Category Archives: Daily Office readings

Background and color commentary on highlighted readings from the Daily Office Lectionary

“For many are called, but few are chosen…”

An early variation – of many more to come – on the meme proclaiming “the few, the proud…”

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In the last post – Wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul – I talked about returning from three weeks in Israel at the end of May.  Then – two weeks later – about making the transition from an 11-hour flight from Israel (and 26 hours without sleep) to getting ready for an 1,100 mile road trip up to Hadley, MA (To see my “favorite niece from Utah” get married.)

Now I’m back – and don’t have to worry about any more traveling.  That is, not until the end of August, when I fly to Lisbon to hike the Portuguese Camino.  (From Porto to Santiago de Compostela, as shown at right.)

Until then I can get back to meditating on the Daily Office Readings.  And I’ll start with the Gospel for last Sunday, June 7, which includes this, from Matthew 22:14:

For many are called, but few are chosen…”

Mainly because that passage ties in with a theory I talked about last May 2d:  That of the “many” who call themselves Christian, only a “few” avoid the trap of turning too conservative.

I used as an example the Apostle Peter, when Jesus walked on water.  It turned out that Peter was the only disciple who actually got his butt out of the boat and tried walking on water himself.  Meanwhile, the “conservative” disciples stayed safe and sound back in the boat:

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 literal path of following Jesus.

Of course Peter fell flat on his face.  But in so doing he tested – and strengthened – his faith in Jesus.  See Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor.  Again, that “metaphor” was based on the story of Jesus walking on water (shown below left), which in turn was based on Matthew 14 (Starting at verse 22.)  The “high point” came at Matthew 14:29, when Jesus bid Peter to also “walk on water,” which he did.  (For awhile anyway.)

That is, if only for one brief shining moment, Peter walked on water himself.  Unfortunately he ended up panicking and falling flat on his face, but at least he tried!

Which to me illustrates the difference between a real Christian – like Peter – perfectly willing to fall on his face in an effort to emulate Jesus and His path, and the other disciples.  Those who stayed safe and sound in the boat, and represent the “many who are called,” but end up turning down Jesus’ invitation to both “live abundantly and do greater miracles” than He did.

Unfortunately, those “too-conservative Christians” seem to represent the vast majority of all who call themselves Christian today.  (At least in this country, and possibly up to 90 percent.)  But aside from short-changing themselves – they get half or less of what they could from the Bible – they’re both giving the rest of us a bad name and driving away potential new converts “in droves.”

For more on this passage see Matthew 22:14 Commentaries (Bible Hub).  The commentaries first note this passage is mirrored in Matthew 7:13-14:  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Also Matthew 20:16:  “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”

The commentaries also noted the “‘chosen’ are those who both accept the invitation and comply with its condition.”  Or conditions, including Paul’s caution that following the letter of the Gospel “gives death,” while only the law’s spirit gives life.  (2d Corinthians 3:6.) 

And that Jesus expects we Christians to eventually do even greater miracles than He did.  And that we can only do by reading the Bible with an open mind. (Luke 24:45.)

See also Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!”  Among other things, that post noted that in His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus might add, ‘Go beyond the “fundamentals.’”  It also cited the web post How narrow is the narrow gate? – GotQuestions.org.

The gist … is that “many will follow the broad road.”  And that’s what we have in America today.  The “many” are following the broad road of so-called “Conservative Christianity.”  (Which to me is a classic oxymoron, or more precisely, a contradiction in terms.)

That is, staying a “conservative Christian” – after boot-camp – means taking the easy way, because it’s so much easier to be a “literalist.”  You don’t have to think, you don’t have to take chances – like Peter did when he tried to walk on water – and you never have to worry about falling on your face.  But in plain words you also never truly “live” as a Christian, and you will certainly never, ever get to the point where you can perform greater miracles than Jesus.

“You want proof?  Check out the Wikipedia article on the Beatitudes:”

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result.  In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation

In other words, if Jesus had been a conservative, we would never have the Beatitudes (See again, On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor.)  Or Christianity itself…

And finally, see John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  Further, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers added in turn – 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.”

Which presents the challenge of being both highly spiritual and a devoted soldier in the “Army of Christ.”  (One benefit of which:  “As a good soldier in the Army of Christ, you do have the career option of expanding your horizons, and/or testing your limits.”  Just like Peter did.)

Which brings up Psalm 144:1Wikipedia said the Latin translation of 144:1 was influential in Western Christianity in the Middle Ages.  “With the development of the ideal of the knighthood in the 12th century, the verse came to be seen as a fitting prayer for the Christian warrior.”

It seems that “Great Minds Think Alike…”

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From “the few the proud” … the Soldiers (or Marines) of Christ.

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The upper image is courtesy of The Few Proud – Image Results, as distinct from The Few The Proud Marines – Image Results, from which I gleaned the lower image.  (For more on Apache Scouts, check the “meme” indent below.)  Other variations on the meme included “the few, the proud, the insane,” “the few, the proud, the emotional,” “the few, the proud, the trombones,” “the few, the proud, the” various family names, and “the few, the proud, the American coal miner,” not to mention “the few, the proud, the Braves,” shown below left.  For more on the Marine Corps version, see also Culture of the United States Marine Corps – WikipediaMarines are once again ‘The Few, The Proud,’ and Marine Corps may replace ‘The Few, The Proud’ as its recruiting slogan.”

Also note an internet meme – itself a variation of a plain old “meme” – is an activity, concept, catchphrase, or piece of media that spreads, often as mimicry or for humorous purposes, from person to person via the Internet.  See Wikipedia, which added:

The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain the way cultural information spreads[, while] the concept of the Internet meme was first proposed by Mike Godwin in the June 1993 issue of Wired. In 2013, Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as being a meme deliberately altered by human creativity…  Dawkins explained that Internet memes are thus a “hijacking of the original idea,” the very idea of a meme having mutated and evolved in this new direction.  Furthermore, Internet memes carry an additional property that ordinary memes do not:  Internet memes leave a footprint in the media through which they propagate (for example, social networks) that renders them traceable and analyzable

Re: Apache Scouts.  They were “part of the United States Army Indian Scouts.  Most of their service was during the Apache Wars, between 1849 and 1886, though the last scout retired in 1947.  [They] were the eyes and ears of the United States military and sometimes the cultural translators for the various Apache bands and the Americans.  Apache scouts also served in the Navajo War, the Yavapai War, the Mexican Border War and they saw stateside duty during World War II.”  See Wikipedia.  But see also Apache Prisoners of War | Native American Netroots, for a description of what happened to Apache prisoners, including those who “scouted” for the Army:

Chatto and about a dozen other Chiricahua Apache who had served as scouts for the army were summoned to Washington where they met with the Secretary of the Interior.  During their return trip to Arizona, their train was suddenly turned around and they were taken to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas where they were held as prisoners…   383 men, women, and children, were taken by train from Arizona to their prison in Florida.  All of the windows in the train were closed and nailed shut. They were given buckets and cans to serve as chamber pots…  Overall, the stench in the train cars was unbearable.

Re:  “One disciple out of ten.”  I assume there were 11 other disciples in the boat, along with Peter, but that can’t be proven.  I Googled “how many disciples were in the boat when Jesus walked on water,” and got conflicting answers.  Most said the Bible doesn’t say, while a few say “there were 12.”  (The  Aivazovsky painting only shows four.)  But for purposes of “dumbing it down,” like Moses and Jesus, I’ve said Peter was “one of ten” in the boat.  That way we can come up with the easily-understood figure of Peter representing the 10% of “real” Christians who follow the “spiritual path.”  (And of the “too-literal, too-conservatives” constituting up to 90% of those calling themselves Christian.)

Re:  The Portuguese Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.  The map is from the Wikipedia article on Santiago de Compostela, showing Porto on the lower left.  My first Camino hike – in 2017 – started in Pamplona, near the border with France, spelled on the map as “Pampelune.”  For more on the “hike and bike” see “Hola! Buen Camino!!”  And also, from my companion blog, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts

The full Daily Office Readings for Sunday, July 7, 2019:  “AM Psalm 146, 147; PM Psalm 111, 112, 113[;]  1 Samuel 14:36-45; Rom[ans] 5:1-11; Matt[hew] 22:1-14.”

Other thoughts from the commentaries for Matthew 22:14:

They were careless.  Multitudes perish for ever through mere carelessness, who show no direct aversion, but are careless as to their souls.  Also the business and profit of worldly employments hinder many in closing with the Savior.

Also, “The day is coming, when hypocrites will be called to account for all their presumptuous intruding into gospel ordinances, and usurpation of gospel privileges.”  Which adds up to what Sirach 5:5 says, “Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin to sin.”  See also Wikipedia, which notes the Bible book Wisdom of Sirach – also called the Book of Ecclesiasticus (not Ecclesiastes) – “is a work of ethical teachings, from approximately 200 to 175 BCE, written by the Jewish scribe Ben Sira of Jerusalem…  Sirach is accepted as part of the Christian biblical canons by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and most of Oriental Orthodox.  The Anglican Church does not accept Sirach as proto-canonical, and says it should be read only ‘for example of life and instruction of manners…'”

Re:  Jesus walking on water.  Note that in the painting by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888), Peter has “walked” quite a distance from the safety of the boat, over some very choppy waves, and in fact seems much closer to Jesus than to the safety of the boat, where the “other” disciples sit and watch…

Re:  “A soldier of Christ.”  See On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ,” and/or A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

The lower image is courtesy of The Few The Proud Marines – Image Results.

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 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.”

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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…” 

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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.

Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”

In the parable of the “Prodigal Son,” Jesus rejected conservatism in favor of grace

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I originally called this post “Jesus was a liberal.”  But after further review I narrowed the scope, something appeal-courts often do.  That made the question far less broad and so easier to answer.  Thus the limited question:  “Did Jesus interpret Scripture ‘liberally?”  Or as one legal site said, “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.”

And that’s just what Jesus did.  (And His disciples.)  For starters, there’s Mark 2:27 where Jesus said, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”  That is, under the old law – the “conservative law” – of Exodus 23:12, any work on the Sabbath was forbidden:

For six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you must cease, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your maidservant may be refreshed, as well as the foreign resident.

Philippe de Champaigne - Moses with the Ten Commandments - WGA04717.jpg(See also Deuteronomy 5:12, and 5:14.)  But to Jesus, circumstances had changed since Moses made that rule.  (Right after he brought the Israelites out of captivity.)  Which meant the “old law” needed updating.  (Mostly because Conservatives had elevated form over substance, as they are wont to do.)  So Jesus went back to the original words of the rule to fully implement its true intent.  

So again, “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 seems to be just what Jesus had in mind:  Make the Gospel apply to more people.

Then too – as if that isn’t enough to give a Southern Baptist apoplexy – many if not most of His disciples also interpreted Scripture “liberally.”  (Thus making the “Good News” apply to more things and in more situations – and to more people – than could be the case under strict construction.) 

Which brings up the fact that last June 29 was the Feast Day for both Saints Peter and Paul.  The Daily Office Readings for that day – Friday, June 29 – included Acts 11:1-18.  That’s one place where the Apostle Peter “went all Liberal.”  He did that in response to the Conservatives among early Christians who criticized him.  See Acts 11:1:  “Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God.”

Which didn’t suit them at all.  See Acts 11:2:  “So when Peter” – at left – “went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers” – that is, the Conservatives – “criticized him, saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’  But as it turned out. those Conservatives had open minds.  That is, after Peter explained his “vision,” they actually changed their minds.  (Something today’s Conservatives rarely do.)  See Acts 11:18:  “When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'”

That is, under the Old Law – the Conservative, “Jeff Sessions” law – the Path of Life was limited to Jews, and only to Jews.  That’s pretty much what Jesus said – at first – in Matthew 15:27.  That’s where Jesus set out the Conservative view that “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  (With the children being the Jews – and only the Jews – while the “dogs” are uncircumcised Gentiles.)  Yet Jesus – with His open mind – got “persuaded” to change His mind.

And – by the way – that turnabout came through a woman who was a bit smarmy:

With a woman’s ready wit, quickened by urgency and affection, she seizes the opportunity, and turns Christ’s own words against himself.  Thou sayest truth, she means;  the Jews are the children;  we are the dogs;  and as dogs we claim our portion.

Paolo Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.(From the Pulpit Commentary for verse 27.)  Then there was the case of Jesus healing the bleeding woman.  But His having anything to do with such an impure woman was contrary to the conservative “old” law of Leviticus 15:25-27:

“If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, not at the time of her menstrual impurity, or if she has a discharge beyond the time of her impurity, all the days of the discharge she shall continue in uncleanness.”

(See also Leviticus 15:19-23, regarding a woman’s regular monthly “Curse…”)

And finally there was the case of the Apostle Philip “liberally” dealing with an untouchable eunuch.  See On Saint Philip, Saint James, and “privy members.”  That is, as a eunuch the Ethiopian eunuch was untouchable under the Old Law, the Conservative Law.

That’s because of Deuteronomy 23:1, and the New Living Translation is pretty specific:  “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.”  The King James Bible – the one that God uses – put the matter more delicately:  “He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.”  Yet Philip too turned “all Liberal,” and in doing so followed in the footsteps of Jesus.  That is, he interpreted the “Good News” so that it would apply to more things, more situations, and more people than was possible under “strict construction.”

(For more on whether Jesus was a “liberal,” see On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?)

Of course some conservatives – Biblical or otherwise – may disagree, which is of course their right.  But personally I’d like the Good News to apply to more people.  For one big thing, there’s Matthew 7:2:  “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”  For myself, when my time comes I want whoever – Jesus, St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, whoever – to “turn all liberal” when He or they are reviewing my life.

Then too, the definition of conservatism includes a disposition “to preserve what is established,” and/or a “tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.”  So all I can say is, “Thank God Jesus wasn’t a conservative!”  I’m glad He made some changes.

The bottom line?  All I can do is give you “just the facts.”  You decide for yourself…

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The upper image is courtesy of The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt) – Wikipedia:

It is among the Dutch master’s final works, likely completed within two years of his death in 1669.  Depicting the moment of the prodigal son‘s return to his father … it is a renowned work described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a picture which those who have seen the original in St. Petersburg may be forgiven for claiming as the greatest picture ever painted.”

See also Parable of the Prodigal Son – Wikipedia, which indicated that the older son – who stayed behind with his father – represented more “conservative” values.  That is, the older son  “seems to think in terms of ‘law, merit, and reward,’ rather than ‘love and graciousness.’  He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  

The initial first paragraph:  “It seems that if you want to start an argument these days, you could say something outrageous like ‘Jesus Was A Liberal.’  So here goes!  For starters, if you Google ‘jesus was a liberal’ you’ll get about 100,000 results.  (Which actually isn’t that many…)”   Also, the full title of the “Jesus-liberal” link is Jesus Was A Liberal: 20 Quotes GOP Christians Will Hate.  For an opposing view, see Was Jesus a Liberal? The Myth Debunked! » Louder With Crowder.  Or for a more balanced view, see Is Jesus a Liberal or a Conservative? | Meet The Need Blog.

Re:  The Sabbath.  See United Church of God – “The Sabbath Was Made for Man,” etc.

Re: Peter and Paul.  See also On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

Re:  Turning “Christ’s own words against himself.”  See also On arguing with God.

The “bleeding woman” image is courtesy of Veronese. Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood.

 BTW:  The complete Daily Office Readings for St. Peter & St. Paul are:  AM Psalm 66Ezekiel 2:1-7Acts 11:1-18;  PM Psalm 97138Isaiah 49:1-6Galatians 2:1-9.

The lower image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.’”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.

On Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents…”

“The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene” – the female “Apostle to the Apostles…”

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mm-he-qiLast Sunday – July 22 – was the feast day for Mary Magdalene.  That’s in the Daily Office lectionary,  For the Sunday lectionary, her day was Monday, July 23.  (“Transferred” from Sunday.)  I wrote of her in Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles.”

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity…  Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner…   Paintings, some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance.  [“Good heavens!”]  Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

But in this post there’s no pious pornography.  Nor is there an image of a “bare-breasted reformed harlot.”  Just a modern view of her at upper right, and a comment that for all the insults, she was there – to see the risen Jesus – when the male apostles were hiding away:

The one indisputable fact seems to be that Mary Magdalene … was both the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus.  (Which may have accounted for jealous males trying to sully her reputation.)

Which brings up the matter of “so-called conservative Christians,” and the Daily Office readings for last Tuesday, July 17.  Those readings included Matthew 25:14-30, and the Parable of the talents, illustrated at left.  As Wikipedia summarized, “To the single unfaithful servant, who ‘played it safe,’ a negative compensation is given.”

But that’s just what “conservative” Christians do, play it safe.

Which is why I say “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.'”  Only modern-day Pharisees who plagued Jesus in His time, and continue to do so “even to this day.”

Also note the element of risk in the actions of both the man with five talents and the one with two.  But the man with one talent – the “conservative” man – took no risk at all.  Not even to invest that one talent with a banker, so that “on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.”  For which Jesus duly chastised him, in the words of the “master:”

You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.  

Thus the “wicked, lazy servant” is the functional equivalent of today’s “conservative Christian,” who feels his job in life is simply to “avoid sin.”  To take none of the chances necessary for human development, and simply present to God the same “carbon-copy Christian” he started out as.  That was one message in the December 2015 post, Develop your talents!

Put another way, if you read and study the Bible in the NOT-conservative way, you do run the risk of falling flat on your face.  But rest assured that “Jesus” – metaphorically or otherwise – is there to help you get back on your feet.  Put a third way – and especially in the realm of spiritual growth – “The only thing worse than failing is not trying at all.”

But again, that’s just what “conservative” Christians do.  They comfort themselves with Biblical sound bites, not deep and open-minded study.  (Per Luke 24:45.)  They never run the risk of falling flat on their faces, because their only goal is to “stay pure.”  And they don’t develop spiritually.  Thus the true message of  the Parable of the talents:

Don’t get TOO conservative!

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The upper image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen.  See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).”  And speaking of “racy,” the artist Titian did two versions of Mary crying.  For the “racier” – 1533 – version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

For more on this “Mary,” see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints, and also MARY MAGDALENE, Bible Woman: first witness to Resurrection, and What Did Mary Magdalene look like?

The full Bible readings for Tuesday, July 17, were:  “AM Psalm 26, 28; PM Psalm 36, 39 
Joshua 2:15-24Romans 11:13-24Matthew 25:14-30,” according to Lectionary – Satucket.

“Even to this day.”  The reference is to 2d Corinthians 3:15:  “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.”  Thus it is with today’s so-called conservative Christians.

A side note:  A future blog-post will deal with the issue of Ensoulment.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Parable of the talents.

“Hey Jeff, here’s your millstone!” (And Sarah too…)

Image may contain: one or more people

Matthew 18:6, on Jesus and His heavy millstone for those who “offend these little ones…”

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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 (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (See John 14:12.) 

The fourth – and most overlooked – is the need 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:

The Gospel reading for Monday, June 18, included Matthew 17:20.  That’s where jesus said this:

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed [as seen at left], you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

I wanted to connect that verse to John 14:12, noted above.  That’s where Jesus said He expected His disciples to perform greater miracles than He did (And how no Christian can hope to do that by reading the Bible in a cramped, “strict” or literal way.) 

But first a word about the Trump Administration’s “Koncentration Kamps for Kiddies.”

For starters, officials including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited the Bible to support such separation camps.  Specifically, Romans 13, vis-a-vis Submission to Governing Authorities.  But that in turn sparked a backlash.  See for example The Bible verse Jeff Sessions used to defend immigration crackdown once also defended slavery.  And, more recently, A Brief History of People Using Romans 13 to Justify White Supremacy, and The Real Story Behind the Nazi Establishment’s Use of ‘Romans 13.’

(And by the way, the Conservatives now in power seem to have forgotten all about  Romans 13 when Barack Obama was president.  And they were “failing to obey” him.)  

Meanwhile, Monday on Facebook I cited some other quotes from the Bible.  They included Luke 18:16 and Matthew 18:6 (And – in a potential “Sign from God” – it turned out that Matthew 18:6 was part of the Gospel reading for Wednesday, June 20.) 

In Luke 18:16, Jesus said, ”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  More to the point, Matthew 18 starts with this:

[T]he disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Which just goes to show that Jesus – unlike too many officials in the current Administration – had a special place in His heart for innocent, unspoiled children.

But wait, there’s more!  Jesus went on to give an even more specific warning.  (Like maybe for some who purport to follow Him, but who are in fact “slow learners?”)

For example, in Matthew 18:5 Jesus said, “And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  Which seems pretty clear.  But just in case there are some really slow learners out there, Jesus went on to add this proviso, in Matthew 18:6:

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

And by the way, that’s from the King James Bible (You know, the one God uses?)

Further – since we’re dealing with slow learners here – let’s point out that since most of the children now in “tent cities” in the Southwest come from Mexico, they are almost all both Christian and Catholic.  (See Religious Beliefs In Mexico – WorldAtlas.com: “More than 90% of Mexicans identify as Christians, and more than 90% of those Christians are Roman Catholic.”) 

Therefore, we can safely deduce that the overwhelming majority of those children now being separated from their parents qualify under Jesus’ “little ones who believe in me” proviso.

So, in the manner of Bill Engvall and his “Here’s Your Sign” comedy routine:  To Jeff, Sarah (and others in the Administration), “Here’s your millstone!”

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Meanwhile, back to Matthew 17:20(And moving mountains with faith the size of a mustard seed.)  Thanks to such “flaming liberals” as Franklin GrahamLaura Bush, and Orrin Hatch – along with 12 other Republican Senators – Donald Trump just signed an executive order ending family separations.  In other words, enough people from both parties got together and got Donald Trump to change his mind, and maybe even to see the light!

Talk about moving mountains

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The upper image is courtesy of Millstone – Image Results.

The “mustard” image is courtesy of Parable of the Mustard Seed – Wikipedia.

The complete Daily Office Readings for Monday, June 18, are:  AM Psalm 78:1-39; PM Psalm 78:40-72Numbers 11:1-23Romans 1:16-25; and Matthew 17:22-27.  The full Readings for Wednesday, June 20, are: AM Psalm 119:97-120; PM Psalm 81, 82 Numbers 11:24-33 (34-35)Romans 1:28-2:11; and Matthew 18:1-9.

Re:  “Romans 13, vis-a-vis Submission to Governing Authorities.”  Jeff and Sarah also apparently failed to recognize that in America, “We the People” are the governing authority, not some temporary office-holder.  See also Preamble to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia.

The “Luke 18:16” image is courtesy of Luke 18 16 – Image Results

Re:  Donald Trump’s executive order ending family separations.  See also Trump caves, signs executive order, and Trump’s immigration reversal creates its own chaos (CNN).

The lower image is courtesy of Jake Blues Sees Light – 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, “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?

The “stick figure” parable…

Image titled Draw a Stick Figure Step 7

This is the faith of a boot-camp Christian.  (Who never goes “beyond the Fundamentals…”)

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The “stick” drawing above is a kind of parable.  That’s the kind of story that Jesus used to tell:

Jesus’s parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and all convey messages.  Scholars have commented that although these parables seem simple, the messages they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus.

In doing so, Jesus followed Psalm 78:2:  “I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things…”  (See also Matthew 13:35:  “So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:  ‘I will open my mouth in parables;  I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.'”)

And incidentally Psalm 78:2 was one of the Daily Office Readings for May 8, 2018.

So here’s the point:  If you stay a boot-camp Christian – if you never go “beyond the Fundamentals” – your life and your faith will look like the stick-figure drawing at the top of the page.  But, if you read the Bible with an open mind – if you follow Luke 24:45 – your life and your faith will more closely resemble the much more in-depth oil painting at the bottom of the page.  Full of depth, full of life, and much more pleasing.  So much more pleasing in fact that other people around you may want to imitate what you’ve done, and follow your path.

Which is – after all – the whole point of evangelism.  Making the Faith attractive, not driving potential converts away “in droves.”  (See Perverting “Fundamental” – ism.)  

Or as the old idiom says: A picture is worth a thousand words

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Now about that idea that you need to read the Bible with an open mind:  The Pulpit Commentary for Psalm 78:2 said the “facts of Israelitish history are the ‘parable,’ the inner meaning of which it is for the intelligent to grasp.”  (Emphasis added.)  See also Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Psalm 78:1-8:  “These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into.”  (Emphasis added.)

The latter added: “Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy” (sic).  (“Apostasy” is the “abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person,” but that’s all a whole ‘nuther story altogether.)

Anyway, there are problems interpreting “the law of the Bible.”  And that’s especially when that “law” comes in the form of a parable.  See On three suitors (a parable):

Jesus taught primarily through  parables.  When Jesus spoke in such parables, they were “very much an oral method of teaching.”  That method of teaching left it up to the listener to decipher the meaning of the parable, to him.   Or as Jesus said on several occasions, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”  [See Matthew 11:15 and Mark 4:9.]

The commentaries on Matthew 11:15 add that interpreting such a parable requires “more than ordinary powers of thought to comprehend.”  And that God asks “no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us.  People are ignorant, because they will not learn.”

The commentaries to Mark 4:9 indicate that – in reading the Bible with an open and discerning mind – the words of God to Ezekiel (33:32) are fulfilled, “And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.”  Or for that matter, “A very lovely work of art.”

The problem came when these oral-tradition parables were finally written down.  (At least 20 years after the fact, as in Mark, “the first gospel.”)  In translating the parable from oral to written form, an interpretation had to be added to it.  In Hebrew the word for such interpretation is mashal, or allegory.  In the alternative the word is nimshal, in  the plural, nimshalim:

The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing.  Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom [of God] can be revealed.  We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves.

Which raises a good question:  How do you “literally interpret” a parable?

Or a work of art, for that matter?  In turn the question becomes:  How do you interpret that parable – or work of art – in such a way to develop your own talents?

One answer is that you can. (Literally interpret.”)  But if you do that, your “faith” will more closely resemble the primitive, undeveloped stick-figure drawing at the top of the page…

You make the call!

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6 Ways to Create Depth in Your Landscape Painting

This represents the faith of those who read the Bible with an open mind

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The upper image is courtesy of How to Draw a Stick Figure: 7 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow.

The image to the right of the paragraph beginning “The ‘stick’ drawing above” is courtesy of Parables of Jesus – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Parable of the Prodigal Son by Guercino.”

Re:  Oil painting being like reading the Bible.  See Copying a masterpiece … Fine Art Painting:

Studying a master’s work by copying it can have beneficial effects on our own work.  It can help us through a tough time, like when we’re not sure where our art is going.  It can inspire us to get to that next level!  It can help understand about the painting process he or she used, the palette and color mixes.  Learning by copying was done throughout the history of art.

In this case, the “master’s work” we copy is the Bible, with its stories written by men and women in the long-ago past who managed to forge a relationship with the Living God.  “Copying” their work “can have beneficial effects on our own work.”  I.e., our own work learning to sing a NEW song to God…

Re:  Problems interpreting the Bible.  See also in On three suitors (a parable):

[Then] there’s the Hebrew style of writing;  in Hebrew there are no vowels, and the letters of a sentence are strung together.   An example:  a sentence in English, “The man called for the waiter.”  Written in Hebrew, the sentence would be “THMNCLLDFRTHWTR.”  But among other possible translations, the sentence could read, in English, “The man called for the water.”

The full title of the last-noted blog-link is Develop your talents with Bible study.  That post discussed Matthew 25:14-30, with the Parable of the talents.  There, the “slothful” servant didn’t “develop his talents.”  He just buried the money in a hole.  So metaphorically, he – that slothful servant – “fit his talents into a pre-formed, pre-shaped cubby-hole.”

The lower image is courtesy of 6 Ways to Create Depth in Your Landscape Painting. The painting is by Edgar Alwin Payne (1883-1947), “an American Western landscape painter and muralist.”  See Wikipedia:  “Payne is most remembered for his work of American Indians of the Four Corners area, and, of course, the paintings of his beloved Sierras.  In the Sierras, high up in Humphrey’s Basin, you will find the lake named for him, Payne Lake.”

Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!”

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus might have added, “Go beyond the “fundamentals…”  

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Narrow Is the GateThe Daily Office Readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018, included Matthew 7:13-21.  Specifically, they included Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

But what did Jesus mean when He said that?  Just what is the “narrow gate?”

The traditional view is that getting through the narrow gate means you should spend your life “staying pure.”  Or spend that life focusing on staying “sinless.”  That view in turn implies that no matter how much suffering is going on in the world, no matter how many millions of people are starving, or are oppressed, or are otherwise being killed off or maimed, none of that matters to God as long as you – yourself – stay “sinless” and “pure.”

Which sounds to me – after 13 trips through the Bible – like a crock.

It seems to me – after a lifetime of experience, and going through the Bible 13 times now – that there’s a better, more accurate answer.  That answer is:  “Forget about staying pure:  Do something with your life!”  In other words, God probably couldn’t care less how “pure” you stay, if you do nothing to help make the world a better place.  If further words:  Don’t turn too “conservative!”  See for example How narrow is the narrow gate? – GotQuestions.org.

The gist of that post is that “many will follow the broad road.”  And that’s what we have in America today.  The “many” are following the broad road of so-called “Conservative Christianity.”  (Which to me is a classic oxymoron, or more precisely, a contradiction in terms.)

That is, there are a great many so-called Conservative Christians in America today, and they are the “many” who showed their power by helping elect Donald Trump.  Then too, they are the “many” who are driving other Americans away from the Christian Faith, “in droves.”  See No wonder there’s an exodus from religion, which began with this:

Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades?  This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40 percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.”

The article noted the “partisan irresponsibility” creating a powerful skepticism among young Americans “about what it means to be religious.”  (Largely due to “Trump-humping evangelicals.”)  In plain words, young Americans increasingly see a strong connection between organized religion and conservative politics.  To them, conservative politics and organized religion stand together, and they are leading us “toward the right in the culture wars.”

Which is bad news for those of us striving to be “Real Christians.”  (And for the Faith itself.)  See No wonder:

If a chaplain could be rebuked for voicing [a] simple and undeniable truth, what’s the point of the “religious liberty” that Trump and his GOP allies celebrate?  And when will those who advertise themselves as religion’s friends realize they can do far more damage to faith than all the atheists and agnostics put together?

The “chaplain” was Reverend Pat Conroy, Chaplain to the House of Representatives, just fired and “re-hired” by Paul Ryan.  And the long and short of the story is that House Republicans were more inclined to fire their chaplain than “impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day.”  In other words, they were more inclined to “comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.”

But we digress.  The point of this post is that becoming a “conservative Christian” is taking the easy way.  And that’s because it’s so much easier to be a “literalist.”  You don’t have to think, you don’t have to take chances, you never have to worry about falling on your face because you made a wrong decision.  In other words, you never truly “live,” and you will certainly never, ever get to the point where you can perform greater miracles than Jesus, as He commanded.

You want proof?  Check out the Wikipedia article on the Beatitudes:

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result.  In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation

http://cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-reviewIn other words, if Jesus had been a conservative, we would never have the Beatitudes.

In further words, it’s the Christians who choose to remain conservative – who choose to never graduate from spiritual boot camp (at right) – who are the “many” taking the broad, easy road.  It’s only we – striving to be “real Christians” by following Luke 24:45 – who will get through that narrow gate.  And on that I am literally betting my life…

So what could happen if you do turn too conservative?  You could end up a Pharisee:

Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers … the word “pharisee”… has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit.

In other words, the Pharisees were a “plague unto Jesus” in His own time, and they remain so “even to this day.”  (Indeed, perhaps more so.)  And that is leading to what Paul noted in Romans 2:24:  “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

In plain words, those “Trump-humping evangelicals” are failing in their duty to God…

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 The ongoing “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees….”

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The upper image is courtesy of Sermon on the Mount – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Sermon on the Mount’ by Carl Bloch.”  The article noted that this Sermon is best known for the “Beatitudes,” which “present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than force and exaction;  they echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion.” 

The complete Bible readings for Saturday, May 5, 2018 are: “AM Psalm 75, 76; PM Psalm 23, 27 Lev. 23:23-442 Thess. 3:1-18Matt. 7:13-21.”  The full set of Bible readings for Monday, May 7:  “AM Psalm 80; PM Psalm 77, [79] Lev. 25:35-55Col. 1:9-14Matt. 13:1-16.”

See also the Bible readings for Friday, May 4, which include Matthew 7:1-2:  ““Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  That’s another Bible passage “more honored in the breach” by today’s “Trump-humping evangelicals.”  See also On “holier than thou”,” about Jesus’ Parable of the Mote and the Beam)  The full readings for Friday, May 4, 2018:  “AM Psalm 106:1-18; PM Psalm 106:19-48[;] Lev. 23:1-222 Thess. 2:1-17Matt. 7:1-12.”

Re:  Comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.”  As noted in “Trump-humping,” the real job of both Christians and reporters is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  See also James 4:6:  “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

The lower image is courtesy of Pharisees – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Gustave Doré:  Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”  As to placing the letter of the law above its spirit, see 2d Corinthians 3:6.

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Re:  The number of times I’ve read through the Bible.  See Reflections on a loss:

I started my spiritual journey that led to this blog back in the summer of 1992.  That’s when I started reading the Bible on a daily basis – using the DORs – and also started fine-tuning my exercise “ritual sacrifice.”

Re:  “Blasphemed among the Gentiles.”  The quote is from the English Standard Version.  See also the New Living Translation: “No wonder the  Scriptures say,  ‘The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.'”  This follows Romans 2:23:  You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law?  See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

From the LXX. version of Isaiah 52:5…  The Apostle [Paul] is not careful as to the particular context from which he draws.  He knew that he was giving the substance of Scripture, and he takes the aptest words that occur to him at the moment. Translated into our modern modes [it] amounts to little more than “in the language of Scripture.”  The intention, as so frequently with St. Paul, seems, as it were, to be divided between proof and illustration.

Then Jesus “opened their minds…”

 “Jesus’ ascension to heaven,” by John Singleton Copley – after He “opened their minds…”

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The Gospel lesson for Sunday, April 15, 2018, was Luke 24:36b-48 (According to the Revised Common Lectionary, for Sunday Bible readings.)  That Sunday reading included Luke 24:45:  “Then he” – that is, Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

Which is precisely the point of this  blog…   Opening your mind when reading the Bible.

I wrote about Luke 24:45 last May in Ascension Day 2017 – “Then He opened their minds.”

(A note:  Last year Ascension Day was on May 25.  This year it’s coming up on May 10.  That’s because it’s always “celebrated on a Thursday …  the 40th day of Eastertide, the 50-day church season running from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday.So anyway, here’s the point I was trying to make:

Luke 24 [included] the Road to Emmaus appearance.  [Shown below.]  That [was] followed in turn by the last of the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus.  The two disciples at Emmaus had gotten up and “returned at once to Jerusalem.  There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together.”  Jesus then appeared in the midst of all of them, and taught them things;  i.e., He “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” (E.A.)

1602-3 Caravaggio,Supper at Emmaus National Gallery, London.jpg

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Put another way, the key point was that some people may object to reading the Bible with an open mind.  But if they do, we can always say we’re “just following the example of Jesus as told in Luke 24:45.”  See also “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  That post noted the difference between real Christians and “Pharisees.”  (Conservatives posing as Christians):

Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical.  Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press…  Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear.

And speaking of reading the Bible with an open mind, consider the “Daily” readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018.  Those Daily Office Readings included Mark 6:30-44.  That Gospel reading included the story of Jesus feeding the multitude(In this case, about 5,000.)

I wrote about that episode in April 2014’s Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  That post explained the difference between the traditional – or narrow-mindedinterpretation of the story, and one more in line with reason and experience.  That is, in the narrow-minded view, Jesus performed a fairly-routine magic trick.  (A “pure miracle, plain and simple.”)  The miracle can’t be explained rationally and was never meant to be understood rationally.

But there is a non-traditional view, and it’s based on the idea that some people in Jesus’ time never left home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other food – stashed somewhere in the folds of their robes.  Under that theory, Jesus started off with faith, and in turn got other people to act on that faith, and share what they had.  I ended the post this way:

Suppose the lesson Jesus intended to teach us was that – by His example – He got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had.  That by His example, Jesus got those normally-greedy people to share so much of their own stuff that no one – in the crowd of “5,000 plus” – went hungry.  And more than that, there was even a surplus.  The question is:

Which would be the greater miracle?

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“Feeding the multitudes,” by Bernardo Strozzi….

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Ascension of Jesus, with the full caption:  “Jesus’ ascension to heaven depicted by John Singleton Copley, 1775.”   

The full set of readings for Sunday, April 15, 2018, were:  Acts 3:12-19Psalm 41 John 3:1-7, and Luke 24:36b-48.  The full set of “Daily” readings for Sunday, April 22, 2018, were “AM Psalm 63:1-8(9-11), 98; PM Psalm 103;” along with Exodus 28:1-4,30-381st John 2:18-29; and Mark 6:30-44.

And incidentally, April 25, 2018 was the Feast Day for St. Mark, who wrote the first and shortest of the four Gospels.  For more see On St. Mark’s “Cinderella story.”  That is, at one point Mark’s was “the most ‘dissed‘” of the four Gospels:  For example, St. Augustine called Mark “the drudge and condenser” of Matthew’s Gospel.  The “Cinderella” angle started with serious Bible scholarship in the 19th Century, which noted that “the other three Gospels all cited material from Mark, but ‘he does not do the same for them.’”  The conclusion?  “Mark started the process and set the pattern of and for the other three Gospels.  As a result of that, since the 19th century Marks’ “has become the most studied and influential Gospel.”  See also More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.  Or you can type in “St. Mark” in the search box above right for more on this saint.

The “shown below” image is courtesy of Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio, London) – Wikipedia:

The painting depicts the moment when the resurrected but incognito Jesus, reveals himself to two of his disciples…  Cleopas wears the scallop shell of a pilgrim [and] gesticulates in a perspectively-challenging extension of arms in and out of the frame of reference…  The painting is unusual for the life-sized figures, the dark and blank background.  The table lays out a still-life meal.  Like the world these apostles knew, the basket of food teeters perilously over the edge.  [E.A.  Talk about Deja Vu All Over Again…]

Re:  “Which would be the greater miracle?”  That is, which would be the greater miracle, the Almighty Son of God performing a fairly routine magic trick, or a religious leader getting “normally greedy people” to share what they had?  I’m guessing the latter would be the greater miracle…

The lower image is courtesy of Feeding the multitude – Wikipedia The full caption:  “Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish,” by Bernardo Strozzi, circa 1615.

 

Palm Sunday: To “not sin,” or to accomplish something?

Is this the face of a prophet?  He did say to mind your own business, just like Jesus did…

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Two mornings ago I was reading the DORs for Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018.

For some reason Psalm 103 struck a chord, but not in a good way.  It seemed to focus on “sin,” in the manner of so many “busybodies” who masquerade as “good Christians.”  (Illustrated at right.)  See for example 2d Thessalonians 3:11 … Bible Hub, and the citations therein.  And see also – from the Palm Sunday readings –  Psalm 103, and especially Psalm 103:3 and Psalm 103:10.

All of which led to this question:  What does God want us to actually do with our lives? 

Should we focus on trying not to do anything wrong?  Or should we focus more on actually doing something with our lives?  Put another way:  Should we focus on developing the talents and gifts that God gave us?  Or – as some Christians seem to imply – “We have to focus on staying ‘sinless,’ and thus on staying Simon Pure?”  (A term which can mean either “genuinely and thoroughly pure,” or “superficially or hypocritically virtuous.”  The problem?  Too many so-called “Conservative Christians” seem to fit the latter meaning…)

http://www.releasetheape.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/arrow-target1-890x556.pngMy theory is that God would prefer that we actually do something positive with our lives, and not worry so much about not making mistakes.  See for example On sin and cybernetics, which noted “You can’t hit the target without ‘negative feedback,’” shown at left, and also that:

Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us get closer to the target next time out, even if we never become “perfect.”

And which also leads to the Biblical concept about Minding Your Own Business.  There was a variation on that theme by Hank Williams.  (“Hank the Elder.”)   It has the standard chorus, “If you mind your business then you won’t be minding mine.”  And it closes by saying, “if you mind your own business you’ll stay busy all the time.”  You’ll be so busy, in fact, that you won’t have time to be telling other people how to live their lives.  (I.e., being a “busybody.”)

Which is actually Biblical.  See Matthew 7, and especially 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye:”

Here the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount … gives a new motive to the work of self-scrutiny and self-reformation…  When we have wrestled with and overcome our own besetting sins, then, and not till then, shall we be able, with the insight and tact which the work demands, to help others to overcome theirs.

See also On “holier than thou,” for more on the Parable of the Mote and the Beam (In which Jesus warns His followers on “the dangers of judging others, stating that they too would be judged by the same standard.”)  That post also presented an easy test:  “Being aware that you may be self-righteous – or have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude – is a strong indication that you probably don’t have either problem.”

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And speaking of Palm Sunday, it’s that time of year again.

We are now in the midst of Holy Week.  On that note, see the following posts:  From 2015, On Holy Week – and hot buns;  from 2016, On Holy Week – 2016; and from 2017, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.”  The latter post included the image below, with the note about Good Friday, to wit:  “Here’s a spoiler alert:

There is a happy ending, and we get to find out all about it next Sunday…”

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Thepassionposterface-1-.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Hank Williams – Wikipedia:  “Hank Williams in concert in 1951.”

The complete set of Daily Office readings for Palm Sunday:  “AM  Psalm 24, 29Zech[ariah] 9:9-121 Tim[othy] 6:12-16;  PM: Psalm 103Zech[ariah] 12:9-11,13:1,7-9;” and Luke 19:41-48.

The “masquerade” image is courtesy of Drama – Wikipedia:  “Comedy and tragedy masks.”  See also Definition of two-faced by The Free Dictionary.

The lower image is courtesy of Passion of the Christ – Wikipedia.  It was also used in the 2017 post, Psalm 22 and the “Passion of Jesus.”