The Smiling Heretic's Blog

Pentecost 2 :: What would it prophet....

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Q: How do you welcome a prophet?

A: Very carefully!

We often make the mistake of thinking that prophets were [are] people who can foretell the future. They go around in unkempt dress wearing long beards and carrying placards that spell the end of the world. Most of us would steer far clear of this kind of person—not that we think they may be right, but because we know they're crazy.

Or we think of people like Nostradamus who supposedly predicted everything from the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to the crash of the stock market in '29, hundreds of years prior to those events.

We'd be wrong on both accounts.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, prophets were men and women to whom God had given messages of concern and hope to God's people. Beginning with a recounting of the sins of the people, the messenger of God would spell out in no uncertain terms what the consequences would be if the people did not repent: war, famine, disaster, displacement. I don't know of anyone who would like to hear this kind of news. That's why the kings of Israel only wanted to hear prophets who spoke good things: like restoration, victory, peace. None of that doom-and-gloom stuff, if you please. And please do not make us change our ways!

Holy Trinity, Batman!

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How does one delve into the mystery of the essence of God? If you're a second- or third-century theologian, you use some very interesting words. Tongue twisters like hypostasis, homoousios, homoiousios, mystagogical, perichoresis and the like. Trinitas is also one of those ten-dollar words. It was coined by the second-century Roman theologian Tertullian. It, of course, means Trinity.

Now, I'm no master theologian myself, but I am wise enough to understand that many Christians have a deeply difficult time trying to wrap their heads around such a concept as the Holy Trinity. How can you believe in one God who reveals the Divine Self in three separate-yet-equal "persons" and not come across as some sort of crazy person? Isn't that the result of some kind of polytheistic-cum-monotheistic mind wrangling? Trying to fit a triangular God into a circular theological exposition? Huh? What?

The Feast of Pentecost :: Happy Birthday!

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I don’t recall going to many birthday parties when I was growing up. I’m not sure if that’s because I was unpopular or because most kids didn’t have birthday parties [I choose to believe the latter reason!]. There was that one time I was at a party bobbing for apples and someone held my head under the water for a long time. But, now that I think of it, that wasn’t a birthday party, it was a Halloween party. I just don’t recall birthday parties.

Of course, maybe I can’t remember going to any parties because I never had a birthday party growing up. Having been born in August, I can see why: it’s hard to throw a party during summer vacation. Everyone is gone. It’s so much easier when school is going on. Now there was that one summer when our family celebrated my birthday at Six Flags. That was great fun. But it wasn’t a real party, per se. I mean families have to celebrate your birthday, don’t they?

Easter 7 :: One

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"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do"

For the Seventies rock band Three Dog Night, one may be the loneliest number when you've just broken up with your girlfriend [or boyfriend], but for the followers of Jesus one is the most divine number around.

Speaking to his disciples on the eve of his glorification, Jesus prayed that, after his departure, they would experience the kind of relationship with one another that he had with Abba God. Far from being one that would ever end—and that would ever result in loneliness—the relationship between Jesus and God is one of mystical interdependence, joy, and love. All that God is, Jesus is. All that God has, Jesus has. All that God will be, Jesus will be. This is not a relationship in the normal "human" sense of the word. It is not a give-and-take that defines much of the way in which people relate to one another. Nor is it a sense in which each participant is an independent being, free to do whatever—as long as the other doesn't mind.

Ponderings for June 2011

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Well, it’s getting to be that time of year once again when people, itching to escape the confines of work and school [and, in this part of the world, the long cold winter] travel to exotic places like Kansas, Lake Okoboji, and Duluth. That’s right—summer vacation is upon us!

Like most kids growing up, I couldn’t wait for school to be out [well, there was Sarah; she loved school so much, she actually cried when classes were over]. Our family would often take trips to South Padre Island. This was long before real estate developers ruined the public beaches with “Do Not Trespass” signs warning interlopers to stay away from their hotels and condos. We probably went “beaching” four or five times a summer.

And there was the annual Fourth of July trip to be with my Dad’s family in Newgulf, Texas. Every Independence Day the company which “owned” the town [literally, if not figuratively] held a wonderful celebration in the town park. I remember the year we were scolded for shooting off bottle rockets from a hole on a fence post. It was great fun!

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