Take Words With You…

And it shall come
to pass in that day,
that his burden shall be
taken away from off
thy shoulder, and his
yoke from off thy neck,
and the yoke shall be
destroyed because of the anointing.―Isaiah 10:27



O Israel, return to the Lord your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;

Take words with you,
And return to the Lord.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.

Assyria shall not save us,
We will not ride on horses,
Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’
For in You the fatherless finds mercy.

“I will heal their backsliding,
I will love them freely,
For My anger has turned away from him.

I will be like the dew to Israel;
He shall grow like the lily,
And lengthen his roots like Lebanon.

His branches shall spread;
His beauty shall be like an olive tree,
And his fragrance like Lebanon.

Those who dwell under his shadow shall return;
They shall be revived like grain,
And grow like a vine.
Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.―Hosea 14:1-7



YOKES OF EMPATHY

When empathy is revealed as schadenfreude

and the foundations are being destroyed

When compassion is paternalism

and feigned kindness a mask for totalitarianism

―unbridled self-righteousness

filthy rags of unrighteousness

―figuratively robes of lawlessness

When equity segues into inequity

When subjective truth transcends the TRUTH

each one doing what is right in their own eyes

deceived by the father of all lies―nations go into captivity

bound by the workers of iniquity

When knowledge of words, cast away the Word

people delight in the vanity of the absurd

When grace billows of permissiveness

quench loves indebtedness

When six degrees of separateness

quarantine mercy and truthfulness

gathering in the beauty of holiness

and like Pilate and the Pharisees

we wash our hands ritually to stave

off the tyranny, of this invisible enemy

When righteousness and peacefulness

in unholy restraint cease to kiss

When you disregard the fatherless

When bitter is sweet, and sweet is bitterness

When good is evil, and evil is good

When peace is a simulacrum―misunderstood

When justice is turned into wormwood

When a people of the Resurrection

like Barrabas, incite insurrection

When blackness is their circumvention

the road to hell is paved with good intentions

When the Lord declared Israelites, are you

more important to me than the Cushites?

When false prophets arise like Hananiah

remember, Jesus wept over Jerusalem like Jeremiah

When beauty is but a fading flower

What is the watchman’s disposition in this hour?

“The morning comes, and also the night.
If you will inquire, inquire;
Return! Come back!”

My yoke is easy, My burden is light.

At the risk of shocking some tender-minded persons, I venture to list here a few words and phrases that to millions of evangelical Christians have no longer an identifiable content and are used merely as religious sounds without any relation to reality. They have meaning, and they are good and sacred words, but they have no meaning as used by the speaker and as heard by the listener in the average religious gathering. Here they are: victory, heart and life, all out for God, to the glory of God, receive a blessing, conviction, faith, revival, consecration, the fullness of God, by the grace of God, on fire for God, born again, filled with the Spirit, hallelujah, accept Christ, the will of God, joy and peace, following the Lord–and there are scores of others.

We have reared a temple of religious words comfortably disassociated from reality. And we will soon stand before that just and gentle Monarch who told us that we should give an account of every idle word. God have mercy on us.
―A. W. Tozer Sermon: Meaningless Words

And to these, I add ‘Amen’.

Reflections & Poems Beauty 4 Ashes Development Foundation,,
Copyright © 2020

Artwork: Makoto Fujimura: Interior Castles

Prayer for Repeka

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.–Psalm 149::4

To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”–Isaiah 61:2-3


“A few days ago, I told you about Repeka. She continues to painfully suffer from the effects of cancer. For four years, she has outlived every prediction provided by doctors.

Her testimony is so powerful I cried tears of joy while visiting with her today in hospice. In many respects, Repeka is the embodiment of my hopes for our nation. She is broken, but her spirit is pure. She believes, as do I, that God still has a pivotal role for her to play.

So she fights to survive, all while praising God day and night. Her testimony has brought souls to the Lord. If we had the faith of Repeka, we would have never lost our country to godlessness.

I will pray for her and our country as if my life depended on it. I ask all here to please do the same.

Some believe without seeing. Others need to see a miracle. Let’s move mountains with mustard seeds.” (David Clements).

Photo credits: Repeka & Prof. David Clements, 21/04/21

Transfigured – The Christian Life of the Mind

As you attempt to climb a higher mountain or aim at a higher target, the things around you become increasingly dramatic and of import. That happens by necessity because if you’re aiming and working hard at something difficult and profound. your life is going to become increasingly difficult and profound. That might be exactly what you need as an antidote to the implicit limitations that you face as a human being.—Jordan Peterson


“Christianity demands the crucifixion of the intellect.”–Soren Kierkegaard

I agree with Soren Kierkegaard’s assertion, and i want to contend that this transfigurative experience for the Christian, in contrast with the Sisyphean task posited by Jordan Peterson (above), is carried out through the work of the Holy Spirit, transforming and renewing the mind so that it is not conformed to this world (Romans 12:1-2). The idol of intellect is put to death and is resurrected in the life of Christ. This is the outworking of theosis — a lifelong process of sanctification, through which the Christian becomes a partaker of the divine nature of God (1 Peter 2:4) . One should not consider this an abandonment of the intellect per se, but rather the redeeming of it from its subjection to pride and futility ― a translation from the dominion of darkness into His kingdom of marvellous light (Colossian 1:13). The ‘authentic’ Christian, is being conformed to the mind of Christ. As a new creation, He causes His face to shine upon us as we are being transformed. Yet, unlike the radiance that emanates from the face of Moses after his encounter with God– the Shekinah glory of God, he is enfolded by on mount Sinai — which the Israelites could not withstand (Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:13-18), we need not wear a veil while we speak of the gospel.

And he will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all nations, and the veil that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:7)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

This is illustrated further in the gospel of John, during the conversation between Nicodemus―”teacher of Israel”―and Jesus, who tells him very plainly, how one should enter the kingdom of God, through this very same process of being born again:

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:9-12)

Again, on the mountain of transfiguration, we are told of Peter, James, and John his brother who accompany Jesus, “And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:5-9)

While he was still speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their feet and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

All of these gospel encounters are manifestations of Jesus’ Shekinah glory, here on earth, and illustrate both his transcendence and immananence — the God-man in His divine Majesty, and Immanuel, God with us.

And yet, God Himself reminds us of the inevitability of human limitation in contrast with His divinity, evident in the unregenerate human [Adamic] condition:

“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9)


“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)

And of this relational proximity — the indwelling of the holy spirit — between the redeemed and the Triune God, Jesus tells Nicodemus of the Spirit:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

There fore, brethren, we are debtors — not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children;, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:12-17)


“People try to persuade us that the objections against Christianity spring from doubt. That is a complete misunderstanding. The objections against Christianity spring from insubordination, the dislike of obedience, rebellion against all authority. As a result, people have hitherto been beating the air in their struggle against objections, because they have fought intellectually with doubt instead of fighting morally with rebellion.”―Soren Kierkegaard

—–
Reflections (CC): Beauty 4 Ashes Development Foundation, (June 3 2019)

Note: Although I am not Catholic, I found Dr Gavin Ashenden’s analysis of a recent conversation exploring aspects of Christianity between Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Pageau quite insightful. Particularly in relation to the tensions (I’ve highlighted above) between human [intellectual] wisdom and Christian belief about the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Here are the links: Dr. Gavin Ashenden https://youtu.be/qNJ1c3XBL5I

Jonathan Pageau & Jordan Peterson: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y-UYHCUm3eA

Shakeid II (Watch)

Which is more difficult, to awaken one who sleeps or to awaken one who, awake dreams that he is awake?—Soren Kierkegaard

“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”….Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak;”—Jesus (Luke 21:34-36); (Matthew 26:40-41)





And the
lookout called
like a lion,
“O Lord, I stand
continually on
the watchtower
by day, And
I am stationed
every night at
my guard post.


I will stand
at my guard post
And station
myself on
the tower;
And I will keep
watch to see
what He will
say to me,
And what answer
I will give [as
His spokesman]
when I am
reproved.

Then the Lord
answered me
and said,
“Write the vision
And engrave
it plainly on
[clay] tablets
So that the one
who reads
it will run.

“For the vision
is yet for the
appointed
[future] time
It hurries toward
the goal
of fulfillment];
it will not fail.
Even though
it delays, wait
[patiently] for it,
Because it
will certainly
come; it will
not delay.

—-
“As for
you also,
Because of
the blood of
your covenant,
I will set your
prisoners free
from the
waterless pit.
Return to the
stronghold,
You prisoners
of hope.
Even today
I declare
That I will
restore double
to you.
—-
The Lord their
God will save
them in that day,
As the flock
of His people.
For they shall
be like the
jewels of a crown,
Lifted like a
banner over
His land—
For how great
is its goodness
And how great
its beauty!
Grain shall make
the young
men thrive,
And new wine
the young women.

—-
(Isaiah 21:8; Habakkuk 2:1-3; Zechariah 9:11-12;16-17)

NOTE: shâqad, shaw-kad’; a primitive root; to be alert, i.e. sleepless; hence to be on the lookout (whether for good or ill):—hasten, remain, wake, watch (for).

shâqêd, shaw-kade’; from H8245; the almond (tree or nut; as being the earliest in bloom):—almond (tree).

📸 Almond Blossom by Vincent van Gogh

Shakeid (Woke)


And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep:

for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness,

and let us put on the armour of light.–Romans 13:11-12


Some mornings, God awakens

Jeremiah with words that cause

him to vent his spleen:

Lord, thou hast deceived me,

and I was deceived;

thou art stronger than I,

you have prevailed: I am in derision daily,

and the mockers cease not.

Then he said, I will not make

mention of God, nor speak any more

in his name. But his word was

in my heart as a burning fire

shut up in my bones,

and I was weary with forbearing,

and I could not stay.


Most mornings, Isaiah sings

praises unto his God

the Holy One of Israel

who has opened his ear,

awakening him with a tongue

of the learned that he should

know how to speak a word

in season to them that are weary.

Stripped naked, buttocks uncovered,

Isaiah walked barefoot three years for a sign

and a wonder upon Egypt and Ethiopia.


Every morning, God put a new song

in David’s heart – Psalms,

that would satiate a stone cold soul, like
Michal, Saul’s daughter,

as she looked through a window,

(as the ark of God came

into the city of David)

and saw king David leaping and dancing

she despised him in her heart.


This morning, the words of Job

are ended. Wisdom is justified

of her children as Elihu speaks:

I am young, and you are old;

wherefore I was afraid,

and dare not share my opinion.

I said, Days should speak,

and multitude of years should

teach wisdom. But there is a spirit

in mortals: and the inspiration of the Almighty

gives them understanding.

Great men are not always wise:

neither do the aged understand judgment.

Early the next morning, Moses entered

the tabernacle of witness; and, behold,

the rod of Aaron of the house of Levi had budded

and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms,

and yielded almonds, just like the Lord

had told Jeremiah: I will hasten my word to perform it.


—-
Bible references from the KJV translation:, (Jeremiah 20:7, 9; Isaiah 50:4-5; 20:3; 2 Samuel 6: 16-23; Job 32:7-8; Numbers 17:8
Artwork: Vincent van Gogh – Branches of an Almond Tree in Blossom

Note: The word for “almond” is shakeid (שָׁקֵד), which comes from a root that means to “watch” or “wake” (i.e., shakad: שָׁקַד). Interestingly, the almond tree is among the first trees to “awaken” from its winter sleep.

Beside the Shepherds Tent

Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth,
where thou feedest, where thou makest
thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I
be as one that turneth aside by
the flocks of thy companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women,
go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock,
and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents..—Song of Songs 1:7-8


Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.—Jeremiah 3:14-15


We have heard the Lord Jesus setting forth to us the duty of a good shepherd. In doing so, He has certainly admonished us (as we are able to understand) to be good shepherds. At the same time, lest the plurality of shepherds should be perversely misunderstood, He says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” And He goes on to show how He is so; “the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” Christ, then, is the Good Shepherd. What was Peter? was not he a good shepherd? Yes, he was; nothing, indeed, in comparison of the power and goodness of the Shepherd of shepherds; but still he was both a shepherd and a good one; and all others of his sort are good shepherds.’ What then is the reason that Thou settest forth one Shepherd to the good shepherds, save that in the one Shepherd Thou art giving a lesson of unity? “I am the Good Shepherd,” because all the others, all good shepherds, are members of Me. There is one Head, one body, one Christ. Therefore there is both the Shepherd of shepherds, and the shepherds belonging to the Shepherd, and the sheep with the shepherds under the Shepherd. What is this but what the Apostle says, “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ?” If then so is Christ, it is with reason that Christ, including in Himself all good shepherds, sets forth one, saying, ” I am the Good Shepherd.” I am He, I am one, all are one in unity with Me. He that feeds the sheep apart from Me, feeds them in opposition to Me. To this Shepherd of shepherds with good reason does His beloved spouse, His fair one (but made fair by Him—once foul with sins, afterwards beautiful by pardon and grace), speak with ardent affection for Him, and say to Him, “Where feedest Thou’?”
–St. Augustine, Sermon cxxxviii.

Photo credits: Sebastião Salgado

Reconciliation After God’s Own Heart

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world–John 1:29

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes, and made themselves white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in the temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will Shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)

If you are in Christ Jesus, you have been reconciled (and are being reconciled), and liberated. Anyone proclaiming otherwise, has not understood, Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees:

Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36)

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, provides us with a simple rendering of this passage:

“Whosoever committeth sin … – In this passage Jesus shows them that he did not refer to political bondage, but to the slavery of the soul to evil passions and desires. Is the servant – Is the slave of sin. He is bound to it as a slave is to his master.”

It is a foolhardy endeavour, leading those whom Christ ― our Liberator, our Reward ― has set free, back into Egypt’s house of bondage. And we might take heed of Paul’s words, who so wisely, exhorts, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

Thus, biblical liberation is not based on the mere work of human hands, or to put it another way―works-based righteousness. On the contrary, for the Christian it is by grace that we are saved through faith. And this is not of our own doing; it is the gift of God; that at all times, in all places, throughout all ages, Jesus Christ sets captives free. This freedom does nor require that we bind former fallen [self] identifications to ontologies of oppression, whatever they may be. It is in this sense, Paul speaks of the newly redeemed self ― “such were some of you”― as constitutive of the transformative work of the cross (See 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Renewal of the mind is not attained through the importation of humanistic concepts such as ‘decolonisation’ or ‘conscientization’, but rather through spiritual regeneration, which leads to restoration of right human relationships: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2). In our new identity in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin, but we are reconciled to God (See Romans 6:6 & 5:10). And we know that wherever the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a mirror image of the way freedom is understood in this world. His kingdom is not of this world. When the Pharisees asked Jesus, when should this kingdom come, he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you (Luke 17:20-21). That is to say, Jesus did not come to conform us to the image of the god of this world―to the spirit of the present age―but rather to transform and renew our minds so that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God, as we sojourn here on earth.

Moreover, the danger of fetishizing oppressed identities central to the ‘gospel’ of critical theory (CT) and its subvariants―critical social justice and critical anti-racist praxis, paradoxically, result in an idolatry, that is incommensurable with the purposes of gospel transformation. The accompanying mantra of the ‘gospel of inclusion’, that for example, speaks of “giving voice to the marginalised” and “empowering the poor” merely by human effort, based on ever proliferating notions of difference, will not further liberation, but rather perpetuate the perennial objectification and spiritual subjugation of those who are genuinely oppressed. More often than we would care to admit, when we through misguided ideological motives, make merchandise out of the poor and the disregarded, unwittingly, we create cycles of oppression. And perhaps it is for this reason, Jesus reminds Judas, “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me” (John 12:8).

The postmodern differentialist and intersectional logic underpinning CT and social justice, tends towards the promotion of grievance narratives of oppressed groups perennially vying for power, which in turn creates hierarchies of oppression. It is what Gillian Rose has called a “despairing rationalism without reason.” In the biblical narrative the end goal of our redemption is not merely recognition of ones oppressed status as a member of some misrecognised identity group, although indeed, redemption includes those of every tribe, tongue, and nation who have responded to the gospel invitation of eternal salvation. The gospel offers a way out of the permanent struggle for power, propagated by Critical Race Theory ideologues, as Paul once again reminds us of the authority, gifted to those who are in Christ: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Contrary to popular caricatures promoted by ‘social justice warriors’, of Jesus, he was not merely chilling with the prostitutes, pimps, tax collectors and all manner of misfits, telling supercool stories, while indulging them in their little light afflictions. Nor was He an advocate on behalf of their sin. Rather the opposite seems to have been the case, as Jesus enlightens the Pharisees, who questioned his disciples,

“Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I [Jesus] came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32) — of which I am chief.

Nor is redemption merely the restoration of ones own personal autobiography, history, or indeed, collective identitarian epistemologies. Our personal testimonies are doing something quite different, and far more powerful within the grand narrative of the biblical story, as Rosaria Butterfield so succinctly, puts it:

“God’s story is our ontology: it explains our nature, our essence, our beginnings and our endings, our qualities, and our attributes. When we daily read our Bibles, in large chunks of whole books at a time, we daily learn that our own story began globally and ontologically. God has known us longer than anyone else has. The Bible declares that he knew us from before the foundations of the world.”

You see, not only is he Jesus of Nazareth, he is also Jesus of Narratives. The Alpha and Omega―the first and the last, the beginning and the end, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and thought upon his name.

And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18).–as John the Revelator, tells us:

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

We are told that the true children of God, those who keep his commandments. are they who overcame the dragon, “…by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11). This simply speaking, is the beauty of God’s plan, and fundamentally, what distinguishes its telos from that of humanistic projects striving for reconciliation, justice, and peace, even within the contemporary paradigm of a ‘new global normal’. The church is not merely some sort of representational economy based on human whim and ingenuity, but rather, as we read in Peter’s epistle, “ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ….But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” (2 Peter 2:5; 9).

And again, as Paul reasons with the Athenian intellectuals, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” (Acts 17:26-28). We are given a foretaste of that Christian hope―of the city, the New Jerusalem–as John is given privy to, during his encounter with the angel of the Lord , at the pinnacle of his numinous rapture in (Revelation 19:10): “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In Hebrews we are gifted with a more detailed picture of how and by whom, that city is inhabited:

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12 22-24)

Thus the biblical view of racial reconciliation, transcends all human efforts based on hierarchies of oppression, or of one identitarian group supplanting the other. Whether those strategies employed are based on white supremacy, or the necessary antiracist racism of oppositional movements such as BLM, the white nationalism of far-right movements, or the various forms of ethnic, racial, or multicultural nationalisms, ascendant in our culture — ultimately, they will have no place in the body of Christ. We are commanded not to show partiality towards one another (see James 2:8-9).

A closer reading of scripture guided by the holy spirit will reveal that God’s redemptive plan for reconciliation and restoration, for which He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to reconcile us to Him, is not based on the utopian imaginations of our own desperately wicked and deceitful hearts, nor are they built on the sifting sands of human hands (see Ephsians 2:10, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, and Hebrews 13:20-21):

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead be ye reconciled to God.

Now may the God of peace who brought up the Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting Covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory, forever and ever. Amen


—-

Photo credits Sheep at Mellon Udrigal by Sebastiao Salgado

The emergence of anti-racist pedagogy in education

A key objective that multicultural and later on anti-racist education attempted to address focused on the question: How do different kinds of students experience the education on offer as relevant, useful , and enabling?

What we now call multicultural education originated in Britain in the 1970s, preceded by policies of integration and assimilation in the sixties and seventies. The policies and underlying ideas of assimilation had lost credibility among many, and were subjected to unprecedented challenges by oppositional black groups influenced by the Civil Rights Movement in the US. Subsequently, the ascendancy of multicultural education over the last three decades, has intermittently attracted much controversy from the media as it became an evermore contentious and politicised battleground. In the midst of such controversy, there has been little agreement on a precise conceptualisation of what multicultural education is. In fact, multiculturalism is often conflated with anti-racism, and whilst there exists some overlap, this difficulty is compounded further, by the prevailing public policy zeitgeist, which is as equally vague, in defining what constitutes ‘inclusive education’.

As McCarthy (1990) has pointed out, policy discourse on multicultural education has consistently identified the variable of culture as the vehicle for addressing racial inequality and racial conflict in schooling. Unlike the earlier liberal concept of assimilation that was preoccupied with cultural deprivation, multicultural advocates were more inclined towards emphasising the positive qualities of minority cultural heritage (for example, Bullivant 1981; Gibson 1976; Jeffcoate 1975; Verma and Bagley 1975). The Swann Report illustrates this position well. Instead of viewing black children as the ‘problem’, the review team of the Swann Committee chose to consider what kind of education was appropriate for a multi-ethnic society for all children.

However, Gillborn (1995) argues that the notion of ‘liberal pluralism’ falls flat on its face on account of its belief in a common framework of values, which offer the criteria for the selection of knowledge.” The interchangeable view of cultural pluralism and cultural diversity, Bhaba 1990) argues, function then, as a bedrock of multicultural education policy in the UK. Moreover, while cultural diversity is encouraged, he continues, there is also a “corresponding containment of it” ( Ibid, p. 208).

More recently, a growing body of literature focusing on critical anti-racist pedagogy, has sought to rethink how the curriculum is delivered through an analysis of ‘difference’ and indigenous knowledge.

From its inception―starting in the 1960s Supplementary school movement, there have been various iterations of anti-racist pedagogical practice, aimed at challenging racist ideology and its impact on black and minority ethnic children in schools. In the main, they have been concerned with changing teacher’s attitudes towards black children and eradicating racism from the curriculum. A review of the literature shows, the generation of ‘positive images ‘ that emerged from both popular and professional anti-racist practice, embodies the assumption “that anti-racism may be best on the level of consciousness: that to change how people feel about others and themselves is tantamount to changing society (Bonnett 2000, p.95). This strategy implies the need for members of society to be educated in such a manner that they would reject all forms of prejudice and racism. Such a perspective has its roots in what Bonnett refers to as “psychological anti-racism” and what others in the social sciences, have also referred to as moral anti-racism (for example see, Gilroy 1987; Macdonald et al 1989; Rattansi 1992).


Interestingly, an earlier study by Maureen Stone, The Education of The Black Child, addressed the tension between black parents and educationalists demands for a focus on addressing low self-concept through cultural understanding of African-Caribbean pupils and their academic achievement. In her review of three self-help and four officially funded supplementary schools in London, Stone identifies a strong emphasis amongst black parents and black teachers who staff the project on teaching basic skills. Where Stone found aspects of the ‘Black Studies’ approach, this was usually relegated to being of secondary importance to the principal aim of ensuring that black children advance their reading, writing and mathematical skills.

The empirical research led Stone to refute the fashionable idea that poor self-concept is the cause for lower rates of academic achievement among pupils of Caribbean origin. In her concluding argument, she asserts, “The central recommendation of this study is for the use of more formal methods of teaching West Indian children throughout primary and secondary schools” (Stone 1981 p.242). Stone’s critique of multicultural education, serves as a timely reminder for the need to move beyond the simplistic equation, that the solution for so-called low self-concept amongst Afro-Caribbean pupils cannot rely alone on positive role models and multi-racial education projects, such as Black Studies. Concurring with Stone, Troyna (1992) also demonstrated the inadequacy of a ‘cultural understanding’ model approach, which focuses on the lifestyles of black pupils, thus reducing them to cultural artefacts―a notion often associated with the “3Ss” (Saris, Samosas, and Steel bands) interpretation of multicultural education. Earlier studies such as Coard (1971) and Milner (1975) had pointed towards the need to reassess the “…alleged negative self-image of black pupils and underachievement in education, alongside concern about emergent resistance to racist forms of education by black pupils and their parents” (Troyna 1992, p.68).

Unlike Stone, whose research had led her to conclude that pedagogical strategies developed to enhance black pupils ‘self-concept’ were unlikely to affect exam achievements, others like Troyna contended that an approach more akin to the neo-Marxist Brazilian educationalist, Paulo Freire’s notion of political conscientization, offered up possibilities, yet to be explored.

Another ethnographic study conducted by Wright in 1985, focusing on the experiences of fourth and fifth year African-Caribbean pupils from two schools in the North of England, found: “To the West Indian, the school seemed to be seen as a “battleground” a hostile environment insofar as it rejects their colour and their identities (cited in Dove 1995, p.352). Wright found that students perceived that their academic performance was affected by their white teachers’ attitudes, behaviours, and low expectations of them. In another study, that took place in four inner city primary schools (1988-198) and was published in 1992, Wright’s ethnographic research produced similar findings, suggesting: teachers were also insensitive to the fact that many students would have been victims of racism. Concurring with Wright’s study, Gillborn and Gipps (1996), in a review of qualitative research into ethnic minority pupil’s interaction with teachers in schools, found: that the level of teacher/pupil conflict in research conducted in schools was such that, as a group, black pupils experiences of school were far more conflictual and less positive than their peers, regardless of ‘ability’ and gender.

Debates about Supplementary schools and black history have been a source of great interest, but little research has been conducted, and it is worth noting, the studies discussed here have been conducted by black African-Caribbean scholars in a field (for example, Carr 2005; Dove 1995; Sewell 1997; Stone; 1981; Wright 1992), ironically, dominated by white academics, who have been extremely influential in shaping the discourse on educational policy

Given some of the bleak narratives on the experience of black pupils and schooling, it seems inevitable that alternative strategies such as supplementary schools and black history have not only been considered within black communities as a viable option, but also present themselves as the most promising solutions on offer to combat anti-black racism.

For educational activist and author of How The West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-Normal in the British School System (1971), Bernard Coard, “pride and confidence” were the best form of response against the prejudice and humiliating experience black pupils faced in the education system and wider society. Moreover, as Graham (2001) notes, “…it is within this context that African-Centred ways of knowing became relevant to educational discourse. Doves study found that supplementary schools were popular with black parents because they wanted their children to receive a “black perspective, cultural understanding, black historical information, a positive black image, positive role models, a better learning environment, and the company of other black children.” Dove further observed that the increase in supplementary schools in the United kingdom, may well reflect other forms of resistance to state public schooling that have taken place in the United States. Graham and Dove both argue, that an “African-Centred’ approach challenges the hegemonic scholarship that has pervaded European-centred educational systems from the conquest of Egypt by the Greek.” An African-centred curriculum and pedagogical methods, she argues, “can help children to decipher lies and develop inquiring scholarly minds” (ibid, p.357).

Unlike some of the assumptions based on cultural and ethnic homogeneity central to Doves articulation of blackness and African-Centred pedagogy, Graham (2001), makes more explicit the diversity within black communities, indicating that the terms ‘black’ and ‘African’ are used interchangeably. Some British scholars have pointed out that such formations of Afrocentric discourse appear primarily as an African-American construct (e.g. Gilroy 1993, 2000; Miles 1999).

The feminist philosopher, Nancy Fraser in her critique of identity politics, argues that a politics of recognition reduced to forms of identitarianism, results in an emphasis on demeaning representations, which she suggests, undermines the social-structural underpinnings of inequality. In dislodging the identitarian model for a politics of recognition, and enjoining it with a politics of redistribution, Fraser argues for a view of recognition that would interrogate institutionalised forms of cultural value and the resulting impact on the relative standing of its respective subjects. From this viewpoint, then, she suggests, “misrecognition is neither a psychic deformation nor a free standing cultural harm but an institutionalised relation of subordination” (ibid, 2000, p.113). In this respect, “parity impeding” values―such as a predominantly monocultural curriculum that addresses diversity by centring the persistent “ideological we and usually then simply mentioning the contributions of people of colour, women and others, or by creating a false logic of equivalence… perpetuates existing hierarchies of what counts as official knowledge” (Apple 1996, p.54). Within this analytical framework, anti-black racism in schools, would be an example of what Fraser calls “status subordination,” based on “misrecognition,” which has the impact of non-participation. The outworking of this standpoint in relation to the school curriculum, would be a radical democratisation that enables all students a space to engage “in the cultural politics over the struggle for collective identity and difference” (Miron 1999, p.83). As such, the curriculum becomes what Giroux (1992) and Battaglia (1999) describe as a ‘representational economy”, where students think through the micro-practices of everyday life.


Interestingly, some of the pedagogical approaches discussed above― which at various times, have been rooted in activist scholarship, informed predominantly by Marxist theoretical frameworks and black nationalist orientations ― can be seen in the ideology of the popular African-American movement, Black Lives Matter. Concurrently, a new cannon of critical anti-racist literature suffused with intersectional identitarian epistemologies (also lumped under the banner of Critical Race Theory), and a recycling of the deeply flawed psychological and moral anti-racist approaches, have become widely popular. From Robin DiAngelo’s, White Fragility to Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, the idea of (black) ethnocentric, anti-white/eurocentrism is promoted, which “…attempts to challenge the hegemony of Europe in order to construct another location from which to judge the world, not merely ‘another view’ but a new and different centre, with all the sense of self-worth confidence that the claim implies” (Bonnett 2000 p.98). For blacks engaged in struggles to dismantle racism, this has involved―what movements such as BLM have embraced―a necessary anti-racist racism.

Reference

C. Carr (2020) Darker Than Blue: Anti-Racism, a New Theodicy?

A courageous shepherd

And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the LORD. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.” ’ ” (Jeremiah 45:5)

The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. “One word of truth outweighs the world.-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

For those depressed and weary—those that have lost hope: Be still and wait on the Lord. Either He is who He says He is, or He isn’t.

If He is (and I think that’s the case) He’s got you covered in ways that you can’t even begin to comprehend. This doesn’t mean we won’t suffer or face hardship, but it does mean that you will be equipped to deal with both.

Start small. Tell the truth always, even if it hurts you short term. The long term consequences of evading truth telling will result in you being a shadow of your true self. Keep your head up. Look people in the eye. Stop craving security and safety as chief goals. Start pushing boundaries. Find fellowship with other truth tellers. Meet in person. Be encouraged and encourage others. Hug your spouse. Tell your kids how much you love them. But tell the truth ALWAYS.

I may lose material comforts, pseudo friends, physical health, and perhaps standing with (self) “important” people, but I won’t compromise my integrity by feeding the public’s delusion that we are entitled to a risk free life.―Prof. David Clements

“I shall most certainly assemble all of you, O Jacob;
I shall surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I shall bring them together like sheep in the fold [multiplying the nation];
Like a flock in the midst of its pasture.
The place will swarm with many people and hum loudly with noise.
 
“The breaker [the Messiah, who opens the way] shall go up before them [liberating them].
They will break out, pass through the gate and go out;
So their King goes on before them,
The Lord at their head.” (Micah 2:12-13, AMP)

And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.

And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. (Ezekiel 34:23-24)

A despairing man is in despair over something. So it seems for an instant, but only for an instant; that same instant the true despair manifests itself, or despair manifests itself in its true character. For in the fact that he despaired of something, he really despaired of himself, and now would be rid of himself. Thus when the ambitious man whose watchword was “Either Caesar or nothing” does not become Caesar, he is in despair thereat. But this signifies something else, namely, that precisely because he did not become Caesar he now cannot endure to be himself. So properly he is not in despair over the fact that he did not become Caesar, but he is in despair over himself for the fact that he did not become Caesar. This self which, had he become Caesar, would have been to him a sheer delight (though in another sense equally in despair), this self is now absolutely intolerable to him. In a profounder sense it is not the fact that he did not become Caesar which is intolerable to him, but the self which did not become Caesar is the thing that is intolerable; or, more correctly, what is intolerable to him is that he cannot get rid of himself. If he had become Caesar he would have been rid of himself in desperation, but now that he did not become Caesar he cannot in desperation get rid of himself. Essentially he is equally in despair in either case, for he does not possess himself, he is not himself. By becoming Caesar he would not after all have become himself but have got rid of himself, and by not becoming Caesar he falls into despair over the fact that he cannot get rid of himself. Hence it is a superficial view (which presumably has never seen a person in despair, not even one’s own self) when it is said of a man in despair, “He is consuming himself.” For precisely this it is he despairs of, and to his torment it is precisely this he cannot do, since by despair fire has entered into something that cannot burn, or cannot burn up, that is, into the self.

(Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, pp.16-17)


Politics and the state —Søren Kierkegaard

Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear.
He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all

the children of pride.—Job 41:33-34



That the goal of the state is to improve its citizens – is obviously nonsense. The state is of the evil rather than of the good, a necessary evil, in a certain sense a useful, expedient evil, but not a good. The state is actually human egotism in great dimensions. Just as we speak of a calculation of infinitesimals, so also the state is a calculation of egotisms, but always in such a way that it egotistically appears to be the most prudent thing to enter into and to be in this higher egotism. But this, after all, is anything but the moral abandoning of egotism.

To be improved by living in the state is just as doubtful as being improved in a prison. Perhaps one becomes much shrewder about his egotism, his enlightened egotism, that is, his egotism in relation to other egotisms, but less egotistic he does not become, and what is worse, one is spoiled by regarding this official, civic, authorized egotism as virtue – this, in fact, is how demoralizing civic life is, because it reassures one in being a shrewd egotist.

The state is continually subject to the same sophistry that engrossed the Greek Sophists – namely, that injustice on a vast scale is justice. Yes, politics is nothing but egotism dressed up as justice.

For so many, the state is counted on to develop people morally, to be the proper medium for virtue, the place where one really can become virtuous! But to believe this is like believing that the best place for a watchmaker or an engraver to work is aboard a ship in a heavy sea. Christianity does not believe that the Christian is to remain in the body politic for the purpose of moral improvement – no, in fact it tells him in advance that it will mean suffering.

As soon as the thought of human assistance arises, of not refusing the help of the world, all is essentially lost. The faith in martyrdom as having value in and by itself is thereby abandoned, and Christianity runs downhill until, just as the Rhine ends in mud, it ends in the mud of politics.

On their part the clergy think it very prudent to accept the protection of the state. They understand, all right, that it is considerably more pleasant to be a hired servant of the state than to serve Christianity according to New Testament. But this prudence is not only short-sighted, it is blasphemy.

What Christianity needs is not the suffocating protection of the state; no, it needs fresh air, it needs persecution, and it needs God’s protection. The state only works disaster, it wards off persecution and thus is not the medium through which God’s protection can be conducted. Above all, save Christianity from the state. By its protection it smothers it to death.

The state thinks it prudent to accommodate Christ’s teaching in order to tranquilize people and thus be better able to control them. The state never accommodates Christianity in its truth (as salt in character); it rather has it up to a point, which we “Christians” are also happy to have.

Christianity came into the world through its desire to suffer to the death for the faith; precisely for this reason it was victorious over the world. Its urge to martyrdom was partially marked by its “suffering” intolerance. Now it has lost the desire and the need to suffer, lost martyrdom’s acceptance of intolerance, and is well satisfied with being a religion just like any other religion.

Christianity detests the intolerance that wants to put others to death because of their faith. But to be personally willing to be put to death for one’s faith – well, let us not overlook this – it, too, is intolerance, it is suffering’s acceptance of intolerance. Modern religion is indifferentism and thus does not so much express that Christianity has abandoned the world as that Christianity has abandoned itself, or, more correctly, that Christendom has abandoned Christianity.

From Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Søren Kierkegaard.

Artwork: William Blake, ‘Behemoth and Leviathan’ (1805)

Weep no more: Behold the Lion of the Tribe of Judah

So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”—Revelation 5:4-5

And so. Here we are, these closing moments of 2020, and haven’t they been roaring? Days without number, where we hear so much talk of god, and yet men and women of great stature and none, have forgotten God.

And they talk of their god’s — of oppression, of empathy, of kindness, of compassion, of love, of joy, of community, of beauty, of justice…and all of these are subject to some arbitrary ‘truth’, for everywhere there is this vainglorious exhortation of man, there is nothing good. Yes, this occidental humanitarian tendency to do ‘good’ — Schadenfreude — some have observed, and as one writer so eloquently put it: “where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all the corners of the globe.”

And haven’t we been good students of this malevolent infiltration of the soul. But who am I to judge? Even so, I have my doubts: these dead works of human hands, are not the fruit of the spirit, though everyone is claiming to be a ‘Christian’ these days, as if it were some sort of talisman to stave off Jinns.

And as I have moved away from the interiority of racial terror, imagine my surprise to find a world that has become the mirror image of classrooms, in which I once taught the mundane virtues of anti-racist theory and practice. Though in its current incarnation,  anti-racism serves as a deus ex machina  for its priestly caste, whose mission field is a world on the brink of disaster, particularly for those of a ‘darker’ hue. For the most part, it consists of those well-intentioned secular evangelists and their progressive co-religionists, who would “…try to elevate their souls like someone who continually jumps from a standing position in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day—and higher every day— they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven.”  It is as Simone Weil also observes, a humanism that presumes to attain, truth, beauty, liberty, and equality, which indeed, are of infinite value, but without the grace of God.  It is a thing of nought, a stone of stumbling and a snare that opposes human ingenuity in its refusal to recover wisdom as we pass through the valley of Achor—a place where God waits patiently to be gracious to us: “For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

And did you not know, have you not heard, when all is well with your soul, five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your [spiritual] enemies shall be at peace with you? — and that on mount Zion, there shall be holiness; there shall be freedom, and the people of God will possess their inheritance? At any rate, the persecutor within, convicted me of not wanting to teach students how to transgress anymore. But rather, as God’s providence would have it, in arresting and wresting me from my own transgressions, it transpires, I had been ordained for peace. It is the truth I came to learn from the Master Liberator himself: this is how I set captives free.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations (Isaiah 61:1-4)

 

And contrary to the boast of ancient kings, who say in pride and arrogance of heart, that has resonated throughout the ages:

“The bricks have fallen down,

But we will rebuild with hewn stones;

The sycamores are cut down,

But we will replace them with cedars.” (Isaiah 9:9-10)


—Though one who is of Greater wisdom than Solomon is with us — in this eighth Song of Ascent, the psalmist reminds us,

 Unless the Lord builds the house,

They labor in vain who build it;

Unless the Lord guards the city,

The watchman stays awake in vain.

 It is vain for you to rise up early,

To sit up late,

To eat the bread of sorrows;

For so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2)

And it is a truly astounding paradox to me — one to which I once succumbed –that so many in proclaiming, “I am spiritual but not religious”, fall back into the very same yokes of religiosity they are claiming to have freed themselves from. It is also intriguing to observe, how these ever increasing forms of godliness have positioned themselves as battering rams against the revealed Way to the kingdom of God, as if, in this manner one might take even one step as it were, towards heaven. There is an ease in the free gift of salvation by grace, Weil writes, more difficult for us than all our human efforts, and in this sense it is true: grace is effortless. And yet, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion.”

And did they tell you, that on the cross at Calvary responding to Jesus’ thirst, a Roman soldier offered him sour wine, which he refused to drink because it was rendered bitter by the infusion of wormwood [poison]? Beloveds, never allow the mob to render God’s perfect and unchanging justice barren: “so that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood;” (Deuteronomy 29:18; Hebrews 12:15).

And I wonder, did you know, that the bad news about the good news is this: contrary to popular belief, it is Barrabas who is the insurrectionist, not Jesus, who proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life.” It is rare that anyone will die for a righteous person, but for a good person, someone might possibly dare to die. Paradoxically, In the eyes of the belligerent crowd, releasing Barrabas instead of Jesus, represents our own crooked human standard of justice. Nevertheless, this did not usurp the divine providence of God. Truly, this is good news. Jesus (in whom we become the righteousness of God), died for us as sinners even at that very moment all around him were sinning. This, i believe, is the scandalous and extraordinary gift of the love of God that surpasses all knowledge.

And so to Amos, and lions, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who has set a plumb line in our midst, who recoils at our propensity to turn justice into wormwood, and religiosity into feigned worship — I wonder, will he pass us by?

And these are the words, Amos said: The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria,

Who oppress the poor,

Who crush the needy,

Who say to your husbands, “Bring wine, let us drink!”

The Lord God has sworn by His holiness:

“Behold, the days shall come upon you

When He will take you away with fishhooks,

And your posterity with fishhooks.

You will go out through broken walls,

Each one straight ahead of her,

And you will be cast into Harmon,”

Says the Lord.

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:

“Seek Me and live;

 But do not seek Bethel,

Nor enter Gilgal,

Nor pass over to Beersheba;

For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,

And Bethel shall come to nothing.

 Seek the Lord and live,

Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph,

And devour it,

With no one to quench it in Bethel—

You who turn justice to wormwood,

And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!”

He made the Pleiades and Orion;

He turns the shadow of death into morning

And makes the day dark as night;

He calls for the waters of the sea

And pours them out on the face of the earth;

The Lord is His name.

He rains ruin upon the strong,

So that fury comes upon the fortress.

They hate the one who rebukes in the gate,

And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

Therefore, because you tread down the poor

And take grain taxes from him,

Though you have built houses of hewn stone,

Yet you shall not dwell in them;

You have planted pleasant vineyards,

But you shall not drink wine from them.

For I know your manifold transgressions

And your mighty sins:

Afflicting the just and taking bribes;

Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.

Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time,

For it is an evil time.

Seek good and not evil,

That you may live;

So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,

As you have spoken.

Hate evil, love good;

Establish justice in the gate.

It may be that the Lord God of hosts

Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Woe to you who put far off the day of doom,

Who cause the seat of violence to come near;

Who lie on beds of ivory,

Stretch out on your couches,

Eat lambs from the flock

And calves from the midst of the stall;

Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments,

And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;

Who drink wine from bowls,

And anoint yourselves with the best ointments,

But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives,

And those who recline at banquets shall be removed. (Amos 2:6-7; 4:1-3; 5:4-15; 6:3-7)


Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment,
Because he willingly walked by human precept.
Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth,
And to the house of Judah like rottenness.

When Ephraim saw his sickness, And Judah saw his wound, Then Ephraim went to Assyria And sent to King Jareb; Yet he cannot cure you,Nor heal you of your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, And like a young lion to the house of Judah.
I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue.

I will return again to My place Till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.”

“They shall walk after the Lord. He will roar like a lion. When He roars, Then His sons shall come trembling from the west; They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt, Like a dove from the land of Assyria. And I will let them dwell in their houses, ”Says the Lord.(Hosea 5:11-15; 11:10-11)

For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:

And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:10-14)


Photo credits: Dust Masks Worn During The Dust Bowl Photograph by Everet