Not All Roads Lead Home

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown.

Before the Technicolor fairy tale of a quartet of troubled characters trekking through a foreboding forest hoping to gain what they lack from the “great and powerful” Self-Gnosis (The Wizard of OZ), there is a tale of a young man taking a similar journey. And though there is no fear of “lions and tigers and bears” in this tale, there is “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!”.

It seems to me that both tales are about journeys into the dark side – the nocturnal forest – to look for an esoteric mystical experience that would supply what is missing. But unlike the “There’s no place like home” heartening ending of the OZ tale, we find in the second tale that those who covenant to journey into the forest and the deepest darkest part of it, come home disillusioned and faithless.

Often, especially in our youth, we begin to question the religious beliefs and worldviews of our families, of our mentors and of those around us. We see hypocrisy around us and despise it and yet become two-faced in our own sought out experiences wrought in the dark. We then begin to take on ambivalence about evil, giving ourselves the ‘grace’ to operate in both good and evil ways. Moral relativism is that form of grace.

We tell ourselves that there are people who are restrictive, conservative and Puritanical – “They don’t know me.”. We tell ourselves that we have become too worldly-wise to be like them: “I have Jesus. I’m above all that narrow-minded out-of-date conventionalism. I’m the progressive sort.” So, we journey into the dark forest, into the deepest darkest part of the forest, and think ourselves to be impervious to whatever lurks there. With each step we tell ourselves “I am only seeking understanding”.

We give ourselves permission to investigate the dark side. We say to ourselves “I will do it just one time. Why be left out?  Why not join the “communion of our race””? Thus, we journey into the night and encounter evil. And like Goodman Brown, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1835 short story by the same name, we come home disillusioned, our faith destroyed.

Young Goodman Brown sets out one night to gain existential insight into good and evil. The story, set in 17th century Puritan New England, operates within the Puritan context of sin, grace and unconditional salvific election. I consider the tale an allegory, as it employs symbols starting with the names Goodman and Faith.

In the tale before us, Goodman Brown leaves his saintly wife Faith at the threshold of their home. She is wearing a pink ribbon on her cap. The pink ribbon, mentioned throughout, I read as a symbol of the admixture of purity (white) and sin (red). The color speaks to Goodman Brown’s spiritual understanding based on his Puritan beliefs and also to his rose-colored romance-based naiveté about the nature of evil.

“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.”

With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

As Goodman sets out, he does so under the cover of night and the cover of assumption: as a Puritan, Goodman Brown considers himself one of the elect. He carries with him a Puritan/Calvinist ‘good hands’ insurance card – the doctrine of predestination. He doesn’t leave home without it. And, as you read above, Goodman assumes that his association with the right people – his wife Faith in particular and the town’s good church folk in general – that he will follow them to the heavenly home. Goodman Brown goes out into the portentous night feeling safe and secure from all alarms. But his predetermined confidence quickly melts away as soon as he steps into the mysterious dark woods.

He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude.

Goodman’s first encounter in the woods is an old man who reminds him of his goodly grandfather. The old man appears to be waiting for Goodman. He says, “You are late, Goodman Brown.” Goodman replies “Faith kept me back awhile”.

Though the old man appears similar to Brown in many pedestrian ways the old man also appears to have “an indescribable air of one who knew the world”. And there’s something else Goodman notices and tries to explain away.

But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

It is clear to the reader that the old man is the devil who is supported by the serpent staff, He does his best to entice Goodman Brown down the road to what is later called “the communion of your race” where he will learn of the “secret deeds” of his fellow townsfolk and see hypocrisy countenanced.

Goodman balks, claiming to be one of a breed of men who is above the riff-raff.

“Too far! too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept—”

Goodman’s journey away from faith is stop and go as wrestles with the temptation of going on. He encounters something he initially resists and uses the honor of his good name and of those before him as a reason to rethink things before giving on to going on. But, he doesn’t use his faith as a shield and so bends in to temptation. He continues his journey with the old man’s urging.

The old man tries to persuade Goodman to get up and continue. He does so by using Goodman’s own argument. The old man conjures up a kinship with men like Goodman. He lies about having personal knowledge and acquaintance of Goodman’s family. He then speaks of townsfolk – deacons and those in power – as personal references. He cajoles Goodman to continue their ‘association’ by journeying on.

Goodman Brown once considered himself impervious to all the devil’s wiles. After all he was one of the elect and associated with the right people. But each step he took in the wrong direction away from faith weakened his resolve. His compromises were reinforced by his inordinate curiosity. He continues his journey into the deepest darkest part of the forest and sees what the “communion of our race” so desires, “that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were sinners abashed”.

There are several interpretations and critiques of the story. Some will say that Hawthorne is pointing out the hypocrisy of a society that prides itself on its high moral and civic standing and makes outcasts of those who do not live up to its standards. Other interpreters go out on a dark forest limb with their construal:

Modern critics have interpreted “Young Goodman Brown” in many ways. The story as a critique of society stands out to some. To psychologically inclined readers, Brown journeys into the psyche. The village represents the superego, whereas the forest and darkness become equivalents of the Freudian id. The entire story becomes a portrait of one human mind that discovers the usually suppressed and disquieting reality of animal instinct

The story’s symbols lend its meaning to a wide audience and to many interpretations. As you read it you will have your own takeaway. I consider it an allegory or parable about assumptions, hypocrisy and the lure of evil to pull one away from one’s home base of faith toward the “reality of animal instincts”.

The story doesn’t tell us Brown’s motives other than “present evil purpose” Conjecture would lead us to think that young Goodman Brown had become questioning about evil and the devil even though he lived surrounded by strict warnings against both in Puritan village. One gets the sense that Brown goes out by himself to just stick his nose in on evil for the sake of understanding the world he lives in and perhaps the fear of evil inculcated in him by his upbringing.

I have provided some of my take on Young Goodman Brown and some excerpts from the story with the hope that you will read the short story (it should take about fifteen minutes). I invite you to consider what road you are taking when you want to stick your nose in on evil. Consider where it leads and what you will encounter. And, where it will lead you. This road does not lead home.

We are told in Scripture to “test the spirits” so that we may know what is good and true and from God. That is not what is going on in Young Goodman Brown. Rather, this a young man who leaves faith behind and takes a walk on the wild side and ends up at a satanic ritual. His road did not lead back home to faith. It led to nihilism and despair and the resolve to no longer exist.

In truth, all through the haunted forest there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until…

Well, you’ll just have to read the story:

The Time Has Arrived

In a recent post remembering Queen Elizabeth II, I asked “Please let me know if you know of any other such female public figure today.”  Queen Elizabeth II symbolized the good, the stalwart, the faithful. She was a touchstone for basic human decency, for her country, and for the Christian faith.

At her Coronation in 1953, The Queen was anointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. She took an oath to “maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England”.

Though she was the head of the Church of England, Queen Elizabeth acted and spoke with secular common sense.

Has another formative and no-nonsense woman come on the scene? Apparently. The Leftist media thinks so and is terrified. The media, with one voice, labels her “far right”, “fascist”, “Mussolini”.

This woman, Italy’s first female prime minster, speaks in clarion terms of the family, of preserving the good, of basic human decency, and of Italy-centered nationalism. She doesn’t speak globalist gobbledygook. She speaks in human terms and with secular common sense.

Here is Giorgia Meloni’s electrifying speech at the World Congress of Families

And here is Tucker Carlson’s opening statement on Giorgia Meloni:

Malone (and Vigano) on Meloni: Italian Election and COVID – Update (substack.com)

9-28-22: YouTube shut down the above World Congress of Families video – the Left is terrified of Meloni (and of families). Here’s a briefer version of her speech:

The Monstrous Left and Their Misplaced Faith

“Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural.”- G.K. Chesterton

You don’t need Stephen King or R.L. Stine for exposure to the bizarre, macabre, and grotesque. Just empower Progressives. These soul antagonists synthesize the unnatural with natural to produce the profane.

They solemnize sex and sodomize the sacred. Gay marriage is one example. Another is their abuse of truth in order to validate perverse behavior. They tell us that gays are “born that way” as if homosexuality was a genetic disposition. It is not. There is no gay gene, just as there is no racist gene. Both behaviors are learned. But the “born that way” lies continue. And so that they can reject God at every level of being and absolve the perverse of any responsibility for their actions at every level, they repeat the lie.

Again, they solemnize sex and sodomize the sacred. They shut down businesses and churches during the COVID “public emergency” and allow gay bars and bath houses to remain open during the “public emergency” of monkey pox.

Again, they solemnize sex and sodomize the sacred. How else can one explain abortion? How else can one explain Bishop Jennifer of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis bemoaning the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision?

Progressives splice truth together with lies and tell us that truth is what they say it is. They apply their “settled science” to COVID. Climate Change, homosexuality, and now the economy. A “state of transition” is what they call an obvious “recession”. They balk at telling us the definition of a woman. For them, biological gender is not “settled science”. They view it as just another “state of transition”.

They lionize democracy and steal elections. They lionize democracy and silence vox populi on social media, Remember, truth is what they say it is.

They shut down businesses because of COVID and open the border to all kinds of disease-carrying illegal immigrants. The economic opportunists, gang members, terrorists, felons, and sexual predators flooding across the border by the millions are not only carrying disease. They are bringing in deadly fentanyl.

Progressives, like Pharisees in Jesus’s day, portray themselves as being on the “right side of history”. As they look down on the common people, they pray to the themselves “I thank thee that I am not as other men are”. One of Progressivism’s High Priests called us common folk “bitter clingers”- . . . they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

They ply us daily with “hell-broth fire and bubble” fear porn to keep us coming back for more horror fiction updates.

Progressives experiment on humans with their mNRA-altering-aborted-human-fetal cell vaccines.

They decry “the rich” while all the time making huge profits to accrue wealth and power. How is it that politicians gather up so much wealth?

They criminalize our existence with mandates. They send the police state – the hulks of DOJ, FBI and IRS – to plunder our lives.

Again, they solemnize sex and sodomize the sacred. They expose their freakish nature to our children in schools. They offer “gender affirming treatment” that is the exact opposite of gender affirming. They encourage children to undergo destructive life altering physical changes thereby producing more freaks like themselves. They fondle our children with touchy-feely social emotional learning and pronoun probing. They delight in making our children targets of minor attracted persons – the user-friendly destigmatized version of pedophilia.

The obsessive promotion of LGBTQ by the American ruling class is not incidental but a well thought out program following to the letter Herbert Marcuse’s idea that through the cultivation of a “polymorphous perverse” sexuality among children you can bring about a “radical transformation of values”. Since time immemorial humans understood that a society can’t hold itself together unless it is organized around heterosexuality and biological reproduction. But Marcuse argued in Eros and Civilization against the “repressive sexuality” of biological reproduction which employs sexuality as a means for a social end —— in support of “the perversions” of polymorphous sexuality to “challenge the very foundations” of Western society. -Dr. Ricardo Duchesne

As I said, you don’t need Stephen King or R.L. Stine for exposure to the bizarre, macabre, and grotesque. Just empower Progressives. These soul antagonists synthesize the unnatural with natural to produce the profane. Their Marxist “end of history” focused religion would have it no other way.

It is a religion divorced from God and which holds contempt for reality. Clearly, they resent the handed-down received things that most of us base our lives on. Clearly, they breathe in the air of noxious nihilism. Clearly, they reduce life to materialism and to power games.

Clearly, the constant upheaval of society by them is being done so to shovel up humans and throw them into the hopper of communism whence the masses will be extruded into a pliable form. Clearly, they practice alchemy.

Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption.

~H. J. Sheppard (1986) Gnosticism and Alchemy

Progressives see themselves in an alternate reality. Thereby, they consider Christians to be eccentric – off center – while they see themselves as centered and possessing special “gnowledge”. They are the special ones.

“That one day someone will arrive from the mundane nothingness and say the words, “No, my friend, not you. You don’t belong here Come with me You belong with the special ones.”Dispatches from Elsewhere

I choose Chesterton’s quote Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural because Progressives deny the supernatural. The effects of suppressing or ignoring the vital religious dimensions of the human person are partially listed above. In their attempts to secularize the world in their image, there has been a correlating loss of human freedom and the disfiguration of mind, body and spirit. Meaninglessness abounds. The bizarre, macabre, and grotesque abound.

Try as one may to understand what drives Progressives to do what they do, the constant complaining and churning and upheaval of the world and the absurdity by which these secular humanists order life, their behavior continues to confound. The following video presentation aids our understanding. It provides in-depth background of Progressivism’s (the Left’s) “end of history” faith and religion.

Here are some quotes from the video and web page:

“The Left has a different operating system. . . “

“Marxism is a theology, and its religion is Communism. That we have failed to understand this fact over the 175 years since Marx wrote the early drafts of what he originally called the Communist Confession of Faith and published in by the title The Communist Manifesto is indisputably one of the most damaging analytical errors in human history, if not the single worst. It’s time to set the record straight. Marx laid out an evil theology, and the practice of his religion is a liturgy of death and destruction. . .

 . . .Hegel, building on Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Father of Leftism), Immanuel Kant, and others dialectically synthesized Hermetic alchemy and Gnosticism, hammered it into a Christianity-based metaphysical framework, and mislabeled it a “system of science.” Thus we arrive at what has been variously called “Scientific Gnosticism,” “Gnosticism in the Modern Era,” and “Dialectical Leftism,” which outlines a broad system of faith in man’s necessary role as a transformer of reality into its utopian idealized state at the End of History.”

(Go to the video’s 1:35:00 point for a summary of the Left’s faith.)

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“Like 1984, only on a smaller scale, C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength describes a descent into tyranny that bears an eerie resemblance to our current situation.  However, Lewis foresaw a few things that weren’t on Orwell’s radar.”

C.S. Lewis’ Fantasy is Our Reality | FrontpageMag

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Writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote to a friend in 1955: “If you live today you breathe in nihilism. In or out of the Church, it’s the gas you breathe.”. 

“You shall know the truth and the truth will make you odd.” – Flannery O’Connor

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Theater of the Absurd:

Consider the following quote and list from Issue #1246: The social tipping point is here (tftc.io)

“The list could go on for days. There has been a never-ending barrage of complete and utter nonsense that the common man has been subjected to by the mainstream corporate press and the puppets in government for decades that was very effective.

Stop driving your car.

Stay six feet away.

Eat the bugs.

Don’t you dare try to own anything.

We’re taking your farmland.

You can’t work unless you take these shots.

Sorry, not going to be able to let you in to granny’s funeral.

The gym is closed but the liquor store is open late.

We need some of you to lose your jobs to save the economy.

You, over there, no pulling yourself out of poverty by leveraging hydrocarbons.

Call that dude a chick and let him compete against chicks.

Step into this security scanner.

Give us your guns.

Cow farts are killing the planet.

The inflation you think you’re experiencing isn’t real.

This isn’t a recession.

We must aid Ukraine.

Those people wandering aloofly in the Capitol Building are insurrectionists.

Don’t ask us about Building 7.

Use this windmill instead of oil and gas.

Nuclear energy is bad.

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

Trust us. The banks needed to be bailed out.

Six-year-olds need to learn about blow jobs.

Drag queens getting dollar bills stuffed into their thongs for reading your kid’s books is completely normal.

Watch this game.

Look at this feud.

Take this pill.

Read this think piece.

Think about your shortcomings.

It’s your neighbor’s fault.”

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Post-Modernism and Neo-Marxism and their effects on culture:

An engaging and insightful conversation between Camille Paglia & Jordan B Peterson: Modern Times: Camille Paglia & Jordan B Peterson – YouTube

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Informed Dissent:

“In Memoriam”

Remember the OSHA vaccine mandates of fall 2021? Remember the media’s vaccine blitz?

Since Thanksgiving of 2021 the executive director of our engineering group has announced four deaths in our group. These were young people.

I’ve worked at this company fifteen years. Prior to last fall, infrequently would a death be announced. The person who passed was typically someone much older and who had worked at our company and had retired.

We don’t know the cause of the death for these four co-workers. Could it be correlated to the vaccine?

Pfizer Documents & Official Real-World Data prove the COVID Vaccines are already causing Mass Depopulation – The Expose (expose-news.com)

Ivermectin: Why is the Administrative State willing to kill you? (substack.com)

mRNA Vaccine Detox Protocol (anggur.uk)

The funeral business is doing great! – by Alex Berenson (substack.com)

A People’s History of COVID-19 by William M. Briggs ~polpes-pidryd • by ~bidbel (marsreview.org)

Fourteen young Canadian docs die after getting the shot. Normally would be ~0 over 30 years. (substack.com)

(REPORT) Pressure to approve Covid vaccine boosters with ‘grossly insufficient’ data | Sharyl Attkisson

1 in every 246 Vaccinated People has died within 60 days of Covid-19 Vaccination in England according to UK Government – The Expose (expose-news.com)

Deborah Birx’s Guide to Destroying America – Tablet Magazine

News anchor dies of blood clots after Covid vaccine | Sharyl Attkisson

A New Name for Monkeypox is Coming, Cardiovascular effects from the Vaccine, Polio Spread and More (substack.com)

Vaccines Are Bringing Back a Nearly Eradicated Deadly Virus (theepochtimes.com)

My interviews with Ryan Cole, Deb Conrad, and Gina Doane: Why aren’t docs seeing vax deaths? (substack.com)

Stand for Health Freedom:

“The House is set to vote on landmark federal privacy legislation, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. While we all want our privacy protected, this bill is a snake in the grass for states’ rights as it is written. The bill would allow federal law to override state law, prohibiting states from enacting more data privacy protection than the federal bill would set.

Data privacy is so important for health freedom — it touches the health apps we use, the online doctor’s appointments, the wearable devices that monitor our vitals, and more. We saw during the declared pandemic how tenuous our grasp on our privacy truly is – and how our health choices profoundly impact our lives and the lives of our children.

We cannot let the federal government monopolize how our data is collected, stored, and transferred, without allowing our states to regulate. We need to call on our representatives to demand that the ability of states to protect their own citizens be included in the bill, or the bill must fail.”

Take Action. Click link to contact your reps in Congress.

Americans shouldn’t compromise on privacy. | Stand for Health Freedom

Removing WOKE ESG from Banks:

Republican states are planning an all-out assault on woke banks — The Republic Brief

The Progress of Progressivism:

Non-woke liberals describe ‘living hell’ caused by Minneapolis homeless encampments – Alpha News

California governor declares monkeypox state of emergency | AP News

The kids are not all right… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Crazy scene in Venice Beach… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Democrats create a private army:

Raheem J. Kassam 🍊 on Twitter: “Lmao they just used your taxes to increase your taxes so they could hire 87,000 IRS agents to rifle further through your taxes in case you owe more taxes. It’s a kleptocracy. https://t.co/UXY3pp5ZFc” / Twitter

American Kleptocracy. – Raheem Kassam’s Substack.

Here Are The Winners And Losers In The ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ | ZeroHedge

Democrats Just Hired 87,000 More IRS Employees to Harass, Attack Americans — Here’s a List of the Conservative Groups the Obama IRS Targeted in 2012 (thegatewaypundit.com)

Why did the IRS buy 5,000,000 rounds of ammo? – New York State Firearms Association

Democrats’ ‘Inflation Reduction’ Bill To Make The IRS Larger Than FBI, Border Patrol, State Department Combined (thegatewaypundit.com)

The reconciliation package would also double the current IRS workforce by hiring an additional 87,000 employees to the bureau’s staff of 78,661 employees, a move that would make the IRS larger than the Pentagon, State Department, FBI and Border Patrol.

The IRS is training their agents to come after us in tactical situations.
If the clot shot doesn’t kill us, the IRS will.

Our taxes are paying their salaries and for their govt. benefits.

Guess what party they will vote for to keep their positions? And, guess who’s the target of the expanded IRS.

American Kleptocracy. – Raheem Kassam’s Substack.

Here Are The Winners And Losers In The ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ | ZeroHedge

Life-saving Conservatives:

Roe v. Wade: Indiana legislature first in US to pass near ban on abortions (firstpost.com)

The Green Agenda Insanity:

Is it ethical to purchase a lithium battery powered EV? – CFACT

The Unintended Consequences of Declaring ‘Climate Emergency’ (townhall.com)

Scotland cut down 14 million trees to make way for wind turbines – Energy News Beat

Claim We Can Believe In

Have you tried out claims that promise a change for the better and then found that they fall short of their ballyhooed benefits? Have you tried, say, using tooth whitening strips and gels and find that your teeth didn’t whiten as advertised? Did you lose the weight promised through a much-hyped weight reduction program? Has the COVID vaccine proven to be “safe and effective” and a protection against COVID as claimed by the CDC, Anthony Fauci and the media?  

Have you given in to high-pressure sales such as the latter? Did you act without sufficient information as to the risks and benefits? According to the FDA, when drugs are advertised A product claim ad names a drug, says what condition it treats, and talks about both its benefits and its risks. An ad must present the benefits and risks of a prescription drug in a balanced fashion. Balance depends on both the information in the ad itself and how the information is presented. In this ad, the benefits and risks are presented to give a balanced impression of the drug. Did you see any of the required FDA ad information for the COVID vaccine crusade?

Have you voted for the ostentatious claims of political campaigns? A few recent examples include “Change We Can Believe In”, “Hope and Change”, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”, and “We can Build Back Better”.

If you are into audacious claims and a Claim We Can Believe In, then here’s one:

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and the end.” -Jesus, The Revelation of John 22:13

Before this claim is made by the risen-from-the-dead Jesus and before any of the seven “I am” claims stated in John’s gospel account, Jesus revealed empirical proof to eyewitnesses and taste-witnesses that would substantiate his incredible claim.

The revelation came about during a wedding feast. Without much ado (Jesus didn’t blow smoke about himself like so many have done to draw attention to themselves.), Jesus revealed himself to be the first and last of any sequence. The account is recorded in John’s gospel chapter 2:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’s mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.

The wine ran out.

Jesus’s mother came over to him.

“They haven’t got any wine!” she said.

“Oh, Mother!” replied Jesus. “What’s that got to do with you and me? My time hasn’t come yet.”

His mother spoke to the servants. “Do whatever he tells you”, she said.

Six stone water-jars were standing there, ready for use in the Jewish purification rites. Each held about twenty or thirty gallons.

“Fill the jars with water,” said Jesus to the servants. And they filled them, right up to the brim.

“Now draw some water out,” he said, “and take it to the chief steward.” They did so.

Biblical vector illustration series, Jesus turns water into wine

When the chief steward tasted the water that turned into wine (he didn’t know where it had come from, but the servants who had drawing the water knew), he called the bridegroom.

“What everybody normally does,” he said, “is to serve the good wine first, and then the worse stuff when people have had plenty to drink. But you’ve kept the good wine till now!”

This event, in Cana of Galilee, was the first of Jesus’s signs. He displayed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

-The gospel according to John (the Elder) 2: 1-11

Water into wine. The first and last of a sequence and the transubstantiation of one substance into another. The sequence bypassed grapes, sunlight, soil, a winepress, and fermentation. We logically expect the process to explain things. How could science explain this? H2O changed from a simple formula into a complex mixture of chemical compounds in an instant.

John records empirical proof substantiating Jesus’s first-last claim – the wine-tasting done by the chief steward. We learn from the steward that the wine Jesus produced wasn’t the “worse stuff”. It wasn’t sour grape water. It was, in fact, “good wine”. The chief steward had no idea the “good wine” was sourced from the First and Last Vineyard.

“Ask any winemaker and they’ll tell you that winemaking is a complex business. . . the chemical profile of the grapes can also vary depending on how much sunlight and water they are exposed to, how quickly they ripen, their ripeness when picked, and on conditions such as the climate and the soil.”

Scripture gives insight to Christ’s threefold claim Alpha and Omega, first and last, beginning and the end. Psalm 91:1 is an example of the parallelism used in the claim.

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
    who abide in the shadow of the Almighty

The coupling of words deepens and expands the meaning of the words. “Abide” has a deeper sense of belonging than “live”. “Shadow” has a greater sense of comfort than “shelter” and “Almighty” has a greater sense of omnipotence than “Most High”.

Jesus claims to be A to Zed and more. Jesus claims to be the first and last of any sequence and not just what is a readily known sequence. Jesus claims to before the beginning as the beginning and after the end as the end. He claims to be the arché and telos. Jesus claims to be the source of a sequence and the goal of a sequence. The most extraordinary deed ever recorded substantiates his claim.

John wants the readers of his gospel account to know that this most extraordinary deed of Jesus is archetypal of what Jesus will do and is sourced in who he is.

This event, in Cana of Galilee, was the arché of Jesus’s signs.

Colossians 1:15-17

Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, every single thing was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole scheme of creation

The first and last sequence, the beginning and end, the sustaining principle and destiny of all things is a person. The arché and telos of every level of reality is a person. Living water and new wine is a person.

NB: John opened this account with “On the third day . . .”, a reference to another extraordinary sequence completed in Christ – the resurrection.

More than a Claim to Believe In was confirmed at the Cana wedding. I see the love of Christ demonstrated. Without calling attention to himself, Jesus acted to bless the wedding and keep the bride and groom as the focus of the celebration. He acted behind the scenes to uphold the whole scheme of creation.

*****

‘Atheism too lives by an indemonstrable faith; whether it is faith in human nature (Feuerbach), or faith in the future socialist society (Marx) or faith in rational science (Freud). The question then can be asked of any form of atheism whether it is not itself an understandable projection of man (Feuerbach), a consolation serving vested interests (Marx) or an infantile illusion (Freud).’  Hans Kung, Why I am still a Christian (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987), 229-30.

*****

Informed Dissent:

Dr. Birx Praises Herself While Revealing Ignorance, Treachery, and Deceit ⋆ Brownstone Institute

Send in the HHS clowns – by Robert W Malone MD, MS (substack.com)

“An accomplished litigator, Kennedy seeks to persuade jurors who purchased his book that the “real” Anthony Fauci is a “serial liar,” a “corrupt,” “vindictive,” and “disingenuous” “fraud,” who ingratiated himself to a “servile” press as well as all seven presidents who took his public health advice. According to Kennedy, Anthony Fauci remains the undisputed “ringmaster” presiding over a “Ministry of Fear” whose “tentacles” now reach into almost every powerful organization in the world.” 

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Takes on Fauci in ‘Most Important Book’ of our Times – UncoverDC

“The World Health Organization (WHO) has been pushing forward with preparations for an agreement to create a global health governance. Although it has been referred to as a “pandemic treaty,” it’s been openly discussed that the agreement should cover much more. . .

Nowhere has this been described as an agreement that would only be in effect in case of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but it would instead set up standing surveillance methods in attempts to prevent another pandemic.”

Read this article – WHO Update | Stand for Health Freedom – and see the steps you can take to ward off WHO intrusion into our lives.

Fully vaccinated account for 91% of COVID deaths in one country (wnd.com)

W.H.O. declares Monkey Pox a ‘global health emergency’… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

Monkeypox:

Don’t dare call them groomers…. 98% of cases are among gay or bisexual men and 95% of cases are suspected to have been transmitted during sex. Now children are infected.

CDC Reports First Two Cases of Monkeypox in Children, Both ‘Adjacent’ to the Gay Community (thegatewaypundit.com)

Monkeypox or Moneypox? – by Robert W Malone MD, MS (substack.com)

Marxism:

Carrying Water For The Revolution – by Sam Faddis (substack.com)

Courage Update:

Pastor Artur Pawlowski at Rebel News

Ezra Levant 🍁🚛 on Twitter: “🚨BIGGEST ALBERTA NEWS STORY OF 2022. The Alberta Court of Appeal just destroyed Jason Kenney’s two-year persecution of Pastor Artur Pawlowski. They ruled that the injunction against him, his arrest, his jail time, the censorship order and fines against him were illegal.” / Twitter

“A scared world needs a fearless church.” – AW Tozer

Jan 6th political prisoners:

Climate Change in the Dock:

Don’t mess with the man from MIT… – CITIZEN FREE PRESS

All Things Held Together in Two Books

A college physics course experiment was an eye-opener. The purpose of the experiment was to measure the earth’s gravitational acceleration from an object in free fall. (See PDF below for an example). But that day in the physics lab the experiment took on greater significance. I found out that God has two books – scripture and science – and the books go hand in hand.

As I see it, scripture provides the origin and context for all understanding. From the ancient cosmology starting point In the beginning God created the heavens and earth to John the Elder introducing us to the incarnation of that cosmology – Jesus, the way, the truth and life.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1–3) 

Science can explain the material world, the mechanisms of creation and the forces (gravity, tension, spring, etc.) at work on earth in sublime mathematical terms. In fact, four fundamental forces make it possible for humans (and scripture) to exist in the habitable zone called earth.

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I grew up in a Sola Scriptura universe. I attended Baptist and Bible churches for the first half of my life. I attended Moody Bible Institute after high school. These institutions posited the trinity of scripture, right living, and evangelism. These mattered most in that constrained cosmology. The material world seemed immaterial to those who preached and taught, except for tithing and the payment of room and board.

In that context, gospel songs seemed to promote a disdain for the physical world:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue;
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

This world is not my home? Hmmm. Why did God create the material heavens and earth? And why did God bother giving material creation order and function to fashion a temple where He could dwell with man, as described in Genesis 1 and 2? Why bother setting up a temple garden? Are we meant to look down on creation from some heavenly perch?

During those times of sermons and studies, I heard nothing about the material nature of things or of science. By its avoidance it implied, for me at least, that the material world was linked with “the natural man” and the world, the flesh, and the devil. As such, the material world needed to be done away with the parts of me that were sinful (Col. 3:5). There was also the highly popular but errant end-time teaching and best-selling books describing a rapture that would whisk believers away from corrupted earth.

But that day in the lab as I calculated the acceleration due to gravity, I understood that a force acted to keep me on the earth. I also realized that I had come across a companion book to scripture. Scripture says Jesus holds all things together (Col. 1:17). Science says that gravity is the force the holds everything in the universe together. That day I realized that the Lord was increasing the magnitude of my cosmology with a down-to-earth experiment.

Science offered me new insight into God the Creator. Matter matters to God. Holding things together matters to God. Jesus offering his body and blood as true food and drink in the material elements of bread and wine took on new meaning.

Why study the mechanical nature of things? Why study science? For several reasons: Everything in the natural world is a sign, a trace, an echo, an image and a sacrament of the triune God. The goodness of God is diffused into His good creation. As such, everything in creation has been given a profound relationality with a space to be and a sense of particularity so that it is encountered and not just used.

Why study the science of things? Because God made them to be studied. God made the unpredictability of quantum physics for us to puzzle over, to reflect on and then to uncover its mysteries, e.g., light as both particle and wave. The contemplative exercise is necessary for science. And, it what’s required for our theology of the mysterious three-in-one Trinity.

Why study the science of things? Because nothing is stamped on the bottom, “made by God.” That’s for us to find out. We were created to look into mysteries and to be scientists.

Of course, there are people who are terrified of looking at information that doesn’t align with what they have been told for so many years. When I told my mother that I accepted the thinking that the universe came into existence with the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago and the theory of evolutionary creationism, she told me “That’s heresy! I have no doubt that she prayed for my soul after that call. Mom is now with the Lord. Her concerns have been allayed.

I have read and been wowed by many science texts including books about genomics, quantum physics, astrophysics, and the periodic table. I’ve learned that God creates in particular and yet everything created is related. Electrons are relational to protons and neutrons. The periodic table reveals that relationality.

As I recorded data that remarkable day in the physics lab, I said “This is soooooo cool!” I felt an incredible sense of awe and wonder. I had found the relationality of scripture and science.

And he is ahead, prior to all else,

And in him all things hold together

The Letter of Paul to the Colossians 1: 17

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An approaching moving day and what it involves prompted this post. As with every previous move, I need to sort through things to see what stays behind and what goes forward. The same process of sorting out of what makes sense to keep applies to one’s reasoning and faith, to one’s understanding of science and scripture, and to achieving maturity.

****

Denis Alexander

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Links:

The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (cam.ac.uk)

BioLogos – God’s Word. God’s World. – BioLogos

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Episode_1839 – The Revolt Of America’s Moms A Mother’s Day Special”. Released: 2022.

Episode_1840 The Revolt Of America’s Moms A Mother’s Day Special Cont.”. Released: 2022.

“Come to Me”

in the Christ shall all be made alive -1 Cor. 15: 22

Many years ago, an interim pastor at the church I was attending asked me to go with him to Pacific Garden Mission in downtown Chicago. This pastor was involved PGM’s Unshackled radio broadcasts. On this occasion, he and I ministered to those who came in off the street. I played a couple hymns on my trumpet. He gave a simple gospel message. Those attending received a hot meal after our brief service.

During my student days at Moody Bible Institute, I visited other Chicago rescue missions. I would play my trumpet and, with others in our group, give a brief witness to my faith in the Lord. Telling the forlorn and broken sitting before me that I was raised in a Christian home and received Jesus as my savior at eleven years old – I was coming from a place nowhere near where these folks had been.

But the gospel has a way of speaking into memories and of stirring folks to reflect on their life. Some wept upon hearing childhood accounts of home. From recollections, whether good or bad, the gospel points people in the direction of rescue from a life gone prodigal.

On each occasion, as I walked into the meeting room of the rescue mission, I encountered the smell of alcohol, urine and of unwashed bodies and clothes. My eyes met with a scene of loss – each figure a shell of their former self.

The homeless – alcoholics, the drug dependent, the bankrupt, the mentally ill, the despairing, the dis-owned by family and friends – sat scattered among the rows of chairs. Some folks were asleep sitting up. Some were laying across chairs asleep. Some were mumbling things unintelligible. And some sat up looking despondently at the floor. The body language: “I’m adrift, aching and alone.” The sign out front: “JESUS SAVES”.

*****

Are you having a real struggle? Come to me! Are you carrying a big load on your back? Come to me! – I’ll give you a rest! Jesus invites his listeners to put on his yoke and take lessons in humility from him. Arrogance is a heavy burden to carry and to defend (Matt 11: 28-30).

It’s the sick people who need the doctor, not the healthy ones. I came to call the bad people, not the good ones. Jesus responds to the grumbling legal experts when they see him eating with tax-collectors and sinners (Mk. 2: 17).

You see, the son of man came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus responds to the grumbling observers of the faith-based salvation of chief tax-collector Zacchaeus (Lk. 19: 1-10).

After all, God didn’t send the son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world could be saved by him. Jesus is reconfiguring the Pharisee Nicodemus’ notion of salvation (Jn. 3: 17). Jesus says that he will be lifted up just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert. This, Jesus explains, is how much God loved the world. And so, everyone who believes in him should not be lost but may share in the life of God’s new age.

****

The Gospel According to Mark chapter 4 records the rescue of a small fleet of fishing boats crossing the sea. A big windstorm came up and began filling the boats with water. Life and livelihood were in jeopardy. The fishermen were freaking out. Jesus, however, was sleeping soundly on a cushion in the stern in one of the boats. They woke him up.

Jesus got up, silenced the wind, and told the raucous sea “Shut Up!”. Things calmed down at once. The rescued, whose alarm at the tempest shifted to awe-struck terror of the rescuer, said to each other “Who is this? Even the wind and the sea do what he says!” Their crossing continued over to the land of the Gerasenes without further incident.

 Chapter 5 of Mark’s gospel account records three rescues. The narrative begins with Jesus and the small fleet of fishing boats arriving on the shore of the land of the Garasenes. They are suddenly confronted by a man with an unclean spirit. He emerged from a graveyard which is where he lived.

The man is wild. No one can physically restrain him, not even with shackles and chains. But the wild man’s attention is captured. He runs up to Jesus and falls down before him.

Jesus questions the man and hears that that man is possessed by a hoard of demons calling themselves “Legion”. The demons, knowing that Jesus will deal with them, want to be rescued in their own way. They beg Jesus to not send them out of the country. They want to be sent into a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus lets it happen and the pigs rush down into the sea and drown.

The herdsmen’s reaction, not unlike the fishermen’s reaction earlier, was of utter terror. They began telling everyone about what had happened. People came to Jesus. They saw the man who had once terrorized the countryside. He was seated, clothed and in his right mind. When eyewitnesses told the crowd what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people were afraid. They begged Jesus to leave their district. The man who had been rescued, however, asked to go with Jesus. Jesus wouldn’t let him.

Go back home. Go to your people and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had pity on you.

The rescued man goes out and tells what Jesus had done for him. Everyone is astonished.

The next two rescue accounts in Mark’s gospel account involves two people of different social and economic status: a named man – Jairus, a synagogue president – and an unnamed woman. Mark intertwines these accounts.

Jesus, having crossed back over the sea, is quickly surrounded by a large crowd on the seashore. Jairus arrives. When he sees Jesus, he falls down at his feet and begins pleading.

My daughter’s going to die! My daughter’s going to die! Please come – lay your hands on her – rescue her and let her live!

Jesus goes off with the man. And a large crowd follows pressing in in him. Enter the unnamed woman.

Mark tells us . . .

A woman who’d had internal bleeding for twelve years heard about Jesus. (She’d had a rough time at the hands of one doctor after another; she spent all she had on treatment and had gotten worse instead of better.) She came up in the crowd behind him and touched his clothes. “If I can just touch his clothes,” she said to herself,” I’ll be rescued.” At once her flow of blood dried up. She knew, in her body, that her illness is cured.

Jesus knew at once that power had flowed out of him. He asked who it was that touched him. The woman of low estate, trembling, made herself known to Jesus.

My daughter, your faith has rescued you. Go in peace. Be healed from your illness.

(I am reminded of another close encounter rescue: four men carried a paralytic on a stretcher, bringing him to see Jesus. The crowd was so thick around Jesus they couldn’t get near enough to ask for the man’s healing. So, they opened up the roof and lowered the stretcher with ropes. They placed the man right in front of Jesus. Jesus noticed their threads of faith and said to the paralytic Child, your sins are forgiven! (Mk. 2: 3-5))

As Jesus was speaking to the woman, some very sad people arrived from the synagogue president’s house.

Your daughter’s dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?

But that didn’t stop Jesus from rescuing the girl.

Don’t be afraid! Just believe!

Jesus said no to the crowd following him (Too much commotion already?) and went to the synagogue president’s house with only Peter, James and John. When they arrived, there was all kinds of weeping and wailing going on.

Why are you making such a fuss? Why all this weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s asleep.

Mark tells us that they laughed at him and then. . .

Jesus put them all out. Then he took the child’s father and mother, and his companions, and they went in to where the child was. He took hold of her hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Time to get up, little girl!” At once the girl got up and walked about. (She was twelve years old.) they were astonished out of their wits. Then he commanded them over and over not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

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The demoniac was cut off from himself and society because of what possessed him. Jesus ‘hog-ties’ the “Legion” and plunders the “strong man” domain (cf. Mk 3: 23-27). Jesus expels the unclean spirits and liberates the man from his living death. The image of God is restored. The man wants to go with Jesus but Jesus won’t let him. Jesus sends the unshackled man away so that people will see and hear from the rescued man himself: “Go to your people and tell what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how he had pity on you.”

The woman with the continual hemorrhaging was cut off from just about everything and all the time due to her ritual impurity (Lev. 15:25). She had exhausted her resources to find a cure. Then, by faith, she reached out and touched Jesus, God’s holy one. He rescues the woman from her living death – the constant loss of blood from her womb. She is restored to holiness, purity, and wholeness.

Death, the ultimate separation and defilement, tore the twelve-year old girl from her family. Because of her father’s pleading Jesus comes to her bedside, takes hold of her hand and restores the life that had flowed out of her. She is rescued, reconnected to her family, and is no longer a defilement.

(Note: It is interesting that in Mark’s account of the woman and the girl (5: 21-43), touching and being touched is mentioned six times. Ritual purity – maintaining holiness – was a daily and vital concern for a Jew. Physical contact would trigger any Jew who followed Scripture’s instructions regarding purity.

 Jesus didn’t ignore the ritual purity laws in the process of rescue. Instead, he neutralized the effect of the law by restoring the woman and child. By stopping the flow of blood and making her clean, Jesus ‘neutralized’ the ritual impurity of her touching him. By raising the girl to life, Jesus ‘neutralized’ the ritual impurity of touching the dead (Num. 5:1-4; 19:11-22; 31:19-24))

When Jesus announced “The time is fulfilled. God’s kingdom is arriving! Turn back and believe the good news (Mk. 1: 15) he began to show the world what the kingdom of God on earth means: God would reclaim creation – his temple – and rescue his image-bearing humans.

In these rescue accounts and so many others, Jesus is not asking about the salvation status of the individual. He is not asking them if they want to go to heaven when they die. He is not rescuing people to have them later sent off to become a disembodied spirit in some heavenly realm somewhere over the rainbow. No. Jesus wants those in his kingdom to do what he has done. Death is a short interlude. As with the twelve-year old girl, Jesus will take you by the hand, get you up and get you back at it. Death is not a retirement home.

The four gospels (and the epistles) tell us that Jesus interfaced with his creation – as heaven and earth – for its salvation. (Think of heaven as God’s space.) We read that the kingdom of God on earth, as Jesus taught and lived, is about rescue, rebirth, healing, faith and not fear, touching and being touched, making all things new, new creation, new wine skins, wholeness, sound minds, and about the Genesis to Revelation project – God dwelling with man (Rev. 21: 2-4).

The world’s salvation, epitomized in another Tower of Babel campaign – Build Back Better – is another take on rebuilding systems and institutions and on redesigning people and society to save the planet and to benefit the elites.

Much of today’s social justice activists work to force their salvation onto you. They want society to work in certain way. Hence, pseudo-moral campaigns like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), and the coming social credit scoring.

As I see it, Jesus didn’t do social justice – changing systems and institutions to save people. Jesus has a human connection with people and so much so that he went to the cross for their salvation. You won’t see one politician going out of their way to sacrifice anything. And, what do social justice activists sacrifice?

Jesus spoke against the self-righteousness that’s behind much of today’s social justice activism. And, he didn’t coerce anyone to be rescued. He didn’t force salvation onto anyone. People came to him with their faith and open hands. He responded to their need.

The difference between the world’s salvation and Jesus Saves is the difference between putting yourself into the hands of a bureaucracy and some ism and putting yourself into the hands of the Infinite-personal God in Jesus.

*****

Same Road. New Vista.

What’s that you say? You’ve just arrived from Cyprus and you are new to the area? And, you’ve heard some incredible things? You want me to tell you all that’s happened? Come in for some water and …some bread.

Where should I begin, stranger? There is so much that has happened the last three days – the last three years, in fact! And long before now! Since you are a visitor from Cyprus, I will start with some necessary background so you will understand why my husband and I are so giddy.

My husband Cleopas and I – I am Mary – settled many years ago in this fertile valley below Jerusalem This area is known as Emmaus. We call this place Motza. Our village is about 30 stadia from our beloved Jerusalem.

As you have seen, it is a well-watered area with rich soil and an abundance of willow trees. During the Feast of Tabernacles celebration many come to our valley and gather willow branches. They take the willow branches and stand them up on the sides of the altar with their tops bowed over the altar.

Our valley has many springs watering it. Our people come down to one of Motza’s springs to get water for baking their matzo for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I’m sure you noticed the Roman Centurions stationed here. My husband says it is a strategic position for them as they can protect the ascent to Jerusalem on the road leading from Jaffa. And, it is strategic in the ways I know of. Cleopas has overheard some of them saying that they would like to retire here because of the many springs and because north of our village the valley widens offering them plenty of room for settlement and for growing food.

My husband and I are simple farmers. But life for us and our people has not been so simple. Many of us have long desired to be freed from the rule of those who do not worship the One true God. When the Babylonians overtook Jerusalem and carried our people away into exile it was the Isaiah the prophet who spoke for us …

O Lord our God,

other lords besides you have ruled over us

but we acknowledge your name alone.

Now, we are back in our land and still the pagans lord over us. So, we wondered: Would our God act again to bring us out of this exile as he took us out of Egypt? And, when will God resurrect Israel and restore her as a nation? When will the messiah, the Anointed One and Son of the Most High from the line of David, restore the house of David? When, when, when …when would God redeem his people and set up his everlasting kingdom on earth?

On many Sabbaths, as we gather in the synagogue, words from the Torah are read. And then the words of the prophets – the haftarah. We all felt the hopelessness and despair in the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Our leader would then pray these words:

Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
 You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
 Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
 Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Yes, there were times of renewing hope and rejoicing. This past fall my husband and I and pilgrims from Cyrpus and from faraway lands went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the tabernacle. We carried with us willow branches and olive branches to build to sukkah – our temporary booths. When we all gathered together, we shouted praises to God, sang the songs of Aliyah and waved our fragrant lulavs – our willow branches and palm fronds – before the Lord in a spirit of thankfulness.

After the feast, we walked home with the pilgrims on the Emmaus road, the same road that brought you here. Our hearts were burning with expectation as to what God would do. There was much animated discussion about the events of those seven days. And, it all centered on Jesus. You must know about him, don’t you? How can anyone not know?

That day as we walked along we talked about his feeding the five thousand by the shore of Galilee. We talked about our seeing him healing the blind and the lame. And, Lazarus had been raised from the dead! We marveled that demons were being cast out and at Jesus’ authority over them. And, his words! No one ever spoke like he did about the Moses and the prophets. We discussed how our religious authorities despised him and wanted to do away with him. This made us all fearful, as it would negatively affect our synagogues. Yet, they each said that many were believing in him as the one who was to come.

But Miriam told the group that that even his brothers did not believe in him. She learned this from a young doctor named Luke, whom she met at the feast. He told her that Jesus’ brothers wanted Jesus to show himself publicly so that he could become well-known. “Show yourself to the world!” they said to him. They wanted to put Jesus in a situation which would make him prove he is the Messiah. But Jesus told them “My time is not yet. The world can’t hate you, but it hates me, because I am giving evidence against it, showing that its works are evil”. He told them to go up to the feast. Miriam said that Jesus went up later in secret and now we know why. There was a considerable dispute in the crowds. Some said “He’s a good man and others “He’s deceiving the people!” There were those who hated him and wanted to do away with him.

Ruth told us about the twelve-year old Jesus. His family had gone up to Jerusalem for Passover. When they left to return to Galilee with a caravan of friends, they had traveled a day’s journey before realizing that Jesus wasn’t with the group. He had vanished! So, they went back up to Jerusalem and searched for him for three days. They couldn’t find him anywhere. When they finally did put their eyes on him, he was sitting with the teachers of the law. He was listening to them and asking questions. Those listening to him were amazed at his answers to their questions. But, Mary was neither amazed or happy. She scolded him for disappearing. “Child”, she said to him, “why have done this to your father and me? We have been frantically searching for you”. Jesus told his mother, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I would have to be getting involved with my father’s work?” They didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. Wasn’t his father a carpenter?

Oy, there is so much to tell. I will focus on the last few days and on what happened to Cleopas and me this afternoon. What happened the last few days in Jerusalem we learned from the Jesus’ disciples as Cleopas and I were in Jerusalem for Passover. I can tell you that it was a time of weeping and anguish.

As you may have heard, on the night of Passover Jesus was captured by the authorities – ours and Roman. Though he had done nothing wrong he was sentenced to death on a Roman cross. Our authorities pushed for this, shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea and then released by Pilate to the angry crowd. Jesus was crucified like a common criminal. When we learned of this our hearts were broken, our hopes were dashed. “What good is a dead messiah we asked each other? We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” God be praised! There is more to tell you!

We were in Jerusalem this morning. We heard many, many accounts and rumors of visions and of Jesus’ tomb being empty. The disciples were at a loss as what to make of it all. Peter had gone off to see for himself and confirmed that the tomb was indeed empty. But he was as perplexed as the rest of us. We waited for while longer to see what might come of it all and then we decided to head home. Now, this is the part I’ve been waiting to tell you… I can barely …

Cleopas and I headed home to our village. Along the way we discussed all that had happened that morning. We argued, too, about what it meant. As we walked a stranger approached us and began walking with us. He was not at all familiar to us but he must have overheard us. He started the conversation:

Rowan LeCompte and Irene Matz LeCompte, “Third Station of the Resurrection: The Walk to Emmaus” (detail), 1970. Mosaic, Resurrection Chapel, National Cathedral, Washington, DC. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

“You’re obviously having a very important discussion on your walk. What’s it all about?”

We stopped walking and turned to him. He must have seen that we were both downcast. Cleopas answered the stranger. “You must be the only person around Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on there the last few days.”

“What things?” he asked.

“To do with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet. He acted with power and he spoke with power, before God and all the people. Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel!

And now, what with all this, it’s the third day since it happened. But some women from our group have astonished us. They went to his tomb very early this morning, and didn’t find his body. They came back saying they’d seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Some of the folk with us went off to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

“You are so senseless! So slow in your hearts to believe all the things the prophets said to you! Don’t you see? This is what had to happen: the Messiah had to suffer, and then come into his glory!”

At this point, we were quite perplexed. Who is this stranger and why is taking this so personally? We were both taken aback by the zeal and authority with which the stranger spoke. We searched his face for answers to what we didn’t recognize in all of the Sabbath words. He began walking and we followed.

We listened to the stranger explain Moses and the prophets and all of Scripture in terms of the One who was to come and ransom Israel and bring her and the whole world out of exile. He told us …

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

As he spoke, it was like we were no longer walking down the Emmaus Road.  We were on top of a mountain. Our eyes were opened to a vista that went far beyond anything we had known. Everything we had been taught, everything we had heard and seen, began to take on new meaning. He went on to talk about a kingdom on earth and about new creation. His words astonished and exhilarated us. Wonder and joy flooded our hearts.

We reached the intersection to our village. We turned down our road. The stranger kept walking down the Emmaus road. We called after him urging him to stay with us. He kept walking. Cleopas finally ran up to him and pleaded with him to stay with us. “Sir”, he said, “the day is almost over. Stay with us.” The stranger agreed to come with us.

We invited him in and gave him a bowl of water and a towel to wash his hands and feet. We gave him water to drink. We sat down to a small meal. The stranger took the bread up into his hands and prayed, giving thanks for the meal. He then broke the bread and gave it to us. It was then …it was then …it was then that we were shocked beyond belief! Our jaws dropped and we looked at each other with wide open eyes. Cleopas and I saw that the stranger was Jesus, the resurrected Jesus! And, as soon as we saw him, he vanished from our sight! Poof!

We were speechless. The Anointed One and Son of the Most High was walking with us and talking with us and sitting down to eat with us! Everything we hoped for had come true in our sight, as Anna the prophetess foretold and Simeon prophesied! … Our eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people!

Now, our new friend, Cleopas and I have to return to Jerusalem to tell our brothers and sisters all that has happened this afternoon. We must break bread with them. Come with us and you will see him, too!

As we walked the 30 stadia back up to Jerusalem, Cleopas and I kept pinching each other. We walked and danced and walked and ran and clapped. We kept saying “Do you remember how our hearts were burning inside us, as he talked to us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us?” Cleopas, in his booming voice and with a smile on his face, kept repeating “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” and the words our Sabbath leader prayed:

Why are you cast down, O my soul

And why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.

We both shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

The Cypriot, not sure what to make of all this, watched us from a distance. There was an amused and perplexed look on his face.

Adapted from the Gospel according to Luke (2:41-50)

“Obedient even to death . . . yes, even the death of the cross”

 

 

“…I’m telling you the solemn truth: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains all by itself. If it dies, though, it will produce lots of fruit…

…Now my heart is troubled,” Jesus went on. “What am I going to say? ‘Father, save me from this moment’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”

 

 

Crucifixion Nikolai Ge

The Eyes Have It

At the cross. At the burial. At the empty tomb. Three wait-and-see days. Three women.

The gospel according to Mark begins with the ushering in of “the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son” (Mk. 1:1). Composed of short narratives that could be easily visualized by those who heard its reading, Mark’s terse and unembellished gospel clears a straight path so that the reader can see and perceive Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises (Mk. 1:3).

For example, Mark uses literary bracketing (inclusio) to focus in on that fulfillment. Two accounts of blind men receiving their sight bracket Jesus telling his disciples (three times) that he will be rejected, handed over to the authorities, killed and then rise from the dead after three days.  (Beginning Bracket: Mark 8:22-26; End Bracket:  Mark.10:46-52.)

Because of their own unwillingness to really really look at Jesus (cf. Mk.8:25) the disciples do not perceive Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises through death and resurrection.

At a mission critical point in the gospel account -Mark chapter 8 – Jesus reproaches his disciples for their lack of understanding. We learn from the brutally honest account that those closest to Jesus, each with two good eyes and two good ears, still did not grasp that the Messiah had to be crucified and then rise again. We hear that in Peter’s repudiation of that mission (Mk. 8:32).

Peter is Mark’s principal eyewitness source of what Jesus said and did and of the disciple’s reactions. But after the end of Mark chapter 14, where Peter’s denial is recorded, Peter and the male disciples are nowhere to be seen or heard from.

Three women are introduced into the passion narrative (Mk 15). They are the source for Mark’s passion account. They are eyewitnesses of what occurred at the cross, at the burial and at the empty tomb.

Earlier in the text, Mark wrote of the blind gaining sight, of those with two good eyes not seeing and not perceiving what was taking place. Mark now places emphasis on seeing that would lead to perceiving and, hopefully, to belief. He records the seeing of the women seven times:

Henry Ossawa Tanner

At the cross. Some of the women observed from a distance. They included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. They had followed Jesus in Galilee, and had attended to his needs. There were several other women, too, who had come up with him to Jerusalem. (Mk. 15: 40-41).

(Note that Mark added that these women had also been with Jesus for most of his ministry. He is telling us that they had observed Jesus from his early ministry to the empty tomb. These women likely heard Jesus teach his disciples new things: about him being handed over to be killed and his rising from the dead after three days. (Mk. 8:31-32; 9:31-32; 10:32-45)

At the burial. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where he was buried. (Mk. 15:47)

At the empty tomb. After the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could come and anoint Jesus …” who’s going to roll the stone away for us?”

Then, when they looked up, they observed that it had been rolled away. (It was extremely large.) (Mk. 16: 1-4)

So they went into the tomb, and there they saw a young man sitting on the right hand side. He was wearing white. They were totally astonished.

“Don’t be astonished,” he said to them. “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He isn’t here! Look – this is the place where they laid him.

“But go and tell his disciples – including Peter – that he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just like he told you.” (Mk. 16:5-7)

The earliest manuscripts of Mark’s gospel account end at 16: 8:

They [the three women] went out, and fled from the tomb. Trembling and panic had seized them. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

This is a curious ending for a gospel that begins with “the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son”. Mark clearly wanted the readers to perceive Jesus as the Messiah, God’s son. He clearly wanted the reader to take in the crucifixion of the Messiah and his bodily resurrection. Why end good news with fear and trembling?

Mark’s gospel account may have had a longer ending. If the original manuscript was written on a scroll (likely), the edge of the scroll containing his ending may have deteriorated. This also happened to many dead sea scrolls.

Later copies of Mark contained appended text (Mk. 16: 9-20). This text may have been added by a scribe in the second century who was familiar with Luke’s gospel account. There are similarities. Mark’s promise of “the good news of Jesus the Messiah, God’s son” has been restored- fulfilled – with the added text. And so was Mark’s emphasis of those not perceiving what is taking place.

Mark’s narrative emphasis on hardness of heart leading to unbelief – rejecting what has been seen and heard by eyewitness accounts– is reinforced in the added text:

When Jesus was raised, early on the first day of the week, he appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told the people who had been with him, who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive, and that he had been seen by her, they didn’t believe it.

After this he appeared in a different guise to two of them as they were walking into the countryside. They came back and told the others, but they didn’t believe them.

Later Jesus appeared to the eleven themselves, as they were at table. He told them off for their hardness of heart, for not believing those who had seen him after he had been raised. (Mk. 16: 9-14)

At the cross. At the burial. At the empty tomb. Three wait-and-see days. Three women seeing seven times. Eleven hard-hearted disciples. And you? You still don’t get it? (cf. Mk.8:21)

All God’s promises, you see, find their yes in him: and that’s why we say the yes, the “Amen,” through him when we pray to God and give him glory (2 Cor. 1:20)

The eyes have it. Amen.

****

“Nowhere in early Christian literature do we find traditions attributed to the community as their source or transmitter, only as the recipient. Against the general form-critical image of the early Christian movement as anonymous collectivity, we must stress that the New Testament writings are full of prominent named individuals . . . Compared with the prominence of named individuals in the New Testament itself, form criticism represented a rather strange depersonalization of early Christianity that still exercised an unconscious influence on New Testament scholars.”[i]


[i] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, MI), 2017), 297

Palm Sunday and the Problem of Evil

Just a few centuries before the first Palm Sunday, Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.) promoted to his followers the notions of another ancient Greek philosopher, Demetrius (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.). Demetrius’ had proposed the theory of Atomism to account for nature.

The theory in brief: the universe is a material system governed by the laws of matter. The fundamental elements of matter are atoms. Random, unguided ‘atoms’ smash into each other, thereby creating the world and life as we know it. Epicurus went on to tweak Demetrius’ theory by saying that atoms do not always go in straight lines but can “swerve, avoiding atomism’s inherent determinism and allowing for free will – just like the gods.

Per Epicurus, the gods were off somewhere happily doing their thing unconcerned about anything. They existed without needs, were invulnerable to any harm, and were generally living an enviable life, not anxious about anything. As such, they exemplified what Epicurus’s followers should seek to attain in their limited human nature.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by aponia, the absence of pain and fear, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and bad, that death is the end of the body and the soul and should therefore not be feared, that the gods do not reward or punish humans, that the universe is infinite and eternal, and that events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space.The Epicurus Reader

Epicurus also taught that nothing should be believed except for that which was tested through direct observation and logical deduction – believed via the sensate and reason. Based on such thinking along with having the viewpoint that the gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to ‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life, man had to make do with the atoms he had been dealt. Don’t look to a personal God for help.

What was most important in Epicurus’ philosophy of nature was the overall conviction that our life on this earth comes with no strings attached; that there is no Maker whose puppets we are; that there is no script for us to follow and be constrained by; that it is up to us to discover the real constraints which our own nature imposes on us.The Epicurus Reader

As Epicurus evaluated the Greek and Roman gods of his time and man’s attempt to please and cajole the gods to obtain favors, it would make sense for him and his followers to deduce that “there is no Maker whose puppets we are”. And, for Epicurus to further reason the problem of evil paradox:

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing. If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent. Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?” ― Epicurus

 The Epicurean paradox was answered with another paradox: What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4

In the fullness of time, including Epicurean times, the Lord of the universe put on human flesh – dust fashioned from the created elements including about 18% carbon – to deal with the problem of evil. There was nothing ambiguous or theoretical or abstract about the appearance of God’s own son Jesus. There was direct observation -seeing, hearing, and touching – by his followers.

Philosophers and atheists, before and after Epicurus, pronounced judgement on God for all the evil in the world.

The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven. – George MacDonald, C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

To address evil, Jesus announced the kingdom of God on earth. What was begun in Genesis – the ordering of material creation to build God’s temple on earth so that God would dwell with man – was reinstated by Jesus. This blueprint or worldview was on the books long before Epicurus arrived on the scene. And so is the record of God’s faithfulness. God, as revealed in Jesus, puts things to right.

Jesus entered space and time flesh and blood to pronounce judgement on evil. He did so without equivocation. Jesus did not succumb to pleasure seeking to avoid pain. He did not succumb to Satan’s temptations to find happiness. Evil unclean spirits were cast out. Hypocrites were denounced and death itself was overturned. Jesus suffered the full force of evil on the cross – an act of redemption from evil’s ransom.

The King of Glory wept over Jerusalem and his chosen people. The Israelites had so often rejected their reveal-to-the-world-the-one-true-God vocation. They had not been faithful stewards of God’s vineyard. Did Epicurus see no difference in their God and the Greek and Roman gods?

On that first Palm Sunday, just a few centuries after Epicurus taught that there was no personally involved God, the King of Glory, emptied of his glory, rides a donkey into Jerusalem to meet evil head on and to put the world right. The “Epicurean Paradox” would be addressed and soundly answered.

What will you do with the knowledge that the infinite-personal God, embodied in human form, speaks to the very human concerns behind Epicurean philosophy?