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An Irritation

I want to talk to you about the oft misused phrase "first and foremost..." Indeed, some things can be both first and foremost. I suspect, though, that most are either first or they are foremost.

If you are not an offender then you can stop reading and go on and do something interesting. But, if you are, then here are some guidelines to help you sort through it all:

  • First is the first of several things. So, if you are talking about the first thing on the list, that thing is first. You call that first.
  • Foremost is the most important of several things. So, if you are going to make your big point, then that is the foremost thing regardless of whether you say it first, last, or somewhere in the middle. You call that foremost.
  • If you only have one point to make, it is neither first nor is it foremost. So, don't use that phrase, OK?
  • Obviously, you may wish to make your foremost point first. Then, and only then, is it first and foremost.
I know I am being hugely weird about that. But, it bugs me. I do appreciate your indulgence.


"I permit no woman to teach..."

OK. Is it just me? Because I've noticed that almost no one has anything to say about yesterday's readings. Usually I run across at least one post a day that addresses the readings for that day. Often it's just in passing. But, yesterday? Silencio.

Just to refresh your memory let's hit some of the high points:

From I Timothy 1:18-2:8

9... the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10. but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14. and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

These, of course, are the verses that get our goats. And these are the verses that the fundagelicals love to exploit in justification of their mysogynist ways. And to be fair to the fundies, that IS what it says. The words.

There are lots of ways to approach the words in the Bible. You can read about all that in books. Three are lots of ways on that and lots of books about it. But, I find there are two main ways of approaching the Bible itself.
Some people treat it like a book, and, of course, they read it in one of the many ways that people do.

Or, it's more of an icon, a presence. It reveals different things at different times, different things to different people. It has multiple meanings, some of which even seem contradictory.
The basic difference in these approaches is that in the first instance the Bible is a mere book, something to study, and it is dead. In the second, it's alive. You don't have to guess which one I am for.

So, I think we have to look past the words on the page and ask the Bible what it is actually saying to us. Moreover, we want to know what it is saying today, and how it applies to our own lives. And the very first thing I want to know about these verses is what in the H-E-double toothpicks was the writer thinking?

I'll tell you what I think. I think it was starting to look like Jesus was going to tarry awhile longer than initially expected. There was no more communal property, no more looking into the sky each day. Jesus was taking his time about returning. Some believers had even died. A few had even died on account of their faith. Yes, persecution was a'brewing. I don't think our letter writer was thinking about theology at all. I think he was thinking about survival.

So, the writer steps back from the precepts of kingdom living: Gone are the days of no more male and female, slave or free, all that. Now we begin talking in the language of Roman virtues. Prudence (moderation) and restraint. And we start to see more concern that we should all fit into the accepted social order. Wives obey. Women don't be quite so loud. We obey our leaders, our Lords. The patri/heirarchy is back.

But, what is all that saying?

Well, again, I am going to tell you what I think. I think that the Bible is telloing us that culture really does influence the church and that sometimes it's a good idea. I think that it's giving us permission to be real about our circumstances and to adapt.

I am not saying that we should all become slaves of cultural fashion. You all know me better than that. But, what I am saying is that I can see an example, right here in the Bible, of culture influencing the church and, hey, the sky didn't fall.

The prevailing culture has done it many times since: Clerical celibacy, divorce, re-marriage, women, even hats... it all goes back and forth. I think the writer of I Timothy is just being real about the culture he's in and doing his best to protect his fledgling flock.

What I want to know is why we seem so unable or unwilling to do the same. I am not going to prattle on any more about it. I just want to say that this business about culture wars is bogus. It just keeps the bigots and religious know-it-alls in business and it's time for it to stop.


The Real Truth About Gay Marriage

Because I want you all to be informed...


Look. My Amaryllis is about to bloom. It won't be long now. It has been eager to grow. The directions said I should plant in February. But, a couple weeks ago, it sprouted so I figured I'd better get it in some dirt. Now here it is, grown all straight and tall, about to burst forth.

My dogs and my plants all seem to know what to do. My pig did too. Even the occasional cow, wandered over from the neighbors, seemed to do just what I wanted. -- There was this one incident but it's not relevant.

Overall, it seems like nature knows what to do. Dogs bark, pigs oink, flowers grow. There's something in their DNA that tells them what to do. Even cows stomping through the garden are only doing what comes naturally to them.

For me, it's not so easy. Even if I had magic DNA that directed my every move, there's still the constant thinking about it. What to do next, where to live, how to spend my time. Does my own life, this little thing called me, even have any meaning? And, if it does, how do I know? Can I be sure that it's not all, well, a mere puff?

So self-important. I am so longing to matter. I am afraid that when I die no one will know that I have been here. And, yet, isn't that kind of the point? We know that this world was never meant to be more than a Ferris Wheel ride. But, we want to matter. I mean, I do.

Thy will be done, we plead in the Our Father. For we know that the will of God is to save, the plan is that none of us should perish. But, we are perishing, and weak, and dumb. And, really, what are our little lives for? So, we plead, Thy will be done, don't let it be for nothing that I am here working and trying, failing and trying again. Don't let it be for nothing, don't let me live in vain. Do your will and save me.

Blessedly, the last word of this famous prayer is Amen. We tend not to think about that word too much. Laziness, I imagine. But, we don't have to do all the thinking ourselves. I like what the Heidelberg Catechism says about it. Amen, it says, has more to do with the assurance that God will respond, even though our praying has been inadequate.

Well, if I weren't such a lazy blogger, I'd look it up for you.

Here you go:

It's Question 129
. What doth the word "Amen" signify?:

"Amen" signifies, it shall truly and certainly be: for my prayer is more assuredly heard of God, than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of him.
It's never really about the praying. It's in knowing that we have been heard, that we are in relationship, that we do have a place and it is right here because this is the place where God listens.

It's really astounding when you think about it. God listens to... other gods?...angels? ...saints? ...Abraham? No. God listens to us. When I think on this, I sometimes think that Amen, all by itself, is a pretty near perfect prayer.

It's reaching out, without prescribing answers.

It says that I know your will has been done, that it is being done now, that that it shall forever be done in increasing perfection. It is implied that because I am here, that is God's will. Otherwise, I wouldn't be.

The Reformers may think I am taking liberties. And I am. Be sure of that, I am taking liberties. But, the Reformers are not here and you knew what to expect when you clicked over.

Amen takes all the insecurities, doubts, unconfessed sin, and general blabbedy-ness that I come to God with and says, "Even in in all this inadequacy, I know, I know for sure, even without evidence, that I belong. That my life, though small and hard and short, is not in vain. I know for sure, because You listened."


An actually good article about "Amen."