Archive for September, 2009

Christ healed “Lunatics”?

So, I’m reading in Matthew, again from Monsignor Knox and I arrive at Chapter 4 verse 24 and I read,

“. . . and they brought to him all those who were in affliction, distressed with pain and sickness of every sort, the possessed, the lunatics, the palsied, and he healed them.”

Lunatics? I question.  That doesn’t sound exactly politically correct.  So I consult my NIV, also on my lap.

It says,

” those having seizures”

But down in the commentary it adds, “The Greek word for this expression meant “moonstruck” and reflects the ancient superstition that seizures were caused by the changes of the moon.”

Leon Morris’ commentary on Matthew says,

“All three Synoptic Gospels make a great deal of Jesus’ power over demons. Matthew goes on to lunatics (apparently different from the demoniacs); these are often held to be epileptics in modern discussions (NRSV and other translations have “epileptics”), and some of the cases may indeed be those of epilepsy.”,  But we should bear in mind that the word is the exact etymological equivalent of “lunatic” and that there is no reason for denying that meaning here.”

The Translator’s Notes- written for translators whose mother tongue is not English says,

“those having seizures: In the Greek this literally means “moon-struck people.” Many people believed that the moon was a spirit that caused this sickness in some people (Carlton). Several commentators or versions say this means “crazy” (Lenski, JBP, LB, KJV). But here in 4:24, it most likely refers to people who have a shaking sickness called epilepsy. The person suddenly begins to shake, then falls down and continues to shake for a short time. And then he becomes aware again of the things around him. In NT times there was no medicine to cure this sickness.

So. . . probably, but not emphatically, referring to epilepsy,  and  put right next to demon possession which many moderns would label insanity:  all in a context of Christ healing any disorder which caused pain; physical, mental or spiritual.

Post-Script- Can’t help it.  My mind just seems to make these jumps.  Then what about “moonstruck calves?”  I guess there are are others who have wondered about that.


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Sisera and the girl from Kashmir

I’ll admit that I’ve always been a little squeamish about the story of Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera’s skull.  Yet she is immortalized in Deborah the Prophetess’ triumph song in Judges chapter five.

24 “Most blessed of women be Jael,
the wife of Heber the Kenite,
most blessed of tent-dwelling women.
25 He asked for water, and she gave him milk;
in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.
26 Her hand reached for the tent peg,
her right hand for the workman’s hammer.
She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,
she shattered and pierced his temple.
27 At her feet he sank,
he fell; there he lay.
At her feet he sank, he fell;
where he sank, there he fell–dead. (NIV)

I thought about it when  I read the article on BBC today of a teenage girl who took desperate measures to save her parents lives and herself from marriage by rape. I had to admire her bravery. Yes it’s a violent story, but how much violence without justification is going on in this world minute by minute?  And how terrible for a young girl  to be forced into her position.  Read about it.  And pray for her protection, and the protection of her family.

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God in the Alley

We attend a fairly large church- something around the 2,000 mark.  It means that it’s possible to walk through the swirl of between service bodies and not connect with someone familiar.  So Sunday I retreated to the church library, and despite my experience of past difficulties in remembering a church-borrowed book in the Sabbath rush to get out the door ( Why I normally just check through the 50 cent box of library discards- cause they don’t need returning.), I swiped three fairly recent looking books off a shelf- sans the help of a pair of glasses, and brought them home.

I hit pay dirt on the second.  This slim read of 130 pages is worth it.  It addresses being and seeing Jesus in a broken world, and is full of life stories from Toronto’s inner city.  It also has some good insights, and I quote:

“When I see that my brokenness, once acknowledged, becomes a place of meeting and an opportunity to dignify rather than dismiss or degrade others, I discover that my heart soars with the great hope that all my brokenness is ultimately redeemable in other ways . . . more than merely a series of painful experiences and personal failings to be survived; by the alchemy of grace, God will transmute it all into something of eternal value and beauty.

Suffering without meaning is the path to despair. Suffering with meaning is the trail to glory. And Jesus is the pioneer on that trail. There is no place we can go that he hasn’t been already.”

“It is a continual surprise that God is willing to pour his glory (“the glory of God in the face of Christ”) into a dusty, cracked-broken-jar of clay like me. It’s just as surprising when I see the glory leaking out through somebody else’s cracks. It’s so surprising that it’s easy to miss, easy to dispense with the ludicrous and faintly blasphemous notion that Jesus might be right here, right now.  Seeing is not necessarily believing. Sometimes it’s believing that allows me to see.”

God in the Alley, by Greg Paul, printed by Shaw Books.  Worth trolling your Church library for, or Amazon.

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A shiny from the Magpie

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King James Version or which. . .

My father in his latter days returned more and more to the King James Version, even leaving the New King James and going back to the beloved text he knew from his childhood.  For all that, his house is a treasure trove of English translations including some I have never consulted in twenty years.

People sometimes ask me about my preferred translation, and I will admit to hedging. They usually get a mini lecture on the spectrum of English translations available and what I perceive to be their varying strengths.  They are all- well- they are all translations, not originals. Translation is both art and science.  Scripture particularly,  being the Word of God, is always fresh,  glinting with new glimpses of the Almighty and new insights brought by his Spirit. It, most particularly, eludes the “ultimate translation.”  Certainly it should be accurate, natural, and esthetically pleasing but there are many ways to turn a phrase and subtle shadings that can be used to highlight nuances.  You cannot usefully say everything.  Efforts like the “Amplified Bible”, or the “Twenty-Six Translation New Testament” become cumbersome and distracting beyond bearing.

This morning I picked a slim red hard-bound New Testament off my shelf and started reading.

The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: A translation from the Latin Vulgate in the Light of the Greek Originals by Monsignor Ronald A. Knox

The Preface to the first Canadian Edition might be thought to be a trifle off-putting to a grand-daughter of a member of the Loyal Order of Orange:

“In the fourth century St. Jerome, encouraged by Pope St Damasus, translated the Bible from the then extant Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Known as the Vulgate this was the one and only Latin version among those current at the time which the Ecumenical Council of Trent declared to be authentic. It was translated into English and, appearing in 1582 became known as the Rheims version. It’s publication in France was the work of exiles, who set about their task while the reformers in Elizabethan England were occupied in trying to overcome the very foundations of the Church.  (Huum) The Rheims version had been revised several times when the Hierarchy of England and Wales, giving expression to the general agreement that the new translation of the Vulgate was desirable and not a little overdue, commissioned Mgr. Knox in 1939 to undertake this great work.”

Out of that came this Canadian School edition.  The preface ends with a quote from Pope Pius XII which I can hardly take exception to,

“Christ, the Author of salvation, will be better known, more ardently loved, more faithfully imitated by men, in so far as they are moved by an earnest desire to know and meditate upon the Sacred Scriptures, especially the New Testament.”

I began reading in Romans rather than the begats of Matthew and came to verse nine-

“and first I offer thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, whose faith is so renowned throughout the world.  The God to whom I address the inner worship of my heart, while I preach the gospel of his Son, is my witness constantly. . .”  (Romans 1:8,9)

It was that phrase, “the God to whom I address the inner worship of my heart,”  that caught my attention; both because it struck me as esthetically pleasing and because it seemed different.

I checked the NIV   “God, whom I serve with my whole heart.”  Several others were closer to the literal Greek, “whom I serve with my spirit, or in my spirit, or even “to whom I offer the service of my spirit.”  All are accurate to the basic meaning.

But today I am rolling the phrase,  “God, to whom I address the inner worship of my heart,” through my mind and am delighting in the flavour.

Keep a gallon of Foremost Vanilla Ice-cream in the Freezer, by all means. But every so often try a mango sherbet, or dill pickle yogurt, and savour.

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Canadian Funeral

We drove down to Picture Butte last Friday for the funeral of my husband’s junior father.  Over the years I have developed a rather hybrid view of funerals, first by attending hundreds of Ghanaian funerals, and more recently by attending funerals here in Canada.

One thing that comes through in both cultures is that a funeral truly speaks to who the person was.  Good people have good funerals. Those who loved others have funerals characterized by love given back.  This one was a lovely memorial to a good man. I think his language of love must have been “doing.”   There were many tributes to the things he had built and the renovation projects he had helped various ones with.  The last line of his childrens’ tribute was, “Don’t renovate all of Heaven before we get there.”

Perhaps because he was the last of his siblings, the funeral also drew out a gathering of cousins my husband had not seen for close to forty years.

Canadians do not enjoy funerals; but in Ghana funerals are designed, I think, for the pleasure of the one who has died. They celebrate the things he enjoyed in life, and have an aspect of sending him off well.  I believe Uncle Lloyd would have enjoyed the family gathering; of his children, their spouses,  grand-children and nieces and nephews at the house. I know Aunt Doris appreciated having her children around her.  We expressed sympathy but also caught up with family members and found comfort in the warmth of reaffirming family bonds.

And I renewed my acquaintance with small town mores.  You see, I’m a small town girl.  I expect to say hello to people on the street as I pass, and I expect to help strangers and to find help when I need it.  And we needed it.  We had a problem with being at the right place at the right time.  We had gotten up at 4:30 a.m. in order to make it in time for the burial.  Our Ghanaian instinct says- What’s a funeral without a burial? (or, speak it softly, without a wake, for that matter.) Isn’t that the point of it all?

I have this feeling that the time you are most sure to be late is the time you arrive an hour early.  We had been told that Picture Butte did not have a graveyard (how could that be?) and that the burial would be at Iron Springs a few kilometers down the road. So we drove to Iron Springs- a prairie whistle stop with a large Christian Reformed Church, and a school.  It made me think of a small-sized Neerlandia.

A man in his yard gave us directions and we found the cemetery a mile out of town.  No activity.  One small mound of new dirt but from outside the fence you couldn’t see much.  We met up with Wes’ mother and siblings who had driven in from Calgary, looked at the clock and went for coffee.  Came back- we were about 10 minutes early.  No activity at the graveyard, and on closer inspection no newly dug grave, certainly not one lined with artificial turf with funeral home attendants fussing around it. In fact, nobody.

We decided we must be at the wrong place after all.  So we drove back to Picture Butte.  And that’s where the small town folks did not let me down.  The waitress at the small cafe helpfully dug up yesterday’s paper and the funeral announcement, but it said nothing about the burial. She found cousin Jack’s phone number, and the number of his work place, and they in turn gave me his cell phone number.  Naturally- he had it turned off for the service.  We were given directions to the church- unlocked, but also unoccupied.

Still looking, but not wanting to bother the waitress again,  we asked to use the phone book at another business. Unfortunately neither Uncle Lloyd nor Jack listed a street address by their phone number- who, in a small town, would need to do that?  However the manager asked around and found out that one church in town did have a cemetery.  Nobody we knew was there either. Apparently they only bury their own.

Finally I said, “Let’s stop at the post-office, that’s where town news gets spread.”  The first lady leaving,  knew Uncle Lloyd but was  not too clear in giving directions to the house.  “If you go back to the main highway. . .”

And that’s where a cousin sent out to find us caught up with us.

If we’d only waited a few more minutes at the cemetery we would have met the funeral.  You only need a small hole to bury an urn.

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By God’s Grace and grit

Dad finished a full tour of duty, flying bombing missions over Germany.  The war ended before he was sent on a second tour. He never was inclined to talk much about it, and didn’t keep up his pilot’s license after being discharged.

Back in Canada he was entitled to a Veteran’s scholarship.  Even with his new commitment to God he couldn’t see himself up behind a pulpit,  so he decided to become a  doctor.  Apparently there hadn’t been a whole lot of incentive for the son of a poor farmer in the dirty thirties to put a lot of effort into his academic career. The folks at the University took one look at Dad’s high school marks and laughed at his medical ambitions.  However, they also gave him an IQ test. He said, “Never before or afterward, have I scored so high.”  He made it into pre-med on the strength of that test.

There wasn’t much hazing on the University of Saskatchewan campus that year.  The entering class of war vets weren’t about to be pushed about by juniors who had come fresh from High School.

Part of the first year curriculum  was a course in Bio-Chemistry.  It was specifically designed to thin out the class.  Dad said that there were four large blackboards.  The Professor would come in, start writing on one board, cover them all with notes, wipe them clean and start over.  By the time Christmas vacation rolled around Dad was foundering deeply in the course- he said he didn’t have a clue.  However, the Prof. handed out  a ten to twelve page course summary, just before he dismissed the class for their break.  Dad started memorizing it by rote, starting with page one and working through.  By the time he had memorized half the sheets the material started to make sense, and when he wrote the final in January he had the second highest score on the exam.

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