Archives For April 8, 2013

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‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’. (Is.53:3-6 ESV)

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T.F Torrance wrote that ‘sinful existence is a will to isolation from God and a refusal of His grace’ (‘Incarnation’ 2008, pg 52).Within this statement we can see an idea that is stimulated by Paul in Romans 5:12-21. This is that humanity is plagued by an uncertain primal aversion to God brought on by a distortion in humanities relationship with God. This theme of primal-atheism has in impact on how the world deals with the depth and relevance of Easter. Easter disturbs us because it reminds us that our ‘elevation into union and communion with God exists because of the humiliation of Christ the Son’ (‘Incarnation’ 2008, pg 57). It does not exist because of any human effort to prove ourselves right before God.

This can be connected to something Paul writes about in Romans 5:12-21. ImageHere he points to a counter disturbance whereby ‘grace does not leave humans unaffected in their consciousness and behaviour’ (Schreiner ‘Romans’ 1998, p.292; Moltmann‘The Spirit of Life’ 1992, p.113). This provides the framework for understanding how the ‘grace of Christ conquers and subdues’ (Schreiner 1998, p.285) sin and death. The Christ-event is an act of interceding grace (Rm.5:20) from which God fulfils His promise (Rm.8:26) and brings life out of death (Rm.4:17); light out of darkness. This counter disturbance summons every human to a response of gratitude (Barth) for what has been done on our behalf. This dynamic invitation ruffles our feathers as the tradition of the Church, along with the Spirit of God calls us to remember that in Christ humanity is found, rescued and offered new Life.

ImageBarth asserts this when he states that ‘the theme of the Gospel is the death of death’ (R2 1933, p.166). His emphasis here fits the literary context of Rm.5:12-21 because it points to Paul’s main theological point in Romans. This is that in Christ, God calls humanity into a newness of life. This means that in Jesus the Christ, God wills human existence (Barth C.D IV/III.1 p.362). In order to actualise this God addresses our unrighteous, ‘bleak, lifeless and unrelated existence’ (Barth 1933, p.170).Consequently righteousness becomes connected to life because ‘the victory over sin…rests in the entire accomplishment of the course of Christ’s existence’ (Pannenberg ‘Jesus-God and Man 1968, p.362). In other words Christ’s existence becomes our existence. For the biannual pilgrims of Christmas and Easter these words are a reminder that God not only gives permission for them to breathe, but that God also empowers them to do so.

Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome is about a ‘restoration that is outside our competence’(Barth ‘R2’ 1933, p.168). The good news of Romans 5:12-21 is that through Christ, God recalls us to a life transformed. He takes the initiative and through his act of reconciliation ‘invades the being of man and woman, making them his saints’ (Barth C.D IV/II 1958, p.523).This is a remedy established by the free gift of grace, which is given through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Despite primal-atheism, a product of a distorted relationship God does not desire to be without humanity (Barth). Consequently humanity is delivered from the abyss (Barth 1933, p.240) bringing us to a point where we can joyfully say ‘’I know who did it’’.

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Artistic process: I put together a display and photographed it at different angles. I then choose three to four of the best and used instagram to frame them. I put the collage together with the standard photo editor for windows 7. The hand print was done by using a print out, a glove and red food dye. (2013)

 

Lament.

 What Jesus the Christ gave and what He received in return…

 A visual reflection on a Lenten Lament:

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Artistic process:

This bread was made from a RiverCottage recipe by my beautiful daughters. I used instagram, cartoonize.net and the standard photo editor that came with windows 7.

It looked so good we decided to use it as a display, in order to photograph it for our Lenten reflection.

A narrative sermon: Jn.20:24-29

I remain clear about the reality.light concept_editedMarch013

Some people say He deserved it, others eager for gain, simply aligned themselves with the lies. As the old saying goes, ‘’misery loves company’’ I guess.

Perhaps it was fear of disloyalty, the mob or fear of the unfettered power claimed by corrupt and cynical people. The same people who made judgements without allowing them to be questioned.

Perhaps it was fear
Of

Being shamed as a supporter?

Yet.

Some of us remained. Alone, together enduring the subtle put downs, the lies whispered in the dark behind our backs. You know the types, lies that circulate like chains of smoke around the necks of accusers and prosecutors alike. Enduring the fallout, retracing our steps, persevering, it is like being knee deep in the mud. Has it really been 8 days already?How can one group of people have so much influence, so much control and, how come so many are uncritically willing to point a finger?

Who can stand against the deviancy control techniques they employed to engineer a biased response.

*sigh*….I’m exhausted.
How infuriating this all is!

Still I remain clear about the reality.

What I saw is what I saw – there is no bias in telling the truth even when it is discounted as subjective babble.

Me, recondite?

*sigh*…perhaps, I am.

Still I remain clear about the reality.

What I felt is what I felt – there is no contradiction in the embedded data here, even though my thoughts and experiences are ridiculed as ambiguous, damned to be without meaning, tasked to be silenced forever.

Still I remain clear about the reality.

What I heard is what I heard – there is no delusion, even when it is covered in a milieu of emotive fog. For me this is more than a memory, although it is conveniently forgotten by the elite and too easily abandoned by those who blindly followed.

Still…I remain clear about the reality.

The days darkened, hope vanished because the words were deconstructed, meaning lost meaning, the truth was reversed and those words twisted by the process of cross-examination – our faith all but abandoned.

Belittled, embattled, bitter and cold we sat. The others knew my opinions. Understanding the past was not going to be easy. Sin appears to have been rewarded. Isn’t this the opposite of what we were told to expect?

I need to confess..*sigh*… I no longer remain clear about the reality. I need air…this is all too much.

Disorientated by the distortions that surround me it seems I am burdened with the task of speaking reason to my unreasonable friends. Love speaks truth, and I must speak even if it costs me. Ah, the depth of grief that engulfs them! It’s not that their optimism is foreign to me; after all we walked among the dead, we saw them return alive to their loved ones! I still rejoice about the time I witnessed a grateful father ask for help in his unbelief following his daughters impossible healing. But now that experience taunts me, I thought I was one of the strong ones, convinced beyond all question by what I had seen, felt and heard. I rose and turned towards the door, angry, disappointed and determined for this to be a final stand for reason. How could I convince them? They seem so certain…

I am especially aware of this moment of hesitation – because I heard that unmistakable voice. My heart beat faster and the anxiety  that had overwhelmed me waned . With distinct clarity I sensed a return of that deep joy which always beamed from that transcendent-imminence full of understanding and compassion. This too easily forgotten energizing-joy was almost always accompanied by bespoke words full of warmth and light. Then suddenly there they were… ‘’Thomas! see?…these scars…touch them, for a Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have…blessed are those who have not seen me yet have believed’

With a gust of contrition I looked up, and in breathless, staccato sounds I uttered the words…’My Lord and my God!’

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Entitled: ‘Graphic Adjustment: Requiem for Thomas’,
Rod Lampard 2013.
The picture of Jesus was borrowed from a sticker called ”follower.” by World Christian Posters Inc. Canada. Artist Process: I morphed that with a ‘Keep calm and carry on’ ornamental display we picked up from Spotlight a while back.

A Lenten Litany

Inspired by Psalm 42:1/Romans 8:15/Hebrews 12:1

We shudder.

In loving gratitude, we are brought to our knees

Because we are reminded of whose we are,

and the who we are becoming.

Crying out, kyrie eleison we join the great cloud of witnesses, contemporary ancients participating with the Spiritual agent.

When we allow God as Father to work through His son in our lives,

The

Spirit

Shatters our defence mechanisms and our primal survival tactics

He turns us away from the proverbial kill or be killed…

Allowing us to breathe,

Allowing us to smile,

Allowing us rest,

Allowing us to heal.

The Spirit.

He who intervenes,

He the chosen incarnated one removes us from perceived indelible stains,

the kind that chain us, bind us and define our identity,

and

He frees us to be free for Him.

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When the task of defining preaching is put before me I favour Walter Brueggemann’s concept of ‘funding imagination’ (1993, p.20).This task, he writes:

‘is to provide the pieces, materials, and resources out of which a new world can be imagined. Our responsibility, then, is not a grand scheme or a coherent system, but the voicing of a lot of little pieces out of which people can put life together in fresh configurations’ (The Bible and postmodern imagination 1993, p.20)…It is sparking ‘the human capacity to picture, portray, receive, and practice the world in ways other than it appears to be at first glance when seen through a dominant, habitual, unexamined lens’
(The Bible and postmodern imagination 1993, p.13).

Preaching is about lifestyle, it is about creating (homiletics) a platform for the Gospel to transform, criticise and impact us instead of us transforming the gospel. As John Webster writes ‘if the Gospel does not do this it cannot be regarded as the Gospel, but as human isegesis’.

The power of this statement should impact our ideas of preaching because whatever form preaching may take, the content must be the Good News, the Euangelion-proclamation where we ‘encounter God’s action’ (David McGregor, 2012). In this way ‘Church becomes a spiritual event and a not only a structure of human society’ (McGregor, 2012).

Preaching as ‘funding imagination’ leads to a practical ‘theology of confrontation whereby the Gospel has a platform to sharply call into question the presuppositions of secular culture…the Gospel is not added to what humanity already knows but, instead, overturns human knowledge and calls men and women to break with their past orientation (lifestyle)’ (Bloesch, Essentials of Evangelical theology 2006, p.287 emphasis mine).

In addition Charles Spurgeon pointed out that preaching is intrinsic to lifestyle. This is found in his caveat that

‘our characters must be more persuasive than our speech’
(Lectures to my Students 1954, p.17).

Spurgeon’s caveat here is reinforced by the notion that ‘only the Holy Spirit can make the message, act or art credible and knowable’ (Bloesch 2006, p.72). Whilst my reflection here is not entirely definitive, it does serve to prove that a central element in preaching is that it ‘funds imagination’. Preaching, whether that is through art, music, dance, memes, chatting over coffee or simply sharing a testimony proclaims Good News.

This Good News ‘disorientates us in order to reorientate us towards God’s commanded orientation’ (Barth, Brueggemann, Webster, McGregor). This Good News is that Jesus the Christ is for us and His acts in life, death and resurrection summon us to respond. In sum perhaps preaching could be viewed as something we do when we ‘wonder at something, then invite others to wonder with us’ (Austin Kleon Blog: Notes on writing and drawing, 2011)

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Source: Austin Kleon Blog: How to steal like an artist: notes on writing and drawing, 2011.

‘God is not a perfectionist rather, He is a perfector!’ (Graham Buxton 2001, p.251)

IMG_0415#004 thought of the day.