Monday, 14 July 2008

Here's What You Do With This Stuff


My readings for this morning continue: Joshua 18-19, Psalms 149-150, Jeremiah 9 and Matthew 23. In terms of living the day, I shall probably get more sustenance from the two psalms than from the continuing story of Joshua's division of the booty with his fellow Hebrews, and Jesus' warnings about various spiritual traps will certainly give me pause for thought. But there is something edifying about today's complete set of writings: it's like a core sample down through the layers of scripture. In these four passages is seen the development of spiritual insight down through the centuries. In this progression of understanding and revelation is the beginning of the trajectory which leads from Joshua in the second millennium bc through to me at the start of the third millennium AD.

All things evolve: it seems to be one of the fundamental properties of the universe. Things change, grow develop: individual things, and groups of things such as solar systems and galaxies and species. The things that we sentient beings create - civilisations, relationships, families, technologies, ideas - also evolve. We ourselves evolve - bodily spiritually, emotionally, intellectually. It just seems to be the way things are.

So why be surprised to notice the evolving scripture? Why did I not see this a couple of days ago? That in scripture's evolution is great hope and the promise of redemption. Of course Joshua was a brigand and a despot. Of course he behaved in ways which would have had him up before a war crimes commission in our own century. But he is the beginning, not the end. He's where we started from, not where we're going to. I remembered this morning that he is the one after whom Jesus is named. What begins with brutality and lust for land ends with the golden rule and the sermon on the mount. In that remembering there is, for me, great hope. Joshua, the leader who embodied much that is wrong in the human condition is nevertheless the source of a stream of blessing.

Joshua tells me that there is nothing that can't be redeemed. There is no person so far gone as to be outside the possibility of salvation.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen to that, especially the final sentence. And the "core sample" image is helpful too.

The problem seems to be that individuals and cultures "evolve" at different rates: not just from continent to continent, from country to country but even down to individual to individual within a single parish (e.g. the differing stages of spiritual growth and you have talked about)
So it all does come back to, or start with, "relationship" as you have said on several occasions.
Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, has to be that in reality. Why is it so hard to live it? As a layperson I haven't read much on the the topic, but I can see that the the way forward will work only when the new humanity that God gave us in Jesus evolves.
We have to allow Emmanuel to dwell in us, to live and love through us. (Easy words, but the action?)
If the church is to continue, it has to model to those who say they are "too busy" how to set aside time for reflection: to sit quietly, to read blogs!!!, to let ourselves be aware of the presence of God (there's something there about the consciousness, the ground of Being). In the so-called "developed"
world, zooming toward greedy self-destruction, do you have an inkling of how to lead people forward in the 'Jesus" way?
NE

Tillerman said...

I think there is real insight in this posting and it is expressed intelligently and eloquently. This common sense evolutionary perspective is one the church sorely needs if it is to have a future.

And ‘NE’ you said,

“If the church is to continue, it has to model to those who say they are "too busy" how to set aside time for reflection: to sit quietly, to read blogs!!!, to let ourselves be aware of the presence of God”

– I couldn’t agree more. It is practical common sense help that people need regarding meditation and other aspects of spirituality.

The writer Karen Armstrong speaks well about these issues. She said:

“He had told me that in most traditions, faith was not about belief but about practice. Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. It you believe in a certain way you will be transformed. The myths and laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical, scientific, or historical reality but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply these myths and doctrines to your own life and put them into practice."

VenDr said...

Bring tea for the Tillerman
Steak for the sun
Wine for the women who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away
'Cause while the sinners sin, the children play

Oh Lord how they play and play
For that happy day, for that happy day

Ahhhh.... the memories! The memories!

Anonymous said...

The idea that "Of course Joshua was a brigand and a despot" would have been a great surprise to the author of Hebrews for whom he is an exemplar of faith (4.8; 11.30, 33), as he is for the Orthodox Church (minor feast, Sept. 1st). Still, we have to evolve beyond these primitive New Testament ideas and move ever upward (and eastward) into The Light (nice pic of the Peninsula, BTW).
Sorry, Kelvin, this has all been done a thousand times before, starting at least with Toland in the late 17th century, or more comprehensively and earlier with Spinoza. Are you now going to rediscover Reimarus?
The only modern twist on this game I know is to "see" that Joshua means the Jooos and the Canaanites are of course the Palestinians ...
Alas, I have to say D for the Tillerman. Karen Armstrong is to scholarship what Henry Mancini was to music (chewing gum for the ears). (And hey, don't forget that Cat Stevens 'evolved' too, from nominal Greek Orthodox to Hamas-supporting Muslim. Progress?)

Tillerman said...

Yes indeed, memories piled on memories, the fantastic, the good and the others, all making us who we are today.

What have we become? A paradox really. So utterly different, evolved and changed and yet still the same.

And a big salute to Cat Stevens, I have been listening to him recently and still like his music.

Tillerman said...

Oh deary, deary me anonymous, a big fat ‘D’ for the Tillerman. Here’s me thinking that I was taking part in an inclusive discussion about ideas of mutual interest and all the time I was only sitting an exam and being given a mark.

It’s a real shame that you use music as an analogy. I know quite a lot about music having played the flute for years in the local orchestra and enjoy all forms of music. The musical snobbery and ignorance you show is breath taking. I love Mahler, Debussy, Telemann, Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi and I also love Cat Stevens. I also don’t mind Henry Mancini, he has his place – those that know what that place is celebrate it. All of these composers and musicians are valid, all contribute to the wonderful variety that is the tapestry of music and it is only musical snobs and those who really have no knowledge of music that put down the likes of Mancini et al.

I think you are using a similar intellectual snobbery and ignorance in relation to Karen Armstrong - this is what the Oxford Times said about her book ‘A History of God’ -

“The scope of Karen Armstrong’s book is immense. Yet the subject is tackled with imagination and Scholarly insight and in a way which is eminently readable” The Oxford Times are not the only critics to describe her books as Scholarly. Have you read any of her books? If you have, why didn’t you address the quoted passage rather than just dismissing what she says out of hand?

Your dismissal of Cat Stevens and his faith is too too silly. Is he Hamas supporting? I don’t know. What if he is? Some would say the Israeli government is a terrorist organisation; shall we dismiss their legitimacy out of hand as well?

You gave me a D – this is what I give you:

“They move so smooth but they have no answers” – Cat Stevens

Tillerman said...

Kelvin, It is very interesting that after writing the reply to anon above I went across the ether and read your John Savage quote for the first time. Syncronicity?

Tillerman hangs his head and reflects.

VenDr said...

Yes anon, I guess I am not quite as spiritually mature as the writer of Hebrews and the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, but I already knew that. What I was addressing was my own evolution and the difficulty I have in seeing a man who slaughters women, children and men by the village full as a hero of the faith. This was obviously not a problem to Mary and Joseph either when they chose the name of their firstborn (admittedly with some divine suggestions). Over the past few days I think I have grown somewhat in my ability to see Joshua as part of the history of revelation, but yes, I do have a long way to go.

As for Cat Stevens, he gave up a life as a pop star - money, adulation, groupies, all that stuff - and dedicated himself and his considerable fortune to education and philanthropy. He has twice been awarded international prizes for his work for peace. It's true that George Bush is not fond of him, but I would have thought that was something to be proud of. Ultimately I suppose the only person able to judge Cat Stevens' spiritual evolution is Cat Stevens, but from my perspective it does seem like he is growing in the right direction.
My reference to him here concerns the time in the early 70s when Tillerman and I shared a flat and some of our most important formative experiences -including conversion to Christianity - and Cat Stevens was the soundtrack