Wednesday, February 10, 2016

sound the alarm

40F at 4:06, going to 38F by 8:00, a car or two moving on Beck Avenue. From 7H I can see three traffic signals, Beck and 11th Street, Beck and 15th Street, Beck and Hwy 98 out at St. Andrews Baptist Church. All three lights keep changing, hoping, I suppose, for cars to come and affirm their function. As Mrs. Macready chides the four arriving Pevensie children in TLTW&TW, “Everyone has their function. One mustn’t deprive people of their function.” So, cars must come, otherwise there’s no need for the lights.

Pancakes last evening, pancakes and sausage, also jambalaya with shrimp, quite tasty. For a few years I kept a quart jug of maple syrup in the fridge at church for Shrove Tuesday, eventually brought it home. Mine is thick, dark and earthy as though made from the roots of the maple tree, incomparable, and in a fit of enthusiasm eight or ten years ago I ordered enough to last me a lifetime. Unopened, it keeps forever; opened if kept in the refrigerator. 

But one mustn’t avoid the elephant on the calendar: today is the first day of Lent 2016. Here I sit with coffee, daily morsel of dark chocolate already having melted on my tongue and on its way to the brain. “What are you giving up for Lent?” today’s question. For me, I already said: I’m giving up my daimonion by driving It (remember, τὸ δαιμόνιον is neutral) back into its neuron every time it stirs. “At the cross, at the cross,” as everyone knows, demons are afraid of the cross. That it roams the darkness might be stopped by garlic as a bedtime snack. Wonderful roasted garlic is on the olive bar at Fresh Market, truly delicious to the taste, but needs followed by Tums. 

Traditionally there is a choice of OT readings for Ash Wednesday. My preference is Joel, besides which we seldom read from, I love the mental image of shofar, the horn, hauntingly, eerily, sounding a chilling alarm: Adonai is gathering clouds of devouring locusts and sending them, they are coming, to punish the sins of Israel. Or perhaps (we do not know for sure the dating of Joel) Adonai is gathering enemy hordes to overrun and destroy us. Listen for the ram’s horn:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2:1 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near- 2:2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness spread upon the mountains a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come. 

2:12 Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 2:13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. 2:14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God. 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; 2:16 gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. 2:17 Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, 'Where is their God?’”

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A Joel scholar we read in seminary said God was gathering the viciously cruel army of Assyria to overrun Israel, the Northern Kingdom, in the eighth century B.C. Another said the reference to Zion suggested it was Sennacherib’s 701 B.C. siege of Jerusalem. Our OT professor insisted it was a horde of all consuming locusts swarming to darken the sun, destroy everything in the fields and bring on famine. Whatever, sweet dreams. Sweet dreams.

Ash Wednesday. Don’t go about today hoping people will ask you about the smudge on your forehead: wash your face. Matthew 6:16-17.


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