15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me,including Phygelus and Hermogenes.
16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me.18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.
From this passage, my Roman Catholic friend of the previous post is also intending to show that people, such as even the apostle Paul, do and ought to pray for the dead.
Specifically, he is attempting to show it from just this exclamation: "May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day!"
As we can see from the context, nothing here indicates first of all, that Onesiphorus has died, second that Paul believes that a prayer for any person will be counted towards their righteousness.
Moreover, we see from the context, that Paul has suffered the loss of his leadership over a number of individuals in the church, though he is an apostle, as he has just asserted with various preceding points. In that sense, he is able to act as intercessor for these people who have turned specifically against him. Their faith in Christ may be in question now, but that is between them and God. They have however, rejected the messenger Paul without cause, having previously been dedicated to him and his message of the Gospel. This is an injury and injustice also to Paul, himself. His own response is one of pious hope and forgiveness. We see also Paul's Christ-inspired grace. (He does not wish to call down the fire from heaven, as certain disciples ones proposed to Jesus; the "sons of thunder", as he nicknamed them.) Yet, it will be the Lord himself who judges and dispenses mercy.
Onesiphorus appears not have turned against Paul, but nothing further is explained regarding his present fate, just as we know nothing further about Phygelus and Hermogenes. The matter becomes one of conjecture.
We also note, that Paul attaches no invocation or affirmation to his pious hope of mercy. Nor does he indicated that all should pray to the Lord for the mentioned individuals, living or dead, instituting here no requiem mass, so to speak.
This is the most flimsy passage imaginable, to burden Christian consciences with mandatory prayers for the dead and their achieving mercy. People who have come out of Roman Catholicism, often speak about the heavy burden of guilt they carried, the hammer over their head. This, here, would be another instance of burden: the Christian struggles under the innumerable sins of others, when it is Christ who has born them all. Let each come to repentance of his very own sins, instead, and turn to the Lord.
This past All Saint's Sunday I spent the afternoon reading first and second Maccabees, never having read it before. The story was familiar to me from a past lecture, but why should it come up now? This is how it happened. A very famous Christian author and pastor, Eugene Peterson, had died the week before, which promoted a Roman Catholic friend of mine on Facebook to remark that he himself hopes that when he dies, people will remember to pray for his departed soul, not like this famous protestant pastor who was assumed to have gone straight to heaven, by protestants who talked about his departure.--As we know, Roman Catholics promote a teaching about a thing called "purgatory", where many souls are said to go be purified for an undetermined time to eventually be promoted to heaven, leaving people, the departed as well as their living family, in a kind of limbo, as least for the present. As to where a dearly departed has departed to precisely, one dare not say, especially if he or she was not perfect, which none of us are. This gives rise to a whole industry of indulgences, praying for the dead, saying masses for the dead, etc. To which every "Protestant" says: "what exactly are you, dear Roman Catholic, proclaiming regarding the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ? Was his sacrifice not for sinners like you and like me?" Indeed, this whole praying for the dead reads like a racket, as the Reformation has clearly shown, and as the height of faithlessness in the cloak of piety. But Christ is left out. He is not there. (As Jesus said: "Where the corpse is, the vultures will gather." Matthew 24.) So, what about Maccabees? Well, the said Friend on Facebook, of Roman Catholic confession, as I said, just slung that one out: "It's in 2 Maccabees!" Yea, sure, "It's in 2 Maccabees..."--So I read all of 1. Maccabees and all of 2. Maccabees. Without belaboring the matter, in Maccabees we have the story of the strenous Jewish revolt against oppressive Hellenization during the second century B.C. (Also read about such topics, here.) It does not read like a sermon, nor a theological treatise, nor prophecy, nor prayer. The Jews did not include it in their canon. The Reformation excluded it from the canon. It is not a source of doctrine about God and spiritual matters. Maccabees highlights the events of the oppression and the revolt, as well as the deeds of the Maccabees. It demonstrates the struggle for conscientious objection involving martyrdom. We see in Maccabees a high regard for the law. The leaders of the revolt defended the Jewish way of life with great zeal, the regulations the Lord had put down for the nation. Their efforts were of military nature. Outsiders were "sinners." The book does not promote mercy, nor does it speak about the Lord or for the Lord. The authors speak for themselves and their version of the historical record. They do not claim to be prophets, nor to have been living among prophets. In fact, it says, that prophecy had ceased in those times. It should follow, therefore, that the editorializing comments of the unnamed author/s, be taken under advisement. It boggles that mind that precisely here, our Roman Catholic friend wants to find corroboration for the doctrine of purgatory and praying for the dead. The concern for the dead, so it is said in Maccabees several times, should be taken as a sign of the belief in the resurrection of the dead. This rings a bell when we think about what St. Paul said, as an aside, such as: if there is no resurrection for the dead, why do some bother to be baptized for the dead? (1. Corinthians 15:29). Also, there is the time, where he causes a commotion saying in Jerusalem that he is persecuted for his belief in the resurrection. (Acts 22:6-8.) "6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee,descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)" Obiously, these issues had been brewing for some time, just as much as the Pharisaical emphasis on the law vs. mercy and justice. For me, reading Maccabees put some things into perspective regarding thorny issues Jesus and Paul were speaking to in the culture and in the life of the individual consciences in relationship to God. So, now, what does it exactly say in Maccabees that gets some people on the road for praying for the dead? At the conclusion of 2 Maccabees, an incident is related where some of the warriors of the Maccabaean conflicts had been found dead, and when it came to the recovery of the bodies, it was found that they were wearing in their layers of clothing some sort of amulet dedicated to a foreign idol. This presents the leaders with a nasty dilemma. Here they were fighting zealously for the law of the ancestors, but their fighters are found practicing a form of idolatry. This really does present a unique embarrassment. What to do and say about this? Ingenious to the end, they take up a collection of money to send to the temple, so a sacrifice could me made for the dead who had died relying on a foreign god, hoping they might still attain the resurrection of the dead. Elegant? Not. Hopeful? Maybe. Mandated? Definitely not. Here comes Tetzel. You know about Johann Tetzel. "As soon as the gold in the casket rings, the rescued soul to heaven springs." Who sent Tetzel? Those who needed money for their simony and for their construction projects. Maccabees closes by praising this solution as pious. The leader is pragmatic in his actions. No wonder, the book is excluded from the canon. Theology: fail. God cannot be manipulated. Not the God of the Bible. At some point, you have to leave things to His judgement and to his mercy. Save your money and your time.
2. Maccabees 40-45:
"But when they found on each of the dead men, under their tunics, objects dedicated to the idols of Jamnia, which the Law prohibits to Jews, it became clear to everyone that this was why these men had lost their lives. All then blessed the ways of the Lord, the upright judge who brings hidden things to light, and gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. Next, the valiant Judas urged the soldiers to keep themselves free from all sin, having seen with their own eyes the effects of the sin of those who had fallen; after this he took a collection from them individually, amounting to nearly two thousand drachmas, and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered, an action altogether fine and noble, prompted by his belief in the resurrection. For had he not expected the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead,whereas if he had in view the splendid recompense reserved for those who make a pious end, the thought was holy and devout. Hence, he had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sin."
To conclude, we note that the Old Testament does not make provision for this type of sacrifice, however pious the thought.
We also note that Martin Luther wished Maccabees had not come down to us, at all, because it contains too many heathenish things. The writer himself, excuses himself, making no claims except to tell the story in engaging fashion. This is how the author of 2 Maccabees closes the book (chapter 15):
"The city of Jerusalem remained in the possession of the Jewish people from that time on, so I will end my story here.38 If it is well written and to the point, I am pleased; if it is poorly written and uninteresting, I have still done my best.39 We know it is unhealthy to drink wine or water alone, whereas wine mixed with water makes a delightfully tasty drink. So also a good story skillfully written gives pleasure to those who read it. With this I conclude."
It is an interesting story. It is a mixed drink passed to us by the writer, however, and we are right not to draw Christian doctrine from it. In addition, our attention should be directed at the sacrifices for sin in Leviticus 4, where a sin offering requires repentance.
A Dear Friend sent me this link on Youtube for this special Ecumenical Church Service to celebrate Reunification and the unity of the nation of Germany, in 2018 . I watched a good chunk of it. You can see the large congregation, including the politicians, in a large, ornate cathedral in Berlin. There is fantastic music. I will plan to watch the rest and here, I have filed the link for myself and others.
The video is completely in German language, though some of the music is in Latin and Greek. It is worthwhile watching for the music and also the brass ensemble and the boys' choir. Very nice.
When I was a girl, I used to play very often in services in the church brass band. Now I serve as an organist. It is so wonderful to have a full church and to have excellent music. These are true highlights of the week, of the seasons, of a lifetime.
While we were on a road-trip in September, I had an opportunity to read several books. The first one was "Educated: A Memoir" by Tara Westover. I had picked it up at Costco because the reviews on the cover were stellar. And the book did not disappoint.
Tara Westover tells a realistic, yet stunning story of growing up in Idaho, in a Mormon family who refuses to register its children, refuses to send them to school, refuses to let them see the Doctor. The father runs a scrap yard among other businesses that involve the children working in dangerous situation. The mother becomes a midwife so women do not have to see a doctor. Individuals inadvertently become subject to various forms of neglect, abuse and child labor, unnecessary accidents, even though the parents are highly idealistic and religious, well-meaning in their own way. For the child growing up this is insidious, as it knows no different life. Freeing herself from it requires all the strength Tara can muster. It is complicated, to say the least.
For me, it is a lesson in several areas. First of all, the depth of commitment to their lifestyle by American cultists. In many places in the world such isolation is not possible and communities are much better integrated. In America, however, it is possible, and in any case it is the "land of the cults" as Lutheran immigrant pastor/missionary Walther said. In Lutheran theology, the calling of the Christian person can be to be a medical doctor, a scrap yard owner, a pastor, a midwife, policeman, governor, housewife... All these callings are God's gifts to a helpful and integrated society. With the cult, however, an alienation is essential to keep the message alive, the message of isolation and individualism. A message of being different from other people in society.
Not that learning some survival skills would not be a good thing. Nowadays, we are so disconnected from nature and the way things used to be done even just two generations ago, that it makes us wonder what it is to be truly human without all our helps and technologies. Certainly, there is a tension inherent, that we can all understand. I myself was thinking we should get a generator when North Korea was sending missiles over Japan last year. There is the dirty bomb that could travel very far that disrupt all our communications and electrical grids. I was trying to imagine it, though I am not given to apolitical speculations. In fact, my generation, and especially myself hailing from the former West Germany, lived in the shadow of the bomb. How will we be able to survive when everything fails or is destroyed? Would we even want to try?
Maybe a generator would be good, but then you need fuel... Most of all, you would need water...
Where does it start and end. It becomes a paranoia, more than anything. But emergency preparedness is a sensible thing...
The book also makes me think about our current NDP government in my Canadian province. They have a left-leaning ideology, which has manifested itself in interesting ways, so interesting that they cannot be elected again. One of the first things, they have done, was to ram down the throats of farmers all kinds of laws regarding farm labor. Perhaps, there are concerns I had not considered. I know a family where all four children died in two separate farm accidents. The marriage also ended up breaking apart. I know a farm where a toddler was run over. But that can happen anywhere. I know a farm where a young man nearly burned himself to death. But had been very foolish. I know a farm where a young Mennonite helper was electrocuted just a few weeks into the job. No doubt, the young are at risk. But then my own 18-year old died in a car accident.
What factors can be controlled? In any case, the NDP should have had a consultative, bottom-up process, rather than asserted itself in the way it did, right out of the start gate alienating so many. From then on, it also went on to alienate Christians of all stripes. This also, was not ok. Christians, in general, are not like Tara Westover's father and mother. Mostly, they live in responsible, well integrated communities. Some oversight is always a good idea, but government oppression of consciences is not. They are your average, more or less, good citizen. And that is what we have had in my province, as of late. On that level, I had wondered if "Educated" is an anti-Christian book, but that would be not a fair interpretation. Overall, Westover has considered her communication carefully, and her points are well taken. There are indeed Mormon families hiding in Canadian mountain regions trying to keep polygamous groupings intact. These things do happen. And children suffer. We must support the weaker and younger elements in society.
The most memorable part of the book, however, was the philosophical and literary point of view. Westover took a degree in history, or more like the philosophy of history, or the process of making history. In relation to this, she comes to interesting conclusions, which one ought to read for oneself. What hit me most is that by writing her own autobiography, she says she is "writing history", herself.
It makes me consider all the autobiographies that have lived in my head and my life, all this time--my grandfather's, expelled from Silesia, my in-law's, fleeing Poland after the war. Stories that have not made it to the movie screens and histories that have been expunged from the collective memory. These stories make me different from my Canadian neighbors, though many immigrant populations also have suffered through wars, famine, oppression, even persecution. But the languages and images are different, and these communities tend to stay in their own corners. Currently, public discourse has been deluged with programs dealing with LGTBQ issues, as well as Indigenous affairs. In some ways, it is not a surprise that we have all fractured into new subgroups of discussion groups and media consumption. Some are becoming their own islands, their own Idahoes. We are educating ourselves online and what does this mean?
Where have we been? There was the short and intense Canadian summer. There were irritants with online activity, including some malware on this blog. There were travels and visitors and books to read. We also adopted a new diet and cooking program, one more plant-based, as they say, which required a considerable amount of time and dedication to implement. Indeed, I am spending much more time in the kitchen. What can we do.
But, I have missed the blogging, as of late. I think mostly, it is the mental hygiene of getting somethings off your mind and onto the page. Moreover, there is a benefit to exercising vocabulary, before losses to inevitable old age or declining brain power use up the neural circuits. Use it or lose it. Also, blogging puts things into your mind as your use it. Your focus is sharpened. There is clarity that emerges, which is vastly better than grey fogginess, which is symbolized by the weather that has crept up on us.
So, as the more dreary, darker days of winter descend on us, together with the snow in the forecase, I think I would like to post some more. Google Blogger wants me to start a different blog. I wonder about this, as my format is very old. I will have to think about this. For now, good wishes for a good week and blessings for the days of All Saints' and Reformation. Yesterday, we put the family fun of spooky Halloween behind us for another year, but more constructively, we now want to consider the eternal home of our souls with the Lord, which is granted to us purely out of his immeasurable, and superabundant grace, the fount of all true and lasting joy and pleasure. Thanks be to God.
Over the winter I took up clogging, but this activity is out for the summer. The winter prior, I took up line dancing in a school gym in town. I thought it was fun and good exercise, though I did not really enjoy all the words to all the songs... What can you do. The Wobble is a bit crude, so I use Guantanamera with groups. (Guantanamera works for a lot of things and is a bit slower. A lot of Cuban music is very pretty and repetitive.)
Here is a list of the videos of line dances I learned a year ago. I just want to refresh them, now, as clogging is out and the movement is good for me. You might enjoy them, too.
This is my home-made songbook for family. If you like it, you may copy it and use it. It's not art. It's my first one... :) I left out the pictures of family, baptisms, pastors, and such. You can personalize this to the hilt. Blessings.
"I am Jesus' little lamb" is the kind of song Christian mothers and fathers have sung to their children through the generations, and as such is a pearl that needs to keep getting passed on. It comforted me, too, as I made this book. My favorite page is the one with the angels and their musical instruments. Some people relate to angels a lot, wearing pins and so on, but I can relate to these angels who make music. And this beautiful verse is attached to the picture: "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:1. When we do pass through the shadow of death, the Lord's angels will be with us, maybe even singing this song to us, as we move into the Lords presence, the Lord who is our shepherd and cares even then.
A friend recommended this book by an Indian-Canadian writer to me even while saying that it was full of bitterness. Indeed, there is bitterness. But I loved it as it spoke to my woman's heart. The themes involving traditional women's lives in India over several generations dovetailed for me with the series currently available on Netflix: "Stories by Rabindranath Tagore." Tagore was a famous Indian writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the first non-European to do so. He keenly observed facets of the lives of women in the contexts of the Hindu caste system, marriage customs, and aspirations for education, change and modernization. I read "Tamarind Mem" through the Tagore's lens which I had just acquired, but I also read it simply as a woman. There are, first of all, the issues connected to arranged marriages. The central character, the Tamarind Mem, is a young woman who is married off to a complete stranger in spite of her vocal protestations and desire for advanced education and independence. She has always had a sharp tongue, something that seems common to many Indian women in stories. Considering the distresses suffered and the lack of power in traditional situations, it is no wonder that the women resort to using their mouth to provide many tongue-lashings. Tamarind Mem is not happy. Her daughter is not happy. She is an unhappy woman making everyone unhappy. The somewhat older man she was married off to copes somehow, but is distant. He provides no friendship for his wife, no talk, no intimacy, while he proves to be a wonderfully warm father and storyteller. There is a split in his personality. The woman's upbringing also does not allow her to approach him in a more relaxed or playful way. There is only Dharma, duty. Spouses don't call each other by their names. One of the men says this: "A woman is for bed and breakfast."
The wife's isolation from her husband is crushing her. She is indeed bitter and she is often nasty. Through the book we learn to see the damage she does but also learn to understand her.
Many problems are connected to Indian customs. We see here a sensitive critique of these customs. But also, the difficulties of coping with lack of communication, of being cooped-up in a house, the crushing disappointment of failing to form a deep relationship with your husband, abandonment in marriage, lack of vulnerability in the most intimate of relationships, are universal. The pain is raw and palpable. Her daughters seek out different paths in different lands, escaping the limitations of living in Indian society. Tamarind Mem, however, also seeks out a different life and contentment after her older husband dies.
Honestly, it could have been the death of me. Now that we have winter, and the need arises to find different ways to exercise, my friend invited me to aquasize.
It snowed plenty overnight, and I take myself onto the road to head to the indoor swimming pool in town, which I have spurned for several years now. In my bag are some watershoes that I have been using in my house for flexible foot movement and utilizing all 33 foot joints, as is recommended by my yoga teacher. So far so good. The watershoes are coming in handy as they will also help keep me safe on the deck of the pool which can be slippery. It is sensible to get a bit more cautious with "advancing age" (cough, cough).
It turns out that with the snowfall, the road is rather treacherous as the rear end of the truck swings out at the three-way stop, then the big intersection at the highway, and the several other left-turns I have to navigate every so slowly. This town happens to have a lot of freight-truck traffic rumbling through it, frightening me as I try to steer my little, slip-sliding vehicle. Has there been no sanding, yet, today?
I get to the pool, and into the water five minutes late but safe. One surely needs to budget more time for this sort of expedition, this time of year.
The ladies--an no men, by the way--are already busy with their warm-up exercises, jumping, splashing, turning. I am finding that the watershoes are marvelous; they cushion the blow of the heel coming down on the pool bottom, and I can feel the whole foot planting on surface which gives a good calf stretch every time the foot goes down. Well, now that we are comfortable, we can try to follow along with what the teacher is doing. My friend seems to have no trouble and I can always ask her and follow her. The instructor's voice is piercing above the noise of the water splashing. She sounds like Bernadette in the Big Bang Theory. My goodness, the poor soul is straining her voice.
Now, that I have sort of figured out what to do, I can have a look around at the other ladies. Most of them have grey hair and seem very cheerful. In fact, a good many of them are having animated discussions with their friends over top of the intrepidly, screeching instructor--and the music, and their exercising. They are laughing and sharing the latest stories. I can hear words floating by such as "gall bladder", "pregnancy", "wedding". Some of them wear crosses. I am beginning to think that the entire Catholic ladies' aid is in aquasize, today.
At the 35 min mark, even the instructor lets herself be distracted to throw in something about someone's premature labor and delivery, the baby coming out with some sort of suction machine and having a rash. Or maybe the mother had a rash. Whatever. I suppose this is better for the women than having a coffee clatch and just sitting around, as they are using their time rather efficiently. At the 37 min. mark, a lady next to me, not grey but sporting a beautiful hair coloring job, starts to complain about her full bladder, and having to decide whether to go to the bathroom or not, since it may not be worth her while, at this point in the class. I decide to encourage her, though I have no experience with this yet. I tell her, that it will take her one minute to get to the bathroom, one minute to go to the bathroom, and one minute to get back in the water. She goes.
All the while, some men and women have been floating more or less without moving, in the deep end wearing flotation belts or using pool noodles. I am not sure what good it is doing them to float like that except that the easing of the pressure on the joints might be pleasant. They make and odd sight, I suppose like the rest of us. Perhaps, there are a variety of mobility issues.
In the very end, we all settle comfortably into the hot tub sharing more stories. This hot-tub-sitting takes me back to a holiday we had this summer in Iceland. It happens that Iceland Air flies from Edmonton to Europe via Keflavic Airport near Reykjavik and offers longer lay-overs for travellers, at no extra cost. On the way, there, and back, I watched several Icelandic movies, getting to know more about the lifestyle in Iceland. We spent two days touring Reykjavik and environs. In a way, the Icelanders and we Albertans share this treacherous, cold weather, with the difference that they have natural hot springs absolutely everywhere since they are living on a fault-line, where the European plate meets the North American plate. They have pools in every corner of the city and all over the place, they love to soak in. Well, at least, in my cold, icy Alberta town, situated very much right on the North American plate, we intrepid northerners also have our public indoor pool, even though we may have to gather our courage to make our way to it.
Where I live, we are already deep in the winter season, on November 10. We are reminded that it is Martin Luther's birthday, today. As we know, he was named for St. Martin, whose feast day we have tomorrow, the day Luther was baptized. (Babies were quickly baptized in times when neonatal death was more common.) As children in Bavaria, we had very memorable St. Martin's day celebrations in the evening with lantern trains, bonfires and reenactment of St. Martin sharing his coat with a poor man.
I just feel like posting some pictures we took in Wittenberg, this summer during the "Kichentag" (church day/convention). We enjoyed a tremendous month in Germany, this year.
Thanks be to God for the rediscovery of the Gospel, and the passing of it down all the way to our generation, and to me. It is the most precious thing in all the world, the pearl of great price. With our deeds we can accomplish nothing. The Spirit of God does all the work, by pointing us to Christ and leading us to faith. And before that, we must realize that we cannot keep the law, that we are all worthless and have gone astray. This is the truth.
Thank you Father, for loving even me in Christ who bore our weaknesses and sins. We live in the great hope of the communion in heaven and on earth, when we will see face to face. And our hearts are glad. A mighty fortress is our God. We do not fear. One little word can fell the enemy though he he is crafty and on the prowl. The kingdom ours remaineth...
Most of all the enemy wants to tear the word of God out of our hands and out of our hearts. We need to be firm and vigilant and plant ourselves on the clear promise of the Lord, for which we praise him. Amen.