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."


Friday Message from Rutgers Church 2011-11-25

The NT vocabulary of time.
Have you ever felt trapped by Aristotelian time?
        What do I mean? I amen appointments piling up one on top of another, looming deadlines, missed opportunities, pressing responsibilities and obligations, inability to turn the clock back, counting days to the next paycheck, or fearing the next utility bill or a loan payment day.

I think we all know this feeling of being trapped by time, which the Greeks called CHRONOS. Chronos was supposed to be a god, in truth, it was and remains a monster. I mean trapped by this time which flows relentlessly yet without purpose; time with direction yet without meaning. This is to be trapped in endlessly flowing slimy time, trapped by time which we do not control, trapped by time which is used by others to controls us. Trapped by time, with who knows who is in control.

Thankfully there is another time possible. In the bible it is called KAIROS. It is a prophetic time, the time which breaks in, the time which enables us to break out. It is the divine time, time of divine opportunity, time controlled by our God and Saviour, it is an anti-chronos time. KAIROS is an invitation to an alternative perception of time, of ourselves, and of every meaning. KAIROS is the time of divine opportunity and an invitation to freedom. If you feel trapped by time, this Sunday’ lectionary reading (Mark 13: 24-37) is an invitation for you. The apocalyptic Jesus will teach us how to be liberated by Kairos time.


Radical Advent Prayer

Do you know that every time when we say the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for Advent?
The second request of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin reads: “Adveniat Regnum Tuum.” In English: "Your kingdom come." 
     It’s clear that we are not praying for the speedy arrival of the pre-Christmas season with its whipped up consumerism and slowly awakening seasonal sentimentality. We pray and we await for a different advent. The advent of God’s kingdom! We pray for a radical change in how the world operates. How radical? Very radical. Just let us decipher and hear afresh the requests of this "advent" prayer.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
What divine will is done in heaven, that is not done on earth? 
Well, we can start with the divine protection of all the vulnerable and the weak. In the Bible they are called widows and orphans. Their protection is so important to God, that it is repeated over and over again in the Law and by the Prophets. In the New Testament it even necessitated a complete reordering in the hierarchy of heavenly bureaucracy. Guardian angels of the little ones were lifted up into the presence of God, replacing the big shots of the cherubim and seraphim with all the archangels. (Matthew 18:10). 
       Just imagine elevating social services (guardian angels) before the ministry of war (I resist using that misleading euphemisms of ministry of “defense”). Just imagine, on a personal level, supporting the local food pantry and homeless shelters before leaving for Christmas shopping.  Modeling our lives according to heavenly orders – that is what we pray for in Lord’s prayer. This is the Advent we seek.

Give us this day our daily bread.
Hunger in Jesus’ Galilee was as real as it is in our world. These words were intended for, and were originally said, by those who were hungry or lived from day to day. For many of us, who are not hungry, these words have a different meaning. We pray for the coming of a world where everyone has enough and world abundance is shared each day. No one can expand his or her life by simply hogging up extra food or resources, (the main lesson from the story of the stupid wealthy farmer in Luke 12:13-21). 
       And no one can eat paper money, bonds, or bricks of gold. Ultimately all of it, in some way, is a social and societal (or if you wish economic) agreement that we will care for one another. Just imagine eliminating all the private commercial retirement funds and building up one robust and generous solidarity system. Anyway, it is always today’s generation that cares for the past one, and trusts to be cared for by the future one. Solidarity, sharing and mutual care is the daily bread we pray for and look for during Advent.

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Very appropriately, in our tradition, we use the words "debt and debtors."
Do you really believe that God was ever seriously concerned about anyone trespassing on someone else's property? We do not live in medieval England any longer. We are not warlords of dark ages for whom pillaging and trespassing was a capital offense. 
Similarly, the understanding of sin got highly spiritualized, psychologized, and detached from world’s everyday reality. Meanwhile, debts were clearly very close to God’s heart from the oldest of times.
       There are many biblical rules that attempt to control debt. Every seventh year there should be a remission of all outstanding debts (Deuteronomy 15:1f.) And the release of any debt slaves. (Deuteronomy 15:12f). In the agricultural society, the growing disparity between rich and poor was controlled by instituting a Year of Jubilee when all the land property was restituted to its original owners or their heirs.(Leviticus 25:10). Translated into our context, we pray and anticipate an advent of a world with lenient bankruptcy laws, a world where lending and mortgaging is controlled and regulated to protect the poor. We pray and promise not to torment or enslave anyone through money; freedom and relationships have precedence over money.

This is our Advent prayer: We pray and wait for the protection of the most vulnerable, for solidarity in sharing life resources, and for the elimination of enslaving debt. These are just three aspects of a radical divine world that we anticipate in Advent. So let us pray “Adveniat regnum tuum.”


Friday Message from Rutgers Church 2011-11-18

The Last Judgement? Is it about afterlife? 
NO! ABOUT LIFE! And its ultimate values.
 If you want to know what any given society thinks of itself, what are its fears and dreams, what are its hidden dungeons and highest aspirations, I would say: go and study its mythology diligently.
 If you don’t have the time, and if you need a crash course on society's ethical system and shared values, I will point you to its beliefs about the afterlife and/or final judgement (Judgment day). Anthropologically, as well as theologically speaking, these beliefs will not tell you anything about the realities they pretend to be describing. How could they? No one knows them! They do tell you in a most condensed way the society’s ethical and moral values. In a nutshell, doctrines about afterlife are in essence the most powerful and intense way of speaking about this life.
 And thus Classical Greek descriptions of Hades tell us a lot about the values of that society, what was considered foul and punishable, and what was highly thought of and celebrated. The Egyptian Book of the Death presents an archetypal image of the divine judgement (a weighing of a heart), with a long list of the renounced vices, thus providing an interesting insight into the morals of the Egyptian New Kingdom society. 
 In a similar manner Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” allows us to observe the ethical values of high medieval Europe. Jewish and Early Christian Apocalyptic literature does not portent the future, but in thick prophetic colors, it paints a picture of a faithful resistance to oppressive Hellenistic empires.
 The lectionary reading this Sunday is the parable of The Last Judgement (Matthew 25:31-46). This parable goes back to the early church and (in some aspects) probably to Jesus himself. And, again, the true meaning and the message of this parable is not in predicting and describing the future. From the beginning this parable was a powerful vehicle to outline what were the core values of the followers of Jesus. What do we as Christian believe as the most important part of life? What, according to us, truly matters to God? In this parable we touch the heart of who we are or who we would like to be. 
 For all, it might be quite a surprise!

New translation and dramatisation of Matthew 26:31-46

Narrator . . . . . . . . . . N
Jesus . . . . . . . . . . . J
Congregation 1 . . . . C1
Congregation 2 . . . . C2

N  When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
    and all the angels with him,
    then he will take a seat upon his glorious throne.
    And all the nation and peoples will be gathered before him,
    and he will sort one from another,
    just as a shepherd sorts sheep from goats
    - sheep will go to his right and goats to his left.
    And then the king will declare to those on the right -

J   Come, you who are praised by my Father,
    take into your possession the Kingdom,
    which has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.
    For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat,
      I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink,
      I was stranger, and you welcomed me in,
      I was naked, and you clothed me,
      I was sick and you took care of me,
      I was in prison, and you went to me

N  Then these righteous will respond -
C1 But, Master, what are you talking about?

    When did we ever see you hungry and fed you,
    thirsty and offered you drink?
    When did we ever see you a stranger and welcomed you in,
    naked and clothed you?
    When did we ever see you sick
    or in prison and went to you?

N  And the King will declare to them -
J  Truly I tell you,
   just as you did to the least significant in the world
   you did it to me.

N Then he will declare to those on the left -
J  Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal selfishness
   which consumes the Devil and his retinue.
   For I was hungry, and you didn’t give me to eat,
     I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me to drink,
     I was stranger, and you didn’t welcome me in,
     I was naked, and you didn’t cloth me,
     I was sick and in prison and you didn’t go to me

N They will be surprised and asking,
C2 But, Master, what are you talking about?

    When did we ever see you hungry
    or thirsty or a stranger or naked
    or sick or in prison,
    and we did not help you?

N And he will declare to them -
J  Truly I tell you, whenever you refused to help
   these least significant in the world,
   you were refusing to help me.

N And they will disappear into eternal oblivion,
   but the righteous will receive the fullness of life.


Responses of Faithful Life (intended not only for liturgy)

I am hungry, ... and we give you something to eat,
I am thirsty, ... and we give you something to drink,
I am stranger, ... and we give you warm welcome,
I am naked, ... and we give you good clothes,
I am sick, ... and we give you fine healthcare,
I am in prison, ... and we give you another chance.


Matthew 25:14-30 - Dramatised worship reading

Contextual translation attempting to capture the perception of contemporary hearers.
This reading was presented in worship of Rutgers Presbyterian Church on 2011-11-13 by the church youth.

N Or think about it this way.
   Some very powerful person went away for a long period of time.
   He decided to leave some large amount of money in the hands of three individuals.
   Each was assigned a large amount of money according to their professions.
1 The first person was the head of an investment bank called “Golden Socks”;
  he was given five hundred million dollars.
2 The second led chemical corporation called “Santa on Moon”;
  she was given two hundred million,
3 and the third one chaired organization called “Greens and Peace”;
  he was given one hundred million.

1 The first took the capital and in four years he made another half a billion,
  not counting the millions he made for himself.
2 The second, likewise, did the same thing with her capital.
  Her profit was unbelievable 19% year after year
  and a healthy CEO salary above it.
3 The third did not care about profit
  and went to save the planet from those two other guys.

N With a subsequent elections the powerful person returned to power
  and the professionals came to give him their reports.

1 The first said, With my position and all that money
  I hired and trained many mortgage brokers.
  They sold mortgages to everyone, even to people who could not afford them.
  I pooled those loans, divided them and regrouped them,
  insured them and sold them until no one could understand any of it.
  I made piles of money.
  I even made money by betting on the failure of my own funds!
  Now I have a full billion.
N The powerful man said, “Well done. You proved yourself.
  I make you my Secretary of Finance.

2 The second officer came, and she said,
  In my position and with all that money,
  I managed to hire scientists and I bribed lawyers and I bought public opinion.
  I genetically manipulated seeds of staple crops and I patented them.
  Now almost every farmer on the planet slaves for me, and if not, I sue them.
  And people happily eat my junk. And as result I more than doubled the money.
N The very powerful man said,
  “Well done. You have proved your worth.
  I am making you Secretary of Agriculture.”

3 The third officer came and said.
  “I am not sure I can claim any real success.
  I tried my best, we protested and stopped dangerous nuclear tests,
  we all but stop the commercial killing of whales,
  we slowed deforestation and the extinction of some species.
  But it was not I who can claim all these successes,
  I only recruited, trained and organized volunteers.
  And we can hardly claim any miracles, because so much still needs to be done!
  Earth is still here but we don’t have any money left.
N And the powerful man gave this officer a dressing down.
   “In your own words you were just half successful.
  How can I be impressed with your performance.
  I expect miracles, do I? Well, I expect that at the very least you made some profit!
  Why didn’t you invest at least in green energy! You are fired!
  My new Secretary of Treasury and the minister of Agro-business
  will run the environmental department.

N And remember, The rich and powerful will get only richer and more powerful,
  while the poor, and the naive will lose everything, even their own future.

----------------------------------- -
Now, how does it make you feel? Righteous indignation?
That was exactly, how the original hearers did hear this parable of talents.
Primary targets of this parable were not little Galilean peasants or the powerless and poor people of any time and space. It was not intended to be spiritualized or used to “induce generosity” in middle classes.
This parable belongs to the category of parables called "Return of the rightful owner" (for instance Matthew 21:33-41 Parable of the vineyard, or Matthew 24:45-51 Parable of two servants). Parables in this category criticize misbehaviour of the rich and the powerful, and at the same time they utter a word of warning. These parables were intended for the elites, for the landlords, for the religious hierarchy and for all the privileged, wealthy and powerful. God is not indifferent to injustice. God knows about exploitation of the poor. Justice DOES EXIST and it is coming.
It is a theological disgrace, that this passage used to be interpreted as an apotheosis of venture capitalism and has been abused to “tame and milk” people of faith.

(This translation and interpretation is further supported by the Gospel of Nazoreans as quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea, and by historical events of departures and returns of vassal monarchs as recorded by Josephus Flavius.)


Friday Message from Rutgers Church 2011-11-11

Misrepresented talent
How much does a talent weigh? And what would be its value?
Of course I do not mean talent as an aptitude. That is the most common use these days, but it is a secondary meaning, the result of centuries and centuries of Christian symbolical preaching and psychological sermonizing. (Wasn’t there some nasty character who said something about repeating things over and over again until they become a reality?) The word TALENT is a prime example of what we are against if we want to liberate ourselves from the bad theology which has influenced perceptions, culture, and even language itself. Originally TALENT was a unit of weight and a unit of value.

The oldest definition of TALENT in the Ancient Near East was “a weight of a person in gold” and would be about 110 lb. (You see, back then people were evidently much smaller and also slimmer.) The currency equivalent of the ancient gold talent would be approximately $2.8M today. Later, in Hellenistic times, a TALENT became lighter and was used to measure silver. In New Testament times a TALENT weighed about 80 pounds and its value in silver would be the equivalent of $40K today.

And so it goes. In order to understand the basic vocabulary of Jesus’ parables, we need to go back to his time. To understand his true intention and his revolutionary and liberating message, we need to undo (unlisten and unlearn) hundreds of years of really poor theology. For decades theologians knew that the parable of talents (Matthew 25:14-30) was not about individual aptitudes or encouragement for enterprising spirits and even less an apotheosis of venture capitalism. Unlistening, unlearning and in process being liberated, that is what we will do again this Sunday.


Bridesmaids’ Sunday

A little bit of exegetical-religious background for this Sunday lectionary reading from Matthew 25:1-13. I am convinced that function of bridesmaids goes back to lower-goddesses of fertility, which are attending and sponsoring the marriage, and guarantee its marital blessing, fertility and happiness. Below I quote a delightful piece from Ugaritic mythological literature (XII. century B.C.E.). In this text bridesmaids still preserve their divine character. I translate/interpret their names in order to highlight their character and functions. In a similar way names of famous midwives from Exodus could also be translated as Fertility-bringing and Labour-groans. Could their origins be also associated with Koŧarat?

Song of Koŧarat The Canaanite fertility lower goddesses
(From the Weding of Nikkal and Ib KTU 1.24.40-50)
I sing about goddesses, about Koŧarat,
daughters of Hallel, the Bright-Ones,
daughters of Hallel, lord of Gamlu,
who descend to the garden-beds
and among the olive-groves,
who lead to success
with the blessing of Compassionate,
of El, who is merciful.

In my mouth is their number,
on my lips is the sum of them:
Dowry, and Dower,
Love-Flame, and Womb-Opener,
First-Cry, Forever-Bearer,
and Goodness, the youngest of Koŧarat.