Saturday, July 27, 2013

Us And Them

According to the "independent think-tank" the Centre for Social Justice (tag-line: Putting social justice at the heart of British politics), there are Five Pathways to Poverty. These, especially potent where two or more combine, are:

Family Breakdown

Educational Failure
Economic Dependency and Worklessness
Serious Personal Debt

These are, indeed, serious issues facing Britain today, in need of consideration. But far from putting social justice at the heart of British politics, the Centre for Social Justice policy papers reinforce social injustice by refusing to recognise the role of income inequality - the five pathways, even in combination, are found across the socio-economic spectrum, with varying impact - and by failing to challenge demonstrably false popular perceptions concerning those in poverty (s
ee the Truth and Lies about Poverty Report by the joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches; and the CSJ response).

How are these five "Pathways" presented in public rhetoric, by politicians and the press?

When family breakdown occurs in a working-class setting, it is presented as evidence of fecklessness - and not only the fecklessness of the individuals concerned, but of an entire sub(human)-culture - and feral behaviour (as if the under-class grab opportunistic sex but the middle-class don't).

When family breakdown occurs in a middle-class setting, he might be a [insert expletive of your choice], or they grew apart, or such is the pressure of modern life, or it was a mutual decision without fault or blame, or it was very sad but we don't talk about it and of course everyone is entitled to a second chance (if we know them, or people like them). In any case, it does not reflect the broken values of a sub-culture, such as putting work before family or individual freedom before sacrificial commitment to others. And if, as the Centre for Social Justice asserts, family (as opposed to, say, the media) is where we learn the values that make us good citizens - where "we should learn unconditional love, understand right from wrong, and gain empathy, respect and self-regulation" - then it needs to be pointed out that the families - broken or otherwise - that the financial traders who brought down the economy came from were middle-class.

When educational failure occurs in a working-class setting, it is presented as evidence of lack of aspiration (a moral failing - and nothing to do with the lack of employment opportunities to aspire to), and probably evidence of a bred absence of aptitude, a community simply incapable of embracing the opportunity held out to them. Or it is a failure to provide "the gateway to social mobility" - a way out from being working-class to becoming middle-class.

When educational failure to meet expectations occurs in a middle-class setting, we get children assessed for additional support, or criticise teachers, or pay for private tuition, in order to give children the best possible chance of a university place that will saddle them with debt and not, without further training (and debt), give entry into employment. And while we prize aspiration, we don't interrogate our aspirations: if the height of our aspiration is to be rich, to accumulate possessions without needing to think twice, to be consumers-without-equal, our aspirations perpetuate social injustice on a global scale. Education does not transform us; it increases our capacity to impact the lives of others, for good or ill.

When economic dependency and worklessness occur in a working-class setting, it is presented as evidence of fecklessness, of scrounging, of an offensive sense of entitlement: "passed from generation to generation like a family business" with the collusion of welfare. Leaving aside those who have been entitled to support from the welfare budget (whether they have claimed it or not) because they are in employment which is low paid (and we will have to leave them aside, as they don't fit our picture) this is 'clear' because many communities had high employment during the boom years. There is no need to take into account an uneven distribution of employment. Those on incapacity benefit are a drain on resources - most are faking it. Benefit fraud (tiny) is endemic among the poor (of course, white collar fraud - much higher - is not presented as being representative of the middle-class as a whole; and, in particular, MPs who made fraudulent claims were in no way representative of Members of Parliament).

When economic dependency and worklessness occur in a middle-class setting, we hold out as especially virtuous the mother who stays at home with her pre-school children or the pensioner (pensioners account for almost half of the Welfare budget) who didn't fight in the War for the ungrateful shirkers we see today. When a middle-class man is made redundant and cannot find work, when his self-worth is eroded and his family home faces repossession, this is lamentable (at best; often hidden, by shame); but it is not evidence of a bigger picture that includes the unaccountability of global corporations, or the unsustainability of middle-class aspirations. When young adults from wealthy homes don't work, we say that they don't yet know what they want to be (spoiled for choice!).

When addiction occurs in a working-class setting, it is presented as evidence of self-destruction, of opting-out, of mis-using money. No matter what they might be opting-out of.

When addiction occurs in a middle-class setting, it is acceptable - recreational, a symbol of excess money; or self-medication, saving the NHS on prescription anti-depressants - or hidden. A rite-of-passage, addressed by rehab. A small problem, involving a very few individuals - not an entire under-class, where "Such abuse remains a shocking feature of life in many disadvantaged neighbourhoods and it entrenches poverty." Not an indictment on the emptiness of our values (why would someone opt-out of 'having it all'?).

When serious personal debt occurs in a working-class setting, it is presented as evidence of spending on the wrong things - why should they have a wide-screen TV (like I do)? (Let's ignore the thought that a TV is just about the cheapest form of entertainment and access to news available to us.) Why should they want what they see us have, but they can't afford? (Let's ignore the thought that we can't afford it either, but we just put it on the credit card.) Such debt is self-inflicted: it has nothing to do with income inequality, with spiralling costs of utility bills (with the worst tariffs for those who pay on a meter) and food (again, most expensive for those who can't bulk buy and freeze), or exploitation.

When serious personal debt occurs in a middle-class setting, it is not that we over-extended ourselves and lived beyond our means, but that life is expensive and that the European Union brought the economy down; while supporting those who haven't worked as hard as us is preventing our quick return to the lifestyle we deserve. "We're all in this together" but we are the ones having to pay the biggest price, and that is hardly fair.

There are no easy answers. As the Archbishop of Canterbury found out when he spoke out against loans given with excessive interest, we are often unintentionally and unknowingly complicit in systems of poverty: the Church of England's investment portfolio for its own pension provision included investment in the very loan company he had singled-out. This, of course, does not negate his argument; but shows how complex the situation we find ourselves in is. Change will require making potentially costly changes to our own lives. There is no room for self-justification, and the Church will get to lead the way.

I am not anti- middle-class, in some perverse rejection of my own background. I am not seeking to stereotype a whole middle-class; but to point out that we make one set of value-judgements about the poor and another altogether about the wealthy (not that we consider ourselves to be wealthy) - in relation to the same five indexes. It is very easy to pass judgement on people who are not like us, in ways we would never dream of passing judgement on people like us. And prejudice alongside self-righteousness leads to the making of scapegoats.

I am opposed to the large and growing gulf - not only in income, but also in understanding - between the wealthiest and the poorest in our society. I believe that every culture and sub-culture includes values to be affirmed, and assumptions to be confronted, by the uncompromising person of Jesus, who holds truth and grace together. Becoming middle-class will not save working-class people - it hasn't saved the middle-class! And I believe we need one another, not least so that 'our' values are questioned by 'them.'

Relational poverty (family breakdown), intellectual poverty (educational failure), physical poverty (addiction; worklessness) and financial poverty (serious personal debt; economic dependency and worklessness) are consequences of spiritual poverty: a poverty of justice, yes; of mercy, of compassion, of generosity, of imagination; of love of God and of our own group and of those who live alongside us who belong to a different group just the same as we love ourselves; of the ability to achieve even the good we want to achieve in our own strength - a poverty that exists in each and every one of us.

That is why our starting-point must be recognition of our own poverty, and need for God's forgiveness and transformation of our lives.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we have wandered and strayed from your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against your holy laws. We have left undone those things that we ought to have done; and we have done those things that we ought not to have done; and there is no health in us. But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us sinners. Spare those who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to humankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may live a disciplined, righteous and godly life, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Feast Of St James

On the morning of the Feast of St James, I awoke to the news that at least 78 people have died when a train approaching Santiago de Compostela yesterday left the rails.

Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain, is considered to be the resting place of St James' remains, at the end of El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James pilgrim route. Today, the city should be filled with pilgrims, celebrating the patron saint of pilgrims; remembering before God their own journey not only to the cathedral of St James but the bigger journey through life; remembering before God those who have journeyed alongside them and gone ahead; pausing to give thanks and to rededicate themselves before setting out again, on the journey home, on the onward journey through life.

Today, the city should be filled with pilgrims, those who know that life is not a stroll in the park, that it takes discipline, and camaraderie, to keep going; and yet who know that we are rewarded with unmerited gifts, breath-taking beauty, the kindness of strangers. Those who have thankful hearts, and calloused hands and feet.

Today, Santiago de Compostela will experience all this; but subdued, mourning and joy hand-in-hand. For 78 people, their pilgrimage is ended, not in Santiago but with St James himself, waiting within the love of God for the restoration of all things. More of their fellow travellers may yet join them. People who waved loved ones behind and set out from home, not to return. People who travelled with loved ones, only to go on before them.

Today is a reminder that we do not know when our earthly pilgrimage will end. It may be tomorrow, or around many more bends on the Way. For those who, with St James, follow in the footsteps of Jesus, death is not our end; but when heaven and earth are made new, and reconciled, we shall no longer be pilgrims: we shall be citizens, at home.

If we are to journey, as those who do not know when or where our journey will end, we must go lightly - quick to bless others and entrust them to God's care; quick to ask forgiveness where we have caused offence, and to forgive where others have offended us. We will need a staff to lean on and a water-bottle, to be refilled regularly at wayside wells: images of the empowering and life-giving Holy Spirit, and of our need for Spirit-led rhythms of activity and rest. And we will need the humility to trust ourselves, under God, to the hospitality of those we do not know.

May the Feast of St James nourish you on your pilgrimage. St James, pray for us.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Feast of St Mary Magdalene

Today is the feast of Mary Magdalene.

Mary was one of Jesus' disciples. We tend to think of Jesus having twelve, male disciples; but twelve was a symbolic number, full of meaning in relation to God constituting a people, creating community, and 'the Twelve' were a symbolic statement at the heart of a wider group, including several women.

Jesus' understanding of the call on his life was to bind up the broken-hearted and set the captive free. Mary had experienced this first-hand, when Jesus liberated her from the affliction of seven demons. Seven - like twelve - was a symbolic number: the number of perfection, totality, completion. 'Seven' demons probably shouldn't be thought of as 'more than six but less than eight,' but, rather, as indicating that her life was so thoroughly oppressed by the sheer cruelty of the satan (Accuser) and those spiritual beings in rebellion against God, impacting every sphere of her life - physical, mental, emotional - that no one else could set her free. This calls for caution: while demonic activity is clearly indicated, we should not assume that Mary was 'possessed,' or that her problems were the consequence of a 'sinful' life.

Having experienced Jesus' mission, Mary - along with other women - joined it, participating in and helping to finance the team (not 'the men get to play, and the women get to play a supporting role' but 'women get to play and to be stakeholders in the team'). She was there at the foot of the cross as Jesus died, abandoned by all but one of 'the Twelve.' And she was the first person Jesus appeared to, following his resurrection: the person he chose to entrust with telling the others that he had risen. The men accused her of talking nonsense.

The Early Church Fathers called Mary the Apostle to the Apostles, honouring her with recognition. A woman given the highest responsibility among those sent out by Jesus to multiply his life-work.

The Mediaeval Church painted Mary (quite literally, in religious art) in a different light: as the (barely) repentant (and barely covered) prostitute. There is no evidence for such an assertion to be found in the Gospel accounts; but the propaganda job was devastatingly comprehensive. The consequence was to objectify Mary: ironically, the woman who was set free from oppression by Jesus found herself oppressed by his Church - pin-up to lust over with a clear conscience...

In airbrushing out a woman fully involved in Jesus' life-work, the covenant relationship and kingdom role that opened for Mary was closed for other women: the best they could aspire to was pure virgin after Mary the mother of Jesus; the second-best, forgiven sinner after Mary M.

Mary's feast calls for a bitter-sweet menu. A day to remember before God all those misrepresented by the Church; a day to listen again to those whose claim to have experienced the risen Lord Jesus we dismiss, unwilling to believe it possible that Jesus has spoken to them what he has not spoken to us; a day to ask of ourselves whether we are participating in Jesus' mission to bind up the broken-hearted and set the captives free, or whether, ironically, we are binding-up what Jesus would set free. If the Church is to have anything to say to the world, we need our feasts, reminders of our own calling.

Mary Magdalene, pray for us.

(Why would an evangelical say such a thing? Because I take seriously our oneness with the cloud of witnesses who surround us, stand with us, inspire us, recall for us what we in our own struggles have forgotten, and yes, pray for us asking, how long O Lord?)

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Feast Of St Thomas

Today is the feast of St Thomas, one of 'the twelve' disciples.

Thomas is identified as one of this group in all four Gospels, but only has a speaking part in John's account. He is, of course, most famously labelled (by later generations) as the Doubter, the one who, not being present when Jesus first appeared to the gathered group of disciples after his resurrection, refused to believe that Jesus was alive unless he too shared the same experience of meeting him. There is, of course, a difference between expressing doubt and being Doubting: Jesus challenges Thomas' doubt and invites belief, a more gracious approach than others. One might as well label Peter 'Satan' or any one of us according to our bad days...

Thomas also speaks up at the meal Jesus shared with his disciples on the night he was betrayed. Jesus had spoken about going to the Father, and the disciples knowing the way to the place where he was going. Thomas replies, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus then claims to be the way: they knew the way, without knowing that they knew it. Philip joins Thomas in asking further questions of what Jesus meant. Indeed, honest questions are a mark of discipleship, of wanting to learn more than we already know (or don't realise we know - in contrast to the attitude that believes we are already in the know).

But Thomas first speaks up as Jesus sets out to go to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. Thinking Lazarus to be merely ill, the disciples think Jesus misguided in going to him: after all, the last time he was in Jerusalem - and Bethany is not far from Jerusalem - a crowd tried to murder him by stoning. But when Jesus reveals that Lazarus is dead, and in these circumstances Jesus wishes to go to him, Thomas says to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." or as NT Wright puts it, "'Let's go too,' he said. 'We may as well die with him.'"

There is an ambiguity about these words. Is Thomas saying, Let us [disciples] go too [with Jesus]; we [disciples] may as well die with him [Jesus]...or is he saying, Let us [disciples] go too [with Jesus]; we [Jesus and the disciples] may as well die with him [Lazarus]?

The first may be courageous (though if it is, Thomas' courage will fail him): if we die, we die; what would we have to live for without Jesus anyway? Jesus is going to be killed, sooner or later: let us not abandon him in his hour of need!

The second is resigned. The grave is the end: we might as well all embrace it. Weary, not courageous.

In which case, Lazarus being brought back to life (not resurrection: Lazarus will go on to die a second time) is a signpost that the grave is not the end...resuscitating Thomas too, and spurring his quest for taking the unknown way, the way into the unknown. A way that, according to tradition, would take him all the way to southern India.

So what? Why celebrate St Thomas? And how might we celebrate St Thomas?

Thomas is ambiguous. He creates space for the person who is ready to take the whole world on, and for the person who is weary of this world. He creates room for the person setting off on a journey, and the person coming to the end of a journey. He marks space for restoration, for re-awakening, for what looks like the end opening up to a whole new adventure.

Thomas knows more than he thinks he knows, not thinks he knows more than he knows. He may lack information, but every time we encounter him he expresses the desire to be close to Jesus. He does not hide behind a mask out of fear of looking foolish.

We could do worse than learn from Thomas. And we might celebrate with him by sharing, around the table, where our story connects with his. Feast days come round every year, because our stories will connect to those of the saints in different ways at different times: this year, you may be weary; next year, adventurous...

And for those of my friends who are part of the church family of whom St Thomas is patron, further opportunity, to ask: are we appropriately open, or overly rigid? are we still learning, or overly certain? is our desire to be close to Jesus? are we open to challenge and invitation?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Household Of Peace : Part 3

I have been reflecting on the household of peace.*

But I haven't been talking about it with my children, yet.

As I put my six-year-old to bed tonight, he starting singing a song that had "come into the centre of [his] head." It went:

"We have a visitor. His name is Jesus. He asks for peace...and love."

That boy is the best theologian in the house.

The Household Of Peace : Part 2

I'm continuing to reflect on Luke 10, a passage which has received particular prominence within the missional church as Jesus' (timeless?) model for mission.

This passage is a particular moment within a bigger Story. I'd suggest that the Story be framed like this: of all the households on earth, God chooses the household of Abraham through which to bless all households.

God, in the visible form of three persons, goes on a journey and comes to the door of Abraham's tent, to an extended family of blood- and non-blood relations, nomadic herdsmen. And there, they receive a welcome, are shown hospitality, in marked contrast to the lack of hospitality shown them by the people of the cities of the plain.

Abraham's family are incredulous to the message brought to them, of God breaking-in to their lives, even though it is not an entirely unfamiliar word. Abraham's family are creative in their disobedience, in trying to bring about their own interpretation and fulfilment of God's plan. Abraham's family get themselves into various troubles - divisions within, deceit in their relations with others. And yet. And yet, Abraham's household has welcomed God's messenger; and God works with and through that: he does not go from house to house.

From then on, we see a recurring pattern. Abraham's household (which grows through the generations) is to be a house of peace; and out from that household, certain members will be sent out to other households, to extend that peace where it is welcomed. So Joseph ends up in first Potiphar's and later Pharoah's household. So David takes for his capital the City of Peace. So God sends prophets to Abraham's household again and again, when the household forgot its calling. So Nehemiah and Esther and Daniel, among others, find themselves serving a the heart of households of Empire.

And these stories don't have Happily Ever After endings: they are stories of divine rescue, of peace triumphing over hostility, of life triumphing over death...but not for ever. These stories have a localised place and a limited scope, within a larger Story. Joseph's life-saving rule in Egypt gives way to the oppression Moses must lead the people out from under.

Within this Story, Jesus sends out disciples to search out households of peace. Within this Story, in which the household of Abraham has been divided and (repeatedly) conquered, Jesus is sent to call the household back to its own calling: to be agents of peace in the world.

As the Story continues to unfold, beyond Jesus' death and resurrection and ascension, the same pattern continues. Abraham's household - into which the Gentiles have now been incorporated - is to be a household of peace, made up of households of peace, from which some will be sent into other households of peace in order to extend peace. And, again, these stories have a place: a time and a space.

Missional church thinking tends to view Christendom as a massive defeat from which the Church, in the West, has yet to recover. Accepting that this may be polemic, I'd want to say that Christendom was a continuation of the Story of Abraham's household - an incredulous, disobedient, divided, deceitful household that nonetheless God has committed to and will not abandon; through which God has brought about triumphs of peace over hostility, albeit not yet the universal and with-out end reign of peace. Within this part of the Story, the Church has nurtured peace, blessed and been blessed by peace-makers; and has regularly needed to be called back to that calling, having forgotten it. And the story of the Church post-Christendom will be a continuation of that same Story...

What implications does this have for us?

If Luke 10 is to be taken as model for mission (and I think that it is), then:

the household - a gathered social unit that is bigger than the nuclear, let alone atomic, family - is central. This is an extended household of peace working together, strategically, to identify and encourage other households of peace. We will see this in the way Paul works too, as he imitates Jesus;

the household does this in the context of telling and participating in the Story of a God who called a particular household through which to bless every household. They are going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, to remember how after God used Abraham's household to bless the surrounding nations through Egypt, he liberated them from the subsequent captivity that prevented them from carrying on that role at another given time. We see this too - retelling the past, participating in the present - in the way Paul works, as well as in the model Jesus sets;

the household of peace in search of households of peace is not perfect: it hasn't arrived yet (pardon the pun). It is made up of squabbling siblings who vie for best place and fall into the trap of relating to other households as a household of hostility, not peace. And yet this is the household Jesus gathers and sends out. Again, we see this imperfection - by which I mean at times total contradiction - in the households of peace Paul was a father to;

the synergy of two households of peace coming together - in passing - results in a breakthrough for peace in the wider community, expressed in a variety of tangible ways. But this breakthrough is for a particular episode in the Story. Some episodes go wider and are sustained for longer than others; some are very localised; but all are a small part in the Story, the Great Drama;

'sent-ness' is not a matter of permanently being on the move (Jesus wasn't; Paul certainly wasn't) but participates in receiving others (as host) and going out as those who are dependent on the hospitality of others (as guest). One is embedded; one is transitory (and each might be a better fit for particular types of person; though all are called to both). The one is just as 'sent,' is as much an expression of the missio dei or mission of God in the world, as the other.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Household Of Peace

I'm preaching this Sunday. The Gospel reading is from Luke chapter 10.

As a backdrop, we are in the Season of Trinity, and, drawing on Rublev's icon, we are reminded that:

the Holy Spirit is our guide and companion in the wilderness, leading us to experience hospitality in a place that, at first glance, would appear inhospitable;

Jesus is our peace and our portion, the tree of life we sit under when enemies have been transformed into friends, when we find joy in what we have and rejoice with others in what they have;

the Father's presence is the home from which we started out, and to which we shall return, our beginning and our end, our commissioning and our being made complete.

In Luke's account, we hear that Jesus has set his intention on going to Jerusalem (chapter 9), knowing that he will be killed there. Setting out, he travels through Samaria. The Samaritans were the descendants of those who had not been carried off into exile in Assyria (the northern kingdom of Israel, of which Samaria was the capital) or the later exile in Babylonia (the southern kingdom of Judah). That diverged experience - Jewish belief being shaped massively by the devastating experience of exile, and return; Samaritan belief being less obviously but nonetheless significantly shaped by the disorienting experience of living in the wake of Babylonian invasion - had resulted in disagreements fostered over generations, as parents passed on prejudice and grievance to their children.

According to John, Jesus has passed through Samaria in the past (and spoken about a harvest, as he does here in Luke 10), and been received by a village as he journeyed away from Jerusalem. But on this occasion, he is heading towards Jerusalem, and for this reason the first village he comes to does not want to receive him. As he continues, a few are drawn to follow him even to Jerusalem - a costly decision for those villagers, as their neighbours have sent Jesus on his way without hospitality for this very thing - and Jesus makes it clear that they will be dependent on the hospitality of strangers, not the resources of next-of-kin.

Jesus is travelling with a fairly large group, heading together to Jerusalem for the Passover. (We have seen Jesus do this before, as a boy, in Luke chapter 2.) And Jesus sends others out ahead of him, to prepare the way. He sends them out in pairs (for company and security), but between them they are looking for welcome for a large group of pilgrims. Jewish pilgrims, in Samaria.

Jesus tells them to look for the household of peace, the household that will welcome people who are culturally different. In the context of households of hostility. Literally, find the household that is shaped by a desire to see reconciliation rather than a desire to perpetuate division - people who can see what we have in common, because they are not focused on our differences. If they are present in a community, they shouldn't be hard to spot! And if they are present in a community, they will open the door of the wider community.

Jesus also makes it clear that where we choose to hold on to our differences, over God's mission of reconciliation, we will eventually seal our own destruction. The Jews were on a collision-course with Rome; and the Romans would not concern themselves with the niceties of how the Samaritans weren't Jews when they lost patience and underlined their rule in war of 66-73AD. Jesus foresees the devastation of the northern campaign of the Great Revolt (in Galilee), along with the impact on Judea (which included Samaria), and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Those Jesus sends out return. Their experience has been joyful: where they have found households committed to peace, the hold darkness and death has on a community has had to surrender ground. And while they were confronting the demonic, Jesus himself had been given a vision of the prince of demons, the Accuser, thrown down from heaven. This figure is shadowy, but it would seem that this angelic being had the role of bringing to humanity's attention our need for God's mercy, but had overstepped that prosecution role, taking for himself the part of judge, jury and executioner. The Accuser being thrown out underlines the agenda of heaven, to establish peace.

What, then, has this to do with a community shaped by this text?

Where do we find ourselves in this account?

Are we those sent ahead of Jesus, to search-out a welcome not only for ourselves, not only for him, but for those travelling with him?

What would such a welcome look like? Are we open to receiving such a welcome, to the vulnerability of being guest not host?

And if we are a pilgrim people, what is the journey we are on? A journey, with Jesus, to celebrate God's great acts of rescue in the past, and, so trusting in this God, to lay down our own lives?

Are we a household? And if so, are we a household - or households - committed to peace? Will we welcome the person Jesus sends to us, who does not look like us, who does not share our traditions, our beliefs, our experiences - of being in exile; of never having experienced exile - which gave birth and nurture to those beliefs?

Or are we a household committed to division, to What Makes Us Right And Them Wrong?

Where have we been committed to division between ourselves and another group? Where do we need to repent or (if we refuse to repent,) perish?

Are we willing to journey with the Holy Spirit, from 'joy' to being 'full of joy'? To share in the Son, our peace and our portion, our identity (v 16) and our authority (v 19)? To live in the present as echo of our past and foretaste of our future in the Father's home?

Where do we find ourselves, in this account, today?