Tag Archives: Romans

Holy, holy, holey

What a claim, that God calls me to speak out. I feel embarrassed to have made such a claim in light of how impossible it is for me to adopt a pious demeanour and look like a good and holy messenger of God. The things I say are not good for the church’s PR, nor are they in line with the view of God portrayed in this week’s readings. And so the temptation is either to abandon the readings altogether (since I already posted another blog post today), or to abandon the readings and look for the liberative strands within trinitarian thinking that I used to (critically) find.

But these readings are the bitter pill the church wants us to take as our rightful medicine this week. What sort of a faith is it after all if you just look away from the bits you don’t like and don’t grapple with them? So here I go in my dialogic perpetual struggle with the bits of texts the men in dresses want us to read.

I can’t actually say I relate to the first reading. I used to be able to practice spiritual contortionism enough to stay quiet in church and believe I fit in there and in those days I used to somehow contort my brain to believe that this first reading talks about ministry; that an angel will come and cleanse my lips with coal to make me pure to speak God’s word. I no longer see God’s word that way- coming out of pure lips in a pure way. I think of the Word as also being Wisdom, that wanton woman who frequents places she ought not go and I feel relief at that. She comes to me not because I am humble, or worthy or “clean” but because she loves what is human, she loves what is messy and true (please note any reference to “truth” I make may contain traces of its own demise).

She sits with sinners.

I don’t believe for a moment that my guilt is gone or my sin is blotted out or whatever and I don’t even ask it to be. How dare God just “blot out” the sins of first world, privileged, comfortable, white people while the earth is still dying and myriads are still suffering? The way I want to get rid of my sin is by God making the world better not just filling me up with the spiritual equivalent of Valium while other people suffer. And if God throws it back on me and says “your sin, you clean it up!” what then? That is certainly what I would say in God’s position.

The thing is as privileged people we are accountable and nothing can take our complicity away. The thing is as vulnerable and broken people we are not solely accountable and we may be affected by our circumstances. And only God can really hold that in balance (or at any rate I hope she can) and lead us to a better future (which entails us deconstructing and diminishing our own privilege in the cause of radical justice.

There is grave danger in those who speak for the church claiming to have their sins magically blotted out.

So here I am God, send me! Not the pure of heart (or lips). Not even particularly keen (it would actually be more convenient to only think of my career and the next holiday I could take my son on). But you call me and I love you and I will respond if you show me how. But if I have to say “Lord” and look upon thrones with militaristic mythical creatures attending some sort of even more privileged icon of the ruling class then forget it. God there is a class war on, there is a line I can’t cross even for you- now there’s heresy if you like.

So then the psalm is full of this mighty splendiferous God breaking cedars (why? is he three years old?) and making places skip about. Actually, God in this psalm sounds like the sort of scary climate disaster I have been reading about and suffering nightmares about and which looks increasingly likely in our near future. Shaking the wilderness while flashing flames of fire do you God? Are you testing a new type of bomb or something? So all of that fire and earthquake and flood but all is well because the “Lord” sits “enthroned”. It makes me wonder, in the context of that psalm whether I want the “strength” and the “peace” offered in this kind of faith.

So far…

 

the readings are like cement slabs

gaoling me in an outdated building

a church of powerful men.

 

Where is there a breath of life?

 

A shoot of green rising

between a hairbreadth crack?

 

That with the advent of life-again

might begin to crumble

my prison?

 

There’s a crack in the cement in Romans. I am not a great fan of the flesh/spirit dichotomy since a major battle of my life has been to learn not to hate and despise my flesh (that gift from God that keeps me whole and grounds me to the earth). But I didn’t receive a spirit of slavery apparently- so by implication I am allowed to disagree with tradition. I have been reading Carla Rinaldi about the child’s right to express themselves and think differently from the teacher because they are not slaves. Then if I see God as teaching, leading, guiding or parenting me I have to assume God is more enlightened than me and able to see how counter-productive it would be to silence who I am.

So that one little line is like a license to critique everything else. So if I was to cry “Abba! Father!” (which doesn’t actually come that naturally to me to begin with) it seems the reading is leading me to do that in some confidence, in a spirit almost of entitlement before God. I don’t mean to fall back into that first-world entitlement where God will do good things for me just because we have this great relationship; if God is my Dad, then I am certainly NOT Daddy’s little princess. It is more that I am entitled to have this dialogical relationship of questioning and growth with God because it is somehow in God’s interests to nurture me (the heir) and to teach me how to continue God’s work. An important note here is that any entitlement “I” or “we” have as a result of being God’s heirs is also shared by the “others” by “them” by whoever our social structures and ways of life oppress. So we will inherit God’s grace WITHIN the perpetual struggle for justice. We will inherit an accountability which it would be wise to become more ready for. Roman’s talks about suffering with the suffering Christ as the way to be glorified with the glorified Christ.

So we struggle, we suffer with the refugee Christ and with the single-mother Christ and with the rejected GLBTIQ Christ and with any place where Christ is and any work that Christ is doing or calling upon us to do. And that is where we tend to become like Nicodemus and want to ask stupid questions and deconstruct all the wrong things (don’t you see me doing that often enough) and to show our bad-tempered side when things don’t go our way.

And I really hate what Jesus says to Nicodemus in this gospel and I could become distracted by that and the awful way I was brought up to interpret it as a rejection of the supposedly obsolete bodily existence (that comes out of a female body of course) in favour of a patriarchal higher spiritual reality. It all sounds very gnostic to me and full of male privilege and I wonder if they would still all be too superior in their “spirit over flesh” ivory towers if someone (probably a woman) wasn’t being exploited to take care of their bodily needs which they scorn.

And I say this right back to you Jesus (if you ever, in fact said any of this nonsense)! What is born of flesh is flesh and damn well better have some gratefulness. What drinks its mother’s milk better not be saying it is better than its mother and you of all people should understand the sacrifice of sharing your flesh and blood to give life to another! If you were just a spirit then how did you eat and walk and talk and touch people? If you were not flesh how did they kill you?

What is spirit we know lives in flesh and its yearnings are written on the flesh and its strange and hard to understand sayings are also formed of flesh; of tongue dancing around teeth, of wind moving through vocal chord, vibrating through the living, breathing, heart-beating immediacy of FLESH. You made us of flesh and spirit when your name was Wisdom.

I am baptised but I don’t want to say I was “born again”. I came out of my beautiful, fleshy, fragile mother and I see her face now only in the mirror. I in turn pushed out three fleshly, spiritual beings and they were baptised but they did not need a rebirthing to negate my hard work. The beings of flesh and spirit that call us to accountability (especially this Reconciliation Week) that desperately call for justice in our world today don’t need us to think we are “better than” earthly demands for adequate food, housing and meaningful work.

Once again I have chosen not to allow the angel to hold the coal of blotting out to my unclean lips. I do not blot out my flesh, my material reality. I ask you God to take the person I am in reality, not some idealised image of perfection and I ask you to let me honestly and brokenly strive to follow you. And you are not my God because you sit upon a throne and are waited on by magical creatures who have little imagination when it comes to lyrics; you are my God because your place is in the struggle. As is mine.

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Trinity Sunday- What on earth do I do with these readings?

Oh dear, if these readings were my only experience of God I would absolutely be an atheist. For anyone who wonders what the word “kyriearchy” means it has everything to do with the God portrayed in these readings. Lord, Lord, Lord we go on and on about what a militaristic and lordly marvel you are!!!! GAH

Isaiah 6:1-8 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

Psalm 29 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor. 29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters. 29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. 29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. 29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. 29:7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. 29:8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 29:9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” 29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. 29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Romans 8:12-17 8:12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– 8:13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ–if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. J

ohn 3:1-17 3:1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 3:2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 3:4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 3:5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 3:7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 3:8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 3:9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 3:10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 3:11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 3:12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 3:15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I am tempted to ignore the readings and talk about my understandings of “trinity” which is just asking to be burned as a heretic by some church or another I realize. It is a very, very brave or foolhardy person who goes on record saying ANYTHING about the trinity because it’s one of those areas of dogma that they all get their pants in a twist over. That or skip to next week’s gospel which is easy to do a lesbian reading of

Speaking of Dogma maybe I will watch a movie instead of writing. No…just let me sleep on it…

(please note if you look up kyriearchy despite what people will tell you I don’t think Fiorenza meant it as a substitute or “less offensive” term for patriarchy. Fiorenza would be the first to acknowledge and problematise the existance of the patriarchy. Instead kyriearchy refers to a way of thinking within the church that actually panders to patriarchy. Sure it’s more complex (intersectionality might be a better term in some ways) but it’s naive to pretend there is no such thing as male privilege PARTICULARLY within the church)

God plays a trick on me (ie it’s Pentecost). Here are the readings my reflection will follow

Funny God. Funny, funny God. With my lack of awareness of the church calendar passing these days, you turn to me and whisper suggestions of preaching just in time for me to come back for my favourite feast of Pentecost and with the reading about dry bones which I have been meditating on recently and which I see myself in (as the cynical prophet, as the bones)

So given that it has turned out that way, I will preach from my heart and my gut. I believe sound scholarship is a good thing (and please if you find me too non-intellectual for your tastes go and read a real theologian by all means and check into all the historical-critical stuff). But I feel called by this crazy enflaming God to write my own truth (with due acknowledgement that it is not the whole truth). So first off, I will post the readings themselves. I want to just give the reference but I will make it easy for you and post the whole readings. Then in a separate post I will nut out some sort of “preaching”.

Even though I am choosing this way of doing the readings I am sad to miss out on the alternative second reading and almost want to skip over Acts which we have all done to death…but I understand that is not the done thing at Pentecost. Or skip the gospel because at the moment John leaves me cold (I used to feel differently)

Ezekiel 37:1-14 37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude. 37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b 104:24 O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 104:25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 104:26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 104:27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 104:28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 104:29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 104:30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. 104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– 104:32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. 104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. 104:35b Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!

Acts 2:1-21 2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 2:5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 2:6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 2:7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 2:9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 2:10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 2:11 Cretans and Arabs–in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 2:12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 2:13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 2:15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 2:16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 2:17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. 2:18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. 2:19 And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. 2:20 The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. 2:21 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 15:26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 15:27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 16:4b “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 16:6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 16:8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 16:9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 16:10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 16:11 about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 16:15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Please note the alternative reading

Romans 8:22-27 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 8:24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 8:25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 8:27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Creation groaning with labour pains as we do. The Spirit as an advocate/teacher. God needing to search for the Spirit to know what it in her heart. Oh yes I do like this reading too