Interpreting…

Reading too much into it all?

I have a title – really what I think, interpreting my recent travel. And put beneath it a sub-title: reading too much into it. Whatever… I live my life by convictions…. correction, my level of integrity is related to living my life by my convictions, so the title is the title, and the sub-title is a possibility that I have to be open to but cannot live my life by. (My ability to waffle does seem to be pretty powerful.)

I am in the UK for 2 days. An early start yesterday to catch a flight. I had an alarm set for 4:40 but woke at 2:20. What does one do? I rolled on to one side, closed my eyes… no, that is not working… other side… no. So there it was. But in truth it had been a week more or less like that, somehow the air had been ‘thick’. It did mean I was well in time to catch my flight.

Plane left on time (Alicante to Gatwick). It landed ahead of schedule. Taxied toward the gates. The stopped… eventually the pilot coming on speaker – there is a plane occupying our gate, once it leaves we will pull in. Well, for whatever reason the other plane did not depart. Pilot – we will make our way to a new gate they have assigned us. Taxied. Stopped. Eventually pilot says – there is a problem with (and I think he said) the navigation system on the gate to bring us in; once they have fixed we will dock in a short while. Waited… they did not get it fixed!

So eventually they use the steps that are built into the plane itself and there we are now with a walk and back entry to the airport. I proceed with my one carry on bag, nothing to pick up on the luggage belt, so move as quickly as possible as I have a train to catch (on my way to a funeral – more later on that). I get to passport and there is no line. I am it, so right through.

I go to the train – only a 100 metre walk. Buy my ticket. Ah yes, the voice of the announcer. Sorry the train is delayed, we are in process of forming the train! (I presumed that this was not a ‘we have just put in an order with the manufacturer’.)

So now the train is late. Then comes the announcer. The train for Reading (my train and I am getting off at Dorking) has a platform change.

I might have got up early, I might be somewhat sleep deprived (pulling on your sympathy with that comment) but I am noticing a pattern all connected to time.

  • I wake too early…
  • … OK let me be ‘spiritual’ please… the heavens are clear and we are ahead of schedule.
  • I should have been on a train and on my way easily 20-30 minutes after landing, but it was just shy of 2 hours!
  • Cannot dock where we should – it is already occupied.
  • There are alternatives, but we cannot be guided in there.
  • We will make a back door entry.
  • I am not with excess luggage.
  • I am straight in as I have full access and permission.

Ahead of schedule but unable to dock… delays once we land… time and locations are being contested.

Moving forward. I was present for the funeral of Gerald Coates. Someone who was been the biggest influence on my life – partly because my first encounter was when I was 19 years of age and we worked together for some of the subsequent decades.

In my eulogy I recounted a vivid dream he had at the time when he was transitioning from being a postman to that of ‘full time’.

He was driving down a narrow road that was lined by trees. The road ran out, and he came to a big lawn area with beautifully cut, cared for grass. On this lawn were people together, beautifully dressed, engaged with each other; picnics and other activity going on. To his surprise in the dream he did not stop, nor get out of the car to join them but drove across the lawn, disturbed all those people, leaving two big dirty tyre tracks along the way.

The interpretation given by someone in Canterbury was based on understanding two key parts of the imagery. I see ‘people like trees’ and ‘all flesh is as grass’.

You (Gerald) have been on a narrow path shaped by people (men) who have restricted and determined where you will drive (he was Plymouth Brethren by background). But that road has ended. The most beautifully cut, and immaculate grass (humanity) is religious flesh. It has everything in place but is simply flesh. You are destined to disturb all things religious and in the process to leave behind two great huge tyre tracks…

How true that turned out to be. Those of us who knew him could tell stories of his adventures that fulfilled that dream over and over again!

Before going to the funeral I visited the ‘Hub’. An amazing community space in North Leatherhead where I lived with Sue, Ben and Judith. I was very moved while there. One of the initiators in that context showed me around. It was heavy with the presence of God, a space for the community. I felt so strongly that stories are going to be told there, with even events taking place where stories are told. Not all the stories with a ‘Jesus / God’ explicitly in them, but they will be stories about what God is doing, the God who is present everywhere.

Gerald was a story teller.

When Sue and I moved to Leatherhead 13/02/04 – 1 year and a day before she died – I stood on the end of our street to declare – if I live here I have a responsibility and faith that this street will be the healthiest street in all of Leatherhead, and by the roundabout at the end of the street I raised my hands over the street.

The Hub is by that roundabout.

Right toward the end of Sue’s life – she was by then in a hospital so not at home. I have a literal conversation, initiated by the Holy Spirit – I can still remember exactly where I was, what I was facing etc.

If I heal Sue whose story will that be?
Sue’s.
NO.
Ours as a family.
NO.
Wider family, friends… the Christian community
NO.
Whose story then?
It will be the story the community can take. It will belong to no-one but everyone can have it.

So… the Hub by that roundabout (story telling by the community)… Gerald – a storyteller… whose story will it be, it will belong to no-one but everyone can have it…

I visit the HUB then the funeral.

I ended my eulogy after telling the dream with a reference to Hebrews 11. That Gerald though dead still speaks. How? Books, videos etc… but it has to be in and through the lives where a deposit has been made. There has to be those who make two great dirty tyre marks all over the lawns that appear to be in order, but ultimately simply religious flesh. (Jesus dies in Jerusalem so we can live / die in Rome.)

Back to my travels… everything in the sky was ahead of schedule. We arrived early. I was lightly packed – one piece of hand luggage. Passport control – there was literally no-one in front of me. Lightly packed, easy travel, permission to enter… all wonderful.

But it take me all-but 2 hours to get from the plane landing to the train.

First ‘our’ gate is occupied.
Then the next gate there is problem their side and they cannot guide us in. We cannot even dock there and are finally removed down the rickety airplane steps, to make a back entry to the airport.
The train is still being formed so late:
Train being prepared so late:
Then change of platform.

A pattern – heavens clear:
Earth travel where the problems are:

Gates are occupied that stop us docking; we struggle to be guided in… I could go on…

But true story telling…

I see major key here. Religion occupies the gates, that makes for immaculate lawns… Acts 15 – although I am not convinced they got it ‘right – they did a good job, but there was a lot of contention in the gates, religious contention.

So they started by story telling. Not tradition, what should be, how do we keep the right order… Stories.
Stories leave dirty tyre marks.

Abandon the narrow path, aim for the neat lawns, get the revs up and kick up a bit of dirt. I know that in the past days something has shifted in the heavens. As I wrote at the beginning the ‘air’ has been thick for days. Something has shifted. Now we need to engage. There are planes where they should not be, they are in our gate; there are navigation systems that need sorting to guide us where we are to dock; there are trains that should have been formed already; there are platforms assigned. There is to be no more delay. Delay held in place through false wisdom, and through the times we stupidly worm our way in with our own agenda rather than simply throwing our lot in with what God is doing.

More than meets the eye

The eye… what one looks at, or more precisely ‘how’ one looks at ‘someone’ is important for us all. A central element in Paul seems to be that something has already happened, for

… if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor. 4:17).

That is pretty comprehensive: ‘there is… everything… everything.’ The preceding verse states that ‘we regard no one from a human point of view’. Sight has changed, how we view everyone. That is a challenge beyond a challenge. Vladimir Putin is included? I guess so, for when Paul said no one, he had to be including Caesar and that particular one who raised the sword against him – Nero, the person who sparked the ‘antiChrist’ theme of Revelation (666 / 616 both being how his name was numerised).

Now to a Jesus’ text on how we see.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:28).

Sight…

In John 8 we read of the woman ‘caught in adultery’ and of course we do not read of ‘the man caught in adultery’. Patriarchal world-view, let’s pin the blame where it belongs… and enough in Proverbs to back this up biblically. So Jesus saying ‘but I say to you’ is not simply going from action to the heart (via the eyes) but is also going against the flow of biblical patriarchy (yes I did write that). If we only had Jesus we would be reading the ‘man, and only the man is guilty’.

We have then a wonderful correction to patriarchy. We see the same thing with his statements with regard to divorce where he (unlike the culture of his day) gives equal rights to women as to men.

The purpose of the ‘look’ is central to what Jesus is saying, interestingly the word ‘lustfully’ does not actually appear. It is the Greek word, epithumeo, the same word that Jesus said when he spoke to his disciples that he desired to eat the Passover with them (Lk. 22:15), and is the word used to translate the 10th commandment:

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (Exod. 20:17, LXX).

The text is a whole lot deeper than ‘control your sexual desires’, for that 10th commandment includes coveting donkeys and animals. When we combine it with Paul I think it is informing us that our sight is important. Whether that concerns sexual boundaries, or other boundaries, but essentially it is to do with our desires of possession. If there is a new creation we can have our sight changed. Old (patriarchal) definitions have gone, indeed old creational definitions have gone. We do not ‘see’ anyone that way. Ticking the box concerning sexual ‘lust’ gets us so far, but there is much further to go. No-one is here to meet our expectations, nor to be the fulfilment of our desires. They are first seen as living in this new creation and so cannot be classified nor objectivised.

Cross – Tom Wright in summary

A pretty smart communicator this guy on the video… no not me!… a certain Mr. N.T. Wright. In a short 8 minutes he manages to squeeze in – the cross understood within the story; Israel’s exile; Messiahship; and the defeat of dark powers… and effectively side-steps ‘did God foreknow all this’. Pretty smart. I am nowhere as smart but he also does a good job of explaining my perspective… and perhaps wiser to sidestep the foreknowledge part, that I simply don’t sidestep!

What are you saying?

The voice is so important, not simply at an individual human level but at a corporate level.

The beast was given a mouth… (Rev. 13:5)

Two beasts, one rising from the sea and the second from the land (historically Rome across the waters and the Caesar cult worship in the locality) – a pattern that is repeated. In Creation we have heavens, water and land. The process is from heaven through the waters to the land, the water / sea taking on the symbolic representation of that ‘middle area’ that has to be tamed, the place where something can always rise up, hence the startling response to Jesus that ‘even’ the winds and waves obeyed him, leading them to say ‘what kind of human is he?’, and the final coming together of the binary of heaven and earth with that middle space disappearing with the statement that there was ‘no more sea’. The beast is given a voice… this always marks a major element in the advancement of imperial / demonic power, so there will always be the need to ask ‘who is speaking?’ to determine who the voice is representing.

Regardless of where one sits on the ‘open theology’ spectrum there seems to be a principle that certain responses are monitored to see what is in our hearts, and this is certainly true beyond the individual of movements or institutions. I am a big believer that all movements need regular (annual?) exorcisms for there is default pull which is the Babylonian pull.

Here are two thoughts I have.

A movement hits a crisis, and how they deal with it will determine the following years, and in that I am not suggesting it has to be dealt with perfectly – us acting perfectly? I don’t think so!!

Not perfectly but there is something about a dividing line that seems to me to be over ‘self-preservation’. The voice of Babylon is always that of ‘we will survive’, or in the words of scripture,

I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children (Is. 47:8).

Survival at all costs. Babylon can never go out of existence and will go on for generations to come. There will always come a time in every movement when they will face this issue. If they go down the integrity route they run the risk of defamation and even the end of their existence; so in comes the cover ups, the painting of the situation in a light (light??) that hides what has taken place. Survival is something that God grants, he alone has immortality, and gives it. Survival at all costs starts the path of self-sourced life. God does not disappear (too gracious for that), the stories continue but the real evidence of life slowly dissipates, that real evidence not being what is happening within a movement but through that movement. It is the testimonies beyond the movement that indicate the real impact.

To survive at all costs will be at all costs, costs to individuals and the individual voice. The voice of the corporation becomes mono-toned, unlike the voice of heaven, that voice being the multi-toned diverse sounds of many waters running, causing a sound that has to be leaned into in order that we can actually hear what is being said. The voice of heaven is accessible but not without a leaning into the sound. One does not have to lean to hear the voice of Babylon.

A second aspect that rises is where a movement has a centre and there is a buffer between the centre and those that ask the challenging question. That centre might be a person, or a few inner core, but the effect is the same they cannot really be accessed in order to hear and respond to the perspective that challenges behaviour or direction. Let me call it the ‘Mercury / Hermes principle. Paul and Barnabas arrived at Lystra and the people were impressed so attributed divinity to the two:

Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:12).

The ‘boss god’ and the interpreter for the god. That interpreter in our world is there to cover the ‘big’ cheeses, to make sure they are never viewed negatively, even to the point of ‘when they said xyz they really should not be understood as saying xyz but it really means…’, or ‘it is wrong to think they are not accessible it is just that they…’ In other words the ‘Hermes / Mercury’ principle is one of interpretation so that they are not directly accessible and they can never be critiqued.

Voices. Voices that self-promote, self-preserve and keep all honest critique at bay. That voice can be tracked back to the ‘beast from the sea’ and if we do we can be sure there will also be a ‘beast rising up in our land’.

Time to calm the waters and the winds. The voice of Jesus, clean, honest, simple, his breath (the wind from his mouth) will settle the waters. The waters are not evil. But they do have to be calmed.

A tentative suggestion

Let’s start with a definite piece of good counsel before anything tentative! ‘Do not fear’. Well that is pretty much good counsel, and though I have not counted them apparently that phraseology comes 365 times in Scripture. Fear is something that is very real and I love the Psalm where David makes two statements:

I trust in God and am not afraid.

The voice of strong faith!!! But he also says in the same Psalm:

when I am afraid I trust in God.

Not so strong, but ever so practical, and put the two together and he has covered his bases.

A short while ago I put out a video of ‘sight for 2022 into 2023’. In it I spoke of global food shortages, and of blights coming to harvests, and also some crisis in and among animals (for the non-vegeterians among us). I have noted today – though I am sure it has been there for some time – headlines about this, and of the cabinet of the USA meeting in September in an unusual call to look at how to respond to what they anticipate as the food crisis that is imminent.

I have repeatedly said that I see this year as being a combination of crises that somehow stack up to present a formidable challenge to global leadership. So my tentative suggestion goes something like this.

Don’t try to plan too much and have everything in vision form for the immediate 1-2 years ahead. If those plans are set they will need a lot of adjustment, with the accompanying likelihood of having to abandon them. Rather look 3-5 years ahead… then adjustments can be made without being de-railed, indeed the adjustments will play out well and enable the 5 years (or so) to align even better.

So no great wisdom in this… We can watch as things unfold: food, dollar crisis, international political handshakes that threaten stability, standoffs in the east etc… we can watch but only to a level that does not breed fear. And the storm will pass, the landscape will be different… be willing to step back from forcing things through – 2 years time what you thought you stood back from will be more accessible, and (guess what) we could be 2 years more mature by then!

No great wisdom in this post but if there is something in it I am sure you will have some sight as to how to navigate.

Time warp

There is a Scripture that records a strange event post-the resurrection of Jesus. So strange that a number of commentators suggest it was symbolic / theological not an actual event in space-time. I beg to disagree.

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many (Matt. 27:50-53).

It takes place in two steps. Tombs were opened at the moment of death. The realm of the dead is manifestly being impacted at that moment. Something happening visibly with the tombs and probably something happening invisibly to sheol / hades. Then after the resurrection of Jesus there was a resurrection, ahead of schedule(!), for those whose tombs had been made visible. Those saints, in resurrected form, appear to many in the city. The language and the timing of the events indicate to me that we are to read it as a literal occurrence, that was verifiable through eye-witnesses. The language is no different to that of the resurrection of Jesus, who appeared to many eye-witnesses.

A time warp? I think so. It seems to me that the resurrection of the dead is a future event, one that takes place when Jesus returns. Those who are dead rise, and come with the Lord and we are bodily transformed at that time, the time of the parousia. Yet here are saints in Matthew’s account who are raised – and it would seem raised (as per Jesus with resurrected bodies) not simply resuscitated (as per Lazarus, raised to die again). One of the the major future events happening out of time sequence… says a lot about the resurrection of Jesus. (Maybe an implication here such as what I wrote yesterday; the clock no longer being the instrument that tells the time, but people conversing together?)

I have very little idea what happens to those who have died; or to put it another way as to where they are / what is their state. I do know they are secure in the Lord, and the text I am considering suggests that I think there are some big surprises in it all. After all if time was disturbed (understatement!!) it is not likely we can work it all out, and along the way experiences that do not fit neatly with biblical material – after all this Scripture just does not fit well… maybe the other writers decided to stay well clear of recording this event for that reason!

Tick or talk?

Work while it is day

Then those who revered the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name.

Tick Tock

Time just rhythmically marking repetition
today like yesterday
never was the way it was meant to be

Tick Tock
Can mark what begins… or
signal yet another groundhog day.

Tick Tock
But the people wake up, they begin
to work, to work together, they could even…
converse together.
Talk Talk.

Talk Talk
If they converse, the clock…
The clock? Where has it gone? It can’t be seen
It does not need to be referred to, it recedes
The day is prolonged, could…
the night be postponed?

The conversing people begin to determine
how long the day is.
That was the way it was meant to be.

Talk Talk.

Perspectives