Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Maybe Aronofsky Should Have Called the Movie "Gilgamesh" Instead of "Noah"

‘You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of Euphrates? That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu,-lord of the firmament, their father, and warrior Enlil their counsellor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi watcher over canals; and with them also was Ea. In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said to the gods in council, "The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel." So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind. Enlil did this, but Ea because of his oath warned me in a dream. He whispered their words to my house of reeds, "Reed-house, reed-house! Wall, O wall, hearken reed-house, wall reflect; O man of Shurrupak, son of
Ubara-Tutu; tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house, I say, and build a boat. These are the measurements of the barque as you shall build her: let her beam equal her length, let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures." -The Epic of Gigamesh 
The other day I was forced to watch the recent film "Noah" which I had expressed no interest in seeing when it was at the theaters.  Noah had its world premiere in Mexico City on March 10, 2014 and here we are in August and it is already available for rent at your nearest RedBox machine.

Other than the lead character being named Noah, the film has nothing in common with the Biblical story of the flood. I think they could have named it "Gilgamesh" and produced the same film, but nobody (except me) would have paid money to see Gilgamesh. The movie Noah simply prostitutes Noah's name in order to attract an audience.

Ah well, that's entertainment I suppose.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lost in the Translations: This Ain't No κυναρίοις and Pony Show

 Most of you probably heard Matthew 15:21-28 read in church today,
Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.
I was using the New KJV recently and it used a slightly different translation of κυναρίοις,
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Matthew 15:21-28

κυναρίοις as used in Matthew 15:26 has been discussed on these pages earlier here. "Little dogs" is the New KJV translation. I still prefer the word "puppy" which is used in the International Standard Version.

The Pulpit Commentary at BibleHub has this to say,
Dogs (κυναρίοις). A contemptuous diminutive, rendered by Wickliffe, "whelpies," or, as we might say, "curs." This was the term applied by the Jews to the Gentiles, even as Turks nowadays talk of "dogs of Christians," and as in later times, by a curious inversion, the Jews themselves were generally saluted with the opprobrious name of"dogs." Some have seen a term of endearment in the diminutive "little dogs," as though Christ desired to soften the harshness of the expression by referring, not to the prowling, unowned animals that act as scavengers in Oriental towns, but to the petted inmates of the master's house. But Scripture gives no warrant for thinking that the Hebrews ever kept dogs as friends and companions, in our modern fashion...
I still think that being the dog that is allowed under the master's table is better than being a dog in the street. So I would disagree with the Pulpit Commentary and dare to suggest that man's best friend had a special relationship with its master in Biblical times as well as he does today, but perhaps not to the extent of getting a spa treatment at Pampered Pooch or being permitted to sleep on the bed.

I may be barking up the wrong tree here, but don't worry, the hair on my back isn't standing up about it

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Thy Sea Is Great, Our Boats Are Small"

Continuing with our nautical theme as promised,
O Maker of the Mighty Deep
Whereon our vessels fare,
Above our life’s adventure keep
Thy faithful watch and care.
In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
We know not where the secret tides
Will help us or delay,
Nor where the lurking tempest hides,
Nor where the fogs are gray.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
When outward bound we boldly sail
And leave the friendly shore,
Let not our heart of courage fail
Until the voyage is o’er.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
When homeward bound we gladly turn,
O bring us safely there,
Where harbor-lights of friendship burn
And peace is in the air.
We trust in Thee, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
Beyond the circle of the sea,
When voyaging is past,
We seek our final port in Thee;
O bring us home at last.
In Thee we trust, whate’er befall;
Thy sea is great, our boats are small.
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) 
I thought of this as I stared out the window of our jet during a recent flight over the ocean. It was at the point where I could see neither land nor ship from horizon to horizon. It is little wonder the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was never found. The vast ocean conceals many lost souls, ships, and aircraft.

After my return to our home port, a quick glance at our Carolina skies reminded me who watches over us as we travel, especially whenever we journey across an empty, wine dark sea.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Peter's Swan Dive: "Without the Wings of Faith, He Desires to Fly at Will" - Calvin, An Admonition to the Church as Well?

It has been three years since Matthew 14 and the story of Peter's attempt to walk on water graced these pages. Since it was the Gospel reading for this Sunday, and since we have been on a bit of a nautical theme this week (and will continue in that mode on Wednesday), I thought it good to revisit Matthew 14:22-33 once again, 
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
 Matthew 14:22-33
 As children, we would play this story out at the swimming pool by boldly running or stepping off the side of the pool and promptly sinking, thus confirming the depth of our faith.

Calvin took a more serious approach to the story in his commentaries (my emphasis added),

Now though Christ appeared at the proper time for rendering assistance, yet the storm did not immediately cease, till the disciples were more fully aroused both to desire and to expect his grace. And this deserves our attention, as conveying the instruction, that there are good reasons why the Lord frequently delays to bestow that deliverance which he has ready at hand.
28. And Peter answering. The condition which he lays down shows that his faith was not yet fully settled. If it is thou, says he, bid me come to thee on the water. But he had heard Christ speak. Why then does he still argue with himself under doubt and perplexity? While his faith is so small and weak, a wish not well considered bursts into a flame. He ought rather to have judged of himself according to his capacity, and to have supplicated from Christ an increase of faith, that by its guidance and direction he might walk over seas and mountains. But now, without the wings of faith, he desires to fly at will; and though the voice of Christ has not its due weight in his heart, he desires that the waters should be firm under his feet. And yet there is no room to doubt that this longing sprung from a good principle; but as it degenerates into a faulty excess, it cannot be applauded as good.
Hence too it happens that Peter immediately begins to smart for his rashness. Let believers, therefore, instructed by his example, beware of excessive haste. Wherever the Lord calls, we ought to run with alacrity; but whoever proceeds farther, will learn from the mournful result what it is to overleap the bounds which the Lord has prescribed. Yet it may be asked, Why does Christ comply with Peter's wish? for by so doing he seems to approve of it. But the answer is obvious. In many eases God promotes our interests better by refusing our requests; but at times he yields to us, that by experience we may be the more fully convinced of our own folly. In this manner, it happens every day that, by granting to those who believe in him more than is actually needed, he trains them to modesty and sober-mindedness for the future. Besides, this was of advantage to Peter and to the other disciples, and it is of advantage to us at the present day. The power of Christ shone more brightly in the person of Peter, when he admitted him as a companion, than if he had walked alone on the waters. But Peter knows, and the rest see plainly, that, when he does not rest with a firm faith, and rely on the Lord, the secret power of God, which formerly made the water solid, begins to disappear; and yet Christ dealt gently with him by not permitting him to sink entirely under the waters.  Both of these things happen to us; for as Peter was no sooner seized with fear than he began to sink, so the fleeting and transitory thoughts of the flesh immediately cause us to sink in the midst of our course of employments.  Meanwhile, the Lord indulges our weakness, and stretches out his hand, that the waters may not swallow us up altogether. It must also be observed that Peter, when he perceives the unhappy and painful consequences of his rashness, betakes himself to the mercy of Christ. And we too, though enduring just punishment, ought to betake ourselves to him, that he may have compassion on us, and bestow the aid of which we are unworthy.
31. O man of little faith. While our Lord kindly preserves Peter, he does not connive at Peter's fault. Such is the object of the chastisement administered, when Peter is blamed for the weakness of his faith. But a question arises, Does every kind of fear give evidence of a weakness of faith? for Christ's words seem to imply that, where faith reigns, there is no room for doubt.  reply: Christ reproves here that kind of doubt which was directly opposed to faith. A man may sometimes doubt without any fault on his part; and that is, when the word of the Lord does not speak with certainty on the matter. But the case was quite different with Peter, who had received an express command from Christ, and had already experienced his power, and yet leaves that twofold support, and falls into foolish and wicked fear.
Calvin points out Peter's haste which leads him to experience the folly of sinking, and also leads him to find the grace of our Savior's extended hand.

The Church too may leap hastily into turbulent waters confident in the strength of its faith or in the belief that it is being guided by the voice of the Spirit. I am confident that the Lord will be there to save His Church...  if it finally realizes that it has acted foolishly and rashly, and if it cries out for help as it goes under.

Right now, it looks like the Episcopal church has not yet recognized that the water is already waist high, rising quickly, and its feet are not standing on anything solid.

Once it admits its failure, I expect Christ to reply,
O church of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Thou art a port protected from storms which round us rise

Different denominations do things differently, and sometimes no one can remember why.

For example, this verse is not in every version of the hymn "O Day of Rest and Gladness", and I am not sure why.
"Thou art a port protected
From storms which round us rise;
A garden intersected
With streams of Paradise;
Thou art a cooling fountain
In life's dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah's mountain,
We view our promised land. "
"O Day of Rest and Gladness" by Author: Christopher Wordsworth (1862) Trinity Hymnal #392 (1990) verse 3.

Click on the link and check out the various hymnals that have this Hymn, and you can see that this verse is left out of many of them.

Any clues?

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Is There Something That Can Separate Us From His Love?

Today's sermon carefully avoided the Gospel reading about the feeding of the five thousand and used the following excerpt from Romans 8 as a launching point to talk about death.

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
The first half of our sermon could have been acceptable to a congregation of Unitarians, but we finally got around to the heart of the matter towards the end and learned that we have nothing to fear when we die for we have confidence in our Lord Jesus Christ and nothing can separate us from his love.

Or is there something that can separate us?

Both Paul and our homilist today were preaching to the choir. A Christian listener is strengthened and encouraged by the message in Romans 8:39. To the non-Christian it is rubbish.

Yes there is something that can separate us from the love of Christ, and we look at it every time we see ourselves in the mirror.

The other night as I was out on a walk, pondering the imponderables, a voice came to me saying,
"You are just a tool as far as God is concerned, just a means to His end. What happens to you is of no real concern to Him."
I was a bit taken aback and for a moment thought,
"Yeah, you're right."
Then the voice said,
"You don't have to be a tool, something to be used and discarded. You can be free, free to live your own life to the fullest." 
I thought,
That is when I recognized the voice of the Tempter and committed myself once again to walk in God's path however difficult and painful it might be and wherever it might lead since He has done the same for me (which is a tad bit more than the Tempter promised to do).

Some might say that the voice of temptation comes from within, some might say that it comes from without, but in either case if you listen to it, you will find exactly that something which can separate a person from the love of the Lord.
"There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us." Walt Kelly

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Valid Though Irregular?

From the National Catholic Reporter comes this fawning reminder of how we got here,
Forty years after the first women were ordained to be priests in the Episcopal church, its presiding bishop is uncertain where her -- yes, her -- spiritual home would be if the church still refused to ordain females.
"I don't know if I'd still be an Episcopalian," Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in an interview with NCR. "That's a good question."
The church at first declared those ordinations -- 11 women in Philadelphia on July 29, 1974, and four the next year in Washington, D.C. -- to be both "irregular" and "invalid," but eventually labeled them valid though irregular
A classic technique used by propagandists to advance a cause is to change the meaning of words. Episcopalians seem to be especially gullible to the propagandist's methods, and the National Catholic Reporter appears to be playing to a similar audience.

Sometimes a propagandist will let an unintentionally funny line slip through (emphasis added),
Another of the Philadelphia 11, Alison Cheek, now in her 80s, told NCR she believes that "women, by and large, as far as I can see, have done a really good job in the church, although some are hard to distinguish from the men."
At other times the propagandist reveals exactly who is in control of things,
"I think it was the press that saved us," she said, noting how the media, including the National Catholic Reporter, refused to let the ordinations story drop. 
Should of known better. After all, the National Catholic Reporter's Mission and Values web page lets you know what they are all about,
The National Catholic Reporter is the only significant alternative Catholic voice that provides avenues for expression of diverse perspectives, promoting tolerance and respect for differing ideas...
Our Core Values:
Operating out of the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, we are called to:
  • Social justice: Shining a light on stories of injustice and inequality, especially for the disadvantaged and marginalized.
  • Human dignity: Promoting respect and honor for all members of the human family
  • Inclusiveness: Embracing the global family, its rich diversity and the sacredness of all creation
  • Excellence: Striving to achieve the highest quality of journalism
Excellence? Sputter, gag, cough...
Our Vision:
We see a church alive with the Spirit, its members working around the world to embody and spread the message of the Gospels while relying on NCR as a trusted provider of information and a source of inspiration.
My opinion of NCR is not unlike the historical take on how things went down with the Philadelphia Eleven: Invalid and irregular.

My vision for this lowly blog is to be a bit more valid though a little bit irregular, especially in its use of grammar.