Tuesday 5 November 2013

Dead-duck doodlings

by Kim Fabricius

I once preached a baptismal sermon entitled “Witnessing Your Own Funeral” (cf. Romans 6:1ff.).  The day of my retirement – eucharistic worship followed by a cracking restaurant meal – it too was like being at your own funeral: everybody saying such nice things about you. I guess the old saying “de mortuis nil nisi bene” goes for de emeritis too.

In early retirement I’ve been trying to downsize, separating the wheat from the chaff, discarding stuff that’s accumulated over the years, some of it significant at the time but now baggage, some of it just stuff that got shoved in a corner, some of it crap I’m surprised was even there. Time to get rid and move on. I’ve been doing the same thing with the stuff in my study.

Mañana is said to be the devil’s day.  Not when you’re retired.  When you’re retired, ayer is the devil’s day – the temptation to look back. Mañana is hoy as hope.  

The irony of retirement from pastoral ministry is the realisation that for over 31 years I never worked a day.

I am occasionally asked why I became a minister. The answer is easy: the alternative was terminal unemployment.

Lord, keep me from a Giant Sequoia faith; the small, mustard seed kind will do just fine. For if my faith gets too big, how will I fit through the narrow gate?

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” – passive aggression or what! More deeply, what an exquisite example of the defence mechanism of sublimation, as what is actually felt – “[I] hate the sinner, [I] love the sin” – is transformed into its opposite.

“I am the bread of life” is not good enough for some Christians. They think our Lord was remiss in not adding: “– and you’re toast!”

Why the “delay” of the parousia? Is God giving sinners time to repent? Hell no. Surely it’s to increase apocalyptic tension and terror; but, above all, it is for God’s own good pleasure: vengeance is a dish best served cold, right?

For the Calvinist, God chooses hell for some of his children. For the Arminian, God chooses to let some of his children choose hell for themselves. So it’s like one father kills some of his children, another father lets some of his children commit suicide. And these are the alternatives to universalism? No thanks.

“Love (III)”: George Herbert’s answer to Martin Luther’s question. The definitive answer. Vividly remembering an occasion when she recited it to herself, Simone Weil wrote, “pour la première fois, le Christ est venu me prendre.” For me too this poem is a prayer as sacramental as the feast of which it sings.

I like a good German beer, but I’d rather a bottle of an excellent Burgundy, say a Côte de Nuits Villages: that’s why I prefer Calvin to Luther.

“And you’re special, how?”: the short version of God’s answer to Job.
Shorter version: “Shit happens.”
Silent version: [God hands Job a DVD of The Tree of Life.]

Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air. Pope Frances will be the hurricane.

In his recent homiletical broadside against “Christian ideology”, the pope drew an important distinction between praying and saying (set) prayers. I would only add that the Lord’s Prayer itself is not exempt from Francis’ critique. In Luke 11:1ff., the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, not to teach them a prayer. Ditto for eucharistic anaphora: they are not priestly incantations but (as I once heard Rowan Williams put it) “aides-memoires”. Yes, the holy of holies itself may become an ideological charade – indeed an ideological cover-up (cf. I Corinthians 11:17ff.).

On not reading KB: As Walter Benjamin (almost) wrote, “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of Barthianism.”

Claude M. Steele’s seminal Whistling Vivaldi (2010) takes its title from the story of an African American student who discovers that, walking the streets of Chicago’s Hyde Park, he can take affirmative action and disarm white folk by whistling “tunes” from The Four Seasons.  Which suggests a tactic for women students who are pissed off at feeling marginalised in Barth Studies departments: sisters, don’t give up reading CD, a Pyrrhic protest, rather take the fight to – and the piss from – the Boys with targeted “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” whistle-ins.

I see Joel Osteen has a new book out: Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life. Yep, 5 keys ought to do it, for sure. Ask Steven Tyler or Kate Moss.

What next for Dan Brown? Perhaps The Apostle Screed?

On the whole complementarian/egalitarian debate, I admit to taking the view of an anthropologist on Zog, but you gotta love Rachel Held Evans, who clearly speaks to and for many a shackled sister, while both beguiling and riling the menfolk. Sweetasmicawezizzle, she’s the (married) Mary Poppins of theo-blogdom, “practically perfect in every way”. Indeed, as a theme song for her website, how about “A Spoonful of Sugar (helps the medicine go down)”? I put RHE’s winsome sass down to an undoubtedly Welsh heritage (Ifan, btw, means “God is gracious”): women have always proved more than a match for the men in the “Land of our Fathers.”

At F&T, scrolling down “Blogs I like,” I came to the fine Near Emmaus and clicked “If you could ask @Pastor Mark Driscoll one question…”  “OOPS!” the screen informed me. “It looks like nothing was found at this location.” You couldn’t make it up.

Speaking of MD…  Jesus asks, “How can Satan drive out Satan” (Mark 3:23)? To rephrase the question in a Lewisean kind of way, “How can Screwloose cast out Screwloose?” I don’t know, but it looks like Driscoll and John MacArthur are trying to find out.

Bonhoeffer famously said that not becoming a saint but learning to have faith was his spiritual goal. Here’s a more modest proposal for Christians: let’s try learning not to be such jerks. Like Paul, I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, but too, too often I’m ashamed of myself and the church.

Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God? Maybe, maybe not. But then the same goes for Christians and atheists.

“He follows Jesus and the New York Yankees (in that order)” – From About Peter Enns, on his blog.  I love the parenthesis: it is an inerrant example of a contradiction masquerading as a qualification.  (Btw, here’s a proposal: that Peter change the name of his blog to The Enns-Time, to give it an eschatological edge: apocalyptic always sells. Mind, his opponents might prefer the name Ennsolence.)

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