Universal or particular

Jesus died for all (Universal). Thank God. I also think Jesus died for males and for Jews (particular). We all betrayed Jesus, but the Scriptures and the creeds (not many names in there) tell us that Judas betrayed Jesus. Both are true, and in that sense Judas ‘acted for us’. Judas is the particular betrayer; we all universally betrayed Jesus.

Jesus was male, born of a woman, born under the law… so that he might redeem those who were born under the law… This makes his death have a very specific application for Jews. Now let me add what certainly is not explicitly written in Scripture, so I am going beyond Scripture (more of that below), to redeem males, masculinity, or maybe the perverted form of masculinity exhibited in patriarchy and dominance.

Why born a Jew? Because Jews were the problem… hang on, nothing anti-Semitic there, just hang on. They were the problem simply because they failed to be the solution. If we had a camp of people who were sick but there were no doctors able to come, we might well say the problem is ‘we have no doctors’… but the real problem is that sickness has gripped the camp. Sickness has gripped the world, a contagious disease, a pandemic is present throughout creation, and we can call it sin. The doctors though are not available… don’t blame them, they too are sick. Their (Israel’s) sickness was to make chosen to mean ‘them’ and ‘us’, to transform ‘life’ into ‘separation’, to failing to see that ‘we want to be like them (give us a king)’ means we are also ‘them’, that there is no effective ‘us’ but we are all in a mess together, hence Paul’s words ‘all (Jew and Gentile) have sinned and fallen short…’ of being truly human.

That is the strong ‘when’ to the cross. The Jews have to be set free, and the grace of God was to give them a clear generation gap to get on board with such statements as (to Jews) ‘there being no other name under heaven by which you may be saved’ – not Abraham, nor David, nor ‘I am of Israel’. Only in Jesus, the one who died for Jews. ‘Save yourself from this crooked and perverse generation’. There is salvation – in Jesus; salvation from the Romans and salvation for the sake of the world. A restored Israel and we have hope for the nations (Gentiles).

And I also think Jesus is male. Certainly not because of some superiority or creation order. And although I do not read the early chapters as history, history bears witness that the patriarchal nature of the fallen world is a source of deep distress. Maleness, as patriarchy, goes to the cross – maybe the last to be seen at the cross, the first to see the resurrection pushes us to consider that perspective? Jewishness goes to the cross for all divides are nailed there, with the biggest of all divides being revealed as an ultimate wrong (or at least inadequate) perception when the Temple curtain ripped in two. God is not behind the screen. God is with us. Emmanuel. The divide does not exist, and how could it for the two were united in Jesus, fully God, fully human?

Jesus came to his own, but his own did not receive him… yet a few chapters later we read that Jesus sat down with his own and ate with them; he put a towel round his waist and got down… washing the feet of his own. God with us, with those who can receive this God.

Yes, I do believe Jesus died for all. Yet there he is – male, Jewish flesh on the cross. He died that there might no longer be the divide that we who had the power to draw the lines that divide can continue to make. The sharp end of the cross should not be ignored, for in it is salvation for all.

Beyond Scripture? Not in the sense of seeking to understand a story that is unfolding, a story that takes us from Creation to New Creation. A story that presents the cross as the roadblock to total destruction; a halt in that path, and the opening of a new path, a new creation that we are not simply walking toward but one that is coming this way. Beyond the pages but within the story of Scripture.

A new creation is here. God is with us. Always was, was present in the cross, identified and embodied sin, embodied it in a concrete way, embodied flesh that used (fallenly created) privilege to exclude and divide, embodied that flesh in order to include and unite.

He died for Jews and males; he died for all.

Dreams can help

The above image is of the ‘Toros de Guisando’. They are ancient statues of bulls or possibly wild boars. There are a number of these in north west Spain – these ones are 70kms from Madrid and we recently paid them a visit. They are also located at a very historic site in Spain where a treaty shaped the future of the peninsula.

Gayle had two dreams about wild boars and in the first one she was being pushed around by one of them. In previous dreams concerning animals she has known that they represented something coming against her and also she has known what the strategy was to deal with those animals but this was the first with boars and in the dream she did not know how to respond. (Animals in dreams can be a challenge, for they are even that within Scripture. The serpent is on a spectrum from the devil, to a symbol of healing, wisdom right through to symbolically containing eschatological hope!) She then had a second dream concerning wild boars. The dreams were either side of a very significant women’s march in Spain, and we knew that whatever the boars represented they were at least connected with patriarchy, misogyny and the domesticating of the feminine. I was reading a book on Madrid in between the dreams and came across the many statues of bulls and/or boars that are mainly in the north of Spain. The book focused on the well known ‘Toros de Guisando’, some 70 kms to the West of Madrid. Connecting the dots we knew this was a place we had to go to and pray. They are located in the place where a Treaty was signed in 1468 that is arguably the treaty that opened the way for the unification of Spain under the ‘Catholic monarchs’, resulting in the driving out of the Muslims (1492 the last kingdom in Granada to surrender that year), the expulsion of the Jews and the sending out of Columbus (1492) to discover the new world / destroy an existing civilisation.

In these last years there has been a real battle on for the soul of Spain. At a time when there is potential for change there are two possibilities. If history is not dealt with there is a pull back and old entrenchments in the land are re-established. We have listened to language in these past months that is shocking, language literally pulling on ‘the spirit of Columbus’. A party leader recently went to these bulls of Guisando. He has taken his party much further to the right. These public figures might not know what they are pulling on but pull on it they do. Our responsibility is to be awake enough to ensure that old dangerous ‘spirits’ are not reactivated. I suspect many places are like this at this time. It indicates a time of change is here, and warns us that we could equally lose ground that has been gained thus far.

Many aspects came together in and through these recent days – we have prayed into Columbus Day and have almost certainly been on camera when we planted on the eve of that celebration some subversive art. Interestingly since the year we did that the day itself has been challenged and for the first time boycotted by certain officials. We prayed of course into the ReConquista and the subsequent events for almost a whole year.

We have had a Spanish flag for 10 years and we have known for some time that we needed to bury the flag somewhere at the right time. We have had no further discussion on this, but we both came to the conclusion that it needed to be at ‘Toros de Guisando’. Whoever said it first, the other said – that’s what I have had in my thinking for a few days… Anyway this is what we did at that place.

We first cut the flag up into 17 pieces, one for each of the governmental communidades of Spain. We did not burn the flag but symbolically cut it up, buried it soaked in oil in the ground where the treaty was made, calling for a Spain to rise up that will be a true reflection of convivencia (co-habiting of space that allows for diversity, difference, dialogue in the spirit of fraternity – which we see as the heart of Paul’s Gospel).

Part of the key response Gayle had to make in respect of the wild boars has been to hold her position and not give way to patriarchal closing down of space. This seems key at this time. There is a spirit of intimidation loosed… time to hold our ground.