Monday, May 31, 2010

John 6 -- addiction to the trivial

The main thing is -- knowing what the main thing is.

It is so easy to lose ourselves in trivia. Programmers have a term for it -- "Dogwash." When an important project needs to be finished -- and you are up against the deadline -- you suddenly remember other things you could be doing. Like washing the dog.

A wise daughter resists dogwash by telling herself: "Doing this will make me feel worse by the end of the day." A quick game on the computer, for example, can provide a moment's distraction from the anxieties of life. However, if you put too many of those together, great big chunks of your day disappear forever, and you are not much closer to getting where you need to be.

In Norton Juster's minor masterpiece The Phantom Tollbooth, the team is delayed on its mission by an encounter with "the Terrible Trivium." They are set to pointless, endless, tasks. Examine his argument:
Think of all the trouble it saves ... If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you'll never have to worry about the important ones which are so difficult. You just won't have the time. For there's always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren't' for that dreadful magic staff, you'd never know how much time you were wasting. (Juster, p. 213)
Apparently, fixating on the trivial and ignoring the momentous is a typical human failing. After Jesus fed thousands by blessing and multiplying a small lunch, the crowds wanted to seize him and force him to be their king. He fled to the mountain, spent most of the night in prayer, and took a short cut to the other side of the lake in the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, as he taught in a synagogue, the crowds showed up again with one thing on their mind:
Joh 6:25 O'nu gölün karşı yakasında buldukları zaman, "Rabbî, buraya ne zaman geldin?" diye sordular.
Joh 6:26 İsa şöyle yanıt verdi: "Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim, doğaüstü belirtiler gördüğünüz için değil, ekmeklerden yiyip doyduğunuz için beni arıyorsunuz.
Joh 6:27 Geçici yiyecek için değil, sonsuz yaşam boyunca kalıcı yiyecek için çalışın. Bunu size İnsanoğlu* verecek. Çünkü Baba Tanrı O'na bu onayı vermiştir."
Joh 6:28 Onlar da şunu sordular: "Tanrı'nın istediği işleri yapmak için ne yapmalıyız?"
Joh 6:29 İsa, "Tanrı'nın işi O'nun gönderdiği kişiye iman etmenizdir" diye yanıt verdi.
Joh 6:30 Bunun üzerine, "Görüp sana iman etmemiz için nasıl bir belirti gerçekleştireceksin? Ne yapacaksın?" dediler.
Joh 6:31 "Atalarımız çölde man* yediler. Yazılmış olduğu gibi, 'Yemeleri için onlara gökten ekmek verdi.'"
Joh 6:32 İsa onlara dedi ki, "Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim, gökten ekmeği size Musa vermedi, gökten size gerçek ekmeği Babam verir.
Joh 6:33 Çünkü Tanrı'nın ekmeği, gökten inen ve dünyaya yaşam verendir."
Joh 6:34 Onlar da, "Efendimiz, bizlere her zaman bu ekmeği ver!" dediler.
Joh 6:35 İsa, "Yaşam ekmeği Ben'im. Bana gelen asla acıkmaz, bana iman eden hiçbir zaman susamaz" dedi.
The conversation starts in vs. 25 -- "How did you get here?" And the retort of our Lord gets tot the heart of the matter:
Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim, doğaüstü belirtiler gördüğünüz için değil, ekmeklerden yiyip doyduğunuz için beni arıyorsunuz.
A few words:
  • Size doğrusunu söyleyeyim -- To you / straight, accurately / I say (Jesus says this frequently in John's gospel)
  • doğaüstü -- above that which is natural (extraordinary)
  • belirtiler -- signs
  • gördüğünüz -- you see
  • için değil, -- because of not,
  • ekmeklerden -- meals
  • için -- because
  • beni arıyorsunuz -- me / you are seeking
The most important event in world history was going on right in front of them -- and they were obsessed with a free lunch. So much like you and me.

I think, though, that taking Jesus seriously lets us escape from the swamp of dogwash.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

John 4 -- where the action is

John the Baptist shows up again, indirectly, in this chapter. As we learned earlier, John catalyzed a renewal movement that taught the need for personal repentance, in expectation of the end of the age. Messiah was coming, it was time to get ready. Jesus showed up at the event, was recognized as the promised messiah, and began attracting John's followers to his own ministry. When you see a spiritual movement in progress, excitement in the air, the human temptation is to jump in with both feet. In 1992, for example, when the former Soviet bloc was suddenly very interested in the Christian gospel, a lot of "missionary tourism" happened. Americans poured in to hold meetings and plant new churches. Who knows, maybe they even did some good!

In the USA, a lust for passive entertainment, especially when it's disguised as a spiritual renewal, has led to many harmful "dog and pony shows" with bizarre emotional outbreaks. People hear a rumor that God is at work in a new and wonderful way -- at the Toronto Vineyard church, or in Lakeland, Florida -- and caravan to the latest circus to swell the ranks of the rubes and clowns.

Jesus came to launch a new spiritual movement, to found a new Israel, a new people of faith. You would expect him to capitalize on the groundwork John had started, to use John's ministry as a foundation for his own. That's not what happened, though:
Joh 4:1-3 Ferisiler, İsa'nın Yahya'dan daha çok öğrenci edinip vaftiz ettiğini duydular aslında İsa'nın kendisi değil, öğrencileri vaftiz ediyorlardı İsa bunu öğrenince Yahudiye'den ayrılıp yine Celile'ye gitti.
The official religious leaders hear that the followers of John are becoming the followers of Jesus, and baptizing even more people into the snowballing movement. So, Jesus leaves the scene of the ferment, and walks back home to Galilee, with just a handful of disciples in tow. He finds himself in a village of Samaritans.

700 years earlier, when the Assyrians conquered and deported the land of Israel, they had replaced the native inhabitants with population exchanged from other parts of the empire. These people "feared the Lord, but served their own gods." When lions began preying on them, they suspected that they had displeased the local deity in charge of that piece of real estate, and asked their Assyrian overlords to send them Jewish rabbis. They practiced a derivative form of the Jewish religion, but were not regarded as real coreligionists. Yet, Jesus found an audience there. Apparently, his eyes saw opportunities all around, wherever he went. As he told his disciples,
Joh 4:35 "Sizler, 'Ekinleri biçmeye daha dört ay var' demiyor musunuz? İşte, size söylüyorum, başınızı kaldırıp tarlalara bakın. Ekinler sararmış, biçilmeye hazır!
The harvest is already ripe, for those with eyes to see.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

John 3 -- dangling conversation

What can you find to say about this chapter that is fresh? Well, since this is God's own word, something new to think about comes into focus every time you read it. For example, let's look again at the way the conversation got started:
Joh 3:1,2 Yahudiler'in Nikodim adlı bir önderi vardı. Ferisiler'den olan bu adam bir gece İsa'ya gelerek, "Rabbî, senin Tanrı'dan gelmiş bir öğretmen olduğunu biliyoruz. Çünkü Tanrı kendisiyle olmadıkça kimse senin yaptığın bu mucizeleri yapamaz" dedi.
Joh 3:3 İsa ona şu karşılığı verdi: "Sana doğrusunu söyleyeyim, bir kimse yeniden doğmadıkça Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'ni göremez."
A renowned religious scholar sneaks in to see Jesus at night. On the one hand, he's intrigued by the miracles Jesus performs, kindly deeds of supernatural power that obviously had divine origin: "Unless someone comes from God, these miracles he would not do." On the other hand, this visit happens at night. This new teacher did not come up through approved channels, and those who visibly associate with him risk their own reputations. "So, Jesus. We know you're something special. Shall we have a theological discussion?"

The reply is startling: "Unless someone is born anew / from above, he can't even see what's going on." Or, to paraphrase, Jesus is asking, "Is there any point to this conversation?"

The point is not the credibility of Jesus and His claims. The point is the condition of the person considering those claims. God, for reasons of His own, makes some His own. Those who are His own, His elect, get the point. The rest -- don't. As a wise Jesuit once said, "The Gospel is like a joke told to a circle of men. And one man smiles."

Human perceptions are maddening in their complexity. Ask anyone who is suffering from autistic spectrum disorders. Such a person often has incredibly intense focus on some matters -- but is oblivious to other real-world issues. By definition, we can not see our blind spots. Some people consider the life of Jesus, and fall on their knees, knowing that this one man's biography is the key that unlocks the riddles of the universe, and brings the worshiper directly into the presence of the Creator. Other people are indifferent. And only God ultimately knows why.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

John 2 -- thoughts on language learning

When studying a new language, I enjoy using İncil as my textbook. I start with John's gospel, since the vivid imagery, and simple, repetitive poetic language make it the easiest of the Biblical books to read, in any language.

This practice began when I was studying French in college. I'd barely passed 2nd year French, and was looking down the barrel of 3rd year classes. SO, I started reading four chapters a day of Bonnes Nouvelles Au'jourdhui that summer, a pace that got me through the entire New Testament in two months. Rinse and repeat. That senior year in college, I also took Biblical Greek. At the end of the year, I fulfilled a long-held dream, and began reading John's gospel in the same language John had written it in.
Joh 1:1 ᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος.
OK, so Greek is a bit further away from my native tongue than French, so I budgeted a year to the task. By averaging 2.54 pages per day, I met my goal. The first time through, I understood perhaps 30% of the words, and guessed at the rest. The second time through, perhaps 40% of the words looked familiar. After 10 years, though, I could read the Greek New Testament comfortably and with great pleasure.

After a few months of studying Italian, I downloaded the NT in that language from the internet, and decanted the text, chapter by chapter, into a Microsoft Word document with a two-inch (10 cm) wide left margin, for scribbling in definitions. I now have a loose-leaf Italian NT, that I've read through twice.

I did not attempt reading İncil until after spending several years studying Turkish. For me, the vocabulary is the hard part, since there are so few cognates between the two languages. There's no substitute for brute-force memorization. It took me a bit over 13 months to read it this last time through, since I'm trying to blog more consistently. But, I am now on my fifth pilgrimage through a familiar book in a fascinating, but challenging, language.[1]

For me, however, John 2 will always remind me of the time I read the New Testament in Esperanto. I was wearing a hard hat that December, working at a sheltered industrial workshop. The regular employees suffered from mental and physical impairments, but rejoiced that they had a place to go, something to do, and someone to pay them for it. I was measuring wire out to specified lengths, cutting it, and crimping on electrical connectors. When I had a specified number of coils in a box, I would move it aside and start on the next box. Normally, counting is an inefficient way of keeping track of where you are. So, you convert the numeric information into some other form. For example, stand the electrodes on their open ends in ranks of five. Number becomes length. A visual check lets you know exactly where you are, and how far you have to go.

And, I read this story in John 2:
Joh 2:12 Bundan sonra İsa, annesi, kardeşleri ve öğrencileri Kefarnahum'a gidip orada birkaç gün kaldılar.
Joh 2:13 Yahudiler'in Fısıh Bayramı yakındı. İsa da Yeruşalim'e gitti.
Joh 2:14 Tapınağın avlusunda sığır, koyun ve güvercin satanları, orada oturmuş para bozanları* gördü.
Joh 2:15 İpten bir kamçı yaparak hepsini koyunlar ve sığırlarla birlikte tapınaktan kovdu, para bozanların paralarını döküp masalarını devirdi.
Let's look at two words:
  • para -- money
  • masa -- table
When Jesus stormed into that marketplace and hurled over the tables, I saw with newly informed eyes, he disrupted data processing systems, the carefully arranged and positioned stacks of coins that made it possible for the moneychangers to work efficiently.

No wonder they wanted to crucify him! He'd broken their system!

[1] The Turkic family of languages ranks fifth in the world, behind Chinese, English, Hindi, and Spanish. At least, in terms of the number of speakers.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

John 1 -- paradoxical salvation

Paradox is a wonderful word derived from the Greek, meaning two parallel thoughts, apparently contradictory, yet both true. John frequently used this form of word play, and reports on paradoxes Jesus taught. For example, whose idea is it for men to know and walk with God? Let's look at a few lines from the prologue to John's gospel:
Joh 1:10 O, dünyadaydı, dünya O'nun aracılığıyla var oldu, ama dünya O'nu tanımadı.
Joh 1:11 Kendi yurduna geldi, ama kendi halkı O'nu kabul etmedi.
Joh 1:12 Kendisini kabul edip adına iman edenlerin hepsine Tanrı'nın çocukları olma hakkını verdi.
Joh 1:13 Onlar ne kandan, ne beden ne de insan isteğinden doğdular; tersine, Tanrı'dan doğdular.
The Playwright walks onto the stage of his creation, but the best boys and key grips rudely hustle him to the exit. He knocks on the door of his own relative's house, and they don't know him. But that's all right -- whoever will recognize him can become his kin! Even if they aren't blood relatives, even if they had other things in mind when he showed up.

Salvation -- something we experience as we repent. Repentance -- something we do, something that God gives us. A paradox? Indeed. Since we're not God we can't understand how He works in our lives, let alone why. This little ditty (Deficient Grace) mocks folks who assert that they saved themselves through heroic acts of will. After all, if we are saved, ultimately, by sovereign acts of our divine will, then we can un-save ourselves at a whim. If, however, salvation is a form of conscription, the One who calls us will keep us.
He came to his own country, but his own people did not welcome him.
However, those who did embrace in faith his l\name all were given the authority to become children of God.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Luke 24 -- astonishing gladness

Quite often, when people from Muslim backgrounds discover the İsa of the Bible, their pilgrimage begins with a vivid dream. A glowing man dressed in white addresses them by name, perhaps. Or, as this young Turkish student dreamed, a grave opened, a man arose from it. Three ladies came to the grave, and were told that the one they sought was no longer there.

Click HERE to hear the story for yourself.

Yuce takes issue with a popular misyoner tactic of telling folks, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." In the context of his culture, those who embark upon the Jesus Way are very likely to lose their jobs. Their families. Their friends. And sometimes, their lives. And this is good news of a wonderful divine plan? [1]

Well, what makes it wonderful, Yuce said, is the person of İsa Mesih. The transcendent joy of knowing God in person transforms the attendant trials into part of something truly wonderful.

As German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, true conversion, true grace, "is costly, as it costs us our lives. It is grace, in that it gives us the only lives worth living."

This blog is motivated by a sincere affection for Turkish people, language, and culture. The resurrection of Jesus meant new life, meaningful life for all who hear His invitation, and come to the party.


[1] Our family just finished reading the marvelous novel Byzantium, by Stephen Lawhead. In the end, the narrator discovers the true power of the Christian message: not deliverance from suffering and death, but fellowship with a God who understands suffering and death, and has Himself suffered and died.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Luke 23 -- who ya gonna believe?

Nasrettin Hoca, the classical folk-hero of Turkish literature, was asked for the loan of his donkey. "I don't have a donkey," he told the neighbor. At this moment, the beast brayed loudly from the barn. When the neighbor asked what was braying, if he had no donkey, Hoca replied, "Who are you going to believe? Me? Or some donkey?"

Here we have a carefully described death scene, with many witnesses:
Luk 23:46 İsa yüksek sesle, "Baba, ruhumu ellerine bırakıyorum!" diye seslendi. Bunu söyledikten sonra son nefesini verdi.
Luk 23:47 Olanları gören yüzbaşı, "Bu adam gerçekten doğru biriydi" diyerek Tanrı'yı yüceltmeye başladı.
Luk 23:48 Olayı seyretmek için biriken halkın tümü olup bitenleri görünce göğüslerini döve döve geri döndüler.
Luk 23:49 Ama İsa'nın bütün tanıdıkları ve Celile'den O'nun ardından gelen kadınlar uzakta durmuş, olanları seyrediyorlardı.
Luk 23:50 Yüksek Kurul üyelerinden Yusuf adında iyi ve doğru bir adam vardı.
Luk 23:51 Bir Yahudi kenti olan Aramatya'dan olup Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'ni umutla bekleyen Yusuf, Kurul'un kararını ve eylemini onaylamamıştı.
Luk 23:52 Pilatus'a gidip İsa'nın cesedini istedi.
Luk 23:53 Cesedi çarmıhtan indirip keten beze sardı, hiç kimsenin konulmadığı, kayaya oyulmuş bir mezara yatırdı.
In vs. 46, Jesus expires, uttering a Jewish bedtime prayer -- "Baba, ruhumu ellerine bırakıyorum." Father, / my spirit / your hands to / I commit.

In vs. 47, another witness speaks up, a leader of 100 soldiers (centurion, yüzbaşı). "This was a righteous man.

In vs. 48, the crowd who'd showed up for the show (seyretmek için to view / in order to. Seyretmek is the verb you use when watching TV, or a movie. için is another of those wonderful postpositions.)showed grief as they walked away, "Show's over, folks!"

In vs. 49, a gaggle[1] of older ladies who had followed Jesus all the way from Galilee, and supported his ministry financially, watched him die.

Then, a high leader of Israel notes the death of Jesus, and goes to the governor asking for the body. In one of the other gospels, we read that Pilate was surprised to learn that Jesus was already dead, and sent for one of the Roman soldiers just to make sure this was so.

All of these primary sources concurred that Jesus was well, thoroughly, and properly dead. Luke, a careful and meticulous historian, talked to eye witnesses, including many overlooked by the other gospel writers.

So who should we believe about this event that is so critical to our eternal welfare? The folks who were there? Or a poet in another land, more than 500 years later?


[1] Back when folks lived closer to the land, there were many collective nouns for the creatures they shared the land with. A group of larks was an exaltation. A group of crows was a murder. Sheep came in flocks, and cows in herds, and dogs in packs. A popular domestic bird, the goose, was grouped in gaggles.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Luke 22 -- questions of status

How little we know of ourselves, our place in the order of things. In America, we have things called "job interviews." You show up, make your best case, and hope to be selected. Then sometimes find out afterward that the game was rigged, the chosen candidate already selected before you even stepped in the door. But, forms must be maintained ...

Let's look at two sentences that Luke juxtaposed in his report of the table talk around the Last Supper:
Luk 22:22 İnsanoğlu, belirlenmiş olan yoldan gidiyor. Ama O'na ihanet eden adamın vay haline!"
Luk 22:23 Elçiler, aralarında bunu kimin yapabileceğini tartışmaya başladılar.
Luk 22:24 Ayrıca aralarında hangisinin en üstün sayılacağı konusunda bir çekişme oldu.
Luk 22:25 İsa onlara, "Ulusların kralları, kendi uluslarına egemen kesilirler. İleri gelenleri de kendilerine iyiliksever unvanını yakıştırırlar" dedi.
Luk 22:26 "Ama siz böyle olmayacaksınız. Aranızda en büyük olan, en küçük gibi olsun; yöneten, hizmet eden gibi olsun.
In verse 23, the disciples are arguing about which of them is going to betray Jesus. In the next verse, they are arguing about who among them is going to be most important in the Big Days Ahead.

Then Jesus calls them back to reality. Animals are obsessed with the "pecking order." A family dog will recognize the father as the "alpha dog" -- but will sometimes think it can dispute the youngest child for the position of "omega dog." We of the Royal Household have bigger fish to fry, better things to do with our lives, our energy, our attention. We each have something we can be doing now, some way to serve one another, some way to make life a little bit better for everyone. In a universe hard-wired to do us good, serving a God who has our best at heart, status games are stupid.

At the Last Supper, Jesus was the waiter.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Luke 21 and prison novelists

Hard times were coming for Israel and its people. This was not welcome news to the disciples of Jesus, who were Jewish, and who yearned to see their nation prosper. Still, as is strangely frequent when the God of the Bible deals with people, there is a word of encouragement in the middle of the bad news.
Luk 21:12 "Ama bütün bu olaylardan önce sizi yakalayıp zulmedecekler. Sizi havralara teslim edecek, zindanlara atacaklar. Benim adımdan ötürü kralların, valilerin önüne çıkarılacaksınız.
Luk 21:13 Bu size tanıklık etme fırsatı olacak.
Luk 21:14 Buna göre kendinizi nasıl savunacağınızı önceden düşünmemekte kararlı olun.
Luk 21:15 Çünkü ben size öyle bir konuşma yeteneği, öyle bir bilgelik vereceğim ki, size karşı çıkanların hiçbiri buna karşı direnemeyecek, bir şey diyemeyecek.
Let's look at a few words:
  • Bu -- This
  • size -- to you
  • tanıklık etmek -- to bear witness to something. to testify. attest. bear evidence. bear testimony. bear witness. to give evidence. to state in evidence. to bear record. to bear testimony.
  • fırsatı -- opportunity
  • olacak. -- will become.
  • direnmek -- resist. stand. stand out against. fight back. refuse. withstand. hold out. hold up. jib. jib at doing. persevere. offer resistance. make a stand for. stand out. stick up to.
"Folks," Jesus was saying, "You'll be excluded from places where you want to be, and confined to places where you would much rather not be. However, this will make you miraculously eloquent."

It's strange how much great literature gets written in prison. Paul, who wrote more than half of the New Testament books, wrote many of his letters from jail. John Bunyan's allegory Pilgrim's Progress begins with a reference to his imprisonment for preaching an unlicensed message:
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep: and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
Thomas Malorie's Le Morte d'Arthur was, we believe, written while the author was imprisoned for backing the losing side during England's War of Roses.

My favorite recent example is Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who found faith and a unique voice while spending 13 years in Russian prison camps. One of his many novels one the Nobel Prize for literature. His documentary of the camp system, The Gulag Archipelago, is even more dramatic and vivid than his novels. The power of his words demoralized the ruling class of the Soviet Union. They learned that they were the black hats of history, the bad guys, parasites upon the good and decent folk, rather than heroic midwives of a glorious new age.

My gentle readers, if you are wrestling with a dissertation in the middle of profoundly frustrating circumstances, take heart. God can miraculously make you eloquent and prolific. Something about adversity can catalyze great literary achievement.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Luke 20 -- a paradox

A paradox lies at the heart of the Christian faith. We adore One who is simultaneously divine and human. Imagine programming a Sim City computer game -- but this one is filled with self-aware Sims.

Now, imagine programming your own self-aware avatar[1] to enter that simulated world, and participate in it. Let's look at today's mind-bending Scripture portion.:
Luk 20:41 İsa onlara şöyle dedi: "Nasıl oluyor da, 'Mesih Davut'un Oğlu'dur' diyorlar?
Luk 20:42,43 Çünkü Davut'un kendisi Mezmurlar Kitabı'nda şöyle diyor: Rab Rabbim'e dedi ki, Ben düşmanlarını Ayaklarının altına serinceye dek Sağımda otur.'
Luk 20:44 Davut O'ndan 'Rab' diye söz ettiğine göre, O nasıl Davut'un Oğlu olur?"
How could the Messiah the people of Israel looked forward to be simultaneously descended from David, and David's pre-existing Lord? Anyone who claims to understand this paradox is lying -- to himself, at least. Those who rejoice in and embrace this paradox have found the key to transcendent, eternal life -- embodied in the Transcendent One who became Immanent -- God with us -- Emmanuel.


[1] avatar is a Sanskrit word that originally referred to the embodied form of one of their deities. This word is now more popularly used to denote the image one chooses to represent himself in a virtual (computerized) "world."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Luke 19 -- forget the Big Rock Candy Mountain[0]

Today's extract is rather long, but it says a few very important things about the nature of the Kingdom / Reign of God.
Luk 19:11 Oradakiler bu sözleri dinlerken İsa konuşmasını bir benzetmeyle sürdürdü. Çünkü Yeruşalim'e yaklaşmıştı ve onlar, Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'nin hemen ortaya çıkacağını sanıyorlardı.
Luk 19:12 Bu nedenle İsa şöyle dedi: "Soylu bir adam, kral atanıp dönmek üzere uzak bir ülkeye gitti.
Luk 19:13 Gitmeden önce kölelerinden onunu çağırıp onlara birer mina verdi. 'Ben dönünceye dek bu paraları işletin' dedi.
Luk 19:14 "Ne var ki, ülkesinin halkı adamdan nefret ediyordu. Arkasından temsilciler göndererek, 'Bu adamın üzerimize kral olmasını istemiyoruz' diye haber ilettiler.
Luk 19:15 "Adam kral atanmış olarak geri döndüğünde, parayı vermiş olduğu köleleri çağırtıp ne kazandıklarını öğrenmek istedi.
Luk 19:16 Birincisi geldi, 'Efendimiz' dedi, 'Senin bir minan on mina daha kazandı.'
Luk 19:17 "Efendisi ona, 'Aferin, iyi köle!' dedi. 'En küçük işte güvenilir olduğunu gösterdiğin için on kent üzerinde yetkili olacaksın.'
Luk 19:18 "İkincisi gelip, 'Efendimiz, senin bir minan beş mina daha kazandı' dedi.
Luk 19:19 "Efendisi ona da, 'Sen beş kent üzerinde yetkili olacaksın' dedi.
Luk 19:20 "Başka biri geldi, 'Efendimiz' dedi, 'İşte senin minan! Onu bir mendile sarıp sakladım.
Luk 19:21 Çünkü senden korktum, sert adamsın; kendinden koymadığını alır, ekmediğini biçersin.'
Luk 19:22 "Efendisi ona, 'Ey kötü köle, seni kendi ağzından çıkan sözle yargılayacağım' dedi. 'Kendinden koymadığını alan, ekmediğini biçen sert bir adam olduğumu bildiğine göre,
Luk 19:23 neden paramı faize vermedin? Ben de geldiğimde onu faiziyle geri alırdım.'
Luk 19:24 "Sonra çevrede duranlara, 'Elindeki minayı alın, on minası olana verin' dedi.
Luk 19:25 "Ona, 'Efendimiz' dediler, 'Onun zaten on minası var!'
Luk 19:26 "O da, 'Size şunu söyleyeyim, kimde varsa ona daha çok verilecek. Ama kimde yoksa, kendisinde olan da elinden alınacak' dedi.
Luk 19:27 'Beni kral olarak istemeyen o düşmanlarıma gelince, onları buraya getirin ve gözümün önünde kılıçtan geçirin!'"
They were closing on on Jerusalem, and obviously something big and important was about to happen: Tanrı'nın Egemenliği'nin hemen ortaya çıkacağını sanıyorlardı. The word of interest here is sanmak -- to suppose, to think, to imagine. They supposed/imagined/thought that God's Kingdom was about to materialize. There was a lot of speculation in the air. Was this new Son of David going to step into that military hero's shoes, and lead his people in a glorious war of liberation, a kurtuluş savaş, against the occupying armies of Rome? Or would he do it all by himself, and supernaturally set the world right side up again, with, of course, God's dear chosen people Israel on top?

Well, God's dear chosen people Israel had some unpleasant surprises coming down the pike at them. The light at the end of their tunnel was the headlight of an approaching train. Goaded by venal, corrupt, and flattering leaders, these dear people made their ultimate confession of faith -- "We have no king but Caesar!"[1] -- Ne var ki, ülkesinin halkı adamdan nefret ediyordu. Arkasından temsilciler göndererek, 'Bu adamın üzerimize kral olmasını istemiyoruz' diye haber ilettiler. Nonetheless, his citizens hated him. (apparently, nefret etmek is another one of those transitive verbs that requires its object to take the -dan/-den ending.) After him messengers they sent, 'This man over us king to be we do not want.' ...

The key point Jesus makes in this parable, however, is the connection between what we do today and what we can anticipate later. God's Kingdom is forwarded by boring, routine, small acts of faithful obedience every day. We take what He has entrusted us with, and do a little something with it, consistently, day after day. The exercise of routine faithfulness conditions us, prepares us, equips us, for greater opportunities later.

For example, if a job hunter falls into the trap of dreaming about how great everything is going to be once he gets employed, he sets himself up for failure. If, on the other hand, he finds ways to be productive even while looking for that ideal job, his future looks much brighter. A friend of mine, for example, spent tax season dressed up like the Statue of Liberty.

Bottom line: folks who faithfully work at their assigned tasks are on the fast track to promotion. Folks who "play it safe" and idly wait for the Big Thing to happen are history's losers.


[0] The Big Rock Candy Mountain is an old hobo song about an imaginary state of perfection:
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains
[1] To this day, their heirs still imagine that political power is the ultimate saving power -- "if we can but make sure that people like us are the ones in power!"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Luke 18 -- the crooked judge

So many of the scoundrels in the stories Jesus told talked to themselves. At least, in the parables Luke reported. Consider this little story, that compares God to an unjust judge:
Luk 18:1,2 İsa öğrencilerine, hiç usanmadan, her zaman dua etmeleri gerektiğini belirten şu benzetmeyi anlattı: "Kentin birinde Tanrı'dan korkmayan, insana saygı duymayan bir yargıç vardı.
Luk 18:3 Yine o kentte bir dul kadın vardı. Yargıca sürekli gidip, 'Davacı olduğum kişiden hakkımı al' diyordu.
Luk 18:4,5 "Yargıç bir süre ilgisiz kaldı. Ama sonunda kendi kendine, 'Ben her ne kadar Tanrı'dan korkmaz, insana saygı duymazsam da, bu dul kadın beni rahatsız ettiği için hakkını alacağım. Yoksa sürekli gelip beni canımdan bezdirecek' dedi."
Luk 18:6 Rab şöyle devam etti: "Adaletsiz yargıcın ne söylediğini duydunuz.
Luk 18:7 Tanrı da, gece gündüz kendisine yakaran seçilmişlerinin hakkını almayacak mı? Onları çok bekletecek mi?
Jesus encourages us to be persistent in our prayers. Even a crooked judge will sometimes do the right thing if pestered long enough. And surely God will, as well, if we ask Him. Meanwhile, though, as we continue knocking on heaven's door, our knuckles toughen up, and we acquire the stamina and fortitude we need to live well. Let's look at a brief phrase:
  • Tanrı'dan korkmayan -- God / he did not fear. Usually, most of the time, the direct object of a verb is indicated with the ı/i/u/ü suffix. A few verbs, especially korkmak (to fear) require the dan/den suffix on the noun they refer to.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Luke 17(b) -- how to surpass 90% of the competition

An attitude of gratitude will put you ahead of 90% of your competition, I tell my children. This is the story that supports that assertion:
Luk 17:12,13 Köyün birine girerken O'nu cüzamlı on adam karşıladı. Bunlar uzakta durarak, "İsa, Efendimiz, halimize acı!" diye seslendiler.
Luk 17:14 İsa onları görünce, "Gidin, kâhinlere görünün" dedi. Adamlar yolda giderken cüzamdan temizlendiler.
Luk 17:15,16 Onlardan biri, iyileştiğini görünce yüksek sesle Tanrı'yı yücelterek geri döndü, yüzüstü İsa'nın ayaklarına kapanıp O'na teşekkür etti. Bu adam Samiriyeli'ydi.
Luk 17:17 İsa, "İyileşenler on kişi değil miydi?" diye sordu. "Öbür dokuzu nerede?
Luk 17:18 Tanrı'yı yüceltmek için bu yabancıdan başka geri dönen olmadı mı?"
Luk 17:19 Sonra adama, "Ayağa kalk, git" dedi. "İmanın seni kurtardı."
And, the critical three words:
  • Öbür -- The other
  • dokuzu -- nine
  • nerede? -- where are they?
It takes so little effort to thank someone, to encourage someone, that we forget to do so. Yet, the experience is asymmetric. That which costs us so little can mean so much to the person who receives a moment's recognition.

I hope my loyal readers will strive to be among the 10%, the thankful, the happy. Bless those who do you good, and you will be blessed. (then, maybe, we can go on to tackle the more demanding command, to bless those who curse us!)

Luke 17 (a) -- a panaramic view

Numbered chapters and verses let us zoom in on small chunks of text, and share our insights with one another, using an agreed-upon navigation convention. Yet this coordinate system is not a part of the original text. Sometimes, we need to examine messages that spill over the boundaries of verses and chapters.

As Jesus is going towards an untidy destiny in Jerusalem, the antagonism between him and The Establishment[1] intensifies. The Pharisees nag and natter at Jesus. Jesus pushes back. In Luke 15, they find fault with his followers. He speaks of the value, in God's sight, of the lost lamb, the lost coin, the lost lad. Keep reading, folks.

In Luke 16, Jesus takes the battle to the enemy, comparing the Establishment leaders to a crooked steward who is running out of time, and puts its trust in short-term fixes. The polemic continues. They are like a rich buy with a beggar at the gate, who can expect to see their world in flames, their social order reversed. They lost their bearings because they lost their respect for "Moses and the prophets" (the Word of God). In that terrifying little story, God's spokesman Abraham says that those who disregard God's Word will not be convinced, even if a Lazarus rises from the dead.[2]

Let's keep reading. The Pharisees are an offense to God and man. We all needs to walk more carefully.
Luk 17:1 İsa öğrencilerine şöyle dedi: "İnsanı günaha düşüren tuzakların olması kaçınılmazdır. Ama bu tuzaklara aracılık eden kişinin vay haline!
Luk 17:2 Böyle bir kişi bu küçüklerden birini günaha düşüreceğine, boynuna bir değirmen taşı geçirilip denize atılsa, kendisi için daha iyi olur.
Luk 17:3 Yaşantınıza dikkat edin! Kardeşiniz günah işlerse, onu azarlayın; tövbe ederse, bağışlayın.
Luk 17:4 Günde yedi kez size karşı günah işler ve yedi kez size gelip, 'Tövbe ediyorum' derse, onu bağışlayın."
Luk 17:5 Elçiler Rab'be, "İmanımızı artır!" dediler.
Let's extract one admonition for translation, here.
  • Yaşantınıza -- about your way of life. Yaşantı (experience. life style. way of living. life.) + -ınız- (your) + -a (direct object)
  • dikkat -- careful
  • edin! -- be!
May our God increase our faith, so we can get along with one another, despite living in a world filled with excuses for taking offense!


[1] The Establishment was the contemptuous hippy label assigned to the pillars of the social order, the people in charge. Historically, the "established church" was the sect of Christianity embraced and funded by the political leaders of a nation. Antidisestablishmentarianism is the conviction that such entities are necessary for the health of a society, and much not be disestablished.

[2] Shortly after Jesus gave this parable, a man named Lazarus rose from the dead -- see John 12. The leaders of Israel were not impressed. In fact, they discussed putting Lazarus to death again.