To boldly go

Changes, changes, changes. Who can predict the future? Post Brexit referendum the jury is still out as to what that all means. Gibraltar the clearest ‘remain’ vote (could this be down to vested interest?!!) and yet one of the biggest financial contributions to the leave vote campaign came from there. How will a year-old party shape up in France? Across the pond what is happening?

Dependent on the glasses one wears and therefore how we see the world I guess we could be anxious wanting to go back to some safe boundaries (for safe read yesterday and status quo) or we can see opportunities in the space that is opening up. I lean heavily to the latter. From a theological perspective I do so as my eschatology does not have space for a future antiChrist, but consists of an open future that we are challenged to shape in the light of the gospel of freedom; and from an intercessory perspective I see the open space as a result of prayer. Our task is to open space and let it be filled by those of positive vision for the future whether they have faith, as we define it, or not.

In some correspondence today I suggested there are three aspects of society that are essential to shaping the future at this time. I do not place them in an order of priority but suggest they are:

  • education
  • media
  • arts

All aspects / spheres of society are important but some have been colonised more than others; some have been suppressed more than others; hence I select these three as perhaps containing the greatest potential. In reverse order…

The arts. Years ago I gave a crazy prophetic declaration that when we learn how to value art the housing market will be re-valued (in many areas that means de-valued). When house prices dictate who can live where, we are not living in a free world. There are also come crazy valuations in the art world, but there are many artists (in the broad sense of that word) who are working with little return. Meanwhile there are those who make money from money… Paul was clear that those who are entitled to eat are the ones who are working, which of course begs the question as to how the word ‘work’ is to be defined biblically. I mentioned above that some spheres have been colonised, and some words certainly have. We have colonised ‘work’ along an ’employed’ / ‘unemployed’ line. Once we remove those terms from a creational context we will have very little left to pull us in a new-creational direction.

Artists are gifted to open our eyes, ears, emotions and imagination to where we could be going. There is a lament contribution that can be made that exposes the right grief about what we have done, but I think now we need more than ever a message of hope. Faith is related to what we hope for, it creates the shape for faith to develop.

The media. We have prayed for a new media. I admire the way that the media continues to push to get stories, even when so much of it has been designated as ‘fake’! The media is not unbiased, and this applies to the media that I like as well as the media that I disagree with. Thank God for social media, although so mixed, it gives access to alternative perspectives, sometimes alternative facts, but even when that is the case these are alternative facts coming from the bottom up rather than imposed from the top down.

A free media is vital. In most of our democratic western nations we struggle to really have a free media. The mainstream newspapers of the UK… the TV channels in Spain… ‘freedom’ is not the first word that could be used to describe them. But we are witnessing the same kind of shift as during the Reformation with the printing press and the release of Scriptures in the ordinary language. Controlling the press cannot and never will be absolute, and I applaud those who are committed to its liberation and doing so at personal cost.

Education. I love history, knowing the story of where we have come from is essential. The wisdom and knowledge that has got us here has great value. Animals seem to learn some aspects through instinct, but we as humans learn this through intentionality. We have the knowledge how to build a car, but imagine if you were the last human alive. I would struggle to put together a cart akin to one from ancient society. The knowledge and gifts are held corporately. We can build a cart, a car, a space rocket. Knowledge has great value in being passed on, but creativity birthed from questioning will take us further. Education is not simply teaching people what to think, it is certainly teaching people how to think, but perhaps its greatest goal is to teach people to question.

Neo-liberalism has all-but destroyed most aspects of the economic and business realms, so much so that there seems even in the Christian world very little radical thinking. Unless we have at the core the deliberate non-maximisation of profits, coupled to a strategic plan to be free from the love of money, and at least a measure of embracing the principle of jubilee there does not seem much hope for a change there. (And if this is not arrested I might well have to change my beliefs about an antiChrist – not because of the Bible but our inability to take the Bible seriously enough…)

So in this little musing coming out of this morning’s correspondence I am suggesting that the three areas of education, media and arts might be at the forefront of setting health care free from the monetary colonisation that is there… and from health care there might even be a shift elsewhere.

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What and where…

Arrived home last night which is always a ‘nice’ feeling. Home… though being on the road is just wonderful too. We have just been to Madrid, Toledo and Caravaca de la Cruz. A few more kilometres on the ‘furgo’: around 1.3k or 800 miles, so not huge distances. Madrid was our first destination and we met there with two generations of ‘Hawkes’ from north London (Adrian and Pauline, Gareth and Jo). They are such inspirations to us – maybe I should say provocations. Their passion for the Gospel and its outworking at a level of justice (is there another outworking that is at the centre of the Gospel?) is very striking. They have given themselves to everyone but with a focus on asylum seekers and refugees and the provision that they have believed God for, not once but on many occasions. There are those you can read about but it is always a deep privilege to be with the kind of people one can read about.

Over the past years we have met with a sightly wider group from http://phoenixcommunity.org and are glad that we seem to have some positive input to them. Their input to us is immense. We had a few days together and we stayed with them on an interesting street (more below on this!).

From Madrid we made the short drive to a city with major history, the city of Toledo. At one time it served as the capital. Our focus was very narrow – the city had been a centre for church councils, many Jewish massacres and also a centre for the Inquisition – but our focus has been on the Muslim / Christian / ReConquista aspect. In 1045 Alfonso VI of Castile captured Toledo, and although the city is a long way south the capture was viewed as one of the most significant captures in the ReConquista process. A truly magnificient city and one that understandably pulls in the tourists but it is hugely oppressive with clear evidence of the alliance of religion and military pride coming together. It would be a major challenge to live in the city as a believer as those spirits always come to suffocate real life.

Alfonso has a statue erected to him on one of the main ways in to the city. A sword raised to heaven!

Because our focus was on the Muslims we did not visit the Jewish quarter, though we have done that in the past and are deeply grateful for the focus Spanish believers have had on repentance into that history. On the edge of the old city by the Puerta del Sol (gate) there is one of the 10 original mosques that were in the city. It is pretty much intact and has been there since around 1000AD. It was a good place to pray, and as it was still during Ramadan it also carried some weight.

From the Mosque we went to the Cathedral, the Town Hall and the archbishop’s palace. All three together in the one square, and all three together in a spiritual history. How far have we shifted from the simplicity of following Christ, the simple and yet deeply profound message of the cross that made an open show of what is at the heart of controlling power? It is very difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion when walking the streets of a city like Toledo that ultimately there is no difference between the controlling Judaism that colluded with Imperial power, the Islamic faith that proclaims a predestinating God, and a christianity that transforms the cross into a sword. They are of one spirit, and certainly not of the Spirit of Jesus… though wonderfully he can be found hidden in there. Days of walking, praying are very provocative, they seem to bring sight in new ways.

Cathedral and a military / Knights T / St George images:

From Toledo we went to Caravaca de la Cruz, a town not too far from Murcia in the south. It of course has Moorish history but our focus here was simply to complete going to the three places in Spain that are legitimated by the Vatican to offer ‘perpetual indulgences’. (Inside Spain there are three, outside two – Jerusalem and Rome.) I am sure there are those who find Jesus, and even find forgiveness in the midst of the paraphernalia, but oh for some of the simple ways of Jesus to become available! This place draws so many pilgrims but here the religious spirit was not so heavy as in Toledo…

Here is view of the city from the pilgrimage sanctuary:

So a little journey and back home. The next days we will try to shape the next parts.

And the street name? Just before we left Noé (from Calpe) had talked to us about what is considered the major battle that is the turning point in the ReConquista: the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212). So we have been reading on this and know that (probably) in July we will travel there. There is much to write about on the history, but of interest in terms of where we have been, the ‘Christian’ forces came from Toledo to the battle. They included the most unlikely of allies, and also drew in the Knights Templars and the Order of Santiago. Later in the same year of the battle there was a major slaughter of Jews in Toledo. Those kind of connections are not uncommon.

And the street in Madrid? Here is the corner of the street:

Nice pointer on the journey – who needs GPS with signs like that!!

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Just do it

So goes the strap line for one of the great(?) symbols of our day. Reminds me of Paul’s words – ‘this one thing I do’. His context was his passion to be faithful to his Lord, but taking it out of context I have often used his phrase as ‘make sure you complete the focus you have’. Do the one thing, even if there are 100 things left undone, rather than do the 100 but omit to do the one thing. We have one thing to do this year… follow (spell that stumble along) wherever it takes us as we track with the entry, defeat and expulsion of the Muslims from Spain.

It is an interesting journey. A while back just before we began with the first journey north I said to Gayle – we might be the only believers in Spain who are focused on this specifically so we had better do it. Always of course there are many others who got there a long time before us. Here a quote regarding the town where we live:

In other cases, the rebels shouted “Death to the Moors unless they become Christians!”. At the town of Oliva, Muslims were robbed and killed even as they were being taken to the church to be baptized, and eyewitnesses reported dozens of corpses littering the roadsides. Not all Christians engaged in these activities or approved of them. Some Muslims at Oliva were protected by a local friar and a group of local Christians, and this was not the only occasion in which Christians intervened to save Muslims from the rebels.

I noted also when writing about La Muela and the atrocity there that Zapata spent months seeking out Muslims to get them safely to Africa. There seems always to be seed in the ground. Seed waits for a time to be watered and for a result to spring up.

In seeking to explain the what and the why we are deeply challenged. If we had been instructed to pray into the history of the Jewish expulsions there would have been more of a resonance for many. That expulsion and treatment was and continues to be an issue. The only question that would remain would be that of the validity of repentance for something ‘we’ did not do. But the Muslim expulsion? A double issue – ‘we’ did not do that, and ‘they’ are a false religion that has to be resisted.

In my inbox this morning came Jeff Fountain’s weekly word: (available at http://www.schumancentre.eu), entitled ‘Casting out Fear’. With the backdrop of the terror attacks Jeff then opens what the news does not report (and by news I also include the ‘Christian’ news).

Dr. David Garrison has researched the impact of the Gospel in the Muslim lands and defines a ‘movement to Christ’ as being when more than 1000 Muslims were baptised as Isa-believers within a community, or over 100 churches were planted, within a generation. (So how many movements are there in the Western world by those criteria?)

Garrison says the first Muslim movement to Christ did not occur until the 19th century, more than 1000 years after Muhammad’s message first echoed from the minarets of Medina. Then a further ten Muslim movements to Christ in the late 20th century. But, he writes, in the few years so far of the 21st century, we have already seen more than 60 new Muslim movements to Christ–a staggering increase!

So back to our little ‘one thing we do’. If land holds the corporate memory, and blood cries out from the land, Spain is vulnerable to all kinds of entrances. The church (certainly those who follow Christ, and maybe those that take the name church also?) has an unlocking and locking mandate. If the church has lived by the sword, and that militancy still is a strong paradigm, certainly at a heart level – and often beyond that too, there is something to be undone. Seed is in the land. It waits for a time to be watered. Good seed and bad seed. After watering comes fruit.

What a time to partner with heaven. Gayle and I do not need to convince one and all. That is irrelevant. Thank God for the many who have gone before, and the many today who are standing in line with the cross of Christ who are being more faithful than we are… but we need to do that one thing set before us.

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La Muela

La muela – the molar. The name given to high cliff top area to the West of Valencia, la muela de Cortes de Pallás. Our last 30 kms to get right in to the village took us over an hour, beautiful but inaccessible. It was here that some 3000 moriscos (and of course that term suggests that they were muslims but in reality they were a mix of muslims and christians) had gathered. They retreated to this area as they did not want to be evicted from their land.

Having travelled in the north with Noë, Loli and Sam, they left for Calpe and France respectively and Gayle and I drove to La Muela. It is in the middle of a huge mountain range:

They took to the cliff top above the town for their protection. A major force came against them, initially offering for them to surrender, but the ‘Christian’ troops did not want to lose their plunder so took things into their own hands, to rape and plunder. It was brutal, and there are records of women with their children jumping from the cliffs to their death in order to avoid the brutality. The attack was under the governor of Xativa (I commented on Xativa in yesterday’s post).

Eventually the so-called ‘last king of Morisco Spain’, Turixí, was captured a few months later and taken to Valencia where he was drawn and quartered.

A bloody history and one that took place centuries ago (1609) – for the Western mind-set it has nothing to do with us today. For other cultures? And for the land that holds the corporate memory, it is alive until there can be a Jubilee, a re-set. This reset is what is motivating Gayle and me. The cross is an event in time to re-set all things.

The pursuit of the moriscos from the area of La Muela continued and in 1611 a reward was given for every morisco brought in ‘dead or alive’. ‘Christian’ bounty hunters descended on the region in great numbers as a result. In the midst of this a Simon Zapata took on himself to coax Moriscos down without violence. He spent months roaming the mountains and led them personally to the coast. He even sent his brother on a ship with them to guarantee their safety on arrival in Algiers. We bless and are blessed by his memory. The land too remembers this.

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Santo Toribio de Liébana

Spain is so varied in landscape. Travel in the north and get off the main roads into the villages and with mountains all around one could be in Switzerland or Austria. Liébana is in the picos de Europa (peaks of Europe) and the monastery there is one of the other five places that can offer ‘perpetual indulgences’. We travelled there with the main focus being on the beginnings of the ‘ReConquista’. The initial battle that halted the Muslim advance was at Covadonga in Asturias in 722. After this Asturias was a ‘Christian’ kingdom. It was though from Liébana that the agreement was made (church and civic) probably sealed with the eucharist to drive back the Muslims, fuelled also by an interpretive book on Revelation!

We took ourselves here to break bread in the open outside the monastery and to pray for a shift. As we began to pray the invitation was given over the loudspeaker to come to the service as this was the year of Jubilee. We did not join the service (really?) but took hold of the announcement of Jubilee. Debt forgiveness… Along with the prayer in the field pulling on the work of Priscillian this was a very powerful time.

I have been a little while in getting this up on the site – we were there a little while back. We are at home currently making plans for the next phases which we think will culminate in Gibraltar in September to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Gibraltar day (Sept. 10th). This week we also discovered a Dayesh video saying that they will not forget Al Andalus (Iberian peninsula) and that they will not forget Cordoba, Toledo or Xativa. The first two were not a surprise, but the third specific (and they only mentioned those three in this video) was surprising. We will be in Toledo in just under 2 weeks, and Xativa? Well it is 40 minutes from here… again indicating the brutality of the expulsions from this region.

A couple of images 1) en route through the picos de Europa; 2) the monastery of Santo Toribio that has (of course it is genuine!!) a part of the actual cross of Jesus:

 


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