Adding to Holy Writ

I like to write my own scriptures. I guess we all do a bit of that when we choose the ones we like and ignore the others. I am certainly guilty as charged. But I am not referring to my propensity to pick and choose, but to the times I see a text that is not there, but I think should be.

I mentioned one recently in a post, ‘owning everything but possessing nothing’. I made that up but I think it is pretty biblical, and (sorry Paul) more relevant to me than his inspired version of ‘owning nothing but possessing everything’. It is kind of the reverse of what is there, or better the mirror image. So here is another one drawn from Heb. 11 (thanks to Priscilla?):

Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

I think the writer would be happy to have that Scripture applied to the others in Hebrews 11 also. The ongoing voice of those who lived by and died in faith. Faith has a voice for Paul says (good to quote a male voice to balance the female voice above?):

Since we have that same spirit ofc faith,i we also believe and therefore speak (2 Cor. 4: 13).

So the made up mirror text reads something like this:

They though alive are not speaking.

That first makes the Hebrew writer’s words very powerful. Having a voice though having died. Second, it puts in contrast the tragedy of not speaking.

The creative act began with, ‘and God said’. True speech is more than words, it is deeply personal. It comes from somewhere / someone. It carries somehow substance.

A number of years ago I was looking for a recording I had of something I had been teaching, to make a copy for someone. I found the box, the disks were not labelled and I pulled out the one I thought was the right one. I pushed play. It wasn’t me on the recording, but Sue. She had passed away a year or so earlier. I instantly knew her voice, and her ‘presence’ filled the room. It was one of the most scary memories I have to date (and sacred memories too).

The sheep follow him because they know his voice (Jn. 10:4). The voice that brings the presence, the substance of God.

The first prophet in Scripture that Jesus refers to was Abel (Lk. 11:50,51). Yet Abel did not prophesy as far as we have it recorded. He spoke… His life, his actions they spoke.

He (they) being dead still speak. The list in Hebrews does not record what they said, but it does record that they spoke.

It is possible to say things, oh ever so possible to say so, so much. To say so many good, biblical words, to be extremely clever, even wise… But to speak? Maybe that is what we need to learn. To stop talking and to speak.

I seem to have, as far as we can test, a sound discrimination issue. This is not a lack of hearing, but a difficulty, a confusion in distinguishing what I hear. True physically which is a bit of a bug in the system when it comes to language. A while back I was listening to a recording in Spanish and a person said a common phrase, ‘todos las veces’ (every time). It made no sense to me so I played it back four times and eventually asked Gayle why are they using a phrase that means nothing in this context, ‘all the mushrooms’ (todas las setas)!!!

But what is a much bigger system bug is not to discriminate what we hear from heaven. God speaks and my discrimination is such that I repeat ‘mushrooms’! No answers in the comments please as to how many times I have done that!

The lasting impact of speech, true speech is presence. When I heard Sue’s voice it was her substance, who she was that impacted me. When God speaks it is the substance / presence of God that is the lasting impact.
There is a reason why there are those who have died but still speak. It is to do with their substance. There is a reason why there are those who are alive but do not speak. It is tied to their substance, who they are.

Light came from a voice. Substance came from the source of all substance, the speech was simply the bridge it came across.

Words can be cheap. True speech is not cheap. It comes from the substance of a life.

So I like to make up my own scriptures. I think one might even be biblical. I think Priscilla would approve.

Time to re-boot?

Valuing the arts?

Fatima (in the image above) apparently needs to re-boot (literally). Little does she realise that the ballerina shoes probably need to come off, and she needs to find a career that has much more value! Following Rishi Sunak’s (Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK) advice that those in the arts should consider new careers, together with a helpful site that once the questions are answered comes back with the ideal career to re-train for, apparently suggested to Dame Judy Dench that she could switch careers and enter the scaffolding business!

Lest I be accused of being the conveyor of ‘fake news’, I am aware the UK government has backtracked on the adverts, and… and… BUT in a time of genuine reboot for society it is interesting that there has already been concerted attempts over the past 3-5 years against the media; and post attacks on the media there will always be a focus on other areas. Of course there is such a thing as ‘fake news’ but whenever the news challenges the status quo ruling party not all of it can nor should be written off as ‘fake’. That is something we have been able to, previously, label against the suppressed media in communist lands, and now I am not surprised that there is a weakening of the value of the arts. The arts are VITAL for the re-imagining of the future.

In the coming year I have been informed that China will move forward one year, but the West (centred in USA and Europe) will move back 6. In one year a 7 year gap will appear. This is all part of the move that is from West to East and North to South, a global rebalancing (necessary)… and a global unbalancing (beyond challenging) at the same time. Meanwhile there is a focus on issues such as law and order in parts of the West. The situation, as I see it, is that there are huge flaws being exposed. When the same news network that espouses family values, came to the UK with a policy of shifting the working class mindset toward the political right the policy adopted was anything but family! Thankfully society is not so corrupt that eventually a cry rose up about the daily image on page 3. (For those outside the UK, sadly making the reference above explicit, a topless scantily dressed young woman.)

A media that is controlled – and that begins by labelling what is not favourable as ‘false’; rhetoric from the centre that does not challenge violence will only result in violence on the streets (militia) some 5-6 years later – witness Ruanda of the 60s or Germany of the 30s; and an arts that is devalued and there is a recipe that will only accelerate the demise of what was good. There are nations with better foundations than others, but even those that claim ‘Christian’ foundations (an oxymoron) had a number who were deists not theists as the shapers of the foundations. There are major exposures of foundations at this time… To silence the media and to sidetrack the arts, might slow the exposure… but the process is under way.

Aesthetically Good

Writing… Just had the third volume back from proof reading. A Spanish translation of the first volume is completed; a zoom call Friday to Brazil to talk over some details of that translation… Sorting out zoom groups this week – hey if you would like to be part of that look at:


Here is an excerpt from the chapter in Volume 3 on the Arts.

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food (Gen. 2:9).

Creation, even imperfect creation, speaks loudly and this verse in the early chapters of our sacred volume is so insightful. Creation was proclaimed good (not perfect, as good indicates a start not an end) and the trees are commented on as being good at two levels. The functional one of providing food and at the aesthetic level of being pleasing to the eye. The verses preceding the one I quoted tells us that humanity was created to work the ground in response to the rain from heaven. It is not a stretch at all to suggest therefore that working with creation was intended to be for functional and aesthetic purposes…

The word ‘amateur’ is interesting as it comes from the Latin ‘amo’, meaning ‘I love’. It has often come to mean ‘second rate’, but really should mark all those who are involved in the arts. A love for colour, sound and creativity, with two eyes focused on producing something that is pleasant to see, hear, or be impacted by, and without a focus on the supposed bottom line. Earning money is a necessity, but when it completely dictates the boundaries of what art becomes visible, we have yet again a sad commentary on our world.

Let me convince you

If words, written and spoken, are one’s trade we love to argue, to dispute, to put up straw targets just to knock them down! We want to convince people of how right we are (sub-text: how wrong they are). The discussion is at a mind-to-mind, concept-to-concept level. Occasionally we win. The win, though, is normally at a head level, which can be valuable, but simply winning an argument does not often shift something at a heart level…

The imagination has been downgraded in many circles, and certainly in many Protestant oriented circles, where all images were removed from the architecture. I understand the reason for that (idolatry) but there has probably been a loss in the midst of the reaction. In many Christian circles there has been a re-focus on the arts with an emphasis on such things as sacred dance or professional Christian music. That can be welcomed, but when we understand the purpose of the ekklesia is to care for, take responsibility for and to healthily shape the world in a justice direction, there also has to be music, dance and art that does not have a label on it stamping it as ‘Christian’, but that comes out of the heart of those shaped by the Jesus narrative.

For that to carry weight we need ever so many amateurs, in love with the Author of creativity and their own creative craft. Such people energised by the Spirit are vital to touch the imagination. If we are ever going to pull the world to a different future it will only happen when there is the experience of seeing through different eyes. The power of Martin Luther King’s speech was in the words, ‘I have a dream’. He expressed his sight of a different world.

The book of Scripture I like the best is the final one. I am glad that nowhere are we told to understand it as a whole, and that those who read it, who hear it, are those who are blessed. I sometimes wish I could hear it the same way as the first audience heard it. I find it hard to use words that convey the kind of book it is, but it is certainly a book full of images. It contains many words, but the effect of hearing those words would be as if one were exposed to what would seem as never-ending film clips, protest art, political cartoons, emotive music and other disturbing elements. The end result for those original hearers would have been a total disorientation.

We need a huge disorientation. Phrases such as ‘money makes the world go round’ are phrases that describe a supposed normalised orientation. The phrase becomes the reality and nothing can be imagined outside of that normality. Art, art and yet more art is what is necessary to break those cycles. Yes there are arguments to be won, there are new concepts to be explained, but there must also be huge incisions brought to society’s norms that will allow space for the alternative…

I appreciate that I am strongly suggesting that the creative arts are to be disruptive, but I have done that to make a point. Not all art is there to disrupt but all art should touch us at a level deeper than the conceptual. It is to help us ‘feel’, and therefore art will certainly not always be ‘nice’.

What is termed worship music can be helpful in putting us in touch with God, but can also be unhelpful if it puts us out of touch with the world. The Psalms, which are often described as the hymn book of the Jewish world, mention God over and over, but we also find there the songs of lament about the state of the world, and enough protest songs to confront all manner of injustices. We might need more songs that proclaim ‘God is great’, but we certainly need a flood of songs that will proclaim ‘We don’t need a Christian president’, and those songs will probably have a few expletives thrown in…

Good to look at. It felt good. Art.

And ‘I felt so disoriented’; ‘I was disturbed’. Art.

Many tribal situations understand the value of the liminal space. In those contexts as a young person reached the point of leaving childhood to enter adulthood often the ritual involved disorientation, of taking the person to a space at the edge of their world where there could be no reverting back to previous norms. The experience is often traumatic, but is based on an understanding that a major transition such as moving into adulthood is not engaged in as a gentle process.

That kind of disorientation, liminality and ‘kind’ trauma are so often needed. We need the artists. Christian artists. Artists who have been energised by the Spirit. Maybe not so many will become professional but they can all be amateurs.

It is time to awaken the imagination if we want a different future.

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