About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."

2019/08/22

King in disguise

All around the world you can find a common folklore motive in which the king disguises himself and travels incognito among his subjects.
    There are many fairy tale examples, legends, sagas, examples in literature and even modern TV versions of Undercover Boss. This motive of a powerful figure in disguise goes back as far as we can see, for instance Odysseus returns to Ithaca just like that.
    But the true origins of this motive are as old as mythology and present themselves as divine visitors in disguise. Zeus and Hermes visit Philemon and Baukis (I wrote about it several weeks ago) or Demeter also visits Eleusis in disguise as an older Cretan woman Doso to be a nanny of unfortunate Demophon.
    The same trope is known also in the Bible. YHWH visits Abraham under the holy tree of Mamre (Gen 18), an incognito angel visits Gideo and the future mother of Samson has a similar encounter.  And of course in the New testament there is a famous story about Jesus walking unrecognized with two disciples to Emmaus.
    The primary purpose of this folklore motive of an incognito king or god is to reveal or test the personal character of those unsuspecting hosts. 
    Join us this Sunday as the folklore studies help us to solve an old theological conundrum between salvation by faith or salvation by deeds. Join us as we rejoice as the community of Matthew 25 and meet our Lord in those most vulnerable of our world.

2019/08/13

Very Hungry Caterpillars

This spring we decided to plant on our balcony not decorative annuals but just different green herbs. We planted oregano, parsley, two different kinds of thyme, marjoram and sage. I watered them faithfully and all were doing very well except for one lemon thyme. The parsley had been doing exceptionally well, growing into a lovely thick pillow overflowing from the planter.
     But then last Sunday morning a disaster struck! I opened the door to inspect our little herbal garden and our exuberant parsley turned into a bunch of stems and sticks. I looked closer - our parsley got all consumed by about a dozen hungry caterpillars. I quickly identified them as swallowtail caterpillars. By pure coincidence a day before on my hike in Bear Mountain photographed some beautiful adult swallowtail butterflies.
      On Sunday after worship the hungry caterpillars on our balcony were just about finishing the last few remaining curly leaves. I quickly ran to our nearest grocery store and bought them another bunch of organic parsley and one small bunch of dill. I triple checked that the greens were organic, this time not for our family’s health sake, but for the health of those "pesty" caterpillars. You know, without those hungry caterpillars, there will be no beautiful butterflies, after all!

Why am I sharing with you this environmental fable? Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Jesus once told a very similar parable warning people against our zeal to eradicate what we so eagerly label as pests without even thinking about consequences. Try to guess what parable it might be? Come this Sunday to celebrate the intricate interconnected beauty of our world and divine as well as natural purpouse for pests and misfits.  

And here is an adult Eastern tiger swallowtail



2019/08/07

Pedestrian Jesus

Just as we were hearing about the prosecutions of Scott Warren in Arizona (for giving water to migrants in Arizona deserts) and the arrest of captain Carola Rackete in Italy (for rescuing drowning migrants in the Mediterranean Sea), pastor discovered in the box of one of our church defibrillators yet another fragment of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. It is just a fragment starting in the middle of sentence.
... they would not stop accusing him and attacking him.
So Jesus stood and told them. Imagine for a moment that you are not in New York City but somewhere deep in Mid-America on a busy street. And now there is a person who runs into the street at the stop light or even outside of a pedestrian crossing while running from a mugger or from a burning house. And that person gets hit by a truck and is badly injured. Now, what would you do? Would you call the police to give that person a ticket for breaking traffic rules? Or would you rush to give them first aid and call the ambulance?”
They darkly grinned and responded - just don’t try this on us you little clever Jesus! Aren’t helpers also stepping into the road and breaking the rules? They shall go to jail too. Under our government according to our taste, no acts of kindness will go unpunished...
 
Here the fragments suddenly brakes again.

It is unlikely, that this fragment dates to the New Testament times. But we know that Jesus had similar arguments and we also know that any threats would not stop him from helping those in need. Come this Sunday to hear what Jesus did, when he met distressed and hungry multitudes far away in the wilderness.



2019/08/01

Folded prayers

In March 2017 we folded origami cranes in worship. We invited Janet Aisawa a dancer, choreographer and performer to teach and help us. We took several pews from our sanctuary and put in tables and chairs around them. While folding origami cranes we experienced that prayer can have different forms.
    This was a form of prayer for Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia in 1955 as a consequence of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. In the Japanese culture origami is indeed a religious practice and art.
    Not everyone is good with words or public spoken prayers. Origami is different. It is about calmly folding and creasing paper step by step and at the end, blowing up the crane, giving it a three-dimensional form and thus bringing it to life. It certainly has spiritual calming and a reassuring dimension.
    And our cranes which we had folded in March made it all the way to Hiroshima. Janet Aisawa took them there for the annual remembrance of the bombing on the 6th of August.
    Although this Sunday we will not be folding cranes, in close proximity to anniversary of Hiroshima Bombing, we will learn from Jesus how to subdue and overcome our current religious, racial and national prejudices.



 

2019/07/26

Holy Mountain?

On this video you can see remains after an Ancient Hawaiian industrial operation near the summit of Mauna Kea.
- - -
What has been happening on Mauna Kea has been fascinating for any student of ancient and modern religion. "Protectors of Mauna Kea" can serve as an illustration example of the use of religion for political (nationalistic) ends.
My academic qualification has been in the study of the Ancient Near East bronze age religion (more specifically Ugaritic Mythology). Over the last decade (unable to travel to Syria) I have been studying Hawaiian religion. I visited Hawaii more than a dozen times and even started to learn the Hawaiian language to better understand the cultural and religious mentality. 
I have also visited the summit region of Mauna Kea a number of times and I know that there are geologic features closely associated with the Hawaiian deities and religion. To the best of my knowledge there were never any signs of ancient (pre-contact) religious structures in the summit area.
At the same time I know that the mountain was NOT untouchable and ancient Hawaiians (still living in stone age) used the summit region for a major mining operation - quarrying hard basalt rock for their tools (mostly adzes). Substantial mine dumps (tailings or spoil tips) near the summit can be still observed. On this video is a mine dump the size of about 5.8 acres and the total area with signs of mining covers about 100 acres! By the way - this can serve as a prime example of the environmental impact of even the stone age cultures!
Ancient Hawaiians used the mountain for a major industrial operation (within the context of their technology) and modern Hawaiians are in the process of turning it into an untouchable holy mountain and making it into a substitute issue to voice their political, national and religious grievances.
This is how religions evolve, morph and transform and respond to ideological demands, how holy mountains are born.
-----------
#Hawaii #MaunaKea #HawaiianReligion


Close look at refuse chips from pre-production of adzes.
 
An example of one smaller outlaying workshop with tailings of basalt chips.

2019/07/25

Colorful Pearls

This Sunday we will listen to an enigmatic commandment of Jesus not to throw pearls before swine.   
    While researching the subject I learned that the knowledge of pearls came to the Mediterranean and the Western World quite late with the conquest of Alexander the Great from today’s Iran and India.
    The English word for a pearl came from Latin perla. But the more common Latin name for pearl was margarita which came from the Greek ho margarites which itself was a loan word from old Persian marvarit.
    The luster of pearls led to Italian, French and Spanish names for daisies (le margherite, les marguerites, las margaritas) and eventually gave name to a famous Mexican tequila drink the Margarita. 
    From Iran and its old Persian word through the Mediterranean all the way to the popular Mexican alcoholic drink - This is how our world is interconnected. If we ever sent all English words to their original homes, the English language would lose about 3/4 of its vocabulary and a substantial part of its grammar.
    Diversity, borrowing and distant integration is not only a feature of languages and peoples. The entire world is like a beautiful and colorful pearl, diverse and interlaced, immeasurably complex and beautifully simple.
    So, don’t throw pearls before swine! Join us this Sunday as we embrace and celebrate the beautiful diversity of our world and the original and surprising meaning of this often misunderstood Jesus’ commandment.

2019/07/18

Precious Light

When Jesus said to his followers, “You are the light of the world” have you ever wondered how it might look? 
      On this picture is an oil lamp, a replica of an old terracotta lamp from the biblical period. It gave very little light. Thus in wealthy households they would use a number of lamps or alternatively they had lamps with several wicks and flames.
      We live in an age of relatively affordable electricity. One flip of a switch floods the space with light. One faint electrical bulb would need to be replaced with tens of oil lamps and cost would be prohibitive! Using an oil lamp will cost you a hundreds time more not to mention the side effects of soot and smell. In ancient times only rich people could afford a decent light. 
      When Jesus said to his disciples you are the light of the world - he also said to them, in God’s eyes you are precious. Join us in worship this Sunday when we look deeper into this beautiful and rich metaphor.