A Morning Prayer

I awakened with the beginning of a prayerbeing formed in my not-yet-fully-awake state. Inlet te words play on the edge of consciousness until Irealized that I needed to get up, open my iPad, and compose the prayer that was wanting to be prayed within me.  Here is that prayer:

O God, you are known in the depth of human experience—a growing intuitive insight, a yearning and burning in the human heart that calls me toward a more profound self-interest embracing peace and tender justice for all. When I awaken from the slumber of narrowed vision that sees only my wants and needs, hears only the sighs of my own heart, and feels only the wetness of my own tears, my life force dwindles within me. Yet, in the midst of my self-absorption, there is always a stirring. The tears (sobs) and tears (pains) of the ones Yeshua called the poor upset me. Mother Nature, in her own inimitable way, continues to tap me on my shoulder, bidding me to pay attention to the consequences of my ravenous consumption. Ever so slowly I have come to hear those stirrings as a call—a world-transforming message that will not let me go without a response. It is the call to follow in the footsteps of Yeshua, to renew and rebuild the world through peace and tender justice—no divine master plan to guide us; only a deep desire for a world where “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed[a] together, and a little child will lead them.” So be it!

Trusting into Trust

Life arises within a restlessness—
     each moment a brush with eternity—
     as I pursue dreams and visions
     of an impossible world
     filled with peace and tender justice.

Life arises within a momentum—
     sometimes named God
     that softens my rationality
     with the tears (sobs) and tears (wounds)
     that echo in the spaces between us.

Life arises within a question—
     will I align myself
     with the normalcy of civilization
     or with the abnormal (impossible)
     wisdom of a simple teacher from Nazareth?

Faith is a way to embrace
     the restlessness, momentum, and questioning
     that arise within each eternal moment.
     within a passion for the
     impossible possibility.

Faith is a dawning awareness that,
     casting my blindness toward God,
     I can only see the impossible possibility
     of justice and the well-being
     of all in society.

Faith is the prayers and tears
     that water soil where
     the flower of justice
     has been planted
     in the desert of humankind

Trusting into trust
     I open myself anew
     in each moment
     to the fiery, wild ruach
     I know as God.

Running Away / Running Towards

“What is hateful to you; don’t do that to others.”  (Hillel the Elder0
“What you desire; do that for others.”  (Yeshua et al)
“Be all that you can be.”   (US Army recruiting slogan)
“Do your best.”  (Mom)

Many voices—persistent, challenging, expectant—calling for me to be a righteous person, trusting in life, and faithful. Of course, there are other voices calling me to a life of ease, a gospel of prosperity, and a home filled with possessions. If only I had the right dietary supplement I would be slim; the right exercise DVD, sexy abs; the right clothes, business success; the right God, wealthy; and so much more.

I run from the voices, but they are too insistent. The radio station in my head won’t turn off. Then I remind myself that I am on a spiritual journey—exciting, exhilarating, edifying. Journey images tend to suggest steady progress—some set-backs, of course—but steady progress. Sometimes the journey takes me into the wild and untamed wilderness where my faith and expectations are tested. But I always have maps that take me through the wilderness to “milk and honey.” That’s the story I keep telling myself, hopeful for some measure of continuing progress and spiritual growth.

If I were more insightful (maybe even more honest), I might suggest another image, an alternate story—sometimes running toward God; but more often running away. Like Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven”

I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.

But, no matter how fast I run… no matter how far I’ve run… no matter what direction I am running… there is one factor, one reality, one sense nagging the very core of my being:

I thought, I’ll forget him;
I’ll no longer speak in his name.
But there’s an intense fire in my heart,
trapped in my bones.
I’m drained trying to contain it;
I’m unable to do it.
Jeremiah 20:9 (CEB)

There is an intense insistence trapped in the marrow of my bones that I can’t escape. It is like the sharp elbow to my ribs, delivered by my wife when I am dangerously close to a major social gaffe. It is the song that haunts my day by repeatedly singing itself inside my head. It is the unsigned invitation to meet a friend at a favored hang-out. And, when I pay close attention, it is an inner call from somewhere deep within the mystery of the divine to live beyond—beyond the conventional rules and regulations of social propriety; beyond the aphorisms of Sunday’s sermon; beyond the strict moral code of my upbringing; and sometimes even beyond the simple dictates of scripture.

The intense fire (passion) calls me to a creative non-indifference. When the fire burns I cannot walk by a person in need without becoming involved. I cannot turn my back on a neighbor who is the victim of hatred because they are black, LGBT, Muslim, or have some condition that others consider as a weakness. I cannot be indifferent to a political structure that prioritizes the strong over the weak, the rich over the poor, the healthy over the sick, the powerful over the weak. I wish I could, but I can’t!

I try to run in the other direction, but I am pursued and contained by that which rages within me, drawing me beyond myself. When I try to throw water on the raging fire to dowse it or contain it, it rages on. When I try not to listen, a voice echoes through the cavernous emptiness that is within me. When I find myself running away, something keeps trying to nudge me back on the rightful path. And the blaze of insistence is intensified.

The more I run, the more my heart yearns, the more my bones ache. But, when I slow down and pay attention… when I align my actions with the passions of my heart… when I become my calling… when my non-indifferent listening to the faint whispers of the needs of people around me allows me to hear their cries of woundedness… Only then can I be in touch with the embarrassed tears of my own indifference… only then am I ready to stand with those whom Yeshua called the poor… only then does the fire within shed light and heat, instead of destruction and devastation.

That is how it is with the insistence that comes in the name of God. Perhaps. It is always there—nudging, hinting, inviting, challenging, prodding, urging, calling; but never commanding or forcing. The decision, the response, and the shaping of my action is left to me. Will I follow my own self-interests? Or, will I be a responsible citizen, a trusting follower, and/or a faithful agent of the mystery of divine presence?

My prayer: O, fire raging within, fueled from the depths of mystery and fanned by a divine spirit, disturb my resistance and help me lighten that paths of those whose woundedness has robbed them of the fullness of life. May it be so!

Theological Virtues

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

“The theological virtues are the virtues of people who are held captive by the spell of the unconditional, by the magic of the impossible.”(Caputo, The Folly of God, 36)

Maybe, it is just the reverse: the theological virtues are the virtues of those of us who have been released from captivity to the conditional. We have been set free for whatever comes—whether as an insistent projectile or as a quotidian opportunity to show concern for self, others, and the creation.

Maybe theology tries to make too much out of impressive formulations about living life. One of the reasons I appreciate the Celts and their “theology” is that they really don’t worry about theology, they just express a passion for life. Life was tough, and they found the soft underbelly through appreciation. They lived by living and they knew that their living was connected to something beyond themselves. They often called that something “Christ,” not a theological concept, instead a sense of the dynamic depth and meaning of life itself.

Compassionate Commonwealth of Peace and Tender Justice

This is the last in a series of posts—reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

Listen to the whispers of the prophets
      Down through the ages
           Isaiah, Amos, and Micah

. . . learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.      

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”

Hearken to the Way of Yeshua of Nazareth

“Here is my chosen servant! . . . he will bring justice to the nations.”

He won’t break off a bent reed or put out a dying flame, but he will make sure that justice is done.

. . . you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done . . .

Remember the call of our ancestors
     That great cloud of witnesses
           Paul, James, John

. . . clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness.

Those who make peace sow the seeds of justice by their peaceful acts.

All nations will come and fall down in worship before you, for your acts of justice have been revealed.

          Maya, Martin, Alexander

. . . equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.

I think the first duty of society is justice.

Those whispers, echoes, calls
      Seep into my bones
          Disturbing me, awakening me
          Setting my teeth on edge

“Bart, do you hear?
         “Can you not stay alert with me for one hour?”

“When you brought food to the homeless family, when you cared for the grieving widow, and when you marched with your grandchildren against gun violence
     you cared for me,
          and with me,
               and through me.”

O, Commonwealth of Peace and Justice
     Come!
          Yes, Yes, Come!

You come, not in some future generation
     At a time that will end all time
You come now
     At a time that encompasses all time
          The time when the hungry are fed
               the naked clothed
               the bullied affirmed
               the left out embraced
                    in community
You come without
     Social fanfare
     Political credibility
     Theological say-so

You come simply
     In the hearts and minds
     In the prayers
     In the actions
          Of the peacemakers
                the care-givers
                the hope-filled
                those who embody trusting into trust
Voiced
     In the suffering and anguish
     Of those Yeshua called
          the poor
          the least, the lost
          the last, the left out
          the left behind

 Come!
     Yes, Yes, Come!

The Event of the Unconditional

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

The event is exposure to the folly of an unconditional call—not absolute knowledge but the in-breaking of the promise/threat of a future that we cannot see coming. That event is the embodiment of our aspirations, not the bodying of Supreme Being or Absolute Spirit. Religion is the score of a poly-stylist symphony whose music expresses our sense of claim laid upon us by the totality of otherliness—ambivalent tonality, at times appearing grotesque according to worldly standards, steeped in tradition but not bound to it, with a hint of romanticism mixed in asl evening in the loaf. 

When the event of the unconditional comes upon you, it is likely to turn your world topsy turvy, inside-out. After all, it is not the great theologians who are the voice of the unconditional. Instead, it is the hungry, the suffering, the weak, the socially un-washed, the left out and left behind. Their voices are muted by the principalities and powers of the world. They will only be heard if you listen within the deafening hush of the silence within. 

The world creates a lot of noise—a strategy to keep us away from the hush of silence where a different world is claimed. That claim is the compassionate commonwealth of peace and tender justice (kingdom of God).

 

Mustard Seeds Not Metaphysics

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God. I was so caught up in the ideas of Chapter 9: “Mustard Seeds Not Metaphysics that I missed the flow of the chapter. This prompted me to review by outlining the chapter about The Theopoetics of the Kingdom of God.

 

Theology is a discourse—the kingdom of God in the form of poetics

Theopoetics

  • Poetics softens the voice of theology
  • It becomes the theology of the event that is taking place in the name (of) “God.”
  • collection of metaphors, metonyms, narratives, allegories, songs, poems, parables,
  • not to define the event, but to allow it to happen, to expose us to it

The classical sense of theology

  • a set of concepts, propositions, and arguments
  • to figure out the being of the best and the brightest, of the god (theos)—pure form
  • that pure form is impervious to change and unmindful of all else
  • difficult to sync that with Jesus’ abba,who counts our tears and hears our orayers

Theopoetics

  • end of strong theology; beginning of weak theology
  • gospels are theopoetics
  • seeking a figurative way to talk about what is going on in the name (of) “God” or kingdom of God
  • paradox of the “logos of the cross”
    • incredulity about the logos of the world
    • promise of something yet to come
  • the event is not a necessity, but a possibility
    • it does not exist, it insists
    • the possibility of the impossible

Hegel’s Vorstellung

  • Hegel’s theopoetics was a transitional stage
  • God as Supreme Being was a Vorstellung(a representation)
  • Religion (and its truth) is a little green, immature
    • Revelation + imagination
    • Eye-opening revelation as a picture story
  • Displaced regionalized religion (part reason, part faith) with the Absolute Spirit
  • Absolute Spirit had three centers
    • Art (sensuousness)
      • Sports is the way many people get their art—beauty of form and motion—maybe religion, too
    • Religion (Vorstellungstirs up feelings of connection with Absolute Spirit with spiritual land intellectual content)
    • Philosophy(reason)
  • Vorstellungas story “is the onlyform in which mostpeople can absorb the absolute truth.”
    • About metaphysics, not mustard seeds
    • Requires thinking
    • Think through the picture-stories—that is, what is going on in the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit
    • Find the unconditional version of the unconditional
    • Human being need a concrete exemplification, a magnetic individual, an intuition of the Absolute Spirit to aid our thinking through the Vorstellung
      • Jesus is that magnetic individual
      • [This reminds me of Howe’s description of Yeshua as the one who constellates the healing for the woman at the banquest of Simon the Pharisee]
    • Philosophy de-codes the signals in the Vorstellung
  • Kierkegaard’s critique: God must have entered the world to consult with German metaphysicists
  • Tillich’s critique: can never find an unconditional way to speak about the unconditional
  • Hegel’s breakthrough
    • Revelationis a rich, imaginative, and suggestive figuration of the Spirit
    • Religion takes shape in Vorstellung(poetics), not supernatural intervention from on high
    • Thus, inviting thinking (theology) into the sanctuary to figure out what is going on in the Vorstellung
  • Caputo’s critique re: what is going on in religion and theology
    • The call of the unconditional, not absolute knowledge
    • the embodiment of our aspirations, not the bodying forth of Absolute Spirit
    • The task of theology is twofold:
      • Protect the unconditional from being identified with any conditions
      • Maintain the unconditional in the weak mode
    • Hegel’s metaphysics (like any metaphysics) is driving out of control, DUI
    • Caputo substitutes a hermeneutic of experiencefor metaphysics

Caputo’s replacements:

  • Absolute Spirit & ground of being àinconceivable, programmable event
  • Pretentious metaphysics àunpretentious poetics
  • Theology àtheopoetics
  • Religion as purveyor of Revelation àa song that lays claim to us unconditionally
  • Art, religion, philosophy // science, ethics, politics, everyday life àways to negotiate with the underlying eventiveness of the space between the unconditional and conditional
  • Religion as Sabbath rest àun-sabbath spooking us 24/7 producing unrest

Poetics

  • An evocation evoked by a provocation to
    • Provide a sense of the event
    • Disarm the dispassionate
    • Draw the into the fray
  • God’s folly is not to cling to existence, but to insist
  • Our folly is to respond to a call whose provenance is clouded and uncertain
    • Not only to respond to the call, but to also be responsible for it

The Kingdom of God

  • The scriptural name for the folly of God
  • An event which calls toward a world under God’s rule
    • Mad about justice and forgiveness come what may, even unto death
  • What is called for never comes
  • Christianity is dependent upon its notcoming
    • While waiting for the Kingdom [Yeshua] we get Plan B—the church
  • The folly of the kingdom (and the church) is what produces the scorn of the worldly kingdoms

What do I Love when I Love my God?

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

What do I love when I love my God? was Augustine’s question (Confessions) and Derrida’s (Circumfessions) and Caputo’s,  So, what is it the I love when I love my god? I love:

  • That a new-born infant could strike terror in the heart of Pharaoh and Herod
  • The beautiful image of wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, calf and lion lying down together, led by a little child
  • Photosynthesis, the Eagle nebula, gentle rainfalls, and babbling brooks
  • Deep friendships, family, tenderness, and passion
  • The snarky wisdom of prophets who wandered naked through the streets to make a point, married a prostitute to declare God’s relentless love, or called the Samaritan temple women’s association “cows of Bashan”
  • That Newtonian mechanics and quantum physics are contradictory explanations of reality conspired through 13,8 billion years to produce me
  • Yeshua’s baptismal awakening and wilderness discernment of a mission on behalf of the left behind and left out
  • Awe
  • Paul’s sermon on Mar’s Hill deconstructing generic religion
  • The unheard inner voice that continues to disturb me
  • The Big Bang
  • The openness of the impossibility of the future
  • The Way of Yeshua
  • Love
  • The fresh smell of the earth after rain
  • That humanity could dream of a commonwealth of peace and tender justice
  • The growth and transformation between the moment I first held each of my children and this present moment
  • The great parade of faithfulness (Lord’s Supper) coming forward to sacramentalize life and memory
  • Religionless religion and a messianic promise without a Messiah
  • Thingfeeling and Feelthinking
  • The unconditional that calls, lures, solicits, provokes, spooks, and haunts
  • Tout autre (total otherliness)isa radical roll of the dice, a promise/threat, where the risk runs all the way down so that what lies ahead is a chance for life, abundantly
  • The Perhaps! that exposes us to the unforeseeable, leaving us unprotected, at risk, full of hope and so also exposed to despair.
  • That all my theological musings and formulations can be deconstructed by one word—Perhaps!

Monday following Easter

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

I remember that some celebrate the week following Easter as a time for Fools for Christ. What if, instead of adoringthe risen Christ, we were to be jesters who laughed and danced at the foolishness of the resurrection—further evidence of the folly of God? We can’t wrap our imaginations around the craziness that we have actually experienced—Yeshua, who died almost 2000 years ago, continues to influence the lives of people today, to influence my life. It doesn’t make sense; but that is my experience. Somehow, in some strange way, I sense the inrush of the Other (tout autre) when I connect with the stories of Yeshua’s teaching and healing. Those stories tease out of me a greater sense of connection and responsibility with others and the world—not responsibility for, but responsibility with.

I disagree with most of the political stances of politican like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Roy Blunt (my senator). And yet, as a citizen, the responsibility for the maintenance of American democracy is the responsibility of us all. So, I joined by grandkids—along with 10,000+ marchers in St Louis and more than 1 million across the U.S. to march against gun violence. Did Ryan, McConnell, and Blunt pay attention? Well, they certainly didn’t join the march. Is their voting record likely to change because I marched? Because they are each heavily supported (and financed) by the NRA, maybe not; but the foolishness of the march was that the impossible might become possible.

Jesters don’t solve anything or pass any laws. They can, however, soften the king’s automatic response and, on rare occasions, tease out of the king the beginnings of a radical change of direction. Oui, oui. Viens!Yes, yes. Come, tout autre, surprise us with the improbable and impossible.

Easter’s Surprise (cont.)

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

In plain English, if there is such a thing, l’invention de l’autre means the “advent of the other.” In plainer English still, invention means “incoming!” as an interjection, like “fore!,” where “incoming” means that something is coming at us, at our head. When someone shouts “incoming!” the right response is to duck. L’invention de l’autre: heads up! Deconstruction is a way of staying heads up, of shouting heads up—or it does not exist.   Caputo, Prayers & Tears (p. 72)

Divested of a “horizon of waiting,” one must still prepare for it. . . . For however incalculable and unprogrammable, however aleatory [chance-y] and heterogeneous to calculation the incoming of the wholly other may be, one must get ready, one must be prepared, in order to let the other in. , , , To prepare oneself for this coming (venue) of the other is what can be called deconstruction. (p. 72 & 73)

Paraphrasing Paul Scherer, we are making our church members into atheists by preaching that the Easter story is about what happened 2000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem. When will we trust ourselves and our members enough to tell the Easter story as it happens today?

The call to worshipon Easter ought to be a warning shout, “Incoming!” The Sermon should focus on the question: “Are you ducking or standing heads up?” Easter is the awesome and awful celebration of the “incoming of the other”—a repetition, not a re-telling, of Mark 16:1-7, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-7, and John 20:1-18. It is only then that we can understand our tears (tenderness) and tears (woundedness). Opening to the impossibility of the future is not about full pews and bright flowers. Instead, it is about bringing hope to empty bellies and colorless lives.