I am disappearing,
down into the linen
that caresses my body
as my mind criss-crosses,
chasing through meandering crises
of nocturnal fabrication.
I am full of hope,
and dread… and whispers.
Soft chalk runs out
before the lesson is learnt.
I was truant anyway,
day dreaming of summer.
I am disappearing
yet I still see
my shuffling footprints,
scoring a perforation
through this continuum;
a seam to tear
and a void to feel expanding.
Fields of livestock
and houses of television faces,
all lost in the gap that is left.
It is potential hidden in false humility.
I am disappearing,
if I fight it I sever
the umbilical cord that
attaches me to my Father.
It is an artery,
with flow too fast to cauterise.
I would disappear in the
dirty needles and
Lucid, as I feel my significance
hang its head from my skin
I am disappearing,
and I can embrace it,
for my portrait is not
the meaning of my art,
my mansions are all made
of someone else’s whispers.
I can disappear within my home
inside walls of emancipation.
Content, as a mole
beneath the tallest mountain,
to blindly fulfil an unseen purpose.
I am disappearing,
and it is okay,
because my name is
a collection of letters,
and my words are
a series of synapse sparks,
and there is much more purpose
to their existence
than merely themselves.
I am disappearing
and that is the best thing
I can think of.
This passage comes directly after the Sermon on the Mount. Now Matthew the writer of this gospel wants to draw a parallel between Jesus and another.
The previous two verses to our reading says:
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.
And the opening verse
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
The parallel is between Jesus and Moses. Jesus like Moses descends from the mountain. Moses received divine commandments and Jesus interprets them in the Sermon on the Mount and in the healings that follow.
The healing of the leper provides Jesus the opportunity to extend to this ostracized and desperate man the compassion that he had only shortly before commanded of his disciples: to do to others as you would have them do to you. It is also a miracle in which Jesus is able to demonstrate his fidelity to the Law of Moses.
So the leper comes and asks Jesus to heal him, and Jesus places a hand on him and heals him. Jesus tells the leper to go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, this again shows Jesus’ fidelity to the Law of Moses. Not to bring a new law but to fulfil the law.
Not only was the leaper healed physically but on the instruction of Jesus he will be able to be integrated back with society because Jesus told him to show himself to be clean to the priest and so fulfil the Law of Moses
After the healing of the leaper who was excluded from the congregation because of his illness comes one of the most well known stories of the bible, the faith of the centurion. The gentile centurion who was excluded from the congregation because of his race.
He comes to Jesus and asks that Jesus heals his servant, and Jesus offers to come to his house and cure him, but the centurion says no. The centurion understands how authority works, He sees that Jesus has authority, and therefore like himself can with a word command those under him, Jesus with a word can command that his servant be healed.
How many times do you see in the Gospel that Jesus is shocked or surprised? It doesn’t happen very often. In fact the word ‘marvelled’ that is used here only appears once more in all of the gospels and that is in Mark.
Jesus marvelled at the faith of the gentile centurion.
Truly I say to you, I have not seen such great faith in the whole of Israel.
The faith of the gentile and the lack of faith of the Jews are driven home in the next verses:
I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Powerful words from Jesus, hard words. In essence Jesus is telling us the criterion for entry into the kingdom of heaven, to gain a seat at the great end time banquet is not a racial one, it is not down to where and to whom you were born or what inherited religion you might have, the only criterion is Faith. Faith like the centurion. Faith and faith only will gain you access to the kingdom of heaven.
Three things jump out at me in this passage:
Authority, exclusion and faith.
We saw the crowds astonished at Jesus’ teaching because he taught as one with authority. And we have seen in His actions that accompany those words of authority, the healing of the leaper and centurion’s servant. The challenge for us Christians today is to ask: What does it mean to recognize, and submit to, the authority of Jesus. What does it mean to call him ‘Lord’ and live by that? One answer is to reach out to those who are excluded in our community today, I will leave it to you to think who that might be.
Authority, exclusion and faith. Faith is not just an awareness of some supernatural dimension or a general trust in the goodness of some distant divine being. But rather faith is in Christian terms, believing precisely that the living God has entrusted his authority to Jesus himself, who is now exercising it for the salvation of the word. (Wright)
Jesus invites us to share in this.
Our faith in him opens up the kingdom not only to us but to those we share it with.
So Jesus in response to Peter’s question about how many times should we forgive answers him ‘not seven times, but seventy-seven times’ and then goes on to tell a parable about forgiveness.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents.
10,000 talents is not just a lot of money, its almost unimaginably large amount of money. A talent was worth about 15000 denarii. We see from a chapter earlier in Matthew that one denarii was one days wage for a manual labourer. So for this man to pay of this debt he would have to work for 500,000 years! The amount of money he owes is totally incompressibley large. But then, that is the point of the parable,. Human sin against God is incalculable.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
In antiquity individuals and sometimes whole families were sold into slavery in order to repay debts. Of course this wouldn’t come close to the amount owed but would mean that the king would get something back.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.
As we know the man would never be able to pay the amount back, but the king had compassion and cancelled the debt. The parable is not simply about a generous king who forgives his servants large sums, it is about God who forgives people their many sins. This parable shows us the great mercy that God has on us. But this is not the end of the parable.
It goes on to tell us that the man who was forgiven then goes demands the 100 denerii (100 days wages) that is owed to him for another servant. That servant says the same as the other servant: ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything’. But he shows no mercy or forgiveness and throws him into prison. The 100 denarii is not a small amount, 100 days wages but compared to the 10,000 tenents is almost nothing. When the King hears about what has happened he says:
‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Jesus uses this parable to tell Peter something about the magnitude of God’s forgiving love toward sinful man. Man’s sin is so great that God has to forgive him infinitely more than the numerical count of seventy-seven times. The depth of God’s mercy simply cannot be measured. And we are called to do likewise. Jesus shows us that the forgiven person must reflect God’s mercy and compassion and forgive those that have sinned against us.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us very clearly: ‘For if you forgive someone when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive them their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We are called to forgive as God forgives us.
Answers in 100 words, why not give it a go yourself…
The apex of Sin is nihilism. In Jesus’ parable the Levite walked by, not because he did not care but because he was bound by Mosaic Law to not act. Similarly the most nihilistic in this world are those who reject this world, not because they do not care, but because they hold in esteem an eschatological end. The greatest Sin in this world is to be so blinded by your religiosity or ideology that the paining individual before you is passed over: the divorcee, the incapable, the homosexual, the evangelical, the catholic, the heretical and the atheist.
Calvin put forward an idea which he called ‘sensus divinitatis’ or ‘sense of the divine’. This is an idea that we each are born with the capacity to sense the divine (i.e. God). ‘Were it not for sin and its effects, God’s presence and glory would be obvious and uncontroversial to us all’. The effects of sin therefore are to diminish or impair this sense of God’s presence to cloud the stirrings within our hearts and minds. The most serious consequence of sin then is not to know God at all, perhaps to reject the very idea of the supernatural.
When we were studying at London School of Theology our Church Doctrine lecturer Prof Tony Lane set us some questions with the challenge to answer them in less than 100 words. The idea being that we should be able to give clear succinct answers to complex questions (Exploring Christian Doctrine by Tony Lane)
Moving house can be (is!) a stressful time and having just moved a week ago I thought I would look at the prayers and blessings that are used in your house. Here is a flavour of what’s out there; this one is a Catholic prayer for the home:
Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this dwelling, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let Thy holy Angels dwell herein, to preserve us in peace; and let Thy blessing be upon us forever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I really like the Jewish practice, you will find in Jewish homes a ‘Mezuzah’ (see picture) attached to the front door frame. Within the box is a scroll which has written on it Deut 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. Deut 11:13-21 talks of the blessings that God will give to you and your family if you faithfully obey, love and serve God with all your soul. Deut 6:4-9 says:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.
You can see in the last line the reason that this is put on the door frames. It’s all also interesting to note that the Mezuzah is attached at a slant. The reason being the one Rabbi thought that it should be horizontal and another Rabbi thought it should be vertical so as a comprise they are attached at a slant!
I recently went to see the new star trek film ‘Into the Darkness’ and I enjoyed it (I am a bit of a trekkie) as an action film. But for me it has forgotten its heritage of progressive values (in this blog I’m focusing mainly on gender). Let me explain what I mean by this. The original Star Trek (1967) was ground breaking in so many ways.
Roddenberry envisioned race and gender as non-issues. He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise’s first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans’ understanding of social equality – WIRED
Roddenberry’s (the creator of Star Trek) vision was continued and developed over the other series. In Star Trek the next generation (1987) we see in the first series 3 women characters (head of security, the doctor and a counsellor). In Deep Space 9 (1993) the second in command was a woman (plus female science officer). And in voyager (1995) saw the first female captain (plus female chief engineer).
So I have laid before you the Star Trek credentials on pushing forward gender equality often far ahead of its time in each case. Indeed as you can see in the quote above Roddenberry tried to have the first officer in the original star trek as a woman but the NBC executives didn’t think it would be plausible to have a women in a position of command!! So now let’s return the new film ‘Into the Darkness’, what’s my problem with it? Well first of all have you heard of the ‘Bechdel Test’? The ‘Bechdel Test’ is a simple test that can be applied to any film. It has three criteria:
So does the new Star Trek pass? It has two named female characters: Uhura and Dr. Marcus so it passes the first, but I am afraid fails on the next two, no women speak to each other in the film!! (Actually they do in one scene Kirk is in bed with two naked twin alien women who ask each other if he’s really going to leave them to answer his phone, epic fail). The first Star Trek film in the re-launch (2009) does actually pass the test unlike ‘Into the Darkness’. I say it passes I will let you judge for yourselves if you think if promotes a positive view of women, the only scene where two women talk to each is where Uhura has a conversation with her room-mate (an Orien, a green alien for non-trekkies). The conversation is not about a man therefore it passes but they are both in their underwear with Kirk hiding under the bed!! In ‘Into the Darkness’ they also manage to contrive a pointless scene to get Dr. Marcus into her underwear. I could go on, I could talk about how both Uhura and Dr. Marcus characters are mainly define by men, most of Uhura’s scenes are based around her relationship with Spock and Dr. Marcus is only there because of her Admiral Dad. I could talk about that more, but you get the point I’m making. The new Star Trek is a good action film but has gone backwards in terms of its progressive values. The film certainly doesn’t empower women if anything it does the opposite. Come on Star Trek you can do better.