Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Archive for the tag “E100”

The Gospel Train will soon be pulling into the #E100 Station

We are nearly there. Five more readings and that’ll be the Essential 100 read. Phew.

The last time I posted about it, it was the Sermon on the Mount. Since then I have read about the miracles, Easter, Pentecost and Paul’s Missionary journeys.

So that was the end of the kind of narrative, in narrative form, with the early church firing ahead into Judea, Samaria and to the “ends of the earth”.

I found the next bunch of passages kind of tricky because they were so different in nature to the preceding ones – and so utterly familiar. Every line rang some sort of a bell and my mind was racing ahead of my eyes in one version or another; there were so many famous verses and passages.

This was kind of odd after so much narrative to move into so much more intimate theology and direct instruction. The letters have a personal voice and had a more finite (in the first instance) audience and the suggestion of a cultural context that today’s readership are necessarily only partially aware.

And there is so much in these passages! Too much to take in through the speedy overview that is the E100.

One theme that seems to be kind of “new” is death. The Old Testament stories don’t really take to do with death – well, I mean, there is plenty of death in the Old Testament – but  (I may well be wrong) there doesn’t seem to be much consideration of it or concern about it. There is a sense that death is not the end and there is some kind of “for ever” – but the mechanics and the details are not really thrashed out.  The people are concerned with life before death and how to live it. The people in the stories are living under God – either in a manner that pleases him, or in a manner that pleases them. And the promises for the future are about (again, I may be wrong) promises for future generation on the earth.

But, in these New Testament passages there is a lot about death – as the early church teased out the implications of the resurrection.

There is, as a result, a lot of fleshing out of how to live in response to this hope. Suddenly this life is not what it is about – and because of that the believer’s conduct in this life, perhaps surprisingly, becomes infinitely more important.

The believer is living in a spiritual state, in a spiritual battle – superimposed on earthly life.

In one breath it is a battle; in the next it is a saturation in love.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1 vs 3-9

Great stuff!

The text here is so dense with great concepts: mercy, hope, faith, salvation, love, joy. A lot to take in on a quick skim.

So, I am interested here that the “end result” of faith, as stated here, is “the salvation of your souls”. Now the “Land” was supposed to the be the inheritance through the covenant with Abraham – although the original covenant contained other ideas:

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12 vs 2 and 3

My brain is having to stretch quite far to join these up. I mean, I get it – because of the death and resurrection of Jesus ” all peoples in earth will be blessed” – but the scope of the thing is … large.

So, Revelation next week will likely push my mind further still.

Nearly there.

c. 1449

c. 1449 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Getting back from getting away from it all

We were away up north for a week and suffered from a serious lack of 3G and Wifi coverage. I suppose it was good therapy: no need to check my phone every five minutes. Not that there is a need, as such, in real life. On the plus side I got around to reading “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood which I had been failing to get around to for a few years.

In place of wifi, I had nature in spectacular form. The Cairngorms were looking amazing – I am sure the skiers couldn’t believe their luck. Brilliant blue sky and snow. It was a bit sub-zero, though – but perfect weather for running – and the “Old Logging” path was great for that. At the chalet we had pine trees and a squirrel and plenty of wee rabbits too. And we went to see the Ospreys at the RSPB place as well, seeing EJ and Odin and their domestic wrangling in the nest. I’ve just had a look at the Osprey blog and it seems that their tiff has escalated….

I managed to keep up with the E100 though. I think it appeals to my Pharisee nature to keep up the daily reading despite the holidays. We have finished the Old Testament readings and today was the first of the New.

The Old Testament now seems kind of different to me than it did before. All of the one-off “big” bible stories now have more of a context for me and are incidents in a bigger narrative – and that has been potentially revolutionary in my reflections. In response I bought and read Amy Orr Ewing’s “Why Trust the Bible?” The first few chapters were excellent. She managed to put all my thoughts about truth and postmodernism far more clearly than I have ever managed. It is always encouraging to find someone who thinks things you have thought, independently.

She then has a good section on the history of the physical bible – the fragments and parchments. Normally I find this kind of “evidence” neither here nor there – in a matter of faith it makes little difference. But she managed to keep it interesting.

The book then dipped a bit for me and became a bit… I dunno… parochial/narrow. Admittedly, with that title, she is trying to be persuasive – but the academic argument kind of gave way to weaker and more unhelpfully biased arguments. And the chapter on sexuality was jarring as she referred to a since-discredited study – so I found my skin crawling at that section – but still – I am looking forward to reading her other book “Is it real?” as I find her style academic yet accessible in the main.

So, we’re back. Looking forward to visiting my favourite blogs again 🙂

 

20130415-061551 PM.jpg

The bible is going in faster than I thought #E100

The E100 is moving on apace – I am more than a quarter through and my head is spinning. I was glad to get past the Exodus and into more unfamiliar waters, or desert, actually.

So, we had the ten commandments, then we got them again, then Joshua took over and crossed the Jordan in the same way Moses crossed the Red Sea – this miraculous crossing seems to get less cultural coverage than the Red Sea one. I wonder why. They set up some stones to mark the crossing  and the fulfilment of the promise of the Promised Land. But archaeologists have never found them. But the writer says they are “here to this day” whenever that was.

Then we have the famous Battle of Jericho, and a lot of carnage.

Then we go into the wild and random book of Judges that should really be made into more movies than it already has been. The Israelites have gone all subjective, postmodern and pluralistic, and so their community goes horribly wrong. Occasionally, someone recaptures the vision and sorts it out for a bit, but they tend to get sucked back into periods of 40 years in metaphorical wildernesses as generation after generation forget about the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the story of the Exodus and the arrival in the Promised Land.

There are some great moments – I want to do a bit of creative writing about Gideon skulking in the wine press and Samson with his fire fox idea, and his marriages and his nagging wives. But this whole phase and book of Judges is pretty much unsavoury. Not to mention the tent peg drive through that fellow’s temple…

Jael and Sisera

Jael and Sisera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was a better moral playing field – although there were some game-rules that were a little odd, from my West of Scotland perspective. Ruth was certainly sticking to her convictions and playing by the rules and then some – going the extra mile and ending up with a wee baby who next week will turn out to be the grandfather, I think, of King David.

Anyway.

Me, Joseph and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” #E100

English: Joseph made ruler in Egypt

English: Joseph made ruler in Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been Joseph week in the E100.  I must admit, I have been tempted to skim in places. Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and co, the story is very familiar – the downside is that my usual ability to quote scripture is usurped by a propensity to break into lyrics from the musical.

The lyrics are practically in my blood.

“Joesph and the Amazing Tecnhicolour Dream Coat” was one of the few LPs we had, besides ABBA’s “Arrival” and various Wombles albums.  We played it and played it and the whole musical became embedded in my subconscious.

This was handy for trips up north to visit my Gran – in the days before various roads and bridges were opened and the currently four hour journey used to take seven.

At some point on the journey, we would begin singing: “Way, way, back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began, Jacob lived in the land of Canaan, a fine example of a family man…”

I don’t know if we even would have had a radio in the car back then – but that far north there wouldn’t have been a signal, I’m sure, even if we had.

Whole musical. Beginning to end.

By the time we were nearly there, we were on to reciting adverts. I was sitting in the middle and my sisters, one on either side, were prodding me in the bladder for a laugh. Ho Ho.

Roll on fifteen years or so – and we are living for a short time as four generations in one house. I end up having to share with my nephew. He is about four or five months old and not sleeping through the night. When he wakes, my sister comes through, sings him a lullaby and he goes back to sleep.

One night, he just doesn’t settle. I am lying there, as I always did, pretending to be asleep so that she didn’t feel bad about him sharing with me and waking me. She tried a few songs. Nothing worked. Then I heard…  “Way, way, back many centuries ago, not long after the Bible began, Jacob lived in the land of Canaan, a fine example of a family man…” and I thought:

NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

The sudden prospect of two hours of Lloyd Webber in the wee small hours was enough to break me. My tolerance finally cracked and I expelled the infant.

Roll on one or two years, and I have my first live Joseph experience, going to see Phillip Schofield in Edinburgh which I’ve posted about before.  Then twice more.

Now I am trying to make it through the actual story. Two summary insights: Reuben was a good guy, and God was in control and it all made sense with hindsight for Joseph.

So, if you are ever putting on a production of Joseph and your narrator comes down with the lurgy – give me a call.

*sings* “And a man who can interpret could go far…… could become a star……”

Relevant? Eh…totally :-) #E100

Some things never change. People, particularly.

This week I am reading about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The stories may be ancient – but the issues are very human and pretty much timeless.

There is a bit where Abraham thinks he is going to get beaten up and killed for having a beautiful wife, so he coerces her to lie to the Egyptians and say she is his sister, so they will let him live. This results in her getting drawn into the household of the Egyptian monarchy, until they figure it out and confront him.

Meanwhile in the news we have the Huhne court case. Pryce claims she is not guilty of perverting the course of justice on the grounds of marital coercion – that her husband made her take his speeding penalty points, until the story came out and he was confronted.

Today I am reading about Jacob pretending he is Esau and passing off his meal as that produced by his brother.

In the background we have the horsemeat scandal where it turn out that 100% beef can mean 100% horse. He was 100% Jacob pretending to be 100% Esau.

It seems that being deceitful and self-serving goes back a long way. I suppose that is one of the Bible’s points, though.

Will we ever learn?

“Babel”: a poem

Theoretical linguistics

Theoretical linguistics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Babel

The same, the same, the same, the same.
Unity and power;
Time to build a tower;
Brick by brick by brick by brick.
Uniform blocks not random rocks;
The same, the same, the same.

Everyone we call on understands;
Everyone we’ve gathered from every land;
Together we can build;
Together we will stand;
Together we’ll be known in every land.

Fame for us,
A name for us,
The same for us.

Dull?
DULL?
Dull.

Misunderstanding.

Varied vocabularies,
Diverse dialects:
The community, confused,
Bemused,
Abandoned the plan.

People went to places.
They cultivated cultures
And valued variety.
Contrasting and vibrant.

That made all the difference.
That settled it.

Singing from the Same Hymn Sheet #E100

English: The Tower of Babel

English: The Tower of Babel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Consistency, agreement and teamwork are “good things”. Pulling the team together in the one direction can lead to great things. Then you know where you are and what you are about.

The people in Genesis decided where they were and what they were about and set about establishing themselves. So they decided to build a city. Not on rock and roll.

This doesn’t meet with God’s approval, so he confuses the languages of the people and they stop their building projects and move away from the beginnings of the city to establish themselves over “the face of the whole earth”.

So the moral of the story seems to be that uniformity and centralization were not part of God’s plan at this stage in the set up of civilization.

This was the story of the tower of Babel.

It made me consider a few issues: the relationship between language and power; the relationship between language and community; where we are with language and translation today.

Language and power is a big issue now and historically in Scotland. Language is important to me as it connects me to people and places. Today googletranslate is completely brilliant – unless you want to translate regional dialects.

Robert Crawford wrote an interesting poem “Simultaneous Translation”, about (I think) the odd, almost subconscious awareness of the moment of translation – and the fact that we all live within our own wee idiolect, dialect or language – but we share the earth with people who use an infinite array of idiolects. And we are all translating all the time. Here’s an excerpt:

This is where we all live now,

Wearing something like a Sony Walkman,

 

Hearing another voice every time we speak.

A girl opens her mouth and an Oxbridge bass

 

Is talking in English. What is she really saying?

Already her finger is starting to creep

 

Closer to the binding of a parallel text,

Between the lines, then crossing over.

 

Anyway, back to the bible. This confusion of languages that allows the settlement of the whole earth reminds me of this bit of the story at Pentecost:

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?

Instead of confusion at the creation of a variety in languages, there is bewilderment at being able to understand the same message simultaneously. Simultaneous translation.

Lastly, I feel I can’t abandon my efforts to record my thoughts on the Tower of Babel without mentioning (largely irrelevantly) the Babel Fish from “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, so, to end, here are three quotes by Douglas Adams featuring the Babel fish:,

…if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.”

“Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.”

“Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,'” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “The Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”

This is how it’s going to be. #E100

Landscape with Noah's Thank Offering (painting...

I had thought the rainbow was about rain – that God wouldn’t end the earth that way.

Today, it seems more like a symbol of grace.

Once Noah is out of the Ark and makes a sacrifice to God, God reflects on the whole situation, resolving:

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood.”

He commits to mankind in the long term; revises the practicalities and ground rules and institutes a new covenant.

Seasons and natural order are promised. Man is permitted to eat meat as well as plants. Human life is set aside as sacred because Man is made in God’s image.

Then the rainbow is given as a sign of this covenant – that the world and its natural order will continue, despite Man’s fallen state. The covenant is between God and everything in creation – not just Man.

I think that this story illustrates the beginning of the tension that people feel about good and evil – and why evil is permitted, if God is good.

In this story we can see that if God’s wrath were to fall on the earth, onto all who were disobedient – all whose “every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” it would warrant utter destruction of all things.

But within the order outlined in this covenant, through the cycle of the seasons, the valuing of human life and a sense of justice and worth, through the care and use of the world’s resources, there is an existence of grace extended to a fallen people.

And a rainbow.

A Solution #E100

Noah's-Ark-floats-Chapelle-Sistine

Noah’s-Ark-floats-Chapelle-Sistine (Photo credit: ideacreamanuelaPps)

A Solution

And God saw that it was
Corrupt.

Water from the deep,
Mixed with water from the sky:
It’s the destruction of Creation
With only one place left that’s dry.

Noah’s microcosm:
God spoke
A bespoke
Escape pod–
All aboard!
God shut the door.

Coated with pitch,
The boat
Floated and pitched

The only place,
A lonely place.
A black, blind, bubble of life –
All life
Looking for land.
High and bobbing
Over submerged mountains:
Stagnant planet,
Death soup.

Hope floats.

Would you Adam and Eve it? #E100

Sistine Chapel, fresco Michelangelo,

Sistine Chapel, fresco Michelangelo, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Great word, “crafty”. That’s the word used in my translation to describe the serpent. He plants a seed of doubt in the woman’s mind and tries to destabilize her worldview by challenging the very few assumptions with which she is working.

Yesterday I was wondering why the trees weren’t just called the tree of life and the tree of death – and the same distinction is brought up here. The serpent explains that it’s not the tree of death – just the tree of the knowledge of good and evil- so she needn’t worry…

Tempted by the wisdom that would surely come from the experience, she takes some fruit and eats it. Swayed by the opinion of the serpent, she puts experience over faith and the whole thing kicks off.

Then there’s that awkward moment when the man and the woman realize they are naked and they start to make clothes. Embarrassment and loss of innocence.

God here seems to be in some kind of human-like form – “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” and asks for and receives an explanation.

There are several punishments for this incidents: the snake will be cursed; the woman will suffer in childbirth; the man will have to work hard to survive and becomes mortal.

Interestingly, after the announcements of these punishments, the Lord God gives them some practical help – he replaces their home-made fig-leaf clothes, with “garments of skin”.

There’s then a shift back into the plural notion of God: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” I am reminded of the Creation narrative now when “And God saw that it was good.” This certainty about good and evil is God’s prerogative.

Man is then not allowed to be immortal and is banished from the Garden of Eden to begin his life of toil.

The last verse is bizarre – like a vision or a scene from a fantasy movie – with an Indiana Jones-esque obstacle placed in the way of immortality:

“…he placed on the east side of the Garden Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life”

Where Indiana Jones might have a go at beating the flashing sword, Adam and Eve take “their solitary way” off to settle the world.

Apart from Paradise Lost, the other poem that comes to mind is”Unrelated Incidents (2)” by Tom Leonard. Here’s the snippet:

a doant kerr

fyi caw it

an apple

ur

an aippl –

jist leeit

alane!

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