Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Splinter in the world’s eye
Today’s readings are about our relationship to truth. 2 Kings shows how the community is dependent on God’s life giving truth. When the community abandons truth, its life is endangered. Matthew 7.1-5 speaks of this relationship in term of an unconditional imperative. One must cling to truth through the efforts of making right judgement. When one’s ego is presented, harm is done to our neighbour. Jesus emphasises the importance of correct judgements. Being unjust with others, ultimately, provokes God’s judgement on us. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged: because the judgement you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.’
The direct link between the personal and the collective levels of justice should be noticed. Any historical captivity is the straightforward consequence of ignoring God’s presence in our neighbour. ‘The king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites’ for ‘the worshipped other gods.’
God’s presence is ‘like a play; which, akin to a large metallic ball is rolling even when it is not being played. Just like truth is present and effective in such towns too where no one tells the truth and every act is hypocrisy.’ (Janos Pilinszky, Conversations with Sheryl Sutton, Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, Budapest, második kötet, p.152.)
Truth is a warning. Truth is a call for conversion. Truth is the precondition of any life and growth. ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered them through my servants and prophets.’
he spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer 1: Grace and ‘the molten calf’ (Deuteronomy 9,11-end; Acts 9,32-end)
‘ The Lord gave me the two tablets of stone, even the tablets of the covenant.’ ‘For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you. But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also… I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness.’ Here, we see how Moses is a powerful intercessor. Jesus is our new Moses. We can imagine what an immense job it is to appease God and intercede for us – regarding our sins, as mankind, of historical scale.
‘ They are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.’ The Sacred seems to provoke in us a contrary behaviour. It is almost like a Freudian dynamic. When we achieve something good, establish a meaning, a new moral code ‒ we tend to undermine it. ‘The molten image’ is a powerful existential metaphor. This is the resulted distortion of our best qualities. In religious terms, ‘the molten images’ stands for our lack of openness and thanksgiving for God’s gifts.
When Moses returned from Mount Sinai, ‘the mount burned with fire’. Our culture, at present, is revolting against its best principles of life and care for Creation. The land of our culture burns with fire. This is a sign that the ‘Symbolic Order’ (Kristeva) is being melted into the volcano of its own underlying chaos.
The good news is that our new Moses, Jesus has the power to solidify these melting foundations. What a dramatic image! ‘I prayed for Aaron also the same time. And I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust.’ It is deeply symbolic that it is Aaron, the other ‘sacred leader’, who had submerged in the ‘revolt’ and led the making of the golden calf. There is a fallible part in all of us at the core of our ‘ability for culture’. Here, we are offered a vision of healing. The sins of our history, on a massive scale, can be seen from the outside as receding and becoming small. The source of this process is the powerful intercession of our new Moses, the Risen Lord: ‘I prayed therefore unto the Lord, and said, O lord, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance which thou has redeemed through thy greatness.’
The healing of Aeneas in Acts shows how God’s grace reverses and reshapes us. ‘And there Peter found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. And he said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.’ Symbolically, ‘illness’ is our distorted image, when who we supposed to be, fully functioning is ‘molten’.
Dorcas represents a ‘counter-force’ to this distortion. ‘Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.’ She was an active disciple. Active discipleship is important in reshaping ‘our molten/distorted image’.
When Dorcas had died, ‘all the widows stood by weeping’. They showed Peter ‘the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.’ The tears of these widows is an important existential image. The goodness of others can trigger out an inner transformation in us. We are transformed by their good works; and by those of ours. When Peter kneels down in the scene of healing and bringing Dorcas back to life, he kneels in front of this transformative goodness ‒ the source of it, Christ.
Peter heals. He participates in the power of Moses and Jesus to intercede. They restore Dorcas, and us, through his intercession. ‘Peter…kneeled down, and prayed; Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she was Peter, she sat up.’
Our being is restored: our ‘molten image’ regains its original shape and moral content. It is impossible to miss the scene from the Orthodox icons of Jesus’ descent to Hell. The detail of the image is the way Jesus holds the hands of the fallen Adam and Eve leading them to new life. ‘And Peter gave his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.’ We are re-melted into our fully functioning moral image. Your moral wholeness points beyond itself. It is a new ray of faith, hope, and love added to the ‘general brightness’ of our culture. In this way you are the icon of Christ, our Resurrected Lord. ‘And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.’
Leave a Reply.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..