Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Lower Classes Smell

 

Our civilisation, pace Chesterton, is founded on coal, more completely than one realises until one stops to thinking about it.  The machines that keep us alive, and the machines that make the machines, are all directly or indirectly dependent upon coal,  In the metabolism of the Western world the coal-miners is second in importance only to the man who ploughs the soil. He is a sort grimy caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported.

Orwell captures the odious nature of this caste system by seizing upon an axionm that eludes simple propositional articulation.  As he puts it, “the real secret of class distinctions in the West”! can be “summed up in four frightful words” that are often left unuttered; The lower classes smell. Orwell’s points is that the root of class distinctions in England is not intellectual it’s olfactory,  The habits and rhythms of the system are not so much cerebral as visceral they are rooted in a bodily orientation to the world that eludes theoretical articulation, which is why theoretical tirades also fail to displace it.

Orwell later speaks of his education in the English public school system:

You forget your Greek and your Latin within a few months of leaving school = I studied Greek for eight or ten years, and now, at thirty-three, I cannot even repeat the Greek alphabet – but your snobbishness, unless you persistently root it out like the blindweed it is, sticks by you till your grave.

Smith then concludes

“This may help us picture what it means to talk about education as formation.  But it might also be an occasion to ask whether a Christian education could have the same odious effects as a public school education. Could we offer a Christian education that is loaded with all sorts of Christian ideas and information – and yet be offering a formation that runs counter to that vision?”

A couple more things out there

I was talking to an employee of Price Waterhouse Coopers yesterday who was saying the company no longer sticks graphics and fancy colours into its reports, on account of a major customer survey which said all the clients wanted were black and white bullet points.

In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions on youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.

The Subtlety of Graveclothes

 

 

Good Friday seemed a much better day for such things,

But now we have to get ready for Easter

I never thought I would think this, but could not just have a few more days of Good Friday

I prefer honest misery, to artificial joy.

 

The First Easter

There are two things that I want to say about Easter,

 

The first is it is about seeing the whole of creation: the old creation and the new creation.

Because it is a challenge not see a little hole of reality, like looking out a burkha

But to have our eyes widened and to see the whole of it, the creation, and the new creation.

 

The second thing I want to think about this morning is that profound way that Jesus comes to a woman who weeps.

 

If you want two words = the first part seeing, the second part weeping.

 

Seeing

So let us look at the first part of the story,

And it become a story about things that do not quite add up.

 

Mary comes to the tomb early on the first day of the week, whilst it is still dark.

 

Now that “first day of the week” and whilst it is very dark, is very important,

 

There is a thing going on here where John is making a reference,

 

You get this all the time, in films, for example in High School Musical, which is about two people falling in love from rival gangs, there is a balcony scene which makes you think about another play where there is a balcony.

 

More obvious is the scene in Toy Story 2 where Buzz Lightyear and Zorg are fighting, and Buzz Lightyear says to Zorg “you killed my father” and Zorg says “Buzz, I am your father”, and then Buzz falls away going “noooooo”

 

And this is a reference to the Empire Strikes Back

 

John is making a reference to it being dark on the first day, is a reference to Genesis,

And if you think I am reading too much into things,

John does this all the time, he starts his book with saying “In the beginning”

And all the time he is talking about dark and light, and way that you are to read more into  this than simply, “you’ll need a torch outside”.

 

Or the moment where Judas betrays Jesus, and John adds “So after receiving the morsel of bread he went out” and “it was night”

 

So John is nudging us here “It was dark and it was the first day of the week”

Any clues what I might be referring to here?

 

Aaagh, yes, this is a second creation story, a new creation

Something profoundly new and different is happening in the whole of the universe

 

The Christian faith, the whole of being has two grounding points

One was 13 billion years ago when the whole thing went bang

And the second was about 1,984 when on the first day of the week when it was still dark Mary went to the tomb

 

And John is saying don’t just live in the first of those realities,

You have to live in the second as well

The reality of the New Creation where God who loves us with us

And dead people don’t stay dead.

 

Mary goes to the tomb and she sees the stoned moved.

Now this is upsetting, because in the Old Creation that is a sign of grave robbery

In the New Creation this is a sign of resurrection.

 

But she runs away, back to the disciples, and two of them come running

Peter and John

And they have a running race and the beloved disciple wins

This is the only running race in the Bible, and I am sure John is hinting again

Peter who sees at the moment like Old Creation, he is beaten

By Beloved Disciple who will in a moment spot the New Creation

 

So the moral of that particular verse is that if you want to run faster

Believe in the New Creation

Which is not completely daft, because a week tomorrow, at the 20 mile mark I may well be praying quite hard, and remembering the New Creation.

 

So Peter, Genesis only, Big bang only, what you see is all there is Peter,

Goes in and he sees folded grave clothes and the face cloths in a place by itself

That is it, interesting.

 

But Beloved Disciple, Beloved Disciple who sees beyond the surface,

First Creation and New Creation

He goes in and sees the grave clothes, and the face cloth by itself

And he saw and (verse 8)

 

He believed.

There is something more going on here than grave robbery

We are in the New Creation and in the New Creation dead people are raised.

 

Graveclothes

 

Now let us just back up a bit here, and think about the subtlety of this.

 

Imagine there was a committee meeting in heaven – I am using an image here, heaven doesn’t work like that,

But imagine the angels were trying to give God suggestions for how he might intimate to the disciples that the New Creation had begun.

 

The suggestions might have been firstly for a mind blowing, unmistakeable Jesus appearance

Not just at the graveside, but above the skies of Jerusalem, enough for the disciples to see, for Pilate to see, for the Chief Priests to see.

 

Or perhaps just to the disciples, and some fireworks thrown in for good measure.

 

But no, God opts for the suggestion of the angel who said “graveclothes”

 

We want the world to know that there is not a Creation version 2.0

A  creation version 2.0 where God is with his people

Where dead people do not stay dead

Where in all the dimensions of the world, there is a place  called heaven and it is nearer

That the people of God are sharing in a destiny together now where they are not just one nation but also one body

And we want them to know that through grave clothes

 

In the new Creation the people of God are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places

They have the Holy Spirit inside them to guide them and change them,

They have the forgiveness of their sins, so at the end of time God turns to everyone who has trusted in him, no matter their sins, the depth of their guilt,

And says to each one of them that they are justified

To each one, “not guilt”, “not guilty”, “not guilty”

 

And that in this God makes know the mystery of his will

That in Jesus he will unite all things, things in heaven and things on earth

And there is going to be a day when Jesus appears

And heaven descends

And every tear is wiped from every eye, and God is with his people

 

And this happens in the new Creation, and the way that this is going to be announced is graveclothes.

 

 

If you wanted a smaller, more subtle demonstration of the resurrection, I could not imagine it,

What is God doing here?

 

 

It seems to be the nature of God that he be discovered in the small.

 

I think there are reasons, that this gives us space to encounter him, to know him

Rather than being blown out the water

God wants to be loved, not simply impressive.

 

God seems to want us to hunt for newness in the most delicate of clues,

To tread carefully,

Not to blow us away with fireworks, but to meet us in small things.

And the implication of the small thing is enormous.

 

I want us to feel for that subtle delicate change there

That the outward realities of you life did not change at dawn this morning

The relationships that you struggle with – still there

The  body you have, for your friends, for your family, still there

The money problem you have – still there

The career uncertainties – still there

 

All that still there

But peer beneath the reality of you life

Beyond first creation, beyond Genesis

To new creation

 

God is with you, you are loved, there is new life

Life is not destroyed by the death you most fear

 

There is something else, the new creation penetrates small things

It is smaller than a quark when it needs to be

The New Creation covers clothes, and folded linen

It covers small words, small movements of the tongue

The turn of the head to give to someone our eyes

The step of courage into a difficult place, where believe newness can happen

 

And it deals with all that we worry about

The health of a child not yet born

The outcome of the a meeting

The size of our overdraft

The busy-ness of our overdraft

The coldness of a marriage

The state of someone’s mind.

 

All these places, the marriage, the womb, the mind, the meeting

All  our sites of resurrection as was a tomb

 

And New Creation transforms, goes beyond First Creation

 

 

 

Look at  your life

And I guess I want us to look at our lives this morning

And think, “How is my life different if Jesus is risen from the dead?”

How is your financial life different if Jesus is risen from the dead

How is your emotional life different if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is the pain that will be bearable if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is your career like if Jesus is risen from the dead

What is your family situation like if Jesus is risen from the dead.

 

Feel for this, he is risen

 

Subtly discovered

And discovered by those who weep

 

And utterly, utterly changed is the universe

And the sign of it is very subtle

Some graveclothes that have failed to keep hold of a body

 

Happy Easter

Christ is Risen

He is Risen Indeed

 

Now leave here, and in the all the small things, let your life not be the same

For he has risen indeed.

The Gospel According To The Guardian – Part 94

The atheistic position merits an adjective that no one would dream of applying to you: it is lenten. And agnosticism, I respectfully suggest, is a slightly more logical and decorous response to our situation – to the indecipherable grandeur of what is now being (hesitantly) called the multiverse. The science of cosmology is an awesome construct, while remaining embarrassingly incomplete and approximate; and over the last 30 years it has garnered little but a series of humiliations. So when I hear a man declare himself to be an atheist, I sometimes think of the enterprising termite who, while continuing to go about his tasks, declares himself to be an individualist. It cannot be altogether frivolous or wishful to talk of a “higher intelligence” – because the cosmos is itself a higher intelligence, in the simple sense that we do not and cannot understand it.

 

Jeremy Kyle’s hubristic pretentions to be a genuine pastor, committed to the bettering of British family life were torn part here.  Interestingly Kyle’s moralistic denunciations did work in one case, where someone genuinely had been given a rough deal, and Kyle publicly vindicated their sense of injustice.  Wherever there was was nuance, or good on both sides, then Kyle upped his ratings through shameless distortion, the damage was incalculable.

Then there is Charlie Booker, in better words than me, describing his hatred of the “No to AV” baby campaign:

The “No” campaigners are the worst offenders. It started with the adverts that pitched the purported cost of a new voting system against the needs of imperilled newborns. A photo of a delicate, salmon-pink baby was accompanied by the words “She needs a new cardiac facility – not analternative vote system. Say NO to spending £250million on AV. Our country can’t afford it.” Apart from the dodgy arithmetic involved in coming up with that figure (the sort of magic maths which involves closing your eyes and repeatedly banging the calculator against your forehead), the idea that we can only have one thing or the other – AV or healthy babies – is such a preposterous argument, even the baby could see through it. And its eyes were covered with placenta.

 

And finally a withering critique of Guantanamo from Julian Glover.

At times, I have feared that obsessing over the injustices of Guantánamo Bay has become a surrogate for a wider hatred of America. Read the files, and you’ll realise that obsession is the only possible humane response.

Journey’s End

Journey’s End

And so we do as he told us to,
And remember:

How he, his heart beating to his Father’s will,
Stepped down in time from heaven’s throne,
Borne by the breath of love to Mary’s home,
Jesus, embryo, coming for his own.

Jesus, son of Joe, the carpenter’s kid,
Jesus in Jerusalem, 12-year-old youth
Stunning the temple elite in his Father’s house,
The word on the street, full of grace and truth.

Jesus stepping down into Jordan’s waters,
And rising to the sound of his Father’s praise;
Jesus turning storm to stillness, sickness to shalom,
Mourning to amazement, rejection to welcome,
Lack to plenty, death to breath,
Life to life for always and always.

Jesus at the bedside, ‘Little girl, get up.’
Jesus at the tomb-side, ‘Come out.’
Jesus on the mountainside, ‘Blessed are…blessed are…blessed are…’
Jesus on our side, ‘Come to me …’
Jesus in all humility, ‘I only do what I see
My father doing.’

Jesus kneeling down at our feet, washing off our muck.
Jesus falling down in the dirt, streaked with his own blood,
Jesus looking down from the crossbeam, his dads’ Son,
Taking away the sins of the world, the victory won,
God and ransom, knowing: all has been given, all has been done.

 

From Mark Greene (c) 2011

Biology, Physic and Chemistry

IN CHEMISTRY, HE TURNED WATER TO WINE.

 

IN BIOLOGY, HE WAS BORN WITHOUT THE NORMAL CONCEPTION;

 

IN PHYSICS, HE DISPROVED THE LAW OF GRAVITY WHEN HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN;

 

IN ECONOMICS, HE DISPROVED THE LAW OF DIMINISHING RETURN BY FEEDING 5000 MEN WITH TWO FISHES & 5 LOAVES OF BREAD;

 

IN MEDICINE, HE CURED THE SICK AND THE BLIND WITHOUT ADMINISTERING A SINGLE DOSE OF DRUGS,

 

IN HISTORY, HE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE END;

 

IN GOVERNMENT, HE SAID THAT HE SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, PRINCE OF PEACE

 

IN RELIGION, HE SAID NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH HIM;

 

SO, WHO IS HE?

HE IS JESUS!

 

JOIN ME AND LET’S CELEBRATE HIM;

HE IS WORTHY.

 

THE EYES BEHOLDING THIS MESSAGE SHALL NOT BEHOLD EVIL,

 

THE HAND THAT WILL SEND THIS MESSAGE TO EVERYBODY SHALL NOT LABOR IN VAIN,

 

AND THE MOUTH SAYING AMEN

TO THIS PRAYER SHALL SMILE FOREVER.

 

REMAIN IN GOD AND SEEK HIS FACE ALWAYS. AMEN

 

IN GOD I’VE FOUND EVERYTHING!

 

The Greatest Man in History

Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master.

 

Had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher.

 

Had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer

 

He had no army, yet kings feared Him..

 

He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today. I feel honored to serve such a Leader who loves us! If you believe in God and in Jesus Christ His Son .. Send this to all on Your buddy list. If not just ignore it. If you ignore it, just remember that Jesus said. ‘If you deny me before man, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven.

Rebel Consciousness

On the Mary’s anointing of Jesus, contemporary Ugandan theologian Emmanuel Katongole has written “Mary represents the ‘rebel consciousness’ that is essential to Jesus’ gospel.  Wherever the gospel is preached, we must remember that its good news will make you crazy.  Jesus will put you at odds with the economic and political systems of our world.  This gospel will force you to act, interrupting the world as it is in ways that make even pious people indignant.”

The Idolisation Of The Family

 

“Th ‘idolization’ of the family noted by Schermann (who laments “it is not the lack of repsect for the famiy, it is the idolization of the family that breaks the modern family so easily, making divorce its almost natural shadow.  It is the identification of marriage with happiness and the refusal to accept the cross in it”) results in an almost impossible pressure upon the family to function as closed, self-sufficient, autonomous unit.  The rituals of political liberalism (whether “liberal” or “conservative”) paint a picture of the family as the incubator of good citizens, dutiful producers and eager consumers at the same time that it shuts up the family in a private “closed home” as part of the Americal ideal of indepedence.  The result, however, is an unbearable weight upon the family.

As McCarthy remarks [this] “isolates it with the formidable and lonely task of being a whole communion.”

The promises in baptism indicate a very different theology of the family, which recognises that “families work well when we do not expect them to give us all we need.”

In Heaven

But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.

Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.

‘And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber – give me a clue.’
‘Hush, child,’ He said,
‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d be seeing you.’

JUDGE NOT!!

Remember…Just going to church doesn’t make you a
Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.

Every saint has a PAST…
Every sinner has a FUTURE!
Now it’s your turn… Share this poem.