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Monthly Archives: June 2011

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

by Charles Bukowski

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… now here’s a somewhat troublesome thought that came across my mind:

For the vast majority of orthodox evangelical Christians in the world today the issue of the literal interpretation of the scriptural texts as we have them in the so called “old” and “new” Testaments is virtually a resounding non-issue…. Clearly almost all would agree that the biblical scriptures are the word of God and as it is written it is all literally true and that there is absolutely no error in the holy scriptures whatsoever.

Now we clearly live in a very media saturated and extremely sensual world and in this day and age the feast for the eyes and the temptations of the flesh are abundant…   So what about  Jesus saying that if our eye causes us to stumble, we should pluck it out? … the same is said about our hand or foot causing us to stumble  …    According to Jesus it would be far better  for someone to enter the kingdom of God self-mutilated and therefore somewhat half blind and lop-sided in more ways than one, than to be thrown into hell  with all our physical members and digits intact.

I speak for myself here as well when I say that I simply can’t help thinking why so many of us are so physically whole these days?

so, … following on from what you just said, sin is indeed a strange fellow.

The archer steadies himself and aims high (at least, so it seems at first).  He locks his forearm and drags back the bowstring, labouring as he takes up the strain.  The straightened arm twitches under the tension seconds before the arrow is loosed.

Great hope and expectation soars with it.  Willing the tip onwards.  It flies victoriously, even defiantly for a while.

But nature and gravity play with it and very soon overcome.  The arrow loses its footing in the air and arches toward the ground again.  It falls short, missing the mark, thumping into the dusty earth.  The goal remains unreached, unpierced.  The target, once so desirable and noble now seems to be taunting and critical, exposing and once beckoning and so attractive it now looks on as if aloof, even vacantly and unattached while the dust slowly settles on the once proud and hopeful but now blunted projectile lying partly submerged in the dirt.

The archer now has a choice.  Either he walks away and tries to forget he ever removed the dart from his quiver or let it loose, or …  he must walk towards the watching eye of the evasive target to stoop down low and bow humbly, confronting his having missed the mark as he attempts to retrieve his blunted missile.

… and speaking of the first communion meal … I think not an apple, … but perhaps grapes  … and in the preserved writings of the order of the ancient Hebrew priests there is a suggestion, one of those ‘dark sayings’ – perhaps even a mystery, a veiled secret …  it tells us that the life is in the blood.

… as for old Humpty Dumpty, … he wasn’t pushed … he just slipped, that’s all.

http://sevencitys.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/weve-got-to-talk-about-this/

So there’s this totally cool guy who looks like a million bucks and a sexy girl who also looks like a million bucks and they are doing stuff while we watch.  We are getting all excited and it makes us feel these sensations that are really like, totally sensational!  I mean so sensational it’s totally unreal. It’s like we’re there but we’re not there, but we are there.  And we are feeling every sensation   And we are watching it all right in front of our eyes.  It’s all happening … us, them,  … and we are happening.  We’re sitting there silently, each in our own world, mouths hanging wide open … it’s totally crazy… it’s like it’s totally dark all around us and there’s lots of us there …  but it’s like we are all alone with our own thoughts and feelings, … and all we can do is watch and feel … each and every feeling, … everything they feel we feel … , everything they do and say is like we are there, inside of them, right next to them, doing it, saying it, feeling it.  It’s like we ARE them. … I mean, this kind of thing doesn’t happen in real life does it?  … and it’s all just perfect.

And then they look into each others eye’s ….  there are violins swirling somewhere behind us, no – next to … , no all around us … and then the credits roll down, the lights fade in slowly and we jostle out up the isles and into the blinding light of the foyer and it’s real again.

“A bag of popcorn?”

“Yeah, great! Thanks!”

 

“What did you think of the movie?”

“Loved it!” – “totally loved it”

 

“And their clothes? What did you think of what they were wearing?”

“Loved it, – I totally loved it”

 

We’re in the car now and on the way home and right in front of us as we edge out of the cinema parking area is a bottle green stubby pin-striped hatchback.  On the left hand rear side of the car just above the tail light is a sticker with the slogan,

 

“I LOVE JESUS”

 

With all the talk of ‘accountability’ and ‘submission’ in modern evangelical circles it strikes me that according to the biblical texts we have, Jesus never joined the “church” of the time.  In terms of his Hebrew lineage he was born into the ‘family’ but there is no record of him being linked in to a local body or being answerable and submissive to its leadership – whether a single rabbi, priest, or team of religious leaders.  There is also no record of him asking for permission from the religious rulers of the day to start his public ministry nor him submitting his plans or teaching strategies to them.  Had he done so they most surely would have rejected him and tried to block him in every way.  This could well be a key concept to consider.  I suspect it may even be a big part of our redemption as a body of enthusiasts who desire to follow the ways of the lowly carpenter from Nazareth.   A life of vibrant Kingdom activity free from the chains of dogma, religious bondage and human control.

Now I’m not advocating anarchy nor am I suggesting any form of rebellion.  I am simply looking at what we have as a guideline from scripture and comparing it to what we have in the present church systems.  And yes, I do think we need to be accountable – but what I see in the text as well as in the heart and attitude of Christ is a mutual accountability and that to one another, not in any hierarchical vertical line with some individuals positioned higher than others.

In terms of the basis for the gift of God’s undeserved favour to all mankind there are clearly no mortals who are better or worse than any other.   All have missed the mark and fall short of the standard God demands.  Even  Jesus himself clearly redefined the concept of active and effective deviance as an ‘all or nothing’ and not in varying degrees of shady misconduct.  So for me, how we come in as equals, all needing the same grace and divine intervention, and then somehow develop a righteous pecking order that makes some more righteous than others is a complete mystery.  Nothing short of diabolical if I have to say so myself.  It’s also my opinion that if we even begin to think there are people who are in any way better or worse than others it’s because we have been thoroughly deceived and led astray by vain imaginations, even delusions of grandeur and self-righteousness.  Perhaps this ‘papal’ concept of one superior leader under God is more in line with a long ago social development in Roman political history than in line with any teaching that Jesus ever uttered.  It also clearly cuts against the writer of the letter to the Hebrews who wrote that there is only one mediator between God and man and this is Christ alone.  Now Jesus was not against individual greatness nor was he against striving to be excellent or even striving to be the greater amongst peers.  He just very boldly and articulately redefined greatness as being the opposite of what we to this day practice and understand it to be.  He declared greatness as the path of extreme servanthood, self denial, self sacrifice, acts of extreme humility.  There’s not a lot of that going around in church leadership today.

Supreme greatness was bestowed on Christ specifically because he emptied himself of all status and personal glory and it was God alone who exalted him in the end because of this personal self-denial.   After all, Jesus was only doing what he himself taught and proclaimed – that the man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it.

Social significance, privilege and political power is part of the so-called good life, not the life of a disciple of Christ.  Entitlement and social control are the treasures of a temporal existence.  These are in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed in word and deed.  I battle to see where anyone can get the idea that some of us can bypass this selfless path and assume positions of superiority, social privilege and political power in the body?

As I read through the scriptures I am amazed at how things have turned around so radically.  I am even more amazed at how this reverse revolution has been not only embraced in the church by its leadership, but defended passionately.  Or perhaps I shouldn’t be so amazed as it’s the norm in dirty, street-level politics these days?

I cannot help but ask what right some dare to assume when they expect other fellow disciples for whom Chris also died, to submit to them directly as well as be accountable to them in issues of life and godliness?  Now this may sound like a good idea from a worldly, strategic business perspective of thought and process, but I battle to find it anywhere in the teachings of Jesus.  If ever there was clear conduct unfitting for a follower of Christ this would surely be it.

If we define the nature and function of the sheep by the sheep pen they are herded into perhaps we are merely nothing more than meat traders?

In the church we spend great amounts of money, many other resources and lots of personal energy trying to gather as many as possible to come to us and then to secure their ongoing attendance.  We have ‘membership classes’, ‘orientation groups’, ‘enrollment’ and ‘data capture’ forms that we get people to fill in and return. We initiate ministry, function, or activity groups of all types and try get as many as possible involved in doing things in and for the local church.  Yet the way I read the bible it seems clear to me that Jesus never did any of these things.  He tended to keep moving and mostly seemed even to discourage people from following him physically rather than enticing them to join his entourage.  Instead of going to where it was obvious that more people would be he did the opposite.  When expected to zig, he seemed to zag.

I wonder why?

Yes, he did say that we should follow his example,  but there is only record of him approaching some of the 12 apostles and telling them to physically, “follow me.”   When he did this there is interestingly no record of an induction course or qualification mentioned or any formal training strategy other than simply following him and going along with him day by day – doing, seeing, and participating personally, experiencing, learning, failing, doing it again, and again, experiencing more, growing, learning…  It also seems that after telling them to follow him he simply turned around and walked.  To me it looks pretty much like as if he made the offer and it was up to them to respond how they saw fit.  I sort of get the picture in my head that if he turned around some time later and they were there they were … and if they were not there, they weren’t.

I wonder why?

If anything in all of this, I would say that Jesus went to the people.   He left his home and went out to be with them, amongst them.  He never expected them to come to him.   Again, he kept moving.   He just walked.

I wonder why?

However, there is also record of how Jesus openly challenged those who followed him in a most direct and controversial way.  He challenged their real reasons why they followed him and in so doing multitudes were severely offended, turned back and apparently never followed him again.   It seemed like he made it increasingly difficult, even impossible for them to follow him and they left in their droves.  These days we intentionally avoid all forms of controversy and in fact will do almost anything to attract positive and friendly attention and get as many people as possible to follow us regardless of their reasons.

I wonder why?

There is no textual evidence documented of Jesus ever asking for money from anyone.   He himself came from very poor stock and yet by all accounts it is apparent that he tended to give finances out at times for the poor and needy.  Oh yes, and there is also the one other small little passage that seems to indicate that there were a few women who supported him out of their own means (their ‘substance’) – but no more than this vague statement is revealed and even this statement is not at all clear in terms of what it meant then or might mean for us today.   Such a big issue these days for us… apparently not so at all for Jesus.

I wonder why?

Jesus told us to baptise converts and to eat of the communion table in remembrance of him and his sacrifice, death and resurrection.  He instructed us to do this as often as possible, in fact as often as we meet together.  Yet strangely, even though this was almost a command from Jesus these are practiced only sometimes, at most only monthly and this usually only in the most fastidious of churches. Even baptisms are mostly done seasonally or according to permitting weather patterns.  More strangely however, the most regular ‘sacrament’ practiced in churches today is the collection of tithes and offerings.   This is done every corporate gathering without fail regardless of how fastidious a group is.  In fact we even often have a small teaching presented to the people as to why and how much to give.  We have become very skilled in this sacrament and clearly most committed to it.  Yet Jesus never did this at all, in fact as I have suggested, he seemed to do the opposite.

I wonder why?

Jesus also told us to follow his example – even to death – that we were to do exactly as he did – from sacrificing ourselves, to washing each others feet, unconditionally loving and forgiving and not condemning or even holding things against others,  to serving even our enemies … and this all at our own personal expense.  He even instructed us not only to forgive our enemies, but to actively and consciously bless them.  Yet not much at all of any of these things are really seen practiced in the present church.

I wonder why?

There is no evidence that Jesus had any social, emotional nor monetary problems.  There is overwhelming evidence that we do.

Today we tend to have all manner of flaky, semi-converts and we love them – in fact, the more the merrier.  Indeed, we work extra hard to keep them happy and feeling safe, secure, and protected.

In sharp contrast the disciples Jesus walked with made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives willingly in service of him.

Again, I wonder why?

I am a father and I know a lot of fathers just like me. Sadly some of us are somewhat socially inappropriate – as men and as fathers. Many are hard business men, aggressive negotiators, strong deal makers, blunt communicators, many even unable to interact with our own peers in an appropriately civil manner.
Nevertheless I am constantly amazed at how these hardened men can often so easily and so naturally be softened and drawn into the humble, lowly realm of the infant child – even to the extent of often willingly engaging with them in the usual “gah-gah, goo-goo” babbling language of the child even delighting in their infantile world view however irrational or even “incorrect.”
Now we view God as our father. Heavenly father yes, but even by God’s own initiative and admission he is declared as our father.
So why doesn’t God speak to us in baby talk?
Or does he?

cul·ture  (kulchur)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/culture says:-

a. the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.

b. these patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: edwardian culture; japanese culture; the culture of poverty.

c. these patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the middle ages; musical culture; oral culture.

d. the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization. …. etc. etc. etc….

we are surrounded by an aggressive tsunami culture 24/7.

media, social groups, global issues, local issues, significant others…

and it’s getting more intense as the ‘global village’ gets more connected each day

sometimes it’s like we are sitting in a bomb shelter somewhere with heavy shells whistling in overhead, exploding all around us – bombardment from the skies, intermittent, unpredictable, but ever present

in war of this nature, when the big guns are blazing and the mega bombs are dropping  the most productive thing that can be done is usually a survival default –  just staying alive – merely surviving under the barrage

along with the noise is the occasional voice of a cheerleader saying, “it’s all right! … we’re doing good! … it’s going to be fine!!” … but these words are also whispering in overhead, imploding all around us – sifting in from the skies, intermittent, predictable, barely audible alongside the concussions

i can’t help but wonder about culture and what’s growing under our own social arms and in those dark damp places where the sun doesn’t really shine

I find it tragic that labelling and branding has become such a massive part of our lives.  I heard once that South Africa is one of the most label conscious nations on earth – hmmm, I wonder how true that is?  But perhaps this labelling thing is a deep rooted issue far deeper than just vulgar capitalistic marketing and greed (although that is exactly what it is)?  I have also thought it to be a natural by-product of our industrial revolution and the development of technology and the ‘specialization’ that has evolved as a consequence … that as we have got more technical and complicated (“messed up” is possibly also a good synonym here as well) we have found ourselves pressed into isolated little boxes, cubicles, compartments, apartments, and have become cut off from the other essential realities around us?

For me it is sad that we seem not really able to progress much in exploring and interacting with our world without a clear boxing or compartmentalizing of all we come into contact with.  And for now, it also seems clear at least to me that we need to spend such a lot of time and energy defining and re-defining ourselves, what we do, why we do it  –  marketing ourselves, ‘making a statement’ – not only for those we think are watching but also for ourselves, lest we get totally lost in our own lostness perhaps?

Sometimes I think that as a species we seem to act as if we are all living with a permanent and constantly deepening post traumatic stress disorder.  Have we lost the wonder of simply being and letting be? It seems to me that we are traumatized until we have been able to label things and then when we do eventually get them labelled the labels themselves can traumatize us somewhat … and the few who defy formality and conformity or simply seem not to fit easily into the boxes we make are generally viewed as strange, weird, even defective and often ‘dangerous’?  No wonder we seem to seek out people and environments that make us feel ‘comfortable’ rather than challenged.  I wonder what that might say about our progress as a species – even in the so-called ‘scientific’ arena?

I can’t speak for others but I see no labels in nature. We place labels on trees and plants in our botanical gardens and on animal cages in our zoos.  To my mind this could be directly as a consequence of our having lost touch with the world we were made in, made for, even possibly called to represent the image of the creator in?  It’s almost as if we need to be guided through our own world by ‘specialists’ and specialist details in order to understand our environment, educate ourselves and begin to approach life with any sense of meaning.  Then there’s also ‘entitlement’ – do we really need a title before we can do anything? A social position to establish a platform for action?

In the Christian church we seem no better off.  In fact, we may be far worse off than we are willing to admit.  From my observations we tend to celebrate our uniqueness, our ‘liberty’ by merely rearranging or re-designating labels for ourselves.  Sometimes even by only copying trendy cultural phenomena such as music styles, clothing fashions from the materialistic world we live in – is this freedom?  … to copy and follow the patterns of the world around us?

Some years back a good friend who had just launched a website for the local church he was leading asked me to take a look at what he had done on his new site and to give him feedback as to what I thought.  Often it is difficult to see ourselves as objectively as we need to and looking over this new website for the first time I saw something that I had never seen before, something I had done and that suddenly exposed me and us – I saw the section on “vision and values” and whilst reading through it I was struck by the fact that it went to great lengths to explain and define what the church was – it’s way of looking at things, the prevailing doctrinal emphases, social and cultural alignment (dress codes, music style, etc.), demographics,  even what the church was not.  Why was this so necessary?  Is this the reason why people should go to church and become Christians? …  because they agree with the way we say we do things?  … because it’s a convenient place to fit in?

In our own sacred texts we are told that like a tree will produce after its own kind so will we.  We will be known by our fruits, not by our labels… by what we do, not what we say we do…  by our ‘taste,’ and ‘aroma’ not by the box we are packaged in.  I have never heard a tree groaning to produce fruit, have you?  I have never heard of a tree covering itself with leaves to look a certain way, nor trying to convince others that it is what it thinks it is?  or what it thinks it would like to be?  Have you?   No, a tree is known by it’s fruit and we are the same (whether we think this to be so or not).

So what’s all this continuous covering of ourselves with fig leaves?  Are we trying to hide something or make believe we are something else?  Either way if we do this we are naked.   And calling ourselves something, even willing ourselves faithfully, will not achieve it.  setting goals?  Will that help?

If a banana could speak and told you ever so convincingly that it was a pineapple one bite would be all that was needed.

… and after eating the banana you don’t go back and eat the box (even if it came in one) would you?

[A good friend recently posted something about our identity and how we relate and respond to each other and to it (http://sevencitys.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/what-am-i/ ) this stirred up some thoughts and ideas from long ago.]