Another Gospel

I am continuing with some Zooms going through the various volumes of ‘Explorations in Theology’, seeking to emphasise that they are no more than that, and hope that they provoke whoever comes on the Zooms to continue in their journey and convictions. I am convinced that the key for us all is to be connected to Jesus not to a set of beliefs. As I state ‘all theology leaks… I just pretend my leaks less than all others!’ Last night I had (at least for me) a very productive Zoom on chapters 5 and 6 of ‘The Lifeline’. Below I copy Chapter 5 of that book… (All available at https://bozpublications.com in hardback or eBook format).


Chapter 5

Another Gospel

Paul is considerably different to the likes of you and me! (I trust I did not hear any dissent to that statement.) The writer of so much of the biblical material that has shaped Christian faith and practice, a person who encountered the Risen Christ in a most dramatic encounter, who spent years fashioning the Gospel and its implications for his society and beyond. We gladly follow his lead. He carried an authority with regard to the Gospel and that authority meant he could describe certain proclamations as being a ‘different gospel’. We have to tread carefully when seeking to make statements of a similar nature, though it seems clear that not all ‘gospels’ can be harmonised one with another. There are different ‘gospels’ and when the differences are extreme those gospels represent different versions of God, or perhaps they even represent different gods. We are to find unity with all who are of faith, but when a person denies the Gospel by deed or presentation it becomes hard to recognise them as a family member. We should be cautious in coming to a decision, but I have to confess that increasingly with some presentations of ‘truth’ that, by design or by default, dehumanise those being addressed, I find it hard to reconcile the ‘god’ they speak of as being the God that I discern through my understanding of Jesus. If the ‘gods’ are different, are the ‘gospels’ not different? And the inevitable question pops up – are we actually brothers and sisters? Perhaps we are more like estranged family members and in that great age to come when we will see clearly we will see that we were both in part wrong, both advocating a ‘different gospel’. Conviction (my beliefs that I hold to in the light of how I read what I read) and humility (I am more self-critical than critical of others) are needed.

In 2001 I was participating in a conference in Hannover, Germany. At the end of the session in which I had shared, a number of believers from Spain came to me and through an interpreter said that in Spain there was not the history of revival such as could be claimed by the UK, and as I had spoken about the re-digging of the wells of historic revival what should they do. This was not a question I was prepared for and surprised myself when my response to them was:

In Spain you do not need a history of revival. What other nation on the face of the earth can, on the basis of biblical authority, claim to have first century unanswered apostolic prayers sown into the land. Go dig them out.

After the session I had to think about the response I had given and quickly came to understand that Paul’s desire to get to Spain was to proclaim in the Western end of the empire (the ends of the earth?) the Gospel. He was not looking for a holiday on the beach but somehow to make a proclamation in the land. Opinion is divided as to whether he made a trip to Spain. I like to think not, but irrespective, the prayers of Paul are in the land. This does not mean that his prayers are only present in Spain, nor that only in Spain can the Pauline Gospel be recovered, but that something can be done in this peninsula in order to help facilitate the recovery of that Gospel. At one level all other gospels are at best a variation of the one he proclaimed, or at worst they are indeed ‘another gospel’.

In Acts we read Scriptures concerning the early apsotolic proclamation and there are often summary statements of what they proclaimed. We read (emphases added):

Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:35).

Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20).

A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18:5). 

For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 18:28).

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13).

You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jewsh and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus (Acts 20:20, 21).

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus (Acts 28:23).

He proclaimed the kingdom of Gods and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance! (Acts 28: 31).

In these summary statements of the early Christian proclamation we do not find some of the big salvation words: justification, reconciliation, redemption, substitutionary atonement. What we do find is that the proclamation was about Jesus. When the content is expanded it might include the resurrection (the whole basis on which there is a new world order) or a proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah (when addressing Jews). The summaries are not the totality of what was proclaimed but are a description of what (or who) was at the core of what was being proclaimed. In the context this proclamation of Jesus is best understood as an announcement that the possibility of a different world had opened up through the vindication of Jesus by the resurrection. As outlined in previous volumes this was the true Gospel of which all others, and in particular the Caesar version, were sad parodies.

The Pauline Gospel

In later volumes I plan to look at the biblical perspective on eschatology (or maybe better put ‘my take on it’!) and I have always found it strange the theology that insists on God as creator and also as the one who will destroy it all. As creator he could of course do just that, but the Incarnation (taking on flesh) and the resurrection (of flesh), and the value God places on ‘dust of the earth’ surely indicates that there is a wonderful future for creation. Humanity’s commission for the creation and Israel’s (failed) commission for the world are the reasons for the Incarnation, an intervention in order to get everything back on track.

Everything centred in on Jesus; Paul says ‘For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ’ (2 Cor. 2:20). Little wonder Acts presents the summary as ‘they proclaimed Jesus’. In Jesus a new world becomes possible; this new world being the current world brought to maturity, not simply through growth toward, but by a final transformation ‘at his coming’. At the resurrection of Jesus a radical ‘time-warp’ occurred. This is not a great surprise as the Jewish hope for the resurrection of the body was that it would take place at the ‘end’. Jesus was raised before the end, and so we might say, in the middle of time. Matthew’s Gospel records that the event was so eschatologically significant that other saints also obtained resurrection ahead of time.

The time-warp means that this new world, though still future, is now also present. It seems to be this that is behind Paul’s language of ‘new creation’. For those who are in Jesus, there is a change of perspective. The old has gone, the new is here. It appears that Paul is suggesting this is more than a way of thinking but that it points to a reality. Experiencing and believing that reality is to be seen in the lives of those who are in Christ and reflected in how they see others. Paul was not simply looking for decisions based on a gospel message that ended with the appeal verbalised as ‘hands up all those who want their sins forgiven and be born again’. The proclamation of Jesus carried much more weight than that, and a response meant a submission to being discipled in the values and ways of heaven. Thankfully this was more than a call to adhere to the teachings of Jesus as opposed to the ideologies of Rome, for those who committed to the Lordship of Jesus received the Spirit of God that connected them not to a set of values but to the very life-source of the universe.

In the Imperial context of the first century those early disciples were challenged ever so deeply concerning their morals and ethics, and they were often opposed and marginalised. They knew, all too well, that, although there was a ‘new creation’, the old was not simply disappearing. Knowing that the final transformation would take place when the same Jesus who ascended to heaven would descend again, they understood that their (at times) small contributions were in fact like seed in the ground that would bring that final irruption of heaven ever closer.

This expectation of this world being transformed, and the language consistently used in the New Testament within the Imperial context of Rome, inevitably meant there was a political element within the message. Not a message that called for allegiance to a party, but a message that shaped how those who believed the proclamation lived and what they wanted to work toward. If, in our setting, the proclamation of the Gospel becomes nothing but politics we can say that is not the Pauline Gospel; but when the message we adhere to speaks out against all kinds of injustices and carries the creative hope for the flourishing of all we are indeed being faithful to Paul’s Gospel.

On the road to Damascus Paul had had his encounter with the One he was previously opposed to. His previous framework of reference was totally blown away. Prior to this he could genuinely categorise himself as ‘righteous’.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless (Phil. 3: 4-6).

From his post-Damascus perspective he gave no value to what was previously thought as credit-worthy. For Paul, Jesus was not an add on to his previous faith, but the means by which his faith was transformed. That being his experience it is understandable why he was unwilling to shackle any Old Testament stipulation on Gentile converts. Everything was centred on Jesus, and he was the lens through which everything pre-Jesus now had to pass. Righteousness now came through being in him, not through being in ‘Israel’.

Paul, faultless according to the law, but once he was in Christ, ‘the worst of sinners’.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Tim. 1: 12-17).

Zealousness and righteousness previously were interpreted as requiring a persecuting of those (Jews) who adhered to faith in Jesus. Post-the-Damascus-encounter he no longer understood that his faith demanded he did God’s work by making sure everything was clean and therefore pleasing to God. He now understood to do so was wrong and if he was a sinner then so were his fellow Jews and, of course, the Gentiles. But as chief of sinners he knew that God could save anyone. As a sinner he was a blasphemer, one who took the name of God in vain, claiming to act for God. He now understood he was opposing God as he had misrepresented the God he believed he was serving; speaking and acting for him, he now understood, was acting on behalf of another ‘god’. The ‘conversion’ at the gates of Damascus did not bring about a minor tweak to his beliefs and practice!

He explains that he now understood that formerly he was a blasphemer because in the name of God he was a persecutor and a violent person. Previously he had no need to ask God (as Joshua did), ‘are you for us or for our enemies?’ The answer was clear! However, what wisdom and insight there is in Joshua’s question. Is God for us or for our enemy? If we align with Jesus, understanding the requirement to love our enemy and even death on their behalf will be sufficient to bring us to a place of humble silence. God is for our enemy!

The Pauline Gospel opens the door to all. Without doubt the whole world is locked in the prison of sin, but God is rich in mercy. Failing to be human might bring about condemnation, but God saw Paul’s activity as due to ignorance and unbelief. Understandably Paul had a desire to proclaim Jesus and present the call to believe in him.

Belief in Jesus is not an automatic response to hearing about him. There is a huge resistance to this taking place.

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4).

Ignorance about God, for the work of the god of this age is to keep God as the ‘unknown god’, and the one who cannot be known, is something that the Gospel addresses. The God that Paul proclaimed was the God who saves sinners. No one beyond the scope of salvation (not Judas who betrayed Christ, nor Peter who denied him, nor Paul who blasphemed him). God, though not human, has a human face, for it was Jesus who met Paul and addressed him personally. God, though in heaven, comes close, so close that the Spirit enters a person. Signs, wonders, miracles all being evidence of the relative ease and frequency of heaven spilling out into this world, of the future invading the present. Exorcisms breaking bondages to the god of this age, for there is only one God present in the ‘new creation’ age.

The Gospel Paul was gripped by started with an explanation of who this God was. Not a God that could be invented, not even one who could be found through the pages of a book, but had to be ultimately discovered through an encounter with the Person who was the ‘image of God’ who truly carried glory. The response to this Gospel was one of faith. The good news had to be believed for transformation to take place.

‘Ignorance and unbelief’ was the soil from which all manner of anti-God behaviour sprang forth. True enlightened knowledge and faith became the soil that would produce fruit that resonated with heaven’s values.

The Gospel was a leveller. What Paul counted as something that he could chalk up on the credit side of his life was eventually valueless. The Gospel did not come with a respect of status and once responded to any such status did not position someone hierarchically in the community of faith, hence the total resistance to Peter, and the freedom with which Paul felt to label him a hypocrite.

The mountains were levelled, the valleys raised. All (Jew and Gentile) sinners alike; all called to repentance, to believe the Gospel that was the power of God to salvation (to the Jew first, and to the Gentile). All of humanity having failed to attain and reveal the glory of God; and all of humanity invited to come through the door to a new creation reality, and to be engaged in a co-operative work with God within the new creation developing. To reduce the Gospel to a set of laws; to fail to understand how it carried a vision for transformation through challenging the status quo; to use the Bible as a set of timeless truth texts; to fail to err on the side of including the formerly defined as ‘unclean’; to consider that we are doing God’s work for him; the list can probably go on. We might never be able to stand alongside Paul and say, ‘we too understand the Gospel as you did’, but the more we align to one or more of the above phrases the more likely it is that we have deviated from the Pauline Gospel, the more likely we have embraced ‘another gospel’, and the more open we will be to be defined (as Paul self-defined his previous righteous life) as a blasphemer.

First open Zoom date

I have set October 5th., 7.30pm UK time for the first zoom date where all are invited. I will take this first one, so it will have my bias, the bias that is reflected in the four books ‘Explorations in Theology’. It will not be necessary to have read (nor purchased!) the books. These zooms are open to anyone – it is not a requirement that you have been on the previous / current zooms that are going through the four books.

Not all the evenings will be of a theological bias, I plan for ones also to be practical and ethical. And this one, and any others that are more theological / biblical based will also push in to the ‘so what’ practical areas.

The first one will be on reading Luke’s two volumes politically – which is one of the strong underlying thrusts in his writings (my opinion!). It is not to do with political party politics.

On the home page https://3generations.eu is a form – simply fill this in to ‘enroll’. It means I will have an idea of numbers, also I have to send you a zoom link and also a document I have written up trying to plot the path of the political theme. I will not re-hash the paper on the evening. A short synopsis and then questions, elements that we can pick up for discussion – some of which could well be based on any suggestions that you have proposed having read / skimmed / scribbled all over the document.

Looking forward to seeing you!

A plan for an open evening

Summer has not yet gone, but time to plan for the fall / autumn and winter is already here–end of August, how come so early this year? I have valued the interactive Zoom calls that have used the books (‘Explorations in Theology’) as their base. I plan to continue with them, and also alongside them to start a once a month ‘open evening’ – probably first Tuesday of the month, starting in October. So this is just a heads up on those.

They will consist of a theme which will include ethical / practical themes as well as simple biblical / theological ones. They will take the same format as the Zooms on the books. Something to read beforehand, a 10 minute summary / expansion / setting the scene then open discussion. They are not intended to bring something to a conclusion and hopefully will be open to a diversity of views being expressed. I will take some of those evenings but I also plan that others will be the main contributors.

The first one will be a simple one–reading Luke/Acts politically; how the politics and context of Luke is the backdrop to the message, from the offer to Jesus of being the Caesar of God’s choice–a kind get the right person in the white House / Number 10 / Moncloa etc… through to Paul in Rome. (Firm date and details I will post here.)

I hope in subsequent months we could look at sexuality, transgender.

Perhaps one that could be incredibly challenging on ‘humanity in the image of God’ is the future of humanity and AI. What about all those who will receive a ‘chip’ to enhance their abilities; the part human / part machine future… Just when I thought I had everything buttoned down!

I have not decided on the themes and they will evolve month by month, and the need for others to contribute will be necessary, the issues we face are complex.

Not all the subjects need be too complex, but I do want them to have a practical application. It will not be necessary to join each month, come to one, come to them all, come to none (booooohooooo!), pick and choose.

Same ‘rules’! Martin / whoever presents the material is not assumed to be ‘right’. Participants joining do not assume they are ‘right’. Listen and not pontificate…

Hope to see some of you in October.

A Subversive Movement

The third volume is out in the series Explorations in Theology. A Subversive Movement tries (wish I could put ‘succesfully’ at that point of the sentence) to take the theme of Volume 2 – ekklesia, the Signficant Other to Jesus to carry on the mission of Jesus, now beyond the Jewish world to the transformation of the Imperial one-world government of Rome – and to apply it practically.

I push away from ‘Seven Mountains’ and from ‘Kings and Priests’, and any concept of a Christian nation… but want to see how we can be present within all aspects of society, but carrying a different Spirit, and also learn how to live with compromise.

https://www.bozpublications.com/shop

A tale of remotes

I feel a story coming on…

Last summer when we travelled in the north of Spain we had enormous issues with the remote control to lock and unlock our van. The key worked in the door manually but only with great difficulty, twisting it this way and that. But we got there and back and were able to lock and unlock our personal transport when we needed to – even if it took a little longer than one would wish.

Not everything is a sign, but there are times when you have to slow down and ask. Our journey was preceded by hearing ‘You need to take the manual key with you’. I ignored that – no comments about my stupidity please!! So when the remote proved an issue we did slow down and sought to see if there was a significance in it all. The manual key was the one that we should have brought along, so the one you use in situ was going to be important.

It was of course in the season when we knew we had to be in Madrid. We had been turned down by the power of Mammon and then by the power of the legal system. I had had a (tentative) sense for some while that we would offer on 3 properties and would get the third. On our way back home we went to the centre of Madrid where there is a statue of Madrid’s symbol (a bear) and we took our key, placed it on the bear to declare we are coming. We understood the Lord was saying we could not simply lock and unlock from a distance and that now we needed to be in the city to do things on site.

Fast forward… We have TV in Oliva through a company called Orange. A large number of the buttons on the remote control for the TV stopped working. So I phoned them a few weeks back and they agreed to send a new one. A week or more went past. I phoned them again, and again, and a third time this Tuesday. Other than the annoyance of the waste of time I quite enjoy such calls, but the issue was ‘get it here quick cos we are going to Madrid and on to Malaga and won’t be back for 2 weeks’.

Eventually I tracked it down – they were trying to deliver it to Cadiz. We left there 5 years ago and never had Orange provide a service to us there in Cadiz. They had even been trying to call me on a cell phone we had in Cadiz (not an Orange phone), not on the cell phone that Orange gave us and have on their records as our phone number!! Go figure!

We will get it from Cadiz to you, they said. I said, well we won’t be here!

Next day we leave, off to Madrid. As we drive out of Oliva, I see a delivery van – I have no idea how many come in per day but there must be hundreds. ‘Gayle turn around and catch him, I am going to ask him if he has our package!.’ A three point turn later and no sight of him. A few streets later I see the delivery van. Pull over. ‘Tienes un paquete para Scott a la playa?’. What street…? Yes I do! So 10 minutes later we have the remote for our TV in Oliva as we continue to drive to Madrid.

The story continues… If you are lost remind yourself it is about remotes and the story has an ending and a purpose – at least in my little head!

We are renting an underground parking space in Madrid as there is now a red zone inside of which you cannot drive your car. When we were given the remote for the garage back in January he said – it does not always work, you might have to use it manually. That was certainly true – probably 90% of the time it would not work when we were here previously. This time we turn up, immediately it works, and has done every time since!

Remotes. Here we are in Madrid. We could no longer affect Madrid remotely and have to be on site. But we have remotes that work in Madrid now and remotes from elsewhere for other places. Sweet!!

Of course we have authority over all the works of the enemy, but that is not a universal truth in the sense of I pray today and all demons world wide are paralysed. It applies to our personal lives and what we have responsibility for. In taking responsibility we have to find the leverage points that means our authority is effective.

A tale of remotes!!! Change things from one place for others. So off now to the Supreme Court. Put the manual and personal presence key in as representing Jesus and maybe a few remotes will also be pressed for elsewhere.

Burgos and Ferrol

Gayle and I have just returned from a 2,700km (1,600 mile) drive and camp around northern Spain. Both a great break and also time to reflect on the wider land where we are located. This included sleeping in a car park to cliff headlands, a field and also a few random days in camp sites (it is helpful to have a shower – helps when co-habiting a small space!). In those days away we took in two larger cities – Burgos and Ferrol. So rather than expand on what deodorants we used to compensate for the (few) days without a shower I will focus on these two cities.

We always love to walk around a city, to observe, pray and speak to it – sometimes of course it will speak back, usually at night time. Burgos was our first stop so I will start there. A ‘proper’, well-behaved city, with everything in place. (Photo above title: Burgos cathedral.) A place that does not overtly resist what comes in new but will domesticate it before long. The city is calling for a person / persons / corporate body that will not be owned but come with a generous spirit speaking life to everything that is truly life-giving. So willing to relate to all expressions of the body of Christ but investing into both what is young (as in age of people) and fresh. Such a person has to be able to carry humour in the sense of not being focused on what they are building but on the life they are releasing. If this can rise there will be a time to make a key response when they are offered a place at the table of respectability, and at that time without disrespect to simply to continue to focus on the margins. The city is calling for it now!

Ferrol… we visited here primarily because this is the birth place of Franco (Photo: Franco’s birthplace – where we prayed), and we visited here on a Thursday. The next day the Spanish government passed the edict to exhume Franco’s body from the Valley of the Fallen. This is both historic in seeking to resolve some of the outstanding issues from the Civil War (1936-39) and the period of the dictatorship (1939-75) and for us in our journey into the history of Spain. (Co-incidentally Pablo Iglesias (1850-1925) the founder of the Spanish socialist party was also born in Ferrol.)

It is always challenging to see a city when coming with an agenda, but for us this place carried an affluence and a pride that was just beneath the surface. A place that has to discover the gift of mercy and align to where it is going rather than hold in to a history. To live here as a believer would certainly be a challenge. Think, pray and act long term. Invest in what is at hand, staying hidden, but waiting for the openings when there can be a shift for windows of opportunity will come in this city – it cannot put up defenses that are impregnable.

In praying at the house where Franco was born we simply knew we were there to cut off a root. we have experienced on a number of fronts that we have seen a significant proposed shift only for it not to take place so are also now focused on making sure we finish what we get involved in. Although the government has passed the vote, there could still be an appeal to the courts to reverse the decision to exhume the body. As mentioned in a recent post Valley of the Fallen is located alongside El Escorial – a place that very early on we realised was a power situation where dominating power was anchored, which has greatly affected the church in Spain. We have not yet made a specific visit to El Escorial but are pretty sure the day will come.

Burgos y FerrolGayle y yo acabamos de regresar de un viaje de 2.700 km por el norte de España. Un tiempo de descanso y para reflexionar sobre la tierra en la que nos encontramos. Esto incluyó dormir en: un parking publico, los promontorios de los acantilados, un campo y también algunos días aleatorios en los campings (es útil darse una ducha: ¡ayuda al cohabitar en un espacio pequeño!). Esos días fuimos a dos ciudades más grandes: Burgos y Ferrol. Sin embargo, en lugar de expandirnos sobre los desodorantes que usamos para compensar los (pocos) días sin una ducha, me centraré en estas dos ciudades.

Siempre nos gusta caminar por alguna ciudad, observar, orar y hablarle, a veces, por supuesto, nos responderá, por lo general de noche. Burgos fue nuestra primera parada, así que comenzaré por allí. Una ciudad “adecuada”, de buen comportamiento, con todo en su lugar. Un lugar que no se opone abiertamente a lo que viene nuevo, pero lo domesticará antes que después. La ciudad está pidiendo una persona / personas / cuerpo corporativo que no sea propiedad sino que venga con un espíritu generoso que hable vida a todo lo que es verdaderamente vivificante. Tan dispuestos a relacionarse con todas las expresiones del cuerpo de Cristo, pero invirtiendo en lo que es joven (como en la edad de las personas) y nuevo. Tal persona debe ser capaz de llevar el sentido del humor en el sentido de no centrarse en lo que están construyendo, sino en la vida que están liberando. Si esto pudiera aumentar, habrá un momento para hacer una respuesta clave cuando se les ofrezca un lugar en la mesa de respetabilidad, y en ese momento sin falta de respeto simplemente para continuar centrándose en los márgenes. ¡La ciudad lo está llamando ahora!

Ferrol … Lo visitamos principalmente porque este es el lugar de nacimiento de Franco, y visitamos aquí un jueves. Al día siguiente, el gobierno español aprobó el edicto para exhumar el cuerpo de Franco del Valle de los Caídos. Esto es histórico al tratar de resolver algunos de los temas pendientes de la Guerra Civil (1936-39) y el período de la dictadura (1939-75) y para nosotros en nuestro viaje por la historia de España. (Coincidentemente, también nació en Ferrol Pablo Iglesias (1850-1925), el fundador del partido socialista español).

Siempre es un reto ver una ciudad cuando se viene con una agenda, pero para nosotros este lugar tenía opulencia y orgullo justo debajo de la superficie. Un lugar que tiene que descubrir el don de la misericordia y alinearse a donde va en lugar de aferrarse a la historia. Vivir aquí como creyente sin duda sería un desafío. Piensa, ora y actúa a largo plazo. Invierte en lo que tienes a mano, manténte oculto, pero espera las aperturas cuando pueda haber un cambio de ventanas de oportunidad que llegará a esta ciudad: no se puede poner defensas que son inexpugnables.

Al orar en la casa donde nació Franco simplemente supimos que estábamos allí para cortar una raíz. hemos experimentado en varios frentes que hemos visto un cambio significativo propuesto solo para que no tenga lugar, por lo que ahora también estamos enfocados en asegurarnos en terminar en lo que nos involucramos. Aunque el gobierno ha aprobado la votación, todavía podría haber una apelación a los tribunales para revertir la decisión de exhumar el cuerpo. Como mencioné en un post reciente, el Valle de los Caídos está ubicado junto a El Escorial, un lugar que desde el principio nos dimos cuenta de que era una situación de poder donde el poder dominante estaba anclado, lo que ha afectado enormemente a la iglesia en España. Todavía no hemos hecho una visita específica a El Escorial, pero estamos bastante seguros de que llegará el día.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

Can we hold the space?

The European project that has been a gift to create peace among nations is under great threat. That project, with such Christian people as Robert Schuman (1886-1963) at the foundation, has been criticised as it developed into the EU. Certainly far from perfect, but if any demise will lead to a pulling back into self-protective borders, we might be regretting the jettisoning of the imperfect. I do not simply refer to the Brexit, but to the responses and tensions within the EU over how the humanitarian crisis is faced. And of course this is not just a European issue but one that is affecting the USA very acutely also.

I live as a privileged immigrant. We have food, we have legal, if not full status. Yet we have come not too different to many other immigrants who are arriving for external reasons. They are forced to come and many wish to make a contribution to the land. We are not here for external reasons, but by inner conviction and seek to make a contribution to the land. We pay our taxes here, and as a result pay significantly more than if we remained registered in the UK. Many come here as privileged immigrants, do not pay taxes and call themselves ex-pats. Those who act in that way are not under any great threat of expulsion from Spain or another similar country. They are, after all, only doing at a personal level what major institutions do at the global level. Finances and power give them the right to live / exploit where they want and when. We do not want that right, and many cast adrift on the Mediterranean of course do not come with finances or power… but if given the opportunity would make a home in the European lands and seek to make a contribution.

The EU is more likely to collapse as a result of the shutting up of borders to the outsider than it is simply post-Brexit. A number of years ago, long before the Brexit we were sent an open vision someone had while praying. She saw that a hand came and took the UK out of a European map. Then colour and light drained out of Europe. This was long before the Brexit and at a time when there was no-one predicting that the referendum would go the ‘leave’ route. We held it as the track record of the person is exceptionally high and noted that she said the Brexit referendum would be about the future of Europe. A number of us have travelled to the place where the colour and light disappeared in the hope that we could sow into the future. There was a second part of the vision also.

While in Prague we were told that most of the Eastern European countries are looking to tighten their borders. We were told this by believers who did not seem to see this as an issue. However, it is not just Eastern Europeans. There are very real issues that Italy and Greece face as most immigrants arrive in those lands and it is easy to criticise their actions of turning away mercy ships. If they turn away ships and other European nations turn away we have a problem.

We are grateful that Spain (Valencia) welcomed the Aquarius (and two other ships) with 600+ rescued from the Mediterranean. Grateful that into a port that brutally shipped Spanish born Muslims in the 1600s it now welcomed some 400 years later others in return. This we have prayed for, ending in Gibraltar last year, and curiously the ship arrived under a Gibraltar flag!

There are very real issues being faced in the so-called developed West over immigration. However, we have contributed to the problem over decades. The supply of arms to these nations where the conflicts exist have meant countless thousands have been made homeless and lives put at risk is down to us. The wealth we have accumulated at the Southern hemisphere’s expense has likewise driven people this way. (And when in Prague, an ex-communist city, it was easy to see that there is no difference between capitalism in its dominant neo-liberal expression or communism. Both are servants of the evil of bio-power. Human resources are their fodder.)

We are not politicians, and they certainly need prayer for wisdom as to how to move forward as so much is at stake. We are not politicians but the Gospel does not allow us to think of the message of Jesus as non-political. We, as the body of Christ, and therefore some individuals within that body will have to step up, have to somehow hold open the space for the future. And in holding the space begin to speak some content into that. God created through holding space (to counter the ‘without form’) and then filled that space (to counter the ‘and empty’). We likewise have to hold space and this is vital at a time when there is the desire to collapse borders. The shape of the EU is not the issue but living as family across Europe is. The Pauline Gospel seems to drive us that way. Living in the one-world government era his one passion was to get to the extent of the borders. The Jews in Exile had a great opportunity to live out life in the imperial world of Babylon – but they hankered for the land and created the synagogue!

Can we hold the space? The lands are changing, and need to change. We have utterly failed in our stewardship of the lands, failing to be a resource to the rest of the world. We can only anticipate that there will be wholesale shifts of population. Can we hold the space for the new? This is not a time to allow small borders to shape the future. And in holding it can we begin to prophesy what will fill that space?

I hope, as a Brit, that the Brexit did not sow something into Europe of closing borders that is now being replicated in other nations. Maybe the Brexit had little to do with political shape and more to do with how open we will be to the other. If so something must begin in the body of Christ as we are called to be the salt of the earth. We will have to step up to hold back the pollution that rises so easily.

We can do so little. Gayle and I can live here as immigrants, love the land, refuse to live with a border mentality. We can begin there in response, but we know that will not in itself be enough. There will be more we will have to do, but we must start with what is in our hands.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

Refugees welcomed

We have been travelling hence the silence on the blog. But changes are here! In Prague we were very focused on the shift of time, moving from the metronome which simply marks a rhythm, keeping everyone in line, to the clock, and not the mechanistic clock but the beat of the heart. We prayed for acceleration. Came home to Spain and in a few days the entrenched government was overturned, something that was certainly not predicted.

Then came the boat(s) into Valencia with over 600 refugees rescued from the Mediterranean. Spain a nation with a mercy, hospitality gift opening the doors and heart. A wonderful reversal too of history as through the port of Valencia many were brutally exiled in the Muslim expulsion (the focus of our prayers last year).

Now there is discussion concerning the removal of Franco’s body from the valley of the fallen, and o exhuming other bodies that were forcibly buried there in an act of conquest that proclaimed reconciliation (!!).

We might never know if any of the above was catalysed by the prayers of the team in Prague but there has certainly been an acceleration here. Our prayer is it will be a marker for Europe.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

Forty Years – personal and political

Always interesting how God does things, and I guess pretty individually tailored too. Certainly for Gayle and I our personal lives and circumstances have often mirrored what we have focused on. The last two days have been historic with the sitting PM being ousted through a no-confidence vote. The first time such a motion has been ‘successful’.

I have reflected before the occasion when a professional banker sitting at her desk told us in no uncertain terms that we should forget any dream of seeing levels of corruption change. ‘This is how it is in Spain, and this is how it will always be.’ Really? Forty years ago Spain put in place the constitution that stands to this day. It marked some amazing changes from the Civil War and its aftermath, and many in public office did exceptionally well, but the levels of corruption have remained. Increasingly political problems are transmuted into legal issues. The constitution does stipulate that any referendum (as per Catalonia) is illegal, but the response to the situation has been to strongly police the situation rather than handle it with political mercy and dialogue. So we have set ourselves to pray into the constitution, and have been focused on that for some 3 years, and this has led us to push into prayer for the judiciary.

Back to signs and personal circumstances. Our apartment also is, more or less, 40 years old. Forty years on and the sewage pipe could no longer function. Crap is a fact of life, getting it flushed out is our task. Our entry to Madrid is (apparently) up a sewer pipe and against the flow. And yesterday, maybe the first signs that the sewer pipe is beginning to function. This is not about raising one political party above another, but of noting the signs. And what a sign we witnessed in January 2015 in fulfilment to the vision of the square filled with 100,000 people, the empty platform one end with the people waiting for the ‘word of the Lord’. That word was ‘tick tock, tick tock, the clock is ticking in Spain…’ Just a few days ago we returned from Prague and the symbol of the metronome on the hill where we began each day, the metronome that simply marks a rhythm but does not indicate that time has moved on, was very strong. We prayed for the clock to move forward, for there to be acceleration across Europe. We have certainly seen that! Just after we returned Gayle said ‘Thursday, we have to watch for a clear sign’. She thought the sign would be in Prague (and maybe it has been) but Thursday was historic here in Spain, a clear sign.

Will we see corruption out of Spain? Probably not. But I think all we need is to make sure the sewage pipe is functioning.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

A shock to unlock the future

(Image sourced at: 20minutos.es.) When in Prague one of the things that struck us was the ‘sign’ of the metronome, a tool not to measure time but to repetitively maintain a rhythm, I suggested that truth (and that always has to mean ‘my understanding of truth’) can anchor is to the past. There is of course great value in that and the alternative of being blown by every wind that comes is far from a viable alternative. However, there has to come moments when the we move from simply being anchored to the past to embracing the future. This is done when the imagination kicks in , often in the context of a shock to the system.

Yesterday the Spanish parliament was in session all day debating a no-confidence motion against the president, following on from one one of the biggest cases that exposed huge financial irregularities and illegal payments in his (PP / conservative) party. Rajoy (current president) put up a strong fight in the morning, then was absent for the remainder of the day. After a few hours it was discovered that he was in a nearby restaurant, where he remained for some 7 hours! Headlines said ‘bunkered in’ which we found very interesting as these are the very words we have been using when praying with regard to getting the institutional injustices exposed.

A common word used throughout the day yesterday was ‘shock’. A shock to the system indicates the possible break of the institutional memory and default behaviour. We are on the verge of something new opening up, though at any time of change unless there is sufficient true vision to fill the vacuum there is only one possibility and that is a change of faces but no real change. This now is where we are at. The best part of yesterday was a measure of reconciliatory language toward the Basque and Catalan communities.

We are optimistic… and ever so watchful. A shock is where it begins. It can also sadly be where it ends.

SHARE ON:

Post PermaLink

Perspectives