To be or not to be…is that the question?

Hamlet WhoGod spoke to his people through his prophet Jeremiah, saying, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

Later, Jesus spoke from his Father saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38)

Jesus is the water of life by virtue of his relationship with his Father who is “the spring of living water”. Jesus remains the water of life because he remains in right relationship with his Father. He has never turned from the spring of living water to ‘cisterns’ of his own making.Tempted by Satan to a life apart from God, he remained faithful to his Father.

No other has ever remained true to the source of life.

Separated since birth, we all lived apart from him until, either by Grace through faith in Christ we have been reconciled with him, or we have continued apart from him, perhaps even consciously rejecting him, choosing instead from a world of alternatives that in the end have only confirmed us in our separation from him and from Life.

We have attempted to build our lives on other foundations than Christ, following designs of our own and the results always reflect that eventually.

Calvin and Hobbes (meaning of life)

When we say that the meaning of my life rests in myself alone or in my family, or in my work, or in my wealth alone, or in the worship of another god, or the denial of gods entirely, we define ourselves by those things.

Whatever worth they possess they are not sources of Life.

 

What properly defines us is the source of our life, God, and the state of our relationship with him.

We have enduring worth only because we have worth with God.
This worth, the meaning of our life, is not just something we feel.
It is a quality we possess; our condition.Furthermore, since everything exists in relation to God as its creator, then everything matters first because it matters to him, according to the purpose that he has given it.

We are a part of God’s world, a part of his life, by his choice; not by accident or our will but by his design, by his creative intent, by his will.Though our sin (our rejection of God) affects the nature of our relationship with God, we nevertheless possess meaning first only through our relationship to him.

We all possess meaning, only in Christ or apart from him.

We have meaning because we have been created for and remain forever in, relationship to God, in one form or another….

‘He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”’ Revelation 21:5-8

Like a Pitcher of Water….

S and G
‘Simon and Garfunkel:The Harmony Game’ is a Sony Entertainment documentary.
You can read about it here.

Paul Simon comments about ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ in words to the effect that, “I have no idea where it came from. It came all of the sudden. It was one of the most shocking moments in my songwriting career. I remember thinking, ‘This is considerably better than I usually write.”

 

Simon wrote his song with just two verses, calling it “a little hymn,” but his producer Roy Halee wanted a third, which Simon composed quickly (unusual for him) in the studio.
I wish he had refused but maybe that’s just me?

Taken at face value, Simon’s comments about writing ‘Bridge’ suggest an almost mystical experience. Maybe it was; but then, maybe every creative act in the arts (or in Life that the arts sometimes reveal), is mystical.

Just how mystical Paul Simon’s experience was has been a matter for some debate.

He admits to listening to a lot of music by a Gospel group, The Swan Silvertones, which influenced his decision to use Gospel changes in ‘Bridge’ and a Silvertones song,  “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep,” contains the line “bridge over deep water.”

Whatever….this song, Paul Simon’s song, “Bridge Over Troubled Water’ is the song that , in 1971, won 5 Grammys: Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. The album also won Album Of The Year.

I guess much credit for that must go to the promoters, but all of us who have been variously moved or encouraged  by his song (not to forget Art Garfunkel’s performance of it) for so long may just be the proof that Paul Simon really did write more than he knew back then.

C.S.Lewis, author of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ wrote in another place about, ‘those second meanings which things said or written sometimes take on in the light of fuller knowledge than their author possessed’.

Still; pity about that third verse….

(‘Like a Pitcher of Water’ was the title as misheard by Ernie Freeman, the arranger of the string section of ‘Bridge’; Paul Simon keeps a framed copy of the sheet music under that title.)

B.Y.O?…I don’t think so Tim….

“Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 2:12

Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a man who spoke for God to the people of God; he fulfilled the role of a prophet, from 626 B.C. until the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. then up to his death in Egypt a few years on.

Not a politician, he took his instructions from the living God; unafraid to contradict the polls, the opinions of the people of Judah, or indeed of their Kings, he spoke the truth as he received it, even when it was so appalling it would make the heavens shudder in horror.

 

 

What was the inconvenient truth that Jeremiah announced?

God told Jeremiah, ‘My people have exchanged their Glory (God ) for worthless idols!’ (2:11) and then added that, in the process, they became ‘worthless’ themselves (2:5)

Just as well Jeremiah’s very public office was not an elected one then.

“My people have committed two sins” said God.

Sins?

“They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (2:13)

‘Cisterns?’Cistern

Well, not that sort of cistern; rather larger, cut in the rock, to store water for general use and vital for survival in a harsh climate; death to get it wrong, then.

 

 

Bored with God? Angry at Him? Tired of the water He provides?

Why not D.I.Y then, or better still, B.Y.O (Be Your Own) God? So that’s what they did, unaware that ultimately that was a plan that wouldn’t, that couldn’t hold water.

In the New Testament, another man sent by God, to speak for God described this when he wrote, ‘…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever.’ (Romans 1:25)

Later, he (Paul) would write to the Christians in the city of Colosse when he realized that they were also in danger of rejecting the life-giving Christ to follow after other ‘gospels’ instead; schemes and traditions attractive for the latitude they allowed but which were all ultimately just dead men’s dreams of life.

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority……For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 2:8-10 and Colossians 3:3, 4

Cricket

ClarkeThis is a photograph of Michael Clarke the current Captain of the Australian Cricket team. He has just been named Wisden’s  Cricketer of the Year for 2013.
Statistics don’t lie (?) so this is well deserved (I am surprised to find myself agreeing so readily; that may tell you something, reading between the lines.

 

 

 

  • My father was 40 when I was born in 1953. I believe that after three daughters he was quite pleased/ relieved to finally have a playmate/excuse to watch sport/movies/cartoons on television (when we finally had our own set and no longer needed to peer through the window of the local electrical appliances store-around 1963).
    The backyard games of cricket began long before that along with the fishing trips and shared possession of my comic books (Disney mostly but Superman/Batman etc as well).
    It is one of my most satisfying memories from those days that I was able to play at least a few games of cricket in the same team with him. I was about 13 so I suppose that means he was 53 or thereabouts. I am glad of the interest in cricket that I caught from him; an interest extended to his grandsons at least to the degree that they admitted sharing my nostalgia whenever we sat down to watch Test matches each summer and the familiar sounds of the broadcast’s theme music reminded us of earlier times spent with him.

Doug WaltersThis is Doug Walters another Australian cricketer of the 1960’s and 70’s and if I couldn’t be Greg ChappellGreg Chappell (right) then this was the player I most wanted to be.

Dennis Lillee

 

 

 

 

 

This is Dennis Lillee and if I couldn’t bat like either Dougie or Greg I would have been content to bowl like him (as long as I never had to bat against myself).

 

 

  • My point is simply that this year (2013) when Australia is facing the prospect of two consecutive ‘Ashes’ series against the oldest enemy, England (ten games-five in England and five in Australia) over the next twelve months with no guarantees of success (Dougie, Greg and Denis are unavailable) is there any chance at all that I will (remembering that cricket is a gentleman’s game) survive with my cool and my Baggy Green gene intact?
    I am sure that our current coach has many fine qualities. The fact that he is a South African may even be one of them. But the notion that there is no Australian (former player or not) who could lead/inspire/at the very least, encourage, our ‘rebuilding’ squad of players to their best performance (if not success) against the Poms is just silly (there may be children reading this). Good luck fellas-you’ll need it!

Wisdom….

Knowing God coverIt’s forty years since I first read J.I.Packer’s ‘Knowing God’. This past Easter, during a visit with family, I enjoyed the opportunity to pick it up again in occasional quiet moments away from watching videos, countless games of UNO and SCRABBLE and even a little film-making (thanks Emily and Rebekah for giving me my shot at Stardom) and thanks Megan for letting us include ‘Mr. Moosey’ in the cast of ‘The Good the Bad and the Cuddly’!

 

 

 
In his chapter, ‘God’s Wisdom and Ours’, Dr. Packer writes, referring to the ‘Preacher’ of Ecclesiastes,

  • ‘But what, in that case, is wisdom? The preacher has helped us to see what it is not; does he give us any guidance as to what it is? Indeed he does, in outline at any rate. ‘Fear God and keep his commandments’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13); trust and obey him, reverence him, worship him, be humble before him, and never say more than you mean and will stand to when you pray to him (5:1-7); do good (3:12); remember that God will some day take account of you (11:9; 12:14), so eschew, even in secret, things of which you will be ashamed when they come to light at God’s assizes (12:14). Live in the present and enjoy it thoroughly (7:14; 9:7ff.; 11:9f.); present pleasures are God’s good gifts. Though Ecclesiastes condemns flippancy (cf. 7:4-6), he clearly has no time for the superspirituality which is too proud, or ‘too pious’, ever to laugh and have fun. Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do (9:10), and enjoy your work as you do it (2:24; 3:12f.; 5:18ff.; 8:15). Leave to God its issues; let him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you (11:1-6).’ From ‘Knowing God’ by J.I.Packer (italics mine).

sermons and soda water and cakes and ale?

Lord ByronAnd the small ripple spilt upon the beach
Scarcely o’erpass’d the cream of your champagne,
When o’er the brim the sparkling bumpers reach,
That spring-dew of the spirit! the heart’s rain!
Few things surpass old wine; and they may preach
Who please-the more because they preach in vain-,
Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter,
Sermons and soda-water the day after.
From ‘Don Juan’ by George Gordon (Lord) Byron
Canto 2 – Stanza 178

Belch

‘Dost thou think because thou art virtuous,there shall be no more cakes and ale? Yes by St Ann and Ginger shall be hot in the mouth too.’

Sir Toby Belch to Malvolio
in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ Act 2,Scene 3

Earlier still, Aesop ended his fable ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’ with the line, “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear” offering some insight into the risks inherent in our (obviously longstanding) tendency to choose what is more sensually satisfying.

  • As literary concepts, ‘Apollonian’ and ‘Dionysian’ derive from ancient Greek mythology. Apollo, god of the sun, rules in dreams and reason while Dionysus, god of wine, rules in ecstasy and intoxication but both are sons of Zeus the ‘father of gods and men’.The Greeks did not see them in opposition to one another (there is no wine without the sun) and Parnassus, the mythical home of poetry, literature and learning is associated with both.

S and S bookThe title of John O’Hara’s 1960’s collection of three novellas, ‘Sermons and Soda-Water’ has stayed with me since I saw it new on my Father’s bookshelf; I was about nine years old.

In our (teetotal) household a soda siphon was more likely to deliver laughs (think of the Three Stooges) than a mixer for alcohol. Scotch and Soda sounded tasty in the movies but later failed to live up to childhood hopes that the ‘Scotch’ might reflect shared antecedents flavor-wise with Butterscotch.

 

 

  • Sermons, I did have personal experience of from an early age though happily in a congregation wise enough to provide relief from what was (noticeably, sometimes) a chore to even the adults among us. We kids were provided with less demanding but no less edifying fare elsewhere (most of the time). Imagine then the interesting pictures that O’Hara’s title conjured in my impressionable little mind? Sermons and Soda-Water! Let me count the ways!

But Byron was evoking both sermons and soda-water as bland things in life to be endured rather than enjoyed and then only after indulgence in, ‘wine and women, mirth and laughter’.

  • I have read and appreciated two of Somerset Maugham’s books (‘The Razor’s Edge’ and ‘Of Human Bondage’) though his 1930 novel, ‘Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard’, has so far eluded me. Maugham took his title from Sir Toby’s remark (above) and even a glance at a synopsis of the novel explains its relevance to the conflict between elements of frank sensuality and conservative propriety in his characters’ lives.

It’s a shame that this separation between the sensual and the spiritual aspects of life has become embedded in popular culture when really neither (aspect) achieves, at least in this life, its highest expression without the other.

  • So in this space I simply aim to share what to me has become obvious; that a diet rich in sermons and soda-water need not necessarily be without cakes and ale; that in fact the cakes and ale are only best appreciated by ones who have embraced (and found themselves embraced by) the Truth who is revealed in the sermons.

And the soda water? It’s optional; it might dilute the flavor but it adds some fizz.