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."

2019/05/16

Multidimensional Temple

This Monday I was in Hilo, Hawaii, preparing this Sunday worship while sitting on Moku‘ola (Island of Life) also known as Coconut Island in Hilo Bay. It was the original location of an old Heiau (old Hawaiian temple) and a holy place which was destroyed many years ago with only a few stones remaining. Yet that place still keeps a very special spiritual atmosphere.
    I was preparing a worship in which I plan to talk about an ancient Jewish Temple. And although it was a genuine Jewish Temple, it was not in Jerusalem, but rather it was on an island called Elephantine in the river Nile in South Egypt.
    There is not a single mention of this Jewish Elephantine temple in the Bible, and that is a problem. Because as a Jewish Temple outside of Jerusalem it was in the sharp contradiction of everything written in the Torah (Law of Moses).
     And furthermore, this temple and its community were in regular correspondence with Jerusalem and Samaria and existed with the support and blessing from Jerusalem. We would not know of its existence if not the so called Elephantine papyri that survived and was discovered in the late XIX and early XX century.
    For the biblical fundamentalists this ancient Jewish temple in Egypt is an utter conundrum and a stumbling block for their hardened, harsh and often abusive religion.
    In reality it offers us an intriguing new and fresh perspective not only for our understanding of the Bible but it invites us to embrace an alternative, multi-dimentional, more tolerant and inclusive self understanding of our faith.
    Join us this Sunday as we embrace this new and broader vision.

And for those who want more information, here is an older article I wrote about this Jewish Temple in Egypt some time ago.
 

2019/04/25

Church's Treasure

The second Sunday of Easter brings to us the story of doubting Thomas. Last year I wrote and recorded a short study about this apostle and truly ancient Thomasian tradition. 
      [Here you can read about Thomas among early Christians or here you can watch video clip about it.] 
      This Sunday I want to pick one story from this Thomasian tradition, the second chapter from the Acts of Thomas. But I do not want to completely give out that story, so instead here is a similar, yet later story from the early church.
      In the early III. Century Lawrence was a church deacon. He was responsible for the distribution of alms to the poor and thus he controlled substantial financial resources. Then a prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence surrenders to the state all the church’s wealth. Lawrence promised to do that, but asked for three days to gather all that wealth. When those three days were over, he reported to the prefect. He was asked, “Where is that promised treasure?” Lawrence pointed to the poor, crippled, blind, and many other sufferers which he brought with him with the words: "Behold, these poor persons are the true treasures of the church.” 
And thus Lawrence became a saint, being executed for his devotion to the social justice.
      Our story from the Acts of Thomas this Sunday will have a better ending, but it is of a similar nature. It is also a biblical metaphor expanded into a legendary story and also has a powerful social justice message.
Join us this Sunday to hear about Thomas ministry in the legendary lands of king Gundaphorus.

Video version of this blog is on YouTube here. 
 
"Building castles in the sky" is an idiom which dictionaries define as "To create dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible, unrealistic, or have very little chance of succeeding."
The second act of Apostle Thomas is very likely the beginning of this idiom and instead of duplicity its primary focus was on social justice.
 
 

2019/04/18

Singing Hallelujahs

The Christian salvation story is in great need of radical expansion. I am convinced that the Easter message needs to reintegrate with the entire creation. 

Here is an illustration of what might have gone wrong and why I think this reintegration is needed.
       Medieval art, especially from high Gothic times through Renaissance, often depicted baby Jesus with a bird. Sometimes Jesus awkwardly holds it, even clutches it. Later on, with some rising sensitivity, the bird is only gently touched. Occasionally the bird is being tethered on a golden string. 
      In order to understand what is going on, you need to know that the bird in these paintings is Carduelis Carduelis - the European Goldfinch. Goldfinches are associated with thistles, brambles and anything thorny. In those paintings this bird is a signal, a pointer and an omen foreshadowing the crucifixion. 
      I find it symptomatic of our treatment of nature in our religion. We made our religion all about us, and only us and about our individual salvation. Nature is used, like that bird in those paintings, as a stage or even worse as a tool and accessory to the great story of our own salvation. 
      I always felt badly for those pure birds in those paintings being so awkwardly handled by the medieval Jesus. Especially as they were made into those unwilling pointers to the cross and unwilling coincidental accessories to the crime of crucifixion while goldfinches are joyful and famous songbirds. 

Join us this Easter Sunday when we reintegrate goldfinches and all creation into the salvation story. It will not diminish its glory, it will amplify it! Let us all sing with entire creation our Salvation Hallelujahs.
And here is a video version of this blog - Singing Hallelujahs .


2019/04/15

You Can't Wash in Blood

Many Holy Friday hymns are simply awful. Especially those written in the 19th century. Have you ever payed attention to what they say? For instance:
    "In the Cross of Christ I Glory."
    "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
    "Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle,
        tell aloud the wondrous story of the cross."
 
And some other hymns, among many more, which point to the Holy Friday message:
    "Are you washed in the blood?"
    "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! ...
        Born of the spirit, washed in his blood."
 
Just think about it! Those are atrocious hymns with catastrophic theology. Their emotional landscape is exaggerated, histrionic, brimming with fake emotions and completely alienated from historic reality.
     For any sound mind the cross was nothing glorious - it was an ultimate form of Roman state terrorism. I do not know what kind of person can find murderous torture wondrous.
    I am from a family of Calvinist pastors and doctors. You do not wash in blood, when you treat grave injures, you need to wash blood off. Even as a theological metaphor it does not work. Washing in the blood appears only once in the Bible, in a marginal passage in Revelation, and anyhow it is about washing robes not persons. Otherwise the Bible makes clear in number of passages that blood is to be washed away. 

How much more truthful, genuine and sincere are especially the old African-American Holy Friday Spirituals:
    "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
       O, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble."
   "They crucified my Lord and he never said a mumblin' word."
    "They Crucified my Savior and nailed him to the cross...
        He rose from dead, and shall bear my spirit home."

These are the songs of honest, sincere sympathy and experience and deep personal understanding coming from deep, firsthand experience with persecution, torture, and, yes, lynching.
      I am convinced that it was not a coincidence that in the 19th century white churches were singing about "wondrous crosses" and being "washed in blood" while black churches were singing about "them who crucified my Lord who never said a mumbling word."
      And when you put it this way, you know what is the most truthful singing. You know where the heart of God was and still is.

Come to worship with us this Good Friday. With the late Professor Dr. James Cone we will seek the true message of Good Friday and understand the cross through the lynching tree.

2019/04/11

Christian magic words


Christians do have their own genuine magic words. Magic words that go all the way back to the New Testament, the Greek Bible, and thus they have been used from the earliest church until now, some of them daily.
          They are genuine magic words according to anthropology and the study of other religions. They are often words transmitted or borrowed from different languages and almost as a rule do not make any sense in the language of their current users. As they are transmitted through generations and different languages their spelling is altered and their pronunciation is changed. The original speakers would have difficulties in recognizing them in their current form.

Here is an incomplete but substantial list of the New Testament magic words, starting with those most common:
Amen - derived from the Semitic root for something firm, certain and meaning something like “May it be so.”
Hallelujah - is actually an abbreviated Hebrew sentence “Joyful shout to the LORD!”   Abba - is an Aramaic word for a father, often used by Jesus and early christians. 
Rabbuni - was an Aramaic salutation or greeting used for Jesus “My teacher”.

Among these preserved and untranslated New Testament Semitism are also healing commands used by Jesus:
Ephphatha  - “Be opened!” For healing of a deaf person.
Talitha kum - “Girl get up!” For resurrecting a comatose or dead girl. 

In the liturgical setting we have already mentioned Amen and Alleluia. There are also worship exclamations:
Maranatha - “Lord, do come!”
Hosanna - “Save, please!” or “Do save!” 

      All these words have the characteristics of true magic words. They are preserved from their original language(s) and they are repeated as sounds often without understanding of their original meaning. They are used because of the ancient tradition, out of respect to their original use or for the perceived power or religious potency.At that was something you might not know about the Bible and your faith tradition.
       Join us this Palm Sunday as we listen to the people and especially children surrounding Jesus at his entry to Jerusalem and hear, learn and adopt one of these words- Hosanna. It is often used as one of those magic words, but it is way more precious and meaningful. Join us in prayer for liberation. 

2019/03/26

Special Grass

Grass near Pu'u 'Ula'ula of Mauna Loa
At least once a year my wife and I love to spend several days hiking in the Hawaiian snow. Yes, there is regular frost and snow in Hawaii. At 13,000 ft (4,000m) the air is thin, the head is spinning and the going is tough. All around is a volcanic wilderness with spectacular lava formations but completely devoid of anything alive except a few spiders persisting on insects blown up there by the wind. Even other hikers are a rarity - the highest number we had ever encountered were five in one full day. After the year-round crowds of Manhattan - this is our mountainous hermitage. Hiking cleans our heads and sharpens our senses. And then, after a few days spent in almost complete solitude without any telephone, electricity or running water we are ready and happy to return to civilization, but first we need to descend from this frozen high altitude desert. Coming down at the altitude of 10,000 ft we come across our first grass. Just a few small bunches of tenacious, hardy grass, but grass nevertheless. After days spent among just black, brown, gray and red rocks, the grass is so green and alive. Grass is so underrated! Every single blade is like a harbinger of life.
    Yes, I know that the Hebrew Bible grass has a reputation of ephemerality and impermanence. It is undeserved reputation and rightly corrected by the Synoptical Jesus who lifts the humble grass of the field above the beauty of the legendary monarch.

Come and join us this Sunday celebrating the beauty and diversity of grass, any life including the humankind.

Video version of this blog (with few more pictures and videoclips) is here on YouTube.

2019/03/22

In Praise of Silence

This Sunday, the third in lent, will be about the gift of silence. My granddaughter reminded me recently what a great gift it really is! We were playing with rattles and learning how to crawl and then it was about the time to take a nap. After such a flurry of activity that was not easy. I carried her on my arms, sang her Czech and Hawaiians lullabies, even one which I made up myself years ago for my children. Her eyes were getting narrower and narrower, with few inevitable reverses of course. At last, the narrowest chinks closed and her eyelashes merged and locked followed with a little twitch in her legs. My grand-baby was finally  asleep, breathing deeply. Time to put her in her day crib. Here she is surrounded with some of her toys - a crescent and stars. Shhhh. Silence is indeed a great divine gift!

2019/03/07

Recounting Divine Glory


This Sunday is the first in the season of Lent. This year we will follow our Presbyterian devotional called “Awaking to God’s Beauty” and the Book of Psalms will be our guide.

At first, people worshiped under the open skies, in some nice or special places; in a holy grove, by a brook, at a spring, or on a special hill or a mountain.
     Soon after, people erected a stela or created a stone circle, built an altar. Those were the beginnings of the first shrines which later grew into temples.
     Those ancient temple complexes were still built and decorated and organized as sacred models of the world, informed by the local mythological cosmology.
     In the center was the holy of holiness, a divine habitation, surrounded with a place restricted only for priests, then a space for the local devotees and finally for anyone else. Basins and pools represented oceans, large pillars were mountains upon which the sky rested and columns stood for tall and splendid trees (especially their capitals preserved that notion). Some of this architectural cosmology is present in cathedrals till this day.
     Over time the divine became more and more confounded into the walls of temples, cathedrals and churches. On this first Sunday in Lent the 19th Psalm will encourage us again to return back to nature and to open our eyes and all our senses to the divine beauty all around us. Come and join us in the worship.

2019/02/20

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

Last summer I went to Alabama to visit the National Lynching Memorial. I thought I knew enough about American lynching history so I just wanted to see and experience that powerful art. I can confirm it is indeed powerful art and it did to me what true art, and only true art can do. It transformed me from within, it grabbed me by throat and showed me the difference between intellectual and visceral knowledge.
      American history of slavery, lynching and racism are different permutations of the American society’s original sin. And such deep historical sin, just like any other deep trauma, cannot be forgotten no matter what you do. Silence will not help and pretensions will do no good. Unconfessed, hidden sin just like personal or family trauma will always find its way to come up and haunt us.
     Theology and psychology are strangely unanimous – the only way forward is confession, repentance and forgiveness. That is when I speak theologically. Psychology has different lingo but follows the same course - bringing the trauma to the surface, owning the wrongs, dealing with them openly and honestly, changing our ways and seeking forgiveness from those harmed. That is the way to be liberated from the dark past.
       The National Lynching Memorial is in fact like a helping hand offered to all of us by our black brothers and sisters to finally deal honestly with our history and to get freed from those brutal daemons of our collective past. I think this generous and kind offer is a marvelous theme for our celebration of Black History Month. So come and join us in this deeply meaningful celebration.