Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"I am a Witness"

Today is “All Saints Day” among Christians all around the globe.  It’s a chance to celebrate the witness of lives who encourage us in our own faith journeys.
             “Witness” is such a powerful word and concept that Nike picked up for their “swoosh campaign.  Lebron James became a “star” in one of the Nike commercials  The ad campaign’s use of religious language in interesting and, I’m sure, intentional.  It builds an origin myth (“Before he was even out of high school, LeBron James was already a household name, and by the time he was taken number 1 overall in the NBA Draft, the expectations for greatness were inevitable …. The eighteen year-old was built like a hardened veteran in his prime and his skill-set and athleticism had arguably never been seen in a player of his stature”) The ad develops a heroic quest narrative (“As we follow LeBron’s ongoing quest for an NBA ring”) It appropriates religious authority (“the King James legend grows daily”). And it rallies disciples (“Since he first came into our awareness, we have all been “witnesses”). * Watch this:

Do you know Jesus well enough to get this excited? 
Do WE know Jesus well enough to offer this kind of rousing endorsement?
Is what we're witnessing to worth saying, "watch this?"
It’s easy to settle for a watered down witness, to say what we think we ought to say rather than proclaim our experience of God’s goodness.  Sometimes a bumper sticker’s all you’ve got to go by. WWJD is not a bad thought exercise.  But it’s not very satisfying soul food. Apparently, Steve Jobs was leery of the WWJD effect.                                                             When Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook took the microphone at a memorial tribute to Steve Jobs at the company’s campus last week, he shared a piece of advice Jobs gave him before his death on Oct. 5.  “Among his last advice he had for me, and for all of you, was to never ask what he would do. ‘Just do what’s right,’” Cook said. Jobs wanted Apple to avoid the trap that Walt Disney Co. fell into after the death of its iconic             founder.                                                                                                                                                    The article goes on:  [Jeffrey] Sonnenfeld said. “He was constantly breaking glass and moving forward. Walt Disney was surrounded by a cadre of creative people who were every bit the equal of Jobs’s lieutenants, but they became haunted by the question, ‘What would Walt do?’ … Jobs told Isaacson that one of his great hopes was that Apple would remain as innovative and committed to product excellence after his death.
I think that Jesus wanted that too:  innovation in the face of challenges, excellance in serving God. Otherwise, what was “I go so that you may do greater things” about? If I had to figure that out just in my own head or with my own hands, I think I’d be in trouble.  But the lives of the excellance seeking saints who have gone before, and the community of innovative saints all around get me excited. I see the best of what people are doing in the name of Jesus, and pray “God help me to be one too.”

A Prayer for All Saints Day by Safiyah Fosua
    We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
    Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
    We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise: 
   Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
   Strong hands and those gnarled with age
   Holy hands
   Used as wave offerings across the land.
   We thank you, God, for hardworking saints; 
Whether hard-hatted                                     
   or steel-booted, 
Head ragged or aproned,
   Blue-collared or three-piece-suited 
   They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
   Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
   Bless the memories of your saints, God.                                                                         
   May we learn how to walk wisely 
   from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.***

*Nike as quotations from www.sneakernews.com.
**Peter Burrows, Published: October 25, Washington Post

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Calm before the storm

Today is probably not the first time most of us mid-Mainers have experieced the calm before the storm.  While the ariways are already raging with pictures and projections of Hurricane Irene's impact, we sit under a hazy sky blanket in reasonably cool air, puttering at normal Saturday activities:  yard work, art shows, funerals..... that intersect with preparations for what may come.

I think about what my island of calm is and whether its one that will carry me through a storm as well as being there on the other side.

Yesterday, as part of the General Conference Delegation's worship, We Hyun Chang asked us to contemplate "what is saving you?"  Hearing it in the first tense, rather than past or future, reframes the notion.  What is life-giving in our life, our community, or our world?  For me, its emerging partners in ministry and art.   What is saving you?  What is saving us?
Preparing for a hurricane is a good time to remember how saving the physical body of Christ is.  I've been checking in with beloved seasonal residents today, seeing where a hand might help. Others are calling older community residents or those who live independently and might could use some neighborly partnering.
In all things, God is a present island of inspiration and energy, our calm in the storm.

Monday, August 1, 2011


The Blog will be taking a rejevenating break and returning in late August to partner with the new readfieldumc.org site.  Blessed Summer Days!

If you need in formation on activites at the Readfield United MEthodist Church, please contact the church office, 207-685-4211

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

DOWNstairs UPdate

….everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. -Ezra 1: 5b

After a very busy couple of weeks, the renovation project is taking a breathe, though not a nap, for a few days. Larry and Paul were in framing windows today. Its been an interesting time of intersections.  Most of this weeks' workers are being fed by Sara Munson over at Camp Mechuwana (thumbs up on the pizza).  Buzz, who reconfigured our spare front door, is one of our UMVIM co-workers from the Slidell, LA site, though he calls Ohio home. 
     Dusty (an apt name for meeting over a pile of drywall shavings) came with a group from Pembrooke, VA. His pastor and yours discovered a beloved mutual friend.  This group also made the glad discovery that The Apple Shed is now offering nichey cupcakes-yum.
Meanwhile, Jeff and I spent a day with cousin Tom, also from Ohio, a student at the wooden boat school (Ask me for a look at the bronze cast ammonite he made me!).  Tom supports a village outside Port au Prince, Haiti and caught us up on life there. 
Can you follow the lines of Methodist connection being drawn?
       We arrived back in Readfield just in time to join the Wed. night crew:  staining, measuring (2x) & cutting (1x) heating covers, sweeping up dry wall dust, prepping window wells.  The storm didn't keep a dozen from ages 12 to ??? from pitching in. We're now up to 49 pairs of helping hands.  You can add yours Thursday night, July 14, as we clean up in time for this Sat's supper.  Stop by and say hi to this week's Ohio missioners too.  They'll be building a new ramp into the Jesse Lee Meeting House.
     Millard Fuller once wrote, "Maybe, just maybe, God wants to use "the theology of the hammer" as a means to draw His divergent family closer together.  Perhaps God is calling us to issue a joint invitation to "the strangers" of this world to come in and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus said he came to bring."  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Measure Twice, Cut Once

measure twice
Carpenters have a number of handy rules for making a project come out,,, well, functional. Measure twice, cut once is the one I always remember (having measured once and cut twice way too many times).
cut once
           Noah knew,  "Build yourself a ship from teakwood. Make rooms in it. Coat it with pitch inside and out. Make it 450 feet long, seventy-five feet wide, and forty-five feet high. 
                  -Genesis 6:14-16

gun safety
    Project Manager Jeff’s favorite rule for mission teams is ten fingers, ten toes, the same number in the evening as you start with in the morning.  I couln't help but think of that one as I watched George give John a gun saftey update in the entry hall. 
     Another biblical insight, safety first on site!  When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof to make it safe so that someone doesn't fall off and die and your family become responsible for the death.- Deuteronomy 22:8

     These other Mr. Munson rules may come in handy as the project moves on:
            All work is noble.
            Excellence in the enemy of good enough

Theology of the Hammer

Clarence Jordan  was known for inviting folks into the “God Movement,” It was his term for the Kingdom of God.  In the 1950s & 60s, Jordan pointed out that most Christians were more interested in comfortable rituals and familiar scripture readings than actually doing applying holy insights to the world. (My favorite definition of a prophet is not one who predicts the future but one who challenges God’s people to be God’s partners in creating it).
Jordan & Fuller at Koinania Farms
Never one to sit still his friend and follower Millard Fuller began Habitat for Humanity (and later The Fuller Center for Housing-ask Lynn Twitchell about their programs!) and the God Movement picked up the theology of the hammer. Millard left a thriving business a tthe age of 29 to serve the poor. “Our Christian faith demands that we do more than just talk about faith and sing about love.” In other words, we’ve got to get out of our navel gazing kumbaya circles to be Christ’s living body in the world. Once the Spirit “comes by here,” we’ve got to move on out there.
That’s probably why mission trips are so powerful.  We get to:
1. get off our duffs
2.  let someone else know we love them with Christ’s heart.

            Plus there’s no better way to get to know someone than swinging a hammer/washing dishes/sanding drywall/dishing beans/finger-painting with children/________________(fill in the blank). These photos are a glimpse of the theology of the hammer at work among us this summer.
     Every study I know of confirms the common sense wisdom that men build relationship most comfortably and naturally when they are working side by side.  (We women are grateful to work as your partners in this community!)  What difference might it make if more churches took up crow bars and hammers as faith tools?
       Of course real koinania (Christian fellowship) only begins working side by side.  It grows as the community under construction opens itself up and out.  Our renovation is a forward thinking exercise in discipleship.  The relationships that are also under construction are being strengthened for the next, harder, and even more joyous work of creating a new generations of disciples, of all ages, for the transformation of the world.
     We can count our new disciple growing spaces-1...2....3.
     What can we count on as our goals for their purpose?
     More professions of faith in Christ?  What's our 2011/12 goal? The possibiities are practically endless.
     More calls to ministry-I believe we can cultivate the call of 5 new Lay Speakers in the next year and at least 3 ministers in the next five years to serve local congregations as Licenced Local Pastors and Ordained Elders or Deacons.  (BTW, when's the last time you sent encouragement to our person in process now, Tom Frey?  Please pray for him as he moves to serve People's UMC in South Portland.)
More intentional growth of everyday, extraordinary, side by side gifts as we learn to recognize and encourgae the gifts the Spirit gives us.
      Like those hammering in faith this summer!
The word of God came to Solomon saying, "About this Temple you are building—what's important is that you live the way I've set out for you and do what I tell you. -1 Kings 6:11

Rocko positioning.

prepping for the next supper?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

#1 in a (pre-fathers day) series on Men and Church.

When we were out in Colorado Springs for a family wedding last June, I overheard several young men talking about going to church with the specific purpose of finding “good” wives.  (In the same conversation they were pretty explicit that the same rules of “goodness” didn’t apply to their own behavior.) 
Recent articles have me watching for where our men folk tend to plug into church.  The steady stream in and out of Fellowship Hall under renovation suggests that anything having to do with deconstruction or power tools is popular.  But we also have a higher percentage of men than most small churches singing in choir and participating in committees.  So how are our guys’ experiences similar to or different from “averages.”
Why do or “don’t men go to church?”  asks blogger Doug Lawrence.  David Murrow in his book Why Men Hate Church suggests that many men see Christianity as being incongruous with their manhood. Maybe so, says Lawrence, “but the church is probably at least partially to blame for this. “ He says churches make 3 mistakes:
 1. We place a higher emphasis on children than fathers. 
2. We forget to celebrate and thank men as much as women.
3. We sing too much!
What do you (especially the men among us) think?
Does our church’s life make room for what helps you grow in Christ and find a place in community?  What does and what might?
Are you feeling neglected?  If so, what forms of encouragement do you find most meaningful?
Here’s what Lawrence goes on to say: (http://www.churchcentral.com/blog/5791/3-Ways-We-re-Failing-Fathers-in-the-Church)
(1)…churches that place a high priority on having fathers being highly active in their children’s programs appear (general observation in the field) to have larger numbers of men in their general church population. Says Christian researcher, George Barna, "Women are almost twice as likely as men" to teach Sunday school. What’s wrong with women teaching children? Nothing, but what are we doing to give permission to men to also be nurturers and be active role models for children?
(2)….In some ways we play into a feminine stereotype of being all soft and mushy on Mother’s Day, but find it difficult to affirm fathers with at least a modicum of sentimentality and encouragement. Even men need a little motivation toward their personal worthiness and leadership role in the home and church.
(3)—Men sing less than women in general, don’t mind singing if the keys of songs reflect the average range of their voices, don’t mind music that accompanies something else...like a movie for example, hate standing for 20 minutes and singing—period.
       -Pastor "Eager to hear your thoughts" Karen
Coming soon #2 in the series, "Millard Fuller's Theology of the Hammer"

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Book that Changed the World

by Charles Piddock
The great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who died in 1986, once said: “I have always imagined that Heaven will be a kind of library.” 
Interesting idea. If it is true, at the very center of that celestial library, for English speakers at least, would be one shining work of genius: the King James Bible. Over the past four centuries, this book has transcended numerous generations, impacted millions of people, and greatly influenced our culture. It is simply impossible to overestimate or exaggerate its influence.
The King James Bible was born (maybe we should say “begat”) on May 2, 1611---the product of seven years labor by a remarkable group of 54 scholars. Your program this morning has a brief insert telling the story of how it came to be made.
Let me begin where the insert ends, and focus on its influence in English-speaking America---not at the very beginning in Jamestown (settled in 1607, before the King James Bible) or Plymouth in 1620, where the Puritans used the favorite Puritan text, the Geneva Bible.

An Early Best-Seller
As English settlers began pouring into the colonies, however, the bible they brought with them was not the Geneva Bible, but the King James Bible. In the 18th century it was universally used in the colonies---and it was a best-seller, although all the Bibles were still printed in England and shipped to America. The first English Bibles printed in the colonies were printed in 1771 by Robert Aitken of Philadelphia. When the American Bible Society was founded in the early 1800s, it distributed millions of King James Bibles.
The Bible quickly became the mother’s milk of the new nation. Despite its old-fashioned and sometimes difficult language, not only was the King James Bible read in churches from New England to the western frontier, but it was quoted by politicians, inscribed on public buildings, taught in school reading classes, and read aloud in homes far and wide, often before each meal of the day.  Millions learned from its carefully crafted words how sentences should be written, how stories should be told, and how to use elevated words for solemn events.
(Even at the time it was first put together, the KJB was deliberately old fashioned in grammar and phraseology; an expression like “yea, verily,” for example, had gone out of fashion some 50 years before the translation was made. The translators didn’t want their Bible to sound contemporary, because they knew that contemporary quickly goes out of fashion.)

Made to be Read Aloud
In early America the King James Bible was most often read aloud, as its translators intended. It used simple concrete words and punctuation to establish an oral prose rhythm and pace suitable for the divine story it told, blending simplicity and majesty, as in Luke 2, verses 7 to 10:
 “And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said until them, Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
The words in the passage are simple; they tell a story, and are just enough words to tell the story as its subject demands, no more, no less.
Luke 11, verses 9 and 10, provides another such example: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he the seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” 
Copyreaders today often say you should never begin a sentence with “and.” And yet the KJB does this constantly: In the book of Genesis, for example, there are 31 verses in the opening chapter. Twenty-nine of them begin with And. And God did this. And God did that.

Auditory Imagination
The effect of the punctuation, and also the use of “and” and “or” to establish a rhythm, is designed to capture the hearer’s ear, and though the ear, the imagination. It is what the poet T.S. Eliot, in talking about the King James Bible, calls the Bible’s evocation of the “auditory imagination,” the feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word;…”
 The celebrated American journalist Dorothy Thompson was aware of this as a child:
“Every morning before breakfast we assembled in the sitting room and my father read a passage from the King James Bible, followed by a prayer….Somewhere, as my father read, I became excitedly aware of something more than the story: of the beauty and glory of the words; of the images they can evoke and the thoughts they can enkindle.” 
Every American president in the early days of the Republic had his feeling for words shaped by the King James Bible, perhaps none so much as Abraham Lincoln:
 “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” used by Lincoln in his acceptance speech for the candidacy for the Senate, was taken directly from Mark 3, verse 25. There is no better illustration of Lincoln’s indebtedness to the King James Bible than his Gettysburg Address. The address is overwhelmingly biblical, with 269 of its 272 words appearing in some form in the Bible:
 “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty…”
The formula threescore and fourscore occurs dozens of times in the KJV, with Psalm 90:10 coming closest to Lincoln’s opening phrase: “The days of our years are threescore and ten. Also, Lincoln’s use of “conceived” and “brought forth” comes from Old Testament prophets and the nativity story in the Gospels.

‘I Have a Dream’
The most famous referencing of the King James Bible by an orator in modern times is found in Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, which he delivered on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
The King James Bible lives on in this speech, partly in the elevated style and affective undertow of the speech and partly in explicit allusions. Amos 5:24 is present as King declaims, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Isiaih 40: 4—5 asserts its presence when King said: “I have a dream that every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”

American Writers
Of course, the King James Bible has also been a major influence in American writers, from Melville to Faulkner to Hemingway to Toni Morrison to many others.
Eudory Welty: “How many of us, the South’s writers-to-be of my generation, were blessed…in not having gone deprived of the King James Version of the Bible. Its cadence entered into our ears and our memories for good. The evidence lingers in all our books.”
Like other major novelists, Toni Morrison has taken some of her novel titles from the Bible: such as Song of Solomon. Her fictional characters often bear biblical names---Magdalene, Ruth, Pilate, and Hagar in Song of Solomon, for example.
 “The Bible wasn’t part of my reading,” says Morrison, “it was part of my life.”

Our Common Speech
The King James Bible not only influenced writers and speech makers; it also has entered our common speech through a number of expressions. Biblical phrases have entered the language so seamlessly that many people don’t even realize from whence they come, yet they use them nearly every day. The list is practically endless. In fact, Bartlett’s Bible Quotations---a separate volume of currently used phrases, all taken from the King James Bible---is over 200 pages long.
Here’s just a sample: 
sour grapes, 
fatted calf; 
drop in a bucket; 
skin of one’s teeth; 
apple of one’s eye; 
girded loins; 
feet of clay; 
whited sepulchers; 
filthy lucre; 
pearls before swine; 
fly in the ointment; 
fight the good fight; 
eat, drink, and be merry; 
Am I my brother’s keeper?
And more:

The Land of the living (Job 28:13)
At their wits end (ps. 107: 27)
There is no new thing under the sun (Eccles. 1:9)
The salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13)
The signs of the times (Matt. 13:57)
In the twinkling of an eye (1Cor. 15:52)
The root of the matter (Job 19:28)
Fire and brimstone (Ps 11:6)
A law unto themselves (Rom. 2:14)
Labor of love (1 Thess. 1:3)
As a lamb to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7)
Fell flat on his face (Num. 22:31)

Divinely Inspired
Why has this book been so singularly successful and monumentally influential? How did a committee of 54 scholars at the beginning of the 17th century produce such a lasting masterpiece? Without a doubt, divine inspiration played a role:
“The translation was extraordinarily well done,” wrote George Bernard Shaw, himself an atheist, “because to the translators what they were translating was not merely a curious collection of ancient books written by different authors in different stages of culture, but the word of God divinely revealed through His chosen and expressly inspired scribes. In this conviction they carried out their work with boundless reverence and care and achieved a beautifully artistic result…they made a translation so magnificent that to this day the common [person] accepts and worships it as a single book by a single author, the book being the Book of Books and the author being God.”

As a postscript, here are some KJV facts:
·       An estimated 1 billion or more copies have been published since 1611.
·       It contains 788,258 total words, of which 14,565 are unique
·       The original book was very large: approximately 17 inches tall, 30 inches wide when opened, and it weighed around 30 pounds
·       The first 1611 Bibles were expensive and were chained to the front pulpit of churches, to prevent them from being stolen.
·       169 original 1611 King James Bibles are in existence today

King James Bible: Origins

The Making of the King James Bible
                    by Charles Piddock
Slightly over 400 years ago, on May 2, 1611, a new translation of the Bible came off the press in England. Those opening its covers first came upon, not the book of Genesis and the creation of the world, but a fulsome dedication to King James penned by Miles Smith, Bishop of Gloucester. The dedication was addressed: “To the most high and mighty prince JAMES by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, &c. The Translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy, and Peace through JESUS CHRIST our Lord.”
The newly translated Bible was “the authorized” version, meaning it was authorized to be used in churches by King James, but it wasn’t long before it acquired the name it has today: the “King James Bible.”
James, in fact, had a lot to do with the Bible that now bears his name. He ascended the throne of Scotland as James VI during a time when religious passions were high. In Scotland, he was constantly badgered by quarreling Presbyterians who did not believe in the divine right of kings or the concept of bishops, which they felt was a vile Catholic practice that had nothing to do with true worship.

Religious Differences
When Elizabeth I died, James, who was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the closest living relative of Elizabeth, was elevated to the throne of England as James I. He could not have been more delighted. England, of course, was a much richer country than Scotland. Its climate was a great deal better, and it was a great European power. But England, as Scotland, suffered from religious quarrels and divisions. The country was safely Protestant, due to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but the Protestants continually argued and fought amongst themselves. Calvinists and Puritans, in particular, felt that the English established church retained too many Catholic elements and wanted it purified.
This religious difference also included the English bibles churches used. The Bishops’ Bible, published in 1568 by leaders in the Church of England by the authority of Queen Elizabeth, was the official Bible used in churches. The Geneva Bible, produced in 1560 by exiled Protestant leaders in Geneva, Switzerland, had been adopted and embraced as the bible of the Puritans and others who followed Calvinism.

The Conference at Hampton Court
James felt that he was appointed by God to bring agreement and harmony to these Protestant factions. Accordingly, in January 1604, the king convened a conference of church leaders at Hampton Court palace to look for ways to calm religious differences. (The conference was originally scheduled to take place in 1603, but an outbreak of bubonic plague in London caused Church leaders to flee into the safety of the countryside.)
 At the Hampton Court conference, John Reynolds, the head of the English Puritan Church, proposed a new English translation of the scriptures. Reynolds said that such a translation would go a long way toward uniting the churches and people of England. James received Reynolds’ proposal with alacrity and the king ordered English church leaders to begin work on the new Bible translation.
The first step was to pick the men who would translate the new Bible from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Later that year, James approved a list of 54 prospective “revisers,” from which 47 Translators (capitalized) were selected. They were divided into six committees, called “companies” working separately at Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge. Each of the committees was to take a different part of the bible to translate.

A Distinguished Group
The Translators were a distinguished group. They included such men as Lancelot Andrewes (1555—1626), dean of Westminster, later Bishop of Winchester, and a scholar of some 15 ancient and modern languages. It was said of Andrewes that he could have been “interpreter general” at the Tower of Babel; John Overall (1561—1619), dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and former regius professor of divinity at Cambridge; Miles Smith (1554—1624), expert in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and eventual author of the Bible’s preface. Dr. Smith was a man so impatient that he had famously walked out of boring sermon and went off to a pub;  the Puritan leader John Reynolds (1549—1607) mentioned above, who was president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and a number of scholars too long to mention here. The chief overseer of the project was Richard Bancroft (1544—1610), Archbishop of Canterbury.
King James, in his instructions to the Translators said he did not want creativity or invention in the translation. What he cared about was clarity, simplicity and (very important!) doctrinal orthodoxy. The translators worked hard at these instructions; yet they also spent a lot of time adjusting and tweaking each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph in the text in the interest of euphony and musicality. After all, this was an age when the Bible was to be read aloud. This was also the age of Shakespeare and Marlowe, the golden age of the English language. Time and time again the words the Translators put into the new Bible almost unconsciously fell into poetic rhythm. The Translators also made use of repetition and even dramatic pauses. Notice how the commas require pauses and help create the rhythm: “In the beginning God created the Heaven, and the Earth. And the Earth was without forme, and voyd, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Greatest Monument of English Prose
It took seven years of translating, arguing, debating and fine-tuning until the bible was printed in 1611.  What emerged (after most of the typos of the first printing were corrected) is now recognized by some as perhaps the greatest monument of English prose and poetry. According to British writer Adam Nicolson, the King James Bible “is not the poetry of a single mind, nor the effusion of a singular vision, nor even the product of a single moment, but the child of an entire culture stretching back to the great Jewish poets and storytellers of the Near Eastern Bronze Age.” The Bible has “a sense of an entirely embraced and reimagined past.”
“[The] translation was driven by the idea of a constant present, the feeling that the riches, beauties, failings and sufferings of Jacobean England were part of the same world as the one in which Job, David or the Evangelists walked. The KJ translators could write their English words as if the passage of 1,600 or 3,000 years made no difference. Their subject was neither ancient nor modern, but both or either. It was the universal text.”

The Anniversary Year
In the 400 years since its first printing, the King James Bible has consciously and unconsciously influenced just about every American writer from Walt Whitman to Abraham Lincoln to William Faulkner to Toni Morrison. Its phrases have entered into the common tongue to stay. In this anniversary year, hundreds of events are scheduled in Britain, the United States and other English-speaking countries this year to celebrate the King James Bible. They include lectures, reading marathons, symposia, concerts, conferences and television documentaries. Here in America, celebrations are scheduled in Texas, Kentucky and Louisiana. A conference at Ohio State University will explore the influence of the KJB on writers such as William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf and Toni Morrison.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thoughts of Three Men


Yesterday I sat mesmerized with the student body and faculty of Kents Hill School as actress Susan Stein brought the complex Etty Hillesum to life.  “Etty’s” writings, diaries and letters to family and friends, are receiving increasing public attention.  This very real young women records her inner struggles and daily challenges navigating the Nazi occupation of Holland.  She is no stereotypical saint.  Depressed, sexually prolific, guilt-ridden by her work for the Jewish Council, work that allows her to keep her own German/Russian Jewish family off the deportation lists, Etty manages, with great effort, to hold wide open her perspective on the tumble of humanity around her.

As I walked back to the office, the character in Etty’s reflection I found myself mulling was a young boy, nameless, who hid when it was his time to be put on the transport train.  When one refused, or didn’t show up, many were added, an incentive for the Jewish community to cooperate with the process. Virtual fingers wag at this very young man, failing to go along with smooth and certain march toward annihilation.  Who is he to speed the death of so many of his neighbors?  What Etty glaringly and intentionally does not say is, of course, the point.  What power does he have?  What power do they have?  Who’s really responsible for this horrible assembly line deconstructing a people?

Inescapably, my contemplative context is the death of Osama Bin Laden, another engine of death and destruction, now taken down with members of his own household who he put at risk. I wonder where and when he made the critical choices that turned such obvious talent and ability into tools of hate, instead of the good he could have done.

And wrapped around my whole thought process is the Easter season we are in. Could anyone really expect that young Dutch Jew from the 1940s to go as grace-fully to his death?  Should we expect him to do what Jesus did or can we grow in our knowing that Jesus’ death puts God in a new relationship with him, and all those others throughout history who were not themselves God, just human beings caught in horrible situations.  One of my favorite resurrection images is of all the human beings that ever lived being caught up in the act of God’s life-remaking leap from the grave.  Ripped into redemption, it would be hard to resist the flow of the Spirit, to not be overcome by God’s desire to sweep us along in love’s flow.  Hard, but not impossible as long as we are the freely created imago dei, not manufactured clay pots.

There’s been a hubbub in Christian circles recently about the notion that God might love everyone too much to ultimately constrain any to hell’s eternity.  Personally, I’m glad the scripture tells us to leave those things up to God. What I do know is that the wounds we carry into God’s presence are healed there.  Not as though they had never happened, but as though it matters that they did. Healing can be a painful process.  Healing requires the willing cooperation of the damaged person with the healer.   May we be open to God’s grace and power so that, in our lives, they move the world toward healing. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Holy Humor Sunday

He is risen!
photo by Tina Phillips
Worship this coming Sunday will be a celebration of holy humor. Can you imagine Jesus' delight in the world of smiles and smells after three days of sensory deprivation?  This Sunday we'll share simple heart lifting joy in living.  Please bring a favorite knock-knock joke for the passing of the peace and a whoopie pie in your choice of flavors for a fun fellowship potluck of flavors!  
Those who live in grace are freed from the necessity of taking themselves, their circumstances, their morality and opinions, their piety and beliefs, too seriously. They are free to laugh and play as children of God. As important as repentance is, we are not saved by our much weeping, any more than we are saved by acts of penitence. And the expression of salvation freely given and received is not weeping but laughter, or at least a weeping become laughter. Laughter and lightheartedness, at their fullest and freest, are the gift of divine grace.  -Conrad HyersAnd God Created Laughter