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Into the mess we go

Last post of 2021

Anyone who reads these posts on a regular basis will realise that I pretend that I am a simple imbiber of truth and then write about it… which being translated is I am a biased person who ignores any material that disagrees with my viewpoint! And if anyone reads between the lines of my posts you will also realise that I think most of us live that way.

A while back we had in our home for a few days, a Brexiteer, an advocate that humanity’s ability to create money out of nothing was reflective of us being created in the image of God, who viewed ‘woke culture’ as being negative, that ‘BLM’… Get the picture? Such a biased person, I think to myself!!! Yet, how good it was. Someone who on most of those key points would take a diametrically opposing position to my own. It was so good because when in the same space for a few days there are two options, argue and fall out… or listen.

We all operate with a map that helps us understand the territory, but the map is not the territory. The map simplifies things, and in so doing helps us navigate; but the map is not the real world, the territory is.

I have recently posted on same-sex issues and a response to that. In making a shift over the past years I have sought to listen to stories; I am well aware that there are stories to be told on both sides of the divide; stories in themselves cannot dictate how we should respond, but they help us make adjustments to the map, for they put us in touch with the territory. The danger is that the stories we select we think tell the whole story, that they map out the entire territory. They do not, and there will be days when we walk the territory that the map does not help us.

The Christian world operates by a map, a map that simplifies so much. I have commented in the past that Jesus who taught post-resurrection to the disciples about the kingdom of God clearly either did not do a good job, or what he taught (and maybe more important to for us to understand: what he omitted) exposed that we are not doing a good job when we have all the answers.

Questions. Questions often come when we meet situations we did not expect, or they encroach on our world uninvited. Questions. Where are you Adam? The inability to really answer that question meant he had no idea where God was: and there are two stories told since then as to where God positioned Godself – one told incarnationally by Jesus, and one that fuelled a lot of division. If Adam (male and female) had understood where they were and where God was the original temptation would have held no power at all. Adam, made in the image of God, stoops to eat some fruit to be like God! That was an incredible ‘falling short of the glory of God’, the glory that was present in their humanity. Failing to be human, shuts down questions.

That original temptation and Christendom line up. Move over, I am coming to the centre, being the strap line for both. A view of God, a God of power (true but not the essence of God), a God we can be like, one we can represent. Defending God… or defending the god that we believe is God.

I have been reading Paul Kingsnorth’s material on why he has come down on the side of being a non-vaxxer and an advocate for that position. (https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/the-vaccine-moment-part-one – and two subsequent posts.) He rightly exposes the hostility and division that is present, the setting up of an ugly divide (I think most of his statistics he quotes are highly suspect… comparing like with not like, but this does not nullify what he is saying.) In it he also infers a regrettable loss of the shaping of the world that Christendom gave the West. Those days have gone, and are not coming back… thank God!

I, like many, wrote of the great re-set that was signified by the COVID-19 phenomenon, and have to look painfully at the lack of reset to the economic world. Far from being reset it has accelerated in the woeful direction of the ever-widening gap. Sad that those who are pro ‘God’s law for society’ (theonomists) don’t critique their hopes with a healthy does of true reset – Jubilee. Given that there are aspects where there has not been a reset I am torn. I could be persuaded to say – we need more to truly reset things… But that I do not hold to. The reset has gone as far as it can. An exposure of what is there is visible, and in part Kingsnorth’s articles are saying that.

Jesus came at the ‘fullness of times’, not I believe as some (past) have suggested, the time of global communication, roadways etc., but in the context of Galatians and the hostile powers (which included the law!) the fullness of times was the time when the captivity to powers had reached their peak. It was then that Jesus came.

Maybe, maybe… and again a maybe. Maybe the reset is allowing a re-evaluation of what is present. Powers that divide, that sow seeds of dehumanisation. The book of Revelation remains ever so pertinent, the beast receives a voice. The voice might be human but the beast is non-human and anti-all-things-human.

The powers might be coming to a peak. At such a time there can be a manifestation, a revelation of glory, glory being a description of what it means to be truly human.

We can resist mess by bringing all people to our side of the table. Or we an cohabit the same space and listen. If, I as a three-times vaccinated person, and pro-vaccination it is not because it is the godly way to go. Life is a compromise (look at Paul in Romans, the theological text-book to read about compromise!). There can be good reasons for, and there can be good reasons against a given position. Governments have some hard decisions to make, but we do not need to jump on a conspiracy to shape the map we use to journey on the territory.

We have entered new territory. The vaccine issue might be one sign of that. However, for us as believers we have to see beyond the simple right / wrong judgement (I think there might be something early on in the Bible about that being a real mistaken path?)

Mess is here. Dialogue needs to be companion for us all. Jesus is coming again to teach us about the kingdom of God. We will have so few notes from what he teaches. We will hit situations that we don’t know how to respond to. We will have trances that we think will be simply a test to hold to the proven buy history to be the right response, only to discover that God has moved on. And yes, I mean that last sentence (nothing to do with God ‘growing up’, or ‘changing a set of beliefs’, but everything to do with where we have set up camp.)

We will continue to use maps. Maps simplify. They can find the statistics that are needed to prove the rightness of the map; the stories will underline the grid I use. But the territory is the territory… and it is messy.

Who would want to be like God? S/he is where we are, hence the tarnishing of reputation that takes place. There comes a time though when, for the future of the planet, God moves on and invites us to move position. These are not absolutes, as in now step here as this is where the TRUTH is. The movement is incremental. Hence ‘let’s just go back to normal’ is not acceptable. Let’s stumble forward, get our feet dirty.

And as a footnote: the mark of the beast is something much more sinister than a vaccine chip. More subtle and more damaging. Speaking with a human voice… yet listen to the language for the voice dehumanises.

8 thoughts on “Into the mess we go

  1. On the cusp of a new year I have to remember that the cusp last year seemed to offer more hope…”seemed” is doing a lot of work there. Laugh with me.

    I am in Arizona where all hospitals are beyond capacity for a disease that has a free vaccine…I offer no commentary on it.

    I suddenly realise that hope is a created thing, just like faith and love…it is created out of nothingness by a God who views the darkness the same as the light.

    It is easy to be weary…but that does not mean it is hard to have hope.

    Hope, Faith, and Love are all decisions we make to be more human like God.

    I have hope today not because its a new year or there are signs of hope, I have hope today because something eternal in me calls out for it, and because I am human and share this space with others I have hope with them, for them and about them…not because they demonstrate any signs of improvement, but in spite of it.

    In hope, against hope so shall your offspring be.

    One of the great metaphors that comes out of Hollywood is from the Pirate movies where a magical compass does not point to true north, but instead points to what you truly desire…

    I think if there is any kind of “reset” for me it is a clarification of what I desire…the map is only useful if the compass is true…and apparently the compass is aligned with my desires more than I want to admit.

    So I choose hope.

    1. Hope. Realism that is anchored in a God who ‘created [it ]out of nothingness’. Great perspective as I sit here a few hours away from 2022.

  2. Hope seems so elusive somehow and yet it is ever present in birth of that obscure baby in a backwater Roman province who holds all things together whether we feel it or not. I am grateful that he is not a high priest who is immune to our suffering and our deficiencies. He leaves us breathing room to be ourselves and ask those questions and to make the necessary compromises. He whispers ‘I am with you’ even in the darkest times and also on the mountaintop where favour and joy are found. I think we have some more re-setting to come and so many, many questions, that’s what it feels like to me at the dawn of this New Year. I so agree that not to dehumanise our ‘enemies’ or ‘opponents’ is the only way forward I agree and making space to be gracious to them seems to be so important. There are murmurings of this type of approach coming out in various podcasts recently I noticed. I think the tide might be turning in the right direction. Your Zoom groups and posts have given so much food for thought and perspective on how to proceed as a follower of Jesus and been challenging too. I have enjoyed participating so much. Thank you for that and Happy 2022!!

  3. No reset in the economic dimension despite the pandemic etc? I should think, wait for it just a little more. There’s a significant overstreaching and overreaching happening currently, which cannot be sustained: ‘markets’ will give, some excessive fortunes will be lost, rules will be rewritten.

    However, what economy will come thereafter, will emerge within that mess of a shipwreck we are experiencing?

    And how to safeguard lives of those of that Kingdom generation as this umfolds?

    1. Thanks Dieter… I am with you 50% of the way… and the real issue is always as you write – what comes thereafter.

  4. happy new year Martin

    “I am a biased person who ignores any material that disagrees with my viewpoint”

    yes you are, but you are an incredibly rare person to own it.

    In my world (financial) it is called ‘confirmation bias’ whereby all humans tend to seek out evidence to support their prior position and turn a blind eye to evidence to the contrary. Me included of course.

    As Paul Simon said, “I am just a poor boy though my story’s seldom told, I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles such are promises. All lies and jest, still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”

    Ouch

    1. Happy New Year to you also Nigel. I think the ‘OUCH’ can be lessened through denial…??? Thanks for all the comments over the past years.

  5. Love the idea of a mess. Of course a mess is simply a lack of order, most frequently our order. So we enter a time that appears disordered. Perhaps we cannot see the underlying order as we overlaid our own order for so long. It is our own order that the pandemic continues to relentlessly strip away. And we are left with a mess. A glorious mess.

    Yes, the reset has gone as far as it can in that the structures have been exposed but not all collapsed. Some should not collapse – like health systems. But others should and yet have held strong. But we see them now, more and more clearly.

    The trouble with maps is not only that they simplify and codify, they also lie. Maps are always biased. They are biased by what is included, how it is portrayed, where it is located, how it is drawn and who draws it. If we depend upon maps alone we miss the reality under our feet. To know a place is to walk it. To see it. To dwell in it. To explore it. Perhaps instead of making maps we need to make something like the aboriginal songlines. Songs that enable memories of how to traverse the territory. Songs that lead the way. Songs that unfold as we move forward. These are ‘maps’ inscribed in the soil. And it is soil that counts. Our lives depend upon soil. Healthy soil. Loved soil. Nurtured soil. We must connect with the soil to know the place and to love it.

    In our rush for order and control, based on the maps we drew we have forgotten how to love a place, how to nurture it, how to sing it into being. No matter what direction we take in this new/renewed territory we must walk with humility and an eagerness to learn new wisdom. A wisdom based on seeing and listening to what is around us. A wisdom that accepts that our maps and our order are now outdated and worthless. We are in a new place. But it can only emerge as we sing it into being. Put down the maps and pick up some soil, that is where life is found.

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