Monthly Archives: November 2015

29 November – Hoping against hope

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Advent 1

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25
Luke 21:25-36

I hope we have a good turnout for the concert this afternoon.

I hope the fuel lasts until I find a petrol station.

I hope she doesn’t say I’m going to need root canal treatment.

We hope for all sorts of things.

The hopes I’ve just listed are rather weak ones. Their weakness is in that they are about things over which we have no real control. They are more wishes which the powers might perhaps grant us, if we are lucky, or they are the outcomes we would effect if we were God. These are hopes in the face of what is already determined. An outcome is already written; we just don’t know yet what it is. “I hope that the sermon is not too long, and that there’s no more nonsense about Time Lords or zombies.” Alas it is too late, and hoping will make no difference: it is already written!

The nature of hope in the Christian confession is not weak in this sense because Christian hope is not about what we would do if we were God, but about what God will do. The question then becomes, what would God “do”? This is not quite straightforward, and the answer depends on whether we imagine ourselves to live in the realm of myth, or of history.

We begin with myth. Perhaps some of you have watched Mythbusters on TV. It is one of the silliest shows on the box, although I so want to be able to do the stuff they do to test what they test: blowing things up, smashing them into each other, abusing crash-test dummies and blowing more things up! For our purposes this morning, however, the important thing is not their methods or any particular myth they might bust but the very meaning of “myth” itself in “mythbusters”. Within the show, a myth is a story about what might happen under certain circumstances: will a broken drive shaft flip a moving car? Can you ski behind a passenger liner? What they test is whether the rumoured thing is true or not; if true, it ceases to be a “myth”. This is how myth tends to operate for most of us: a myth is something which is not true.

More profoundly, however, myth is not about what is true but why certain things are true. The process of mythologising is one in which what we can see or experience is interpreted as a sign of the divine order of things. We might imagine that because a king has all the power, money and pretty women, this is because the gods have ordered things to be just so. (At least, a lot of kings have presumed this to be the case.)

Myths declare that what is clearly the case is not only the case but is necessarily so. This is how the world is because this is how it is made to be. More than this, how the world is then has consequences for what can happen next. The myths by which we live determine or guarantee our position or our fate. On this understanding, it is both obvious and necessary that all Palestinians are terrorists, that men are superior to women, that the market will find the correct level, that I have to have the latest model of my favourite iThing, that what I have was given as a blessing for me and not for you, that we won the war because God was “mit uns. (You don’t have to agree that all these things are obvious or necessary, only that many often have agreed just that!)

Myths of this kind interpret how the world is to be part of a deeper ordering. Historically, this ordering has been religiously conceived: what is happening happens because of the activities of the gods. If we see that each year the grain grows, and then dies, and then does the same next year, we might imagine that this reflects the dying and rising of a god; in the case of the Romans, this was accounted for with the goddess Ceres (as in “cereal”). But religion and its gods are not an essential part of the dynamic. The important thing is that the mythologised world is, quite literally, hopelessly static. There is nothing to hope for but the next step in what is already predetermined. We do not drive but are driven.

Now, I said that what we might hope God might do is a matter of whether we think we live in a mythological world or an historical one. For this to make sense we not only have to re-think what “myth” means but also to re-imagine what “historical” means.

For most of us, most of the time, history is the stuff-that-happened. This is how history is taught in schools and features in public discourse. In this simple sense, history is everywhere, because things are happening all the time. The first Australian peoples have a history, the second peoples have histories which intersect; the Russians and the Chinese and the Africans all have their histories.

We tell ourselves that we are interested in our histories because they tell us something about who we are; just think of the enormous interest in family history these days. But when history tells us who we are, it begins to take on the characteristics of myth. If I am merely evolved from scum on the surface of a primeval pond, then what does that say about my freedoms here and now? If I am a person who was treated badly – even abused – in my early years, how does that affect my future? If my people have been terribly persecuted in living memory, what rights and claims does that give me here and now over others? In scenarios like these what happens next is often thought to be implied by what has already happened. And so there is not much to “hope” for here; rather, we read our futures off our past. This is not very different from the idea that there are gods behind every rock and tree who make happen what will happen next.

Distinct from this sense of history is the notion of history which appears for the first time with ancient Israel. Here history occurs for the first time. Of course, this makes no sense in the normal understanding of history: there was plenty happening before Israel appeared on the scene. What I mean is that in Israel, for the first time, human beings were offered a different sense of the relationship between where they had come from and where they were going. This brings us, finally, to our focus text today from Jeremiah as a concrete instance of this different feel for history.

Jeremiah preached before, during and after the fall of Jerusalem in 587BC. For the most part, his preaching described in no uncertain terms the disaster coming upon Jerusalem. Our reading today, however, comes from a small section in the wider collection of Jeremiah’s preaching, known as the Book of Consolation. This is comprised of a series of oracles which speak of a time beyond what was at immediately hand, when a restoration would come.

In this prophecy, two things are declared which contradict the static, hopeless mythologising of world events. First, it is declared that the meaning of the terrifying events unfolding around Jerusalem at that time was ambiguous. When what happens next is predetermined by what has already happened, then it is clear what will happen and why, for only certain things and conclusions can follow. If Jerusalem falls and the Temple is sacked, this becomes proof that the Judeans were wrong about the power of their God, and so can now only hope in vain. But Jeremiah has already preached the fall. His preaching has not been a discovery of a power operating in history of which his people were ignorant, but has been a revelation of the nature of history itself – a revelation of the nature of our lives together and with God. We are not caught up in the inexorable unfolding of some pattern of history, or the interplay of divine powers hidden under the surface of our experiences. We are in fact, potentially, entirely free at any particular moment.

This freedom is not always a freedom to change what might happen next. Having taken the political choices it had to that point, Judea may well still have been overrun, or at least humbled, even if it repented before God but this need not have been experienced as punishment or rejection. A God who takes up the part of “the widow and the orphan” (James 1.27; cf. Isaiah 1.17) will still be God to a people humbled in political defeat, if that defeat is not confounded by its own political pride.

The second thing which Jeremiah’s preaching opens up is hope which is neither a vain wish nor simply knowledge of the next thing which must happen as history unfolds. The name new name for Jerusalem after the restoration will be, “The Lord is our righteousness”. This “righteousness” is not a religious or moral quality but has more the sense of security, surety, defence, vindication, guarantor, or fortress. Jeremiah says of this promised community that it will be vindicated or guaranteed by “the Lord.” But his invocation of “the Lord” here is a polemic, a contrast. It is not merely that it will be “the Lord” who does this but that it will not be something else, some other candidate which guarantees or defends. This is in stark contrast to the situation during the time of Jeremiah’s ministry, in which the guarantors of Judah were thought to be its possession of Solomon’s Temple, its status as the elect of God, its army, its walls, and the intrigues of its political strategy on the international stage. The people had mythologised their existence – made it a necessary thing: We are this, therefore we can expect that; we are God’s people, therefore God will protect us; We have fallen, therefore our God is no real God. Yet What Jeremiah proposes is not a necessary but a chosen thing and, so, potentially quite unexpected: God is not powerless, but punishes; and God will yet honour you who, by most measures, are not worthy of honour.

We make history not when we do some extraordinary thing which will deserve its own chapter in the history books; we make history when the next thing which happens is a free choice, which creates possibilities no-one could have anticipated.

We make history when we turn aside from what has to be done to take up something which doesn’t have to be done but which is more important. We make history when, having all the facts, we find ourselves not compelled but free to decide what to do about them.

Hope for the future is not to be found in strategies which have mapped out where things are likely to go or theories which specify our next step. Such strategies and theories are like a law written on tablets of stone: permanent because carved into stone. Rather, hope for the future is found in the God who chooses us, regardless of what we choose, of how we calculate. This is a law written on hearts – perhaps even law as heart – God’s heart, and ours.

There is only hope where there is freedom. We, for the most part, are not free. We are taught what to expect, and we expect it. We calculate and measure and judge, and generally act accordingly. And we are subject to the same calculations, measurings and judgements.

There is only hope where there is freedom. The God of Jeremiah, and our God, is free in this way. Free to embrace what is unworthy, to lift up again what he has cast down, to fill what become empty and heal what has been broken. This is hope which looks for more than can be seen, hopes against “hope” for a future it has no right to expect, but is learning to expect it anyway.

May the people of God hear that promise and be re-formed by such hope, that they may become more particularly the people of this God, and God be more richly praised. Amen.

LitBit Commentary – Rowan Williams on grace 1

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“The gospel will not ever tell us we are innocent, but it will tell us we are loved; and in asking us to receive and consent to that love, it asks us to identify with, and make our own, love’s comprehensive vision of all we are and have been.  That is the transformation of desire as it affects our attitude to our own selves – to accept what we have been, so that all of it can be transformed.  It is a more authentic desire because more comprehensive, turning away from the illusory attraction of an innocence that cannot be recovered unless the world is unmade.  Grace will remake but not undo.”

Rowan Williams, Resurrection, p.89

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Christmas 2015 at Mark the Evangelist

Christmas 2015 Reflection ImageYour are most welcome to join us at our Christmas celebrations this year!

Sunday December 20: a service of Advent carols and readings with Eucharist, 10am.

Christmas Eve: (we have no service at Mark the Evangelist, but commend the Christmas Eve services at St Mary’s Anglican Church – the 4pm “Kids’ Christmas” and the 11.30pm Christmas Eve Midnight Mass)

Christmas Day: Worship with Eucharist, 9.30am

Normal services will continue, 10am, on December 27 and throughout January

Mark the Evangelist Update – November 26 2015


the latest MtE news update:

  1. Advent begins this Sunday! The lectionary readings for the new liturgical year can be found via the link on our worship page.
  2. There will be a special meeting of the congregation following morning tea on Sunday 6 December to adopt the 2016 Budget and to appoint the auditor for the year ended 31 December 2015. Copies of the Agenda and recommended Budget are available in the narthex on Sunday.
  3. The most recent update on the Synod’s Major Strategic Review is here.
  4. St George’s Anglican Church in Travancore has a concert series coming up in 2016 which some MtE folk might be interested in; the details are here.
  5. You might be interested in an Advent Service at Auburn Uniting Church this coming Sunday.
  6. AND, see the image below for details of the fundraising concert following worship this coming Sunday November 29!



LitBit Commentary – Rowan Williams on the Eucharist 13

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“Celebrating the Eucharist not only reminds us that we are invited to be guests; it also reminds us that we are given the freedom to invite others to be guests as well. We have experienced the hospitality of God in Christ; our lives are therefore set free to be hospitable… Being in the neighbourhood of Jesus is sharing Jesus’ freedom to invite – to make our lives and our communities places of welcome for those most deeply in need of solidarity, of fellowship.”

Rowan Williams, Being Christian, p.46f

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22 November – Zombie Jesus

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Christ the King

Revelation 1:4-8b
Psalm 93
John 18:33-37

If you haven’t noticed that zombies are everywhere these days, then you’ve not been paying enough attention. I don’t mean the zombies who might be your children first thing in the morning, or perhaps your spouse around the same hour, not your colleagues on a Monday morning nor those who are simply going through the motions at the shopping centre or sitting in traffic. I mean real, rampaging, flesh-eating zombies. The Wikipedia List of Zombie Films entry notes 435 zombie films since 1932, of which 262 have been made in the last 15 years, 87 in the last five years, and to which can be added another half dozen or so popular TV series. In fact, had you not chosen to come to church this morning, you could be watching “The Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” right this minute in a cinema not so far, far away from here! My nephew was wearing a T-shirt last week describing the necessary elements of a zombie apocalypse survival plan, and there is a book on my son’s bookshelf relating the exploits of a Very Hungry Zombie, which are not unlike those of a famous caterpillar. Zombies are everywhere.

Yet, for the uninitiated, a quick Zombies‑101: Zombies are dead people, walking. They generally walk with some difficulty because, being dead, they tend to be falling apart. The principle reason zombies walk is to find non-zombies, in order to eat them. If you survive being bitten (or partially eaten) by a zombie, you become a zombie yourself. This process can lead to an exponential growth in the number of zombies which, unchecked, can result in a zombie apocalypse. This is not an apocalypse in the sense we considered last week – the revelation of the peculiar righteousness of God – but the more common, culturally received sense of apocalypse: a zombie Armageddon. Being already dead, zombies cannot be killed although they can be returned to being ordinary corpses. This is typically achieved by a shotgun blast, or baseball bat swing, to the head. Averting a zombie apocalypse, therefore, is usually a very messy business.

Even if you are new to whole the zombie thing, you’ll perhaps not be surprised that there has developed in recent times the notion of Zombie Jesus. This is basically a mockery of the church’s confession of the Resurrection, with Zombie Jesus Day becoming the designation of Easter. God may well be amused, but we can never quite know…

Whatever the case there, this morning I want to use the idea of Zombie Jesus to help us to make some sense of what we are doing when we declare that Jesus is king.

The concept of Zombie Jesus brings two realities into relationship with each other: the historically received confession of the Resurrection, and the contemporary sense for the zombie. In this case, the controlling element is zombie theory; if someone is said no longer to be properly dead, he must be a zombie. In Zombie Jesus, zombieness absorbs the resurrection, and so gives it content beyond a simple declaration that Jesus is no longer dead. The zombie sets the basic condition for understanding who the “resurrected” Jesus now is.

So the argument goes. It actually doesn’t matter whether there are such things as zombies or not. What is important is the logic: one thing being defined in terms of the other, and you need to know about both the resurrection and zombies in order for Zombie Jesus to make any sense.

This is all pretty silly but the point is that speaking of Jesus as king would seem rather silly, if we hadn’t just happened to have been doing it for nearly 2000 years. The language is so natural to us – believers and non-believers alike – that we haven’t noticed that it doesn’t tell us very much these days, or that when it did once say something substantial, it didn’t make much sense.

We can get some sense out of King Jesus today because there are still kings and queens around. Yet, their primary purpose today is as public relations officers and content for supermarket checkout magazine covers. This, of course, is not what we mean when we say that Jesus is king. But then what do we mean?

It is very difficult to say, despite the language of our prayers and hymns (even in today’s worship service), being full of the kingship of Jesus. This is because “king” is a pretty empty concept for us these days. We don’t really know kings. At least “Zombie Jesus” might suggest that there is something dangerous about the risen Jesus; a risen “king” Jesus neither threatens us nor gives us much heart.

But, even under the best of circumstances – when a king was really a king –what does it communicate to speak of King Jesus? When two realities are brought together in the way “Jesus” and “king” might be, one of them tends to “win”. The same applies to Zombie Jesus. As it usually appears about the place, the person of Jesus is swallowed up by the label Zombie Jesus. But theologically it works the other way around: Jesus swallows up zombieness.

What could this possibly mean? Just one illustration: whereas it is the nature of the beast that a zombie seeks victims to consume, Jesus says, “Eat me. Eat my flesh, drink my blood.” This is a turning on its head of what it means to be a zombie. In the most unzombielike way, Zombie Jesus does not consume others, but gives himself to be consumed.

What difference does this make? It averts a zombie apocalypse. There is here no exponential multiplication of victims. Only one is consumed, and those who consume him do so not to spread death but that they might have a share in the bringing of life. We are not consumed, and we are not to consume others.

I suggested at the beginning that if you hadn’t noticed that zombies were everywhere, you’ve not been paying attention. If you have been paying attention since then, you might have noticed that I haven’t gotten to my scriptural text yet, and we’re running out of time!

Our text from Revelation today has been chosen for the lectionary because it is very clearly a “kingship” text concerning Jesus, the king of the kings of the earth who “made us to be a kingdom”. In fact there are also other ascriptions to Jesus in this text: “the faithful witness”, “the firstborn of the dead”, the one “coming on the clouds”. But, apart from our familiarity with these expressions by virtue of their being in the Bible, these are all much like the “king” ascription to Jesus – just a bit too socially and politically unreal to us to mean very much.

But what they were doing for those who first heard them was taking things which mattered and re-working them through the person of Jesus. If you seek the one who tells the truth, it is Jesus. If you want to know what the end looks like, and who brings it, look to Jesus. But, most importantly, this is a surprise because Jesus doesn’t look like these things. “So you are a king?” Pilate asks in astonishment. This is the crucial thing in anything we might dare to say about Jesus – it will not make sense to begin with.

And if we knew zombies well enough it would make no sense to speak of Zombie Jesus. This is not because it is offensive, nor because it gets the Resurrection wrong, nor even because Zombies are make-believe. Rather, it would make no sense because we cannot see how could it be possible to live and at the same time not be consuming others, not taking them for granted, not prioritising our own needs over theirs, not paying them enough, not allowing them to be themselves (different from us). How could it be that human life not be competitive, each of us pursuing selfish needs, trusting in an “invisible hand” to use our consumption to benefit those who are disadvantaged in the contest? So much of our lives are about trying not to be consumed, even if we are unaware that it is actually happening; and eating is a good way of not being eaten.

In the face of this, Jesus stands before Pilate. He is about to be consumed, for this will be expedient for Pilate. But as he stands there he makes present a kingdom “not from here”, a different kind of economy, a different way of evaluating and relating to each other. This making-present is a promise and a calling.

The promise is not merely that the kingdom will come, but that it can – here and now. The Word can become flesh, heaven-as-earth.

The calling is not that we look for this heaven-as-earth, “coming on the clouds”, but that we become it. We do not become this kingdom of our own efforts, but are “made to be a kingdom” by a king who does not merely command but serves and enables – an unkingly king.

What is promised here, and what we are called to become, is not alien to us for it is what we are created to be. And so Christ gives us what we will be so that we can become what he gives: his own Body, a richness of humanity unknown but desired, the secret of all our best efforts at ruling and consuming, and all of our worst.

“I am the bread of life,” declares Jesus, the king who gives us himself: “Those who eat of me shall not hunger, and those who drink of me shall never thirst” (cf. John 6.35,37).

Here is a promise and a call to all consumed by their own and others’ hunger for life.

By the grace of God, may his people respond with joy in the promise and commitment to the call. Amen.

LitBit Commentary – Timothy Radcliffe on the Eucharist 2

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Think of the domination, exploitation and pollution of man and nature that goes with bread, all the bitterness of competition and class struggle, all the organized selfishness of tariffs and price-rings, all the wicked oddity of a world distribution that brings plenty to some and malnutrition to others, bringing them to that symbol of poverty we call the bread line.  And wine too – fruit of the vine and work of human hands, the wine of holidays and weddings … This wine is also the bottle, the source of some of the most tragic forms of human degradation: drunkenness, broken homes, sensuality, debt.  What Christ bodies himself into is bread and wine like this, and he manages to make sense of it, to humanize it.  Nothing human is alien to him.  If we bring bread and wine to the Lord’s Table, we are implicating ourselves in being prepared to bring to God all that bread and wine mean.  We are implicating ourselves in bringing to God, for him to make sense of, all which is broken and unlovely.  We are implicating ourselves in the sorrow as well as the joy of the world.

Timothy Radcliffe, Why Go to Church? p.130


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15 November – The Time Lord

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Sunday 33

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Mark 13:1-13, 24-27

The Doctor is a time traveller. If you’re wondering, “Doctor who?” – precisely! In a cunningly disguised time machine Doctor Who, the last of the Time Lords, travels in time from the very beginnings of all things to their very end.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in the time-travel/science fiction genre, the apparent paradoxes of time travel are reasonably well known. One of the first questions to which the possibility of time travel generally gives rise is: what would happen if you were to travel back in time and kill your own parents, before you were actually born. That killing one’s parents is often the first question to arise is interesting in itself, but the point here is the contradiction it seems to imply: if I kill my parents and so am not born, who is it that kills them?

Another prospect which quickly comes to mind when thinking about time travel is the possibility of travelling forward in time to know the moment of your own death. The paradox involved here is that, knowing when and how we are likely to die, most of us would take measures not to be in that place or time, to be healthier or stronger or better off. If we managed that, then the future we saw would not in fact be our future; we have not travelled forward to the future but a future, which will now be something different.

Story tellers have sought to think through these paradoxes with varying degrees of success although, in the end, none of it really makes any sense. And, often enough, making sense isn’t really the point – certainly not in the case of Doctor Who, at least, where the point is more enjoying watching a crazy man and his sassy side-kick do their stuff.

What has this got to do with today’s text from Mark’s gospel, the so-called “little apocalypse”? Just this: New Testament apocalyptic thought is a time machine, with its own set of paradoxes.

When we hear of “the apocalypse” these days, our thoughts tend to be filled with images of Armageddon – the scene of a great battle described in the book of Revelation. To borrow a line from one of the great choral pieces of the 20th century, the whole thing is all thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening.

The word apocalypse itself, however, does not mean “destruction” but “uncovering” or “revealing” (it is literally “from hiding” [apo-calypse]). The apocalypse is not the catastrophic turning over of all things; it is not in that sense the “end” of the world – its ending. The apocalypse is, properly, the uncovering of the end of the world, “end” now in the sense of the goal towards which God draws it.

But it is not in this sense that biblical apocalyptic is a paradoxical time machine – at least not the kind of apocalyptic we meet in passages like the one we’ve heard today. Today’s text appears to be a pastiche of number of different sayings of Jesus about the end time, as well as later understandings developed by the church from its reading of the Hebrew Scriptures, all of which are here then gathered into this one block. The effect of this is something of a confusion of images, but it is more important that the chapter overall is less a leaping into the future than an itinerary for the end times, by which we might know where we are up to, when the time comes. This makes it a rather flat portrayal of the future, compared with other apocalyptic dimensions of the New Testament.

This is not do dismiss the passages, but to ask about how to interpret it: what is the key to – the centre of – New Testament apocalyptic? In fact the most apocalyptic thing in the New Testament is not any of various world-overturning itineraries described here and there in the gospels and epistles, and most fully in Revelation. The most apocalyptic thing is the resurrection of Jesus. The apocalyptic itineraries of Mark 13 and other New Testament passages are not a new thing still to come, unknown in the church till that point. They are simply variations on the theme of the passion and resurrection of Jesus himself, within which are contained our present and our future.

Resurrection as a general “idea” was an apocalyptic notion in the religious and political atmosphere of Jesus’ time. At the apocalypse – the revelation of God’s righteousness – a general resurrection of one sort of another was anticipated as part of a great judgement. The details varied in different accounts but the point is this: resurrection wasn’t about a miraculous return to life, which is about all that it is for us moderns today. In late biblical times, if someone were to stop being dead, this would be a sign that the end of the world had come.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to note how different are most modern questions or “issues” with the resurrection from this understanding. Not a few of us want at the very least to lower our voice a little at the creedal affirmation, “on the third day he rose again.” We might want to do this not in awe but lest someone hear us actually confess such “nonsense”. But the point of the affirmation is not merely that Jesus stopped being dead. In itself this is meaningless. These days we’re more likely to consider the dead coming back to life to be nuisance, of which the zombie is the proof. Rather, by affirming Jesus’ resurrection we affirm that we have seen the end of the world – the goal towards which God is drawing us: Jesus himself.

And this is where the time machine of New Testament apocalyptic kicks in with a couple of paradoxes of its own. The first of these is that here we do not see Jesus in the future. Unlike the Doctor and all other time travellers, Jesus doesn’t go anywhere but rather the future is seen in him, here and now. And if his disciples sense that Jesus continues to be present to them long after the events of Easter, then their future is also present to them, here and now.

More than this, the Jesus the disciples see in the resurrection is the same Jesus they knew on the dusty roads of Palestine. Jesus as he was to them prior to the crucifixion and resurrection – preaching, teaching, exhorting and challenging – was the same as the Jesus seen in the resurrection. The resurrection was merely the apocalypse – the uncovering, the revelation – of who Jesus was and how he was related to God. So it was not so much that the future has moved to be located in Jesus in the resurrection; it was always in him, even as he looked like an ordinary itinerant preacher. This would seem to be the point of the Transfiguration of Jesus one ordinary day on a hill top: here, for a moment, the meaning of Jesus’ particular ordinariness is seen.

The paradox of the New Testament apocalyptic time machine is that the now of Jesus, in whatever condition he might be met, is the future. The gospel is that this now‑future might be ours.

Now, if you’re still following this I hope you’re finding it impressive, although I’d admit that it is not yet very useful! What I’ve tried to show is that time is a central notion in the New Testament’s wrestling with the person of Jesus, and that the outcome of that wrestling is a notion of the past, the present and the future which is quite contradictory to ordinary understandings.

The importance of all this – its usefulness – is that, for the New Testament, a Time Lord is not one who controls time – who can wind it forwards or backwards – but one for whom time is no impediment to life. Such a Time Lord has no need to wind forward or backward; now is always good enough.

To bring this home, we need to intensify of our sense of what “time” is.

Time is not the ticking of clocks, as it usually is in sci-fi time travel. It can be that, but it is scarcely a very interesting type of time, socially and politically. We get closer to a biblical sense of time – which is entirely social and political – when we say that time is what passes between persons. The ticking of clocks is a mere medium for that passage, that exchange.

If a Time Lord is properly one for whom time is no impediment to life, then this translates as my set of relationships here and now not only being where I happen to live, but also where I can be truly alive.

It is our failure to live in such a timely fashion which bears in on us from all sides: Paris in the last day; the suicide bomber; concrete walls separating Israel from the West Bank; “sovereign borders”; the insufferable neighbour, or colleague or spouse; the kid in class who seems to deserve to be picked on. In relationships like these – tense and riven – the future is always what comes from the further ticking of a clock. Time – our current relationships – is something from which we are seeking to escape. Fullness of life is always put off till tomorrow, when there might be different people to relate to, people who are more “us”.

And so we see that the paradox of Jesus’ being the future in the present is only an apparent contradiction in terms. It is paradoxical so far as ticking clocks go, but not in terms of time being measured be what passes between people. Jesus controls time by reconfiguring the relationships around him. He reconciles, heals, joins, uncovers new possibilities, overcomes without destroying. The future in him is now because God is able work with our now. It is as Lord over this kind of time that Jesus is Lord over all time.

And us? Unlike the Doctor, Jesus is not the last of the Time Lords, the only one who can pull off life in the midst of death. By God’s grace he is the first among a great family of them, called to live the future in the present, to find life in all its fullness in the midst the all change and decay around us.

If the point watching the Time Lord is to enjoy a crazy man and his sassy sidekick do their thing, then the point of Christian discipleship is be Time Lords. This will often make us seem crazy. For most of the world, if life were the destination, you wouldn’t leave from here.

But this is our calling. And even if crazy, we do our relationship-renewing, time-bending thing anyway, because our sidekick is especially sassy: Jesus the Christ, who is first and last, who is today, yesterday and forever, in whom we will all finally live, and move and have our being.

LitBit Commentary – Rowan Williams on the Eucharist 12

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“The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus’ life, and so proclaimed hope for the whole world of matter. The material, habitually used as a means of exclusion, of violence, can become a means of communication. Matter as hoarded or dominated or exploited speaks of the distortion and ultimate severance of relationship, and as such can only be a sign of death… The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation”

Rowan Williams, Resurrection, p.112f

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LitBit Commentary – Stanley Hauerwas on Confession

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“…as Christians we cannot learn to confess our sins unless we are forgiven. Indeed as has often been stressed, prior to forgiveness we cannot know we are sinners. For it is our tendency to want to be forgivers such that we remain basically in a power relation to those we have forgiven. But it is the great message of the Gospel that we will only find our lives in that of Jesus to the extent that we are capable of accepting forgiveness. But accepting forgiveness does not come easily, because it puts us literally out of control.”

Stanley Hauerwas, After Christendom p.109

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