Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Identical or Fraternal?

Some mornings are to start typing cold turkey, others to scan email or the news, or check out the word Anu Garg has selected, which today is levee and yesterday was consonance. There are many good things about A.Word.A.Day and one of the best is that Anu doesn’t stir emotions or fears like the news does, so a reliably peaceful way to start my day. What brings this to mind is that after using MS Comic Sans yesterday, in the excitement of an old man, I scrolled down the font selection list looking for Wunderlich for a change from Helvetica but inadvertently selected Diwan Kufi. WTH, never heard of it, check it out. Uh oh, arabic, I no thank you, how far can I get from this -- American Typewriter seems the other end of the font spectrum so, not to show xenophobia, but here I am. 

What IS American anyway? It’s that nobody is going to knock down my door, enter my home and cut off my head because I’m not of their religion. American varies, is different things to different people, noticeably due to environment, where one grew up: just so, here in the Bible Belt land of absolute certainty, American is not only deciding who oneself can marry, but also the inalienable right to decide who other people can marry. At least there’s no beheading. In Ferguson, Missouri American is the right to demonstrate against injustice, where “unjust” is experiential, engrained as defensive attitude because of what one has lived. I think that instead of always seeing and crying race they need to get out the vote, and kick out all the whites in their local power structure; but then I haven’t lived in their America.

A disadvantage of American Typewriter is the absence of slant typeface makes it difficult to emphasize. No italics on this old Underwood. But then I’m one who believes America would have fewer problems if there were more typewriters and fewer people. Or maybe not.

My intended focus for today was my second blog post for yesterday morning. In a semi-sane 3-to-4 a.m. hour on Monday morning, I misspoke myself with “Three Dog Night: Don’t Mess” then returned to bed and slept until eight a.m. My real blog post for yesterday and today is neither “Three Dog Night: Don’t Mess” nor the above rattling nonsense, but is about the Gospel of Thomas as our Bible Seminar topic for this morning. For some reason I titled it “Not Just A Doubter” -- 

-- I suppose because we discredit Thomas for doubting, which contrariwise I consider a creditable trait not a demerit. Doubtfully the Doubting Thomas of John 20, the declared author of the extra-canonical Gospel of Thomas claims the name Didymos Judas Thomas. Early tradition said he was the twin brother of Jesus.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Not Just a Doubter

Intro to Gospel of Thomas Session or Two 
in our Fall 2014 Bible Seminar

I first became interested in the Gospel of Thomas nearly 35 years ago as a seminarian at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In the seminary bookstore I had picked up a copy of The Gospel According To Thomas, Coptic Text established and translated by A. Guillaumont, Henri-Charles Puech, Gilles Quispel, Walter Till, and Yassah Abd Masih, Harper & Row 1959. Short, it was readable over a weekend, and I did so. I'd never seen Coptic writing and was taken with its similarity to Greek, and the following week enthusiastically sought to discuss it with my New Testament professor at LTSG. To my disappointment and great sadness, his response was a scathing “Why would you want to read that Gnostic document?” Embarrassed and taken aback, it was the last time I ever approached him with a question or anything else, but I kept my copy of Thomas, have been interested in it ever since, have quoted from it in sermons, have had mild discussions of it with Bible study groups, once even briefly loaned out my copy, which I never do with beloved books and this has been one. 

I‘m still thinking of personal history, which in my case nearly always comes down to something about automobiles. In 1990 I started looking around for a car for Tassy to finish up at high school and as her college car, and ended up smitten with a used 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD at Prestige Motors in Tallahassee. Later bigger and more prestigious, at the time they were into used cars and l tried out several MBs before settling on this one for Daddy’s Girl the Apple of My Eye to take to college in Virginia. I think she loved it almost as much as I did. A lovely car, its history was NYC and it only had 47K verified miles, practically new, though some problems did turn up later. Wheel bearings, and body rust evidently from salt or other corrosive on the winter streets of the big city. Anyway, where I’m going with this is that I found out in buying a used Mercedes that you become part of a cult that is strictly into used Benzes. It’s probably not as dead serious as the BMW and Corvette cults, both of which I would like to have been a member in my lifetime, but it’s real. 

As with the Benz cult there is also a Gospel of Thomas cult, the Thomas Nerds, of scholars who are fascinated with the document and have published books about it and posted many things about it online, several of which I have read and enjoyed. What I find is this. The dating of Thomas is not agreed, ranging from 40 AD, which would precede Mark and the other synoptics, out to 140 AD or closer to 200 AD. In spite of the possible early dating, no scholar that I’ve read thinks that Mark, Matthew or Luke, or even John, lifted from Thomas, rather the trend is in the other direction, of Thomas perhaps knowing the synoptics; and there’s an interesting school of scholars with a struggle between Thomas and John, but I’m not going there. Early views castigated Thomas as Gnostic, but that view seems to have evaporated and Thomas is seen as a -- get this -- sapiential work, what the hell does that mean? It’s OK for some moronic preacher to say hell as long as I bow my head in penitence, but if I get any more colorful than hell I have to use flower names such as heliotrope, gardenia and daffodil. Those who know our Advent hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (my Lutheran professors struck off points for writing Emmanuel instead of Immanuel) know that December 17 is to sing the sapiential verse, “O come, O come thou Wisdom from on high.” Sapiential (from Latin sapiens) has to do with Wisdom, and calling Thomas a sapiential document makes it wisdom literature, a disorganized and random taxonomy of wisdom tenets allegedly uttered by Jesus. I learned at seminary that theologians and bible professors love the word taxonomy, which means that your homework for next class session is to turn in a list of something. I did not come out of seminary a total caustic cynic, but they helped. 

So, the Gospel of Thomas, the Nerds have pretty much come round to agreeing that it’s not gnostic but sapiential. I’m easy, but then I see gnostic elements in the Gospel of John, and I know the “beloved disciple” was not who people think, though I don’t think he was just the evangelist’s literary device.

Anyway, here we are with the Gospel according to Thomas, whom some say was Jesus' twin brother. Chock full of sayings from the Bible, or vice versa. For those who come to our kickoff Tuesday Morning Bible Seminar the day after Labor Day, we’ll have a go at it.

The following by Professor Marvin W. Meyer is from a series of Gospel of Thomas interviews that Professor Christopher W. Skinner published on his website pejeiesous.com. I especially appreciated this portion of Skinner's interviews with Professor Meyer, and it helps set the stage for our bible seminar introductory session: 

(Marvin Meyer) "The early sayings traditions in the Gospel of Thomas may be as useful as Q materials for providing insights into the teachings of the historical Jesus. Personally, I find that the overall presentation of Jesus in Thomas as a Jewish wisdom teacher and storyteller who employs parables, typically without allegorical interpretations, and utilizes an interactive pedagogy, is more compelling than any of the New Testament gospel accounts, which have been shaped by a dominant concern for the salvific nature of the crucifixion and resurrection. Additionally, I find the lack of apocalyptic (or even the opposition to apocalyptic) in Thomas coheres with what I consider very likely to be characteristic of the historical Jesus: he appears to have been a Jewish sage who used witty aphorisms and stories to encourage people to think about and seek after the reign of God.

"In The Gospel of Thomas I wrote, “In contrast to the way in which he is portrayed in other gospels, particularly New Testament gospels, Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas performs no physical miracles, reveals no fulfillment of prophecy, announces no apocalyptic kingdom about to disrupt the world order, and dies for no one’s sins.” To this I might add that Jesus in Thomas does not rise from the dead on the third day. In all these respects the Gospel of Thomas may bypass the emerging theological and soteriological issues in the New Testament gospel portraits of Jesus as son of God and savior, and as a result Thomas may bring us a step closer to the historical Jesus."


Marvin W. Meyer (April 16, 1948 – August 16, 2012) was a scholar of religion and a tenured professor at Chapman University in Orange, California. He was the Griset Professor of Bible and Christian Studies at Chapman University and Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute. He was also Director of the Coptic Magical Texts Project of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity. A participant in the Jesus Seminar, Dr. Meyer authored numerous books and articles on Greco-Roman and Christian religions in antiquity and late antiquity, and on Albert Schweitzer's ethic of reverence for life. He had been interviewed on television programs that aired on ABC, BBC, CNN, PBS, A&E, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and the National Geographic Channel.

Professor Meyer was best known for his translations of the texts of documents associated with the ancient mystery religions, early Christian magic, and Gnostic texts, of which the most notable have been the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas, the former of which is included among the Nag Hammadi library. Meyer edited a collection of English translations of the Nag Hammadi texts for the  HarperOne  imprint, the most recently revised edition of which has been released as the Nag Hammadi Scriptures in 2007, including help from James M. Robinson who has edited an earlier publication of the library. He was regarded as an authority on Gnosticism and had worked on many books on the subject. Meyer died of melanoma on August 16, 2012. (Wikipedia).

This is the +Time blog post I prepared for today, Monday, September 1, and as an intro to our Bible Seminar that starts tomorrow morning, Tuesday, September 2. So, I'm publishing it anyway, even though I wrote and published the below, earlier post "Three Dog Night: Don't Mess" during my semi-concious hour 3 to 4 a.m. before going back to sleep until 8 a.m. TW+

Don't Mess

Three Dog Night

“A brand new version of Pages is available” it keeps saying, and I keep tapping “not now.” It took me this long to get used to this version of Pages after years of using MS Word, and I’ve read the scathing reviews of the brand new version of Pages, so there ain’t no way. For one thing, which is the signal right off, the new version doesn’t seem to have that stupid “Inspector” feature where you set your margins and line spacing and stuff, and I’m used to it now, so I’d be lost from the get go. Any preacher creature who can’t remember the Hebrew alphabet sure as fire doesn’t need to risk an all new word processing program.  

For some reason the cursor won’t come on this morning, which is right annoying.

Yesterday was enormous fun at church, the best, as always. We baptized little Esteban, there was a decent crowd considering that half the congregation were getting the last taste of summer away on holiday for Labor Day weekend and the other half were here and there at football games kicking off the CFB season. 

No reason to avoid it, I felt terrible, terrible, woke up very early Sunday morning feeling queasy, took a nap the hour before church when I should have been taking that last look at my sermon, muddled through both services, and left immediately from the vesting room after 10:30 worship and the baptism, without even going into Battin Hall to greet Esteban’s family, for which I apologize. Arriving home, straight upstairs to bed black shirt and all, sans collar and collar buttons but black shirt and all. Slept ‘til four p.m. back to bed, slept ‘til nine p.m. back to bed, slept ‘til two a.m. back to bed, slept ‘til three a.m. With all the perspiring and drenching my clothes, it was a Three PJ Night. How am I now? Too iffy to meet Robert for our walk, which we’ve changed to Monday and Wednesday. Why tell this? Because at church yesterday Dan told people I wasn’t feeling well, which I did not mean to have told, then shadowed me like a catcher in a Pentecostal church waiting for me to fall out slain in the spirit! But thanks, Dan.

That was Dan standing behind the pulpit during my sermon!

Ice tea instead of coffee this morning. Linda made it for Malinda, who always comes to Sunday dinner with us, but she had the same ailment as me/I so the tea wasn’t drunk. 

Neither am I: just ornery. Don’t mess with me.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Hands Sitting

BCP 815 and weirdness 
long hours before dawn
Sunday morning

This low, wide Cafe’ Godiva cup with its saucer is best for this sitting spot. Stable, it won’t turn over here on the sofa next to me. If it does anyway, I'll turn the cushion over before Linda comes downstairs.

Life Is Good, too good to miss, even downstairs alone in the wee hours.

CFB is Better. http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/08/20-reasons-why-college-football-is-better-than-the-nfl even when your teams lose, tho all mine didn’t - MGoBlue. Christmas Season is December. College Football Season is Labor Day through November, then when you mope that it’s all over, bowl games start. Let’s see you beat that with your bag of toys and one night stand, Santa Claus. 

Church is Best when there’s a baptism, as this morning. Moses & the Burning Bush, water from the River Jordan, Mary Ellen & Stacey at bat, and the mice at play.

This is a democracy: folks in Ferguson can change everything if they vote. Everything but human hearts. Even hearts in Time.

Alas, the ISIS news looks unthinkably like we need to open the gun cabinet we locked 69 years ago, Babylon. Let the bashful lead, follow, or get out of the way. 

In 2514, when Diana Gabaldonsdottr writes Son of Outlander, will those who travel back to 2114 find Alan benWeisman collecting plastic Coke bottles.

Prayer isn’t answered by saying O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen but by those who get off their hands. 

God has no hands but our hands to do his work today; God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way; God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died; And, God has no help but our help to lead them to his side. Annie Johnson Flint adapted from Teresa of Avila. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014



Saturday morning, not comfortable out here waiting for the newspaper, tolerable but temperature 79F, humidity 90%, wind 0 mph, not really comfortable. Back porch thermometer doesn’t say 79 its red line stands at 84, but I guarantee the humidity is at least 90, maybe higher right here on the Bay, and not a breath of air. 

Here on the downstairs front porch the greenery shields them from this exact sitting spot, but on the south channel, other side of the Bay, are two green navigation lights that flash alternately. From here they appear to be twins, right next to each other, I’m wondering if they are. My chart isn’t on the computer desktop where I keep it, maybe I didn’t transfer it to this computer, I only look at it now and then, it must be on the white MacBook. Wondering about those twin lights, maybe I’ll check it out later and solve that fact. It’s a fact that's only a mystery from here, depends on how you look at things, doesn’t it. Like two stars that are almost touching each other but when you get there are lightyears apart.  

Living right here on the Bay the navigation lights can become obsessive, and do, and have, and sometimes are, and even appear in dreams, including last night waking me hyperventilating, WTH was that all about. Wondering if I should relocate inland: that condo in Scottsdale that Linda’s parents owned in the late 1960s, we never should have sold that place. Winters in the desert were a heaven of color in bloom, summers breathtakingly hot and so dry that when you climbed out of the swimming pool, even at night, you were dry before you could get to your towel. Sometimes Linda, Malinda and Jody (he tolerated that name until we arrived in Columbus, when he informed us it’s Joe not Jody) would fly to Phoenix to visit a week or so, then I would drive over from San Diego to get them. Car radio, Thunderbird sedan with center-opening doors 
and oh man was that Ford V8 a fast, smooth highway machine, would be blaring country music. One of my favorites was Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadors. When I was a boy we called it hillbilly music.

Anymore I don’t like country music or listen, it drags me down! Whap, there’s the paper.

Aw, Billy Byrd now.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Say It With Flowers

Say it with flowers

The thing is, see, not I, never to begin a letter, email or blog post with I because it starts off already egocentric and boring even to oneself. But I’ll be switched if I’ll be hitched, no I’ll be dandelion if I expected that. First off was my own fault for failing to know what was going on with the SEC Network. Gardenia dandelion it to heliotrope. So I fiddled around searching, signed up for ESPN online, found that I had to access it via my internet provider which ComCast cooperates but Knology Now Known As WOW doesn’t, so I tried via Verizon and got mixed up forgetting names and passwords, changed passwords, got that settled, went to access the game, forgot the new password I’d just set, glanced up at the OleMiss game on the TV just as across the bottom scrolled the disaster from Columbia, so just went downstairs for two hotdogs and a Heineken and came back up hoping Boise State could overcome that 3 to 7. Except did you see that sickening interception in the end zone they looked fairly promising until into the second half, when the rest of my evening went to the Bad Place. 

I'm not an Ole Miss fan.

Its not about you, Bubba. 

Well, it sure seemed like it last night. What a fuchsia boliviana disaster. I may be SEC, but it’s limited to two teams, and whose big idea was it to let Texas A&M into our stratosphere anyway. We are not finished regretting that, this is just the beginning, it wasn’t Manziel after all.

What the hell. No, what the heliotrope. Well, when it comes to flowers it’s the thought that counts.

W with no +

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Glass of Wine on the Dock at Sunset

Glass of Wine on the Dock at Sunset Musing 

When we were at the University of Michigan we lived in a “housing project” sort of place, long buildings divided into apartments such as were built here in PC during WW2 to house industrial workers and military families. Wainwright Housing was one, Annie B. Sale Housing another, and there may have been more, because our Panama City population exploded during the War. Tyndall Field, the shipyard, the Navy Base, and there was a Coast Guard Station on the Cove side of Tarpon Dock Bridge on Massalina Bayou.

Probably the same WW2 origin to our home in Ann Arbor, but when we lived in that housing project it was mostly families of graduate students. The buildings were on the street and behind on the west side was a huge open grassy area for kids to play. The last month before summer 1963, because we had orders to Japan and would gone three years, Linda came home to PC with Malinda (just turning 5) and Joe (2 1/2) so the grandparents could enjoy them. Alone at sunset, I would go out to the grassy field with a beer or glass of wine, a folding chair, pad and pen, watch the sun go down, and discover that every man with a glass of wine is a poet at sunset. A poet or a theologian. Or a lover.

From time to time I’ve wished I had a dock here for sunset wine and musing, but all my neighbors have docks and when hurricanes storm across the Bay, parts of my neighbors’ docks, sometimes large sections, end up in my front yard; so I’ve learned to be happy with just MLP and my iPad and my folding chair with a cup holder. 

Bay, sky, Shell Island, what’s coming and going through The Pass, green navigation light, sunset off to my right, and very occasionally the sound of the Star Spangled Banner from Tyndall Field across the water, make me no better a poet at soon-79 than at 27, though I have another half-century of roads not taken to contemplate and wonder what if and thank you, Robert Frost. 

CFB Season again and we can go back to college yet one more time again. Seldom watch the Gators, because it hurts as excruciatingly to see them lose now as it did sixty years ago. But I’m also MGoBlue. PennState from the years in Harrisburg when and where Joe Paterno was state hero. Whoever is playing Florida State. Always South Carolina not only because of Amy but because of the coach who put the Gators and SEC on top. The man can still get a standing ovation in The Swamp even when he comes to fight, and I hope that always happens for him.

6/5 Central, Texas A&M at South Carolina Go Gamecocks

Back to sunset and the night sky. What about the Big Picture. I’m thinking about the end of Act I in Our Town. Mr. Webb says good night to Emily, who is still awake and at her window, while across the way Rebecca and George continue to chat and look at the sky. Rebecca mentions a letter that her friend Jane once received. Rebecca recalls that the letter was addressed to “Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.” George marvels and the Stage Manager announces a break. As for me, while theologizing that God is loving specks on specks in infinite universes across the breadth of His Mind, I’m looking at that green light and remembering a Peanuts scene a friend sent me when our Patty died five years ago. What is there, really?

Cup of coffee on the front screen porch waiting for sunrise is the same sort of musing, but predawn coffee doesn’t lubricate the mind as well as wine at sunset.


Thanks, Norm, ever so much!