Two Trees

One of my privileges is to participate in the Zoom groups that are discussing the first volume, Humanising the Divine. Preparing for, and thinking about, the discussion afterwards occasionally helps me see some new patterns. Some groups have been in the chapter on Cornelius this week, and in that chapter I touch on ‘alienation’ as being the result of the various falls. (Note to reader, I read those chapters Gen. 1-11 as myth, myth being used to communicate truth, and in that setting more profound than anything literal; I see Gen. 1 and 2 being from two different sources, they being complementary; Gen. 3-11 being the backdrop to the call of Abraham, the one called to be the agent t solve the issues Genesis 3-11 outline.

If alienation is the result then the work of the Cross is that of reconciliation. Not reconciling God, but the God who was in Christ was reconciling the world to himself.

So this pushed me to look again at the trees. The only tree that was forbidden being the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation by the serpent (seen in ancient texts as the provocative agent of wisdom – ‘wise as serpents’? – , later Jewish and Christian of course as the Satan, the adversary) was to become as God. This would mean they (humanity) could determine what was right and wrong. It outworks either without God – I decide; or as present within religion, with ‘god’, and my book / tradition on my side informing me what is right and wrong, and I act it out. The ‘I’ in both cases is at the centre.

The relevance of this for the Cornelius chapter is Peter, the Jew, comes on the scene with an ‘unclean / clean’ divide. He is one side, Cornelius the other. His first words when entering the house of Cornelius is ‘now I perceive’. He saw differently. God has not endorsed the line that Peter had drawn.

The cross (tree) that Jesus died on (symbolically) was that tree (of the knowledge of good and evil). The tree that divides, that puts me on the right side and you on the wrong side. He dies (as human representative) to being the one who can determine what was right and wrong. That alone is reserved for God. Who is in / out… what does in /out mean… is there an in / out… what is unclean / clean… God’s territory, not ours. Result of death – reconciliation where there is no Jew nor Gentile…

So we are to be careful in making judgements. While we are keen to be under the judgement (assessment / critique) of heaven at a personal level. There remains what is unclean and what is clean… I think a clue is what dehumanises, what endorses me as above someone else. We have to be tentative as to how we respond to this. Brings me to the second tree:

The tree of life. Not to be eaten from alone. Not eaten from and then given to someone else. There is something corporate in the eating, a prelude to the final great banquet. It is the source of life, and life is not what is consumed but in what is given. In the giving there is a return. I think we even see the corporate nature in the protection of that tree – ‘lest they eat and live for ever.’ Every Gospel meal with Jesus is eating fruit from that tree.

Alienation. Only overcome by embracing the ‘other’. It was never good for there to be a solitary human, so the ‘other’ is formed. The other can be seen as the opposite – and that is one of the alienations resulting from the falls; or seen as ‘flesh of my flesh’. Different, but equal – humanised. The other acts as the mirror to see oneself.

Post falls the other is blamed and scapegoated. The blame game is the source of alienation resulting from dehumanisation.

Sadly our currently polarised oppositional world illustrates how far we are off course. The major fuel for the oppositional stance is supplied by ideologies and religion (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

Time for Gospel meals. ‘All of you (including Judas) eat’. ‘Eat what is set before you’ and there is healing and peace in the home.

So we can make no judgements as to what is good and evil? That would make life easy would it not? Live and let live… The background though is leaning that way – do not judge otherwise you will be judged. That needs a little balancing out, cos we will be judged! The area of greater caution is that of ‘judging the world’. Paul said:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside (1 Cor. 5: 12,13).

There is an appointed judgement but that is in the hands of the one appointed by God – the only true Human, Jesus.

But among those of us who follow Jesus. Seems Paul is saying ‘grow up’. You have been touched by the values of the age to come, when you will even judge angels – an indication that humanity in the image of God is closer to God than the angelic. If that is how we are to be then we should be able to sort out stuff among ourselves – even down to court cases (1 Cor. 6:1-3).

Never easy working all this stuff out. Don’t judge. Do judge. You will judge. A key seems to be that we give ourselves to ‘sincerity and truth’ (1 Cor. 5:8), and if anyone says ‘I follow Jesus’ but the core of their being is sexually immorality, greed, idolatry, slandering, drunkenness or swindling (1 Cor. 5: 11) we cannot ignore it. Pretty serious stuff as Paul says ‘Do not even eat with such people’. It seems there are two elements to help us move forward cautiously in this – we are to live personally with sincerity and truth; and the list is not simply pointing out traits but something at the core that they are giving themselves to (and of course we note that this is not something applied to those who make no claim to follow Jesus).

Volume Two

A piece of advice for all who are wanting to know what should they really do today. Rush to the web-site at Boz Publications:
https://www.bozpublications.com/significant-other
and get your order in. I do not wish to big this up but this is definitely the most significant Volume Two I have written in this series. Just in case I have overdone the publicity there let me counterbalance it with – wish I could say that this one is written so much better than Volume One, but I really can’t. Ah well we await a dynamic Volume Three!

If wishing to engage with this book I guess it can be done just as is, but it is really a follow on from Vol. 1. For that reason if you have not read Vol. 1 it is best to start there.

In it I suggest that the work of Jesus on the Cross is finished but the work of Jesus through his body is unfinished. Hence I explore the two ends of the spectrum concerning healthy groups: community (here to enhance one another) and movement (here to bring about a transformation in the wider world). Not surprisingly I emphasise the latter, while giving a nod toward the former! Following the trajectory of Israel, called for the health of the world as royal priesthood. Blah blah blah.

I have not yet decided but will probably run Zoom groups on this one on the book as a whole not on the individual chapters. I think that would allow for a freer discussion. Zoom groups would not begin before January.

Life… but not as we know it?

I was never a great Star Trek viewer but I do remember the line that was woven into a song:

It’s life Jim… but not as we know it.

Humanising the Divine. The Incarnation does just that. The resurrection makes it permanent. God was and is eternally humanised. Humble and accessible.

Then we come to the life of Jesus – fully human, but the temptation is to respond with ‘He’s human [Jim], but not as we know it’. And that is where it stops for many. An affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully human but with a huge advantage. Once we understand the miracles are not performed through his divinity, but by the anointing of the Spirit that closes the gap a little, but I think the aspect I am pursuing at the moment closes the gap further.

He is the GREAT LEARNER, breaking out beyond his contextually induced prejudices through his encounters with those he would not have been able to see (naturally) as fully human. Gentiles, Samaritans and women (maybe also children?).

Jesus gives God a human face, a human life; the great learner then humanises Jesus (I think Hebrews is the book that pushes this aspect, further than Paul for example does in his letters).

Maybe Jesus has an advantage over us. I certainly was not filled from my mother’s womb with the Spirit. But living life from then on? We are both on the same track. Through our encounters with those who our tradition / culture conditions us not to fully see, we can grow toward true humanness. (And maybe from a Christian perspective, those we have been able to label as ‘unclean’, and so are unable to see them with different eyes?)

And perhaps Jesus had an advantage. I am sure that I could not make it to becoming truly human, without sin along the way, and thus become a source of eternal salvation to all! Anointed by the Spirit, but always with a choice to follow the path of the Spirit or not. I am glad that he rescued us.

  • Jesus fully human – not an infusion mixture of divine and human. Like us.(Also fully God.)
  • Jesus, human anointed by the Spirit, in ways that we are not by nature, but in order to rescue us so that we can be anointed by the same Spirit.
  • Jesus, without sin, but not mature, going through the natural process of growth and development, with provocative encounters that confronted his environmentally induced perspectives that he stepped beyond. Thus becomes mature, becomes truly human.

I have often quoted the remarkable response of Jesus in the dialogue of Luke 13: 27, 28.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The woman’s worldview was one shared by and deeply imprinted on her mind by her culture. A woman started at the bottom, but could rise, provided: she was married, she was a mother, she gave birth to a son, and if the son could be a rabbi like Jesus then she would indeed be blessed.

Jesus’ reply completely transformed that worldview. With a ‘no… you are human, in the image of the divine… not in any way lesser than anyone else… gender does not enter into any assessment of value.’

Now I wonder did Jesus carry that transformative worldview with him, or did it come to him in that moment. Like us, most revelation of where we need to adopt a different worldview comes when we encounter something / someone that means we can no longer live with authenticity from the former box.

Jesus… When we look there we can say – there’s life and just as I know and experience it. His responses, his willingness to learn and adapt – now there’s a gap.

The small

I am just finishing the edits of volume 3 in the amazing series (oops… and I had some paragraphs in earlier versions of not believing one’s own advertising) of explorations in theology. The second volume will be available any day soon. Below I put in some extracts from the closing chapter of Volume 3.


We can be very thankful when there are believers who have a position where they can influence the future. In those situations they face particular challenges as to how they exercise any influence they have. The powers might even make space for believers who do not understand the kenotic nature of God. As a result the church might rejoice, and yet the healthy outcome the kingdom of God should bring is set back years. In such situations I think we might be witnessing two aspects: answered prayer and kingdom setback! So ironic as those two phrases (‘answered prayer’ and ‘kingdom setback’) should be a total oxymoron.

Following Jesus was once simple for me. Respond to Jesus as Saviour, read the Bible with a set of lenses that my tradition gave me, keep on track and make sure that I remained thankful for the ticket to heaven. Now, I realise that with a fresh prescription, the Bible ends up more wonderful, relevant and challenging than ever, that there is a path to follow, and as I long for heaven to come… I think you get the thrust.

I can only see the future that is healthy being made up of the multiplicity of the small. Not the uniformity of the big, the ‘one size fits all’ program. The small complemented by the richness of diversity.

Some will be positioned in a place of influence. Use it wisely, prayerfully, and in following Jesus, kenotically. Others will be marginalised, their gift not welcomed. Seek to live at peace with all, ‘as far as is possible’ (Rom. 12:18), and find a way of rejoicing that the one you follow was likewise marginalised.

The body of Christ is here to influence, to shape the world as is. Paul, working in specifically defined localities, used the highly politicised word, ekklesia, to describe the community he planted. The politicised term for those called to speak up concerning the future direction and to act in a way that helped shape their localities. We should expect that to continue, and with the incredible developments beyond localities (even now with ‘virtual spaces’) we should also anticipate that there will be an even greater diversity of expression. Shapes can change, ways of doing things can develop, but faithfulness to the story has to continue.

********

With the resurrection of Jesus a new world had already been brought to birth therefore old values were not appropriate. The ethics he proposed were based on behaviour suitable for a world different to that of the Imperial order. Rome instructed behaviour to be ordered ‘because you are members of Rome’; Paul instructed believers to behave a certain way because they ‘were members of each other’. Those who had received the Spirit of Jesus, and Spirit as in Person, were equipped to be the ones acting in that world. They were uniquely placed to live it out, to show and to inspire, and also to be persecuted.

In the course of the ongoing history of the world’s interaction with the people of Jesus there have been times of influence (for good and for bad), times of compromise and also of great opposition. The church has grappled with the questions raised. Questions such as, ‘Is the church to be separate, somehow holy and set apart from the world?’ And at times of extreme opposition, ‘Is the world destined to always oppose the values of the kingdom?’ And at times when the lines have been blurred, the question arises ‘Is the world to embrace the values without embracing the Person of Jesus?’

Those, and many more, questions persist. This volume has not answered them all. In this book you will have had hints at my responses to the questions. My responses, not the final word, and my responses at this time and context. We can, and should, seek to make our response so that at this time in history we are faithful to the trajectory as we understand it. To do that we need wisdom from heaven, grace toward one another, and an insatiable draw to the world, the environment where God has placed us.

No Comment

I was sent a long (spelt looooooooooooong) message from someone who does not live in the USA asking me to forward it to contacts. It was a long explanation as to how much good Trump had done and how Biden is not going to be good for the USA, and written in very strong terms. I replied saying I could not forward it, and not because I am anti-Trump. I also could not forward such a message if the content was reversed.

Such messages do not help bring about a level of understanding of one another, but simply increase the polarisation. There are those who are extremists, but most people see themselves as pretty much in the centre. My centre for some is extreme! Gayle and I have been called communists when in the USA! For those who believe that health care is a privilege to be paid for we are extreme left! From my position on the spectrum others are extreme right. (In Spain where I am able to vote I vote for what the media often terms as ‘extreme left’, I am told most evangelicals are now leaning toward the ‘(extreme) right’. Votes are never easy – the party who tends to get my vote are pro-choice. That is not a comfortable position but I find many other parties are not pro-life once the life is born – that too is not comfortable if the X goes against their name.) There are extremists on both left and right but for the most part people simply want something better than what is here. The important part is not where we are on the spectrum but how we relate to those of a different persuasion.

I could not forward the message because there was nothing redemptive in it and it can only sow into the divide (again the documentary ‘The Social Media’ is an eye opener).

Second, not only do I not live in the USA but I am not responsible for her. Many things in the world disturb us and we can feel responsible but powerless. It leads more to criticism than effectiveness (I see no issue with being disturbed and as a result having an opinion, but taking responsibility for something is considerably more helpful). Whatever we mean by ‘the Lord spoke to me’, the Lord spoke to me one day saying that I was not responsible for the USA and I needed to leave that in the hands of those who were taking responsibility. It was a release, but also pushed me to take responsibility for what was – in measure – landing on my lap. If responsible I have a right of input, of say. Ever been tempted to criticise the parenting of someone else? For that reason I have never been able to claim that I was a ‘good’ father, nor for the same reason a ‘good’ husband.

In the flow of reading the LOOOOOONG message, footsteps came up our apartment block. There on the door was an eleven year old. He came in for about an hour. I had a Zoom call lined up. Into my incredibly important life he came.

Make the connection, Martin.

Pray for the future of a land – and maybe we are not doing too well when we consider how things are for many people, but pray for the future and at least make some space for a person born in the land and in the future will fill space after I have gone from here.

So back to my WhatsApp. One candidate might be much better than the other. I might have an opinion on that… but I need to be able to see an eleven year old as through the eyes of his creator / redeemer. Resent him coming in and disturbing me, send the WhatsApp (or an opposite one) to whoever. I hope I am better than that. I hope we all are.

Jesus: great Teacher / Learner

Jesus was more than a great Rabbi, but a great teacher and revealer of who God truly is. When he spoke there was a wisdom that astounded people, so his words are words of ‘eternal life’, and the words are just that because they come from his inner reality, that reality that carried and revealed the God he spoke about.

Following on from the post on sinlessness being also a growth toward a fullness of true humanity, rather than something static and intrinsic to some internal nature, I have one further suggestion.

Jesus was a GREAT TEACHER because he was a GREAT LEARNER.

Jesus and sinlessness

A little cheat here – this post is a copy of a post I have written on the forum that I hope will develop with respect to discussing the book(s) I am writing on explorations in theology (invisible sub-title – ‘and with huge gaps in the suggestions’). I have suggested book #1 a re-centring of the concept of sin as being to fail to be truly human. That made me think – so if we re-centre that definition, we should also try to re-centre the definition of sinlessness.

Forum link:

Forum


An interesting possibility with regard to sin / sinlessness. If the heart of sin is defined as ‘never discovering the reason for which one was born’ (a paraphrase of Walter Wink’s creative approach), or as failing to be truly human, thus falling short of the glory of God (my attempt!), we would also need to re-think sinlessness.

Traditionally we have sin as falling short of a set of standards, and sinlessness (of Jesus) as being some form of perfection. If that view is badly skewed Jesus becomes the superhuman. However, when we raise questions such as ‘did baby Jesus cry?’, (or ‘did he push back against his parents’) we press into normal human behaviour and development. It is very hard not to attribute this level of normalcy to Jesus, otherwise in what sense was he fully human. So why not also posit other areas of development? He lived life as a first-Century Jew, his culture influencing him. He does not arrive here from somewhere else untouched by here. He is a baby that grows. I suggest that he grew in his truly humanness as he was confronted by situations. He learned obedience…

Although he was a son he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for who obey him (Heb. 5: 8,9).

These verses are either tied specifically to the struggle in Gethsemane (verse 7), but even if it is I think we are not pushing it too far to posit that what was applied to his struggle in Gethsemane, was typical of his journey throughout his life. He is on a journey toward ‘truly’ human. Once he becomes ‘perfect’ (the verb from the word group telos, to reach the goal). Although I question the literalness of Adam and Eve, the narrative does not have them created ‘perfect’ but with the possibility of moving toward perfection or away from it. To manifest glory, or to manifest shame; to display the image of God, or to distort it. The verdict is, whether we are in the people of the Law or not, all (‘both’: Jew and Gentile alike) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Jesus is not manifested ‘perfect’ – in the same sense of Adam and Eve. He can move toward ‘perfection’ (reach the goal of being truly human). It is a journey. Once reached he becomes the source of eternal salvation.

Did Jesus know the right response before the various events, or does he make the right responses when required? He challenges Simon the Pharisee concerning his sight of the prostitute, with the words ‘do you see this woman?’ Jesus saw the woman, but when did he see the woman? Did he approach the situation ‘perfect’ and ready, or was it a challenge to him and then he came through yet this one more hurdle on the path to being truly human.

He became perfect (a process), though was never with sin at any point.

[Another example might be that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, asking for healing for her daughter. Jesus replies with (a defence?) that he was sent to the house of Israel; she replies with ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs’. Jesus replied with a comment about her faith, someone outside of the Israel community – and a woman. Does she help Jesus to jump another barrier, another prejudice? We could also suggest the centurion whose servant is healed simply through Jesus speaking the word, causing Jesus to respond that he had not found such faith anywhere else in Israel (Lk. 7:9). Are these encounters with non-Jews (and a woman) essential to help Jesus on the path of true-humanness? And on the latter story the connection to Cornelius, the centurion might make an interesting link (also in a book written by Luke).]

A 72% perspective I have

This site is headed as ‘perspectives’. I just held back from calling it ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ but then just mentioned to resist. I am now involved in these zoom groups and believe it or not there is not just a simple agreement that what I have written there is the finished article. I am shocked! So I thought I would scribble here a few thoughts that are maybe along the lines of a perspective that is firming up. Don’t take it as the truth (unlike everything else I write….)

I am still wrestling a little with how I write vol. 5 which I plan to be an introduction to our hope. First what I don’t go for – no millennium (just too many symbolic numbers in the book to try to make this one literal); no Armageddon (the place does not exist, indicating that surely it cannot be literal); no rapture (an invention from 1831); no signs of the times (a little more controversial and take a little longer to explain why); etc. So not along the lines of what many think of as conventional eschatology. My question is whose conventions?

Basically for me very simple. We provide the building blocks (hence Paul’s warning to apostles not to mess around in 1 Cor. 3) and God builds it. We do not build it; God does not provide the material. Then Jesus has not yet returned as not enough material.

Can be a little depressing as it would be nice for God just to wind it all up and all the injustices sorted. So, if we are waiting, a lot seems to be down to us… But here is a thought.

What if there is already (and has been for some time) enough material to wind it all up and to bring in the age to come. But the age to come could be even better yet and for this reason God would like to hold back a little longer so that it can be even better still?

Crazy thought? Well it is only a perspective and one that I am only 72% endorsing. I do wonder though if the word ‘eschatos’ pushes us beyond the 72% conviction? ‘Telos’ is the other word for ‘end’ in NT Greek, used for example of Jesus being the end of the law, the terminus and termination. Maybe eschatos (‘eschatology’) indicates it is the end but not the final. What if the eschaton is to be the beginning of something incredible, and God is holding back to give us the best beginning that we can help bring about?

Social Dilemma

Biased - me? Never!

We recently watched this film ‘The Social Dilemma’. Frightening as it exposes the algorithms that give us feeds that are in line with our tastes / ‘biases’. So if I read news feeds, social media ensures that what I read is in line with my political bias. The term ‘fake news’ is so abused, but if I read conspiracy items aligned to one side of the argument I will receive yet more items confirming the conspiracy. Eventually my rightness will be confirmed by many voices, and I will be closed to any contrary voice – indeed I will not even be able to read them as they will not be fed to me. If I do come across any it will instantly be discerned as ‘fake news’. All driven by advertising so as I get it all for free. Free as in ‘at the cost of my own soul’.

I would love to be analysed as to what I read and why. I am not on social media – yes this will be linked to a facebook page – but I am never on facebook, never read if anyone leaves a comment there (well maybe I have read one or two this year). I am not on twitter, dah, dah, dah. But I am still pretty sure that pure Mr. Scott is not exempt.

If I was (just by way of example!) of a left-leaning politics my feed would be hyper at this time in the USA pre-election. (Coming from Europe I am not sure what with as Mr. B running is anything but left wing… even the suggestions is that former president Mr. Ob was more right than many of his predecessors from the Republican party!) If I was (and this time it is genuinely by way of example) of a right wing persuasion my feed would be biased in the other direction all-together. The result – the divide is exaggerated; civil war at one level or another. [BTW I suggest that Jesus would label all war as civil war – war against ourselves and fellow humans.]

I have to confess that once we make an alignment we are in great danger. If we do not realise that we are biased and find it hard to hear the opposite we will soon be in trouble. (We were privileged – now almost two years ago to have a conservative, anti-Brexit person staying with us. So good to hear from them. So hard to listen, but I think we managed to listen.)

So we are biased. The ‘other’ is biased. The question we ask is ‘are you for us or for the other?’

If we are to sow any seed that has any element of the Gospel in it there has to be seeds of love, respect and peace. Once we sow anything that is dehumanising we have lost the plot. A call to pick up arms (literal), or to revert to using the arms of hate speech (and maybe words are more powerful than arms as hate words fashion arms and they become more lethal as a result) can never be used.

The difference that has to mark us out cannot be what news feeds do we receive. The bias was already there, social media just exaggerates it. The difference has to be love. And if love can be present there is room for faith and hope.

We’re all

We’re all drinking from cups that are too small. There’s a river. And the arrows that we’re firing that were once sharp are now blunt. They miss the target and fall down useless. Someone suggests we need a new box of arrows…

In the middle of the night I woke with this dream and know better than leave it to the morn to try and recall it. My phone was bright and stuck on bold, which was hurting my tired eyes, three times I tried to get back to normal font but the two words We’re all wouldn’t change and stuck as the title.

There is something in this time, this pandemic era, about unlearning and relearning. There’s a stripping away of what we’ve always done and known.

The emphasis on individuals struck me in the dream. Individuals are important; the pandemic is pushing us into smaller and smaller gatherings. Each of us is finding new ways to live and work.

Individuals are truly essential because we are part of a body. Do we know who we are? And are we functioning in our individual roles? Have we lost sight of the richness of diversity? We’re a body made from remarkably varied parts.

Cooperate identity became bland. Homogeny is disfunction.

It’s time for us individually to really know who we are and to re-function in that revelation.

Many people are going to retrain, move job, begin to point themselves in the direction they’ve actually always wanted to go, consciously or not. Old personal identity issues are going to resurface creating the opportunity for new levels of resolution. Who we are matters.

Why are we drinking from cups? The cups are too small. The cups are individual and inadequate. Our font/source has been held in a limited container. Our resources / life will run out unless we reposition ourselves.

There’s a river in front of us all in the dream. There’s a river.

We are invited to go straight to the water, straight to the source of all life and provision and to put our faces in the river and drink. It’s not about intermediate tools or intermediate people. They are both too small. There is a limit. We are individually responsible for how we drink.

…….

I was recently asked to interpret a dream and immediately reacted to a specific image and believed the symbolism to be negative. After clearing my mind of my own prejudices and thoughts, a totally different interpretation came to me. Our bias and old views have got to be laid aside in order to see the new. Old assumptions don’t cut it.

So, it’s time for the new box of arrows. The arrows are what…? Previously I would have seen arrows to represent prophecy and prayer and word. Now I see the arrows as our very being and also therefore our focus. The new arrows will be sharp and focused. The things that used to work are now blunt and general and ineffective. The ‘same old’ has gone and is now useless. Where, as individuals, are we focused? It’s time to focus on our true being, and being true, truly be focused. An arrow is not a bomb; it’s a specifically targeted, individually fired entity. Aimed at one small space. What is your space? What are you born for? Who are you really?

We’re all in this together so let’s, each of us, be true to who we really are and drink deeply from the one who made us as we reposition ourselves to be truly authentic.

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