A Universal Plea

A Universal Plea

Advent #3

 

Prayer is our topic for this series of discussions during Advent and while we may think of prayer as a purely religious thing, history bears witness that it really is something else.  In its simplest definition, prayer is an entreaty, a plea, a request.  What makes it different from any other request is that a prayer has a level of earnestness associated with it.  Earnestness is not a word used much these days and yet, it is a word that is changing the course of history and has for thousands of years.

 

We are only two days into this series and I have already received my first question about it.  Thank you for reading and for your questions!  The purpose of this blog is to start conversations, dialogues about life and how we live.  Thusly, I really do welcome and encourage all questions.  This one was really quite simple – Why discuss prayer during Advent?  The answer, like my decision on this topic, was not as easy as one might deduce.

 

Calendars are organizational tools and the church calendar is no different.  The Roman calendar eventually had twelve months in it, an evolution of other calendars tried throughout the history of the Roman Empire.  The Hebrew calendar has thirteen months in it.  The difference between the two is that the Roman calendar was based on the sun while the Hebrew calendar was based on the moon.  If one assumes a month is four weeks long, then a year of 52 weeks divides into thirteen months very easily.  Of course, the year being 365 days means that those 52 weeks are not going to encompass all the days.  That is why some months on the Roman calendar were longer than others and the decision of which months were longer was often based on politics.

 

The Church calendar, the calendar I use for divisions of topics for this blog, is based upon both the Roman and Hebrew calendars.  It relies on changes in both the moon and the sun.  Christmas, the date of December 25th, was determined based on the Winter Solstice.  During the earliest years of the Church, it occurred on December 25th.  It was considered the birth of the sun because, after the Winter Solstice, the days grow longer and the sun would appear to ancient man to grow.  For the early Christian Church, a group of Jewish believers who recognized the man known as Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah and Christ, the son of God, the symbolism between the natural “sun” and the religious “son” was too good to ignore.  In more modern times the date of the Winter Solstice occurs between December 21-23 but is now beginning to move earlier to include December 20th.  Christmas, however, has remained a fixed date on December 25th.

 

There are remnants of the Hebrew calendar still evident in the modern calendar, however.  Easter is not a fixed date and changes every year.  The date for Easter is based upon the phases of the moon.  Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Vernal Equinox or Spring Solstice.  The Jewish festival of Passover is also celebrated during this time.

 

Advent is the season on the church calendar that precedes Christmas.  It is the first season of the calendar and the name of it means “coming”.  It may seem a contradiction in terms since most people think of Advent as the season in which we prepare for the coming of Jesus and his birth at Christmas but Advent is the season which is most closely related to the Hebrew people.  It is during Advent that we recognize and remember with our own Advent rituals the yearning of the Jewish people as they awaited their promised Messiah.

 

Not everyone who reads this blog is either Jewish or Christian and I am very grateful for that.  This has theological overtones as well as spiritual discussions but I hope it reflects the universality of the human race.  Not all of my closest friends have had the same religious affiliation that I do and some have had none at all.  I firmly and decidedly believe that such affiliations do not make us good people.  That is determined by how we live, how we treat others.

 

We all have our own uniqueness but we also all have a great deal in common.  I think we can all think of some time in our life where we needed help; maybe even a time when we really, really needed help.  It is those moments of request, earnest and heartfelt requesting that unite us.  We all get hungry, cold, scared, and even sick.  We also all are born with the ability to experience happiness and joy.  Regretfully, while we all experience the conditions of need, not everyone gets a chance to experience the conditions of positive emotion.

 

A prayer is not just a question for aid.  A prayer is not always in the form of a question at all.  At times, a prayer is a cry for help, earnest and immediate.  It can also be an exclamation of gratitude, although some would say such prayers are accompanied by hidden requests that such good times continue.  There are also prayers of remembrance and again one might say they carry a subconscious hope that the person praying is also remembered by the deity to whom the prayer is offered.

 

One of the hallmarks of the Advent season in the liturgical services is this opening sentence:  “Lord, open our lips”.  As a child, I can remember thinking “But if you do, Lord, I am going to get in trouble.”  A small child talking during the church service was not encouraged, you see.  How often do we think a similar thought, I wonder?  Not about a deity but about our fellow man?   If we open our lips and lives to really live our faith, do we fear being denounced by society?  A fashion trend is simply a habit that has caught on and become popular.  What is we made being nice and living goodness a fashion trend? 

 

There are, of course, other opening sentences used for Advent.  Two of the most common include one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  There is no other place one can go for so many prayers of antiquity than the book known as the Bible which contains both the Old and New Testaments. 

 

“Watch, for you do not know the hour…when…cometh. (Mark 13:35, 36)  “In the wilderness, prepare the way…” (Isaiah 40:3)  These are the two often-used opening sentences, although I have not quoted them in their entirety here.  We all have needed help at some time and been scared.  Prayer is the first reaction for most in those situations.  It is a universal response mankind has engaged in since the beginning of time.  We need to watch because we do not know what tomorrow holds, or even twelve hours from now.  We need to live goodness and mercy because we all at some point in our life feel we are stuck in a wilderness of sorts. 

 

Advent is about earnest yearnings and the requests of our hearts.  Advent is a time of preparing, not just for the coming of Christmas but for the rest of our lives.  During this series we will discuss prayer in the form of dance, of jewelry, of art, and of our souls.  We all have hopes.  We all have dreams.  Far too often we go through life thinking about what we do not have instead of what we do.  Prayer is also about gratitude, a gratitude that lets us recognize our own potential.  Advent is a time of prayer because prayer is a universal plea that comes from the soul.  It is something we have in common, the fact that we all have a time in which we will utter a universal plea to that which we feel but cannot fully see, that we can feel but cannot create on our own.  Advent recognizes the human in all of us and the need for humanity in the world.

 

 

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A Constant Light

A Constant Light

Pentecost 95

It is known as the North Star.  The brightest star in the night sky, children learn to first find the constellation Ursa Minor and then look at the tip of its handle to locate it.  Known by its scientific name of Polaris, this tar is the celestial body most closely aligned with the north pole of the earth’s axis and has been used to guide mankind home since the beginning of time… except that it hasn’t.

The constellations were once one of man’s greatest mythologies and the basis for many gods and goddesses.  Which came first?  It is not pertinent to our discussion today but it is a great topic for discussion.  Did someone name a grouping of stars in the visible night sky after belief in a particular deity or was an image seen in the night heavens the reason for a particular belief?

Polaris is the star most closely aligned to the north and many call it brightest star in the nighttime sky.  Actually, it is not the brightest, coming in at approximately number fifty, depending on where you are, the time of year, and a number of other factors.  Polaris has not always been the North Star, either.

Three thousand years before the common era (BCE), a star known as Thuban in the constellation Draco served as the North Star.  Today it is invisible in urban areas being only one-fifth as bright as Polaris.  One thousand years BCE, a Greek navigator named Pytheas disdained the concept of a North Star.  Ursa Minoris was actually the star closest to the north celestial pole but it was too far to be of any real use for navigation.  During Roman times the celestial pole was equal distance between Cynosura and Kochab, Ursa Minoris A and Ursa Minoris B.

Kochab is actually one hundred and thirty times more luminous and these two stars are found in the bowl of the Little Dipper, Ursa Minor.  Cynosura was also known in Anglo-Saxon England by the name scip-steorra or “ship star”.  Cynosura was called Stella Polaris in the sixteenth century although it was several degrees from the actual northern celestial pole.

The earth may seem constant to us, the ground usually remaining under our feet except for earthquakes and sink holes but in reality the earth is always moving.  As it rotates around the sun, it also rotates on its axis which means that the North Star of today will not be the North Star of the tomorrow in time to come.  Around the year 3000 ACE, the star Gamma Cephei or Alrai will become the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  It will be replaced by that Star Iota Cephei in the years 5200 ACE, and then in 10000 ACE, the star Deneb will be the North Star at a position within five degrees of the North Pole.

Polaris, our current North Star, will once again regain its throne as the star closest to the northern celestial pole in 27800 ACE (or CE) but it will not be as close to the pole as it is now.  In fact, Its closest position the North Pole was in 23600 BCE.  Does this mean we should not use Polaris as a guide to determine the compass point of north if lost?  Of course it doesn’t.  It simply means that life is constantly evolving and mankind is as well.

The religion, beliefs, or faith of mankind have long been used as a guiding principle for how one lives.  Whether or not you consider yourself religious or spiritual, you have a sense of self, a sense of how to live.  Even the most spontaneous individual has a system for living.  When we feel hunger, we hope to something to eat.  When cold, we seek warmth, either from a change in room temperature, by applying more clothing, or by leaving the frigid area.  Life is based upon stimulus-response.

The monotheistic mythologies of the Abrahamic religions gave a sense of navigation to their deity.  Ancient mythologies had man reacting to the deities of the various cultures but this monotheistic deity was more a compass point for daily living.  “Or Goyim” was a “light to the nations”.  Faith was not just to be a part of the collective culture but a personal belief and the deity “Jehovah Ori” not just a deity but “the Lord my light”.

A tree planted in the ground will grow at an approximate rate, much like the North Star is approximately the star closest to the northern celestial pole.  However, as we have learned, Polaris will not always be the North Star and neither will a tree planted grow exactly as another of the same species planted at the same time.  As mankind grew, even with one monotheistic mythology, mankind grew differently and the deity of these faiths was seen from differing perspectives.  There may have been one deity but it had differing interpretations.  The “Jehovah El Emeth”, this “Lord God of truth” was seen from diverse perspectives.

There are those who might claim there is no one deity.  There are those that reject the scientific view that Polaris will not always be the North Star.  After all, who will be around to verify, who could be able to see both Polaris and Gamma Cephai?  The answer is, of course, no one.  Man/Woman cannot live as long as the stars do.

What is important is how we believe.  I need not worry about the North Star three thousand years from now.  I need to worry about that which can lead me home, that which can give my life meaning and purpose.  We all need a North Star in our living, virtual, spiritual, and actual.

Strength Sufficient

Strength Sufficient

Pentecost 93

It is a story told in my family for decades, one that occurred around the turn of the twentieth century at a time when, in rural America, religious communities had visiting preachers.  These ministers of the circuit, as they were known, traveled from small church to small church, finding hospitality among the faithful who came to hear their preaching.

My ancestors had invited the traveling parson, as the story called him, to Sunday dinner which was held about mid-afternoon.  People traveled from their homes to the church in horse and buggy modes of travel so services began mid-morning.  Since this was before the time of modern electricity which is now found in almost every indoor chapel in the United States, the mid-morning start time also provided for ample lighting through the windows, even on a cloudy day.

Apparently having the traveling parson to dinner was quite an honor and the relatives from whom I had their story still remembered how polished everything had to be.  Floors were scrubbed multiple times, tabletops polished to reflect one’s face, and every corner clean enough to eat off of the floor and walls.

The family had more than ten children so long benches served the place of chairs on each side of the eight foot table.  Near the kitchen sat the patriarch of the family, a spot usually reserved for the mother.  On the day the preacher came to dinner, though, the preacher was given the patriarch’s place at the table, near the front door and away from the heat of the wood burning stove.  At one end was the father of the family, one of my great-something grandfathers, and at the other sat the traveling man of faith.

The children ate with their best manners and only spoke when asked a direct question.  No one refused to eat anything and no one took seconds until they received a nod indicating they could.  The minister was given first choice of everything and gratefully accepted the food offered.  Pies and cakes concluded the meal and then my great-something grandfather asked the parson if he’d had enough.  This was their conversational exchange:

“Preacher, have you had a sufficiency?”

“What’s that you say?  You went fishing?”

“Preacher, have you had a plenty?”

“Oh, you say you caught twenty?”

At this point, as the story goes, the multiple children on each side of the table were being warned with a stern look from both their mother and father to sit still and keep a blank face.  I remember hearing that they bit their lips and/or looked at their laps to keep from laughing.  Children in that day and age were expected to be respectful and never laughed at adults.  The visiting preacher was an older man and obviously hard of hearing.  My great-something grandfather was not one to accept defeat, however.  He tried one more time.

“Preacher, have you had all you can hold?”

“Oh, that’s too bad.  You broke your pole!”

I don’t remember the first time I heard this story but I do remember hearing it as a teenager and asking a question.  “Did anyone laugh; did any of the kids laugh?”  I was immediately assured no one did because…They had gone to church and their Lord had helped them keep a straight face and be respectful.

I must admit I do not think I have ever asked God for assistance or strength in keeping a straight face although the relative telling me this story was certain I had.  The deity of this relative’s faith was the strength with which we lived our daily lives and, at some point in time, were called upon to not laugh out loud at another’s situation.

It is an interesting concept, the strength we allow our deity or deities to exert, with which they are characterized, and to which we rely upon in our beliefs.  Apparently, early believers had no problem identifying their monotheistic deity with strength.  Jehovah Uzzi translates as “the God of my strength”.  They took this idea of a strong deity a step further.  Jehovah Sali, the Lord my rock; Jehovah Magen, the Lord my Shield – all were named given to the one deity of the Abrahamic faiths and even those religions not using the Hebrew names, used the descriptions in their holy writings.

Like my great-something grandfather’s words, religion became misconstrued and in time, often a danger to those who believed,  Thus their strong deity became a fortress and one with whom their asked for defense against their tormentors.  Jehovah Mauzzi, the Lord my fortress, and Jehovah Maginnenu, the Lord our defense, were prayed to and characteristics of the strength of the deity of the faithful.

All too often in our busy hectic world, our faith can get a bit skewed.  We hear the clamor of society rather than the echoes of the holy mythologies of our faith.  Instead of having all the belief we can hold, we allow the world to break our pole of faith.  It is easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of what seems to be trendy instead of taking time to be quiet and listen to the whispers of the holy.  The Lord is not deaf.  Are we?

Dream vs Ideal

Dream vs. Ideal

Pentecost 92

Yesterday I asked what your “dream” deity was and then what your “ideal” deity was.  True to my word, I am not reposting comments, questions, etc.  I do hope you did ask yourself, though, because we really need to identify just what we believe, think, worship, and then convey that in our living.

It is important to not just go through the motions.  “Elohe Yakob”, translates as the God of Jacob.  When we think of the one deity as only that, then that deity or God becomes an antiquated idea that has no place in the twenty-first century.  When we create false expectations, then our faith cannot measure up.

We need to identify what it is we exactly believe in or disbelieve.  Yes, I said disbelieve.  Many times I have been told what was wrong with my faith, only to have the person telling me then say something that shows me they have no idea what it is I actually do believe.  They have made assumptions that, though well-meaning, are completely and entirely incorrect.

A perfect example is the use of the word “Anabaptist”.  Many people think it means someone who vehemently opposes the denomination known as Baptist.  It really refers to denominations – yes, plural – that advocate adult baptism only.  The history of Christianity included infant baptism in the Roman and Anglican religions as the early Christians felt the baptisms recognized the individual as a child of God and, because childhood begins with infancy, but also because of high infant mortality rates, children were recognized or baptized into the family of God and Christian believers very soon after birth.  This was similar to the timing of certain Jewish customs and did not seem out of place or odd to these early faithful congregants.

Centuries passed and baptism became an acceptance of one’s recognition of all that Christianity believed and people began to question whether or not a child could do this.  Infant baptism included adults answering for the child, godparents they were called.  Individualism led to accountability on a personal nature and some groups of believers favored adult baptism.  The “ana” prefix means “up from” and the term implied baptism at an older age.  The many different types of the Baptist denomination all advocate baptizing individuals older than infants but many baptize children or teenagers.  Examples of Anabaptist denominations are the Mennonites and the Amish, among others.

Denominations that still baptize infants also baptize adults.  Thinking the term Anabaptist means a group opposed to baptism is incorrect.  In my opinion, my version of God will not refuse all that is offered to His/Her children because they have not been baptized.  That is just my interpretation of the deity I believe in, a deity who is Jehovah Mephalti, the Lord my deliverer, Jehovah Rohi, the Lord my shepherd.

I like the analogy of a deity being a shepherd.  A shepherd cares for the flock, knows each member of the flock, guides the flock aware from harm and yet, when one of the flock wanders astray, doesn’t abandon them but lets them rejoin the flock and continues caring for them.  A recent post making the rounds on Face Book says something like “I always give people a second chance but when I’ve had enough, I’m done with them.”  I understand, I think, the point behind this post but, at the same time, I cannot call it a good thing and no, I did not blindly repost it.  The shepherd always welcomes the errant back into the flock.

All too often we confuse the words “dream” and “ideal”.  My dream appearance might be one thing but my ideal appearance is going to include a weight that is healthiest for me and, trust me, that is not the trendy fashion size of the year which is something like a negative size ten.  All too often we create false expectation of our deity and then lose faith when our life is not ideal.

The god I believe in might have been another’s dream a long time ago but He/She is mine now and I completely and fully embrace that deity.  I do realize that by doing so, however, I still have an imperfect life.  Faith is not always a dream and although I believe in the long run it creates an ideal eternity, it is not ideal to live.  Faith is not for the weak-kneed or lazy.  Faith takes courage and it takes living; more on that tomorrow.  Until then, I hope you have sweet dreams and ideal smiles!

Easy on Sunday Morning

Easy like Sunday Morning

Pentecost 79

It was on their fifth album, an indication that they had received some popularity but the song was designed to help the Commodores cross over, bridge the gap between their audiences of R & B fans to the larger listening group of all music fans.  “Easy” became a #1 hit on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singer Charts, now known as the R & B/Hip Hop Songs listing and #4 on the top 100 Songs list. The question on everyone’s mind, though, was not if it was a good song or if it would indeed provide them a bridge between audiences.  No, most people just wanted to know what the last line of the chorus meant.

Today is Sunday, the Sabbath.  For two of the Abrahamic faiths, the Sabbath represented the seventh day, the day in which their mythology says their Creator rested.  (It is on the calendar day of Friday in the Jewish faith because of the many evolutions of the modern day calendar but that is a discussion for another time.)  In Islam, devotion is considered to be an everyday thing but on Fridays they do have a noon prayer service.  There are five daily calls to worship for a Muslim and three voluntary prayers.  During the Friday noontime service, a sermon is given and then the prayers commence with men and women being separated.

The Calendar for Judaism and Christianity has undergone separation and the reasons for that are found in history.  Both religions, though, set aside a day to for more concentrated worship.  For the Jewish faith, the day begins at sundown on Friday.  No work is to be done from this time until sundown on Saturday.  Families gather for a meal which has been prepared in advance in the orthodox household and then on Saturday morning, all go to temple to worship.

For Christians, the resurrection of the character Jesus began their separation from their Jewish beginnings and Sunday, the day believed to be the day of this resurrection of Jesus over the mortal death of his mortal being, became the first day of their calendar week, their Sabbath.  On Sunday morning, for over three centuries in many areas of the United States, businesses closed.  Laws stated what work could be completed for monetary reimbursement and what items could be purchased.  People were expected to be in church on Sunday morning and then the rest of the day was set aside for family time and enjoying the creation of their deity.

Lionel Richie, Commodore group member and songwriter of many of their hits including “Easy”, the song from which the title lyric comes, is from Tuskegee, Alabama.  Ritchie described his hometown once in an interview by saying it “closed down Saturday night at 11:59 P.M.” and then reopened on Monday morning.  Nothing moved on Sunday morning, according to Ritchie.  People awoke at later times and then eased into the day, attending church around noon and then having a large church dinner afterwards.  Older people would sit under the trees and talk while young adults cleaned up and children played outside the church under the trees.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me.”  This quote from the Christian mythologies known as the New Testament is part of a story which is used to indicate that beliefs are for everyone, even small children who seemingly would not be able to understand all the ramification and reasoning of the faith.  As a parent, it is probably the one quote I repeated more often than any others.

Sunday mornings were chaotic in our household.  And that is an understatement.  Whether it was one child or all of them, whether I had planned out their apparel and accompanying socks, shoes, jackets, etc., whether the weather was comfortable of a more enticing swimming weather or stay-at-home freezing sleet or snow, whether we overslept or not…Sunday mornings were hectic and busy.  Sunday is often described as a “day of rest”.  For me it was anything but restful.  By the time we were all in the car going to our house of worship, I definitely felt like I had suffered and my Jewish and Islamic friends reported feeling similar agonies.

I was a dutiful parent with my first child.  We appeared at our place of worship coordinated in our attire with hair styled and everything neat and orderly.  By the time I had my last child, I just wanted their bodies covered and clean.  Forget having socks that matched their outfits or even matched one foot to the other.  And when I sat down in the community room at my house of worship and gave a deep, heartfelt sigh in gratitude that we had finally gotten there all in one, albeit discombobulated piece, I was joined by other parents who had gone through the exact same struggle to get there.

Mohammed knew several tribes of Jewish followers and felt their “book” gave them a sense of unity in their legends of faith.  He quoted their character Moses, although rather vaguely at times, and took pride in his interpretations when they varied.  The Islamic deity was so powerful that it needed no day of rest, for example.  What the three Abrahamic faiths have in common is the call to faithfulness.

“El Emunah” was the Hebrew deity of faithfulness.  Today Emunah is used as a girl’s name, signifying not only that one is faithful but that one can be renewed daily by steadfast faith.  I have stated before and will say so again that I do not think faith is supposed to be comfortable.  Faith should be, I believe, steadfast – every present, ever strong, ever motivating.  In this context, faith is persistent and represented by the efforts of one’s daily living as well as in one’s worship.

Regardless of what I went through to get to my communal reverence service, once there I was at peace.  I felt secure and loved.  My soul was …easy.  I have learned in my maturing that faith should be restful.  It can be annoying to be reminded to act in the faith of my beliefs and not in instant human response sometimes, but overall, it is satisfying, relaxing inwardly my soul and thoughts.  Sunday mornings are my “easy” in an otherwise busy life.

All too often our appearance can take over the real purpose for our being somewhere.  Awards programs are preceded by reportings from the arrivals of the honored and invited guests, reportings that often are two or three times in length compared to the actual event.  My faith in taking my children to church without their looking like fashion plates was far greater than the faith I exhibited in taking a beautifully dressed child.  After all, my god was not supposed to care about my clothes, just my heart and soul.  As I grew older and began to realize what my actions were really saying – the appearance meant more than the going – and changed that behavior, I recognized that my children were happier in their faith when they could ease into the day of worship instead of treating it like a necessary function of turmoil.

We tend to put so many caveats on our identities as people of faith that we overlook the need to have that faith, to be steadfast in its teachings.  Someday I hope we are able to approach each other with the love and open arms that we believe our deities have for us.  Someday I hope that acceptance relies more on our internal goodness than in our outward appearance – what we are wearing and our physical characteristics.  Someday I hope we are able to put the world to bed at 11:59 P.M. and awake and show each other love, love that comes to us as easy as Sunday morning brings the new day.

To Be a Neighbor

To Be a Neighbor
Pentecost 76

I have never lived on a remote island or in the middle of a desolate tract of land. I have never lived a top a mountain all alone or on the banks of a seldom traveled river. I have lived in a bustling neighborhood in a metropolitan area. I have also lived in a relaxed neighbor in an historic small village known as a borough. All this explains my next comment. I have never lived without neighbors. And if John Donne’s poem is correct, neither have you.

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

Our word for the monotheistic deity praised in the mythological legends of the Abrahamic faiths for today is Elohei Tehillati. Elohei is another form of Elohim and Elohe which we have discussed previously and they all three still translate as “god”. Tehillati is a word which translates as “to sing”, “to praise”.

It is not a difficult thing to understand why they had a name for the deity they worshipped. It makes sense that one manner of worship would involve singing. Man has engaged in joyful, lyrical adoration of life since mankind first discovered the human voice. Many of the scriptures, the holy writings and mythologies which tell the stories of these faiths even encourage it: “Sing to the Lord a new song!”

Elohei Tehillati was the god of praise but this form of the deity has somehow gotten a bit lost in the living, I think. The mythologies of the Abrahamic faiths not only shifted from polytheism to monotheism, they also illustrated that worship was interactive, not only with the deity but with life itself.

Singing praises to this one god was not the whole story. To complete the interactive worship, one had to also spread praise to one’s neighbor. Pardon me for borrowing from Hamlet but …”Aye, there’s the rub.” I can sing praise all day long to God and respect in song someone else’s deity. My neighbor??? I have had some gloriously wonderful neighbors. I have also had some that I hoped would get transferred…soon…like yesterday. And now the mythologies are telling me to praise my neighbor?

Faith is a collaborative communication between the person and his/her object of worship. It always has been. In fact, regardless of the period of history, the culture, the location, the level of simplicity or complicated tenets and rubrics, to believe has always meant to work in partnership, to join forces, to share.

Do we really share our god or gods? Are we willing to allow that the god that grants us mercy gives the same to our less than desirable neighbors? Do I really share god of my heart with the heart of my enemy? Do I really see my enemy as my neighbor, an equal in the love of this one deity, a god of mercy, of praise, of life? Do I allow my faith and beliefs to be interactive with life?

If I do, then I must praise my neighbor. I have to find that silver lining of their soul instead of just seeing the dark cloud of their actions. I cannot save all my praise for my god. I must spread it around. I must live the songs I sing. Aye, there’s the rub in not being an island but a being, one of many, one of one god.

S.E.T.I. and Jehovah

S.E.T.I. and Jehovah

Pentecost 72

Are we alone? Do we want to be alone? If we are not alone and/or if we do not want to be alone, what do we do next? How do we live or work or simply coexist in a relationship? How do the relationships we have in our lives impact us? How does a relationship or lack thereof with a deity affect us? IN the next several weeks I hope we think about those questions. Our ancestors certainly did. Their faiths outlines how to worship their monotheistic faiths as well as how to lie one with another.

Recently the University of Minnesota reviewed almost one hundred and fifty studies on relationships and discovered that strong relationships can lead to a healthier and longer life. A 2012 international Gallup poll found that people who feel they have friends and family to count on are generally more satisfied with their personal health than people who feel isolated. Dr. Sheldon Cohen, psychologists and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, conducted a survey of college students and found those with strong relationships were fifty percent less likely to catch the common cold when exposed than their peers without strong relationships.

How does one have a relationship with a deity that cannot be seen or touched? How would that affect us? Jehovah is the name given for the relational god, the god with whom they interacted. However, the name itself is something of a relationship in and of itself. In history we have a group of people that are completely unrelated, span countless decades and centuries and yet are referred to by one single name – explorers. That is because although they were not of the same cultures or doing their work during the same time, they did share a common goal – that of exploration.

The documents we have written for the Abrahamic Faiths are thought to have taken the idea for such transcription from Greek scholars. Somewhere during the second century ACE, these Greek scholars began recording their history and in so doing, developed a written language based upon their oral dialects. They did this by adding what we call diacritic marks to the ancient texts, marks that indicated the meaning or distinction of a word to add clarity to it. Hebrew scholars worked over centuries to maintain their culture. These scholars were known by the term Masoretes and came from regions such as Babylon, Palestine, Europe, and Yemen. Like the explorers of history, these scholars were of different cultures and different times, sharing the desire to save the Hebrew academia and faith. The people of the region became obsessed with saving their culture which seemed to be slipping away from them with the advancement of time and science. Even Muhammed became a part of this movement, urging his kinsmen to return to the monotheism of Moses. His efforts resulted in the production of the Quran.

Because of the efforts of the Masoretes, we have the name Jehovah. It was first introduced in 1520 allegedly by Galatinus. Hebrew script had previously contained mostly consonants so when something was read aloud, vowels had to be inserted. The Masoretes developed a vowel-notation system like the Diacritical marks of the Greeks to preserve and unify pronunciations. However, the word was considered to be so holy that it could not be pronounced and was written as YHWH, which we briefly discussed yesterday.

The three Abrahamic faiths are very different and have accounted, in some way, for major conflicts and deaths on this planet. A visitor from another galaxy might question just what kind of deity do they worship if by doing so, they kill and maim their fellow beings. Another might wonder if three such different religions could really all be discussing the same one god.

The Search of Extraterrestrial Intelligence is something similar to the explorers and Masoretes we discussed earlier. It is not, as some believe, one large project but rather a series of activities all with the single purpose of determining if there is intelligent life outside our planet and perhaps galaxy. In 1896, Nicholas Tesla suggested that his wireless electrical transmission system could possibly be used to contact any beings living on Mars. Three years later while doing research and experiments in Colorado, he thought he had received a signal from mars. How does this project define whether or not it has verified such existence? What are the parameters of such a relationship?

Simply put, S.E.T.I. seeks to do what mythologies have done throughout the history of mankind. Through a variety of exercises conducted by a host of experts in several different scientific disciplines, S.E.T.I. is looking for repetitive patterns among the chaotic clutter of space. It is believed that, amid all the electromagnetic static that comprises what we call outer space, intelligent beings would create repetitive patterns, much like living beings do here on here.

The SETI League, Inc. is a membership non-profit organization with members in sixty-two countries. The grassroots alliance made up of amateur and professionals echoes the efforts of the early explorers and Masoretes in their communal efforts across the globe. Through the use of home satellites they are adding their research to that of government and scientific entities in this quest to develop a possible relationship with any extraterrestrial beings. Their main project is known as Project Argus, named after the Greek mythological god and seeks to cover the sky with reception continually.

It may seem odd to have a scientific project named after a mythological deity but the relationship between the two is really quite common. Argus was the Greek beast who stood guard with his one hundred eyes that allowed him to see in all directions.   The name was used by Arthus C, Clarke and Carl Sagan in their science fiction. Ohio State University is currently developing a radio telescope that would be omnidirectional which will be named Argus. The NASA study now known as Cyclops, another name from Greek mythology, was originally termed Argus.

The best relationship examples are probably those found in nature. It is in nature that we can easily see the majesty of creation and the miracle of life relating us all that the Abrahamic faiths and their stories portray. Jehovah was said to create and protect all and certainly the relationship found in nature would uphold that belief. Take for example the simple raspberry. Not an actual berry but rather an aggregate fruit, the raspberry is a design known as a Fibonacci sequence. The Fibonacci sequence is often called nature’s numbering system. It is the arrangement of petals on a stem or sections of a fruit that best allows the plant to grow and (pardon the pun) be fruitful. Found in every aspect of nature, the sections of a raspberry comprise a Fibonacci sequence. Perhaps more interesting is that the flavor of the raspberry results in part from its composition of ethyl fornate, a substance newly discovered to exist in outer space. Does this discovery relate a fruit found on earth to the rest of our galaxy?

Jehovah was a mighty name for a mighty god. It was the name given to a deity found in many cultures and, if following the search parameters established by S.E.T.I., such a belief in this one deity would indicate intelligent life. It was not an all-encompassing name, however. Like many relationships, the relationships between mankind and its one god needed to evolve, to continually adapt and grow. Just how it adapted we will discuss tomorrow. Today I hope you enjoy the nature around you and perhaps, have a bowl of raspberries. You just might be taste the air of another solar system. Certainly, you will be enjoying the creation of and a relationship with an amazing fruit, the work of something other than mankind.