Two crosses

caidosThe cross over Franco’s tomb provoked for me a serious question as we went there to pray in the Spring of last year. My question was whether if one uses the cross in a wrong way does it tap into the power of the cross and release that power, but release it negatively – a little like electricity (as a ‘good’ power) lights and heats a house, but if wired wrongly it does not serve well but is actually destructive. Some of that did not fit well with me as the power of the cross is not some sort of abstract power source. God’s rule is kenotic, is self-emptying love, not some sort of sovereign crushing power. But why the cross?

I am considering that we have two crosses which, dependent on which cross is chosen, of course will reflect back somewhere into the nature of the Gospel. There is the Constantinian cross (‘in this sign you will conquer’) that can be placed on the banners and it results in yielding evidence of its power by vanquishing all foes. As such it is aligned to an imperial power, and fits well with Christendom and all forms of getting the right person(s) in power. It was that kind of cross that manifested in the Civil War with Franco being a ‘son of Spain and a servant of God’. His conquering of the land was for the uniting of Spain and the uniting of it under God – a repeat of the ‘Reconquista’ that saw the Muslim rule in Spain end. A ‘Christian’ conquest that fitted with the wider context of the Crusades to rightly align Jerusalem to God. That cross gives us a right of power over and we are vindicated by it when we use force to establish righteousness, as that cross itself is a symbol of power.

The second cross represents a power of a different kind. It does speak of imperial power, but only when used against us. It is carried as an instrument that can be used by others – it is the same spirit as when Jesus sent out the disciples as ‘lambs among wolves’ (guess the favourite meat in the restaurants that wolves frequent?). There is no protection… unless heaven itself is involved. It takes faith to suggest that in the process of living for God that ‘no-one can take our lives from us’ but that the course we are on means we will ‘lay down our lives’ for others. It takes a whole load of faith to believe that such death is not the end, and in that death there is an undoing of imperial power.

The second cross is not the conventional sign of strength. Yet it is through that cross we are aligned to the God of heaven who give us a strength of courage that does not insist on one’s own will.

This (might) have implications for both the Gospel (good news) that we believe in and how we present it. Sovereignty will demand being appeased (Anselm: God’s honour to be restored; Reformers: an eternal debt to be paid). God will have to be bought off somehow. If we respond we will then be on the right side, all others on the wrong side. The cross as satisfying the wrath of God, that wrath being understood in personal terms. If the cross however fully satisfies the love of God, it becoming the symbol and act (when aligned to the resurrection) that fully shows us who our God is, then the work of the cross is to do a deep healing in us, to re-humanise us, to remove the scapegoating of the ‘other’, and to release us as reconcilers for the sake of others. This view of the cross will work more (note the word ‘more’) with alienation, shame and sickness than with ‘guilt’. It will see the necessity of Jesus’ true humanity being for our sake rather than for God’s sake.

The cross is to re-humanise us. The work that has to be undone is that of de-humanisation. The latter we all need to be delivered from. I don’t think the imperial cross can help at any level to re-humanise us and align us with the re-humanising God. Somewhere on the spectrum of the two crosses one seems to me to be a parody of the real one.

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An angel came knocking

This morning we read a headline about a certain politician who should have been facing trial for corruption but had evaded this by holding on to her seat as a Senator, thus giving her immunity, that she died suddenly of a heart attack. The Guardia Civil had announced that her administration had been involved in nothing less than organised crime. A certain group of MPs did not respond to the minute of silence for her but walked out of parliament. Maybe I can understand their feelings but the good/bad line runs through us all and however guilty she and her administration was I don’t think the walking out was a good response.

It is though a reminder that all of us have a limited opportunity to stand in the gap between the past and the future. There are so many challenges that come our way and it does seem necessary every now and then to re-examine one’s integrity and authenticity in relation to the land. I have been doing so recently. On the one hand knowing that the land cannot evict us now (took us all-but seven years to get there) and yet facing the painful journey of regular reminders that my level of language, and inabilities with respect to learning, can raise the challenge for authenticity. Ah well, we all have a few battles I suspect!

Angelic OrangesThen last night just as we are about to eat, we can hear on our steps, very, very slowly someone coming up the stairs. Eventually our door bell rings. There is an angel on the doorstep. For sure. He appeared as the 40 something old man from a very humble family down the street. Struggling with health, strength and I am sure financially, he passed over a wonderful bag of oranges/satsumas, saying

This is what the land gives to us.

Truly an angel and a message from heaven gratefully received. It remains though the need to know that all gifts call us to a new level.

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There and back

1450kms (900 miles) in total through the most wonderful scenery there and back. En route eventually snow-capped mountains, a final long tunnel and across the border to France. Two fully packed days to catch up with each other and then to pray and seek to make intelligent declarations for the continent of Europe. What a time to be alive. While there the primaries in France, Angela Merkel’s announcement of a fourth term all seemed to make for the underlining of these times. Interestingly as soon as someone said we need to put a limit on a particular extreme situation suddenly there was a wind that rose from nowhere, blowing and banging all the shutters. Of course could be coincidence but so often creation responds to earthly activity.

The who? This time there were 11 of us, from France (Sam & Michéle – hope I got the accent the right way round!!); from Germany (Michael and Andrea); from Ireland (Peter); from the UK (Roger & Sue, Julie & Lee-Ann) and Gayle and I. This group has proved very significant for us over years. Last year we were together in Spain and the year previous in Ireland.

Our desire has been that there will be suitable boundaries and peoples in place so that what God intends for the continent is best served. The Brexit gave a good backdrop to that and laying aside personal desires we sought to push beyond that. Ultimately this side of the parousia we do not deal with straightforward rights and wrongs in many situations, but in the realm of redemptive ways forward. This is where we have to co-operate with God, and if one has an ‘Open Theological’ approach what is more scary is God co-operating with us! In that mutuality the outcomes are not always as great as they could be. Allowing the future to be so open is a challenge, and even if the theology is wrong (I don’t think so!) there is a very real sense that we need to live and act in that way (so there was an open invite to all Calvinists to also approach the future in that way – even if you believe it is already set and predetermined…). Let’s pray and act as if we make a contribution.

In the run up to these days Gayle and I have been contemplating that there are two crosses (another post is needed to pull this out) – one that is erected over the tomb of those like Franco, and one that will take us to our tomb – ‘take up your cross and follow me’. I will post on this another day, but both crosses proclaim that ‘in this sign we will conquer’. One happily puts it on the shield and flag and vanquishes all enemies, subjugating them. The other is carried and made available to the ‘enemy’ to use as the means of shortening our lives. Very poignant as the area where we were meeting was one of the bastions of the Templars.

Last year Lee-Ann sent us all an open vision relating to the Brexit and the outcome of it. This is both what pushed us to be together and to the geography that we settled on. We also had a very clear dream given to Michéle (France) prior to our days together. Her door was rung and when she went to it, the visitor hiding in the shadows pronounced that he was ‘Heracles (Hercules)’ and was looking for an entrance. Hercules the man of great strength. This dream sharpened our focus enormously.

As always it was very enjoyable to be together (we normally meet once a year like this somewhere in Europe), there was some great challenges, but our expectation (G & I) is that the benefit to us personally will unfold over the next 3 or so months. That is what we have found to be the case on previous encounters. And we were given a good strong push toward Madrid so for that we are very grateful.

Enjoy the photos below – we certainly did enjoy the drive… and on the way up we had the extra bonus of taking a night in Huesca, the birthplace of the venerable San Lorenzo. Always worthwhile connecting to the martyrs of yesteryear.

Pyrenees

Pyrenees

 

Pyrenees

Pyrenees

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Race and the Church (HT Michael Hardin)

This is a post from my friend Michael Hardin, it comes from Facebook (which is not a real book) but I thought it was fairly exposing of some of the issues that are coming to the surface, not as flowers through the asphalt, more like the paint pigment that has settled to the bottom of the can…we really have no idea what the true color will be until it is all mixed thoroughly and we are currently well beyond mixing and into the shaking machine…

Nov 16, 2016 1:26pm
In a conversation between Mark Pixley and Ret Richardson, Ret has argued that Christianity is racially motivated and as taught to African slaves and then African Americans is a racial religion. Now I think this is spot on but think about it. The kind of Christianity that is racial in character is that inspired by Jerusalem Christianity and the Enochic, and probably Essene emphasis on racial purity. This is the very thing Paul stood against at Antioch.

Think about it. The Gospel is more relevant right now in America than ever before. As we rightly divide the word of truth let make sure to understand that racism and retributive eschatology and sacrificial hermeneutics are all part of the theological model of so much of Christendom. Jerusalem Christianity never got it. Paul and the Johannine community certainly did, as did the communities behind Mark and Luke and the writer of Hebrews. They got this, they understood this.

Our Evangelical friends are of course totally immersed in a second Temple Jewish eschatology, along with its corresponding Deuteronomic hermeneutic and deus ex machina. Little wonder they turned out over 80% for Trump. But their churches are growing because they are providing a plethora of products (America IS a consumer nation); books, CD’s, twitter accounts, coffe bars and mugs, you name it they have it as merchandise.

It is also a religious machine that takes life, it is a sacrificial factory churning out the Nones and the Dones at an exponential rate.

If the Left is wise, they will realize the tremendous number of white male intellectuals they have on their side and they will put aside all markers of identity except for that of ‘human being’ and they will treat everyone as a child of the universe. Even the enemy other. But where will they learn that? Who will teach them? Who will model it as Christian community? Can clergy intentionally take their congregations on learning how to protest peacefully and how to be totally committed to non-retaliatory social behavior? This, and only this, is my concern. I wish the best for the wider peace movement. I understand why there are protests against Mr. Trump. I am not at all thrilled at this outcome (but I am not sure I would have been thrilled with any outcome. Where is Pat Paulsen when you need him?). I hope beyond hope we manage to avoid war and I pray that whatever measures come from this new government will be nuanced and compassionate.

But…I do not see that happening for one reason: Mike Pence. He is the Dominionist’s dream and he is one step away from the Presidency. The Evangelical powerhouse that elected Trump is going to want him to make good on some promises, and some of those promises are clearly anti-Gospel: racist, misogynist, unmerciful, isolationist, exclusive. This church, this Evangelical Christianity has officially lined itself up with the consequences of a Trump administration. In a few years what they perceived initially as blessings will turn to banes and then to millstones. The entire edifice they have been erecting for 500 years will come tumbling down. Let them celebrate their big 500th Year of the Protestant Reformation next year. Let them get misty-eyed about Luther and Calvin. Leave the dead to bury their dead. Let them whitewash the tombs of the prophets.

We are part of that ‘thing’ that is happening in Christianity as Jesus, the Bible, the Gospel, Christian dogma, Church history, biblical studies, exegesis, history, hermeneutics, Paul, second Temple Judaism, Greek philosophy, and just about anything else you can imagine is being rethought: clearer, better, sharper than ever before. I really think that the Christian part of the Left can have a real world impact and a real world voice in helping to enlighten, strengthen, heal and empower all peoples.

But do you see how we face the exact same complex of issues in America that Paul faced at Antioch? Douglas Campbell’s work just became more important than ever.

Now I really have to get back to my sabbatical. I hope we can all learn to be better listeners. Peace.

(end of Michaels post)

 

You can read more of Michaels stuff at “Preaching Peace” and I will say this, his letters are harsh but his person is soft.

If you want your apple cart upset read his JDL.

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Tomorrow – to the mountains

We head off tomorrow to arrive in France in the Pyrennees Friday. We will have a few days there (11 of in total this time) to hear from each other and obtain some sight on Europe. Our focus will be the inter-European relationships (in the light of the Brexit), the Knights Templars, as this was one of their strongholds and as a result of the KT there will be a focus on banking. The KT are one of the main roots from which the modern shape of banking has developed. It is this aspect we need great wisdom into, The system of debt being the ‘substance’ of money has to shift, however how it shifts is key. To lose a million or two when a few million still remain is one scenario, but to lose what is required to put bread on the table is another. There is also a sense in which this will bring Gayle and I on a full circle aspect from the pursuit of the ‘piracy spirit at work in the banks’ and our remarkable encounters in Mallorca in 2011. Once we had confronted that we were able to move on in Spain to Cádiz.

Tomorrow night we will stop over in Huesca, the birth place of San Lorenzo. This is a good place to stop, for it was he who when the emperor demanded the riches of the church to be presented to him in 258AD showed up the next day with the homeless and desolate proclaiming that he had brought the riches of God with him. Maybe we will obtain something in Huesca that will act as a lever to shift what is false?

If not we will enjoy the mountains!

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Hate or love: between the stories

A number of years ago And Knox introduced me to Charles Eisentein’s writings. Now Andy has helpfully highlighted a brilliant essay by him that I likewise want to pass on. I was going to post this link to Eisesentein’s article as an aside, but did not want it to be missed so am posting it as a main post. The insights and challenges in it are so provocative for one and all, and particularly for those of us who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus.

Here are two sample quotes, though I could have lifted any paragraph at random, such is the quality of the article:

We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?

We have entertained teachings like these long enough in our spiritual retreats, meditations, and prayers. Can we take them now into the world and create an eye of compassion inside the political hate vortex? It is time to do it, time to up our game. It is time to stop feeding hate. Next time you post on line, check your words to see if they smuggle in some form of hate: dehumanization, snark, belittling, derision.., some invitation to us versus them. Notice how it feels kind of good to do that, like getting a fix. And notice what hurts underneath, and how it doesn’t feel good, not really. Maybe it is time to stop.

The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story

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Take up your cross

RevolutiionWe have just picked up this book again as I have been away in the UK… and of course cannot possibly read without Gayle! This is our current reading and we began Chapter 3 yesterday. I will probably not post on each chapter of the book, but the section was so hard hitting that I have to reflect back. The first part of that chapter was on crucifixion in the ancient world, and how Rome used it to make a point of showing ‘subject peoples who was in charge and to break the spirit of any resistance.’

Wright points out that in 88BC Alexander Jannaeus had 800 Pharisees crucified for resisting his rule; in 4BC the revolt of Judas ben Hezekiah resulted in 2000 rebels crucified; and how in the 66-70 rebellion that so many were crucified that they ran out of timber for the crosses. He then opens up that those in Galilee knew about Rome and its power to control with the horrendous death penalty of crucifixion as the ultimate and very visible symbol of power. Many of Jesus’ contemporaries would have seen, and certainly been told of crucifixions.

The call to ‘take up your cross and follow me’ cannot be sanitised. The political undertone is clear in that call. It is the call of the resistance. How far we have moved from that call to the ‘in this sign you will conquer’ of Constantine and christendom. Taking up the cross was to take up the means of brutal punishment that the Imperial powers would use to crush all dissenters. It was not taking up a weapon of warfare to defeat and crush others.

The political and revolutionary message is as strong in the words of Jesus as on the lips of any would be revolutionary leader. The difference is that of laying down one’s life not taking the lives of others to correct the status quo. The cross is the sign of victory, in this sign we do conquer but only because of a belief in the resurrection.

I had not seen, till reading this chapter, that the call to take up the cross, the call to discipleship was a political call. It now sits for me alongside the Caesar / Jesus is Lord proclamation; the parousia language of the visit of the emperor / Christ; the basileia language of kingdom / empire; pax Romana / peace by the blood of the cross; son of the divine Caesar / son of God and the many more references and allusions to the Imperial context.

The gospel is political – not in the sense of party politics. To debate capitalism / socialism is to miss it somewhat, particularly when we either inject meaning into those words that do not implicitly belong there, or we only understand capitalism through the lens of unbounded neo-liberalism (Reagan / Thatcher and beyond) or that of hegemonic state communism. The political nature of the gospel is understood as carrying the seeds for the reformation of society (the polis). It is first a call to those who are aligned to Jesus to lay down our weapons of control and to walk the walk, with the cross, with the very instrument that those who oppose us can kill us. In the year that… the belief that through losing our lives there will be an advance of the kingdom is the challenge. Maybe we have lost sight of that because the reality of the cross and what it was is not visible in our society. Only by sanitising the cross, and thereby distorting it, can we rejoice when the powerful are enthroned.

Like Israel before us any enthronement denies true good news to the nations. There is another, and only one king, and his rule is visible at the cross.

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In the year that

I was reading Lk. 3 again recently as it is contains such a clear path toward political transformation. So…

In the year when the UK referendum called for a Brexit
the year when David Cameron resigned and Jeremy Corbyn held on
the year of no government in Spain but Mariano Rajoy was finally manouevred back into office
the year of the unpredictable
when Leicester City were crowned… and the Cubs too
when the ‘Trump’ declared America to be made great again
in the year when extremes of left and right provide the answer
but fear became the narrative and dehumanisation followed…
the word of the Lord came…

in the wilderness.

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America Votes

So here across the pond we have cast our lots and chosen a new leader…news will hit the markets soon, I suggest you buy gold.

Here’s what probably will not happen:
1. The Apocalypse…not figuratively and not literally…
2. Roe vs. Wade repealed…it will take more than a handful of judges, this was the nail the evangelicals hung their hats on, but they probably do not realize that some settling of the contents will occur long before they get the pretty package home.
3. The economy…probably not gonna happen…not much since the new guy is about cutting off global trade…we shall see.
4. No new economy means no new jobs…kinda goes hand in hand.
5. Media will be trusted once again…bridges need to exist in order to burn them…
6. Revival in churches…I do not see the exodus in motion being halted and reversed…that has nothing to do with politics anyway.

I could go on, but it’s obvious…not really much will change sure there will be pockets of drama there always are, and sure there will be a continuing divided nation, we set those seeds in motion when we failed to honor our first treaties with the first nation tribes that were here before us.

But something did happen in this election that was a little unique…the two major parties both had civil wars inside their own ranks and both dealt with them in rather ignoble ways…that was a bit of a deviation that was unprecedented…our civil war spread into the armies fighting the civil war…and ranks were broken…

I did not vote for either major party candidate…both parties support war and death on levels that offend me, both have serious issues with transparency and I expect that will not change anytime soon…the two party system is alive but not well, and the generation coming up, they are much more inclusive than the ones who voted this election.

I am not slightly disillusioned because I had no illusions in the first place, which is a decent place to be but not less vulnerable because of knowing, just aware that the veneer of our culture is razor thin.

I will say this…often the voice of entitlement is much louder than the voice of the victim and that should not surprise us, the voice of the victim often has no power to speak or chooses not to…shouts of “Give us Barabbas” usually drown out the quiet silence of a lamb…

But behind that silence is not the desolation of Smug, it is a silent empathy that says “They don’t know what they are doing”…

At the end of the day, justice finds a way to restore even the voice that implored for an injustice while life itself hangs in the balance.

All of us who are Adam born, made from dust to dust return.
And those who live in Adam remade will not of dust ‘ere be afraid.

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A new book

RevolutiionBeing high on the tradionalist scale, Gayle and I are continuing with a very profitable tradition of reading a book together. The one for now – and for a while into the future! – is Tom Wright’s new book, The Day the Revolution Began on the atonement. We look forward to getting into this enormously, of being challenged, stretched and then adjusted. The implications of the book I am sure will push us in new directions.

I don’t expect to blog day by day on it but maybe will reflect back from time to time here on these posts. We are right at the early stage of the book, just now into chapter 2, where his analysis of the social background of the Reformation was very helpful. He pushes again, as he always does, to ask the questions that the historical situation was asking, rather than the questions that we wished answered. His material on both purgatory and the mass (the Reformation context of 500 years ago) is phenomenally helpful to see how the rise of the harsh understanding of ‘penal substition’ and Jesus bearing once and for all the wrath of God became central to the evangelical story was insightful. The focus on ‘me’: my sin, my heavenly salvation, my Saviour have dominated the understanding of the atonement. He is going to place the atonement in the context of the refounding of the world, of moving all things toward the new Creation. What if the Reformers, he asks, had focused on Ephesians and not on Romans / Galatians.

The part that impacted us greatly this morning was where he exposed the fault line of separating the ‘problem of evil’ as far as personal sin from the wider issue of the so-called ‘problem of evil’, the suffering in the world. Dealing with the problem of evil, such as the response to terrorism, through a military response, is he suggests, no different to what the Reformers objected to. It is adding to the work of the Cross. Dealing with evil is God’s job and the Cross is where that was dealt with. This is a radical approach, and hugely challenging for us as believers. No response can begin anywhere other than the cross.

Theologically astute. The biblical analysis that he will push for on evil will present the cross as addressing all of evil. The practical outworking will be interesting, but ultimately is down to us in the world. The centrality of the cross for that is where the challenge lies.

Not surprisingly when we finished that paragraph we stopped reading.

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