Category Archives: Daily Office readings

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

Jonah: “Ain’t about no stinkin’ whale!”

The “attention getter” – in the Book of Jonah that got in the way of the real message…

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The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: To 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:

Here’s a short version. The Book of Jonah “ain’t about no stinkin’ whale!” The Moral of the Story is that God loves everyone. (“Even – gasp – liberals?”) In other words, it’s about how God’s love is universal. Or to repeat the lesson of John 6:37, God will accept anyone. (Who turns to Him…)

I mention this because starting last Tuesday – October 13, 2020 – the Daily Office Old Testament readings came from the Book of Jonah. (The readings ended – appropriately – three days later on Thursday, October 15.) Briefly, the book “tells of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah … sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission.”

Which leads to the whale.

As noted in previous posts, the real message of Jonah is this:  “God’s love is universal… It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!” I wrote that in the January 2015 post, Jonah and the bra-burners. The “bra burner” part referred to the 1968 Miss America protest. That’s where some feminist protesters allegedly “burned their bras” as a way of getting attention for their cause. But see also Feminism Has a Bra-Burning Myth Problem:

The way we remember the Miss America Pageant protest in 1968 in Atlantic City, New Jersey is a good example.* There is no statue on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to commemorate an important protest about standards of beauty for women and a contest tied into capitalism, war, and race.  Instead, our cultural touchstone from that day is the negative and trite association of feminists as “bra-burners.”

In other words, before the event one of the organizers thought that such a form of protest “might be a good way to launch the movement into the public consciousness.” The effort succeeded, but the success turned out to be a “blessing and a curse.” 

First, organizers asked police officials for a permit to burn such items as bras – and also girdles, cookware and Playboy magazines. City officials refused the request, so the protesters threw the offending items into a garbage can. But a New York Post report “included a reference to bra burning as a way to link the movement to war protesters burning draft cards.” As one organizer later noted, “The media picked up on the bra part.” (That darned Liberal Media!)

Which is pretty much what happened to the story of Jonah:

My point was that the “attention-getter” in Jonah – the whale – got in the way of the real message. So the Book of Jonah was just like the “bra-burners” at the 1968 Miss America pageant, where that real message got lost too.  The real message of Jonah is:  God’s love is universal…   (It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!)

That’s the problem with an attention-getter. Like burning bras, or using a whale as a minor but memorable detail in a parable. Sometimes the attention-getter gets in the way of the real message. In the case of the Book of Jonah, ever since it came out too many Bible-readers have “picked up on the whale part.” And ended up ignoring the real message behind the book. 

The real message came in Jonah 4:11, after Jonah finally did what God wanted: Go to Nineveh and “prophesy its destruction.” It was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Israel’s long-time arch-enemy and greatest tormenter. So Jonah went and proclaimed God’s message, but to his dismay, city residents from the king on down “repented their sins.”

And as a result of that, God repented of His plan to destroy the city.

Which made Jonah very angry, “angry enough to die.” He left the city and watched from afar, hoping God would still destroy it. But he got even madder, “enough to die.” Not only did God not destroy Nineveh; He killed a plant that shaded Jonah from fierce sun and burning wind.

That’s when God chastised him, saying, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” On which note see also Was “Abraham” a pimp?

In that post I pointed out the error of reading the Bible too literally. That’s because the Bible is about real people, facing real problems, not a bunch of superheroes who are so much better than us. Like Abraham, who “was not some ‘goody two-shoes’ bent on preserving his ‘virtue.’” And notice how God changed the names of both Abraham (Abram) and his wife Sarah (Sarai). The point of that metaphor is that “with a true Christian – a real Christian, not a too-conservative ‘Pharisee’ – God changes people.” 

It’s all about change, and being transformed. And you won’t be able to go through that “life-changing” – like Jacob into Israel – if you’re too conservative. In Jonah’s case he was not only “conservative” but also pretty vindictive. (Like most of us are from time to time.) Or maybe he was just an example of “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In the meantime, go ahead and “preach to the Ninevites.” They might just listen…

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The upper image is courtesy Wikipedia on the Book of Jonah, as is the lower image. The upper caption: “‘Jonah and the Whale’ (1621) by Pieter Lastman.”

The full readings for Tuesday, October 13, were: Psalm 5, 6; and Psalm 10, 11, Jonah 1:1-17aActs 26:24-27:8; and Luke 8:40-56. The readings from Jonah, from the following Wednesday and Thursday, were Jonah 1:17-2:10 and Jonah 3:1-4:11.

The “stinking whale” quote came from Was “Abraham” a pimp? In that January 2019 post I paraphrased the point of Jonah and the bra-burners.

The “good example” part referred to “our conflicted feelings about women as major players in American history.” The full sentence in the Myth Problem article: “I think our failure to honor the movement is rooted in our conflicted feelings about women as major players in American history.”

On the Book of Job as “Law School 101”

From “Law School: How to Brief a Case” (“case studies”) – A useful tool for Bible study?

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Since the COVID hit – some 27 weeks ago* – I’ve been watching a lot of Great Courses Plus on TV. (Instead of cable TV, which I don’t have, or old DVDs.) One of those Great Courses – the lecture on Understanding the Old Testament – was a real eye-opener.

In Lecture 8 of the course – “The Covenant Code in Exodus” – Professor Robert D. Miller II, PhD cited Raymond Westbrook. Westbrook said the so-called “law codes” of Old Testament times were not – strictly speaking – statutory commands like the ones we know today. Instead they were the equivalent of school texts, “as if you’re teaching someone law.” He noted that in law school, teachers often start with borderline, theoretical scenarios. By starting with such “weird cases,” students can then move on to more-easily solved “ordinary” real-life situations.

One such “weird case” in the Bible – Miller said – was Exodus 21:22. (Basically asking, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?” The passage is addressed further below.) Starting with that unlikely scenario, a professor could move on to endless hypothetical examples. And all of them would be ripe with potential of educating people about the law. (Another note: Miller began the segment by saying such ancient Near-Eastern codes – like the Code of Hammurabi, strikingly similar to parts of the Torah – were never intended to be a “binding law code.”)

Miller went on to say that many such ancient law codes look more like a “Babylonian medical curriculum,” in that they were “descriptive, not prescriptive.” And finally he noted that the true meaning of Torah in Hebrew was closer to “instruction” or “teaching” rather than “The Law.” See also Torah – Definition (from Torah Resources International), which notes the “torah is, therefore, in the strict sense instruction designed to teach us the truth about God. Torah means direction,teaching, instruction,or doctrine.”

So instead of “law” as we understand that word today, much of the Torah is – according to Miller and Westbrook – more closely related to “school texts,” “curriculum,” “teaching,” and “hypotheticals.” Which brings up the “weird case” noted above –  Exodus 21:22 – along with Book of Job as a whole.

I mention the Book of Job because – since Thursday, August 20 – I’ve been reading that book as the Old Testament Daily Office Readings (via Satucket). And those rather depressing readings continued until last Friday, September 18. (When the OT readings switched to Esther 1:1-4,10-19, “or Judith 4:1-15.”) Which brings up a problem I’ve always had with Job. (“Imaged” at right.)

I’ve always felt the book is based on an impossible premise. That premise? That Job alone – of all the people in world history, aside from Jesus Christ Himself – is totally without sin. And that’s contrary to a point made repeatedly in the Bible, that no one – aside from Jesus Himself – is without sin. (See 1st John 1:8 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,” along with Romans 3:10-12,Psalm 14:1-3,Psalm 53:1-3, all saying “there is none who is righteous, no not one.”)

In other words, the Book of Job does seem to be a “hypothetical,” as Miller and Westbrook noted. See Hypotheticals – Wikipedia, referring to “possible situations, statements or questions about something imaginary rather than something real.” In other words hypotheticals deal with the concept of “what if?” (As in, “What if there were a man – besides Jesus – who was totally without sin, yet bad things kept happening to him?”) In turn they are important learning tools “because they provide a means for understanding what we would do if the world was different.” 

I’ve discussed the Book of Job in earlier posts, included in the notes, but getting back to the OT reading mentioned above, Exodus 21:22: It too seems more like a possible “hypothetical situation,” of the type law students dissect in their course studies. (Again, asking the question, “how often do ‘men strive’ and injure a pregnant women?”)

Which brings up the case study method that law schools are known for: The teaching method using “decision-forcing cases to put students in the role of people who were faced with difficult decisions at some point in the past.” Put another way, unlike other teaching methods, “the case method requires that instructors refrain from providing their own opinions about the decisions in question. Rather, the chief task of instructors who use the case method is asking students to devise, describe, and defend solutions to the problems presented by each case.”

In other words both Exodus 21:22 and Job seem to be “hypotheticals,” designed to teach students how to work with “the Law,” rather than a set of hard and fast “laws” to be followed literally. (Consider Job 10:18, “Why did you deliver me from my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth?” Taken out of context, or too literally, it could cause no end of trouble…)

Which may be why Jesusopened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

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But getting back to ongoing Bible readings – and the Liturgical year (including feast days): There are three big feast days this month. The first – Monday, September 14 – was Holy Cross Day, one of several Feasts of the Cross commemorating the cross “in the crucifixion of Jesus.”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

See On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel.” As another aside, the Feast day for St Matthew, Evangelist is coming up on Monday, September 21, and the Feast of St Michael and All Angels will be Wednesday, September 29. The latter featured a painting (below), “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.” To which I responded:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

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“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of Law School Case Brief – Image Results. It accompanies a video, “Law School: How to Brief a Case – YouTube.”

As to weeks of “the Covid,” see On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I explained that, to me “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.” For my weekly-quotas, the week from Monday, March 16 to Sunday night, March 22d.

Re: Understanding the Old Testament, Robert D. Miller II, PhD, Lecture 8, The Covenant Code in Exodus. To access more information go to Great Courses Plus – Start Learning Online Today.

Re: Job as “‘imaged’ at right.” Courtesy of the Wikipedia article, the full caption: “Carved wooden figure of Job. Probably from Germany, 1750–1850 CE. The Wellcome Collection, London.”

For more on hypotheticals – in the “law school” sense – see Legal definition of Hypothetical Question:A mixture of assumed or established facts and circumstances, developed in the form of a coherent and specific situation, which is presented to an expert witness at a trial to elicit his or her opinion. (The “coherent a nd specific” errata were in the original.

Further, such a question “contains a mixture of assumed or established facts or circumstances, in the form of a coherent and specific situation, presented to an expert witness at trial to elicit his or her opinion.” And such a question “includes all the facts in evidence needed to form an opinion.” Then, based on the assumption that those facts are true, “the witness is asked whether he or she can arrive at an opinion, and if so, to state it.”

Re: Exodus 21:22: The complete passage goes on to verses 23-25:

 22 If men who are fighting strike a pregnant woman and her child is born prematurely, but there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband demands and as the court allows. 23 But if a serious injury results, then you must require a life for a life – 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, and stripe for stripe.

Note that this “Lex talionis” or an eye for an eye was a rule of limitation. requiring the perpetrator be punished only as much as the victim suffered, as opposed to unlimited or ongoing revenge. “Without it, a wrongful injury might give rise to wrongful retaliatory injuries in excess of the original loss or harm, which, in turn, would be retaliated for, and so on ad infinitum.” The ‘lex talionis’ before and after criminal law. Note too this passage has been used on both sides of the abortion debate. (Google “exodus 21:22 abortion.”)

Re: Earlier posts on the Book of Job. See On Job, the not-so-patient, from 2014, and On “Job the not patient” – REDUX, from 2015. I just reviewed the latter post just before publishing this post, and it’s worth doing another redux in the near future. The ending: “[A]s Isaac Asimov put it, ‘At the end of God’s speech, Job realizes divine omnipotence and understands the folly or trying to penetrate God’s plan and purposes with the limited mind of a human being.’ (487)   And that’s a lesson we need to keep on learning…(This was right after noting an image that humans are no more prepared to comprehend the full measure of God’s power than “cats are prepared to study calculus.”)

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.” See also Purgatory – Wikipedia, about the “intermediate state after physical death for expiatory purification.” In other words, instead of the two “pass/fail” options of heaven and hell, “purgatory” provides a third alternative, a temporary place where one undergoes a purifying “fire” that is “expiatory and purifying not punitive like hell fire.”

Remembering Monday, May 18, 1992…

Another event from May 1992: Sister Act released – 11 days after I “started reading the Bible…”

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This post is on catching up on “skipped Propers” that often happen at the beginning of a new Liturgical Season. And about “going back to my roots.” Back to the day when I first started reading the Bible on a daily basis. Way back on May 18, 1992 – 11 days before Sister Act.

That is, two weeks ago last May 31, 2020, I did the Daily Office reading for Pentecost Sunday. (According to the Daily Office Lectionary – and my copy of “Year 2, Volume 2,” at left – of the four-volume set.)

But then for the next day’s reading, I had to skip ahead some 42 pages, to the reading for the week after “the Sunday closest to June 1.” So from that next Monday-after-Pentecost on, I had to – or really, chose to – read not only the reading for that particular day. In addition, I also had to (chose to) also read some of the “skipped Propers.”

Which means that by Saturday, June 6, 2020, I’d done the scheduled Daily Office readings, plus some skipped Propers. (And according to the Daily Office Lectionary, those Saturday readings were Psalm 55, Psalm 138, and Psalm 139, along with Ecclesiastes 5:8-20Galatians 3:23-4:11, and Matthew 15:1-20.) But also on that Saturday I had to do some more catching up.

That’s because – as noted – Pentecost came on May 31, but after that the daily readings jumped from page 12 to page 54. (Of Year 2, Volume 2.) To explain better, “Proper 1” starts the readings for the weeks of the Season after Pentecost. And it starts with the Sunday closest to May 11. Which means that this year Daily Office readers had to skip ahead to Proper 4, for the week of the Sunday closest to June 1st. But because I’m assiduous, I don’t like to skip those “in-between readings.” (Readings “in between” those listed for Proper 1, up to the start of Proper 4.)

So each morning – that first week of June, 2020 – and after doing the “proper” reading for that particular day, I tried to read one or two of the skipped readings. And so, by that Saturday – June 6, 2020 – I had gotten caught up as far as the reading for the Monday of Proper 2. (For the Week of the Sunday closest to May 18. Which of course had already passed.) And there – on page 25 of Year 2, Volume 2 – I saw my handwritten notation, “5/18/92.”

As it turns out, that date was – as far as I can tell – the day that I first started reading the Bible, on a daily basis, through the discipline of the Daily Office. And the readings for that day – now over 28 years ago – started off with Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. (Another note: When I’m in the process of catching up at the beginning of a new liturgical season, I normally skip the day’s psalms.)

Which brings up some of the main readings for that day, over 28 years ago, starting with Proverbs 3:11-2. (That set of proverbs began with “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline.”) Those readings also included 1st John 3:18-4:6, starting with “Dear children, let us not love in word and speech but in deed and truth.” (Which seems especially appropriate these days.)

And also Matthew 11:1-6. (Which told of Jesus and John the Baptist – at left – with John in prison, asking if Jesus was “he who is to come?”) Which led in turn to this especially-relevant note, for today: The New Testament reading which included 1st John 4:1.

One version of that passage reads,”Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (It continues, “because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”) Which – strange as it may seem – mirrors perfectly what I was trying to say in Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” For example, in that post I cited 1st Thessalonians 5:21.

In the Good News Translation, “Put all things to the test: keep what is good.” And in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “Explore everything and hold what is excellent.” 

So the point of that last post was that by such open-minded “exploring,” we real Christians can achieve that rich life experience that Jesus promised. (John 10:10.)  And that – to each individual – is the surest proof that God “is.” The surest proof that there is a God and that “He” is willing to work with us as individuals, to help us grow spiritually.

And as audacious as that claim sounds, it’s part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

That – as noted in Pentecost … “pleasing to the Lord” – is a method of theological reflection. I.e., a spiritual discipline by which we attain personal spiritual growth. It’s credited to John Wesley (at left), who noted four sources of such growth: Scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience:

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity… Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally… Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple… Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons.

Which – as it turns out – is hardly a novel idea. (That is, it’s hardly unique to Christianity.) Consider for example what Gautama Buddha – seen “below” – once explained:

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 priests. After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

Which – by the way – is a quote I cited in Jesus Christ, Public Defender. It’s now a Kindle Book but I originally published it in paperback form in 1995. (The Kindle edition was published under the nom de plume “James B. Ford.”) Then too – right after the Buddha quote, in Chapter 8, “The Bible, Yoga and Zen” – I went on to cite 1st Thessalonians 5:21 and 1st John 4:1.

That is, a mere two years after I started reading the Bible on a daily basis, I published my first novel, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” Then in 1995 – one year after “Zen Football” and a mere three years after I started Daily Office reading –  I published Jesus Christ, Public Defender. (Now in its 4th Edition. And for more details on the life-long pilgrimage that followed, see – from February 2019 – the post On my “mission from God.”)

So, can you say to come full circle? But in the good way. Like the Buddhist anecdote: “A child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain. An adult looks at a mountain and sees many things. A Zen master looks at a mountain and sees a mountain.” But the point of all this is: My starting to read the Bible on a daily basis – back in 1992 – turned out to be a life-changing experience.

I’ve been through a lot since then. The death of my first wife in 2006, getting re-married way too soon and to the wrong woman. Which led to a nasty divorce, the loss of my career and my home – and to feeling abandoned by God. (As in, “Lead us not to the breaking point,” but He did, and I broke.) All of which just might be the functional equivalent of the exile that led to the creation of the Old Testament as we know it. See “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” in which talked about my then-upcoming trip to Israel in May 2019.

Which brings up the point that in the past few years I’ve come through and had a number of great adventures. Like that 2019 trip to Israel. And like canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi for eight days. (See On achieving closure, or type in that search.) Or hiking the Chilkoot Trail, then canoeing 440 miles “down” the Yukon River in Canada in 2016. Or hiking the Camino de Santiago twice, once from Pamplona (2017) and once from Porto, Portugal (2019).

And I’ve been publishing two blogs, and a number of books as well. (For a partial list see For a book version.) In other words, I’ve overcome any number of obstacles and arrived at a rich, fulfilling life. And it all started back on Monday, May 18, 1992…

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An open-minded Christian can learn even from a “Fat Buddhist…”

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The upper image is courtesy of May 1992 – Image Results. See also Sister Act – Wikipedia, and Sister Act (1992) – IMDb.

The “liturgical seasons” link is to The Liturgical Seasons of the Catholic Church. But see also Liturgical year – Wikipedia, about the “cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.” And List of Anglican Church Calendars, on “my” church’s seasons. “Ordinary time” or the “Time after Pentecost” runs from Pentecost Sunday to the beginning of Advent, which leads to Christmas, and so on…

Re: Handwritten notations. When I do a “daily” reading on the noted day, or within three days thereafter, I put in the relevant date, such as “5/18/92.” That signifies that I have read both the main readings – normally Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel – and the Psalms for that day. But when I can’t do a reading “within three days” – like when I have to “skip some Propers” – I put a check mark. That means I’ve done the main readings but not the Psalms. And according to those dates and check marks, I’m now on my 14th trip through the Bible.

The John the Baptist image is courtesy of Wikipedia. The caption: “‘The Baptism of Jesus Christ,‘ by Piero della Francesca, 1449.”

Re: Monday, May 18, 1992. See Calendar 1992 May – Image Results.

The Buddha quote is courtesy of Lawrence LeShan‘s book How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-DiscoveryBantam Edition, 1975, at pages 101-102. See also On the Bible as “transcendent” meditation. Also, as noted, On my “mission from God.”

The citations to 1st Thessalonians 5:21 and 1st John 4:1 – following the Buddha quote – are at page 53 of the Third Edition paperback version of “JCPD,” in Chapter 8, “The Bible, Yoga and Zen.”

Re: “Come full circle.” See also Alpha and Omega (Freedictionary), or the Wikipedia article.

Re: “Lead us not to the breaking point.” That’s an interpretation from one of Garry Wills‘ books, and it seemed especially appropriate for my life. As in, “I was led to the breaking point, and broke.” See also Luke 11:4 (Bible Hub), which includes the usual translations of the Lord’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The Good News Translation reads, “And do not bring us to hard testing.” But for the reasons noted, I prefer “And lead us not to the breaking point…”

The lower image is courtesy of Fat Happy Buddha – Image Results. But see also Skinny Buddha vs Fat Buddha: Who is the Fat Buddha, noting the Fat Buddha wasn’t “Buddha” at all:

The Laughing Buddha, or the Fat Buddha, was a Zen monk called Budai who lived in China around the 10th century, meaning about 1.600 years after historical Buddha. Budai was as a bold man with a big tummy, big smile, large ears, wearing a simple robe… The fat Buddhist monk was known as a good-hearted, happy and content man of humorous personality, jolly nature, and eccentric lifestyle. Budai was nicknamed the Laughing Buddha because of his big smile and happiness he was spreading around him. Furthermore, Budai … became a famous character of Chinese folktales.

Thus the “Gautama Buddha – ‘below,’” with the “below” in quotation marks. 

Pentecost 2020 – “Learn what is pleasing to the Lord…”

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We’re just starting the 12th full week of the COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, May 31, 2020, was Pentecost Sunday. 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 2:1–31.)

It’s also known as the Birthday of the Church, as noted in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.” There’s more on Pentecost below, but first I want to talk about one of the Daily Bible Readings for last Friday, May 29.

It was from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. (The church at Ephesus, an “ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometres southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir ProvinceTurkey.) And notably the “theme may be stated pragmatically as ‘Christians, get along with each other!‘” But the verse that caught my eye – last Friday – was Ephesians 5:10.

In the New Revised Standard Version, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” But see also the Berean Study Bible: “Test and prove what pleases the Lord.” And the Weymouth New Testament reads, “learn in your own experiences what is fully pleasing to the Lord.”

In other words, Bible study – and following The Faith of Christ – is not a matter of fitting yourself into a pre-formed cubby hole, or becoming a “carbon-copy Christian.” It’s a matter of finding out what the Bible means to you, as an individual. (“We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves,” as noted in On three suitors (a parable).) And all that was pretty much what I was trying to say – again – in my last post “As a spiritual exercise:”

What matters is what you do with your faith and your life. What matters is how you follow the Bible… In other words if you work with [a] kind of “canary in a coal mine” spiritual exercise you could end up with all the proof you need: That there is a God, who is willing to work with you, and a “happy ending…”

So Ephesians 5:10 supports my theory that “the ‘factual accuracy’ of the Bible is pretty much irrelevant to an advanced Christian faith.” That is, a faith that goes “beyond the fundamentals” and doesn’t require that every word in the Bible be “inerrant.” (So too it seems to me that it “doesn’t seem to matter if a so-called expert found the actual ark used by Noah.”)

Note also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which said “to prove” is a work partly of thought and “partly of practical experience.” Or consider the Pulpit Commentary:

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, and not to take a vague view of duty; we are to prove the matter, to put it to the test. For the supreme practical rule of the Christian’s life must be to please Christ.

Which in turn is supported by 1st Thessalonians 5:21. In the Good News Translation, “Put all things to the test: keep what is good.” And in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, “Explore everything and hold what is excellent.” Or as I said in On reading the Bible:

That’s what this blog is about: Developing into more than just someone who knows the bare “fundamentals.”  Which is another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you can reap its full benefit and do all that God intended for you to do.

Then there’s the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. That’s a method of theological reflection – of personal spiritual growth – credited to John Wesley. (At right.) Wesley said that there are four sources available for such personal spiritual growth: Scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience:

Apart from scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity… Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally… Although traditional proof is complex, experience is simple… Although tradition establishes the evidence a long way off, experience makes it present to all persons.

Note that Scripture – the Bible – “is the first authority and contains the only measure whereby all other truth is tested.” Which brings us back to Pentecost Sunday. And, “from an historical point of view, Pentecost is the day on which the church was started.”

Thus “Happy Birthday, Church!” 

Pentecost also marks the start of “Ordinary Time,” as it’s called in the Catholic Church. And that “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church calendar year, as shown in the chart below.

That “long season” started May 31st, and will end on November 29, the First Sunday of Advent 2020. And the Pentecost described in Acts 2 (v. 1- 41) “was a momentous, watershed event.” 

For the first time in history, God empowered “all different sorts of people for ministry. Whereas in the era of the Old Testament, the Spirit was poured out almost exclusively on prophets, priests, and kings,” on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit went to “‘all people.’ All would be empowered to minister regardless of their gender, age, or social position.” 

Which is a pretty good way to celebrate the Birthday of the Church…

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 “Ordinary Time” – at left – takes up over half the Church year…

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The upper image is courtesy of Try Learn What Is Pleasing To The Lord – Image Results.

Re: Weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. See St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. I figured the “stuff hit the fan” on Thursday, March 12, “when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled.” Thus,my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15.

Text and images on Pentecost were gleaned from prior posts, On the readings for Pentecost (6/8/14); On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!” (2015); and Ascension Day and Pentecost – 2016.

The full Bible readings for Friday, May 29, 2020 are: “AM Psalm 102; PM Psalm 107:1-32, Jeremiah 31:27-34; Ephesians 5:1-20; and Matthew 9:9-17.

Re: Pentecost and the Holy Spirit given to all. See What is Pentecost? Why Does It Matter? – Patheos.

The John Wesley image is courtesy of Wikipedia. Caption: “Statue of Wesley outside Wesley Church in Melbourne, Australia.”

See the Ordinary Time image in 2015’s Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church.”

On Moses, Illeism – and “10 Plagues…”

As Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Or a rod…)

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

The best 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:

A week or so ago – Thursday, March 27, just after Coronavirus 2020hit the fan” – the Daily Office Old Testament readings switched from the end of Genesis to the start of Exodus. Specifically, with Exodus 1:6-22. The following day, March 28, Moses “introduced himself.”

Exodus. 2:1-22 began with how Moses’ parents met: A man “from the house of Levi” married a Levite woman. (About the time the “new” Pharaoh in power commanded that all male Hebrew newborns be thrown into the Nile, because the Hebrews – now slaves – had grown so numerous…)

That child was named Moses. He was named “Moses” by Pharaoh’s daughter (who became his “stepmother”). Because “she said, ‘I drew him out of the water.’” And that child went on to write Exodus – his own story – and the other first five books of the Bible, the Torah.

One strange note: Moses wrote about himself in the third person. (As in Moses writing of himself, “Moses doesn’t like that.”) For more background on the subject, see On Moses and “illeism,” from May 2014. In turn, illeism is “the act of referring to oneself in the third person instead of first person.” Further, “Illeism is sometimes used in literature as a stylistic device.”

Interestingly, Wikipedia lists a number of “Notable Illeists,” including Jesus Christ, “found referring to Himself as ‘Jesus’ (as well as the ‘Son of Man’), as in John 17:1-3.” But Moses didn’t make that list, despite the fact he is one of the earliest writers in history to use the device.

(Which he may well have borrowed from God, as noted in “the burning bush.” See GOD THE ILLEIST: THIRD-PERSON SELF-REFERENCES AND TRINITARIAN HINTS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.)

Since those late-March readings, Moses has gone on – in the Daily Office – to discover his true identity. (In part because he killed an Egyptian overseer abusing a Hebrew slave.) He also went into hiding as a fleeing felon; talked directly with God through the “Burning Bush;” and returned to Egypt to get Pharoah to “Let my people go.” But Pharaoh wouldn’t listen…

Which brings up the 10 Plagues of Egypt. (Like the Fifth Plague, at left.) They were inflicted on the Egyptians later in Exodus, by the agency of God. (And Moses.) The question is: How might they relate to us today? One example that Camus wrote, “last century:”

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.*

Which seems true of this year’s Covid-19 “pestilence.” It certainly came as a surprise. But is there a connection between this plague and a message God might be trying to send us?

Which could bring up what Jesus said in Matthew 10:34. In the GWT, “Don’t think that I came to bring peace to earth. I didn’t come to bring peace but conflict.” Or as generally translated (like in the KJV, the one God uses), “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Which are strange words to come from Jesus, but for some clarification we can look to Matthew 10:34 – Commentary & Meaning:

By the “sword” may be meant the Gospel, which is the means of dividing and separating the people of Christ from the men of the world, and … as also of divisions, discords, and persecutions arising from it… [N]ot that it was the intention and design of Christ … to foment and encourage such things; but this, through the malice and wickedness of men, was eventually the effect and consequence of his coming.

Which to me could mean that – lately, especially in America, “Light of the World” – God saw way too many “divisions, discords and persecutions.” But now for the most part we’re seeing a new meme. Rather than all the “us against them” or “the opposition is ruining America,” it goes like this: We’re All in This Together: Facing the Coronavirus Crisis. (One example.*)

Which – most people would say – is a pretty refreshing change of tune. (I.e., a change in people’s attitudes, “usually from bad to good, or from rude to pleasant.”)

For one thing, it is true that “pestilences have a way of recurring in the world.” But the “truths of the Gospel will remain uncorrupted forever.” And that brings up one final note: Holy Week 2020 starts this Sunday, April 5. And that “Holy” week’s upcoming lessons will feature some of Jesus’ “most important teachings on love and unity.” (Which is about dang time…) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Plague Doctors Beaked Mask – Image Results. Caption: “Circa 1656, A plague doctor in protective clothing. The beak[ed] mask held spices thought to purify air, the wand was used to avoid touching patients. Original Artwork: Engraving by Paul Furst … Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images).” See also Why plague doctors wore those strange beaked masks:

In 17th-century Europe, the physicians who tended to plague victims wore a costume that has since taken on sinister overtones: they covered themselves head to toe and wore a mask with a long bird-like beak. The reason behind the beaked plague masks was a misconception about the very nature of the dangerous disease… [The outfit] included a coat covered in scented wax, breeches connected to boots, a tucked-in shirt, and a hat and gloves made of goat leather. Plague doctors also carried a rod that allowed them to poke (or fend off) victims… (Emphasis added, to relate to the caption at the top of the page.)

Their headgear was particularly unusual: Plague doctors wore spectacles … and a mask with a nose “half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume with only two holes, one on each side near the nostrils, but that can suffice to breathe and carry along with the air one breathes the impression of the [herbs] enclosed further along in the beak…” [The] iconic and ominous look, as depicted in this 1656 engraving of a Roman doctor, is recognizable to this day.

Re: “God the Illeist.” The article provided examples: “Exodus 33:19 has Yahweh promise Moses, ‘I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before you…’ In 2 Sam 7:11, Yahweh assures David that ‘Yahweh will make you a house.’ Hosea 1:7 has Yahweh comforting the prophet that ‘I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by Yahweh their God.’”

Re: “10 Plagues [of Egypt].” Wikipedia noted the “traditional number of ten plagues is not actually mentioned in Exodus, and other sources differ; Psalms 78 and 105 seem to list only seven or eight plagues and order them differently. It appears that originally there were only seven (which included the tenth), to which were added the third, sixth, and ninth, bringing the count to ten.”

The “pestilence” quote is from Albert Camus1947 novel, The Plague. It’s from Part 1, Vintage International paperback edition, 1991, originally published 1947, at pages 36-37. See also “Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

The “Fifth Plague” image is courtesy of Plagues of Egypt – Wikipedia. Caption: “The Fifth Plague: Pestilence of livestock, by Gustave Doré.” See also Exodus 9:1-7.

Re: “We’re all in this together.” See also The funniest coronavirus memes to get you through, Ashley Tisdale’s “We’re All In This Together” Quarantine Dance, and – from New Zealand, Coronavirus: We’re all in this together. And we can only succeed together.

Re: “Truths of the Gospel will remain uncorrupted forever.” See 5 New Testament Promises for the Church Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.

Re: “Change of tune.” An added definition: to “change one’s attitude, opinion … or stance on something, typically in a way that is more positive or agreeable.”

Lower image courtesy of Holy Week 2020 – Image Results. For some words of explanation, see Holy Week 2020 | Day Finders noting the week honors “precious moments of Jesus’ last days on Earth:”

With Palm Sunday, it tells us about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. The days of Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday makes us remember the events of fig tree cursing and the temple cleansing. The days of Holy Wednesday and Maundy Thursday commemorate Jesus prediction about his betrayal and death, and also reflect some of His most important teachings on love and unity. The days of Good Friday and Black Saturday mourn the Passion, Crucifixion, and Passing of Jesus. The last day, called the Easter Sunday, shares with us the joy of Jesus Resurrection from the dead.

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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.”  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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See 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.*”    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 below is courtesy of: “”

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?

Do this – “and you WILL be saved!”

Empty shelves in Melbourne Australia. Do they symbolize the emptiness in people’s lives today?

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

The best 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:

This year’s Season of Lent continues. (See Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.) But the 2020 version of this “solemn religious observance” is made even more solemn by the recent Coronavirus pandemic.

On that note – and if you want to open a “whole new can of worms” – try Googling the phrase, “No atheists in foxholes.” Some say that familiar aphorism is an attack on atheism, while others say it’s really an attack on Christianity. But it’s pointless here to argue which version is true. (See Titus 3:9, “avoid foolish controversies and genealogies … because these are unprofitable and useless.”)

The real point is that – especially in times of crisis like the one we’re in now – most people are way more likely to look for some source of spiritual comfort.

Which should come from the Bible, but for many people that Bible is way too long and way too complicated. Which raises the question: How can you best explain the Bible in the simplest possible terms? You know, in the kind of short-and-sweet sound bite that most people expect these days? (Since so many of them “have the attention span of a gerbil.”)

For me the best possible Bible sound bite – the best short summary of the message of the whole Bible – is Romans 10:9, “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved.” (In the Good News Translation, fittingly enough.) 

Of course John 3:16 is a nice sentiment too, but it’s a general statement “for the whole world.” To me, Romans 10:9 best sums up the entire message of the Bible. It’s more personal, and offers the kind of personal guarantee that many people are looking for in this time of crisis.

“Jesus feeding the 5,000…”

Which – in a way – brings up the DOR Gospel reading for March 19, Mark 6:30-46. It tells of Jesus feeding the multitude (or “the 5,000”). I covered that reading in two posts, Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000, and Then Jesus “opened their minds.”

The problem is, that “other view” threatens the faith of some people. But it also supports the theory that we can solve any problem, ourselves, using the lessons of the Bible.

In Jesus “opened their minds,” I summarized the difference between the traditional (narrow-minded?) interpretation of this parable, and one that’s more in line with reason and experience.* I.e., in the narrow “traditional” interpretation, 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 since Jesus was and is the Son of God, what’s the big deal?

Poof, He made some extra food appear. But isn’t that the least you could expect from a close blood-relative of the Force that Created the Universe? On the other hand there  is a non-traditional view, and that non-traditional view forces people to “expand their minds.” But it can also make some people very nervous, and even threaten their faith.

It’s based on the idea that many people in Jesus’ time never left home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other foodstuff – stashed in the folds of their robes. Under that theory, Jesus started off with a lesson in faith, and/or a lesson in sharing. In turn that example got a lot of other normally-greedy people to act on that faith, and share what they had. 

Which led to this ending in the post:

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?

(If that’s too subtle: The Son of God making some extra food appear, or – by His example – getting a lot of greedy people like us to share so much that no one in those “5,000-plus*” went hungry?)

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So what’s that got to do with the present Coronavirus crisis? Just this, that we can solve this problem by pulling together, and by avoiding the temptation to be greedy and selfish. (In other words, by following the “non-traditional” example of Jesus in Mark 6:30-46.)

More to the point, by realizing that all life is just a gift we should cherish and enjoy, while we can. (See 1st Corinthians 4:7, “What is so special about you? What do you have that you were not given? And if it was given to you, how can you brag?”) And that the better way to live is to do what Jesus did, to love and care for all people in all conditions, “even to the point of death.”

Or as one writer said recently:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

That’s from a review of Albert Camus’ “The Plague.” Written in 1947, The Plague tells the story of a “plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran.” The novel poses a number of questions about “the nature of destiny and the human condition.” The book’s characters, “from doctors to vacationers to fugitives,” all show the effects of a plague on a community.

One lesson? If we as a nation believe in and act on Romans 10:9, we “will be saved.” And in what could be an even greater miracle – greater even than the Son of God making some extra food appear? – it might even lead to a massive change in our present national life.

That is, the present “Coronavirusmight lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” Along with “a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.” Or even a realization that there “are more things to admire in [all] people than to despise…”

And wouldn’t that qualify as an “even greater miracle than Jesus did?” (John 14:12.) 

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The upper image is courtesy of 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic – Wikipedia. The full caption: “Supermarket shelves that stock dry pasta varieties are almost empty due to panic-buying as the result of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. This was taken at a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne, Australia.” The article further noted: “The outbreak was first identified in WuhanChina in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on 11 March 2020. As of 21 March, more than 275,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 185 countries and territories, resulting in more than 11,300 deaths and 90,000 recoveries.”

Re: Atheists in foxholes. For other views, see Atheists in Foxholes, in Cockpits, and on Ships, or We Should Stop Saying There Are No Atheists In Foxholes.

Romans 10:9. Note that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is one of the first books of the New Testament, generally said to have been written somewhere between 55 and 58 A.D. (“C.E.” to the politically correct.) As to which NT book was first: I Googled “what was the first book of the new testament to be written,” and got a variety of answers. Some authorities say Galatians and the Letter of James came before Romans, while some say the Gospel of Matthew was the first written, in 35 A.D. Which would be two years after the presumptive year of Jesus’ crucifixion. Isaac Asimov – in his Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One – indicated that Romans was most likely written in 58. As for James, Asimov wrote of the letter possibly being written any time between 48 and 90 A.D. (See pages 1159-60.) He agreed that Galatians was “possibly the earliest of all the books of the New Testament to achieve written form. (1116.) As for Matthew and Mark, he suggests the former was written around 70 A.D., preceded by the latter – Mark – by some four years or so. (771,903)

Re: The Gospel reading for March 19. The other readings were “AM Psalm [83]or 42, 43; PM Psalm 85, 86,” Genesis. 46:1-7,28-34; and 1 Corinthians. 9:1-15. March 19 was also the Feast Day for St. Joseph, with the following readings, “AM: Psalm 132Isaiah 63:7-16Matthew 1:18-25[,] PM: Psalm 342 Chronicles 6:12-17Ephesians 3:14-21.”

Re: “Reason and experience.” See Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, about the “methodology for theological reflection that is credited to John Wesley… This method based its teaching on four sources as the basis of theological and doctrinal development. These four sources are scripturetradition, reason, and Christian experience.”

Re: “5,000-plus.” See Mark 6:44. In one translation, “The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.” In another, “A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed.See also Matthew 14:21, “The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

Re: “As one writer said recently.” The full citation is Alain de Botton: In ‘The Plague,’ Camus reminds us that suffering is random.

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

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia. The full caption is from a quote in the book: “Dr Rieux resolved to compile this chronicle.”

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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.”  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

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See 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.*”    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 below is courtesy of: “”

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

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

On Thanksgiving 2019

 The Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving behind their homeland – for a “whole New Wo-o-o-orld…*”

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Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!

Keep America Beautiful’s famous 1971 Ad Campaign, featuring Iron Eyes Cody, the “Crying Indian”

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful. (Supervising mainly young folk working off community service hours.) For another thing, I got back from Portugal in the middle of the “High Holy Season.” (I.e., the season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now nearing an end – it’s time to get back to posting more regularly. And next Thursday’s Thanksgiving is a great place to start. But first a couple passages from today’s Daily Office Readings.

For starters, there’s the Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25. It tells of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: “when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

Lamassu from “Sargon II…” 

The problem? The Assyrians and Egyptians were at the time arch-enemies, both with each other and with Israel, which they took turns conquering. Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.

That theme got mirrored in the New Testament reading, Romans 15:5-13, “May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of which could be very good news indeed, giving us hope for the future.

Which brings us back to Thanksgiving. I covered the subject in On the first Thanksgiving – Part I, On the first Thanksgiving – Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, and On Thanksgiving – 2017. The caption for the Mayflower Pilgrim image at the top of the page – borrowed from “Part I” – alludes to a song from the movie Aladdin.  See Aladdin – A whole new world – YouTube.  Also Aladdin – A Whole New World Lyrics:  “A whole new world, A new fantastic point of view, No one to tell us no, Or where to go…  Unbelievable sights, Indescribable feeling, Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling, Through an endless diamond sky…” 

All of which – I noted – could describe the feelings of any pilgrim who is setting out for any “new world,” before reality sets in and the real work begins. And which might be said of any “baby Christian” just starting out on his or her spiritual journey…

Which brings up a key point to remember. See for example the post Thanksgiving 2015, which noted this reality check on that much-celebrated First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

Which reminds us that any true pilgrimage – or any spiritual journey worth its salt – involves a lot of disciplined, persevering work. And that “stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor” isn’t the real purpose of Thanksgiving. (Any more than “getting presents” is the real purpose of Christmas.)

We should be thankful – above all – for the right to explore our own spiritual pilgrimage – our own spiritual journey – in our own way and at our own pace. Which means that – if we choose – we can follow the lead of Luke 24:45 and read the Bible “with an open mind.” 

All of which is another way of saying that once you start reading the Bible on a daily basis – with an open mind – you can find an exciting “whole New World out there.” 

You can become – in your own way – like an old-time explorer whose main job – it often seemed – was to push past grim warnings and superstitions:

In the 15th and 16th centuries, superstitious people might have warned an explorer, sailing west from Europe, that he was doomed to fall off the edge of the world.  At the very least, they might have said, the explorer and his sailors would suffer horribly and never be seen again…   For all the grim warnings, nobody could have predicted that the explorers would not sail off the edge of the known world, but into an entirely new one.  (E.A.)

That’s from the INTRODUCTION. Then there’s Thanksgiving – 2016, referring to a quote from William Bradford (Plymouth colony) on the difficulties inherent in all great and honorable actions. (“Like trying to maintain a true democracy after the kind of heated-rhetoric election we just went through.”)  Which could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!”

Which brought up the topic of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” referring to the Dark Ages, that period of intellectual darkness between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.”  (Not that there was any connection to current events or anything…)  

Which in turn serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through, during this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019:

“This too shall pass…

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The “First Thanksgiving,” as envisioned by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia, captioned, “The Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.”

The “lamassu” image is courtesy of a link n Assyrian captivity – Wikipedia. It refers to “an Assyrian protective deity, often depicted as having a human head, the body of a bull or a lion, and bird wings.” Sargon II began his reign in 722 BC, then “conquered the Kingdom of Israel, and, in 710 BC, conquered the Kingdom of Babylon, thus reuniting Assyria with its southern rival, Babylonia.”

The lower image is courtesy of Thanksgiving – Wikipedia, caption: “Jennie Augusta BrownscombeThe First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.” 

“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? –

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  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.