Sunday, December 2, 2018

Haiku for Hope Sunday

Hope in the promise / of justice and righteousness. / Jesus--the good word.

I’m haiku-ing again!  (Can I verb that?  I just did.)  During Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, I’m going to (attempt to) write a haiku a day.  The thought process leading up to today’s haiku was interesting and (I think) share-worthy.  So here’s the Promise haiku unpacked.

This is the first Sunday of Advent—hope Sunday—and last night at house church we focused on hope.  People shared songs, art, verses, exhortations, and teachings, all centered on hope. 

Also, the United Methodist Church, through their #RethinkChurch campaign, has an Advent photo-a-day challenge.  Today, December 2nd, the prompt word is promise. 

So with those two things, I was pondering promise and hope, and came across Jeremiah 33:14.  Here it is, in context, in the ESV translation:

14 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness.'”

I used to know enough Biblical Hebrew to be dangerous, so I love checking out the Hebrew of verses with the aid of language tools.  Turns out, the ESV misses a word play or emphasis in verse 14.  Here’s the interlinear version:

Interlinear translation of Jeremiah 33:14, Hebrew and English

The yellow underlined Hebrew phrase on the left, literally translated on the right side is “that good word”.  The orange underlined Hebrew phrase on the left is literally translated “I have spoken” on the right.  The yellow underlined word is the root of the very closely related orange word—they both use the same three letters (dalet, beit, reish).  In the Hebrew, it reads like the Lord saying, “I will perform that good word which I worded.”  I can’t fault the ESV for not translating it that way, that’s awkward in English.  But we miss the word play here. 

An analogy.  If you need to cross a stream, do you look for the thin, unstable, rotting log? Or the new sturdy foot bridge?  That rotting log is going to fail and dump you in the water if you step on it.  But that foot bridge with new 2x6s is going to keep your feet high and dry. 

Saturday night we talked about where we place our hope.  When we hope in things that fail, we are disappointed, and dumped like that rotting log.  Some of thing things that we hoped in that had let us down were money, careers, other people.  To not be disappointed and stay dry, we need to place our hope on what won’t fail. 

Someone’s word is considered good when they do what they say they’re going to do.  Think of the phrase, “He’s a man of his word.”  In Jeremiah 33:14, “good word” is translated as “promise”.  The Lord promises to fulfill or accomplish the good word he has spoken.  It’s a good word because he’s a God of his word—he will do it.  And it’s a good word also because it’s filled with good things—justice and righteousness.

To wrap up, we can place our hope in the Lord's promise.  His good word is the Word made flesh, Jesus.  Through Jesus, the justice and righteousness our hearts and world groan for is assured and will be accomplished.  He is the Word we can place our hope in. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Cooking Contest

This is the second installment of our semi-regular guest posts.  Stephanie (name changed to protect her privacy) shares this post about a recent cooking contest. 

I recently took 3rd place in a cooking contest.  The contest was at a local school between mothers who made a national dish of the country I had recently moved to.  The dish is source of great pride and I had made it under a friend’s supervision once before.  One of the teachers asked, actually nagged, me into representing my daughter’s class in the competition.  Again, I had made the dish once before and had forgotten salt.  Yeah, any recipe where you forget salt is a problem.  Obviously I was not confident of my chances. 

I showed up with my version of the completed dish.  The judges (four teachers at the school) went through tasting all the various versions of the same dish.  After much deliberation the 1st prize went to a lovely grandmother who's wizened features demanded respect.  Another lady was selected for 2nd and to my surprise (and horror) I was awarded 3rd.  Horror because I had no idea why I was chosen.  I had made this dish once before with dubious results.  Later I tasted the competition and could discern no great advantage of my attempt compared with the “losers”.  And this was a national dish.  Something these ladies had made for special occasions or guests since they were young.  Why me?

The country my family is living in as guests is shaped by an honor and shame mindset.  I am from a western world view which is often shaped by guilt and innocence.  In the western world ideas like justice, meritocracy, and fairness are highly valued.  From this world view the contest seemed ludicrous or a sham.  In my host culture ideas of honor, respect, and place in community are of supreme importance.  From this vantage point the winners were obvious.  The grandmother is the oldest woman demanding the utmost respect (1st place), the woman who made the best dish (2nd place), and the honored guest – the visitor to our country must be honored (3rd place).  It was obvious.

As part of my award I received a small gift and a certificate (stamped with an official looking stamp by the principle).  I showed my certificate later to some local friends.  They congratulated me on my accomplishment and then asked when I would be hosting a party to celebrate my success.  A party?  For a school cooking contest? Seriously?  They smiled but were somewhat serious.  In a culture shaped by honor, it is your responsibility to display your achievements and showcase these through a feast inviting relatives, friends, and neighbors. If you don’t, then you are considered very stingy and unwilling to share your honor with your wider circle.  All who participate get a share of the honor.  This can seem like a huge waste of resources and downright arrogant in western eyes. 

So now you have my advice on winning a cooking contest.  Remember that the placing you receive might be a responsibility, not an acknowledgment of merit.  That greatness is not being placed above another person.  That merit and community are often intertwined in human society.  That being publicly honored is not a source of embarrassment but can be an opportunity to lift others with you.  That truly is a picture of gracious behavior.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fierce Hope

In this world of
pain and suffering,
injustice and cruelty,
indifference and ignorance—
remember to hope,
and fill your joy tank,
so you have gas for the journey of
justice and mercy,
reconciliation and restoration.
It’s a long trek
and you’ll need to resupply
with poetry and purring cats,
quiet trees and crashing oceans,
and fireflies.

The One who weeps and died for us,
welcomed children and their laughter,
and told jokes
disarming the authorities.

We lament from our depths
the wicked wrongs of the world,
because we know Hope.
So we follow in the footsteps
of our big Brother,
bleeding love,
and disarming the Powers
with our fierce hope and joy.