The Tree: a Good Friday meditation

‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.’
1 Corinthians 1:18‭-‬20‭, ‬25 NIVUK

Art work my own… where Genesis 3, Psalm 1, 1 Corinthians 1:18ff and Good Friday/John 19 meet… 

Image: (c) Ruth Marriott 2017


31 days: Waking up to Real

It occurred to me that I was ‘freeborn’ recently.  People of a certain age (what, maybe 35+?) will have grown up in a world that wasn’t dominated by the Machines (The Matrix, Film 1999).

Those born within the ‘Matrix’ have never known a world that isn’t digital.  This is the Real for them.  This is their freedom.  I’m not helping matters by saying, ‘this isn’t real’ in a way that implies ‘what you’re feeling and believing is not valid or true’. I try to lean towards ‘this digital window isn’t the only way to experience the world’. I remember how it felt to leave the house without a mobile phone, and I remember how to make plans to meet someone without one.  I could say, ‘I know what it is to be free’, but I’d be denying the conveniences of mobiles that make meeting for a quick coffee easier. But there was a simplicity and freedom before tech that has been lost since I got my phone.  I’m increasingly aware it’s a freedom the many have never experienced.

Back to the Matrix. Like Dozer or Tank, I’m living in rags, a murky world where there is pain, where the food is like slops, where I’m in a war for my very existence, and most importantly of all, where I know who my enemy is.  I remember, and long again for my freedom.

I’m not on a rant against technology itself, please know that.  But there’s an insidious digital ‘thing’ that is seeking my soul and my freedom that comes at me, every waking moment, through this internet connectivity.  It’s a virtual world that is seductive, clean, beautiful, peaceful, with just enough trial in it to make it seem real… but it’s not the real world.

The real world is happening just behind me now – in the sunshine and blue sky that is blazing outside my window (I know, why am I not in it, but blogging about this stuff right now?) and I’m missing it.  The best of life really is happening right behind me.

When we’re out and about, why do we choose to see the astonishing from behind a mobile phone camera?  What I capture there, and post… it’s not the real thing.  It’s a representation of it, a counterfeit, an icon.  Virtual.  ‘Not quite’.  Like Neo, I’m duped into thinking ‘this air I’m breathing is real’. (Ref in this clip at 3:10)

We need help to realise and remember that this digital world is a virtual one… a nearly-not-quite, mere representation, a shadow of the reality around us.  God help us to learn to fight for the full, undiluted beauty of the world around us.  Not the image on my screen, but the real image hitting my retinas with full force.  I want to use my eyes. There is a fuller reality in the here and now.

With all that said, there’s one step further.  This Real reality I’m trying to cling to – even this is not it.  When we’re sitting restfully in the beautiful sunshine, looking at a real human’s eyes and face and sharing real, present, heart-felt thoughts with each other, in real time – yet even this is a shadow of an infinitely more glorious Real to come… and that is in the presence of Jesus.


Read the whole series: 31 days of digital REAL
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What ‘Look Up’ fails to see

As a viral video, it’s not done badly – around 38.5 million views to date in just over 3 weeks, and 31,000+ comments made just on YouTube.  Gary Turk has given us a well made, enjoyable vid that is overwhelmingly ‘agreed with’. It has appeared and reappeared in my feeds for the last few weeks, and if you haven’t seen it yet, here it is.

Our reactions? Yes. This is an issue.  ‘What he says.’  I agree.  ‘Like’. Sure, I should quit this addiction, but… how?

I seriously doubt if Gary, no matter how passionate he is about his message, has convinced 38.5 million people to leave their phones behind, even periodically.  If in fact he’s convinced some to ‘use it less’ (I say, yay!), I nevertheless doubt that the resolve of those digital device users will last long.

What ‘Look Up’ fails to offer is a viable alternative that is truly powerful enough to deliver us from the seduction of the digital world.  It points out that I might miss meeting the man/woman of my dreams because I was absorbed with my GPS.  That’s not enough for me to quit my addiction.

In case you hadn’t noticed, they’re not all beautiful people out there, in the real world.  They’re not all living lives like something out of the John Lewis ad (here).  Last time I actually asked directions, she wasn’t that pretty (and the directions were still sketchy).  And out there I’ve got real, hard, challenging responsibilities, and there’s ugly people and smelly people and more suffering than I know what to do with.  I’d rather retreat back into my near-perfect digital world.

Not only that, but outside this digital bubble, I have to live with myself – my real, imperfect, frustrating self. It’s not comfortable being actually interactive, in real life.  I’m too proud to admit I’m lost, ashamed, embarrassed (more a Brit problem?).  I’m reluctant to have a real opinion, in case you – to my face and not in a comments line – actually turn round and disagree with me.

‘Look Up’ offers no answers to this.  It’s nearly on the money, but not telling the whole story.  ‘Look Up’ ultimately fails to point to the right person who has the power to set us free and bring us into real, full, vibrant living.

I know that Jesus can do this.  ‘Look Up’ is still written and published from a worldview where personal happiness is the ultimate goal, where ‘living happily ever’ after is at stake.  It’s not truly honest enough about the real world it calls us back into, or the real state of our selfish hearts.  Jesus is.  And Jesus staked his life on doing what was necessary to set us truly free.

I’m living this out as I follow Jesus, and often stumble.  I’m sometimes torn by the seduction of the digital world, but I really am finding that Jesus is working in my life to help me to maintain margins.  He is helping me to embrace the only real alternative to the digital world: to face the ugly truth about me – accepting the desperately hard-won solution that only Jesus offers, and then to engage with the real, imperfect person next to me in a way that changes both our lives.

… He spoke your language

This openness of the gospel message, and its endless translatability into languages and cultures outside Palestinian Jewish soil, derives from the heart of its content.  For, as Professor Andrew Walls reminds us, the central event on which the Christian movement rests is an astonishing act of divine translation: divinity translated into humanity.  This fundamental act of divine translation is now reenacted in countless acts of retranslation into the languages, thought-forms and relational patterns of the world that constitute the history of Christian mission. (A F Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmssion of Faith ch 3, and Peskett & Ramachandra, The Message of Mission ch4p77)

And this why I can trust God when He says:

I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you. (Hebrews ch 13v5)

– I hear his message in my heart, my language… He has reached me.  But what about those who haven’t heard? Who don’t hear it in their own language yet?