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come here, you scrumptious little beauty

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Series 6, “The Doctor’s Wife.” LIKE.

It’s a repeated Whovian theme.
There are no unimportant people.
Every creature, every person encountered is a wonder to behold.

Come here, you scrumptious little beauty!

John Duns Scotus called it haecceity (pronounce it “heck-city” – and don’t say you didn’t learn anything today) – the doctrine of “thisness.” It’s the Latin translation of the Greek to ti esti = “the what it is.”

Haecceity embodies the distinct characteristics that make something or someone what it is which was a radical thought for the times – times in which significance rested with the upper crust of society. You just didn’t make a fuss over the lower classes, the individuals, the nobodies. In fact, despite Jesus’ introduction of the concept of the individual almost in passing in such stories as the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine to search for the one, Christian thinkers (and doers) for the most part missed it, as momentum flowed in the other direction towards identity derived from an institutional collective.

Haecceity is full-on incarnation, refusing all vague abstractions and revealing itself in concrete particularity, a radical thisness. “If nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self” (Christian Wiman). Sink your teeth into that one for a bit.

Rohr observes: “When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and –isms, we too often stay there – and argue about theory, forever making more distinctions. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It is then easy to ‘love humanity, but not any individual people.’”

But we know and are known by a haecceitistic (!!! Yes, I am having far too much fun with words here) God who delights in the thisness of everything. He counts hairs – marveling at each cell; hairs that we readily pluck and discard, or pull out of our hairbrushes in large swatches as we mutter “gross.”

He feeds crows and watches sparrows fall – creatures we flatten into pancaked roadkill under our tires without so much as a thought.

He clothes wild grasses with splendor that we happily weed whack into oblivion.

And he beholds all the thisness of me, of you, of people who pass us as no more than blurs.

Now, all this talk about thisness could easily steer into yet one more burden, one more guilt trip piled onto our already overloaded backs – and you no doubt thought that’s where this is headed. Ah, but this havering was launched by a knock at the door in very, very deep space.

It is opportunity that knocks here.

Thisness is knocking at our door, inviting us to open and see it – in this face, this flower, these swaying branches, these high wispy cirriform streaks across the sky, this apple that just toppled to the ground, this blessing, this tragedy, this moment – knocking on the door of my heart like a bright box, inviting me to pause, to take it in my hands, and to see.

I’ve got mail!

Come here, you scrumptious little beauty…

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Posted by on October 3, 2014 in haverings

 

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tiny-bubble-on-the-side-of-big-bubble theology

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~ from “The Doctor’s Wife,” Series 6 of Doctor Who

This is us and all our supposed mastery of all things God, isn’t it?

Transubstantiation.

so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis...

so easy to get lost in the guts of the Tardis…

Consubstantiation.
Propitiation.
Expiation.
Imputation.
Double imputation.
Hypostatic union.
Immutability.
Norma normans non normata.
Monophysitism.
Ontological Trinity.
All those Omni’s (no way to dodge them):
Omnipresence.
Omniscience.
Omnipotence.
Penal obedience of Christ.
Passive obedience of Christ.
Perichoresis.
Circumincession.
Coinherence.
Recapitulation theory of the atonement.
Simul justis et peccator.
Supralapsarianism and, let us not forget,
Infralapsarianism
                                                   – my personal favorites in the “cool theological terminology” category.

                                                      They’re also killer words for Scrabble: Theologian’s Edition.

It’s all a tiny bubble sticking to the side of the big bubble.
Yes. No! but if it helps, yes!

We think we know so much when it comes to God – or when it comes to life, for that matter.

I find myself cringing just a little bit whenever I hear someone stating in unequivocal terms, “This is what God is like” or “This is not what God is like” or “God would never do this” or “Of course God would do that.” Maybe cringing is the wrong word. Smiling is perhaps more fitting. Smiling at our bold assertions, however well founded we may think they may be from what we observe and deduce from Scripture or from life, because all of our bold talk amounts to little more than kindergartners pontificating on the playground about their theories of adult life, i.e., tiny bubbles on the back of big bubbles.

I suppose the cringe factor increases in direct proportion to the arrogance in the pontificating. David Hayward observes, “Theology is a vicious cycle of our desperate need to understand and control our universe.” I really want to modify “theology” here with “bad” or add “sometimes” or even “often” and take just a bit of the sting out of that. But he does name what drives all of us through much of life: a desperate need to understand and control.

Theology is a perfectly fine way to spend an evening, as long as we recognize our limitations in it and that our most sophisticated efforts at it amount to not much more than describing a tiny, little bubble universe on the side of a big bubble universe…

…and that when that bubble pops, love is what remains.

We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

(Yeah, Paul said that)

I suppose the most important lesson here is that Rory and Amy didn’t have to understand the technical explanation of how they could be where they were. They were already there. It’s fine to try to put into words what we are experiencing – but how thankful we can be that our experiencing of it isn’t dependent on how well we manage to put words to it. Explanations can enhance our experience, or like explaining a joke, they can tediously ruin it. Especially when we make this or that explanation a prerequisite to the experience itself – or a disqualifier of the validity of your experience if you don’t explain it the way I do, resulting in your expulsion from the Tardis, of course (off to your own cursed tiny bubble universe!).

We would do well to remember that after eleven chapters of the most systematic, detailed theologizing in all of Scripture, Paul ends up on his face, shouting,

“Oh the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past tracing out!
For from him and through him and to him
are all things
both now and forevermore.”

Worship is the ultimate fruit of all truly good theology.
Good theology puts me on my face;
bad theology just puts me in the faces of others.

Good theology will leave me nose in the dirt with Paul –
at best all we can really manage is licking our lips as we kiss the dirt
and sputter out rocks. Or, in other words, havering.

After thirty-seven chapters of theological Bildad/Eliphaz/Zophar/Elihu/Job jargoning, jawing, explaining, extrapolating, and positioning, God finally shows up in the whirlwind (how cool that God’s shows up in whirlwinds!) and speaks with unrelenting bullet-point question after question, leading Job to make the most profound theological statement of all time:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”

Amen.

Tiny bubble popped.

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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in haverings, theology

 

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score one for the madman with a box

For Whovians…particularly Vineyardite Whovians…Time And Relative Dimension in Space

Talked to a couple after our 101 “welcome to the family” class tonight about baptizing their eleven-year-old daughter at the river this month. They moved here in June. Their first Sunday here was when I was teaching. And that convinced them to stay.

Why?

Something profound I said?
Some prophetic word from the Lord?
A deep spiritual look in my eyes?

No.

I was wearing a Tardis on my tee.
They have yet to invest time in watching Doctor Who – I think they’re afraid to get started, knowing how much is there – and I don’t think they know where to start.

But they know about the Tardis.
And if the guy teaching up there is wearing a tee with a Tardis, then this is a place they can let their hair down and perhaps find a home. They saw a place filled with possibilities.

But no, I couldn’t bait them to say “A place that’s bigger on the inside.”

 

Score one for the madman with a box…

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in haverings

 

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life is too short not to read

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Amen, Joy.
But define bad

More simply, life is too short not to read.

But then again, I’m convinced that there will be books in heaven.
The new heavens and the new earth will have a library
a planetary library as per Silence in the Library
(just no Vashta Nerada lurking in the shadows).

I’m counting on it.

“And the books were opened.”

So we don’t have to be feverish about this
even though we frequently will be.

And since Jesus also speaks of drinking wine with us there too
winebibers can also take heart.

Guess I need to develop some vintage taste buds.

So we can relax and learn to savor both.

Life is too short not to.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Books, haverings

 

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caged god

We live in a finite world where everything is dying, shedding its strength. This is hard to accept, and all our lives we look for exceptions to it. We look for something strong, undying, infinite. Religion tells us that something is God. Great, we say, we’ll attach ourselves to this strong God. Then this God comes along and says, “Even I suffer. Even I participate in the finiteness of this world.” Thus Clare and Francis’ image of God was not an “almighty” and strong God, but in fact a poor, vulnerable, and humble one like Jesus. This is at the heart of the Biblical and Franciscan worldview.

The enfleshment and suffering of Jesus is saying that God is not apart from the trials of humanity. God is not aloof. God is not a mere spectator. God is not merely tolerating or even healing all human suffering. Rather, God is participating with us—in all of it—the good and the bad! I wonder if people can avoid becoming sad and cynical about the tragedies of history if they do not know this.

have i mentioned that you should fraking read this?

have i mentioned that you should fraking read this?

From Richard Rohr. A follow up to the last snappit from the Pastrix – which was pulled from what for me is one of the most impactful of its chapters (that would be chapter 8, “Clinical Pastoral Education”).

Nadia describes feeling the presence of God in the midst of children grieving the loss of their mother – and just wanting “to slap the hell out of him or her or it.”

She followed up with this comment:

“You hear a lot of nonsense in hospitals and funeral homes. God had a plan, we just don’t know what it is. Maybe God took your daughter because He needs another angel in heaven. But when I’ve experienced loss and felt so much pain that it feels like nothing else ever existed, the last thing I need is a well-meaning but vapid person saying that when God closes a door he opens a window. It makes me want to ask where exactly that window is so I can push him the fuck out of it.”

Yes, Nadia expresses herself with such marvelous delicacy.

But when dealing with pain that does make you feel like nothing else ever existed, there’s not much room for delicacy, is there? It’s one of the reasons that chapter so speaks to me.

And then comes Rohr. While Rohr is seldom indelicate, he is always incisive.

In our suffering we tend to experience God as outside of it all, watching, a omnipotent bystander who by all rights could and should be able to do something, but he just sits there, stands there, whatever, letting it all happen anyway. Helping it all happen anyway? And for his glory? Yes, let me slap that.

And that’s what I appreciate about Rohr’s musing. He taps right into main line of biblical teaching when it comes to suffering – though we seldom perceive it. God participates in our suffering. In all of it. He feels each deep wound, screams in each terror, groans in each injustice more profoundly than we can begin to fathom.
We groan. Creation groans. God groans.

We need more Nadias in our grief. We need more groaners. And permission to slap all the rest.

We desperately need the “biblical and Franciscan view” that Rohr highlights. What a revelation. Our hymns anddoctor-master-caged loud worship songs tend to extol the Mighty God “smashing the nations with a rod of iron” etc etc etc. Truth in that, there is. All those who suffer under the boot of injustice are counting on it. But it must be balanced with the weak, poor, vulnerable God we see in the face of Jesus. Contemplating that face, I see instead of the Mighty God, the pathetically caged, shriveled, helpless Doctor of the season three ender of Who. And I know I just lost you if you’re not a Whovian, if I didn’t lose you with Nadia.

Wow. What a combo. What whiplash, Pastrix to Doctor Who.

Something like the whiplash moving from Mighty God to helpless, caged, suffering lord.

May more of us suffer it.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in haverings, Suffering

 

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if religion is a box it really should be more like the TARDIS

I’ve been bombarded with “box” imagery of late.box

A friend sent me a poem about personally becoming “unboxed.”

I just listened to a commencement speech urging the graduates to think outside the box.poke-the-box

I recently stumbled across Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. Again.

And I keep seeing boxes of various sorts when I’m talking with people or just listening.

During that commencement speech, one of the examples of “out of the box” thinking and living was Noah in his willingness to buck the culture and endure the ridicule of his contemporaries. I couldn’t help but savor the irony of Noah thinking outside by box by building one very large seaworthy box. It was evidently a box that took him a century to build, a box he lived in for a year. noahs_arkBut then, significantly, after the box had served its purpose by conveying him to a new world, Noah stepped out, walked away, and evidently never looked back. And we’re still looking for that box. Interesting that he didn’t turn that box into his home or into a hotel, a museum, or a temple. He walked away and now we must simply imagine the box.

In another conversation, the image of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was evoked – and what was tabernacle and temple but a box within a box within a box like the ultimate set of holy Russian nesting dolls? Holy Place, Holy of Holies, and Holy Box of the Covenant. Interestingly enough, God nor heaven was contained in that Holy Box. God said he dwelt above the box. And when God’s presence showed up there in the form of a disorienting, foggy cloud, everyone had to step out of the box. Hmmmm…

And now, it’s the TARDIS.Time And Relative Dimension in Space

It took a bit of time, but my daughter has succeeded in sucking me into the world (or worlds) of Doctor Who, though I don’t know if I have yet attained to full official Whovian status.

But if religion is a box, it should be like the TARDIS.

Period.

Bigger on the inside. And that’s an understatement.Tardis_inside

Not just a thing, a holy relic or museum display, but alive and sentient and mysterious.

And it takes you places – and the real question: is it where you want to go, or is it really where the TARDIS wants to go? Who really is driving the TARDIS?

When you get to where it takes you, you are supposed to step out of the box.

Though archaic in its outer dimensions and clearly out of this world, it blends in anywhere.

And it provides a universal translator.

Now there’s a box I can get into.

And out of.

 
 

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