Category Archives: Christianity

Poppies

Lest we forget.

These hand made poppies are each added to the memorial on the anniversary of the death of the serviceman they commemorate.

Poppy day, more correctly Remembrance Day seems to cause some controversy these days. Most recently I saw that someone had said they thought it was glorifying war. What poppycock.

Maybe I should say before continuing that I was born after World War 2. Like the great majority of people today, I have no direct experience of war beyond news reports so also like them I will probably never understand it’s full horrors and sacrifices.

My father was a conscripted soldier who served in Burmah in WW2. He was not killed or injured but he never spoke of his wartime experiences to anyone I know of, in or outside our family.

I choose to wear a poppy though many will not, that is their choice. I wish they would wear a poppy. I will not run them down, argue with or insult them for not doing so. Nor do I expect someone who does not wear a poppy to lambast me for wearing one.

We live in a free country, where we can choose to wear or not the poppy, freedom fought for by the men for whom the poppy is worn. The Independent newspaper asked “when does the time come to shift the emphasis away from the past and into the present? My answer is that the poppy is the present.

What kind of country would we be living in if we had lost those terrible wars? We almost certainly would not have the freedom we enjoy now. We are not just remembering the dead. We are remembering what they did for us, why they gave their lives to give us a free country to be proud of. Suppose Hitler had won the war. Imagine the kind of regime  we could be living under now.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s poem, For The Fallen. These lines form the fourth verse, though apparently they were the first to be written.

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The Poor In Spirit

A little trouble with the Beatitudes, or one of them.

The Sermon on the Mount (fresco) By Fra Angelico 1387 – 1455

We find the Beatitudes in Matthew 5: 1-12. I have had trouble for a long time with the first beatitude, found in verse 3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (UK NIV).

The meaning of the other beatitudes seems, to me, quite clear, not so the first one. I have never been comfortable with understanding what is meant by “poor in spirit”.

As an aside, nevertheless possibly relevant, there is some opinion that considers the term “blessed” in the Beatitudes is interchangeable and could be replaced with “happy”.

However back to my original trouble, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. What does “poor in spirit” mean? The nearest I can come to finding a meaning that I can associate with the phrase is poverty of spirit. The problem with this is that it could mean lacking in spirit, possibly lacking in belief in God. Another possibility is that “poor in spirit” refers to people whose spirit gives them a sinful nature and could be happy because of it.

Both possibilities I suggest seem to be at odds with receiving a blessing. All the other beatitudes confer a blessing for a virtue, but being poor in spirit seems prima facie to be an imperfection or disbelief, maybe disobedience. What would seem to make more sense might be ‘Blessed are those who seek forgiveness”.

Any thoughts?

Talented

A different interpretation of the parable of the talents.

I have already given a few thoughts on Jesus’ Parable of The Talents in Untalented. Here I am revisiting that parable, from a different point  view. 

I think it is generally assumed that the servants were honest, but were they?

We are told in the parable that the servants knew that the master harvested “where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed” It might be inferred from that, that the master is not completely honest?

If the master were not honest, might not the servants, to whom he has entrusted sums of money also be dishonest? How can we be sure that the servants, to whom the talents were entrusted, were honest in how they ‘invested’ the master’s money ?

We know that on the master’s return, two of the servants returned to him double what he had entrusted them with. The third returned exactly what he had been given, but can we be sure the servants did not make more than they returned? Suppose they gave back to the master only what they thought they could get away with, keeping any more for themselves.

Even if they gave to the master everything they had earned, while he was away, how do we know it was earned honestly? Perhaps it was used as seed funding for cons or cheating. Maybe profiteering by buying goods and selling at inflated prices. It might have been lent out at exorbitant rates of interest, like modern day payday loans.

I do not suggest any other interpretation is wrong. I offer a possible alternative interpretation, that does not seem to be contradicted by the text.

 

Dressed For The Occasion

The Wedding Banquet.

14th Century Russian icon of the ‘Parable of the Feast.

Jesus tells the parable of a king who gives a wedding banquet for his son, but no one comes. Some of the invited even murder the king’s messengers bearing the invitations. For which the king extracts retribution.

Since the invited rich and noble did not come to the wedding, the king instructs his servants to go out and bring in people from the streets. In no time at all the wedding hall was filled with guests of all kinds of people.

When the king comes to the hall in which the wedding guests are assembled, he spies a man not dressed in smart, wedding clothes. The king asks the man how he got in, dressed as he was. Then the king had the man bound and thrown outside.

The parable is the invitation of Jesus to the feast and the inappropriately dressed man represents someone who rejects the invitation, but the parable might easily be interpreted differently.

All the guests at the wedding banquet had been drawn in off the streets. The suggestion being that they were taken directly to the banquet and might not have had time to change into their fine clothes, appropriate to a wedding. There is also the possibility that the poorly dressed man was poor and might have been wearing what were his best cloths, or maybe even his only clothing.

It is possible to conclude that the poorly dressed man was quite unfairly treated. While this is not the usual interpretation of the parable, the text is not sufficiently detailed or clear to dismiss this possible interpretation out of hand.

As usual, I am not seeking to overturn established wisdom, just give some food for thought.

The Time Machine

A timeless story, old and new.

No, not a review of H. G. Wells book of the title, though inspired by it. A previous post also inspired by The Time Machine is here.

As the time traveller in the book is unnamed, I have adopted the name George for him, as used in the 1960 film The time Machine.

When our time traveller George arrives in the year 802,701 his first impression is of a kind of future Eden. An impression soon dispelled. But what did the people of the time, the Eloi think of George?

The Eloi were, even by today’s concept, a primitive people. Humanity had apparently regressed even though they were so fare into the future. They had lost or abandoned the accumulated knowledge of history. There seemed to be no technology, no weapons. a peaceful race, at least on the surface.

What would this seemingly primitive people think of our time traveller, George?

Maybe they would consider to be a harmless eccentric, with strange ideas and clothes not quite fitting in with their society. A bit like Jesus in biblical times, not quite fitting in with society.

The Eloi people had, apparently, no knowledge or concept of Jesus but I think it might be possible that George presented a Jesus like figure to them in some ways.

George came amongst them with what to them would be radical, new ideas and thoughts. He upset the established order. Became, in a way, their protector or perhaps ‘Good shepherd’. He was a teacher. The time traveller was able to perform what, to their eyes, might seem like miracles; the Eloi people had not seen matches before to light a fire.

The peaceful Eloi were under the malignant domination of the Morlocks, an underground race feeding on the Eloi treating them like cattle, a source of food and forced labour. Like Jesus tried to show the Israelites how to stand up to the Romans, occupying their land, and their own priests, the Pharisees, George tried to show the Eloi that they did not need to submit to the Morlocks.

Might this portrayal of the time traveller as such a figure by H. G. Wells have been deliberate? Was Wells’ choice of name for the Eloi people chosen from the words Jesus is heard to have said at his crucifixion?

Lee Abbey

Poem for a ‘thin’ place.

Rugged beauty passing through the valley,
Rumbling over the cattle grid,
Announcing our arrival,
A greeting in a warm and peaceful place.

Coffee and cake in the gallery,
Slowing down, a time to think ,
A time to pray, a time to give thanks,
Breaking bread with friends old and new.

Quiet music, gentle on the ears,
Candle light flickering in the chapel,
A verse or two from Scripture,
Thoughts reach out, together in silent prayer,

Hands warmed around a hot coffee,
Alone in the silent gallery,
Grey beach looming through dawn’s twilight,
The promise of the coming day.

Leaves shivering in the breeze,
Feet crunching on a gravel trail,
High over the pebble beach below,
Waves breaking over jagged rocks.

A warm room, an open window,
Wind in the trees, a hooting owl
Sounds of the sea soft to the ear,
The lullaby of God’s thin place.

Ruth: Chapter 4.

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

Previous chapter here.

The next weekend Nadzia was sitting in the back of Bozydar’s car behind Ruth, on their way to Nadzia’s inherited house. They went first to Oporow, where Nadzia signed papers at the adwocat’s office and collected keys from him. Then they drove on out to Smolec, to Nadzia’s property.

‘That can’t be mine.’ Nadzia exclaimed as the house came into sight. ‘It is.’ replied Ruth. ‘I can’t live in a place that big, not on my own.’ ‘We might as well take a look inside since we’re here anyway’ added Bozydar, as he drew the car up in front of the door. Ruth helped Nadzia out of the car and together they went up the steps to the door. Bozydar had to help Nadzia unlock it, as the lock hadn’t been used for a while and was stiff.

As they wandered through the house, looking around, Nadzia said to Ruth, ‘If I still had all my family, I’d love this place but I can’t live here on my own.’ Coming to the kitchen Ruth said as they looked around, ‘This would be good for our little business. So much easier to work here than in our tiny kitchen.’

Bozydar took Ruth and Nadzia home, but didn’t linger as he often would when taking Ruth back. After leaving the ladies he drove hurriedly back to his own home, and pausing only to make a drink began making a series of phone calls to various relatives, and to one other number that he had to look up, though he had the name and address.

For the next few days Ruth hardly saw Bozydar. When she did he seemed preoccupied and not his usual self and when he dropped her off he left quickly, seemingly with something on his mind. Ruth began to worry that she had upset him in some way.

Five days after the visit to Nadzia’s inherited house, Ruth didn’t see Bozydar at all. Unbeknown to Nadzia and Ruth that same day Bozydar had assembled a cohort of his family, for a family conference. He had something important he needed to discuss with them. Bozydar’s Mother, his Father had died years before he met Ruth, his two brothers with their wives and his unmarried sister were all assembled in his home.

Bozydar’s family had arrived early in the evening. It was well after midnight by the time they had all left. After they had, Bozydar went to bed but barely slept that night. After scarcely four hours in bed and less sleep, he gave got up and made coffee, not because he wanted it but simply as something to do. He made cup after cup that he didn’t really want until it was a time he could reasonably phone Ruth. He arranged with her to collect her the next Saturday morning. He wouldn’t say why, asking only that she bring Nadzia accompany them.

10:00am promptly Bozydar arrived to pick up the two ladies. He drove off still without telling them where he was taking them or why. It took about half an hour driving before Bozydar turned into a road in Smolec. They had all been there before but Bozydar had arrived by a different route. Ruth was the first to realise where they were and a moment later Nadzia gave a startled exclamation ‘What are we doing here.’ as they pulled up at the house she had inherited.

As Nadzia turned to the house getting out of Bozydar’s car, she was even more surprised when the front door swung back and her adwocat Dominik Dąbrowski, stood at the top of the step smiling and beckoning them in. ‘What are you doing here? We don’t have an appointment.’ ‘No.’ he replied ‘we don’t but I have some good news and wanted to tell you personally. I’ve found you a buyer for the house already. It’s a good price. You won’t be rich but with a little care, you should be able to live comfortably for the rest of your life. You just need to sigh these papers he added’.

‘Who’s the buyer,’ Nadzier asked ‘who wants my house?’ I can’t see the name on these papers.’ ‘The buyers adwocat is acting on his behalf until the sale is complete.’ Dominik Dąbrowski said. ‘I am not allowed to tell you the name until after you sign the papers.’ he added. ‘It’s what you wanted, what have you to lose. Sign them.’ Nadzia looked at Ruth as she spoke, ‘You think it’s allright?’ she asked. Ruth nodded and held out a pen. Nadzia hesitated for a few moments longer before taking the pen and letting it hover over the papers for an instant before adding her signature.

Underlining her signature Nadzia looked up at her adwocat. Dominik Dąbrowski spoke up ‘I can now tell you who the buyer is,’ he paused a moment ‘or maybe I should let him introduce himself.’ he said taking a step back and leaving the room still and silent with just the four of them. ‘Well’ said Nadzia ‘how long do we have to wait for him?’. ‘No time at all.’ uttered Bozydar stepping forward.

Both Nadzia’s and Ruth’s eyes widened as they realised who had bought the house. ‘I’ve been busy with my family this last few days’ Bozydar said. They’ve lent me the money I couldn’t raise myself to buy this house. But it’s not a house I want, it’s a home. You said it was too big for you Nadzia,’ he went on ‘but it’s not too big for a family.’ A family of three perhaps at first, then later, well later who knows.

‘You’re asking us to come and live with you?’ Ruth asked Bozydar. When he looked directly at her before continuing his eyes softened meeting hers, ‘That’s partly what I’m asking, but it’s not all. I’m asking Nadzia if she would come and live with us, Ruth.’ Bozydar paused, his voice softening as his eyes had earlier. ‘I’m asking you to marry me?’

Ruth could barely speak as she turned to Nadzia with tears in her eyes. The older woman just smiled and nodded.

Previous chapters:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3