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."


Prudent Simplicity

Be cautious like a snake and innocent as a dove, my father quoted to me Matthew 10:16b as I went into the ministry, shortly before I departed for seminary. Soon, I gained my share of the first-hand experiences with the totalitarian secret police and their techniques of interrogation, threats and blackmail.
    This biblical verse came to me quite naturally when I was preparing our November 9th post-election vigil. And I thought of it again while planning the service of ordination and installation of the church officers this Sunday. Those trustees, elders and deacons will lead us in uncertain, turbulent and probably quite dark times.
    I researched the biblical passage in the original Greek; I also looked it up in different translations. I referenced several commentaries and checked the linguistic and theological dictionaries. I also came across a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. exactly on the same passage. It was titled "A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart". Thus I discovered a different MLK than I had known before from media and from school. This was not a courageous justice fighter and rousing public orator but rather a caring pastor thoughtfully equipping the faithful of his church in the ongoing struggles for justice.
    I cannot slavishly repeat that sermon this Sunday; it would not be true to the spirit of MLK. In the almost 60 years since it was delivered, the world has changed (the struggle for justice is not over, but it has shifted) and our biblical and theological understanding has also changed (deepened). But that sermon remains a powerful inspiration and encouragement pointing us in the right direction, to the roots of our faith. There, in the Bible and in our faith in God, is the reliable source of courage and strength to resist prejudice and hatred and for the fearless struggle for justice.


Epiphany Gifts

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh - these are three well known gifts of Epiphany which the Magi presented to baby Jesus. But the Epiphany story itself brings gifts also to its audience, its listeners or readers; three spiritual gifts, as if they were intended for us today!
    Magi are misty figures, their story is clearly legendary but it is also radical, if not outright revolutionary. The magi emphatically came from a foreign land. We are not told precisely where they hailed from, but we know enough to surmise their origins as being somewhere in today’s Iran. Further, their very titles Magi (singular Magus) hint they were high ranking officials of Zoroastrian religion. And finally we are told that they observed and fallowed star/s.
    Our cultural and especially political climate these days might be dimmed with ignorance, xenophobia, denial of reason/science and with suspicion if not outright hatred towards non Judeo-Christian religions. And here, in one biblical story, we are presented with this powerful refutation of all this alt-right nonsense.
    At the beginning of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, we hear about these strange and mysterious foreigners from Iran and with them we recognize the biblical nod towards their foreign religion, and the appreciation of their insight which we would now call the science of astronomy. This story sets the stage for the rest of the Gospel of Matthew and presents us with true Epiphany Gifts - appreciation of strangers, respect to other religions, and embrace of science.
     Come to celebrate with us these divine gifts of Epiphany.


Climate Prayers

Recently I came across this reproduction of an old newspaper clipping. It stated it was from the August 1912. (A few days before my grandpa started school!). Naturally, I was suspicious - we have been inundated with so much fake news lately! I was suspicious but also curious, so I did a little research. My search lead me to Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa (The New Zealand National Library) and in it, I found The Rodney & Otamatea Times (electronically available from the first issue in 1901 through the end of the year 1945). Here is the link to the full page 7 from the 14th of August, 1912.  And here is an actual clipping from that page with the article within its immediate context (a delightful example of early 20th century journalism).

(By the way, the newspaper is still published in Auckland under a simplified name The Rodney Times.)

While doing my research, I also realized that there was no real reason for my original suspicion about ahistoricity of this article. French physicist Joseph Fourier made the first scientific observations about greenhouse affects of atmospheric gases as early as in 1820's. By 1896 (that is correct, 1896!) a Swedish chemist and future Nobelist, Svante Arrhenius, proposed the first scientific formula for calculating the planetary greenhouse effect. Within this historical context the article in the New Zealand newspaper makes perfect sense. In 1912 they were popularizing what was, by that time, a well established science. On the other hand it is almost unbelievable that one hundred years after the Kiwis could read a popularizing note about global warming in their local weekly, we are about to have a government composed of nitwits who are denying, rejecting and actively undermining this old, well proven and solid science.

Why am I writing about this in the Friday Message? Because it is a serious matter! It is a matter of survival for this Planet which God entrusted into our hands. This Sunday, the first Sunday and the first day of the New Year, we will gather in worship to raise prayers for, and to protest on behalf of the climate and the environment of our Planet. Inspired by an ancient old tradition, our prayers and display of protest will have the form of the prayer flags.


Christmas Parables

How come the Bible gives us two stories about Jesus’ birth?
Do you remember our Sunday School’s Christmas Pageant?  On the Fourth Sunday of Advent our children clearly presented this duality. But why is it so? Why do we have in the Bible two different and even incompatible stories?
Because both stories are not factual descriptions of the events but they are, in essence, parables. Both nativity stories are a part of a long Jewish tradition of Mashalim, way of explaining important moral or theological points through stories. Thus both biblical stories about Jesus’ birth are in fact such parables illuminating the mystery and miracle of incarnation; explaining why and how God became human. The individual facts of those two stories are different and hardly compatible but the underlying themes are similar. Divine presence coming to our world is faced with: 
1) political hardships - a bureaucratic persecution by Romans (Luke) or thugs sent by Herod (Matthew)
2) surprising welcome  - by migrant workers (Luke) or pagan dignitaries (Matthew)
3) early hardships - homelessness in a stable (Luke) or refugee status in Egypt (Matthew).
It is clearer above the brightest star that God’s incarnation is not some sugar coated melodrama but from the very beginning a genuine solidarity with the poor, the downtrodden and the alienated - that is the greatest mystery and joy of Christmas and its parables.

Now guess from these two pictures which other two parables are going to illuminate and help us celebrate the Christmas miracle of incarnation on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


Inextinguishable Light

This is my most beloved symbol of light. It is a symbol of light which does not look anything like it! It is a symbol of light which does not shine, a symbol of light which itself is usually brown or black. It is a lei made of kukui nuts; in English they are known as candlenuts. Kernels from these nuts, as their name suggests, were strung and used for candles, or pressed and their oil used in lamps. Thus, the kukui nut became the dark symbol of light.
    Originally, the leis made from kukui nuts were reserved for the teachers, priests and chiefs who were known for their insight, knowledge and wisdom. Candlenuts were a symbol of knowledge, understanding and enlightenment. Advent this year brings us not only ever shorter days, but also the spreading darkness of ignorance, ineptitude and incompetence. Candlenuts represent a fitting metaphor for inclusive, hopeful, invincible enlightenment. Come this third Sunday in Advent to be encouraged and empowered by divine light.


Seaside Surprise

Would you know what this is? This isn’t a frozen over little puddle. When I took this picture, it was well above 80°F. I was on a lonely stretch of Pacific Coast, by the ruins of Lapakahi - a long abandoned Hawaiian fishing village. Basalt rocks, actually, there it is solidified lava, are covered with holes, cavities, dents and pits. And by the shore, just above the high tide line, those pits in rocks were filled with these glittering mirror-like panes of sea salt.
    Hopping over sharp edged cliffs and loose boulders and using just my small pocket knife I started to collect these white gem-like crystals. In less than fifteen minutes I had enough salt to serve our family for a full year. And let me tell you, it tastes unlike any other salt. It might be just Sodium Chloride but for me it has that deep umami savoury taste.
    It might be because it is not over-purified and still contains some other parts of the ocean. Or perhaps it might be just all in my head, because I collected it myself, I know where it comes from and I love and respect that historic place. This salt mining experience from Lapakahi village taught me to appreciate the humble salt and opened my mind for some of its spiritual significance.
    This Sunday we enter the Advent season and in Advent and Christmas this year we will seek inspiration and strength in some of Jesus’ early parables. As you can guess we will start with salt logion (saying).


Election in Forestan

A full week after elections we still had these voting booths stored in the corner of our community hall (Rutgers Church is a polling place). They looked lonely and abandoned, waiting to be picked up by board of elections truck. Today I looked closer and in-between two boards I discovered a folded half sheet of paper yellowed by age. I instantly recognized the handwriting I knew from other fragments of “Manhattan Bible of Henry Rutgers”. The old missive read:

Long ago, there was a far away land called Forestan inhabited only by trees. And it came to pass that trees decided to select their king.
First they considered a Sugar Maple of New England, yet dismissed this idea because it was too sweetly optimistic for their bitter souls.
Then they thought about an Apple Tree from NY, but they abandoned this idea because the apples’ symbolism did not fit their ideology; although they were in great need of education and health they were completely oblivious of this fact. 
The fruits of Georgia’s Peach Tree were dark skinned so the peach tree was left out. And here you must remember that bluntness is not racism, oh no! 
For a moment they looked even at the prairie grass; its ability to bend to every wind looked promising, but then they realized it protected the soil and waters of prairies and so even the grass was dismissed as an unfit candidate.
Florida’s Orange Tree was nice, but definitely not native, arriving from somewhere south and without documents. The mighty Sequoia from California, on the other hand, was patently native but was clearly overqualified to stand above all the trees and thus also left from consideration. And the Banana Tree from Hawaii was one of a hundred different species therefore such perplexing broad diversity was quickly distrusted.
In Forestan they were running out of options. Then a scrubby, twisted, thorny bush arose and proposed himself as their future king. “I will make our Forest into a Garden Again - a great wall all around is what is needed.” Mr. Brumble volunteered and started to make plans, “We will weed out all who do not fit in with our vision of a bristly monoculture forest.” He promised “I will cover you and protect you with my thorns and brambles and no one will touch you anymore.” Many were bewitched by this vision and thus it happened that Forestan selected its future king.

And if you think that Henry Rutgers wrote this fable all by himself, just read Jotham’s Fable in the Bible, Judges 9:7-21.  It is a gloomy reading but thankfully the Bible tells us also about other kings and other leaders with better credentials and real aptitudes to serve. On this Sunday, the last one in this Church Year, join us as we rejoice and receive strength from Christ the King!