Friday, 31 January 2014
Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Reflecting on his debt to Pentecostalism, Brian LePort wisely observes, “Isn’t it funny how some of the things that were important to you during your most formative years remain important no matter how far you stray from them?” That’s certainly true of my earliest experience of Presbyterianism, as a child at the Old First Church in Huntington, Long Island: getting chucked out of Sunday School for throwing spit balls – and my high rate of recidivism – remains a massive milestone in my theological journey.
Thursday, 16 January 2014
Genesis: Under numberless stars an old man stands amazed; his wife cries out in the pain of childbirth, laughing.
Exodus: Barefoot on the hot sand, he stares into the flame and haggles with a god whose name he cannot say.
Leviticus: At the mountain they wait in love and terror, while holy words pass through them like a sword.
Numbers: Count the murmuring tribes, count their slain, count the wandering long years.
Deuteronomy: I love you, I love you. Not because you are so good or great, but because you are so lost and little.
Joshua: In the walled city a prostitute undresses to the music of trumpets and the sound of many feet.
Judges: As soothing as a therapist, she runs her fingers through his hair and says, "Now lie back and tell me everything."
Ruth: He wakes in the night to find a woman, a foreigner, touching his feet. He rubs his eyes. He had been dreaming of kings.
Grief + God = Samuel
Israel - Eli + Samuel = Monarchy
Monarchy - Saul = David
David - Jonathan = 0
2 Samuel: Victory! A riot of joy! The victor covers his face: O Absalom, my son, my son.
1 Kings: So, you really want a monarchy huh? Don't say I didn't warn you.
2 Kings: I told you so.
1 Chronicles: And behold, in those days all the begetting was done by the menfolk.
2 Chronicles: If we build it, he will come.
Ezra: When we saw the Temple we thought we must be dreaming, or that all our lives had been a dream from which we had awoken.
Nehemiah: When he read the scroll it was as if, after a long dementia, I remembered my name and wept to hear it spoken.
Esther: The orphan queen is glorious at her feast. In her glittering eyes are sex and armies.
Job: He scrapes himself with broken pots, cursing his mother's womb. In the distance, Leviathan circles silently in the deep.
Psalms: The invention of antiphony: when my heart broke in two, I taught both parts to sing.
Proverbs: What a fabulous woman! I'll marry her! (She left her fingerprints all over me.)
Ecclesiastes: Life is an empty sink. Someone has pulled the plug and all the meaning has drained out of it. So enjoy yourself!
Song of Songs: With the turtledove singing above them in the apple tree, the lovers took off their clothes and made beautiful poems together.
Isaiah: When the four corners of creation are picked up like a tablecloth, all the crumbs will slide into the middle, into Zion.
Jeremiah: The Word is at the bottom of the well, burning like a naked flame in the mouth of the weeping prophet.
Lamentations: A Bear Crouches. Destruction Envelops. Flee God's Holy Implacable Judgment! Killed! Lament! Mourn Nakedly! O Pray!
Ezekiel: Four flashing creatures, four wheels rimmed with eyes, one scroll, one Spirit, one Temple, one million creeping bones.
Daniel: I pray (each day) towards the city of the Son of Man; to him all kings (all things) shall bend like grass in the wind.
Hosea: She has given birth. Another son! Tenderly her humiliated husband gathers the little prophecy into his arms.
Joel: Through the cracks in our broken hearts the grasshoppers have come swarming in.
Amos: Hallelujah! The Lord is here! Run for your lives!
Obadiah: I made you as numerous as the stars. Watch now while I rub out every star and wrap the world in darkness.
Jonah: When the prophet disobeys, even the fish of the sea are against him. When Nineveh repents, even the animals fast and pray.
Micah: We call you a minor prophet. But you are mountains rising behind mountains; all the world's wealth is minor next to you.
Nahum: Grinning from ear to ear, he sings a lament for the fall of Nineveh.
Habakkuk: He sings of joy in God's salvation, his face wet with indignant tears.
Zephaniah: Cry out with horror, for I will sweep you from the earth. Cry out with joy, for I will sweep you into my arms.
Haggai: After the return from exile, the prophets spoke in prose. It took captivity to wring the poetry from their souls.
Zechariah: If only you could have lived to see the day he read your scroll, and loved it, and told his friends to fetch a donkey.
Malachi: You've got a new temple; now get new hearts to go with it, before the temple's Lord appears and turns the tables on you.
Tobit: In godless Nineveh one man keeps the faith alive, one cold grave at a time.
Judith: Ever noticed how men can lose their heads over the sight of a pretty woman?
Wisdom of Solomon: Surrounded by a harem of a thousand wives, Solomon yearns for his one true Bride.
Sirach: Adapt your life to Wisdom's discipline, for her yoke is easy and her burden is light.
Baruch: A pocket-size edition of the whole shebang – the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
Letter of Jeremiah: Some advice about idols: if it can't clean the birdshit off its own face, don't worship it.
Song of the Three Jews: Inside the fiery furnace, the three boys were so cool that they struck up a tune to keep warm.
Susanna: A side-splitting tale.
Bel and the Dragon: Too much greasy food is really, really bad for you.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Esdras: It's complicated.
2 Esdras: Our dead children are playing hide and seek. Soon God will find them and they will come out giggling from their graves.
Prayer of Manasseh: This part of our liturgy was written by an idolatrous king. In church, even the gargoyles have a place.
1 Maccabees: The false god's broken altar is soaked in blood, for the Law has wielded a hammer.
2 Maccabees: It was God's wrath that made us feast and sing among strange gods. Now wrath is kindled into an apocalypse of mercy.
Matthew: We thought his teaching was a mirror of God's Law, but we were wrong. The Law is the mirror, reflecting him.
Mark: Just as we were killing him, God whispered a secret. No one heard except the soldier who raised his bloodied hands in awe.
Luke: After careful research I have prepared an objective scholarly account of what happened. It all began with an angel...
John: Because we could not find the way to God, he used a spear to open a door in his side, and said, "Look, I am the way!"
Acts: Proof of the resurrection: the powers of this world submit to a handkerchief on which an apostle has blown his nose.
Romans: Adam lost it, Christ found it, the Spirit gives it, faith holds it, creation yearns for it, death yields to it.
1 Corinthians: When the last trump sounded we didn't hear it. We were too busy arguing and bragging about our spirituality.
2 Corinthians: O how I love you, you darling scalawags, you dear sweet blockheaded scoundrels, you infuriating puppies!
Galatians: We felt insecure without our chains so we hired experts to repair them. Then Paul came back, wielding a sledgehammer.
Ephesians: When the human race had split apart, God (who loves to renovate) took wood and nails and fastened it back together.
Philippians: Even in chains, Paul is freer than wild horses. Even in prison, his joy is boundless as the skies.
Colossians: God assembled all the pieces of the universe as one huge jigsaw puzzle, a perfect picture of Christ.
1 Thessalonians: In Christ there is no night but only one eternal morning in which the living and the dead awake and embrace.
2 Thessalonians: When I told you, brothers, that he's coming back soon, what I really meant was soonish.
1 Timothy: Dear Paul, Thanks for your letter & for all the advice. The part about wine: ok! The part about women: huh? Yours, Tim.
2 Timothy: The dying apostle writes his will: "To my dear son Timothy I leave all that I possess: my gospel and these chains."
Titus: Don't adapt the gospel to your life. Adapt your life to the pattern of the gospel.
Philemon: Then one day, for the first time in history, a slave and his master cried out in stunned recognition: "Brother!"
Hebrews: Look in the mirror to see the face; follow a shadow to find the thing; wade through blood to a place where bloodshed ceases.
James: Faith is a picture taken by the beggar at your door, not a selfie.
1 Peter: In the midst of a strange land all the strangers assembled in one place, and called it Home.
2 Peter: "Paul's letters are hard to understand": the calm judgment of a pseudonymous letter full of riddles and obscurities.
1 John: Love is the order of things; hatred is rebellion against reality.
2 John: Pure spiritual love is a delusion. Love has come among us in the flesh. It's with our bodies that we walk in love's way.
3 John: Oh my dear friend, I need to see you face to face to tell you what love means. Love can't be sent by mail.
Jude: If ever the world is burned to ashes in a nuclear holocaust, let the last human being recite the epistle of Jude, and die.
Revelation: When she finally arrived at the wedding, she kissed him and said, "Sorry I'm late. The traffic was hell."
Saturday, 4 January 2014
My son James was arguing with his cousin about whether or not your brains can leak out through your ears:
Cousin: My dad knows all about the human body, he's a doctor.
James: Well my dad is a writing doctor.
Cousin: Some doctors are scientists or explorers, they help people. Surgeons help people too, and children's doctors.
James: My dad is a doctor in writing. He helps people with [long pause] – ah, somethings.