Bible · Church · faith · LIterature · Me

The Journey Of The Soul

I haven’t been listening to podcasts since the beginning of lockdown (It was something I did at the gym).  But now I’ve started the ‘couch to 5k’ programme, I’m back on the podcasts again.

Nomad Podcast Store image

One of my favourite places for podcasts is Nomad, and this morning I was listening to an interview with Mark Oakley – Poetry And The Journey Of The Soul. My morning run was about 30 minutes, so I haven’t finished the whole interview yet, but so far it’s five star. *****
there’s a bit of intro chat between the presenters, but you can go straight to the interview at 8 min 45 seconds in.

I think what Mark Oakley is saying is that poetry is the language of faith. Or perhaps better put the other way round – The language of faith is poetry.

He talks about going to a church service, what do I think I am entering ? I may have the mindset that it’s to do with facts – getting answers or solving problems. But what I have walked into is a poem. That might (will !) require me to do some shifting around in the way I see/understand things

Jesus taught much of the time using stories that worked a little like poems. Stories that don’t’t so much give you answers, or tell you what to do, but invite you into a world. A world where, for example, a sower goes out and scatters seed on the path next to the field, or on stony ground, or thorny ground – as well as good soil. Or a world where someone gives up everything to have the ‘The Pearl Of Great Price.’

One great way to respond to this kind of story is by asking questions. Why would a sower do that, and not just scatter on the good soil ? What kind of sower is this ? Or … What might the Pearl of Great Price look like ?

By the way, people do sacrifice everything for all sorts of things. I’m reading the autobiography of David Crosby at the moment. For many years, the ‘Pearl Of Great Price’ for him was his addiction to drugs. Thankfully, there came a point where he realised that particular pearl wasn’t what he really wanted.

Anyway, back to Mark Oakley and the poetic. The poetic, like Jesus’ parables, are there to get under your skin, they are subversive. Poems and Parables are not instruction manuals, they are more like love letters. So in connection with reading the Bible, Mark talks about ‘the subtext.’ For him, subtext means subversive text. Many times, when we read the Bible, we might miss the sub/subversive text, and only see what’s on the surface.

I’m looking forward to the next bit of the Mark Oakley interview. That’s incentive enough to keep up with the ‘Couch to 5K’

Grace and Peace

Bible · faith

God’s Kingdom Is Like This

Just a thought about the Gospel reading set for today – Matthew chapter 13 verse 33:

33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a womAn took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

I have always understood this parable to be saying that God works through the small things, and that small things can have an influence far beyond their size. Hence the parable of the mustard seed as well as the yeast.

However, some scholars would disagree, based on the fact that virtually all the times that yeast in mentioned in the Bible it has a negative meaning. Yeast is usually portrayed as sin, having a harmful effect and tainting our lives. So at Passover, for example, the Jews had to eat unleavened bread to signify being kept pure and free from sin. If you carry this reasoning to the Gospel, as some commentators do, the interpretation of the parable is entirely different.

Anyway, I want to stick with yeast representing God’s activity, since the parable is saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is like …’ But I think we can learn from the fact that this is a very unusual use of yeast in scripture. Doesn’t Jesus often take something and give it a twist, or turn it completely upside down ? I think that’s what he’s doing here.

I think he’s saying effectively- ‘You all think of yeast representing sin, and how sin can get into someone’s life to spoil it. But … let’s suppose in this little parable the yeast stands for God’s activity, how much more will God be at work to bring about the transformation that we need in our lives.

In fact, the passage from St Paul’s letter to the church in Rome that is paired with this Gospel says something similar. ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness … we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.’ (Romans chapter 8 verses 26,37)

And in Romans chapter 5, we read ‘if sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift.” (Romans 5:15)

To Jesus’ hearers the use of yeast as a picture of God at work would have made them listen because it went against what they had always thought. What brilliant storytelling !

Here’s a short video that some friends of ours have done to illustrate these ‘Parables of the Kingdom.’ As a family they have been doing a Lego video most weeks during lockdown. I think they are absolutely amazing. Enjoy.