“Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?”
Saturday, June 6, 2015 is a red letter day, and not just because it’s been 71 years since the best-known D-Day. (Though that’s certainly enough…) It also has special significance based on the timely and instructive Daily Office Readings for today.
Those readings include Psalm 55, 138, and 139:1-17(18-23). The Old Testament reading is Deuteronomy 29:2-15, the New Testament reading is 2d Corinthians 9:1-15, and the Gospel is Luke 18:15-30. We’ll look at the three psalms for today further below.
Deuteronomy 29:2-15 is part of “concluding discourse” of Moses, on renewing the covenant between God and the Hebrews. See Deuteronomy – Wikipedia, which said the book has “three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land.” (It included the image at left, “Moses viewing the Promised Land.”) Deuteronomy 29 is also known for commemorating the ancient Hebrews’ years of wandering in the wilderness:
I have led you for forty years in the wilderness. The clothes on your back have not worn out, and the sandals on your feet have not worn out; you have not eaten bread, and you have not drunk wine or strong drink…
In other words you could say these Children of Israel went through a kind of “boot camp” or recruit training. (Designed to toughen them up and make them worthy of the high honor bestowed on them. See also Spiritual boot camp, from April 2014.)
That in turn could remind us to expect some of the same “toughening up” in our lives.
The New Testament reading – 2d Corinthians 9:1-15 – was part of Paul’s “instructions for the collection for the poor in the Jerusalem church.” (See Second Epistle to the Corinthians.) Or as the IBC put it, “Paul was organizing a collection from his Gentile churches for the poor in Jerusalem.” As part of the discussion, Paul set out “the principles of Christian giving.” (1403) Specifically, 2d Corinthians 9 included this, from verses 6 and 7:
The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Which is just common sense. If you are “miserly” in sowing your seed, the resulting “crop” that you get will be nothing to write home about.
But the point in turn is this: Every Sunday at my church, the priest includes 2d Corinthians 9:6-7 in what he calls the “interactive portion” of the service. (At “half-time,” after the exchange of the peace and announcements, and before the Liturgy of the Table. See also The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two, at the end of page 360.) At the end of the verse 7 part the Good Father says “for God loves…” At that point the congregation responds en masse, “…a cheerful giver!”
The Gospel – Luke 18:15-30 – began with people bringing children for Jesus to bless. The disciples tried to stop it, but:
Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
The point of this Gospel passage is that children never stop asking questions! In fact, they can be quite a pain about it. See for example Children’s questions: a mechanism for cognitive development, and also Why do kids ask so many questions—and why do they stop?
As to why our kids stop asking questions, the second post above said this:
In school, we’re rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question… Which may explain why kids – who start off asking endless “why” and “what if” questions – gradually ask fewer and fewer of them… Preschool kids ask their parents an average of 100 questions a day. By middle school, they’ve basically stopped [and at] this time … student motivation and engagement plummets.
Thus the question: Do kids stop asking questions because they’ve lost interest? Or “because the rote answers-driven school system doesn’t allow them to ask enough questions?”
Personally I think it’s the “rote answer.”
More than that, I think the same thing applies to the Bible-approach that emphasizes literalism or fundamentalism. It seems to me that such an approach can comfort some people, like those “creatively challenged.” But more often it just stifles the very creativity that is such a big part of interacting with God. (See humanlifematters.org/the-quest-to-express – the source of the image at left – and also Holy Spirit as God’s Creative Power.)
All of which brings us back to why we were able to win World War II. In large part it was based on the creativity – the individual initiative – shown by American fighters:
During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable… After the Normandy invasion in 1944, American troops found that their movements were constrained by the thick hedgerows… In response, “Army soldiers invented a mechanism on the fly that they welded onto the front of a tank to cut through hedgerows…” American troops are famous for this kind of individual initiative. It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules. (E.A.)
See Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving, which noted that – sadly – the current military establishment is “creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform.”
Which means it’s not just “Bible-thumpers” who are now trying to create a culture that rewards conformism and stifles creativity. It’s happening in other walks of American life as well.
But finally, this is a day to remember when “independent judgment” – not rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of “rules” – was the order of the day, and not the exception.
In other words, this June 6th calls for us to remember the sacrifices of those brave members of the armed services 71 years ago, as part of the Allied invasion of Normandy.
For one such remembrance, see On D-Day and confession. That post talked about World War II, when up to and beyond D-Day, “our fathers, uncles and other relatives flew in bombers” from England, “with targets in Germany and other European countries.” It talked about the importance of debriefing after those missions; basically a process of asking really aggravating questions. (Not unlike the way children do, as noted above.) The post then noted:
Maybe that’s what the … concepts of sin and confession are all about. (Or should be about.) When we “sin” we simply fall short of our goals; we “miss the target.” When we “confess,” we simply admit to ourselves how far short of the target we were. And maybe the purpose of all this is not to make people feel guilty all the time…
In turn it said the concepts of sin, repentance and confession should be viewed as “tools to help us get closer to the target.” In other words, they help us grow and develop, and are not to be used as a means of social control, as it sometimes seems.
Note also that the “Biblical Greek term for sin [amartia], means ‘missing the mark,'” and implies that “one’s aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one’s fullest potential.”
So in the end, hitting the mark is what it’s all about. And that’s true whether you’re reading the Bible, trying to liberate a people from tyranny, or just trying to “be all that you can be.” In turn, to “be all you can be” you need to explore “the mystical side of Bible reading.”
And that is just another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you’ll be on your way to the creative judgment that overcomes “the fog and friction” of everyday life.
The upper image – borrowed from On D-Day and confession – is courtesy of the Denver Post “Plog,” D-Day in Color, Photographs from the Normandy Invasion. The caption reads: “Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images) #.”
The Churchill quote is courtesy of The Bombing Offensive | History.co.uk.
The “D-Day” image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The full caption: “US Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”
The lower image – borrowed from Spiritual boot camp – “is courtesy of: cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review.”
Re: “nothing to write home about.” I was originally going to say “If you are niggardly in your ‘sowing…'” But there is some controversy about that word – see controversies about the word “niggardly” – which might lead some to say there’s no such thing as too much education. But that in turn would have required a citation to “Another brick in the wall,” and for me to eventually write, “We digress greatly!” As the saying goes, “discretion is the better part of valor.”
Re: “sin.” See Eastern Orthodox view of sin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Re: “D-Day.” As I worked on this post, Mi Dulce emailed one of those aggravating questions. (You know, the kind kids ask, as noted above?) The question: “What does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ stand for?”
As it turns out, this is a “most frequently asked question” and one on which “disagreements abound.” See What does the “D” in D-Day mean – The National WWII Museum. The article noted that in the simplest sense, “the D in D-Day merely stands for Day.” In a second sense it is “simply an alliteration, as in H-Hour.” Other explanations: The D means disembarkation, or debarkation, while “the more poetic insist D-Day is short for ‘day of decision.’” In 1964 someone asked General Eisenhower – who by then was a retired President of the United States – and his assistant wrote back: “Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”
The most logical answer came from What Does the “D” in “D-Day” Stand For? – Today I Found Out:
[T]he “D” is just a placeholder or variable for the actual date, and probably originally was meant to stand for “date” or “day” (if anything), if the associated “H-hour” is any indication. The use of D-day allows military personnel to easily plan for a combat mission ahead of time without knowing the exact date that it will occur. (E.A.)
In other words, “D-Day” was short for “the day when we invade this particular place or beach, but at a date and time we don’t know for sure yet.” The latter site noted the term was first used in September 1918 – 26 years before the best-known “D-Day” – in an Army Field Order: “The order stated that ‘The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient.'” And finally, the National WWII site also noted that the “invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was not the only D-Day of World War II. Every amphibious assault – including those in the Pacific, in North Africa, and in Sicily and Italy – had its own D-Day.”
Re: the rest of the June 6 Gospel-reading, Luke 18:15-30. It recites the lesson of the eye of a needle, to wit: that it is “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (The image at left is courtesy of genius.com/2320019/Shad-remember-to-remember/This-camel.)
And finally, a note about the psalms for this June 6th. Psalm 55:24 reads – in the Book of Common Prayer – “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you.” And Psalm 138:9 reads – in the BCP – “The Lord will make good his purpose for me.” That in turn is also pretty much what this blog is all about: Helping us both figure out what precise purpose God has for us.
(Note that psalm-passages in the Prayer Book are occasionally different from those given in other translations. See Psalm 55:22, “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” And see also Psalm 138:8.)