A little more theology

Power is an interesting word. For sure there is a power dynamic witnessed by the disciples being instructed to stay in Jerusalem until they received power. Likewise authority. Jesus received all authority in heaven and in earth, and he gave authority over the works of the devil to the disciples. I consider that authority was never intended to be over others but was for others to enable them to find their destiny – hence the requirement is to submit ourselves rather than subjugate others.

In a world that has perverted the beautiful order of making space for others (using authority rightly) and retreating from space that was wrongly taken it is not surprising that we have many voices calling for their space. And all the while there is the inequality produced of occupying the space of others we should not be surprised that the cry from creation is mixed. In Scripture there is a redemptive principle where those with the power are addressed while the from-below-voice is heard. God hears the sound of oppressed Israel but addresses the Imperial power of Pharaoh with a command to repent, by releasing Israel from their captivity and giving them their space.

The redemptive principle exposes those with power as the ones who have to repent and lay down power. They have to retreat and allow space for the other. The history of the world is that there is a continual movement to take yet more power, to make ourselves even greater than before. The Christ example is to make the other greater. ‘Better I go away… you will do the works I do and greater.’

The Cross

Jesus came at the fullness of time, at the time when there was no hope in the world. It was the time in history when we have had an all-but one world government complete with a ruling antiChrist, something that the history books portray and the book of Revelation exposes in techicolour. (This is one of the reasons I do not see the Bible predicting a future antiChrist. The eschatological horizon of AD70 being the fulfilment of Jesus’ Olivet discourse and the fulfilment of the ‘man of lawlessness’ for Paul. There is a horizon beyond that of the end of all Imperial rule, which we work toward and will be fulfilled at his parousia.)

Jesus came when the demonic was at its greatest, when Israel had so lost her calling as a corporate priesthood for the nations that not even the Temple was a house of prayer for the nations, being identified as a ‘den of robbers’ by Jesus (robbery – to steal space?). At the time of no hope he came as human, specifically as a male human and as a Jew. Men, women, Jews and Gentiles – all have sinned – but the human who has taken space (male / patriarchy) and the people who did not open space for others to know God (the Jew) are specifically incarnated in Jesus. He dies to maleness for all humanity, and he dies to Jewishness for all peoples. Dying as a male he dies for all humanity, and he takes the curse of the Jewish law for the release of God’s glory to all people. Paul insists that Jesus, and those in him, are the new humanity hence

In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26-28).

The old distinctions have gone, there is a new world. This does have huge implications for an Israel theology, but we positioned this understanding for the male / female or more specifically for the voice of the feminine when we were in Brazil.

A few interesting Scriptures

Mary came to the tomb, to the Garden where there was a proclamation that he is alive. This is in contrast to the Garden of Eden and the Fall where death was proclaimed. She saw Jesus believing him to be the Gardener. Her sight was correct, the original commission was being restored in him. The ‘Last’ Adam was ready to work for the renewal of all creation. She might have doubted the validity of her belief but there is something very profound to be gained from her sight. If Jesus is not seen as the Gardener any view of his Lordship will be perverted. He is not coming to take space but to make space, to shape an environment for redeemed humanity. He does not come with the spirit of Caesar to enforce every knee to bow, but when he is revealed every knee will bow. There will be space for one and all, not simply privileged and precarious position for those who comply to the Imperial spirit.

The first revelation was to a woman. In response to that testimony Peter and John ran to the tomb but as Cleopas said:

Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus (Luke 24:24).

They – the men – did not see Jesus. Mary did see him. They will later see him but before that occurs Jesus reveals himself on the road to Emmaus to a couple (Cleopas / Clopas and his wife Mary – John 19:25). We read the story in Luke 24 and the obvious redemptive re-enactment of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden is present. The original couple had left the Garden despondent knowing that they had lost destiny for humanity. This couple left Jerusalem despondent believing that even the One they followed was not able to get things back on track. Adam and Eve left not knowing that God was walking with them. Their exclusion had implications for his journey with humanity. Just as God had come in the evening time so Jesus appeared to Cleopas and Mary at the evening time. He walks with them on their journey, and later promised to continue to do just that, and not just for them but promised to walk with all who believe in his name.

There is a movement from a woman to a couple. There is something taking place that is the restoration of the male / female relationship. Unless there is room given to the feminine sight we run the risk of perverting the sight of the Lordship of Christ. If we do not welcome the sight of the Gardener we will not understand the apostolic task ahead. For only after there is a healing brought through prioritising the feminine sight does Jesus appear to the apostolic band.

When the early disciples all joined together waiting for the Promise of the Father Luke records that the eleven were with the women.

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (Acts 1:14).

Maybe it is just a simple record of who was present but maybe there is a deeper sense contained in that phrase (σὺν γυναιξὶν καὶ Μαριὰμ τῇ μητρὶ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ). Maybe the sense is that disciples were with (σὺν) the women, more that than the women were included with them. They were together, but there is perhaps an indication that they had to position themselves to the women. Equality and certainly space preserved for the feminine sight.

Restoration is not about reversals to the point where the imbalance is put to the other extreme but where there is equal space. Space for one and all, but to see restoration the voice and sight that has been absent has to be focused on. It is not simply added to the current voice and sight but corrects and adjusts that perspective.

These are the deep foundations, and we were very glad to have Gadir with us to dig down, to dig deep.

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Backstory

The next few days I plan to blog concerning some of the themes we pushed while in Brazil. Perspectives, but of course ever so close to the truth!! The context for what we shared was a land that has seen so much church growth, yet still has very high levels of corruption and occult, and the time we were there was a very divisive time of the presidential election. It also followed on the back of suggesting a few posts ago that misogyny is one of the strongholds that needs to be repented of and broken. The concept of ‘digging’ down to foundations has been with us for a while and that will also contribute to the content of these posts.

Interpreting the Bible… so many principles in hermeneutics, a main one being to discover the author’s intended meaning. That seems pretty clear, but… what if God intended a ‘hidden’ meaning that only I could discern (not totally serious about that suggestion, but maybe the point is there could be more to the text than the author initially meant). Then there is an element of reader interpretation. Reading the Bible in a second language is always interesting, phrases sound different and provoke new ideas. This experience makes me more open to fresh readings from the text.

These posts will mix background thinking, understanding of Scripture with some of the practical outworking. Not always an easy read but hopefully rewarding.

Getting ready for Brazil

Gayle came to Brazil with a desire to see space be made for the feminine voice, not simply to gain agreement with a theological tick of ‘the Bible agrees’, but that the deep masculine (and at times misogynist) structures be challenged. There can be agreement at a theoretical level and yet no space be made for the voice of the feminine. Discussions and dialogue can be done in such a way that the feminine (and this is not simply restricted to the ‘female’) voice is not heard.

In Spain there are some great examples of the feminisation of politics. Ada Colau and Manuela Carmena being the mayoresses of Barcelona and Madrid respectively have taken approaches that are not confrontational but dialogual based on respect and listening to one another. In Brazil, however, the feminist movements have mainly positioned themselves aggressively in opposition to the status quo and to men. It was difficult to get a perspective into the various settings, but the meal table was the place where room was made and ground taken, and from there we were able to sow into the more public settings.

This aspect of the voice of, and space for, the feminine, did not simply sit there by itself but as the push was to dig into the deeper layers what began to unfold was a group of ideas that seemed to interlink. A little out there, but in the lead up to the trip Gayle had an encounter with the angel of Cádiz called Gadir, and she came with us to Brazil. There is a long background to this but our first encounter with her was in connection to the release of the young woman of Cádiz / Spain. In recent days Cádiz has been undergoing some ongoing excavations and being one of the oldest continually inhabited cities with an ancient history, we realised that her partnership was the release of the feminine and this would be accomplished by some serious digging.

The journey of the Incarnate Jesus was from on high to the lowest place and back again. He did this so that he could fill all things on behalf of his body, the church. The church then is the fullness of him who fills all things in every way (Ephesians). Many of us have been comfortable with the concept of warfare in the heavenlies, and although practice might differ we look to see limitations placed on those hostile heavenly powers. If I suggest that is to focus ‘up’ what about the focus ‘down’? Although not literally up and down, we began to see that there has to be work done to dig down to the deep structural layers that have been the foundations for society. If the Gospel is indeed about social transformation (‘there is a new world’) then those foundations have to be changed spiritually.

Foundational to creation was the creation of humanity with male and female in God’s image. When the inter-relationship of this ‘other’ is skewed then it results in a fault in the very foundations. By extension the male / female ‘other’ relationship has to be pushed to the inter-relationship to all ‘others’, the ultimate healing being the love for the enemy. Love has to be discovered and what resists love resisted.

Sin – not defined by law

Our theological inheritance is mainly from the Reformation period with an emphasis on sin as law-breaking. Usually we have understood the Torah as presenting God’s standards and Jesus the perfect One taking on the punishment for the guilt of the world. Let me suggest a different approach.

In Romans Paul seems to put forward the concept that the heart of sin is to shut God out with the result being all kinds of wrong behaviour. Wrong values (wrong worth-ship / worship) was at the heart of the Fall. The generosity of God – eat of all the trees except for ONE – was rejected with the insistence that we will take fruit from the forbidden tree. This is law-breaking, but at the heart of it is the over-reaching beyond boundaries in order to insist on our right to take. ‘I saw, I desired, I took and I ate’ is the testimony of the world’s fallen state. In the Torah there are many commands not to move boundary markers, not to take what disadvantages others, not to harvest to the maximum, to be content, to make room for those who have no space… and inbuilt was a program that when things did expand in wrong directions to put it all back with the 7 year release and the 50 year Jubilee.

Sin expresses itself in taking space that shuts out the space for the other. This was the result in the male / female relationship with the man ‘ruling’ over the woman. Commissioned to rule together the result of sin was the rulership of the male over the female. The shared commission became unequal, and even worse the focus which was to be a rule (care for) the space became rulership over someone else. The battle for space is the story of conflict, told from the underside and it is the story of slavery; told from the victor’s side and it is the military and trade victory.

Paul does not simply make the point that ‘all have sinned and so all are guilty’ but that both the Jew with the law and the Gentile without the law have sinned:

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:22,23).

It is not changing the meaning if we were to change the ‘all’ to ‘both’. Jew and Gentile alike have sinned and that sin is defined as falling short of the glory of God. The primary issue is not law-breaking, but not living up to the creational call of God. That call was to be truly the image of God. Only Jesus came in that way. Only Jesus truly fulfilled that calling and John informs us that we beheld his glory, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). Truth has to come in a grace package otherwise there will be no glory.

The Tri-une God is revealed whenever one human being sees another human being and in that mutuality give space for the other to fulfil their destiny – with no strings attached but through self-giving love. This is the call in marriage but that call is not restricted to marriage, and Jesus, as single, fulfilled this call in totality giving himself in outpoured love not for one ‘other’ but for all ‘others’.

Only in this self-giving way is glory revealed. To fail to do so is to fall short of the glory of God, and Paul says there is no distinction, Jew and Gentile alike have fallen short. A very key Scripture concerning the transformation that Jesus brings to us and our world is in 2 Corinthians 5: 16,17:

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

To be in Christ is to have a change of sight. We cannot see people how they are often classified: by their background, education, wealth, gender, sexual orientation; but according to their destiny. People are seen differently because – for those in Christ – there is a new world. There is a new world to come for sure, but the sight is such that a new world is already seen – along the lines of MLK’s words ‘I have a dream’.

There is a cry from creation which is a cry for liberation (Rom. 8). That cry is not always articulated well and is often expressed in frustration or anger. The cry is from the street and if what is heard can be heard beyond the painful groan then wisdom itself can be heard to be crying out. In Romans 8 there is the cry of the person that finds freedom in God’s Spirit coming to them and they cry out ‘Abba Father’. In the same way as our cry was directed to God the cry of society is directed to those who see a new world, those who are in Christ. (In using the term ‘in Christ’ I am not saying the cry of society cannot be responded to by those who are ‘not’ in Christ, but emphasising that we who belong to Christ carry a primary responsibility.)

The cry, even of aggressive feminism as in Brazil, or the cry of the marginalised peoples (LGBTQ, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and a whole host of others) is at its core creation’s cry for liberation, even at times if muffled or distorted. We cannot silence that cry for if we see differently we will hear the voice of the Spirit in the noise and clamour. The cry is from ‘under’.

Sight and sound

In the last paragraph I suggested we have to see differently to hear differently. This is something that Revelation presents with the sight either clarifying or correcting what is heard. John hears that the Lion has triumphed, but when he turns he sees a Lamb. The power language can be and is distorted to justify dominance. The sight is vital if we are to hear the sound accurately. We will never hear the cry of creation if we cannot see the ‘other’. There is a sound rising – can we see those who are groaning, shouting, screaming, even using words of hate?

More to come…

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Art – what is it worth?

A few years ago I prophesied that ‘when we learn how to value art, the housing market will be re-valued’. I have re-visited that word many times with perplexity. Many artists struggle to make a living; many of the high, high end earners will buy up art as an investment. The ‘art market’ is all over the place. The investment of time, effort and soul that some put in for little return is so wrong; storing art away from public view simply as a means for personal security is also so wrong…

What is the value of art? (And rightly by extension I include ‘the arts’.)

My perplexity I now realise (I got this insight by reading Deb Chapman’s comment on the last post) is that I have been thinking in monetary terms. As we know the vast percentage of money does not exist. 97% in most western economies does not exist, hence it is only confidence and debt that keeps the economy at the levels we find them. I should never have been trying to work out what the word meant money-wise. Driving as we do in our San Lorenzo (died 258AD in Rome) whose gift was to force a revaluation I should never have been trapped into the way of thinking I was in over art.

The value of art

It has to be given its rightful place. It is one of the means to connect heaven to earth. It touches the imagination (and therefore can also be perverted to connect hell and earth) so that speech can be made that releases heaven to earth. God made the trees and saw that they were good… If for a moment I overstate things. God saw what he had made and it impacted him. That is art. We are not talking about a rational function but of an inner transformation through a visual / auditory / kinesthetic experience. How do we value that?

Art challenges how we value everything. This is the challenge San Lorenzo presented to the emperor when he presented him with the blind, sick and poor. ‘These are God’s riches’, he said! The emperor had him killed… but he being dead still speaks. Jesus said that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem, but he fulfilled that. From his time on the place of death is Rome / Babylon / the empire, the place that says we value things and you will not buy nor sell unless you bow to our value system.

Art is subversive. In art we learn how a new economy that is not based on trade, but on giving and receiving.

Now is the time. Yes the winds are adverse but there is a breath of the Spirit behind the arts right now. So vital as we are coming to another economic crisis. The last one was patched over when the body of Christ (the ‘authority carriers’ for the future) opted for an alignment with the familiar, lacking imagination for a different future. When we can only imagine change through getting to the top we have failed to imagine. Art can help us imagine change through the subversion of service and love. We owe you a huge debt, you artists.

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Ephesus – disciples

Finding twelve… will that be enough?

In Ephesus Paul encounters these great, but not yet-complete, believers. They had grasped the story line up to John the Baptist’s proclamation and had submitted to his baptism, but had not realised that what John spoke of as the future was now the past. So Paul’s task was to update them, their response shows they were already on a very serious trajectory, and God responded from heaven with the Holy Spirit. These were either Jews (most likely) or a least Jewish converts, for John’s baptism was a baptism for a new entry to the land, to restore and prepare the people. It was divisive in the sense that so much of Judaism was divisive, as witnessed in the prophetic and sectarian streams within the faith. Not all those born of Abraham (race) qualified to be considered as his descendants (faith).

From that initial meeting he takes them to the synagogue for three months. What is he doing? I am convinced it is due to his understanding of Israel’s call. They are called to be aligned uniquely to God for the nations. Since the Exile and the response of the synagogue based rhythm (that was developed in Babylon) there was an inevitable greater measure of Jews looking inward as survival became more the focus. Paul (then Saul) had himself moved from being focused on the purity of Israel, through his Damascus road encounter to seeing that race did not count before God, that the only identity marker was to be in Christ, and therefore part of the new creation reality of being there for the world. I am sure that the message that he debated in the synagogue was exactly that, and at two levels: the call of Israel and the pathway to the future for Israel as being through Jesus, the one true Israelite (and the only true human). At both levels he did not have success. He persevered for three months then called it a day, taking with him those who were committed to his teaching. He sets up in Tyrannus hall and is publicly teaching there for 2 years.

The proclamation of the Gospel was not a simple, Admit you have sinned, Believe he died for you, Confess your sin… Not that that is invalid, but to reduce the narrative of Scripture, nor the narrative of the world, to that does not do justice to Paul’s gospel. The salvation of the world, the preparation for the new heavens and new earth was a proclamation for the public space, it was certainly a political proclamation. Deeply societal, deeply human and confirmed with dramatic heavenly interventions.

Discipleship is a challenge, deeply stretching not just to the mind, but to lifestyle. Witnessing is not completed once we have told someone they have sinned and here is the escape route; but is something that is continual, which words can explain but can never become the substitute for. I sometimes wonder if we have even started on the pathway. Thank God for the word ‘radical’ but to stick it on as a label probably isn’t the best thing to do.

Paul is not setting up a new political party (as if!) but seeking to train people to see the world through a narrative of the world being God’s world, that all humans are of one family, that Jesus death somehow was the means by which all, whether Jew or Gentile, could be reconciled to God and be incorporated into Messiah. I don’t think he was looking for the perfect activist group who were spotless, but that somehow together with all their issues they would be a visible sign of a different way to live, pointers to, and of, hope for society.

This was very akin to what Jesus, in the Jewish culture, had given as his response to John when he wanted to know if ‘he was the one’. Tell John that there is something happening at two levels, was his response – the inbreaking of God with miracles… and the poor have good news being proclaimed. The endless flow of resources in one direction is coming to an end. Those on the thrones are being dethroned, a new society is being born. Despite the obvious signs that ‘God was with this man’ Jesus said the way ahead was narrow and few would find it. And as sure as his word was that was the fulfilment, with a few finding salvation. The same thing is happening in Ephesus, but now in the Graeco-Roman world, a message of hope for society that was for the total re-ordering of the world with incredible inbreakings of the miraculous.

Those twelve that Paul initially met committed themselves right into that trajectory. God is found in all sub-versions of the good news (including my version) but I am also sure that he is continually lighting up the pathway to provoke us to embrace the (shorthand) Pauline gospel that those initial twelve committed themselves to. (And I am sure there is a strong symbolism here in this event in Ephesus starting with ‘about twelve’. The pattern that Jesus began in Israel had a strong bearing on what is beginning here. The two are deeply connected. Jesus with twelve to restore Israel for the world, and here a mere twelve removed from the Jewish culture and for the world.)

Amidst a secularised society that is open to all kinds of spirituality, one of the greatest challenges is how to be deeply embedded in society with the ‘Jesus’ part of the message intact. The Pauline Gospel is deeply political, but it is not based on a clever political manifesto, it is based on God’s activity in Christ. Holding this all ogether is not easy, but Paul somehow managed that, for Jewish excorcists used the name of Jesus, knowing that this was the name by which Paul was acting.

Following Christ is not a hobby; it is not fulfilled when we copy the synagogue pattern and show up week by week; it is not fulfilled when we gain some successful converts; it is not fulfilled when we get older and can retire. It is a life-long lifestyle trajectory of looking forward with the ‘Maranatha’ cry, realising that for most of us that will be fulfilled beyond our departure, but also knowing that we have an incredible opportunity to contribute to that event.

What unfolds in Ephesus surely was founded on the issue of discipleship. Paul’s single focus on the implication of the death and resurrection of Christ for the world, and a group of those who grasped what he had seen during his days of blindness and subsequent time in the desert, post Damascus. Costly but ever so valuable.

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Have you seen my feet?

Not sure how your feet look today, but mine? Really bad and not sure what I am going to do with them. Filthy, so filthy, and hope that there is some way I can get them cleaned up – otherwise it will be so embarrassing.

Actually my feet have been dirty for a while. Dirty because I am so privileged. And that is the heart of the issue. How to keep some semblance of cleanness on those feet when privileged.

Gayle and I are actively pursuing an apartment in Madrid, and although there are many complications with the purchase such as the possibility that we could end in court concerning the issues on the whole block, we are actively making drawings of what we can fit in there. (Did I write ‘we’? I should have put Gayle, she is the expert on that, seeking to work out what can go in to an apartment of 18 foot x 14 foot (5.5m x 4.3m).) Property – such a great investment. Put your money in bricks and mortar, prices go up, particularly in a city – so goes the advice.

Now that is where the dirty feet come in. Madrid, like most major cities, has so many properties that have been bought up simply so as they can be rented out with the result that rental prices are going up, many locals no longer being able to afford to live in the area. This is no exception in the area where we have for years prayer walked and homed in on.

We can lay out all the reasons why we want to live there, the prayers, the prophetic words, we can lay out our finances etc., and we can do so with a clean conscience. We have stood in front of Madrid when Mammon spoke loudly to us and said ‘you cannot enter here’, and we spoke back saying that we are not coming to make money or to exploit. We have simply asked for a place to enter, somewhere small, somewhere from where we can make space for others to find their place in the city. Yet, assuming we get this property, just by moving in we will contribute to the rise in prices.

Hopefully then we have a clean heart but in the very act of pursuing this apartment our feet are already dirty. That of course was the issue that Peter had to face up to. He did not need to be washed throughout, just his feet. Maybe as a reminder to us the barrio where we are looking to move is ‘Lavapies’ – feet washing!

How do we respond? With humility has mark the start of any entry, and we probably have to do something in the early days that is not simply counter-cultural but counter-spirit. Money makes the world go round (often in the wrong direction), so to turn the rotation, something always has to be done. Jesus, with choice of treasurer, did that in a big way. Sabbath and Jubilee ensured there was a jolt to the ever present ‘invisible hand of the market’, and the entry to the land was marked by gaining nothing materially at the first point of entry (Jericho). I have sought to do that in certain places. I had books published in Korean, Swedish, German, Portuguese and in the USA. In each situation I decided to take no royalties. A small response as sometimes one can only make a small response.

Once we get this apartment it will be eminently rentable, but we will have to, in the first season make choices that do not benefit us financially, otherwise even if our hearts remain clean we would be making no real contribution to the rotation of the city. Hopefully as we walk the city our feet will not get too dirty, in fact the very act of walking will help them be a little cleaner than they would be otherwise, but for sure they will never be spotless. And seemingly that is the way it is meant to be.

The percentage share of global wealth

Comparatively, our wealth, puts us in the top perentage of those considered wealthy in the world. We have food, we have a roof, we even have a car, both of us have cell phones. Wealth.

How then do we live with privilege? That is the issue.

Years ago the discussion about ’emerging church’ and the like could be seen as a luxury that many in the world could not afford to engage in. Live in a favela, or to be living under constant scrutiny for one’s faith in certain countries, and then suggest that what they should do is hold a conference on the nature of emerging church would be an insult. That was the privilege (luxury) of living in the west with our resources and heritage.

University education, the world of academia… In Spain so many of those who are pushing for political change are university graduates, some having been professors. A privileged world seeking to bring a difference to those who have been silenced. Does one have to go into academia to make a difference? (For me part of the attraction of Liberation Theology was the privileged interpretation of Scripture by the poor. The suggestion was that they could understand Scripture in a way that no academic theologian could, being one of the outworkings of the ‘preferential option for the poor’.) I write from time to time about money, but I do not understand economics. I probably do not have the ability to grasp the issues surrounding economics, so some of what I write those with greater understanding could probably drive the proverbial bus through. So is real change only effected by those who can study and intellectualise at that level?

In theory I do not like the world of privilege, hence I am not a royalist, and I find it easier to spell the word ‘socialist’ than ‘conservative’, yet I am privileged and if I had one regret in life it would be that I have not always rocked the boat when I should have. Ah well – learn from past errors.

With all my questions over the privileged worlds of home ownership, academia and the like, I remain convinced that amidst that luxury there is space to use that for the sake of others. Discussions on ’emerging church’, ‘the nature of Imperial power’, or ‘how church and theology have been subsumed by sovereignty’ are not simply luxury discussions. I think they are also essential so that something is sown into the wider world. If we can have those discussions and seek to influence one another there will be substance stored up also for those who, in the future, move beyond living in survival mode (where the society is hostile to the Christian faith) or move beyond the heady days of revival growth.

We have to live in at least two worlds. The small world where we find ourselves, and in our situation that small world is a highly privileged world. And the bigger world of the world the corporate ‘we’ have created. We cannot simply live in one of those worlds. In our world we have to use any privileges we have to undermine those very privileges and to contribute to the shift in the rotation of the big world. Probably we will only make a small contribution. Maybe that is all we are meant to make, and to ensure that the small contribution has eternal value, we probably have to look quite often at our feet.

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The judiciary – time for a shift

Before making a few comments on the issue of the judiciary in Spain, and how it has been a prayer focus for us since late last year, I will pull wider to explain (hope not to justify!!) why we would be praying into this. Personal faith, and enabling people to discover real personal faith is very important to me, but over the years understanding that a) the Gospel message is much wider than that, and b) the body of Christ has a responsibility to enable the world to be the ‘best, though fallen, world it can be’ has pushed me to a context beyond the church, and an emphasis in prayer beyond ‘salvation of souls’. (I tend to use the term ‘body of Christ’ rather than ‘church’ as the latter often communicates a specific model with a focus on congregation and gathering. ‘Body of Christ’ is much more fluid, and I suggest is often more useful terminology as it cannot be colonised by a specific model.)

I believe in a spiritual world that involves demons, the devil etc., though my belief is more practical than theoretical. In other words even if that world does not exist as per classic charismatic understanding and there was no personal devil, I would still believe in spiritual powers. Those spiritual powers operate in and through the institutional constructs, so we have powers in the heavens above and powers on the earth beneath (maybe as Wink expresses: the interiority and exteriority of powers). Those powers will oppress people so that they are unable to find their true calling (sin = the tragedy of never discovering why one was born), and to blind the eyes of those who do not believe so that they cannot see the glory of God as revealed in Jesus. Shifting the influence of those powers is beneficial in itself as it will free people up, and will reduce the influence of powers to blind. Oppression is the bais of our fallen world, but freedom and justice is reflective of heaven’s presence on earth.

I maintain then there is value in and of itself in promoting, campaigning for, and praying for a release of justice. Intrinsic value and a means of clearing the heavens for an increased revelation of God as revealed in Jesus.

The Constitutional Court, Madrid

We have been aware that in Spain the judiciary has been corrupted. Appointments made by the government; cases against the government and judges can be moved off the case. The checks and balances are not present. One of the top lawyers, globally recognised, Baltasar Garzón, was disqualified of judicial activity, for overstepping his boundaries (or pushing hard into government scandals!). To date we have gone to all the national courts in Spain, the most recent one being the Constitutional Court, to pray. As always it is not possible to draw a straight line proving effectiveness. That is one of the wonderful aspects of prayer – it might have happened anyway, and it might have happened because of some other activity…

Four recent nationally impacting events have encouraged us greatly (I posted two of them as ‘news snippets’):

1) The Valley of the Fallen where some 30,000+ are buried, many of whom were prisoners of war, or died in the Civil War, has been a focus for us. We visited there in 2015,and were very happy (as well as highly amused) when Danny Mateo went there and danced where we had prayed. It is amazing when one looks for fulfilments in the world to what has been declared (‘dancers who dance upon injustice’) rather than to the church, how many fulfilments there really are. There is now a significant move forward in removing the bodies and re-burying them in family plots.

2) An impromptu road block was made to one of the roads into Catalonia. The result was arrests with the charge of ‘terrorism’. There was no violence involved, it was a protest. Terrorism would carry up to a 30 year sentence. Crazy… but that is the level of control. The result was the judge through it out. Come on you judges, justice is your standard not control through sentencing.

3) Madrid is a major focus of course for us (still waiting to hear if we will be able to buy the apartment there we looked at – all 18 foot x 13 foot: but in the Spirit a spacious place). There have been some great shifts in the city, with evictions from homes to the streets not occurring unless there is alternative accommodation,a nd the city debt has been reduced year on year. (We still have more work to do on that as the government has now taken a large part of the debt the mayoress and her team have worked hard on to reduce and claimed it as their own to be redistributed where they choose.) Madrid, the Communidad (wider area around Madrid, one of 17 divisions of this type in Spain), had a very politically strong leader. A short while back she was exposed as having a CV (resumé) that claimed a Masters degree that she did not have. Past history would tell us that she would ride the storm. Even when this first came out, we were told repeatedly by Spanish people that corruption is endemic and that this will not shift, and she will not resign. She held on for 36 days and then resigned. A small sign of a shift.

4) A case has just been closed relating to 5 men who repeatedly raped a young woman of 18 years of age in Pamplona during the San Fermin festival of 2016 (the ‘bull running’ festival). One of the judges wanted the men acquitted, and the outcome was that this was not rape but sexual abuse – reason being rape has to involve both violence and intimidation!! There has been such a massive public outcry with the streets erupting. The verdict is a disgrace, but something is rising, and (sadly) the redemptive element of this atrocious verdict is that there is a push from the streets for justice.

Gayle wrote to Roger and Sue Mitchell who were with us during some of the above situations:

The streets filled immediately. Particularly Madrid and outside the justice courts. Full of young women, and old, and men declaring the end of this crappy patriarchal system that violates woman. The images very moving.
I thought of the woman Menina statues going out all over MADRID and then real living women out everywhere in the thousands. So moving.
The government is going to re-look at the case due to public pressure. The movement is strong. So alive. So angry and raw. And so going to bring about change.

Prayer releases street movements for justice. Together they bring about change in the powers (heavenly and earthly). In this we rejoice and gather fresh energy.

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All Locked Up

Yesterday was to be the day when finally the Catalan situation in Spain would return to normal. October 1: independence referendum (deemed constitutionally illegal). Thousands of companies have moved headquarters, the Catalan parliament dissolved, with direct rule from Madrid imposed. A number (still) imprisoned, the former (next?) president in exile in Brussels. Legal elections on December 21 returned some shifts, but basically nothing changed. Yesterday (Jan 30th) was the final piece in the resolving (did I write revolving?) process. The president for the government would be installed and off we would travel as one happy family into the future.

The spanner in the works was that the only candidate was Carles Puigdemont. The former president who has been in Brussels for the past months. So here we are a lock up situation. The speaker for the new parliament, Roger Torrent (pro-indepedence and has handled himself with dignity throughout), announced that any inauguration will wait saying that Puigdemont is the legitimate candidate. Tuesday morning just hours before the due time he said:

We don’t accept anyone telling us that the Catalans have voted incorrectly because we didn’t do what they wanted.

Neither the [Spanish government] nor the constitutional court decides who will be president; that’s for the democratically elected members of parliament to decide.

In response to the situation Mariano Rajoy said that any attempt to invest Puigdemont would constitute a clear violation of the constitutional court’s ruling. The warning given is certainly not veiled. In a media interview yesterday he said:

The speaker and those who support him need to be very aware of the consequences they could face.

Our personal response (Gayle and I) is to pray not simply for an unlocking, but a deep healing. When we travelled in mid-Autumn we came to one situation that both physically was a city divided and divided at a social level, and as we stood on a bridge between the two sides we asked for angels to come and sew up the divide, sensing that somehow in the immediate this was a task beyond where people can go at this point of time. That though will shift.

The genuine bridge-builders have to accept that the third way is the way that opens the proponents of such a way to be trampled on from both sides – such is the nature of a bridge. In the short term there will be political gainers when divisive wounds are opened up. Two years ago I had a dream before the national elections of candidates in their lanes from right to left running the race. The leader of a party that did not fare too well was the one in the dream I knew I had to put all my effort in to catch and prevent him grasping a pillar (establishment) the result of which would mean he would not only have made his mark but strongly re-established the status quo. At the time the outcome for his party was not so impressive… but now they are flourishing in the current conflict.

The answer is not to patch a wound up, hoping it will go away… but the process of healing is a dangerous one.

At the beginning of this year the 2 Cor. 12:12 proclamation of Paul that the signs of an apostle were done among them with great patience has impacted us. Patience is not inactivity, it is not passivity. Patience can only flourish on hope. Hope is that vision of the future, it is the cradle in which faith grows (faith is the substance of what we hope for). In many languages ‘to wait’ and ‘to hope’ are the same. True waiting is hope. It is waiting and acting because of a sure knowledge. The apostolic must be marked by patience. The seeds of the gospel of a new order for God’s world means we have to stay focused and can wait for a generation, a century or more.

Walk the land, hear the ancient prayers
echoes still resonating
disturbing the air.

Travel more silently, let the sound become clear
not a sound of despair
nor a sound of ‘listen to me’
but a sound… a sound that was heard long ago
the sound that marked an arrival in the Garden of God.

That sound still travels
still flies on the wings of the ancient prayers
holding back the chaos
even the chaos of Babylon’s order
the deception of Mammon’s reasonable voice.

Those prayers hold back
preserve space
call for a people
weak and trembling yet not shaken
nor proud as they make no claim to greatness.

Such are those who hear the ancient prayers
who cautiously take their place not knowing
if they qualify nor if they can make a difference to a world order that accelerates by day
and continues by night toward
the goal of rewarding the powerful and punishing the weak while hiding
its ravenous appetite to devour one and all until all
that was deemed good,
the image of the invisible is obliterated.

Yet the ancient prayers are calling again
the echo is clearer now, for there is a silent moment when those who pause
who wait with hope and hope as they wait will know that
there is space to be invisible yet through their invisibility will be revealed
the image
the image that points to the future and
slowly but surely pulls that future ever closer.

Those who wait will mount up
with wings
they will be renewed as they live in the now
yet not for today.

Those ancient prayers
– listen and ponder –
do they come from ancient times past
or from tomorrow?

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Let Justice roll down…

A few years ago we went up to Colon (Columbus) square, Madrid, to pray the day before the so-called Columbus Day. It is certainly a sign of power and from our viewpoint a source of power. We are happy to report that the objections to the annual Columbus day has become more public since then. (Also very happy to report that Margaret Thatcher Square (yes, really) next to this Colon square is now devoid of power!)

Supreme Court

This morning we took a visit back to that area and focused on the Supreme Court (above) and the Audencia Nacional. Our strong sense has been for a few weeks that there is now a phase coming of the judicial powers in Spain being shaken, a cleansing and an exposure of corruption, bribery and lies. So we proclaimed that today in those places. (Well after all you just got to do something, right?)

A few days ago a judge, who said clearly in a major (another major) corruption case involving the government, that he could confirm that a certain M. Rajoy who was in the PP party and had received cash payments was indeed the PM Mariano Rajoy was then removed from the case. Today a judge published a poem that not only insulted the leader of a political party, but in it used mysognist and suggestive language about that party\’s spokesperson (a woman). So we have called time on this. The unravelling of secret (and not so secret) agreements is not how justice was ever designed to flow.

(If you want to read the poem and article about it:

Indignación por un artículo machista de una asociación de jueces sobre Irene Montero.)

So Spain – bumpy ride is a-coming, but it has to and through it all something healthier for one and all.

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Why the focus?

Gayle and I have had a focus on shifts in society for a long time. Gayle was involved in education and taught in schools that were not rated highly in government statistics. In that context she saw people come to faith, and early one morning when having arrived before anyone else was in the school she then thought someone else was also in and playing music… but no, simply some angels had also (got up early?) and come to add some music to the prayer. My push was simple: through prayer the church would shift demonic powers, discover the gift of the city / region and people would come to faith. As I developed that focus I moved from a simple vision of something that might look similar to classic revival (Finney, Welsh, Hebrides etc.) to a presence of God’s Spirit and people throughout all society. Influenced by Anabaptism the challenge was how to see that outwork practically. Thankfully the journey of understanding the nature of the imperial spirit ran parallel to the push toward the emphasis on salt in society. So an understanding that was in contrast to anything top-down developed.

Three years ago, this month, it became clear that a sharp focus for us was to be the opening up of space for a new politics to grow in Spain (and beyond in Europe). This was something left of field as neither of us have a background in politics. And if we were to see some kind of shift here so what? Why this focus? If we did have a top-down perspective this might be easier to understand, but we see the drive to get the Christian PM / President as misplaced. We do not think that all that is needed is to get the right party in power. The party governing can change but unless the very shape changes nothing really changes.

CamisetaWe will soon have lived in Spain 9 years and in this apartment for almost four of those. In the past 9 years we have dug deeply into the history of the land, both recent and ancient. We have witnessed an increasing exposure of corruption, of cases going to court. (Fancy buying a T-shirt with an extract from handwritten notes printed on it? The handwritten notes of the governing party’s illegal accounts and who was paid. This T-shirt has the extract of one of the many names: ‘M Rajoy’, and one of the payments he received from an account that has been run for decades.) There is a long way to go but there are shifts. We sat recently with a senior bank employee who told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to understand that ‘corruption is part of Spain and will always be here’.

The mainline press and TV channels do not cover a lot of the corruption. Thank God for social media and some very honest journalists. This past week a set of conversations have been recorded between a ring of at least 100 national police. (Thankfully there are many good and honest people involved in law and order.) However the conversations have not only been highly negative about the Catalan situation, but have talked one to the other of their hope that certain people will be destroyed and blown up. They have named journalists and the mayoress of Madrid among others.

The Catalonian crisis continues. Are the current Catalan political leaders ‘political prisoners’ or not? Even Amnesty International has said that they are not. At the same time as this goes on, greater clarity is coming into one of the big corruption cases, with the clear implication that many politicians in the governing party, including the PM, have received large illegal payments. The same party has failed to give an explanation for 40billion euros that has disappeared from public funds. The other main historic party has just had a huge debt written off by the banks. (Contrast this to a 42 page letter we received from the government saying that if we did not respond within 10 days we would be fined 70,000euros. Our crime was to send some money to a friend who was threatened by the banks and had no money to buy food.) The Catalan leaders have not been granted bail while a member of the governing party was granted bail and the next day one of his houses (in Mexico) was raided and 5million in cash was discovered. I could go on – almost 900 senior members of the governing party are either now in jail, court, indited or suspects in corruption. Our banking friend was correct – corruption is part of Spain… Corruption continues! But the future?

Anyway I am a little off track with this post. We are committed to seeing the corruption exposed and old ruling families from the Franco era no longer shape the future with that agenda. But so what? Why the focus? In making a response I note that something continues for us both – shifts in society; but the change of focus indcates that there have been some paradigm shifts.

  • The levels of corruption indicate that there is the presence and effect of the demonic that is unacceptable. Demonic powers do not just focus on one area but look to destroy humanity. We are their nemesis, created in the image of God. They look therefore for all kinds of partnerships, all of which focus on the dehumanisation of humanity. The corruption indicates their presence. That is almost reason enough to focus this way!
  • We see the body of Christ carrying responsibility for the world. This is God’s world, everything is in God, for in him we live and move and have our being. We owe it to the world so that living within boundaries they might seek and find him. That is certainly a significant reason.
  • Justice is called for and this has led to a new word – we are not looking to Christianise the world (as per Christendom) but to heavenify it. By this I mean a greater measure of heaven’s love, freedom, servanthood and justice to be made visible. All good gifts come from heaven.

We are deeply grateful to God for both evangelical and charismatic foundations. We pray that those we meet and increasingly share life with will find Jesus in a not-too-dissimilar way. We continue to seek to be a witness, bearing testimony to new creation realities… but our focus is on the politics, to push back space so that those who, knowingly or not, partner with demons will no longer be able to do so, and those who manifest love and justice will find space to yield their gifts for others. That is our focus in the foreseeable future as we believe that is our responsibility.

We have been here almost 9 years, by the end of 12 years we expect to see something shift beyond recognition. The next years… a focus that needs to stay sharp and a bumpy ride!

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Dancers who dance on injustice

We have laughed and laughed but have not missed the prophetic nature of the dance from Dani Mateo (a commentator and comedian in Spain). He rejected Valley of the Fallen as a place of reconciliation (would a graveyard with Jews and Aushwitz guards be appropriate?). He called it a piece of mierda (rhymes with ‘hit’) and then when threatened with court action against him he has made an ‘apology’ calling it el baile de los caidos (the dance of the fallen!!). He also has explained that there are different crosses and that the one at the valley of the fallen is not recognised by many Christians as a true cross (Dani if you read my blog – well done!!!!).

Enjoy!!!!! And I hope that Rog and Sue also enjoy – we had an awesome time there with them giving it a kick 2 years ago…

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