Category Archives: Sunday Bible readings

Background and “color commentary” on the Sunday Lectionary readings

On Pentecost Sunday – 2024

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“Commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit – the very first Pentecost Sunday

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

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. That includes the often-overlooked “mystic” side that answers the question, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance.(John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. (As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”) The fourth theme – another one often overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to do even greater miracles than He did.(John 14:12.) 

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Before this week’s post on Pentecost Sunday, I reviewed two posts from the distant past. I updated and revamped them on Friday, May 17. First, On Jonah and the bra-burners, from January 2015, then The True Test of Faith, from February 2014. And they needed updating…

The Jonah post talked of the whale in the story as an “attention getter” that got out of hand, like feminists burning bras at 1968’s Miss America pageant. That got attention, but ended up a trivializing “negative and trite association.” (The post added that the real message of Jonah is that God’s love is universal.) The “true test” post talked of how some might handle dying and finding out there is no God. (And how I got assured by the First law of thermodynamics.)

Now it’s time to move on to Pentecost Sunday, 2024, but first a story of my own.

I graduated high school in 1969 and went off to college. Like many young people who do that I stopped going to church. That lasted until 1987 when I met Karen, the lady who became my first wife. She died in 2006, after 19 years together, but in 1987 she was looking for a church to call home. She tried many, and I started going to these different churches with her.

She found a place, “Faith Community” south of Largo (FL), and soon her daughter Candy started going too. One Sunday Karen and I got there after the service started. We entered the front hallway and heard a strange murmuring from inside the main auditorium. Then Candy burst out and announced, “these people are crazy!” It seems every one of the 200 or so people inside were “speaking in tongues.” It freaked Candy out, and I wasn’t too crazy about it either. And it wasn’t long after that I said to Karen, “I have an idea. Why don’t we try the church I grew up in. St. Dunstan’s here in Largo.” We tried it and she loved it. We got married there on Valentine’s Day, 1993, and Bishop Harris confirmed her the following February 28.

The point? I may not have returned to “the church of my yoot” if it hadn’t been for the babblers – those “speakers in tongues” – back in 1987. The connection is that Pentecost is also called “Tongue Sunday.” That’s partly because of those Tongues of Fire discussed further below, and because some onlookers expressed the functional equivalent of “those people are crazy!” Just like Karen’s daughter Candy did in 1987, hearing people ostensibly speaking in tongues. (The Lord does indeed work in mysterious ways.)

Back on track: First of all, “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “50th day.” It always comes 50 days after Easter Sunday.  (Seven weeks plus one day.) And it’s been around a long, long time. (Wikipedia said the feast in Judaism is called Shavuot, and celebrates the giving of the Law on Sinai.) Yet another name for Pentecost is Tongue Sunday, as noted.

There were the “tongues of fire,” but also the disciples “spoke in tongues.” (Glossolalia.) As it says in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.“ That made some onlookers skeptical. As noted in Acts 2:12 and 13, some who saw the event were amazed, but “others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine!’” But as Isaac Asimov noted, the Apostles weren’t just “babbling.”

They spoke in known languages. People from different nations understood. Asimov wrote: “In their ecstasy, they uttered phrases in a number of languages,” including the marketplace Koine Greek used in the Roman Empire as well as the disciples’ native Aramaic. Those “who listened to them from the various nations … would have understood something.” Acts 2, verse 8-11:

“How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?  Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” (Emphasis added.)

Of course all that is well and good, but the important thing about Pentecost Sunday as described in Acts is that it was a “momentous, watershed event.” For the first time in history, God empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry.” That was drastically different from Old Testament times, when “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.” But on this first Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit was given to all people. All of us, from that day forward, were “empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” (What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter? – Patheos.)

And finally, Pentecost Sunday is when we get to say, “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Before the events of the first Pentecost – a few weeks after Jesus’ death and resurrection – there were followers of Jesus, but there was no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” So, from a historical standpoint, Pentecost is the day when the Church as we know it was started. (“The Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it.”) 

So here’s wishing you a “Happy Birthday, Church,” and also a Happy Pentecost, both the day and the season. (A season that can take up half the church year, as shown below.)

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Ordinary Time” – Pentecost Season – can take up half the Church year…

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The upper image was originally courtesy of Pentecost Sunday Images – Image Results. But see also El Greco – Pentecost, 1610 at Prado Museum Madrid Spain, which I went on to “glean.” The caption is from the Wikipedia article, gleaned from the following: “The Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).”

The Book of Common Prayer reference: The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

“Feast days” are designated days on the liturgical (church) calendar “set aside to commemorate events, saints, or doctrines that are important in the life of the Church. These can range from Solemnities, which are the highest-ranking feast days like Easter and Christmas, to optional memorials that celebrate lesser-known saints.” Feast Days: Celebrating the Church’s Calendar.

For this post I borrowed from On Pink Floyd and Pentecost Sunday – 2021, Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord,” and – from 2015, On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Confirmation in the Episcopal Church is the sacramental rite in which the confirmands “express a mature commitment to Christ, and receive strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.”

Re: “Church of my yoot.” Referring to what I call the My Cousin Vinny psalm. Psalm 25:6 reads, “Remember not the sins of my youth.” Or “yoot,” as in “Dese two yoots.”

Also, the “more boring detail” follows these standard notes, separated by another four asterisks.

The lower image is courtesy of Liturgical year – Wikipedia. See also Ordinary Time – Wikipedia.

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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.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) 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.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In 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.” Originally, 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!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

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Here’s that “more boring detail,” some of which I may use in future posts. For one thing I researched this speaking-in-tongues business and found 1st Corinthians 14, where the Apostle Paul talked a lot about it. In verse 19, “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” Verse 23, “if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?”

Also, “babbling” can mean the “sound of people talking simultaneously,” or to “talk rapidly and continuously in a foolish, excited, or incomprehensible way,” or to utter meaningless or foolish words or sounds.

Another thing Pentecost does is mark the beginning of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year, though in the Episcopal Church and other Protestant denominations, it goes by another name. In the Anglican liturgy, the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes “through most of the summer and autumn.” It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”

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On Doubting Thomas Sunday – 2023

A stained glass version of the Apostle Thomas proving to himself that Jesus had risen…

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Back in 2014, I posted First musings – Readings for Doubting Thomas Sunday. Looking back – nine years later – the post seems primitive. But it was only the second blog post I ever did. My first post was The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary. It was about Quasimodo Sunday, also known as Second Sunday of Easter. (Because Easter isn’t one day, it’s a whole season. It lasts 50 days, from Easter Sunday to the day of Pentecost or “Whitsunday.”)

As if all that isn’t confusing enough, this April 16, 2023 – the Second Sunday of Easter – could also be called “the Sunday of Many Names.” Aside from the two mentioned above, it’s called “Doubting Thomas Sunday.” That’s because the Gospel reading is always John 20:19-31, the story of disciple Thomas and the doubts he had about Jesus being risen from the dead after being crucified. It’s also called Low Sunday and the Octave of Easter, but I’ll get to those later.

Getting back to Doubting Thomas, Wikipedia defines the term generically as a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.” The term refers to the Apostle Thomas, “who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.” On the other hand, you could say that experiencing – in person – the Force that Created the Universe is or should be what church-going is all about. (See for example, Wesleyan Quadrilateral.)

Wikipedia went on to explain that Thomas the Apostle – also called Didymus, meaning “The Twin” – was best known from the account in John 20:19-31. He questioned Jesus’ resurrection at first, but after his direct experience – seeing and touching Jesus’ wounded body – he proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Of course we can’t have that direct experience – not in this life anyway – but there’s something to be said for having doubts and then overcoming them.

You could say there are two kinds of faith. The first is blindly believing, without asking any questions, having any doubts or asking how other people have interpreted the Bible. The second type does ask questions, does dig deeper and as a result often comes across doubt. You could think of that second type of faith as a form of resistance training. The Blind Faith Christian doesn’t like “resistance.” He does the same old boring exercise, over and over again, and stays at the same low level of spiritual fitness. The Healthy Doubt Christian welcomes resistance, and asks the probing questions that often lead to doubt. But in the process, he ultimately grows spiritually stronger by overcoming that resistance, by overcoming those doubts.

That 2014 post had a link, If you doubt and question … answers.yahoo.com. It asked, “If you doubt and question your faith will it become stronger?” Unfortunately the current link won’t take you there, but back then the “Best Answer” to the Yahoo question included this:

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. 

In other words, there seem to be Christians who see The Faith of the Bible as a spiritual strait-jacket, a pre-shaped form into which “we” have to mold ourselves. This type of Christian also seems to believe that St. Peter will have some kind of checklist at the Pearly Gates, so that if you don’t answer every litmus test question exactly right you won’t get in.

Other Christians see The Faith as a set of Spiritual Wings, like it says in Isaiah 40:31:

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I.e., a set of spiritual wings that can take you to wonderful places and experiences you couldn’t imagine. The choice is yours, but as for me an my house, I’ll pick the spiritual wings.

And now back to those other names for the Second Sunday of Easter. One is Low Sunday, because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.” (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day itself.) Another name is the Octave of Easter. That’s the eight-day period, “or octave, that begins on Easter Sunday and ends with the following Sunday.”

Then there’s that Quasimodo Sunday. But that’s not because of Quasimodo – the guy shown in the image below – better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

Instead, the 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 salvation.] In Latin the verse reads: “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

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)

And incidentally, that character in Hunchback of Notre-Dame was named after the opening words of First Peter 2:2. In the New International Version it reads, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

Which brings us back those “Blind Faith” Christians. They like staying “newborn babes,” spiritually. They don’t want to grow up in their salvation. Or as noted below, they stay in the security of Christian boot camp, where they learned the fundamentals. They don’t want to venture out and use the skills they’ve learned. Or have the spiritual adventures of a “spiritual wings” Christian.

The bottom line? Don’t be a Quasimodo!

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The upper image is courtesy of Doubting Thomas – Image Results. See also Crossroads Initiative, which featured the image.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Season of Easter. See Eastertide – Wikipedia. Also ponder this: The second Sunday after Easter – Easter Sunday – would not be until next Sunday, April 23. On that note see also 2021’s Happy “Sunday of Many Names!”

“As for me and my house.” Joshua 24:15, “if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Quasimodo Sunday. The link from the Catholic News Agency shows yet another name: The “Sunday following Easter is typically remembered as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday,’ a feast day established by Pope John Paul II which honors the divine mercy of Jesus.”

The lower image is courtesy of Quasimodo – Wikipedia. Caption: “‘A tear for a drop of water’ Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion‘s illustrations.”

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Between Halloween and Thanksgiving – 2022

“There WAS a man who tried to pressure Jesus into being more political: Judas Iscariot...”

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The one major holiday between Halloween and Thanksgiving is Christ the King Sunday, next November 20. It’s also called the Feast of Christ the King, or “Proper 29” in the church calendar, or the “Last Sunday after Pentecost,” as discussed in the notes. I covered this recently-created Feast Day in the 2015 post, Hitler and Mussolini help create Christ the King Sunday.

Speaking of recently created, it all started in 1925, mostly “Over There” in Europe:

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925 [after] the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe…  These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church [and] the Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning…  (Emphasis added.)

And speaking of 1925, here’s how that year started: On January 3Benito Mussolini “promised to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours.” (Marking the beginning of his dictatorship.) Aside from Mussolini in Italy, in Russian a new organization was created, TASS, which quickly became a front for the NKVD, later the KGB. (Of Vladimir Putin fame.) And that’s not to mention Adolf Hitler. In July 1925 he published Volume 1 of his personal manifesto Mein Kampf. Also in July, in the United States, 1925 featured a show of strength by a group called the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan held its parade in Washington, and their five million members at the time made it the “largest fraternal organization in the United States.”

In plain words, Pius XI created the Feast of Christ the King in response to world events swirling around him. (Including – but hardly limited to – Hitler, Mussolini, and the KKK.) 

Which brings up the recent U.S. elections and a potential rise in Christian nationalism. The problem: “nationalist governments tend to become authoritarian and oppressive in practice. (See What Is Christian Nationalism?) Or see Christian nationalism isn’t Christianity. It’s spewing hate in ‘the name of Jesus.’ That article said “Christianity is grounded in Christian scriptures where Jesus teaches love, peace, unity and truth. Christian nationalism preaches hatred, violence, separation, and disinformation.” All of which could be problematic for American democracy.

Another problem is that today’s Christian Nationalists get a lot of political power from the fact that their political opponents just don’t know much about the Bible. They can’t tell when the Bible is being misquoted, misused or abused. But that “problem” is also the Achilles’ heel of Christian nationalism. Mostly because Jesus opposed all such “Nationalism.*”

As Garry Wills pointed out, Jesus was above politics. Or as Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus was all about saving souls, even the souls of people who hated Him the most. “I came to save, not to condemn.” Which means He definitely wasn’t into today’s politics. But of course there WAS one man who tried to pressure Jesus into getting more politically involved, into being more of a nationalist. His name was Judas Iscariot.

Getting back to such nationalism and its Achilles’ heel. All this makes a good case for more Americans reading and studying the Bible: Political self-defense. Those who stand for Jesus and against exclusionary “nationalism” can start saying things like, “What part of ‘love your neighbor’ don’t you understand?” Or, “What part of ‘love your enemy‘ don’t you understand?” Or my favorite, 1st John 4:20, “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.” In other words:

Play the “Jesus card:” It’ll drive ’em crazy!

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These guys prompted Pope Pius XI to create “Christ the King Sunday…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Judas Iscariot – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘The Kiss of Judas’ (between 1304 and 1306) by Giotto di Bondone depicts Judas’ identifying kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

Re: Book of Common Prayer. At page 339.

Re: “Last Sunday after Pentecost.” Christ the King Sunday ends one version of “Ordinary Time.” It also bridges the gap between the end of Pentecost season and the start of Advent. (Which leads to Christmas.) In plain words, Ordinary Time refers to two “seasons of the Christian liturgical calendar.” The better known Ordinary Time takes up half the Christian calendar. See On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!” The better known Ordinary Time begins with Pentecost Sunday, for Catholics. In the Anglican liturgy, it’s known as the Season of Pentecost.

[In] 2015 the Season of Pentecost [ends on] November 28 [Thanksgiving Weekend.  T]he day after that – November 29 – marks … a new liturgical year.

See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia, and an earlier post On the 12 Days of Christmas. They note an alternate “New Year” to the one on January 1: “Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.” It also marks the start of the season of Advent, and leads to Christmas. See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia, and also Advent – Wikipedia.

I’ll clear things up in future posts at month’s end and December 2022.

The first mention of Christian Nationalism cites Wikipedia. The first non-Wikipedia article on Christian Nationalism is from Christianity Today. See also “Patriotism” vs. “Nationalism”: What’s The Difference? The article noted that while patriotism has a positive connotation, “nationalism” often doesn’t:

[F]ascist regimes have merged the fervor of nationalism with the notions of superiority, especially when it comes to ethnicity and religion. In such contexts, “patriots” can become those who happened to agree with you or look like you, and “traitors” those who do not.

Re: Garry Wills. See his What Jesus Meant. In the paperback, at pages 102-103, in Chapter 6, “Descent into Hell.” The “not of this world” quote is from John 18:36. The “save not condemn” quote is from John 3:17. See also Why Do We Condemn When Jesus Came to Save? – Christianity.

Re: “Love your enemy.” See Matthew 5:44. Or Google “love your neighbor as yourself.” I did that and got four billion, 260 million results. The 1st John 4:20 quote is from the Good News Translation.

The lower image is courtesy of Hitler and Mussolini meet in Rome | History Today

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“Happy Quasimodo Sunday” – 2022

Not this Quasimodo (Charles Laughton in 1939); it’s the first line of First Peter 2:2 in Latin…

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April 24, 2022 is officially the Second Sunday of Easter. Note the “of,” not “after.” That’s because Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.” It’s a season of 50 days – called Eastertide – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost(See Frohliche Ostern.) It’s also known as Low Sunday, mostly because church attendance falls off so drastically on that first Sunday “after.” (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day. On that note see “CEOs;”  i.e., Christians who only go to church on Christmas and Easter. “Christmas and Easter Only.”)

But aside from being “low,” it’s also the”Sunday of Many Names!” That includes Doubting Thomas Sunday – the Gospel for the day always tells the story of “Doubting Thomas” – and the Octave of Easter. (Because chronologically it comes eight days after Easter.)

And finally it’s known as “Quasimodo Sunday.” But that’s not because of Quasimodo – the guy shown in the lead image – and better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

Instead, the 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.’”

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)

And incidentally, that character in Hunchback of Notre-Dame was named after the opening words of First Peter 2:2. In the New International Version it reads, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” Also incidentally, the passage right before it reads, “Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.” Which is definitely a needed reminder these days. (“Facebook commenters!”)

I’ve written of this Second Sunday of Easter in 2017’s “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017, 2019’s On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor, and 2021’s Happy “Sunday of Many Names!” The first of the three noted Wikipedia saying a doubting Thomas is a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience, a reference to the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.”

The 2019 post Easter … and a Metaphor talked about these two Sundays and also a metaphor about Jesus inviting Peter to literally “walk on water.” It’s true that Peter “fell flat on his face” – at least metaphorically – but at least he took the chance of accepting Jesus’ invitation. As a result of taking that chance – and not following the safe path and staying in the boat – Peter’s faith grew in ways that the other disciples could never experience. (He “explored his full potential;” so much so that he became Primus inter pares. “First among equals.”)

The third of the three noted Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India,” on the tradition that Thomas sailed to India in 52 AD, to spread the Christian faith. And that he was martyred in 72 AD.

Some Patristic literature state[s] that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.

One result? India, and especially the Malabar coast, still boasts a large native population calling themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” Not bad for a guy who started out doubting…

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The upper image is courtesy of Quasimodo Laughton Image – Image Results. Included in a “Pinterest” page on “The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1939.” See also Quasimodo – Wikipedia.

Re: Book of Common Prayer. See page 339, under Holy Eucharist:  Rite One:

Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank thee for that thou dost feed us, in these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, the blessed company of all faithful people…

Or see The Online Book of Common Prayer.

Re: “Doubting Thomas Sunday.” The readings for this Second Sunday of Easter always include John 20:19-31, which tells the story of Thomas overcoming his doubt by personally seeing Jesus after His resurrection. (Overcoming his saying earlier, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”)

Re: An “Introit,” like First Peter 2:2. Merriam-Webster defines it as either “the first part of the traditional proper of the Mass consisting of an antiphon, verse from a psalm, and the Gloria Patri,” or a “piece of music sung or played at the beginning of a worship service.” The Gloria Patri generally goes like this:  “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, and now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.”

Re: St. Thomas’ martyrdom. Said to be at Mylapore near Chennai in India.

The lower image is courtesy of Doubting Thomas In The Bible – Image Results. It goes with a page, Is it Fair to Call Today’s Saint “Doubting Thomas?” The article included the thought that “faith and doubt are not antitheses – they’re twins.” And that “St. Thomas became the Apostle of India, traveling perhaps farther than any other apostle to preach the Gospel, baptizing thousands of people on the Subcontinent, creating a Christian community that has lasted to this day.”

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On Pink Floyd – and Pentecost Sunday, 2021…

“Commemorating the descent of the Holy Spiriton the very first “Pentecost Sunday…”

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Last May 23 was Pentecost Sunday. On a related note – I hope – I just ran across an old post from early 2015, On Pink Floyd and “rigid schooling.” (From a companion blog.) It started off describing a Christmas visit that I made to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. (In 2014.) From there it went off on a[n apparent] tangent.

That is, the post went on to describe some of the Biblical prophets, like Isaiah. (At left.) And said that those Bible prophets were very much like Pink Floyd, “cited by some as the greatest progressive rock band of all time.” That is, those Bible prophets were “also the ‘spokesmen of protest’ and the ‘radicals of their day.'”

That last statement about “radical protest” led me to google “radical meaning of pentecost.” Which led me to Sermon: The radical roots of the Church at Pentecost | Rev Doc Geek. (Written by Avril Hannah-Jones, and posted on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021.) One of her thoughts? “Pentecost is a story about God’s commitment to human diversity.”

(Or, “God’s commitment to each person open-mindedly developing their full potential?”)

Hannah-Jones spoke of the Disciples and their followers “speaking in other languages” on the original day of Pentecost. (Of which more below.) Then of Peter refuting a claim that the speakers were simply drunk. (“That early in the day.”) But one key feature of that first Day of Pentecost was that very multilingualism, not to be confused with glossolalia. (Or “speaking in tongues,” which according to one definition is the “ecstatic, usually unintelligible speech uttered in a worship service,” or fabricated or non-meaningful speech.)

“Doc Geek” said that act of “speaking in different languages” was itself radical, an “obvious challenge to the Roman Empire,” which wanted everyone to speak a single language, Greek or Latin. (Like too many of today’s so-called Christians, who think their “fundamental” interpretation of the Bible-Faith is the only valid one, on pain of all who disagree “going to hell.”)

But my theory is that unless any good Christian is infallible, he or she cannot know either all the answers or all of the “Ultimate Truth.” (And if that person is infallible, the rest of us can say, “It’s about time. We’ve been waiting for You to come back these past 2,000 years!”)

So in the sense that all of us mortals arefallible,” we Christians as well are more like the blind men and an elephant. Each of us may know part of God’s Ultimate Truth,* but only by comparing notes and through spirited debate – the free marketplace of ideas – can we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.” (2d Peter 3:18.)

And that theory itself is pretty radical. (To some people anyway…) But back to somehow bringing together Pink Floyd and Pentecost Sunday, 2021. That effort led me back to “this time last year,” back to last year’s post, Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”

And just as a reminder, the first sentence of that post was, “We’re just starting the 12th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (Illustrated at right. And for the record, we’re now in the sixty-second – 62d – full week of COVID; 15 months and two weeks.)

And – just to review – speaking of Pentecost in the Liturgical year:

That’s the 49th day (seventh sunday) after Easter Sunday, and it commemorates “the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks.” (As described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31It’s also known as the Birthday of the Church

In turn, that “learn what is pleasing to the Lord” phrase came from Ephesians 5:10. And alternatives to the word “learn” are the words “test” and “prove,” as in the Berean Study Bible, “Test and prove what pleases the Lord.” One commentary added:

To prove is to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ… We are not to follow the tradition of our people … we are to prove the matter, to put it to the test.

In other words, we can’t find out how to “please Christ,” personally, as individuals, by merely becoming carbon-copy, “cookie cutter” or Comfort Zone Christians. Instead “we are to prove the matter” of our faith, to “put it to the test.” We are to live our lives fully, without fear

Which is pretty much one major theme of this blog. And that’s the very same theme that I noted in Pink Floyd – “rigid schooling.” Put another way, that post spoke again of how some people – like “Conservative Christians?” – read, study and apply the Bible to their everyday life “by the book.” That is, way too literally or “fundamentally.” Which is another way of saying that “going by the book isn’t always the best course. It’s always a good place to start, and it’s always easier to do. The problem comes when that’s all you know.”

To put it in more concrete terms, that post used an example from Shakespeare; the part where Juliet tells Romeo, “You kiss by the book.” That is, Juliet meant that Romeo kissed “as if he ha[d] learned how to kiss from a manual.” The web article SparkNotes: Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, scene 5, said the comment could be taken two ways, one involving a “lack of experience.”

Or it could be interpreted like this:

Juliet’s comment that Romeo kisses by the book is akin to noting that he kisses as if he has learned how to kiss from a manual and followed those instructions exactly. In other words, he is proficient, but unoriginal… 

(Emphasis added.) Which is pretty much what those so-called Conservative Christians get by and through their style of Bible study. They get “proficient, but unoriginal.” And yet the Bible itself says – repeatedly – that our job is to sing to the Lord a NEW song. (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 96:1Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.”) And speaking of proving and testing, consider what Buddha once said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations…  Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests. After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

(Emphasis added.) And that’s the same thing the Bible says in 1st John 4:1, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (E.A.)

Which brings us back to 2015’s Pink Floyd and “rigid schooling.” One of the key lyrics to the band’s song The Wall is “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control.” As an adult nearing my 70th summer I’d agree in part and disagree in part. I’d say “these young punks today need some education,” but I’d say they’re right about the thought-control part:

So maybe that’s what Pink Floyd was saying with “We don’t need no thought control.” Teach us how to create out of the basics. Teach us how to become both proficient and original. But don’t try to turn us into “compliant cogs in the societal wheel…”

Which – in my opinion – is pretty much what you’ll become if you read and apply the Bible Faith too literally or too “fundamentally.” And aside from short-changing yourself, you’ll be driving away from Jesus the very people who need Him the most. Which is one reason that now – for the first time in 80 years – Less Than 50% of Americans Formally Belong to a Church. Yet another reason for the decline is that those people just don’t know The Real Good News: That being a real Christian doesn’t mean you have to be just another brick in the wall

All of which is something good to remember on this Pentecost “Happy Birthday, Church!”

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By all means. Instead you should “sing to the Lord a new song.” (Psalm 96:1.)

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The upper image was originally courtesy of Pentecost Sunday Images – Image Results. But see also El Greco – Pentecost, 1610 at Prado Museum Madrid Spain, which I went on to “glean.” The caption is from the Wikipedia article, gleaned from the following: “The Christian High Holy Day of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).”

The image of Isaiah is courtesy of Book of Isaiah – Wikipedia. The full caption reads:  “detail of entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza showing verse from Isaiah 33:6 Rockefeller CenterNew York.”

Re: Fallible. See the Free Dictionary: likely to fail or make errors. Used in a sentence. “Everyone is fallible to some degree.” A thought mirrored in Romans 3:10, citing – among other passages – Psalm 14:3 and 1st John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Re: Blind men and elephant. See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, from October 2018.

Re: Part of that Ultimate Truth. See 1st Corinthians 13:12. In the Amplified Bible:

For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully…

Which might be amplified, “Then – and only then – will I know fully.”

Re: “Kissing by the book.” See SparkNotes: Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, scene 5, which said the comment could be taken two ways, one about Juliet’s “lack of experience.” Or it could be interpreted like this:

Juliet’s comment that Romeo kisses by the book is akin to noting that he kisses as if he has learned how to kiss from a manual and followed those instructions exactly. In other words, he is proficient, but unoriginal…  (E.A.)

And for future reference on the topic, see Jesus the radical: What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills, to support the “radical protest” idea. But I found it didn’t fit the general tenor of this post, so I include it here:

Precisely because Jesus is a mysterious, divine figure, however, he is also an iconoclast who escapes ordinary human religious and political categories: “He did not found a church or advocate a politics…” [Wills’] underlying concern seems to be that the “faith-based politics” of the contemporary evangelical Right in the U.S is a form of “idolatry” based on values alien to Jesus” teaching.

Re: Decline in church members. See also U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.

The lower image is courtesy of Just Another Brick In The Wall – Image Results.

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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-on phrase, “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 mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…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

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers 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.” And 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

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” 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.*” In 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 image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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?

The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020

Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus” – at the Presentation of Our Lord

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Last Sunday, February 2, was the Feast Day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple:

2017Candlemas.jpg

Counting 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.” That is, His presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem, “in order to officially induct him into Judaism.”  And by the way, it’s also known as Candlemas.  (As shown above right.)  

I’ve covered this Feast Day in past posts, including 2015’s On The Presentation of Our Lord, 2016’s The Presentation of the Lord – 2016, 2017’s On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord,” and last year’s “The LORD is a God of knowledge” – The Presentation, 2019.

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The 2015 post has lots of information on Mardi Gras, which happens this year on February 25. (The point being that the “Feast of the Presentation” leads directly on to Ash Wednesday, Lent and ultimately to Easter.) And the fact that way too many people see Mardi Gras as just another excuse to party, without seeing any connection to religion or spirituality.

 The bad news – to some – is that Mardi Gras is followed immediately by Lent, a “solemn religious observance,” 40 days of atonement, self-denial, prayerpenancerepentance, and almsgiving. And incidentally, that’s not 40 days straight of “self-denial.”  You get Sundays off to enjoy whatever it is you’ll be giving up for Lent.

As to the last, see OMG! Is it time for Lent again? That is, there are actually 46 days of Lent: 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. That’s because Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve “given up.” (A bit of Bible wisdom that got overlooked by the writers and/or producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights. See below right.)

Which brings up another bit of Bible wisdom that I overlooked – or failed to mention before – based on my recent trip to Utah. (From December 27 to January 9.) That is, the fact that January 1st is the day celebrated by some Christians as the time “Our Lord first shed His blood for us.”

On January 1st, we celebrate the Circumcision of Christ. Since we are more squeamish* than our ancestors, modern calendars often list it as the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, but the other emphasis is the older. Every Jewish boy was circumcised (and formally named) on the eighth day of his life, and so, one week after Christmas, we celebrate the occasion when Our Lord first shed His blood for us.

See Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys,” which notes the anomaly that – in our “modern” view – January 1 is seven days after December 25. 

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And finally, one note of interest: Generally the February 2d “Presentation” comes roughly halfway into the Season of Epiphany. Which this year ends with Ash Wednesday, February 26. Which leads – as noted – to both Lent and Easter:

As it is the first day of Lent, some Christians begin Ash Wednesday by marking a Lenten calendar, praying a Lenten daily devotional, and abstaining from a luxury that they will not partake of until Eastertide arrives.

Which also leads to what could be called the Second Presentation of Jesus.” That is, Ash Wednesday leads to Good Friday, with Jesus about to be crucified – for us and our shortcomings – as shown below…

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Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus…”

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The upper image is courtesy of the “Simeon” link in the Wikipedia article on the Presentation.  That caption:  “Simeon the Godreceiver [sic] by Alexei Egorov. 1830–40s.”  The caption for that “upper image” is actually the one from Simeon and Anna Recognize the Lord in Jesus. That’s another interpretation of the event, by Rembrandt (van Rijn).  (Far better known that Egorov.)  You can see Rembrandt’s interpretation at “Wikigallery,” or at “Rembrandtonline.”

Re: “squeamish.” That is, “easily shocked, offended, or disgusted by unpleasant things.”

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.”

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On Luke and the “rich young man”

The ‘Sacrifice of Isaac,’ where God finally said “Stop!  Let’s change some ‘traditional values…’”

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Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne Saint Luc.jpgThursday, October 18, is the Feast Day for St. Luke.  (Shown at left.)

Luke wrote the third-of-four Gospels, along with the book Acts of the Apostles (What is called “the fifth book of the New Testament.”)  

I’ll be writing more on Luke the Evangelist below, and in doing so I’ll be citing St. Luke – 2015.  But first I want to note a revelation I had during last Sunday’s sermon.  It was about last Sunday’s GospelMark 10:17-31(From the readings for Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.)  It told the story of Jesus and the rich young man.

Matthew wrote that the rich young man first asked Jesus how to get “eternal life.”  (How to “get to heaven.”)  Then – after the young man told Jesus he already observed all the commandments – Jesus said:  “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  Luke’s Gospel added that when he heard this, the rich young man “became very sad, because he was very wealthy.”  That’s when Jesus said it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

But in last Sunday’s sermon, our visiting priest asked us to imagine something different.  Like what would have happened if the young man had agreed to do what Jesus said?

That is, suppose the rich young man had actually starting selling all his possessions and giving the profits to the poor.  The priest theorized that Jesus probably would have said this:  “Stop!  I was only trying to make a point!  Let’s work something out so you can keep your goods and possessions and put them to good use in the service of the Lord…

That’s when it hit me.  The priest’s theory wasn’t all that crazy.  There was legal precedent for his position.  It struck me that it could have been very much like what God did when he asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son.  And when Abraham indicated his willingness to follow God’s orders.  On that note, see Abraham and Isaac – Where God CHANGED some “traditional values and attitudes.”

That post noted that the Abraham-Isaac story bothers a lot of people, because it seems to show God ordering a father to kill his own son.  “And that’s the view you would take if you took the lesson literally.”  But at the time Abraham lived, child sacrifice was pretty routine.  In fact, you could call it a prevailing “traditional value.”

Which means the Abraham-Isaac story is not one of God being cruel.  Instead:

“[I]n that age, it was astounding that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it.”  [Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz (1872 -1946)] interpreted the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent…  So to a reasonable Semite at the time … a father offering his son as a “sacrifice to the gods” was so common that the Akedah proved the noteworthy exception.

A note:  Akedah is Hebrew short-hand for the Abraham-Isaac story, and translates “The Binding.”

So anyway, the main point of the Abraham-Isaac story is that God never intended that Abraham actually kill Isaac.  In the same way, the point of the “Jesus and the rich young man” story could be that Jesus never wanted the rich young man to give up all his possessions.  What he wanted was the rich young man’s willingness to do so.  But mostly He wanted the rich young man to use and develop his talents, so he could put them to the “service of the Lord.”

*   *   *   *

Which brings us back to Luke the Evangelist.  And speaking of developing your talents:  The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was arguably the most beautiful book that ever was.”

But – again speaking of developing your talents – Luke wasn’t just a great writer.  He was also – according to tradition – an artist.  Beyond that, he was said to be the first icon painter, and to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, as shown in the image below.

Which means Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one we should pay special attention to.  And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

So as noted in Luke 8:8 and Luke 14:35, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

“Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child…” 

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Binding of Isaac – Wikipedia.  The full caption reads: “’The Sacrifice of Isaac’ by Caravaggio, in the Baroque tenebrist manner.”  As to the wording of the caption, see “Or words to that effect” – Wiktionary, and also “Or Words to that Effect” – Adoremus Bulletin, quoting the character Richard Rich in the plan “A Man for All Seasons.”

Re:  Abraham – Wikipedia.  The caption to the image to the right of the paragraph starting “That’s when it hit me” is captioned:  “Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac. From a 14th-century missal.”

As to the “Hertz” reference, “Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz, CH (September 25, 1872 – January 14, 1946) was a Jewish Hungarian-born rabbi and Bible scholar. He is most notable for holding the position of Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1913 until his death in 1946, in a period encompassing both world wars and the Holocaust.”  Another note, “CH” stands for “Order of the Companions of Honour,” an order of the “Commonwealth realms … as a reward for outstanding achievements and is ‘conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition.'”

Re:  “He wanted the rich young man to use and develop his talents.”  The full blog-post cite – from December 2015 – is Develop your talents with Bible study.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

On Independence Day, 2018

A turtle biting a man carrying a barrel to a waiting ship

Thomas Jefferson‘s Embargo had many Americans “declaring independence” – from him!

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A lot has happened since June 22 and my last post.  But to cut to the chase:  The caption for the image at the top of the page is:  “A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the ‘Ograbme,’ which is ‘Embargo‘ spelled backwards.”  As noted below, President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 was “one of the most self-defeating laws ever passed in American history.”

For an explanation of the symbols in the cartoon, see the notes.  But the point is that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson could have some really stupid ideas.

And all of which also goes to show that this whole idea of independence – whether national, secular or religious – can be messy.  (If not “revolutionary.”)

*   *   *   *

So again, a lot has happened since June 22.  Among other things, we as a nation celebrated Independence Day, July 4th.  I did a post two years ago on the holiday – Independence Day, 2016 – that went into great detail on Thomas Jefferson.  And his writing the Declaration of Independence.

And about some of the “ramifications thereof.”

One ramification is that “independence” – freedom, if you will – can be really messy.  Which brings up Wikipedia on the touchy subject of winning – and keeping – “independence:”

Whether the attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as legitimate means to achieving sovereignty.  [Emphasis added.]

In other words, the ideas of independence and revolution have long been “inextricably intertwined.”  And that idea troubles many conservatives, Christian or otherwise.

*   *   *   *

One big reason freedom – for all people, including those “not like us” – is that so many other people seem to make so many stupid choices.  See the Prayer Book‘s Outline of the Faith:

Q.  Why then do we live apart from God and out of harmony with creation?  A.  From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choicesQ.  Why do we not use our freedom as we should?  A.  Because we rebel against God, and we put ourselves in the place of God.

Which I suppose is just a way of saying freedom means the ability to make stupid choices.  See also Living Stingy:  “You can’t have freedom, unless you have the freedom to make bad choices.”

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Which brings us back to President Jefferson‘s Embargo Act of 1807.  As Wikipedia said:

”Widespread evasion of the maritime and inland trade restrictions [of the Act] by American merchants, as well as loopholes in the legislation, greatly reduced the impact of the embargo on the intended targets in Europe.”

Among other results, Great Britain gladly took over the trade routes America gave up – and lost – by and through the Embargo.  In plain words, the Embargo cost a lot of American jobs.

Another author said the Embargo Act was “one of the most self-defeating laws ever passed in American history.”  Mostly because it “took no account of economic realities.”  (Which Jefferson-supporters might have called “fake news.”)  But in the end:

The legislation was unenforceable:  goods were taken Canada and then quietly brought across the border, or smuggled in by fishing boats…  But industry and trade still suffered:  New York came close to seceding, such was the crisis it was undergoing…

All of which sounds vaguely familiar, somehow.

But getting back to the focus of this blog:  We should note July 4th is not just a secular holiday but a religious feast day(As noted in the link Independence Day.)  And speaking of unpleasant reality:  The first Bible reading for July 4 includes Deuteronomy 10:19:

When you have entered the homeland that God gives you, serve Him faithfully.  Deal generously with the alien and the homeless, for you were homeless aliens in the land of Egypt.*

Which goes to show today’s so-called “Conservative Christians” – who support the present hard-line on immigration – are arguably acting “contrary to Scripture.”

Which is why we have Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“).

As detailed in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other, Ezekiel says that our duty as Good Christians is to warn each other.  To “argue” with each other and thus – in the process – arrive at a better understanding of “the Truth.”  (And not just yell “fake news” to any information we disagree with or can’t handle.  Or pull the “you’re going to hell” card.)

As Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (Which means those people who yell “fake news” are arguably also acting “contrary to Jesus.”)

But getting back to Thomas Jefferson and his role as Founding Father.  Although he made mistakes, he also did a heck of a lot of good for this country.  As noted on his tombstone:

Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia.

So Jefferson himself considered his writing the Statute for Religious Freedom just as important – if not more important – as his writing the Declaration of Independence.

But there’s one other big thing he did.  He took a chance and doubled the size of the then-existing United States.  He did this by the Louisiana Purchase, “one of his greatest contributions to the United States.”  (And by far “the largest territorial gain in U.S. history.”)

Which goes to show that Thomas Jefferson was not a conservative, Christian or otherwise…

He wasn’t afraid to take a chance, and he wasn’t about to be bound by “conservative strictures.”  And because of this trait, Americans had a whole new territory to explore.

Or as noted in the INTRODUCTION, the Bible itself opens up a whole new world!  (Not the crappy Old World best left behind.)  Or a “new continent opening up after Lewis and Clark:”

 So, are you ready for your own Great Exploration!!??

(That is, “Get out there and use your freedom – properly – to explore your God-given destiny…”)

Which is another way of saying that real freedom – real independence – is so exciting and rewarding precisely because you always take the chance of falling flat on your face.

Like Thomas Jefferson.

And most “conservative Christians” are afraid to do just that…

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Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase – in white – doubled the size of the existing United States… 

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the “Ograbme”, which is “Embargo” spelled backwards (1807).”

As to the symbols in the cartoon, see “O Grab Me” Political Cartoon – Embargo of 1807:

Man to the far Left is a British man who is upset because Americans cannot and will not sell goods to the British.  The Turtle represents the American government, which is making sure that the American does not sell goods to the British.  The man carrying the barrel represents an American who wants to sell goods to make money but cannot due to the Embargo Act.

(*)  The quote for Deuteronomy 10:19 is from the “religious feast day link Independence Day.”  But see also cross references to Leviticus 19:34 – “You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” – and Ezekiel 47:22:

You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who dwell among you and who have children.  You are to treat them as native-born Israelites; along with you, they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.

It should be noted that officially the “prayer book” referred to is the Online Book of Common Prayer. (At page 845.)  See also Wikipedia, referring to the “short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion … and other Anglican Christian churches.  The original book, published in 1549 in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English Reformation.”  

Also re:  The Embargo Act of 1807.  See Wikipedia:

Most historians consider Jefferson’s embargo to have been ineffective and harmful to American interests[, and] as Jefferson’s “least effective policy…”  [Historian] Joseph Ellis calls it “an unadulterated calamity…”  Jefferson believed that the failure of the embargo was due to selfish traders and merchants showing a lack of “republican virtue.”

There’s that darn independence again… 

Re:  “Inextricably intertwined.”  See also Evidence legal definition – Quimbee.

Re:  “Another author wrote.”  The quoted portions are from Dark History of the American Presidents (Power, corruption, and scandal at the heart of the White House), by Michael Kerrigan (Amber Books, 2013 edition), at pages 41-41.

The lower image is courtesy of Louisiana Purchase – Wikipedia.

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I should also note:  The Bible readings for July 8th – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost include 2 Corinthians 12:2-10.  I described the reading in 2017’s Paul describes an out-of-body experience:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows.  And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Just in case you were interested in such things.

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“Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth

The FSU Women’s first CWS title:  A recent example of the Law of unintended Consequences?

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I’m working on a new post on my “practice of religion.”  (My ritual sacrifice, if you will…)

That practice – obviously –  involves reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (Starting back in 1992.)  But it also involves my exercising seven hours a week, in an ongoing “search for the functional equivalent of Moses holding his hands up at Rephidim.”  Which is another way of saying Moses may well have been the first man to say “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  (Or see God’s Favorite Team” – Part III” – with the image at right – for a fuller explanation of my ‘mystic quest.”)

Also – in my mind anyhow – that practice also recently helped FSU‘s Women’s softball team – seen celebrating at the top of the page – win their first-ever national championship.

I’ll be writing more on my Ritual Sacrifice in a later post, but for now:

Let’s focus on the Gospel lesson for todaySunday, June 10

That would be Mark 3:20-35, where Jesus was “accused by His family and by Teachers of the Law.”  First, His family accused Him of being  crazy.  (“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”)  Second, the so-called “teachers of the law” insisted that Jesus could only cast out demons because He was possessed by demons Himself.  (“He’s possessed by Satan…  That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”)  

Which led to this judgment by Jesus, found in Mark 3:28-29:

“Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven;  they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

For a fuller commentary on that “eternal sin,” see Mark 3:29 Commentary (Bible Hub).  But – as one of my former priests once summarized – the concept behind this passage is pretty simple: “If you’re afraid you might have committed this ‘eternal sin,’ you probably haven’t.”

That’s another way of saying that if you insist that you’ve never sinned, you could be in big trouble.  Or that it’s only the sin you’re not aware of – or refuse to consider – that can really get you in trouble.  But in church this morning, during the sermon, I had another thought.  Mark 3:29 could be a classic example of Jesus applying Deuteronomy 19:16.

I explored that “Deut. 19:16” concept in “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other.  Posted last April 8, that post explored the idea of people making false accusations:

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.

(BTW:  The full cite would be Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  Which could really get a lot of people in trouble these days.)   So basically the so-called “teachers of the law” accused Jesus of being  “possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.”  Which in turn meant that they were liable to end up being punished as if they were in fact “possessed by Satan, the prince of demons.”

TimeWhich is not a pretty picture – or subject – to contemplate.  And this is my point:  Like Tom Cruise in the film A Few Good Men, all real and true Christians simply Want the Truth.  They want and need to find out things as they really are, mainly in their own self-interest.  As noted, the only real “unforgivable sin” is the one you’re not aware of.

For other relevant summaries, see The Truth of God – Bible Hub, and/or Truth – Wikipedia.  Then there’s John 14:6: Where “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”

Which brings us back to my theory that – since 1992 – my ongoing ritual sacrifice has helped some of my favorite teams, including but not limited to teams from FSU (Where I graduated law school in 1984.)  For starters, since 1992 the FSU football team has won three national championships.  Also, “my” Tampa Bay Bucs won a Super Bowl.  “My” Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.  I got “my” L.A. Dodgers to Game 7 of last year’s World Series.

(Somehow I have to figure out how to get the Dodgers over the hump.)

This year I got “my” FSU basketball team to the Elite 8.  FSU’s Mike Martin became the winningest coach in college baseball history.  And of course the FSU Women’s Softball team won it’s first College World Series title.  The strange thing is that I was sorely disappointed when the FSU men’s baseball team got eliminated in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.  And that’s where the Law of unintended Consequences may have come in.  Or put another way:

God answers our prayers, but not always the way we expect.

So I prayed and “sacrificed” for the FSU men’s baseball team to win a national championship, only to have the Women’s softball team win their first national championship.

Which means this Eternal Search for Truth is an ongoing process.  Again, I hope to explore this process in future posts, but in the meantime I’ll go on following my own particular “practice of religion.”  For one thing, I’m sure there’s a lesson there somewhere.

For another thing:  So far the results haven’t been too bad…

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Like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, all true Christians simply “Want the Truth!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Florida State wins 1st softball national championship.  (News4Jax | Jacksonville, Florida News, Weather, Sports.)

Re “Unintended Consequences.”  The link is to The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.  But see also Unintended consequences – Wikipedia, which distinguished an unexpected drawback and/or “perverse result” from an unexpected benefit, to wit:  “A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luckserendipity or a windfall),” as in the Florida State earns first Women’s College World Series title example.  (Of which more in a later post…)

Re:  It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”  The link is to On “God’s Favorite Team” – Part III.  See also Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  (In my companion blog.)

Re;  My ritual sacrifice.  You could also call it a kind of “mystic quest,” if not a “canary in a coal mine” protocol:  “The phrase ‘living like a canary in a coal mine’ often refers to serving as a warning to others.  The actual canary had little control over its fate, but it continued to sing anyway.  In one sense, living this way indicates a willingness to experience life’s dangers without compromise.”

The “is truth dead” image is courtesy of Time Magazine Asks ‘Is Truth Dead?’ in Trump Era – TheWrap.

The lower image is courtesy of Tom Cruz I Want Truth – Image Results.  

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On another note, tomorrow – June 11 – is the Feast Day for Saint Barnabas:

The apostle and missionary was among Christ’s earliest followers and was responsible for welcoming St. Paul into the Church.  Though not one of the 12 apostles . . . he is traditionally regarded as one of the 72 disciples of Christ and [the] most respected man in the first century Church after the Apostles themselves.

 See On St. Barnabas, posted in June 2014, on this “Apostle of Second Chances.”

The Trinity – Jefferson’s “3-headed monster…”

Official Presidential portrait of Thomas Jefferson (by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).jpg

As smart a guy as Thomas Jefferson couldn’t understand the Doctrine of the Trinity

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Last Sunday, May 20, 2018 was the Day of Pentecost. It’s also called Whitsunday.  This Sunday, May 27, was the First Sunday after Pentecost It’s also known as Trinity Sunday.

There’s more on the Trinity below – along with the “Three-headed Monster” – but first:  For more information on May 20 and Pentecost, see Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016Mary’s Visitation – and Pentecost – 2017, and Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”

Before the events of the first Pentecost … there were followers of Jesus, but no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.”  Thus … Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.  This is also true from a spiritual perspective, since the Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it.  Thus Pentecost is the church’s birthday.

Pentecost also marked a big change in the idea of “Ministry.”  In the Old Testament, “the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings.”  But starting with Pentecost, God recruited “all different sorts of people for ministry.”  That is, the Holy Spirit – the spirit of ministry – now became available to anyone and everyone:  “All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.”

Thus the first Pentecost was indeed a “momentous, watershed event.”

Incidentally, the word “Pentecost” comes from the Greek for “the 50th day,” and it’s always celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday.  (That’s “seven weeks plus one day.”) 

For more information on May 27, 2018, see On Trinity Sunday, 2015, and On Trinity Sunday (2016) – and more!  For starters, Trinity Sunday is always the Sunday after Pentecost, and  celebrates the idea of the three Persons of God:  Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit:

Trinity Sunday … is one of the few celebrations of the Christian Year that commemorates a reality and doctrine rather than a person or event…   The Trinity is one of the most fascinating – and controversial – Christian dogmas.  The Trinity is a mystery.  By mystery the Church does not mean a riddle, but rather the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol, and faith.  It has been said that [this] mystery is not a wall to run up against, but an ocean in which to swim.

(Emphasis added.)  In other words, the Trinity as a concept is so difficult to understand that even a smart guy like Thomas Jefferson couldn’t do it.  But while Jefferson referred to the Doctrine of the Trinity as a “Three-headed Monster,” I prefer the metaphor of “an ocean in which to swim.”  (For a long, long time – and ultimately the rest of your Christian pilgrimage on this earth.)

It also seems to me that – while Jefferson was really smart – he fell into the “common error of thinking that he could ever really understand everything there is to know about God.”

But as noted above, “the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension.”  It’s a reality that we can only begin to grasp.  The same seems to be true of much of the Bible, and especially the “mystical” parts.  (Which may be why some choose “literalism.”  It’s ever so much easier…)

That brings up the Gospel for May 27, John 3:1-17.  There Jesus had a talk with a “Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews” who was really a “Christian,” but secretly.  And even a smart guy like Nicodemus – shown at right talking with Jesus – didn’t understand the idea of being “born again.”

His problem?  He took Jesus’ words too literally:  “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old?  Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’”

Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
…  If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

Which goes to show that reading the Bible too literally can only take you so far in your spiritual journey.  As Jesus Himself noted, the Bible includes many realities that are simply above our human comprehension:  “How can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

See also the end of John, John 21:25, which said there were many other things Jesus did, “which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”  (Also there’s Ecclesiasticus 42:17, the Old Testament DOR for the Eve of Trinity Sunday:  “The Lord has not empowered even his holy ones to recount all his marvellous works.”)  Which just goes to show there’s more to the Bible than meets the eye.

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The artist He Qi‘s interpretation of The Holy Spirit Coming down…  

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The upper image is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Thomas Jefferson, Official White House Portrait, by Rembrandt Peale, 1805.” 

The full set of readings for Pentecost Sunday (5/20/18):  Acts 2:1-21, or Ezekiel 37:1-14Romans 8:22-27, or Acts 2:1-21John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15, and Psalm 104:25-35, 37.  The full set of readings for Trinity Sunday (5/27/18):  Isaiah 6:1-8Psalm 29Romans 8:12-17, and John 3:1-17.

Pentecost is also called “Tongue Sunday,” for the “tongues of fire” that appeared that day, as noted in Acts 2:3.  Also for “speaking in tongues” – also known as glossolalia – noted in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Third, Pentecost marks the beginning of “Ordinary Time” – as it’s called in the Catholic Church – and shown in the chart at left.  Such “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year.  In the Episcopal Church – in the Anglican liturgy  – the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes on “through most of the summer and autumn.”  It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”

As to Whitsunday: The name is a contraction of “White Sunday.”  In English “the feast was always called Pentecoste until after the Norman Conquest, when white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding.   [In] one interpretation, the name derives from the white garments worn by catechumens, those expecting to be baptised on that Sunday…  A different tradition is that of the young women of the parish all coming to church or chapel in new white dresses on that day. 

Re:  “Ecclesiasticus.”  That book – not to be confused with Ecclesiastes – is also called the Wisdom of Sirach And the “book itself is the largest wisdom book from antiquity to have survived:”

Sirach is accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by CatholicsEastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox. The Anglican Church does not accept Sirach as protocanonical, and says it should be read only “for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

Note that the link in the main text provides the King James translation of Ecclesiasticus 42:17.  The quote as given in the main text is from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of The Good Heart: Holy Spirit Coming (Painting by He Qi):  

“A genuinely good heart is a heart that is open and alight with understanding.  It listens to the sorrows of the world.  Our society is wrong to think that happiness depends on fulfilling one’s own wants and desires.  That is why our society is so miserable…”

See also He Qi « Artist:  “One could say that among other things his paintings are a celebration of colour.  The style of his work is iconic, and [his] images are strong but gentle.”