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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Communication research tells us that less than 10% of our communication is verbal.

That’s an amazing statement.  Possibly even a shocking one.

So what is the other +90%?

It has dawned on me over the years just how textual and verbal we have become in our modern world.  Possibly most of it has been as a result of the advance in reason, knowledge and scientific thought?   The sophistication of life and meaning?

So, can the same be said of the prophetic, the arts, music, teaching? … what about ‘church’? worship?  teaching?  preaching?  informal and formal social activities, argument, persuasion?

Maybe scientific empiricism can be seen from a fresh angle when we consider that in essence all it demands is a practical, verifiable, hands on grasp of reality before any fact is established.

But somehow science is mostly seen to be at war with faith as faith is seen to be at war with science.   Yet the same claim for a tangible basis for thought and belief is present in both.

The story of Christ is an amazing one.  It is a story of God becoming a man, taking on the appearance and form of humankind.  This is still very much a fantastic tale to this day.   A story that is adored and embraced by some, scorned and rejected by others.   A whole big chunk of our spiritual belief is based on this act.   The texts we amplify as central to the faith are the ones that state that God came physically and actually did the things recorded – the miracles, the signs and wonders, dying, being raised from the dead and rising up in front of a whole group of people who together watched him floating up into the clouds, disappearing back to the place he came from.  Back again to the heavens.

The story is that Jesus came to be amongst us.   That he came to physically live amongst us.   To actually touch us.   Physically.

Maybe God needed empirical evidence?

He started by touching our humanity – he became one of us.  He not only sampled our presence theoretically or from some place nearby or just next to us, he actually became fully like us in our humanity.  God walked a mile or two in our shoes, with our feet.

It’s one thing to visit someone at their home and sample their food and an evening of social interaction.  It’s an entirely different thing moving in with them and staying for 30 years.   Even deeper is giving up who and what you are and becoming the ones you are visiting.   Not just becoming like them, but actually becoming them  (It’s a crazy concept to try think about but there is possibly a very big lesson to learn if we do).

One could even say he got lost in it.  He departed from what he was.   He left where he was.   The narrative says that he became one of us completely.  I wonder if this was what was meant by the ‘leaving and cleaving’ phrase in the book of Genesis?

The text suggests that he subjected himself to the frailty of our circumstance, our condition.   He subjected himself to our customs, our social traditions, the code of the legal religious system.   It was a huge sufferance especially in the light of his deity and where he claimed to come from.   This is God we are speaking of here.

And so we believe.

He walked about doing things.  Just normal things, like normal people do.  Yet when people and things came into contact with him they acted in different ways to how things were normally.   Strange things started happening.

The people of the day had the sacred scriptures.   They had the sacred traditions.  They had the culture.  They had the code of the law and all these spoke of the Christ.  All of these pointed to God.  All of these proclaimed the awaited one, the Christ, the great prophet who it was promised would come and show the way.   The great prophet who would make all things new and wrap up all the promises.  Possibly even all the promises not recorded clearly in the sacred texts as well – perhaps even those that were whispered into the ears of Abraham long, long ago?   Maybe Jesus was referring to this when he said, “Abraham saw my glory and was glad.”

Yet it all lay mostly dormant until this contact was made.

Even today, 2000 years after he walked around amongst us, when we reflect on the historical claims of the presence of Jesus of Nazareth, we too have the scriptures, the traditions, the culture, the testimonies, the code of the law in the form of doctrine (our own biblical epistles and gospels) … and all these still speak of the Christ.

But it’s only when intimate contact is made that things really happen.

Could it be that it is not so much what we speak about but that we speak, or rather  that we move into the present space of others?  That we make contact in the most basic, elementary way?

Could this be the real ‘apostolicity’ that Jesus spoke of?   Could this be what was meant to “go into all the world…”?   Could this be the ‘preaching’ of the gospel he called us to do?   Not just with the regular 10%.

We responded to him in the way he did things as it is written down in the texts.   In those same texts Jesus is said to have instructed us to follow his example.   Not only in theory or ideal,  not to simply relay the story, but in exact practical replication.

Didn’t he tell us to do exactly what he did?

Is this not our mandate?

To make contact…

I tried Twitter, it’s clearly THE antisocial network … but Facebook is THE relationship illusion.

Here’s what I did: – for well over a week I tried to get some response, indeed ANY response from Twitters (what do we call ourselves on Twitter? Twits? Tweets? Twerps? Tweeters? Twankers?).. I asked questions, threw out inflammatory statements, insulted here and there …  and, …. no response – well, one or two responses at most, but statistically these were negligible.

My sad conclusion: Twitter is for the pseudo-relational who seem only interested in  wanting to post their own statements and links (and some never seem to say anything from personal opinion but only post links – perhaps to portray that they are well read and conversant with media issues – ?)  and simply seem not at all interested in any form of meaningful personal interaction other than loving the sound of their own fingers ticking away at the keyboard and the ensuing exhilarating, almost orgasmic sensation of hearing their own ‘tweet’ resounding in the canyons of their own mind as they repeat it back to themselves when they ‘proof-read’ their own brilliance.  You know what I mean, … sort of much like masturbation, really only totally self indulgent with no possibility of or any desire for fruitfulness.

On a positive note though, it is an interesting tool to gather info that otherwise would take hours of surfing and research – like the news feed tweets and a very few humerous Twits(?) who from time to time add a stimulating and even challenging angle on things.  My sincere thanks to those few – but you probably will never know who you are as the nature of the beast is what it is.

Also, if you’re a ‘fan’ type of person I do suppose you can feel perhaps profoundly and wonderfully stimulated by following the meandering escapades of some pop persona of your fantasy … but I have yet to hear a convincing argument against my view that this is equally no more than masturbation and desperate ‘soft-porn’ voyeurism of a tragically sad nature.  It may well be worth considering getting a life for yourself instead of living yours through that of some other person.  Perhaps it’s also wiser to go through one’s own underwear before rummaging through that of others.

Facebook however, is not really much better and seems determined to re-evolve (perhaps the better word would be de-evolve) into a purely telemarketing tool sans the telephone … ‘mongrelized’ (don’t look it up – I made the delightful word up myself) with an email spam and phishing scam sans the normal private/business email account.  This serves only to brutally confront any who might use the network sincerely wanting to interact relationally with other humans into being distracted under siege by flashing windows querying whether they would like to join an online dating or singles club, or making one think if the clothes they are wearing whilst typing in the privacy of their own little nest are fitting with the latest fashions and adequately insured for all risks in the unlikely event of them ever meeting one of their ‘friends’ face-to-face.
The only significant advantage in Facebook for me is that it perhaps seems to allow more interaction (albeit not necessarily that much more, but more nevertheless).  For me the interactions and exchanges on updates and notes, pictures and comments are arguably well worth it.   Not really personal contact, but interesting and engaging.

What both share in common is the caressing stroke they seem to play to the ego’s of most subscribers especially those who seem to be high on the “friends” tally.   However, at the bottom of this pile are those who can claim to be a friend of someone they deem significant even if they never will meet them (and if they did the ‘celebrity’ would clearly have no time nor concern for them anyway).  But for the hopefuls who do still wish to climb socially in life …  at the top of this same pile there is the ubber elite who can insert “full” after their page names having exceeded that mystical 5000 friends tally and then occupy themselves by spending the rest of their waking time redirecting the imaginary millions of other “friends” they are convinced will immanently want to flood in and sign up to be their intimate ‘companions’ to another “fan” page of theirs.   All I can say on behalf of the multitudes of defaced bookers is, “O’ Great Poo-Bah(s), we, the lowly, are unworthy, mere mortals … please forgive us for we know not what to do to gather like you.”
On Twitter it is not uncommon to see Twitters(?) ‘following’ ga-zillions of others only to be followed by few – my heart goes out to them. Sneakily,  as part of my ‘experiment’ I deliberately never returned the favour of ‘following’ some who decided to ‘follow’ me (seemingly one of those unspoken universal rules of Twitterville) and they soon stopped ‘following’ me then … Hmmmm??
Cynical old me!! … after all that is the spirit of marketing in our ever so evolved civilised capitalist social system, is it not? – “you scratch my back, I’ll stab yours.”

Neither Facebook nor Twitter are social networks for me.  They are base and insensitive marketing platforms taking advantage of the emptiness of relationships in our modern societies and majoring on the new age currencies of narcissism, political power and economic profit.
So, for me both are really “look-at-me” opportunistic tools … no more and no less … only perhaps Facebook has, along with it’s fractionally more interactive potential, the negative side of actively aiding and abetting distinctly more predators to prowl around, starting with Mr Zuckerberg et al and branching quickly (and exponentially) out to all the hungry 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier predatory advertisers – making Facebook, extremely wealthy ultimately at their own and eventually everyone else’s expense.



 

One cannot be accused of being indecisive if one has no real personal opinion.

One also cannot be accused of being opinionated if one has no real opinion to begin with.

 

We’re in a mess.  It seems that those whose decisions really matter are indecisive, even silent, and those who are decisive have only one voluminous perspective – their own.  And quite frankly they have relegated themselves to where their opinion really doesn’t matter at all anymore anyway.  Mostly it’s just a lot of foul smelling hot air.  It draws attention, yes, but only because a smelly decaying corpse does too.

 

This is not a new thing.  We’ve been like this for a very long time.  The problem has been with us right from our very beginnings.

The challenge is that we might never get out of the mess we are in until we make some sound decisions.  We need to stand up and then take that stand.  But clearly we  need help.  Many of us don’t think we do but I think we do.  I’m sure we do.  I even think that we need it badly, even desperately.  We need some radical stuff to happen.  And maybe that radical stuff is us.

 

Here’s how I see it: ~ God decides the only way to sort this whole mess out is to lower the playing field to the lowest common denominator and effectively take a stab at raising the game and even changing the rules from there.  A huge risk with unbelievable capital investment demanded, but clearly not only a good shot, but the best shot possible.

 

So he does what we clever religious ones have called the ‘condescension’.  An interesting label we give it because we seem to have totally messed it up and inverted its meaning and application completely.

Now the dictionary wasn’t really on the web in those days but these days it says:

Condescend = 1. To act graciously towards another or others regarded as being on a lower level; behave patronizingly  2. To do something that one regards as below one’s dignity http://www.thefreedictionary.com/condescend .

 

So, God gets his feet dirty, his hands, his torso, his head, everything gets utterly filthy.

 

And here’s the nuts and bolts of God’s idea ~ God is going to try beat the dirt at its own game, … and this from the bottom of the pit.

 

Actually it all starts with this injected metaphor of the creative power of concepts, ideas – ‘words’ to be practically specific.  At first this is sort of spoken but then it is recorded in text some time later.  The whole idea is made into a picture and is securely installed into the hearts and minds of men through oral tradition and then later in the first recorded textual stories of creation.  It is reemphasised and redefined again right at the beginning of the final act when God’s becoming like one of us to do the dirty deed is done and recorded.

 

The idea is that the life taken up will be a sign.  A sign filled with amazing power.  Like a tiny seed that can be the start of a whole forest, this seed of an idea is sown.  And as we know, seeds grow best in dirt.  And this dirt is very dirty and the ground is smelly, rotten and ripe.  But this seed is simply busting with potential.

This is an outrageous idea as the platform for this seed is not a beautiful and majestic social structure at all.  It’s not a religious structure either – neither a political one.  If anything the structure it is sown into and even the way it manifests in its structure is quite literally despicable (much like disgustingly filthy sand mixed with rotting, smelly refuse – decaying life and organic food scraps rejected and discarded from last night’s meal).

This seed, this idea, is inseminated into the stench of the dirt and some of it takes root and flourishes.  Not all of it, mind you, only some of it.  Most is trampled under foot by men or rejected – even stolen by birds or simply falls in strange, inhospitable  places.  But this is part of the calculated risk – no problem!

 

Well, it happened.  The seed was sown.  And yes, it was messy.

And the life it lives, it lives from the ground up, from the earth.  From out of the stinky dirt it breaks out.

The ‘DNA’ of the seed is pre-determined, it needs no teacher, no supervisor, no controller and it doesn’t listen to the dirt around it.  In fact when interference from such overseeing, meddling intruders comes along it only serves to block the flow and the natural growth processes.

These weeds block out the sun and drink all the water up, preventing the already dirty, smelly soil around them from decaying and thereby forming a conducive solution with the water to be absorbed and transformed into fuel for abundant life.

 

It’s these weeds which are the problem mostly.  These weeds see things only from their own conceited perspectives.   They, being aliens and hired hands, know only how to choke and even scorch the earth around them, poisoning it with their very presence so that they and they alone can thrive and that at the expense of the life around them.  These weeds are in direct opposition to the seed and the sower of the seed (although they masquerade as friends and helpers and caregivers).  These weeds make themselves look pretty and cover themselves with colourful coats.  But these only hide the toxic intend that lurks beneath the extravagant linings.  You see, pigs dressed in velvet are still pigs.

But the growing seeds also need to take responsibility and rise up.  They need to stretch upwards and reach out for the sun.  They need to respond to the voice of the DNA inside of them and not listen to the voices of the weeds who tell them what to think about themselves, what to do, how to do it, and why.  The voices that confuse them, saying that they are only there to make the weeds look good.

The seeds need to become decisive, even opinionated about the life they see and feel cascading out of their veins bursting out of every pore on them.  They need to open their own petals and make room for the voice of their own DNA – the sower of the seed – to fill the air with the fragrance of life and abundance.

So now it turns out that what the clever religious ones have done is that they have developed God’s idea by redesigning the condescension into a religious, socio-political structure where the equally dirty can rise to a position of superiority above the other dirties.  This conveniently affords them the inalienable right, they tell us, to tell the other dirties how to get clean.  However, the only way they can do this is not by also following the ways of the sower by going down below and beating dirt from the bottom of the sand pit.  They do it by magic.  They get a scientific qualification, frame it, and hang it on their wall.  The title on the wall reads in extravagant, bold calligraphy, “QUALIFIED PASTOR” and they usually roll this up when leaving their study – sort of in a rolled up form of a common magicians wand.  They step out boldly, flapping and swishing it about like a frenzied conjurer looking much like Don Quixote’s windmills.  “In Jesus’ Name!!” they cry aloud!

This magical “alakazam!” they believe, bewitchingly entitles them to speak with an authority over the rest and hold onto centre stage and the all-powerful podium.   That ultimate qualifier of all things spiritual in their religious economy.  Not anybody is allowed to take hold of the bewitching podium, mind you.  In fact this magical space is reserved exclusively for the physically qualified elite and only those whom they deem worthy to speak over the dirt, and about the dirt on the dirty.

Sadly we have believed it as well mostly.

 

However, the whole idea that God had in the first place was that the dirty seeds would discover that from the inside they have been, and are being cleaned and transformed and that the dirt around them, as smelly and putrid as it is, is actually the intended seedbed that they were always meant to be rising up out of.  That they are seeds with a vibrant variety within them, that they are planted to display this according to the sowers unique DNA within each individual seed, until they all together make up an explosive, radiant, vibrant, aroma-filled jungle of life and staggering beauty.  That each voice, fragrance, blaze of colour be heard, felt, seen, smelt.  That the sound and presence of the toxic weeds is irrelevant, pitiful, fit only to be rejected and flung into the fire.  That the seeds would grow up and displace the weeds and cause them to naturally choke in their own vomit.

 

And now, now it is time.  It is time for the seeds to realise that this all was intended to  cause the dry, rotten bones, once merged with the disgustingly smelly and offensive soil, to begin vibrating and quivering and begin to clatter and clang together again, and for the decayed sinews and flesh once long dead, to mysteriously start coming together and twang and snap back together almost elastically, causing the whole body to rise up, take form and start moving, walking, running, even dancing.

 

Man alive!! … this will top and overshadow any Stephen King horror movie scene.

 

So, will those standing please take a stand!!

 

 

Someone said today, “God is still God, even in bad times.”
I’ve heard it many times before but this time it got me thinking.
Is time ‘bad’ sometimes and ‘good’ other times?
Or is time neutral?
Does time have feelings?  a personal agenda?
Time is not a person, … is it?
Our nursery rhymes speak of “Father Time.”
I may be wrong, but I struggle to personify time.  Do you?

Time can seem ‘bad’ or ‘good’ to us.  We all go through these periods.  I know I do.

But what is the basis for this perception in us?
At times time can seem to cut across what we believe to be actually warranted.
‘Good’ times can come when we are not so ‘good’ ourselves, and ‘bad’ times can come when we really have been ‘good.’
Even after having done all we could do under the circumstances.
I think time is neutral, it will just go on regardless, even if we know and understand it or not.
The statement “God is God” tries to assure us that God is constant, never changing.
We believe this and the scriptural texts declare this.
This is intended to bring us security, but what of the times when we feel that things are not going so well?
What is God then?
Perhaps on another level it comforts us to believe that God is constant.
Perhaps we need to have this as a reality?  Perhaps we need it for our sanity.
If God isn’t constant we’d be in all types of trouble.
Like gravity which can seem to really suck sometimes, but if it changed every so often we’d all be in deep trouble.
So we eagerly tend to believe God is totally constant.  It’s reasonable to think this (perhaps unreasonably so?)
And what of when God appears inconsistent – at least according to us in any given situation?
Can this indirectly point a finger our way suggesting that if God is always constant, always ‘good’ and then at the same time things are not going ‘good’ for us … that maybe it’s us who are going bad?
Now that’s not what we want to hear is it?
We have a belief in God.
Does God have a belief in us?
In our religious culture no one likes to be seen as not having faith.
After all, we call ourselves ‘believers.’
It’s usually most unacceptable to admit that we don’t believe.
It’s almost as if this acknowledgement will send irreparable waves of rippling destruction throughout our universe.
But is it reasonable to think like this?
Jesus was not rejecting of the plea of one person who said to him, “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
We don’t (even can’t perhaps) know all the details cognitively, but we can still know.
Can we also not believe all things but still believe?  Don’t we do that anyway?
Perhaps, like someone we really love – we can never know everything about them but we can know that we love them.
Perhaps the same can be said about God, our relationship to him and his relationship to us?
So, what about God?
It seems clear from the texts and even a fairly general understanding of things pertaining to God that God has offered us grace, love, acceptance, peace, etc.   But do we really even understand what these are?
Do we have much idea about the ‘seasons’ of God, the ‘timing’ of God?  the ‘workings’ of God?
For many of us God can appear “bad” to us at times.
Could this be seen in the same way as the way time has been described above?
When God seems ‘against’ us, is he?  is he then “bad”?
Or as the statement said, is he simply himself, Mr Consistency – not restricted or trapped into any box.  Not eventhe box of our own personal or collective human understanding of him (our ‘theology’).
God’s clearly not like us.
We seem to change all the time – ‘hot’ one day and ‘cold’ the next? …
Perhaps God is also “neutral” – not unfeeling nor intentionally distant … not intentionally ‘for’ nor ‘against’ anyone?
Even the ancient texts declare that God is spirit, not a man that he should lie, etc.
Maybe God is not even a person at all?
In some ways we are like God but is God at all like we are?
Maybe we find ourselves in ‘bad’ times when we are not ‘flowing’ with time properly?
Maybe things start rubbing the wrong way when we are not seeing or fully understanding what’s really happening?
Maybe we cannot see events from the past converging in on the future and disrupting our present?
Could our feelings and understanding about God be similar?
What do you think?

It is Nelson Mandela’s birthday today and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, the local press and virtually all other forms of media are voicing themselves in accolade and tribute to the greatness of the man.  We verbalize our honour of him, also of his achievements, his moral, ethical, humanitarian, reconciliatory stand.

Even government officials in our country are taking the time and effort to give tribute and thanks.  Many are jubilantly celebrating the high ground on and from which he took his stand.

We all bask in the glory … once a year.

 

But a year has 364 more days…

 

… and we all go back tomorrow and re-occupy the ground we usually stand on … not so high at all really.

 

I woke up to these public accolades this morning and penned my own little contribution.  I published my “status” update and it went like this:

 

“what about this as a real birthday present for Madiba: – instead of doing the doting ‘fan’ accolades why not honour him fully by simply following his example of love, respect and inclusive reconciliation by extending dignity to all?
(does anyone know how to get politicians presently in domination to read this?)”

 

A bit closer to home perhaps we Christians love to quote scriptures.  In so doing we reference what we value.  We honour the scriptures because we believe in the righteousness contained therein, the ethics, the morality, the humanitarian values, the grace and the reconciliatory stand it takes, the goodness, peace – yes the peace, acceptance and all the other benefits it proclaims.  We jubilantly celebrate the high ground on and from which Christ took his stand.

 

On Facebook I have a whole bunch of ‘friends’ who quote scripture as their status multiple times a day.  Many do not leave any personal point of view, just the quote and its topographical grid reference.  Nothing about them personally at all.

 

Great truth, profound wisdom, powerful transformational potential.  However, a theory remains a theory until proven.

 

For me obsession with quoting scripture is like a heavy hammer beating on a thin, tin roof.

 

The Word became flesh and desires those who receive to flesh out the Spirit like he did – like he fully represented, lived, died for.

He never wrote anything down himself that we know of.  His written ‘letter’ was intended to be evidence on the hands and feet of his followers, felt in the actions of the faithful, experience through the birth pangs of personal transformation.  He intended for the life he offered to be lived out and expressed individually, personally, intimately, demonstratively, articulately.  Not in multitudes of repetitious, parrot-fashioned memes or regurgitated declarations of intent, but rather in the impact of actions offered, lives surrendered.

 

The politicians love to celebrate Madiba, as do the world, us – you and me.

The politicians quote their version of scripture.  They quote from some historical act of virtue and significance.  An act performed on their behalf.  They don’t seem to honour it, but they love the memory and the stories about it.

They quote Madiba – and then go about business as usual, mostly violating everything about him, his actions, his values, his example.  But they remain committed members of “his” party.  Committed to his memory and the legend of his life.

 

If there was a “Christian” social network (and I truly pray to God there will never be), I would enter the same status I did today only with this one alteration, I’d insert Jesus’ name for Madiba’s

 

 

Lazarus – a metaphor?

 

thinking:  Ishmael

the brother of the promise …

 

Hagar wept

 

I simply can’t get it out of my mind …

 

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also.

They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd”

 

he was the background brother of those two women whom Jesus loved

 

who loved him

from different sides

in different ways

 

who both ‘waited’ on him

 

one in love and grace, the other in law and servitude

 

two distinct covenants represented?

 

or three?

 

and then there were the masses

and the professional mourners

and the devastated believers

 

Jesus wept

 

and what if Ishmael were to be raised?

 

the outcast

cast in …. again

 

the masses mocked and scorned

as did the religious rulers

… they even tried to kill Lazarus

… because he drew too much attention to the Christ

to the unmerited grace of the Christ

the overwhelming kindness of God

would we rejoice?

 

or would we mock?

 

 

maybe  the  law  was  given  in  such  exacting  detail  that  we  would  have  some  idea  as  to  how  to  deconstruct  the  structural  clutter  in  and  of  our  fallen  existence

 

 

that is ….  if  and  when  we  are  awakened  to  the  wind  of  light  that  breaks  through  the  hardened  crust  of  our  fallow,  barren existence

 

 

the  kingdom  of  God  is  within … it  cannot  be  constructed  from  without

 

 

There’s this solitary passage in the gospel in which Jesus is being questioned by the religious rulers.  They were trying to trick him in order to bring accusation and discredit his way.  The issue raised was about marriage and divorce.  Jesus gave them a thing or two to think about which seemed to shut them up nicely but this exchange led even his disciples to afterwards say to him that they felt that according to what he had just said it would be better not to marry at all.

Straight off the bat Jesus responds by doing one of those things that has always amazed me.

No, he doesn’t turn to the latest publication on “How To Re-Grow Your Waning Church And Get The Cash-Flow Positive Again” penned by some super-apostle of the day with a ridiculously expensive suit supported by a totally unnatural hairstyle, but strangely, instead of simplifying the issue and bringing comfort and resolve to a clearly disturbed band of followers Jesus seems  to pose another very unusual and even perplexing riddle.

Firstly, he doesn’t lay down a law but instead suggests that some will not be able to accept what this all means anyway.  In fact he declares that only those who receive it from heaven will be able to embrace what he is about to say (this being perhaps one of Jesus’ first Gnostic alignments).  He then launches off into the touchy subject of castration, specifically the issue of eunuchs.

Some eunuchs he says, are born completely without testes or with testes that are non functional.

Others, he goes on to say, are made eunuchs (castrated) by men.

A third group he reveals, are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

He then rounds off this unusual explanation by re-emphasizing his earlier suggestion that if there is anyone able to receive it, let him receive it.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

What really interests me in this response is the background to the second example Jesus gave.

From what I understand man-made eunuchs were usually emasculated or castrated males employed as harem attendants in royal courts.  Possibly this practice prevented the male attendants of the royal harem from being able to enter in and derive personal pleasure and gratification from those promised or actually wed to the king.  Surely being a mortal amongst a bevy of beautiful women had its very real temptations so the drastic deed was done to prevent physical access to the kings treasured possession.

The third category is perhaps even more compelling as it suggests that for the sake of the kingdom of heaven some emasculate themselves.  This suggests a personal decision which is seemingly made independent of external pressure or demand.

In my last blog posting ( http://wp.me/p10VG6-m8 ) I suggested a link between a real friend and a best man who prepares and protects the bride of their friend for no personal advantage other then the joy of hearing his voice and fulfilling his pleasure.

We live in a world where political prestige and power and all the privileges these things can offer has washed into and even saturated so called “ministry.”  Our spiritual leaders are pop stars and celebrities.  They are the kings, not servants of kings.  They seem to so willingly receive the cream from an adoring multitude beneath their feet.

I wonder how many present day “ministers” have even metaphorically considered being in the service of the king of heaven for reasons other than their own personal pleasure and gratification?

I’m sure there are perhaps many, but they are seldom if ever seen or heard of and that because they are real friends, real servants, real “ministers.”

(following on from https://alalohwhydee.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/friendship/)

There are a few people in history that help us to define another angle on friendship.  Jesus himself spoke to his closest disciples and told them that they were his friends.  They never sent the equivalent of a facebook friend request because it was advantageous for them to do so nor because he was the best looking stud around.  In fact it was to the contrary.  Actually it was unprovoked by them.  It was totally Jesus’ idea.  That was a radical suggestion and a total departure from theological understanding in that day.

In the Old Hebrew texts there are also some very provocative suggestions of the friendship that seems to be of the kind God would align to.  Some of the few examples are backed by a little detail, others are just hints that leave me wondering what it actually meant.  For example, Abraham was called a friend of God.  Moses it says, was spoken to by God as a man speaks to his friend.  Some of the dialogue between the two of them is very unusual indeed.  There are other scattered hints as well.

Another one of the characters who defined real friendship was a man who lived at the same time as Jesus around 2000 years ago.  His name was John and he was the son of an old Hebrew priest.  He never went into the priesthood in any official capacity as we could tell or as was the custom of a first born to a priest of that day.  Instead it seems he led a pretty much unusual, somewhat rough, wild and reclusive existence.  He was by all accounts a very fiery character, not one most would associate with cuddly feelings and nice convenient friendship as we seem to define it these days.  This John lived out in the desert and went about telling people that the long awaited messiah, the saviour of the world, was coming very soon and that they must prepare themselves for this.  He never used vague flowery words but told all to stop living evil, wasteful lives and publicly get baptised in water as a sign of washing the filth of evil from off of them.  It was more a “shape up, or ship out” type of press release.  He never stopped there but then proceeded to tell them to live lives in keeping with this public act.  On top of all this he was particularly feisty and pointed towards the religious leaders of the day – the equivalent of our present pastors, evangelists and religious TV broadcasters.  He also spoke out against the evil social and political situation of the day and was apparently unafraid of the ruling powers at the time, saying the same to them without holding back.  He even took on the dictator of the day because of his immorality.  It was for this kind of thing that he was eventually locked up in a state prison.

One day John saw Jesus coming towards him as he was preaching and baptizing in the Jordan river.  Jesus came to be baptized by John and John was somewhat confused, reluctant and tried to resist, even humbling himself by publicly revealing that this Jesus was the one he was told to prepare the people for.  He re-emphasised that he himself was not the messiah but that he was just a lowly servant sent to facilitate the messiah’s coming.  He declared that he was not even worthy of untying the smelly sandals that Jesus wore.  His claim was clearly that this Jesus was the awaited one.

Some of John’s disciples came a little later to him concerned that Jesus was now also drawing many converts.  One can only presume that they were threatened because it may have seemed that some or even many of John’s disciples were now leaving to follow this Jesus.  Instead of accepting and responding to their concerns John simply but clearly declared that he was merely the friend of the bridegroom and NOT the bridegroom and that he was happy and excited just to hear the voice of the bridegroom.   Here John introduces the concept of friendship between him and Jesus.

It’s an interesting picture he paints for them and us.  And it clearly rattles us now as it did to them then.  John spoke of being a friend of the bridegroom.  The picture suggests from the tradition of the day that the bride is prepared for the bridegroom (of who is Jesus, by John’s own declaration) and the friend of the bridegroom is sort of like our best man at modern western weddings.

Now usually the best man is a trusted, responsible person to the bridegroom.  One who is honoured and entrusted with the purity and preparation and even protection of the bride.  A real friend, not a casual colleague and clearly not a Facebook type of  acquaintance.  Even in our day a real friend should never in any way access the bride for personal gain in any way.  The bride is betrothed to the bridegroom and the best man serves the bride and groom selflessly in this process.  Instead of deriving personal pleasure his joy is in supporting and facilitating the full pleasure and intent of his friend the bridegroom … as his “best man”  … his friend – in responsible honour and service for and towards the marriage of the bridegroom to his betrothed bride (wife to be).

To my mind this suggests an interpretation and concept of friendship that thrusts things into a whole different league.  As I have suggested, one does not search for this kind of friend on a social network like Facebook or Twitter.  If one does it is plain foolishness, vanity, perhaps even extremely dangerous.

We tend to get such personal and social affirmation by the number of friends we have.  Perhaps this seems to make us feel like we are popular and well-liked.  But John’s example though perhaps a tad radical according to my interpretation suggests that it is more than just service that he was called to but personal sacrifice.  “He must increase, I must decrease” he said. “He must become greater, I must become less” is how other interpretations go.

As Jesus’ public profile and impact increased John’s dwindled steadily.  Eventually he was imprisoned because of his outspoken statements and his last days were in darkness, frustration and even deep personal doubt.

In a short while John was unceremoniously murdered.  He never died on the front line as a triumphant warrior in a hail of bullets as he led the charge against the enemy.  He died alone in a dark, damp prison cell.  He probably heard the lock turn and was confused as to why the guards rushed in and forcefully held him down and bound him tight.  He probably never even saw the blade rise and fall as it severed his neck from his shoulders.  Chances are he never even knew his death was as a result of some young girls provocative, alluring dance and a thoughtless promise made by an egotistical, vain and foolish politician.

Just before this, while John was still alive and in prison and possibly extremely doubtful, confused and even despairing of his own sanity Jesus gave him the highest praise and accolade any man of the time could be given.  Jesus himself called him the greatest man ever to have lived who was born of a woman.

It’s an interesting story which is not fully clear in so many of it’s detailed meanings or even implications but to my mind the stark contrast of this relationship and the superficial friendships we practice and seek after in our day and in our social networking is profoundly disturbing.

These days we have social networks everywhere.  And they are on the increase.  Opportunists can see a trend and they are scrambling to capitalise on it.

Through the likes of Facebook et al we connect and network with people across the globe and across the room.  This is clearly a strong need amongst humans today.  Through these social networks we feel linked to others and we even seem to draw great security and a sense of belonging, possibly even purpose and significance from it all.  Perhaps in an increasingly alienated and alienating social system we need to feel like we are a somebody who is connected to other somebodies.

Not all of it is bad though.  Sometimes it is an interesting thing to rediscover and link up with people from our distant past, even if we don’t see them at all these days.  Perhaps it’s sometimes warming to look back and see how far we’ve come and compare notes, lifestyles, successes and failures.

Sometimes there are people and memories we’d rather not recall.  Mostly we don’t seek these out.  It could be suggestive that all this connecting is mostly about us and not others?  Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here?  … maybe not?

However, truth be told we can amass vast numbers of friends from all around the world without really actually engaging with them.  We think we are reconnected and we may even swap a few messages or comment on a status update or two but are we perhaps just playing a desperate game, even aiding and abetting a monstrous con?

Perhaps on a more sinister angle are we not perhaps willing accomplices?   Maybe we are unwittingly drawn into it all but are we nevertheless  actively participating in a profound devolution of human culture and integrity?  Are our friends really our friends?  And what would a real friend be?  And have we perhaps wittingly or unwittingly allowed the definition and outworking of friendship to be altered so radically?

There’s a lot being said these days about friendship.  Social networks like “Facebook” are interesting for me in that they can subtly point to aspects that can sometimes help us see things from a slightly different angle.

Lately we have heard some scary stories of abusive stalkers and predators and how some violate the privacy of others.  New words have popped up like phishing …  we even have viruses, or subtle marketing ploys going around on fb that lure multitudes into clicking on an “app” that can be downloaded to see who it is who is ‘stalking’ you or leering in on you, your pics, your lifestyle,  your intimacies, etc. … what amazes me is how many click on these lures.  This suggests that we are privately very interested in this, not so?  It’s almost like a soft form of reverse voyeurism (see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/voyeur) … or maybe not so soft?  Now this may or may not be true but what really grabs me is how much we choose to expose of ourselves and how willingly we seem to want to do it.

Friendship is quite a loose thing in our modern day language and culture (see http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Friend).

Many see the number of friends they have as almost a form of social currency.  Being popular is alarmingly important.  It seems to have an unmatchable value.  Perhaps this is understandable in our materialistic, marketing obsessed era.  We seem to want to market ourselves, place our personal ‘brand’ out there.  We seem to want, desire, even need to attract attention.  The quality of the relationship or the transaction is significantly secondary to the quantity.  But we have a strong role model – our king, lord and master does it – Capitalistic Materialism.  We seem to view the accumulation of true wealth in the market share we can control (or maybe it’s the market share controlling us?).

I think what concerns me is how subtly friendship has been devalued in this post-modern age of enlightenment and autonomous independence.

I have watched as my facebook ‘friend’ tally has risen and now I can see how few of those accumulated friends I have regular, meaningful and sincere contact with.  Yes, there are some with whom I share specific aspects of my life and this I personally enjoy.  I mean not everyone laughs at the same things or holds the same political or religious views.

So, what is friendship really?   What role does it play?   And what is our part in it’s apparent downfall?   Or am I mistaken and is all well?

(next part – http://wp.me/p10VG6-m8)