All Locked Up

Yesterday was to be the day when finally the Catalan situation in Spain would return to normal. October 1: independence referendum (deemed constitutionally illegal). Thousands of companies have moved headquarters, the Catalan parliament dissolved, with direct rule from Madrid imposed. A number (still) imprisoned, the former (next?) president in exile in Brussels. Legal elections on December 21 returned some shifts, but basically nothing changed. Yesterday (Jan 30th) was the final piece in the resolving (did I write revolving?) process. The president for the government would be installed and off we would travel as one happy family into the future.

The spanner in the works was that the only candidate was Carles Puigdemont. The former president who has been in Brussels for the past months. So here we are a lock up situation. The speaker for the new parliament, Roger Torrent (pro-indepedence and has handled himself with dignity throughout), announced that any inauguration will wait saying that Puigdemont is the legitimate candidate. Tuesday morning just hours before the due time he said:

We don’t accept anyone telling us that the Catalans have voted incorrectly because we didn’t do what they wanted.

Neither the [Spanish government] nor the constitutional court decides who will be president; that’s for the democratically elected members of parliament to decide.

In response to the situation Mariano Rajoy said that any attempt to invest Puigdemont would constitute a clear violation of the constitutional court’s ruling. The warning given is certainly not veiled. In a media interview yesterday he said:

The speaker and those who support him need to be very aware of the consequences they could face.

Our personal response (Gayle and I) is to pray not simply for an unlocking, but a deep healing. When we travelled in mid-Autumn we came to one situation that both physically was a city divided and divided at a social level, and as we stood on a bridge between the two sides we asked for angels to come and sew up the divide, sensing that somehow in the immediate this was a task beyond where people can go at this point of time. That though will shift.

The genuine bridge-builders have to accept that the third way is the way that opens the proponents of such a way to be trampled on from both sides – such is the nature of a bridge. In the short term there will be political gainers when divisive wounds are opened up. Two years ago I had a dream before the national elections of candidates in their lanes from right to left running the race. The leader of a party that did not fare too well was the one in the dream I knew I had to put all my effort in to catch and prevent him grasping a pillar (establishment) the result of which would mean he would not only have made his mark but strongly re-established the status quo. At the time the outcome for his party was not so impressive… but now they are flourishing in the current conflict.

The answer is not to patch a wound up, hoping it will go away… but the process of healing is a dangerous one.

At the beginning of this year the 2 Cor. 12:12 proclamation of Paul that the signs of an apostle were done among them with great patience has impacted us. Patience is not inactivity, it is not passivity. Patience can only flourish on hope. Hope is that vision of the future, it is the cradle in which faith grows (faith is the substance of what we hope for). In many languages ‘to wait’ and ‘to hope’ are the same. True waiting is hope. It is waiting and acting because of a sure knowledge. The apostolic must be marked by patience. The seeds of the gospel of a new order for God’s world means we have to stay focused and can wait for a generation, a century or more.

Walk the land, hear the ancient prayers
echoes still resonating
disturbing the air.

Travel more silently, let the sound become clear
not a sound of despair
nor a sound of ‘listen to me’
but a sound… a sound that was heard long ago
the sound that marked an arrival in the Garden of God.

That sound still travels
still flies on the wings of the ancient prayers
holding back the chaos
even the chaos of Babylon’s order
the deception of Mammon’s reasonable voice.

Those prayers hold back
preserve space
call for a people
weak and trembling yet not shaken
nor proud as they make no claim to greatness.

Such are those who hear the ancient prayers
who cautiously take their place not knowing
if they qualify nor if they can make a difference to a world order that accelerates by day
and continues by night toward
the goal of rewarding the powerful and punishing the weak while hiding
its ravenous appetite to devour one and all until all
that was deemed good,
the image of the invisible is obliterated.

Yet the ancient prayers are calling again
the echo is clearer now, for there is a silent moment when those who pause
who wait with hope and hope as they wait will know that
there is space to be invisible yet through their invisibility will be revealed
the image
the image that points to the future and
slowly but surely pulls that future ever closer.

Those who wait will mount up
with wings
they will be renewed as they live in the now
yet not for today.

Those ancient prayers
– listen and ponder –
do they come from ancient times past
or from tomorrow?

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More computing power needed

According to one of the speeches at the annual Davos gathering (this one leads to some wonderful conspiracy theories…) this is what is needed. The practical reason for this is the issue of climate shift and the urgent need to absorb carbon. And in the same speech was a push to accelerate the move toward Artificial Intelligence. Conspiracy theories on one side we have an annual gathering of those who somehow have the future in view and have resources that most do not have – after all the top 1% have been calculated now to have 82% of the wealth.

So many tantalising threads on the above. Conspiracy, secret handshakes and tings more sinister? Or is the critique of Mammon and Imperialism from that ‘cartoon’ book still more insightful? I go with the latter regardless of what handshakes are involved! Wealth – defined in monetary terms or in terms of wealth? Defined by what is not real, or ‘creationally’? And can we look for a better future (AI, greater computer power) without repentance for what got us here? And what about a future shaped by a NT-informed eschatology? What kind of speech would be given to a Davos gathering, or indeed any gathering? I think it is ore likely to be to a gathering different to Davos when I look at who and in what context Paul spoke.

future

Climate change – seems to me, a non-scientist, that the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that this is ever so real and we are putting the future in real jeopardy. No good hiding away behind ‘it will all burn up’. We were told from the beginning that this was our task, our responsibility. We are doing things now for then. Pollution is not part of then! Ecological concern for a believer has to be shaped by an eschatology, not simply by fear. Yet wholesome concern is part of that – we look at things as they are. It is also shaped by taking responsibility. If AI is part of the solution (created in our image – I hope not!!) repentance has to be the foundation.

Yet again though the rich and powerful come together to shape the future. Unlikely with a desire to empty the seats of power of their power or to lift up the marginalised. The Gospel is so radical into these contexts, and the challenge before us is to work through the implications of the radical Gospel, that is political (a vision for the re-ordering of the polis). This certainly has been something that has gripped us in the past years, with the conviction that the shape of the world is the responsibility of the church. Thank God for the ‘born again’ Gospel – but born again for what?

More computing needed? A deeper understanding of the Gospel that deeply impregnated Paul at the gates of Damascus, was nurtured in the desert, and deposited in Rome (Babylon) – that is what is needed. Prophets (and the Prophet) died in Jerusalem. Now they have to live it out in Babylon giving life there.

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2018 – a Personal Perspective

I am clear that what I write here will be a personal perspective, not a universally applicable ‘horoscope‘ (horrorscope) prophetic template for the year. I hope though that there might be some resonance. Gayle and I completed 9 years in Spain on January 1. Seems like yesterday that we arrived with 2 suitcases, yet since then we have lived in 3 locations (4 apartments), visited all the communidades of Spain (17), probably 35-40 of the 50 provinces, slept 40 nights last year in the back of our furgoneta (affectionately labeled as ‘el furgo de san lorenzo’) as we covered 8000 kilometres seeking to retrace the steps related to the ‘conquest’ of and expulsion of the Muslims in Spain. Each year has been different and last year was the most intensely Spain-focused year.

Provinces of Spain
The 50 Provinces

Some of what I will write below will make it sound as if our lives are filled with supernatural interventions. It is easy to make it sound like that when picking out specific stories from a period of time. Some days, are filled with ‘get out of bed, drink coffee, drink loads more, still try to figure out what we are to do, go to bed none the wiser’. Yet it would also be true that there are supernatural interventions… we still believe in that crazy stuff!

Our lives have been shaped at times by some ‘left-of-field’ dreams that have sidetracked us. Or they have shown us what we thought was the main track had some twists in it that we did not anticipate. We have lived now in this apartment the longest we have lived anywhere – 4 years in March – and it seems the shortest time of anywhere. We are here because of two dreams, one of which Gayle entered an address in google maps as to where we were living. Around this time four years ago we saw this apartment. At Christmas time, 2013, I had a word that we would put an offer on three places, that we would get the third place, and that it would be a grace package, but each one would cost more than the one before. The last part I want to underline, as so often is the case we look to interpret things along well-worn lines or according to our expectation. A ‘grace package’ seems to indicate it would not cost as much as we would normally expect, but in this situation it was going to mean the opposite. Apparently the emptier our pocket the more opportunity to God to fill it. We came to Oliva end of December 2013, met with an estate agent who has become a friend. He asked ‘how much do you want to spend?’ Our reply was as little as possible as we are really headed to Madrid and need to keep the maximum amount of money for there. (Eventually we spent almost 3x the figure we gave him that day.) We offered on one place – they countered and we did not want to go any higher. We offered on a second place, and offered the asking price. They took for ever to reply and then said ‘not at that price!!’ We offered on a third, the owner said ‘don’t talk to me about it!!’ The agent said that he had worked the area for 14 years and had never experienced anything like this. He said – it looks as if you are attracting it. I replied ‘probably, but we will be OK so stick with us’. Out of the blue Michael from Hannover called and said that there were three angels waiting to work with us. The key one (at that time for us) was to help us leave Cádiz. We went to where we were sure that angel would be, and within 30 minutes of praying, the agent called us (after many weeks of no communication) with ‘I don’t know what has happened, but you have the property’.

(I now realise this might be a long blog – hope I do not get bored before the end… and for the record we are on the way to Madrid, by the grace of God with / without a pocket that is empty or not!! The Madrid statement was not by way of information, but to keep me focused.)

Anyway dreams… We were sent a very simple yet clear dream. Gayle and I were standing in our living room with invites on the table in front of us on pieces of paper. We did not know how to respond to them, and there was someone there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up at him and said that we would go and consult the ‘man of Spain’ who would help us know how to respond and then we would make a response. Last year in our travels (yes it is subjective and a little mystical) but we certainly met the substance of the man of Spain in the land as we travelled. Not all those who have contributed to the substance of the ‘man of Spain’ have been male, nor have all been Christians, but one that certainly shaped us has been San Lorenzo, who died in Rome on August 10th, 258. We named our van after him – his gift, and our prayer as we drove through Spain, was to revalue all things. The emperor demanded the wealth of the church to be given to him, and so on the appointed time he showed up at the emperor’s abode with the marginalised of society, proclaiming that this was where God’s riches were manifest. The revaluation of all things!

San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees
San Lorenzo Hiding in the Trees

 

At the end of the year we felt as if a season in our journey in Spain had been completed, and knew that 2018 would look different. Within weeks we were having renewed connections with people from 10+ years ago, as well as new connections from some former geographies and also new geographies. Of course we still need wisdom to see what that means but something was moving.

So this year will be different. We will still have a strong focus on Spain, and into the re-working of the constitution. We are not disrespectful to what has gone on before, but believe strongly that the body of Christ has the primary responsibility to create space (yes kick those demons!!) so that there can be a reshaping of society. We take responsibility to hold space for the future, not to occupy the places of power and dictate. Into this we would love to get a base in Madrid – loads to say on this. We have made an offer on an apartment that needed total reformation (by total I mean ‘total’ – it had a toilet but nothing else, no kitchen, no electricity, gas etc…) We entered a sealed bid offer with 27 others. We were completely outbid. Mammon loves to speak with a loud voice. Beyond Madrid we will make a focus into Europe wider. When there are major people movements, and shaking of powers on the earth, we need to realise that an era to re-shape things spiritually is right there. This wonderful continent is ready to yield a shape to something not yet seen.

Here though is what I want to focus on. First a Scripture:

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty deeds (2 Cor. 12: 12).

I was praying into this Scripture and this is what I want to release for this coming year… There is an apostolic movement being released that will not adopt titles, nor establish a headquarters, but will be marked by patience. The true apostolic can wait a generation, a century or more, knowing that what is sown will bear fruit. The short term, insular, visions will be shown for what they are.

National boundaries might be practical (but we should not draw a straight line between ‘nations’ in biblical language with ‘nation-states’ as we have them) and could even be a way of releasing gifts for the nations, but a church that defends a national vision cannot be the context in which an apostolic spirit is nurtured.

The birth of the Pauline apostolic was not in Jerusalem… it was not for Jerusalem… the apostolic vision being born now is likewise away from the centre

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A little more in Genesis

Another Pentecost theme of course comes with the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). The confusion of the languages was in order that ‘what they propose to do will not be possible for them’… if Pentecost is in some way a reversal of the confusion of languages, then there is an intended release through Pentecost for true imagination and collaboration. Yet Pentecost does not reverse Babel. They do not all speak the same language, but something richer and more diverse takes place – they hear them speak in their own language. There is an honouring of the diversity and cultural differences, but each can experience heaven in their own setting.

In Babel there is the humourous element. The people say ‘let us build a tower with its top in the heavens’. God’s response (who is in heaven) is to ‘come down’. Apparently the tower was not that impressive! Perhaps it was such a pimple on God’s landscape that he could not see it from the heavens? Babel / Babylon will always rise up with ‘wonderful’ aims and promises. But it rises up, and is always unfinished (‘they left off building the city’). With chapter 11 we finish a kind of ‘OT of the OT’. It is to the story of Israel what the OT is to the story of Christ and those in him. We have then the backdrop to Israel’s (sadly failed) royal priestly journey for the nations (Gen. 10). We end the series of falls: the series of alienations through failing to live within boundaries. Hence salvation has to have a core theme of reconciliation, finding the boundaries, releasing others to live within their boundary.

Every aspect of life is deeply impacted with the ‘falls’:

  • God and human relationship, with the primary element not knowing who God is. ‘I heard you… I was afraid and I hid’.
  • The intra-human relationship, beginning at the gender level as shown by the Adam / Eve fall out. Patriarchy is a result of the fall: hence I see Jesus as necessarily male and Jewish (the two primary ‘sinners’).
  • The intra-human with family breakdown, murder; the building of towers, nations etc.
  • The human and resultant thorns and thistles of creation. The whole environment is polluted as a result of sin.
  • There is human and demonic warfare. Whatever and whoever the devil and demons are they are not somehow the equal and opposite of God. They might though be the equal and opposite of humanity. (Hence dehumanisation is demonisation in the extreme.) They are there for us to overcome: hence again the necessity of Jesus’ humanity.
  • The pride of nations rising up in conflict. Diversity gets turned to conflict rather than mutual edification.
  • And whatever the strange chapter 6 deals with of ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of humans’ it indicates somehow the wrong alignment of the angelic and the human.

Every aspect of human life is affected. And every aspect of the above is lived out in right alignment in Jesus, the only true human.

I am agnostic if there was ‘a’ historic fall, as I am also agnostic about a literal Adam and Eve. But a fall, or series of falls there certainly was and this seems to culminate with the corporate desire to ‘make a name for ourselves’ (Gen. 11: 4). What a contrast to the work of God who promises to make Abraham’s name ‘great’.

Gen. 1-11 sets the scene.

  • A creation that God is committed to (hence no burning up in the end – but the new heavens and new earth, with the Greek indicating ‘renewed’ rather than having no relationship to what has gone before).
  • A creation that is good, and with everything within it to release potential for perfection. Perfection is not the beginning, but the end. The beginning is potential.
  • A series of falls are described – seemingly to indicate what needs and will be redeemed.
  • A creation that humanity was to steward. The image in the garden is strong temple type language. Let your kingdom come on earth (or at least the garden) as it is in heaven.
  • Creation is to be the place where heaven is revealed. Humanity is deeply honoured by heaven. Materiality is where spirit is made visible; humanity is where divinity is to be revealed.

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Starting Again

Another year so I have started again in Genesis. Always good to come back to Scriptures afresh (although anticipating what is yet to be read to also realise that parts of Scripture never seem that fresh… Leviticus and freshness?).

So just a few reflections. Genesis 1:1-3 and then the clear way in which Pentecost echoes it: wind and speech. The wind can only come from heaven, speech in phase 1 is from God, but in phase 2 from those touched by the Spirit. ‘God spoke’ becomes ‘and they all began to speak…’

God named what he created: ‘God called the dome Sky’ etc.

But in chapter 2 he brings to the human all the animals – ‘to see what s/he would call them; and whatever the human called each living creature that was its name.’

That is quite something indicating the partnering of heaven with earth from the get-go.

Genesis 3 and the expulsion from Eden. Leaving with a perception of being abandonned, but in reality God goes with them. The echoes with the 2 disciples leaving Jerusalem to go to Emmaus again seem clear. (I take it the two were also husband and wife: Mary and Cleopas.) Jesus goes with them in their journey of disappointment. Their eyes are opened, hearts burning to replace the burning swords of exclusion.

Genesis 4 and the response to the first recorded murder. Not an eye for an eye but protection.

Then today reading on the flood. Difficult to be a literalist. I only noticed this time round that the waters covered all the high mountains under the whole heaven to depth of fifteen cubits. Now that would be a FLOOD.

The literature is rich and far too rich to be reduced to literalness.

So the opening days I have enjoyed my readings. Maybe even Leviticus and the later genealogies will be fresh and exciting this year too!!

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