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The synoptic authors recall the sending forth of the disciples by Jesus.

Matthew, Mark and Luke discuss the event with particular attention to polarity. Their focal point is the contrasts between the ‘for, against’, ‘peace, swords’, ‘binding, loosing’, ‘finding and losing’.(Mt.10:14/Lk.9:3-5/Mk.6:811/Acts 13:51)

Within the texts Jesus employs an economic[i] and political rhetoric. We read words like labouring, wages, authority, power, court and persecution.Within this discourse the sender and the sent are engaged in an economic project of proclamation.

This could be viewed as an economic protest that is both transactional and transformational. Words such as ‘value, worth, pay, giving, receiving, work and reward’ all rotate in and around the commanded reordering evident within the text.There is a transaction taking place, it precedes the announcement of transformation. Accompanying the message is exorcism, deliverance and proclamation of true value and true cost.

We read the words “take up your cross” in recollection of the steps taken by Jesus from stable, temple, workshop, garden, cross, empty tomb, upper room, and the promise of His physical reappearing.

When Jesus points to cost it is true cost. We are found or lost in underlying the notions of presence, arrival, departure and acceptance or rejection. Acknowledging presence means we hear the cost of wrath, value, worth, or worthlessness, unforgiveness or forgiveness.

Here we see that life-is-proclamation. It is not just economic but political. The transaction has no monetary value and yet it becomes transformational. These distinctions are about the strategic advancement of the Kingdom of God which lies outside human conjuring.It is given and cannot be purchased.

We, the post-modern hearers of the texts are confronted by the weight of declaration and doubt. This is a heaviness which takes place in the recollection of John the Baptist’s  call to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand – God has come near’ (ESV)

In the reminder of the horror and shame of crucifixion, and John’s call to repentance, we are redirected to align our thoughts onto the polarity between acknowledgement – acceptance, and denial – and evasion (in a word, rejection).

For instance: we read of dust, feet, and wiping away.

Dust in its Anglo-European context is understood as confusion, disturbance, something worthless, a state of humiliation, particles into which something disintegrates[ii]. For the first century audience, dust would have been ‘symbolic’[iii].Reminding them that ‘divine displeasure rests on any place that refused the Gospel’[iv].

Dust can announce arrival and signify departure.The finite significance of dust is its strength as a silent symbolic act of re-ordering; possibly forgiveness. A loving push-back; an assertive handing back of the hat, label,or false accusation that doesn’t fit.

Dust as a declaration of disturbance points us towards distinctions. The qualitative[v]: God is the majestic giver of life and ‘humanity, in its misery’[vi] runs hard and fast towards and artificial light, believing in the ability and power of self to justify.The proclamation mentioned within the texts are not about preaching the ‘manifestation of God as an idea; but about acknowledging that the revelation of God as a whole is a spiritual reality[vii]

Proclamation here is a declaration of disturbance. Our self-reliance is disrupted; as such we are not left in our sin to wallow – because “God has drawn near”.

We are forgiven, raised and reminded, by proclamation, that this state of forgiveness is not about ignoring deliberate injury.  For sin is not justified or legitimised by forgiveness. Forgiveness acknowledges a wrong, and calls for a response, a re-ordering; change. Otherwise there would be no cause for forgiveness. For the sinner this means that we are justified by the final act of the forgiver.

Proclamation calls us to acknowledgment. Here we experience acceptance and see shadows condemned in the true light of ‘veritas’ and the true cost of forgiveness.  By doing this we drop the dust from our feet, stop feeding the echoes of the past and as a consequence find ourselves moved towards healing.

‘In Jesus Christ God comes forth out of the profound hiddenness of His divinity in order to act as God among and upon us…
…In Jesus the living God has spoken to us in accents we cannot fail to hear’[viii]

In repentance thought and speech must meet deed.We acknowledge the negative but assert the positive. In this sense diverse forgiveness, including the act of forgiving the absence of apology, is like exhaling dust, and inhaling grace. The act of removing the dust from our feet.


References:

[i] Green, J.1997 NICNT:The Gospel of Luke, Wm.B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.413

[ii] Merriam-Webster

[iii] Hendrickson, W. 1978 NTC: Luke, Baker Academic p.575

[iv] Ibid, p.575

[v] Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite qualitative distinction’

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 The Miracle of Christmas in CD.1.2:173 Hendrickson Publishers

[vii] Ibid, p.178

[viii] Ibid, pp.182-183

Originally posted 17th February 2014  ©RL 

I have begun reading a second book from Barth’s Dogmatics. Having, probably rather oddly, chosen to read the final book first I have become comfortable with the text. Although I am uncomfortable with some of the challenges that coincide with reading his theological work.

I am already floored by the encounter.IMG_20131010_234503_20131013084158133

The picture above is from a bike ride my kids and I went on over the weekend. Adding these words to the image of a tree stump is not entirely random. The tree was used to make a bridge nearby.

For a log bridge, it both appears and seems secure.  I would hazard a guess and say that without the structural integrity of the trees it would be a useless pile of environmental waste. This made me question how easily our own self-imposed limitations can enable others to cut us down.

Words have meaning and the power of those words to cut, tear or encourage rests in the integrity of the dialogue partners to create something grace-filled from their exchange. God grants us this freedom to speak freely, firstly to/for Him and secondly to/for others. One sets the standard for the other because the former empowers the latter.

Barth wrote that:

‘Prayer can be the recognition that we accomplish nothing by our intentions, even though they be intentions to pray…Prayer can be the human answer to the divine hearing already granted, the epitome of the true faith which we cannot assume of ourselves. We do not speak of true prayer if we say “must” instead of “can”…

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:23 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

…‘Faith, regeneration, conversion, existential thinking on the basis of preceding existential encounter, are no doubt indispensable prerequisites of dogmatic work, yet not to the extent that they imply an experience and attitude, a desire and activity, a knowledge and achievement of the theologian, so that his theology is a personal cry, an account of his biographical situation, but to the extent that they imply the grace of divine predestination, the free gift of the Word and Holy Spirit, the act of calling the Church, which must always come upon the theologian from the acting God in order that he may really be what he does and what his name suggests’

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:21 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

From grace we are called. From out of that call, so may we speak. (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

Why? Not because we must, but because we can and therefore shall (David McGregor, Tabor Adelaide).

Hallelujah.