The Least, First

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Conjoined twins: faith and doubt (Readings for March 30, 2008)

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CarvaggioWhen Jesus appears to the disciples, that first Sunday eve of the resurrection, Thomas is not around. Later, hearing the story, Thomas is skeptical, refusing to accept the possibility without direct evidence—including, he insists, a DWE [“Digital Wound Exam“—you may not get that unless you’re a middle-aged male].

A week later, Jesus suddenly appears through the locked doors. I wonder if Thomas, remembering his reluctance, thinks “Eeyow!” and slips to the back of the group. But Jesus looks past the crowd into Thomas’ eyes, and says, essentially, “Here you go. Check me out. I’ll be your lab rat, if that’s what it really takes.”

It’s a moving story, to me. Jesus’ rebuke to Thomas is pretty light, and he merely offers a “blessed are they” (rather than a rebuke) to people like us who “believe without seeing.”

Isn’t doubt what makes faith, faith? This machine on which I type – its reality (at least to my western mind) is beyond question. No faith needed there. But our memories, our ethics, our conviction of what is or is not real beyond that which we see … are not those things that we choose to trust? I wonder if every atheist’s credo (or a-credo) is a little bit faithey. And if every Christian—dare we admit it?— is yet part agnostic.

We believe—God knows, we’ve seen plenty—but there are times when all that has seemed so clear is again hard to grasp.  And in those times, the resurrected Jesus does not condemn, but beckons.

Thank God.

Second Sunday of Easter March 30, 2008
John 20:19-31; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16

John 20:19-31
To Believe
Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. Read the rest of this entry »

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March 25, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

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Wow . . . here’s one of the most electrifying moments in American folk music: Pete Seeger on the Smothers’ Brothers TV show in February, 1968. Note:

  • He plays a short set of soldier-songs, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy being the last. Waist Deep, I learned recently, was originally censored by CBS, and only allowed on-air months later.
  • His songs are not anti-soldier, despite the growing societal division of the late ’60s.
  • His humble performing style crackles with emotion: this is such a performance! And when he switches from banjo to 12-string guitar before Waist Deep, whew! It’s like an orchestra’s been let loose. The song rolls on inexorably, like the river itself.
  • Most of all, it makes me admire Pete Seeger. He so obviously and innocently feels what he sings; I want to be like that.

Pete Seeger-Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

Amazing, eh? How’s it strike you?


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March 17, 2008 at 12:06 am

500 years of female portraits in Western art

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OK, no point to make here – I found this two-minute video over at Neo-resistance and was amazed. Thanks, Naj! An added benefit, to this old bass player: I suspect that is Yo-Yo Ma playing a Bach Cello Suite in the background.

Hope you enjoy it!


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June 19, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Art, Beauty, Women

To the Person Sitting in Darkness

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Mark Twain – To the Person Sitting in Darkness
Servant at Ressentiment tipped me off to this haunting modern rendering of words of Mark Twain from the time of the Spanish-American war by Italian poets/filmmakers at Nuovoviautori.
Servant has here a link to the text as originally written in the New York Times of 1901 (and the NYT’s response), with more explanatory details.
Whew!


Related posts: Power corrupts: Here’s its antidote
A brief history of Iran-US relations, part 1: Constitution to Khatami
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May 26, 2007 at 12:09 pm

A Christ- worshipping agnostic

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Over at the excellent God’s Politics, Ryan Rodrick Beiler quotes recently-deceased Kurt Vonnegut who, for reasons un-explained, gave a sermon on Palm Sunday in 1980. I excerpt the excerpt, touched by his tender heart:

Kurt VonnegutI am enchanted by the Sermon on the Mount. Being merciful, it seems to me, is the only good idea we have received so far. Perhaps we will get another idea that good by and by – and then we will have two good ideas. …

I read from the Revised Standard Bible rather than the King James, because it is easier for me to understand. Also, I will argue afterward that Jesus was only joking, and it is impossible to joke in King James English. The funniest joke in the world, if told in King James English, is doomed to sound like Charlton Heston… Read the rest of this entry »

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April 23, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Art, Bible, Jesus, Poverty, Religion

The Return of the Prodigal (readings for Sunday, March 18, 2007)

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Here’s the wonderful, familiar story we call the Prodigal Son.  And listen to what Richard Swanson has to say about familiar stories:

This is a story that is so well known that it is impossible to read, impossible to hear, impossible to interpret. It is a good principle of interpretation:  if everybody know what a text means, begin with the guess that nobody knows what the text means. At the least, any story that everybody knows will be a story that nobody has listened to closely for a long time. Stories require more attention than that. Every story has worlds of meaning that open themselves only to prodding and provocation. And that is what we don’t do to stories that everybody knows and loves.

Let the provoking begin.  (Provoking the Gospel of Luke: A Storyteller’s Commentary, Year C)

Click for larger image at ArtchiveLuke 15 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable . . .

The Parable of the Lost Son
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with … Read the rest of this entry »

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March 12, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Just a quote: beauty

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More on this“A loss of commitment to beauty may be the clearest sign we have that we have lost our way to God.”

Joan Chittister: Illuminated Life, Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of God, p26

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December 29, 2006 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Art, Beauty