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."

2020/02/14

Living, evolving God

In the Bible God is often called “Living God” in Hebrew 'elōhîm chaiyîm, 'elōhîm chai, or 'ēl chai once or twice even as chai yhvh. That is an interesting epithet. Behind it is the belief that God is not only a source of life, but also sustainer of life.
            But there might be more to it, the “Living God” remains a surprising, puzzling expression.  You might say that it is just a metaphor, a comparison, but even so - the main characteristic of the “living” is the ability to change with circumstances, the ability to change, respond, adapt and evolve.
            Thus the Living God is by definition a God who is changing in response to circumstances.
The Living God is by definition the Evolving God. That is the difference between God of stiff fundamentalists who characterize God as omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal and unchanging. In fact it is even worse than a piece of stone because even granite changes over time.
            But the Biblical God, is NOT such a dogmatic monster. God of our faith is the living God. Living God in the relationship with the living world. God is reacting, adapting, changing, evolving.
            Join us this Sunday as we celebrate Charles Darwin and his discovery of evolution -
this fundamental principle of life. Join us this Evolution Sunday as we celebrate the miracle of our living, breathing evolving world and our living, co-evolving God.

2020/01/30

True Cyrus

Cyrus' Babylonian Cylinder
How could a major biblical prophet call a pagan emperor the Messiah?!
      Well, that is exactly what the prophet Isaiah did (Isa 45:1) when he called Persian Emperor Cyrus the Messiah (הַמָּשִׁ֧יחַ -- the anointed one) of the LORD.
      As strange as it might sound, Isaiah had a good reason for it and it was not only the liberation of the Judeans captives from the Babylonian exile and Cyrus’ decree allowing them to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. Many other nations and peoples also recognized and welcomed this benevolent nature of the Persian rule.
      The Persian ethos was summed up by the Greek historian Herodotus (The Histories 1.136.2a) when he wrote that Persians taught their youth these three things: "To ride well, to shoot straight and to speak the truth." It might sound militaristic but it was certainly more than that, it was in essence more tolerant and cosmopolitan. 
        Join us on this Scout Sunday when we will discern how this triad corresponded with border Persian religious and cultural tolerance and made Isaiah call Cyrus the anointed one of the LORD.
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- And for those who read this far, here is a podcast about an almost identical theme - "I am the chosen one".
-- Another podcast about religious and spiritual influence of Persian religion over Judaism and Christianity - Persia in Jewish/Christian religion. 
--- And for instance here is an older column about Jewish Temple in Elephantine in Egypt which stood and was rebuilt/restored during the Persian period - Jewish Temples.

2020/01/16

Gathered to ancestors

When I was a little child, my maternal grandmother Emilie would often take us children for a walk in the cemetery. I hated it ... until I learned that she had lost her mother early on in her life. Then I understood.
            Later I studied theology and eventually received a doctorate in anthropology. And now I visit cemeteries on my own. In any place I live or go, I also try to visit local cemetery. Archeologists famously like to dig burials, but you can learn so much even without breaking the ground! Cemeteries are such a rich resource to learn about the living, about their culture, languages, and their society, about their struggles, their religion, their piety, their values, their lives. Sometimes it is inspiring and sometimes it is profoundly sad.
            When I moved to NYC, I discovered an impressive cemetery in New Jersey, very nicely laid up in an impressive grand scale design. It is called George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus. It was founded in the 1930s and for decades it was operated and strictly enforced as a white only place. This designation was changed only in 1958 after a human rights lawsuit. What a horrendously sad testament about suburban racism!
            But thankfully there are also happier cemeteries founded in and shaped by true and deep Christian faith. I caught a glimpse of it this Christmas in Bethlehem PA. In their God’s Acre - the oldest cemetery in the town - the ancestors of any race rest together side by side. That is for me a dream, a vision and an example showing us through the testament of a cemetery what a true community of faith can be and do!
            Join us this Martin Luther King Sunday when we remember and celebrate an inclusive community of God’s children.

2020/01/10

The Word of God?

This is the Bible I inherited from my paternal grandfather Rev. Emil Stehlik.



It was translated from the original languages and published in MDLXXXVII (1587) clandestinely by Unitas Fratrum (Moravian Church).


It survived the period of harsh contrareformation (1621 - 1781) and while in hiding the title page and several pages of the foreword were damaged and painstakingly redrawn and rewritten.



It is a study bible. It has substantial critical textual apparatus, translation notes and well chosen cross-references. And my ancestors used it for their bible study - there is substantial underlying and even written notes by several hands.


      It is only the volume four of a six volume set - this one contains the prophetic books and when I preach on Isaiah or Habakuk I still sometimes look into it for exegetical insights of my ancestors (they can be illuminating).
      This family Bible is our great treasure, in its form and shape is preserved an uneasy history of my ancestors but also their theological heritage - heritage of theological thinking and seeking. They clearly treasured their bibles, hiding them from confiscations, hiding them for diligent study. But as valuable as the bible can be, it is NOT the Word of God. Any bible only points towards the true Word of God, which became flesh. And that would be the theme of our worship this Sunday - the preexistent divine LOGOS which became flesh and is shaping nd reshaping the universe through light and life.