Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

John the Baptist and Brood of Vipers

It is a rainy, chilly morning in Pensacola.

Even as I write those words, I smile. Our grandson inherited my cold genes through his father. By cold genes, I mean we are more comfortable being cool than hot. We sleep cool. We need less clothing to stay warm. He told his Baba, AdventureMan, that “chilly is not cold” because he didn’t want to wear long pants, he prefers shorts.

Saint-John-the-Baptist-web

(There are a lot of images of John the Baptist, but this one made me grin; he looks a little Rastafarian, and I hadn’t thought of him as so long haired and skinny, but he was living in the wilderness and eating locusts and honey . . . )

I can still feel the air grow still as the British Ambassador to Kuwait read a very odd scripture about John the Baptist. It was odd because while it talked about John, it was unfamiliar to me. At the end, he said “A reading from the holy Qu’ran” and I was astonished for two reasons. First, I didn’t know that the Muslims recognized John the Baptist (they do, he is called Yahya Yahanna, and they have a beautiful tomb to him in the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where many visit and pray) and second, I didn’t know I belonged to a church that would allow the Qu’ran to be read as Holy Scripture.

00umyahyahstomb

Life is long, and full of surprises. I love it. I think the ability to be surprised, and to ponder those quick flickers of perspective keeps us young in heart, and young in spirit.

Today, John speaks to us, each and every one. The true path is coming, the word of God embodied in a human being, born a tiny baby, a human baby, God come down into flesh. (My Muslim friends are quivering with fear at this point, waiting for me to be struck down for such blasphemy. They don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, but that he was a messenger, like Mohammed. They also believe Jesus will be the judge at the end of times.)

Life among the Moslems. Bible study with the Baptist. My very Mormon friends. My own very Episcopalian faith. All these influences – and my Alaskan heritage – mashed together with smatterings of others, have gone into making me a very odd sort of Christian.

I’m OK with that.

Luke 3:1-9

3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Advent, Alaska, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Job and Islamic Tradition

One of the things I learned later in life, like when I lived in Doha, is that you (my Gulf and Moslem readers) have many of the same characters and stories in the Qur’an that we have in the Bible. Interesting, to me, the stories are not always exactly the same. Today’s reading in our lectionary (Old Testament) is from Job (you call him Ayoub, I think.)

First – if you read this, will you tell me if the story in Islam is similar to our story – that Satan is allowed to torment Job, because God believes him to be a faithful servant who will not turn away from him in times of hardship? Satan believes he can demonstrate that Job will be faithless?

Second – why is Satan called “the accuser?” I know Arabic is very close to the old Aramaic; is Satan always called Sheitan? Do you have other names for Satan? (These are not rhetorical questions; these are things I really don’t know) For example, Satan, in our tradition, is called The Father of Lies, The Great Deceiver, etc. But I don’t understand him being called The Accuser.

Third, toward the end of this reading his wife says essentially, give it up, Job, curse God and die. But the little asterisk says “bless”. This is a great puzzlement to me – a curse is the absolute 180° opposite of a blessing, I think. And then again, sometimes what appears to be a curse can be a blessing, and what appears to be a blessing can end up really being a curse. I just don’t understand why, in this context, the word curse could also mean bless? Do you?

Job 2:1-13

2 One day the heavenly beings* came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (*Heb the accuser) also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan* answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’ 3 The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.’ 4 Then Satan* answered the Lord, ‘Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives.* 5But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.’ 6 The Lord said to Satan,* ‘Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.’

7 So Satan* went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8Job* took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

9 Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse* (bless) God, and die.’ 10 But he said to her, ‘You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. 13 They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Books, Communication, Cultural, Family Issues, Language, Random Musings, Relationships, Spiritual | , | 22 Comments