God in it

The Core of a Movement

In a post today Scot McKnight wrote (emphasis added):

While the liberation theology of some was not much more Marxist economics and violent revolution, but a theology should not be judged by its edges but by its center.

The latter part is what caught my attention – applicable to theology but I wish to apply it to protest movements. First a brief story.

Somewhere around the year 2000 I had a clear encounter with Spain. I was above the land and could see the entire outline of the Iberian peninsula, when what I saw began to zoom in fairly rapidly (before I was using google maps, but the same effect, zooming in and coming to the centre). So I knew that somehow I was coming to the ‘centre’ of Spain. When I got there I came to a large square that contained two aspects that got my attention. First a huge crowd that I estimated had to be around 100,000 people, and a stage at one end all set up but without anyone on it as the event had not yet started. I knew the people had gathered to ‘hear what the Lord would have to say to Spain’.

As I have written before revelation meets expectation, and my expectation was clear that one day a remarkable event would take place where a prophet would come to Spain and address the nation in a public setting of considerable size. Expectation comes from the past, revelation from the future – hence the mismatch.

Many years later I discovered that Puerta del Sol is at the centre of Madrid, and from there (point ‘Zero Kilometre’) measurements are made. It is a wonderfully active square with many protests taking place in it or ending there.

In January 2015 Gayle and I decided to travel to Madrid as a political leader was calling for a gathering from across Spain. We thought we needed to be there to catch something of the pulse of the land, so travelled up on Friday night to stay over till Sunday morning. Early Saturday Gayle received a phone call to say her dad was seriously ill and the suggestion was that she should fly to the UK as soon as possible. We booked the first available flight – the afternoon. (We were due to be there for 2 nights, Gayle had packed for herself clothes for a week as she anticipated something would disturb our plans.)

This then changed everything but as we had a couple of hours before the event we decided that we should go to the square, see what was there. By the time we left the square to go to the airport the square was packed – certainly with a crowd of around 100,000. At the far end – just as I had seen – was a stage that was empty as the event was still more than an hour away from starting.

We left. Gayle to the airport and I drove back to Oliva. Event over, though we watched it on TV but were never present at it.

Two months later I walked into our living room and suddenly there was an ‘aha’ moment. ‘Gayle we were standing in exactly what I saw 15 years ago.’

When we stood in it that Saturday morning I could not see it. It did not meet my expectation. My expectation was wrong! Every last detail fitted what I had seen, and still I could not ‘see’ it. The speaker – a professed atheist – spoke about the clock in Spain that had been stopped had started. He called out much of the corruption that day, and since that day slowly but consistently the corruption has been squeezed to the surface.

[Even after recognising the fulfilment I had to wrestle with for a while the thought that ‘maybe though there will be a future event that will really be the ‘full’ fulfilment – a Christian event.’ Expectations – so slow to give way! I now know that was the fulfilment.]

So back to McKnight’s quote. We can write off (and particularly so at this time) protest movements because they are nor perfect. In doing so we can hold them to a higher account than we do the church. If Jesus had one standard for society (no murder) but had another for his disciples (no anger) why are we critical of that which does not profess faith, and are silent about internal issues? We reverse the Jesus’ approach seeking to hold the world to a level of account that is not appropriate.

We should expect imperfection in protest movements. We should not allow the periphery to obscure the centre. We have prayed for a long time for wisdom’s voice to be heard, to be heard in the public square, to be shouted out in the street. And for those of us who have not prayed we have sung about ‘dancers who dance upon injustice’.

I have to come to believe:

  • that many of our prayers will be – and should be – answered by events in the world. (One of the central commissions for the body of Christ is to enable the world to be a ‘good’ world.)
  • That the responses will not be perfect, and that we are wrong to expect them to be.
  • That God’s voice is heard in and through these movements, and that a deafness at this time will only serve to skew the prophetic that is being proclaimed.

Close to home?

In the previous posts I have given a few windows into our attempts to cover issues from history through going on site, praying, acting and declaring. It is great to be able to connect some dots along the way, and very satisfying to see the path from 2008 (piracy, betrayal and murder) through to the day we moved to Madrid. Of course there is no way anyone can claim that one’s actions at any point were key. Maybe it all would happen anyway, or any ‘results’ were down to some other event. Faith is faith. We all have to do what we believe is right. There is no voice coming from heaven saying that God has never found anyone so obedient and smart in all of history! The great aspect also concerning faith is that it is not based on getting it right. Sometimes we have just got to do something that resonates with our spirits and the situation.

It would be great if we could show that when we faced up to the very real possible betrayal and loss of money that it had an effect into the original issues (piracy…). We certainly hope so!!

Ultimately we want to see substance, but signs are an important element on the way. Symbolism / signs in Scripture are important and seem to be two-fold in significance:

  • they point to the substance, and so are a real boost to sight. We are to lift our eyes when a sign appears so that we can see what they are pointing to. That is a real help, but beyond their obvious purpose they
  • draw to themselves the substance they are pointing to. This is so key. When the sign takes place they accelerate the shift, and act beyond a time marker. Something actually moves.

Signs can be external to ourselves, but so often the sign will manifest much closer to home. There is a reason for this. When it is close to home we have leverage, and leverage means we can move something way beyond our weight. This is something we see so often in Scripture with the prophets. They become signs and symbols, living through in their bodies and circumstances what is in the land. This was not to make them victims but to give them an authority to shift something in the land.

Of course there needs to be a caveat in all this. We can be in danger of making everything a sign… NO NO and again I say NO! Yet there are times when we have an inner conviction that what we are experiencing is a sign. Or we focus in prayer on something in the bigger picture, and then at a personal level we begin to experience the same but at a smaller scale.

Something small and personal can shift something big and societal.

40 days in the wilderness… and 40 years… 400 years… all is ready to see a shift.

There are two errors to avoid:

  • Taking on a victim spirit – this is happening because of the filth in the land and I am experiencing this because the church is so passive and lukewarm.
  • Proclaiming how victorious I am in Christ, getting personal freedom and missing what else could come through.

Both of the above are focused on ‘me’. Poor me or victorious me. The promises of God are corporate promises so that life can flow through us, not simply to us.

We have consistently had to battle through at a personal level whenever we have pushed into corporate issues. There seems to be three possible outcomes in those times.

1) a personal breakthrough but nothing changes on the wider front.
2) a breakthrough on the wider front but the personal circumstances do not.
3) a breakthrough on both fronts – that is the one we pull for!!!

Of course the third option is the one we all like to have 100% of the time. There are so many factors that mean we do not quite live in an ‘ideal’ world (as if!) but at least let’s kick in that direction.

The challenge of recounting stories is that the impression can be given that the story teller lives above all of the rest of us, with ‘I did this’ and the heavens opened and… Scripture is full of stories but not all the stories are full of ‘success’. Indeed success is not the measure, but faithfulness, and if we are faithful somehow there is an effectiveness. Success is my story; effectiveness is there is change somewhere else and I often don’t know how I contributed to it. A success syndrome means we have no need of a final assessment day; effectiveness means that on that day we will hear a voice something along the lines of ‘well done’.

So now in danger of success story-telling but seeking to outline the principle of ‘close to home’. I have recounted before of rupturing a disc in my back. Those things happen and there are so many testimonies of healing. However, it was not too long before we realised there was a major parallel between my physical experience and the land. This focused our prayers two ways – personal and land.

The final shift came when I had my back tattooed with a compass over the problem disc and the words ‘true north’ on the spine. Symbolism for sure. The problem disc was clearly where Madrid is positioned on the land and where ‘true north’ needs to bring about an alignment. (For those who want to think about the practice – I once read about someone who spat in mud and slapped it on a blind person’s eyes… just a little out there?)

We do not come with great success stories and any breakthrough is always challenged. The latest book from the Fascist wing of Spain is roughly translated ‘Vertebrate Spain’. Now there is a challenge!! That is life. A great move forward today, a kick back tomorrow… but the faithfulness of the saints is being stored up in heaven, the materials that God is building the New Jerusalem with. (Apparently ‘with’ is not how to end a sentence, but ‘with’ is a God word so no apologies there!)

Will we make a difference?

HEALTH WARNING attached!!

If what I write below is close to what is here and coming then taking heed could really unlock some health into our world and for the next generation. If we do not heed it…

I have been very exercised about some of the significant global crises that are on the horizon. For the past 3 weeks I have been seeing a very serious economic upheaval. Then a few days ago the global climate report was published with the ‘we have twelve years to address this’. It would be crazy to dismiss this report, as crazy as if I had a group of credited medics in front of me all pushing for the same diagnosis but I argued for something different, someone with no medical expertise. The only, and invalid, reason for dismissing this UN climate report would be because of the economic ramifications to the world we have created.

We have entered a window of time when the façades are opening again, so I wish to repeat a dream I had at the beginning of the decade and in the same season as another dream that seemed to indicate that it was relevant for this decade. For those who have read this before feel free to jump ahead.

I was in a town square and simply standing at one side of it.. I was observing the buildings on the other side and knew that they represented every institution that had shaped the public space as we have it today: education, health, government, business, trade, church, etc. were all present. With no prior warning and all at the same time the fronts of the buildings came froward and then up as if they were on a hinge. Anyone could look inside the buildings. My first thought was I need to warn those on the other side of the square as buildings acting like that will soon become very unstable and fall over, so I considered anyone close was in real danger. I got ready to shout my warning but soon realised that the buildings were not going to fall over. I then held my warning as I tried to work out what was going on. I felt a sense of danger but knew it was deeper than ‘get away from the buildings’. While I am contemplating what the danger was someone began quietly to sing a well-known worship song that focused on the Lordship of Jesus. There were obviously enough people in the public square with Christian faith that a second person added their voice, then a third and so on. The volume of the singing rose some, and then when it reached a certain level, all the buildings simply closed up again. I was very disturbed by what had happened and did not know what I should shout out. While pondering this, trying to get a handle on the appropriate warning I heard an audible voice that came from just behind me (I never looked left nor right but simply focused on the buildings that were across the square.) The audible voice said:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo, that brings everything back to where it was.

Now I knew the warning I needed to get across. The warning was concerning pulling on the familiar, and the shock in the dream of course was that the familiar that caused the façades to close up was the response of singing by those of faith – but familiar is familiar however we define it.

Knowing what the warning now was I cleared my throat, took a deep breath and then shouted out: ‘It is the familiar…’ I got those four words out and a person from my right side stood right in my face, eye-balling me, to intimidate me. I was determined that I would not be put off, so stepped to my left, cleared my throoat, and then once more got the first four words out and the person repeated their intimidating action. This happenned one more time, so three times this person prevented me shouting out the whole warning. I stepped aside once more and again shouted the first four words. This time the person finished my sentence (‘It is the familiar…’) with the words

that brings things back to normal.

Similar but such a false representation.

Given that I consider Scripture calls the body of Christ to act priestly what takes place in the public square is our responsibility. There might be a battle, it might take time for a change to come, we might well also have ‘failures’ as we engage, but the point is we have to step up to our responsibility. We cannot control what happens there, but through our positioning in the world and our petitioning to heaven we can shift the spiritual atmosphere and create boundaries so that there is an opportunity for the growth of righteousness. In the light of that it is not surprising that in the dream it was the response of believers that short-circuited what was happening in the public square. There is evidently a time to sing, and there is a time not to. I say this as I am convinced that the façades are opening up again. We have to learn what the right response is in this season.

An aside on some current reflections – with the acknowledgement they might not be the most relevant and tomorrow they might not even be relevant. Many Western nations are not willing to engage in any level of sanctions against one of the main human rights violators (Saudi Arabia) because they purchase arms from us – this is certainly true of Spain, the UK and the USA. Economics triumphs over ethics. Mammon or God, Jesus said, and although we would be naive to expect some kind of ‘Christian’ standard in a nation we do have the right to expect a level of right action, and nation after nation are putting economics before any humanitarian perspective. In a few days we are in Brazil and will be there for the final vote for the presidency. A figure who seems to have huge support from many Christians is of course pushing a strong agenda that might increase their economy but at what cost to the environment and to the marginalised? No candidate is perfect but to get behind someone because they are pro-a-number-of-moral-issues and pro boosting the economy as if they are God’s candidate is extremely naive. Maybe we can suggest at times a particular approach better accords with our beliefs but it really is time to drop the idea of a God appointed candidate or a Christian nation.

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

  • greed and consumerism
  • misogyny
  • protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.

I suggest we have the next two years, when either a level playing field will be established or we will leave the next generation a Herculean task to bring things forward to something that resembles a God shape for society.

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Provision of Transport

A couple of days ago Gayle posted a dream that opens up some new sight for us. We have to make sure we know the way and seek out who God wants to connect us to who know the ‘how’. We aspire that those connections will be personal relationships but over these past years have also discovered that connections are made in the Spirit, that it is possible to connect with people, even if one never meets them in person, but influences them and impart to them what they need.

Gayle is a prolific dreamer and we have been shaped in our thinking by a number of the dreams she has had, not least of which is our current location. For many years I did not seem to dream, and certainly did not seem to have any ‘God’ dreams. Something shifted mid 90s, and although I do not dream to the same extent as Gayle, there have been a number of dreams that have opened up new sight for me. A recurrent ‘location’ for my dreams is that I am in a specific location, or with people associated with that place. If that is the context for the dream it invariably is either 1) going to have new revelation for me, or 2) those in the dream will simply not get what I am sharing.

Around five years ago I had a dream that was in that location. The background was that we moved to Spain in 2009 and until the beginning of 2014 we did not have a car. There was also a period of many months in the UK when I did not have a car. It was in the year after Sue passed away. I kinda felt that it was the Lord prompting me in that direction, however it was probably more to do with a therapy of slowing down, feet on ground, connecting with the land.

In this dream I went to a gathering that was on the prophetic. I was asked by one of those carrying responsibility for the gathering what was I going to share. I began with

‘God has given me a new mode of transport.’

‘Brilliant’, came the reply, ‘we need these testimonies of how God has supplied new cars.’

I tried to explain repeatedly that I was not talking about a literal vehicle, that in fact we did not even have a car, and I was talking about a whole new way of journeying through life with God, and the ‘car-lessness’ was simply a symbol of that. No matter how many times I tried to explain it, he did not get it. He then went on to enthusiastically introduce me explaining the wonderful news of God’s provision of a new car for us and how great an encouragement that will be. I spoke, sought to explain that this was not about the provision of a car, but of a whole new way of journeying. At the end the same guy came back to again underline God’s provision of a car!! (Maybe the dream was to show me that I probably need a few lessons in communication!)

Assuming that the dream was not about my communication skills… There is a level of the prophetic that unlocks provision, and the testimonies of ‘God provided this’ are vital. God is the God who shows up with manna, and a whole lot more. There is though a level of the prophetic that does not negate the personal and practical provision, but does not always go down to that level, nor accept fulfilments at that level. We can have new transport, and have no car. We can start with a car, lose it, but have gained new transport.

I suggest two immediate aspects from the dream:

  • the prophetic has to be pulled up a whole level from that of evident personal or even corporate provision, and the resulting testimonies of ‘success’
  • the prophetic has to go deeper into the realities of incarnated living.

We can receive new (literal) transport but little changes in how we travel. Our comfort level might go up, but we are doing the same old same old. The transport has changed but nothing has changed. Or we can embrace a new way of walking – if without a car – slower and more reflective, letting the connection to the land speak to us. We can gain new sight from the landscape which will need fresh gifts of interpretation. The mid 90s marked something of a great shift for many, and I can certainly see a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ from that time, but the mid 90s are some 20 years ago. A lot of provision was given. A lot of answered prayers with ‘new cars’ showing up and testimonies being shared, but I suspect that the Lord wanted to take us deeper with / without a new car.

In the time, particularly in the UK, of not owning a car, my movement was slower. I had time to pray. I could not rush from one setting to the next. If I had an appointment to meet someone I really had to think how long would it take me to get there. I could not do one more thing, arrive in a hurry a few minutes late. I am not sure how good I was at reflecting but I think I began to see that we had to look at the landscape all around and ask for interpretation. For those who have dug deeply, since the mid 90s, into that aspect I suspect they have less testimonies of God’s provision of the brand new car, are not going to be flavour of the month to fill the next conference, have been dis- / re-located so that they are seeing more of the landscape rather than just the arbitrary pausing points.

The landscape has shifted. It is not primarily about the provision, but the release of resources for the job in hand, for the workers in the field. And again to pull on the theme I have pursued for a while, that of ‘royal priesthood’, those workers are not the full-time Christian workers, but the workers, and the field is the world. Prophetic words can have personal fulfilment, but I think there is even something deeper than personal fulfilment, it is fulfilment that brings about change beyond our personal sphere. Fulfilments where we have journeyed with the word about the ‘new car’, and in the journey have discovered new transportation and as a result provision for others that would not have been released otherwise.

It seems far easier to embrace the wonderful stories of God’s evident practical provision, and long may those stories abound, but we also need to embrace, and help others embrace the journey that might not give us that story to tell, but enable others to have a story to tell. Israel was promised a land, and they fought over the land and its boundaries… At one level they contested for fulfilment, and in the process missed the bigger picture. Paul blew into that promise saying God promised Abraham the world, thus making the land all-but superfluous. There seems to have been a lot of fights over boundaries… time to let go and to tenaciously hold on to fulfilments way beyond what we thought would be the fulfilment.

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In the Middle (muddle?) of 2016-2020

Sue and Roger Mitchell have been very supportive of our travels in Spain. In a few weeks’ time we will have them with us for a few days. Always there is more in it those days than we initially realise. The interaction deepens our perceptions. Sue has recently written about the ‘mid-point’ of our time through the four years from 2016-2020. Her insights and prophetic vision have always stood the test of time. Not only is the content that is reproduced here worth digging in to and meditating on, but she also sends out such a clear signal in her communication of where we have to travel: a communication that both those standing in a historic Christian position and seeking to face outward, and those who do not share a ‘Jesus-faith’ but are equally focused on transformation can find clarity for hope, faith and love.

Roger writes regularly. Follow him on twitter or at his blog

Here then is her post, first with the introduction by Roger on his blog site:

We all have a context and a background, a worldview, social construct, call it what you will. The important thing is to recognise it but not be bound by it, let alone be dogmatic about it. I rather like theologian Graham Ward’s standpoint theology approach where we recognise where we started and where we are now but keep open to the impact of others and their standpoints. Exercising prophetic sight from the context of this kind of open standpoint is costly but crucial. So I am everlastingly grateful to my partner Sue Mitchell for continuing to pursue such sight. I for one need it, and in its light will be ready to start once again blogging more resources for kenarchy practitioners and love-activists generally. Thanks to those who continue to visit this site and peruse the material whether I’m blogging regularly or not. It’s certainly encouraging to me. So here’s the first installment of Sue’s latest sight. It’s quite long for a blog piece, but needs exposure. In a week or so I’ll move it to her page so that we can continue to draw on it while I continue to blog forward.

IN THE MIDDLE (MUDDLE?) OF 2016-2020: MOONS, MEANINGS, TIMES AND SEASONS

TIMES AND SEASONS AGAIN …

It’s been a long while again since I have written about our times and seasons as there are so many perspectives to take into consideration. Desiring, like so many, to be inclusive and learning, I find it increasingly challenging to express a worldview which, while based, hopefully not dogmatically, in the Jesus narrative is meaningful for all, draws nonetheless on a transcendent, spiritual and moral dynamic that not all will recognise. Nevertheless I offer this in the development of an interpretation of the last three decades which, though somewhat ‘sub-cultural’ in its earlier expression, is now fairly well attested by significant events. My hope then is that it help ‘church-background people’ to re-imagine ourselves as active participants in the social justice challenges of today’s world, and ‘non-religious/non-christian people’ to re-consider the possibility of a powerfully loving, non-controlling, Jesus-defined God, involved in helping us all towards a radically new ‘humanifesto’.

POST-VIRAL PARALYSIS, LOVE-BASED COMMUNITY AND LABOUR PAINS …

On a journey to find a radical form of organisation which could express love-based relational community as an alternative and antidote to a mechanistic social determinism, many of us were engaged in a ‘new church movement’. It was a modern-day attempt at reformation of an ageing institution which nevertheless had transcendent love in its deepest history. From both within and outside that lived experience, much has been written about the human and supernatural dynamics, the development and settling back of that movement. My own interpretation, alongside Roger’s much deeper and academically rigorous research, views that 20th century experience as a concentrated exposure in a single generation of the history, the ‘rise and fall’, of an alternative society, or ‘church’, originally inspired by the exemplary man Jesus. Focusing on his inspiration, teaching and hermeneutic, we offer this fall as sign and significance of similar, earlier falls in the history of family, tribe and society, and of the virus that transfers in the DNA from generation to generation.

The inspiration and desire to love, belong, care and be loved is challenged, infected and often overwhelmed by power and institutionalisation. This often defaults to the seemingly necessary hierarchical, ‘representative’ management of social organising, rather than the relational wellbeing of all people and creation. Nevertheless, alongside the pressure of the virus in this 20th century church experiment, we did experience some truly remarkable transcendent interventions when the love of God impacted and strengthened the originary, creational impetus to love, and significantly challenged some of the post-viral structural paralysis in both church and social bodies. For example in the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles, the love of God radically affirmed black, white, male and female as fully and equally valued. Martin Luther King then carried this revolutionary message to American society.

2016-2020: A PULSE OF ‘DESPERATION’ …

Jesus is well-known for his teaching of the ‘Beatitudes’, calling blessed those who mourn, who are hungry and thirsty, poor and despised. Clearly he is pointing to those not in positions of power and nothing to lose in the present system or social order, because another social order, or era, is about to dawn. His hearers can receive this new ‘kingdom’ with joy because they are not invested in the present, unjust and oppressive one. This hungering and thirsting is for righteousness, this poverty is of value and respect, this mourning is for the loss of the God-given image of humanity and creation where all live in peace and each has her own, rightly shared provision. But those ‘who are full now’, the rich and the satisfied, already have what matters to them so have no sight or longing for anything different, or of greater value. The labour pains of longing or a desperation for justice are a pulse we, particularly in the well-off northern hemisphere, must discipline ourselves to seek, challenging strongly our own self-interest in the present system. The traumas of the ups and downs of the market, whether we will be economically better or worse off after Brexit, and other such media narratives are the immediate concerns of this present age. Yet the increasing numbers of the homeless poor in our cities, the incarcerations of refugees and the unreported genocide (again) in the Congo are clear evidence of an ‘un-rightness’, which those, such as followers of Jesus, who aspire to a new social order, to a new humanity, must address.

MOONS, TIMES AND SEASONS …

I have to admit that foreseeing (as long ago as 1996; written up fully by 2007) that this four-year period would be one of ‘desperation’ (with hindsight better termed ‘disruption’) was not a great help when it did dawn! More recent statements I made such as “the shattering of Western imperialism is irrevocable and … a United Kingdom will … face considerable internal challenges and disunity (and) the shuddering will continue” can themselves cause desperation and not the blessed kind unless we keep the bigger picture in focus. As a seasoned melancholic, that is as great a challenge to me as to anyone. So the vivid and somewhat unusual lunar event in late January this year was a great, and literal, wake-up call.

In September 2015, the ‘early’ beginning (‘head’ of the Jewish new year, or in the West as the ‘academic’ year begins) of the 2016-2020 period, the fourth of an unusual 4 lunar eclipses in one year was a super, red, harvest moon. Termed ‘super’ because it appeared larger than usual at the nearest point to the earth in its ellipse, ‘red’ or ‘blood’ because of the effect of an eclipse, it was called ‘harvest’ for the season. Now at the head of 2018, two years into the period, two super moons occurred in the same calendar month. The second, also a blood moon, was termed a ‘blue’ moon because of its rarity, but also from an ancient linguistic root to betrayal, where 13 moons occur in a 12-month year. It references 13 apostles (Matthias was elected, or Paul emerged) in the framework of the original 12 after Judas’ betrayal. Moons turning to blood is a biblical reminder to take notice of times (chronos) and seasons (kairos) changing. And here was a super, blood, ‘betrayer’ moon!

In short then, my enquiries into what this might signal suggest that two eras or epochs (as in kairos in NT Greek) are contending for our one chronological or earthly present time period (chronos in NT Greek). The fullness of one era is being challenged by another, and they are beginning, unusually, to appear together. The ‘betrayer’ moon speaks firstly of Judas who betrayed Jesus, accepting money to do so in the ‘era’ or culture of the Pharisees’ collaboration with the Roman system, and indeed in the marriage of church with the imperial system since. Secondly and redemptively it references the apostle Paul who chose captivity as a prisoner in order to go to Rome to incarnate love in the very heart of the Imperial era. It appears then, that the love impulse which prioritises care for the poor, the gentle, the outsider and the oppressed, is again growing to a fuller strength than we knew and is shining alongside this ageing world system. It was incarnated by Jesus, released ‘on all peoples’ in the spiritual outpouring of resurrected humanity, imitated by Paul and subsequent generations, and in this time of our lives is growing again like the day. Now that is worth waking up for!

Will we then, ‘at this time’ see the era of wealth and power again restored to the church and/or the good people of the Western world? This ironic question is the excitable disciples’ question to Jesus (in Acts 1) reworked for our ‘time’. The answer is the same now as then. If that is our expectation or our desire, we cannot know or discern rightly the times and eras that are ours to live in. To look back, hoping to restore what was comfortable for us reveals a ‘fixed’ or closed, culturally dominant worldview. But Paul reminds us that if we are alert and sober, not easily distracted in a season of confusion and good desperation, we do know “full well” about times and seasons (1 Thess 5:1). Stealthily and carefully a new day (era) is beginning to dawn, but it comes about through labour pains! The metaphor is of the night, and a darkened mind, being about false “peace and safety”, so don’t sleep, but labour for a new birth, for a new era.

SO, BREATHE …

If then we are encouraged to hope for and believe in a growing social movement towards justice and compassion, it might look something like the Victorian pattern. The socio-political interventions for prison reform, the better working conditions for the poor, the end of child labour, new education provision and so on of the Victorian era was itself a dawning of a new day for many. It too succeeded a ‘reformation’ or awakening of the church to its original calling. But we are moving forward, not harking back to an earlier ‘Christendom’. What are the challenges of today’s social and moral injustices in a globalised and multi-cultural world? How do we now engage effectively, soberly but energetically? In my view the challenge of two moons in one space is huge. The parable of two harvests sown in the same field is apt (Matt.13:24ff) Tearing one up will damage both, but doing nothing is not an option. There is a transcendent element with angels becoming involved, responding to the ‘time’ and to ‘those who will inherit salvation’. So those seeking to share in the inheritance of the new humanity, first embodied by Jesus who persevered to fulfil all the hope and promise of a person committed to pour out life in love and the pursuit of justice, must work likewise with our time and with transcendence. And on one specifically challenging note, we must work this year with a sensitivity to betrayal. This is not to increase suspicion and neuroticism in our relationships, but to check our own choices and behaviour, like the disciples at the Passover. Not, “Is it he or she who will betray me?” but rather, “Is it I, Lord?” who might become a betrayer. If betrayed, to meet it with the forgiveness, love and freedom with which Jesus included Judas. To be true to our values, our covenants, our God, and our spiritual, moral and emotional responsibilities is our challenge.

BREATHING EXERCISES …

Some will know of the five ‘graces’ or pulses I have written of before as an interpretative gloss of our learning experience of the last 30 years. I suggest now again, that just like breathing exercises in childbirth, they are to help us manage these labour pains. We can and must be deliberate and thoughtful to help a reconfigured society, an ironic ‘kingdom’ or a new ‘era’ come to birth as fully and safely as possible, in our times. But they develop with each new phase, so I will write further in the days to come in fresh detail. It’s probably not just moonshine!

Sue Mitchell, March 2018.

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