Thursday, 15 June 2017
Lk3v1-2 This could be the desert, this could be the time. Already I am thinking of ways to cheat feeling thirsty. Maybe now is the time to be thirsty. Now is the time to be cut to the heart. Now is the time for the word of God to come. Now is the time for history not to repeat itself. Now is the time for true metanoia. Come, word of God. Teach me the courage, discpline & generosity to receive your word.
Lk3v3-4 Election Day, an unrepentant country will get the politicians they deserve.
We repent the divisive rhetoric of blame and shame.
We repent mispent wealth and privelege abused, banal cynicism and tax avoidance.
We repent self-righteous leftism and saving faith in state giantism.
We repent opaque machines of bloated self interest.
We repent the glee of too eagerly consuming twitter's cynical rumour mongering.
We repent ethical outsourcing and the privatisation of everything.
We repent the creep of cruelty, the idolatry of personality.
We repent everything escapist, everything smothering, everything untrue.
We repent complicity in systemic pessimism and limited ambition.
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts..
Lk3v5-6 Shall. Will. Repeated five times in these two verses - the done deal of God. Those valleys, those mountains, the crooked and the rough, all that and whom are now yet unredeemed? They are gonna get redeemed. It will literally happen. All things. Shall. This is the source of true hope, true lightness, true freedom. Lots of chat about hope this morning, as our political landscape shifts about us [God, we invite you in] but true hope bounds forth from this perspective of God's reality: every valley shall be filled, all flesh shall see the salvation of God. No really, it shall happen! What a strong and stable reality we actually live in, as Jesus speaks to us in today's other reading: "abide in my word...& you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free" Jn8v31-32. Abide in this: the crooked shall become straight. Rough places shall become level. Shall mate. Julian got Jesus right - All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. Amen
Lk3v7-8 Do you ever feel John's rage? The excoriating arid heat of palpable fury, fury at those who should know better, fury at the church-raised over-educated ever-so-busy, fury at the cosy comfortable privileged ambassadors of turgid laissez-faire Christianitised blah. Fury at those who mingle vague social concern with an utter lack of urgency, fury at those who brew a sloppy semi-faith that's neither hot nor cold, a merely linguistic affair of intriguing philosophical complexity and delicious escapist ambiguity. Fury at those who idly mingle curt de-churched bitter bickering with aloof Guardian sardonic posturing with truculent self-pity dabbing solipsistically at a putrid self-inflicted wound. Fury at those translucent moral entities who export vague guilt without hope and who always told-you-so. Fury at the vipers, a brood who breed intergenerational viperhood, curdling toxic misinformation with self-interested fantasy.
Wrath is coming. Everyone knows this. D-Day is always on the horizon. Judgement Day is always imminent. At every moment we are on the eve of making an account for ourselves.
John asks "Who told you to flee..?" Rather as God asks, "..who told you that you were naked?" Gn3v11. What have you 'told' your friends?
- Run from God's wrath?
- Deconstruct 'God's wrath'?
- Face God's wrath with repentance through Christ?
~ If you're going to run, run from sin 2Tim2v22, and run towards God Pr18v10
Lk3v9-10 Axed. Uprooted. Destroyed. Reading John Stott's 'The Radical Disciple' this week he ends his final book with some thoughts on the deaths we must die as disciples: the role of dying in salvation, discipleship, mission, persecution, martyrdom and the practice of literal mortality. Of 2Cor4v10-11 he says: 'This extraordinary statement declares that we can experience both the death and life of Jesus simultaneously.' This is my prayer, that I would check out of the painful process of the axe at my roots. That I would always be being cut down, that I would always be growing new life.
Lk3v11-12 "Teacher, what shall we *do*" What does repentance look like? It is a doing. The gospel of repentance is active, personal and political. Faith is works, and works is a doing is a giving.
"Whoever.." The revolution starts with you, double tunicker. Before you get stoning Two Jags, take the backup plan out of your own eye. God is your piggy bank for a rainy day. God is your but-if-not. God is your come-what-may. Note 'whoever' is an if clause, predicates radical generosity on abundance, but calibrates abundance as being within everyone's reach.
"Two Tunics.." If one tuxedo is enough for Obama.. ~ Your untaxable personal allowance is one tunic, and above that threshold the tax rate is 100% (but perhaps tax is an unhelpful analogy here). As entrepeneurs, if you are to be a disruptor, keep your life lean and nimble. How do you measure abundance? What do you have two of?
"..share with him who has none.." It's more blessed to give etc. It is more interesting. It packs a better punchline. Giving is more fun for all involved. And giving changes everything. The true truth of all-as-gift-given rendering all-as-gift-givers is the essence of Christianity, the definition of grace, the mode of its infection. When the Kingdom of God comes, Capitalism won't work, and Communism won't be necessary. Capitalism is fueled acquisitive avarice to stock-pile more-than-one. Communism flatten this property theft to the counter-generous universal unownership of less-than-one. Both are structured responses to the lie of scarcity.
Lk3v13-14 Money. John makes clear that different people need to hear different specific things about their attitude to money. Everyone agrees greed is wrong, but John puts his finger on more subtle ways that money gets under the skin: falseness, disatisfaction, legally sanctioned exploitation, thinking oneself more entitled than others, treating 'what I can get away with' as the measure of a.legitimate attitude towards money. These are not just attitudes to point out in the world at large, but which jostle under my own skin. Come Lord Jesus.
Lk3v15-16 "straps of whose sandals I'm not worthy to untie..." 👞👞 Coming soon is the one man who is not actually too big for his boots. Jesus, the cosmic CEO who pulled the whole universe up by his own bootstraps. Jesus, suited, booted and atop the sheer cliff of the company hierarchy that we find ourselves in. Jesus. He is not like other prophets, he not an extension of a vague continuum of do-gooders and well-wishers. The one who comes after me is wholly other.
"He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.." 🔥🔥 These are no mere props to his cuz in the family business. John is in End-Is-Nigh mode: We baptise with water pistols, Jesus brings the artillery. Jesus will mess you up. As Grenfell Tower hurls harrowing visuals into public consciousness, as if we were in any fuzziness about fire's fearsome potency. Baptism into Christianity is not the arrangement of tea lights around a fusty icon, it is man-as-powder-keg furiously ablaze, utterly and horrendously undone, the screaming hissing wood, the crackle and white-hot roar of a soul consumed. As Tim Farron has just said so publicly, this fire demands my life, my soul, my all.
Lk3v17-18 And the line between wheat & chaff runs right through the human heart. I am much worse and much better than I believe. I am much less respectable much more redeemable. I am much more glorious, much more ruined. Sarah qua chaff needs incinerating in a furnace that puts her own hot emotions to shame. Sarah qua wheat gets to be made beautiful, bread to be broken, food to sustain and hearten others.
Lk3v19-20 Herod. Trump. Phil. "#You're just as boring as everyone else, When you tut and you moan and you squeal and you squelch..." 🍆🍑 These grisly übermensch, sick as fuck, sick and boring. See, lust is a gateway sin, an open wound exploit, money-sex-&-power is a three corded gordian noose, and the tawdry threads are each unravelled twines from the tapestry of a meat market mode of considering the human person. The banality of this worldview was and is and is to _come_ in oily overripe euphemisms, spidery claws scrawling an SOS in fluid leaking from the cadaver of the rubberised human, this total worldview is a perennial shallowing, a lascivious addiction to hands and feet, a fearful world becoming exponentially more abstract, the logical extension of which is the body terminally commodified in the beheading of John the Baptist. What is it to take one's brother's wife? What is porn? What makes it's reproof so political?
Lk3v21-22 All the things going on in these 2 famous verses: baptism, prayer, revelation, trinitarian relationships, belovedness, conditions for ministry... I'm stuck this morning by the fact that the holy spirit 'descended...in bodily form'. I've never thought before that we get a micro-incarnation of the holy spirit here. It's hard to know what 'like a dove' really means, but taking it at face value - God became bird, and dwelt among us. It was not beneath God to become part of creation, to embody feathers and beak, to limit Himself to the vulnerability and simplicity of a creature without language. This thought makes me behold the incarnation of Christ again with incredulous wonder - we think it a little step down from God to man, but no, it is a total scandal.
Lk3v23-24 Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. What am I going to do when I grow up? What will I do with that nebulous mature manhood somewhere at the rainbow's end of asymptotic adolescence? And in the week after Father's Day, Luke couples this ready-set-go of Jesus ministry with a genealogy [yawn?], sons of Adam's sons, fathers fathering father since the dawn of time. Notably this opens the pickle of who was Joseph's father? ~ Heli, as Luke supposes // or Jacob, as Matthew supposes. Commentators speculate a range of interpretable fatherhoods: physical, legal, adoptive, and via levirite marriage. Thirty, a good age to start a ministry. Pray for us as we wrestle with qualitative fathering and the nurture of Tony's legacy.
Lk3v25-26 Matthew starts with Abraham and works forward to Jesus. Luke starts with Jesus and works back to Adam, the son of God. Jesus: alpha & omega, all things run towards Him, from Him all things proceed.
Lk3v27-28 Christianity is and must be intergenerational. A baton relay cooperating. Paul planting, Apollos watering, all the while God making to grow 1Cor3v6. Lois passes to Eunice passes to Timothy 2Tim1v5. Relentless, perpetual, unceasing, You are neither source nor terminus but a participant in one long unbroken fibreoptic cable of the Christ light through the days and decades.
Lk3v29-30 Lots of familiar names, but these are not yet the characters we know, but those named after them, those labouring under the same stories. When parents name they declare meaning over their children, an early act of grace. But a name given with intent can be a burden to those of us who feel we haven't lived up to our name's inspiration. Isn't all grace like this? How quick we are to turn grace into something we must earn. You name is a gift, and the stories woven into it can always be a hope to set before you. A prayer for the littlest J I know (& his siblings) this morning, and for all those little ones entrusted to our prayer, that they would grow to know their names as the symbol of a great & true treasure, of divine foreknowledge and grace.
Lk3v31-32 Who do you think you are? Who am I? 📜 The prominent inclusion of genealogies in the bible is striking to me. For me who forgets names with a ferocious efficiency calculated to assuage the pains of perpetual departures. For me who holds a mild contempt for historical preoccupation as a nostaligic activity never more than the sum of its sentimentalities: a modern form of ancestor worship. For me who caricatures an image of dusty and deranged archivists in bondage to a manic determinism and a sort of ruin lust, creaking around card index files, venting their mid-life crises down the well of history through the digital seance which is ancestry.co.uk: "who am I?" For me who lives thinly and monogenerationally in a slithered slice of siloed demography: bare millenials kettling their amnesiac unwisdom together, drafting disruptive manifestos enshrining chronological snobbery with self-righteous melancholy.
And I think the bible agrees with my dim view of ancestry geeks:
Lk11v47 "Woe to you who build tombs for the prophets!"
Lk8v27 the Gadarene demoniac lived "amongst the tombs"
Lk24v5 "Why are you looking for the living amongst the dead?"
Jn5v39 "You search the scriptures but..."
Ph3v13 "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.."
And yet, these genealogies are there in the Bible as an encouragement to do likewise: to ponder our inheritance. There is a right way to look back, a right retrospective, the telling of testemony, the display of how far God has carried you, and your family. Vitally and personally, this cosmic Christ comes out of such a microscopic lineage, this collection of briefly and parochially significant names: David, Jesse, Boaz.. they are but an artefact of noise, a blip in the sweep of history. The film Lion meditates on such a search for origins and identity through the magic of Google Earth, poring over the vast Indian urban landscapes viserally captured, to bring to the fore the true truth of one lost sheeps vital and infinite significance. Trace history and tell history because history is going somewhere. History has a beginning and an end, and that is Christ.
Lk3v33-34 Luke stretches the genealogy back beyond Abraham, bringing into focus universal humanity - something more ancient than Judaism. Luke is famously a gentile with a vision of the Christ for all, including those on the margins. Because Jesus inhabits our common humanity and not just our initiation into the covenant, our humanity can inhabit Jesus. Let us give thanks for this mystery, & let us pursue him where he is to be found.
Lk3v35-36 Son of a begatten bigot, Noah and the ne'er-do-wells, last in a long line line of lamentable losers: Jesus' genealogy is "#collecting the names of the lovers that went wrong..", the tried-and-faileds, the still-born saviours, the all-fallen-short-of-glory. But now. In a new Adam we have a new father, a new inheritance, and in being born-again, the lever of pollution's plumbing is cranked backward, like a ethical Archimedean screw pumping debt back up Calvary's hydroelectric hill. No longer is man handing misery onto man - the downstream effluent piped into today's youth is reversed. We are no longer the Leftovers, no longer eeking out a precarious existence at the fringe of a gig economy, no longer pawns in a corrupt housing market, no longer less-than-the-sum of our negative equity. To every prodigal son. The father makes the first move.
Lk3v37-38 The same week as reading Jn10v34-35 and 2Pt1v4. Jesus is the Son of God. We too are sons & daughters of God, siblings & co-heirs with & in Christ. We are participants in the divine nature. This has always been something I have held at a distance, smothered in caveats, fearful of claiming too much. But no, this is what it is to live the life resurrected, it is to know ourselves 'gods' in the way Jesus tells us we are, that is, 'Godly', 'divine participants', 'sons & daughters of God'. This switch in perspective transforms my sense of the possible, enlarges both my freedom and my humility. God, let us not dishonour what you have made holy, let us not settle for lives which are anything less than entirely caught up in yours.