Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Body's Grace (3)

Finally, a post that recognizes more than prejudged knowledge can. Here in interpreting a book I have not read - but hope to, I find resonance with the experience I have attempted to express in all my positive writings and in all my warnings, perhaps too subtle since phrased with conditionals, about morality as the top of the pile in human relations. The top of the pile is New Creature, New Creation through the death of Jesus. The imagery of the temple and its mercy seat is strong enough to overcome the tendency to insist on our own purity prior to approaching. We shall be pure as he is pure and holy as he is holy only to the extent that our conversation is with him and not with our prejudged ideas of what he is. Such conversation is begun, continued, and completed in his death, our entry through the veil, that is to say his flesh.

Read this and love.

I wrote this and spilled my wine all over in a beautiful arc. The best chaser for red wine is white - fortunately there was a bottle of old white in the fridge - opened I don't know how long ago. That + carpet spot remover seems to have done the trick. But the walls will need repainting - nice.

Bless the Lord O my soul - is this punishment for thought or a humorous reminder of who's in charge?

It is the most serious game in town - because without such sanctification, all our desires are incurvatus in se.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Again, Beloved, I have jumped ahead to the middle of the story - the direct center for Uncle Mark. Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. My work is taking longer than I thought. It may be several years before you get a complete translation into your Latin tongue. So I hope my letters anticipating the glory to come will still prove welcome.

Mark writes only a few words summarizing the message of Jesus. Can we hear it? It would seem that Jesus cannot even be sure that his direct disciples - being taught in the flesh - will hear him. (When we read ahead we shall see how slow of learning they were - but he does call the one who hears Rocky - for solid and reliable.) I should withdraw this comment and parenthesis - for surely they are learning in the days of his flesh, but we are learning in the days of our own flesh, and I can assure you, we who learn, are flesh and learn in our flesh, touched by his Spirit.

We do not ask then, 'how would he speak to us today?' as if he were not present. Yet without presuming his presence - and you might think this is almost by an act of self-deception - how can we hear his teaching except mediated by those who have gone before us and whose fleshly bodies are no longer with us? That is by their written record and its tradition.

We who do not see the foretaste of glory, how shall we see beyond our immediate view? Can we jump out of our own skins? You, Beloved, parvule somnambule, amice me, in particular, must hear and know. The task is difficult but not impossible, for it is mediated not just by written words and tradition but by Spirit. We know when we are known and we then know both the surprise of the presence, its incomparable holiness and joy, and why it is difficult to speak.

Remember, Beloved, when Jesus went into the land of Judea and remained with them and baptized - the baptizer and the baptized; each given to the other; water changed to wine; water transmuting into Spirit; Spirit given to the flesh and bones of our own promised land. Now consider the transfiguring fire - not his body as if flesh and blood could inherit, but his body as if Spirit indwells the flesh. Do not call unclean what God has made clean.

Do I give up fire for words, Beloved? God forbid.

- Put down your pen.
- It is done, my Lord, I await your word.
- Pick it up. Now write my words as fire.
- Do I understand words as fire?
- My word is fire. The water of blessing will balance the fire so it does not consume and destroy you.
- May my Lord give us this water for ever.

We are like a forest, Beloved, filled with all manner of strange creatures and luxuriant growth. I have seen the water fall into a forest. The trees are wet. They cling as you walk. If the fire falls before the water, the forest is consumed. Saturate yourself, therefore, with the water of the word and you will be caught as if in a vice. But your heart cries out with joy for the one who could destroy you in a moment does not. You say: I am alone in my knowledge; hold me. The branches will hold you. The grip is secure. You rest and you know you are not alone. Gift, gifted and giver are present. Fire on the earth, Spirit on all flesh will not destroy you. Such a Spirit, Beloved, an oil that lets fire and water burn together, reforms our judgment.

His branches have dripped fatness for us. In the shadow of his branches is such a life, let us ask with the writer of prayers: one thing I have desired of the Lord that I might behold his fair beauty for ever and visit his temple, for he will treasure me in his booth in the time of trouble. For there is trouble as the same psalmist repeatedly notes and as Jesus himself experienced.

- My enemies pick up rocks to throw at me. They lay stones of stumbling for my feet and I fall. Will you not destroy my enemies that they too might know your beauty?
- All who come to me will find rest and I will in no wise cast them out. So it is that I still the enemy and the avenger.
- What will we do for our younger sister?

The Lord and Giver of Life anoints fingers and lips, so we may fully and fitly praise the creator of heaven and earth, both the former and the latter created in one day as it is written, in the day the Lord God made earth and heaven. (I note that in some earlier work I did for you that I mistranslated this from the original tongues - I had written in die quo fecit Dominus Deus caelum et terram and I should have written in die quo fecit Dominus Deus terram et caelum.) The corrected translation closes the parenthesis of the word that begins the book in principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. You will see how careless I was to miss such an obvious feature of the text. The reversal of the words allows us to see and hear the end in the beginning.

- es ist volbracht
- a strange tongue. what is it you are hearing?
- it could be Ruth singing it, but wait, in my ears the timbre changes to a male voice echoing the words - es ist volbracht - a slow descending scale rehearsing the end of all things.

Such a light is good, translating darkness into light, and redeeming the lives of all his servants not missing a hair of the head or a tear of the eye. And what is it we are told: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. 'Beloved.' He shares our name.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

God's Insomniac

Fermenting in my mind is a new idea: the statement that God loves us as God loves God. It opens the Trinity to a new understanding for me - particularly when it begins to resonate with the gospel - the question 'what is man (adam, enosh)' and the desire and answer in the Lord Jesus Christ. (Noted here with thanks to Mike Highton where I first saw it here.)

Now may he give his beloved sleep.

The Body's Grace

Do note this and the posts it points to - not too long a read.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Understanding Paul - one lay view

David Congdon has listed a set of 'models' of Paul's thought and asked a few questions.
  1. Justifying address-divine righteousness model
  2. Covenantal-salvation historical model
  3. Cosmic-apocalyptic model
  4. Mystical model
  5. Judaic-eschatological model
  6. Pneumatological-participatory model
  7. Christological-typological model
And these are his questions
  1. What is your preferred model for understanding Paul?
  2. Do you find my alternative list helpful in any way? If so, how?
  3. How might you augment or pare down or change my list?
  4. Do you have other examples of academic manipulation?
Here is one view of the lay of the land.

Seven alternate or coordinating 'models' are a convenient number for reflection. When humans get above seven, most of us lose track of where we are. We seem to have a three-bit memory. But that's for 7 simple things. None of the above is simple. Several are already composite. I am going to boil it down to 3 to start. It will get more complex because each of the three could be subdivided by 7 and each of those in turn by 7 more (giving us just under 150 discrete items to consider with the Apostle), but the top handle will be easier to grasp.

My top 3 are Jesus, Israel, and Law. At least they are for the moment.

Around Jesus cluster seven things:
  • son of David,
  • Christ,
  • gospel,
  • Lord,
  • Son of God,
  • Spirit,
  • resurrection
I read these from the invocation to Romans - and I think other epistles support one or more of these - e.g. Philippians on Christ/Son, 1 Corinthians on Spirit, 2 Corinthians on gospel.

Around Israel cluster seven things:
  • the sonship,
  • the glory,
  • the covenants,
  • the giving of the law,
  • the worship,
  • the promises;
  • the patriarchs,
  • the Christ.
Of course these are lifted from Romans 9 and seem to overlap with the first group - but with distinctions.

Around Law I am going to have a tougher time with a completeness of taxonomy:
  • leeway (1 Corinthians),
  • righteousness of God (Romans),
  • freedom (Romans 8),
  • purpose (Galatians 3),
  • fulfillment (Romans 7),
  • Gentiles (Romans 1,3,14,15),
  • Scriptures (1 Corinthians).
I won't push it down any further at the moment.

Now as to preference for DG's list:
  1. Justifying address-divine righteousness model - under Law-righteousness of God and Jesus-resurrection
  2. Covenantal-salvation historical model - under Israel-covenants and Israel-giving of the Law, Law-Gentiles and Law-Scriptures
  3. Cosmic-apocalyptic model - under Israel-promises and Law-freedom (Romans 8)
  4. Mystical model - under Jesus-Spirit and Law-leeway
  5. Judaic-eschatological model - under Israel-promises
  6. Pneumatological-participatory model - under Jesus-Spirit, Jesus-resurrection
  7. Christological-typological model - under Jesus-Christ and Law-Scriptures
I have to guess a bit from these titles but I suspect that
  1. will deal with traditional ideas from the reformation and justifcation by faith - It's true but it's more about God than us.
  2. gathers more to itself on first cut than the others 4 of my 21 subdivisions.
  3. is somewhat foreign to my thinking and early Paul (1 Thessalonians) [update: but see also 1 Corinthians 5:17 and the creation groaning in Romans 8]
  4. is where I am at - but my conversation with the Pauline corpus has been limited by my study of the Psalms these last two years. Paul told me he wouldn't talk to me till I had learned more of the thought process of his kin. His advice in Romans 8 and 10 (where he cites Deuteronomy) and 1 Corinthians 7 have all been formative for me. Romans 7 combined with the Song of Songs holds my understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation. Romans 8 (with Hebrews of course) invites a bold entry into the Holy. [e.g. Paul's 'I live yet not I']
  5. has as limited a perspective for me as 3.
  6. overlaps with 4 and 1.
  7. see 2.
Is this manipulation: yes - my wordle shows I am heavily focused on the one death of Christ for us and I am also readable through my story and through most of this blog as one who does not limit the spiritual to mind and thought. The Spirit is the Lord and giver of life to our mortal bodies or there is something else we should be paying attention to.

Don't forget me

Christianity is not, properly speaking, a ‘religion of the Book’: it is a
religion of the word (Parole) - but not uniquely nor principally of the word in
written form. It is a religion of the Word (Verbe) - ‘not of a word, written and
mute, but of a Word living and incarnate’ (to quote St. Bernard). The Word of
God is here and now, amongst us, ‘which we have looked upon, and our hands have
handled’: the Word ‘living and active’, unique and personal, uniting and
crystallizing all the words which bear it witness. Christianity is not ‘the
biblical religion’: it is the religion of Jesus Christ. [Exégèse Médiévale, II/1
(Paris, 1961), pp. 196-9.]

Clear words that unbind, for the one who loves. With blessings to Macrina who reads all these things on our behalf.

For all who fail to understand plainsong

This from the Lambeth blog (it is possible to get the clerics to hear and understand - hah - I didn't know GR was not musical.)

In reciting the psalms, the brothers employ a practice that has never really worked for me -- until now. The long and pregnant pause between lines of the psalms has always seemed to me, observed in large groups, to be artificial and distracting (more worried that I'm going to start too soon and stick out like a sore thumb). But here, it is an entirely different spiritual practice. It's as if the brothers and I have become one breathing organism, finding a breathing and speaking rhythm that brings us intimately together. Rather than a distraction, it is an embodiment of the oneness life in Christ promises with one another.

As an American, I suppose, I want to voice meaning in each word, but the flatness with which the brothers recite the psalms make a strange sense to me. The reciting of the psalms becomes less about what the words mean, and more about the unity with which we are reciting them. Sounds strange, even for me to be saying. But it works. Powerfully, prayerfully and intimately.

A limerick

From the Catholic Church paper in India 1971 when Hans Küng was visiting (Memoirs II page 194)

There was a young man called Küng
whose praises anyone sung
Though the things that he said
will sound better when he's dead
For the moment he is a bit too young

Monday, July 21, 2008

One Body

- you shall not commit adultery.
- how shall I sign this to Secundus? I sign everything to him.
- I know this: evil goes with adultery. I will sign it as evil. Secundus is allowed signs because he can't hear. Tertius does not answer me. I am used to hearing silence. That is all my brother has. But he gets held.

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Many years have passed since my sister first tried to explain Moses to me. Now I do not need explanation. I know that an equal love needs no explanation and that life with instruction comes from the Most High.

I have skipped ahead in the story, Beloved, to the beginning of table 6. Uncle Mark did not include most of this in his performance. His work is written on table 9. I try to pretend that I could have heard him - but I am limited to reading now what is written of his work concerning dispensing with various limbs. If you read it aloud - with feeling - you might think of yourself acting it as he did. Now I have heard the actors in the great theatre of Epidaurus, some of them are loud and some soft. When I read this passage, I do not think loud. The one who knows the unquenchable fire does not need noise.

And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

For so long I was protected from the noise of the world for I could not hear. Did I enter life without two of my limbs? But they were on my head - I had not cut them off. They were simply silent. What troubles did I avoid by having no hearing? Another had to hear for me. I was held. And because I was loved, I did not miss my ears.

Now I am forced to hear what I would prefer not to hear. Brother and sister offend each other with their words. It's not as if they are responding each to their own offense. They pluck each other's limbs off. I had no choice about not hearing. Now I have no choice about hearing. What is it in the fullness of their senses that they see in their brother or sister that causes them to raise such a turmoil?

As soon as you know the truth, Beloved, you will know to wait for the time of judgment and you will not need in the present time to judge anyone else. Rather you will point them to the same place, the mercy seat, where you found your truth. The one who sits there will neither disappoint nor be disappointed. Those who do not sit there are not in a place where the fire and salt that Jesus speaks of can do their work, for they have not entered in to life. You will know the truth by which you are known.

Now hear is a question for your ears: how would you pluck out your own eye or cut off your own limb so that the evil you have imaged can no longer be seen and the desire that you have can no longer be approached or grasped? Shall I give you a hint? There is no violence in the method and none of your blood is shed. We will come to the answer later in the Lord's sermon.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who's the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Did you notice in the sermon on the mount - that Jesus said something we interpret positively about who's the greatest? Yet on the road to Jerusalem when the disciples are arguing about who's the greatest, the interpretation is meant to be taken negatively.

Well what does this mean? Can we vacillate and pretend we are reading one bit rather than the other, and still go for greatness? I don't think so. Maybe that part of the sermon was meant to be heard with a bit of irony. Those who were not teaching the law's jots and tittles were considered least - but they were in the kingdom of Heaven - not exactly a bad thing, you know. How to follow the Torah of God... I bet we could find wonderful things in God's Law if we were not trying to prove a point for our own legal opinions on who is in and who is out.

Too bad the Church is so hung up on laws. Now here's a wonderful thing in a JTS commentary. Remember you wild branches how God is able to graft in the natural branches.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

When I was a child, I spake as a child

How many stages of growth have I gone through? It's not as if you need to be told - "it's only a stage". I found that a real put-down especially from people who had not wrestled with the issues I felt I was wrestling with. But there were stages - and can we see them? There were stages of fear, of anger, of denial, of hope, - maybe it was not wrestling with issues so much as with the Creator of Issues. I suspect we all can identify with the ford of Jabbok to some extent.

It is not perhaps the stages that are important - but whether we can trust the people who give us advice during our lives. If they are people in power, will they destroy us if we disagree with them? It is a strange question - but not if you come from Zimbabwe today. If the Creator of Issues (you know who I mean) destroys me, it is to teach me his will - which is always good even if it is painful. One could say that the most fundamental creed is this - concerning goodness.

What this Lord who is good has taught me is of himself - that my deepest self is not condemned. Why then do I hear so much condemnation and fear in the writings of others - especially of those opposed to certain issues? Is it because they cannot read the metaphor of leaven? Are their hearts hard? Or must I hear a law that my Lord has not taught me?

We must all come before the judgment seat of Christ. Whether or not we 'die'. Did we seek and hold earthly power? Did we seek and hold Godly pleasure? Was our power or pleasure in Christ? If there is no Christ, then might and possession of power and pleasure are everything and we might as well be as the Mugabe's of this world. Even if we are to be judged at death only by the next generation, then we return to the problem of being able to trust those in power in the current generation.

Why do I distrust the traditional readings of the clobber texts of Scripture? Simply because I once read Scripture this way, and my Lord taught me otherwise. If I have seen God's love then how can I use the texts this way - they cannot possibly bear the baggage I would put on them even if I were to argue that they bore that baggage when they were written in their original context (and I don't believe this either - the historical baggage and our baggage are of completely different scopes - we have wheels now).

So that struggle for earthly power, even the power of interpretation (not needed some say), is not the real struggle. Rather the struggle is against the One who loves us and gave himself for us.

As Hans Küng writes (p 160)

The Church is founded on Jesus Christ himself as he encounters us in the Christian message which has its original record in the New Testament and to which the dogmas of the church are accountable.
Küng laments that his colleague Walter Kasper was not able to hold his position on infallibility which Kasper writes (12 December 1969 in the Catholic Weekly Publik)
[Infallibility] means the trust and faith that the church is fundamentally maintained in the truth of the Gospel by the Spirit of God despite some errors in detail... through the church the eschatalogical conflict with the powers of untruth, error, and lies constantly takes place in the belief that here the truth will time and again prevail.
If this is so - without pronouncement by human leaders, and of course it is hardly understood this way, then what is the problem about trusting the Spirit of the risen Saviour, the Creator of Issues, to lead, correct, and delight those who are different from the norms of the dominant culture - if they have so claimed Christ.

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved - right? So what's going on with the rejection of those who differ? What's going on is a failure to distinguish things that are different. The request for a covenant with teeth is failure of faith. It becomes trust in words rather than trust in the Lord.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Senatus non errat

Senatus non errat et si errat non corrigit si videatur errasse
The senate does not err, and if it errs it does not correct, so that it is not seen to have erred.
I am taking a break from blogging and reading Disputed Truth again. Here is Hans Küng with his criticism of moral theology at the Gregorian:
In the sixth commandment on sexuality there was no parvus materiae; there were no slight sins but only intrinsically grave ones. The position on the eighth commandment on truthfulness was the opposite; there were only slight sins, unless the circumstances were grave. It often struck me even more at the Council how often in the discussions 'the truth' was put forward in an untruthful way.

Its raining

It's raining, love.
It's raining love.
Love reigns.

Purity and righteousness beyond the normal

In my last post, I left this title phrase hanging - without conclusion: The Gate is open – it is narrow, requiring purity and righteousness beyond the normal.

Is it clear to you what I mean?

Some time ago, I asked for a sermon on the sermon. Poor old Secundus is pondering so deeply that he hasn't yet made it to the sermon on the mount.

I think people really get hung up on the righteousness beyond the normal -

Here are a few extracts from Matthew and Luke's rendition of the sermon: Luke is first, then Matthew's parallel. Matthew's colour is pink, Luke's is green-blue. It's tricky to read. If reading in Luke, Matthew's colour shows you what is shared with Luke. If you are reading in Matthew, Luke's colour shows you what is shared with Matthew. (It only gets worse with Mark.)

And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

I checked the Greek. Copper is not the same word as penny, a point respected by this translation (RSV) - but it really doesn't matter if you check the Greek. There is nothing magical about original tongues or autographs if you can't read anyway. As Jesus says - Judge for yourself what is right.

I know that is too frightening - we want rules because we don't even trust ourselves. What if my accuser is God? How will I make friends?

Now about the superior righteousness, it's in the bit just prior to the above:

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Luke colour is not wrong exactly but it is a bit arbitrary how we might connect parallel passages (This connection is from Kurt-Aland in Synopsis of the Four Gospels, Greek-English Edition of the Synopsis Quattuor Evangelium). This one is perhaps unnecessary. I often repeat myself - as is shown by my wordle profiles. Why wouldn't Jesus repeat himself?

What are the commandments that must not be relaxed? I don't want to make this too easy - but let's talk about heaven and earth.

When do heaven and earth pass away? When God dies. That for a worm, a God should die ( a sixteenth century paraphrase of Psalm 8 - set by Henry Purcell, sung by Janet Baker). Behold I make new heavens and a new earth. It is done (Revelation). I could go on. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). And while we're at it, I would like to paraphrase Galatians 6:15 - for in Christ Jesus, neither is heterosexuality anything nor homosexuality, but a new creation.

You see - heaven and earth have already passed away in Jesus Christ - and they were recreated in his resurrection. He died and I died in him. My re-creation is not for anyone else to judge.

Let me tell you - when God matures a homosexual creature in Jesus Christ by his death, God does not make such a one 'straight' in the common sense of the word - but he makes such a one gifted in Christ without reservation as belonging to him. Reject such gifts at your peril.

For those who have ears, the exceeding righteousness - beyond the normal - is not to be feared. Though I or anyone else be 'least in the kingdom of heaven', we are in it. Our righteousness, vindicated by the Spirit, is greater than any human legal or moral attempt for it is accomplished by the work of God in us through his only Son in whom we have died and been made a new creature in a new heaven and a new earth.

Abraham, friend of God invites our friendship by faith - nothing more. It is a light burden. Jesus confirms his friendship with us. We have walked with our accuser and made friends. There is now no court case against us. The charges have been dropped. The narrow gate has been entered. We find ourselves in the Holy place.


This is a fun site http://www.wordle.net/ - I see how positively biased I am in my posts.

Image 1 represents the current single page display for the blog address. Image 2 represents the display for the July archive. Why one is black and white and the other colour is mystifying. Maybe it's the recent reference to that highly amusing Blake poem.


Since a great deal of what I wrote to the Times was beautifully edited into a very short paragraph, I want to share with you the original context of the last two questions that I was asked, and my full response:

Given Gene Robinson's decision to "gatecrash" the Lambeth conference, I have couple more questions.
  1. What do you think of the decision not to invite Gene Robinson to the conference?
  2. This was shrewd – a way around an impasse – In this Archbishop Rowan is being wise as serpent but innocent as a dove. The gate remains open for all as it should. The lack of invitation sends an invitation to those who are troubled.

  3. Is he right to go to the conference? What impact will his arrival have?
  4. This is not ‘gate-crashing’ since the gate, Christ himself, is open and all are invited to come. If anyone, bishop or not, has entered into that gate, where words are ‘neither noise nor silence, but one equal music’*, then perhaps the optimum possible impact is that there will be a late invitation extended to Bishop Robinson even by those who are opposed to his state. Perhaps they too will see mercy instead of judgment and we all will be given an impetus to return to the true Shepherd and Bishop of our lives.

* John Donne XXVI Sermons (1660) preached 29 February 1627/8

Is Gene Robinson gate crashing?

To address this question, we need to understand the nature of leadership and the nature of the invitation. Is Gene Robinson’s leadership acceptable? Certainly by his Diocese it is. Is the leadership of the council of bishops acceptable? It has a shorter history than the Roman curia and the nature of being an overseer or bishop is complex. All Christians would acknowledge the leadership of Jesus, the Bishop of their lives as noted in 1 Peter, but Christians appoint human overseers in various ways depending on their tradition and the overseer who prays for those overseen learns to contain in prayer the strengths and weaknesses of all in his or her own person. This is true of business leaders too if they so learn Christ.

Is Gene Robinson’s invitation disallowed? I understand that he has no invitation to Lambeth – but has he an invitation implicit in his office? Are invitations even necessary? We as humans have certain protocols and acts taken in privacy or in secret counsel. But who in the case of disputes over religion has governance over the council of God’s people?

To turn the question around – is the gate in the question open or closed? Gate and door are a common metaphor in the Scripture and in prayers of many traditions. Gates determine who is safe, who is in or out. John Donne uses the image in his famous sermon:
They shall awake as Jacob did, and say as Jacob said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and this is no other but the house of God, and the gate of heaven, And into that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no Cloud nor Sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light, no noise nor silence, but one equal music, no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession, no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and identity, no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.
The Gate is open – it is narrow, requiring purity and righteousness beyond the normal.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things at Lambeth

There's plenty of interesting things happening at Lambeth. I am delighted if a little overwhelmed by the Bishops' blogging. I like this one in particular. The reference to Emeth in C.S.Lewis's the Last Battle took me by surprise. It's been so long since I had read it that I had forgotten his name - which of course is the Hebrew for truth.

The best thing the Bishops could do at this point is invite the uninvited.

It is curious to me that council and secret are so closely related. I know the privacy is required - because people make sensationalism out of thinking. We should think - commune with your heart on your bed and be still. Such times are of great importance. I hope none of my readers lack them.

Anglican Voices

Someone named Bob MacDonald - looks a lot like me - is featured here on Anglican Voices in the Times Online. Conversation snippets are difficult to hear in isolation. The cross section of comments shows how people read and how they make inferences from their readings.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why is the Gospel Good?

I am not at all sure what I begin has an easy ending. This is a long and rambling post in contrast to Doug Chaplin's careful reasoning. Again he has approached the issue of same-sex behaviour with sensitivity. He writes:

I think we’re standing at a point where, in the light of all our knowledge, it seems reasonable to ask whether this is one of those occasions for the church to engage in the kind of drastic re-reading of texts we thought we knew. This is the relevance of, for example, the admission of Gentiles, or the banning of slavery.
I have recommended before the treatment of Leviticus in Wrestling with God and Men by Rabbi Steven Greenberg. Rabbi Greenberg reads into the object marker (as many Rabbis have done in other texts) that no-one should treat men or women with the violence implied in some male-female relations.

Steven deals with his early personal response in the first part of the book - I am sure many have heard and wondered how to avoid the apparent 'plain' meaning. Here is a quick summary of his re-reading: (see here for a longer review from 3 years ago before I knew any Hebrew.)

Leviticus 18:22 literal: וְאֶת-זָכָר--לֹא תִשְׁכַּב, מִשְׁכְּבֵי אִשָּׁה: תּוֹעֵבָה, הִוא.
and with a male you shall not lie the lyings of a woman: it is a toevah.

1. given the traditional dominance of male over female he then translates the verse as

And a male
you shall not sexually penetrate
to humiliate
it is abhorrent

2. Then at the end he asks what to do with the אֶת in the verse - a word normally not translated.

ve'et zakhar
lo tishkav
mishkeve ishah
toevah hi

Two other places where the אֶת is interpreted by rabbinic tradition are

  • in Deuteronomy 10:20 - you shall revere (אֶת) the Lord your God (fill in the blank) (Nehemia Haimsoni says it should be the students of the sages)
  • and the fifth of the 10 commandments (kaved 'et avikha v'et imekha) where the (אֶת) is interpreted as including step mother/step father or (I add) adoptive mother/father
  • and I add - in Genesis 1:1 include the new heavens and new earth

3. Our author then suggests the אֶת in Leviticus should be translated as including the woman:

And (אֶת either a female or) a male
you shall not sexually penetrate
to humiliate
it is abhorrent

As a Christian, I am grateful for this re-reading but I do not need it for I am not under law but under grace. I want of course to be under 'law' understood as the teaching of the Lord for I know the loveliness of such teaching even in my infancy as a student but I know also that I am covered already from a negative view of Torah (law, teaching, instruction) by a host of instruction through the Anointing including and not least, the sermon on the mount. The Spirit teaches - things which are not abhorent to Scripture - but things nonetheless that differ from the uninterpreted so called plain meanings of the text. Such teaching and interpretation enlarges the boundaries of our hearts.

What scope does this give me? And am I bound in any way once I am covered by the blood of the Lamb and have entered into the Holy Place through his flesh?

This is not a question to be put in a few words: Apophatically: not by violence, not by exploitation, not unequally. Most of these resolve into 'not by the exercise of power'. One could also say 'not for oneself, but for the other'. This though has dangerous self-delusional potential.

Sexual expression, from an evolutionary point of view, represents Freud's pleasure principle. From Dawkin's point of view, it is the selfish gene saying without words - get the seed to grow and be fruitful - populate the world, make a copy of me! At the social level, we have arranged marriages and family connections, caste and racial segregation, religious conformity required in a mixed marriage and so on. These too seem more like power politics than the love of the All-Merciful.

Can there be any fulfilment here? Is there a non-social, non-negative view of sexuality in the Beloved?

There is room for a positive response. But the entry is costly. It requires the New Creation- the New Heavens and New Earth. And it is done. Who is it that through the death of Christ gives life to our mortal bodies? (Re-read Romans 8.) Is this only for enjoyment in some determined future after physical death (the second death) or is it something to be known and enjoyed after our first death which is sealed in our baptism. But we must approach and enter. The way is narrow and we are in the presence of a Holy God who is not to be trifled with.

You could read the Psalms too and ask if God has pleasure in his creation. You could read the longing and joy of the chosen in them. Try Psalm 16. You could ask if God's creation is good and wait for his answer.

Even here I must repeat the negatives - not with violence or humiliation, not with exploitation or idolatry of payment, not with inequality of relationship. These desires are destroyed in the death of Christ. We must therefore put them to death in ourselves by our baptism. Outside the central theodicy issue of Romans, the instruction to 'put to death the deeds of the body' is critical to his message. If we have died - then there is nothing we can do, for we have died. Our actions can only be in the Spirit through that death. As he writes: but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. Or again you [plural] have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.

Now do you - any of you - want to marry when you are already married (collectively and severally) to the risen Christ? No one preaches on Paul's note that if you marry you will have trouble in this world. But each is given the unique gift that is for each - one person this way, another that (also from 1 Corinthians 7). And for some it is marriage. And today, marriage means mutual help and economic benefit both now and with inherited wealth. It's more than an issue of sex.

What does God do when one who is impure, different, sinner, approaches the altar which is Christ crucified? God tears down the barrier of his holiness, enters our condition, and creates a place of mercy and an open gate and gives us boldness to enter. And here by his own means he matures us.

So Lambeth is upon us in the midst of power struggles and holy disputes. The bishops, if they are in Christ, must have known mercy - such as I have described too briefly. If they have known mercy, they will show it by inviting the uninvited. They will know that they are not the judges of purity but that they have themselves been judged. Purity comes not by the effort of a human, rather it was decided by God when he raised Jesus from the dead who was himself a curse for us. If it is given to us to purify ourselves as he is pure, it is by means of his death that we accomplish it. No one who claims that means will be refused by God. How then can I refuse such a one?

This week I have been reading Hans Küng's Disputed Truth - Memoirs II. He notes on page 90 that "fasting and the use of artificial birth control are no longer considered mortal sins". The question occurred to me - who prepares the people for God, us (the church) or God?

If the moral law is absolute, then we do and the fascist policies and procedures of the curia are appropriate to church governance - as are power politics. If it is God through the death of Christ by the Spirit, then God's drawing us is everything in every sense - of sight, of taste, of smell, of touch, of hearing and obedience, of balance, and of our sex. Let our divisions be known so that those who are commended by God are revealed. Behold, I make all things new. It is done.

A Gospel of morality - do this or else - is not good news.

Preaching at St Alban's

Here's a sermon worth reading - poorly formatted - but meant to be heard.

Selections for you:

As practitioners of an incarnational faith, it is right and proper for us to enter into discussions about human sexuality. As members of a body which was founded by Jesus to be radically inclusive. ...

To put it bluntly, if we disqualify certain groups of people from ordination, then why baptize them? For me there can be no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. ...

It seems downright demonic to me that while Africa implodes in starvation, epidemic, corruption and genocide, so many of its bishops felt that the best use of their time and money was to travel to Jerusalem to help a small group of a handful of fat cat white churches in suburban Virginia separate from the American Church.

You can hear Bishop Kirk Smith's sermon from this link also - go to the bottom of the page.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Keeping in touch with Lambeth

Here HT Targuman, is a blog of blogs from Anglican blogging bishops.

I hope to keep up with the discussion.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bias in reading and translation

Most of my questioning comes from a desire to share the love of God - a love that does not confirm our bias but insinuates itself without violence into our distortions. Our violence God absorbs in willing humiliation not so that we should continue it but that we should change. That is why I have reduced my 'definition' of the moral to three things: equal, not violent, not exploitative. Purity scruples do not enter into it - though purity is itself good and desirable so let it too be measured by equality, non-violence and justice without exploitation.

Most of my translation, besides being fun, comes from a desire to uncover the bias of [my readings of] the translations I have used. Now I want to trace the tradition of a thought through Hebrew to Aramaic and Greek and the first century readings of the psalms - the job is much too big for me.

So besides Doug's excellent note here, I was intrigued to read these two pdfs on morality and bias:

The first, When Morality Opposes Justice: Conservatives Have Moral Intuitions that Liberals may not Recognize (HT scott gray), is as long winded social theory as the title promises and I only skimmed it. Perhaps it is special pleading of a too-privileged society and it certainly puts me on the liberal end of the spectrum. The second, Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Reviewed by Gerrie Snyman, holds this nugget:

they all read the text in the same way by masking ideology as if the text proclaims that very ideology to a tabula rasa reader
How do we escape this - our own - bias?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Book - Disputed Truth

I just received Hans Küng's Disputed Truth - Memoirs II. This is the most current 'history' book I have ever read. I think it will be even more incisive in its focus than Memoirs I. (Update- see this timely post by Phil.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Kevin Edgecomb has a post from the homilies of St Isaac of Syria. I worry about the cerebralization of Spirit in these levels of knowledge that are considered given from the analytical point of view of his century (He died c 700 according to Wikipedia - I have little reason to doubt this tidbit.)

Suppose all I had from him was this Homily 52 on knowledge and Kevin's good opinion (which I trust), what would I make of his teaching on knowledge?

Three levels - 1 bad, 2 and 3 good? - No he is more subtle than that but there is a danger to the reading of level 1 as 'bad' which includes

wealth, vainglory, honour, adornment, rest of the body, special means to guard the body’s nature from adversities, assiduity in rational wisdom, such as is suitable for the governance of the world and which gushes forth the novelties of inventions, the arts, sciences, doctrines, and all other things which crown the body in this visible world.

But he adds:

Among the properties of this knowledge belong those that are opposed to faith, which we have stated and enumerated above. This is called shallow knowledge, for it is naked of all concern for God. And because it is dominated by the body, it introduces into the mind an irrational impotence, and its concern is totally for this world.

So knowledge level 1 is not all bad. But it would be easy to miss this in the rest of the homily.

Of the second degree, he writes of:
knowledge [that] makes straight the pathways in the heart which lead to faith, wherewith we gather supplies for our journey to the true age.
And of the third degree:

Hear now how knowledge becomes more refined, acquires that which is of the Spirit, and comes to resemble the life of the unseen hosts which perform their liturgy not by the palpable activity of works, but through the activity accomplished in the intellect’s meditation. ... faith itself swallows up knowledge, converts it, and begets it anew, so that it becomes wholly and completely spirit.

I don't think he has said much here for all his words. What knowledge is that comes by faith - if indeed it can be separated by stage (and here Isaac does not insist on his three stages) - is not so much our knowledge of mysteries - though it is that, but rather the Mystery's knowledge of us. May it be that he will not say - Depart from me for I never knew you.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The rest of the story

As usual Rabbi Marc Wolf writes a good commentary on the weekly reading. (Not my favorite passage)

A Word from the Lord

- The letter kills.

My interpretation:

Do not presume to tell me in every way how I, the Lord, will make alive.

Update: I told my wife I wanted to write a long essay on this and she burst out laughing at the irony of words explicating a word.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Liturgy of the Heart

Here is another post worth reading on the Liturgy of the Heart

This liturgy of the heart is something which the Holy Spirit is constantly praying in every baptised person, whether we are aware of it or not.

Moral activity

This quote:

Participation in the tradition is indeed a moral activity: it implies a growing attentiveness to Our Lord, and a growing likeness to him.
seems to point to the moral better than a set of rules and regulations.

for more see Macrina Walker's blog here HT: Phil