Friday, 20 January 2017
texting romans eleven
Rm11v1-2 Christians. The chosen? The few? The elect? The first-among-equals? Some-more-than-others? More-than. Our God is more-than, our experience of being loved by God is more-than. The closest we get to a language for God's love is the comparative praise of exclusive selection, of romantic preference, the being a 'this one' over against 'that one'. The closest concept finite lovers have for infinite love is the infinitely selective love. The superlative force of forsaking all others is the closest analogue to the experience of the superlative all-abundant love of God. There is a poetic, an embrace of the infinite, anathema to the conservative's literal and liberal's metaphorical mind. It is possible to lose none of the truth of elective foreknowing and none of the mystery. To live a more-than life, to speak a more-than gospel from a more-than God, to savour his more-than favour and more-than delight, and to export such with that same urgency that the binary that loved-vs-cast-off conjures. Has God rejected Britain? Would you still have broken the vase if I said he hadn't said anything?
Rm11v3-4 They. The they. The 3rd-person-impersonal-plural. What have they done that you're angry or resentful about this morning? Pay attention to the 'they's in your language, even in your prayers. What is God's reply to [you]?
Rm11v5-6 The remnant. The residue. The elect distillate. The Leftovers, in the HBO sense ~ confronted with our own unanswerable 'why?' we must yet live in the light of this strange selection. It is a deafening privilege, a terrifying responsibility. We are the 1%, an emergent reform movement, but the call is not to action, not to works. Every day the blackest Black Friday free gift, windfall, giveaway. 100% off? How do you live to v11 'provoke to jealousy' those who have fallen asleep at the wheel. Today, poetically, we will unblock the rainwater pipe at the back of the house, a narrow path, blocked, ehem by a remnant of dead branches.. (a mixed metaphor too far.)
Rm11v7-8 So God was first revealed to the Gentiles through the failings of Israel. J wanted to impress on us this weekend ways that God uses our weakness to deliver more good than we can imagine, a slip of the tongue in a board meeting. Hard to know how to position myself in relation to this thought - noting 6v1-2. Sin is to be resisted, and future slips of the tongue are definitionally unknown unknowns. Maybe the double surrender of the latter is the point. Maybe the orienting oneself into full belief that my failures are entirely and here, doubly, within the redemptive capacity of God changes the 'newness of life' we 6v4 walk in.
Rm11v9-10 🙈 Paul's Notes on Blindness, and just as devastating in our preeminently visual age, we are snared in our own neon oblivion, so busy sightseeing we're blindsided. Or I am, plank-in-eye religiouse, blinkered and navel-gazing, short-sighted and eyes-averted from the real of the world's needs, I blacken the darkened glass we see through dimly with my own grime
Jr1v11 What do you see? // Mt13v13 What do you not see?
Gloucester stumbled when he saw // John Hull lectured in the prophetic.
Rm11v11-12 If there's beauty in the breakdown then how much more in the makeup? Full inclusion, says Paul, what a lovely four-syllable meditation. As the kingdom of God extends it transforms people, relationships and events. How much richer they become! A richness for the commons, a multiplication of new meanings as more is included, more are included. In life are we more apt to point to the first two 'riches' of v12, namely those produced by exclusion? Paul acknowledges these riches, some goodness, beauty, wisdom, to be found in this way of thinking - but he doesn't want us to stay stuck here, because there's more. He invites us into deeper riches: 'how much more will their full inclusion mean!' How much richer, how much more beautiful, how much more of a blessing, is the work of the spirit towards redeeming all things, not only me and mine.
Rm11v13-14 Jealous like his milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. "Taste and see.." flaunts a better flavour. Go and tell. Sow and sell. Hundredfold hedonism.
Rm11v15-16 All or nothing, each part is whole.
Rm11v17-18 🌲...🎄 Nature is? And we are bound towards death by natural causes? That is just? The Bible is full of roots and leaves and shoots and sheaves of a nature altered by the cosmic topiarist, pruning intention, willing unexpected fruit. God cultivates. He offensively addles. We have salvation because nature has been interfered with. The natural blood ties of genetic allegience and tribal solidarity have been reengineered, realtared (pun is Mark C Taylor's). It's not natural. We don't live in a closed universe.
Rm11v19-20 Praying for she far-from, her physical, emotional & spiritual healing. For her relationships, her work, her sense of the deep down reality of God as a joy, for the visceral experience of being a branch of a tree with deep roots, soaking up living water.
Rm11v21-22 New branch, new sap, new wine, new style, new soul, new world. Brave and emergent, reactionary and reforming. We are cuttings at the cutting edge. We are the freshest fresh expressions. Even so, I am not immune from the creeping decay of nominalism, the glib rot of self-satisfied moralism, the blight of comparative praise. I am prone to the veneering of faith, presenting as the simulacrum of a plant, having resplendent leaves but no fruit, being all bark and no bite. I am just as capable of distorting this Abrahamic inheritance, just as prone to cultivate ingrown and stunted expressions of a spiritual life. Just as fallible, prunable, and probably a measure more self-righteous.
Rm11v23-24 Christianity is Jewish. Real Talk: this year Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve. How can we mark it? How can we find meaning untokenistic ways of celebrating Christmas in the context of Hanukkah, of situating the Christ light in the festival of lights, acknowledging the apogee, the alpha-omega who comes from and runs throughout our Hebrew roots. What can we learn? How can we remember?
Rm11v25-26 I am 'wise in my own sight'. Conceited. Impatient. I am 1Pt3v15 trigger happy. Smug married and middle class. I am cliqued with scoffers. Educated beyond my intelligence. I've had answers without questions.. Against this God has intended mystery. (mystērion μυστήριον) Paul uses the word elsewhere for very particular structural elements in God's universe:
Eph3v3 Admission of Gentiles // Eph5v32 Marriage // 1Cor15v51 Resurrection // 2Th2v7 The Anti-Christ
In my experience, in the battle against modernity, wounded advocates of a theology of 'Mystery' have weaponised the idea of intellectual humility, as epistemelogical suicide-bombers, carrying out sentimental raids on the universe being knowable at all, furiously content to resign the ability to make statements about anything. This over-compensating form of warfare renders the world as terrifying, wisdom as anathema, marriage as meaningless, and language altogether as the gravel and shrapnel of a decimated city.
The theology of election is not intuitive, and neither is a Christian theology of marriage. The theology of election is not the shapeless caprice of a volatile deity, it is not impossible to make contained and definite statements about that which is beyond my final, utter and comprehensive understanding.
In a parabolic universe, we participate in practices which are deeper than we know, and which are purposed beyond mere pragmatism. Just as the elect are not such merely for themselves, so too the married. This is a great mystery.
Rm11v28-29 Paul speaks to and about his own people, how do I do the same? Dear White People, Watching the English & Middle-Class Woes. Is all I have to offer 'my people' just a bit ironic and awkwardly apologetic? Various interesting articles after the US Presidential election aimed at young white hipsters and the fact that they increasingly refuse to go back to families for thanksgiving, citing not wanting to have to deal with racist family members...various authors calling this out: these are your people. You've got to talk to them. Talk to them, as Paul talks hard truths to his people: there is no-one better placed to do it. Christmastime is coming, so as we gather together to eat with those from whence we came, may our conversations be as strong as Paul's, as full of grace and truth.
Rm11v29-30 Paul's 'therefores', and 'in-order-thats' sometimes feel overcausal and underjustified, ascribing exaggerated and arbitrary divine intention to the landscape of hardened hearts and saved nations etc.
I can more easily get on board with the notion that Mercy is for something. You are a conduit for grace: your forgiveness is a means to other forgiveness: every salvation exists in a chain reaction propagating salvation stories which beget salvation stories which beget salvation stories. You have been shown mercy for something.
But v30 "because-of-disobedience", and v31 "disobedient-in-order-that". Disobedience is "for something"?
We are thrown into the drama of diverse peoples with diverse revelations "for something", seasons change "for something", branches of the church mutate, generations come and go, you too will grow old, "for something".
It might not change the fact of the matter to consider that there is purpose to someone's disobedience, to a brother's falling away, to a whole generation's preoccupation with a stilted prosperity theology. But it should change our vigour, God is not absent in this, rather he has calculated all things as an opportunity to minister, as an excellent platform for the display of the timeless and the timely best good news. Their disobedience and your mercy-received have been coinicided for exactly such a good news story, for exactly such a time as this. Be of good courage.
mercy was spoken / mercy still speaks /
morning by morning / in ruptures and leaks / untidied myself up / tied myself up undone / thy mercies they fail not / thy kingdom is come
Rm11v33-34 'Oh.' Ō Ὦ Hollering Paul puts the rly in o rly. First things first, he's the realist doxologist peering into the cauldron of God's mystery with unsarcastic wow and wordless awe. OMG and Oh come all ye. Why Oh? Because of the Depth of [1. Riches; 2. Wisdom; 3. Knowledge] of God. Transcendental triptych, each depthed. 1. Stuff, 2. Meaning, 3. Facts. 1. Goodness, 2. Beauty, 3. Truth. Oh my.
Rm11v35-36 It's perhaps even harder that usual to keep the cosmic Christ in view at Christmastime, with it's obvious and delicious focus on the incarnation. The Christ is not only the historical Jesus but the one whom the all things were created by, through and for. Christ authored and ordered the substance and law that would be His own flesh, just as He authors mine.