Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fiction.  Ben Mickaelsen, Ghost of Spirit Bear.  As I read my way through Steinbeck, it’s good to pause to read a novel written for young adults.  The book is set in an urban high school in Minneapolis, with problems of gangs, disrespect, poor teaching, and bullying.  A boy on parole, supported by a caring parent, a wise parole officer, a good friend, and a far-sighted principal, learns how to make personal change and thus affect change on a school level.  Best line, from the principal, “What our students needed was structure, purpose, self-control, pride, dignity, and self-determination.”       These are qualities we all need.  They are values we need to develop daily as good spiritual practices.  After I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, I will read the book to which this one is a sequel, Touching Spirit Bear.

A Blessing.  She approached me with quiet dignity and a smile.  “Good morning.  I’m selling these crosses for Easter.  My children and I are having hard times right now, so I made these crosses, hoping to help.”  She held six beautiful plastic crosses, each at the end of a series of beautiful colorful plastic beads.  There were hooks at the top.  “I’m selling them for only two dollars each.”  I chose one for myself and another as a gift for my minister, whom I was on my way to see.  I was able to be more generous than her asking price.  Surprised, she took the money, smiled through tears of happiness, thanked me.  And I was blessed. 

An Easter sermon.  Easter Sunday was overcast.  It had rained all night.  In the choir room at church, a friend approached me and said, “Look out that window and tell me there is no God.”  I beheld two mature dogwood trees, one white and one pink, in full bloom in the neighboring yard.  They were bright in the light of the overcast day.  It was the best Eastern sermon I have ever experienced. 

Nonfiction.  Charles W. Wadelington and Richard F. Knapp, Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the Palmer Memorial Institute.  This interesting book is a comprehensive look at the inspired and gifted founder and leader of a boarding preparatory school, which received national recognition, and of its history.  Reading it, one realizes both the positive and negative influences of an autocratic administrator.  The time line serves as an excellent summary, the index is a quick reference for subjects of interest, and the bibliography is extensive.  The book does what all biographical and historic studies should do, provoke the reader to further reading and study.

Easter stories.  This week I re-read the accounts of the four gospels of the time from the Last Supper to the end of the gospel accounts.  Once again, I noticed the many variations and contradictions of the stories.  If I were to tell the stories, which details would I choose? It would, of course, depend upon my audience, and I have much to choose from.        At the Last Supper, I could use the disciples’ discussing who should rank the highest, as told in Luke.  It’s a detail not in the other gospels and one not often discussed.        At the Garden of Gethsemane, would I include the incident of the angel’s coming to give Jesus strength and the comparison of Jesus’s sweat to blood, as told by the writer of Matthew?  Would I include the writer of Matthew’s incident in which Jesus tells those arresting him that he could appeal to the Father to send angels to come to his defense?  I would include, as the writers of Luke and John, the story of Malcus and his healing.        At the trial of Jesus, I would enjoy telling what the writer of Matthew tells about Pilate’s predicament, including the appeal from his wife.  Would I include the mocking of Jesus?  If so, would I have him dressed in purple or in scarlet?  Would I have him hold a cane in his right hand?  The crown of thorns is in all stories.  Would it be included in mine?  Would Jesus carry his own cross, or would Simon carry it for him?        When Jesus dies, would I include the earthquake and the raising of the bodies of saints, told only by the writer of Matthew?        Who would come to anoint the body?  Would I choose three women, as told in Mark and Luke, or one woman, as told in John?  Would I tell that the body was anointed by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus, told only in John?  And who would that woman, or women, encounter who tells that Jesus is not there, the young man in a white robe, two men in “dazzling garments,” an angel descending from heaven, who rolls away the stone and sits on it in the middle of an earthquake?         To whom would Jesus appear after his death?  Would I include Mark’s story of the first person being Mary of Magadala? Would I include the ever-popular story of the appearance of Jesus to those on the road to Emmaus?  The special appearance to Thomas the doubter?   The disciples at supper?  To the disciples fishing?  I like the story, only in John, of Jesus’s approaching the disciples while they are fishing, and of his charge to Simon Peter that if he loves him, “Feed my sheep . . . tend my sheep. . . feed my sheep.”  It contains the essence of the teachings of Jesus.  It’s one of my favorite passages in all scripture.        And which story is true?  If we read scripture as story, myth, symbol, drama, metaphor, all the different versions have their truths.  But if we read, as fundamentalist Christians insist, that every word of the Bible is literally true, we encounter a big problem.    It’s too bad that many intelligent people have rejected belief because of their being told of the literal truths of scriptures.        If I were to choose one gospel story of Easter (not my story of combined details), I would choose that of Mark.  His storytelling is quick and includes important details in a memorable way.  I also like his birth narrative.  (There is not one.)

Thank you for reading.  I hope that you will enjoy the quick and sudden changes that Nature will give us now that Spring is here.  I hope your week will be good.

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About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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3 Responses to Wednesday, April 3, 2013

  1. Irma says:

    This was just what I needed this morning – thank you Bill!
    Abrazos, Irma

  2. Paul says:

    A wholehearted “Amen” to your comment about literalist readings of scripture, Bill! It’s really detrimental. I too love the Gospel of Mark. You might be interested to know that this is the Gospel from which all of the Lenten readings come in the Orthodox Christian lectionary. Hope you have a great weekend!

  3. Dave A says:

    “If I were to tell the stories, which details would I choose? It would, of course, depend upon my audience, and I have much to choose from.” Your comments remind me that “[Thomas] Jefferson’s Bible” was just displayed at the Denver Art Museum. I suppose we could say, Thomas took Bill’s quandary to heart and “did his thing”. Long ago, I saw this book on display at the Smithsonian in Washington.

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