My Fear of the Sound of an Axe

Celtic monks left the forest standing at the sites of their monasteries rather than cut them. Adaman, Columba’s biographer, tells the story of how the Irish King Aedh gave a plot of land in Doire to Columba:

And he [Columba] had so great a love for Doire, and the cutting of the oak trees went so greatly against him, that he could not find a place for his church the time he was building it that would let the front of it be to the east…. And he left it upon those that came after him not to cut a tree that fell of itself or was blown down by the wind in that place to the end of nine days, and then to share it between the people of the townland, bad and good, a third of it to the great house, and tenth to be given to the poor. And he put a verse in a hymn after he was gone away to Scotland that shows there was nothing worse to him than the cutting of that oakwood: “Though there is fear in me of death and of hell, I will not hide it that I have more fear of the sound of an axe over in Doire.”

– Commentary by Adamnan, as quoted in Lady Isabella Gregory, A Book of Saints and Wonders put down here by Lady Gregory according to the Old Writings and Memory of the People of Ireland, Irish University Press, Shannon, 1971, p. 17-18

The gospel has many layers

One of the things I find fascinating about the gospel is how it operates on a number of different levels simultaneously.

The Christ. The gospel is first and foremost the story of the Christ promised by God,  who entered history as Jesus of Nazareth. It tells of his life, death, resurrection, and promised return. We might call this the personal or biographical layer.

The Covenant. But widening out, the gospel is also the story of the Covenant between God and Israel coming to its climax. It tells of the inauguration of the kingdom of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We might call this the political layer.

The Creation. But widening out even further, it is also the story of the Creation coming to its climax. It tells of the inauguration of the new heavens and the new earth, through and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We might call this the cosmic layer.

These three stories – Christ, Covenant, and Creation – all reach their climax together in the resurrection. And the best is yet to come. Good news indeed.

The beginning of the good news about Donald the Messiah

The Russians Visit the Anointed One

1 After Donald was born in Queens in New York, during the time of Hillary, Russians from the east came to Washington 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born President of the Americans? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When Hillary heard this she was disturbed, and all Washington with her.4 When she had called together all the deep state and teachers of the social justice, she asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Queens in New York,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Queens, in the land of New York,

   are by no means least among the rulers of New York;

for out of you will come a ruler

   who will shepherd my people America.’”

7 Then Hillary called the Russians secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 She sent them to Queens and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard Hillary, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, cheetos and McDonalds. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Hillary, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Mexico

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Fred in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother Mary and escape to Mexico. Stay there until I tell you, for Hillary is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Mexico,15 where he stayed until the passing of Hillary. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Mexico I called my wall.”

16 When Hillary realized that she had been outwitted by the Russians, she was furious, and he gave orders to abort all the boys in New York and its vicinity.17 Then what was said through the prophet Shapiro was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Manhattan,

   weeping and great mourning,

Lady Liberty weeping for her children

   and refusing to be comforted,

   because they are no more.”

Land and biblical theology

An excerpt from Jesus and the Land by Gary M. Burge

“Walter Brueggemann is correct when he suggests that land might be the central theme of biblical faith. “Biblical faith is the pursuit of historical belonging that includes a sense of destiny derived from such belonging.” And if this is so, he continues, land might be a way of “organizing biblical theology.” Brueggemann invites us to think carefully about (biblical) Israel’s experience with land along three trajectories: land promised, land possessed, and land lost. And in each of these categories we can discover the magnificent opportunities found in God’s grace and covenant, Israel’s historical struggles to possess this land in righteousness – to become the sort of people God intends – and the judgment that falls on Israel in the exile when all is lost.”

What did Jesus achieve?

What did Jesus achieve? Jews at the time of Jesus expected the messiah to achieve a number to things: to defeat the enemies of Israel; to restore the Temple; to gather the exiles of Israel; and to teach the Torah to the nations.

The earliest Christians, who were Jewish by and large, saw Jesus as fulfilling these expectations, but in unexpected ways. Jesus had taught that Satan was their true enemy, not Rome; that he would rebuild the Temple on the third day; that he had come for the lost sheep of Israel; and that his word would never fade. His disciples saw Jesus as fulfilling these messianic expectations through his life, death, and resurrection.

Throughout the ages, Christians have tended to drill down into different aspects of this. Some have tended to emphasise Jesus as warrior, defeating Satan and freeing God’s people; some have tended to emphasise Jesus as prophet, teaching God’s wisdom and modelling God’s ways; some have tended to emphasise Jesus as priest, offering himself as a sacrifice for our injustices. Each of these ways explains an aspect of his achievement, of the different ways in which the Messiah, Jesus, mediates between divinity and humanity.

The Journey Of The Magi

The Journey Of The Magi
By T S Elliott
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.