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.

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