Monthly Archives: April 2014

Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

One artistic interpretation of the “miracle of the loaves and fishes…”

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Most people know the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with just a couple of fish and a loaf or two of bread.  If you take the story literally, it’s about the “Son of God” performing a fairly routine feat of magic.  If – on the other hand – you go beyond the fundamentals – beyond the traditional view – you might end up with a story that’s even more of a miracle.

Matthew 14:13-2 has one version of Jesus and His disciples going to a “lonely place apart.” (Apparently He was trying to keep the disciples from getting “burned out;” that is, suffering from a “general wearing out or alienation from the pressures of work.”)

CaravaggioSalomeLondon.jpgThere was also the fact that Jesus and His disciples had just heard that King Herod had beheaded their friend, John the Baptist.  (As shown at left.)  However, when Jesus and the disciples tried to get away, a bunch more other people found out about it, and started following them.

So Jesus took pity on this new bunch of needy people.

He proceeded to heal their physical problems, until it got to be evening.  Then the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowd away.  The place was either deserted and/or “a desert,” and there were no restaurants or convenience stores around.

But when Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd, they said they only had five loaves of bread and two fish.  So Jesus took the bread and the fish, told everyone to sit down, and started passing out food.  Much to everyone’s surprise, there was enough to feed all 5,000 men.  (This was “besides women and children,” so there were actually far more than 5,000 people who got fed.)

Aside from all that, there was enough to make 12 lunch-boxes of food for a next-day meal.

So far, so good.

In the traditional view, this was a pure miracle, plain and simple.  In that view the miracle can’t be explained rationally, needn’t be explained rationally, and indeed, was never meant to be explained or understood rationally.  Jesus did it, the Bible recorded it, “and there’s an end to it.”

But there is a non-traditional view.

In that view, by sharing what little food they had, Jesus and His disciples “induced many more people” – who had brought food with them, for their own use – to share their food with the less forward thinking, “and so enough was found for all.”

According to this non-traditional theory, the people of that day and age never went far from home without taking a spare loaf of bread – or some other non-perishable food – stashed somewhere in the folds of their robes.  But that non-traditional view seems to threaten the faith of some Bible-readers, and it’s not clear why.

Maybe it’s because to many today, the Bible is the story of a long-ago people, and we aren’t remotely like those people. They were heroes – like those shown at right – and we are not. But that seems just another way of saying the Bible isn’t relevant today.

Maybe the Bible would be far more relevant today if it was about people just like us.  So suppose the Bible was about – and was written by – people just like us today?  What if those Bible-writers had all the faults and failings that we have, yet they somehow managed to personally experience the presence of God, the Force that Created the Universe.

But we digress…

Getting back to the loaves and fishes.  If you view it literally, it doesn’t seem to prove a lot.

It does prove that God or His first-born Son had the power to see that those people – at that time and place – didn’t go hungry.  But that might make some wonder why God can’t do the same thing today.   So one implication from that “literalist” view seems to be that God could feed us all today, but maybe just “doesn’t care.”

So if this story is viewed too literally, it seems to prove only that Jesus could perform a miracle.  It shows Jesus had the power to pull off a fairly routine feat of magic, but that’s pretty much what you would expect of the First-born Son of God.

But what if God didn’t intend this to be just another feat of magic?

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?

 

Another interpretation, by “Bernardo Strozzi…” 

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of  The Feeding Of the 5000 – The Full Wiki.  The caption:  “The miracle of the “seven loaves and fishes” by Lambert Lombard, 16th cent[ury].”

The “John T. Baptist” image is courtesy of Beheading of St. John the Baptist – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Salome with the Head of John the Baptist by Caravaggio, National Gallery, London, c. 1607–10.”

Re: the “hero” image.  See Hero – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) in the 1966 TV Series Batman.”  The image is located in the article’s section on “the modern fictional hero.”  The article defined a hero as “a person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength, often sacrificing his or her own personal concerns for some greater good.”

The lower 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 Gospel reading for May 4

File:Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 023.jpg

The Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt (1648)

 

The Gospel reading for Sunday, May 4 – Luke 24:13-35 – tells the story of Jesus appearing to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, “on the evening of His resurrection.”  One of the disciples was named Cleopas; the other remained unnamed.

Emmaus – from the Hebrew for “warm spring” – is seven miles northwest of present-day Jerusalem.  Just as an aside, there’s also an “Emmaus” in Pennsylvania, named for the biblical village in this Sunday’s Gospel.  It’s in Lehigh County, about five miles southwest of Allentown.

From its founding in 1759 until 1830, the settlement’s name was spelled Emmaus. From 1830 until 1938, however, the community used the Pennsylvania Dutch spelling of the name, Emaus, to reflect local language and the significant presence of Pennsylvania Dutch. In 1938, after petitions circulated by the local Rotary Club, the borough formally changed the name’s spelling back to Emmaus, reflecting the spelling in the Gospel of Luke in the English New Testament.

 

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere. . .

Anyway, Wikipedia summarized the incident as follows:

“The author of Luke places the story on the evening of the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The two disciples have heard the tomb of Jesus was found empty earlier that day. They are discussing the events of the past few days when a stranger asks them what they are discussing.  ‘Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.’  He soon rebukes them for their unbelief and gives them a Bible study on prophecies about the Messiah.”

Unfortunately, that lecture by Jesus on Bible study – “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” – was lost to history.   (That might have been because after the two disciples finally recognized the stranger as Jesus, they had other things on their mind beside taking notes “immediately,” as Mark was so fond of saying in his Gospel. )

But that in turn brings up the ending of last week’s Gospel reading:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

That’s John 20:30-31, sometimes summarized as the Statement of the Gospel’s Purpose, the Gospel of John that is.

So, from John 20:30-31 it might be gleaned either that there are a lot of important things about Jesus that aren’t in the Bible, or that the Bible story continues “even to this day,” in our own lives.  Put another way, you might say that the Bible story is incomplete until we put it to use in our lives, today and into the future. . .

But that’s enough potential heresy for one post.  Getting back to the Gospel for May, Wikipedia continued:

“On reaching Emmaus, they ask the stranger to join them for the evening meal. When he breaks the bread ‘their eyes were opened’ and they recognize him as the resurrected Jesus. Jesus immediately vanishes. Cleopas and his friend then hasten back to Jerusalem to carry the news to the other disciples, and arrive in time to proclaim to the eleven who were gathered together with others that Jesus truly is alive.”

There are a couple of possible lessons here.  One could be that we fail to recognize when Jesus is “walking with us,” metaphorically or otherwise, in our daily lives.  Another could be that when we celebrate the Communion on Sundays we come that much closer to “having our eyes opened.”  (Maybe that’s why we do it.)   And third, it seems that every “mountaintop experience” like this one is always followed by our having to go back to the drudgery of our daily lives.

Or as one “Christian mystic” once said:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom; but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.

http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/spaceart/terragen/tg234.jpg

 

 

The Rembrandt image and some of the text were gleaned from Wikipedia.   The “mystic” quote was from Evelyn Underhill’s book Practical Mysticism (Ariel Press, 1914), at page 177.   (For more information see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evelyn_Underhill).  The “mountaintop” image is courtesy of http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/spaceart/terragen/tg234.jpg.

 

 

 

 

 

On “tables of content”

“A boy looks into a peep show…”

 

Here’s a bit of information you may not have known, about tables of content:

Pliny the Elder credits Quintus Valerius Soranus [ – who died in 82 B.C. and who is shown at lower left – ] as the first author to provide a table of contents to help readers navigate a lengthy work.  Pliny’s own table of contents for his encyclopedic Historia naturalis (“Natural History”) may be viewed online in Latin and in English (following dedication).

On the other hand, such a list of contents could be seen as a kind of “peep show,” as illustrated in the top image.  (That is, it offers you a glimpse of “what’s inside…”)  In other words, such a table -applied to this blog – can let you know what to expect to see.

In another sense this page – and the blog itself – is all about color commentary.  That is, one object of this blog is to provide color commentary on the Bible.  (With an eye to going “beyond the fundamentals…”)  And generally that means commentary on the readings for the upcoming Sunday.

(According to the Revised Common Lectionary.)

It also spends time on the psalms. (Which are almost as key to spiritual growth as the Gospels. For more on that see On the Psalms.)  Another aside:  If you’d like a book collection of these blog-posts – in either an e-book or old-fashioned paperback – check out the post, For a book.

For starters, you can get a a flavor of the blog by checking the category Not your daddy’s Bible.

Or see the post from October 2014, “Gone Girl” and Lazy Cusses – Part II, with Sting – at right – commenting on “religion and religious people:”

I don’t have a problem with God.  I have a problem with religion.  I’ve chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith.

I commented:  “If your religion makes you ‘certain, ’you’re missing the point!”  See also On “holier than thou”  and On three suitors (a parable).  (The latter cited a lady Muslim mystic, Rabia Basri).

For another vie, see “Holier than thou,” quoting H. L. Mencken, on “quacks:”

The only way that democracy can be made bearable is by developing and cherishing a class of men sufficiently honest and disinterested to challenge the prevailing quacks.

Which is pretty much what this blog is about.  That’s why I say, “There are way too many so-called Christians who use the Bible and their faith as an excuse to close their minds.  That’s why the sub-title to this blog is ‘Reading the Bible to expand your mind.’”

Or see On “expressio unius,” which said those fundamental readers who focus exclusively on the “letter of the law” pretty much rob the Bible of its intended effect.

Citing 2d Corinthians 3:6 and John 4:24, that post-column said such passages show “God doesnot want Good Christians to limit their reading, interpreting and living according to the Bible to a spirit-killing literalism

Stoning of Moses, Joshua and CalebOr see On Moses getting stoned, on why Moses may have had to “dumb things down” when writing the Torah

The blog also reviews the Daily Office Readings from time to time.  See Daily Office readings.  And by the way, the Daily Office Readings is where the “DOR” in “Dorscribe” comes from.  (For more on the Daily Office Readings, see DOR?)

There’s also a category, Reviews.  Like the two-part “Gone Girl” movie review and Media Frenzy:

Shortly after Joe [Namath] signed with the Jets (for a record salary), a wise-guy New York reporter asked what he had majored in, down south at the University of Alabama; “Basket-weaving?”   Joe answered, “No man, I majored in journalism.  It was easier.”

In case I’m being too subtle, the point is that there’s a lot of wisdom in the Bible about not judging too quickly, and not getting caught up in today’s “media frenzies.”

Which is another way of saying there are more than enough quacks to challenge these days…

https://greatmindsonrace.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/henry-louis-mencken.jpg

H. L. Mencken, the original “quack-challenger…”

 

The upper image is courtesy of Peep show – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “A boy looks into a peep show device (illustration byTheodor Hosemann, 1835).”  The article noted that while the term now generally applies to pornographic showings, “historically a peep show was a form of entertainment provided by wandering showmen.”

For a more traditional table of contents, consider the one at left.  (Christmas Carols, New and Old, published in 1867, and courtesy of hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com.)  The book was published by the Reverend Henry Ramsden Bramley (1833-1917) and Sir John Stainer (1840-1901).   For more on the pair see Henry Ramsden Bramley – Wikipedia, and John Stainer – Wikipedia.  The updated version of the first eight hymns/carols are included below (after the rest of the notes).

Re:  The RCL.  “A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God…”  For more see About the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) – Consultation on Common Texts, and Revised Common Lectionary – Wikipedia.

Re: “muling it over.”  The actual expression would be “mulling it over,” meaning tothinkabout, ponder or worry about something.  (In the alternative, to “think about (a fact, proposal, orrequest) deeply and at length: [as in:]  “she began to mull over the various possibilities.”  The variation-on-a-theme came from John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  

The quote is from the 1980 Penguin Books edition, at page 11.  Steinbeck wrote of packing“Rocinante” for a trip around America, and his capacity for self-delusion.  He packed ample – and heavy – writing supplies, including reams of paper, a typewriter, and “enough writing material to write ten volumes.”  This despite 30 years experience:  “I cannot write hot on an event.  It has to ferment.  I must do what a friend calls ‘mule it over’ for a time before it goes down.”

An additional FYI:  “TWC” was based on Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879), by Robert Louis Stevenson (Wikipedia), of which more in posts including Donkey travel – and sluts.

Re: quote from Sting.  See 10 Questions for Sting – TIME.

The lower image is courtesy of greatmindsonrace.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/h-l-mencken, which spoke of Mencken’ssometimes cynical and acerbic writings attack[ing] the holy ideals of his age, including religion, business, government and the press.”   He knew he couldn’t change society; his goal was “to make life ‘measurably more bearable for the civilized minority in America.’”

The “quacks” quote is from Mencken’s 1956 book Minority Report.  See also Minority Report Quotes by H.L. Mencken – Goodreads.

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Note that as originally published, this post was about the Bible readings for May 4, 2014.  The complete text of that post follows, but without the illustrations:

The RCL Bible readings for Sunday, May 4, are:

 Acts 2:14a,36-41,

Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17,

 1 Peter 1:17-23,

and,

Luke 24:13-35

The first reading, Acts 2:14a, 36-41, has been identified as the Apostle Peter’s Pentecostal Sermon.

Acts – also known as Acts of the Apostles – is the first book of the New Testament after the Gospels, and is generally attributed to the same Luke who wrote the third Gospel.  Notice that the reading for May 4 has the same beginning as the one for April 27: “Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the multitude…”

Both readings take place right after “the day of Pentecost,” when the “gift of the Holy Spirit” was given to the newly-formed community of believers, many of whom “spoke in tongues.”   But note: they didn’t speak in the gibberish “tongues” often found in some of today’s churches.  The “speakers” spoke in a distinct, identifiable language so visitors from other countries got bewildered, “because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”  (Remember, the “speakers” were ignorant, backwater rubes from the boondocks of Galilee.)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .   The readings in the Easter Season – the season from Easter Day to Pentecost Sunday – are all from after the Day of Pentecost itself.    On June 8, 2014 (Pentecost Sunday), one of the non-Gospel readings will be from the beginning of Acts, Chapter 2 (which we may call editorial license).

Anyway, many of Peter’s listeners were “cut to the heart” and asked what to do.  Peter said repent and be baptized, so they too could get the gift of the Holy Spirit.  (A kind of “spiritual boot camp” drill instructor, but one able to balance tough love with humor and compassion…)

The reading ends, “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.”

The International Bible Commentary (IBC) calls Psalm 116 a psalm of “thinking and thanking…  This beautiful psalm of thanksgiving owes its charm to the psalmist’s [personal] experience of God’s grace and its spiritual impact upon him.”

Which brings up the distinction between trying to prove the “truth” of the Bible by proving the actual physical existence of Noah’s Ark – for example – as opposed to proving its truth by showing what the Bible experience has done for you personally.

Take – for example – the man with the “legion” of demons, told in Mark 5:1-19 (that formed the basis for the 1973 film The Exorcist).   The story ends: “And he went away and began to proclaim . . . how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.”

Note also page 339 of the Book of Common Prayer:  “we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son. . .”   That indicates the two sides of any Christian church:  the corporate, business, “bean-counting” side, as opposed to the side encompassing the Church’s true mission: fostering the mystical, personal experience in each and every church-goer, no matter how long that may take, but we digress. . .

Getting back to the readings, 1 Peter 1:17-23  begins like this: “If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.”  The point being that a true Christian believes this life on earth is just a starting point, a jumping-off point for a better life ahead.

(See also Psalm 119: 19, “I am a stranger here on earth.”)

Sometimes – like New Jersey – Earth is a good place to be from.

The Gospel-reading will be discussed in the following post.

 

Spiritual boot camp

http://crtp.org/history_clip_image002.png

 

 

In 1974, Lawrence LeShan – seen at left – wrote How to Meditate, “one of the first practical guides to meditation.”    My first copy cost under $2.00.

(Or you could spend a week’s salary for a seminar on “Transcendental Meditation,”  but that’s a whole ‘nother story. . .)

LeShan said the essence of meditation is trying something you know you can’t do.  You try to do the impossible, yet you try anyway.   Whether you try a mantra meditation, or to experience a rose for 20 minutes, non-verbally, you know ahead of time you can never get it exactly right.

It’s impossible; as impossible – say – as trying to  love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind, or trying to love your neighbor as yourself.

So what’s the pay-off for all this “reaching for the impossible?”

LeShan cited two main rewards: greater personal efficiency in everyday life, and “the comprehension of a different view of reality than the one we ordinarily use.”

LeShan added that a meditator develops a capacity to transcend the painful, negative aspects of everyday life, and develops an ability to live with a serene “inner peace.”

He said it’s characteristic of the practiced meditator to live with joy and love; “The best of mysticism* also provides a zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function in the affairs of everyday life.”  But aren’t those the same things that Christians should be looking for?  They use different words of course, but the idea seems to be the same.

Put another way, Wouldn’t it be great if Bible-reading led to the same results?

Fortunately, it can.

Unfortunately, in your personal pilgrimage, sooner or later you’ll run up against all those so-called Christians who love to focus on sin – usually somebody else’s – rather than all the positive aspects that the discipline of regular Bible-reading can provide.  LeShan had something to say about that as well.

He wrote of one meditation – contemplating a rose on a non-verbal level – that because it was so very hard, the would-be meditator might give himself permission to make mistakes.   “You will make them anyway and will be much more comfortable – and get along better with this exercise – if you give yourself permission in advance.”  (Permission in advance to “fall short,” that is.)

Or maybe you could say “falling short” is part of the process.

LeShan advised a would-be meditator should treat himself as a “much-loved child that an adult was trying to keep walking on a narrow side-walk.”  (The “straight and narrow path?”)  The child, “full of energy,” keeps running off to explore the world, but each time the meditator should say, “Oh, that’s how children are.  Okay honey, back to the sidewalk.”

Again and again, gently but firmly, the meditator brings himself back to the discipline.  With each slip-up or mistake, “you should say the equivalent of ‘oh, that’s where I am now; back to work,’ and come back looking.”  With the metaphor of “binding the mind staff in place,” LeShan cautioned would-be meditators to “bind ourselves with humor and compassion at our own lack of discipline.”

(Humor and compassion?  How apparently un-Biblical, at least to some people. . .)

But could that idea apply to each and every Pilgrim on his or her quest to reach God, or struggling with the idea of God?

So maybe the “good Christian” should also begin by knowing he’s trying to do something he knows is impossible, physically, emotionally or spiritually.  No matter how hard we try, we can never, for more than “one brief shining moment,” love God with all our heart, mind and soul.  Nor can we, for more than a moment, fulfill the Second Great Commandment, to love even our most obnoxious neighbors as ourselves.

But we try anyway, and maybe in the process we become more adept at living life in all its abundance, just like Jesus promised in John 10:10.

You might even say it’s a bit like spiritual boot camp (but with “humor and compassion”). . .

 

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

 

Notes:

My first copy of How to Meditate (LeShan) was published by Bantam Books in 1975.

The LeShan image is courtesy of crtp.org/history.html.  The site noted that LeShan began in the 1960s trying to “carefully research and therefore debunk the existence of the paranormal.  To his surprise, the scientific journals and serious books in the field implied that the material was valid.”

The boot-camp image is courtesy of: 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.

*  The words “mystic” or “mysticism” seem to give some Christians apoplexy.  Try it on a Southern Baptist some time!  But seriously, one online dictionary defines a mystic as “a person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”  Again, arguably different words but the same idea. . .

 

 

Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan

http://thejesusvirus.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Gentlemen-This-is-a-Football1.jpg

Vince Lombardi (seen above) was a fanatic about teaching and relying on the basics of football. There’s a story about his reaction to his Green Bay Packers losing to a team they should have beaten handily. At practice the following Monday – after a loss where the team looked “more like whipped puppies” than a pro football team – Lombardi began, “This morning, we go back to basics.”

Then, holding up an object for his team to see, Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

So, here are some basics for understanding the Bible, and how reading it can help you become “all that you can be,” like the old Army commercial said.

For starters there’s John 6:37, where Jesus made a promise to each of us, for all time: “anyone who comes to me, I will never turn away.” That’s a promise we can take to the bank, metaphorically speaking. We are “saved,” not by being followers of a particular denomination (no matter how much they may tell you to the contrary), but rather by starting that “walk toward Jesus,” by starting down that road to knowing Him better.

One way to start that walk is by reading the Bible on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, many people try to read the Bible like a novel, starting at the very beginning and moving to the end, but then tend to bog down in Leviticus, if they get that far.

Jesus may have known that problem would come up, so He did us a favor. He boiled down the message of the Bible into two simple sentences; a kind of “Cliff-Note” summary:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

 That’s Matthew 22:37, where Jesus boiled the whole Bible down to two simple “shoulds.” You should try all your life to love, experience and get to know “God” with all you have. And to the extent possible, you should try to live peaceably with your “neighbors.”

In plain words, your mission – “should you choose to accept it” – is to become one with the “unified whole” that is our world today.

So, whenever you read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, or might mean two different things, or seems contrary to “common sense,” you have this Summary to fall back on. (It also works if you hear something from a slick televangelist that just doesn’t sound right.)

For example, some Christians become “snake handlers,” based on focusing exclusively on Mark 16:17-18, and/or taking that one Scripture-passage out of context: “In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” (See the Wikipedia article.)

Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing exclusively on Psalm 127:3-5, and/or taking that one Scripture-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 the Wikipedia article on “Quiverfull.”)

On the other hand, 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,” that is the goal of most religions and/or other spiritual or ethical disciplines.

So what’s the pay-off?

Simply put, the discipline of regular Bible-reading could lead to a capacity to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life, and the ability to live with “serenity and inner peace.”   On the other hand, the discipline could also lead to a your developing a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function.”

To some people, that flies in the face of the popular view of “Christians,” some of whom seem to revel more in telling others how they should live their lives.  But didn’t Jesus say, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”? (John 10:10, RSV, emphasis added.  Or as translated in The Living Bible, Paraphrased: “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”)

So ideally, Bible-reading on a daily basis should not lead to a person who is an intolerant, self-righteous prig, who goes around telling others how to live.  (As the Apostle Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs.” See 1st Peter 4:15, The Living Bible translation.)

Instead, such Bible-Reading should lead to one who is well-adjusted, open-minded, tolerant of the inherent weaknesses (including his own) of all people, that is, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do that?

The best answer may come from that great philosopher, Charlie Chan, who once said, “Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

 

http://www.drberlin.com/images/Charlie%20Chan%20DVD%20Vol%202.jpg

 

 

The Vince Lombardi story was gleaned from: www.insight.org/resources/articles/church/back-to-the-basics

The Lombardi image is courtesy of http://thejesusvirus.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Gentlemen-This-is-a-Football1.jpg.

The Charlie Chan image is courtesy of: http://www.drberlin.com/images/Charlie%20Chan%20DVD%20Vol%202.jpg.

The “pay-off” references were gleaned from How to Meditate, by Lawrence LeShan, Bantam, 1975.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First musings – The readings for “Doubting Thomas” Sunday

File:Peter Paul Rubens - The Incredulity of St Thomas - WGA20193.jpg

The Incredulity of St Thomas, or The Rockox Triptych, after the name of the donors, by Peter Paul Rubens (circa 1614), as it relates to the Gospel reading for 4/27/14, below.

 

The Bible readings for Sunday, April 27, 2014 are:

Acts 2:14a,22-32,

Psalm 16, at page 599 of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP),

 1 Peter 1:3-9,

and John 20:19-31, which tells the story of “Doubting Thomas.”

But first, a word about Rubens’ interpretation of the Gospel reading.  For one thing, this painting seems to be one of the least gruesome versions available.  On the other hand, Rubens painted the spear-wound on the “wrong side,” which could bring up some interesting thoughts…

On that note, Wikipedia defined a doubting Thomas is “a skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience, a reference to the Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to the ten other apostles, until he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross.”

On the other hand, you could say that achieving a direct personal experience with The Force That Created The Universe is – or should be – what the church-going experience should be all about, but we digress…

Wikipedia went on to define “Thomas the Apostle, sometimes informally called Doubting Thomas or Didymus which means “The Twin” … one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is best known from the account in the Gospel of Saint John, where he questioned Jesus’ resurrection when first told of it, followed by his confession of faith as both ‘My Lord and my God’ on seeing and touching Jesus’ wounded body.

On that note, consider the recent Yahoo Answers exchange (see If you doubt and question your faith … – answers.yahoo.com) on the following question:

If you doubt and question your faith will it become stronger? …

The flip side of that question is: “Should we just blindly believe?”

That seems to be the Bible-take of some Christians, but others – including those more prone to follow the Via Media – think a bit of skepticism can be healthy.

The “Best Answer” to the Yahoo question above included this:

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

So, there seem to be Christians who see The Faith as a spiritual strait-jacket, a pre-made form into which “we” should shape ourselves. This type of Christian also seems to believe that there will be a checklist at the Pearly Gates, and that if you don’t answer every question exactly right you won’t get in.

Other Christians try to see The Faith as a set of Spiritual Wings . . . but more about that in later posts.

Back to this Sunday’s readings.  You can see the full readings at www.lectionarypage.net, but here are some “color comments.”

In Acts 2:14a,22-32, Peter gave fellow Israelites his eyewitness account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, including the “power, wonders, and signs that God did” through Jesus.  He extensively quoted King David’s writings – remember, Peter was pretty much an illiterate fisherman before he became a disciple – including this pithy comment about God, “You have made known to me the ways of life.”

Again, that is – or should be – what the church-going experience is all about.

Unfortunately, time is running out for the DOR Scribe, so it’s time to end this post.  But “be on the lookout” (BOLO) for future posts.

The Bible – Lectionary Musings and Color Commentary

File:Gustave Brion - Notre-Dame de Paris 1.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Quasimodo Sunday!

 

That’s right, the Sunday after Easter is also known as Quasimodo Sunday, as explained below.  But first, a note:

As soon as I can figure out all the bells and whistles – the confusing conglomeration of signs, symbols and icons on the webhostinghub.com dashboard – I’ll be  commenting on a weekly basis on the upcoming Sunday Bible readings, as set out in the Revised Common Lectionary, the three-year cycle of Bible readings established by the Episcopal Church.

For example, the upcoming Sunday – the Sunday After Easter – is also known as “Quasimodo Sunday.”  That’s aside from being known as Low Sunday and/or St. Thomas Sunday, or in some cases “Doubting Thomas” Sunday.  I look forward to it.

The DOR* Scribe

 

Re:  “Quasimodo Sunday.”   (And no, that’s not me being given a drink by sweet Esmerelda in the image above, courtesy of Wikipedia.   It’s the image titled, “Esmeralda gives a drink to Quasimodo in one of Gustave Brion‘s illustrations.”)

Now, the Sunday after Easter is perhaps best known as “Low Sunday,” because of the unusually-low church attendance that day, especially compared with the unusually high attendance on Easter Sunday.   And it’s also known as St. Thomas Sunday, “because the Gospel reading always relates the story of ‘Doubting Thomas.'”

(That the story where Thomas the disciple comes to believe “only after being told by the resurrected Christ to place his finger in the nail marks and his hand in His side…  In the Gospel accounts, this event takes place on the eighth day after the Resurrection, hence their significance for this Sunday.” (Wikipedia.)

But finally, the Sunday after Easter is also known as Quasimodo Sunday, but not through any connection with Victor Hugo’s character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.   Instead, the name comes from a Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2, a traditional “introit” used in churches on this day.    First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…”

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

So there you have it, the story behind Quasimodo Sunday.

 

*   “DOR” stands for the Daily Office, a set of assigned Bible readings beginning on page 933 of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.  (Thus “Daily Office Readings.”)   By doing the readings on a daily basis, you can get through virtually the entire Bible in two years, and the psalms and Gospels three to four times.

That’s as compared with the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL), which sets out a three-year cycle of Bible readings.  (“We” are currently in Year C.)  Thus a devout 69-year-old Episcopalian, who has attended church faithfully since he was 21, will have heard the entire Bible read to him some 16 times, and the psalms and Gospels some 48 to 64 times.

Those assigned Bible readings will be the basis for the color commentary to follow in the upcoming posts.