Showing posts with label Weekly Epistle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Weekly Epistle. Show all posts

A Brief Homily for the Feast of Stephen the Martyr 

Dec. 26, 2022

On our way to the eucharist this morning, I was pointing out to my wife the interesting implication of the church long standing choice to have the Feast of St. Stephen follow Christmas Day, and in a couple more days, the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  The implication is that the little child, who is the prince of peace, is born surrounded by violence.  To this she replied that is not any different from today.  That thought leads to the necessity of asking the question of what difference that birth made.  One way of answering that emerges from a contrast between the murder of the Prophet Zechariah and stone of Stephen.  Zechariah, with which Jesus links his own death, died between the altar and the sanctuary of the Temple centuries before his own death.  The stoning of Stephen followed a few years after his death.  Dying Zechariah cries out: “May the Lord see and revenge!” But Stephen dying, cries out: “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” Stephan cry echoes that of Jesus on the cross: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  Now that is a really big difference.   A difference which, in fact, can change the world.


 

Tanner and Poet

 

It is comic for an over-80 to be reading systematic theology, as it not likely to be on the final exam.  It has more to say to those who are responsible for the Christian witness to the world, pastors, preachers. Teachers and even poets.  Still, since the middle of the summer I have reading Tanner, and find myself in kind of rear-guard movement, wanting to witness to the importance of her systematic theology.  Thus, we have this Face Book page, “Tanner Talk of Omaha,” a sister page to “On Giving My Word Tancreti.”   The two pages might seem unrelated, but they do bare on one another.  Retrospectively, I recognize that the theology that underlies the poetic of On Giving My Word is similar to Tanner’s and gains clarity from it.  It is similar because my reading in the Seventies and Eighties, Rahner, Schleiermacher and Bart, was similar to Tanner’s.  Had I been aware of it at the timeing I was writing that poetry, it would have served as useful guide to the coherent God talk I was attempting, now can gain by being judged by it. 

I would illustrate this with a quick reference to a short poem you will find in On Giving My Word, page 248, “As God Will’s.”  One of Tanner’s principles of coherent God talk, is that God’s agency does not compete with human (creaturely) efficacy.   I wrote:

                               It is God’s will that I chose.

                                             I would like God to tell me

                                             If I should go to the right or the left.

                                             If God did, then I would not have to choose,

                                             Which is not God’s will for me.

                                . . . . 

                              So, I shall choose, which is God’s will for me,

                                             and if I prosper and live, I shall be a communion for God.

                                             And if I dimmish and die, God will be a communion for me.

                              As God wills.

 God’s will does not trump human will, because God’s will works in a different plane than human will. We might try to imagine that by drawing a line on a paper, make a diagonal from one side to another.  This line represents God will, agency.   Everywhere an act of human will is possible, God is will it.  So, at any point on the paper draw a short line.  That represents an act of human will.  Save for a parallel, line they will intersect, share a point, which the possibility of communion.

 For me “Tanner Talk” will not be so much a guide to the future, as a reflection of the past.

 

 A Challenge to Fellow Humanists
March 25, 2019
 I found myself recently daring to declare that one of the most startling sentences in human hearing was the sentence: “I am who I am.”  It was recorded in Hebrew as  ayeh asher ayeh, in the book of Exodus.  See Chapter 3:14.  While it is possible that the date and circumstance of its origins, it nevertheless stand in this ancient text as a fact.  I am prepared to argue that this text has a claim to be as close to the source of the concept of the modern sense of the self as a free individual as anything else in the realm of classic texts!   My challenge to fellow humanists is for them counter my claim with candidates of their own.

 This claim occurred to me in the course of preparing a sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent and was preached at St. James Fremont, Fremont, Nebraska.  I append it to this challenge if you are interest to see how the thought was developed.

 The Name of Your God
 + But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’  and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” Ex 3:15

      What would you say if someone asked you, “What is the name of your God?”
 Not so easy.  I suppose that we might  say “Lord” or “God,” but these are not names so much as job descriptions.  They translate the Biblical Hebrew words: adonai, el, and elohim which were the generic terms for god in the time of Moses, and they beg the question.  In an attempt at a personal  name, we might try Jesus, but it is no small problem to claim “Jesus” names god.  This Jesus we are told prayed to god and called god his father.  Like Jesus, we may well speak of god as our father, but that identifies a relationship and does not name him.  If we don’t have a name, can we say that really know him.
        Fortunate for us, we have in our text a means to get at the answer.  The beginning verse of the third chapter of the Book of Exodus is recognized as one of the great theophanies of the Scriptures.  Theophany is a moment in which God shows himself to humankind, and while there are many, few are as powerful or as significant as this particular one that occurred on a hillside in the wilderness of Sinai roughly 35 hundred years ago.  Recall that Moses has escaped Egypt, and has put himself in the service of a powerful nomad of the Sinai wilderness by the name of  Jethro.  He was shepherding Jethro’s sheep when he was attracted to a bush that burned without being consumed.  Upon approaching the bush, he directly encounters the presence of God and he removes his sandals, knowing that he is standing on holy ground.  In the theophony, he is charged to go back to Egypt and deliver the Israelites from their bondage under Pharaoh.  Moses talks back to God, “Who am I that should go . . . and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
       In his wariness at his ability to fulfill this charge, he points out to the god that is calling him, that he wouldn’t be able answer the Israelite if they asked him, the obvious question: “What is the name of this god for which you claim to speak?
        It is then that the god pronounces his name.  He say that his name is “I am who I am.”  In Hebrew of Moses’s hearing:  ayeh asher ayeh. 
        This is certainly one of the most startling sentences in human hearing.  And it was not heard in the grandeur of a Temple or in halls of the learned, but on a hill side in the wilderness of Sinai.  It breaks with the naming of gods who are identified with a certain place, with a past miracle or with some kind of  psychic power.  All of which are bound by a particular condition, but the “I am” is now and is every where.  The “I am” answers Moses’s doubt by saying I will be with you.”
 The “I am” is essentially the personal god, who works by means of his personal presence.  Moses is not to go back to Egypt with a talisman, but is to go back and to introduce the Israelites to a personal relationship with the “I am” which is their liberation.  So God tells Moses:  “Go tell them Yahweh,” the God of your past, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.” 
        Yahweh is a form of the Hebrew world for “being:”   ayeh is the first person singular and yahweh is the third person singular.  So that when God speaks his name: “Being,” he will say “I am” and when we speak about the God-being, we will say: “He who is,”  Yahweh in Hebrew;   Ho on, in Greek, which, as an aside, you will find written in the hallow of the icons of Holy Face, and all the other images of the Savior.
        From the Sinai event on, the name Yahweh becomes the holy name, the shem  qodesh.   It is central to Israel’s  prayer life as can be seem from its ubiquitous presences in the Book of Psalm as it is, in fact, dispersed throughout the whole Hebrew scriptures.  The generic names of God, to which I have referred, are also present, but it is clear that Yahweh is the personal name of God.  It is, then, no way miss leading, when this section of Exodus ends with the declaration of God:  “This is my name forever and this is “my title,” zcry, better translated, “my memorial for all generations.”   Memorial meaning a word by which one may evoke the person; one may evoke the personal God of Israel.
 A funny thing happened, however,  some time after the tragic destruction of the City of Jerusalem and of the Temple itself, by which time the substantial portion of the Old Testament has been written, the exiled Jews begin to feel that the name, “Yahweh,” was too holy to be spoken out loud, and/or conversely that they had become so sinful by their failure as a nation, that they were unworthy to say the word out loud.  It became the universal custom down to our own time, that  when a Jew reads the four letter word, the tetragrammaton, yod he va he, Yahweh, as it is pronounced, they substitute the word adonai.  Adonai is roughly equivalent to the English word “lord,” as in a master of the manor or a lord of the realm.  Once a year this rule was set aside, when High Priest, inside of the Temple Building, by himself, would say the word out loud in his prayer.
        One cannot help but be impressed by this piety.  But the result of this intense piety has the unintended consequence that a religion whose God is a personal savior, becomes a religion of an absent God, to whom one relates through practices and observances; by keeping the law,  and the “I am” is left in the past.   This would not be the first or the last time that piety resulted in such an outcome.  Piety as it turns out is easily subverted into mere feels, sentiments, that are detached from the presence from which they originate.  And so easily seized upon by the powers of this world, the high priests, kings, emperors, caliphs and presidents, who with the promise do it, convert it to a means of control their flock or herd. 
         So it is by no means down playing the importance of Jesus to suggest that  the essence of Jesus’s life and work is to restore the sense of a personal God and to restore the convict that it is through that personal presence that an individual can find their liberation. 
 Isn’t that what St Paul means when he teaches, not by the law, but by faith you will be saved?   The faith that Paul is referring to is not belief about but belief in as “I believe in one God.”
 Now we have been given back the right to say it, the being- God-name.  Perhaps last Sunday you sang the Hymn “The God of Abraham’s praise as we did in the congregation that I attended.  If you did, you sang those very words, “the Lord, the great I am, by earth and heaven confessed, we bow and bless the sacred name forever blest.”
         Listen for the moment at the end of this present Lent, when the Passion Narrative will be read and it comes to that  point were the High Priest ask Jesus “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Living God?  The you will hear Jesus answer: “I am.”  It is said that the High Priest upon hearing this  tore his clothes and said: “You have heard his blaspheme!”  He had spoken in the public forum of the assembly, the “I am,” the Sacred Name, the shem qodesh.
        The veil is torn in two and the presence of the personal God is immediately  ours, all of ours.
 So if you are asked, “what is the name of your God?”  You can answer with confidence, “I am” and it is “he who is” who has  sent me.

 8th
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth”  2 John 2:1

       In my last epistle I reported to you that Summer Lent is about to end with the celebration of Feast of St.  Michael and All Angels, and that I was with my wife on the road west to Portland, Oregon by way of Fort Collins, San Francisco and Redding California and back again.  I am, indeed, back and I now must report that the Fall has prematurely ended.  We now have counted a second snow, this latest accompanied with some serious cold.  I still have Fall projects  which may yet be doable if the ground is not frozen, but, not with the relish one usually anticipates.
       The trip was full of wonderful adventures and very special reunions.  I have found it quite difficult to return to the grove.  I have been side tracked by the vision of a poetic exploration of "ultimate smallness" and the "immensity which is our habitation."  Its themes resonates with thought in this morning NYT magazine:  "One of the odd luxuries of being alive is this feeling of currency: that each of us, however humble, represents breaking news 13 billion years in the making."  From “All the Answers” (Gallery 13, 2018, Page 210), a graphic memoir by the artist Michael Kupperman.  We belong to the immensity. My own thoughts were roiled by our visit with Shelli Joye in California who has published in the field of holonomic brain theory and implicate order.
      That side track, which is  probably a misnomer, since at my point in life every thing is a side track, has not so surprisingly been itself side tracked, this time by my routine study of the Hebrew Book of Psalms, which resumed on my return home.  I was suddenly caught up in a close study of Psalm 22 which I could not shake.  You will recognize this psalm because its opening line provide the passion narrative of the synoptic gospels with the line:  "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me."  The accommodation of this Psalm by Christians to their passion narrative has given rise to much dispute which unfortunately has deflected from viewing the psalm in its original context and its artistic unity which makes it one of the truly poetic masterpieces of the Psalter.  I have at last reached some closure and if you are interested you can see the results posted under the label Hebrew Psalms: Praying the Narrative.  The study, entitled "Beyond Death,  Who will speak of God’s deeds?" attempts to identify the psalm's original context and message and it includes a new translation of verses 23-31.  Under the label Jesus and the Meta Narrative that study is continued with a discussion of accommodation, Christian and otherwise.  It raises the question of whether the Christian accommodation of the psalm actually began with Jesus, himself.   This was the topic of an original poem of mine that appears in a collection, "On Winter in the Orchards of Ephraim."  This poem, "How will Death Speak?" explores the possibility of Jesus's own meditations was the source of accommodation.
        In the coming week I hope to get back to work on the poetry of Friedrich Holderlin, the German Romantic poet.  I am particularly interested in a couple of selections from his letters and essays which clarify the foundation of his poetic vision.  Holderlin's work and its fate provides a poignant lesson on the use of poetics as a means of reconstituting a narrative.  This is pertinent to our own problems for our narratives have been buried under an avalanche of conflict politics.   Responding to countering conflict with its own terms only ensure that a conflict life will continue.  We need poets who can give a story that allows to walk our way out of it.    

 7th
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth”  2 John 2:1
       Summer Lent is about to end with the celebration of Feast of St.  Michael and All Angels.  It will find my wife and I  on the road west to Portland, Oregon by way of Fort Collins, San Francisco and Redding and back again.  This is a signal that posts are suspended for a couple of weeks.  This past week, I must confess, ended on a side track.  The review of the Rectenwald’s paper a couple of weeks ago, suggested that Tennyson’s poem was or, perhaps better, demarcated the pivot in 19th century thinking before which a theory of evolution was unthinkable and after which it was, making way for Darwin’s theory of evolution.  This led me to a close reading of the poem which is very long and with little to verify Rectenwald’s observation, until close to its end where there is an explicit dialogue with evolutionary science, in or before the years of 1849.  It is done in away that makes quite clear that Tennyson’s ideas are due to Romanticism and more particularly to the theology of Frederick Dennison Maurice.  The side track it turned out was quite relevant to the discussion in this blog on “Romanticism and the Recovery of the Narrative,” and to the fact as well that scientific language in our times encounters disbelieve and hostility.  The resulting essay seems to me to provide us with something to visit about in the larger questions of our own search for a narrative.
  
 Evolution, Tennyson, and Maurice

       Neither the theory of evolution nor Alfred Lord Tennyson needs an introduction, but Maurice might.  F. D. Maurice was a 19th century theologian of the Church of England.  He is  noted for his classic The Kingdom of Christ, published in 1838 and for his theory of and activism with Christian Socialism at mid-century.  Maurice is often dismissed as “broad church,” implying that he was neither sufficiently catholic nor passionately Christian, but that is far from the case.   I suppose that assessment that he was too much a part of the establishment, could be applied to Tennyson as well, which I confess, I have been convinced.  I am learning something different!
       Be that it may, let us continue to work backward at the relationship of these three principals.  Tennyson, the son of a priest of The Church of England, looked upon Maurice as his Godfather.  In 1854, he composed a poem inviting Maurice, at the time under attack by college-councils and churchmen for heresy,  to come to the Ilse of Wright for a visit where he would find a welcome. p. 895  CW Tennyson, Delphi Classic
        Tennyson’s poem, “Memoriam” was published 1849 and been widely accepted by the public including Queen Victoria.  The poem was a dirge and/or eulogy for his very close college friend, Arthur Hellam, who died suddenly in 1833.  The poem is a profoundly personal expression of grief and hope devoid of religious platitudes.  Close to end of the poem of 133 canto, he, without out warning, takes his grief and hope into the arena of science.  In the 118th canto p, 835 he asks his reader to “Contemplate all this work of time,” the sweep of nature and yet to “trust that those we call the dead are breathers of an ampler day.”  He then, a decade prior to Darwin’s Origin of the Species, he presents the idea of an evolutionary process which accounts of the origin of man.

              The solid earth whereon we tread
               in tracts of fluent heat began
               And grew to seeming random forms,
              The seeming prey of cyclic storms,
              Till at last arose the man
              who throve and branch’d from clime to clime

       To this naturalistic version of human origins, he adds his theory of what we might call humanization in order to account for the spiritual nature of humankind.
 
             then life is not idle ore
             but iron dug from central gloom
             And heated hot with burning fears,
             And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
             And batter’d with shocks of doom
             To shape and use.  Arise and fly
             The reeling Faun, the sensual feast;
             Moved upward, working out the beast,
             And let the ape and tiger die.

        Two things deserve to be underlined. (1)  Well before Darwin there are forms of evolutionary theory that seem beyond dispute even in such an establishment figure as Tennyson.  (2) The poet sees himself in dialogue with science, so that a humanized science seems to be  possible.
 Yet two cantos later, he offers science a warning.  If it does not engage in this dialogue, it will make itself irrelevant.  So he begins an attack on a strictly empirical, materialistic, science. p. 837

              I trust I have not wasted breath:
              I think we are not wholly brain,
              Magnetic mockeries; not in vain
              Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;
              Not only cunning casts in clay;
              Let Science prove we are and then,
              What matters Science unto men,
              At least to me?  I would not stay.
               Let him, the wiser man who springs
               Hereafter, up from childhood shape
               His action like the greater ape,
               But I was born to other things.

       Then he expands this thought in canto 128 p.845 speaking to science, or better to its self-appointed spoke’s men,
               If all your office had to do
               With old results that look like new;
                If this were all your mission here,
               To draw, to sheathe a useless sword,
               To fool the crowd with glorious lies,
               To cleave a creed in sects and cries, 
               To change the bearing of a word,
               To shift an arbitrary power,
               To cramp the student at his desk,
               To make old bareness picturesque
               And tuft with grass a feudal tower;
               Why then my scorn might well descend
               On you and yours.  I see in part
               That all, as in some piece of art,
                Is toil cöoperant to an end.


         I have put two section in red, because it completes the circle.  Maurice’s primary claim in his theological work The Kingdom of Christ is that Christianity is creedal, not doctrinal which inevitable states the negative, what is not true, who is not in.  This makes the church sectarian, something as old as Arius whose program was halted by the Nicene Creed.  Maurice’s primary claim in his Christian Socialism was that core human value was “cooperation.”  In Maurice’s understand these two elements govern a process which ends in God.
         In an Epilogue, Tennyson ends his lengthy project with words that convey not only how much his friend’s life has marked him, but also how well he has understood Maurice’s process thinking.

                Whereof that man, that with me trod
                 This planet was a noble type
                 Appearing ere the times were ripe,
                 That friend of mine lives in God,
                 That God, which ever lives and loves,
                 One God, one law, one element,
                  and one far off divine event
                  to which the whole creation moves.

          Tennyson anticipates scientific evolution and encompasses it  within a spirituality, which is very much indebted to the theology of Maurice and to romanticism in general.  The romantic theme of progressive development is argued over against the Enlightenment’s theme of static equilibrium.   The significance of this study of the interplay between mid 19th century art, theology and science is that it gives rise to the question of whether there was a different outcome for their relationship with each other could have turned out different that in did in the post Darwinian era.   This not a matter or wish, but of hope that something can be done in the present between the divorces languages of art, science and theology which find that they still live with the indifference and hostility, which was their fate in the late Victorian period.  It seems to still be in play, both in arcane in way the evolution debate hangs on, but also in the scepticism of scientific claims about global warming. 
           Science has not found language that is morally convincing.  Theology is morally convincing, but lacks science.  Art is unwilling to involve itself its role as mediator, avoiding any tie to serious science or morality.

 6th
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth, “2 John 2:1

       Tomorrow is the feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.  Perhaps you have, as the elder, heard or will hear a sermon on Matthew.  It is likely to have gone something like this: one day Jesus walks up to a man setting in a tax booth and tells the man to follow him.   The man gets up and follows him even though there was no pre-history to that call. This apparently illustrates the homiletic point that we ourselves should be ready to take such  risks on the unknown in the same way that this amazing man did.  To bear the cost of discipleship, as will likely be said.  This man in short order entertained Jesus in his home and followed him up to the cross.  Then he was sent out as apostle, authored a gospel and ultimately became a martyr, even through there is no history of him being a martyr!
       This ahistorical call makes the caller, Jesus, and the callee, Levi/Matthew, a myth, which seems not to trouble anyone anymore.   But if you are old enough to have been schooled in the 60's like the elder the result might have been dyspeptic.   We worked our way though the unsettling source analysis of the Five Books of Moses only to be faced with the “demythologizing” of the Gospel by Rudolf Bultmann and company.  In the end, we were better of for this historical criticism.  It was not that we believed less, but that we believed more.  It is a little unsettling to listen to a homiletic which seems to be unaware of the historical problems of material they rely on.
       In honor of Matthew, I share with you an original poem that deals with the historical tension of one called in third decade to the first century CE with the one writing a gospel in the eighth decade or so.   To the fragments of history that can be garnered out of the Gospels about Matthew, there is the early church document, The Didache which illustrates a fluid piece of church life in Syria - Galilee in the early post apostolic era, 50-70, roughly the same time as the church life portrayed by Paul in the Greco Asian diaspora.  

The Song of the Three Matthews

I should like to sing a song of three Matthews,
      of the apostle, of the prophet and of the scribe,
      divided by age, distinct in  function and separated by time,
      yet allegedly held to be one.

First, I would sing of the man who sat in the booth,
       collecting the imperial tax along the shore of the Galilee,
       the owner of a great house where he hosted the Nazarene
       famous for declaring the opening of the kingdom of Heaven.
       This the man who walked out of the booth
       and away from a gracious home
       to follow the Nazarene
       to the foot of the cross
       and then to be sent to the lost sheep of Israel and more,
       only to end in the schooling of a generation of prophets,
       learned in the testimonies of ancient prophets,
       rehearsed in the sayings of the Nazarene.
 .
Second, I would sing of the man called prophet
       who wandered the Galilee, visiting the households
       which had taken the Nazarene in as their Lord:
       comforting them with the explication of oracles
       made in the former times by the prophets of Israel;
       confirming them with the sayings of the Lord
       that had brought them into the kingdom of Heaven.
       He presided over their sacred meals,
       and ordered the heads of their homes
       where they waited for the kingdom to come on earth.
       And he marshaled an army of visiting prophets
       sending them out not only to the Galilee,
       but off in the lands of the Syrians.

Third, I would sing of the man who kept school
        in the heart of the Galilee
        shaping a text partly received and partly expanded
        with the testimonies in which he had been schooled,
        with the oral sayings which he had committed to memory,
        so that the overseers and elders of the merging households
        could keep church no longer dependent on itinerant prophets,
        which he himself once was, or better the student of one,
        who were declining in number and becoming less worthy of trust.

The Apostle saw the passing of his age,
       saw his replacement by the itinerant prophets
       some of whom he had schooled
       and some of whom he feared.

The Prophet saw the end of his days,
       saw himself over ruled by elders and overseers
       some of whom he had ordered
       and some of whose order he feared.

The Scribe saw the end of his task
       saw himself replaced by his text in the hand of elders and overseers
       saw that with it they could normalize and defend their life,
       but also could turn the text against life.

Who then could imagine that these three could be a single author?
       separated by method and time as they were?

 Quick the moderns insist as reason for their doubt
        that it is impossible for them to imagine
        such individuals, unique in person
        and separated by years, to be a single author.
 
And so I see that they who insist
        that they can be known by no one, but themselves,
       and who pretend to know no one else except for themselves,
       cannot imagine it.
       Out of such modern solecisms,
       no imagination can come
       as in the ancient hell
       no imagination could be born.

Still I must say that I have imagined it,
        even as I am poorly known
        and poorly know
        and wait for the light
        in which I will be known
        and will fully know,
        a single author!
 4th
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children
  “whom I love in Truth, “2 John 2:1
       I have been thinking about the question of change.  It is hard not too as “one can say with some certainty that the world never looked so motley as now.” I should own up to fact that I am quote Friedrich H̀ölderlin, the German poet whom I have previously mentioned, writing to his friend, Johann Ebel, at the beginning of 1797.   “It is an immense multifariousness of contradictions and contrasts.  Old and new.  Civilized and barbarian.  Malice and passion.  Selfishness in sheep’s clothing, selfishness in wolf ‘s clothing.  Superstition and unbelief, Servitude and despotism, Unreasonable wisdom, unwise reason.  Feeling without thinking, thinking without feeling.  History, experience, tradition, without philosophy–philosophy without experience.  Energy without principles, principles without energy.  Discipline without humanity, humanity without discipline.  Feigned obligingness, shameless impertinence.  Precocious young boys--silly old men.  The litany could be continued from sunrise to midnight without having named more than a thousandth part of the chaos that is humanity.”  It does some how seem to fit our present.  Hölderlin then goes on to declare to his friend: “But that is how it should be!”
       Hölderlin’s friend experiences the prospect of change as catastrophic.  We are talking among other thing the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte! Hölderlin counsels that he should experience this as a process which he should embrace.  The crux of their difference is that Ebel is holding on to the view that universe is a static event, while Hölderlin, with his friends in the early romantic circle to which he belongs, has broken though to the view that the universe is itself a process.  In his poetry this will be expressed in the ubiquitous metaphor of a river, and in his letters and essays, he has by this time given this point of view a clear and repeated expression.  His work is among  the earliest expression of the romantic tradition that will blossom in the early decades of new century, particularly in Germany and in England.  
       This transformation of thinking about the universe does not only effect theology, philosophy, and literature, it also effects the natural sciences, especially geology and biology.  The certainty of a static universe blocked the way to an evolutionary science.  Michael Rectenwald’s paper From Romantic Catastrophism to Victorian Gradualism: A Reading of Epistemes, which I am currently studying and hope to review in this blog, is focused on the role these alternative understands played a role in birth pains of evolutionary sciences.  I am betting that a dialogue with this paper can clarify how a pivot in thought takes place, which now seems to have taken place again in our current cultural life.  Certainly, we seem again to experience change as catastrophic and is it because we have again concluded that our universe is a static?
       Many of us on both end of the political spectrum fear and/or wish for catastrophic change.  Few can see their way to hope in the measured steps of a process, of some particular narrative, since that hope seems to have been ill placed.  But I am sure that a catastrophic event will make nothing new.  How and with what kind of poetic, will we find the way to walk out of the conflict in which we have chosen to live, demands our attentions.

 Faithfully,  Michael, The Elder of Omaha
 3rd
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
                        “To the elect lady and her children “whom I love in Truth, “2 John 2:1

        This past week I have posted a discussion of Psalm 2 under the label, The Hebrew Psalms and Praying the Narrative.  Psalm 2 is a particularly interesting psalm because it is easy to imagine its performance in its original setting.  It took place in the royal court of Jerusalem where a kind of state dinner was being held.  The dignitaries are the kings and ambassadors of the nearby city states and the performance which began as entertaining suddenly takes on the form of a warning aim at the guest lest they should have any thoughts of conspiring among themselves against Jerusalem’s authority. God would laugh them to scorn should they have the nerve to try. 
        The Psalm is also interesting because it is the location of one of most heavily interpreted texts in the Hebrew Testament: “You are my Son, this day I have begotten you.”  Clearly, in the original performance this refers to the present king of Israel, but in subsequent interpretations it becomes a reference to a future messiah.  The study, under the label Hebrew Psalms and Praying the Narrative, has an extended discussion of these issues.  Suffice it here to say to the general reader that what is at stake in this discussion is how we experience a text.  If we look at text to discover truths, then it will be an either/or, and it will lead, as it has done in the past, to rather forced arguments with unpleasant consequences.  If the text means only the king at that time, then, the text is reduce to mere curiosity. Or if it means only this particular individual is the messiah, then the ancient performer is merely a tool.   If, as I think we should, read text for the purpose of finding relationships with others, then the multiplicity of levels each has something to offer us and it is no longer and either/or.
          My reaction to my study of Psalm 1 and 2 this past couple of weeks, set me to working on a poem in which I might express my own theory of how one should read the psalms.   This is, in part, an explanation of why I am running behind in my work.  I will share with you its beginning stanza which I think can help you understand the point I am making.  I should point out that the word hasidim which occurs in the poem is the Hebrew word for “pious ones,” “saints” who make up the congregation of the righteous.  It is to the hasidim that the author of Psalm 1 speaks.

                             When I pray the Book of Psalms,
                             I keep company with the hasidim.
                             Together we eat the bread of heaven,

                             with the Wisdom Editor who framed the psalms
                                      and taught us the law from the Aleph to the Tau
                                      and bid us in hearts to recite it day and night.
                             with the performer who sang above the lyre
                                      asking why, the nations did conspire,
                                      against God and God’s messiah.

More to follow.

        During the week, I have finished my read of  Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, a narrative that begins in Gohyang Korea in 1910 and traces the journey of Korean family through their migration to Osaka, Japan in 1933 through the family’s stay in Toyko up to 1989.  I am glad to have done so for through its narrative I feel a bit more connect to what underlays the peace negotiation on the Korean peninsula.  It also help  to penetrate the issue of racial discrimination, in a form which seems so unlike our own, but whose destructive results are so much the same.
        My reading this coming week returns to the letters and essays of the early German romantic poet, Friedrich Hölderlin.  They are such a delight. In a letter to his sister in mid November of 1790, he tells of walking with his fellow seminary student, G. W.F. Hegel, to a Chapel built on a rise just outside of the village of Würmlingen, famous for its view of the Swabian countryside.  One can only imagine the animated conversation between the future poet who would come to be known as one of Germany’s finest and the future philosopher who would come to be known as one of Germany’s greatest.  How exciting it would to have been able to hear what they were saying!  I another letter, after their graduation has separated them, Hölderlin writes to Hegel.  It is warm and personal, expressing how much he misses Hegel’s company.  Then he says in a rather fierce testimony that they cannot really be separated because “we parted with the watch word ‘the Kingdom of God’ By that watch word we would, I believe, recognize each other after every possible metamorphosis.”  This is a stunning text and should cause Hölderlin scholars and Hegel scholars to reassess what they think they know about their about their principles!
        This coming week my assignment is to add a post to the label, Romanticism and the Recovery of the Narrative.  It will take a deeper look at the relationship between the poet and the philosopher as way to assess the argument of a paper by Michael Rectenwald entitled From Romantic Catastrophism to Victorian Gradualism: A Reading of Epistomologies” which has come my way.   It is a challenging paper by a prominent scholar of the State University of New York, recently embroiled in a controversy over political correctness, an issue on which one can be correct only if it is ignored, which is what I  intend to do.

                                           Faithfully,  Michael The Elder of Omaha
 2nd
 Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
 “To the elect lady and her children “whom I love in Truth,”2 John 1:1

       This past week I have posted a review of a book by Michiko Kakutani, The Death of Truth, and launched a fourth label: Jesus and the Meta Narrative.  As I mentioned last week, I keep a summer lent and in do so keep company with Francis of Assisi who famously kept this summer lent in the year 1224.  There on Mt. Alverno, toward the end of his fast, he received the stigmata.  In his isolated solitary cell, he claimed that a falcon regularly awakened him for Matin, which begins “O Lord, open thou our lips.”  So at my Morning Prayer when I speak those words, I like to think myself as having been stirred to my duty  by Brother Falcon.
       The reading at Morning Prayer this week begins with the long speech of Stephen from the Book of Acts.  Whenever I have encountered it in the past, I admit to being  puzzled.  How in the world could a defendant suppose that such an incredibly long closing argument could win the day.  “Let me tell you the history of our people.”  Was he stalling for time?  If you go to critical commentaries on the Book of Acts, they will, for the most part, give you a wink and say well it was not Stephen, but the author of the Book of Acts who created such a lengthy speech.  But it occurred to me for the first time, perhaps because of this blog! that it was a particularly apt defense.  What Steven is charged with, much like Jesus at this trial, was a violation of the law.  The law says you cannot speak of God in a familiar sense, making yourself or anyone God’s partner, son.  Behind this charge is the concept that revelation is given in ideas, precepts and/or laws.   Stephen’s argument rests on the claim that the revelation, which is called Torah, is actually a narrative, a story that begins with the call of Abraham out of Ur of Chaldees.  Followers of this blog while recognize that Stephen’s interpretation of revelation coincides with the theme of this blog.
       This is particularly appropriate to the publication of the label, “Jesus and the Meta Narrative” this week, for it sets out the proposal that Jesus must be liberated from being the object of doctrine and/or myth by means of making him again the subject a narrative.  This recognizes that a tradition that was strangling from its own self codification, suddenly was broke open by its confrontation with Jesus, launching a vast and varied narrative effort, which, I should think, includes not only Gospel writers and the epistlists, but early Rabbinists as well.  More by ways of re-imagining Jesus will follow under this label and hopefully some strenuous debate as well!    
       My reading this week has centered on Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko.  It is a narrative that begins in Gohyang Korea in 1910 and traces the journey of Korean family through their migration to Osaka, Japan in 1933 to joining the Korean minority which continues in to live in Japan to this day.  We see through the eyes of these characters the history of depression and war which we think we know, but, in fact, know in part, through a glass darkly.  As Min Jin Lee says at the beginning of her book “History has failed ordinary people.”  Her narrative is giving ordinary people a selfhood that history must reckon with or not continue to be history, but myth.
      I find it especially interesting to step out of western narratives, into these innovative eastern narratives, where the novel tradition is rather young.  Min Jin Lee’s novel is preceded in my reading list by Madeleine Thien, Do Not say We have Nothing, Xue Yiwei, Dr Bethuhen’s Children, Mo Yan, Red Sorghum and China’s foundational novel, The Dream of the Red Chamber.  In these narrative threads, we find an individuals moving though space and time defying fate and determinism in the quest of a free future.  This strikes me as the romantic invention of the lyric and novel narrative, hence the label in this blog “Romanticism and the Recovery of Narrative.”   Perhaps it would be better to call this their re-discovery, because they seem to fit into the Meta Narrative, began a long time ago with the words: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country. . .’”
       In this coming week there should be a post in the label on Romanticism on the poetics of the German poet, Hölderlin and the promised discussion of Psalm 2.

Faithfully,  Michael The Elder of Omaha
                                             1st Epistle of the Elder of Omaha
                         “To the elect lady and her children “whom I love in Truth,”
     So St. John, who styled himself as an elder, long ago greeted the community and its members in communion with him.  From his epistolary example, I am borrowing a feature for this blog.  Once a week, on Thursdays, a letter will be posted.  It will report on what is on my mind, what I am reading and/or what is new in the various discussion tracks on this blog. 
 Today finds me beginning the Lent of the Feast of St. Michael, or “summer lent” as I have come to call it.  Once widely observed in the Western Church of the Middle Ages, it is largely forgotten and unobserved.  It became anchored  in my spirituality some 25 years ago when I learned that St. Francis of Assisi kept this lent on Mt. Alverno in 1225.  It was in the course of this lent that he received the marks of the cross on his body, the so-called stigmata.  The account of his lent that year can be read in “The Little Flower’s of St. Francis,” something that I  have done annually as part of keeping this lent.
     This is relevant to this blog because of the sobriety that it brings to my affairs, not least of which is taking on the disorder of this blog!  Hence my resolve is to post weekly  a letter addressed to all readers to share with them things that they might have in common and to direct them to things in the blog which might be of particular interest to them. 
 The overall theme which unifies this blog is the concept of narrative, which is alternative to ideas and facts that generally are assumed to either singularly (idealist or empiricist) or together (eclecticist) contain the truth.  Our motto is that the truth is in the narrative.    That theme will appear under four labels: Romanticism and the Recovery of Narrative:  Americana in Search of a Narrative;  Hebrew Psalms:  Praying the Narrative; and Jesus and the Meta-narrative.  The fourth label has not yet made an appearance, but will before much longer, trusting in the sobriety of this lent.  Other wise each of the other labels has an initial post and some added comment.  Your comments a much desired as I hope that this blog can be dialogical.
      Presently, I have been laboring on a review of a book by Michiko Kakutani, The Death of Truth.  It is a very well written alarm sounded against trends in Western government, particularly, the Trump administration, drawing parallel with the fascism of the past century.  Part of Kakutani’s thesis argues that the cause of these trends lies in the loss of a meta-narrative.  This is, of course, the thesis of our discussion under the label Americana in Search of a Narrative.  It does not, however, intend to be alarmist as it does to call you “to come labor on.”  The review should be posted within the next couple of days.
      One of the thing Kakutani notes in her book is that since 2016 Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” has more citations than it has had in the past 30 years!  Our friend Shelley Joye as an author has recently posted the poems opening lines on this blog and in the comments I have added a couple of remarks, one of which is a new poem I have written  questioning Yeats’ poem, called “2019 A Second Coming to the Master’s Arm.”
     There also will soon be a new posting in the Hebrew Poetry label, a study of Psalm 2 and of Psalm 10.  This morning, I have returned to Psalm 16, whose Hebrew is humbling.  It’s now the fifth or sixth visitation to this psalm’s  Hebrew text and it is still a struggle to make it read.  It is a prime example of how much each Psalm in a linguistic universe of its own and how much it relied on the performers who carried them in their heads.
     Much depends on this lent helping me avoid distractions!
                                   Faithfully,  Michael The Elder of Omaha

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