Santiago via a field

Having discovered the story surrounding Priscillian we planned to travel to Santiago de Compostela via a field (as one would). The reason being that Priscillian engaged with people where they were and was willing to oversee the eucharist outside. So before getting to Santiago we pulled off the road and with bread and wine prayed, unravelling some of the string.

As we began to pray we had a number of swifts turn up, flying all around – this we have found not to be uncommon, and even back in the day we had one fly in and out of our apartment in Cádiz. There is so much more resonance between creation and heaven than we often realise.

On to Santiago… without doubt many people meet God on the camino with time to reflect and re-centre. As well there are many diverse ways in which people connect. I would benefit from the camino I am sure, but this kind of focus is not something that would come easy to me. Maybe when I eventually grow up and enter the second half of life I might be able to connect more with this kind of spirituality!? The history though of the camino is a covering over of the Prisicillian history with the myth of St. James – whose body is supposedly in the cathedral having been taken across the Mediterranean, avoiding pirates en route and in a stone boat!! (Remind me when I make up a story to stay a little closer to something a little more believable!) For all those who have found God on the camino nothing I write here is to take anything away from that. Even if it is a myth and a covering over of something deeper, and in that sense a deliberate deception, as I believe, it highlights that God is to be found in all kinds of places. That God is found does not say too much about the place where he is found – it simply says a lot about God’s mercy.

Inside the cathedral we did not find great darkness. Of course there are religious aspects that do not seem too healthy but God is to be found. The statue (actually 2 statues) of St. James is present and we took our turn to walk past, not to pay homage, but to indicate that something was passing!

Glad we made the journey there. It is Gayle and my second time there in the city. So we bless all pilgrims who truly connect with God through whatever spirituality works for them. For us… the field, the open space will continue to draw… and the city!

Outside the cathedral there was a sign regarding work being done on the cathedral, and saying that this was a new time for the cathedral.

 

Below is the map of our journey:

1 Oliva
2 Madrid: picked up Sam at the airport / connected with Noë and Loli in El Espinar
3 Lugo: string, Marcos Zapata, hospitality
4 Santiago
5 Santo Toribio de Liebana
6 Santander: John Mark and Marcela and hospitality
7 Madrid: a day in the city
8 La Muela de Cortes de Pallas: the last king of the Moriscos

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Lugo: 11 hours away

For those who follow this blog you will know that we are focused for this year on how we can contribute to the undoing of the negative aspects of the ReConquista: the taking back of the Iberian peninsula for the ‘Christian’ faith and the ending of almost 800 years of Muslim rule. We neither come at this believing that we would not have done what our ‘Christian’ foreparents did had we been alive then, nor that all the fault lies on one side. We do approach it from today, carrying the perspectives of today, so hold that what was done in the name of Christ was not reflective of the Gospel he left for us to proclaim. We approach it as followers of Christ hence believe we carry a responsibility to stand in the gap with repentance for what has gone on before. There are many prayers and exhortations in Scripture concerning the confession of one’s sins and the sins of those who have gone before. There is no suggestion that the NT overturns this and the strongest NT example is the baptism of Jesus, a baptism for the forgiveness of sins which he underwent. Only when it was clear that Jesus was being baptised representatively to fulfil all righteousness did John agree to baptise him. Anyway – our convictions, and what motivates us for the year. There is no need to convince others! I (sadly) came to realise some years back that the Lord does not focus on convincing others that what I believe is correct and I also discovered that he seems more interested in how I live according to my convictions than how clever I am!

We have always been amazed that information surfaces when one needs it. God is not the purveyor of information as and when we want it. I consider this is the case as any real information has to be responded to. We become accountable for what we know. The Pharisees understood that Jesus was clearly of the opinion they were blind (Jn. 9) and were a tad upset about this. His reply to them was that for their sake they would be better off just accepting they were blind, for if they had sight their guilt (responsibility) would remain. Hence I always consider that information follows revelation and is an indicator of a time-line. God gives information when the body of Christ can respond and see a shift as they partner with heaven.

Last year we began to call for anything deep in the land (in the north) that was related to a Celtic understanding of the Gospel, then began to be convinced that 2017 was the year to journey and pray into the undoing of the negative effects of the Christian / Muslim conflict over the land. In the wider picture we would see that this still gives Islam a foothold on the land spiritually and that such non-cruciform response to Islam is what gives it strength… in other words that Christendom (church state alliance, ‘Christian nation’ theology etc.) is what feeds Islam today. In that sense Islam, with its space for Jesus even in the Quran, could even be seen as a cult as much as another religion. Oops, I just saw a can of worms there, so moving on quickly.

Information comes forth

Into that mix our connections turned up with a gentleman called Priscillian, a Celt who became bishop of Avila, but who operated also in the open fields with the eucharist and held to the equality of women and men. He did not seem to have a direct connection to the British Celtic church, but there is some link to Martin of Tours (though I consider him really Martin of Poitiers) who had a link to Patrick, of Irish fame. And then the big one… it seems the whole camino de Santiago was created to squash the Priscillian history, and that someone as academic as Henry Chadwick held to the belief that far from James being the body in Santiago it was actually Priscillian!! The Celtic in the land being suppressed by an overlay of church and Empire (the two that came together to have Priscillian killed).

So for us there was an added element that came in. Not only the ReConquista but the calling forth the Celtic Christian roots and also seeking to stand in the gap for what we understand to be the first Christian to be killed by the initiative of other believers who pulled on Imperial power to have it effected. This of course being in parallel to the crucifixion of Jesus, pursued by fellow Jews who pulled gladly on Imperial power to see him killed.

So off we went just over a week ago. All across Spain to the north west, initially an 11 hour drive. We went with Samuel Rhein (France) and Noe and Loli from nearby Calpe. Amazing travelling companions and we were highly privileged to be with them. Our first day was in Lugo. We were hosted there by Marcos whose church and work is doing an amazing work in that city and across the Galicia comunidad. Some weeks back Gayle had said to me that we have to start in Lugo as that was where the end of a ball of string was and we needed to begin to unravel things from there. Amazingly when we entered the old city through a gate in the intact Roman wall the first shop in front was a string shop with all kinds of string, sizes and shapes! We bought a ball of 7 metres of string that will come with us and we will unravel this piece by piece until we get to Gibraltar (September).

Here are:

The happy travellers:

The happy string shop (outside):

and also happy inside:

The happy ball (about to be unravelled) that will accompany us:

A lot of happiness… and getting on the road, a feeling of what one was born for, or rather what two were born for, does help and pump the happiness gauge up a bit!!

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Updated beliefs… maybe

Beliefs are difficult to define at times. Do we mean ‘core doctrines’ or ‘a way of looking at the world’. Theology kind of covers both I guess, and the more honest person has to acknowledge that one’s beliefs are also shaped by experience, personality and our ‘insides’ in the sense of what is really going on inside us at a conscious and sub-conscious level. It was an interesting reflection to go over the ten posts of what I still believe, and also to realise that in these past years there have either been (inevitable?) developments or changes along the way.

Definitions are not always helpful. The term ‘evangelical’ is often qualified by an adjective such as ‘post-‘, ‘progressive-‘ or ‘historic-‘. This illustrates the situation. We can claim to be an evangelical if you mean ‘….’ or deny being one if you mean something else by the term. In 1995 Robert Johnston delivered a very helpful paper to the American Theological Society where he addressed the issue of ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy: a Problem for Modern Evangelicalism’. In that paper he described a shift from a previous approach of ‘bounded-set’ thinking to ‘center-set’ thinking. With the former approach life was easy. Draw a square – all who subscribe to the beliefs inside the square were orthodox, all outside were heretics. ‘Center-set’ described a couple of key questions that were at the centre:

  • By what means is a person reconciled to God?
  • By what authority to you believe and teach what you believe and teach?

Answer to the first question is ‘Jesus and the cross’, and the second one ‘the Scriptures’. Having answered those two questions in that way does not determine how far one travels in a given direction. The answers could result in ‘only those who are truly born again of the Spirit and are baptised’ are reconciled through to universalism. It could lead to ‘seven day creation in 4004BC’ to ‘evolution’. Hence the paper – how do we determine what is ‘heresy’.

The Bible itself does not always help us. I am so glad that we are not called to blind obedience to a book but to follow a Person. And when we look to the book we have to wrestle with issues of interpretation. It seems the Bible forces us to do this. Jehu is commended for fulfilling the will of God and wiping out Ahab’s evil house at Jezreel (2 Kings 10 ‘You have done well…’ – v.30), yet in Hosea 1:4 Israel is to be punished for the blood shed by Jehu at Jezreel. Did he fulfil the will of God (2 Kings and the prophetic words through Elijah) or were his actions to be judged as per Hosea? Not easy when they are both in the same sacred volume, but I am glad the difficulty is there, it at least helps when wrestling with the genocides of the Old Testament. It has been interesting to read the dialogues between Greg Boyd and Derek Flood. Both take a christocentric approach to Scripture, both refusing to accept that (the OT) God is a God who endorses genocide, but they take different approaches to solving the issue due to how they interpret Scripture. Challenging… and I love the problematic situation that is presented to the inerrantist when faced with someone from Crete in a court of law!

‘Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?’ (I leave out the oath bit there as I like to take some key parts of Scripture very seriously!)

‘I do,’ replies the person from Crete.

‘Objection’, shouts the lawyer who is a fundamentalist Bible believing in a very strong inerrantist kind of way.

‘This person is from Crete, and all those from Crete lie. I have that on the authority of Scripture.’ (I won’t give the reference but check out Titus!!)

‘Ah yes but this is only authoritative and inerrant as originally given. Put them under a lie-detector and then we can call a church council and announce that the Scripture in Titus is not as originally given…’

OK, I stop but I was having a little fun there. My point is we have a book we have to wrestle with and it requires that I be less dogmatic than I would like to be on certain situations.

I am certainly 100% evangelical if Robert Johnston’s two questions are sent my way. So when I push some directions in the next few posts I am not ready to be put out of the fold just yet. I will try and centre in on areas that seem to have become more central to me as far as both understanding the journey thus far and in setting a direction to come.

Oh and for the record I don’t think all Cretans lie!

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Positions of power

Following on a little from the previous set of posts I have a few tentative comments to make about holding a position of power as a believer. The Anabaptist background, when pushed to an extreme, repudiated all positions of secular power, and certainly the critique that comes from those quarters about the corruption that is inherent within many positions of power carries weight. The opposite viewpoint is the classic expression of Christendom. We need believers who can rule justly, and this is often expanded to mean along ‘biblical lines’. I, of course being a moderate, would wish to avoid all extremes!

History tends to show that the ‘good’ people once in power become corrupt. Gayle and I have followed closely the journey of a protest party that is the second largest political party in Spain by membership. We have asked if such a party can ever healthily become the governing party, or is the purpose of their being in existence to be a protest, an opposition? Being in power is not as easy as one thinks, there are powers that rule beyond the rulers (‘the great city that rules over the kings of the earth’). Of course in the light of the previous posts this would be a whole aspect that I believe we as believers are called to shift. There are powers that rule, and once we receive a mandate the outworking is almost always top-down and rather than decentralise power it seems to pull resources back to the centre.

However, governance is not wrong. A head teacher, the management in a hospital, and many more examples are needed. So I do not believe the extreme end of the Anabaptist type approach is feasible, while at the same time seeing the Christendom approach to be the very source for many of the global issues today. Here then are some tentative thoughts:

  • By nature most positions are fallen. We do not need to idealise them, nor demonise them. Any engagement has to be with the purpose of redemption. That redemption could lead to the very position disappearing, or being radically transformed, but either way the flow will be of resources and benefits to the marginalised.
  • To engage redemptively means there will be compromises. This is particularly true of any form of legislation. There is not a perfect legislation. Read OT laws!! They are not perfect but culturally moved Israel as a people in a better direction.
  • Probably women are better equipped to occupy any seat of power. We see this in Spain with the two mayoresses, one in Madrid and one in Barcelona. The shift away from the centre and top-down is remarkable. We also see in Spain a former expression of power held by women that was anything but de-centralisation. So it is not women per se, but a feminisation of power, a way of handling it that is probably needed.
  • There are wonderful examples of people sitting in a place of power but the direction set, by design or default, is of emptying the seat of its power. The current pope or archbishop of Canterbury seem to be there in that way. I have a good pastor friend who is so set on empowering those in the congregation he openly said to me that ‘of course this will not serve the growth of the church’. Well perhaps not by traditional ways of counting.
  • Alongside compromise there is probably also a rhythm that has to be adopted of taking initiative and then release. Of tentatively pulling on the power and generously releasing it.
  • If God releases to us and we have not grabbed it, a position that has power invested in it,
    we should not shy away from it, but receive it cautiously and work within it so that the maximum benefits can flow to the margins.
  • If such a position is not opened up, we also can learn how to help shape those seats to carry more potential for redemption through how we live and pray.

In contrast to Caesar’s (Domitian) throne with him seated at the centre and 24 advisors around him, John records in Revelation 4 that he saw:

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And the one worthy to open the future was none other than the Lamb slain. A pattern in Revelation is of hearing something (I heard… ‘The Lion’) is clarified by what is seen (I saw… ‘A Lamb’). The challenge to our involvement is that of following Jesus. The western world is in crisis. Probably in part brought on by prayer. The opportunities are enormous. I do not see the pathway as down either of the two extremes I started with, but the messy and sacrificial path that the Lamb pioneered.

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