The Beauty of Humanity Movement

I have been reading Camilla Gibb’s 2010 novel in the book group I am part of.  Set in Vietnam it is a bold thing for a British/Canadian author to tackle – her PhD in anthropology obviously helped because it is an equisite insight into the real world behind the tourist mecca that Vietnam is.
It is a low-key drama that unfolds gradually and in a way not compellingly, though I wanted to finish it.  The loss and division in the history of Vietnam for over 60 years (well, forever really) plays out in the lives of the characters – Hung with his Pho (pronounced Pha) rice noodle soup makes connections that are all marked by tragedy, and the artist’s daughter gets caught up in it is well.  Good read.

Escher pointing to the way of the reign of God

Escher’s ‘Print Gallery’

Out of yesterday’s Gathering conversation…
I have no idea about the artist M.C. Escher’s theological motivations, but I find the Print Gallery drawing a compelling revelation of the faith dimension of life.  What is depicted is the experience of looking at art and the way the viewer is transported into a wider vista of reality through the viewing.  It is as if another world has broken into this one, and the artist has found a way to lead people into it.
For me, the reign of God/kingdom of God, has been announced and lived out and revealed by the, among many other things, soul artist Jesus Christ – who is kind enough to make himself known to us – a window into the real world that is so often missed by the crowd and the culture.

a murderous mob

I’m immersed in the John Dear book Jesus the Rebel.  Looking through the lens of a nonviolent Jesus (is there any other Jesus but a non-violent one?  Surely not a violent one!), Dear proceeds to tell the Jesus story – highlighting how Jesus stands against the systems that perpetrate violence on people – especially the poor.  In the chapter ‘The Mission’ he reflects on the passage from Luke 4 when Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue.  In announcing that the words are being fulfilled in the hearing of those gathered for worship, there is a reaction – “…the pious, religious congregation explodes with anger and violence.  Feeling insulted by Jesus’ political accusations [the references to Elijah and the widow, and the Syrians], the devout congregation screams, ‘How dare he ruin the liturgy by speaking of God consorting with the enemy and implying that we are not on God’s side in the pursuit of justice.'”
Dear goes on, “Luke describes the transformation of  a religious congregation into a murderous mob: The people are filled with fury; they rise up as one; they drive Jesus out of the town; they lead him to the brow of a hill; they intend to hurl him over the cliff.  How do the faithful respond to Jesus’ call for justice?  They try to kill him!  His words unmake their murderous hearts, their allegiance to structural injustice, and their hostility towards their enemies.  Jesus exposes them; they are not people of prayer and faith… rather, these devout people benefit from the empire’s oppression of the poor, its imprisonment of captives, its marginalisation of outsiders, and its class divisions that keep the land and economic resources in their pious and elite hands.”  Jesus the Rebel p18-19

I have observed earlier the behaviours of crowds and systems and how easily they become mobs.  In an attempt to do what they believe is right, they do wrong.  In the name of the One who is sent, by God, to be as one of us – sent to the margins to gather us in, we marginalize people whose differences we cannot accept.  We say that people who are of the same-sex cannot make covenants of marriage before God without first attending to how we handle ourselves and our power.  Just because we can, should the majority act in God’s name in ways that marginalize people?  Isn’t this contradictory with the heart of the reign of God as unfolded by Jesus?
This needs to be talked about – but the church I belong to, chose not to talk or even allow a conversation in the church about this issue.  No, in a spirit of pious certitude, the majority made its statement and insisted that there was no conversation to be had.  We not only marginalised people, but we chucked the possibility of discussion and discernment over the brow of a hill.
Jesus made his way ‘through the midst and went away.’ [Luke 4:30]
Later, much later, the mob finds its way to do the job properly – they side with their oppressors to create a superpower, they haul Jesus before their leaders and have him tried.  Flimsy evidence is empowered by a shouting crowd and the ultimate betrayal of God ‘We have no king but Caesar!’  He is whipped within an inch of his life and hung on a cross to die in agony.
But this reign of God is of such force that even death cannot stop it – on the third day he is raised.
Yet, here we are, after the fact, gathering as mobs and acting as if the reign/kingdom of God has not come and God’s will has not been done on earth as in heaven!  And what is worse – we do it in God’s name!  Blimey!

slowly, humanly, peacefully

I am reading John Dear’s book Jesus the Rebel
I am being forced to read it slowly and contemplatively – I figure that this is the way the man wrote it.
On the first temptation of Jesus in the desert – the ‘turn these stones into bread one, Dear writes this:
“Like Jesus, we are tempted by the culture to change to bread, to bring about tangible results.  But Jesus calls us back to the Scriptures and urges us to not rely on our own powers but o God and God’s word, for it is God who does the changing and brings all the results.  It is God who makes the difference, not us.  We are called not to be successful but faithful to God and God’s word, which works slowly, humanly, peacefully – not inhumanly, violently, and forcibly, like the empire.  We are not called to be powerful but powerless, instruments only of the nonviolent power of God, God’s word.  We are not called to be relevant but as irrelevant as Jesus – hungry in the desert, dying on the cross.  we take up the effectiveness of the cross which, as far as the culture is concerned, is complete lunacy, an absurd failure.”

I wonder what the recent Presbyterian General Assembly did when it resisted working slowly, humanly and peacefully on the sensitive issues of sexuality, leadership, and marriage.  Did we perpetrate violence?


The view out the window

I sit on the sofa
reading of God’s non-violent reign of love
made known and lived out by Jesus
a love taken to a cross
into the brutality of violence
taken there, even there,
to that darkest of places
because to love
is to love completely and with everything

I gaze out the window
– our small corner of beauty greening
as the spring emerges from winter’s death-like grasp

If I am beloved, and I am,
then the greening is the only true work – the beautiful work
and it is unfolding constantly, everywhere.

What I am reading:
“Then, when he sees the Spirit of God rest on Jesus, John the Baptist knows that the Annointed One has appeared.  But as he points people to Jesus and starts to ‘decrease’ he begins to have his doubts.  This Jesus isn’t organising a non-violent overthrow of the empire for the sake of Yahweh.  “Perhaps I am wrong,” John thinks.  After Herod arrests him, John sends out two messengers to inquire once and for all if Jesus is really the one sent from God.
Shortly before the king executes him, John gets his answer:
‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the lind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  And, blkessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Luke 7:22)
The Baptist dies in prison knowing that the revolution of Gd has come – and in much greater ways that he could ever imagine.  Jesus has started a permanent revolution of transforming nonviolence.  Indeed, the reign of God is breaking through here and now.”  John Dear Jesus the Rebel p7

Rolls Royce & Bentley

My brother-in-law Bruce McIlroy has a Bentley/Rolls Royce workshop business just out of Ashburton.  The massive shed was brimming with cars on Sunday.  Bruce owns a Silver Ghost – early 1900’s.  It began life on safari in Kenya!  I enjoyed a few minutes clicking with the camera in the pristine workshop.  A real pleasure!

Anne’s Dad

Ivan McIlroy – now world-famous Life Member of the Mid-Canterbury Farm Forestry Association!

Anne’s father Ivan McIlroy was granted life membership of the Mid-Canterbury Farm Forestry Association at a function on Sunday afternoon.  Ivan is a tree man – over 60 years ago he founded Allenton Nurseries – starting with farm forestry and slowly building the business to be one of New Zealand’s leading wholesale exotic tree nurseries.  Allenton Nurseries was closed just two weeks ago – the winds of change finally caught up.  In my view, the combination of changes in fashion and the smaller sections people live on contributed to its demise, alongside a slump in fruit tree growing, the economic slump of the last few years, and the decline in purchases because of the Christchurch earthquake.  Too many forces combined at once – quite sad really.  For those who don’t realise, fashion is the enemy of creativity… and trees.
Ivan has been out of the day to day life of the nursery for some years now.  He is typically stoic in his attitude about the changes – but I am sure he had hopes for the business to keep going, and the family all feel deeply for the staff, most of whom have found other work.