Category Archives: Bible

Ruth: Chapter 1.

A modern re-telling of the Old Testament story of Ruth.

Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi. Pieter Lastman c 1583 – 1633

Elek Mazur had brought his family to the United Kingdom soon after Poland had been admitted to the European Union. In 2005 he took his family from a small flat, in a rundown block in Wroclaw to live in Milton Keynes. Elek and Nadzia had been married 17 years when they arrived and had two sons, 15 year old Keilijan and Mahary, 13.

Soon after arriving in the UK, Elek started a small handyman business and in time, when the boys were old enough, they joined him transforming it into a thriving family concern. The boys had each learned different skills. Electrics for Kielijan, plumbing for Mahary while Elek continued the trade learned from his father, carpentry.

Together they they grew what Elek had started as a tiny, backyard business into a successful enterprise, which a few years after the boys joined their father in work outgrew their home and had to move into its own premises.

There was not a big Polish contingent around Milton Keynes, so as Keilijan and Mahary grew up, as well as joining Elek in the family business, they began to date local girls. In time both the boys married. First was the younger Mahary who married Ruth and a year later, Keilijan married Orlah, who had come to Milton Keynes from Ireland.

Not long after the second wedding, Elek died when the floor collapsed in an old house he had been working in, ironically to replace rotten wooden joists to make it safe.

The boys, who now had wives to support, carried on the business bringing in outside carpenters when needed on short term contracts. While the Mazur company supported the boys and their mother it no longer thrived and grew after the death of Elek.

All was not well in the remaining family. The boys had inherited a genetic disorder from their father, Elek. It was never discovered because of his premature, accidental death. So a few years later, it claimed the younger Mahary first and in one more year, Keilijan. Leaving a family of widows to fend for themselves.

At first Orlah and Ruth tried to manage the business, hiring in necessary skills. Slowly orders dried up as it seemed with the death death of the founders the good name was gone, The hired hands, with no stake in the business, were never as conscientious as Elek, Keilijan and Mahary.

To make matters worse, there had been a referendum in the United Kingdom and Nadzia’s adopted home had voted to leave the European Union. She had been in the UK many years and had even applied for and acquired a British citizenship, but after the vote to leave, Brexit as it was being called, Nadzia began to detect an undercurrent of if not hostility, certainly some unfriendliness, where there had been none before.

Nadzia resolved to return to Poland, though it grieved her to leave her daughters-in-law, the only remaining connection to her dead family. With Ruth and Orlah she set about winding up the business and distributing its assets between herself and the two girls. There wasn’t much to share out after settling some outstanding business loans. Terminating the mortgages on their homes, brought in a little extra, from the accumulated equity.

There wasn’t much money but Nadzia thought she had enough to return to Wroclaw, where she hoped she could find work before the money she had set aside to rent a small home ran out. The only thing left to do now before she packed up and left for Poland, was to tell Ruth and Orlah.

When Nadzia explained to Orlah and Ruth her intentions, Orlah decided almost immediately that she would go back to live with her family in Ireland. Ruth seemed unsure what to do for the best and withdrew into herself, while she considered her situation.

Very early the next day, Ruth quietly let herself into Nadzia’s home, she and Orlah both had a key each, and started to prepare breakfast for herself and her mother-in-law. It was almost ready when Nadzia came through the kitchen door. They sat down together for their meal, making desultory conversation, until Nadzia could no longer put off the question unanswered since the day before.

‘What will you do when I return to Poland’ Nadzia asked her daughter-in-law. Ruth slowly raised her eyes from her breakfast plate to meet those of her mother-in-law, holding them in silence for a few seconds before replying ‘I’m coming with you.’

Nadzia looked relieved but still asked why Ruth wouldn’t return to he own family, or stay in England, where she was from. ‘I loved your son and you are the closest I can be to him now he’s gone. Don’t make me stay.’ What about your parents, your mother.’ Nadzia asked. ‘I love them of course I do, but I’ve never been so close to mother as I have become with you. Please, don’t go without me.’

Chapter 2.

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Eli’s Diary

An alternative telling of God’s call to Samuel.

An extract from the priest Eli’s diary.

Hannah presents her son Samuel to the priest Eli. Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, c.1665

It was a strange night. The boy Samuel kept coming and waking me, saying I’d called him; I hadn’t not once I just wanted to sleep. Three times he woke me. I was getting irritable by the third time. I’d already ticked him off for waking me twice.

The third time the lad Samuel woke me, I’d eventually realised what was going on. The boy had indeed heard a voice but because he couldn’t see anyone, he’d assumed it was my voice. It wasn’t of course. It was the Lord God’s.

When I realised it was God speaking, I was more gentle about sending Samuel away to lie down again. I told him that if he heard the voice again he should say ‘I am listening’ and then to listen carefully to what might be said. After that, to my relief, I was finally able to get a few hours sleep.

In the morning when I called Samuel to me, he came but his manner was not as usual, he was hesitant. He told me that the Lord had spoken to him, but seemed reluctant to say more. I asked him what the Lord had said. I may have been a bit abrupt with the lad. He told me everything after that and no wonder he was reluctant.

The message given to Samuel was about me and my boys. No wonder Samuel was uneasy this morning. My sons would have been the next priests to follow me but they desecrated the temple. There will be retribution on my sons.

Wet Feet

And that sinking feeling.

When Jesus walks out on the water to meet his disciples, as he approaches the boat in which his disciples are already, Peter steps out of the boat to go to meet Jesus. Within a few steps of leaving the boat, Peter begins to sink in the water and calls out “Lord, save me!”

Jesus reached a hand to Peter saying “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” Did peter really deserve what seems to be a rebuke? Was it lack of faith or simple fear that caused Peter to start to sink? Should fear be associated with lack of faith? There is a suggestion, though nothing explicit, that even Jesus was afraid on the night before his crucifixion, when he said “take this cup from me.”

If anyone were to be the one to leave the boat to go to Jesus, it was almost bound to be Peter. He was impetuous, often acting or speaking without thinking first. That doesn’t make him lacking in faith.

In the first place, Peter was brave enough with sufficient faith to get out of the boat, apparently the only disciple to do so. It is evident that Peter did not start to sink immediately, he had taken some steps toward Jesus. Clearly Jesus was more than just an arm’s reach from the boat. It was when Peter noticed the growing ferocity of the storm that he started to sink, I think through fear not lack of faith.

It was Peter’s faith that impelled him to leave the boat to go to Jesus. It was fear that was the cause of starting to sink, then comes a second act of faith which seems to be generally unremarked upon.

As Peter began to sink he called out “Lord, save me.” He could have called out to the other disciples in the boat to throw him a rope, which I suspect is what many people would have done. Peter may have been afraid but he had enough faith in Jesus for him to be who he called on to save him.

Weeding

Watch out for the crops.

In Matthew 13: 24-30 Jesus tells The Parable of the Weeds, which he then explains in verses 36-43.

The owner of a field has sown a field of wheat and and “enemy” has sown seeds of weed in the field of the wheat crop. “Enemy” is I think perhaps too strong a term. I suggest that business rival, or competitor might be nearer to a correct description.

What is not explicitly stated in the passage in the NIV UK Bible, is that the particular weed sown amongst the good wheat was Darnel, which may also be called Tare. This particular weed looks similar to wheat until it is fully grown. So similar that in some places it is called false wheat.

Darnel is mildly poisonous. It is highly unlikely to kill you if you consume it, but you will feel ill for quite a while.

From the rival farmer’s perspective, that sowed the bad seed, the benefit continues after the season in which the good farmer’s crop is blighted. If the good farmer’s crop mildly poisons someone because of the Darnel, people will be more wary of purchasing from that farmer for a number of years.

When the farmer’s workers discover that the weed Darnel has been sewn with the crop, they ask if they should pull it out. The farmer says no, it is too young to be able to separate it from the good plants. They must wait until it is fully grown to separate the good from the bad.

Jesus explains to his disciples that at the end of the age, when the weeds and crop have grown together, it is possible to separate the good from the bad, the good people from the bad. The bad crop or weeds to be burned.

While not explicitly stated, it seems to me that there is a secondary lesson in that parable. It is found in the action of the farmer letting the crop and weed grow together. By acting too soon the farmer would lose much more of the crop than by waiting, letting the weeds grow amongst it. Patience was needed to know which to keep and which to discard.

God has infinate patience, unlike humankind, who want everything now.

As a minor point of interest to end, I do not think that parable could be applied today, because of the mechanised farming methods. Farm machinery could not, as far as I know, separate the wheat from the darnel.

Time

mv5bzgnkm2mwndatogewmc00zmu0lwfinmmtytllngq2yzdjztvmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzc5njm0na-_v1_A few years ago I wrote about time in the context of chronos and kairos, human time and God’s time.

I recently read what is probably one of the earliest stories about time travel, H. G. Wells novella, The Time Machine, published in 1895, from which I’m adding some thoughts.

Time is a human measurement, based on natural phenomena. The time the earth takes to travel around our sun is an (almost) fixed period. But the hours in a day are a human derivation. All of which might be completely arbitrary to God, for whom time is probably meaningless.

When the Time Traveller (he is unnamed but for this epithet in the original story) arrives in the year 802,701, his first impression might be described as a kind new Eden, or at least a heavenly place. The young population seems well provided for with no need to work. Their food and clothing are provided, there is no learning and are no scholars, there seems no need for them. They spend all their time relaxing and playing. That initial impression impression of the time traveller doesn’t last long

What the time traveller finds, once he begins to look a little closer at the future society he has landed in, is a world where there are signs of decay and atrophy all around. Humanity has degenerated to become lazy and indolent. With nothing to strive for, humanity has stagnated.

Worse. In the millennia since the time traveller activated his time machine and left victorian england, the humans in this false Eden have become like farmed animals, bred for a purpose. Time has turned the humans the traveller meets into domesticated herds of food, bred to feed the Morlocks, formerly human now a sub-human species living underground. How the Morlocks evolved is not explained in the original story (though an attempt is added in the 1960 film).

What crossed my mind as the story unfolded was the contrast with elements of biblical text. Jesus is the Good shepherd, caring for his flock and in turn after his ascension the flock must learn to care for one-another.

In Well’s story the flock has divided somewhere in the intervening years. What once might have been a shepherd class, caring for their flocks, have become subverted; breeding the flocks for their own use. They have become cannibals.

The Bible also tells of “a new heaven and a new earth”.But what at first appears heavenly could be deceptive, as we see looking deeper than the time travellers initial impressions of the distant future human society imagined in Wells’ novella.

 

Jesus Wept

But who were the tears for?

The Raising Of Lazarus By Vincent van Gogh

It is related to us in John 11: 1-44,  that after Jesus was told that Lazarus, brother of Mary & Martha, was ill, that he did not go immediately to them in Judea; He stayed another 2 days in Jerusalem. Upon His arrival, we learn that Lazarus was already dead had been interred four days earlier. It seems then , from the timeline we are presented with, it was almost a week after being told about Lazarus, before Jesus went to see the ones’ he loved.

When Jesus arrived in Judea, He wep(John 11: 35) at the news of Lazarus’ death; but why?

Jesus knew that the power of the Father, through the Holy Spirit could resurrect Lazarus. Knowing this, it seems unlikely His tears were for Lazarus, so who were they for? Might they be tears of shame, that he allowed not only the suffering of Lazarus until death but also the suffering of Mary and Martha, all of which He could have prevented.

Perhaps His tears were for Mary and Martha, for what they had endured, after all untill He called Lazarus from the Tomb, they probably thought He’d let them all down.

Maybe it was because He new the resurrection of Lazarus would be in vain. Maybe he knew that Lazarus woud be executed in the future by the Pharisees (John 12: 10). He might have been hoping his delay would save Mary and Martha from even more pain and suffering, but when He got there emotion took over and He felt compassion for Mary and Martha and compelled to do something.

We’ll never know. I just offer a possibility.

In Faith We Doubt

Would faith today be so widespread without Thomas?

Doubting Thomas, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, c. 1622

I wonder what you think might be one of the crucial momnets related to Christ’s resurrection? For me, it is the moment Jesus lets Thomas see, and touch for himself his wounds, the marks of his crucifixion (John 20:24-29). Would the events have been so plausible without Thomas’ insistence on seeing the evidence himself.

All the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Thomas was not with them, we do not know where he was at that time. Maybe he was out procuring supplies. It was another week before Thomas also saw Jesus when he appeared to them again.

Thomas must have had a strong character. For a week he resisted the peer pressure of his friends and fellow disciples, before Jesus appeared to them again when all were present. Thomas doubted but there is no suggestion he didn’t believe. Thomas asked the question I probably would, you probably would and I suspect most believers might ask.

Unbelief is quiet different from doubt, it includes denial, which Thomas never did. I suspect that at some time of life everyone who has a faith doubts at some time, to some degree. I have. Sometimes we all need some kind of sign.

When Jesus appeared the second time, he let Thomas see and touch his wounds then said to him “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (UKNIV). These words could easily be perceived a rebuke to Thomas, for his doubt. Perhaps it was; I do not think so.

I think Jesus’ remark was encouragement, to the disciples and future generations. Encouragement for all the people of the time and to come, who could only rely on the testimony of people like Thomas and would rely on word of mouth and later, the gospels we rely on today.

With thanks to Joanne for inspiring part of this post.