Category Archives: Not your daddy’s Bible

Announcing a new E-book…

The book cover:  “Jacob wrestling with the angel”  – God – and being “transformed…”

*   *   *   *

Remember when Rick Santorum said “there’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian?”  There’s a new e-book out to challenge his claim.  Which is another way of saying I just published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.”  (Subtitle: “And Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”)  Just check out the Amazon Kindle Store (Under the nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Fesoj - Papilio machaon (by).jpgIn one sense it talks about being transformed.  As in, transformed by reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (And maybe faithfully reading this blog?)  In turn, the King James Bible Dictionary says that term means to “change the form of;  to change the shape or appearance;  to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”

(To “metamorphose” means in pertinent part to “change into a different physical form especially by supernatural means.”)

But as the book notes, way too many way-too-conservative Christians don’t want to change.  They don’t like the idea of being “transformed,” as Jacob was.  They prefer staying “caterpillars,” Biblically speaking.  They’d rather stay in their cocoon of literalism.

You can get more juicy details at the Kindle Store site, by typing in the title’s key words.  There too you can read the 600-word “blurb.”  Also – for reference – the chapter titles are listed in the notes below.  For one example the book talks of the difference between Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ.”  That last post – from November 13 – became Chapter 27, the end of the book.  Other chapters include “The Bible’s erotic love song.”  (“From last year.”)

I figured that’d get people’s attention, but the chapter also asks questions like:  Why don’t Bible Literalists interpret the “Songs of Songs” literally?  Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

To compare, some literalists are “snake handlers,” based on a literal translation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.”  (Taken out of context, I’d say.)  But the “love song” chapter says,  “Be consistent.  If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

Moving on – and as noted in the e-book “blurb” – the book’s  title is a twist on Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008, “There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian.” (In a kind of “Bizarro” turnabout-is-fair-play.  Or some well-deserved “busting of conservative chops.”) 

But the journey that led to the book started four years ago.  It just ended, with a realization that there ARE conservative Christians  However, they both definitely short-change themselves and drive away converts “in droves.”  (With their narrow view of the Bible.  Then too, another conclusion the book came to was:  They’re more like “hang around the fort” Christians.*)

But the book – and this blog – gives potential Bible students a more challenging alternative to the “limited Army career options” offered up by conservative Christians.  (That’s a metaphor based on Paul’s saying in 2d Timothy 2:3,  “Join with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”) 

And in the U.S. Army for example, you do – at first – go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.”  But conservative Christians “never go beyond boot camp.”  They never go beyond the fundamentals.  They’d rather stay “career buck privates.”  (See Chapter 16.)

But as the book notes, a true Soldier of Christ WANTS to go beyond the “safety of the fort” – or the cocoon – and wrestle with God.  Of course God will win every ‘match,” but in the process YOU get stronger and stronger – spiritually – as discussed in Chapter 5.  (“On arguing with God,” which includes the idea that your Bible journey calls you “to vigor, not comfort.”)

In the meantime, since publishing the book I found what might be a better metaphor than arguing with God or “wrestling with God.”  Back in the 1970’s I had a book, The Inner Game of Tennis.  As I remember, one passage talked about how a good player should compete with a not-so-good player.  So the better metaphor could be “playing tennis with God.”

I’ll try to develop this theme later on, but the point is pretty simple.  When you “play tennis with God,” He plays you in a way that will help you develop.  He doesn’t just try to beat the tar out of you, to humiliate you, like so many “human” players do.  I put more thoughts on this in the  notes, but the point is that if you challenge God – if you “argue” with Him – you usually end up a stronger person for it.  (Though there will be “disasters” from which spiritual growth comes…)  

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some Christians choose the option for some “Advanced Individual Training” – like the U.S. Army – and go out beyond the fort.  AND have some adventure in their lives.  Or as Jesus promised in John 10:10 to live life “in abundance.”

That’s from the Afterword, which adds that the book “can get you started doing that.”

*   *   *   *

“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Jacob wrestling with the angel – Wikipedia.  See also On arguing with God and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

Re:  Santorum on liberal Christianity.  There’s some debate whether he actually said that about “liberal Christians,” but not that some conservative Christians truly believe it.  Some indeed have called liberal Christianity a “heresy,” notwithstanding the warning of Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  See for example The ‘Bizarro Rick Santorum’ says, which became Chapter 21.

Metamorphosis Re:  Butterflies and cocoons.  See also How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies, at left.

The image below the “erotic love song” passage is courtesy of Song of Songs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Song of Songs’ (Cantique des Cantiques) by Gustave Moreau, 1893.”

Re:  “Hang around the fort” Christians.  As the book notes, I’ve used a number of metaphors to describe such too-conservative, too-literal followers-of-Jesus.  Boot camp Christians, carbon-copy Christians, career buck privates – Biblically speaking – and the like.  But after further review, the term “stick in the mud Christians” deserves further exploration.  For example, there’s a lady in my church choir who is conservative, and a Christian, but she does things like “shotgun” competitively and go to Las Vegas on a regular basis to play poker; also “competitively.”  And she drives a racy big-engine sports car, and for all that is definitely not a “stick in the mud” Christian.  See ‘Stick in the mud’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, referring to a “narrow-minded or unprogressive person;  one who lacks initiative.”  The Free Dictionary said the term is based the idea of someone “content to remain in an abject condition.”  Or there’s the generic “person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.”  (Yup, that sounds about right…)

The full title to the “tennis” book:   The Inner Game of Tennis:  The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.  As to the author, see Timothy Gallwey – Wikipedia:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations.  If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Which sounds a bit like the blog-post On sin and cybernetics, which forms Chapter 6 in the book.

The lower image is courtesy of the Amazon.com Kindle Store

*   *   *   *

I wrote the following after getting my copy of “Inner Game” from the local library.  The full chapter-title list comes below these “rough notes for possible future use:”

The easiest way – used by most “better players” – is just to beat the tar out of a lesser opponent.  But the worthier – more challenging – way is for the “better” to play just good enough to win.  In that way he challenges the lesser player, and forces his own “self” to stretch and become better.  His primary goal is still to win, but to win in such a way that both players grow.  (E.g., the lesser player feels good because he “hung in there” with a better player.)

So  today I went to the library and got the 2008 Random House paperback edition.  (“Foreward by Pete Carroll, head football coach, USC.”)  I found what I think was the remembered passage.  From page 121, Chapter 9 (The Meaning of Competition), it talked about the way that God – in my remembrance – gives you the chance to “find out to what heights [you] can rise.”  Then the author wrote about concluding that “true competition is identical with true cooperation:”

Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in … true competition no person is defeated.  Both players benefit by their efforts [and] both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other…  You tend to build confidence in your opponent…  Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it.

So from God’s point of view, “He makes it more challenging for His opponent.”  God makes it more challenging for us when we argue with, wrestle with, or play tennis with Him, instead of just meekly accepting a narrow, limited version of how conservatives see the Bible.

So it seems to me that God wants us to “challenge Him,” to ask questions, to go beyond a mere literal acceptance of what somebody else has said the Bible means.  Like Buddha said:

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

But the Apostle Paul said pretty much the same thing in First Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   And First John 4:1, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.”  And also Philippians 2:12, where Paul added, “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”  (Borrowed from The Christian repertoire…)

I’m not sure how I got to quoting Buddha, but it’s from another e-book I’ll be publishing soon…

*   *   *   *

The following is the list of Contents in the “NoCon” book, Chapters 1 through 27.  Also, a Preface and an Afterword.  For some practice using the search engine at the upper right of the main page, just type in the key words.  And as noted above, the last chapter – 27 – comes from the November 13, 2018 post, On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ:” 

Preface

Chapter 1:  “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other

Chapter 2:  Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Chapter 3:  On three suitors (a parable)

Chapter 4:  On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Chapter 5:  On “wrestling” with God

Chapter 6:  On sin and cybernetics

Chapter 7:  On reading the Bible

Chapter 8:  On the Bible and mysticism

Chapter 9:  The True Test of Faith

Chapter 10:  On singing a NEW song to God…

Chapter 11:  On WHY we’re getting “less Christian”

Chapter 12:  Was Moses the first to say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Chapter 13:  “Bible basics” revisited

Chapter 14:  On Moses getting stoned…

Chapter 15:  My Lenten meditation…

Chapter 16:  Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

Chapter 17:  On snake-handling “redux”

Chapter 18:  The latest from a “None…”

Chapter 19:  Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Chapter 20: On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

Chapter 21:  The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Chapter 22:  “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Chapter 23:  The Bible’s “erotic love song”

Chapter 24:  Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!

Chapter 25:  Did Jesus interpret the Bible “liberally?”

Chapter 26:  Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

Chapter 27:  On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

*   *   *   *

(Here’s a news flash:  I just published a new e-book, “’There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:’  and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”  It’s now available at the Amazon.com: Kindle Store.  I’ll be writing more about it in my next post, “Announcing a new book.”  And here’s a clue:  This post comes at the end of the book, as Chapter 27, followed by an “Afterword.”

And now back to the meat of this post, on Garritroopers … in the “Army of Christ.”)

This is an allegory.  (The kind Paul used in Galatians 4:24.)

Suppose our all-volunteer Army had only one option for a new soldier:  The chance to be a “Grunt” his whole career.  Or worse, a career doing only KP duty.  (Shown at left.)  I’d bet they wouldn’t too get many recruits.  And as to that first term:

“[G]runt” is slang for an infantryman or foot soldier.  It is thought that this term arose during the Vietnam War [in 1969.  But since] around 1900, “grunt” has been a word for a low-level worker or laborer.  This is the likely origin of the term “grunt work,” referring to a job that is thankless, boring and exhausting but necessary.  There is no record of how this word became applied to infantrymen though it is indisputable that infantrymen often engage in grunt work.

As to “KP,” that refers to work “assigned to junior U.S. enlisted military personnel.”  Such work includes tedious – but necessary – chores like “dish washing and pot scrubbing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line.”  (On a related note, see Acts 6:2:  “The Twelve Disciples summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, ‘It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.'”)

But “waiting tables” – or doing Grunt Work – are just about the only career options offered up by conservative Christians – in their “Army of Christ.”  (As in 2 Timothy 2:3:  “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”)  Or Christian Fundamentalists, who arguably spend their “Army careers” going over and over the same basics they learned back in boot camp.  (See also Oxford Dictionaries, defining a grunt as a “low-ranking or unskilled soldier or other worker.”)

But there is an alternative.  When you join the real “Army of Christ” you don’t have to spend your  career going over the basics, going over the “fundamentals” again and again.

In plain words you don’t have to stay a “Fundamentalist.”  You aren’t locked in to re-learning the Five Fundamentals over and over.  Instead – just like the U.S. Army – after boot camp you have the option to go on to “Advanced Individual Training.”  And some of those “advanced jobs” are pretty exciting.

Like training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, as shown in the photo at the bottom of the page.  From there you can go on to training that is exciting – if not dangerous –  like learning to “guide troops through hostile territory.”  And what hostile territory we Christians face these days.  (Not least of which, danger from those who are supposed to be fellow Soldiers of Christ.)

You can see more about these exciting alternatives in the INTRODUCTION above.  About how reading the Bible with an open mind can open up “a whole new world” – or a whole new continent – like what happened after Lewis and Clark opened up the American West:

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

Which brings us back to real soldiers in the Army of Christ, as opposed to “garritroopers.”  An example of such a soldier is shown at the top of the page, drawn up by Bill Mauldin during World War II:  “Too far forward to wear ties an’ too far back to get shot.”  But “getting shot at” – metaphorically or otherwise – is just what a real Soldier of Christ signs on for in his career.

On that note see what is a garet trooper? | Yahoo Answers (on an alternative spelling):

“He was the guy with spit polished boots and clean fatigues that never left the base.  Never at risk, never responsible for his decisions, always looking good and then went home and claimed heroic actions anyway.”

And in yet another spelling, the word “Garrett” – as in “trooper” – is said to come from an old army word for barracks.  So a “Garrett trooper” is one who hangs around the barracks.

I’ve used various terms to describe this type of too-literal Christian. (Not always charitably.)  I’ve called them Boot-camp ChristiansComfort Zone Christianscareer buck privates, and/or Carbon Copy Christians (“Mass produced carbon copies of each other.”)  But for this post the best term could be “hang around the fort Christians.”  They’re the Soldiers of Christ who literally “hang around the fort.”

However – since “hang around the fort” has a negative connotation – the better term could be “hold down the fort Christians.”  Which is of course a highly necessary task.

Someone has to do it.  Or more precisely, some soldiers of Christ are properly charged with maintaining “a secure position,” or maintaining the “proper functioning of some situation or place … typically during someone’s absence.”  But such soldiers err greatly when they say all Soldiers of Christ must be exactly like them.  When they say that all Christians must focus exclusively on “holding down the fort,” rather than getting away from the fort and getting on with the job of a real soldier:  “One who fights as part of an army.”

And as to those soldiers who insist on focusing only on “holding the fort,” see Wikipedia:

In most armies use of the word “soldier” has taken on a more general meaning due to the increasing specialization of military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets.  [For examples, see the notes.]

On that note see Ephesians 4:11, where God gave different gifts to different people:  He “appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.”  Or 1st Corinthians 12:28:  “God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, and those with gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various tongues.”

In the same way, God seems to have appointed some too-literal Christians to “hold down the fort,” while others He appointed as rangersscouts, “recon,” or perhaps even Pathfinders:

The modern U.S. Army Pathfinders are an elite force making up less than .01% of the total Army.  Their primary mission is to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones for airborne and air assault missions.

So there you have it.  Just as “Not all Christians are ‘Trump-humping evangelicals,'” so not all Christians are required to either “hang around the fort,” or “hold down the fort.”

As a good soldier in the Army of Christ, you do have the career option of expanding your horizons, and/or testing your limits.  And who knows?  You might even find yourself jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)  

*   *   *   *

Flickr - The U.S. Army - First jump with the new T-11 parachute.jpg

Trainees at Army Airborne School – on the way to not becoming garet troopers

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Garret Trooper Bill Mauldin – Image Results.

The KP duty image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A U.S. Navy sailor working in galley duty aboard the USS Saratoga in March 1986.  (In a bit of artistic license.)

Re:  “Soldier of Christ.”  See also 2 Timothy 2:4.  In the King James Bible – the one God uses – “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life;  that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  Likewise the “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” quote is from the King James Bible.  And see Ephesians 6:11, vis-a-vis the Armor of God, explained in Wikipedia:  “This armor seems to be in direct correlation of that of the Roman Empire‘s soldiers,” at the time.

Also, I originally thought to compare non-conservative Christians – like me – to officers in the Army of Christ, but that was too much of a stretch.  (Given the present plethora of bishops, priests, deacons, and of course a Pope whose authority few Protestants recognize.)  Then too there was the matter of “thinking too much of yourself,” contrary to the authority of Luke 14:9-11:

“When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor.  Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host.  Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place.  The place of honor belongs to this man.’  Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.  When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place.  Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’  That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!  What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face.  But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Re:  The phrase “hang around the fort” having a negative connotation.  If you start typing in “hang around the fort,” you will probably get the suggested phrase “hang around the fort Indian.”  See for example, Who are hangs around the fort people – Answers.com, referencing the Lakota tribe:

These bands [of Native Americans] lived next to the agencies and tried to live like members of the dominant [white] culture, [and] were rewarded by receiving the best and most of government aid…  Those who were adopting the dominant culture’s ways became the “hang-around-the-fort Indians,” and that term became a contemptuous epithet used by those who were trying to live the traditional ways of the Lakota culture.

See also Irony – Wikipedia, and George Blake, Hang Around the Fort Injun:  Re the term “used among Indians during the Reservation Era to refer to those who were perceived as spending too much time near military encampments, pandering to the U.S. military and becoming involved in white affairs.”

Re:  Army “skill sets:” Artillerymanparatrooperrangersniperengineersappermedic, or gunner.

Also, re: “rangersscouts, ‘recon,’ or pathfinders:”  See U.S. Army Rangers – WikipediaCavalry scout – WikipediaBlack Seminole Scouts – WikipediaReconnaissance – Wikipedia, and/or US Army Pathfinder School – Wikipedia.  The “Follow me” image is courtesy of US Army Follow Me Insignia – Image Results.  See also, United States Army Infantry School – Wikipedia.  

The lower image is courtesy of United States Army Airborne School – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Students jump from a C-130 using T-11 parachutes during the Airborne School’s final week of training.”  Located in Fort BenningGA, this jump school “conducts the basic paratrooper (military parachutist) training for the United States armed forces.”

On Jesus “cracking wise”

 The “Laughing Jesus…”

*   *   *   *

https://mediamythalert.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/braburning_atlcty_1968.jpgFirst a note:  I originally posted this on January 23, 2015.  But yesterday, reading over some old posts, I noticed the bottom picture in this one was missing.  Or more precisely there was a box with some information written inside, probably “URL” information or the like.  So I decided to re-post this one, and may do the same with others, like Jonah and the bra-burners, first posted on January 19, 2015.  (And leading with the picture at left.)

So here’s a “new improved version” of Jesus “cracking wise.”

*   *   *   *

The Gospel reading for January 18[, 2015] was John 1:43-51.  It told of Jesus meeting Philip and Nathanael.  An earlier post (Bible readings for January 18) told of a commentator saying Nathanael  was a bit of a “wiseacre.”  Commentator also suggested that Jesus greeted Nathanael with a sarcastic joke, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!”   This was after Nathanael was reluctant to “come and see” the man Philip thought was the Messiah.

The idea of this “sarcastic joke to Nathanael” came from a Sacred Story article.  The article said the Israel Jesus referred to “was the new name of Jacob, who was well-known as a deceitful trickster who fooled both his father and brother.’  I also noted some contrary, “more traditional” interpretations, such as John 1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael:

[Jesus] is described as knowing what was in man…  He makes use of his Divine prerogative [and] penetrated the surface to [Nathanael’s] inner motive and heart.  Behold, an Israelite indeed; one who fulfils the true idea of Israel, a prince with God, a conqueror of God by prayer, and conqueror of man by submission, penitence, and restitution…  In whom is no guile; i.e. no self-deception, and no disposition to deceive others.

So the Pulpit Commentary on John 1:47 had Jesus saying Nathanael was not a deceitful trickster.   Rather Jesus was saying Nathanael was a true “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive others.”  And Gill’s Exposition of John 1:47 interpreted the phrase “behold an Israelite indeed” as meaning “a true son of Jacob’s; an honest, plain hearted man.”

So which was it?   Was Jesus saying Nathanael was an “honest, plain-hearted man,” without guile or deceit, “just like Jacob?”  Or was Jesus being sarcastic, “cracking wise?”

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgWe can start with the fact that the name “Israel” referred to a man who literally wrestled with God.  (See On arguing with God, with the image at right.)  That’s how Jacob got his name changed to Israel.

(That post also said maybe we too should wrestle with God:  “that’s how we get spiritually stronger, by ‘resistance training,’” not “passively accepting” everything in the Bible.)

But we also know that Jacob was shrewd, starting from the moment of his birth.  Jacob and twin brother Esau literally “wrestled in the womb.”  And while Esau was born a few seconds before his brother, “his heel was grasped by the hand of Jacob.”  The name Jacob – Ya`aqovin Hebrew – literally translates to “heel-catcher,” “leg-puller,” or “supplanter.”  See Jacob – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and also Genesis 25:19-28.   (Verse 28 also notes that while the father Isaac loved Esau – his first-born son – Rebekah the mother loved Jacob more.)

Isaac Asimov added that since Esau was born first, he was entitled to inherit the first-born’s “main portion of his father’s property.”  (Such a blessing had “great legalistic value in the society of that time.”)  But Jacob outmaneuvered his older brother, getting his birthright in exchange for some “pottage,” when Esau was starving.  See Genesis 25:27-34, “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”  So this was when Jacob “fooled his brother,” as noted in Sacred Story.

Then – as Asimov noted – came a “second successful deceit on the part of Jacob.”

Years later, as Isaac lay “blind and awaiting death,” he wanted to give Esau his final blessing. (That also had “great legalistic value”).  But Jacob fooled his father by dressing up in Esau’s clothes and putting goatskins on his arms “to imitate Esau’s hairiness.”  (This all happened as Esau was out hunting, at his father’s request, to prepare one last time the “savory food” his father Isaac loved so much.)  The story in Genesis 27:1-45 goes on to tell of Esau hating and planning to kill Jacob, because of his trickery.  (The blind and “tricked” Isaac gave Jacob his final blessing, not Esau.)  Genesis 27 also told of his mother’s scheme to save him.  So here we’ve seen the story of Jacob fooling “both his father and brother.

But wait, there’s more!

Rebekah sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban.  Laban ended up as Jacob’s father-in-law, after first tricking him – Jacob – to marry Leah, his first-born daughter.  (See, Jacob really loved and “bargained for” Rachel, but Leah had to get married first, by the law of the time, so he ended up marrying both of them.)  Which led to yet another bit of “guile” on the part of Jacob.

He wanted to return home – with wives Rachel and Leah – but he also wanted compensation:

Laban was reluctant to release him, as God had blessed his flock on account of Jacob.  Laban asked what he could pay Jacob.  Jacob proposed that all the spotted, speckled, and brown goats and sheep of Laban’s flock, at any given moment, would be his wages.  Jacob placed peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut within the flocks’ watering holes or troughs…

See Jacob(With the image of him and his mother Rachel, at left.)   See also Genesis 30 … Bible Gateway, verses 25-42, titled “Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense.”  Briefly, Jacob agreed to be paid by taking only the “speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats.”  But then he made the peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut noted above, and put them in front of watering holes.  According to the Bible, that’s the trickery that made Jacob rich:

[S]ince they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted…   Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.  Thus the man [Jacob] grew exceedingly rich…

So Jacob grew exceedingly rich at the expense of his father-in-law.  He bargained for “only” the speckled and spotted sheep, then took steps to make sure that most of the sheep and the strongest of the sheep turned out to be “speckled and spotted.”

In the fullness of time, Jacob went on to “wrestle with God” and become the patriarch Israel,as told in Genesis 32:22-32.  He fathered 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel:  “The children named in Genesis were Reuben (shown at right), SimeonLeviJudahDanNaphtaliGadAsherIssacharZebulun, daughter DinahJoseph, and Benjamin.”  (See Jacob, which also indicated daughter Dinah didn’t count as a “tribe.”)

Which gets us back to the question:  When Jesus greeted Nathanael in John 1:47 – Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!” – what was He really saying?  Was He saying Nathanael was a “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive?”  Or was He “cracking wise?”  (Or maybe He was quoting Psalm 32:2, “Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile!”  Which still doesn’t solve the question.)

John 1:43-45 described Philip meeting Jesus, then going to find Nathanael and tell him the news; “Jesus of Nazareth was the one foretold in the scriptures as the savior of his people.”  As the Sacred Story article went on to say, “Nathanael listened, and made a wise-crack – ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?‘”  (See John 1:46)

So the question is:  Did Jesus respond to Nathanael’s sarcastic comment – under the fig tree – with a sarcastic comment of His own?  Did Jesus laugh, make jokes, be sarcastic?

That’s ultimately for you to decide, but I’ve said all along that God has a sense of humor.

Aside from making Mick Jagger a grandfather, there’s also Psalm 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”  Psalm 37:13 says, “The LORD laughs at the wicked, because He sees that their day will come.” (That’s Psalm 37:14 in the BCP Revised Standard version.)   Then there’s Psalm 59:8, “But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.”  And finally see Psalm 104:26, “there is that Leviathan, which you [God] have made for the sport of it.”  (Psalm 104:27 in the BCP RSV.) 

In turn I’ve done many posts on the subject.  Just type in “God sense humor” in the search-box above right.  Those posts include On Robin Williams’ “Top Ten,” in memory of man who “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

But don’t just take my word for it.  There’s also the site Who was Canadian behind iconic image of “Laughing Jesus?”  That’s where the image above came from, but there’s some debate about who actually created the original.  Be that as it may, it’s popular:  “One of the most popular images of Jesus today is a painting of him laughing.”

Unfortunately, time and space – not to mention the reader’s “attention span of a gerbil” – are running out.  That means it’s time to wrap this up.

We can close by noting there’s also some question about who this sarcastic Nathanael really was.  The consensus is that he was actually Bartholomew the Apostle, “one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified with Nathanael (alternatively spelled Nathaniel).”

See also Nathanael – Believed To Be The Apostle Bartholomew:  “Church tradition says Nathanael carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India.  Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.”

Which means there’s enough tragedy to around, as if we didn’t know that already.  (Crucified upside down in Albania, indeed!)  In turn it would be nice to think that Jesus, like Robin Williams, “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

*   *   *   *

Leviathan, which God made “for the sport of it…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Laughing Jesus – Image Results.

The full citation for the “Sacred Story” article is sacredstory.org/2012 … nathanael-and-the-fig-tree.  From the Sacred Story home page:  “Do you wonder about your life as a spiritual journey?  Do you have questions about the Bible?  Are you interested in conversations about God?  Then this blog is written for you – not as an easy source of authoritarian answers, but as a shared exploration of the questions.”   Ditto!!!

The lower image is courtesy of Leviathan – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “‘Destruction of Leviathan,’ 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré.’”

See also Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia, “He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”

The post Bible readings for January 18  included notes on the term wiseacre, variously defined as:  1) a person who possesses or affects to possess great wisdom;  2) a wise guy;  or 3) “Old person speak for smartass.”  Dictionary.com added the term is “often used facetiously or contemptuously.”

On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men…

A colorful Japanese illustration of the parable of the Blind men and elephant… 

*   *   *   *

In the meantime:

October 23 is the Feast Day for James, the brother of Jesus.  About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part.  He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

According to Wikipedia – and other sources – “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  On the other hand the Feast Day for James the Greater is on July 25.  See On “St. James the Greater,” posted July 24, 2014.  Among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”  Seen at left, he is “depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

And incidentally, in that July 2014 post I got these two Jameses mixed up, which is apparently not that uncommon.  See for example The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study.  That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude.

So anyway, this particular “James” is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James.  And according to his Wikipedia article, “As many as six different men in the Bible are named James.”  All of which makes for more than the usual amount of confusion.  For example:

Roman Catholic tradition generally holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, and James the Less.  It is agreed by most [Catholics, apparently] that he should not be confused with James, son of Zebedee.

Saint James the Just.jpgBe that as it may, here’s what the Wikipedia article said about this particular “10/23” James – whose “icon” is shown at right:

The Pauline epistles and the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles portray James as an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem.  When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

Another note:  The Gospel for this Feast Day is Matthew 13:54-58.  It tells of Jesus returning to His home town and teaching in the synagogue.  As a result, the locals were “astounded” at His teaching, and started asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

But wait!  There’s still more confusion!  This time as to James’ death:  “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.'”  All of which brings up the “parable of the Blind men and elephant.”

I discussed this parable in Reading the Bible (July 2014), On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel” (June 2015), and On snake-handling “redux” (May 2016).  I added a new wrinkle to the “Seven Blind Men and the Elephant” with the April 2018 post, “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other(Including the image at left.)

The gist of that post was that Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense.  (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

The gist of that post was also that in doing so, such “Good” Christians can fulfill their duty as “Watchmen of Christ” for each other, pursuant to Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Task as Watchman“):

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

So if one good Christian sees another one in error, he is duty-bound to discuss that potential error.  And from the resulting “spirited debate,” both Christians may get ever closer to “the Truth.”  As Wikipedia noted, the parable can be used to “illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.”  For example, “one’s subjective experience can be true, but [is] inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”

At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, [as well as] the need for deeper understanding, and respect for different perspectives on the same object of observation.

Of course such “persuasion” can only work with Christians willing to admit they don’t have all the answers, or that anyone who disagrees with them is “going to hell.”  (From the “very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at ‘the truth.’”)  And which is actually based on the Bible, like in Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

The point of the parable was that each blind man, “in his own opinion,” thought the elephant was “like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched.”  Which led to this “Moral,” from the poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887):

So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

And if such disputes can arise over a “mere elephant,” it’s no small wonder how many heated arguments have come over the full depth and meaning of God, a God “not one of them has seen!”  Or as Apostle Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12.”

And if the Apostle Paul can admit that even he could see “only in part,” who are we to say we know “everything there is to know about God,” or dare to tell other people how to live?

All of which brings up what the great philosopher Charlie Chan once noted:

“Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

*   *   *   *

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpg

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Blind men and elephant – Wikipedia.  The ull caption: “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  This parable has “crossed between many religious traditions and is part of of JainBuddhistSufi and Hindu lore.”  (Wikipedia.)  In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

The lower image of Charlie Chan is courtesy of amazon.com/Charlie-Collection-Honolulu-Treasure.  See also Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan, which included the Home-page quote, “Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”  See also THE BASICS, above.   

A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

http://cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review

A good “soldier of Christ” starts in boot camp, then moves to Advanced Individual Training

*   *   *   *

Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI’ve been listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House(Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.)  I skipped the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  See e.g., 2d Peter 3:18.  In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’”  On that note, see not only Deuteronomy 19:16-19, but also the Pulpit Commentary for 2 Peter 3:18, cited above:

Growth is necessary for steadfastness;  we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith (comp. 1st Peter 1:5-71st Peter 2:2).

Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog:  That open-minded growth is a necessary part of any good Christian’s journey through life. See also 1st Peter 2:2:  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  Which is another way of saying that too-conservative Christians seem happy to stay “newborn babes,” Biblically speaking.

And incidentally, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  (So if you accused someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, then you would be punished as if you were real Antichrist, shown at right.)

Which brings us back to Billy Graham, who started out himself as a Bible literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  Described at pages 2-4 of The Preacher and the Presidents book, you can see it online at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists.  Basically, Graham said, “When I take the Bible literally … my preaching has power.”  The thing is, Moses likely said the same thing when he started telling the Hebrews in the Wilderness how they got there and where they were going.  And had to “dumb it down.”

All of which led me to the following thoughts:

In Conservative Christian – “Career buck private,”  I noted what Paul said in 2d Timothy 2:3-4 “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (Emphasis added.)  And I agreed that the best place to start “Bible training” is to take it literally:

Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”  But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private [during] his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few [“soldiers of Christ”] who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

In turn I concluded that this blog is for and about those Christians who want to develop into something “more than just someone who knows the bare ‘fundamentals.’”

See also Spiritual boot camp, which said that with the right way of Bible study we get “more adept at living life in all its abundance,” as promised in John 10:10.  And that you could say it’s a bit “like spiritual boot camp (but with ‘humor and compassion’).”

Which brings us back to Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.

For one thing, Templeton said, “Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe” the Bible account of creation.  But Templeton overlooked that Moses didn’t write the Creation account – and the rest of the Torah – for modern scholars.  See Moses and Paul “dumbing it down.”  That post noted that if Moses had said things like “the earth we live on actually revolves around that ‘big bright thing in the sky’ … he would have gotten stoned, burned at the stake or worse.”

Templeton also overlooked that when Graham preached the Bible literally, he wasn’t trying to recruit generals.  (To use the soldier metaphor.)  He wanted to recruit people for basic training, where they could go and “learn the fundamentals.”  In plain words, Graham was recruiting Army “privates,” many of whom would choose to stay privates in the Army of Christ.

So I was wrong in saying there are “some few ‘soldiers of Christ’ who enjoy having no additional responsibility.”  As in any army, “privates” make up the bulk of personnel, not “some few.”  That is, I’ve reconsidered “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  (Including the image at right.)  Because whatever the branch of service there are far more “privates” than officers or other advanced personnel.

Depending on the branch, the ratio of officers – who you could say did “Way Advanced Individual Training” – can range from 4.1 to one (Air Force) to eight to one (Marine Corps).  But regardless of the differences, each service depends more – numerically – on its enlisted personnel, including “career buck privates.”  For one thing, they help recruit other career privates and so keep the army – here, the “Army of Christ” – functioning at a high level.

And so with the Army of Christ.  It – like our other armed services – could well be based on a having most soldiers choosing not to go much beyond “learning the fundamentals.”

And if all that’s true – and I believe it is – then this blog is designed for those Soldiers of Christ wanting to advance beyond basic training, beyond learning the fundamentals and beyond being a “career private.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s wrong to claim that’s the only way to succeed as a Soldier of Christ.  Some of us want to explore our full potential.  Some of us want to develop our talents.  Some of us want to explore life “to the full,” and so go…

*   *   *   *

The upper “boot-camp” image is courtesy of cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review.

The Antichrist image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Luca Signorelli‘s 1501 depiction of the face of antichrist, from the Orvieto Cathedral.”  The term is “usually seen as marking out a certain category of persons, rather than an individual.”  Compare the “similar word ‘pseudochrist’ (Greek pseudokhristos, meaning ‘false messiah’).” 

Continuing the soldier metaphor: After Basic Training, the good soldier – and by extension the ‘Good Soldier of Christ’ – has a chance to go on to Advanced Individual Training, ‘where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS.’  For example, a new soldier could go to the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill Oklahoma.  (With all of the Freudian implications appertaining thereto.  Or to the Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama.  Or even to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.”  Or perhaps even go off to Officer Candidate School

Re:  The ratio of privates to officers, etc.  See What is the typical ratio of officers to enlisted soldiersWhy are the Ratios for officers and enlisted so different, and In the US Navy, what is the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel?

The “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian … image at right” had the caption, “Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?”

The lower image is courtesy of To Infinity And Beyond – Image Results.

Did Jesus interpret Scripture “liberally?”

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

*   *   *   *

I originally called this post “Jesus was a liberal.”  But after further review I narrowed the scope, something appeal-courts often do.  That made the question far less broad and so easier to answer.  Thus the limited question:  “Did Jesus interpret Scripture ‘liberally?”  Or as one legal site said, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

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

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

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

So again, “What is called a liberal construction is ordinarily one which makes a statute apply to more things or in more situations than would be the case under strict construction.”

Which seems to be just what Jesus had in mind:  Make the Gospel apply to more people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image may contain: one or more people

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

*   *   *   *

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

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (See John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus did.  (See John 14:12.) 

The fourth – and most overlooked – is the need to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

Talk about moving mountains

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Millstone – Image Results.

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

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

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

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

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

The lower image is courtesy of Jake Blues Sees Light – Image Results.  

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

Then Jesus “opened their minds…”

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which would be the greater miracle?

*   *   *   *

“Feeding the multitudes,” by Bernardo Strozzi….

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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