Category Archives: Thoughts

Various rambles …

Flammarion waits for Enoch

“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago
was caught up to the third heaven. “

2 Corinthians 12:2

Enoch will be along soon.

I’ll wait outside, and look at the sky, and remember what we spoke of last time.

I still have the broken blue egg shell.
I lie on my back and hold it to the sun.

Yes, it is the same flat blue of the  sky on a cloudless day.

Today there are clouds, bringing the sky closer.
Will they come so close that the sky falls, watering the ground?

“Is the sky water?” I asked Enoch.
For it is the colour of the sea and lakes I have seen
and as changeable in its blues and greys.
And water falls from it.

Enoch says this is the first heaven that we see.
Ruled by the sun of light and heat.

Then what of night?
When the sky is drawn back,
revealing sparking treasures,
far above.
And glorious silken folds of crimson
herald their arrival each evening
and announce their departure each morn.

The sun has gone and with it its heat,
so the water in heaven turns to crystals of
ice and twinkles in the light of the solemn moon;
waiting for the sun king to return.

That, says Enoch, is the second heaven.

But there is the third heaven that Enoch knows.
Perhaps only Enoch knows.

He tells me it lies between corruptibility and incorruptibility
That it holds the Tree of Life,
the source of knowledge.

And two springs,
one milk, one honey.
But then two others,
one oil, one wine.
Which is four, not two.
But Enoch says two.

But how does Enoch know?

He says he has been there.
To argue with Azazel
about the way women
paint their eyebrows.

Which seems such a trivial matter to discuss with an archangel, but I know there was more;  I just can’t remember it all.

The first heaven hides the second heaven.
Its blue veil is drawn back with a flourish,
momentarily revealing its scarlet lining  each evening.
Then the second heaven appears.

Enoch says we see the first and second heavens because God wants us to think, and to realise there must be more.

The second heaven hides the third.
But we can  see it only by invitation.
If I understand Enoch rightly.
Which probably, I don’t.

But oh, what joy!
To lie here on my back,
gazing at the blue above
and the egg shell in my hand
and wait for Enoch
so we can talk
and wonder some more
at our God’s creation.


“What intelligent being, what being capable of responding emotionally to a beautiful sight, can look at the jagged, silvery lunar crescent trembling in the azure sky, even through the weakest of telescopes, and not be struck by it in an intensely pleasurable way, not feel cut off from everyday life here on earth and transported toward that first stop on the celestial journeys? What thoughtful soul could look at brilliant Jupiter with its four attendant satellites, or splendid Saturn encircled by its mysterious ring, or a double star glowing scarlet and sapphire in the infinity of night, and not be filled with a sense of wonder? Yes, indeed, if humankind — from humble farmers in the fields and toiling workers in the cities to teachers, people of independent means, those who have reached the pinnacle of fame or fortune, even the most frivolous of society women — if they knew what profound inner pleasure await those who gaze at the heavens, then France, nay, the whole of Europe, would be covered with telescopes instead of bayonets, thereby promoting universal happiness and peace.”

Camille Flammarion, 1880

Epiousios

Epiousios (Ancient Greek: επιούσιος) is a unique Greek word found only in the Lord’s Prayer in the Gospels of Matthew  and Luke, and nowhere else in all of classical Greek writings.

It has been translated to mean “daily” as in “our daily bread”, but perhaps we devalue the word and the concept when we think, metaphorically or literally, as this being a prayer for sustenance.

If the New Testament writers had meant “daily” there were more common words the could have used than epiousios, so it must have some distinct and special meaning above and beyond “daily”.

If Epi means necessary or essential, and Ousia means to physically exist, then Epiousia can be taken as necessary for existence, and Epiousios becomes that element that is necessary for existence.

If we think of this in terms of a creator, do we owe just our original manufacture to the creator, or is the creator responsible for maintaining ongoing reality as we know it?

Does reality exist independent of God, or is reality the ongoing product of God.

Are we God’s dreaming?  Are we products of God’s mind?  Is this the concept the word is attempting to express?

As We Forgive?

“as we forgive those who sin against us…”

These simple words, they ring and sing
From praying mouths and hearts.
Those words engraved upon my soul.
Since I was four, or there abouts.

I learnt “trespass against us” then,
And made me think of signs
Saying “Keep off the Grass” in public spots
And I worried about fines.

My own grass has been trampled on
Quite wrecking tender roots.
With no regard for the damage done,
In spiky heels and steel capped boots.

At times it’s been a muddy mess,
And I’ve been cross and hurt.
How dare they not see what they did,
When they turned my lawn to dirt!

It’s easy to be resentful.
Hoping that one day
Those tramplers see what they have done
And find the words to say…

A simple “sorry” from the heart.
It would make me feel much better.
But would it fix my muddied lawn?
Would I then forgive the debtor?

If I do not myself forgive,
Who is it that I punish?
It’s only me who grieves the loss
And my resentment will not vanish

I wonder if the disciples knew
When they asked Jesus how to pray,
If he would tell them to search their hearts
To see where the answer lay.

For it is only in forgiveness
That we can be whole and healed
And God’s forgiveness is by Grace.
But our own is deep concealed.

The muddy mess recovers now,
As tender shoots push through.
Bathed in the sunshine of God’s love,
And the gentle, moistening dew.

Perhaps the grass that’s growing now
Is stronger than the last.
Perhaps adversity will serve
To find redemption from the past.

But I cannot just sit and wait
And hope for the repair.
I must rake and feed and water and trim
And work through the despair.

Forgiving others? That’s truly tough.
I really want to do it.
So I sit with Jesus by my side
Holding my hand, as I work through it.

What is Prayer?

I think prayer is sometimes a misunderstood word and can be confused with worship (veneration) and meditation (listening).

The Latin root word is precar meaning something lent to be returned later, and from which we also get words such as precious (valuable and undeserved) and precarious (relying upon another).

Prayer is rooted in the concept of grace and dependence.

In French it became prierius which refers to the idea of something being dependent on the good grace of somebody else.

This helps to make more sense of the Hebrew word Tefilah (תפילה) which is usually translated as prayer.

Tefilah is an intimate sharing of heart and soul – communion – reaching deeper and deeper and finding God in that extreme honesty.

Tefilah is derived from the root Pe-Lamed-Lamed and the word l’hitpalel, meaning:

“to judge oneself”!

This word origin provides insight into the purpose of prayer. The most important part of any prayer is the introspection it provides, the moment that we spend looking inside ourselves, seeing our role in the universe and our relationship to God.

Prayer is 2 way communication between yourself and God and it doesn’t need to be vital, important stuff. It can be as banal as most Facebook chatter but it is rooted in the concept that we talk to God because we know that we are utterly dependent upon him for our existence and, just as we talk to humans upon whom we are dependent, we get joy from the communication.

circe-invidiosa-1892-oil-on-canvas

We talk to God with extreme honesty, and sometime that honesty takes time and courage to discover.

We sometimes have very powerful self-protective barriers that can hide the truth from ourselves and these can take considerable time and energy to break down.

God is so often described as TRUTH, it seems redundant to again assert that God is Truth.

Yet that is where God is to be found, in the truth, in the real and the objective core.

So when I prayer, I pray to be enlightened by the truth, even when it is painful, and I rub away diligently at the dirty marks and smudges that hide the truth from me.

I pray in order to judge myself, and in doing so, I am set free by the truth, and there is God.

Atonement

ATONE –  To make reparation, compensation, or amends, for an offence, crime or sin one has committed.

It restores balance.  It is intentional karma.

But what if you have committed no sin?

Jesus was blameless, yet his death is atonement.

So why did Jesus die?

As a child, it seemed to me to be a rotten ending to a really good story.
I was told that, by his death on the cross, Jesus “obtained an eternal deliverance for all his people”.
But nobody explained to me how that worked.
Apparently, it was something I would understand when I was older.

Yet I was also told that God was all loving and all forgiving, so somehow, the idea that God REQUIRED Jesus to die in order to be able to forgive us all for being the humans he had created in the first place – well  that made no sense.

So why was atonement necessary?

The numerous Theories of the Atonement might help, now that I am older.

There are historical theories, and more modern theories that attempt to explain the atonemant,

The Ransom Theory: This was the earliest theory, originating with the early church.  This theory proposess that Christ offered himself as a ransom (Mark 10:45).
But, it does not make clear who this ransom was paid to, although many in the early church believed the ransom as paid to the devil.
However, if the devil requires a ransom, doesn’t that mean he has the upper hand and is telling God what he requires?

The Recapitulation Theory: This theory originated with Irenaeus (125-202 AD) and relates the concept back to Genesis.
Irenaeus considered Jesus’ work to be undoing the sins of Adam.
Adam was disobedient to God, but Jesus was obedient even to death.  Irenaeus also compared Eve and Mary to contrast the deceptive nature of Eve with the accepting nature of Mary.
But, if I don’t believe Adam and Eve were literal people (and I don’t since I believe in evolution) this theory is not going to work for me.

The Satisfaction Theory:  Proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (1034-1109) who suggested that God’s honour and dignity had been offended and it could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus – a debt paid to God on behalf of sinners.
But, this makes God seem like a petty despot, so I don’t like that one, despite thinking that Anselm is a great name 🙂

The Penal-Substitution Theory: The 16th century Reformers built upon Anselm’s theory but thought it was incomplete because it was based upon God’s honour rather than his justice and holiness. Jesus died for humankind, and in doing so, he took all our collective sins upon himself and set us free from the demands of the Law so that both the Law and the holiness of God are satisfied.
But, I still feel this makes God look a bit feeble.

The Moral- Influence Theory – Peter Abelard (1079-1142) suggested that Jesus died to influence mankind toward moral improvement.  He suggested Jesus’ death was planned to impress mankind with the sheer magnitude of God’s love so that thier hearts would be softened and they would turn back to him.
In this theory, the atonement is not for God’s benefit but for ours, and this makes sense to me.
In essence, the death of Jesus touches us and influences us to changed behaviour and a better life.
I can see the logic of this one.

The Governmental Theory:   This view was formulated by Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and was adopted  by Jacobus Arminius, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards the younger, and Methodism. It posits that God made Christ an example of suffering because he needed to show humankind that our sins displease him.
In this, my least favourite theory, God needs to stamp his authority and he does that by venting all his anger on Christ.
But, to me this makes God sound like one of those Roman legionnaires who were reputed to have randomly killed every 10th man in their ranks in order to assert their authority.

Modern theories

The Declaratory Theory: Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89)
This is an extension of the Moral Influence theory which says Jesus died to show us how much God loves us.
Makes sense to me.

The Guaranty (Guarantee) Theory:  J. C. K. von Hofmann (1810-77)
Jesus died to gain followers and prove that what he said about himself was true.
Maybe, partly.

Vicarious Repentance Theory:  John McLeod Campbell (1800-1872).  This theory suggests that only a perfect repentance can atone for sin.  Jesus died in order to be one with God’s condemnation of sin.  By dying, he condemned sin, and also confessed it.
Maybe, partly.

Christ Victor Theory:  G. E. H. Aulén (1879-1977).
I left this to last because it is the theory that both makes sense to me logically and fits with my own awareness of God in my life.
In Christ Victor the world is seen as one of opposing forces of good and evil in divine conflict.  By dying on the cross and resurrecting, Jesus banished the powers that had maintained a hold over humanity. The atonement is viewed as divine conflict and victory over the hostile powers that hold humanity in subjection.

It hurts you to kick against the goads

It takes a certain kind of stubbornness to ignore God.

God prods,
God pushes,
and sometimes God kicks us in the bum.
Yet so often we resist.
Expending more energy by our resistance
than God would ever have been required of us,
if we had been willing.

There is work to be done.
I can do it grudgingly,
or I can do it willingly.
God gives me that much choice at least 🙂

We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ (Acts 26:14)

Written for my Godmother, Vee