The right question

Had an interesting 24 hours. We have been seeing this year as opening up new things. We have been in Spain 11 years, this being the beginning of our 12th. We think (good word… thoughts are where we stumble forward, walk as blind people (last post), heaven is MUCH clearer!!) that maybe we can see a pathway that opens that will set the next 10 years. And in 10 years time I might be ready to revisit the question Sue asked me when I was 39 . That question was ‘what do you want to do when you are 40?’ My reply, ’40 is nothing, I will still be bumbling along so maybe let me get to 55 and we talk again.’ Well 55 came and went, and as Gayle can testify, he was still bumbling along… so now maybe I can consider in 10 years time. 75 and a level of possible non-bumbling, a small semblance of wisdom and a poquito of maturity? Maybe… if not we just postpone it another 10 – 20 years, kick the can down the road… again. I have noticed the great thing about discovering how immature one is is that there can always be growth. Imagine having arrived at 40 to having already entered the ‘second half of life’ AGGGGHHHHH!!! So I consider I am in a good place as I aim to get sight of the second half of life around 2035.

Anyway the past 24 hours. First we had an evening FaceTime to a certain European nation seeing what might work for later in the year for us to be there. 12 hours later Gayle’s phone rings with an anonymous call showing up on the dial from the same nation. We presume it is from the night before and maybe with a further question or suggestion. But no, totally unrelated. Someone else had tracked us down seeing if we would have any space to input a (very interesting indeed) setting in April that is scheduled to take place in Madrid. Then a few hours after that a WhatsApp to see if a few months later we could make a contribution to another gathering, again scheduled for Madrid.

So the 24 hours… Coming to the threshold at the beginning of the year it opened with two invites to business-related events. The combination of coincidental events mentioned in the last paragraph – both into business related contexts.

It could be coincidental – no point trying to force something together (oh dangerous, almost a second half of life response there!!); it could be full-on God… or as I have found sometimes is the case could be God is moving something around and as that happens all kinds of doors rattle but the door that eventually opens was not one of the ones that was rattling at the beginning. (Or just another example of bumbling along, walking blind?)

In one situation I had a wonderful response that, there probably are theological differences between us but they would like to push ahead. I prefer where there are theological differences as it helps show where I am right, they are wrong and how I can correct them (see I told you I am still going to achieve stardom in this first half of life). Actually, if you keep reading you will realise that last sentence is a joke, so please don’t quote me!

Difference is important. I am certainly not correct on all my perspectives, and certainly cannot be correct at all points as it is pretty self-evident that my life is all too often sub-NT. There is a core to unity – the glory of God covering the earth as the waters cover the seas. That seems to be enough for us to push forward together. But having said even that can show where we differ. How we define glory, what we expect pre-parousia etc., can show up so many differences.

We really need difference to show us we are not right. A few days ago I reflected on ‘are you for us or for our enemies?’. If that was the wrong question and it relates to us and our ‘enemies’, I don’t think God is going to answer us when we ask ‘are you for me, the one correct at every point, or are you for those Calvinists?’ (not to offend, and always a little humour, but as I have found it very hard to spell that word for decades I thought it might be appropriate to enter the word here, to indicate I am now able to spell the word). Wrong question. Well who is more right? Wrong question.

Will I be able to correct those I don’t agree with? Wrong question. Will I be provoked and want to respond when I sit with people who have convictions that are alien to mine? Sure, cos of your immaturity, but wrong question. Will I have to learn a little genuine humility on such a journey? You might just if you learn how to listen and respect others who are probably further on than you are.

OK I think I get it. But surely by 2035 I will be so far ahead that I will then be the reference point for one and all. Silence. Now I am just wondering if the silence indicates I am at last getting the right question lined up. I wonder…

Sent out blind

Apostle coming our way… is the caption for the above image!

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi,who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).

Another crazy story with a sweet confrontation with the religious world at the end. The Pharisees claimed sight and Jesus, ever so gently, and ever so firmly, told them ‘hey just claim a lack of sight and you might just be allowed a little leeway.’ It starts with Jesus commissioning a blind man, maybe John is hinting that this is an apostolic sending (‘Go’; the pool means ‘sent’).

Those commissioned by God claimed sight and Jesus advised them to go easy with the claim! The blind man is sent, and is sent blind, not healed and then sent. After going, blind, he comes home seeing.

That was not an easy journey for the gentleman in question. Where are you going? ‘To the sent pool’. Who sent you… Jesus. How much easier if Jesus had just given him his sight first then imagine how more effective he could have been in his witness. He could have told so many along the way, he could have arrived at the ‘sent’ pool with all the credentials that he had indeed been sent, but no, that is not the way it happenned.

When we push out, the issue we will either ‘see in part’ or be blind. Sight is not the first element – obedience is. As with Abraham – go… and I will show you. Go leads to sight. Paul had an inward journey to make, through his three days of blindness, until he could get some sight. Three internal days. Always three, the three days of grave type experience.

I guess that there are a bunch of people who have not received sight within the religious scenario, but have tentatively heard something of a commissioning, are stumbling along without too much sight, but there is a pool, a ‘sent’ pool that has water in it. Don’t stop now.

And a little footnote… neither his parents nor he had sinned, and I do not think this was also done so that God’s power could be revealed. The clause here is a probably an ‘imperatival hina’ clause… ‘but let the works of God be displayed…’ The response to Jesus is don’t look for fault, here is an example of God’s sending!

Demotatorship

A new word for me this week… meaning ‘democratic dictatorship’. It came into my inbox this morning inside Jeff Fountain’s latest weekly word. A MUST READ word as it hits head on something we are all having to grapple with:

http://weeklyword.eu/en/viktor-the-champion/

His letter is focused on a response to Viktor Orban of Hungary, but is applicable much wider. Later today I have a Skype to a country where the president has just publicly in a huge Christian gathering acknowledged Jesus is his Saviour and that the nation belongs to God. Something rejoiced over in many different Christian periodicals. And which of us have not been praying for the transformation of nations?

Relevant in country after country. Here in Spain VOX espousing family values, anti-abortion are pulling the traditional Christian card, and I am sure are pulling in votes from evangelicals and Catholics alike… yet just again this week the main leader was on a national TV channel putting out statistics, images and videos that have been proven to be wrong, but used to create animosity toward immigrants. (And do I hear the cry ‘Christian value?’)

What an era we have entered into. Presidents and leaders who will defend ‘Christian’ values, profess faith… yet produce material that stirs up hate not love for the neighbour. Answers to prayer? Or huge deception?

And probably a sign of where we have come to. Democracy, I have suggested many times, is in serious trouble. In the West we have a shell left to us currently – the democratic process, which is the context in which democracy is supposed to operate, but when huge levels of finance, vested interest groups and the like have a much larger say in what takes place than the ballot box we no longer have democracy. When money perverts what is true so that we no longer know the reality of what we are voting for, we have lost democracy. When politicians themselves create a ‘them / us’ and magnify it so that it becomes a ‘look after ourselves / they are enemies to be resisted’ a very perverted form of society can only develop.

Maybe on the issue of abortion we might feel it is such a huge issue that we have to vote for the party touting that ticket… but please do not defend the party, and also find a way of grappling with the huge complexities that lie behind the abortion statistics (which have often been at the lowest when, for example in the USA, a president who is not waving the ‘anti-abortion’ ticket has been in power… legislation not being the simplistic answer that we think).

There is no such thing as a ‘Christian party’ nor a ‘Christian nation’ and to reduce ‘Christian values’ as they are being currently reduced is to remove any real significance to the word ‘Christian’. Politics is messy. Any partnerships we end up in will result in our feet being dirty. Seemingly that was not a problem for Jesus, though it caused Peter to have a crisis of faith.

I am not looking for the ‘Christian’ ticket, the Christian profession of faith at the highest level. I am looking for dirty footed believers who occasionally have crises of faith, but walk again on a redemptive path at personal cost for the sake of the marginalised. (Is there another path we can walk?)

We are in danger of substituting a nationalised-introverted self-protectionised culture for the Jesus of Israel who died to Jewishness and to maleness.

Maybe he is too challenging for us. It will be a sad day if that proves to be the case. We have prayed, people have gathered in stadiums the world over for a new day to come. I just hope we do not eclipse the sun that is rising, and as we walk in darkness proclaim how much light has come. A light to the nations, not those who bring darkness while proclaiming light. If we continue to cover over the lies that are being spoken, we will soon have to come to terms with what we cover that should have been uncovered will cover us… That covering will become what we proclaim. Then democracy will not simply be under immense strain, but the Christian faith will again be co-opted as the voice of oppression.

Seriously?

“Neither,” he replied

We know the story well. ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ Makes a good sermon foundation (rightly so). But yesterday on reading this again it hit me hard. My God gives the answer – for you of course, never for your enemies though I love them… But the God representative that Joshua encountered did not pad out the answer. And it is the not-padded out answer that I object to!

We can be so clear who God is for, and where s/he stands. We can in theory hold that the God path is above us all, but we so often reduce everything down to ‘my perspective is right’.

God is so for justice, my perspective on justice. And what I have to learn is s/he is not about to come down on my side, just because it is my side.

OK… that’s the post for today. Not long, but.

And how do you ‘read’ that

Reading anything is interesting. Back in the day I was told ‘authorial intention’ had to be adhered to, and as a semi-writer I would be a little put out if people read what I wrote in whatever way (‘reader response’) that they wished. But…

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit (Judg. 21: 25).

At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing (The Message).

Author’s intended meaning. I strongly suspect he (and pretty sure this one is a ‘he’) is we need a king, then everything is sorted, enough of all this independence-caused chaos. Yet how challenging Scripture can be. Yesterday I was reading:

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,”  be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite (Deut. 17: 14,15).

A bit cheeky! Written as if it was written by Moses and looking way ahead, yet almost certainly written in the form we have many centuries after the people had asked for a king to be like the other nations (1 Sam. 8). So if Scripture can be cheeky, maybe we can follow suit with our interpretation, particularly if we also consider that there are two authors – a human one (or ‘ones’, perhaps a number of post-exilic editors?) and a God breathing author. I am pretty sure that the human author in Judges is writing as a monarchist, but I am also pretty sure that the divine author intends us to be king-free and for the people are to do ‘what is right in their own eyes’.

It has so much to do with what we see. If we see God and see people in the image of God then to do what is right is a necessity. If we see ourselves at the centre of all things, the world revolving around me then whenever I do what is right in my own eyes will be idolatrous, disastrous and full of greed. Greed, that which desires more than my share, consumerism gone mad, Paul ties to idolatry (Col. 3:5).

So I have my reading of those monarchic comments, and do not see the establishment of authority as the way forward but the opening of eyes. My eyes, and to hopefully live as if I see something different, so that others too might gain some sight.

Glory in the desert

Trinitarian theology. Even the creeds have not quite done it for me. Never been great at this aspect of theology… Maybe I am more of a tri-theist (heretic!) than I like to admit; maybe more of a let’s just simplify it all and Jesus is God, touches of the old ‘Oneness’ theology there. Ontological trinity, economic trinity… OK I am just about settled on the social trinitarian model.

The Trinity is important for the ‘unity amidst diversity’, the diversity being both difference / distinctiveness but certainly not separateness; and the unity not denying the distinctiveness. Anyway as I wrote at the start, never been too good at this aspect of theology.

So I need to move on as I am such an expert in almost every other realm – as if!! But moving on. The Trinity certainly somehow is a pattern for humanity, after all humanity is in the image of the Tri-une God. Unity and diversity.

The glory of God is not simply something other, but also relates to humanness – true humanness, that true humanness that to a large degree evades us all, that is tarnished because of sin, for ‘we have all fallen short of the glory of God’. I essentially understand this to mean that the essence of sin is to fail to be truly human, to fail to reflect and represent God. Hence only Jesus is truly human, the one in whose face was revealed the glory of God, full of grace and truth.

Jesus remarkably said that the glory he had received he had given to the disciples (I think therefore this maybe also includes us?). And he gave it so that:

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one (John 17: 22).

Glory is not a reward for being one, it is the essential means by which we will be one. We do not work on our unity and then God says ‘good people have some glory’… We need his glory to be one, and s/he has given that glory to us, whether we are one or not.

If we have the glory of God, even if that glory is veiled, what does that gift look like? And one more ‘if’ clause… if glory is tied to humanity, of being truly human, we have to know that more glory is revealed when I am truly myself, not in some individualistic self-attainment state, but in a fullness of relationship. Unity then is truly possible the more I am distinct.

A lot of unity is an expression of uniformity. We are already alike and so more or less get on. Glory releases difference, distinctiveness, and so glory can only be seen as difference becomes visible. To pull into a narrow base reduces the visibility of glory.

So back up to the Trinity. I veer toward Tri-theism and to Oneness. Tri-theism because Jesus is not the Father and not the Spirit (etc…) and Oneness because Jesus is the fullness of revelation of the Trinitarian God.

Now I really need to get back on track here or this post will be truly drifting off into the cyber world. Glory, humanity, social relationships. Yes the need is for diversity, for distinctiveness in the context of unity. Or to tie this down, we need a context in which unity is found. That context needs to be that of ‘the whole of creation’. In the beginning God – God is not creation – but the context in which s/he is described, discovered and appears is that of the whole of creation, for in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The diversity of humanity is essential. No person, no group can be the revelation of God in the earth, but together there is so much potential. It is not simply ‘no size fits all’ when we look at church, it is that every aspect, of the ekklesia being the ekklesia that will reveal glory.

Unity, that they may be one, can only be possible in the context of a wholeistic desire and working toward transformation. Unity is not a religious framework but a political one, the tragedy being that if the followers of Jesus do not get this where can we go? The body of Christ should be at the forefront of promoting diversity within the context of a whole world creational perspective. From there unity is a possibility. Take away the context and uniformity and smallness is possible; glory defined in a religious way.

All the above can be summed up in:

The multiplicity of the small and
the richness of diversity.

God save us from the next ‘big thing’; save us from ‘humanity has to be created in my image’.

And save us so that we can become and in becoming open up possibilities that there will be multiple becomings all around us. In the desert place we look to see the glory of God arise. Hope in the desert – oh yes.

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