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."

2021/05/14

Liberating the Ascension

Evangelist Luke was a highly gifted and creative theologian and also pedagogue. You might not know it, but it was evangelist Luke who was responsible for coining the temporal sequence of Easter, Ascension and Pentecost. Before Luke - it was all part of one transformative eschatological mega-impulse.
    Luke took different theological aspects of the Easter Message, he analyzed them, distilled them, divided them, and distributed them along the time axis. Thus the resurrection was followed by the ascension, which was followed by the gift of the Spirit.  This Luke’s solution is simple, instructive, easy to remember, and it became the foundation of the Christian calendar ever since it was created.
    But as simple, instructive, easy, and ubiquitous as it might been, it also trivialized, domesticated, and de-radicalised Easter faith and theology. It led to what I would describe as spacial-temporal fundamentalism and a simplistic historisation of the original radical early Christian message.
    This Sunday we will try to undo this Luke’s approach and liberate the Ascension from its temporal and special caricature into a radical event which continues to shatter boundaries of time, space, and authority.
 
A caricature of the de-eschalogised Ascension

2021/05/06

God our mother

“In the name of God, most gracious the most merciful.” Almost every Koranic Sura opens this way and also it is opening of many Muslim scholarly discourses. God most gracious and most merciful are divine epithets of God in Islam.

      The Bible has a similar, almost identical way of speaking about the LORD. “Gracious and Merciful LORD, slow to anger and big in love.” (חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם יְהוָה אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וּגְדָל־חָסֶד)

     At the center of both Hebrew and Arabic expressions is the word translated to English as “Merciful” and both in Arabic and Hebrew this word is closely associated with the root rḥm expressing gentleness and softness and word reḥem - רֶחֶם (Raḥim in Arabic) which means the womb.

     Thus when Al Quran or the Bible speak about the Merciful God, when Jews, Christians and Muslims appeal to divine mercy we all appeal to the motherly, tender, love of God

     And that is something you might not know about God in Abrahamic religions and about Semitic languages.

 

But this expression of divine tender love can be traced even further beyond this mere metonymy of tender love an womb.  There are archaic biblical passages clearly hinting a possibility that Hebrew God actually was perceived as having a womb and giving birth to his people. I talked about it in a videoblog a few months ago.

 

It is absolutely appropriate for the people of faith to worship "God our mother". And on this Mother’s day Sunday we will do just that - rejoice in Motherly love of our God. 

2021/04/30

God the Vinegrower

In the gospel of John Jesus says, “I am the grapevine (or even vineyard), and my father is Ό ΓΕΩΡΓΟΣ - the farmer, the gardener, orchard keeper, simply anyone cultivating the soil.

It was and remains a powerful and highly charged metaphor.

            In the biblical tradition Creator God was the planter of the garden of Eden, and thus the Gardener of the world. The grapevine was the national tree of the Jewish people. It even overlapped with the idea of the tree of life. And the vineyard, vineyard of the LORD, was a poetic way to speak about the biblical homeland, the Promised Land and its people.

            Whenever you hear in the Bible about a grapevine, vineyard, gardener or vineyard-planter or keeper think first about the divine prerogative over the land, what we would call these days politics and even social justice. And secondly but with the selfsame though, think about the creation, the divine garden, nowadays we call it ecology, environmentalism.

            If you were a Roman soldier or administrator listening in to Jesus and his contemporaries - it might sound like farmers discussing agriculture - but anyone who grew up in biblical tradition knew they were discussing so much more! Fairness, justice, divine hope and divine plan for them and for the rest of the world. And that will be our theme this Sunday.

2021/03/31

The empty tomb

The empty tomb - that is the quintessential Easter story. Female and later male disciples going or running to the tomb and finding the stone rolled away with the tomb empty and hearing from angels about the resurrection.

            Within the gospels, in their narratives, in their storylines that is the first time we hear about Jesus’ resurrection. And it absolutely makes sense. If resurrection – then we start with an empty tomb. First things should come first. - But they hardly ever do!

            Theologians have known for centuries that the empty tomb story was quite a late arrival to the Easter narratives.

            After Jesus’ horrific death, disciples started meeting with him again, and they were empowered by him, they were transformed by him, their view of the world completely changed.

            That is how it started, but at the earliest moments they did not have language to speak about it. Even the use of the word resurrection was not automatic and instant. It took some time to settle.

            By the time apostle Paul wrote to Corinthians around the year 50, the word resurrection was established. But Paul still did not know about the empty tomb. 

            The story of the empty tomb appeared for the first time about a generation later in the Gospel of Mark and quickly became the emblematic story of the resurrection as a highly evocative and powerful image.

            And so, the empty tomb is the opening part of the Easter storyline, but the latest and youngest part of the Easter Message. And that is something you might not know about the Bible and Easter Faith.

 

On this Easter Sunday in our worship we will listen to this powerful and radical message of the Empty Tomb. Join us if you can.

Harrowing the Hell

The Anastasis Fresco - Harrowing the Hell
in the parekklesion of Chora Church in Istambul

Harrowing the Hell - that is a part of the Easter message about which you would hardly ever hear from the Protestants. Yet it is present in the oldest Christian creed and also in the Bible.
            After Jesus died on the cross and was buried, he descended into hell. That is an undisputable part of the Apostolic Confession, the oldest baptismal affirmation of faith.  And it is also well founded in the biblical testimony. The Gospel of Matthew speaks about Jesus being three days in the heart of the earth. And in 1st Peter we read about Jesus preaching, after his death, to the souls in the prison. Other biblical and early Christian stories point in the same direction. And there is also an impressive ancient iconographic tradition.
            Harrowing the Hell might have been disregarded among the Protestants but this Holy Friday we want to correct it and listen to and contemplate this enigmatic Easter message and rediscover its radical, transformative and even hopeful message.

Join us on the Holy Friday at 7pm 

 

2021/03/24

Flower Sunday

This week we will celebrate Palm Sunday, the second Palm Sunday under the pandemic and the second time without real palm fronds. But you don’t need to be sad. We only need to recognize that the presence of those “Palms” at the time of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem are far from certain.
            The earliest record of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem is in the gospel of Mark (11:8) and it does not mention any palms. People were spreading their coats on a road and also some vegetation. Gospel is using a relatively rare word ο στιβας. It was derived from stepping, stomping, and walking. Later it acquired the meaning of bedding for animals in stables and also humans in a form of ancient mattress material - straw, hay, simply some soft vegetative matter upon which it was possible to rest comfortably. In the Gospel people were spreading on that road their coats and also straw, hay, and reeds creating for Jesus an improvised soft red carpet.
            Luke in his gospel probably did not know what it was and what was its purpose and so he did not mention any vegetation - people were just spreading their coats.
            Gospel of Matthew (21:8) tries to explain and also simplify. People were placing on the road their coats and also branches or shoots of trees and bushes (τα κλαδια των δεντρων). Both words indicate wooden plants and certainly not palms.
            We have to wait until the gospel of John almost a century later before any mention of palms at Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem. And we also hear for the first time that people were waiving with those “the palm branches of palms”. John clearly overcompensates and uses quite awkward and unnecessary pleonasm (τα βαια των φοινικων).
            This is what less than a century of tradition can do – from straw, to branches, to palm fronds; from spreading them on the road to waving them up high; from an archaic improvised middle-eastern red carpet to exuberant celebration; from a solemn self-dedication to cheerful festivity.
            But palms were certainly not the original part of Jesus' entry to Jerusalem - and that is something you might not know about your bible and your religion.
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So don’t be sad if you don’t have palm fronds this Sunday. Use what Europeans did for centuries in their colder climate. They used budding and blossoming branches. To the point that Palm Sunday was often called the Flower Sunday. For this Pandemic Palm Sunday worship buy pussy-willows or blossoming sakura branches or just any spring flowers or any flowers. We will celebrate the Flower Sunday.

2021/03/11

Pseudo-Shaman's Pseudo-Prayer

 This Tuesday (the 9th of March) our Rutgers Church Session adopted by unanimous vote An Appeal to Christians against the false doctrines of White Christian Nationalism.

    When the January 6th attack on the Capitol happened, many people were shocked by the sheer violence and anti-democratic nature of that sad event. For me, the most shocking part of that dangerous escapade was actually a prayer. That prayer offered by the so-called Q-anon Shaman Jake Angeli in the very Senate Chamber, right at the Senate Dais.

     In that prayer he thanked “divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Creator God” for “filling that chamber with the divine white light,” and thus “sending a message to all the tyrants, communists and globalist” and “protecting America and American way of United States of America” (sic!) Those were his pleonasms, mannerisms and verbosity which he probably learned from some long-winded Arizonian evangelical preacherer.

     Even more frightening was the fact that all that noisy disheveled riffraff knew how to behave at the time of such prayers, chiming in with their loud amens and lifting up their arms in praise. Clearly well socialized (or should I rather say anti-socialized?) in that kind of church culture. 

     Observing this blatant abuse of religion for the self-serving and destructive political ends I recognized the deep and scary logic of all of that.
     And I wondered - Where is the line between corruption of one religion and the beginning of a completely different, new, foreign religion?

    And even more seriously, where is the limit when the religious zeal is so distorted that it becomes an idolatry of some other, different, grotesque god?  

      These are not academic questions. They are serious and quite consequential for all of us. Appropriately for the lent season we will ask these disturbing questions and try to reach some deeper understanding. But we will also seek and affirm the essence of our faith and affirm our commitment to our benevolent Lord. Join us, if you can, for this important spiritual quest. 

 

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This is a link to the pdf version of our Appeal to Christians.

Here is a link to an you can also sign an online petition.