Wednesday, July 14, 2010

when non-priests pray – as Spirit making a world habitable

Here in an excerpt from my recent paperWhen non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

Yet at the heart of the incorporative pneumatology of Romans 8 is that of the Spirit at work in all creation, in spaces and places both inside and outside ecclesial. Such Spirit-ed activity makes sense of a number of “non-priestly” stories within the Biblical narrative. Consider Melchizedek in the Abrahamic narrative (Genesis 14), Balaam’s blessing of Israel (Numbers 22-24) and the worship of the Magi (Matthew 2). All of these are moments in which people outside the faith community offers public prayer. All can be claimed to be some expression of the activity of God’s Spirit.

Bono has often been called a prophet. Yet the argument that “Mysterious ways” is a call to worship suggests that Bono, arms raised, is serving as a contemporary cultural priest.

Bruce Marshall in The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, conceives the Spirit as the One who works to make the world “habitable.” Such an approach to pneumatology provides one final way in which to analyse the U2 concert I experienced.

It is significant that at a number of points throughout the concert, Bono invited those gathered to pray. They were invited at the beginning of the song “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” to listen to a recording of Radio Tehran. Such can be framed as an invitation to lament.

They were invited during “Walk On” to send prayers to Aung San Suu Kyi in her quest for freedom. This invitation comes in the form of a bodily action, to touch our heart and to send our love.

Using liturgical language, in “Mysterious Ways” Bono called those gathered to worship, to “move with her.” During “Sunday, Bloody, Sunday,” those gathered were invited to engage in lament, while during “Walk On” those gathered were invited to “pray for others” and finally to make an “Offering” by texting their support for the One campaign.

Is this not the work of the Spirit, inviting all of creation, those inside and outside the church, to participate in a world made habitable – in which people say yes to the divine, hear the cry of the oppressed, pray for those held captive and offer ourselves in the quest for justice?

Posted by steve at 08:14 AM

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono

Today I delivered my paper – When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer.

In sum I was holding a conversation between the evolving performance of a U2 song, Mysterious Ways, and exploring themes around what it means to talk of the Spirit present at a pop culture event like a rock concert. While Bono is often called prophet, I began to trace some lines by which he might be called priest, not in a captured by church way, but in the sense of a Melchizideck in Genesis or a Balaam in Numbers or the Magi in Matthew, all outside the church yet offering blessing.

The paper stimulated some energetic and thoughtful conversation, so that was encouraging. In fact, the whole 2 day conference has been a delight, with Sarah Coakley a delightfully engaged listener as we talked about her work. The only surprise, for me, was the absence of many Anglicans – Sarah is both an Anglican priest and Systematic Theologian at Cambridge University, UK, and I really thought her presence would have seen them out in droves.

In light of my current interest in Wordle, here is my paper “wordled”.

Update 1: A highlight for me of the conference was the excellent papers by two younger women theologian; both so poised, so respectfully engaged, so clear in their articulation. It was a delight to behold and a real sign, for me, of hope for the church.

Update 2: An excerpt from my paper is posted here – in which I explore how a theology of Spirit allows the Christian to celebrate pop-culture artifacts.

Posted by steve at 04:30 PM

Thursday, June 03, 2010

filing systems and why nothing beats boxes

Today was a triumph for the Taylor filing system! Those who know me well might smirk in disbelief, but please, read on …

You see, I’m working on some research. My (draft) title has been: When Non-Priests Pray: A Conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono on Incorporative Pneumatology and Priestly Prayer. (It’s for the upcoming Sarah Coakley conference in July). The research involves the usual Taylor mind, the restless/eclectic/lateral flitting between popular culture and Christian faith.

And as I reading the most fascinating compilation of texts on the Holy Spirit, somewhere in the recesses of my mind is a memory of 1994 and doing a University paper on Jesus Christ and that I read something that might be useful.

1994. That’s quite a few years ago. So I go to my old University notes. These have all been lovingly filed in boxes, along with all the courses I’ve taught since then. There are like 50 boxes around my office. But they are labelled and sure enough, under Christology, are my 1994 notes. A quick flick and yep, there is the exact 1994 article I’m looking for. A large shout of triumph echoes down the hallway.

And in another recess of my mind is another memory, a memory of a book I borrowed in 2004 about U2. And it might have relevance and the book is not the Adelaide library. But perhaps I might have photocopied some of that book?

So I go to my filing cabinet. And sure enough, in one of the 8 drawers, under the letter U (for U2)- is that photocopying from 2004! An even larger shout of triumph echoes down the hallway.

The filing system works. Good old cardboard boxes! Good old filing cabinets.

Now some you are still smirking. You have seen my desk. You think this is a one-off fluke. For such among you, may I remind you of another post, another reflection on why my filing system makes me a truly valuable employer.

Hurrah! For

  • cardboard boxes
  • filing cabinets
  • vertical stacks of paper on my desk
Posted by steve at 08:53 PM

Monday, April 19, 2010

future of religion in australian society paper acceptance

Email today from Melbourne College of Divinity, notifying me that my paper proposal – The art of gentle space-making: responding to a de/colonizing God – has been accepted. It is part of their 2010 Centenary Conference, with the grand title ” The Future of Religion in Australian Society.” Being held 4th to 7th of July 2010, they have billed it as a seminal event in theological reflection in Australia. Nice to have landed a paper, only now, in the midst of all the other things I’m juggling, I have to find time to write it! For those interested, here was the proposal I sent it back in February … (more…)

Posted by steve at 08:38 PM