Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 28:1-8, second pass

The passage is unclear as to whether the two women saw the resurrection here, but I don’t think so.  They would probably have passed out too. They might have been on their way early but it was before they got there because they were greeted after the fact by the angel.

It has to be admitted that the eyewitness accounts, while multiple and credible, are fragmented; not contradictory but incomplete by themselves.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, some of the pieces are so small in the big picture that one wonders if they fit, but in the larger view they do.  Each gospel writer did not interview or get information from every character involved.  The running facts are:  before dawn, the angel rolled the stone away and Jesus emerged, bodily; the guards fainted; the women had interludes with the angels that told them to talk to the disciples immediately.

The women went with “fear and great joy.” That is a contradictory combination to us, but it really should be our general experience.  Fear because there are things in the world we do not understand, but we do not have to.  Fear because God is greater than we and his works greater.  Great joy because unexpected things, or the things we greatly hoped for, do happen.  I like that. 

Four Amazing Truths

I am reading Alvin Reid's Sharing Jesus without Freaking Out.  He quotes Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

God is great, so we don't have to be in control.
God is glorious, so we don't have to fear others.
God is good, so we don't have to lok elsewhere.
God is gracious, so we don't have to prove ourselves. 

That will encourage me for a while. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Durrells in Corfu: Disappointing on So Many Levels

My husband found this British series on Amazon Prime movies after watching some of it on PBS.  The opening title sequence got me interested, so over the past week we have watched the six episodes in the series.  That is time I will never get back again, and the only really good thing I can say is that when the prices come down on the original books, which seems to be spiking in popularity, I will have a go at reading one of them.  In that way perhaps I can feel somewhat better about the Durrells, who in this series are portrayed as just about the most unlikable family ever.

I can think of three ways that this was disappointing.  The first it's hearsay; the other two are from my direct experience.

First, according to reviews on IMDB, the series bears little resemblance to the family in the real book.  They did live on Corfu, there were four children, the youngest loved animals and became a naturalist, and he wrote about them.  I realize a film version cannot be 100% faithful to a book, but this one is not faithful to the culture and history of that time in such a way that it lacked any credibility for me.

The children's and the mother's behavior exist in some type of time warp.  People from 2015 have gone back to 1935 in a traditional society and lived like 2015-ers and unbelievably gotten away with it.  The mother talks like a sailor, chases men, is entirely codependent with her children, and makes pretty bad decisions with no regard to ethics all around.  The oldest son keeps telling his mother she needs sex, the daughter wears a bathing suit in public, the second son shoots guns randomly, and no one says anything.  They are just charmingly eccentric, in a socio-pathological sort of way.

The various misdeeds of this family do not deserve to be recounted here, but the Greeks of the town apparently just find them so wonderful and everyone is their friends, when in reality they would have been shunned. But hey, those crazy Greeks, they love life and whatever they do is fine.

However, the bigger problem is the overall writing.  The family has a tragedy or big bad event, and everything comes out perfectly.  The oldest son (it's neck and neck to decide which of the two older sons is a bigger douche bag, as my son would say, and they seem to hate each other) gets appendicitis and goes through surgery by non-doctors.  The second son is on trial, but it all works out. They are starving to death on an island surrounded by fish.  (This really makes no sense). They treat each other like crap but it's ok; everybody makes up at the end and we move on to the next life-threatening struggle that all works out fine. 

No one get smarter or grows much or suffers the consequences of their actions although the daughter does get a clue eventually from her relationship with the Countess, which is one of the good parts--seeing Leslie Caron as the aged aristocrat.  Her butler was on Downton Abbey playing the same part.  The other good part is the scenery.  I would love to be there. 

The last episode was the most disappointing and downright angering.  For most of the series the mother had been chasing a nice-looking Swede named Sven (of course) who is a farmer on the island.  He has no back story, so what is this guy doing there?  At one point (episode 4) she starts to take his clothes off to have sex with him in broad daylight--yes, a common occurrence in 1935.  He proposes and they are supposed to be married. However, the oldest son figures out that Sven is a homosexual but doesn't tell her; while alone in the house, she decides to look into his things and finds photos of him with another man (after she destroys his accordion because she doesn't like accordion music--who does that?)  Well, she can't marry a homosexual, although she has no problem with the fact that he is one (say what?) so the wedding is off, but they have a party anyway without much of an explanation and he shows up at the party.  So it's all ok again. 

I do have to say there was a clue earlier that he might be gay, but it sort of comes out of left field in the last 1/2 of the last episode.  He says he came to the island to get away from that part of his life, but he has high end art work of nude men in his house.  He wants a married life and he cares for the mother, so he would try to be good at the husband thing.  I admit that small piece where she confronts him was well done, but the "we got over that, everything's ok now" arc of the series overwhelms any part where one is impressed. 

Every BBC/PBS show has to have a gay plotline somewhere (Grantchester, Downton Abbey, Foyle's War) , and the main characters, because we have to like them, all act like it's ok and they think the laws against homosexuality are awful and they show compassion.  That kind of laissez faire acceptance is a stretch of believability.  People of that generation didn't even say the word in public (I'm old enough to remember). 

The youngest son fares the best and the parts he is in are most enjoyable, although he can be a little twit to his mother.  Her children treat her awfully and she takes it on the chin.  She can be very vindictive, telling the oldest son's lover girl (who comes from England to visit and apparently stays in the bedroom having sex all the time, another out-of-place bit) that he want to cheat on her.  Well, it's all a mess and a big soap opera, so I suggest you don't waste your time on it unless you just want to waste it.  Maybe you do.  I wish I had read a book instead (I'm reading the Emperor of All Maladies right now, which is excellent). 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 28:1-8, first pass

--> One has to wonder if the whole town of Jerusalem was aware of the strange happenings.  As it says in Acts 26 (Paul to Agrippa) these things were not done in a corner.  Other places it is stated that the events were widely known:  Earthquakes, sightings. It is not a private revelation, or a private gospel. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jesus is Not a Nice Guy

I was privileged to teach last week on Matthew 21.  This is one of those portions in the gospel for people who thought Jesus floated around for a few years saying ambiguous happy things about loving children and helping others until some mean people misunderstood him.  Uh, no.

CS Lewis' line in the first Narnia story about Aslan not being safe but being good is often cited in this regard.  We want to put Jesus in our own mold and be comfortable with him, and then, for goodness sake, he goes and does these confrontational things!  What are we to do with him?

(I hope my irony is evident.)

The first incident is the "triumphal entry," although I am not sure why it is called that, since he would be dead six days later. The event is full and ripe with Jewish symbolism, either prophesied, cultural, or historical.  Solomon came into the city on a donkey.  The palm branches were used for royalty.  The use of the colt was in prophesy.  Military conquerors come on big white horses, not donkeys.  The crowds are enraptured.  And Jesus does nothing to stop it.  Jesus never tells someone not to worship him. Nice people don't do that.

Second, he took on the Mafia in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple.  "Zeal for my house has eaten me up," Psalm 69.

A little background. 
--> This was the third temple:  Solomons, then Zerubabel's rebuilt one in the 5th century, then Herod's rebuild/renovation to make it spectacular.  The temple was a place of restrictions, because it symbolized holiness and presence of God.   Temple had three courts:  one for Gentiles, for women, and for men (closest to the inner sanctuary, of course).   
 The casting out of the merchants was in Court of the Gentiles, outermost  Originally the animals were outside but over time they came into the temple complex.  Every male was expected to attend Passover in Jerusalem,  sort of like people going to Jasper or Ellijay for the eclipse.  These Jews and proselytes would have to pay the half-shekel temple tax in the coinage of the temple, and thus foreign monies were unacceptable (had pagan images on it) and had to be exchanged for the proper coins. These worshippers also had to offer up their sacrifices, and for many of these travelers, the only solution was to buy a sacrificial animal there in Jerusalem.”  Bringing their own animal would have been difficult and then the priests could have said it wasn’t good enough, had something wrong with it.  

So guess who benefited from this business where hundreds of thousands of dollars exchanged hands--.Caiphas’ family, (the high priest).

God loves the poor and hates for them to be mistreated by the powerful and those who have plenty of money.  Jesus was human but not out of control.  Jesus did not steal from these people, and they probably came back in eventually, just like they did in John 2 (a separate incident three years before).  Anger in the sense of zeal is sometimes needed, and in Jesus here it is a good thing, but not a nice thing. 

These are just two incidents of Jesus not being a 21st century nice guy type.  There are others.  Thank heavens for that.   

Not all dogmas involve Almighty God

I like this line.  It was the last line of a news story in New York Times by a writer named Ahmari, who confesses to being a Catholic convert.

The story is about how Diane Feinstein and Al Franken (Father, help us that he is a senator!) went after a Notre Dame law professor who is up for a federal judgeship because she had written some things in the past about her faith.  Shame on them.  The constitution says "No religious test."  They would not do that to a Muslim (because of fear of reprisal).  They think they can pull it on a conservative Catholic or Protestant (which Bernie Sanders tried to pull a few weeks ago).  I thought Feinstein had some sense but she just proved me wrong.  I also knew Sanders and Franken had no sense.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Fresh Look at Matthew: The last deception

The drama of Passion Week is so wonderful.  Intrigue, evil, “The last deception will be wore than the first.” What a line.  The two Marys watch the tomb.  The hatred toward Jesus is remarkable.  I am reading THE INSANITY OF GOD, and that hatred is so hard to understand.  Where does it come from?  Fear, difference, pride, superiority? But Jesus predicted it. How does someone get millions to follow him when he promises hatred from the masses of the world.  Oh, yes.  He dies for them and then rises from the dead, what is referred here as the last deception. 

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 28:1-8, second pass

The passage is unclear as to whether the two women saw the resurrection here, but I don’t think so.   They would probab...