Archive for humanity

2015 Lent 21

Posted in Lent 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2015 by timtrue

plato-300x254

Jeremiah 11:1-8, 14-20

Prophets face a certain tension.  That is, they love the people they are called to serve on God’s behalf; and yet the people are often stiff-necked, hard-hearted, stubborn, and so on.

These aren’t my words, by the way.  These come right out of the Old Testament.  And as the OT puts it, these come right out of God’s own mouth.  The Israelites, God’s chosen people, the people whom God saved from Egypt through the parted waters of the Red Sea–these people God called stiff-necked etc.

Anyway, Jeremiah knows this tension.  God tells Jeremiah today, “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf” (v. 14).  Yet, still, Jeremiah loves these stiff-necked people.

He proclaims God’s message of repentance to them, hoping they will listen.  He prays for them, despite God’s word, because he loves them and cannot help himself.  He comes alongside them and helps them whenever and wherever he can.

Nevertheless, they want to kill him!

“But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter,” Jeremiah prays–no longer for the Israelites but for himself.  “And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!'” (v. 19).

The gig is up.  Jeremiah, at last, realizes that this people he loves has been betraying him all along.

Some recompense, eh?

So, is it time to pack up the motorcycle and head to the mountains of Mexico?  We shall see–we’ll be continuing in Jeremiah throughout the remainder of Lent (I just peeked ahead in the lectionary)–till Good Friday anyway.

But before I sign off today, there are a couple of pictures that come to mind.

One is of Socrates.  Socrates, as Plato relates, came to his people with a message of hope.  It wasn’t the same message that Jeremiah brought; but it was hopeful nonetheless.  If Jeremiah’s message was salvation through repentance, Socrates’ was salvation through education.  He taught the youth of his day radical ideas, ideas that if put into practice would transform society into a better place.

One of his ideas, by the way, was that there was no pantheon of gods, but only one god.  And for this he was labeled an atheist!

On a bigger level, for bringing transformative ideas to the younger set; for offering a message of salvation through education, he was killed.  Some have called his death second only in terms of tragedy to Jesus Christ’s.

Which, of course, is my second picture.

Jeremiah loved, worked with, served, and prayed for his people.  Yet he was utterly despised, to the point that the people conspired against him to kill him.

Isn’t this the same thing that happened to Jesus Christ?

2015 Lent 19

Posted in Lent 2015 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2015 by timtrue

This shot pretty much sums up everything.

Jeremiah 8:18–9:6

If nothing else, I’m learning that the Prophet Jeremiah’s heart was much like what I understand a pastor’s heart to be.  For he saw all the complexities that make up human nature–or, if you prefer, the human condition.

He was able to say, on the one hand, “Beware of your neighbors, and put no trust in any of your kin.”  For he knew, like Shakespeare, that man–the human person–is a piece of work.  Each of us is capable of the most treacherous of acts.

At the same time, on the other hand, he knew genuine joy and health.  There were poor people in the land who remained faithful, trustworthy, and honest despite the looming darkness of war and threat of death.  Some people–if only but a few–valued and practiced integrity regardless.

The human person is capable of both: honor and treachery.

Our culture has a certain fixation on the dark side of a hero.  Did you see Big Hero 6?  It was touted as a kid’s movie.  But the protagonist, a boy of twelve or thirteen, witnessed the death of his older brother near the movie’s beginning and ends up haunted by his own related demons throughout the rest of the story.  Mature themes for a kid’s movie if you ask me!

Our culture recognizes that real life is full of just these sorts of demons.  We’ve come to understand that dysfunctional is the norm and functional is more of an ideal.  The human person is complicated.  It’s not just that a person can be capable of either honor or treachery, good or bad; but, we say, the human person is both honorable and treacherous, good and bad.

Jeremiah shows me that it’s not just our modern-day, psychology-loving culture that understands people.  Jeremiah understood people back in the day (something like 2600 years ago!).  Even earlier, when someone wrote the book of Genesis (maybe more than 3000 years ago), the message of a complicated humanity calls out loudly and clearly.

Anyway, my prayer is that I, too, living in my modern-day, psychology-loving culture, will understand the rich complexities of the people I’ve been called to serve; and, like Jeremiah, will love them and lead them, even arguing with God for them when need be.

Music to Shut Out Pundits

Posted in Music, Musings with tags , , , , on August 22, 2014 by timtrue

Beethoven

Sometimes I am overcome with the level of truth, beauty, and goodness that humanity produces.

Just viewed this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ljq4MwzAbo

If you’ve got the time and patience, it’s definitely worth a hearing: a recording of Claudio Arrau performing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32 in Bonn, Germany in 1977.

Watching Arrau is impressive enough.  He’s definitely a master of masters.  His interpretation is perhaps the best there is to date.  And the technical difficulty!  The music critics of 1820s Vienna said this sonata was unplayable after it was first published–if that gives you any idea.

But Arrau can play it.  So could some other pianists who lived closer to Beethoven’s time.  People who didn’t listen to the critics.  People who continued to believe in the aging Beethoven.

For an example of what I’m talking about, close your eyes right at about 25:20 into the recording.  After a few seconds it will sound like Arrau has three hands.  For there are three distinct voices, in three registers, sounding together!  It’s positively trinitarian.  But then you open your eyes and see that, no, no one has joined Arrau; nor has any Wizard enabled Arrau to grow a third hand.  But close your eyes and there it is again!  Truly genius!  Truly the ancient triad of truth, beauty, and goodness come to life!

Then you remember.  Here, now, already moved to tears, you remember that Beethoven was completely deaf at the time he composed this sonata.

How?

. . .

Moved beyond material existence, you decide then and there to be like Beethoven.  You decide that you’ll be deaf to the critics, to the naysayers, and to the news reports all around you that try to force you into desperation regarding humanity.  Where is the truth, they say?  Where is the goodness?  Where is the beauty?

You can’t answer.  Beethoven has rendered you temporarily speechless.  Instead, you act.  You shut off the TV and those wagging pundits, click on that link I gave you above, and settle into hearing nothing for a half hour but this heavenly music brought to earth.

Finally, then, you recover.  And you say, “Right here, O pundits of pessimism.  Truth, beauty, and goodness–humanity’s splendor–are all right here.  You go ahead and tell your stories.  As for me, I’ll listen to Beethoven.”