St Mark's evening services at the moment, last week remembering the fall as humanity's three-pronged alienation from God, from each other, & from our fellow creation. This Isaiah passage declares beautifully the reconciliation of all three to all: v10 humanity to God, v13 humanity to each other, v6-9 humanity to the rest of creation (& the rest of creation to itself). Perfect shalom with all humanity worshipping the shoot of Jesse.

Rm15v13-14 What is Hope? Hope is such a foreign commodity, a strained emotion, a poisoned chalice. Hope is a pinned-on, a held-out, a glimmered-of, and a given-up, a deffered, a pluperfect. We had hoped.. but now we are the savage bleak of soiled goods, the leftovers landscape of an entropic end game. In 2017, Hope parodies itself, the ghost limb of public consciousness. Wistful Christians, we have only sentimentality and superstition, Heaven's hereafter is a rabbit's paw clutched in fingers crossed. The shield of cynicism is a precious comfort as the scoffing chorus swells with lurid fury, nursing each other's indignance, basking in the warm scowl of mutual self-pity. // Against this, Hope. By hoping in the God of Hope. He who is the source and substance of Hope. Joy and Peace are the currency of Hope, the fruit of Hope, and the precondition for Hope's abounding. Abounding: in that Joy and Peace are effervescent and infectious, as a luminous Joy brings light to the room, so a deep Peace can absorb every wave of dischord - and by these, Hope abounds.

Rm15v15-16 Yet. v14 you are full of goodness. Yet. Thinking yesterday about the tussle between good & evil. This is the first 'yet', the acknowledgment that at least sometimes our image-bearing goodness is overcome by evil, this is our fallen nature. But this is the first 'yet', we know the second: Eph2v4 et al. But God. And Yet. But God...'made us alive together with Christ'

Rm15v17-18 "I will speak of nothing but Christ" Oh that we might be behelden to a complete and utter Christ: working by with to for in and from Christ. So then, we might speak and utter Christ: ascribing all to him first last foremost and only. Rarely am I so bold as to utter an utter and only Christ. Mine are words withered and deeds dithered. Politely British, mine is more a discrete and stuttered Christ, obseque and shuttered, meek and muttered, In a Uriah Heep cluttered Christ. I am a mild-mannered Christian, assiduously un-proud, aiming for nothing and so boasting in nothing. Dear ones. A prideful disposition is distorted not in tone but in target. So, boast. Boast boldly. Venture capital at his expense, risk something grand that he might be aggrandised, polish your mirrors that he might be reflected.

Rm15v19-20 'I've never heard a story more beautiful than the gospel'; the articulations of others in this new way of life that remind & restore faith. A simple prayer then, for all those I know who are intentionally telling the beautiful story in places where it has not been told.

Rm15v21-22 Claim a verse. Get busy. // By contrast with resigned zero-sum notions of time and geography which are convinced that all we can do is move the pieces around, vaguely taxing some to subsidise others in an exhausting closed loop, propping up an ailing system, painstakingly restoring some former golden age at great expense, battening down the hatches inside a protect-and-survive silo. // Overcoming 2017's isolationist turn wants for more than mere outrage at populist demagogues or mere compassion for refugees. // We, as Paul, believe in open heaven, help from the outside, reverse entropy. We open borders to let the healing flow outwards with a holy impatience and ecstatic restlessness. // More of you God.

Rm15v23-24
Enjoy each other.
Assist each other.
Repeat.

Rm15v25-26 In the words of Dennis Moore, wealth redistribution is complicated.. Sixfigure-earning charity-execs caroling chugger squads to squeeze sporadic guilt-offered gleanings from card-carrying have's whilst a chronic Welfare State eats itself having exponentially multiplied both a rash of feral fatherless free-loading dependents on the one hand, and a smarmy callous embittered class of tax avoiders on the other. // Society is a body. Wealth moves through veins between organs. Individualism clogs the arteries, and a mindset of scarcity bloats bigger barn tumours stock piling inert wealth. Against this, compassionate remedial disaster-responsive charity is synthetic blood in a bag, piped in to starved limbs.  // The church is a counter culture. The church is not merely charity done more energetically, it is not Christianised collections of tawdry surplus flogged to the less fortunate. Society is a body and the church is a replumbed arrangement, new pipes, new pumps, new sources. Christianity is social surgery to the root.  // When the Bible says the believers had everything in common Acts4v32. How? What are the management mechanics of this? Really practically, what is the first step? Who is doing this well? How thung a thing does this alternative system of wealth need to be? Radical versions of this are usually recounted as utopian and precarious. How can we be different, resilient but nevertheless radical?

Rm15v27-28 
Receive. 
Give.
Repeat.

Rm15v29-30 "Fullness" Debates around half-empty/half-full will end. This Gospel is bigger than bigly, it's way too big for your boots. There is a fullness, a Lk6v38 pressed-down, shaken-together, running-over Ps23v5, an excess overflowing Ps45v1, a chock-full, unabridged and full-to-bursting Mk2v22, gushing torrent sort of fullness. Phil ist full? Would that it were more-than more so more often. Paul, however, is "sure" of this. And so surely he shall fully proclaim (v19) the fullness (v29) intensively and extensively. And to this end we should pray, he says, "with me .. for me". Pray with Phil for Phil. Pray "together".  I picture the mechanics of prayer as an alignment of conduits, orchestrating the carriage of fullness from the source outwards, as if there were a waterwheel in Paul, turned by the release of water backed up in a reservoir, released as prayer's piping plugs in. So, Pray. Pray that a fuller Phil's falafel would fall frequently from his falafelloeffel for the fruit of many, Jn12v24.

Rm15v31-32 Paul asks for prayer for 1. Safety, 2. Meaningful service, 3. Joy 4. The refreshment of company. These four make a good starting point for prayer for anyone. For those met this weekend, For those near and far. Pray these for me? That our everyday lives may speak of the beauty of God.

Rm15v33 And also with you?  CofE ism and schism. Marital strife and striving. Tangled tentacles stuck under your fourteen wheeler, we are odd shapes. We are gowns in towns not big enough for the boot of us. We are a jumbled jigsaw puzzle on fire with both barrels clocking square pegs to your round house, Ego I am the incompatible worst of human diversity, Ozymandias mauling I'm ruggedly over-against and always in a mutually exclusive club, I am the spaceship earth, an island self. The only peace is the tumbleweed of nuclear winter, the noise-cancelling bliss of podular encapsulation. I can't hear you when I'm vibing. God's peace is different.

Friday, 20 January 2017

texting romans fourteen

Mixed veg messages. 07729056452

Rm14v1-2 Weakness. Unity. Diet. [In the same week that St Marks have had preached the vegan verse Gen1v29. In the same week that 41 have pondered how to eat as a house of 9 different diets. Aslan is on the move.] What is strength? Voracious oblivious omnivores binging on the synthetic goosefat of empire, shovelling the minced ape and polarbear of palm oil and air miles? Or worse, the anaemically aloof conspicuously supping on glibly organic virtue signals? ~ Own the boundaries of your own weakness, and self-understand all diets in this way, for the sake of unity. Promote a tenderness to a diversity of conscience to enable unity. Unity is key, and God's strength is made perfect in weakness.

Rm14v3-4 He will stand, she will stand, for the Lord will make this happen. Get into the habit of declaring and praying the success, the good, the blessing of the other, without caveats, as a way of committing them to God. Our prayers can be simple: make him to stand, make her to stand. Amen.

Rm14v5-6 "The day" One of these days.. is not like all the other days?
~ Don't Sabbath. Christianity is total freedom. Christianity knows no ritual, brooks no compunction, and shreds the obsequious fuss of Jewish calendar nerds. Christianity is iconoclaustic, restless for justice, a muscular faith of the great outdoors, it is tireless to cross borders, languages and cultures to set ablaze a pragmatic reformation of authenticity. Paul can redact the fourth commandment because the Gospel renders the everyday sacred, it is an explosive and ecstatic imperative to unstinting prayer and rejoicing 1Th5v16, hard work 1Co15v10 and emphatic irreligion. Over and against the suffocating sentimentality of sickly Sunday-Christians garbed in their Sunday bests, Christianity is man alive, we are bound only by the law of love. For the Christian, every day is Easter Sunday, every day an adventure, every day a new creation. The Christian is not bound to Sabbath, and indeed should not.
~ Sabbath. Christianity is the why of life. Christianity is a fierce question. Christianity is a chink in the infinite extension of a twenty-four-seven mechanised universe. Christianity is poetic jiujitsu against the tyranny of technological civilization's excesses. Against the savage insomnia of super-heated global capital markets, by resting, we are the plausibility structure of heaven, the rehearsal of eternity, the why and how of sustainability. When all is noise, silence is the signal. Christianity is a deft ting, the brakes on the juggernaut entropy, the pause, the resistance, the skipped-a-beat of love, a weaponised calendar tooled for the task of moderating modernity. The Christian must Sabbath, it must be literal, it must be collective, it must be deep and it will invariably be political.

Rm14v7-8 Your life & death are not your own, not only because 1Cor6v19-20 you were bought at a price, but prior to this even (for v9 goes on 'for this reason') you because it is a true truth that you belong to God as part of His creation, & you belong to others as part oc the same created order. Yesterday in conversation a musing on how the philosophical tradition which asks how it is possible that we encounter other persons at all (the so-called problem of other minds) is flipped on it's head if we take seriously the experience of childbearing - we all spring from other persons, other minds, other bodies, & the real question is not how we connect, but how we separate. This is not to say we are indistinct, but that we are far more intertwined than we think we are. Our lives belong to others, & so do our deaths. You can't opt out of belonging to others, you can't opt out of belonging to God. As such these verses can as a description as well as a promise, a reminder as well as an invitation, a calling as well as a challenge, a comfort as well as a confrontation.

Rm14v9-10 We cannot be-toward-death as if it were a great unknown any longer, as if the here and now were of peculiar insignificance, or as if after a final curtain somehow different rules apply. Our friend and brother and Time Lord, Jesus, has been there. It is all one domain. It is all his domain. And as, and if, and when, we pass judgement on and pour scorn on and cause to stumble, those other brothers and sisters who sabbath or not, who vegetariane or other, who arrange to serve God in all manner of appropriate callings and consciences, we pass judgement on immortal beings, we pretend authority over eternal destinies.

Rm14v11-12 "The false god punishes, the true God slays." ~ Iris Murdoch

Rm14v13-14 [41's morning prayer this morning pondered Mk9v42.. what. does. it. mean?!] What is sin? // How does one stumble? // What is it to cause another's? ~ And how do you risk manage that?
You cause others to stumble. You planned the route, you packed their bag, you checked the weather. You chose their school, you bought their kit, you set the exam. You made the conditions, you gave the permissions, you taught them shame. Clean and unclean. You set them up to fail. You left the gas on, you left the knife out, you left the engine running. It was your omission, your indiscretion, your absence, your lack financial planning, your unresolved father issues. You set the precedent, you embittered them, you gave them cause to fear, and to hate, and to stumble. You cause others to sin.
Man hands misery on to man. All around is manslaughter on the hopscotch of etiquette. Decide never to put a stumbling block in the way of a brother. Actively. Clinging desperately to grace.

Rm14v15-16 Do not let the good get a bad name. One's theology of food, or theology of anything else, might be full of integrity in all kinds of ways, but if you hold it in such a way that it's goodness is obscured, then it's goodness cannot be obvious. Do not let your conviction, your system, your tone, make the goodness of God less than obvious. Otherwise, quite straightforwardly, the good will seem bad. The good will get a bad name. This is how the word 'Christianity' is used in much discourse - it has a bad name. 'God' too, has a bad name. Today trying to help facilitate a discussion on the problem of evil - pray for me, that I would define & (more importantly) demonstrate the Good, that I would not give God a bad name.

Rm14v17-18 Be free to be vegan. But.
- The Kingdom of God is not vegan, it does not require veganism, it does not affirm or even suggest veganism.
- The Kingdom of God is not a law, it is not an ethical position, it is not a strategic response or even a measurable solution to environmental problems, except ultimately in a gradually redeemed eschaton that is truly complex, infinitely surprising and necessarily beyond analysis.
- The Kingdom of God is no ism, it will not lend its brand to any form of _ought_ or _must_, it is not allied to behaviour modification, it does not broadcast advice, it does not respond to statistics.
- The Kingdom of God cannot be inferred from the data. Proportional responses to the projections of climate scientists cannot and must not make your actions _more Kingdom_ than another's.
- The Kingdom of God is not an adjective, it is not comparative, it does not exist in degrees.
- The Kingdom of God is a true truth, accessible to all, comprehensible to all, interactable by all, the schooled and the unschooled, the one and the ninety-nine.
- The Kingdom of God is accessible to all who are open to the Spirit, accessible to those who seek first the King ~ his qualities and activities are added-unto-thee as side effects, oblique bonuses.
- The Kingdom of God effects change in neither a strictly top-down nor bottom-up way, it is from the outside, whilst being already within you.
- The Kingdom of God cannot be homogenised by populists nor calibrated by experts. It is not gestural, it is not generisable, it is granular and artifactual, it is site-specific and person-centred.
- The Kingdom of God is absurd and wasteful and counter-intuitive and risky and parochial and offensive.
[Knowing the flaws of syllogisms..]
- The world will be sustainable when it is populated by gardeners-fully-alive.
- Gardeners come fully alive when they encounter the Jesus story.
- They encounter the Jesus story if we pour perfume out with reckless abandon.
∴ The world will be sustainable if we pour perfume out with reckless abandon.
This thoroughly modern PJ struggles to believe the above. I like the good-enough that I can measure. I like a piechart. I like conspicuous cause and effect. I want to tithe my dill, I want to be busy, I want to _feel_ alright, I like a code of mere damage-limiting ethical minima that I can at least control. I believe arrogantly that I can work back to a description of God through inferential reasoning via that which seems to have greatest impact for the visible good in the now. Right living, ethical living, and a conscience clear ~ these proceed from a life of faith, a life of prophecy, a life in dialogue with _the_ author of all good, _the_ stakeholder in everyone's good, and _the_ host of all contingency, consequence and circumstance. The hilarious, hedonistic and aggressively amoral life He leads us in will effect abounding peace and a riot of joy and food-ethics righteousness.

Rm14v19-20 A similarity between v15 & v20 - both speak of how it is possible to damage (destroy, ruin) the work of God, by damaging the people of God. How vulnerable God makes himself, in making us so vulnerable to one another, for we are. Every unhelpful conversation we have with a brother or sister stands against the power of the resurrection. This is why Jesus speaks in such hard-hitting terms with regards our capability to harm each other Mk9v42. Praying this morning that I would know where to repent, where to pray for redemption, where (& how) to speak, where (& how) to stay silent.

Rm14v21-22 We keep to a stricter (or, in other contexts, a more liberal) diet than we might otherwise, for the sake of others.
~ pursuing an empathetic teetotalism for to strengthen and to put-at-ease and to normalise and to woo to freedom those historically alcoholic.
~ being compassionately vegan so to allow those addicted to the meat of empire to be weaned off.
~ going conspicuously social-media-free to invest ourselves for others in creating rich offline social worlds of recouperation for addicts.
~ we compassionately forego fleeting pleasure and disadvantage ourselves in the world's eyes, for the sake of others' freedom.
In the landscape of conscience, we, with the grace gifted to us, with energetic vigour seldom applied to amoral categories in areas not of your own struggling, each according to their own call, we carve out arenas for freedom from guilt and freedom from shame, we build the infrastructure for others' flourishing, we spend ourselves and shape our lives with precise contextualisation, precise to a tolerance of ± 1 person.
~ Giving up alcohol is like this: If your life is a living sacrifice, fill four pitchers with water and pour it on your offering. Do it a second time. Do it a third time. Then let them watch you burn like a Christmas pudding at Pentecost. 1Ki18v34
~ Time is so short, your context is so narrow, and of the thousand Londons behelden to a thousand specific prisons, you are amongst but a handful, you have access to their pain, you have a platform to show Christ's satisfying sufficiency over-and-against their precise addiction.~ Whose freedom are you called to?

Rm14v23 Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Sounds a bit extreme,  but only because I tend to have such a narrow understanding of faith, as the bit of life I do when explicitly referencing BibleJesusChurch things. Faith is a posture. I'm either in the right posture or the wrong posture, and so often I'm in the wrong posture. There are two different ways of thinking about reality - one where entropy ultimately prevails, one where redemption ultimately prevails. I either understand myself to exist inside the one or the other, & will act according. I can only exist in faith or sin. I really want to live in faith.

texting romans thirteen

Against Theological Trump cards. What a week to be reading Romans 13. 07729056452

Rm13v1-2 'Obey the state', says Paul, a man famous for making trouble for religious & political authorities, and getting himself thrown in prison. Confusing. The language, at least in translation, seems so absolute, it's hard to know what to do with it. One wants to insert 12v18's 'so far as it depends on you' as a prefix here, does this help us frame our responsibilities more humbly and yet more courageously? Perhaps as important as a lens is 12v21. Do not respond to the evil of the state with evil, do not let the evil of the state defeat you, instead, overcome evil with good. Our response to the state shouldn't be merely reactive, complaining or demanding our own rights. Our response must be love. And love is so deep a thing that it can be many things: 1Cor13v4-8, my response to the state must be patient & kind, my response to the state must not be selfish or ill-mannered or irritable, my response to the state must not hoard up wrongs against me, my response to the state must not be happy with evil, my response to the state must delight in the truth. I must not give up on the state. I must approach the state with faith, hope & patience, which never fail.

Rm13v3-4 "Rulers are not a terror to good conduct" That maxim is not my default setting. Individualism's version of history has taught me that such statements are dangerous. And so, self-righteously adrift, fed by soundbites from Adbusters and Klein and Wink and Ellul and Mr Robot and my own mix of angry intellectual sorrow, I wallow in cathartic anarchism  which would have me tear down everything, every thing, especially Paul's apparent pro-establishment oily sycophantism naively licensing the withering of vitally critical democracy. Doesn't he know all relationships tend towards control, all association towards cronyism, all order towards bureaucracy, and that all power inevitably corrupts. So, I congregate with those who share a vague sense of conspiracy, a seething father-fury, an escapist desire to build a lonely utopia of total subjectivism. This is not the revolution that Jesus or Paul intend, it is not love, it is not wise, it will not last.
"Rulers are not a terror to good conduct" We pray for Parliament, we speak well of leaders, we assume the best, we let them know we are on their side, we give them a generous license to inhabit their role, we become the sort of citizenry who so dignify the poor, who so rigorously refuse violence, who so transparently conduct business honestly, that we would get the politicians we deserve, and we get the national border policies which we practice ourselves in the microcosm of our household.

Rm13v5-6 A verse for tax return day! Let's pray for God's work as and through filing our tax returns, putting aside cynicism and praying God's blessing on state-funded medicine, libraries, schools, systems, benefits, etc. May those in power in this country, at the front-line and in the high echelons, work holy work. Thank you God, for all that is good true & beautiful in the work of our state. May all that is less-than be redeemed continually by your spirit. May it be.

Rm13v7-8  "Pay to all what is owed ..taxes ..revenue ..respect ..honour."
"Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it." Pr1v19
"Give honour to your wife .. that your prayers may not be hindered" 1Pt3v7
I remember reading Pr1v19 in the days of Napster circa 2001. Ill-gotten mp3s sucked the life out of music for me, I robbed myself of the magic of physical album, the surprise of the mixtape, the responsible adventure of selecting this album and not that one in exchange for pounds and pence. Instead, hoarding gigs of data from the delicious borderlands of illegality, relishing a petulent sense of entitlement, sticking it to the proverbial man.
It is not quite 'karma' that is in play here, but nevertheless there is a comeuppance, a certain personal zero-sum-game, I create a deficit, a debt for myself, (and in this case an unpayable debt to the abstraction of the music industry in a complex ethical era growing exponenetially more opaque. Who do I now repay?)
Debtors are the walking dead, the brittle and the twitchy, imposters in the land of the living. This is not just CAP's Wonga-poisoned millions holding their breath at the peephole as the bailiff pounds the door. All dishonouring another creates a debt, all late-payment creates distrust, all freeloading creates shame, and you withhold forgiveness to your own detriment ~ broken glass clenched in palm.
However, the bond of reciprocation with the community of a gift economy is different, there is no tit-for-tat in love, one cannot pay infinity back in installments. The individualist achieves the illusion of debt-free existence by social dissociation and buy-out. The Christian lives debt-free through love by the grace of Christ's sacrifice which has paid it all forward.

Rm13v9-10 LOVE is too big a word to meditate on, the word is like a brick wall to my mind, exceeding my vision, it is like trying to meditate on infinity. But just as Blake, To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an Hour/, so too might be behold, know, engage the depth of Love which is curled up inside each of the commandments, so Ps119v20 towards a meditation (& response) on & to Ex20v1-17 promises to be a lived encounter with the unthinkable absolute of Love via the concrete particular of the commandments, through the concrete particular of the neighbour.

Rm13v11-12 You know what time it is. Christianity is daybreak. Christianity is the cockerel crowing. Christianity is the ping ping of your upstairs neighbour's iphone humming the vibrated heatbeat of morning to the floor boards. Christianity is a time. Christianity is an awakening.  And, for Paul, such an awakening is both the suggestion of a code of behaviour: '..light is at hand, so then..' and the facility for it: 'put on the armour of light' tools or weapons (hopla ὅπλα) of light (phōtos φωτός) Lightsabres, if you will. We are found in the light, we are children of the light, we are lovers of the light, we are the light of the world, and light is our instrument of choice, task-lighting is our metaphor and simile.

Rm13v13-14 A condensed version of Eph4&5? All the same themes, which suggests they're presented together non-arbitrarily: light, sensitivity, attentiveness, decent behaviour VS darkness, insensitivity,  sensuousness, immorality. Good talk by Clarke Scheibe on how we quash the Spirit by becoming comfortably numb goo.gl/RhTgb8 // Darkness & excessive sensuousness function in the same way - filling our cognitive, emotional, visual etc space with something total, so nuance, detail, particularity, cannot be felt, seen, attended to. It's why we comfort-eat rich foods, to 'fill' feeling space with something that overpowers the senses, and helps me not-feel anything outside it (Eph4v19). But the Light shows up detail, sensitivity shows up detail. Just as thinking about the Magi responding with gold frankincense myrrh are specific gifts to specific revelation, the prayer to be filled with the Spirit is a prayer to see hear smell touch taste in spiritual high resolution.

texting romans twelve

Hearts and Minds. The battle is with yourself. We are on the same side. 07729056452

Rm12v1-2 "Therefore:" on the basis of all the Romans we've been reading since 25th April 2016..
"Therefore .. worship": worship is spiritual is bodily is sacrifice. Paul, master of polysyndetic coordination, feels no need to add water to this extra-strength-concentration memory verse. Everything everything, and all "by the mercies of God". After eleven chapters of pulling back the slingshot's elastic, Paul switches from the theologically descriptive to the imperative, in a what-the-how-to.   What: "Worship" //  How-to: "Sacrifice" ~ this is how we apply, embody, interpret, understand, export Paul's preceding thesis on the Jewish roots and Gentile fruits etc. v2 The nonconformist doing of this worship/sacrifice in a manner which is 'good&acceptible&perfect' is a skillful task. Doing the 'not-conforming' is a 'being-transformed', which comes by knowing ie. 'renewal of mind' which comes by doing via 'testing' (Gk dokimazō ~ "finding out the worth of something by putting it to use or testing it in actual practice") inorder to know. The Christian life is a project of interrelated right-doing and right-knowing. The knowledge of God is a tacit knowledge, an embodied knowledge, a depthed domain of conceptual and preconceptual progressively grasped understanding. And so today, we worship by sacrifice which is a testing inorder to know inorder to do ~ all on the basis that we already are.

Rm12v3-4 The humility exhorted here reads this morning reads not only as against pride, but also against self-contempt. Self-contempt is a kind of pride, perhaps. You can only act on the information you have. So: Be modest in your thinking. Judge yourself according to the faith that you have.

Rm12v5-6 At all scales of being a body corporate (she&me, work, 41, to the CofE and much wider networks) diversity is difficult, less because of antagonistic division ~ if only we might be so plain spoken ~ but rather more because of dull homogenisation. Self-selecting self-similarity willing to congregate around a dis-Othered one-size-fits-all, a race-to-the-bottom of the lowest-common-denominator lukewarm less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts community of sameness, forming a bloated megachurch rendered in the image of one leader, styled by his preoccupations and tribal creed, shaped by her gifts and the measure of her faith. The PJs could be such a bloated megachurch, 41 could be such a monotonous narrowing, unadventurous in our diversity, unaccountable in muzzled faith and anaemic in the Venn diagram intersect of gifts we license. And v6 prophecy is so often the first to go, and the tacitly cessationist congregation kettles a stale male pale distillate, the residue of a stagnant pool as the awkward holy fool is evaporated early, the death of the artist is the canary in the church coalmine. Imperatively you must use the gift of prophecy.
You ~ qua you as a body corporate at all scales must use the giftings of prophecy.
Must ~ not as a legalism, but for dear life.
Use ~ employ it for a purpose to a cause to an end to move mountains, to strengthen church, to speak truth to power.
Prophecy ~ attuned to the unseen, the not-yet, and by so listening and so speaking, draw heaven into all of life, lyrically poetically playfully politically.

Rm12v7-8 Reading from Peter Leithart's Traces of the Trinity this morning, which includes a meditation entwined with Paul's picture of the church as the one body of Christ: we indwell and are indwelt by one another in our use of these gifts, as Christ indwells us and is indwelt by us, as the persons of the Trinity indwell and are indwelt by one another. As we teach serve share etc, we polyphonically participate in worship: "The Spirit who indwells inspires [worship], an expression of God's dwelling in us, us dwelling in God, & of believers indwelling one another. In the eternal praise of the new creation, we will become one mighty sound, like the mighty waters, like the voice of God himself.  The Spirit breaks us open so we can host others within us; the Spirit expands us so that we can house multitudes; the Spirit drives us ahead so that we gladly, redemptively, take up residence where the Son dwelled, in the slums of human hearts." This is Christmas, that the Son indwelt the world as the world indwells the Son. May we see every small action in the context of this chiasm, the reality of mutual indwelling.

Rm12v9-10 Fakers gonna fake. But you, you love with an unaffected love, a love unconfected, unalloyed, unreserved and completely unsentimental. You love without compensation, without simulation, and without hypocrisy. You love with a total love, thorough, final, comprehensive. A love that counts the cost, a love that casts out fear, a pro-active love that loves despite my unloveliness, a superabundant love in which there are no shades or degrees.
But I, I love with a veneered love, partial and pretensed, a people-pleaser's lying love. Opaque, cynical, and exploitative. My love is an extractive industry, a corrupt barter, a codependent blackmail. I love you as a means to an end, I love you for something in return, for the brief buzz of bodily sensation in my zombie cybernauseous existence. I am a love machine, well oiled and invulnerable, I love with a painless love, I am a fair-weather lover, an I♥NY lover, I appreciate a subset of your parts at no cost to myself. I love you in a complex role-playing make-believe, a choreography of learnt responses in the erotic collision of a narcissist into a stationary object. I love with a cloying sentimental love, selfish in extreme. In my veins, synthetic and saccharine crystals of tawdry aspartame curdles with the putrid glitter and oil of ingenuous affection, choking the arteries of my organs for goodness truth and beauty.
Oh Phil, let love be genuine. Allow it. Fear not.

Rm12v11-12 Be fervent. I tend to think of fervour as extreme emotion, to be contrasted with weak emotion. But what if we thought of fervour as extreme depth? Not arbitrary capricious passion for its own sake, as a way of reactively pouring scorn on indecisive lukewarm mediocrity, but rather, constant depth, constant pursuit of meaning. How I long to be so faithful. v12 goes on to say more about what this fervour-depth is like: joyful, hopeful, which is the antithesis of mere survival, mere people-pleasing, but also patient, constant, the antithesis of caprice or manipulation. The life of prayer is the life of depth. The life of constant prayer is the life of constant depth.

Rm12v13-14 Hospitality is a good universally acknowledged. But it needed commending and it needs commending. Why? 1. It gets neglected because it involves risk. 2. It can be brought to ever greater excellence but who can be bothered?
Christianity is a peerless and extreme how and why for hospitality.
~ Why? Because our universe is one in which an hospitable God welcomes ill-deserving strangers into his domain at cost to himself. This fundamental truth and the display of its poetry is its own imperative and it is the license to so seek our joy in exuberantly prioritising hospitality, hedonistically we give home away because it is more blessed to give.
~ How? Our daily experience is a God who supplies for this project, over against the scarcity mindset of individualist renderings of home and national borders, over against security fears. George Muller and countless others have scaled their hospitable provision according to the God they follow, the God who is able to feed five thousand, the homeless God who is yet able to host dinner in an upper room.

Rm12v15-16 Thinking about pathological ways that we might rejoice or weep with others, as Black Mirror's S3-E1, a social media dystopia where we simply live to 'like' each others' projected highs & lows, or the immaturity of codependency or oversensitive emotional contagion. But it's easy to use such examples, or to mutter about Jesus having good boundaries, as a way of deflecting the command and the opportunity of this verse. We are to be 'with' one another, 'alongside' rather than merged with. We are to weep with them, to carry their burdens, but to know that the other remains distinct. We weep and laugh with them, not because we are them. But we are to weep and rejoice with them. Our movement towards to other is always to be one of recognition, empathy, love. Love is so great a thing that it can be many things. Not all rejoicing-with has to look the same. There are seasons and intimacies which determine what it looks like to rejoice-with and mourn-with this particular person...and it must be particular otherwise it is not 'with'...but the movement is always to be one of love, which is minimally to not treat others' joys and pains as in some way in competition with one's own, nor to outlaw anyone from the outset as excluded from your empathy. 'Love them anyway' says a note on my parents' fridge. T reminded me of the sacrificial nature of the love we receive in abundance from God. So love, as you were first beloved.

Rm12v17-18 'Do what is honourable in the sight of all' The commentaries seem to agree, the 'honourableness' is not moderated by 'the sight of all', ie. it is not a maxim to do actions which are viewed as honourable by some subjective consensus. The emphasis is rather doing that which is concretely honourable and doing it in plain sight.
Do good in public. Do public good.
There is a time for the private abstinance of discretely ethical consumption, the ninja gifting, slights of left-hand to right-hand giving with the door closed and the curtains drawn. But it is not enough. The world needs to see, the city needs to know, Christians need to proactively and creatively devise excellent things, honourable mechanisms, conspicuous displays, accessible metaphors, corporate expressions, public enactments of the ingenious common good on the stage of the urban theatre.

Rm12v19-20 Revenge. The addiction to revenge is a plummet that gathers momentum towards greater evil, both for self and other, this is why v21 exhorts us not to be overcome by evil. For revenge always prefers one's own broken over one's own healing, so long as the other is hurt too. I choose, for example, to stay inside my own pain, and hope that he sees it, and feels guilty - that is my revenge on him, but it comes at the cost of my own inability to be healed. Melanie Klein argued that envy was the one emotion which hates the good, but I think vengefulness is similar. Revenge tries to pull the other back into a circle of self and suffering,  rather than asking God's spirit to place one's own feet in a spacious place. It is utterly self-defeating, inverted, self-perpetuating. All this even before the truth that a vengeful act on my part is apt to lock me into a vengeful response on his, ad infinitum. May grace deliver me from my vengeful heart.

Rm12v21 Life is played to-the-pain and anything other than ultra-non-violent vengeance is impatient and anxious and ineffective. We will outlast, outgive, outrisk, outabsorb all slings and arrows of evil.
Where is evil located?
~ All evil, within and without, my own evil self-contempt, my own will-to-power, my own trespassed-against-us, my own thought-word-and-deed, my own negligence-weakness-and-own-deliberate-fault, my own comission and omission. All evil is overcome by my pursuit of the good.
Does Paul address you individually or yous corporately?
~ We overcome evil individually, I overcome my selfishness by displacing it with generosity, bitterness with grace, barbs with bants, theft with gift, lies with a bigger truer truth.
~ We overcome evil corporately, as a house, as a church, as a nation through the aggressive and proactive and exuberant and organised pursuit of the good at a sacrificial cost to ourselves. We overcome organised-crime, systemic-social-injustice, the housing crisis, climate change, terrorism, but this pursuit of good at this scale hinges on a sufficiently strong we-experience to collectively-intend the good. If only we could practice this in some sort of large shared house.