Solomon and the Two Prostitutes

Solomon the Wise

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

After Solomon became king of Israel, he went to Gibeon to make a sacrifice to God. There the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Ask what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:4-5). In response to God’s offer, Solomon asked God to grant him “an understanding mind to govern your people” (1 Kings 3:9). After this vision, Solomon was confronted with the case of the two prostitutes, a case which served to illustrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to him. The story of the two prostitutes is found in 2 Kings 3:16-28:

16 Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also…

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Recommended books on the Jesus Prayer

Some Recommended Books about the Jesus Prayer

 A Monk of the Eastern Church. 1987. The Jesus Prayer. Crestwood, NY: St Valdimir’s Press.
1978. Trans. Helen Bacovcin. The Way of a Pilgrim &  the Pilgrim Continues his Way. New York, NY: Image Books
Metropolitan Anthony. 1966. Living Prayer. Springfield, IL: Templegate Publishers, p. 84-88
Chumley, Norris J. 2011. Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. New York, NY: HarperCollins
Trans. E.Kadloubovsky and G.E.H.Palmer. 1951. Writings from the Philokalia on the prayer of the heart. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
Elder Paisios. 2007. Spiritual counsel volume one: With pain and love for contemporary man. Thessalonika, Greece: Holy Monastery, p. 196-202.

Scorgie, Glen G., Simon Chan, Gordon T. Smith and James D. Smith III, eds. 2011. Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p.541
Talbot, John Michael. 2005. The way of the Mystics: Ancient wisdom for experiencing God today. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, p. 185-102

Movie Review Logan

 

Logan

Movie Review Logan (2017)

[warning! This review contains spoilers]

Hugh Jackman set a new record of playing the Wolverine in 9 movies. This the record for a single actor to play a single role for so long. Alas, it seems the record is going to stop here. But then in Hollywood, one can never say ‘ never again’. Still, I still wish Hugh Jackman is shorter and hairier because that is how I still visualise the Wolverine.

The movie takes place in 2029. Due to the transigen virus created by Dr Zander Rice, mutants are sterile and are unable to have offsprings. Mutant kind is slowly dying off. The rest are old like Professor Charles Xavier and James Howlett/Logan/Wolverine. Charles has Alzheimer’s and Logan is slowly dying of adamantium poisoning. With the eventual extinct of mutants, Rice started creating clones of certain mutants for their eventual use as the ultimate soldiers. All these clones are children. As expected, Rice created Laura/X23 a clone of Logan with adamantium claws on her hands. She also has a claw that extends out from her foot. What is not explained in the movie is how a clone of a male, Logan, is female! When Rice succeeded in cloning an adult Logan/X24, he decided that he no longer needed the children and decided to kill them. The children learnt of this and escaped, going to a place in North Dakota called Eden which they have read from a comic book. Yes, the children are reading The Uncanny X-Men. From there, they will cross the border into Canada where they will be safe. Rice had a paramilitary force called Reavers and mutant Caliban (with the gift of tracking mutants) at his command. Charles and Logan decided to bring young Laura to North Dakota.

There is a scene where Charles, Logan and Laura were in a hotel. The television was showing the movie 1953 Shane. In the movie, Shane tells young Joey just before he rides off, fatally wounded.

“A man has to be what he is, Joey. You can’t break the mould. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. Joey, there’s no living with, with a killing. There’s no going back from it. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, a brand that sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother and tell her, tell her everything’s alright, and there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”

The question being asked is do people change? What does it take for a person to act contrarily to who they are? Charles with his telepathic power was acknowledged to be the most powerful mutant alive. All his life, he devoted his life to peace and nurture of life. With Alzheimer’s Disease, he became prone to seizures. In one of these seizures in Westchester where his school was, he killed 600 persons and his X-Men! Logan had to confine Charles to a steel container and continually sedate him. In a lucid moment, Charles realises what he has done. His greatest gift and asset has become a weapon of mass destruction! For Charles, a man of peace, taking all these lives must have been an abyss from which there is no return. All the good he has done and stood for wiped away by an involuntary act by his powerful mind. There did not seem to be any redemption for Charles as he was killed by an act of senseless violence when the clone Logan/X24 stabbed him to death.

Logan, in the Marvel Universe, was a berserker. He was more beast than man and that was why he was chosen for the Weapon X program. With his unbreakable adamantium skeleton, his feral rages and incredible healing power, he is the perfect weapon. Logan has always been searching for the goodness in his humanity. Yet, every time when he almost grasps this goodness, he was dragged into another orgy of violence and gory death. Logan said, “Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long”. Logan is now old. The adamantium in his bones is poisoning and killing him. He is weak. In one scene, one of his claws did not extend and when he pulled it out, a gust of pus followed. He was reluctant to help or even acknowledge Laura/X-23 as his daughter. Unlike earlier movies, Logan never tried to seek redemption in what he does. He seemed to accept that he is a broken man that cannot be fixed. Redemption for him is to die. In the final battle, he took on the Reavers and his own younger clone X-24 leading to his own death. Impaled on a piece of wood, his healing power unable to cope and as he felt life slipping away, he sighed his last words: “So, this is what it feels like.”

This is a powerful but disturbing movie about the death of two most beloved characters in the Marvel Extended Universe. In a way, they are both sides of the same coin. Professor Charles Xavier stood for peace, order, tolerance and logic. Logan was the opposite with his feral rage, anger and violence. To Logan killing is “what he does best and he is the best at what he does”. Yet at the end of their long life, they seem to have switched places. Charles became the killer while Logan is the saviour. This is disturbing because we do not know how our lives will end. Will a lifetime of good works be destroyed by a single violent act? Will Alzheimer’s change the ‘brand’ in our brain as referred to by Alan Ladd in Shane, making us someone else? Is death the final act of redemption? This is the most provoking movie in the Wolverine and X-Men series. The others are mainly CG and violence with hardly a storyline. May this be the start of more thought-provoking movies from Marvel.

The Wolverine is dead on both the big screen and the comic books. May he rest in peace and never come back.

Slavery and the Dignity of Human Beings

The Hebrew Bible does not recognize slaves to be objects that can be bought and sold, but as persons capable of making choices and entitled to live their lives in freedom and liberty. If some Hebrew slaves were denied their rights as individuals, it was because some people in Israelite society failed to live by the ideals given to them by the God who redeemed them from their own slavery in Egypt.”

Dr. Claude Mariottini - Professor of Old Testament

Joseph-Being-Sold-Into-Slavery - Alexander Maximilian Seitz (1811-1888)

Image: Joseph Being Sold Into Slavery

Painter: Alexander Maximilian Seitz (1811-1888)

The origin of slavery has been lost in antiquity. The institution of slavery existed in the ancient Near East and it was practiced for millennia in many countries of the world. Most free societies today recognize that slavery is morally wrong. Although different forms of slavery can be found in some societies, slavery has been condemned as a violation of human rights and human dignity. However, societies that buy and sell human beings still exist in the twenty-first century. In an article dealing with slavery in the 21st century, Andrew Cockburn said that there are millions of people in slavery today.

Cockburn wrote that there are “27 million men, women, and children in the world who are enslaved—physically confined or restrained and forced to work, or controlled through violence, or in some way treated as property.” According to Cockburn…

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Withering Into the Truth

In an inspiring article written for his 78th birthday, Parker J. Palmer wrote about his ‘withering into the truth’. This phrase is taken from a poem by William Yeats

Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun,
Now may I wither into the truth.

-William Butler Yeats

Palmer offered six gems of withering into the truth, sharing from his life.

  1. become ‘contemplative by catastrophe’
  2. growing into a ‘greening season’
  3. should be ‘raising hell on behalf of what we care about’
  4. sharing with and learning from the younger people
  5. ‘What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?’
  6. ‘I have no idea what, if anything, I will learn from dying. This is all I know for sure: I have no bad memories of wherever I came from when I arrived on this planet, so I have no good reason to fear where I’m going when I depart.’

It is heart warming to be able to age gracefully and be wise. Old age comes for us all. On the other hand, how we age is up to us.

read the whole article here

 

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Quote from The Two Towers

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watching again The Two Towers

Frodo Baggins: I can’t do this, Sam.
Samwise Gamgee: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we should not even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you did not want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.

Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they did not. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo Baggins: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Samwise Gamgee: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo … and it’s worth fighting for.”

 

Quote from Fellowship of the Ring

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watching again Fellowship of the Ring

Frodo Baggins: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Supper at Emmaus

 

rembrandt-pilgrim-at-emmaus

This wonderful painting of the scene at Emmaus where the two travellers recognised Jesus as the Resurrected Christ (Luke 24:13-32) is a favourite theme of Rembrandt. He frequently returned to this scene in his sketches and paintings. This oil painting completed in 1648 during his so-called ‘mature’ years was in complete contrast with another painting one the same theme that was done during his ‘younger’ years.

The simplicity of the composition is what make this painting powerful. Jesus breaking bread during a meal with two fellow travellers. There is a waiter serving them. The central focus is Jesus with his calm features and the warm light radiating from him; illuminating Jesus Himself, the bread and the table. The look of shock on one of the traveller’s face as he recognised Jesus. The sense of shock is illustrated by the posture of the other traveller. The meal seems to be in a large cavernous hall. Jesus’ radiance seems to be driving back the darkness in the archway and doorway. This painting conveys the shock of revelation in a calm and controlled way.

Spiritual knowing or revelation is often shocking as it challenges our worldviews. Yet it should not be noisy and chaotic. Spiritual revelation often occurs in a calm and controlled environment. Like during an ordinary meal, walking in the park or quiet in our prayer cell. It is not dramatic. There should not be theatrics involved. There is no sense of hurry. The revelation would unfold in its own time.

Contrast that to our busy, hurried and noisy world. Interconnectivity, television and the Internet have created a generation with short attention spans. All information should be conveyed in 5 seconds sound bites by talking heads. There is no place for serenity and peacefulness. We are always in a hurry. God is not in a hurry. Rembrandt tried to show us here that as Jesus revealed Himself as fully God and fully man, it was done in a calm and peaceful way.

Many of us would have scanned the painting before reading my words. Look at the painting again but this time spends more time with it. Look at different parts of the painting and let it talk to us. Let the light from Christ embrace us.

Beneath a Phrygian Sky

This haunting song by Loreena McKinnett has been ringing in my head as I read about the state of the world through my newsfeeds. I am been trying to understand the meaning of the song. But first the lyrics.

“Beneath A Phrygian Sky”

The moonlight it was dancing
On the waves, out on the sea
The stars of heaven hovered
In a shimmering galaxyA voice from down the ages
So in haunting in its song
These ancient stones will tell us
Our love must make us strongThe breeze it wrapped around me
As I stood there on the shore
And listened to this voice
Like I never heard beforeOur battles they may find us
No choice may ours to be
But hold the banner proudly
The truth will set us freeMy mind was called across the years
Of rages and of strife
Of all the human misery
And all the waste of lifeWe wondered where our God was
In the face of so much pain
I looked up to the stars above
To find you once again

We travelled the wide oceans
Heard many call your name
With sword and gun and hatred
It all seemed much the same

Some used your name for glory
Some used it for their gain
Yet when liberty lay wanting
No lives were lost in vain

Is it not our place to wonder
As the sky does weep with tears
And all the living creatures
Look on with mortal fear

It is ours to hold the banner
Is ours to hold it long
It is ours to carry forward
Our love must make us strong

And as the warm wind carried
Its song into the night
I closed my eyes and tarried
Until the morning light

As the last star it shimmered
And the new sun’s day gave birth
It was in this magic moment
Came this prayer for mother earth

[Reprise:]
The moonlight it was dancing
On the waves, out on the sea
The stars of heaven hovered
In a shimmering galaxy

A voice from down the ages
So in haunting in its song
The ancient stones will tell us
Our love will make us strong

What is the Phrygians? Initial googling reveals that Phrygian is a mode of musical notes. I am more familiar with Phryrians as a historical ethnic group. Wiki states

The Phrygians (gr. Φρύγες, Phruges or Phryges) were an ancient Indo-European people, initially dwelling in the southern Balkans – according to Herodotus – under the name of Bryges (Briges), changing it to Phruges after their final migration to Anatolia, via the Hellespont.

From tribal and village beginnings, the state of Phrygia arose in the eighth century BC with its capital at Gordium. During this period, the Phrygians extended eastward and encroached upon the kingdom of Urartu, the descendants of the Hurrians, a former rival of the Hittites.

Meanwhile, the Phrygian Kingdom was overwhelmed by Cimmerian invaders around 690 BC, then briefly conquered by its neighbour Lydia, before it passed successively into the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great and the empire of Alexander and his successors, was taken by the Attalids of Pergamon, and eventually became part of the Roman Empire. The last mention of the Phrygian language in literature dates to the fifth century CE and it was likely extinct by the seventh century.

My initial exposure to the Phrygians came from my reading about the ancient Greek and Roman history. Having been in Turkey (ancient Anatolia), I can remember standing there and looking at the beautiful blue sky. A particular stanza from the song resonates within me.

We wondered where our God was
In the face of so much pain
I looked up to the stars above
To find you once again

Sometimes we ask where God is in the face of so much suffering in the world, not realising that He is here all the time. He feels our pain and our sorrow. He suffers with us as the world drags its feet to the end of time.

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Vocational Holiness and Marketplace Spiritual Formation

This STM TEE module will be conducted over two weekends in June/July 2017

Vocational Holiness and Marketplace Spiritual Formation

vocational-holiness

Committed Christians are often concerned about discovering God’s will for their lives in terms of what occupation to take up or who to marry. The deeper question will be to discern what is God’s calling. Another concern is how they are to live and have their being in their workplace and marketplace. There are always questions on how to maintain the vitality of their spiritual life and growth in the modern lifestyle that is extremely hectic and exhausting. This course will deal with Christian discernment or decision-making and the theology of God’s calling and vocation. It will examine Ignatian, Quaker, Puritan and Wesleyan approaches to discernment. The issue of hectic and busy lifestyles will be examined and approaches developed to nurture the spiritual life. The concepts of Missio Dei and Sabbath in their vocations will be developed. Central to this course is how followers of Jesus Christ live out their Christian lives that are glorifying to God in their workplace.

Suitable for people who wants to know more about making important life choices, about Godly decision-making and God’s calling; about Christian discernment; about spiritual maintenance and growth in busy and stressful lifestyles.

 

Speaker

Dr Alex Tang is a paediatrician, medical educator, practical theologian, spiritual director, author, preacher, Bible teacher, hospital administrator and grandfather. He regards being a grandfather as one of his more important vocations. Alex practise paediatrics at a private hospital and is associate professor of paediatrics in Monash University clinical school in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Aside from a busy preaching and teaching schedule in different churches he also leads retreats in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. He is an adjunct professor in East Asia School of Theology (EAST), Singapore and several other seminaries. His areas of research are Christian spiritualities, spiritual formation and biomedical ethics. He is married with two grown children and two growing grandchildren.