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Sunday, October 8, 2017

1 Corinthians 12: 12 - 20 with Necessary Additions


For as it is with the human body, which is a whole thing although it has many different parts - all the parts make up one body - so it is with the body of Christ.  … The body consists not of one member, but of many. And if the foot were to say, “I’m not a hand - so I don’t belong,” it doesn’t belong to the body any less. Or if the ear said, “I’m not an eye and so I can’t belong to the body,” it would not stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye how would it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell?

As it is, God has put all the different parts into the body just as he chose. If they were all the same, how could it be a whole body? As it is, the parts are many, yet the body is one.

But for the love of Christ, don’t be another asshole. The body of Christ has enough of those already.



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Philippians 2 as American Foreign Policy


Recently, I’ve been reading Bob Woodward’s 1987 book, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981 - 1987 in which Woodward describes the way that the Central Intelligence Agency expanded its covert and extra-legal activities during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, exerting influence, and power, and supplying weapons and money around the world in the aid of of American interests, and American profits.


Then this morning, I was struck (again) by Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians and I began to wonder what it might look like if an ostensibly, nominally Christian nation used Philippians 2: 3 - 4 as the guiding principle for its foreign policy.


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (NRSV)


Or in the the KJV - Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory…


Would we wage secret wars and fund and arm militant right-wing dictators to benefit the Coca-Cola Company or The Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). Would we depose government officials, topple democratically elected leaders, crash world economies, and stir up war and revolution around the world if we thought of the interests of others as important as our own, if we thought of the people of Chile, Lebanon, Argentina, Cuba, Iran, Korea, etc… as more important than ourselves?


If we want to “make America great again” we should look to the needs of others and not to our own profits.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tachyon Delivery Systems



“Receiving, do you copy?” The voice of my supervisor, the Materials Manager squawked in the radio unit I wore clipped to my fluorescent, safety vest.

“This is receiving, go ahead.”

“I need you to go upstairs to the office and speak to Account Supervisor June. She has a question for you.”

“Ten-four,” I replied. “I’m on my way.”  I trekked across the factory floor, avoiding moving forklifts, and cranes, and then bounded up the flight of stairs that took me to the air-conditioned office area. The air in the office was cool and odorless – at least compared to the air in the factory which was hot and fetid, smelling of paint fumes and steel dust.

“The computer says that we have received four Recyclon Max12 units. Where are they?” June said in lieu of a personable greeting. And though it may be a non-standard punctuation mark, her question definitely needed an interrobang; it was part question, part accusation.

“I’m pretty sure we haven’t received any Recyclon units, at least not in the last few months. Those are pretty big units; I’m sure I’d remember seeing them if any had come in.”

June just stared at me, waiting for me to respond. Daring me to respond.“When does the computer say that we received these Recyclon units?” I asked.

She clacked away on her keyboard. “It says they were delivered on October fourteenth.”

I checked the calendar hanging on the wall to confirm what I already knew. “Read that back to me one more time,” I said.

“It says,” June harrumphed, “that they were delivered on October fourteenth.”

“One more time, please,” I said gently. June glowered.

“October” she said, punctuating each successive syllable, “fourteenth…” Then she paused. The realization came slowly. “Oh… Today is only September 27th.”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “Unless they’ve shipped them via Tachyon Delivery Systems, they’re not here yet.”


***

“Tachyon Delivery Systems: We get it there yesterday.”

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Lord, I Don’t Think You Understand How this Game Is Played


And the people brought their little ones to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and pray, and to give them a break for a few hours.  The disciples scolded them, but Jesus said, “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me; I will teach them one of the games that we play in the Kingdom of God.”

“First he said we put out a circle of chairs – one fewer than our number – and then we play some music.” Jesus winked to the kids. “Perhaps Simon Peter will sing a song for us, one of the fishing songs.” The children giggled. They knew that Peter did not like to sing.


“Then, as Peter sings, we will walk around the chairs. And when he stops singing we will all scramble for a chair…”

Andrew interrupted. “Jesus. We know this game too. It’s Musical Chairs.”

“Of course,” Jesus said. “So let’s play.”

Jesus and the children made a circle of chairs and Peter sang for them as they walked around the circle (though he sang like a distressed mule).  And when he stopped, Jesus and children all clambered for a seat. One boy missed out and ended up sitting in the dust. Everyone laughed.

“Great. Great.” Jesus said. “Now round two, we add another chair.”

Andrew interrupted again, “No, Jesus. You mean we remove a chair.” 

And Jesus said to him, “In the Kingdom of Heaven we always add a chair and another player with each new round. There’s always room for one more.”

But Andrew said, “Lord, I don’t think you understand how this game is played…”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Earth Is Patient


The Earth is as patient as it is old, but it is tired. It is worn.
An involuntary subject of another’s will,
the Earth knows futility.
The Earth knows frustration.


With ineffable, tectonic groans
and tidal sighs
it waits for liberation,
for salvation.

It was said once that
The day will come when the vines will grow with ten thousand shoots
and each shoot will have ten thousand branches
and each branch will have ten thousand twigs
and each twig will have ten thousand clusters
and each cluster will have ten thousand grapes.

And in that day humankind will be pressed out.
Make no mistake – the natural world is not neutral. 

(See Romans 8: 18 - 27 and II Baruch 29: 5)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Like a Gentile or a Tax Collector



“Jesus,” I said, “I can’t stand that man. He lies to me. He lies about me. I can’t stand him.”

Jesus nodded and said, “Jeff, I understand your frustrations and sympathize with your hurt. I know the pain of calumny.”

“Yes, Lord, I’m sure you do. But this guy is the worst. I want nothing to do with him, anymore.”

“Jeff, if someone wrongs you, you should go and have it out with him – privately. Alone. Between the two of you.”

“Yes. Jesus,” I said. “I have gone to him alone and asked him to stop. But he continues. Can’t I just dislike him?”

“If he hasn’t listened to you, then you should take one or two others with you to speak to him. Everything should have a witness, two or three witnesses would be even better.”

“Jesus! Yes. Yes. I’ve done this Jesus. But he still lies about me. He’s never going to change. He’s just an evil, terrible person.”

“Well then, Jeff,” Jesus put his hand on my shoulder. “If you’ve talked to him alone, and if you’ve tried again in the presence of witnesses, then bring your concerns to the community.”

“What then, Jesus?” I asked, impatient now. “What should I do if he refuses to listen to the church?”

“Then, finally, you may treat him as a gentile or a tax collector.”

“Then I can hate him and shun him?” I asked.

“No! Good God, no!” Jesus snapped. “Don’t you remember how I treated Zacchaeus and the Roman Centurion?”



Matthew 18: 15 - 18

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Trump Is Not a Christian.



I ruffled some feathers and poked the badgers on Sunday when I posted the following on the Twitter machine:



Some, in the time since, have argued that no one except God can judge another person’s heart,that I have decided to “usurp the judgment of God Almighty.” But, while we may not be able to know the inner thoughts of another, we are called to make judgments about our fellow believers. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explicitly says that immoral behavior within the body of believers is to be judged. (1 Corinthians 5) It’s even in the paragraph titles that many Bible translations supply to the text. (“Sexual Immorality Must Be Judged” – NRSV)

And I do not believe that I have usurped the prerogatives of the Almighty for myself. In fact, I very rarely – almost never – I think this may be the first time – say that Person X is not a Christian. I am reluctant to make such a claim because I know how hurtful such a statement can be. 

So let me be clear about what I mean when I say that “Trump has only a pretense at faith.”

I am not saying that President Trump is not a Christian because I dislike his political agenda. I know and love Christians across the political spectrum. Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Communists, Libertarians, Anarchists… I do not say this because I didn’t vote for him.

Also, I am not saying that President Trump is not a Christian because I disagree with his theology. (In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to identify his theology.) I know and love Christians across the spectrum of theological interpretation. We debate. We argue. But I don’t dismiss their faith; we can debate and still be brothers and sisters in faith.

I'm reluctant to say Person X is not a Christian because I know, from personal experience, how much that hurts. I’ve been told that I’m not a Christian because I’ve voted democrat, or because I accept the label of Socialist. I’ve been told that I’m not a Christian because I’m a pacifist and because I think that LGBTQI persons should be fully welcomed into our congregations. I was even once told that I can’t be a real Christian because I don’t like Southern Gospel music. (True story.)

But if it doesn’t look like a duck, swim like a duck, or quack like a duck it’s probably not a duck.


Maybe we should bring back the old youth group chestnut: If Donald Trump were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict him? The answer has to be no. If God is love, and Jesus is God incarnate, and Christians are called to love – ask the questions: Is President Trump patient, or kind? Does President Trump put away envy? Does he refrain from boasting? Is he not easily angered? Does he keep no record of wrongs done to him?   - And here’s the kicker – Does he rejoice in the Truth? (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7)

Even the 81% of Evangelical Christians who voted for Donald Trump should be able to recognize that there is nothing in his actions, his behavior, his words, or his attitude that reflects the person or love of Jesus Christ. (Some few do, and I appreciate their willingness to admit that Trump does not reflect their values or ethics.)

Now, again, this is not a condemnation of those who struggle to put their beliefs into daily practice, or those who fail to live up to the standards of their convictions. This is all of us. We fail, we fall, we get up and try again.

This is not a condemnation of those who doubt, or waver, or even of those who wander into the darkened corners at the edge of faith and belief. These are real, even if variable.

But this is not Trump. He has only a veneer of godliness. He is a whitewashed tomb. (Matthew 23:27)

And my critique of Trump’s faith (or – more accurately – lack thereof) and his Presidential call to prayer is not a dismissal or rejection of prayer itself. I do believe in prayer and that Christians should pray for those who are hurting.

But again, the words by themselves are nothing. If we pray, “Give them peace, keep them warm and fed” but we do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:16) (And that very question – that Scriptural question – is a value judgment question…)

Faith without works is dead. (James 2: 17).  Even more, the profession of faith, the pretense of faith without any works, any evidence, any substantive action is a corpse, and it stinks.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Purple Bouquet 2




Purple Bouquet by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Tell Me, What Is the Name of Your God?



Moses walked a few silent steps behind the large bearded man that was his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro had come to him in the early morning, still before dawn, well before Moses would have risen to lead the family’s herds of sheep and goats out to the pasture land.

“Get up, Moses. Today you will come with me,” Jethro said in the stuffy darkness inside Moses’ tent.

“But the sh- sh- sh- sheep, father…” Moses objected.

“Nevermind the sheep.” Jethro told him. “Today I take you to the shrine of the Midianites.”

Jethro led him to the coastal city of Aqaba. “I come here four times each year to participate in the sacred rituals. I am a priest of Midian. This is my noble duty. While we are here I will instruct you in the proper way to worship.”

And, true to his word, Jethro shared the secrets with his son-in-law. “First, I will teach you to pray,” he said as they stood at the bottom of a flight of stairs that led up to a long narrow temple built of simple, unornamented, dressed stones.

“We kneel here,” he said and, placing his hands on Moses’ shoulders, gently pushed him to his knees. “And we pray this way: 

“To the god who is unknown, I pray.
To the goddess, the mother-goddess who is unknown, I pray.
To the god who is angry with me, I pray.
To the mother-goddess who is angry with me in this place, I pray.

My transgression is unknown to me.
The sin I have committed, I know not.

May the unknown god give me a good name.
May the mother-goddess I do not know pronounce for me a good name.

If I have eaten the food of my god unwittingly,
if I have drunk the waters of a cesspool without knowledge,
If I have done what is forbidden by the mother-goddess unwittingly,
I beg mercy.

God, known or unknown, my transgressions may be many.
Mother-goddess, known or unknown, many may be my sins.
I seek help. Where is the one who will take my hand?
I have wept. Where is the one who will come to my side?
I utter laments and shriek my grief. Where is the one who hears me?

Mankind is dumb and cannot speak. He knows nothing.
The sin I have sinned, turn it away.
The sin I have sinned, blow it away in the wind;
transgressions seven times seven, forgive.

And may my heart, like the heart of my mothers, be brought to the place of return.”

Moses listened carefully to this prayer and then said, “E- e- e-excuse me- me- me, father Jethro, bu- bu- bu- but there seem t- t- t- to b- b- be mu- much that you do not kn- kn- know. What is it you would te- te- te- teach me?

“Yes," said Jethro as he stood up from the steps.“I am ignorant of many things. But tell me, Moses, who came to my tents as a stranger, fleeing the wrath of the Egyptian Lord, and who has married the eldest of my seven daughters, tell me what you know.  Tell me, what is the name of your God?”

Moses did not answer.

“Go on, Moses, foundling and fugitive, tell me the name of your God,” Jethro pressed.

“I d- d- d- do not kn- kn- know.” Moses stammered in frustration.

“You do not know.” Jethro shook his head. “And can you recount for me the great things that your god has done? Tell me of his mighty deeds? What great things hath he done?”

“I d- d- d- do not kn- kn- know.”

Jethro scowled at his son-in-law. “Well then, maybe you should listen to me. I may have much to teach you yet.”



**

The religion of the Midianites is largely unknown. Jethro’s prayer is adapted from a Sumerian “Prayer to any God.” (Thomas, 111-117)

Thomas, D. Winton. Editor. Documents from Old Testament Times. New York: Harper Torchbooks. 1958. Print.


The Gospel of Trump on Prayer


“And whenever you sign a National Day of Prayer Proclamation for a very special day, be sure that you are seen by others. Surround yourself by noble witnesses, Evangelical leaders, and television cameras so that everyone may see your piety. Truly I tell you, you will received your reward. You will be applauded and praised by lovely people for your leadership, and they will thank you for your personal works.

  “When you are praying, you should heap up phrases like, “our hearts and prayers are with you” for you will be heard because of your many great words, you have all the best words.”








Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Vain, Insubstantial Imaginings of a Nameless Paranoiac.



It was weird, right? I mean, you saw it too… Didn’t you? I can’t have been the only one to notice. I can’t believe that. The universe can’t be that strange. The planet doesn’t just wobble on its axis without notice. The poles shift, the stars move and someone, somewhere notices. Mrs. Lewis, sitting on her front porch in Farmburg, Iowa, looks up her crossword puzzles to the night sky, then nudges her husband, and says, “Would ya’ look at that, Hal?” And Hal looks at where she is pointing, just to the left of where the moon should be and says, not without some incredulous awe, “I have never seen anything like that, my dear. Never.”

But it is observed. Things like this are noticed.

If they’re real, of course. If they are real, then things like this are noticed. But maybe they’re not real. Maybe the universe really is stranger than I give it credit.

Maybe it’s like that scene in North by Northwest. I’ve seen that movie at least thirty times I know its every scene. I know its every line. And you know the scene I’m thinking of. Towards the end of the film. Everyone knows that Alfred Hitchcock had the reputation of being a meticulous director. A perfectionist director. But there it is. I’ve seen it at least thirty times: the kid clearly puts his hands over his ears before the gunshots. Such an obvious lapse, such a glaring error. It’s real.

It must be real, right? I’ve seen it. Every time I watch the film I see it. But no else seems to notice. I’ve tried pointing it out to my wife, but she refuses to watch movies more than once. “I’ve seen that movie,” she says and, “I’ve not seen that.”

Maybe the earth does wobble. Maybe the poles do shift and the stars do move. And maybe no one notices. And maybe that’s why they can get away with it all. Maybe that’s why they can get away the lies and the slander and the election of feckless miscreants. The animal is sacrifice upon the altar, its guts are pulled out but no one can see find its heart.

The decline of civility, the collapse of the Roman republic, the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem, the failure of slave uprisings, and the House Un-American Activities Committee – all of it unobserved, unnoticed, unremarked.

No one sees…

There and not there. Real and not real. The vain, insubstantial imaginings of a nameless paranoiac.

But I’m sure I’ve seen them. I’ve seen this movie.

I’ve seen the lizard men in silk suits. I’ve seen the liars crowned with green cash laurels. There are monsters, and they are real – but they don’t need to hide beneath your child’s bed, or in the closet. The real monsters walk the halls of Congress, and sit in front of television cameras to tell us lies.

Why does no one smell smoke? Why does no one hear the screaming sirens at night? I have gashes on my right arm and blisters on my feet that say this is real. Blood and water are real.

My face is hot. I feel flush. I must lie down now.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Purple Bouquet



A dried bouquet of flowers I bought for my wife, a macro lens attachment, and a piece of translucent, blue plastic I rescued from the trash...


Purple Bouquet by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Let the Reader Understand


Don’t let yourself get down in the dump
the Last Day is still over the hump.
First the Falling Away,
then the terrible day
when the Lawless One comes with a Trump.


2 Thessalonians 2: 1 - 4


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Socialist Tendency


Though it offend Christian bourgeoisie,
it must be admitted presently
that the Apostle Paul
had the nerve and the gall
to flaunt a socialist tendency.


2 Corinthians 8: 13 - 15

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Biblical Limericks: I Think We Have Time



Peter said the end of all is near,
but you and I, we aren’t ones to fear;
it’s been quite a long spell
so I say, ‘what the hell,
I think we have time to share a beer.’


1 Peter 4: 7

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Creation Reversed


I will sweep away the humans first,
then creatures, and birds, and fish submersed.
I’ll topple the fiendish
for all their uncleanness;
I will see my creation reversed.


Zephaniah 1: 2 - 3


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Biblical Limericks: The Daniel Diet



No, the Bible did not supply it;
ignore those who want you to buy it.
They that published the books
are little more than crooks -
peddling a baseless Daniel Diet.

Daniel 1: 8 - 18



And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Unsavory



Here I am, the man unsavory,
under the rod of the Lord’s fury.
He’s led me, day and night,
into darkness, not light.
I’m wasted, and broken, and dreary.

Lamentations 3: 1- 4


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Proverbial Euphemisms


Live all your life with joy and with zest;
enjoy your wife and fondle her breast.
And drink deep from her well,
that’s where pleasure will swell,
and may your, ahem, 'fountain' be blessed.


Proverbs 5: 15 - 19


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Monday, August 21, 2017

White Dives and Poor Old Lazarus


There was a rich white man named Dives who used to dress in fine linen suits and who feasted every day on tasty victuals and wines. At his gate there used to be a poor black man named Lazarus, covered with sores (he did not have health insurance, of course). He longed to fill his belly with even the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. And dogs came to lick at Lazarus’ sores. (Did we mention that he had no health insurance?)

Now it happened that the two men died on the same day. Lazarus was carried away by the angels into the Bosom of Abraham, the rich white man was buried in the family plot and descended into the underworld.

Tormented in Hades, he looked up and saw Father Abraham a long way off with old Lazarus in his embrace. He cried out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his littlest pinky finger in water to cool my parched tongue. I am in agony here in these flames.”

And Father Abraham said, “My son, remember that during your life you had your fill of good things – you lived a life of privilege, white privilege But Lazarus lived a difficult life; now he is being comforted while you are in agony.”

So Dives said, “Father Abraham, send someone, I beg you. Send someone to speak to my five brothers. Send someone to warn them about this white privilege so they won’t end up here in torment.”

But Father Abraham said again, “They have James H. Cone, Howard Thurman, and Cornel West; let your brothers listen to them.” The rich white man said, “No, Father Abraham. But perhaps if someone came back from the dead they’d listen…”

Father Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Cone, Thurman, and West, they will not be convinced even if Martin Luther King Jr. came back from the dead.”



Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Future is a Waylaid Load


Have you seen the reports of swift-boat pirates on the Mediterranean, of auriferous assassins in the highest levels of the government? They are the immoderate, immodest men. They are material men; pretending to be centrists, they rally round the flag of an immolated future.

The future is a waylaid load, misdirected, rerouted, packed and sorted, repacked, unpacked and still uncounted.

And oh how they exercise their power, they and the other nobles, drinking wine in smoking rooms, and smoking in their drinking parlors. They are conservative men, conspicuous, concupiscent men. Good men. They are the Optimates holding statues and status quo, property and privilege.

Their lawyers speak a private language, all code – no substance.

This is a form of madness and an undiagnosed lust for war. High stakes drunkenness. We live in a city without restraint, without censure, without disclosure. Rule number one: don’t mention the poor. There should be no curiosity, no discovery, no motion. Notorious.

The head spirals down, augers into the ground, while the pontifex maximus augurs an improbable future. The future has been delayed. The sacred mysteries will be obscured. The truth must not be spoken. Silence is a weapon.

We’ll bill the plebs for the research and charge them triple for the cure.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Biblical Limericks: No Pants


By breastplate and helmet we’re enhanced,
a belt and shoes will improve our stance,
but what covers our legs?
Paul, answer me I begs:
the armor of God includes no pants!


Ephesians 6: 14 - 17


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Amanuensis



Don’t think of it as gratuitous;
that we have it is fortuitous,
and don’t neglect this book
for forgotten Baruch
was Jeremiah’s amanuensis.

Baruch 1 - 6


And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Remembrance



A Remembrance by Jeff Carter on 500px.com

Biblical Limericks: Creator of Almost Everything


On this I am in no way lying,
though to the creeds I’d be complying:
God made all that has breath,
true, but what about death?
God created all things but dying.

The Wisdom of Solomon 1: 13

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that. 



Monday, August 14, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Prayers for the Dead


Here’s a topic that we might discuss:
Judas thought it not superfluous
‘cause of resurrection
(then a new conception)
to make off’rings for the dead ‘mong us.


Second Maccabees 12: 43 - 46

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Non-Violent Resistance Can’t Be Passive


“We are concerned for virtue and right.
Because it’s the Sabbath we won’t fight.
Though you are militant
we will die innocent.”
A thousand were slaughtered by that night.


1 Maccabees 2: 29 - 38

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Biblical Limericks: Ezra and the Department of Homeland Security



The priests of Israel had heaped up shames,
they’d wedded themselves to foreign dames.
Marrying foreign gals
so offended morals
that Ezra published all of their names.


Ezra 10

And - if you like the biblical limericks that I've been writing for a couple of years now, take note:  I am working on, and nearly finished with a book length collection of them. I'll have it to my publisher by the end of this month, and it will be available sometime not long after that. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump’s Surprising Plan to Govern by Biblical Mandate


Here’s a switch, something I never expected to see, something that still astounds and flabbergasts me. President Donald J. Trump and his administration have endorsed a bill  that takes seriously an important biblical command. I know. I’m surprised as you are.


But it’s true. It's true.


The bill, sponsored by Republican senators, proposes a “merit based” immigration system. Under this bill, immigration candidates would need 30 points in order to qualify to become American citizens. Points are given based on a priority that favors people between the ages of 26 and 30 and speak English fluently and who have won either an Olympic medal or a Nobel prize. But a further premium is given to those who are coming to this country with job offers with salaries over $77,000 and those who are planning to invest a million dollars or more in this country.

And this, as I said, is a practical way for the Trump administration to govern according to biblical principles  Deuteronomy 15: 4 says that “there should be no poor among you.” This proposed bill would go a long way to make sure that no more poor people are allowed to enter the country. And I should point out that it is a course of action that I proposed three years ago. (And And - this limerick will be included in my soon to be published book of biblical limericks. Y
ou should buy three or four copies of it when it's available...)




(And it should be remembered that Democrats have, in the recent past, endorsed a point based immigration policy of their own…)


Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Blessing of Defeat



So the man who has wrestled all his life comes to his final battle at the Jabbok ford. He’s been wrestling all his life, since his birth, even before his birth. He tussled with his twin brother, Esau, within the womb, grasping his heel, still trying to win over him on the way out the birth canal. He strove with his brother for the birthright and the patriarchal blessing. He wrestled a stone away from the mouth of a well to impress his future bride. He contended again and again with his father-in-law.  And now comes the culmination of his life, the climactic, defining event. He wrestles with “a man” at the Jabbok ford.

But what kind of man is this? Jacob, the trickster, thief, deceiver encounters a stranger in the dark – a man without a name and without provenance; he grapples with the mysterious unknown in the dark of the night. And in that long battle neither opponent is able to toss or pin the other; they are unable to hold or throw the other down.

This man in the dark may be more than a man. There is something strange in this encounter. Is he some sort of night spirit or troll that will lose its power or be turned to stone at the breaking of dawn and the light of the sun? Is he an angel of the Lord or a demon from the desert? Is he, perhaps, even God himself?

Or is this man in the dark the embodiment of all Jacob’s guilt and fear – a psychic projection.  In this man that he cannot defeat, Jacob sees the face of those he has offended and wronged. He sees the face of God and his own face, and the face of his twin brother Esau.[1]

Jacob struggles on heroically determined, and stubbornly relentless.  He refuses to admit or accept defeat. But then, with a touch (and not a crushing blow), the slightest touch, the man from the dark blows Jacob’s hip out of joint. He is hobbled, wounded. The supplanter is supplanted. He falls – but even in this defeat he finds a victory of sorts. Even in defeat he demands a blessing.

All his life he’s wrestled for and demanded a blessing from others. Give me the birthright and patriarchal blessing. Give me a bride. Give me sheep, and goats, and camels. Give me a blessing! But what kind of blessing has he won here? The blessing of defeat and a limp to remind him of it. He is no longer Jacob, the deceiver, but Israel who has wrestled with gods and men and has won.






[1] Compare Jacob’s words: in Genesis 32: 31 he says, “I have seen God face to face and I came out alive,” and in 33: 10 he says to Esau, “…for have I not seen your face as one might see God’s face, and you received me in kindness?” (Alter 183, 186)

Alter, Robert. Genesis: Translation and Commentary. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. 1996. Print. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Kingdom of Heaven Is a Mixed Field



The Parable of the Tares (Weeds / Darnel), found only in the Gospel according to Matthew (13: 24 - 30), is a curious story - not easily understood. And, unfortunately for us, the explanation put into the mouth of Jesus by Matthew (13: 36 - 43) does not really help us to understand it any better.

Jesus tells of a farmer who planted his field with wheat then, as he slept, an enemy of the farmer came during the night and oversowed the field with tares. The farmer’s servants recognize what has happened and ask for permission to root out all of the tares, but the farmer instructs them to be patient, and to instead let the wheat and the tares grow up together, saying that if the tares were yanked up, the wheat would be damaged as well. He tells them to wait until the harvesting time to separate the wheat from the weeds; the weeds will be bundled together and burned at that time.

The “tares” of the parable (Greek - ζιζάνια) have not been specifically identified, but are commonly thought to be not just “weeds” but Poison Darnel, also known as Bearded Darnel (Lolium temulentum), a ryegrass that looks almost identical to wheat, at least right up until the harvest time - and is susceptible to the Ergot fungus which can cause hallucinations, irrational behavior, and even death when consumed. It’s not just a prank. It’s not a minor irritation; the oversowing of darnel into the farmer’s wheat field was a deliberate and malicious act of sabotage. And, apparently, this was not an uncommon occurrence in the ancient world. There was,in fact, a Roman law against this kind of malevolent sowing. (Digest 9.2.27.14)


The parable seems to be an injunction against an overzealous attempt to root out heresies and other objectionable elements from within the Christian community. “Let them grow up together” is the instruction, at least for now, they’ll be separated and burned by the harvesters. But the explanation of this parable ostensibly given by Jesus a few verses later neglects this apparent meaning, and makes the parable into a stiff, apocalyptic allegory of the end of the age.

This disconnect between the apparent motive of the parable and the explanation, combined with a variety of other peculiarities within the explanation cause many biblical scholars to suggest that “it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the interpretation of the parable of the Tares is the work of Matthew himself,” (Jeremias 81 - 85) and not directly from the mouth of Jesus.

It is even suggested by Sherman E. Johnson that the Parable of the Tares itself may be a literary construction composed by Matthew (by rewriting his source material in Mark 4:26 - 29) to provide a twin parable for the Parable of the Sower (to fit alongside the twin parables of mustard seed / leaven and hidden treasure / the costly pearl) who then provided his own allegorical explanations for them both (Johnson “Introduction” 239, “Exegesis” 415), explanations which may or may not have been what Jesus intended in the telling of the parable.


The Kingdom of Heaven is a mixed field - the good wheat seed sown by the farmer muddled with the toxic, seed mingled in by his enemy. Both grow up together. But we are to carry on our work in spite of mixed results. (Kee 625)


“O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many, few among very many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! The harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes. ... I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days” (Augustine)

The servants of the farmer wanted to rush out to the field to pull up the plants sown by the enemy, to storm the fields yanking the pernicious plants up by their roots. But this would have caused damage and trauma to the farmer’s good wheat. Patience. Patience is what the farmer urged on his servants and not zeal, not furious anger, or even righteous indignation, but patience. This is not to say that we are unconcerned with bad doctrine or heretical theology, but it is not our job to go rip-roaring through the fields tearing up the plants and throwing them into the blazing furnace. The self-appointed sentry who takes it upon him or herself to rid the field of these weeds by confrontation and belligerence has taken up a task that the master has not given us and will not further the growth of the kingdom, but will instead cause damage and division.

Be patient. Let the kingdom (a mixed field though it be) grow as the farmer has told us.





Augustine, Sermon #23 on the New Testament.


Jeremias, Joachim. The Parables of Jesus. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1972. Print.


Johnson, Sherman E. “The Gospel According to St. Matthew: Exegesis” The Interpreter’s Bible Volume VII Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1951. Print.

Johnson, Sherman E. “The Gospel According to St. Matthew: Introduction” The Interpreter’s Bible Volume VII Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1951. Print.


Kee, Howard Clark.  “The Gospel According to Matthew” The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press. 1971. Print.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

(Not Quite) Biblical Limericks: Good News Today



I’m telling no lies, playing no tricks -
the good news today has me transfixed: There’s a publisher who is ready and set to
publish my biblical limericks.



The acceptance email came this afternoon from Wipf and Stock. I’ll share more details as I have them. And, of course, you can still get a copy of my first book, Muted Hosannas.



Workplace Safety


This morning, around 9:00 my supervisor at work came round to tell us that there would be a mandatory plant-wide meeting in the break room. "This can't be good," said one of my workmates. There's usually a meeting like that every 90 days without an injury - that comes with a special meal as a reward and incentive- but we're currently only at 84 days without injury.

The news was indeed, not so good. Our plant manager announced to us that overnight there had been a fatality in one of the other company plants in Oklahoma. He didn't  have any real details to share with us - other than the fact that the plant where the death occurred is laid out differently than ours  and that thier issues would not be our issues specifically. But he did use the opportunity to remind us to follow the safety procedures, and the OSHA regulations, and to wear our protective items properly.
 
























We've come a long way from the beginning of the industrial revolution when workplace accidents were common and laborers were cheap; we've come a long way from incidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 (resulting in the deaths of 146 garment workers).

Maybe the plant where I work only emphasizes the need for safety so as to avoid lawsuits and expensive settlements; maybe thier motive is purely fiscal. But I don't think that's the case. There seems to be a genuine interest in making sure that we are safe.


So don't take shortcuts. Don't grumble about the encumbrance imposed by OSHA and the Department of Labor. Look twice before crossing the street, and always wear your helmet and seat-belt. Make sure everyone goes home alive at the end of the day.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Biblical Limericks: An Apocryphal Guy


Tobit was an apocryphal guy,
while he slept a bird shat in his eye;
his sight and vision failed
so he cried, and he wailed,
and he prayed to God that he might die.

Tobit 2: 1 - 3: 6

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Let’s Dig Up the Body of President Lincoln


My name is Holt, Judge Allen Holt.  It’s not a title; I work - worked - at Alvin’s Speedy Lube and and Parts until recently. Until David George convinced me to join him in his plan to dig up the body of President Abraham Lincoln.

“Let’s do it,” he said to me after work. We sat in Lindsey’s Tavern, as we occasionally did after our shift at the Lube and Parts. David George was the lead mechanic. I switched back and forth between mechanic and sales; David George said I wouldn’t know a wrench from a wrestling match. He said stuff like that ‘cus he was clever, I suppose.

“I mean it. I’m serious, Holt.”

“What?”

“Why, what we’ve been talkin’ about for the last week,” he said. “Let’s dig up the body of President Lincoln. We could do it. No problem. It’ll be easy.”

“Dig up??” I sputtered. David George had some weird ideas now and then - like the time he wanted to spray-paint the Lube and Parts’ manager’s car pink.  But this was the craziest. “Why would you want to do something like that, anyway, David George.”

David George ignored my question. He usually did. “It’s easy. Lincoln’s buried less than an hour from here, in Springfield. We can do it all in a couple of hours overnight, when it’s dark. Sneak in and out, no problem.”

“Yeah, but why?” I insisted. “Why would do you want to do this?”

“Listen,” David George looked  up and down the bar, then leaned close and whispered. “It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s not widely known - President Lincoln kept secret, important papers inside his hat. The stovepipe hat, right? That’s why he wore such a tall hat.”

David George is from Enid, Oklahoma. I don’t know if that’s important; maybe they do things differently in Enid.  Maybe they know things in Enid that the rest of us don’t know.  It’s all crooked lines from there to here. There are murderers living side by side with CEOs and investment bankers, slave-owners and rapists next to venture capitalists.  At least that’s the way that it is here. Enid, Oklahoma’s gotta’ be better than this, right?

“That’s the way the world is, Judge,” said David George. “It’s the only way to succeed,” he said. “It’s the only way to make something of ourselves. Suspicion, rumor, innuendo, unchecked allegations of obscene tax evasion, recriminations - these are the watchwords of successful leaders. We’ve been workin’ at the Lube and Parts since high school; do you really want to be working there for the next twenty years? I sure dont.”

David George downed the last of his beer. “I want to be something. Not like my old man.”

“What happened to your dad?” I asked. I’d known David George for a long time and he’d never said much about his dad, or any of his family really.

“He died.”

“Oh.” I said and sipped my beer as I waited for elaboration. I waited several minutes.

“It’s not so much that he died.” David George continued. “I mean, everyone dies. It’s the way he died.” I waited in silence again for more details. Then, “He was run over by a truck as he slept in his bed.” I waited again. Then he asked me a question: “What about your old man? Is he dead?”

“No.” I said and took off my ball cap to scratch my head for a second. Dandruff.  I got pretty bad flakes.  “No. My daddy’s a missionary in an undisclosed location. It’s top-secret priority.”

“He’s a preacher?”

“I suppose you might say it that way.”

“I ain’t known many preachers modest enough to be good at it.”

I thought that might have been the end of it. I thought he’d maybe order another round of drinks and that we’d sit in LIndsey’s another couple of hours. That’s we’d go to work at the Lube and Parts just like always and that David George would forget all about grave robbing. But no.

“I’ll do it,” he said. “Alone if I have to. I’ll walk with a firm step through a thousand of his friends to find out what’s in those papers, Holt. I need something more tempestuous than this gilded lithium-salt regulated equilibrium. If I can’t shoot the president, I'll steal his corpse.”


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