Monthly Archives: November 2015

On Advent – 2015

 Jeremiah – the Weeping Prophet – “Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem…”

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“It’s that time again.”  Time to start the New (church) Year!

That’s another way of saying:  According to the church, the New Year started on November 29.  (Aka, “Advent Sunday … the first day of the liturgical year.”)

November 29 also begins the Season of Advent:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

See On the readings for Advent Sunday, from last year.  Note that the Advent Season doesn’t end until the afternoon of December 24.  That’s when the Season of Christmas – also known as Christmastide – begins.  See The 12 Days of Christmas.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Getting back to the Advent Season, it used to be kept as a period of fasting “as strict as in Lent.”  And just as Mardi Gras kicks off the season of Lent, the penitential season of Advent used to be preceded by the “feast day of St. Martin of Tours.”  (Seen at right.)

The feast of St. Martin used to be  “a time of frolic and heavy eating,” much like Mardi Gras.  But while the Church kept Advent as a season of penitence, it relaxed the rules on fasting before Christmas.

Anyway, to see the full Bible readings for November 29, see First Sunday of Advent.  Note also that November 30 is the Feast Day of St. Andrew, Apostle.  (Who gave his name to the church I attend.)

This year the Bible readings for November 29 were:  Jeremiah 33:14-16Psalm 25:1-91st Thessalonians 3:9-13, and Luke 21:25-36.  The first reading – from Jeremiah – is from the man known as The Weeping Prophet.  (The term “jeremiad” came from him.  That’s a “long, mournful complaint or lamentation,” or a “list of woes.”)  

But for Advent Sunday, Jeremiah had a joyful message:  “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel…   I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”

That “righteous branch” of course was Jesus. a good commentary on Psalm 25, see Seeking God in the Hard Times(And in a way the church seasons of preparation and penitence – Advent and Lent – can be seen as a kind of Spiritual boot campAs seen at left…)

On that note too, see the reading from 1st Thessalonians, where the Apostle Paul prayed that God might “so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless …  at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

And finally, note that last year’s Gospel was Mark 13:24-37.  This year, the Gospel for Advent Sunday retells the same story, but from Luke’s perspective.  In Luke 21:25-36, Jesus foretold of “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations…

He said those signs would precede “the Son of Man coming in a cloud.”  And as an example He told the Parable of the Budding Fig Tree(Not to be confused with the barren fig tree):

“Look at the fig tree and all the trees;  as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near…”

As noted in last year’s post on Advent Sunday, in doing so Jesus was quoting the Book of Isaiah – twice – as well as the Book of Daniel.  See also Jesus and messianic prophecy.  The main point Jesus was trying to make?  “Beware, keep alert;  for you do not know when the time will come.”  And also, “What I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.”

Which is pretty much what the Season of Advent is all about…

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 The Parable of the barren fig tree, not to be confused with “the Budding Fig Tree…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Jeremiah – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “Rembrandt van Rijn, Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630.”

Re: “church calendar.”  See also Liturgical Calendar – Android Apps on Google Play.

Re: the end of Advent.  See Liturgy: Advent and Christmas Seasons – Felix Just, SJ“Advent technically ends of the afternoon of Dec. 24, since that evening, Christmas Eve, begins the Christmas Season.”

The image of St. Martin of Tours is courtesy of Wikipedia, “St. Martin of Tours.”   The caption:  “San Martín y el mendigo by El Greco.”  Translated, “Saint Martin and the Beggar:”

… a painting by Spanish mannerist painter El Greco, painted c. 1597-1599 [“now showing” at] the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.   It depicts a legend in the life of Christian saint Martin of Tours:  the saint cut off half his cloak and gave it to a beggar.

See also St. Martin’s Day – Wikipedia, which said the actual feast day was November 11: 

In the 6th century, local councils required fasting on all days except Saturdays and Sundays from Saint Martin’s Day to Epiphany [January 6], a period of 56 days, but of 40 days fasting, like the fast of Lent.  It was therefore called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Saint Martin’s Lent).  This period of fasting was later shortened and called “Advent” by the Church.

Re: Jeremiah as “weeping prophet.”  See The Weeping Prophet: Reflections on Jeremiah 31:27-34 – Patheos, and also What should we learn from the life of Jeremiah?

Re:  Jesus quoting Isaiah and Daniel.  See:  1)  Isaiah 13:10, “The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light.  The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.”  2)   Isaiah 34:4, “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.”  And 3)   Daniel 7:13, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The lower image is courtesy of Wikipedia, The Parable of the barren fig tree.

On Thanksgiving 2015 Mayflower leaving English shores” – the voyage that led to the first Thanksgiving… 

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It’s that time of year again.  Time to re-enact the First Thanksgiving.

Last year I wrote The first ThanksgivingPart I and Part II.  But there is a change.  This year the Bible readings are different.  This year they are:  Joel 2:21-27Psalm 1261st Timothy 2:1-7, and Matthew 6:25-33.  (To see the full readings go to Thanksgiving Day.)

On the other hand, the Collect of the day has stayed the same:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them.  Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need…

Note the prayer-parts:  First, thankfulness.  For both the “fruits of the earth” and the work of those who harvest them.  But with that comes a prayer that God make us “faithful stewards.” Which means providing for both our own necessities and for “all in need.”

But enough of the Soapbox.  Suffice it to say that next Thursday – or Wednesday, if your Dulce works Thanksgiving (say at Grady Hospital) – is a time to give thanks.  For every blessing from above.

Now, getting back to those Bible readings.

Joel 2:21-27 notes in part that the “threshing floors shall be full of grain” and “the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.”  Beyond that, God will repay “for the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”

A word of explanation:  The Book of Joel was based on a “literal locust invasion” that happened around 845 B.C. The prophet then lamented over the great locust plague and severe drought, after which he compared the locusts to an army.  An army of God, that is:

The literal swarms of locusts that invaded in successive waves to destroy the crops of Israel spoke of a soon-coming invasion of enemies as well as a future day of judgment.

See also Wikipedia.  But the book ended with Joel saying Israel would later be vindicated.

Psalm 126 begins in a similar vein.  With a note of vindication.)  To wit:  “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, then were we like those who dream.”  Verse 6 reads, “Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.”   So in a sense that passage foreshadowed the trials and tribulations of the Pilgrims and their first Thanksgiving, as noted below.

Then in 1st Timothy 2:1-7, the Apostle Paul urged that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone.” (Even those you don’t like.)  And Matthew 6:25-33 included the “lilies of the field” discourse.  (Illustrated at right and explained below.)

Jesus told his followers not to worry about food, because even the lowly birds are provided for by God.  In this verse Jesus presents the example of the lilies, who also do no labor.

On the other hand, the original Pilgrims had lots to worry about before they could celebrate the first Thanksgiving.  For starters – as noted in Part I – they had to survive a rough trip across the North Atlantic.  That rough trip included – but was not limited to – almost losing “lusty young” John Howland, who fell overboard.  (As shown below.)

But finally they set foot back on dry land, on November 11,1620.  Whereupon:

… they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from the perils and miseries thereof

But – as noted in Part II – “even then their ordeal was far from over.”  102 people landed in November 1620.  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.”

17th century image of a man in armor with musket.  Myles Standish would have worn similar armor, clothing and used similar weapons to those seen here.And – as at Jamestown – there was a whole lot of suffering. (Alleviated in part by the leadership of Myles Standish, who would have been accoutred like the soldier at left):

The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering…  November was too late to plant crops.  Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter.  Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived.  Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.

(See First Thanksgiving.)  Note that the Jamestown landing came in 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims.  Then too, those Jamestown settlers had their own Starving Time:  “What became known as the ‘Starving Time‘ in the Virginia Colony occurred during the winter of 1609–10.  Only 60 of 500 English colonists survived.”

The point is this:  As noted in Part II, the men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

Which brings us back to the subject of these Pilgrim Fathers.  And pilgrimages in general…

“In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (considered as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.”

And the Pilgrims of 1621 certainly met that test.  (Going from a state of wretchedness to beatitude.)

As also noted in Part II, during the worst part of that first harsh winter of 1620-1621, only six or seven surviving colonists were fit enough to feed and care for the rest.

And they had to let the graves in the new cemetery “overgrow with grass for fear the Indians would discover how weakened the settlement had actually become.”  (And then attack the weakened settlement.)  All of which led to the thought that “freedom isn’t free, and it isn’t cheap either.  Sometimes the price is paid in human lives.”

But again as noted in Part II, the effort can be worth it:

Do the best you can, and – after taking all due and sensible precautions – trust God to help you with the rest.  Some of those bad things [ – that you worried about – ] might not happen, and some bad things might be prevented with foresight and preparation.  Then too, if you’re “on a mission from God,” you might reasonably expect His help.

Or it could be summed up this way:  “If it was easy, anybody could do it!

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The upper image is courtesy of Mayflower Collection – Mike Haywood’s Artwork – Mayflower HMS, with the caption, “A prosperous wind  The Mayflower leaving English shores.”  The ship in the background is the Speedwell, which had to turn back.  (As explained in “2014.”)  Then too, the home-page of the Haywood site notes that he “has a growing International reputation as a marine and portrait painter.  He has a Doctorate in Oceanography and loves painting rough or lively seas.  Each painting is painstakingly researched to ensure accuracy.”

The soap box image is courtesy of  The image was included in a blog-post from THE POLITICAL POTTERIES, “A Political News and Debating Website for Stoke-on-Trent.”  Stoke-on-Trent is a city in Staffordshire, England.  In turn it is “the home of the pottery industry in England … commonly known as the Potteries,” and also now “a center for service industries and distribution centres.”  See Wikipedia.

According to the “Potteries” blog, the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent have a population of 249,000, represented by three Members of Parliament.  The blog in turn seems designed to foster an exchange of thoughts and ideas, presumably for the benefit and guidance of those MPs.

See also Soapbox – Wikipedia.

The “Miles Standish” image is courtesy of  The caption:  “17th century image of a man in armor with musket.  Myles Standish would have worn similar armor, clothing and used similar weapons to those seen here.”  See also Myles Standish – Wikipedia.

Re: the ‘Starving Time‘ in Jamestown, during the harsh winter of 1609-1610:

Archaeologists have found evidence that they ate cats, dogs, horses, and rats.  Cannibalism has been confirmed to have occurred in at least one case;  the remains of a teenage girl of about fourteen years of age has been forensically analyzed and shown to have telltale marks consistent with butchering meat…    

Re: the image at right of the paragraph – “And the Pilgrims of 1621” – is courtesy of Pilgrimage – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Jews at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem during the Ottoman period, 1860.”

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The original post had a lower image courtesy of Mayflower Collection – Mike Haywood’s Artwork, about the passenger John Howland. With the caption,  “Yet he held his hold (Rescue of John Howland who fell overboard during the voyage).” Or see John Howland – Biographies – Society of Mayflower Descendants, which noted that he arrived as a servant to John Carver, the first Governor of Plymouth Colony.  He went on to sign the Mayflower Compact. He also went on to serve the colony as selectman, assistant and deputy governor, and surveyor of highways.  He died “over 80″ in 1672.  (No one knew when he was actually born).  But that long and productive life was almost cut short on the voyage over, in 1620:

“In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail…   And in one of them … a lusty young man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above the gratings was … thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard…   Yet he held his hold [and] got into the ship again[,] his life saved.   And though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”

I did an update on Howland this past Thanksgiving, On Thanksgiving 2022 – and “He-e-l-p!!”

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For more on the upcoming holidays, see also On the 12 Days of Christmas.

Hitler and Mussolini help create Christ the King Sunday…

Hitler and Mussolini in 1940

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini:  Their actions led to the making of Christ the King Sunday…  

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November 18, 2015 – This post talks about two separate subjects.  One is “the end of Ordinary Time” in the Christian calendar.  The second topic is a group of Jewish freedom fighters.  The Maccabees – a century or two before Jesus was born – were able to free the Jewish people from foreign domination.  Their story is being told “even as we speak,” in the Daily Office Readings. But first a note: I edited this 2015 post on November 13-14, in preparing a post on the time between “Halloween and Thanksgiving, 2022.” I tried to smooth this post out a bit, but there may be some glitches And now, back to Ordinary Time

Next Sunday – November 22[, 2015*] – goes by several names: The final Sunday of Ordinary Time, and Christ the King Sunday.  And the idea of Christ the King Sunday is of recent origin:

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

And speaking of 1925, here’s how that year started, according to Wikipedia: On January 3, Benito Mussolini “promised to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours,” leading to the beginning of Mussolini’s dictatorship. Aside from Mussolini there was Adolph Hitler, and a front organization leading to the Russian KGB, and – in the United States  in 1925 – a demonstration of strength by a group called the Ku Klux Klan.

In July 1925, “Adolf Hitler published Volume 1 of his personal manifesto Mein Kampf.”  Also in July, TASS was created, and quickly became a front for “the NKVD (later, the KGB).” In the United States, the Ku Klux Klan held a parade in Washington.  Their five million members made the Klan the “largest fraternal organization in the United States.”

In plain words, Pius XI created the Feast of Christ the King in response to world events swirling around him.  (Including – but hardly limited to – Hitler, Mussolini, and the KKK.) But getting back to more pleasant matters:  Christ the King Sunday ends “Ordinary Time.”  It also bridges that end and the start of Advent.  (Which leads to Christmas.) In plain words, Ordinary Time refers to twoseasons of the Christian liturgical calendar.”

The better known Ordinary Time takes up half the Christian calendar.  See On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”  (From which the following was gleaned:) Ordinary time begins with Pentecost Sunday, for Catholics.  In the Anglican liturgy, it’s known as the Season of Pentecost.

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

(See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.) For more on the upcoming transition of seasons, see last year’s On the readings for Advent Sunday, and On the 12 Days of Christmas.  The first one noted an alternate “New Year:”

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.  It also marks the start of the season of Advent [and leads to Christmas…]

See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia, and also Advent – Wikipedia, which noted that Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation.”  (For Christmas.) But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  The second topic here:  the Maccabees. Readings from the First Book of the Maccabees have been featured in the Daily Office since Thursday. November 12.

So what the heck is a “Maccabee?”

They were Jewish Freedom Fighters, a century or two before Jesus was born.  They were a family who led a rebellion against the foreigners occupying Judea.  (Before the Romans.) And so for one brief shining moment in time, their homeland was free. Also, and as Isaac Asimov noted, in 142 B.C. their actions led to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

The story  begins about 150 years after Alexander the Great conquered Judea.  But he died and Judea was taken over by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who tried to force his strange foreign ways on the Jewish people.  The Maccabee family fought back, successfully – from 175 to 134 BC – in a long guerrilla war.  So they were early versions of the “Swamp Fox,” in our Revolutionary War, as seen below.

And as shown in the painting below.  More to the point, Hanukkah celebrates their victories. See Hanukkah – Wikipedia, noting this year the eight-day holiday begins at sunset on Sunday December 6, and ends Monday, December 14.  (Not unlike the 12 days of Christmas.)

All of which is a reminder: Freedom isn’t free.  (Nor is it easy to keep…)

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The “Swamp Fox” shares a meal with his sworn enemy… 

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

In 2022, Christ the King Sunday comes on November 20. 

Re:  The Old Testament readings.  The last reading from 1 Maccabees is on Friday, November 20.

Re: the ratio of Klan members.  According to US Population by Year – S&P 500 PE Ratio, in 1925 the population of the United States was just under 116 million.  

Re: Isaac Asimov.  The quote is from Asimov’s Guide to the Bible (Two Volumes in One),  Avenel Books (1981), at pages 748-49.  Asimov (1920-1992) was “an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books.  Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.”  His list of books included those on “astronomy, mathematics, the Bible, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.”  He was a long-time member of Mensa, “albeit reluctantly;  he described some members of that organization as ‘brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs.’”  See Isaac Asimov – Wikipedia. 

Re: “one brief shining moment.”  See Camelot – Wikipedia:

In American contexts, the word “Camelot” is sometimes used to refer admiringly to the presidency of John F. Kennedy.  The Lerner and Loewe musical was still quite recent at the time and his widow Jackie quoted its lines in a 1963 Life interview…  She said the lines, “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot” were Kennedy’s favorite…  [E.A.]

Unfortunately, such moments do tend do to be brief.  

To see a painting of the Maccabee family, check Maccabees – Wikipedia.  The article added, “One explanation of the name’s origins is that it derives from the Aramaic “makkaba,” “the hammer,” in recognition of Judah [Maccabee’s] ferocity in battle.

The lower image is courtesy of Francis Marion “Swamp Fox” – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “General Marion Inviting a British Officer to Share His Meal by John Blake White;  his slave Oscar Marion kneels at the left of the group. ” 

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And finally, here’s a longer version,” on questions like: 

What the heck is “Ordinary Time?

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And now, back to Ordinary Time… As noted, this next Sunday – November 22 – goes by several names: Last Sunday after Pentecost, the final Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Sunday before Advent, and – last but not least – Christ the King Sunday.  In turn, the idea of Christ the King Sunday is of recent origin:

Pope Pius XI instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925…  [At the time] many Christians (including Catholics) began to doubt Christ’s authority and existence…  Pius XI, and the rest of the Christian world, witnessed the rise of non-Christian dictatorships in Europe, and saw Catholics being taken in by these earthly leaders.  These dictators often attempted to assert authority over the Church…  [T]he Feast of Christ the King was instituted during a time when respect for Christ and the Church was waning…  [E.A.]

See All About Christ the King Sunday, and Feast of Christ the King – Wikipedia. And on December 11, 1925, “Pope Pius XI‘s encyclical Quas primas, on the Feast of Christ the King, is promulgated.”  (For reasons that should now seem obvious.)

The first – and shorter – “Ordinary Time” comes between Christmas and Lent, as shown in the chart…  The better known – and longer – season of Ordinary Time takes over the half the Christian yearly calendar.  (From the end of Easter Season, up to the First Sunday of Advent.) See also On Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”  (From which the following was gleaned:)

Pentecost Sunday marks the beginning of “Ordinary Time.”  (As it’s called in the Catholic Church, and shown in the chart…)

Such “Ordinary Time” takes up over half the church year.  (Though in the Episcopal Church and other Protestant denominations, it goes by another name.)

In the Anglican liturgy, the Season of Pentecost begins on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and goes on “through most of the summer and autumn.”  It may include as many as 28 Sundays, “depending on the date of Easter.”  (See also the List of Anglican Church Calendars.)

In other words, this year – 2015 – the Season of Pentecost begins on Monday, May 25, and doesn’t end until Saturday, November 28.   That’s Thanksgiving Weekend, and the day after that – November 29 – marks the First Sunday of Advent, and with it the start of a newliturgical year.

I wrote that back on May 19, which just goes to show one benefit of reading the Bible on a regular basis.  You get into the rhythm of the seasons.  That is, a “regular quantitative change in a variable (notably natural) process.”  And as exemplified in:  “The rhythm of the seasons dominates agriculture as well as wildlife…”  (See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.)

As an example:  Last Sunday – November 15, 2015 – was the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the Catholic Church.  Also in the Catholic Church, Sunday the 22d is more formally known as The Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

For more on the upcoming transition of seasons, see last year’s On the readings for Advent Sunday, and On the 12 Days of Christmas.  The first one noted an alternate “New Year:”

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches. It also marks the start of the season of Advent [and] the first violet or blue Advent candle is lit…  [T]he symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.   Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King.

See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia, emphasis added.  See also Advent – Wikipedia, which noted that Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

Stattler-Machabeusze.jpg Readings from the First Book of the Maccabees have been featured in the Daily Office since Thursday. November 12.

So what the heck is a “Maccabee?”

They were Jewish Freedom Fighters, a century or two before Jesus was born.  They were a familywho led a rebellion against the foreigners occupying Judea.

(Before the Romans.)  And so for one brief shining moment in time, their homeland was free.

In plain words, the Maccabees were an early group of Jewish Freedom Fighters.  And – for one brief shining moment – between occupation by the Seleucid Empire and the Roman Empire – their homeland was free.  As Isaac Asimov noted, in the year 142 B.C., “for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem 445 years before, the land of Judah was completely free and the foot of no foreign soldier was to be found in Jerusalem.” (748-49)

For another answer, see Why the Maccabees Aren’t in the Bible – My Jewish Learning:

The First and Second Books of Maccabees contain the most detailed accounts of the battles of Judah Maccabee and his brothers for the liberation of Judea from foreign domination.  These books include within them the earliest references to the story of Hanukkah and the re-dedication of the Temple, in addition to the famous story of the mother and her seven sons. And yet, these two books are missing from the Hebrew Bible.

See also Books of the Maccabees – Wikipedia, which noted that the first book is set “about a century and a half after the conquest of Judea by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, after Alexander’s empire has been divided so that Judea was part of the Greek Seleucid Empire.”

And according to Maccabees – Wikipedia, the first book tells of the Greek ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes trying to force the Jewish people to accept his culture, by suppressing the practice of “basic Jewish law.”  The result was a Jewish revolt against Seleucid rule, from 175 to 134 BC.

…after Antiochus issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest … Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt … by refusing to worship the Greek gods…   After Mattathias’ death about one year later in 166 BCE, his son Judas Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare… 

And finally, the Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee’s victory over the Seleucids.  See Hanukkah – Wikipedia, re: the 8-dayholiday celebrating the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, during the “Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BC.”  This year Hanukkah 2015 begins at sunset on Sunday, December 6, and ends on Monday, December 14.”

“Bible basics” revisited

Vince Lombardi on The basics:  “Gentlemen, this is a football!”

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This is a reprise of a post I did back in April 2014:  Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan.  It started a couple days ago when I went back to check some of the first posts I did for this blog.  In this one, I saw that the images I’d put in were no longer there.

So, rather than fool around looking up new images for an old post, I figured I’d do what Jesus suggested in Mark 2:21-22:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment…  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins…”

So this “new wineskin” will begin with Vince Lombardi – in the upper image – being a fanatic on teaching the basics of football.  It starts with a story about Vince’s reaction to his Green Bay Packers losing to a team they should have beaten handily.  (A loss where the team looked “more like whipped puppies.”)  At practice the following Monday, Lombardi began by saying, “This morning, we go back to basics.”

Then – holding up an object for the team to see – Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, this is a football!

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

For starters there’s the second part of John 6:37.  That’s where Jesus made a promise to each one 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 and otherwise.

That is, we are aren’t “saved” by being members of a particular denomination.  (No matter how much they may tell you to the contrary.)  We are saved by starting that John 6:37 “walk toward Jesus.”  We start the interactive process of walking down that road to knowing Him better.

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

Unfortunately, many people start reading the Bible as if it were a novel.  (Like one by Charles Dickens, seen at right.)  They start at the very beginning and move toward the end.  But they tend to bog down in Leviticus.  (If they get that far.)

Jesus may have known the problem would come up, so He did us a favor. He boiled down the message of the entire 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 22:37-39, 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.  (A big part of which is God, who started the whole thing…)

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. (Like “Stumpy,” at left.)  They do this based on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  In other words, taking an isolated passage from the Bible out of context:

“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.”

(But see also On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide, Part I and Part II.)

Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing literally on Psalm 127:3-5, taking that one passage out of context: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”  (See Quiverfull – Wikipedia.)

On the 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.”  (Which is of course 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 can lead to a capacity to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life.  It can also lead to 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.)   Which leads to the question:  “Do you have to be grumpy to be a Christian?”  The answer is:  “Probably not.”

For example, someone asked Thomas Merton (American Trappist Monk) this question:  “How can you tell if a person has gone through inner, spiritual transformation?”  Merton smiled and said, “Well it is very difficult to tell but holiness is usually accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor…”

Then too, Jesus Himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (See the second part of John 10:10, in the RSV, emphasis added.  Or as translated in The Living Bible (Paraphrased): “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”)  So what’s not to be happy about?

Which means that ideally, one who reads the Bible on a daily basis should not become an intolerant, self-righteous prig.  (Going around telling others how to live.)  Or as Saint Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs.”  (See 1st Peter 4:15, in The Living Bible translation.  And note that in most other translations, “meddlers” and “busybodies” are ranked right up there with murderers, thieves and evil-doers.)

Instead, such Bible-Reading on a regular basis should lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded person.  And also one who is tolerant of the inherent weaknesses – including his own – of all people.  In other, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do all that?

One of the best ways to begin may be from one of the great philosophers of our time:

                                                                   *   *   *   *

                                                                   *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of  PACKERVILLE, U.S.A.: “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

The wineskin image is courtesy of

On Nehemiah and “the blind guide…”

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1568) The Blind Leading the Blind.jpg

The blind leading the blind,” as told in the DOR Gospel for Monday, November 9…


Ever since Thursday, October 29, the Old Testament Daily Office Readings have been from the Book of Nehemiah.  (Interspersed with readings from Ezra.)  So today I’ll focus on these two men, along with the parable of Jesus about the blind leading the blind, as shown above.

Nehemiah worked to rebuild the city walls around Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian exile. And together, Ezra and Nehemiah both worked to restore the glory of Israel.

Here’s what happened.  In 606 B.C., Babylon‘s king – Nebuchadnezzar – conquered Judea and its capital Jerusalem.  Then came the first of many Jewish mass deportations, and especially of:

… young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace;  they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

See Daniel 1 (verses 1-7), especially Daniel 1:4.  (The image at left shows Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as told in Daniel 2.)  So anyway,  this particular deportation – or exile – lasted some 66 years.  (605 B.C. to about 539 B.C.  That’s when some exiled Jews began returning “to the land of Judah.”)

Here’s what Wikipedia said of Nehemiah and Ezra:

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were originally one scroll…  Later the Jews divided this scroll and called it First and Second Ezra.  Modern Hebrew Bibles call the two books Ezra and Nehemiah, as do other modern Bible translations…    Ezra, a descendant of Seraiah the high priest, was living in Babylon when … Artaxerxes, king of Persia, the king sent him to Jerusalem…    Some years later Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah (a Jewish noble in his personal service) to Jerusalem as governor…

Together, the books tell of the return from exile in three different stages: 1) The initial return and rebuilding the Temple;  2)  The missions of Ezra and Nehemiah;  and 3)  The story of Nehemiah, “interrupted by a collection of miscellaneous lists and part of the story of Ezra.”  (Which explains the order of Daily Office Readings since October 29.)

Ezra’s job was to “teach the laws of God,” to both returning exiles and those who’d been Left Behind in Judea.  That is, Ezra himself – seen at right in an iconograph – led a number of exiles back to Jerusalem from Babylon.  Once there he found that “Jewish men had been marrying non-Jewish women.”  He responded as follows:

He tore his garments in despair and confessed the sins of Israel before God, then braved the opposition of some of his own countrymen to purify the community by enforcing the dissolution of the sinful marriages.

On the other hand, Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild and repair the city walls.  (During the exile the walls of Jerusalem had crumbled into disrepair.)

As told earlier in Nehemiah 6:15, the walls were rebuilt in just 52 days.  (Of constant, round-the-clock effort, and despite an ongoing “constant threat of those who opposed their efforts, including the armies of Samaria, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites.”)  Then came this:

Once this task was completed Nehemiah had Ezra read the Law of Moses (the Torah) to the assembled Israelites, and the people and priests entered into a covenant to keep the law and separate themselves from all other peoples.

See also Nehemiah – Wikipedia (with the image at left), and Nehemiah—The Man Behind the Wall – Biblical Archaeology Society.

Now, getting back to the reading for Monday, November 9…

The specific OT reading is Nehemiah 9:1-15(16-25).  It’s a long one, and begins with the people of Israel re-assembled, with “fasting and in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads.”  Ezra then recited a prayer recalling the history of Israel, with “signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted insolently against our ancestors.”

The prayer in today’s reading ended with Ezra’s note that after they entered the Promised Land, the Children of Israel “ate, and were filled and became fat, and delighted in your great goodness.”  But that happiness was short-lived, and ultimately led to defeat and exile:

Here we are, slaves to this day – slaves in the land that you [God] gave to our ancestors to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts.  Its rich yield goes to the kings whom you [God] have set over us because of our sins;  they have power also over our bodies and over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.

A black-and-white illustration of a chaotic sceneThat reading from the next day – Tuesday, November 10 – could serve as a warning to those today who choose to become “fat, filled, and delighted.”  (See Nehemiah. 9:26-38.  And in some foreshadowingPieter Brueghel the Elder did the engraving at right, “Gluttony,” in 1558.)

Then too, that warning could apply whether taken literally, metaphorically, “or otherwise.”  Which is another way of saying toa Baby Christian,  “It is to vigor – not comfort – that you are called.”  (See On a dame and a mystic, and/or The basics, above.)

On a similar note, the Gospel for today – Matthew 15:1-20 – includes this:

“This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

And finally, that Gospel for today included the parable of The blind leading the blind.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Painter and the Buyer, 1565 - Google Art Project.jpgThis metaphor was memorably illustrated by Pieter Brueghel the Elder – his self-portrait is at left – and as discussed below:

The painting reflects Bruegel’s mastery of observation.  Each figure has a different eye affliction, including corneal leukoma, atrophy of globe and removed eyes.  The men hold their heads aloft to make better use of their other senses.  The diagonal composition reinforces the off-kilter motion of the six figures falling in progression.  It is considered a masterwork for its accurate detail and composition.

But what the heck does this parable – and Matthew 15:8-9 – mean?  

The Phrase Finder said it was likely “inherited from the Upanishads – the sacred Hindu treatises … written between 800 BC and 200 BC and first translated into English between 1816-19:”

From Katha Upanishad we have [this]:  “Abiding in the midst of ignorance, thinking themselves wise and learned, fools go aimlessly hither and thither, like blind led by the blind.”

(See also “Great minds think alike,” in the Free Dictionary and Phrase Finder versions.)

And said the expression blind leading the blind applies to “leaders who know as little as their followers and are therefore likely to lead them astray.”  (As in, “When it comes to science and technology, many politicians know as little as the average citizen; they’re the blind leading the blind.”)   Which sounds about right… 

So the lesson could be this:  “Don’t go around ‘in the midst of ignorance, thinking yourself wise and learned…'”  Or as it says in Ecclesiasticus 5:5, “Do not be so confident of forgiveness that you add sin upon sin.”   (See also On Ecclesiasticus – NOT “Ecclesiastes“.)


“Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls,” from Monday’s OT reading…


The upper image is courtesy of The blind leading the blind – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “The Blind Leading the Blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568.”

For more on the “Babylonian Exile” at issue, see Shadrach “et al.” and the Fiery Furnace.  As to the “why” of rebuilding the walls, see Why was it important to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem?

Re: The relation of Artaxerxes to Nebuchadnezzar.  See Ahasuerus – Wikipedia, which noted first that the “name Ahasuerus is equivalent to the Greek name Xerxes.”  Also, “Ahasuerus is also given as the name of a King of Persia in the Book of Ezra.  Modern commentators associate him with Xerxes I who reigned from 486 BC until 465 BC.”   (For what all that’s worth…)

The image of Ezra is courtesy of Ezra – Wikipedia.  The full caption: “Ezra from Guillaume Rouillé‘s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum.”   Rouillé (c.1518–1589) was a “prominent humanist bookseller-printer in 16th-century Lyon.  “He invented the pocket book format … printed with sixteen leaves [and] half the size of the octavo format.”   Iconography is a branch of art history concerned with the “identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images.”  The word comes from the Greek words for “image” and “to write.”

Re:  “This people honors me with their lips…”  In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus cited Isaiah 29:13.  Thus – as noted in the Pulpit Commentary – He and a host of other prophets rejected literalism:”

“They use the prescribed forms of worship, guard with much care the letter of Scripture, observe its legal and ceremonial enactments, are strict in the practice of all outward formalities…”  [In other words:]  “Prayers, sacrifices, etc., are altogether unacceptable unless inspired by inward devotion, and accompanied by purity of heart.” (E.A.)

Which is pretty much the theme of this blog…

The “Gluttony” and “Brueghel” images are courtesy of the Wikipedia article describing the specific painting, and the “artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder” link contained therein.  The caption for the latter: “The Painter and The Connoisseur, c. 1565 is thought to be Bruegel’s self-portrait.”

The “vigor-comfort” quote is from Practical Mysticism, with more advice for a new Christian:

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 vigor rather than comfort that you are called.  (E.A.)

Evelyn Underhill, Ariel Press (1914), at page 177.  See also Evelyn Underhill – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Ecclesiasticus.”  It’s also known as The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Joshua ben Sira … commonly called the Wisdom of Sirach or simply Sirach.  See Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Nehemiah – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption:  “Gustave Doré, Nehemiah Views the Ruins of Jerusalem’s Walls, 1866.”

On the readings for November 8

Ruth on the fields of Boaz,” from today’s first reading…

: this week I planned to do a time-to-read-it post on the Bible readings for Sunday November 8.  Then I came across the New Testament Daily Office Reading – a term illustrated at right – for Thursday, November 5.  That reading – Revelation 14:1-13 – told of the “144,000” who seem to be already chosen:

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion!  And with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads…  No one could learn that song except the one hundred forty-four thousand who have been redeemed from the earth…  They have been redeemed from humankind as first fruits for God and the Lamb … they are blameless.

All of which gave me pause for thought.  I seemed to remember some literalists who insist that only 144,00 people will make it to heaven.  In turn, this passage from Revelation seemed to say that those “mere 144,000” have already been chosen.

Since my spiritual “self” is at stake, I decided to explore the issue further.

Again, the emphasized parts above seem to show that these 144,000 people are the only ones who will make it to heaven, according to some “literalists.”  Put another way, if taken literally, that Bible passage – either taken literally or out of context – seems to mean that the “144,00” have already been chosen, and that us poor schmucks today are out of luck.

My research led me first to  Who Are the 144,000 in Revelation?  That article gave five reasons indicating the number is a metaphor:  “The 144,000 represent the entire community of the redeemed:”

Fifth, the last reason for thinking that the 144,000 is the entire community of the redeemed is because of the highly stylized list of tribes in verses 5-8.  The number itself is stylized.  It’s not to be taken literally.

Then I checked out 144000 – Wikipedia:  “The number 144,000 has religious significance for Christians because of its use in the Book of Revelation.”  The article added that the numbers 12,000 and 144,000 are “variously interpreted” in Christianity, with some saying the 144,000 is symbolic.  But others insist the numbers “are literal numbers … representing either descendants of Jacob … or others to whom God has given a superior destiny with a distinct role at the time of the end of the world.”  Then there are Jehovah’s Witnesses:

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that exactly 144,000 faithful Christian men and women from Pentecost of 33 CE until the present day will be resurrected to heaven as immortal spirit beings to spend eternity with God and Christ…   Individual Witnesses indicate their claim of being “anointed…”  Nearly 12,000 Witnesses worldwide … claim to be of the anointed “remnant” of the 144,000.

Display fff default imageAnd finally I came across Who Are the 144,000 of Revelation 7 and 14? : Christian Courier.  The article began by saying the Book of Revelation is a “highly symbolic treatise.”  As a result, “many false religionists have attempted to exploit the message of the narrative to their own theological ends.”  (“The Apocalypse has become a happy hunting ground for some religious cultists who seek biblical support for their peculiar doctrines.”)  It then added:

The “Jehovah’s Witnesses” have almost no concept of the distinction between the literal and the figurative language in the Bible.  And so, they literalize the number 144,000 in these two contexts, and ridiculously argue that only 144,000 people will gain heaven.

Which seemed to fit in with the theme of this blog.  See for example THE BASICS:

How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, or limiting manner?   For that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   (For example, Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

See also The DORs for July 20, and On dissin’ the Prez.  So to reiterate:  “Reading the Bible literally is a great place to start,” but ” if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the ‘mystical side of Bible reading.'”

And now, back to the Bible readings for November 8.

Those readings according to The Lectionary Page are for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27).  Specifically:  Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17Psalm 127Hebrews 9:24-28, and Mark 12:38-44.

gravestoneBut first a brief word about November 2, “All Souls’ Day.”  It’s formally known as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, and is the third day of the “Triduum of Halloween.”  See “All Hallows E’en” – 2015.  And for a fuller set of prayers and/or explanation, see the All Faithful Departed link, at the Satucket website, where you can find the Daily office readings.

Now  back to the story of Ruth.  Briefly, she was a “foreigner” who married a son of Naomi, who then died.  But rather than return to her people after her husband died, Ruth opted to stay with Naomi, as detailed most famously in Ruth 1:16.  In the King James Version (the one God uses), the passage reads:  “For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

As a result and among other things, Ruth’s expression of faith made her an ancestor of Jesus:

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.  When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son…   The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”  They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David…

See also Matthew 1 (1 to 17), listing the “fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.”

The psalm for the day is Psalm 127, which includes verses 5 and 6:  “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!  He shall not be put to shame when he contends with his enemies in the gate.”

As to Psalm 127, see On Bill Tyndale – who did up a Bible you could actually READ!  That post presented another example of some people taking isolated passages of the Bible out of context:

[T]he “Quiverfull Movement” can be found at sites including Quiverfull – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaWhat Is Quiverfull? – Patheos, part of “No longer quivering,” an ostensible “gathering place for women escaping and healing from spiritual abuse;”  5 Insane Lessons from My Christian Fundamentalist Childhood ;  and/or QuiverFull .com :: Psalm 127:3-5.

The New Testament reading is from the Epistle to the Hebrews.  According to scholars its writing is “more polished and eloquent than any other book of the New Testament.”  It’s also “earned the reputation of being a masterpiece.”  It is thought to have been “written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem,” and that its purpose was to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution.   The reading today distinguished Jesus from “earthly” priests:

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one… Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year…  Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

And finally, the Gospel for the day is Mark 12:38-44.  The second part of that reading tells the Lesson of the widow’s mite.  (As shown at left, compared with a penny today.)

In the story, “a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more.  Jesus explains to his disciples that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant, but proportionately lesser, donations of the rich.”   Or as noted in Mark 12:44, “For all of them have contributed out of their abundance;  but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  But see also Missing the Point of the Widow’s Mite | Dating God:

A reading of Jesus’s comments that appears to hold the widow up on a pedestal is, I believe, a perpetuation of this injustice that inflicted the widow of Jesus’s time and continues to affect the poor and vulnerable in our day…  Jesus is not endorsing this behavior, but blatantly naming it for what it is … and challenging us to see the structures that allow this to continue…  Why do we let this continue to happen such that the poor give until it hurts and the wealthy seem to so often benefit from this self-defeat of the impoverished?

Either way, it’s a pretty good short allegorical story designed to teach some truth



The upper image is courtesy of Ruth (biblical figure) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The full caption: “Ruth on the fields of Boaz, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.”

The “tombstone” image is courtesy of the Satucket link All Faithful Departed (All Souls’).

Re: “Dating God.”  See also Dating God | Franciscan Spirituality for the 21st Century, and/or Dating God | America Magazine.  The blog is written by Daniel P. Horan, a “Franciscan Friar (of the Order of Friars Minor of Holy Name Province,” a Franciscan spiritual writer, and currently a Ph. D. student “in systematic theology at Boston College.”  See America Magazine and/or Wikipedia.

The “penny-mite” image is courtesy of … the-mite.

The lower image is courtesy of the “The Widow’s Mite” link at Bible Illustrations, by G. Dore – Main Page –  The article added this about the artist:

French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883) produced hundreds of quality Bible story illustrations in his lifetime…   Doré’s realistic style breathed new life into these real stories.  Centuries of [images] had caricaturized many Bible stories in the minds of believers.  But his persons and places look real.  Gustave Doré’s work (and artistic license) was criticized by some in his own day, but these illustrations stand the test of time as good physical representations of important Biblical events…

This web link – – includes a plethora of examples of Dore’s work.  And just for the reader’s edification, the F A Q link includes this question:  “Didn’t the Scopes Trial in 1925 (a.k.a. the Monkey Trial) show that evolution had won and creation lost – big time!”  It also provided this answer: “That’s what the liberal media and Hollywood have consistently reported since then.”

Be that as it may, the website still has a very nice collection of Gustave Doré pictures…

The GIST (Part II)

atticus finch

We were talking about the “GIST of the matter,” and how to get your own own “Atticus Finch…”


This post continues The GIST of the matter.  (With gist defined as “the main or essential part.”)

So once again, here are some thoughts as to the gist of this blog.

Catch22.jpgWe left off – at the end of “Part I” – by discussing the Catch 22 of getting JCPD appointed to your case.  “The catch is that you have to ask for this special Public Defender before you die.   If you wait until after you die it may be too late!  (So, why take the chance?)”

(See also Catch-22 – Wikipedia, as illustrated at left.)

Then there was a quote from Isaiah 50:8, “Let us appear in court together.”

So now to extend the metaphor:  Once you ask God – ahead of time – for JCPD as your court-appointed defense attorney, you get put on the functional equivalent of pre-trial diversion:

Pretrial diversion (PTD) is an alternative to prosecution which seeks to divert certain offenders from traditional criminal justice processing into a program of supervision…  Participants who successfully complete the program will not be charged or, if charged, will have the charges against them dismissed…

See USAM 9-22.000 Pretrial Diversion Program and/or Diversion program – Wikipedia.

See also John 5:24 (in the TLB):  “Anyone who listens to my message and believes in God who sent me has eternal life, and will never be damned for his sins” – or shortcomings – “but has passed out of death into life.”

In turn, your pre-trial supervision includes reading the Bible.  (In part for the counseling.)

So to repeat:  Your first step is to realize that Jesus won’t turn away anyone who asks for His help, as it says in John 6:37.  Your next step is to try and follow the Cliff’s Note summary of the entire Bible.  (The one that Jesus gave in Matthew 22:37-40.)

Your third step is to realize how much counseling is available.

That is – metaphorically – your pre-trial diversion guidebook is the Bible.  In turn there’s a PTD “counselor” available:  the Holy Spirit.  See John 14:26, as interpreted in the Complete Jewish Bible, :

But the Counselor, the Ruach HaKodesh, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything;  that is, he will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

Also John 16:7, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I don’t go away, the comforting Counselor will not come to you.  However, if I do go, I will send him to you.”

In other words this Great Spirit is the third “person” in the Trinity.  First there’s God the Father as Ultimate Judge.  Then there’s Jesus as Ultimate Defense Lawyer.  And last but not least, there is the Holy Spirit – the Ruach HaKodesh – as the Ultimate Pre-trial Diversion Counselor.

the-universe(And if all that isn’t enough to get you reading the Bible on a regular basis, consider the post by Mike Mooney, Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale, featuring the image at right.)

*   *   *   *

So what exactly happens when you start reading the Bible on a regular basis?

You could say this spiritual discipline amounts to an ongoing “transcendental” meditation

For example, see The Bible as “transcendent” meditation.  The basic message there is that – as in all true meditation – what you’re trying to do is literally impossible.  You can’t ever literally adhere to the mandate of Matthew 22:36-40.   You can never, ever love God with all your heart and strength and mind, or – and this is especially hard – love your neighbor “as yourself.”

But there is a payoff, or rather any number of payoffs to this spiritual discipline:

Greater efficiency in everyday life;  getting in touch with a different view of reality than the one we ordinarily use;  the ability to transcend the painful, negative aspects of life;  living with a serene inner peace;   and/or living with “a zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function in the affairs of everyday life.”

Put another way, you could say that starting your pilgrimage – through the discipline of regular Bible-reading – is a bit like spiritual water-skiing.

To extend this metaphor further:  Starting this interactive process of “walking toward Jesus” can become a bit like grabbing the handle of a rope connected to some metaphoric Big Motorboat in the Sky.  Once you grab on, your main job is simply to hang on to the rope for dear life.

Which raises another question:  What kind of ride can we expect once we grab onto the handle?  And what do we do if our “hands” get so tired that we let go of the handle?

That’s what this blog is all about.


Again, the upper image is courtesy of … atticus finch

The “counselor” image is courtesy of

Re: “Ruach HaKodesh.”  See also Holy Spirit (Judaism) – Wikipedia:  “The Holy Spirit in Judaism generally refers to the divine aspect of prophecy and wisdom.  It also refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of God Most High … over the universe or over God’s creatures…”

Re:  Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.  That post ends: 

Sure, it’s irrational to believe in ancient religious narratives – that is a matter of faith – but to believe there is a Higher Power that designed and implemented the universe is not irrational, not when the only other option we have is that the universe just happened by fluke, right?


The GIST of the matter…

atticus finchAccept Jesus and get your own “Atticus Finch” as Ultimate Defense Attorney


The gist is defined as “the main or essential part of a matter.”  So here’s the gist of this blog.

It’s based on the idea of God as Ultimate Judge.  In turn, the Bible shows that God’s son – Jesus – is the Ultimate, Court-appointed Defense Attorney.  (As will be shown below.)

The best part of the deal is that because He is the Judge’s Son, JCPD – Jesus Christ, Public Defender – can cut you a deal that only a moron would turn down.

But first, a word about the Process.  As noted elsewhere, the process of your salvation begins when you accept the promise of Jesus in John 6:37.  (That He will never turn away anyone who comes to Him.)  From that point, you head “down the road toward Jesus.”

That is, you begin the interactive process of walking to Jesus, by reading the Bible on a regular basis.  And you start shaping your life via the “CliffsNotes” summary of the Bible that Jesus gave in Matthew 22 – verses 36 through 40. That’s where Jesus responded to a wise-guy lawyer trying to trap Him by asking, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’    This is the greatest and the most important commandment.    The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’    The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

(Emphasis added.)  Which brings up the metaphor of Super Mario Brothers.

That is, the interactive process of walking toward Jesus is much like that “1985 platform video game,” developed and published by Nintendo.  In other words, the days and weeks of your life will pass by, and you will read the Bible more and more. But then – every once in a while – you’ll come across a golden nugget, a  passage from the Bible that puts your life into focus.

As the caption to the image above right reads:  “The player controls Mario throughout the Mushroom Kingdom.  Mario’s abilities can be changed by picking up certain items; for example, Mario is able to shoot fireballs if he picks up a Fire Flower.”

The game world has coins scattered around it for Mario to collect, and special bricks marked with a question mark (“?”), which when hit from below by Mario, may reveal more coins or a special item.  Other “secret,” often invisible, bricks may contain more coins or rare items.  If the player gains a red and yellow Super Mushroom, Mario grows to double his size and can take one extra hit from most enemies and obstacles…

See Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  So metaphorically, something like that can happen when you read the Bible on a regular – preferably daily – basis.  Put another way, the clues you pick up in your Bible-reading are like those coins of great value in Luke’s parable.

The bottom line is that those Bible-nuggets can give you the power to decode your own unique life-script.  (And maybe even “shoot fireballs,” metaphorically or otherwise.) as explained below, when you accept JCPD, you get put on a kind of “pre-trial diversion” or probation.  As part of that “PTD,” you’re expected to make a good-faith effort to love, learn about, and get to know God with all you have.

And as far as possible, you’ll be expected to live at peace with your neighbors. (Again, see Matthew 22:36-40.)  And you’ll also be expected to read and apply the Ultimate Pre-trial Diversion Handbook, to wit:  the Bible.

It’s really that simple…

But getting back to the metaphors of God as Ultimate Judge and JCPD…

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Imagine meeting God as Ultimate Judge.   You’ve led an okay life.  You’re not a serial killer or child molester.  You attend church.  (From time to time.)  You give to some charities, from time to time.  But then – into the courtroom – comes The Ultimate Prosecutor.

Note that “Satan” comes from the Hebrew and Greek.  (“Satanas” in Greek.)  Both words translate literally as “adversary.”  (Note too that the root word for devil is “diabolos,” Greek for “slanderer.”)   So – like any good prosecutor – the Ultimate Prosecutor (Satan) will try to get you convicted, by “slandering the accused.”   (In this case, you.)

That’s when this Ultimate Prosecutor will point out things like James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

So you’re sunk, right?  Who could you get to speak up for you?

Who else but that Ultimate Court-Appointed Defense Attorney, Jesus Christ, Public Defender. 

As it says in 1st John 2:1, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  And “advocate” is just another term for lawyer; someone who puts in a good word for you.  “One who argues for a cause or person; a supporter or defender.”

On that note, consider the story Sam Ervin – at right – once told of an old North Carolina lawyer.  The old lawyer was asked how he could justify arguing for a client he knew was guilty:

Someday[, he said] I shall stand before the Bar of Eternal Justice to answer for deeds done by me in the flesh.  I shall then have an advocate in the person of our Lord [Jesus], who will certainly be pleading for a very guilty client.

But getting back to  JCPD.  He isn’t just any old overworked, underpaid, hack public defender.  Just like the Ultimate Judge and the Ultimate Prosecutor, Jesus is The Ultimate Public Defender.  And again, because He’s personally related to the Judge – Jesus is the “Judge’s” son – He can get you a super deal.  In fact, it’s a deal only a moron would turn down.

Here’s the deal:  If you get JCPD appointed to your case, He can “grease the right palms.”  He can see to it that you don’t have to go to “court” (judgment) at all.   Instead of going to “Court “- at all – JCPD can see to it that you go immediately into the “Ultimate Pre-trial Diversion Program.”

But there’s a catch…

The catch is that you have to ask for this special Public Defender before you die.   If you wait until after you die it may be too late!  (So, why take the chance?)

Or as it says in Isaiah 50:8, “Let us appear in court together.”

To be continued…

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With “JCPD,” you’ll go into court with a defense attorney who’s the Judge’s son

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The upper image is courtesy of finch.  The review added:  “I was intrigued by Atticus Finch.  At every turn he seemed to give people the benefit of the doubt and even (perhaps to a fault) willing to cover character defects with loving understanding.”  The reviewer – Erik Raymond – then added this:

The character in Harper Lee’s story helped me to become uncomfortable enough to ask questions about myself.  You might say he cross examined me when I didn’t know I was even on the stand.  This is a pleasure of reading, sometimes the book you are reading begins to read you.  As a Christian everything is a tool that can aid in the heart work of sanctification.  (Emphasis added.)

The reader may also find these websites of interest: Transformed Public Defender « Power to Change, and Jesus, my public defender | Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Re: Public defenders.  See also Hightower v. State, 592 So.2d 689 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1991):

Public defenders stand alone, armed only with their wits, training and dedication.   Inspired by their clients’ hope, faith and trust, they are the warriors and valkyries of those desperately in need of a champion.   Public defenders, by protecting the downtrodden and the poor, shield against the infringement of our protections, and in reality, protect us all.

Re: God as “Ultimate Judge.”  Cruden’s Complete [Bible] Concordance has a number of citations, like “God is a righteous judge; God sits in judgment every day.” (Psalm 7:11.)  See also 76 Bible verses about God, As Judge – Knowing Jesus.  But this metaphor isn’t limited to Judeo-Christian tradition.  It was shared by the ancient Egyptians, who believed after death a person could expect “judgment before Osiris; if the verdict was favorable, he would live in Osiris’ kingdom, if not, he was abandoned to a monstrous destroyer, part crocodile, part hippopotamus.”  See Roberts, J.M. The Pelican History of the World, Penguin Books (1980), at page 90.

Re: the “interactive process.”  See On St. Matthew – 2015:  “A third thing you can do is realize the process is both interactive and ongoing.  (The more you do it the better you get at it.)”

Re: definitions of “Satan,” etc.  See New International Dictionary of the Bible, Regency Reference Library, 1987, Page 899.  See also Revelation 12 KJV, verses 7-10:

And there was war in heaven:  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.  And prevailed not… [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.   And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.  (E.A.)

The probation cartoon is courtesy of

The image is Sam Ervin is courtesy of Sam Ervin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe caption:  “Sam Ervin (right), as chair of the Senate Watergate Committee.”  The Sam Ervin quote is courtesy of Bill Wise, The Wisdom of Sam Ervin, Ballantine Books (1973), at page 136.

The lower image is courtesy of Lady Justice – Image Results.  See also, for example, the photo at Scopes Trial – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Clarence Darrow (left) and William Jennings Bryan (right) chat in court during the Scopes Trial.”  Or see On three suitors.

The image above left – also used as a defense-attorney example – shows Sam Sheppard and his defense attorney, F. Lee Bailey.  (Also one of the attorneys who represented O. J. Simpson.)  Sheppard was ultimately acquitted, and the “television series The Fugitive and the 1993 film of the same name has been cited as being loosely based on Sheppard’s story.”  (The film and TV creators have denied that claim.)  Be that as it may, the image is courtesy of