On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor

Peter, the one Disciple who actually left the boat and walked on water – for awhile anyway…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

We’re now in the “Week of the Second Sunday of Easter (April 28 – May 4).”  Which makes this a good time to review Easter – the Sunday and the 50-day Season – along with “Doubting Thomas Sunday.”  That’s the Sunday that always follows Easter Sunday itself.

I’ll write more on those topics below, but first let’s get to that “MET-a-phor.”  (Alluding to a line from the musical “The Book Of Mormon.*”)  This metaphor is about Peter, walking on water – and thus taking the “Spiritual Path” rather than the safer, easier but less-rewarding Literal Christian Path.

As noted in If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:  One frequent, ongoing theme of this post is that the Spiritual path has more to offer than the Literal path.  (After noting a quote on “spirituality and mysticism,” and how it explains why devout people of many religions are drawn to Jerusalem.)

In the notes of that post I added some explanation.  For one thing I cited John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  And I noted Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which in turn noted of God, that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”  And finally, I cited 2d Corinthians 3:6, which says that following only the letter of the law kills, but following the Spirit of God’s law “gives life.”

Which leads to the original title of this post, “On Literal versus Spiritual Christians.”

To make a long story short, it seems to me that Peter walking on the water is a prime example of one Christian – out of ten – taking the more-difficult “spiritual path.”  The other nine or so “conservatives” took the safer, the easier, the more literalist path of following Jesus.  (The image at right shows the beach of the Sea of Galilee, near where Jesus – and Peter – “walked.”)

The gist of the story comes from Matthew 14, and the high point comes at Matthew 14:29.  Beginning back at verse 25, Jesus told the Disciples to go on ahead in a boat, while He went up to a mountain to pray.  The He – Jesus – “went out to them, walking on the lake,” which terrified them; they thought Jesus was a ghost.  Jesus told them not to worry, leading Peter to say that if it was Jesus, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus did.  Then Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus:  “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  But then he started having second thoughts, and started to sink.  He panicked and asked Jesus to save him.

That led Jesus to say, “You of little faith … why did you doubt?”  But it seems to me that Peter was pretty brave in just getting out of the boat in the first place.  It is true that he eventually started to sink, but for “one brief shining moment” he – Peter – actually walked on water.  And as far as we know, he – along with Jesus – was the only person in history to do so.

Which points out a big difference between the Spiritual Path of Christianity, compared with the Literal path followed by some 90% or more of Christians.  Again, it’s true that Peter “fell flat on his face” – at least metaphorically – but at least he took the chance.  And as a result of taking that chance – of exploring his full potential – Peter’s faith grew in ways that the other disciples – who followed the safe path and stayed in the boat – could never experience.

Saint Peter A33446.jpgIn fact his faith grew so much that he became Primus inter pares(“First among equals.”)  Note also the following from Wikipedia, where Jesus advised those who followed Him from Capernaum, “not to seek earthly gains, but aim for a life based on higher spiritual values.”

Which is pretty much the path advocated by this blog.  That is, not being bound by the only-literalist path of following Jesus, but trying to go beyond the merely literal and on to the “higher spiritual values.”

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I’ll be writing more on this “metaphor,” but in the meantime let’s review the past week or so.  I’ve done past posts on Easter – listed in the notes – but for this post I’ll focus on “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017.  That post noted that this “Second Sunday of Easter” could be called the “Sunday of Many Names.”  Among those names are Low Sunday, the Octave of Easter, and “Quasimodo Sunday.”  (But not because of Quasimodo, aka the “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  See the notes.)  But the main question raised by “Doubting Thomas Sunday” is – in plain words – “How do we as Christians deal with our doubts?”

Generally speaking a doubting Thomas is “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”  Or it can refer to a mere “habitually doubtful person.”  But being such a “doubting person” can actually strengthen your faith.

On the one hand those boot-camp Christians – who take the conservative, literal path – say the answer is simple:  You shouldn’t have any doubts.  In other words, you must “blindly believe.” But for the rest of us there’s another answer, ultimately providing a stronger Christian faith:

Remember Thomas, the disciple, who wouldn’t believe in Christ’s resurrection until he put his hand into Jesus’s wounds.  He went on to die spreading the gospel in Persia and India.  God gave us free choice, He doesn’t want us to be robots, He could have made us like that, but wanted us to choose for ourselves.  You learn and grow by questioning. (E.A.)

And by doing that you’ll probably end up – spiritually anyway – more like the kindly, gentle, learned disciple shown in the painting below.  (A view of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens.)  And that’s the kind of disciple who could convert people to Christianity – like Thomas went on to do – even in a continent made up of Hindus and Muslims.  (India, where Thomas went to proselytize.)  So Thomas went to India – an otherwise unfertile continent for conversion – yet which to this day “still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas.’”

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Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas

St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

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The upper image is courtesy of Jesus walking on water – Wikipedia.  The caption: “‘Jesus walks on water,’ by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888).”

The Easter egg image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The  caption:  “Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb, are a popular cultural symbol of Easter.”

Re:  The musical “The Book Of Mormon.”  Which I saw in person on July 1, 2018, at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49th Street, NYC.

Re:  The “Week of the Second Sunday of Easter (April 28 – May 4).”  For the Daily Office readings, click on NRSV or RSV, for the “New Revised” or the “Revised” translations of the Bible.  

Again, some text and images were gleaned from Jesus walking on water – Wikipedia.  As to “how many,” we don’t know for sure how many disciples were in the boat with Peter.  (See How many disciples were in the boat when Jesus walked on water.)  Whatever the number, the ratio of “spiritual versus literal” was very small.  Of the seven, or nine, or 12 disciples, only one – Peter – took the chance, the risk that is part and parcel of the Spiritual Path.  That “other” path is often more frustrating and involves more risk, but it can be far more rewarding than the Literal Path of the vast majority.

The “first among equals” image is courtesy of the Saint Peter link in the Primus inter pares article.  The caption: “‘Saint Peter’ (c. 1468) by Marco Zoppo depicts Peter as an old man holding the Keys of Heaven and a book representing the gospel.”  The article noted that aside from Peter, the term is “typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office.”

Past posts on Easter include On Easter Season – AND BEYONDOn Eastertide – and “artistic license,” and Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter!”

Re:  Where the name “Quasimodo Sunday” came from:

[T]he name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2 , a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.  First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”  [Or, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”]  In Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes…”    Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

thus – since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident – the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes).

The lower image is courtesy of Peter Paul Rubens: St Thomas – Art and the Bible

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.     

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

 

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem…”

By the waters of Babylon,” in exile, where a Hebrew Remnant finalized the Old Testament…

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

As noted in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’ll be flying to Jerusalem for a two-week  pilgrimage (As part of a local church group.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to a series of lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

And in the process of doing this post, I stumbled on a Jerusalem Post article that tied in to a point the professor made in Lecture 2, “By the Rivers of Bablyon – Exile.”  The article:  If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which ties in with frequent themes of this post.  (That the “spiritual path” has more to offer than the “literal path.*”)  But the point here is this:  The title of that article is from Psalm 137:5-6:  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version; the Bible God uses.)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel Lecture 2, described further below.

See also Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, which described “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.”  That ended up with the people of Judah being “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon,” in 539 BC:

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile.  In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to “God’s Chosen People.”

According to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history, and also the very middle of Bible itself.*  And Psalm 137 came at precisely the time when the books of the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came about because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

That is, the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., the year many Judeans were taken from their homeland.  (After the horrors of the Babylonian conquest.)  Then they went through a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon, during which many of the Remnant died along the way.  (Those who weren’t executed during the post-siege “mop up.”)  After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – they compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.”  A library that connected them to their homeland.

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.”

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpgThat idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity, at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

The link-article went on to say the period of exile “was a rich one for Hebrew literature.”  For example, the Book of Jeremiah 39–43 saw the exile “as a lost opportunity.”  Also, the “Priestly source, one of the four main sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the Bible, is primarily a product of the post-exilic period,” while also “during this Persian period, the final redaction of the Pentateuch purportedly took place.”

I’ve written before about Moses writing the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – during and right after the 40 years of “wandering in the wilderness.”  (See e.g. On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” and My Lenten meditation.)  Which would mean those first five books of the Bible were written some time before 1,400 B.C., about the time Moses died. (What year did Moses die – answers.com.)  But it was only some 800 years later – and the product of a humiliating national disgrace – that the final version of the Old Testament as we know it came into being.

I’ll be writing more about Psalm 137 and “On to Jerusalem” in a later post.  In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy Easter.  And a reminder that that joyous occasion could only come about after 40 days of Lenten “doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”  Not to mention a humiliating death on the cross.

You know, I’ll bet there’s a lesson that can be gleaned from all this…

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James Tissot, “The Flight of the Prisoners,” from Jerusalem and on into exile…

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The upper image is courtesy of Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “By the Waters of Babylon, painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

About the photo to the right of the paragraph beginning, “As told in ‘On to Jerusalem:'”  From the Wikipedia article on Jerusalem, the caption reads:  “Israeli policemen meet a Jordanian Legionnaire near the Mandelbaum Gate (circa 1950).”

As to the “Great Course,” see also The World of Biblical Israel – English.  Other books I’m reading for the upcoming include Entebbe: A Defining Moment In the War On Terrorism, by Iddo Netanyahu.

As to the “piritual path being better than the literal path.  See John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which noted of God that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”)  And of course 2d Corinthians 3:6, saying the letter of the law kills, “but the Spirit [of God’s law] gives life.”

Re:  Psalm 137:5-6.  See also Psalm 137:5 Commentaries: If I forget you…, and Psalm 137 – Commentary in Easy EnglishAlso, “137” is an Imprecatory Psalm See Wikipedia, on those  invoking “judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”

Re:  “Babylon.”  See Wikipedia:  “The remains of the city are in present-day HillahBabil GovernorateIraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.”  There’s probably a lesson there too…

Re:  Psalm 137 as “the very middle of Bible itself.”  In my Good News Bible, Psalm 137 folds out pretty much right at the middle.  Also, it’s on page 687 of a combined 1,395 pages.  (1,041 for the Old Testament, 354 for the New Testament.)  The precise mid-point page would be “697.5.”

About the image to the right of the paragraph, “That idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity.”  From Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, it’s captioned “Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century).”  

The lower image is courtesy of the Babylonian captivity link at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “James TissotThe Flight of the Prisoners.”  That article added these notes:

In the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a punishment for idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh in a similar way to the presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt followed by deliverance. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and Jewish culture.  For example, the current Hebrew alphabet was adopted during this period, replacing the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.

This period saw the last high-point of biblicalprophecy in the person of Ezekiel, followed by the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews.  This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had been organized according to tribe.  Afterwards, they were organized by smaller family groups.  Only the tribe of Levi continued in its temple role after the return.  After this time, there were always sizable numbers of Jews living outside Eretz Israel;  thus, it also marks the beginning of the “Jewish diaspora,…”

Also, as to Hebrews killed during the post-siege mop-up, see 2d Kings 25, verses 8-12:

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard … came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.  Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon.  But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

Also verse 18-20, describing the number of prisoners taken, mostly high-ranking officials.  And verses 20-21:  “Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.  

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”    

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On Romans 10:9 – and “Salvation for all…”

Flevit super illam“- Jesus wept as He approached Jerusalem, shortly before Palm Sunday

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First a note:  That “salvation for all” thing includes the addendum, “who come to Him.”

Back to the main topic:  Palm Sunday is coming up this weekend.  Easter Sunday comes a week later – on April 21 – and with it the end of Lent.  And of my chance to write up – as part of a Lenten discipline – “a reasoned, careful, blog-post treatise on precisely ‘why I don’t like Donald Trump.'”  (As I hoped in last March 15’s On the Bible’s “dynamic tension.”  That is, a logical reatise without the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks,” or my saying to Trump supporters, “What are you, dumbasses?”)

Which definitely would have been the hard part.

But alas, my busy schedule – including preparing for the upcoming “On to Jerusalem” – precluded doing that treatise.  So I’m back to a main theme of this blog, the Daily Office Readings.  For example, the New Testament reading for Tuesday, April 9, Romans 10:1-13.

‘The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That first part (Romans 10:8) goes back to Deuteronomy 30:14, where Moses said, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may obey it.”  Then Romans 10:9 – including the words emphasized – relates back to (for one example) Matthew 10:32:  “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father in heaven.”

And of course there’s good old John 6:37 – a standard feature of the opening blurb, and as illustrated in “Malayalam” at left – “I will never turn away anyone who comes to me.”

The point of all this is that the foregoing – and especially Romans 10:9 – gives all real Christians a ready answer to so-called conservative Christians who say or imply that you and I are “going to hell” if we choose not to interpret the Bible in exactly the same way that they do.  (See “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian,'” and – as to the “going to hell card” – The Bible’s “dynamic tension,” on the danger of accusing fellow Christians of “heresy.”)

All you have to say is:  “I’ve confessed with my lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.  So the Bible says I’m saved.”  (Even – gasp! – a “liberal Christian.”  On that note see There Is Such a Thing as a ‘Liberal’ Christian.  His name was Jesus.)

I’ve written on Romans 10:9 in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  That included an added reference to 1st Corinthians 12:3:  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  And about that tension between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3:

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity.  But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger.  (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)

And speaking of too-far-right conservative Christians who take “an isolated passage from the Bible out of context(including “Stumpy,” at right):  One of the psalms today is Psalm 127.  Which includes Psalm 127:3-5: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

I’ve written on that topic is “Bible basics” revisited:

[S]ome Christians become snake handlers. (Like “Stumpy…”)  They do this based on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  In other words, taking an isolated passage from the Bible out of context…  Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing literally on Psalm 127:3-5, taking that one passage out of context: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”

See Quiverfull – Wikipedia, on the “movement of conservative Christian couples” which sees children as a “blessing from God” and “encourages procreation, abstaining from all forms of birth control (including natural family planning) and sterilization.”

But “Basics” revisited set out an arguably-better approach:  You “could approach the Bible as presenting a plain, common-sense view of some people in the past who have achieved that ‘union with a Higher Power.'”  Such a common-sense approach can lead to an ability to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life, to live with “serenity and inner peace,” and develop a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function.”

Which means that ideally, one who reads the Bible on a daily basis should not become an intolerant, self-righteous prig.  (Going around telling others how to live.)  Or as Saint Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs…”  Instead, such Bible-Reading on a regular basis should lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded person.  And also one who is tolerant of the inherent weaknesses – including his own – of all people.  In other, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do all that?  Here’s an answer from one of the great philosophers of our time:

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The upper image is courtesy of Triumphal entry into Jerusalem – Wikipedia.  It included the note:  “In Luke 19:41 as Jesus approaches Jerusalem, he looks at the city and weeps over it (an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin), foretelling the suffering that awaits the city.”  See also Luke 13:34 and Luke 19:42.  Luke 13:34 reads:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.”  Luke 19:42 adds, to the previous verse, “If only you had known on this day what would bring you peace!  But now it is hidden from your eyes.”  See also Flevit super illam – The Collection – Museo Nacional del Prado

The Palm Sunday image is courtesy of Palm Sunday – Image Results.  The image is accompanied by a web article from 2017, “Palm Sunday – How Jesus’ Triumphant entry into Jerusalem turned the world on its head.”  The article is from Christian Today, “the UK’s largest online Christian news provider, with the latest in-depth reports.”  The April 8, 2019 edition included an article, “Brexit and the decline of Britain: lessons from the Old Testament,” which included some interesting reading:

Britain today in its moral and political turbulence is reminiscent of Old Testament Israel in the 11th century BC. That too was a time when there was no guiding consensus and “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21v25).  But instead of looking to God, of course, Israel demanded a new system of government in the form of a strong man (1 Samuel 8v5) – just as many in Britain are now apparently doing.

The article noted in recent years many countries have opted “for maverick ‘strongmen’ to lead their nations – Erdogan in Turkey;  Putin in Russia;  Berlusconi in Italy;  even Trump, in a way, in America.”  (In a way?)  It then cited polling by the Hansard Society which indicated that “54% of voters would like ‘a strong ruler willing to break the rules.’  Only 23% said they were against such an idea.”

As to the goal for Lent about Donald Trump…  I wrote in The Bible’s “dynamic tension:”

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate…  Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

Also, the full Daily Office Readings for Tuesday, April 9, are:  “AM Psalm [120], 121, 122, 123; PM Psalm 124, 125, 126, [127], Jeremiah 25:8-17; Romans 10:1-13; [and] John 9:18-41.”

Re:  Deuteronomy, Chapter 30.  Verses 11 through 14 (“The Offer of Life or Death”) read:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you;  it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

The John 6:37 “malayalim” image is courtesy of John 6:37 – Image Results.  Malayalam is a Dravidian language; that is, a “language family spoken mainly in Southern India and parts of Central and Eastern India, as well as in Sri Lanka with small pockets in southwestern Pakistan, southern AfghanistanNepalBangladesh and Bhutan, and overseas in other countries such as MalaysiaPhilippinesIndonesia and Singapore.”  That language is “spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people, and it is one of 22 scheduled languages of India.”  Which proves the universal appeal of Jesus, to whom all people – including grumpy old white people who should know better – are “infants before God.”  See for example Where do I find the age of accountability in the Bible, which included the example of 2 Samuel 12:21–23, where “David seemed to be saying that he would see his baby son (in heaven), though he could not bring him back.”  Then there’s this:

[T]his is a subject about which we should not be adamant or dogmatic.  God’s applying Christ’s death to those who cannot believe would seem consistent with His love and mercy. It is our position that God applies Christ’s payment for sin to babies and those who are mentally handicapped, since they are not mentally capable of understanding their sinful state and their need for the Savior, but again we cannot be dogmatic.  Of this we are certain: God is loving, holy, merciful, just, and gracious … and He loves children even more than we do. 

The lower image is courtesy of izquotes.com/quote/217824.  See also Charlie Chan (Wikipedia).  The quote is said to have come from Charlie Chan at the Circus, and in the form given.  See Charlie Chan – Wikiquote and Reel Life Wisdom – The Top 10 Wisest Quotes from Charlie Chan.  But I could have sworn that the actual quote was, “Mind like parachute;  work best when open.”

“On to Jerusalem!”

A late-afternoon view of Jerusalem – with the Dome of the Rock, in gold, in the left foreground…

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And speaking of pilgrimages This May I’ll be making such a two-week journey to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  On that note, Kenneth Clark – the noted British “art historian, museum director, and broadcaster” – discussed the origin of such spiritual journeys in his 1969 TV series, Civilisation (The following quotes are from the book version, at pages 40-42.)  

In Chapter 2 – “The Great Thaw” – Clark noted the “sudden reawakening of European civilization in the 12th century.” (That is, the years from 1101 to 1199 or so.)  He said that “great thaw” – the sudden spurt of growth in human development – did not come about from mere idle contemplation.  Instead it came as the result of action:  “a vigorous, violent sense of movement, both physical and intellectual.”

The physical – action – part took the form of pilgrimages; most often to Jerusalem.  That led in turn to the Crusades (“Traditionally, they [the Crusades] took place between 1095 and 1291;” and of course “the most important place of pilgrimage was Jerusalem.”)   But these early pilgrimages were not at all like our “cruises or holidays abroad” today.  For one thing they took a long time; often two or three years.  “For another, they involved real hardship and danger.”

That is, despite efforts to organize (“pilgrims used to go in parties of 7000 at a time”), “elderly abbots and middle-aged widows often died on the way to Jerusalem.”  (Note that our church group requires a doctor’s note from those over 70, saying they “must be able to walk three miles at once at a normal pace” – at least 2-and-a-half miles an hour – “without assistance from others.”)

Another difference:  Today such a pilgrimage is typically “a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”  But in those early days, the “point of a pilgrimage was to look at relics.”  (On that note, see 2015’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

The belief in the “magic” of relics – Clark said – was a product of the Medieval Mind.  “The medieval pilgrim really believed that by contemplating a reliquary containing the head or even the fingers of a saint he would persuade that particular saint to intercede on his behalf with God.”  (Clark cited an example, Saint Foy, a “little girl of who in late Roman times” was put to death for refusing to worship idols, and then was “turned into one herself.”  That is, an idol.*)  

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.In other words, the man with a Medieval Mind believed that by going on a pilgrimage – and in the process venerating relics – he could “get good stuff from God.”  Which is of course the same incentive for many practicing Christians today.  (If not for those of any religion.)   Or as Napoleon put it, “Men are moved by only two things:  fear and self-interest.”

But we digress…  As seen in the links at the right of this page, I’ve devoted a whole category to Pilgrimages(Including – the summer of 2018 – I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, and – October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”) 

On the topic being discussed, the most relevant blog-post is probably On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from September 2016.   That post pointed out that St. James the Greater is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  And it indicated that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  And it noted that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

In Back from Rideau, the chief ordeal was hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling.  In Buen Camino the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister.  (At least for the first 250 miles.  From León, we mountain-biked the remaining 200 miles.  Which just meant different parts of the body got sore, achy and/or blistered.)

So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?'”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”  Or maybe I’ll find somewhere a relic to venerate, and so in turn get some “good stuff from God.”  (Aside from being chastened and liberated…)

On that note: Stay tuned!  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

Calvin and Hobbes

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On another note, last Monday – March 25 – was the Feast of the Annunciation.  See The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling,” from March 2015.  The full title is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the post showed how in this case the early Church “figured it backwards.”  That is, they started with the birth of Jesus on December 25, then figured backwards nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

It celebrates “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.”  There’s more on the Incarnation in the post, along with how and why the Conception and Annunciation both got to happen on the same day.  Now, about that “getting the ball rolling.”

Technically the liturgical year – the church’s calendar year, illustrated at left – begins with Advent (December 1 or so), and goes through next November.  (When it starts all over again.)  But it could be argued that the liturgical year properly starts with the Annunciation; that is, the first moment when it became obvious that God would intervene on our behalf, by and through the birth, life and death of Jesus.

More to the point, the church year “sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus.”  (It’s not an “arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days”):

It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective [and] proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life…   It is an adventure in human growth;  it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

As noted in the “ball rolling” post, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  Thus in one sense the Church Year does begin with Advent.  On the other hand, you could say that while “technically the liturgical year begins” with Advent, it’s the Annunciation that gets the ball rolling

And speaking of “getting the ball rolling.”  Who knows:  My upcoming adventure in Jerusalem will result in some personal “human growth.”  At the very least it should be:

“An exercise in spiritual ripening…

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St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim…’

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The upper image is courtesy of Jerusalem – Image Results.  See also Jerusalem – WikipediaNote that the post-title – “On to Jerusalem!” – is an allusion to the Civil War’s famous (or infamous) battle cry, “On to Richmond!”  See the National Park Service’s The Focal Point of the Civil War, and Richmond in the American Civil War – Wikipedia.

I cited Clark’s book in On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down:”

Which is another way of saying that all the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind the human limitations of their audience.  They were trying to put incomprehensible things into plain and simple language that even the most obtuse dolt could understand.  Or to paraphrase Sir Kenneth Clark, the people who wrote the Bible had to have the intellectual power to make God comprehensible.

The Kenneth Clark paraphrase is from the hardcover book version of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). On pages 84-85 of the book, Clark compared the poet Dante with the painter Giotto.  Then on page 85, Clark noted the differences between the two men, beginning with the fact that “their imaginations moved on very different planes.”  But in the film version – and only in the film or TV version – Clark said Dante had  “that heroic contempt for baseness that was to come again in Michelangelo.   Above all, that vision of a heavenly order and the intellectual power to make it comprehensible.”  Which is the phrase that drew my attention…  See also Wikipedia, for more on the TV series.

Clark’s writing about early pilgrimages – especially to Jerusalem – are at pages 40-42 of the book.

Re:  The medieval mind.  The link is to The Medieval Mind: A Meditation:

The latter [people in the Middle Ages] were drenched in mysticism, whereas the contemporary world has been shaped by rationalism so that mystical concepts and experiences have been stripped away except among a small number of people steeped in the religious thought of our Western ancestors…  [Also:]  It can be argued that the decline of pilgrimages is a loss to Christian spiritual life in an age of unbelief and immorality when people have a profound need for spiritual examples.

Re:  Saint Foy, put to death for refusing to worship idols, then “turned into one herself.”  (The “idol” is shown at left.)  Clark wrote that she was “obstinate in the face of reasonable persuasion – a Christian Antigone” – and so was martyred.  But then her relics began to work miracles,” including the restoration of sight to a man who eyes had been gouged out “by a jealous priest.”  As to the little girl whose “relics” were turned into an idol – even though she’d been put to death for refusing to worship idols – “that’s the medieval mind.  They care passionately about the truth, but their sense of evidence was different than ours.” 

Also, the link in the text is to St. Foy’s Golden Reliquary – Conques, France – Atlas Obscura, about the “huge golden reliquary of a testicle smashing saint.”  The article added that “Pilgrims pray to saints for holy intercession in all kinds of problems, but they should be very careful what they ask for when approaching St. Foy, who seems to have a wicked sense of humor.”  That is, “St. Foy developed her reputation for… unusual cures. [Ellipses in the original.]  Notably, when a knight came to her seeking a cure for a herniated scrotum, she, via vision, helpfully suggested that he find a blacksmith willing to smash it with a white-hot hammer.”  See the article for the “rest of the story…” 

Also, re “idol.”  See Idolatry – Wikipedia:  “ldolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol,’ also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue.  In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God.”  Note the subtle difference to the medieval mind, asking the “saint” in question to intercede with God…

Re:  Hiking the Meseta part of the Camino de Santiago:  “Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon,” while others – who aren’t so wussified – think that misses the whole point of hiking the Camino.

I borrowed the “further bulletins” cartoon from The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

I borrowed the lower image from St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from 2016.  See also Wikipedia, with full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”  Also, the “sluts” post noted in part:  “Of course the two [pilgrimages] I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  (See Back in the saddle again, again.)  But for next summer – more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago…”  (Can you say foreshadowing?)

 

On the Bible’s “dynamic tension…”

I don’t mean the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas.  (It’s about Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel 3…)

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We’re now well into Lent, 2019.  (As illustrated at right.)

That is, the time in between the holidays of Mardi Gras and Easter.  In other words, it’s a time for “prayer, doing penancerepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial.”  And for many people, Lent means giving up something.  “On the other hand, some people choose to add a discipline ‘that would add to my spiritual life.’  (See Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?)

For example, last year for Lent I gave up yelling “Hang the sonofabitch!” at every mention of Donald Trump.  This year I’ll be doing the same thing.  (For reasons including that my “discipline” ended up netting the United Thank Offering a little over $25 in penalties.  At 25 cents a violation.)  But this year I feel the need to add something else.

So – for this Lent – I’m going to try mightily to prepare a reasoned, careful, logical blog-post treatise on precisely “why I don’t like Donald Trump.”  (Without resorting to the “fallacy of ad hominem attacks.”)  In other words, I will try – without resorting to name-calling – to present the valid reasons why I think Trump’s presidency is a constitutional crisis on par with Watergate.  (Though not yet on par with the Civil War.  Not yet!) 

Beyond that – for my Lenten discipline this year – I am also going to try mightily to understand why some Americans still support him.  (Without saying, “What are you, dumbasses?”)  And that is definitely going to be the hard part…

(A note:  I firmly believe this “story” will have a happy ending, but that’s for a later blog-post.)

So anyway, that latter part of this year’s Lenten discipline will be so hard in fact – it will take up so much time – that I haven’t a prayer of doing a new post on it within a reasonable time after my last post.  (OMG! Is it time for Lent again?  From March 5, 2019.)  So for now I offer up this in-betweener, which as it turns out is related to unsupported name-calling.

In the lead caption I noted the difference between the Dynamic Tension of Charles Atlas, as distinguished from that “tension” between Deuteronomy 19 and Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

I wrote about Deuteronomy 19:16-19 – and Ezekiel 3:16-19 – in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  Briefly, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says that if you accuse someone of a heinous crime – like murder or heresy – and it’s not true, you will be punished as if you had committed the crime yourself.  (You can’t blithely make false accusations without penalty.)  For example, if you accuse someone – perhaps even a fellow Christian – of being a “heretic,” and that accusation is false, then you will be punished as a heretic yourself.

See for example The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:  “Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.”  But if that statement is inaccurate – and is tantamount to an accusation of heresy – the person who wrote it faces the prospect of being punished as a heretic himself.  (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)  On that note see Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian.  His name was Jesus.

Or as I’ve noted, “If Jesus was a conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”  See Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”  That post noted that What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which is pretty much what the Apostle Peter – shown at right – said in 2d Peter 3:9, “The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is.  In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.”  (Emphasis added, to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.)

That is, according to 2d Peter 3:9, God seems to want the Bible to “apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”  Which means that the person who wrote “The Heresy of Liberalism” could be in big trouble.

On the other hand there’s Ezekiel 3:16-19, where this prophet wrote of the Christian duty to warn other Christians of the error of their ways.  (I.e., characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman.”)  Briefly, if you don’t warn a fellow Christian to mend his ways, and he keeps sinning, God will punish both of you.  But if you warn him – and he keeps on sinning – you will have saved your spiritual butt:  “they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So what you end up with is a dynamic tension between Deuteronomy 19:16-19 and Ezekiel 3:16-19.  Note also the twin “16-19s,” which could translate to, “It’s a message from God!”

Which means in turn that if you suspect that being “liberal Christian” is tantamount to heresy, you’re better off saying to such liberals, “Excuse me, but I think you’re reading the Bible in the wrong way.”  In other words, you will want to refrain from mere, unsupported ad hominem name-calling.  That’s because such phrasing could be tantamount to an accusation of heresy, punishable under Deuteronomy 19:16-19.

Because one thing you don’t want to risk is being punished as a heretic yourself…

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The 1545 “Massacre” where heretics were thrown to their death off castle walls…

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The upper image is courtesy of Dynamic Tension Charles Atlas – Image Results.  See also Dynamic Tension – Wikipedia, and Charles Atlas – Wikipedia.

Re: “Trump-humping.”  On a related note, see On dissin’ the Prez, and also An update on “dissin’ the Prez” – from November 13, 2016.

The “Atlantic – Evangelicals” image is courtesy of Atlantic Magazine (April, 2018) How Evangelicals Lost Their Way – And Got Hooked on Donald Trump.  For another take, see Frances FitzGerald on how evangelicals lost their way, and/or How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today’s Media Driven World.

Re:  Liberalism as “heresy.”  See The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says, and “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re:  Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“).  The full passage:

[T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

See also Ezekiel 3 – Wikipedia:  “This chapter contains the call for Ezekiel to speak to people of Israel and to act as a sentry for them.”  And Night-watchman state – Wikipedia, regarding the libertarian political philosophy, which advances the “model of a state whose only functions are to provide its citizens with the military, the police and courts, thus protecting them from aggressiontheftbreach of contract and fraud and enforcing property laws.”

The lower image is courtesy of Heresy – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545.”  The article included the following:  That the first “Christian heretic to be executed, Priscillian, was condemned in 386;”  That the “edict of Theodosius II (435) provided severe punishments for those who had or spread writings of Nestorius,” and that those “who possessed writings of Arius were sentenced to death;”  That for some years “after the Reformation, Protestant churches were also known to execute those they considered heretics, including Catholics;”  and that the “number of people executed as heretics under the authority of the various ‘ecclesiastical authorities’ is not known.”  Also:

The Catholic Church by no means had a monopoly on the execution of heretics.  The charge of heresy was a weapon that could fit many hands.  A century and a half after heresy was made a state crime, the Vandals (a heretical Christian Germanic tribe), used the law to prosecute thousands of (orthodox) Catholics with penalties of torture, mutilation, slavery and banishment…  About seven thousand people were burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition, which lasted for nearly seven centuries…  Religious Wars slaughtered millions. During these wars, the charge of “heresy” was often leveled by one side against another as a sort of propaganda or rationalization for the unde

OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent – in the form of a metaphor (by Pieter Bruegel the Elder…)

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It is indeed time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, again.

As noted in The beginning of Lent – 2018, the whole idea of Lent – as a kind of mini-Wandering in the Wilderness – started back in the time of Moses.  That’s when he led the Children of Israel through the original Exodus, as detailed later in Nehemiah, at 9:12-21.  For example, “By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.

Now we don’t have an actual “pillar of cloud” by day, or a “pillar of fire in the night” to light our way.  But we do have the example set by Moses.  Then too, “Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing.  Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”  Which brings up the whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of MatthewMark and LukeJesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by SatanLent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See Wikipedia, On Ash Wednesday and Lent, and also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.

So Moses and the Children of Israel wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years, and Jesus did His own wandering, during which He was tempted by Satan.  Thus:  “There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter.  Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights.”

mardi grasNow, about that “Fight Between Carnival and Lent.”  As Wikipedia noted, the battle between the figures “Carnival” – given a modern-day illustration at left – and Lent “was an important event in community life in early modern Europe.”  Lent was characterized by “enforced abstinence and the concomitant spiritual purification,” but to  good cause.  That is, “in preparation for Easter.”  Which itself is a metaphor, in that Bruegel the Elder‘s painting is “rich in allegories and symbolisms that have been long studied.”  In the end, Lent – and Easter – ultimately triumph.

That is, they triumph over the spectacle of people “guided by a fool, and not by reason” – as symbolized in the painting – along with a burning torch, “symbolic of dispute and destruction.”  (Hmmmm…)  In short, Bruegel‘s painting “is often read as the triumph of Lent, since the figure of Carnival seems to bid farewell with his left hand and his eyes lifted to the sky.”

All of which could well be metaphors for some of what’s going on these days…

Another note from The beginning of Lent – 2018:  The “Christian life itself is a pilgrimage, and the 40 days of Lent can be a kind of dress rehearsal, or ‘full-scale practice.’  (Where it’s important to remember the happy ending.)”  And then there’s this additional side note:

There are actually 46 days of Lent.  That is, 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.”  But somehow that fact got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, the “2002 romantic comedy film.”  That film portrayed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, the main character “could have taken Sundays off.”  Which again just goes to show that – sometimes at least:

It pays to read and study the Bible!

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40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Fight Between Carnival” link in the Wikipedia article on Lent.  The full caption: “‘The Fight Between Carnival and Lent‘ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (circa 1558–1559).” Note the upper image shows a mere “detail;”  see the whole painting at Wikipedia.

For additional information on the upcoming season – during which I’ll do further posts on the appropriate subjects – see My Lenten meditation and/or On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Or for suggestions, see 10 Things To Give Up For Lent In 2019.

Re:  The “modern-day illustration at left.”  It’s from Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016, which noted Lent is devoted to “prayerpenancerepentance of sins, alms-givingatonement and self-denial.

But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.”  That’s the day before Ash Wednesday…  The French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!”  

Wikipedia added, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”

The lower image is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) – IMDb.  A side note:  I Googled “film 40 days and 40 nights Sundays off,” to see if any Hollywood types had caught on to the “Sundays off” aspect of Lent.  From what I could see, “Apparently not.”  For more information, see Why Sundays Don’t Count During Lent | Guideposts.

On my “mission from God…”

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Since 1989 or so, I too (along with the Blues Brothers) have been “on a mission from God.”

That is, back around 1989 I started trying to “help” my favorite team win.  The particular team was Florida State University football, and I started by trying to help them win a national championship.  I began with a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise, especially pushing myself to earn more and more aerobic points(Mostly through running, or more like jog-walking.)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kIgeIQBgTsw/TpjvtkuO5-I/AAAAAAAABLQ/rejqM5r-X7E/s1600/MonksChoir.jpgThat didn’t work, so in 1992 I added the discipline of daily Bible reading.  (See What’s a DOR, which includes the image at right.)  Then in 1993, the Seminole football team won its first national title.  You make the connection.

Then too, for 14 straight years the Florida State football team went from success to success – with my “help.”  For 14 straight years they finished in the Top 4,* then won another national title in 1999.  (That was – in the words of one writer – “something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing” and thus was “the greatest run in college football history.”)

Unfortunately, after that things started going downhill.

FSU football went into a bit of a slide, but then again so did I.  Then in 2013 they won another national championship, and along the way I also got my life back in order.

But once again things started going downhill for the Nole football team.  That is, since 2013 there have been, at best, “mixed results.”  And this past football season was especially painful.  In 2018, FSU went 5-and-7, and broke a streak of consecutive post-season bowl appearances.  That “anti-climax” marked their first losing season since 1976 (41 years), and that included the first time they didn’t make it to a bowl game in 36 years.

But the strange thing is, on a personal level I’ve done a lot better.  As a matter of fact, my life is going far better than I could have expected, at any time in the past.  For example, as recently as 2017 I thought I’d spend my last days here on earth still living in a dinky, rented one-bedroom apartment.  But against all odds I managed to get a mortgage – and now have a 4-bedroom home on an acre of woodland.  And in terms of exercise too I’ve done very well indeed.

Going back to the beginning, my mission from God – my “mystic quest*” – started back in Florida, in 1989.  Three times a week I ran outdoors, for an hour or more.  That often meant dodging the daily summer-afternoon thunderstorms, or waiting until 6:00 p.m. or so, for the heat index to get down below 100.

Then I moved from Florida to Georgia, and starting in 2013 added two hours kayaking a week.  And incidentally that year – 2013 – FSU won its third national championship.  I’ve also moved from outdoor running to indoor stair-stepping.  (An hour at a time two or three times a week.)  And near the end of this last (2018) season, I “graduated” to wearing a 25-pound weight vest, along with ten pounds of ankle weights, while doing my hour of stair-stepping.

Then -somewhere along the line – it struck me that at age 67, that was pretty dang impressive.  (Standing by itself, as a “signal accomplishment.”)  But “on-the-field results” for 2018 were exactly the opposite of what I’d hoped for, and come to expect.  Which came to remind me what Lawrence LeShan said of the ideal Zen archer or karate student:  “The real goal is to help you grow and develop as a total human being, not to become a better archer or karate expert.”

So I came to realize that maybe I shouldn’t get too upset because FSU had such lousy football season in 2018.  After all, the real goal in my “mission from God” was to grow and develop as a total human being, not necessarily to have FSU win all the time.

There’s also the fact that the original Children of Israel – whose own quest I tried to mimic – had some pretty lousy seasons too.  They did have the Exodus, along with King David and Solomon, but also years of slavery, exile, and foreign oppression, followed by the Great Diaspora.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of good and fruitful collateral consequences, and not just for me.  Many of my other favorite teams – other than FSU football – have done quite well.  Most recently, my adopted Atlanta United soccer team won the MLS Cup in its second season.  The FSU Women’s soccer won the 2018 National Championship last December, and the Women’s softball team won its first National Championship last June.  Aside from that, my Tampa Bay Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII, to top off the 2002 season, and my Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup.  So maybe I shouldn’t complain too much…

Which brings up this whole matter of sport-superstitions, and “what kind of a moron would really think what he does matters to the outcome of a particular game?”  See for example, “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals.  But the truth of the matter is that such ‘”weird rituals” go back to the time of Moses, and the Battle of Rephidim.

See for another example, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  You can see the full story at Exodus 17, on the battle that happened some 3,500 years ago.  There, like at Pearl Harbor, the dreaded Amalekites launched a sneak attack on the Children of Israel as they emerged from “the Exodus, at Rephidim near Mount Sinai.”   Verses 8 to 16 – of Exodus 17 – tell of Israel pulling off  an “upset of the season.”  In essence they beat a hated arch-rival, thanks to Moses:

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

As I’ve noted elsewhere:  “That sounds a lot like a modern-day football fan, watching his favorite team on TV.”  Sometimes he moves around the room, sometimes he stands, sometimes he sits.  Other times he’ll mute the sound on the TV, sometimes he’ll tell his wife to leave the room – because she may be jinxing his team – but he’s “always trying to ‘help his team win.’”

Or by offering a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise – with lots of aerobics – along with a good dose of daily Bible reading.  So just in case you think I’m weird for trying to help my team win – by and through such highly profitable intense exercise and Bible reading – I can only say:

“Hey pal, tell that to Moses!”

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Moses at Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

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The upper image is courtesy of Blues Brothers Mission From God – Image Results.  On this topic see also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”  A side note:  The “unintended consequences” post also pointed out that – with my help, metaphorically or otherwise – the FSU basketball team got to the Elite 8 in 2018, and FSU’s Mike Martin became the winningest coach in college baseball history.  See FSU Basketball is true Cinderella of 2018 NCAA Tournament, and Mike Martin is the winningest coach in college baseball.

Re:  Aerobic points.  See also Aerobic exercise – Wikipedia.

Re:  “14 straight years.”  See Top College Football Dynasties of the AP Poll Era:  “Florida State’s 14 year streak of top 4 finishes in the AP poll 1987-2000 is … something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing.  So I’m calling this the greatest run in college football history.”  (They “dropped to #5 in the fixed poll for 1994,” but ranked #4 in the AP poll.) 

Re:  FSU’s bowl streak.  See Florida State’s Incredible 36-Year Bowl Streak, for more positive spin: “It might be lame, but Dr. Seuss once said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’”

A lot has happened for the Seminoles since 1981, such as three National Championships, 15 conference titles, three Heisman Trophy winners and 35 consensus All-Americans.  Now that the all-time streak has ended, everyone will take shots at FSU, but people should really just appreciate such an impressive feat.  [So] this isn’t the time to be embarrassed as a streak ends.  It is time to celebrate that it happened, and no other program has ever made more consecutive bowl games in FBS football history.  It does suck it was ended by a rival, but the longest bowl streak they [the Florida Gators] ever had was 22 consecutive.

Re:  “Signal accomplishment.”  See How To Answer The Interview Question “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment, and/or What Are James Monroe’s Accomplishments? | Reference.com:  “Monroe’s signal accomplishment was the formation of the Monroe Doctrine.”

Re:  The definition of mystic quest.  In one “worldly” sense it refers to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, “a role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System,” first released in North America in 1992 and marketed as a “simplified role-playing game…  In the game, the player controls a youth named Benjamin in his quest to save the world.” (Wikipedia.)  My mystic quest – or “mission from God” – was not nearly so grand.  It did however pay great dividends in terms of personal health, especially cardio-vascular, and spiritual development.  (For example, it led me to create my two blogs, including this one, “Daily Office Reading Scribe.”)  As to the more spiritual definition of “mystic quest,” see Mystic | Definition of Mystic by Merriam-Webster (used in a sentence, “She had a mystic vision while praying”);  Mysticism – WikipediaQuest | Define Quest at Dictionary.com (“a search or pursuit made in order to find or obtain something” or “an adventurous expedition undertaken by a knight or knights to secure or achieve something”); and also Quest definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary:  “A quest is a long and difficult search for something.”

 The “only mile” image is courtesy of Running Outdoors The Rain – Image Results I might add that while I no longer run in the rain, I do end up kayaking in the rain oftener than I’d like…

Re:  My hour-long stair-stepping with a 25-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.  According to my calculations, that now – at age 67 – helps me earn 155 aerobic points per week, whereas Dr. Kenneth H. Coopers ”’minimum aerobic fitness’ level is 36 points a week.”  See KEEPING FIT; Just How Far, And How Fast, For FitnessSee also Dr. Cooper’s 1977 book, The Aerobics Way, 1978 Bantam Books edition, at page 186, on earning additional points for wearing ankle weights and a 35-pound pack.  (Chapter 9, “The Point Charts.”)  Also see page 245 on “stair climbing,” in the Appendix under “The Point System.”  All of which formed the basis of my calculations…

Re:  Lawrence LeShan on the ideal Zen archer, “to help you grow and develop as a total human being.”  See his How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, Bantam Edition, 1975, at page 38.

Re:  “Collateral consequences.”  Strictly speaking, such consequences are “additional civil state penalties, mandated by statute, that attach to criminal convictions.  They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as prison, fines, or probation.  They are the further civil actions by the state that are triggered as a consequence of the conviction.”  See WikipediaBut defined more liberally or spiritually, they can refer to additional – but indirectly intended – consequences of a mystic quest or “mission from God.”  Thus they’re distinct from Unintended consequences: “outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action.”  As Wikipedia said, these can come in three forms, including an “unexpected benefit” (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall); an “unexpected drawback”  (unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect); or a “perverse result.”  See also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, about the FSU women’s softball team winning their national title…

The “only weird” image is courtesy of Bud Light It’s Only Weird – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett MillaisVictory O Lord! (1871).”  As borrowed from a post on my companion blog, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  (That companion blog is The Georgia Wasp | A blog of life-reviews by an old guy who still gets a kick out of lifeThe post includes an extensive analysis of such sport-superstitions:

The thing is, this business of “helping your team win” has been around a long, long time.  (Longer even than “Touchdown Jesus,” seen at left, visible from Notre Dame stadium…)  In fact, it may all have started with Moses, back at the battle of Rephidim, noted above.

See also “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals, and this “bottom line” from the blog-post: “Athletes know it, fans know it, and even Bud Light knows it.  Superstitions are as big a part of the game as anything.  They were there when your parents and/or grandparents first started watching, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.”  Unfortunately, that last link is “now defunct.”

On a better way to spread the Gospel…

“I Want to Be like Mike” – An idea that just may be the key to spreading the Gospel better…

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NOVA: The Bible's Buried SecretsThe other night I watched The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  That was the NOVA program that aired on PBS in 2008, and explored the historicity of the Bible.  In other words, it explored whether the Bible was “factually accurate,” or history as we understand it.  According to Wikipedia:

The producers surveyed the evidence and [took] positions that are mainstream among archaeologists and historians, although they continue to raise objections among both Christians who believe in the bible as either literal or historical truth and minimalists who assert that the Bible has no historical validation.

Which I thought missed the whole point.

That is, among other findings the program said there was “no archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  That finding led the conservative American Family Association – promoting “fundamentalist Christian values” – to issue an “online petition urging Congress to cut off federal funding for PBS.”  The petition said that “PBS is knowingly choosing to insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

Which I thought – again – misses the whole point of the Christian faith.

My theory is that you can’t “prove” the Bible-faith by scientific or courtroom evidence.  You prove the validity of that faith by your own experience walking with and/or working with God.  Like the man with the legion (demons), as told in Mark 5 (18-20):

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.

In other words, the demon-possessed man could care less if archaeologists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey, or whether there was “archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  He cared about what Jesus did for him.  Or as it says in Psalm 66:16:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”

Which is – to me – the far better way of spreading the Good News of Jesus

Getting back to the Gerasene demoniac, the man with “legion” told people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him “and all the people were amazed.”  And – no doubt – many of them tried out this “new faith” for themselves.  Or as applied today – when few of us seem so possessed – we start by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives, then “proceed on:”

[Like the Bible, e]very martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.

Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers by [Ford, James B.]That’s a thought from my e-book “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Near the end of Chapter 8, I wrote about the early years, when I’d just started daily Bible readings and applying them to my own life.  (And in particular to my own “obsession,” college football.)

“In the process, something seemed to happen that may be like what happens to a student of an eastern martial art.”  I also noted that maybe the Bible student – like a good karate student – first struggles to learn the basics, and then – after he learns the fundamentals – he can start to use them in his daily life:

Finally, after the student has been at it long enough, he can begin to “create” out of those Bible readings, and in the process create something new out of something very old, or as the Bible says, “sing to the Lord a new song.”  As time passes the student can “create” something new, giving a new meaning to the “old” Bible message…

The result could well be a “new song to the Lord,” as illustrated and updated in the student’s own life.  And incidentally, that theme of singing a new song to the Lord – and not just another stale, old “conservative” or literalist rehash – is repeated again and again in the Bible.  Like in Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.

So what’s all this about a “better way to spread the Gospel?”  We can start with one basic assumption and one big question, two points common to all the world’s religions.

The basic assumption is:  “You’ve been given a gift.”  The big question is:  “What are you going to do with it?”  You can say you’ve been given the gift of “salvation through Christ,” which basically means that you’ve gotten the gift of a “new”  bridge to God.  Or for that matter you can say you’ve been “gifted” the road to a more spiritual life, through Islam, Buddhism or one of many other spiritual paths.  (Though I believe all those others will eventually “lead you to Christ…”)

Or you can just say that you’ve been given the gift of life, by whoever or whatever gave that gift to you.  (Possibly even some generic Higher Power.)

Luther's roseBut the big question remains:  What are you going to do with that gift?  Or in Christian terms, “How are you going to help spread the Gospel?”  (The Good News or “the message of salvation, justification [illustrated by Luther’s rose, at right], and sanctification.”)  That’s the question raised by the Great Commission, as detailed notably in Matthew 28:16–20:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Of course one method – so favored by conservatives – is to browbeat people, telling them that they’re going to hell if they don’t listen to you.  Or you can become a parrot, spouting out random Bible verses, generally full of hell and damnation, fire and brimstone.

Or you can be “like Mike.”  You can be the kind of person other people want to emulate.  You can lead the kind of life that makes people look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “That’s what I want!  I want what he’s got!”  Or done, or accomplished.  In other words, you – “like Mike” – could be a walking advertisement for the kind of Bible faith that potential converts want to imitate.  (See 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”)

Like – for example – my being 67 years old and keeping fit by stair-stepping an hour at a time, wearing a 25-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.  Or having a series of “adventures in old age,” like Mike.  Or like successfully hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), or canoeing 440 miles down the Yukon river (in 12 days), or canoeing 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, primitive camping for eight days on offshore islands (and an occasional salt marsh), or hiking and biking 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

As detailed in the notes, and which incidentally will be the focus of my next blog post…

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And no, at 67 “I’m not too old to have some adventure in the time I have left…”

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The upper image is courtesy of I Want To Be Like Mike – Image Results.

Re:  “Be like Mike.”  See Be Like Mike – Wikipedia, about the “Gatorade commercial featuring American professional basketball player Michael Jordan that originally aired in 1992.”   See also “I Want to Be like Mike” – Josh.org:  “A MAJOR SPORTS-drink company once ran an ad campaign encouraging people to ‘be like Mike,’ as in NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan. The phrase, ‘I want to be like Mike’ was everywhere.  Kids said it.  Adults sang it.”

The “buried secrets” image is courtesy of Amazon.com: NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

Re:  The Bible’s “historicity.”  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, which noted, “The Bible is not a history book in modern sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and was not significant in history.”  (Avenel Books edition, 1981, page 7.)  Of course Asimov is “probably going to hell too…”  (Kidding!  See Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)

Re:  “Insult and attack Christianity.”  I’d respond that the PBS Nova program didn’t insult my Christianity.  Or as I’ve said before: “It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture.”  See “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re: “Proceed on.”  The link is to “We proceeded on” : Lewis & Clark – oi – Oxford Index Home.  It spoke of a concluding chapter in a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  “This concluding chapter presents the perspective of a documentary filmmaker who traveled the entire length of the Lewis and Clark trail.  It looks at the inspiration he derived from the unofficial motto of the expedition—’We proceeded on.’—and observes that the phrase is frequently used in the Journals.” 

Re:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God…”  Note that in the Revised Standard Version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, the verse is 66:14.

Re:  “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Available at Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  Just type in the title and look for the 4th Edition, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch on the cover.

Re:  Sing a new song to the Lord.”  See On singing a NEW song to God.

Also re: the Nova program The Bible’s Buried SecretsSee Wikipedia, which noted what the Biblical Archaeology Review wrote: “The producers have done a magnificent job summarizing over a century of biblical archaeology and biblical scholarship in two hours.  The film strikes a balance between the old-fashioned biblical archaeology approach, which tried to prove the Bible’s historicity, and the extreme skepticism of some minimalists, for whom the Bible contains little factual history.”  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz wrote: “Conservative Judaism is fully accepting of the type of scholarship featured in this documentary.”  And Rev. Kenneth Himes, OFM Professor, wrote:  For some, the ideas presented may seem novel or surprising, but this is material that is being discussed in the theology courses found at many Catholic universities.”  

See also Historicity of the Bible – Wikipedia.  But again, my theory is that to focus on the Bible’s “historicity” is to miss the point of the faith entirely.  The question is:  Having accepted God and/or Christ, what now do you do with your life?  How will you live out the life you’ve been given?  What will you accomplish with that life?  How are you going to make this world a better place?

Re:  “Walking advertisement.”  The cite-link is to Human billboard – Wikipedia.

Re:  Some of my adventures in old age.  See for example – from my companion blog – Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  Also, Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.)  That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015As to the Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  As to hiking in Spain, see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  Another “incidentally:”  Future pilgrimage-trips include two weeks in Israel, and another hike, this time on the “Camino Portugues.”  Also, I’ve written about some overnight adventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

And of course, those “adventures in old age” necessarily include writing this thought-provoking blog.  

The lower image is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the following “cornered” quote, which was in turn part of a blog-comment about the second day of my “adventurous” hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)  But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

See specifically On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

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For further review you may wish to consult the following, some or most of which I’ve read for “Deep Background:”  What the Gospels Meant, by Garry WillsHow to Spread the Word of God: 7 Steps (with PicturesWhat is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.orgWhat is Christian mysticism? – fRimMinMysticism – Wikipedia; and/or Christian mysticism – Wikipedia.

“The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019

At the Presentation of Our Lord (February 2) – “Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord Jesus…” 

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Saturday, February 2, is the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpgCounting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2.  A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem…

In other words, the day celebrates “an early episode in the life of Jesus,” His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  It’s celebrated by many Christian Churches, and is also known as Candlemas(As shown above right.)  

There’s more later, but first a word about one of the Daily Office Readings for this February 2 Feast.  Those readings include 1st Samuel 2:3, “For the LORD is a God of knowledge.”  Which – taken together with Isaiah 27:11 – means that “therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge.”  And that’s a bit of Bible law that may well affect the many today who label anything they disagree with – or that contradicts some cherished beliefs – as “Fake News.”

Which brings up another Daily Office Reading for the Presentation, John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Something to think about…

And which also ties in with the fourth great theme of this blog, citing Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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Getting back to the February 2 Feast Day, I wrote about it in 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, in 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, and 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord…”  The 2015 post gave some background on what was involved.

It noted this episode was described in the Luke 2:22–40, which said “Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem … to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth.” They were there “in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15.”

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.

Yegorov-Simeon the Righteous.jpgThe 2017 post also expanded on Exodus 13:2.  That’s where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.”  It also noted “the old-timey, ‘once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.’”  That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” and it started – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages.  Though rarely used today, “that quaint practice took place in ‘the good old days when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers.”  (As illustrated at left.) 

Fortunately, these days there isn’t such a great need for a blessing “given to mothers after recovery from childbirth,” including “thanksgiving for the woman’s survival of childbirth.”

And finally, the 2017 post pointed out this “First Presentation of Jesus” foreshadowed what might be called the “Second Presentation,” on Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified(As illustrated in the image below.)  “The point being that from the time He was first ‘presented’ at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation.”  (On the eve of His making another ritual sacrifice, one that would literally change history…)

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Which brings up a more current event.  This very morning I was listening to the audio version of Garry Wills‘ 2008 book, What the Gospels Meant.  In it Wills – this morning – discussed the “Antitheses” in Matthew Chapter 5.  Also the chapter which included The Beatitudes, after which Wills went on to discuss the topic of Murder.  As Wills translated it, “anyone who calls his brother ‘idiot!‘ will be subject to the Sanhedrin.”  (For the offense of de facto murder, according to the interpretation of Jesus.)  And of course that Sanhedrin included “the final authority on Jewish law, and any scholar who went against its decisions was put to death.”

Which brings up my experience with Facebook, where a lot of people these days are calling a lot of other people “idiots,” and worse, for the simple fact of disagreeing with them, or holding a view contrary to their own “cherished beliefs.”  (See also ad hominem- Wikipedia.)

As another aside, the president of the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ time was CaiaphasHe was the one who accused Jesus of blasphemy, “a crime punishable by death under Jewish law.”  And thus of him it was said, “Not interested in the truth, Caiaphas preferred to destroy this challenge [of Jesus] to his beliefs instead of supporting it.”  In other words, if he lived today Caiaphas would probably say the Good News presented by Jesus was just “More Fake News.”

Which led me to Matthew 5:22 itself: “If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court.  And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Something else to think about…

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Ecce homo by Antonio Ciseri (1).jpg

This could be called the “Second Presentation” – Good Friday, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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The upper image is courtesy of Simeon And Anna Recognize The Lord Jesus – Image Results.  See also Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus – Rembrandt, and the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation, or at “Rembrandtonline.”  For another interpretation, see “Simeon the Godreceiver by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”

Re:  “The Lord is a God of Knowledge.”  See Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

A God of knowledge. — The Hebrew words are placed thus:  A God of knowledge is the Lord, The Talmud quaintly comments here as follows: — Rabbi Ami says:  “Knowledge is of great price, for it is placed between two Divine names; as it is written (1Samuel 2:3), ‘ A God of knowledge is the Lord,’ and therefore mercy is to be denied to him who has no knowledge; for it is written (Isaiah 27:11), ‘ It is a people of no understanding, therefore He that made them will not have mercy on them.'”

Re:  “The truth will set you free.”  See again Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

Here, as in John 17:17, truth and holiness are spoken of as correlative.  The light of truth dispels the darkness in which lies the stronghold of evil.  Sin is the bondage of the powers of the soul, and this bondage is willed because the soul does not see its fearful evil.  When it perceives the truth, there comes to it a power which rouses it from its stupor, and strengthens it to break the fetters by which it has been bound.

Re:  Garry Wills.  See also The True Test of Faith, and On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.  The latter blog-post cited a New York Times review of Wills’ book What the Gospels Meant:

Yet the paradox of modern Christianity is that the growth of biblical scholarship … has done so little to affect the mass of biblical illiterates who proclaim their convictions about what Jesus would do while knowing precious little about what he actually did or, more important, what he meant…   In this sense, Wills is a dangerous man. (E.A.)

Wills’ discussion of the “Antitheses,” Matthew Chapter 5, The Beatitudes and murder can be found in the 2009 Penguin Books paperback version, at pages 81 and 82. 

The lower image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

A review of Ric Burns’ “Pilgrims” DVD…

“The actor Roger Rees renders [William] Bradford beautifully,” in Ric Burns’  “The Pilgrims…”

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To preview what’s coming up in the Church Calendar for 2019 –  including a continuation of the Season of Epiphany – see Happy Epiphany – 2018.  Among the Feast Days coming up are the Confession of St Peter, Apostle, on January 18;  the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle, on January 25; and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, on February 2.

Crossofashes.jpgThat all leads to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, March 3, and that takes us to the beginning of Lent.  And Lent – a season of “penancemortifying the fleshrepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial” – begins with Ash Wednesday, symbolized at right.  This year it falls on March 6.

Meaning Easter Sunday will be pretty late this year, on April 21.

“In the meantime,” again, I offer this review of a DVD I just finished watching:  American Experience: The Pilgrims, a documentary film by Ric Burns.  (Available at Amazon.com.) 

I must say that – overall – I found the tone pretty depressing.  I wrote before – in Thanksgiving 2015 for example – that of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in November 1620 at Plymouth Rock, less than half survived the first year.  (To November 1621.)  And of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.”   (Illustrated at left.)

I just hadn’t appreciated the extent of that loss on an emotional level.  Another way of saying that – just as at Jamestown, started in 1607 – there was a whole lot of human suffering:

The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering…  November was too late to plant crops.  Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter.  Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived.  Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.

In Thanksgiving – 2016, I wrote that the “men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.”  But the Ric Burns film brought that suffering home in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.

And by the way, the full caption for the picture at the top of the page reads, “The actor Roger Rees renders Bradford beautifully;  it was among his last performances before his death in July,” 2015.  Which could be both prescient and ironic.  That is, while Rees died at 71 – when life expectancy today is about 78 – William Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that.

There’s more about that at the end of this post…

But what I found most fascinating was how Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, proved the truth of the old adage, “Everything perishes, save the written word.*”  For starters, here’s what Wikipedia said about Plymouth Colony in general:

Despite the colony’s relatively short existence, Plymouth holds a special role in American history…  The events surrounding the founding and history of Plymouth Colony have had a lasting effect on the art, traditions, mythology, and politics of the United States of America, despite its short history of fewer than 72 years.

And what gave “Plymouth” such a special place in American history?   Bradford’s journal,  Of Plymouth Plantation.  (Which proves again, “Everything perishes, save the written word.”)  And which brings up another thing that I hadn’t realized:  That the book was almost lost to history.

That is, the original manuscript was left in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston during the American Revolution.  But after British troops occupied Boston, it disappeared “for the next century.”  The missing manuscript was finally re-discovered, “in the Bishop of London‘s library at Fulham Palace,” and printed again in 1856.  It was only after much finagling – including a verdict ultimately rendered by the Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London – that the manuscript was brought back to the U.S. and given to Massachusetts in 1897.

That’s one of several points noted by the New York Times’ In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking (Including the Plymouth “Signing of the Mayflower Compact.”)

Mr. Burns’s most inspired touch is to end not in the 1600s, but two centuries later, by following what happened to Bradford’s journal.  It disappeared during the Revolutionary War, then was rediscovered in the mid-1800s…  The Mayflower passengers suffered terrible hardships, and from the Indians’ point of view their arrival was ultimately a dark day.  But not on Thanksgiving.  “There’s been a tremendous amount of memory produced around the Pilgrims, but there’s also been a lot of forgetting,” the literary critic Kathleen Donegan notes, adding later: “We don’t think about the loss.  We think about the abundance.”

Or consider this, from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving.  “The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day.  ‘It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,’ Bradford wrote.”

But the Pilgrims were “inventive enough” to conceal their losses from the Indians:  “inventive enough, as Donegan notes, to prop up sick men against trees outside the settlement, with muskets beside them, as decoys to look like sentinels to the Indians.”

The point is this:  Our “Forefathers” – and Foremothers as well – suffered greatly to come to America, and usually much more than we appreciate.  More than that, from the beginning they were “aliens in a strange land.”  Which brings up Deuteronomy 10:19, where God said to the Children of Israel:  “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”  And that’s a point worth remembering these days…

But let’s close with a note of hope and cheer, at least for me.  That is, rumor has it that William Bradford was one of my long-ago ancestors.  If that’s true, I hope I inherited his longevity gene.

That earlier “Bradford” lived to a ripe old age of 67.  That was at a time when life expectancy for that time and place was about half that long.  See for example, life expectancy in America in the years 1750-1800.  That is, the life expectancy a century after Bradford’s time – he died in 1657 – was 36 years.  So if that “1.86 factor” applied to me today – with a  male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141.  (Giving me another 74 years.) 

And who knows, I might end my years with the old-age benefits of King David:

King David was old and advanced in years;  and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.  So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant;  let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’  So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.  The girl was very beautiful.  She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her…

(In the biblical sense.)   On the other hand, King David didn’t have all the “better living through chemistry” advantages we have today.  And that will no doubt increase by, say, 2080?

Something to look forward to…

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The upper image is courtesy of Review (NYT): In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking.

Re:  “Everything perishes save the written word.”  The quote is from Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian.  Surmelian cited Plato as saying the poet – including but not limited to the writer of fiction, and maybe of such essays as these – creates “not by science or technique, not by any conscious artistry, but by inspiration or influence of some non-rational, supernatural influence.”  Which could apply to the writers of the Bible, which Surmelian implied by saying a true writer “is the medium of some higher spirit that gets into him.  He is literally inspired.”

But – Surmelian continued – the writer needs more than mere inspiration, by and through “what mysterious power dwells within him.”  (The “madness” in the book title.)  He needs “measure:”

Through measure a story is given the structure and style that snatch it from the chaos of reality and fix it in the memory of man.  We remember through measure.  We move from the unrealized to the realized through measure.  Through measure writing resists the ravages of time.  Everything perishes save the written word, says an old eastern proverb.

From the 1969 Anchor Books paperback edition, at pages 242-44, emphasis added.

The image to the right of the paragraph ending, “Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that,” shows the “Coat of Arms of William Bradford.”

Also from (New York Times) Review: In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking:

The Pilgrims and their fellow travelers weren’t terrorists, of course (despite an instance of putting the severed head of a perceived enemy on a pole), but they and those who followed certainly did effect a cultural conquest.  Some versions of their story play that down, partly because a plague resulting from earlier contact with Westerners brought widespread death to coastal Indians in the Northeast just before the Mayflower arrived. God, it seemed to some, killed off the Indians to make way for the whites, a view this program corrects.

 Here’s more from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving:

It draws on the unique, nearly lost history, Of Plymouth Plantation, written by William Bradford, the new colony’s governor for more than 30 years, whom the late actor Roger Rees portrays from a script derived from Bradford’s book.

Right from the start, the death rate was awful. Mortality had been enormous at the Jamestown colony, where by 1620 nearly 8,000 people had arrived, although the settlement was struggling to keep its population above a thousand. Bradford’s history recalled the Pilgrims’ anticipation of “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Ferrying in supplies from the ship meant wading through ice-cold water, at one point with sleet glazing their bodies with ice. The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day. “It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,” Bradford wrote…

See also PBS Documentary “The Pilgrims”: A Review.

The lower image is courtesy of King David Abishag – Image Results.  The painting may actually show Bathsheba, see Moritz Stifter Bathsheba – Image Results, and/or Bathsheba Painting – Image Results.  The “Abishag” connection was gleaned from “Interesting Green: Reflection – King David and Abishag,” from veryfatoldmanblogspot.com.  But see also Is Veryfatoldman.blogspot legit and safe?  (Review).