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."

2017/06/22

Rat Party

We are pleased to report a new and exciting discovery of another fragment of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. The discovery was made yesterday by a small yet brave group of archeologists from Rutgers Church who undertook an expedition to Columbus Circle. Right behind the southwestern gate of Central Park they unearthed another lost story from this forgotten Gospel. Here is our attempt at a translation to modern English:

After crossing the sea they arrived to the country of NewYorkeenes. And as Jesus stepped from the boat, right beneath those tall buildings, they were met by a man who suffered greatly, tormented by unclean spirits.
    That man often slept half-collapsed on subway benches, was seen pushing a shopping cart full of smelly stuff, and was heard screaming and screeching in the parks. Many times they tried to help him in hospital emergency rooms around the city. Nurses bathed him, civilized him and he started to receive a proper medical care. But just as he was on the mend, the demons would return with vengeance, depriving him of proper medical care and driving him out of hospitals against any medical advice. It seemed no one had control over this situation.
    And this man, when he saw Jesus from a distance, ran to him, bowed to him, and said, “Why do you even bother with me, Most Holy One?”  Jesus immediately knew that the man was tormented by a serious demon and asked for identity, “What is your name, you demon, who torments this man?” And the demon answered: “Our name is Grand Old Party, for we are many.” And they begged Jesus not to send them out and away from their high-rise towers, seaside manors, golf courses and other possessions.  
    Enlightened by divine wisdom, Jesus immediately saw one fitting solution how they could stay close to their petty earthly possessions - he sent them to the ubiquitous rats. And although normal rats are quite clever to avoid plain traps and baits, now, as soon as this party of greedy demons entered into the rats, in their greed they started to stuff themselves with piles of poison. That was the end of them and the man was finally happy and free.
    But you probably know how it goes... Many people in that country also loved their possessions more than they loved their neighbors. They were uneasy about this outcome; some were offended, some were even frightened. They asked Jesus to leave them alone and shortly afterwards they had an even grander, even older demon party going. But the healed man stood behind and kept reminding everyone that greed kills while divine compassion heals.
  

     Of course the authenticity of the discovered fragment is seriously disputed, there are many indications of this text being a late forgery. Nevertheless, some progressive scholars are convinced that this newly discovered fragment can help illuminate certain, often misunderstood, aspects of an authentic Gospel story (Mark 5:1-19 and Synoptic parallels).
     Some of the insights can include, for instance: that the afflicted person could be a personification of a broader population; that the demonism and the name of demon(s) could have a biting political implication; and that different manifestations of demonism could correspond to reality and hardships of daily lives of common people. Be it as it may, we found this story worth sharing. 


Re. Laura Jervis talking at the Health Care Vigil

2017/06/08

Visit Paradise

South and North Rivers
Do you know that there is a true Paradise just north of the New York City limits, only a few minutes away from where you live?
     “Paradise” is a loanword through classical languages from the old Iranian expression Paridayda which literally means “a walled enclosure/garden”. From the ancient of times Iranians were planting famous and beautiful gardens, their palaces were unthinkable without them. Persian gardens were so famous, that they inspired description of the biblical garden of Eden. Persian gardens also featured four axial rivers with a confluence and springs at the center of each side. Persian emperors were known to personally garden and their gardens were a training ground and model for the care for their lands. What a meaningful metaphor for those in political power. If only those in power today learned their sense of diligence, wisdom and responsibility from gardening!
 
East Spring with East and West Rivers
the Temple of Sky behind them.
  As New Yorkers you can visit a delightful recreation of Paradise (an old formal Persian garden) any weekend. It was planted in Yonkers in the early XX century by the famous NYC lawyer, philanthropist and horticulturist Samuel Untermyer. Thanks to his vision and generosity, you can visit Paradise, stroll by axial rivers, rest in the shade of trees, arcades, porticoes and pergolas, visit with plants, flowers and trees and wonder which one might be the one of life and which one proffers knowledge. Perhaps all of them offer insight in some way and form.
     On this Trinity Sunday we will rejoice in the story of the Garden of Eden and seek inspiration for our individual and communal living, what it means to live in the divine garden and to receive a charge to till it and guard it.

2017/06/01

Born of Divine Breath

In the Gospel of Philip Jesus is said to tell his audience:
    Glass carafes and earthenware jugs are both made by means of fire.
    But if glass carafes break they are done over,
        for they came into being through a breath.
    If earthenware jugs break, however, they are destroyed,
        for they came into being without breath.

This is clearly not an authentic Jesus’ saying, he could not be familiar with blown glass. At his time blown glass was the most recent technological advancement and luxury items reserved for very few aristocrats. But within a few generations, in the second, third century such glass items became more common and the author of the Gospel of Philip could use this image to modernize old biblical metaphor.
    In Jeremiah (chapter 18) we hear about God as a master potter shaping humans; apostle Paul (2Cor 4:7) describes himself as a clay pot shaped by God to carry and deliver a treasure of good news to nations. Here we have a similar image updated with the new technology of blowing glass.
    This saying, in its final version, was quite likely aimed against Paul and was a part of heated arguments among early Christians going along the line “we are those glass jugs while you are just those clay pots!”
      Yet I am convinced that we can still take this captivating image seriously and in a positive manner. We can seek in this enigmatic saying new insights into the beauty, diversity and perpetuity of life. Pentecost Sunday is indeed a celebration of the creative and creating power in the breath of God. Come this Pentecost Sunday to rejoice in being born of divine breath.

 

2017/05/18

Rutgers' Resistance Bureau and Jesus' Healings

Every Tuesday evening a small, yet vibrant group of members, friends and concerned neighbors meets in our church. It started shortly after the presidential inauguration, actually, after the first presidential order against immigrants and refugees. We call this group “Resistence Bureau” and we meet to support each other, and synchronize our actions; plan telephone calls and letters to our elected representatives and share news about marches and street protests. (Those interested can join our Facebook Group - just let me know).
     Most recently one of our main concerns, besides the obscure presidential relationship with Russia, has been health care. Barbara Smaller, a member of our group and Newyorker cartoonist, prepared for us this poignant postcard. We plan to send it to the government and elected representatives as one of our ways of voicing our concern about the destruction of the Affordable Healthcare.
     It is appropriate for people of faith to be advocates for health care. Because health care is not only a political and economic issue, health care is also a quintessentially moral and religious matter. Just look into the Gospels! Again and again we hear about Jesus performing miraculous healings.
     People get often preoccupied with the miraculous nature of Jesus’ healings but that is only epiphenomenon, it is just a part of their historical context. The primary purpose of healings was to show that God does, and how does God care for people in pain. If we read those stories carefully we are led to realize that, although Jesus miraculously heals suffering individuals, the entire communities and their attitudes, ideologies and prejudices are those who are being challenged and treated at the same time.
     From anthropology we know that true healers really never treat just individuals, but their broader context, their families, communities, even the environment. All of this speaks directly to our current situation when healthcare for the most vulnerable is under attack for selfish and shortsighted ideological reasons.
     Last week we looked at spiritual maps and how they help us to navigate our lives. This Sunday we will look at the Map that Jesus drew for us and how it translates to our times. Healing is unthinkable outside of a loving community and a caring society.

2017/05/11

Spiritual Map Making


How do you find your way around the City or around country lines when you travel to unknown places? Most likely you use Google maps on your cellphone or some navigation system in your car.
      I still like old fashion maps and I use them occasionally especially when I want to get a larger picture and understand the broader landscape. On the other hand I got used to Google maps, it is so convenient, fast and increasingly reliable. It offers turn-by-turn directions and even provides construction and accident alerts while immediately suggesting alternative routes.
      Now imagine that a similar navigation system has been available for thousands of years to native people in Australia. They also have had oral turn-by-turn navigation which even has suggested alternative routes for different situations and have been able to keep up to date for centuries.
      Of course, they did not use any satellites, computers or cell-networks. Their technology was their religion, mythology and especially their songs. Their traditional songs led them turn-by-turn from hill to ravine and from tree to ridge sometimes for 300 miles and several weeks long journeys through deserted wilderness, bringing them reliably from one essential artesian spring to another. And it clearly worked, they are still here, before Europeans came they survived even thrived in their harsh environment.
      This Sunday we will learn about spiritual mapmaking and how it can help us to navigate not necessarily streets and highways but our lives. We will consider the great importance of the permanently evolving nature of any map. And what kind of direction the Gospel can offer us on our life journeys. It is the Gospel of John which reminds us of Jesus being the way, the truth and the life. Come to rejoice and find hope in spiritual map making. 


2017/04/20

In defense of Thomas

On the first Sunday after Easter we remember doubting or unbelieving Thomas.
According to the gospel of John; When the resurrected Jesus met with his disciples on the third day after crucifixion, Thomas was not with them. When they told him the great news, he did not believe, and wanted to make sure for himself. A week later, the first Sunday after Easter, he was given that opportunity and finally he believed. This is how Thomas got labeled as doubting or unbelieving. It was an unfortunate story with tragic consequences throughout the Christian history.

Firstly) It is almost certain, that the story of unbelieving Thomas got its final form as a part of a score setting between two streams (or schools) of early Christianity. One of those early streams was associated with John, and Thomas was the figurehead of another. In the Bible we have the Gospel of John, the Apocalypse of  John and three letters of John while writings associated with Thomas were censored, and many of them suppressed for millennia. Labeling and libeling Thomas clearly and unfortunately worked. Early Christian streams associated with Thomas disappeared and a substantial part of early Christianity richness and diversity was lost.

Secondly) Another unfortunate consequence of this story was disparaging of doubts and healthy skepticism among Christians. The story of doubting Thomas was often used to control and manipulate minds and doubts of lay people. After the emergence of modern science, which is based on skepticism, critical thinking and search for evidence, this biblical story contributed and justified growing antagonism between faith and science.

This year, this very weekend, on Earth Day we participate in the Science March to protect our fragile planet from the hands of narrow-minded, uneducated nitwits.  It is high time to rehabilitate Thomas, to reintegrate doubt and faith, religion and science. Critical thinking is an integral part of healthy faith.
At Rutgers Church we do not check our brains at the door.

2017/04/12

Radical Easter Hope

Have you ever wondered why resurrection and insurrection sound so similar? And why rising from the dead and uprising share the same original word root? Interestingly, this is not peculiar only to English usage (vocabulary).
     In Biblical Greek these words also share the same roots. In the Greek language resurrection (αναστασις) is closely bound with revolution (επαναστασις) distinguished only by a preposition
επι meaning above. And one word EXEGEIRŌ (εξεγειρω) can be used in the Bible to speak about rising from the dead and in today’s Greek newspaper about uprising.
     The very essence of language is showing us the disruptive nature of the Easter message. Now you also know why the early Christians were viewed with suspicion and why they were persecuted by authorities. They insisted that the convicted and executed "criminal" was alive among them and showed way towards the just and harmonious future. 
     In the very center of our faith is this inseparable hope, which binds together personal hope in death with personal hope in life and even more radically fuses together personal individual hope with the communal hope for equity and justice.
     The early Christians knew it, but then the church spent the better part of 2,000 years forgetting it, hiding it, and suppressing this radical hope.
     If we want to be faithful to Jesus and his resurrection and if we truly want to understand the marvelous message of Easter, we must return to the original roots of words and roots of our hope. We must not separate rising and uprising, the resurrection hope from the insurrection hope.
     This Easter Sunday we will take a butterfly, this beautiful post-biblical metaphor of resurrection, and apply it to our search for personal resurrection hope which is inseparable from radical communal hope of equity and justice.