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."

2018/01/17

Umami catchers

Do you know what GARUM was?
    It was a Hellenistic fish sauce. In the Greco-Roman world it was like a soy sauce for Asian cuisine. The only difference being that garum was more an indication of social status. The rich people bought expensive fish sauce imported from distant provinces. While the poor used dreks left from the production of this fish sauce. They flavored their porridge with a paste of crushed fermented salted fish.
    Catching fish for the production of garum and slated or pickled fish was the occupation of the first disciples of Jesus. They were industrial fishermen. From ancient history* and archeology** we know they were hardly making ends meet and they were exploited. They paid their regular temple and imperial taxes. But as fishermen, they also needed to buy fishing licenses, they had to pay for use of the harbour (or just for docking or landing) and they had to pay tolls for bringing their catch to market.
    At the end, they had hardly enough to stay alive. They were catching fish which they had to sell (and could not eat), so that the rich could enjoy fermented pleasures. They must have felt like a little fish trapped in a large and unjust exploitation net of fees, tolls and taxes. Are we surprised that many of them were ready to leave behind the tools of their exploitation and follow Jesus joining his reform movement?
    That is how Galilean fishermen heard the call to unite with nothing to lose but their nets in which they themselves felt ensnared (To paraphrase one well-known German philosopher).
   Let us rejoice this Sunday in leaving behind umami business to capture the true fresh and just zest of life.
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* For instance the Galilean town Magdala was also know in Greek as Tarichae - which literally means "a place for processing (salting and fermenting) fish". Or for instance a biblical scholar, K.C.Hanson, reconstructed from different ancient sources a complex Galilean fishing economy.
** I wrote about a discovery of the Galilean fishing boat in one of my earlier blog posts.

And for the curious or knowledgeable a quiz question with a small reward -- Would you know who was that "Well-known German philosopher" and what would be his wording of that quotation Fishermen unite, you have nothing to lose but your nets? Write me by email or talk to me after worship.

2018/01/04

Epiphany Today

This is an icon of "Our Lady who brings down walls". The icon was commissioned by Benedictine nuns from Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem. It is written (that is the proper verb used for painting icons) by Ian Knowles on the 26ft tall Separation Wall dividing Israeli and Palestinian Bethlehem.
    History teaches us that walls do not really work. Roman border fortifications including the famous Hadrian Wall in Great Britain did not work. The Chinese Great Wall as impressive as it might be, was actually only a small part of many constructed over a number of centuries and considering the amount of work and endeavor, those walls also did not work, all were eventually abandoned. We all know the history of the Maginot Line (French defenses before WWII) and I personally experienced growing up behind the Iron Curtain. I vividly remember rejoicing over its fall (you might recall pictures of the end of the Berlin Wall).
    All such walls are in fact a treatment of symptoms instead of real underlying problems. They are delusional, ineffective and relatively short-lived. They are manifestations of some deeper political, moral or spiritual bankruptcy.
    This Sunday we will celebrate Epiphany. A deeply meaningful holiday rooted in a picturesque legend about the wise-ones paying a visit to the newborn Jesus. It can hardly escape anyone that such a journey would be extremely difficult if not outright impossible to take today. Just imagine religious officials traveling from Afghanistan and Iran, crossing war-torn Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria eventually arriving to the towering Separation Wall and its dangerous checkpoints.  
    Yet right there is the deepest meaning of this Epiphany story. Early church created and embraced this story because it went to the roots and addressed the causes of misunderstandings and animosities among the peoples, cultures, races and religions. It taught the early church an alternative, positive and constructive vision for our world. Vision of the rational, multi-cultural and multi-faith world without walls. Join us in celebrating this beautiful and deeply meaningful holiday.

2017/12/28

Aloha kākou!

Aloha kākou!  This is a beautiful and deeply meaningful Hawai‘ian greeting.
     Many people would know that Hawai‘ians are greeting each other with Aloha which means "love". But the meaning of this word actually encompasses a full spectrum of tender loving feelings from compassion, mercy through pity or sympathy to kindness and grace.
     The other word of this greeting, the pronoun kākou, is even more profound. It is an inclusive we (plural you and me). Aloha kākou should be interpreted as, "May there be love between us" when speaking to a group of people. While, Aloha kāua is reserved for greeting a single person.
     This "inclusive we" creates a spiritual space of mutual affection and friendship in which both the greeter and the greeted are united.
     Come this Sunday, on the brink of the Old and New Year, we will learn about and find hope not only in Hawaiian but also in similarly deep Hebrew (and Arabic!) greetings of love and peace.

2017/12/21

In those days... ...Christmas today.

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This first census took place when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.... (Luke 2)

This is the story which for many of us unlocks Christmas. But already the 19th century theologians knew that this date introduction had serious historical and factual problems.

1) Emperor Augustus was known for getting his empire organized. There were even some censuses in different provinces. But there was never any decree coming from his court and certainly not about any universal or world-wide census during his reign.
2) Quirinius (in full name Consul Publius Sulpicius Quirinius) was indeed an efficient Roman civil servant. He even was a legate in Syria, but it happened at least a decade after the presumed dating in the Gospel. Jesus was most likely a teenager when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3) The Roman administration as mentioned, did initiate registration of people, but they did it in their current residences, not in their ancestral homes.

So, Luke’s dating statements do not make much sense from an historical perspective. But Luke wrote them for some reason. In a situation like this, it can be helpful to translate, transplant or project such difficult or obscure text into our own context. And here is my attempt:  

It happened when Trump has taxed the entire world while giving himself a big fat cut. It all took place when Chris Christie ruled over NJ and everyone was required to register with ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement).

Of course this is also an historically and factually inaccurate exaggeration. Nevertheless, you all instantly know what I am talking about, don’t you? It is about abuse of power, about unjust taxes, about people uprooted from their homes to homelessness, about families torn apart by abusive bureaucrats, about poor and little people who suffer most...
    And this was Luke’s intention. This way he conveyed to us the setting, the context into which Jesus was born, the very context into which God sent us the divine  flash of hope. While the abusive and the powerful engage in their "things", a fragile yet resilient and resistant hope is being born. We all are invited to join and rejoice in this divine newborn hope.

2017/11/21

Watch out, shepherds!



Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing worship for Christ The King Sunday, I received a surprising DM (Direct Message) from @ManhattanProphet forwarding to me 12 tweets.
The original tweets came from @RealLORD, here they are all:

@Ezekiel34, Prophesy against the shepherd-leaders in the #BrightHouse and on #TheHill. Damn to you, shepherds, I am watching you!...
...You only pretend to care for my sheep! Aren’t shepherds supposed to care for sheep? You don’t feed my sheep, you just feed my sheep...
...with your bigotry, prejudice and racism and then sell my sheep for cheap to your wealthy cronies. Not only you don’t care...
...for the wounded, you actively try to take away their affordable sheep-care, not once, not twice, for the third and fourth time...
...and I am not going to be silent, says the Lord! You pretend to care for sheep, but you threaten to divide them...
...by your ever taller walls as if my pasture was some kind of a prison! You aren’t building bridges upon which my sheep...
...could safely and peacefully walk. You are the ones who are actively misleading my sheep to dangerous swamps of your own making...
...And when you train sheepdogs, it is not to guard and protect my sheep, you train them to shoot-to-kill...
...And what have you done to the meadows of my pasture! Half of it you pricked and poked with your fracking rigs...
...so that the very ground is shaking like in fever. The other half you want to under-mine, pollute with bursting pipes...
...or turn to a waste-heap, taking away protection from soil, water and air. Therefore, listen to my message you pseudo-shepherds!...
...Watch out! I’m coming and will take my sheep back. I will rescue my sheep from your greed!
 
Of course this cannot be an authentic divine message. The Omniscient would certainly have known that the limit of characters had risen to 280! With all likelihood these prophetic tweets are another falsification from the workshop of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. Nevertheless this modern paraphrase of Ezekiel 34 clearly illuminates why so many biblical scholars think that many, if not all, otherwise bucolic biblical psalms and parables about sheep and shepherds contain a soothing personal message but also an explosive political rebuke to the powers that be.

2017/10/18

Taxation Coin


This is denarius - a coin of Roman taxation.
This particular one was struck around the year 150 CE, in the relatively calm period of the rule of  emperor Antoninus Pius, about the time when the last parts of the New Testament were written.
Roman coins were certainly more than just monetary instruments. Coins also played an important ideological function. Even this standard and little boring denarius can help us understand.
This small coin is loaded with political imagery and imperial propaganda. And as small as these Roman coins might be, they were ubiquitous important financial instruments. And besides their main monetary value they functioned like political billboards or TV advertisements perhaps even like a social media “sponsored” or “pushed” posts. These coins, just like those social media posts, were also common and not appreciated for what they were actually “pushing”. This Sunday we will hear again the famous Jesus pronouncement “Give to the emperor the emperor’s and to God what belongs to God” – a beautiful, clever and powerful rejection of the economic exploitation and imperial ideology in the name of Creator’s sovereignty and grace.
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And for those who read this far, here is a description of this particular denarius.
On the obverse of the coin is the head of the emperor with a laurel - a symbol reserved for gods, victors and emperors. Around it is the emperor’s name Antoninus and his titles Augustus (worthy of veneration) and Pius (dutiful in affection) and Pater Patriae (Father of the Fatherland).
On the reverse of the coin is a standing figure of Pax (goddess of Peace - mind you, it was the Roman peace, which was achieved by conquest and subjugation) and around her are further Antoninus’ titles - Tribunicia Potestas (with the powers of the Tribune - originally a defender of the Roman poor - but in reality bestowing great unchecked powers) and Consul IIII (Consul for the fourth term).

2017/10/11

A Proverbial Snub

Deep in dark shelves of the Rutgers Church library we discovered an ancient folio with relatively well preserved uncial writing. Upon closer paleographic and exegetical examination of its archaic Manhattonite English we became convinced we happened to find another fragment from the author of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers offering us important insights into some biblical mysteries:

ONCE THERE WAS A POTENTATE WHO WAS ABOUT TO BE INSTALLED INTO HIS POTENTATY OFFICE.  HE WAS KNOW AS EXCEEDINGLY VAIN AND NASTY. THUS EVEN THOUGH HE INVITED MANY FAMOUS ACTORS AND SINGERS AND ARTISTS TO HIS CELEBRATION, ONE AFTER ANOTHER THEY STARTED TO EXCUSE THEMSELVES. ONE PROMISED A CHARITY CONCERT ON THE SAME DATE, THE OTHER HAD PLANS TO TAKE KIDS TO DISNEYLAND, AND YET ANOTHER NEEDED TO CLEAN HER FISH TANK. AFTER A LOT OF EFFORT SOME CELEBRITIES AND DIGNITARIES DEIGNED TO COME. THEN THE DATE ARRIVED BUT EVEN AS THE POTENTATE TOOK OFFICE ONE OF THE IMPORTANT GUESTS (BY THE WAY FROM THE SAME POLITICAL TRIBE) COMMENTED ON HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH “WHAT WEIRD S**T!” THE WEATHER WAS NASTY AND IT DID NOT STOP DRIZZLING. THE CELEBRATION WAS SPARSELY ATTENDED AND ALONG THE PARADE PROCESSION ROUTE THERE WERE MORE GUARDS THAN GUESTS. ROWS AND ROWS OF STANDS WERE EMPTINESS EMPTY. THE POTENTATE WAS ANGRY. HE LIED AND DENIED WHAT EVERYONE COULD SEE AND THREATENED THOSE WHO MENTIONED THE TRUTH. TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY THE NEXT DAY AFTER THIS CATASTROPHIC CELEBRATION PEOPLE GATHERED ON THEIR OWN ACCORD AND FLOODED THOSE VERY STREETS WITH THEIR OWN FESTIVAL OF COLOUR AND RESISTANCE AND CREATIVITY AND FREEDOM. 
AND NOW, DEAR READER, YOU KNOW WHY THE EVANGELIST LUKE REJECTED MATTHEW’S VERSION OF THE PARABLE OF THE BANQUET AND WROTE HIS OWN VERSION WHILE PROUDLY WEARING HIS PUSSYHAT.       


It is very likely there will be again misgivings about the authenticity of this document from the treasure chest of the Manhattan Gospel of Henry Rutgers. It, nevertheless, makes some insightful points. The "PUSSYHAT" worn by the evangelist Luke is a clear anachronism, but even among serious biblical scholars there is no denying that Luke was, what we would call, a feminist among evangelists. It is also a well known fact that Luke lifted this parable from  Matthew’s context of the dark Middle-Eastern despotism (most likely the First Jewish-Roman War) and transplanted it into his gentler Hellenist city culture. Thus both Matthew and Luke give us permission to read the parable in our own times and context.

Be it as it may, come this Sunday to remember and celebrate.