Tag Archives: justice

Ahab/ king or cranky toddler?


          Phenomenal cosmic power; itty bitty living space! This may not ring a bell for all of you, but it is one of the greatest lines from Disney’s Aladdin. It is part of Genie’s explanation of the highs and lows of the gig of being a genie. He also lists certain provisos and quid pro quos to the wishes he can grant. He can’t kill anybody, he can’t bring anyone back from the dead, and he can’t make anyone fall in love with someone else. Not only that, the only way for him to gain his freedom is for a person to use one of his 3 wishes to free him.

          In the discussion from Starters for Sunday Fourth Sunday after Pentecost from the Church of Scotland, there are five themes identified for this week. From Power, Justice, forgiveness, restoration and grace they draw the discussion to the key theme, woven through the story of Naboth’s vineyard, of the sovereignty of God.

            Today we read about King Ahab again. This time, though, he was being more of a petulant toddler than a king. The first people to read this scripture were probably the Israelites who were in exile and it is likely that it was written to explain to them why God had allowed their exile.

            Ahab and his wife Jezebel had gone to stay in their secondary palace. Apparently, he liked gardening but when he saw the vineyard of Naboth next door he wanted to buy it from him. Naboth refused to sell the land of his ancestors. Not only was this his “family farm” but the vineyard had been granted to his ancestors when the Israelites arrived in the promised land, and when God granted that land he made it clear that the land was for their use in perpetuity, but that it didn’t belong to them. They were told that it was never to be sold permanently. Naboth was being faithful to the will of God when he refused the Ahab. He was, unlike Ahab much of the time, being obedient to the real sovereign of Israel, God.

          When Ahab could not convince Naboth to sell him the land, nor trade it for even better land he was disconsolate. Most kings would not have even offered a purchase or trade, brutality was the norm for kings of the day. I don’t say that to justify Ahab in any way, but rather to highlight the difference with kings of Israel and Judah who did not rise to power through their own actions or by birth but through God’s anointing. There were a few provisos and quid pro quos. The king must not consider himself better…than any other Israelite and he must not use his position to accumulate wealth for himself (Deut 17:14-20). God made it clear that they were to live in accordance with his commandments, remain faithful to him, and imitate his heavenly rule.

          When he returned from the vineyard, Ahab moped, pouted, and refused to eat. Not only was he not getting his way, but as a king he had expected to be obeyed without delay and this made him feel powerless. When she noticed him moping around the palace more like a toddler than a king, Jezebel couldn’t take it. She asked what the problem was, told him to stop being such a baby and eat, and then set about to get him the vineyard.

            Unbothered by loyalty to God (she worshiped Baal) niceties or ethics, she arranged to have Naboth killed. Not only did she do such a vile thing, but so did all the people and advisors who went along with her plan. Naboth died at the hands of the townspeople for trumped up charges of cursing God and king. When he was dead the elders and nobles got word back to Jezebel that Naboth was dead and she, in turn, informed her husband and told him to go take possession of the vineyard. Problem solved!

          Ahab was Israel’s king. When God agreed to have a king anointed for Israel he warned them that life under a human king would not be a bed of roses. He knew, as do we through experience that powerful people and powerful institutions may start out working for the greater good, but too many turn to using their power for personal gain of one kind or another. Some want more and more power, today New Brunswick, tomorrow the world! Some use their power to belittle and diminish others like bullies on the school ground or in the workplace.

          After Ahab took possession of the vineyard, God sent Elijah to him to pronounce his judgement for this crime. He told Ahab and Jezebel that they would die horrible deaths. “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” (v 19). Our reading stopped at that point, but the story continues. Ahab actually repents and lives a more godly life for a while, but in the end he and Jezebel are killed and their bodies are dumped in the vineyard they had stolen where they would be torn apart by wild animals.

A story

King Canute was once ruler of England. The members of his court were continually full of flattery. “You are the greatest man that ever lived…You are the most powerful king of all…Your highness, there is nothing you cannot do, nothing in this world dares disobey you.”

The king was a wise man and he grew tired such foolish speeches. One day as he was walking by the seashore Canute decided to teach them a lesson.

“So you say I am the greatest man in the world?” he asked them.

“O king,” they cried, “there never has been anyone as mighty as you, and there never be anyone so great, ever again!”

“And you say all things obey me?” Canute asked.

“Yes sire” they said. “The world bows before you, and gives you honour.”

“I see,” the king answered. “In that case, bring me my chair, and place it down by the water.”

The servants scrambled to carry Canute’s royal chair over the sands. At his direction they placed it right at the water’s edge.

The King sat down and looked out at the ocean. “I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?”

“Give the order, O great king, and it will obey,” cried his entourage

“Sea,” cried Canute, “I command you to come no further! Do not dare touch my feet!”

He waited a moment, and a wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet.

“How dare you!” Canute shouted. “Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!”

In came another wave lapping at the king’s feet. Canute remained on his throne throughout the day, screaming at the waves to stop. Yet in they came anyway, until the seat of the throne was covered with water.

Finally Canute turned to his entourage and said, “It seems I do not have quite so much power as you would have me believe. Perhaps now you will remember there is only one King who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him.”

          Even some of greatest of Israel’s kings were, as are the rest of us, flawed. Regardless of who has earthly power over us, God is our sovereign, our true king to whom we owe our loyalty and obedience. Whether we find ourselves in positions of power or not, we are called to live out our lives in justice and love. This leaves us with two big questions. The notes on Church of Scotland starters for Sunday states them this way; “what does justice mean when we try to live it out relationally?” and, “what does it mean to live both justice and love in our lives?” As Presbyterians in Canada we have answer to that in our statement of faith, Living Faith section 8.4.

God is always calling the church to seek that justice in the world which reflects the divine righteousness revealed in the Bible. 

God’s justice is seen when we deal fairly with each other and strive to change customs and practices that oppress and enslave others. 

Justice involves protecting the rights of others. It protests against everything that destroys human dignity. 

Justice requires concern for the poor of the world. It seeks the best way to create well-being in every society. It is concerned about employment, education, and health, as well as rights and responsibilities. 

Justice seeks fairness in society. It involves the protection of human beings, concern for the victims of crime, as well as offenders. It requires fair laws justly administered, courts and penal institutions that are just and humane. 

Justice opposes prejudice in every form. It rejects discrimination on such grounds as race, sex, age, status, or handicap. Justice stands with our neighbours in their struggle for dignity and respect and demands the exercise of power for the common good.

How Many People Live In Your World?


As I was driving to take supper to my friend who is in a nursing home I was listening to The Message on XM Radio.  They played a song called My Own Little World by Matthew West.  Singing along it brought me to reflect on how often my world is underpopulated.  When the news is uncomfortable or disheartening, I will turn it off and I rarely give until it hurts.  Read through the lyrics below, reflect on them and listen for God’s urging as you realize opportunities you have to let others into your world today.

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I’ve never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me
I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give ’til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don’t like what I see
it’s easy to do
when it’spopulation me
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said “Help this homeless widow”
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, “God, what have I been doing?
“So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there’s
Population two
What if there’s a bigger picture
what if I’m missing out
What if there’s a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me

Read more: MATTHEW WEST – MY OWN LITTLE WORLD LYRICS http://www.metrolyrics.com/my-own-little-world-lyrics-matthew-west.html#ixzz1mDXWdU00 
Copied from MetroLyrics.com 

You can listen to this with lyric slides at the following link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvSwcMp9vU4 

Willing Faith : “If Ye Know These Things, Happy Are Ye If Ye Do Them”


Getting Active For The Climate

As you now know, I recently read Day 289 from The Message//Remix:Solo which was entitled “Getting Our Way”.  This was a reflection on Galatians 5, more specifically 5:16-17, 19-23.  Following the Bible text are suggested ideas to think about, pray about, and ideas for living out the message.

“LIVE

Hold one of the following words in front of you today; exuberance, serenity, willingness,compassion, conviction.  Let the word permeate what you do.” Willingness seems to be an easier focus to handle than either exuberance or serenity.  It brings to mind years and years of hearing my father quote, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them!” John 13:17  It was basically his way of telling us to get off our butts and get into action. It isn’t enough to know what the right thing to do is if you don’t then go ahead and do it!  If we know that smoking will kill us then clearly we should not do it.  If the traffic light says to stop then you had better stop.

Most of us watch, listen to, or read the news.  We know about a great many things going on in our world.  We know there is great famine in the horn of Africa, we know that there is discrimination, we know that there are people in our own towns who do not have adequate shelter.  We take great pride in educating our children.  We learn about history so that we see the paths to avoid based on the results of prior civilizations.  And yet…how do you get from knowing the right thing to actually doing something about it?

One of the ways is to find a group of people who are on the same page as you are.  It is much easier to stand up and say no to something like hydro-fracking with a group of people than to be a lone voice.  Social pressure on a single person to sit down and shut up can be immense and too much for most of us.  Luckily there are organizations whose purpose is to help people to go from outraged to willing. To mention a few:

  • KAIROS Canada

  • Green Peace

  • PWS&D Presbyterian World Service and Development

  • 350.org

  • One Campaign

  • Amnesty International

 For every international or national organization there are usually two or three local groups, either branches of the larger cause or working for more specific local issues.   “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead  Be willing, be one of the few!

Part 2 – Come As The Real You: Dressing to reflect what we stand for


The coming week at our school is Anti-Bullying Week.  Our Humankind group has put together a week of themes and activities to shed a light on, and encourage a change in the bullying situation in our school and society.  On Wednesday we are asking people to come to school as the “Real You.”  

I bought a blank t-shirt to decorate.  What did I decide to put on it?  On the front there is an happy face surrounded by things for which I stand up; peace, justice, love, equality, freedom, etc.  On the back I put a big check mark with the words, “Do What’s” above it.

Come As The Real You: Dressing to reflect what we stand for


The coming week at our school is Anti-Bullying Week.  Our Humankind group has put together a week of themes and activities to shed a light on, and encourage a change in the bullying situation in our school and society.  One day we are wearing our pyjamas to reflect that the school should be a safe and comfortable place for everyone within the walls.  One day we are looking for our Anti-Bullying superheros.  Friday will be Blue Shirt Day which is a national campaign to eliminate bullying.

Our other main theme day reflects the power of peer pressure and bullying to make people hide themselves, whether literally in corners hoping not to be seen, or less directly by changing how they dress, changing their hair, or not taking part in activities they enjoy.  On Wednesday we are asking people to come to school as the “Real You.”  I have explained it as showing the inner you, or the things for which you stand.  For instance, if you come off to others as a tough and scary person but really have a soft heart and care for people you might come dressed as a teddy bear, a marshmallow, with a big heart on your t-shirt or something like that.  You might put what people see on the front of the shirt and what people may not know on the back.

I have been trying to decide what to wear.  First I will wear jeans and a t-shirt because I am really an informal person.  I bought a blank t-shirt to decorate and now I am trying to decide what to draw or write.  There is some inherent danger in putting inner feelings and thoughts out there for other people to see.  If they were ever inclined to bully you, this would give them excellent ammunition.

I am thinking of putting a stick person type head representing me with a cross around my neck.  Above my head in thought bubbles I would have the words Peace, Love and Justice.  Filtered through my faith, those are the three things for which I am willing to stand up.  Above that I will put words or symbols to represent the various “causes” that I work for.  I could put organizations names, problems we fight against, people who need our help or other things.  Should I have the causes wrap around to include my back?  I am still quite undecided.

My minister had a couple interesting suggestions.  She first said a big check mark.  I immediately thought about my role as a teacher and how much I dislike having to grade student work.  That was not her thought.  For her it would represent that I always try to do what is right.  I suspect this idea will find its way into a campaign for Humankind another year.  Her other idea was just to draw a straight horizontal line to represent wanting to make everyone equal.  (As I typed that it made me think of the scripture saying the valleys will be exulted and the mountains made low.)  These ideas are far less wordy and would require explanation for people to get the point, but maybe that is the point.  It is easy to skim over a bunch of words isn’t it?

I’ll let you know later what I end up doing with my t-shirt.  As we begin the third week of Advent lets all focus on showing for what we stand, and work to bring joy to those in our communities who are the least joyful.

Mehc-ote-pesqin : I Am One (part 2)


In Luke 7:36-8:3 we read the story of Jesus’ dinner at the home of a Pharisee.  When he had arrived he was given none of the regular special treatment that would normally have been given to an honoured guest.  When the woman he considered to be a sinner bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, kissed his feet and anointed them with ointment the host complained that the woman shouldn’t be touching him.  The host went even further, saying that the fact that he allowed it was sure proof that Jesus was not a prophet.  In response, Jesus told story about two men whose debts were forgiven and Pharisee agreed that the one forgiven more would be more grateful, he then showed how the woman had honoured him according to her great gratitude, while the Pharisee had not been very grateful at all.  Jesus told the woman her sins were forgiven.

 

My friend and colleague Ron has much to forgive, and I feel honoured that he has given me permission to share a little of his story with you…Ron is from the Tobique Nation and used to teach with me at the High School in Oromocto.  He is a keeper of the sweat.  Growing up was a real combination of family and culture on reserve and discrimination off.  He had friends who were taken to residential school. He went to day school with the nuns in his area for four years, and then to the regular local schools. His mother taught him to run home if he saw the RCMP and priest together. Ron tells of the culture shock of the school system and people assuming that he was stupid.  Any time anything went wrong at the school they would round up all the native kids and line them up in the gym and demand a confession.  They would leave them there for hours as there was most often nothing to confess.  Ron and the other kids from the First Nation were treated just as the woman in the Gospel reading.  And yet they had done nothing to deserve this.  They were born, as were we all, just as God had intended, loved by God just as much.

 

At the General Assembly in 2010 time was spent looking about  issues of the indigenous peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  One speaker was Chief Terry Paul of the Membertou First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Chief Paul offered a glimpse into his painful experience with the residential school program: “For me, the residential schools issue is very difficult to think about, let alone talk about, to go back to that five-year-old that I left behind. I blamed government, religions, even God for what happened. But it was people that did this. And here I am today, ready to forgive. I am not only a survivor; I am a witness to this horrible history.”

 

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, Marie Wilson then shared with the Assembly some insight into the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “A huge part of the story of the Commission is about our failure in the past to see the universally sacred, and revisit that,” the commission “is not a national guilt trip, but Canada’s chance to breathe new life into what the Constitution says.”

 

Wilson stated that “the point of residential schools was to remove the Indian from the child, so within a few decades there would be no ‘Indian problem’,” with the result that “three and four-year-old children were removed from their families and put into isolated communities, going months and years without family contact.” She asked the Commissioners, “What would you do if they came to take your child, just learning to talk, barely out of diapers?”  One of the seven Truth and Reconciliation national events is coming up October 26-29th, 2011 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  We continue to need to promote healing and reconciliation.

 

gkisedtanamoogk  is a member of the Wampanoag Nation from Mashpee, “Massachusetts.”  He is married to a woman from the Mi’kmaq Nation and lives with his wife and children at Esgenoopotiitj.   Both the Wampanoag and Micmac Nations are part of the Wabanaki Confederacy of Nations. Gkisedtanamoogk works hard to educate and guide his people on the red path, and to open the eyes of non-aboriginal people to their unique way of viewing the world.  In his book co-authored by Frances Hancock, Ceremony is Life Itself, he expresses what it is to live your life spirituality better than I have found it almost anywhere else…

 

“We structure our life on a Ceremonial Cycle…Our whole way of Life, Ceremonially speaking, is one continuous Song, one continuous Ceremony.  The way we move is a Dance.  Ceremony is Life itself.  It is the way we do things.  Ceremony, to us, is the daily Life; everything we do, everything we think about is all part of that same expression.  From Planting the Corn to raising the Sacred Bundle, the Children, we are conscious that all Life is Sacred, that all Life is a Song; and we are thankful for it.”

 

“The construction of Giving Thanks is literally: I am exposing my enoughness, my fullness.  It expresses that my needs are met.  The condition of expressing that my needs are met, that the needs are met, is what we call Thanksgiving…I am up this morning.  I have Life.  I have risen/ I have come from the Sleep Time, the Dream Time…All that should govern us as Human Beings is our Honoring of the Creator, our honoring  of all our Relatives….That is the whole meaning of our Existence: becoming one with the Great Mother and All Our Relations.”

 

        The next time someone greets you with, “How are you?” or, “Donnegok?” I pray that you will be able to respond with,  “Mejedebesquin!”

Mehc-ote-pesqin : I Am One (part 1)


How do you greet people when you meet them?  At King’s Landing Historical Settlement we said “Good day,” at the high school some kids say hi by pushing each other into lockers, hi, hey, bonjour, beunos dias… When I wanted to learn some Korean I learned how to say their greeting, “anyong haseyo”, and one year during Native Awareness week at school they taught us a bunch of nouns, but I asked how to say hello in Maliseet. An informal greeting like “hey”  is “quay” but the main greeting is “Donnegok”, how are you?

At the end of this month, Halifax will be hosting the Truth And Reconciliation Commission hearings.  I am not an indigenous person and I make no pretense to even the slightest degree of expertise on the topic of Canada’s indigenous peoples.  But, I love to learn, and there is much to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters, especially about our stewardship of creation, and how to live a truly spirit filled life.

I am going to use the two stories; 1 Kings 21:1-10 (11-14) 15-21a, and Luke 7:36-8:3, and stories of three of my indigenous contacts to look at the answer to Donnegok… “Mejedebesquin”,     I am one.

In Psalm 5:1-8 we read,

“4For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
   evil will not sojourn with you.
5The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
   you hate all evildoers.
6You destroy those who speak lies;
   the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.”

 

All of those negative descriptions are what King Ahab and his pagan wife Jezebel represent. Ahab was spoiled. At his secondary palace in Jezreel, there was a neighbour, Naboth, who owned a vineyard which had been in his family for generations.  Ahab wanted to take this land away from the person who had it and turn it into a vegetable garden next door for his own convenience.  He offered either replacement land or the equivalent in cash.  The answer he received was, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”  Ahab wasn’t used to hearing no and he became depressed.  He told his wife about it and she told him not to worry.  She set up a plot which resulted in the death of Naboth thus allowing Ahab to have his garden. While Ahab was in the middle of this garden he had taken through villainy, God sent the message that he was not pleased.

 

There are several underlying question here.  First of all was the land either of theirs to give?  And even if it was theirs, how could you put an appropriate price on the land of one’s ancestors?  In Turtle Island (the continent of North America) “fair deals” and cheating, lying, and trickery have long been used to deprive the indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands.  Deals were made but not honoured, diseased blankets were “given” out in a very successful gamut to kill off large populations, reservations were formed and the people restricted from using the land in the traditional manner.

My friend Hugh Akagi is the chief of the Passamaquoddy people whose land straddles the Canada-US border and includes St. Andrew’s New Brunswick.  This First Nation is recognized only on the US side of the border.  As Hugh says, when he is on this side of the border he fades in and out because according to the government of Canada, he doesn’t exist.  You may read his letter which was written to the United Nations in 2002 at http://www.sipayik.com/akagi’s_appeal_to_the_un.htm

What Will Your Song Be? part 2


When you hear of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, do you immediately think of her quick thinking that allowed her mother to be the nursemaid for her brother under the protection of the
Pharaoh’s daughter?  Maybe you think of when she and Aaron challenge Moses’ authority since God had also spoken through
both of them at which time she was punished, being struck with leprosy and Aaron and Moses plead for her healing.  I think she is most readily associated with this simple song of celebration at being rescued from a terrible fate.  Scholars believe, in fact, that the original song on the shore of the sea was the simple two line celebration song of Miriam and that the longer version, attributed to Moses and the men, was actually written much later.  If you study the lines in terms of poetry this makes a lot of sense as there is no use of simile or metaphor in the two lines, no sign of exalted language, just the most basic and important facts.  Miriam is known for her song, for what will you and I be remembered?

Mary, unlike Miriam but much more like most of us, was a total nobody to the greater community of the tribes of Israel.  She
was pregnant but not married, the father was God.  What she had to look forward to was being the central figure of all the local gossip, being shunned, and probably losing her fiancé.  She sang in thanksgiving for news which most young women would have thought was going to totally mess up their lives!  Mary sang when she greeted her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant, whom she visited right away after receiving her news.  There were no
instruments, no dancing, and no big crowd.  But she sang about being the most fortunate woman on earth and of all the good things that God had done for Israel since the days of Abraham.  She praised him for showing strength to bring down the tyrants, and his mercy in pulling up the victims, filling the hungry, and his faithfulness in remembering his promises to Abraham.  Obviously Mary is known for much more than her song, and yet it is the Magnificat, a song sung with almost no audience at all, which has become a part of liturgy.  We don’t need a crowd, we don’t need drums and trumpets to sing our songs.

Our children have begun another school year complete with the new shoes, the indoor and outdoor, the backpacks, binders, duo tangs, pens, pencils, erasers, etc. and a teacher/student ratio of no more than 1:29.  In Dadaab, currently the world’s largest
refugee camp, there are currently 156,000 school-age children.  Of those, 40,000 children now prepare to go back to school as well, but at a ratio of 1:100.  According to the UN, the camps are in desperate need of 1,800 more classrooms and the teachers to go with them. 

Whatever our place in the world, whatever our status in our culture, whether we are “somebodies” or “nobodies” we have a call to sing.  To be clear, while I firmly believe that everyone can sing music, it is not necessarily singing music to which I refer.   Anything you do to create harmony in the world, whatever you do in praise of God, whatever you do at God’s urging can be your song!  The feature of the September, 2011 issue of The Presbyterian Record is all about the Presbyterian women’s gathering which was held in the spring.  The theme was “Looking In, Shouting Out”.  At this event women from every province in Canada as well as from 12 partner countries met for workshops and worship on topics ranging from Caring for Creation, Nurtuting a Christian Family, Muslim Women-Myths and Facts, Yoga as Christian Practice, Bullying in Canada, and Women in Poverty.  The presenters of the workshops were shouting out!  They were
singing their songs!  And what of the over 500 who attended these workshops and worship services?  You don’t attend this kind of conference unless you already have a deep desire to make a change in the world, and these women were there preparing themselves to sing at home in their churches and communities, and perhaps even beyond.

I’ve been watching a British TV show lately called Ballykissangel.  It is about an English Priest who ends up
posted to a church in a little town in Ireland and all his misadventures.  Recently I watched an episode in which there
was a reporter who uncovered a scandal involving a local businessman and political candidate.  When the politician
suggested that the reporter was just, “whistling in the wind.”  the reporter’s response was that he was unable to whistle but he could  certainly sing really well!  He was not going to
keep a lid on the story; he was going to sing it out so that everyone would know.  Whether or not we can whistle, we
can all sing in some way or other to let everyone know about the great things God has done for us through his son Jesus.  In the words of a song by the Carpenters;

Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.
 
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.
 
Sing, sing a song
Let the world sing along
Sing of love there could be
Sing for you and for me.
 
Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song.

Too much to eat: gluttony in a land of plenty


I just came out of a restaurant with my parents having finished a great meal and, of course, feeling over-stuffed! Even having ordered the “mini” plate of liver and onions I was unable to finish all the fries. Don’t get me wrong though, I still had carrot cake for dessert!

A few days ago a friend sent me the following email which included pictures of families with the food they would eat in an average week on display.

“Quite a powerful story in pictures. What is eaten in one week around the world?  Very interesting assortment.  Note the large amount of drinks in some pictures.This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting e-mails I’ve ever received.  Take a good look at the family size & diet of each country, and the availability & cost of what is eaten in one week.

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide, Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina(Sure hope most American families eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less junk food than this family.)Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily, Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca, Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna, Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt : The Ahmed family of Cairo, Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53

Ecuador : The Ayme family of Tingo, Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan : The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village, Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad : The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp, Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Don’t know about you, but right about now, I’m counting my blessings!”

It is a pretty stark picture of the plenty with which most of us live, while others are smiling and proud to display what we would consider to be barely enough.  Growing up many of us were told to consider the starving Armenians when we didn’t finish all our supper.  Obviously our parents were hardly planning to send our left-overs overseas, but they were on track with their mention of the need to stop and think about the lack of balance in food distribution worldwide.

Prophet or Voice of Doom?


I think it is safe to say that there are still prophetic voices out there in the world today, probably not being paid much attention.  I think it is also clear that there are many people who get their five minutes of fame by predicting doom over one issue or another and they seem to be paid a great deal of attention.

 

I got the idea for this post a while ago while watching When Harry Met Sally with my daughters.  As he states himself, Harry has a dark side.  Particularly in the early part of the movie Harry makes many pronouncements which, while not necessarily without basis in reality, would suck the enjoyment out of almost any moment!  For instance;

 

Harry Burns: You take someone to the airport, it’s clearly the beginning of the relationship. That’s why I have never taken anyone to the airport at the beginning of a relationship.
Sally Albright: Why?
Harry Burns: Because eventually things move on and you don’t take someone to the airport and I never wanted anyone to say to me, How come you never take me to the airport anymore?
Sally Albright: Its amazing. You look like a normal person but actually you are the angel of death.

 

Later he and Sally actually discuss this tendency to the dark side;

 

Sally Albright: I have just as much of a dark side as the next person.
Harry Burns: Oh, really? When I buy a new book, I read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.

A doomsayer is “one given to forebodings and predictions of impending calamity”  (http://www.merriam-webster.com) Harry, is a doomsayer!  Another good candidate for the title of doomsayer would be Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh;

 

“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning,” he said. “Which I doubt,” said he.”Why, what’s the matter?””Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.””Can’t all what?” said Pooh, rubbing his nose.”Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

 

If predicting calamity is what it takes to be a doomsayer, then why do we not have a section in the Bible after the Pentateuch and Psalms and Wisdom Literature called Doomsayings?  If you read the beginning of many of the stories in the books of the prophets, they begin with warnings of catastrophe about to befall the people of Israel who have strayed from the ways of the Lord in one way or another.  Predictions of pandemics, military defeat, destruction of the Temple, and being taken into captivity abound!  I’m not sure I’d be in a hurry to invite a prophet to dinner at my house for fear they may have just such a message for me.

A prophet is,“one who utters divinely inspired revelations: as a often capitalized : the writer of one of the prophetic books of the Bible b capitalized : one regarded by a group of followers as the final authoritative revealer of God’s will <Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah> 2: one gifted with more than ordinary spiritual and moral insight; especially : an inspired poet 3: one who foretells future events : predictor” (http://www.merriam-webster.com)

 

The fundamental difference is that a prophet is divinely inspired.  The messages prophets share with the people around them are the words of God.   Some prophets in the past were pretty unhappy to be called upon to give the message they were told.  Jonah really didn’t want to help out the people of Nineveh and even ran away, but that didn’t end well for him and he delivered his message in the end.  There are stories of prophets hiding in caves in the wilderness to avoid crowds who were out to get them.  In 1 Kings 19 we read about Elijah, having challenged the prophets of Baal and won, ran away to a cave on Mt. Sinai to hide from Queen Jezebel who had vowed to kill him.

 

Regardless of the message a prophet may carry to us, our problem remains.  How can we tell when we are hearing from a true prophet and not a doomsayer?  Recently there was an individual who “prophesied” the coming of the rapture.  He claimed that the date and time were to be found written in Bible.  Many people were convinced by this prediction, some even selling all they had.  Many took it as a joke and there were many photos posted on Twitter of people’s clothing laid out as if they had just vanished from within them.

 

Our best hope is to look to the Bible to determine validity of such claims.  “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)  This is also stated in Matthew 24:36 and echoed again in Acts.  If our doomsayer of the day had really been speaking words from God, he would have known that the hour and the day would not be written in the Bible.’  Through study and prayer we seek the truth of God.