It just doesn’t make sense. It goes against everything we think we know. If someone hits you on the cheek, turn the other one to be hit, too? If someone robs you, don’t go looking for your stolen goods? If someone asks you for something, give it to them, and more?
And, for me, the one that convicts me -
30Give to everyone who begs from you;
We have always worked hard and saved hard for what we want. How to know who is conning when he begs, and who is genuinely in need? Jesus says it doesn’t matter – give.
27 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.34If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.* Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
Our church tradition includes several books of the bible that the mainline Protestant churches do not. Wisdom of Solomon is one of my favorites (I think I like Judith the best) This is our reading for today from the Old Testament in our Lectionary Readings:
1Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth,
think of the Lord in goodness
and seek him with sincerity of heart;
2 because he is found by those who do not put him to the test,
and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.
3 For perverse thoughts separate people from God,
and when his power is tested, it exposes the foolish;
4 because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul,
or dwell in a body enslaved to sin.
5 For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit,
and will leave foolish thoughts behind,
and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.
6 For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
but will not free blasphemers from the guilt of their words;
because God is witness of their inmost feelings,
and a true observer of their hearts, and a hearer of their tongues.
7 Because the spirit of the Lord has filled the world,
and that which holds all things together knows what is said,
8 therefore those who utter unrighteous things will not escape notice,
and justice, when it punishes, will not pass them by.
9 For inquiry will be made into the counsels of the ungodly,
and a report of their words will come to the Lord,
to convict them of their lawless deeds;
10 because a jealous ear hears all things,
and the sound of grumbling does not go unheard.
11 Beware then of useless grumbling,
and keep your tongue from slander;
because no secret word is without result,*
and a lying mouth destroys the soul.
12 Do not invite death by the error of your life,
or bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
13 because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.
14 For he created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces* of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion* of Hades is not on earth.
15 For righteousness is immortal.
Some of the stories you come across in the Bible are so horrifying – and so human – that they still have a compelling immediacy. People do the most horrible things to one another, it mystifies me. This King, Nebuchadnezzar, is so incensed that his Jewish bureaucrats won’t bow down and worship his statue that he orders them cast into a furnace, which he heats seven times hotter than normal. That’s pretty angry!
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times more than was customary, 20and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics,* their trousers,* their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire.
22Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counsellors, ‘Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?’ They answered the king, ‘True, O king.’
25He replied, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.’* 26Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counsellors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics* were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.
28Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’ 30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
When I read this, I think of the recent legislation proposed in Kuwait against insulting God or his prophets. Let men insult. Let them build their gods, their statures, let them pursue their little gods of vanity, power and wealth. The one true God laughs. He holds all the true power. He doesn’t need our protection; he is in charge.
In Florida, some friends complain about “the law that says our kids can’t pray in school.” There is no law that says kids can’t pray in school. Kids pray in school all the time! I did, specially when I had a really hard test I hadn’t prepared adequately for What the law says is that no one can make all pray together, using the same words, as we did at one time. It’s not such a bad thing; even as Christians, we don’t all share the same beliefs. You might not want your children praying a prayer I might compose because I might have a dogmatic belief a little different from your own. Our job is to teach our children to pray; the Holy Spirit will be with them, and put the words in their hearts.
When I lived in Kuwait, many reporters self-censored, but there was still a lively – and, in relative terms, relative to the rest of the Gulf, free press. The Kuwait Legislature is going loony tunes with this proposed legislation. This, from the Kuwait Times:
Media draft law under fire for stiff penalties
KUWAIT: Former opposition MPs, writers, journalists and activists have strongly lashed out at a new media draft law that stipulates unprecedented hefty penalties against violators. The new draft law was approved earlier this week by the Cabinet but must pass the National Assembly to be effective. The 99-article draft law stipulates a 10 year sentence for insulting the Almighty, prophets, companions, relatives and wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It also stipulates a fine of between KD 50,000 and KD 300,000 for those convicted of insulting the Amir.
The draft law gives the Information Ministry the right to shut down with an administrative decision any publication for up to three years even without a court ruling, a key article in the current law. Former liberal opposition MP Abdulrahman Al-Anjari described the draft legislation as a “stigma” for the government which is “suffering from psychological disorders”. Former MP Obaid Al-Wasmi described it as the “capital punishment law” while former MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said it belongs to the old ages and will send too many people to jail.
Meanwhile, the criminal court yesterday issued a two-year jail term against opposition tweeter Hijab Al-Hajeri for writing tweets deemed offensive to HH the Amir in yet another verdict targeting activists. But the court asked the convict to pay a bail of KD 100 to suspend the implementation of the imprisonment until the appeals court issues its verdict on the case. Like several opposition tweeters, Hajeri was charged of insulting the Amir and undermining his status. Several tweeters and former opposition MPs have been handed several years in prison over the same charge and some of them have been sent to jail.
In another case, the criminal court postponed the case of Al-Youm Television to May 8. Two announcers for the pro-opposition station, its chairman and a director are facing charges of violating the law by reading a statement issued by the opposition several weeks ago. Another court also set May 1 as the date to issue its verdict on opposition tweeter Abdulaziz Al-Mutairi on charges of insulting the Amir.
In a related development, the public prosecution released well-known Islamist thinker and university professor Abdullah Al-Nafisi on a KD 5,000 bail after interrogating him on accusations of threatening national unity. Nafisi had reportedly undermined Shiites at a diwaniya meeting about two weeks ago which was held to highlight the dangers Iran was posing against the Gulf states including Kuwait. During the speech, Nafisi was cited as saying that some of the 17 Shiite MPs in the Assembly have links with Iran and claimed that one of them had taken part in a suicide car bombing on the life of the late former Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah in May 1985. He also claimed that another MP was involved in the hijacking of a Kuwaiti passenger plane in 1988 that was blamed on Shiite militias.
Meanwhile, Islamist MP Hamed Al-Dossari called yesterday on the ministries of interior and foreign affairs to follow the footsteps of Bahrain and treat the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. He also charged that Iran has ambitions in the Gulf and is inciting discord in Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf Arab states.
By B Izzak, Staff Writer
When I read a segment like this in the daily Lectionary Readings, I wonder what happens next? What a great science fiction/fantasy story this would make, writing from the point of view of a newly raised newly re-fleshed person – like would they have their former memories? Would they remember their deaths? Or would they come into the world with the blank unfilled minds of babies, but in grown bodies? Did the Lord God just revive them and set them on their way? We know he was making a point to the prophet Ezekiel, but you have to wonder . . . what came next?
37The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ 4Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath* to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath* in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:* Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,* and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
From today’s Lectionary reading, the Gospel:
GOSPEL: Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11b – 32 (RCL)
Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32 (Roman Catholic)
Luke 15:1 (NRSV) Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Phar’isees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable:
11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.
14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
17 But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ‘
20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’
28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
31 Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
Sometimes people will leave off the part about the elder son, and just concentrate on the return of the younger son, focusing on the father watching always, hoping for the return of the younger son, ready to forgive and welcome before the words can even get out of the younger son’s mouth.
It is wonderful, and reassuring, for those of us sinners.
Many, however – including me – can also identify with the oldest son who says “I’ve always done everything right and you’ve NEVER given me a tiny goat, much less a fatted calf, and you’re throwing this party for the son who blew his entire fortune on louche living???”
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? Isn’t that really the point of the story, that we can’t behave our way into heaven, it is sheer grace, the love of the heavenly creator, that allows us in? It’s not an easy concept to wrap my mind around, so today I struggle to take it in, and I give thanks for Father Neil who tackles the hard questions and doesn’t just sweep them under the carpet because they are inconvenient. (The sermon isn’t up yet, but when it is available, you will find it here)
“We’re going to drive ‘all the way’ out there,” AdventureMan tells me and we laugh, because ‘all the way’ is such a relative term. When we lived in Kuwait and in Qatar, we would drive a minimum 30 minutes to get to a restaurant, any restaurant, not only because of distances but also because of traffic, horrendous traffic, in the evenings. While the Seafood Platter Deli is 13 miles away, it takes us less than 20 minutes to get there. Welcome to Pensacola
This is a very unusual restaurant. It is so old-timey Gulf Seacoast, and at the same time, I thought as we entered “My Moslem friends would love this!”
Many of my Moslem friends think Americans are unbelievers. They think we don’t talk about God. They don’t know we pray – sometimes without ceasing. Just as I was astounded as I learned things about Islam and Moslem culture living in the Middle East, they were also astounded learning things about us, like that we take care of our families. Think about it – most of what many people in the world know about Americans comes from the impact of cable TV. They watch American TV and they think they understand American culture. Horrifying thought, isn’t it?
So how amazing is it to walk into a restaurant where, as you stand at the counter to order, and you look at the big menu on the wall, there is a stand, with a bible on it. And there is paper, and a pencil, and a sign saying “Prayer requests.” I don’t know about your restaurant experiences, but this is unique in my experience – in America. In the Middle East, there are all kinds of restaurants with Qu’ranic verses on the walls, and the sounds of religious services piped into the restaurant. People talk about God all the time. It’s a whole different world; and my Moslem friends would feel right at home in the Seafood Platter Deli.
Of course, in Saudi Arabia, we would rush to buy our pre-sunset felafels, and then sit and munch, listening to all the souk grates coming down as shops closed for the Mahgrib prayer. Everything closed, five times a day, in Saudi Arabia, for prayer.
At the Gulf Coast Seafood Deli / Seafood Platter Deli (I don’t know what the real name is, and both names appear when you Google it) there are scriptures on the wall. When you sit down, the little basket holding condiments tells you to “count your blessings.”
The interior dining room (as opposed to the deli section, and the counter where you order food when you come in) is wall-to-wall sea mural, family friendly, Fish and sea life everywhere. There are also families who pray when their meal is delivered to the table, before they eat. The wait-staff is patient, and personal. You get the impression they truly want you to have a good experience at this restaurant.
We were hungry. We are mildly disgruntled to see piping hot food delivered to tables around us who arrived after we did, but not very. Even though we are hungry, we know that our ordering our food grilled or blackened slows things up in the kitchen, where the majority of the meals are fried. It is really really hard for people like us to watch other customers thoroughly enjoying their fried shrimp, fried catfish, fried grouper, fried scallops, etc. They look SO delicious. Every now and then, maybe once every couple months, we slip up and eat something deep fried, just because yes, yes, it tastes so good, and we know it is like the WORST thing for us. What a pity that deliciousness can be so lethal.
Ah! There it is! Our meals! We tuck right in and then I remember “Oh no! I haven’t taken any pictures!” AdventureMan is used to this, and bless his heart, he stops eating so I can shoot what is left of his grilled scallops, so tasty and delicious, so fresh!
I had so much salmon on my platter that I had salmon and steamed vegetables for dinner, too! The salmon was copious, lightly blackened, seared on the outside, moist on the inside, just the way I love it. It was some of the best salmon I have had in Pensacola (not exactly salmon country, but that little Alaska girl still lives in my heart and I can’t resist salmon when I see it on the menu.)
There’s another thing we loved about the Seafood Platter Deli – remember Dembo’s Smokehouse? We love restaurants that honor their heritage, and the Seafood Platter Deli has this wonderful wall:
Last, but not least, the food was so good, and so plentiful, that we couldn’t eat it all and ended up taking some home. We also took home some dessert, one dessert, $1.99 for a goodly portion of Vanilla Wafer pudding, that old-fashioned kind, maybe Banana pudding. It was so GOOD, we wish we’d gotten two.
Gulf Coast Seafood Deli / Seafood Platter Deli
Address: 2250 W Nine Mile Rd, Pensacola, FL 32534
We love this place, and look forward to driving ‘all the way out there’ for more fabulous Gulf seafood.
I had a troubling dream which woke me early this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I dreamed I was working on a very large quilt, and I had promised to hand quilt it. I remember seeing it was not made as a usual quilt is made, with a top and a bottom, and a layer of batting (wadding) in between, but of 12 – 13 layers of cotton cloth, a very difficult quilting challenge, and it seems to me that the quilt was like 15 feet by 15 feet, a huge quilt, a size I have never even seen done. I remember having accepted to quilt a very complicated pattern, and as I awoke, I was stitching and stitching and stitching, hand stitch after hand stitch, but feeling utterly defeated and overwhelmed at the task I was facing.
I am confounded. In terms of quilting, I will never be caught up, but it doesn’t bother me, I just keep on. I finish most quilts; I do just fine. I don’t have any project deadlines, I don’t have any feeling of urgency on completing any of my quilts. I very rarely do any hand quilting; machine quilting gets the job done and hand quilting is hard on my hands and fingers.
My life, too, in this so-called retirement, is orderly. I take on what I can take on and complete the task. I don’t feel like I am behind in anything. I keep up with things. I feel no urgency.
So where did this dream come from?
I believe God calls to us in many ways (“Let he who has ears listen!”), through his word, through the voices and actions of Godly people, through a book one might be reading, through a friend, or a homeless person, or even through a dream. Being who I am, I prefer a clear message; interpretation is so fraught with personal prejudices, so filtered by what we know, by our particular dogma or belief system. I am praying now for clarity, and for the meaning of this dream to be made understandable so that I might know what I am needed to do . . . If I am meant to keep chipping away at something, please, let me do it with a joyful attitude, not this feeling of being faced with an overwhelming task.
And as I go through the categories,getting ready to post this entry, choosing those words that best apply, I see “Moving” and I have to laugh; moving is that huge quilt, that elephant that one can only eat one bite at a time, that many layered monstrosity, and it has been three years since I have moved. Three years living in one country, one city, in one house. It may be that the dream is one of those anxiety dreams like your college exam dreams, a dream that is no longer relevant but a hangover from another time, another life. My subconscious is getting ready for a move, feeling overdue, LOL.
Today’s Ash Wednesday reading the Lectionary is a great reading for a season of introspection and meditation:
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’