Exodus 7

Moses does his trick turning his staff to a snake for pharaoh. His magicians copy it.

Aaron brings about plague number 1, water of the bike turned to blood. Undrinkable. The magicians can also produce red water.

It’s so personally about Pharaoh. His heart. God says it will be hard and it is. If you’ve ever wondered whether God couldn’t just force people to believe, remember this. The world’s most reluctant convert.

Jonah 2

A prayer from a fish.

I spent a bit of time yesterday reading theories about whether it’s practically possible to live inside a live fish or whale. There are, predictably, supporters of the natural theory who argue it could actually happen, and doubters who say nothing short of a magical supernatural miracle could make it happen.

Jonah, praying to God from the belly of the fish is definitely in the latter camp.

He’s obviously a flawed character, he ran from God.  And he knew better, because his prayer shows  knowledge and a deep love of God. It takes you through the drama of the water around him, seaweed tangling his head. As the tempest gave way to nothingness, as he sank to the “roots of the mountains” he went on a spiritual journey, from feeling (ironically) abandoned and cut off from God, eventually to the clarity of realising God was the only thing of any value, how worthless idols are. In the last moments of conscieseness he remembered and praised God as the only source of  salvation.

Maybe in those moments when everything is stripped away, those moments of complete loss of control, we need to think “oh, I’m in a fish”.

And he is vomited up onto dry land.

I’ve sketched out a song lyric about it:

(storm music)

Run away!
Sail away!
Row away!

(can’t) run away
(can’t) sail away
(can’t) row away

So throw away, throw away, throw away…

Thrown into god’s chaos,
It swept all over me,
Then silence and abandonment
And sinking in the sea,

tangled in the weed and down,
Down at the mountains bottom
I left God, then he left me,
Panicked and forgotten,  

I s’pose it had to come to this, praying from a fish,
Thought I could run from it, now I’m hoping I’ll be vomit,

Spew me where you will my God
Or leave me with the krill my God
No pride left, fight left, idols too,
There’s nothing left, there’s only you

One final flickering clarity
The only hope I’ve got
As life ebbs to the cold
nothings left, only God,

CHORUS

John 2

Water into Wine

This is a flashback from the calling of the disciples to Jesus’ first miracle.  It follows Jesus dramatic promise to Nathaniel “Jesus’ first miracle. “Very truly I tell you,[i] you[j] will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  Changing water into wine, so glad its there, and its striking in so many ways.

  • Always been amazed at such an obviously magical miracle.  Its the power of god the creator to be able to make a substance from scratch that is the product of human agency and time for maturation.  The narrative makes a point of how good it is, a subtle quality.  Its almost like God showing off… you think you are so clever… certainly an awsome demonstration of God’s power in terms of degree of difficulty.
  • Such a trivial purpose on the face of it… more grog at a wedding. So human and banal.
  • Such a story of joy, celebration and indulgence.  Such an affirmation of human character.. having parties and drinking to be merry, its what we do.
  • The strange dialogue between mother and son.  That Mary suggested Jesus do something stimulates the imagination of what it must have been like being his mother, knowing he was messiah, God.
  • His obedience to her despite expressing reluctance.  The Gospels report this strange serendipitous nature of Jesus that he will often put the situation before the mission.  He responds to random circumstances in a loving generous way that is off task, and says so, but goes ahead regardless.  This is God, not what you’d expect.
  • The generosity of the miracle: 6 jars of 30 gallons, top quality.  180 gallons, seriously?

What do I learn?  God is love, god is abundance, god has style. Our “humaness” which is often pitted against God as Humanism is a reflection of the character of God, like a rebellious child who damns his parents with echos of phrases and logic that they themselves have taught him. Praying today for a good outcome from confusing, stress inducing job interviews. No offers yet, two very different positions, quite in need of trust and calm.  Very unsettling. 

Don’t make Jesus angry…

Now a flashforward to the last weeks of Jesus’ life. John’s obvious arrangement of Jesus’ life events for meaning rather than chronology makes you pay close attention to the editing. In chapter 1 we have a potted history of the universe and mankind; the mesiah arrives, calls his team and promises we’ll see heaven opened… and we get party Jesus and now angry Jesus.

Jesus’ reason for not wanting to do the wine miracle was that its wasn’t his time. This is more what his “time” looks like, though he is still holding back to a degree.  Trying very hard to get up the noses of the poiwerful and self rightoues, corrupt religious authorities.  This action is probably what got him killed, the claim about building the temple in three days was certainly quoted at his trial.

Jesus was a nobody to them, it took a huge chaotic symbolic disrespectful gesture like this to even get them to give him the time of day. Contrast the woman at the well, marginalised reviled, so aware of her fallen status.  Jesus had her full attention just by daring to say “hello”.  I imagine he would have been ignored by the hierarchy for anything less than this chaotic open affront. But he got their attention.

His message is that the presence of God has moved. The temple is now him. And the sacrificial system is now him.  So all those high margin doves they were selling are worthless to God. They don’t get that  he is talking in metaphors.  John makes it clear that even the disciples only figured it out after the resurrection.

Jesus’ reticence is a linking point of the two stories.  Sometimes it seems like a trap, his method.  The messiah comes but is very cagey about proving his power, he speaks in metaphors, doesn’t trust the general public with clear talk about his true nature, but then makes a big deal about being rejected.

It seems unfair – could he make it easier to believe in him? I think the secrecy and distrustfulness is an act of grace. Jesus spends his ministry buying time.  He could have been killed a hundred times. Just reading the scriptures with the wrong emphasis was enough to turn his home synagogue crowd into a lynch mob. Claiming to be messiah was a recipe for a short life. He had a dangerous mission to manage the uncontrollable evil around him to die the way he did.  All of our existence still is God buying time, managing and not intervening by destroying the sin of the world to give us a chance to repent.

The two stories are mainly placed to show Jesus is heaven opened and angels descending and ascending, fulfilling the claim at the end of the first chapter.

Its a claim that recalls Jacobs ladder, the vision of a bridge in Genesis between God and man with endless access up and down.  So we are confronted right off the bat with magical Jesus: if you want to believe in a great teacher only, not a divine being, stop reading.  And we are confronted with the one who brings God to man.  If you want to believe the temple is the location of God, forget it.  The reference to Jacob’s ladder is a reminder that God never was limited to a building either before or after Jesus. He is God, he is the Way.

The chapter ends with an interesting passage on how distrustful Jesus is – he knows our black hearts.

Very troubled by my second interview for job today.  The lightness and confidence i had about the process seems to have drained away, and I feel destined to fail at every aspect of it.  This is dangerous thinking for me particularly, though I should expect it as I have had a long history of screwiness about jobs and am coming back to it from a long holiday.  My brother John is also very sick with a mysterious disease, also troubling me.  So pray for calm in both… that ladder to heaven is still open, may angels descend and ascend today.