Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snakes and Ladders

Hello darling, another beautiful afternoon. I've been sitting here musing, and my thoughts keep returning to how very impressed and engaged I was with the sermon I heard last Sunday, given by a young woman "Mother," guest Reverend for that service (and next Sunday's as well). Not having been a churchgoer for most of my life or otherwise particularly religious or observant, I don't have a firm grasp, and really hardly a passing acquaintance with Biblical texts, and I have never considered individual passages very closely, in any depth. So serving as accompanist now, and having the opportunity to participate in and listen to the service, is proving to be an education for me, and a challenging one, as I listen to the readings from the Old and New Testaments, and relate them to my own spiritual leanings and beliefs, as I make sense of them. I tend not to take them overly literally, to me they are wonderful extended metaphors, whose meanings I can only glimpse at, and maybe just start on the journey to grasp. So the readings last Sunday were: Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, and the Gospel of John, 3:14-21, the first line of which is "Jesus said, 'Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up...' -- which is a direct reference to the story told in Numbers 21:4-9, about poisonous serpents invading a camp, biting the people, many of whom died, and Moses, commanded by the Lord, putting such a poisonous serpent, cast in bronze, up on a pole 'and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.'

So the Reverend spoke at deeply-considered, eloquent, fascinating length, drawing parallels between the images - the serpent on a pole, Christ on the cross - and connected also the serpent to the (poisonous) serpent of Adam & Eve, of whom we are all descended. I mean, really, I was quite astonished, and moved also, the way the Mother described how the second line of John 3:14-21, is one of the single most famous and crucial in all of the Gospels -- so much so that -- as she gestured to a large printed banner hung on the wall near the lectern, it is on this banner as if to prove her point -- "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Anyway, I was very struck and moved by her extremely intelligent, carefully thought out sermon. I thought of Henry Ward Beecher, maybe -- what it might have been like to listen to him preach from the pulpit, just very intelligent connections -- not preaching 'down' at all -- truly her sermon was very complete, not 'dumbed-down' in the least -- another aspect of it which I found incredibly refreshing. I hesitate to use the word 'charismatic' with reference to her, because in a religious setting that carries specific connotations (to my mind, of blood-and-thundering) that I don't intend -- and yet I absolutely hung on her every word, was fascinated to see where she'd go next, as she so thoroughly and completely and beautifully explained each of the readings, and then sewed these amazing connections among them.

So, again, I'm not very religious, but I think a great deal, very much so, about, let's say, the human condition. And I think a lot about -- well, the Bible and a religious setting will use a certain set of terms, perhaps, and I keep listening for what I think is a central problem -- that of narcissism & narcissists preying on the -- well, those who don't choose their ways, and aren't especially equipped to handle them. Sorry I'm being so inarticulate here -- I suppose these ideas are more deeply felt, in me, than formally expressed -- it's something I "feel."

And this morning, as I went about the kitchen doing some cooking, meal prep for several meals, I thought of the fantastic quote, uttered by Samuel L. Jackson, in character, in some movie of recent years, in which (I think, I didn't actually see the movie - an airplane becomes infested with serpents) where he, determined, resolved, springing to action, declares, "I have HAD it with these m****r-f******g snakes on this m****r-f*****g plane." Doesn't that connect, wouldn't you say, with Numbers 21:4-9?

The other thing I think about, since I'm on the subject (because I'm not about to become a Bible-thumper, not in my life, nor in this blog), is the idea of sin, as expressed in the Ten Commandments, which have been an explicit part of the service these Lenten Sundays. And I listen to the Reverend declaim each one (e.g., "You shall not commit adultery"), and I join the congregation and intone, "Amen, Lord have mercy." This, the day after a morning coffee date that didn't go so swell, but the very point of its happening in the first place was in the hope that it, somehow someday, might.

I don't know, one can throw stones at me if one wishes (gee, doesn't that happen somewhere in the Bible, boy that sounds familiar - Mary Magdalene, wasn't it, the Emma Bovary perhaps of her day?), but in my moral parsings (lame & easily rationally challenged as they might be by someone who might wish to adversely judge me), I see a distinction between lonelyhearts who fall, or try to fall, into another's arms to ease such loneliness -- versus, serial bloodless cold philanderers who blithely lie & cheat & serenely cruise on and on their entire married lives, no matter what casualties & carcasses of broken hearts lie in the wake of their tornadic path. (Tornados don't feel a thing either -- those 'serpents of the air' -- but that's no comfort to their casualties.)

Sweetheart, I will most likely tweak this in the morning, I am glad that I was able to tap out this much, of a complex subject that I've been churning on...

at least you have a little glimpse of what I think about, when I'm not cruising CL posts... Marilynne Robinson I'm not. Though I might have a hard time convincing that native Idahoan (or was it Iowa?) that as an Easterner I'm not a complete stick-in-the-mud.

Love you sweetheart, wherever you are....
many kisses
(what one must do to extract snake venom, isn't it --
mark an X on the flesh, and suck out the poison ---
oh the thrilling chilling days of reading child's encyclopedias!
I never did have to do that --- not til now, I didn't --)
dearest love -- here I go --
love you

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