Friday, April 30, 2010

Luke 16 -- dude, the guy's an embezzler !

This is a parable that has puzzled me, and many other Christians, for quite a while, now. A guy is accused of ripping off his employer. While cleaning out his desk[0], he cooks the books[1] one last time in order to curry favor with other crooks. And the boss commends the rascal for his ingenuity.

And this is the hero of the story? Dude, the guy's an embezzler!

Let's look at the text:
Luk 16:1 İsa öğrencilerine şunları da anlattı: "Zengin bir adamın bir kâhyası vardı. Kâhya, efendisinin mallarını çarçur ediyor diye efendisine ihbar edildi.
Luk 16:2 Efendisi kâhyayı çağırıp ona, 'Nedir bu senin hakkında duyduklarım? Kâhyalığının hesabını ver. Çünkü sen artık kâhyalık edemezsin' dedi.
Luk 16:3 "Kâhya kendi kendine, 'Ne yapacağım ben?' dedi. 'Efendim kâhyalığı elimden alıyor. Toprak kazmaya gücüm yetmez, dilenmekten utanırım.
Luk 16:4 Kâhyalıktan kovulduğum zaman başkaları beni evlerine kabul etsinler diye ne yapacağımı biliyorum.'
Luk 16:5 "Böylelikle efendisine borcu olanların hepsini tek tek yanına çağırdı. Birincisine, 'Efendime ne kadar borcun var?' dedi.
Luk 16:6 "Adam, 'Yüz ölçek zeytinyağı' karşılığını verdi. "Kâhya ona, 'Borç senedini al ve hemen otur, elli ölçek diye yaz' dedi.
Luk 16:7 "Sonra bir başkasına, 'Senin borcun ne kadar?' dedi. "'Yüz ölçek buğday' dedi öteki. "Ona da, 'Borç senedini al, seksen ölçek diye yaz' dedi.
Luk 16:8 "Efendisi, dürüst olmayan kâhyayı, akıllıca davrandığı için övdü. Gerçekten bu çağın insanları, kendilerine benzer kişilerle ilişkilerinde, ışıkta yürüyenlerden daha akıllı oluyorlar.
Luk 16:9 Size şunu söyleyeyim, dünyanın aldatıcı servetini kendinize dost edinmek için kullanın ki, bu servet yok olunca sizi sonsuza dek kalacak konutlara Kabul etsinler."
Luk 16:10 "En küçük işte güvenilir olan kişi, büyük işte de güvenilir olur. En küçük işte dürüst olmayan kişi, büyük işte de dürüst olmaz.
Luk 16:11 Dünyanın aldatıcı serveti konusunda güvenilir değilseniz, gerçek serveti size kim emanet eder?
Luk 16:12 Başkasının malı konusunda güvenilir değilseniz, kendi malınız olmak üzere size kim bir şey verir?
Luk 16:13 "Hiçbir uşak iki efendiye kulluk edemez. Ya birinden nefret edip öbürünü sever, ya da birine bağlanıp öbürünü hor görür. Siz hem Tanrı'ya, hem paraya kulluk edemezsiniz."
Luk 16:14 Parayı seven Ferisiler bütün bu sözleri duyunca İsa'yla alay etmeye başladılar.
I got to thinking the last time I read this story -- viewed in isolation, it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Should we be ripping off our employers, in order to find better opportunities elsewhere? Should we assume that there is no security in any job, and start looking for another job a month after landing one? Should we regard this life with contempt, and focus solely on feathering our nest in the next life?

Ah, but context. A TEXT without a CONtext is a PREtext. In the last chapter, we saw Jesus reproving the religious leaders of his day for their lack of compassion. They enjoyed the privileges of their positions, but no longer served as compassionate shepherds of their people. [2]

Perhaps, Jesus is saying, the rulers of Israel were caught with their hands in the cookie jar. They were defrauding God. Rather than getting right with God, they embarked upon a strategy of cutting short-term deals with others who were on the wrong side of the ledger with God. But how long will this purchased charity last? Think about it. How long would you be willing to invite a crook, a guy who had betrayed his last employer, into your house?

When Israel's leaders sucked up to Rome, they were able to enjoy their subsidized luxury for a few more decades -- but when the bills came due, they did so with interest.


[0] This humiliating ritual is often performed under the gaze of corporate security personnel. Folks who have just lost their jobs have been known to strike back in damaging ways. There's a whole tradition and ritual for "outplacing" workers. The former president of a major global corporation was called "Neutron Jack." After he toured a company plant, the facilities would still be there, but many of the people would be gone.

[1] to "cook the books" means to illegally adjust a firm's accounting information, as to make it look either more profitable (to possible buyers) or less profitable (to the tax man) than is really the case. It's one of those rhyming cliches that season the English language so charmingly!

[2] This complaint lodged against the self-serving rulers is heard thousands of years before the time of our Lord. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the citizens lay out their complaints against the king's behavior and add rhetorically, "Yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Luke 15 -- bad company

Once again, reading a familiar text in a new language can yield some delightful fresh impressions. For example, look at the first two verses of Luke 15:
Luk 15:1 Bütün vergi görevlileriyle günahkârlar İsa'yı dinlemek için O'na akın ediyordu.
Luk 15:2 Ferisiler'le din bilginleri ise, "Bu adam günahkârları kabul ediyor, onlarla birlikte yemek yiyor" diye söyleniyorlardı.
All the tax collectors and (other) sinners, Jesus to hear in order to, Him rushed upon. Let's look at the dictionary definition of the highlighted word:

akın raid. foray. rush. afflux. exodus. flow. incursion. inflow. influent. influx. inroad. inrush. invasion. irruption. razzia. spate.
akın exodus. flow. foray. incursion. influx. inroads. invasion. raid. tide. rush. inroad.
akın raid. assault. storm. rush. run. incursion. influx. inroad. invasion.

OK, so a guy is known by the company he keeps. After all, as the old English cliche asserts, "Birds of a feather, flock together." So, the upright, uptight, upstanding members of the community justifiably wonder, "Why do those kind of people want to hang around with this so-called preacher?"

You know, that's a good question. Jesus is getting mobbed. People are crowding around him, wanting to get close to him, wanting to soak up something about him. A lot of preachers would love to have that kind of response, and resort to all kinds of (sometimes) underhanded and manipulative techniques to draw a crowd. Maybe these "teachers of the law" are suffering professional jealousy. Jesus doesn't even seem to be trying very hard -- yet his charisma, his magnetic personality, summons up an audience wherever he goes.

So, a case of "sour grapes" sets in. A lot of these folks are the riffraff, the outcasts, the kind of people who would never darken the door of the local synagogue. "If that's the kind of crowd you draw, you're welcome to them."

Jesus, however, sees the value even in these lost and lowest. The remainder of the chapter uses the stories of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the lost son to describe God's care for all of His own -- even those we are too inclined to write off[1] as unsalvageable.


[1] To "write off" something is a term from the accounting profession. A loan or some other asset is considered to be irretrievably gone. So you subtract its value from the balance sheet, and cease worrying about it. This term also demonstrates the English habit of merging two words to create a totally new verbal unit. One example Mario Pei gave is "call girl."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Luke 14 -- table manners

Eating together is the theme that dominates this chapter. For example, you show up at a party, and there are no names at the table settings. Where should you sit? At the head table? Near it? How near? Here's what Jesus had to say:
Luk 14:7-9 Yemeğe çağrılanların başköşeleri seçtiğini farkeden İsa, onlara şu benzetmeyi anlattı: "Biri seni düğüne çağırdığı zaman başköşeye kurulma. Belki senden daha saygın birini de çağırmıştır. İkinizi de çağıran gelip, 'Yerini bu adama ver' diyebilir. O zaman utançla kalkıp en arkaya geçersin.
Luk 14:10 Bir yere çağrıldığın zaman git, en arkada otur. Öyle ki, seni çağıran gelince, 'Arkadaşım, daha öne buyurmaz mısın?' desin. O zaman seninle birlikte sofrada oturan herkesin önünde onurlandırılmış olursun.
Luk 14:11 Kendini yücelten herkes alçaltılacak, kendini alçaltan yüceltilecektir."
A few words:
  • Belki -- lest, perhaps
  • senden -- than you
  • daha -- more
  • saygın -- honor
  • birini -- one owning
  • de -- but
  • çağırmıştır -- has, they say, been invited. (the -mış- syllable is the dubatative or narrative verb indicator, used when telling stories, or reporting something one hasn't seen personally.)
Bottom line: God's people are subjects of the Great King, who makes the whole universe line up and do tricks for their ultimate benefit. When God is making the whole universe conspire to do us good, then demanding our due is unnecessary. Anxious, restless, self-assertion is silly.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Luke 13 -- replacement theology -- fig and mustard

Some folks tell Jesus about bad things that happened. The vile, violent, Roman governor (who eventually ordered the crucifixion of Jesus) had massacred a batch of pilgrims to Jerusalem. So were the victims of the tantrum bad people, getting what they deserved? Not at all, Jesus said. All of us deserve the worst. "Every day above ground is a bonus," far more than we could ever merit. On the other hand, God's apparent favor can ratchet up the danger of our position. Consider this favored tree:
Luk 13:6 İsa şu benzetmeyi anlattı: "Adamın birinin bağında dikili bir incir ağacı vardı. Adam gelip ağaçta meyve aradı, ama bulamadı.
Luk 13:7 Bağcıya, 'Bak' dedi, 'Ben üç yıldır gelip bu incir ağacında meyve arıyorum, bulamıyorum. Onu kes. Toprağın besinini neden boş yere tüketsin?'
Luk 13:8 "Bağcı, 'Efendim' diye karşılık verdi, 'Ağacı bir yıl daha bırak, bu arada ben çevresini kazıp gübreleyeyim.
Luk 13:9 Gelecek yıl meyve verirse, ne iyi; vermezse, onu kesersin.'"
Let's look at a critical sentence: Adam gelip ağaçta meyve aradı, ama bulamadı.
  • Adam -- A man
  • gelip -- came (the -ip ending is the "me, too" suffix. When you have several verbs in a sentence, just trick out one of them with the full regalia of voice, number, person, capability, credibility, etc. suffixes. For the remaining verbs, the -ip suffix will suffice.)
  • ağaçta -- to the tree
  • meyve -- fruit
  • aradı-- he sought
  • ama -- but
  • bulamadı -- he did not find.
To whom much is given, much will be required. A vineyard is a capital-intensive project. In those days and in that place, you needed a stone wall around it, to keep out hungry animals. A watchtower, to guard against predatory humans. A winepress, to process the grapes as soon as they were ripe. Now, Mediterranean fig trees don't need a lot of gentle handling. In fact, it's normal to put chunks of concrete and rocks on the ground around the roots, to keep your fig tree from getting too comfortable. This tree was spoiled rotten, in a favored, costly, and protected environment. This tree, of course, represented Israel. A nation on borrowed time, unaware that flaming fingers were already scribing their Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin on the wall of history.

But, there is a "rest of the story."
Luk 13:18 Sonra İsa şunları söyledi: "Tanrı'nın Egemenliği neye benzer, onu neye benzeteyim?
Luk 13:19 Tanrı'nın Egemenliği, bir adamın bahçesine ektiği hardal tanesine benzer. Tane gelişip ağaç olur, kuşlar dallarında barınır."
While Israel struts and preens itself in the glare of the footlights, God launches another project, one with a future. All nations will be invited to know and serve the King, while national Israel will become an envious bystander to the party that's going on without them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Luke 12 -- strange arithmatic

Jesus warns his disciples that adversity is in the picture. They can expect to become the targets of ire from high places. Religious and political leaders will take a personal, unfriendly, interest in them. However, they are not to worry. After all, God's arithmetic adds up in their favor:
Luk 12:6 Beş serçe iki meteliğe satılmıyor mu? Ama bunlardan bir teki bile Tanrı katında unutulmuş değildir.
Luk 12:7 Nitekim başınızdaki bütün saçlar bile sayılıdır. Korkmayın, siz birçok serçeden daha değerlisiniz.
Are not five sparrows sold for two tiny coins? Yet God does not forget when one of them falls to the ground. A few Turkish words could use unpacking here:
  • başınızdaki -- those that are on your head
  • bütün -- all
  • saçlar -- hairs
  • bile -- thus
  • sayılıdır -- are numbered. Taken into account. The Greek verb used here, ἠρίθμηνται, is the source of the English word arithmetic.
We can face life with boldness, since the One we serve already has all the bases covered. All the angles work out.

I like the way novelist Mark Halprin describes this reality:

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Luke 11 -- focus, focus, focus!

Another thought on the eye, as a parable for the focus of our attention:
Luk 11:34 Bedenin ışığı gözdür. Gözün sağlamsa, bütün bedenin de aydınlık olur. Gözün bozuksa, bedenin de karanlık olur.
Luk 11:35 Öyleyse dikkat et, sendeki 'ışık' karanlık olmasın.
Luk 11:36 Eğer bütün bedenin aydınlık olur ve hiçbir yanı karanlık kalmazsa, kandilin seni ışınlarıyla aydınlattığı zamanki gibi, bedenin tümden aydınlık olur."
When the eye is healthy, the whole body is enlightened. If the eye is bozuk, however -- well, I'll let the first two definitions from speak for me:

bozuk broken. broken down. out-of-action. damaged. disordered. distorted. wrong. imperfect. in bad order. upset. disappointed. bad. bum. dead. deranged. dirty. doric. embroiled. faulty. flyblown. foul. on the fritz. gone. hard-set. haywire. heavy. hipshot.
bozuk bad. broken. bumpy. corrupt. cranky. dead. dud. foul. impassable. off. rotten. upset. wrong. spoilt. ruined. out of order. out of action. on the blink. on the bum. inactive. faulty. disordered. disarranged. broken. bad. dirty. rotten. tainted. bumpy. depraved. not virgin.

We become like what we behold. Let's look at one sentence a little more carefully:
Öyleyse dikkat et, sendeki 'ışık' karanlık olmasın.

  • Öyleyse -- Therefore
  • dikkat -- careful
  • et -- be (imperative form of the verb "to be")
  • sendeki -- lest
  • 'ışık' -- (your so-called) light
  • karanlık -- darkness
  • olmasın -- might be.
If your life isn't working, if your life is characterized by ugliness and disorder, maybe a goal-evaluation is in order.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Luke 11 -- why pray?

The fierce nuns who taught my first three grades made made sure we knew about the wicked atheist communists. One story comes to mind some 50 years later. It's a classroom. The children have a new teacher. She asks if the children believe in God. Most do. She tells them to close their eyes, put their heads on their desks, and pray for candy. Nothing happens. She tells them to close their eyes, put their heads on their desks, and ask Karl Marx for candy. This time, they get results.

Yet Jesus tells us that we live in a universe with invisible resources all around us, and a loving God who is waiting to hear from us:
Luk 11:5-7 Sonra söyle dedi: "Sizlerden birinin bir arkadasi olur da gece yarisi ona gidip, 'Arkadas, bana üç ekmek ödünç ver. Bir arkadasim yoldan geldi, önüne koyacak bir seyim yok' derse, öbürü içerden, 'Beni rahatsiz etme! Kapi kilitli, çocuklarim da yanimda yatiyor. Kalkip sana bir sey veremem' der mi hiç?
Luk 11:8 Size sunu söyleyeyim, arkadaslik geregi kalkip ona istedigini vermese bile, adamin yüzsüzlügünden ötürü kalkar, ihtiyaci neyse ona verir.
Luk 11:9 "Ben size sunu söyleyeyim: Dileyin, size verilecek; arayin, bulacaksiniz; kapiyi çalin, size açilacaktir.
Luk 11:10 Çünkü her dileyen alir, arayan bulur, kapi çalana açilir.
Luk 11:11 "Aranizda hangi baba, ekmek isteyen ogluna tas verir? Ya da balik isterse balik yerine yilan verir?
Luk 11:12 Ya da yumurta isterse ona akrep verir?
Luk 11:13 Sizler kötü yürekli oldugunuz halde çocuklariniza güzel armaganlar vermeyi biliyorsaniz, gökteki Baba'nin, kendisinden dileyenlere Kutsal Ruh'u verecegi çok daha kesin degil mi?"

Çünkü her dileyen alir, arayan bulur, kapi çalana açilir : Because everyone who asks receives, who seeks will find, who knocks on the door will see it open.

The proper response to persistent problems -- such as, finding a job in a wounded economy -- is not fatalistic resignation, but active, aggressive, persistent action. Knock and keep on knocking. Seek and keep on seeking. Ask and keep on asking. In the Greek, these verbs are in the present continuous tense, and imply ongoing activity.

Well, a part-time low-paying seasonal job has just ended, so I need to take my own advice!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Luke 10 -- greeting the peace lover

When Jesus sent out the 70 disciples in this chapter, he gave them the same basic instructions for finding room and board: look for a "man of peace" in the visited community.
Luk 10:5 Hangi eve girerseniz, önce, 'Bu eve esenlik olsun!' deyin.
Luk 10:6 Orada esenliksever biri varsa, dilediğiniz esenlik onun üzerinde kalacak; yoksa, size dönecektir.

It's nice to encounter sentences filled with short, familiar words. Today, let's unpack just one word, esenliksever. It's one of those marvelous compound words that Turkish assembles so nicely. It combines the adjective esen (peaceful) with the syllable used to transform an adjective into a noun ( -lik- ) and sever (lover).

How do you know when you've found the right one? By invoking peace upon his house, when you enter it. If you don't "connect," you know it's time to move on.

One of the most frustrating contracts I ever worked on began with the understanding that it would lead to a full-time job. Well past the time when this was supposed to happen, a honcho from out-of-state let slip the fact that this desired consummation would never come to pass. I almost threw up in the parking lot as I left the job site at the end of the day. In retrospect, I'd never "connected" with my nominal manager. He gave me a few tasks, signed my time sheets, and that was it. Was this an issue on my side? Or on his? Probably a little bit of both. Apparently, I'd neglected something pretty important when I focused on the task at hand, and failed to properly integrate / ingratiate myself in the local company culture. I had neglected the key relationship.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Luke 9 -- a dead man shows up again

I begin to wonder[1] if Luke was a fan of John the Baptist. We know from chapter 19 of his second book, Acts of the Apostles, that followers of John the Baptist were found in Efese several decades after Jesus rose from the dead. Luke provides a detailed account of the supernatural birth of this forerunner to The Main Event. And, in this chapter, once again people are talking about John the Baptist:
Luk 9:7,8 Bölgenin kralı Hirodes bütün bu olanları duyunca şaşkına döndü. Çünkü bazıları Yahya'nın ölümden dirildiğini, bazıları İlyas'ın göründüğünü, başkaları ise eski peygamberlerden birinin dirildiğini söylüyordu.
Luk 9:9 Hirodes, "Yahya'nın başını ben kestirdim. Şimdi hakkında böyle haberler duyduğum bu adam kim?" diyor ve İsa'yı görmenin bir yolunu arıyordu.
Luk 9:18 Bir gün İsa tek başına dua ediyordu, öğrencileri de yanındaydı. İsa onlara, "Halk benim kim olduğumu söylüyor?" diye sordu.
Luk 9:19 Şöyle yanıtladılar: "Vaftizci Yahya diyorlar. Ama kimi İlyas, kimi de eski peygamberlerden biri dirilmiş, diyor."
So even the disciples of Jesus, most of whom knew both him and John, had heard those rumors. The man "left a huge carbon footprint!"


[1] For my Turkish friends, get a native English speaker to help you with the wonder / wander minimal pair. Actually, most of us rely entirely on context to distinguish the two! Well, you guys have kar / ka^r. A snowplow driver makes a profit out of snow ...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Luke 8 -- the best revenge ...

is living well.

In Ray Bradbury's memorable dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the protagonist suddenly starts talking, and acting, far more thoughtfully, far more wisely, than hitherto. He has become a reader. And, he has a mentor. Montag now wears a "hearing aid," which permits this mentor to listen in on his conversations, and advise him on how to comport himself.

Once again, in this chapter, Jesus is teaching and acting. His Word, he says, has results when the right kind of people hear it:
Luk 8:15 İyi toprağa düşenler ise, sözü işitince onu iyi ve sağlam bir yürekte saklayanlardır. Bunlar sabırla dayanarak ürün verirler."
Luk 8:16 "Hiç kimse kandil yakıp bunu bir kapla örtmez, ya da yatağın altına koymaz. Tersine, içeri girenler ışığı görsünler diye onu kandilliğe koyar.
Luk 8:17 Çünkü açığa çıkarılmayacak gizli hiçbir şey yok; bilinmeyecek, aydınlığa çıkmayacak saklı hiçbir şey yoktur.
Luk 8:18 Bunun için, nasıl dinlediğinize dikkat edin. Kimde varsa, ona daha çok verilecek. Ama kimde yoksa, kendisinde var sandığı bile elinden alınacak."
Let's look at the bottom line:
  • Bunun için -- for this reason, therefore
  • nasıl dinlediğinize -- how you hear
  • dikkat edin -- careful be.
  • Kimde varsa -- because he who has
  • ona daha çok verilecek. -- to him more abundance will be given.
Many people listened to Jesus teach. Few, however, heard what he had to say, and took His commands seriously enough to act upon them. Not even his mother and brothers seemed to get the point at this point, since he publicly disowned them in the next few verses.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Luke 7 -- men of the present

Le soup fait la soldat, Napoleon wrote. The soup makes the soldier. Or, as is more commonly said, "An army marches on its stomach." The flip side to this is also true. Once you have a hungry army, you need to keep it marching.[1]

Medieval armies pillaged enemy territory. Modern armies taxed their own people. A century ago, the Turkish forces occupying Arabia did both. After subjugating a restive village, one officer said to another, "Do you want to be a man of the present? Or a man of the future?" When his friend voted for the future, Mustafa, called Kemal (perfection) by his teachers, and later Atatürk (Father of the Turks) by a grateful nation, gave his advice. Refrain from pillage.

When you view Atatürk's Six Day Speech (Nutuk) through the lenses of computerized text analysis, you'll note how often the word that denotes present action, whilst, is used when describing the enemies of Atatürk and the Turkish people. Again, "men of the present" are often clueless about where time is taking them.[2]

This chapter begins and ends with outsiders, who were more aware of what was going on than the putative insiders. First, we meet a Roman centurion, a soldier occupying an ornery province, who came to love the people and their God. It is when he maps his military experience against the ministry of Jesus that Jesus is, for one of the few times on record, surprised:
Luk 7:9 Bu sözleri duyan İsa yüzbaşıya hayran kaldı. Ardından gelen kalabalığa dönerek, "Size şunu söyleyeyim" dedi, "İsrail'de bile böyle iman görmedim."
"In Israel, this kind of faith, I have not seen."

The story at end of this chapter tells of a sinful woman of the city, who pours precious ointment upon the feet of Jesus. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus to dinner is clueless. "If this man was really a prophet, he'd know what kind of woman was touching him." Yet, Jesus explains, the so-called religious leader is really the ignorant party at the party:
Luk 7:44 Sonra kadına bakarak Simun'a şunları söyledi: "Bu kadını görüyor musun? Ben senin evine geldim, ayaklarım için bana su vermedin. Bu kadın ise ayaklarımı gözyaşlarıyla ıslatıp saçlarıyla sildi.
Luk 7:45 Sen beni öpmedin, ama bu kadın eve girdiğimden beri ayaklarımı öpüp duruyor.
Luk 7:46 Sen başıma zeytinyağı sürmedin, ama bu kadın ayaklarıma güzel kokulu yağ sürdü.
Luk 7:47 Bu nedenle sana şunu söyleyeyim, kendisinin çok olan günahları bağışlanmıştır. Çok sevgi göstermesinin nedeni budur. Oysa kendisine az bağışlanan, az sever."
And, in the middle of the chapter, we read a discussion about John the Baptist, the forerunner, the advance agent. John and Jesus both baffled the "men of the present." John, however, lived in terms of a future he did not live long enough to see. And Jesus, by his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, inaugurated that future.
Luk 7:28 Size şunu söyleyeyim, kadından doğanlar arasında Yahya'dan daha üstün olanı yoktur. Bununla birlikte, Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'nde en küçük olan ondan üstündür."
In sociological terms, poor people are characterized by "present orientation." Those who are not-poor think in terms of the future, and deny themselves in the present in order to secure a better future for themselves, and their children.

With all of his real faults, Kemal Atatürk was a "man of the future," whose vision and leadership transformed a nation. May we learn from his example to look beyond the present.

[1] See this amazing chart, that graphs the size of Napoleon's army going to Moscow (Tan line, read it left to right) and coming back (black line, read it right to left) against the temperature and the map of Europe.

[2] "The frog in the kettle" is an American cliche. Put a frog in a kettle of cold water, and gradually heat it up. Do so gradually enough, and the frog will be cooked before it realizes what's going on. Adverse trends sneak up on us when our attention is diverted.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Luke 6 -- the kem göz and its cure

A lovely feature of Turkish adornment is the blue and white glass bead inherited from remote antiquity as a charm against the "evil eye," the kem göz. Although the superstition has lost its power, the wisdom behind it persists. There are, in life, people who wish us ill.

Let's say things are going badly at your place of employment. New customers aren't showing up. Things aren't as busy as they used to be in the shop. You find yourself with more time on your hands, time to fill with trivial tasks. There is an unease in the air, and somehow you know that the boss considers you expendable. No matter how carefully you conduct yourself, your prospects are bleak. At some point, the man who hired you will now find a reason to fire you. You will be watched by hostile eyes, until a reason materializes. In a fallen world, those who seek fault will find it.

This chapter deals with the phenomenon[1] of the hostile audience. Jesus walks into a setup.
Luk 6:6 Bir başka Şabat Günü İsa havraya girmiş öğretiyordu. Orada sağ eli sakat bir adam vardı.
Luk 6:7 İsa'yı suçlamak için fırsat kollayan din bilginleriyle Ferisiler, Şabat Günü hastaları iyileştirecek mi diye O'nu gözlüyorlardı.
Luk 6:8 İsa, onların ne düşündüklerini biliyordu. Eli sakat olan adama, "Ayağa kalk, öne çık" dedi. O da kalktı, orta yerde durdu.
Luk 6:9 İsa onlara, "Size sorayım" dedi, "Kutsal Yasa'ya göre Şabat Günü iyilik yapmak mı doğru, kötülük yapmak mı? Can kurtarmak mı doğru, öldürmek mi?"
Luk 6:10 Gözlerini hepsinin üzerinde gezdirdikten sonra adama, "Elini uzat" dedi. Adam elini uzattı, eli yine sapasağlam oluverdi.
Luk 6:11 Onlar ise öfkeden deliye döndüler ve aralarında İsa'ya ne yapabileceklerini tartışmaya başladılar.
The religious experts get the impression that Jesus takes them, and their customs, a lot less seriously than they take themselves. In the first five verses, the issue of human need arises, and Jesus asserts that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." In so saying, he crossed a picket line. He stepped on a trip wire. He touched a sacred cow.[2] So, in verse 6, we see him teaching in a synagogue. And perhaps this sentence is key to the rest of the chapter:
İsa'yı suçlamak için fırsat kollayan din bilginleriyle Ferisiler, Şabat Günü hastaları iyileştirecek mi diye O'nu gözlüyorlardı.
Key words:
  • suçlamak -- to accuse, to find guilty
  • için -- in order to (this is one of those intriguing Turkish post-positions. Rather like the English pre-position, but found AFTER the word it affects)
  • fırsat -- opportunity
  • hastaları -- those who are sick
  • iyileştirecek -- he will make well
  • gözlüyorlardı -- they were watching
Shortly after this episode of insanely hostile scrutiny, Jesus spends a whole night in prayer.

He then formally selects twelve close friends, to be his counterweight to the angry eyes, the kem göz, of the religious leaders.

He then persists in pursuing his own agenda, healing the sick, setting at liberty the demonized. This display of raw power is an "in-your-face" challenge to the Pharisees, who could talk a good game but otherwise did little tangible good.

Then, in verses
19-26 Jesus throws down the gauntlet,[3] and contrasts his team to theirs. His are the blessed of God, their team is under His displeasure. His team should take the reproaches of the other team as reason to celebrate: O gün sevinin, coşkuyla zıplayın!
  • O gün sevinin, -- on that day
  • coşkuyla -- with unrestrained exuberance
  • zıplayın! -- jump and leap for joy!
Finally, he tells His disciples what to do about their enemies: be kind to them. No need to add to their troubles -- they have God Himself as their enemies. Let God worry about them. We have better things to do with our time than getting sucked into the vortex of their ugly, self-righteous, hateful, little sewers.

Or, as the late Jerry Falwell put it, "Love them, forgive them, outlive them."

[1] Phenomenon is derived from the Greek. That's the singular form. The plural form of this noun is phenomena. The Turkish practice of using a single infix to denote plurality (-ler- or -lar- is so simple by comparison. When English conscripts nouns from other languages, we tend to drag their plural forms into our dictionaries as well. Sorry about that.

[2] A "sacred cow" is a pointless and counterproductive religious observance. It is a contemptuous metaphor based upon the Hindu reverence for cattle. The Sepoy revolts of the mid 1800s were triggered by rumors that the British cartridges were greased with pig fat -- which provoked the Muslim sepoys (native troops) or beef fat -- which annoyed the Hindus.

[3] To challenge someone to a duel, a chivalrous guy would throw down an armored glove in front of the party who had offended him. If the offender picked it up, a formal confrontation would be scheduled.

Around a century ago, the greatest fencers in Europe were Hungarian Jews, who took up that martial sport as a way to defend their honor. The fencing associations voided that challenge by simply declared that Jews had no honor to defend.