Tag Archives: language

Jesus the Snarky?

jesus_laughing21I’m preaching for a bunch of preachers in two weeks, at an event called the Festival of Homiletics, or as many of us affectionately call  it: Homies.

In preparation, I’ve been thinking a lot about the text below from Matthew. I’d love to know what you hear in it, especially as it speaks to our current context. Jesus’ words about “what comes out of the mouth” speak to me about cheap talk, the proliferation of words in a world of cable news and Twitter, and yes, the rise of snarkiness.

And then what’s going on with Jesus’ reaction to the Canaanite woman in the second section? It’s not every day you hear a word from the Lord that makes you want to say “Ooh, burn!” (Yes I’m a child of the 80s.)

What is up with Jesus’ reaction? How do you hear this story?

I’m especially interested in thoughts from you non-churchy types.

Matthew 15

10 Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, ‘Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.’ 12Then the disciples approached and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees took offence when they heard what you said?’ 13He answered, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.* And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.’ 15But Peter said to him, ‘Explain this parable to us.’ 16Then he said, ‘Are you also still without understanding?17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.’

21 Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon.22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ 23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ 24He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ 25But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ 26He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 27She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ 28Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.

Words Matter

One of my favorite of the Sabbath Supplemental videos is this, our version of a fast-draw video:

What does the word “busy” stir up in you?

This was a discussion on Facebook recently. As the video indicates, I know a lot of people who use it as a means of besting one another and asserting their importance. Others pushed back and said, “Eh, not always.” Sometimes people are just… busy. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I’ve tried to stop using the word. It’s become the “I’m fine” in verbal communication. Maybe it greases the conversational wheels, but it’s boring and content-free.

Another phrase snuck up on me this weekend. Someone asked me to do something and I said I couldn’t because I was “tied up.” Now there’s an evocative expression!

Sometimes, of course, our days are not our own—our schedules are at the mercy of family needs, work expectations, and the like. In that sense, the term “tied up” makes sense… though it sets other people up as our adversaries, which maybe isn’t healthy.

But in my case, I was engaging in activities I’d freely chosen. And I used the term to try and cover the fact that I was choosing not to drop everything and go help the person. “Tied up” meant “I would help you, but dangit, there’s this other thing holding me captive!

Pastors and folks in other helping professions are counseled to schedule time to recharge, and to protect that time. If people want to meet with you then, simply say you have a commitment—they don’t need to know that it’s for the massage therapist or to sneak off to an afternoon Nats game because you’ve had three funerals in the last two weeks. I agree with this in principle. Especially if it’s a pastoral need: there’s something callous about saying to a grieving family, “I can meet with you tomorrow but not today—mani/pedi time!”

At the same time, the more we keep self-care to ourselves, the more we give the impression that we don’t need such activities, and those who do are somehow weaker or less dedicated.

Yes, there are times that my life is not my own. That comes with the territory of loving your neighbor. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’m not sure I’m on board with “tied up.” I’d rather take responsibility for my own self-care, and strive for transparency with how I use my time.

What do you think?

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Reminder: You have until 10 p.m. Eastern to enter the Sabbath in the Suburbs giveaway!

Friday Link Love: Flying Houses, Being a Mystic, and Mighty Girls… One of Whom with Toilet Covers on Her Head

First, if you haven’t already heard me shouting from the rooftops about it, here is my interview about Sabbath in the Suburbs on Huffington Post Books.

Another note. I share links to interesting, inspiring, curious content all week long at my Facebook page. Feel free to subscribe to the public updates, even if we’re not FB friends!

Lots of images in Link Love this week, and a few meaty quotes. Onward…

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Flying Houses by Laurent Cherere — Colossal

Wonderful. Like something out of Roald Dahl:

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laurent-4

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Top Read-Aloud Books Starring Mighty Girls — A Mighty Girl

This is one I shared on Facebook. Great list! I want to read them all.

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Christian Wiman on Faith and Language — Andrew Sullivan

Another one I shared earlier this week, but dang, I like it:

To have faith in a religion, any religion, is to accept at some primary level that its particular language of words and symbols says something true about reality. This doesn’t mean that the words and symbols are reality (that’s fundamentalism), nor that you will ever master those words and symbols well enough to regard reality as some fixed thing. What it does mean, though, is that you can ‘no more be religious in general than [you] can speak language in general’ (George Lindbeck), and that the only way to deepen your knowledge and experience of ultimate divinity is to deepen your knowledge and experience of the all-too-temporal symbols and language of a particular religion. Lindbeck would go so far as to say that your religion of origin has such a bone-deep hold on you that, as with a native language, it’s your only hope for true religious fluency. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would say that one has to submit to symbols and language that may be inadequate in order to have those inadequacies transcended.

This is true of poetry, too: I don’t think you can spend your whole life questioning whether language can represent reality. At some point, you have to believe that the inadequacies of words you use will be transcended by the faith with which you use them. You have to believe that poetry has some reach into reality itself, or you have to go silent. – Christian Wiman, “Notes on Poetry and Religion,” from Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet.

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Stoic, Addict, Mystic — Andrew Sullivan

Another one posted on The Dish this week:

We are rarely presented with an authentically fulfilling trajectory for our desires… If we are created for infinite satisfaction, we really only have three choices about what to do with our desire in this life: We will become either a stoic, an addict, or a mystic. The stoic squelches desire out of fear, while the addict attempts to satisfy his desire for infinity with finite things, which, of course, can’t satisfy. That’s why the addict wants more and more and more. The mystic, on the other hand — in the Christian sense of the term — is the one who is learning how to direct his desire for infinity toward infinity,” – Christopher West, whose new book is Fill These Hearts.

For infinity, toward infinity. Nice.

Winners of the 2012 National Geographic Photo Contest — National Geographic

A cat picture won! Sort of. Go to the link to see the grand prize winner, as well as all the other top picks. My favorite in the “people” category:

H6yMi6fUB_1JR964xxG8RxsYArlNNn1lR5PWutchIb-0b1wahCLwPmHficO2saD0RkzVCatVnWrRPg

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Unleash Your Unconscious: How Switching Tasks Maximizes Creative Thinking — 99U

Incubation breaks boosted creative performance, but only when the time was spent engaged in a different kind of mental activity. Participants who in the break switched from verbal to spatial, or from spatial to verbal, excelled when they returned to their main task – in terms of the number and quality of their solutions. The change in focus freed up their unconscious to spend the incubation period tackling the main challenge.

Highly recommend running, for people with the knees for it.

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Embracing Mystery in the New Year: Ten Essential Practices — Christian Valters Paintner

Follow the thread. Each of us has a unique unfolding story and call in this world. We don’t “figure this out” but rather we allow the story to emerge in its own time, tending the symbols and synchronicities that guide us along.
Trust in what you love. Following the thread is essentially about cultivating a deep trust in what you love. What are the things that make your heart beat loudly, no matter how at odds they feel with your current life (and perhaps especially so)? Make some room this year to honor what brings you alive.

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Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits — Sad and Useless

h/t Keith Snyder.

Nina Katchadourian whiles away long plane journeys by locking herself in the lavatory and pretending to be a 15th century Dutch painting. The project began spontaneously on a flight in March 2010 and is ongoing…

I do think about the line forming outside the door while she’s doing this, but:

lav3

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Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday Link Love

A few odds and ends from around the Intertubes:

7 Principles of Comedy/ Design/ Creating Anything

Discussion of the HBO special “Talking Funny” with Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Louis CK. Interesting connections between their process and other creative processes. Plus there’s a link to the special, available in four parts on YouTube.

The Myth of Self Control

From Andrew Sullivan’s blog. “Dan Ariely sees the psychology of self control at work in the tale of Ulysses and the sirens.”

Mom Gets the Right Things Done with the Natural Planning Model

I first read this as “natural family planning,” for which the jokes write themselves. But this is a Getting Things Done post about how to apply the principles of GTD to one’s home/family life, not just work life. The more I get into GTD the more I realize it is really a process of discernment at its core.

Beware the Metaphor

We’ve always known language is powerful, now we have a study that demonstrates one aspect of this:

Researchers asked students to read one of two crime reports. In the first report, crime was described as a “wild beast preying on the city” and “lurking in neighborhoods.”

Guess which group suggested more jails and getting “tougher on crime,” and which suggested more social reforms such as improving education?

This study is not surprising, but it does solidify my intense dislike for cable news and its swooshes and logos and Super Scary Music.

Fidelia’s Sisters: How Do You Do It?

A nice column from a minister-mom that provides an honest look at what it’s really like to engage on those two vocations.

A Benedictine Paradigm for Congregational Life

In all our talk about being missional and the church not existing for its own sake, we can get out of whack as we fail to nurture our own spiritual lives. The Benedictine Rule can show us how to find balance and faithfulness between inward journey and outward service.

One More on Tucson

I said my piece, more or less, at the end of Sunday’s sermon, but I’m continuing to read and reflect. I agree with Jon Stewart, that the stories of the victims and those who stepped in to provide aid are truly inspiring. Whether it’s the congressional intern, just days on the job, who cradled Rep. Giffords’s head in his lap and staunched the bleeding, or the man who died while shielding his own wife, or the people who bravely wrestled the ammo away from a madman… it’s almost heady, this stuff.

The bad was very, very bad. And I wish these folks had not been given the opportunity to show what they were made of on Saturday. But show it they did.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” As I looked at Jared Loughner’s grinning, Joker-like mugshot, I realized I favor the King James Version even more now: “the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Yes, I know that “comprehend” meant something different back then. But I’ll take that play on words. Whatever darkness compelled Loughner to do what he did, and then to offer that sick grin to the world—the light that beamed back at the darkness was so bright. So incomprehensible. The darkness doesn’t even get that kind of light.

Regarding the role (or not) of political rhetoric in creating a toxic environment and goading on the desperate, the sick and the armed, there’s some really good stuff out there. This one by Stephen Budiansky is a current favorite for articulating a “let’s take a look at this” position. (Not: “let’s make some laws curtailing speech,” or “let’s arrest Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle for being accomplices.” Both are strawmen.) The comments are respectful and interesting too.

Andrew Sullivan is my clearinghouse at the moment, and he’s doing a great job presenting lots of different voices. I won’t reproduce all of his links, but he’s highlighted several liberal and moderate voices, and also many conservatives. Some have hunkered down and refused to engage in any self-reflection whatsoever, but others have been thoughtful and circumspect. As one conservative commentator put it,

I don’t think that questioning the possible role of political discourse in this tragedy merely represents callous opportunism on the part of the Left; it is a salutary human instinct after a tragedy of this dimension to search for any possible collective responsibility, even if that collectivity rarely includes oneself.

Read the whole thing. Read also this article by David Frum, no bleeding heart liberal himself, who takes Sarah Palin to task for missing the point of this whole discussion:

Palin failed to appreciate the question being posed to her. That question was not: “Are you culpable for the shooting?” The question was: “Having put this unfortunate image on the record, can you respond to the shooting in a way that demonstrates your larger humanity? And possibly also your potential to serve as leader of the entire nation?”

I thought this was a pretty infantile response, and thankfully, not very characteristic:

Our spirited political discourse, complete with name-calling, vilification—and, yes, violent imagery—is a good thing. Better that angry people unload their fury in public than let it fester and turn septic in private. The wicked direction the American debate often takes is not a sign of danger but of freedom. And I’ll punch out the lights of anybody who tries to take it away from me.

I’m a big fan of the first amendment—my first job after college was for these guys—and agree that for the most part, the ill-advised words of doofuses and dolts are the price we pay for a free society. But it’s simply not the case that if only people will publicly “unload” their ire, that things won’t fester. As I have written here many times, venting does not diffuse negative feelings. It exacerbates them. This has actually been studied, folks.

All of this stuff has implications for Christians. We affirm that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We believe that our sacred story has power; it’s not just an entertaining story; it does something. And like the capital-W Word, our lowercase-w words also become enfleshed. Words make things possible. Words create and destroy. Words aren’t cheap, they’re costly. In the words of Teresa of Avila, “Words lead to deeds. They prepare the soul, make it ready, and move it to tenderness.” Or they don’t.

Image: Daniel Hernandez, the intern who is credited with helping save Gabrielle Giffords’s life. When he heard the gunshots, he ran toward them.