Every week I create a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs). I use them at my little church, but then I upload them here on my blog and give them away. You are free to use them in your own programs and projects at home, work, school, or church. Use them how you will. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here. Thanks.
May the Lord, who was
in the beginning,
who is now
and who forever will be,
be with you.
May he bless you with
May the risen Lord,
who has conquered death
and put away sin,
rise like the dawn in your life;
may he bring light to your darkness.
May the true light,
the light that brings life,
illuminate your life;
may you overcome the darkness.
I've been busy this week - like most pastors and preachers, with preparations for the various programs and functions and meals and services of Holy Week. My sermon notes, which are usually beginning to coalesce into something like a sermon by this point, are still an unorganized list of questions and comments.
The text for this Resurrection Sunday is John 20 : 1 - 18
Questions: Who is the "we" in Mary's initial report?
Why is there so little reaction to the angles? And clearly these are angels (vs 12) In Mark (16: 5) the women see " a young man dressed in a white robe" (who is probably an angel, but this isn't specified) and they were "alarmed" and ran away because they were afraid. In John, Mary sees two angels, turns around and, forgetting them, begins a conversation with the gardener (she thinks).
Does belief come before understanding?
Did Peter not believe at this point? The "other disciple? did, but what about Peter?
I've heard it said that Rabboni means more than just "teacher" - that it means something more like "divine teacher" but is that true? Is there a connection here to Jesus' statement in John 13, "...you call me teacher and lord..." ?
"Who is it you are looking for?" Could this be an indication of mass or multiple use graves?
Some scholars have argued that "the Beloved Disciple" was Lazarus... could that explain why he's hesitant to go into the tomb?
In addition to these questions (and several others...) I also made a list of doubles in this section - things that were repeated and said repeatedly.
-they have taken the/my Lord out of the tomb/ away and we/ I don't know where they have put him (vs 2, 13)
-The strips of linen lying there (vs 5, 6) -woman, why are you crying? (vs 13, 15) -ascended / ascending to the /my/your Father (vs 17) -Mary runs / the disciples run
Hopefully these, as yet, unorganized thoughts and questions will take form and become something like a sermon in the next day.
I know that actual Passover was a few nights ago on Tuesday. But in keeping with Holy Week traditions we're having ours tonight.
I've been cooking and getting things ready all day, and I still need to change before we begin, but I wanted to share a couple of photos .
Also, if you're interested, last year I shared the Haggadah that I have been tinkering with over the years. I put it together based on several different sources and have continually adjusted it over the 15 or so years that I've been doing this. Feel free to download it and to adjust it to your own use. (Also, please feel free to point out any errors that I might have made.)
You might notice that our Maror (bitter herbs) looks a little ... festive this year. I went to seven (7!) different stores looking for horseradish root - and no one had any. So we substituted regular radishes. Oh well... Next year in Jerusalem!
Each week I create a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs). I use them at my little church, but you are free to use them in your own projects at home, work, school, or church. Use them as you will, I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.
For those who are interested in this sort of thing - from left to right the images are 1) a very old and very beat up baritone mouthpiece, 2) an accidental and out of focus photo of my hand and 3) the skies above St. Paul, Minnesota.
The gates of the city
have lifted their heads
to receive and to welcome the king on his way.
On a donkey he rides and for glory he dies,
hung on a tree, rejected, despised.
We watch without seeing
and we see but we don’t understand
how the victorious king should die like man.
So beat the drum slowly and play the pipes low;
sing muted hosannas for the king on the way.
The F.B.I will not
return my phone calls; they don’t believe that my complaints have merit, so I
am keeping a record. Journaling each event so that 1-I don’t forget (I forget
things. Dr Sorensen says that writing them down will help.) And 2- so that
someone will believe me.
It started in
December 18: The sound of bowling balls on the roof. I
heard them, even if no one else did. Dad said I was having another ‘episode’
and said that we’d have to talk to Doctor Sorensen about changing the dosage on
my prescriptions. But, and this is how I know he’s wrong, I haven’t been taking
the meds. So It can’t be the pills that
caused an auditory hallucination. Not this time. I heard bowling balls- as if
someone was playing a couple of frames on the roof.
December 27: Slight seismic disturbances occurring precisely
every 21 minutes. Minor quakes. Just
enough to rattle the pictures on the wall a little. One of mom’s ceramic figurines
fell off the mantle. But those things were creepy anyway, so no big deal.
December 29: The sky was really red this
morning. What is it that they say about a red sky in the morning?
January 4: The quakes are happening
again. Stronger this time. And more frequently. I timed them; they’re every 17
minutes now. The dishes in the china cabinet have fallen. Mom’s pissed.
January 11: I spotted a helicopter following me home from
January 24: Congressmen W. Dickens visited our school
this afternoon. Dad didn’t vote for him but I think mom did. He said that the
government needs volunteers for an intense secret laboratory program. The congressman, not Dad…. God! What would he
know about government programs? Dad, that is, not the congressman.
Despite the protestations of my parents I have enlisted for the
Congressman’s secret program. More helicopters tailing me today. And the air
smelled strange – like grapefruit or glass cleaner… something weird.
January 39: Alright.anothr call. I should after happened
shortly. and prepared.
February 15: I think that my telephone calls are being
monitored. But by whom? The F.B.I. routinely monitors all communications made
by members of Congressman Dickens’ staff, but would they consider me to be a
part of the staff already? The program won’t begin for another 3 months. Or
could it be another agency?
February 16: Dickens has ordered me not to call his office.
We’re going radio silent. Incommunicado. Dark.
February 23: Ancillary turncoat brownbag lunches on the
grassy knoll. Six times seventeen is never home. Rainy days and factories
always leave me dry buttered toasted almond eyes. I have become what I am and
what you are or what I am inside.
March Tuesday: Shock type vibrations are being transmitted
at me from an unknown source. I suspect Mr. Maxfield at school. Could he be
hiding some sort of EMF generator / transmitter in the gym locker rooms?
April 1 da Fools. They’ll all get theirs. They will
Apl apple 35 Cannn open door door. Need hep. Peez helmee
It was September of the
year 2007 when Dantalion, the 71st of the 72 Spirits of Solomon,
appeared to me in a dream. He appeared
in a flash of sulphurous smoke and crash of thunder. “I have come to tell you
of mystical things and of riddles and of secrets beyond your ken,” he said as
wisps of smoke coiled around his legs. I
found it exceedingly difficult to look upon his face for his visage was
constantly in flux. Now he would have a
long narrow face with pinched cheeks, now a pallid, fleshy face with sagging
jowls, now the face of a highborn woman, and now the downy bearded face of a
boy at the cusp of manhood. Yet through
all these variations his voice remained constant. He spoke with the well enunciated cadences of
a learned professor.
He carried with him in
his right hand a large and heavy book, and from its pages he began to expound
upon a great number of topics: Commercial Painting in Fifteenth Century
Brussels, the Existential Phenomenology of Heidegger, a Brief History of
African Calligraphy, Polyphonic Expressionism in Everyday Mathematics,
Metamorphic Zoology, French Rhetoric, and Compulsory Bloodletting…to name a
From these subjects the Great Duke of Hell was able to extemporize, but what was
more astounding and most frightening to me was his ability to speak of my own
secret counsels, of my hidden aspirations.
He broke from his lectures to whisper of these in my ear, lest any other
demonic spirits be lurking about and by chance overhear. “I am,” he explained
to me, “a most discrete demon.”
And in my dream, the demon
Dantalion offered me a secret of his own.
From the book he carried in his right hand he withdrew a folded sheet of
paper – and it was almost literally a sheet, as large as a bed cloth. He laid
the large paper across a table and I saw that it was covered in many obscure
(and as many obscene) markings. These,
he explained, were his own original design drawings for an Electrostatic
Photographic Replication Device. “Truly a
marvelous invention, a machine for the age of business and technology,
profitable as well to educators and entertainers and all,” he said with obvious
“It’s an Electrostatic Photo…what?” I
“Yes! Yes! An Electrostatic Photographic Replication Device,” he repeated with
“It’s a copy machine?” I think I must
have laughed and I saw his face (or rather his faces) fall, his ego
wounded. He snapped shut the covers of
his large and heavy book and, with a thunderous crash and the whiff of sulphur
he was gone again. He departed in such
an agitated hurry that he left behind his drawings. I still have them, though
like the road maps shoved in the glove box of my car, I have not been able to refold
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of friendship and respect between men and women of different religious traditions in a meeting today with ecumenical and interfaith leaders - including, as pictured here, General Linda Bond - the international leader of the Salvation Army.
Here is another of my attempts at hymnody - We Wave Our Branches and We Shout Hosanna! - in which I have arranged Psalm 47 and John 12: 12 - 16 to be sung to the popular hymntune Sine Nomine (which means "without a name.") That melody was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) and is familiar to many as the hymn For All the Saints.
1 O clap your hands, all
peoples of the earth,
shout to the Lord with your loud songs of joy
for he is king and all the world is his; we wave our branches and we shout
2 We gather here as
people of the Lord
to sing to God, sing praises with a psalm
and he will save the people that he loves; we wave our branches and we shout
3 God has ascended amid
shouts of joy.
We praise his name with trumpets and our songs.
We will not fear, behold our king is come; we wave our branches and we shout
I have written a number of Biblical Limericks, and I have been enjoying them even if no one else has. But I thought I might try something different for a while. So now... Biblical Haiku. I haven't used the 5-7-5 syllable pattern that we were taught in school - it's not a very accurate representation of the Haiku pattern.
People who come into my office sometimes comment on the "gargoyles" I have on my bookshelf. (They sit alongside a few statues of varioussaints.) But I have to correct them. They aren't really gargoyles. They are grotesques.
Gargoyles are grotesques - but of a specific kind. Gargoyles are waterspouts. They gargle - hence the name.
If it's not a waterspout, it 's a grotesque, which is derived from the Latin word grotto or "hidden place."
I have been reading from the Gospel of John quite a bit recently and I have decided that from now on I will be answering questions the way that Jesus did.
Q -"Mr. Carter, where are your statistical reports for this month?" A - "Those who know me know me in the light and while it is light they can see what I do. But the night is coming and who will fill out those reports when there is no light?"
Q - "Mr. Carter, we really need your reports..." A - "There are numbers of things and my Father has made them all. He will count them and has counted them and he knows each one."
It's one of the things I do - I make these background images that are suitable for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs) presentations and I share them here on my blog. They are yours if you want them. Use them in your own projects at home, work, school, church or whatever. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.
This particular image is a close up detail of some purple curtains in my daughter's room. I like photographing the details and textures of things.
Are you kidding me? A novel based on the mini-series based on the book? I thought it was a joke, but it's not. It is A Story of God And All Of Us.
This is what I feared all along. The History channel's mini-series The Bible, produced by such Christian luminaries as Roma Downy and Mark Burnett is, at its heart, NOT about bringing people closer to the God of the bible, but bringing its producers closer to their god, Mammon. If it were actually about The Bible, then they'd be pointing people towards the source.. you know... the Bible. Seems sorta' obvious to me.
-From a Review at Amazon.com: "When I watched the first episode of the epic TV miniseries "The Bible," I remember thinking to myself, "This is spectacular, but what if I want to engage with these stories on a deeper level." After watching and re-watching the entire series, it still felt like something was missing...
Thank God for this book! Finally, all the stories from the Bible have been gathered into a single text!" Oh good grief! God must sure like stupid people, because he made so many of them.
Why do we still use the expression "dial" when talking about our phones? Our phones don't use dials any more - haven't for a long time. And if you tried to use a telephone with an actual dial it probably wouldn't even be compatible with contemporary phone lines. But we still talk about dialing numbers and we listen for the dial tone...
The word came from the round face of a "sun-dial" and most likely is derived from the medieval Latin word diallis - "day."
There are two more pictures of this old rotary phone that I found in our local thrift store - here and here.
“…is that you, darling?”
she asked but the phone hadn’t rung. Not
yet. The phone in her fourth floor
apartment (no elevator) didn’t ring often, and it wouldn’t ring for another sixteen
days. “Hello? Is that you, my darling?”
To tell the story this
way, however, is probably unfair to her.
She wasn’t regarded by those how knew her as weird or loony. Melanie Hastings Lewis worked as a paralegal,
drove a car, and paid her bills on time.
There was nothing especially noteworthy about her life. She had friends and went on dates like other
But there was this… Whenever he would call, Melanie Hastings Lewis,
who was so normal in every other respect, when he would telephone, she always answered sixteen days earlier.
“…is that you, darling?”
I found the rotary phone in this and yesterday's photo in our local thrift store. All kinds of treasures there.
One of the things I'm tying to do this year is to write new hymns (or at least new words for old hymn tunes). Sometimes I think it must be awfully presumptuous of me, but I usually just try to ignore that particular voice in my head.
This song is based on Mary's anointing of Jesus in John 12: 1 - 11 and on Song of Songs 1: 2 (which I wrote about earlier.) The music is the hymn tune Eudoxia. Feel free to use it as your own, if you like it.
While the King Is at His Table
While the king is at
table full of grace,
I’ll pour out my perfume
with its strong fragrance.
He is God’s anointed;
I’ll anoint him too,
with this precious oil
and the love he’s due.
In John 12: 1- 11 we read about Mary (sister to Martha and Lazarus)'s anointing of Jesus' feet with nard (or, spikenard, as some translations have it) and then wiping them with her hair. I have several somewhat-unconnected thoughts and questions as I begin to think about this text in preparation for preaching this Sunday.
In Mark (14: 1 - 11) and Matthew's telling of this story (26: 6- 13) -(Luke doesn't have it)- the story takes place at the home of of one "Simon the Leper", the woman is unidentified, and the story takes place after the triumphal entry / Palm Sunday event. In John's telling the home seems to belong to Lazarus and his sisters (though it doesn't say so specifically), the woman is identified as Mary, and the story takes place before the triumphal entry /Palm Sunday event.
I said that Luke doesn't have this story - but that might not be altogether accurate.. In Luke 7: 36 - 50 Jesus has dinner at the home of "Simon the Pharisee" when an unidentified and sinful woman comes in to anoint Jesus' feet with her tears and perfume and to wipe them with her hair (and this also is before the triumphal entry / Palm Sunday event.)
So...do we have 3 different happenings? One at "Simon the Leper's", one at "Simon the Pharisee's" and one at Lazarus' house? On the whole, that seems doubtful. Some have suggested that "Simon the Leper" = "Simon the Pharisee" = Lazarus and that Mary = the sinful woman =unidentified woman. But, that seems doubtful as well.
Perhaps what we have is one common event that is something like all of these tellings - but not exactly like any of them. We might consider that each of the gospel writers has taken this common story and adjusted it to the needs of his particular narrative, adding characters here, changing the location there, shifting the timeline, creating dialogue, etc... as needed.
We might also notice how John has described Mary, Martha and Lazarus. In John's telling Lazarus is reclining at the table with Jesus, Martha is serving the meal, and Mary is worshiping Jesus. Does this sound familiar? It should. Compare this story to Luke 10: 38 - 42... Lazarus isn't there but Martha is in the kitchen and Mary is at Jesus' feet. Has John borrowed a bit from this story as well?
And a thought about that nard that Mary poured over his feet. This story is already fairly charged with some underlying eroticism ("feet" occasionally being a Hebrew euphemism for genitals, the intimate touching, the unbound hair...) so I hesitated to allow this next connection. But in the Song of Songs 1: 12 we read, "While the king was at his table, my nard spread forth its fragrance." And the very next story in John is Jesus' entry into the city of Jerusalem where he is hailed as "king" "See, your king is coming..." Not only is her anointing for Jesus' burial (preemptively) but also to identify Jesus as the king.
Another suggestion that I found today says Simon was the father of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha...oh, and also (according to John 6:71) of Judas Iscariot. Impressive family, if true, but still seems unlikely to me...
And finally - Here is a short little piece of music that I have arranged for this story:
It is an established
point of history that FDR established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) with
secret and nefarious purposes known only to himself and his trusted advisors. To the public the CCC provided
public works and jobs. But the hidden
agenda of the CCC, its true raison d’être
was to eliminate all evidence of inter-dimensional visitors as recorded by
Native Americans in the petroglyphs of the American southwest as part of a vast
governmental conspiracy to cover up the existence of non-human intelligent life
Carved into the rocks
and cliff walls near Phoenix, Arizona are countless images of strange desert
creatures and bizarre travelers of the air – but how many more were destroyed
in the dynamiting and blasting done by the CCC?
What messages have been lost?
What precious records were destroyed?
What was being covered up by the CCC’s systematic destruction of these
ancient and sacred documents?
It is difficult to
classify these visitors. They do not
appear to be biological – and so cannot be grouped together with other accounts
of Extraterrestrial Biological Entities (EBEs). Instead they appear to be holographic life
forms, manifesting themselves in orbs of blinking and shimmering light,
holographic entities intruding into the night sky of this physical realm. They don’t have any mass. They make no noise. And my intuitive sense is
that they are evil.
The native tribes that
lived in the American southwest carved pictures of these trans-dimensional beings
into the rocks of the desert. They drew
pictures of spiraling balls of light, of tailless lizard men rising from the
desert sands, and of winged bird men imparting sacred teachings to humans. They also carved doorways into the stones for
these alien beings. These sacred
mountains are the home of alien spirits when they visit this tangible world.
We also find in these
petroglyphs a great many pictures of the seafaring Phoenician giants that once
lived on this continent. The name
Phoenix, Arizona does not derive, after all, from the mythical bird that is
consumed by fire only to rise from its ashes.
It is named in honor of the Phoenician giants. They were very powerful entities, and the
tribes that lived here feared them, almost as much as they feared the dark
star, holographic creatures in the night skies.
The future was
yesterday when we cared, yesterday when all our troubles seemed so very far
away, when we still thought we could change things. When we still thought that
it mattered. We’ve learned some hard
truths since yesterday.
We can look back now
and laugh. It was just (“just…” God! How
lightly I use that word…) the fear of nuclear oblivion that led us to mistake
weather balloons and pelicans for visitors from another world. I remember that poor Air Force pilot who
crashed his plane while chasing the shadow of Venus across the sky. I laugh a little when I think of it. I know I shouldn’t; he died in that crash and
his two daughters grew up without their father.
But still…. Chasing the shadow of Venus?
You tell me with a straight face that isn’t funny.
It was widely reported
that the Virgin Mary herself appeared in a flying saucer over Fatima,
Portugal. Thousands of devout worshippers
flocked to the fields to see her, craning their necks uncomfortably so they
could stare into the sky. They screamed
as they watched her craft plummeting toward the earth. But then it suddenly stopped, halted in its descent
by some unknown, unspeakable force. And then it abruptly zoomed upward and forever
out of sight.
But , after all these
things, tell me this, answer this one little question for me: Why is Dr. Robert R. Sauvak in hiding? If the bright orange lights seen over the
White House were nothing more than atmospheric anomalies, as it has been so
widely reported, why has Dr. Sauvak been forced underground? And exactly why is the Canadian Bureau of
Transport investigating geo-magnetism? Isn’t that just a bit out of their purview?
We now know, but still few have believed, in the last years of the twentieth century
human affairs were being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater
than our own. This is something real,
not visionary, not fictitious. It is not
a scientific romance. This isn’t Percival Lowell’s imaginary canals
built by an ancient dying civilization on the dehydrated surface of Mars. This isn’t the Chariot of the Gods. Or Stonehenge or Ley Lines or crop circles…This
This is nothing less than the very real and dark, visceral fear of the unnamed
Other, the Thing in the Dark, the Thing From Another World. How long can we hold a grudge? How long can we blame the Communists? This is
bigger than them. This is bigger than
all of us.
The vast number of
cattle mutilations alone should convince us of that. Why it’s almost industrial in scale, but
still we laugh at the reports and at the witnesses. When, all the while, we should be
afraid. These cattle mutilations are a
surreptitious invasion technique. The
same is true of the disappearance of honey bees. Reports of faeries are nothing new; why
object now when we speak of alien incursions into our airspace?
I don’t know if this
message will reach you; the telephone lines have all been jammed. The spotlight of the entire cold war security
apparatus (you thought it had all been dismantled, didn’t you?) has now been
turned toward this issue. Fighter jets
have been dispatched from nearby air-bases, but I fear that it will be too
little and too late.
Saint Antimony of Egypt, also known as Saint
Antimony the Great, Antimony of the Desert, and Antimony the Monk-Killer was a Christian
saint from Egypt and prominent leader among the Desert Alchemists. The
biography of Antimony’s life, written by Father Arsen, helped to spread the
concept of anti-monasticism. He is often
credited as the father of all monk killers, but this is due, largely, to his excessively
Saint Antimony is often appealed
to against fires, particularly house fires. In the past, many such conflagrations
were referred to as “Saint Antimony’s Fire.”
O Father Antimony, by prayer you would extinguish the fires of the
universe. Wherefore, intercede with Christ our God to save our souls from the
lake of fire.
It's something I've been doing for a little over a year now - I make a new background image for powerpoint (or similar presentation programs) slides. I use them at my little church, but you are free to download them and to use them in your own projects- at home, at school, at work or church. Use them however you will. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.
-This week's image came from a lampshade and a wall of peeling paint.
In the parable of the Lost Son (not the Prodigal Son) which son loved the
father? The younger son who, in effect, said,
‘Dad, I can’t wait for you to die; give me my money now,” or the older son who
stayed at home as his father’ “slave” fearful to ever step out of line and
break his father’s “commands”? Which son
loved the father? Neither…
Which son understood his father? The
younger son who thought he’d have to beg and plead for his father’s forgiveness
and for a position as a hired hand or the older son who believed that his
father to be miserly and would never even give him one measly goat? Which son understood his father? Neither…
Which son did the father love? The
recklessly wasteful son who blew his inheritance or the embittered angry
son? Which son did the father love? Both…
The disciples had forgotten to bring
bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,”
Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of
They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about
having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do
you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you
remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many
basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many
basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still
not understand?” Mark 8: 14 – 20
I gotta’ say, I’m with
the disciples on this one. I don’t
understand. Sometimes I think Jesus is being purposefully difficult.
‘I’m not talking about
bread,’ he says – and then to illustrate the fact that he’s not talking about
bread he says, ‘remember what I did with the bread?’
Dear Saint Frankenstein,
you who were always and continually
forced to be the stranger
and the wanderer upon the ice,
the unwelcomed, unwanted who never even had a name except that of your vainglorious father,
help us in this, our hour of need,
as we face the infliction of injustice
Help us to turn from terror and hate
to the joy of Christ’s loving embrace.
First of all - most of
the people I've met and worked with don't even know what the word means. They have heard it most of their lives and
have assumed that it means something like 'runaway'. But it doesn't. It means wastefully or recklessly extravagant
- which is an accurate description of the younger son in Jesus' parable (Luke
15: 11 - 32)...
to call him the
'Prodigal Son' breaks up the triplet of
Jesus' parables recorded by Luke. In
chapter 15, as Jesus is speaking to both the "tax collectors and
sinners" who are gathered around to hear him and to the muttering
"Pharisees and the teacher of the law," Jesus tells three related
The Parable of the Lost
Sheep (15: 3 - 7)
The Parable of the Lost
Coin (15: 8 - 10)
and the Parable of the
Lost (not prodigal) Son (15: 11 - 32)
To call him the
'Prodigal Son' breaks up that series of connected stories, separates him from
the sheep and the coin. Luke put them together that way on purpose - connected
them with the word 'lost' because he intended us to interpret them
So... can we agree to
not call him the 'Prodigal Son' any longer?
In recent months I have
been trying to lose arguments. It’s a
bit like that scene in the movie Fight
Club when Tyler Durden tells everyone that their homework is to pick a
fight with a complete stranger – and then to lose – except that I’m not really
going out of my way to start fights or arguments. I’m just trying to lose them. It doesn't happen often, but every now and
then something that I post on my blog or a comment that I make on the Facebook,
or a link that I share riles up some of my friends and, there you go, instant debate, ready-made
But I've tried to make
it my personal policy to not have the last word in these animated discussions –
even when I think I could make a cogent point or that I could correct someone’s
mistake. I might respond once or twice, but instead of trying to make sure that
I have the final (and therefore victorious) word) I try to let it go. I try to lose. I don’t want to be that guy who’s up all
night because “someone on the internet is wrong.”
Admittedly, however, it doesn't always go as planned. Sometimes,
after I've left what will be my final response, no one else says anything more –
and I’m stuck with the final
word. Or, sometimes, I forget myself and
get more involved than I had intended.
But still. I’m trying to lose.
It is an honor for a
man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. – Proverbs 20:
(and, please understand, I am not calling my friends fools. I am trying to avoid being the fool.)
When his friends heard
about all the troubles that had come upon him they set out from their homes and
met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance they could
hardly recognize him, they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and
sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they
sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw
how great his suffering was.
-Job 2: 11 - 13
I came not to speak,
but to sit,
not to advise, but to listen.
Once I had spoken
but now I cover my mouth.
And what could I say, anyway?
I couldn't lie;
life is hard,
and I think I could understand
if you felt like you just couldn't go on.
But, whether locked psych ward or dung heap
I will sit with you, and there will still be sunlight waiting on the hillside.
The table where I’m sitting, the books open in front of me – I see these things
only as they existed in the past, as they existed in that brief space of time
(however minute) that it took for photons of light to bounce from their surface
to my eyes, and then to be translated into electrical signals by the optic
nerves, transmitted to the brain and interpreted as a table and books.
We can see only the past. There is no present. There is no now.
And there can be no vision of the future (except in imagination and
revelation). No matter how fast those photons are travelling, I can’t see them
before they arrive.
My first response was: “to the internets!”
But that wasn't as helpful as I had anticipated. The copies of Josephus available on the web
all seem to use a different numbering system than the one from which Joel was
quoting. No problem. I’ll just go to the library. But the small town library here doesn't even
have a copy of Josephus. All right... no
problem. To the bookstore! While in St Paul, Minnesota over the weekend, I stopped
at Barnes and Nobel to pick up a copy – but they didn't have one either; neither could they locate one in any of the Barnes and Nobel locations in the
entire Twin Cities area. Good grief!
Fortunately the end of my quest was at hand.
Near the Barnes and Noble store was a Half Price Books store. And they
had a marvelous hardback and illustrated copy of the complete works of Josephus
for a mere $7.99. It even includes a
conversion table for the differing number systems as an index at the back. Huzzah!
Now armed with an English translation and a way to find the appropriate
portions of the text, I went once more into the breach.
In chapter 3 (His Kydoimos) Joel sets the stage for
slicing open of Mark’s gospel with the tool of Mimetic Criticism – and this
requires locating the gospel in an historical setting – the “when” of the
gospel (which in turn, helps us to understand the “why” of the gospel.)
All through the tangle of that desperate fray stalked slaughter and
doom. The incarnate Kydoimos raved
through the rolling battle; at her side paced Death the ruthless, and the
Fearful Fates, beside them strode, and in red hands bare murder and the groans
of dying men.[iii]
Kydoimos, according to
the ancient Greek poets and playwrights, was the personification, the
incarnation, if you will, of the noise and din and chaos and cacophony of
battle. Mark’s gospel begins, not in
silence, but in the shout and clamor of the battles and skirmishes of the
Jewish revolt against Rome. Joel uses
the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus to describe the rising volume of
that battle noise, beginning softly enough in the early years of the first
century and crescendoing through the year 70 CE with the destruction of the
Temple and of the city of Jerusalem and the failure of the Jewish revolt.
“The aftermath of a
year of civil war, terrible news coming from Judea, the unlikely return of
Jesus, and the coming news being marshaled out at the tip of a legionnaire’s
sword that Vespasian was now declared the Jewish Messiah caused the leaderless
Christian community to contemplate how – or even if they should – move forward…The
choice for the proto-Christian community is simple –either a dead brigand or a
live victorious general who became the emperor of the entire world in Judea
with the proclamation of a new Pax
Romana. This is Mark’s social crisis – where is Jesus?” [iv]
Mark’s gospel is not“good news” of a warm and cuddly variety. It is not marshmallow sunshine and strawberry
scented rainbows. The Gospel of Mark is
nothing less than a literary act of war against the messianic claims of
Vespasian, a polemical attack on the emperor’s claim to be the Messiah and
Savior of the world.
“Mark does not
surrender and proves that resistance is not futile. He finds his transcript and begins to
reconstruct a reality challenging Augustan theology.”[v]
In chapter 4 (His Pedagogue) Joel compares the gospel
of Mark to the writings of the Roman poet / historian Marcus Annaeus Lucan
(commonly known as Lucan). Once a prominent
and popular poet and childhood friend of Emperor Nero, Lucan fell from the good
graces of the Emperor when he began to criticize and challenge the Emperor and
the Empire. His short life came to a
rather abrupt end (much like the gospel of Mark) when he joined a conspiracy
against Nero. The group was discovered
and Lucan was convicted of treason and “encouraged” to commit suicide.
Joel finds in Lucan’s
writings a pattern and a style and a method that seems to have influenced the
writer of the Gospel of Mark. The poetic
abuse of language, the multi-layered meanings, the polemical reversals… these
are Lucan’s tricks copied into Mark’s writing.
This chapter was relatively short and I would have liked to have read more
about Lucan. But ultimately this isn't a
book about Lucan… so the next several chapters turn to a mimetic reading of
Joel L. Mimetic Criticism and the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and
Commentary, Wipf & Stock, Eugene Oregon, 2013.
before – this is not a criticism of Joel’s work. The ignorance is mine.
I didn't watch The History Channel's The Bible when it premiered earlier tonight - I was otherwise occupied watching The Walking Dead on AMC. To be honest, I haven't been particularly interested. It is, after all, the Hitler History Channel. I remember when the Hitler History channel used to have historical (or quasi-historical, at least) programming.
And I'm not terribly fond of most made for television documentaries about the bible. They're not terribly reliable. They can't be. Television isn't about the programming, it's about selling commercials. The advertising drives the programming. So sensationalism and emotionalism rule.
So I haven't been expecting much from it. Except...
2) Ray Comfort isn't comfortable with it. And if he's not endorsing it then it just might be worth watching.
Ray posted the following warning as his Facebook status earlier this evening:
"It's been brought to my attention, by a reliable source who conducted thorough research, that there are a number of unbiblical and very questionable things in "The Bible" television series - about the deity of Christ, the character of God, and the reality of sin (among other things.) In light of this recent revelation, I cannot endorse this series. If you choose to watch it, I would urge you to do so with a discerning heart, testing all things."
It's too bad Ray doesn't encourage his followers to watch his programming with discernment. But enough about Ray.
I like some of Rod (the Rogue Demon Hunter)'s comments. The program was done by a British company with British writers and British actors - so, of course, it comes across as very... British. It's not the accents that bother me - but I would like at some point to see a production of biblical programs that utilizes actors of Middle Eastern descent.
I'll be watching it later tonight. Perhaps it will exceed my expectations.
Each week I create a new background image for use in Powerpoint (or similar presentation programs). I use them in the worship services of our little church and share them here on this blog. They are free for you to download and to use in your own projects at home, work, school, or church. Use them as you will. I only ask that you share them freely and that you tell others that you found them here.
This week's photo was taken in a parking garage in downtown St. Paul.
In the recent outrage party held by some Christians in response to the Saturday Night Live Skit DJesus Uncrossedsome whined that 'it's not fair the way the media picks on Christians... whaaaaa.... They never pick on anyone else like that. whaaaaaa...."
But you know, it's just not true.
This remains one of my favorite bits.
No more Mr. Passive Resistance. This time he's out to kick some butt.
"How we deal with death is at least as important as how we
deal with life."
Captain Kirk in Star Trek II
David Marcus: You
were smart enough to tell Saavik that how we deal with death is at least as
important as how we deal with life.
Kirk: Just words…
David Marcus: But good words. That’s where ideas begin.
Star Trek II
On Thursday I received a phone call telling me that a friend of mine
had either tried to, or threatened to commit suicide. I had only just
returned home from Omaha, Nebraska after four days of meetings, but I
immediately threw a few more clean shirts and underwear into my bag and drove
another five hours to visit him in the hospital.
One thing that I try to remind myself of when visiting with someone in crisis
situations like this is that Job's friends were great friends for the first
seven days - until they opened their mouths.
So far I haven't said much. I've tried to listen without offering advice
(especially that kind of noxious advice that well meaning Christians proffer: You
just need to trust God... You just need to pray...) But he and I (and
another of our friends that is here) are fans of Star Trek so these words have
come to mind. Like Kirk, I'm not sure I always believe them. And I
worry that to my friend in crisis they will sound like "just
But that's where ideas begin. It might be where hope begins...
For those who might be curious about such things - the picture above is my own
work. It was created from a photograph of an Enterprise model that my
other friend (the non-crisis friend) put together, as well as a photo of a lace
curtain and a photo some red onions.