Would Jesus have escaped his fate in 2017?

The manner of Jesus’ death was not unusual for the times, in a conquered country ruled by powerful Roman overlords, who would have required Hebrew authorities to maintain a peaceful and calm populace.

Pilate washHowever, the attempts to evade responsibility for the decision to execute Jesus, suggest some uneasiness.

Jesus preached radical views and evicted the moneylenders from the Temple in Jerusalem and defied the Pharisees and Sadducees. He gathered crowds around him and had clearly attracted quite a following. He also defied the Sanhedrin – these were the power brokers of the times.

There would have been some who recalled the 12 year old boy Jesus,
who had displayed advanced scriptural knowledge in discussion with the elders in the Temple and who even then said he was about his Father’s business.

As a man, in accordance with custom, he read the scripture of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth, and claimed to be the fulfillment of that scripture. No doubt there were reports about miraculous cures and the wonderful feeding of thousands and other miracles. Certainly 1000’s gathered to follow him and listen to what he said.

The Pharisees and Saducees were obviously sceptical and disbelieving and examined him. He remained obdurate and popular – a clear threat to the hegemony of the local government of the times, who had also caused the execution of John the Baptist who had announced the coming of the Messiah.

PalmSundayIn the book of Zachariah it was written: “The Coming of Zion’s King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”. It suggests that Jesus was declaring he was the King of Israel to the anger of the Sanhedrin when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, to great popular acclaim.

revol doctrineNow these are acts which are of a political consequence. Here was a potential challenge to existing authority. The claim to be the Son of God was surely false.

coming of christ

Surely, God would inform his priests and give heavenly indication of His Son’s arrival,  by attending Him with Archangels, Seraphim and Cherubim?
So a political decision was made to remove the radical upstart who had attracted a large following and threatened their autonomy. The execution was conducted, comparatively humanely for the times, as his legs were not broken to hasten his demise, but he was stabbed in the side with a spear.

In modern times, rumours of poisoning of citizens in Syria, have attracted swift retribution from powerful military overlords. Yet the decimation of rural population with murdered citizens being thrown down old mine shaafrican-tyrantsfts by an African tyrant, did not even attract condemnation from the same military overlord who had installed the tyrant in years gone by.

Politics is a dirty game, in which compassion and tolerance are hindrances, not given any countenance.

Not much has changed. Even now, I wouldn’t be surprised at the same thing happening again to Jesus – save that His miracles would have gone viral. Mind you they would probably be written off as fake news !

Good Friday Feelings

I must confess to a great sadness that hangs around me as the week nears Good Friday. My mind echoes with the sad hymns of Easter which describe the jesus crowntorment, mockery and suffering that Jesus endured; learned during the torturous (for young boys) service of Stations of the Cross.

There is a green hill far away

I am almost mystified by the full moon and the still, chill Autumn Easter season heralding winter.

This is the influence of a Catholic upbringing in which Good Friday was a sombre day for repentance and sorrow; icons were covered, the altar was bare and the bells replaced by wooden clappers.

The joy of Easter Sunday is a marked contrast which puzzled my schoolboy mind. Vestments are white and candles and Easter Eggs abounded, representing the new life of the risen God.

easter joy

The Easter Bunny too played its part:  “originating among German
Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of
a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in  at the start of the season of Eastertide.”easter rabbit

The holyday weekend usually sees an exodus to the pleasure domes and sultry sea, so the churches should not suffer for space, like at Christmas. But in fact they do – as Christians celebrate the new life and re-commit themselves to spiritual focus and fleshly discipline. Not a bad thing, for we are a decadent bunch.hallelujah chorus stand

And here is a wonder to uplift you!

Hallelujah Chorus

This day marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian tradition of fasting andustd renewed contemplation of spiritual life. It endures for 40 days in commemoration of the time Jesus spent fasting in the desert, during which he endured temptation by Satan. Adherents focus on prayer, doing penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.

All very commendable and worthy practices.

I recall the tiny Catholic Church in Mbabane, overflowing with serious and devout Swazis lining up to be marked on the forehead with an ash cross. Incense and sweat and lovely singing. I couldn’t wait to get out and surreptitiously wipe my brow before any of our friends could see me – they were all Protestants.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – a sobering thought.

Dad gave up his Gordons pink gin and water (ugh!) before lunch and his John Jameson’s whisky before supper. I think Mum gave up smoking? My brother alent-birthdaynd I had to forgo sweets, which was really heavy!

The fast was for 40 days but Sundays were excluded and so were birthdays in our house.

I have for some years maintained a fast by giving up beer, which is quite a sacrifice for me.

sacrificesHowever, this year I have decided to give up meat. I must confess that my motivation is not that pure: I have been working on reducing my girth by eating healthier and less food and I am conscious that like many colonials, I eat too much meat. So a wee bit of vanity sneaks in there, but discipline and self-improvement trump them.

Giving up meat is not as simple as just forgoing beer; it is a major disruption to household habits, which affect not only me, but also my wife.

She does not like most fish. She has always done the catering including evening meal preparation. You may discern the tension. So I must prepare my own evening meals.

My research into Lent indicates that some fasts only included animal meat, so fish and fowl are acceptable. So tonight it will be tuna fishcakes; tomorrow sardines on toast, Friday could be salt and pepper squid, Saturday maybe crumbed whiting and Sunday will be braaivleis!prawn-salad

Monday boiled eggs, Tuesday tuna salad, Wednesday spaghetti marinara … I am getting into the swing of this! Suggestions are welcome.

I also intend to read up on meditation and perhaps practice it and attempt to complete the book I am writing, which is a major challenge as I have reached a stale block.

Finding a poor person to provide a meal to is difficult in the relative prosperity of a social welfare state. Some local homeless people demand money instead as they get too many meals!! I shall seek an alternate charitable cause.

I suppose I am an agnostic, but I believe in some of the traditions and practices and need self-discipline and spiritual renewal.

Give it a go! It’s a far more achievable challenge than New Year resolutions!

The love of Christmas

angel-goldI could see the high treble voice soar up to the vaulted cathedral roof, so agonisingly sweet the tears stung my eyes and I looked around for my brother or my Dad, knowing their voices would have caught in their throats too…

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…

Of course, they are not here, one in Heaven and the other in the Swaziland bushveld, (which is near there). But they sent a butterfly angel which floated by as if listening…

Hark the herald angels sing…

More angelic trebles. I think I will be alright; so long as someone doesn’t sing Danny Boy – fortunately, it’s not quite the season. That maudlin, sentimental ditty catches me every time: such a simple declaration of love.

Just to top it off, here is a recording of Away in a manger, which really seized me up and dampened my cheeks. Somehow this child’s prayer has always signified much of God’s love to me.

Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowingaway-in-a-manger
The Baby awakes
A little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
‘Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

Then there was the saintly King Wenceslas and his devoted page:

page-afterSire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,

Fails my heart I know not how, I can go no longer…

Mark my footsteps good my page, treads’t thou in them boldly

Thee shall find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly

There’s a message there.

 

May you all be blessed by the love of loved ones and happy memories of Christmastime.

A Stairway to Heaven

stairway.jpgYesterday I re-posted a blog which ended in a quote from the Dalai Lama:  “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they got lost.”

That raised thoughts about the pursuit of happiness and whether such a seemingly hedonistic, self-indulgent goal is virtuous and whether it is compatible with a ‘good life’ in the religious sense.daily-choice

Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. His conclusion is that happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue

You have got to choose to be good to be happy and good is not that easy, sometimes.

bee happy.jpeg

 

 

 

  • Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence
  • Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
  • Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a temporary state.
  • Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
  • Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
  • Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.

In keeping with the Stephen Covey model, 7 habits of happy people are identified:

  • Express your heart – People who have one or more close friendships are happier.
  • Cultivate kindness – Reach out
  • Keep moving and eat well – “sound body, sound mind” 
  • Find your flow – do what you’re doing  because you like what you’re doing
  • Discover Meaning – a close link exists between spiritual and religious practice and happiness
  • Discover and use your strengths – the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths  and virtues and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goalspiglets-heart
  • Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope – gratitude is one of the greatest virtues. It defeats pride which is the sneakiest of vices.

Most of the above comes from http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org

do-i-make-you-happyThis website has wonderful and good stuff on positive psychology and the pursuit of happiness. Check it out and start looking for your own stairways, y’all.

 

 

 

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

robertmpirsig_zenandtheartofmotorcyclemaintenance Recently I have been engrossed by this Inquiry into values by Robert Pirsig. It was a classic of the new free thinking era of the 70’s; however I avoided reading it (and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). I suppose I felt they were a wee bit kitsch.

I was wrong – this is a fascinating book of some depths, which I recommend.

 

It discloses a very real look into both sides of a very bright schizophrenic’s mind and his descent into insanity, which was treated by shock therapy.

Be warned, it takes some discipline to complete it.buddha-or-godhead

Parallels with eastern philosophies are drawn which are enlightening.

The discussion is sometimes quite complex, but somehow the main points are well illustrated.

The balances between science and art, yin and yang and the overarching of quality or excellence, which is the source of all endeavour, are persuasive.

 

I founpirsigs-heart-2d a great deal of support for my thoughts on spiritual direction, differences between sexes, xenophobia  and beauty.

There is an intriguing relationship with his young son which has a strange twist, near the end.

I must now read the Hitchhikers’ Guide .

 

Sanctuary

The Church was a sanctuary where all could seek and receive refuge in the Middle Ages.

The function of  holy people was to interpret Gods’ ways to those in power. They did this by educating themselves so they could advise wisely. In turn they were protected by those in power because it was believed that they could invoke the Gods’ protection.

Rituals and liturgies were developed which ensured continuity which in turn gave comfort to the followers.

Much of the other work of the religious has been to care for the sick and the poor and it still is. Many people have been granted succour and sanctuary since time began.

Sadly as we know, power corrupts and few  can withstand the seductive corruption of power.

We should not let the sad perversions of power relations in institutions obscure the great good done by selfless servants of Gods.

Places of worship are still sanctuaries for many – places where we can escape the buzz, rush and pressure of modern life to think and pray and lose fears.