Monthly Archives: February 2024

“Welcome to Lent – 2024”

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An alternate version of that “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the Lord…”

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

The Book of Common Prayer says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are key. They show that a healthy church has two sides, including the often-overlooked “mystical” side that answers the question, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.

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

And this thought ties them together:

The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I started to call this post, “Whatever you do, can be done to you.” I wanted to do that because of the upcoming presidential election, with its promises of lots of payback and throwing political opponents in jail. (Not to mention “dictatorship.”) But I figured the more Christian thing to do was focus on Lent – and hope that maybe some Lenten discipline might keep such bad things from happening. Besides, doesn’t the Bible say “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord?”

Well yes, but some wag added, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord, but sometimes it’s hard not to get a jump on it yourself.” Which brings up a more earthly incentive, for anyone tempted to throw people in jail for having a different opinion. “Whatever you do, could be done to you in return.” (With a possible addendum, “Once you leave office.”)

Some people call that karma, while others call it the Goose-Gander theory. (“What’s good for the goose,” etc.) But Jesus put it this way, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (In the King James Version, the one God uses.) But that might be too subtle for some people, which leads to the more direct, “Whatever you do could be done to you in return.” But that’s enough of a Rabbit Trail.

It’s time to get back to this year’s Lenten discipline. And maybe look back at some of my past disciplines? For example, in 2016 I noted that while most people see Lent as giving up something, others choose to do something positive, to “add to my spiritual life.” Then too:

For my part, I’ve always wondered just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)  So I’ve decided that – aside from Bible-reading on a daily basis, which I already do anyway – I’ll spend this [2016] Lent “meditating” on this topic.

You could also say I was contemplating about when, where and how Moses wrote the Torah. “Profoundly thinking about something.” Which led me to phrase the question this way: “What did Moses know, and when did he know it?” For example, did Moses know the full story of that “big bright thing in the sky?” Did he know – far in advance of his fellow Israelites – that the “earth” revolves around the “sun?” And if he did know that, would he want to share that information with the newly-liberated, largely-illiterate former slaves?

My own theory came to be that if Moses did know the earth revolved around the Sun, he’d be wise not to share that information. He could have been stoned – and not in the good way – for “heresy.” As it was, he’d already come close to being killed by the tribe of unwashed habiru he was supposedly leading. That’s a subject I explored in On Moses getting stoned.

Or think if you could go back in time – say, back to 1963 and your 7th-grade home room class – and started trying to explain what comes in 50 years. “For one thing, cash will become passé. You’ll have these plastic cards, see, and when you buy something you’ll just stick this card in a machine. Also, you’ll have a phone with no cords, that you can take anywhere, even out driving. Also, you’ll see people walking around who seem to be talking to themselves, but they’re actually chatting – by phone – to people miles away, through this thing they stick in their ear..”

And remember that scene in Back to the Future? Where Marty tells Doc that in 1980 Ronald Reagan will be president? Only you’d tell your fellow 7th-graders that Donald Trump will be elected president in 2016. And if you told your 7th-grade classmates all that – along with copy machines and home computers – you’d be lucky just to wind up in the local psych ward.

But all this is just another way of saying there are some things beyond our ability to comprehend. For example, “our puny little human minds are simply incapable of fully understanding God.” Or as one professor put it – about our inherent inability to understand God:

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload.  We are no more prepared to comprehend [God] than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus.  It’s just not in our nature. (E.A.)

In plain words, there was a vast difference between what Moses knew – from 40 years as a highly-learned Prince of Egypt, with all the “scroll learning” that meant – and what he could reasonably share with his largely illiterate audience of former slaves.  

In plain terms, Moses was forced by circumstances beyond his control “to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.” 

To sum up, Moses was well advised not to write the “learned treatise” that some people expect of the Bible. If he had presented such a learned treatise to his fellow Hebrews – if he had mentioned dinosaurs, or the earth being billions of years old, or the earth revolving around that “big bright round thing in the sky – his “people” would have thought him crazy, or worse. Just like there were about to do in Numbers 14:10, when “all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” (Moses, along with Joshua and Caleb, who tried to defend him.)

For that matter, just like if you went back in time to 1963 and tried to tell fellow 7th-graders of “50 years from now:” Of buying things without cash, of wandering around talking to yourself but really talking with someone miles away, or of typing out words on a small plastic device and sending out information literally over the world – and all with the touch of a button!

Hmmm. Not a bad set of meditations to start out Lent 2024 with…

Happy Contemplating!

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In 1955, Marty McFly tells Doc that Ronald Reagan will be president in 30 years…

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The upper image is courtesy of Vengeance Is Mine Sayeth The Lord … Image Results. (And by the way, I would have capitalized the “He.”) The link included the “get a jump on it” quote attributed to Robin Brande. The “vengeance is mine” comes from Romans 12:19, with cross-references to Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 32:35, and Proverbs 20:22.

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

Re: “Judge not.” See Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you will be judged. – Bible Hub.

Re: Lent. See also Lenten disciplines: spiritual exercises or ego trip?

For this post I borrowed from – in no chronological order – My Lenten meditation (2016), On Ash Wednesday – 2022, On the beginning of Lent – 2018, and from 2019, OMG! Is it time for Lent again?

“Habiru.” Basically, “desert cutthroats.” See the “Stoned” post, which also includes my take on why Moses didn’t write out the “learned treatise” that some scoffers think the Torah should have been.

The “scroll learning” link is to Book Learning Definition … YourDictionary, on knowledge “gained from reading or study rather than from practical experience.” But Moses seems to have had both…

The lower image is courtesy of Image Back To The Future Ronald Reagan President – Image Results. For a “live” version see Videos for Image Back To The Future Ronald Reagan President Youtube. Which includes quotes that Reagan “loved the movie.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) This is a consistent theme throughout the Bible. From the Old Testament, Psalm 9:10, “You never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.” (In the Version in the Book of Common Prayer.) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

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

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…  (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.” 

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripturetradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”

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

Jesus “Presented” – 2024

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This could be called the “Second Presentation” – by Pilate, as Jesus is about to be crucified

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Friday, February 2, 2024 was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It recalls Mary and Joseph presentinJesus, as a baby, 40 days after His birth. (The birthday we celebrate as Christmas.) In doing so His parents followed a thousand-year-old custom that began with Moses. In Exodus 13:2, God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male:”

Counting forward from December 25 as Day One [for Jesus], we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem.

Then there’s the painting above, of Jesus “presented” a second time. But this time it was Pontius Pilate, showing Him to the mob. A reminder that from the time of His first Presentation – at just over a month old – Jesus’ life was one long journey to that second presentation. (On the eve of making the sacrifice that would literally change history, if not “split history in two.”) 

In a similar way, February 2, 2024 marks the beginning of our own spiritual journey: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” And this year – as every church year – that journey goes through the rest of Epiphany Season, then to Mardi Gras, followed by Lent, then on into Easter Week. (A reminder that life is not all fun and games. It’s an alternating rhythm of good times and “challenges.” Put another way, an alternating rhythm of “feasting and fasting.”)

Getting back to the Presentation, it’s one of the most ancient Church feasts, dating back as far as the fourth century in Jerusalem. As to the original Presentation, where it all started:

Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1–4… Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon[, who] had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus

But were Mary and Joseph really poor? Some might ask, “What happened to that gold, frankincense and myrrh that the Three Wise Men gave the parents?” (The gold could be easily spent, while the other two would be easily “hockable.”) A medieval Jesuit had this comment: “Although the three kings had offered to Christ a great quantity of gold, still the Blessed Virgin, zealously affected towards poverty, accepted but little of it, that she might show her contempt of all earthly things.” Which is as good an answer as any, but still, “Where whence those gifts?”

But that’s what people call a rabbit trail. A “convoluted discourse or tangential aside.” More to the point, could there be a deeper meaning of the Presentation in the Temple? According to the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the answer is Yes.

Aside from Mary having to be purified, all male firstborns had to be “consecrated to God in a special way.” But there were two other elements to the story. First, the parents didn’t have to go to the Temple, so Mary and Joseph were being “extra devout by going to the Temple for this special day.” (And according to Google Maps, that’s at least a 33-hour hike of over 90 miles.)

Second, according to one Pope, Luke was saying that instead of being “redeemed” and restored to his parents, Jesus was personally handed over, “given over completely to God.” Thus:

The Presentation isn’t just another boring religious ritual. On the contrary, it is a deeply symbolic moment pointing to Jesus’s divine identity, and to Mary and Joseph’s perfect cooperation with His divine mission.

And speaking of handing over a life to God, the Daily Office for February 3, 2024, added another set of saints to remember, The Dorchester Chaplains. They were four chaplains who died rescuing other passengers when a German submarine torpedoed the American troop ship Dorchester on February 3, 1943. (In what was called “the second-worst sea disaster of World War II.”)

The chaplains helped the other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

All lieutenants, the group included “Methodist minister the Reverend George L. FoxReform Rabbi Alexander D. Goode (PhD), Catholic priest Father John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling.”

Wikipedia added more detail, the gist of which is that panic set in when a torpedo knocked out the ship’s electrical system, at 1:00 in the morning in the stormy North Atlantic. The chaplains did what they could to calm passengers and organize the evacuation. They got life jackets, but when the preservers ran out the chaplains gave theirs to others. Then too, the jackets did little to protect against hypothermia in the frigid water; “hundreds of dead bodies were seen floating on the water, kept up by their life jackets.” Thus only 230 of the 940 passengers survived.

As I swam away from the ship, I looked back. The flares had lighted everything. The bow came up high and she slid under. The last thing I saw, the Four Chaplains were up there praying for the safety of the men. They had done everything they could. I did not see them again. They themselves did not have a chance without their life jackets.

That’s according to one survivor. Others heard different languages in the chaplains’ prayers, “including Jewish prayers in Hebrew and Catholic prayers in Latin” as the ship sank. A reminder again “that life is not all fun and games,” and that we have been gifted. Despite all the troubles we see in the news, we are blessed to be alive and enjoy the upcoming church seasons.

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“Coast Guard Cutter USCGC ‘Escanaba‘ rescues ‘Dorchester’ survivors….”

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The upper image is courtesy of Pontius Pilate – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Ecce Homo (‘Behold the Man’), Antonio Ciseri‘s depiction of Pilate presenting a scourged Jesus to the people of Jerusalem.”

The Book of Common Prayer reference. The “corporate-mystical” prayer is on page 339, the post-communion prayer for Holy Eucharist, Rite I.

For this post I borrowed – in reverse order – On the Presentation of Jesus – 2/2/22, The “Presentation of our Lord” – 2020, and earlier, from 2017, On the FIRST “Presentation of the Lord.” The 2017 post included such details as the “quaint custom [which] came to be called ‘the churching of Women,’ starting – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages, based on what Moses taught. The ritual was still offered by the Catholic Church until the 1960s, but then discontinued.” Which raised the question: “Since Mary hadn’t been ‘sullied’ in the normal manner of procreation,” why did she have to be “churched,” as Moses apparently commanded?  See also Presentation of Jesus – Wikipedia.

Re: “Today.” See Today – Wikiquote. The “rest of your life” quote is attributed to Charles Dederich, “the founder of Synanon, a self-help community for drug abusers and alcoholics, based in California.” See also And if that doesn’t work out… And about that gold, etc. It’s possible that the Wise Men arrived well after the Presentation, and so Mary and Joseph hadn’t gotten the gifts yet. They may have arrived “days, months, or possibly even years later.” What does the Bible say about the three wise men (Magi)? As to the value of the gifts, see Gold prized; frankincense, myrrh may have had more value, adding that the Gifts of Magi “foreshadowed Jesus’ life of kingship, divinity, and saving death.”

Re: “Medieval Jesuit.” Se Cornelius a Lapide (1567-1637), at the Wikipedia article about the Flemish Catholic priest, Jesuit and “exegete of Sacred Scripture.”

Also, on the February 3, see Four Chaplains – Wikipedia, with the lower image.

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