Archives For March 2015

Three pierced.

Wrists. Feet. Side.

Three days.

Bruised, whip-shredded. Dead. Crucified.

Three words.

Jesus is alive!

Holy Week_three nails_RL2015_2

‘For God so loved the world,  that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him…This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil…But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
– (John 3:16-21, ESV)

Or, as summarised astutely by Karl Barth in C.D. II:1, page 274:

‘God does not will to be God without us, and He does not will that we should be without Him’

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{My original haiku, before I had the idea of pushing myself to only use 16 words, can be read over on my instagram page: here}

Define Your Illusions_RL2015_GVLWe the broken are far too easily ignored. We the abused are far too easily used. We are sold hope and guided by hands quick to speak of solidarity. We fall for blurred distinctions and ignore the price.

We are sold an empty comfort from mouths  that speak words of sympathy, but are absent of any real connectivity. They may promise salvation and deliverance from the deep sadness and pain we want so much to rip or be ripped out of us, but they cannot deliver it. Then some, sadly, choose to keep us dwelling on it in order to squeeze a dollar or two out of it.

In a way that pain becomes a commodity.

In the church and world, if among the broken we are picked out as ‘charismatic, gifted, beautiful or anointed’ we are seized upon and raised up by the collective and individual alike.

Either to promote a cause or financial gain. Paraded on stage, our testimony is “validated”, our pain and healing seemingly put to good use. However, when the doors close and the next ‘big’ thing is promoted we realise that our pain and healing was paraded  in order to hype up the masses or sell politics, an opinion, idea or distorted theology. Here the veil falls and we see that interest in the One who saves, saved and will save was pushed to the background as we were adorned with adoration, idolised and syphoned for hope.

The essence of our contact with world, relationship and institution is easily manipulated. We the broken, guarded and sensitive to those things which have hurt us so successfully, are ironically attracted by those things that will hurt us. Buying into the false promises that control us as they promise remedy.

Sometimes, therefore, the broken become the prey of the fortunate. Then, sometimes the affected are thrown away like chaff by the disaffected.

This could be because the voices of the experienced are disruptive. Disputing certainty, and intellectual anxiety about meaning and purpose. Disrupting those firmly held inside a web of ideological conformity.

Our continuing survival discomforts their faith in empirical impassabilities. It challenges the surety of presuppositions that imprison the impossible to ignorance and the absurd. It challenges their claim to power. Examples here include the historical, Martin Luther and The Reformation, or the fictitious Katniss Everdeen and her role in ‘The Hunger Games.’

Those with higher opinions based solely on higher education or their association with certain institutions may comment, but it is clear that most are selective and set only on pursuing a particular narrative – often the one that will keep them popular.

Faith uninformed by reason ends in delusion; superstition. Worse still is reason detached completely from the necessary dualism of faith and reason – scientism, as proven by the 20th Century, is the grounding of gross inhumanity.

An evolutionary ethic demands the strong must resource their strength from the weak until the weak are no longer useful. The “elite” have no problem assuming, then, that the broken are ruined beyond repair. That we cannot think for ourselves or see through the shattered lens that pales in comparison to their presumed-to-be superior, unscarred monocles.

So, we are sold illusions and sadly, we buy into them. We are even convinced enough to vote for them.

Niceties and platitudes of human tolerance end in hypocrisy. Resulting in acts of kindness being abandoned and the real importance being place solely on the appearance of giving it.

Additionally, the beauty of an orthodox theological understanding of Christian love is deconstructed, then subsumed into an “absolute ethic of niceness.[i]” God’s mercy is, thus, distorted without any acknowledgement let alone recognition of His right and freedom to act in just judgement (see Karl Barth C.D II:1 ‘Dues non est in genere’: God is not a species that can be categorised by us, outside that which and who He has chosen to reveal Himself to us).

With all the brokenness and abandonment around me at the time. Growing up as a teen in the 1990’s. I found it easy to fall into the trap of self-medication. Weekends spent young, drunk (and/or stoned); finding my identity in the closest people or things that I thought were identifying with me.

Looking back on that time, it wasn’t  because I was being drawn to those people or things because they identified with me, but because I leaned towards whatever I could identify, understand or nullify my pain with.

We hear packaged in phrases that ‘such and such, really identifies with their audience’. Terms of endorsement often found in movie and music reviews alike.

The important distinction not to be missed here, though, is that artists don’t generally identify with their audience. Rather their audience (the customer) identifies with them. It’s not reciprocal, even if the understanding is mutual.

The truth is that those people and things only identified with my money and my blind, happy applause.

Case in point is the band Guns n’ Roses.

I remember reaching for everything I could find or learn about them, to be them. Even up to the point of copying almost every riff and niche Marshal Amp sound I could squeeze out of my $150 second-hand electric guitar, which had a cracked head and the embarrassing habit of going out of tune after each strum, pick or bend.

I was more than a fan. I was a disciple flirting with a generalised, but similar inner darkness that they seemed to be wrestling with. Questing for the transcendent; looking to ascend the hole of despair that my existence had boxed me into.

This was poetry with guts.

Emotion and truth screaming through mic, five string, bass and drum. In short: a form of worship. Throwing up; ’emotional vomit’ (as Lacey Sturm from ‘Flyleaf’ brilliantly described it); a numbness screaming out for feeling. This was a reach for rescue-through-revolt. A desire to be heard and acknowledged; a potential revolution powered by real-anger, angst, amp and an “appetite” for definition.

The reality is that the men of Gn’R didn’t identify with me. They couldn’t. They didn’t know me. Yet, there is no blame that I can justly attach to them. What I was being sold hung on a blurred distinction.*

I identified with them, their craft, skills and lyrical aptitude. I related to what people were selling through them and bought-into it every time. It wasn’t and couldn’t ever be reciprocated.

Any healthy personal connection where I felt cared for or understood was an illusion; an estrangement caused by a blurred distinction.

Although tempted, I wouldn’t simply relegate this as ‘idol worship’ hoping to avoid over-analysing things, but as something more complex propagated by the absence of key relationships in my life.

What I have learnt through all of this is that my identity must rest in and under Jesus Christ, not any man, woman or ideology. He is the one in whom God chooses not only to identify with us, but to free us, in order to be for us and with us. So that we can be free for Him; free from, in order to be for, each other**:

‘…when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters]. And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but sons [and daughters], and if so, then an heir through God.’
– (Galatians, 4:3-7; see also Romans 8:15)

 


 

Source:

[i] Elshtain, J. 1993 Just War Against Terror

*So that I am not misinterpreted, “Gunners” as-they-were, still are, in my opinion, musical giants. Lyrically, rhythmically and melodically they hit on truths with criticisms of society that no one else dared to speak in and from that kind of arena.

** Karl Barth, paraphrased. 

 

 

 

 …

 

Enveloping condensation, are you up for conversation?
Past the trees, through the green.
Emblazoned forests.
Embracing fog. [ii]

Emblazoned Forests_RL2015_GVL

Connected reflection:

Dietrech Bonhoeffer, 3rd Tuesday of Lent, 1929:

‘When we have fully renounced making something of ourselves, we fall completely into God’s arms and what I call this-worldliness, namely, living in an abundance of tasks, questions, successes and failures, experiences, and helplessness.
We then take seriously no longer our own suffering, but the suffering of God in the world. We watch with Christ in Gethsemane. This, I think, is faith.
One thing remains clear or at least sensed; doubt and temptation about the meaningfulness of being cast to and fro, of being at the mercy of things, will not cease as long as we remain focused on ourselves, as long as in one form or another “the Other” does not step into our lives’  [ii]

With the way things have been for me and my family lately I haven’t had a whole lot of time to keep up with my Bonhoeffer readings for Lent. I’ve also been focusing a lot on taking our home schoolers through the gospel of Luke for home-school, hoping to complete the journey by the end of term one. So, believe it or not, I kind of landed on this third-Tuesday-of-Lent reflection perfectly.

I like a lot of what Bonhoeffer has to say here.

He is pushing through the worthlessness of things that we seem to take our worth from. Encouraging us to look towards the “Other”. Loving neighbour, not as another god, but loving through God. The latter who, through his constant covenants and promises, emboldens us in His revelation emblazoned in Jesus Christ. Here God proves His worthiness (not that He too, but chooses as Barth says, ‘decisively’ to do so) and thus becomes the only true living source of worth and worthiness for us.

 


[i] RL2015

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. Third Tuesday of Lent in Reiss, J. (Ed.) 2012 God is on the Cross Westminster John Knox Press, (pp.46-47)

 

‘There is no safety if we venture an inch over the boundary line; indeed, little allowances are more dangerous than greater compliances, since conscience does not receive a wound. Yet we are undone, and fall little by little.’
– (Charles H. Spurgeon, 1883) [i]

Slippery Slope

 

 


Source:

[i]Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, ‘Flowers from  Puritan’s Garden:Augustine’s Story’ p.68

Image credit: Photo is mine. It is of a river walk nearby.

Five Two

March 20, 2015 — 5 Comments

Fish photo_RLampard2015Two weeks ago my father passed away. He was not an easy man to connect with. So, we weren’t close.

Anything I write about it will inevitably fail to convey the reality of what would be justifiably labelled as a “failed” relationship.

No words I choose to use can adequately describe what kind of person he was. Nor can they fairly present the two-sides of the damaged legacy that informed and followed a lot of the choices he made.

I’ve looked for ways to write about it and have nothing. Hence the simple reflective posts over the past month.

My words seem to stubbornly sit in a void. It’s not like I have nothing to say, it’s just that there isn’t a lot that could be said.

Then there’s the added complication of a what should be said, but needs to be said carefully, at the right time and to the right people.

What I can say is that although grace redefined our relationship as father and son, one-sided relationships are hard to maintain. As a result it never was what it should, or could have been. I lament that. What I see, however, and am thankful for is how grace moved through forgiveness to empower me to work with what I could do instead of what he or others expected and demanded that I should do.

Subsequently, we were able to connect in a healthy way, establishing and asserting boundaries; speaking on the phone almost every month for the past ten years, interacting with him online, sending him care packages, driving to speak and pray with him the week that he died.

As much as I would like to take the credit for this. With the dysfunction that existed there, such contact was and remains an act of God.

It’s what recently attracted me to an event that Luke mentions.

The people who had come out to hear Jesus preach needed to eat and the disciples were getting antsy. Jesus steps up and works with what he has. No magic. No fairy dust. Just an incomprehensible act of grace that apprehends us.

Challenging us to see and understand that He can make possible that which otherwise seems to be impossible.

‘Jesus directed the disciples saying, ”Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd.’
– (Luke 9:14-17, The Message)

Photo credit: Mine. It is cropped from a larger photo that features a sculpture tucked away into a wall near the Manning River in Taree, NSW.

Niebuhr’s Caveat

March 19, 2015 — Leave a comment

Reinhold Niebuhr’s warning, given in 1945 is encased in his discussion about the necessary dialectic of mercy and justice; the peace of God, authentic Christian forgiveness and not confusing inner peace with stoic detachment. He also lays out in some detail the importance of recognising that we cannot fully comprehend God, but are fully apprehended by Him in Jesus Christ.

Iron Cannon

As far as this ”warning” (which is really more a caveat because ”warning” can wrongly imply that the prophetic is involved here) goes, it is certainly closer to Orwell’s ‘1984’, than P.D James’ brilliant ‘Children of Men’. However, it is fairly evident to me that modern Western culture is already moving over into this ‘sea of relativity; into complete anarchy’ with the totalitarian rule of chaos that is able to deceive so many by creating and inciting the mob to revolt. Despite whether or not the mob understands why and what they are revolting against. Critical thinking, just democratic representation and fair debate are sidelined.

Such is the result of ideological movements based the false promise of absolute freedom; or as Karl Barth (Freedom in Limitation; Church Dogmatics) or Albert Camus (The Rebel) critique it: freedom without necessary limitation is not true freedom.

It is important to point out that Niebuhr is cautious in who and what the ‘canons of righteousness’ are to be. He understands this to be a problem because everyone has an agenda – self-interest plays a part, but Niebuhr presupposes a framework for ‘canons of righteousness’ to be one grounded on, guided by and founded in Jesus Christ, and informed as such by Christian forgiveness, mercy and justice.

‘If there were no canons of righteousness by which conflicting ideas and values could be judged, human society would be a sea of relativity, a complete anarchy of values and interests.’ [i]

 


Source:

Niebuhr, R. 1945, Discerning the Signs of the Times, Kindle Ed.

Image is mine: Inside the barrel of an Iron Cannon located at Fort Scratchley, Newcastle.

Christ Jesus, protect us from all that sets out to destroy us.

(St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’ partially summarised in twelve words)

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Related posts/links: Christian, Pray. St. Patrick’s Breastplate