Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Lk6v1-2 Many questions follow from this irreligious grazing incident. What is the rest of rest? What do you do when you stop stopping? What doing is permissible, what doing is profitable, and what doing is actually rest? I regret to say that I have no great new thoughts about Sabbath.
Lk6v3-4 Chats about this via Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. There are specific laws and specific prophecies - there have been and there still are and there will be to come, but there some deeper structural form to the Law and the Prophetic which is timeless, universal, part of the fabric of Godself. Here I don't think that Jesus discounts Law, but demonstrates that specific laws manifest a bigger Law, that is, the shimmering, dazzling Order of Things that is the God-structure of Reality.
Lk6v5-6 "On another Sabbath." Week in, week out. I love the way Luke draws out the labour of Pharisaism. Into v7 "watched him" eyes asquint and bloodshot, the watcher a'waiting, the sun comes up on their stake-out shifts, gonna getcha getcha getcha, that Geezus, up to no good, frackin' varmit.. The law is infinite, and policing it is a superhuman task. We don't keep the Sabbath, so much as the Sabbath keeps us. By Grace.
Lk6v7-8 Jesus knew their thoughts. Knows my thoughts. Meditating on this a little I realise that while I believe that God knows my thoughts I've internalised a sense that God must relate to human thoughts a bit like I relate to the internet. If God has access to everyone's thoughts then God must not care about any of them too strongly, apart from the really extreme ones maybe. My thoughts must blend into the dull roar of the ocean of all the thoughts in the world, a boring and exhausting wave of information for our deity, in which I probably don't expose myself too much by comparison, and I can probably slip by unnoticed or am quickly forgotten by something else making the headlines in an heavenly infinite scroll. As such this is how I relate to my own thoughts, taking neither sin nor inspiration very seriously for very long, easily compartmentalising thought and behaviour. Jesus here reminds us that the divine knows our thoughts at infinite depth as well as infinite breadth. God holds each thought as weighty, God is prepared to speak into every thought. Pay attention, oh my soul.
Lk6v9-10 Sabbath is a true truth, a maxim that pervades the universe, an objective eurhythmia beating a drum through eternity. One in seven, one in seven, one in seven. If you do not take rest, rest will take you, it will catch up with you, and time takes no hostages. Just as also, the Year of Jubilee is a latent imperative, a self-fulfilling force, not so much an advisory principle to note, as an active force in the universe to be ware of: the debt-based society will collapse in periodic financial crises unless we recognise the Year of Jubilee. Time itself is setup that way, rigidly karmic ~ the hands of the clock are against us, reaching to grip a creature by the throat, time polices it's own law and is a stickler for justice, order and timeliness. Time is jealous for her Sabbaths. But.
But Jesus is the Time Lord, he can pause time, stretch time and turn it back ~ reverse entropy is a turntable in rewind in many senses. The rules which he wrote are his to bend and break. Jesus makes time for you, he can hold the sun in the sky for you, he can remix and syncopate rest into your rhythm, his heart is to skip a beat for you, a semibreve ahhh. Be chill and know that I am Lord, of the Sabbath.
Lk6v11-12 The night. As summer dies and nights draw in, let's see the invitation to pray at night. Night time tends to be the time of exhaustion, the let's-not-have-difficult-conversations-after-10pm night time. But let us pray in the dark. Jesus' actions reflect today's psalm (playing catch up): Ps42v8 'By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.'
Lk6v13-14 "Jesus chose..":-
"..and all night he continued in prayer.." Jesus had to pray all night, wanted to pray all night, decided to pray all night by way of demonstration, and Luke feels led to make this emphasis, that this _is_ leadership? Pray long, pray hard, pray late? RelationalThinking refreshed the notion that the currency of relationship is time. And time is depthed by it's exclusive investment - prayer such as this is time spent alone together, and nights are reservoirs of undistracted unalloyed time, mainlining relationality with the Father, only out of such prayer time all effective action proceeds, all wisdom is gained, all power is supplied ~ all depth dimensions of ministry are plumbed.
"chose .. twelve" What is happening in the formation of this group? A crack team. A small group. A motley crew. Shortlisting, and whittling down to Gideon's arbitrary elite division Jg7? What paradigms of group-size do you carry? I'm interested in certain thresholds of critical mass in community size. Our household is quite different when it is 6, different again when 8, different again when 12.. Why 12, what is the twelveyness of it? Whom are you 12 with? Who are you when yous are 12?
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, the disciples are formed as the first church? So we, under Christ should be and do likewise, united under him, patterned as an elect hierarchy of equals, gathered, divisibly, organically, fractally, self-identifying as teams with a subsidiarity of delegated ministry. We are chosen into his church as a team for a task. At great cost, at great length, Jesus has prayed for you in the role he has brought you to, to the people he would have you serve.
"chose .. twelve" In making this selection, Jesus is the first church leader? With finite time, we make choices. We are agents with agency. We choose. Towards a finite cause, within a finite geography, with invest selectively, choosing this and not-this, them and not-them, now and not-then. We choose. A sleepless night is not enough for the sprawling contingencies which follow from such selections, subtle, divisive, them-and-us's. God, please meet me in prayer, in the choices I must make, in the people I am with, in the task that we are called to.
Lk6v15-16 The subgroups within subgroups of Jesus' disciples which make up a healthy relational stucture for life and church is often mentioned, & I spend quite a lot of time thinking about how subgroups can interact with each other in different ways. So too here, the 'we' of the inner circle of 12 gets to interface with as well as alongside with the wider circle of disciples. I've never really appreciated however this picture of Jesus picking the 12 in the context of the others - it could read like a kind of american high-school basketball film - a cruel act where the cool kids get chosen and those who don't make the cut are publicly exposed as not-good-enough. This however perhaps betrays more about the human need to be in the inner circle, in C.S. lewis' terms, than it does about our desire to know and love Jesus. There are contexts in which I'm on an inner circle and contexts I'm in an outer circle, and both provide opportunities and relationships to be pressed into. What are the contexts (family, work, church, etc) in which you are in the outer circle - in the 72 but not in the 12? How do you interface with and alongside the inner circle well - serving their particular needs, giving them space when needed, doing behind-the-scenes work that would slow them down - knowing that you're part of both a we-yous and a bigger we. Jesus carved out this space, let us celebrate it and press into it in the places we find ourselves in it.
Lk6v17-18 "Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk they drew near to a very miry slough, that was *in the midst of the plain*; and they, being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. *The name of the slough was Despond*. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire." (Pilgrim's Progress)
"he came down with them and stood on a level plain.." There is something to be gained in pondering the up and down of stage directions in the gospels (as in Babel's Gn11v7 "Come let us go down..").
Matthew's sermon on a mount, Luke's a sermon on a plain, these both/and/either are a similar sermon spoken in two locations, a relative term for topology in Matthew vs Luke's estimation, or a plausible synthesis in a single event of a sermon spoken from a mound towards a plain. The effect however in invoking a plain, a wide expanse of vanilla geography (and mainly rainy for Henry Higgins), reinforces in my imagination the vexed tumult of the helpless mass. This congregation is not of the hill walking set, no rambler's association booted and begoretexed. Not even just-about-managing, these are left behind leftovers beneath the bottom rung, Jesus comes down to such as these, such as we, mired in the slough of despond.
Lk6v19-20 Blessed are the poor. Not 'the poor in spirit', here in Luke, which I feel more comfortable interpreting vaguely, but rather 'you who are poor', contrasted clearly with the woe to the rich in v24. My inclination here is to panic that we have too much money, feel guilty, try to give some away thoughtlessly to assuage the guilt, & then to forget about it completely. This is not the point. Let's take this slowly, let's not panic. I think that Jesus is highlighting a true spiritual principle in this two-sided blessing and woe, which is that where money and comfort fill our practical, emotional & spiritual space, such 'consolations' quash the spirit of God, they dull our spiritual senses. As per my thoughts on Rm13v13-14, & as per Paul's invitation to be very-alive in Christ in Eph4v17-24 & 5v14-21. If you have already received your consolation insofar far as you are rich and can subsist without hard work or hard prayer, normalise luxury, can distract yourself with 'treats'...these things are apt to dull the spirit, & it takes more work to wrestle them into submission before God. God, teach us how to live more simply, closer to the ground, closer to the spirit. Not as a trendy 'simple living' movement, not to tell anyone about a 'lifestyle', but to be set free to be more alive to your spirit.
Lk6v21-22 💰💰 "hungry now" Rather have a dollar in my pocket than a million? Mo' money mo' problems is a true truth, a perpetual reality. But that is not to advocate crude "poverty theology" as an bludgeon antidote to the middle classes' essential-but-tacit "prosperity theology", or is it?
⬇⬇ Could we should we always go for downward mobility? How poor is poor enough? How hungry is hungry? You can always be more humble, you can always give more away, your meek modesty will ever be but pale shades of God's condescension in his ever becoming man, even less in his living homeless and dying a criminal. Go low go low fam.
The church (that is the church of me, to speak for me and my household) could go a long way down before it was accused of brinkmanship in this department, or of overegging the ascetic dimension of spirituality. Veins clogged with the banal detritus of bland entitlement, stodgy status quo status symbols, treacly tawdry normed wealth calibrated against tv's confected fantasy and the filtered flickering glitz of other people's newsfeeds.
"when people hate you" not if but when fam.
"Blessed" in being "hungry" and "weeping" ~ these are states of longing, a recognition of the present state and an openness to future promise, a conviction in the fulfilment of future promise.
😂 "shall laugh" Faith is a hunger, faith is a weeping, and then faith will have the last laugh, the hilarity of the long comic arc of eternity's narrative, that bends towards poetic justice, that arrives at last at the God who laughs Ps2v4.
Lk6v23-24 Having thought about the law of the law & the prophets last week, this is an invitation to think about the prophets, overlapping with our conversation with E last night, & with Richard Rohr's morning provocations. RR says: 'Prophets, by their very nature, cannot be at the centre of any social structure. Rather, they are 'on the edge of the inside'. They cannot be fully insiders, but they cannot throw rocks from outside either.' So in thinking about being on the outer circle of a group a few days ago - this is a prime position for inhabiting the prophetic voice. And just as it is blessed to be poor or hungry insofar as this can make space to be alive to the pricks & promptings of the spirit, not numbed by food or comfort, so too, a good reputation & a comfortable network of friends is a easy substitute to dull the voice of God, unless we work hard to bring these things under God. This is not to fetishise hunger, poverty or social alienation, but rather an invitation to look at the shape of our lives and where comfort and social ease cover over the pressing things of the spirit just below the surface.
Lk6v25-26 Sting in the tale of woe. Those who weep will laugh. Those who laugh will weep. What goes around comes around, and my eschatology is thrown into Confucian.. Do we _really_ believe what Jesus is saying? The full upside-downness of the good life, the counter-intuitive register of what is worth aiming for? Do I consider these principles without caveats, with a strength of conviction sufficient to make sacrifices by, with a strength of conviction sufficient to warn others by? Flee from wealth's trappings, be ware the tendrils of entitlement, the poppy field of mild-mannered privilege, the slippery slope of creature comfort. Those fallen parts of me are quick to debate for my exceptions rather than calibrating the principle of the matter, I'm quick to caricature ascetics, to bogeyman iconoclasts, to paint as irrational and unsustainable those who advocate abstemious Christianity. Whilst I wallow in the illgotten fullness of petrol-fed beef and slave-sewn brogues. Mine own comeuppance is coming. But more than that, wealth is its own comeuppance. I am robbing myself of adventure in the now, the good life in the now, the buzz of the downhill slalom of faith, the nimbly unburdened and balletically uncluttered life.
Lk6v27-28 Bless those who curse you. There is a holy non-reactiveness which is a real fruit of union with Christ. I have in the past been suspicious of such an idea, as it sounds like a form of Buddhist detachment that I've tended to think is counter to the Christian life, arguing that the latter is one of greater attachment not detachment, deeper desires not serene calm. And there is something quite true about this, the holy life is not one of an absence of desire or emotion. But I have come to see that it's quite true that Jesus teaches us to be non-reactive in the way that we're so apt to. There's a chasm of difference between staying inside cycles of response and responded-to that follow the emotional patterns subconsciously laid down by childhood emphases and lacks. Jesus wants to put my reactive spirit to death, to resurrect a spirit of grace & nonviolence - a spirit that does not deny pain or injustice but which is able to respond with blessing. Convicted very much this week by the Vow of Nonviolence made by members at the Centre for Action & Contemplation. I have been trying to make this vow each day. Pray that I might be non-reactive and resurrected today.
Lk6v29-30 Love Your Neighbour.*
*Terms and Conditions apply? Christianity: "A condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.." youtube genius
Lk6v31-32 Jesus makes the case for other others. This means that the golden rule can't be conceived as a copy-paste identical mirroring between dyads. Sometimes this universal principle is bandied around this way, I think, as though you were to transpose your own needs and desires onto all others identically, and to then treat them as though they were identical to you. But Jesus already notes at least this one distinguishing feature between the various others in your life: there are those that love you, and those that do not. The call is to love each one regardless, but the shape of reciprocal love and non-reciprocal love is different, there are different virtues and pitfalls to each. The call to love the neighbour is hence not a call to treat everyone exactly the same, nor to love 'humanity' abstractly, but to be responsive to the particularities internal to each relationship with the grace of God.
Lk6v33-34 *Love.* Love all. Love long. Love hard people, in hard places, at hard times. Love without exception. Love without assessing the risk and without counting the cost. Love without discrimination. Love til death. Love to the pain. Love to the very bottom. Love and seek the unsiloed wellbeing of all, love lands yet unseen, love generations yet unborn. Be love as a total disposition, love with an holistic unfettered, uncaveated love.
*How?* How do I fight my tendency to be tribal, swimming against the tug towards merely loving those whose reciprocal love is more easily won, whose experience of life is more like my own, whose language is simple, whose approval is forthcoming, who cost less and reward more? How?
Because I must, we _must_, if love is to be love. I've pondered this quote often lately (not quite by Luther) , that to retreat in some small part is to compromise the whole, in the domain of truth, so also, in the integrity of love. “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth [/love] of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
So London. I ❤ London. But selectively. I love London as a scarcely symbiotic and largely Faustian pact, an exploitative codependent bond, I love to consume London. I love its goods and services. I love London on my terms, as a means to an end, I love the boost it gives my brand, I love the importance it makes me feel. My love for London is a sort of lust, warm fuzzies for the novelty of of new powerplay.
Love. Really love with a real love. Even sinners do CSR, there is honour amongst thieves, and even (/especially) loan sharks lend to the needy, it is the opposite of charity, the antithesis of love.
Love. Love hard. But how? Start with the trickiest in your neighbourhood and work upwards from there. Love as if you love with a resource from the outside. Love on the predication of a benign universe of abundance. Love without fear because all fear has already been loved out of you. Loving begins with belovedness, daily, hourly. The quiet time is the bank vault of love, the armoury, the fuel. Be loved to love.
Lk6v35-36 Measure rattles round the house anxiously, while Mercy chills in the hot tub singing songs that fill every room
Lk6v37-38 "Judge not, and *you will not be* judged.." " *will not be* condemned.." "*will be" forgiven" "*will be* given to.." " *will be* measured back.."
Jesus uses the passive voice ('will not be judged' which ESVSB wants us to read as 'God will not judge'). Jesus uses the passive voice. Why? Because, it's like that, and that's the way it is? It's the what will be that will be? It's just the way it is? A truth universally acknowledged regarding the self-fulfilling moral fabric of the universe? What is the implication? What is Jesus' emphasis? True truths become mere truisms in the blink of a nuance. Is there a cosmic promise I can lay a hold of in this passage?
1. Horizontal? People who are judgmental will invariably be judged harshly by others? People who give freely are freely given to? Smile and the world will smile back at you? Is this your experience? Sometimes. The cause and consequences are subject to chaos and complexity, sometimes the diagram of virtue's reciprocity is clear, sometimes a smiling giver is kicked in the teeth.
2. Vertical? People who are judgmental will be subject to God's vindictive retributive judgement? People who give to get, get from God's cosmic vending machine? God helps those who help themselves? God shines his light specially on those who have the self-made moral fibre and mental fortitude to be good upstanding citizens? God offers a hereafter reward scheme, an incentivised behaviour modification. Is this your faith? Is this Christianity?
I am judgmental. Chronically. Vicious and in a vicious cycle of judgement and self-fulfilling condemnation. In this passage. to my mind, Jesus describes the condition of sin which he has come to save me from. I will not be judged, because I _can_ now judge-not, but _only_ because I have not-been-judged already by Jesus. Jesus is the chicken and the egg of reverse entropy, Jesus is the cart and the horse of new life, Jesus supplies the new heart with new desires for new ethics with new consequences.
Lk6v39-40 Leading blind and blindly led. I am both. A call to both humility & responsibility to others on one side, & self-respect & responsibility to self on the other. The flight from hubris and the flight from self-contempt. These are two sides of wisdom, two sides of discernment, two sides of responsibility to God. Notable that this little Christ aphorism comes between thoughts on not judging others. Wisdom is itself a process of treading a golden mean, as is the relationship between the good judgment of wisdom and the bad judgment of judgmentalism. Jesus surely puts these thoughts together so that we would pay attention to the excesses we are apt to fall into on every side of wisdom, to keep us tentative in our footing, ever consulting our guide.
Lk6v41-42 "..your own eye.." The new Blade Runner opens with a shot of an eye, a vast orb gazes out of the cinema screen, an azure landscape in microcosm teaming within the detail of an iris. A world, created by a worldview, is itself in view in the film. And the shot cuts to a boundless extra-urban landscape of grey solar arrays, glittery geometries of light refraction bent to serve up the neon and holographic fantasisies of a projected dystopia.
- God is light. 1Jn1v5
- We are eyes. Mt13v15-17, Eph1v18
- But, we don't understand light. Jn1v5
- And, if we see at all, it is through glass darkly 1Cor13v12
The bible has a low view of sight:
- Blessed those who see not but believe Jn20v29
- We live by faith, not by sight. 2Cor5v7
- Faith is faith in the unseen Hb11v1
The bible has a low view of sight. Apt for an age of simulacra, such as our own, such as our own as portrayed in Blade Runner. The concern of these verses is not the blindness of v39, but *partially-sightedness*. Perhaps the more dangerous. Those who believe they see impartially, those who drive recklessly through their blindspots, those who build greyscapes because they tint it rosey, the fantasist wedded to a lie. Dangerous. Relationally ruinous. And illustrated at a macro level by the way democracy is imperilled by the partiality of our sight, the cooption of our view of the world through the sale of our lenses to the world, the ad-funded and algorhymically filtered social media feeds which show us the reality we want to see.
"..your brother's eye.." How do you take the spec out of your brother's eye? How do you take the spec out of your eye? Physician, how does one heal thyself Lk4v23? Being beloved before loving. Being qualitatively fathered before presuming to father. P drew my attention to Rio Ferdinand's moving documentary. Here briefly and abridged. Just so, how am I going to love 41? *I need help.*
Lk6v43-44 A good tree fruits because her hidden roots of prayer go deeper into the ground of God than the height of her branches. A fruiting tree remains connected to her source and humbly allows the work of the ground and the elements to produce life, and so thrives without trying to control the process herself: Jn15v4.
Lk6v45-46 As we considered in Lk5v37-38 🍶 We are vessels, containerised content carriers. What is in you? When you are cut, what do you bleed? When knocked, what do you spill? When pushed, what comes out under pressure? What, in your vino, is your veritas? You are a vessel, more than you are face on a screen, name on a badge, node on a network, a cog in a machine, meat in a foodchain, more than these, humans are a vessels. You are a vessel, more than you are what you do, who you know, where you're from, rather, you are what you carry. The heart is a pantry, a reservoir, a filing cabinet, a tanker, and in this verse, a treasure chest. You are what you carry, and you carry what you treasure. What is in you? What is your treasure? // It is the alchemist, engaged in magical thinking, who believes you can treasure a catalogue of evil and then give out good from that tank. Less superstitious than that, but only slightly, are we who believe I can CBT myself into a modified moral entity, as if filtration by strength of will were the answer, as if there were a face mask sufficient to keep the contagion contained. I have wrong appetites, I am a hooverbag of death, I've been hoarding evil upstairs for 30 years, I am the swamp, my pump is primed with pride, murder, adultery, slander.. Ph4v8 suggests I feed on the noble, pure, just and lovely.. God, give me such an apetite.
Lk6v47-48 The parables of the wise and foolish men have been so Sunday schooled, I have always thought about them with cartoon pictures before my mind, jingly tunes through my brain. I don't think I have ever taken this parable slowly as an adult, breathed in the ancient wisdom of Jesus in the picture of digging deep as a long arduous labour of prayer, worship, discernment & obedience. Like tree roots going deep, the invitation for my soul is a road into the rock, into a deep deep stability that I know I do not yet have and deeply long for. To live unshaken because one's soul is so well founded. What a stunning picture for my adult heart.
Lk6v49 Floods vs Architecture rendered in perspectival sublime are currently adorning bus-stops to promote the film Geostorm: hackneyed visual shorthand which tvtropes.org dubs Giant Wall of Watery Doom ~ images in the familiar tradition of 2012, Day After Tomorrow, Poseidon.. etc.
I'm struck by three things in this parable: 1. The Flood // 2. The Ruin and // 3. The doing
🌊 1. "..the stream broke against it.." Cliched film posters are windows into widely-held hopes and fears: a literal and metaphorical flood. The posters market the escapist experience of therapeutic adrenaline, tickling primal fears, before tidily resolving a happily ever after ~ disaster movies are an existential palliative, and history will judge our escapist and nihilistic auto-destruct complicity as spectators of disaster capitalism. The flood _is_ coming. Whatever form it takes, a very literal outbreak of environmental chaos looms. "The stream broke against..", in KJV "beat vehemently against.." active and intense. [NM will offer a view on "Christian Animism" 17th Oct 4pm here at 41 - I'm open to his provocation, because I firmly believe that contemporary Christianity's theology of nature is insufficiently spooky to motivate proportional action on climate change, amongst other things.]
🏚 2. _"..the ruin of that house was great.."_ This is not Schaeffer's 'Glorious Ruin': there is nothing noble in the collapse of a load-bearing Christian, there are children trapped in the rubble. Those who built the schools in Sichuan knew what risks they were taking. Christian, you live in a flood zone, you walk across a warzone, the life of faith is a race against time, a battle of the mind to combat naivete. Not-if-but-when the World, the Flesh and the Devil come to your door; not-if-but-when Money, Sex and Power draw up their cannons for a broadside. I'm so tired of the attrition of friends and family, so impotent to hold them, so furious at those who told them peace peace. Ez13v10
🏗 3. "..not doing.." "..without foundation.." Foundations: the substructures of a building that bind an edifice to the bedrock, heavy dirty noisy expensive excavation work to create a void before any mass is even begun, and then steel grit and lime curdle a caustic mesh of inflexible ligaments deep into the earth, establishing a building in the place that it is, the one place, immovably. So, we approximately understand that unseen groundworks are likewise the basis of character, a hidden place of prayer builds a reserve, etc. But. I'm wrestling with human responsibility. Jesus is my salvation, but I am responsible for "digging deep" v48, as I am culpable for the calamity if I failed to "hear and do" v47?[3rd Dec 6.30pm St Marks I'm preaching Eph6's armour for spiritual warfare, which presumes on Eph1-5, but nevertheless a same dilemma: Doing:"..that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, .. having *done* all, to stand firm.."Eph6v13 If anyone has a diagram to preach this responsibility clearly, sketches on a postcard are welcome.]