20 January 2018

Look what came out of that rock!

Moses was a fairly older man when the incident I'm going to share with you took place. Maybe 100, maybe 114 or older. That's getting up there. And he was a leader of a large group of Jewish people. Maybe 3 million or so by that time. One old guy leading a large crew of wilderness wanderers. I see trouble ahead...how about you?

The scene takes place in a village named Kadesh on the outskirts of the Edomite region immediately after Moses' older sister Miriam dies. (Recorded in the Bible in Numbers chapter 20). There is no water and the people send up a lynching party, or at least a union workers party to tell Moses and his older brother Aaron how they feel. The crowd didn't really offer any suggestions, but only came to k'vetch. No surprise there.

Moses and his brother pray. They hear from God that they should 1) take Moses' rod, 2) assemble the people and 3) speak to the rock. Pretty straightforward. Simple. 1, 2, 3. OK, so Moses takes his rod (check), and along with Aaron gather the people (check). Then Moses in no uncertain terms calls them rebels and expresses some pent-up rage against them. Verse 10: “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 

Maybe his own remonstration distracting Moses, or his grief was more severe than he could handle, but for whatever reason Moses didn't just speak to the rock. He struck it ...twice! Not really such a bad thing, when you think about it. Water did come out of it, so the need for a dialogue with the rock was overshadowed by the compensation of the running water, which was enough to feed the cattle, all the livestock, and the people of Israel. Great response. Thanks, Lord!

Except, wait a minute. God had told Moses to speak to the rock, and instead he spoke to the people. He was told to take the rod, but not use it. And he used it. He got famished. (That's a Yiddish word meaning 'mixed up). And as a result, God got miffed. He told Moses that his actions demonstrated a lack of faith. Ouch. In fact, God said that his term of leadership would be ending soon, just before bringing the Jewish people into the Promised Land. "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (verse 12)

There you have it. One sin and you are out. 

My friend Gregg Dennington wrote a blog about this chapter and its impact. 
"Moses was showing the children of Israel that God was furious with them.
Only problem is, God was not furious with them. For some reason, He had great compassion on them. And great mercy. Even though these people complained against Him, God wasn’t angry with them at all. What He wanted was for them to see His great love, patience, care, and generosity toward them. But that’s not what they saw, was it?"
After commenting about our responsibility as leaders to represent the Almighty well, Gregg said something that really hit me today. 
"They’re watching how we respond to their failures. They’re watching how we respond to our own failures."
 Wow, how do people notice my failures? And they are watching how I respond to them. Very insightful. I agree. Who is watching? My kids. My wife. My staff at work. My neighbours. Listen, I fail God, all too often. I am not perfect. No one would have ever imagined I was. I am short-fused at times. I get bothered when people don't pull their weight or work hard for the money someone pays them. I fail to love people as I should. 

OK, so what do I do with my own failures? Cover them up? Excuse them? Excuse myself? Not a chance! I expose them, usually after someone else shows me my faults and I admit my sins before God and whoever told me. I am quick to admit failure. I want God to make me better. I claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection. 

Moses and Gregg helped me today. 

Maybe this story will help you, too. 

When God says 'speak', then speak.
When he says strike, then use that rod.
And to the recipient.
And in the timing of the Almighty.

That's what I'm doing today.
See, it's not that hard.


__________________
Num. 20.2aAnd there was no water for the congregation; band they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. 
Num. 20.3 aThe people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, “bIf only we had perished cwhen our brothers perished before the Lord! 
Num. 20.4aWhy then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die 1here? 
Num. 20.5 “And why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? aIt is not a place of 1grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink.” 
Num. 20.6 Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and afell on their faces. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them; 
Num. 20.7 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 
Num. 20.8 “Take athe rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink.” 
Num. 20.9 So Moses took the rod afrom before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 
Num. 20.10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “aListen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 
Num. 20.11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and awater came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 
Num. 20.12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “aBecause you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 

Num. 20.13 Those were the waters of 1aMeribah, 2because the sons of Israel contended with the Lord, and He proved Himself holy among them. 

03 January 2018

Woody, death and 'just in case'

I remembered the movie when it came on my movie channel today, but didn't remember all of it. "Cafe Society" is another Woody Allen movie with big star power and plenty of references to New York City vs Los Angeles, jazz music, a Jewish hit-man and issues of true love. Nothing new there.

The movie was released in 2016, and carries a conclusion by Ben, played by Corey Stoll, a veteran Woody Allen cast member, who is busted for his murdering the neighbor and extortion and countless other crimes. He receives the death sentence and as you would expect from Woody Allen, at the end he searches for the meaning of life (especially in death.) He wants assurance that there is something more, and welcomes Father Brolian in his last week of life. Ben Dorfman, a Jew, is seeking solace and the comfort that Christians seem to have as they finish this life. 

Bobby, the nephew of Ben, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is scandalized. Mind you, if someone else wrote other chunks of this screenplay, this section was handwritten by Woody himself. His concern with death and meaning has been apparent throughout his career. I remember a 1985 movie "Hannah and her sisters" where the Jewish main character (then played by Woody) goes on a search-for-meaning which includes a stint at a Christian bookshop in NYC (which was actually my old barber shop. More on that later)

BEN: You know, we didn't have time for this, but when the end's near, you need somethin'.
BOBBY: Yeah! And you don't wanna be buried as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery?
BEN: The Jewish religion doesn't believe in an afterlife.
BOBBY: Right. I guess, but I can't believe what I am hearing from you.
BEN: I have to know that all this just doesn't end. You know what do I mean? I have to believe that a part of me keeps goin'.  We all got a soul, right Father?

[For your further study, this whole section of the script is as the bottom here.]

Even though theology is not Woody's strong suit, and even though Judaism does have official reference to the afterlife, most Jewish people would agree with Woody's character's conclusions. So the problem does exist. 

The assurance of something more, that this life doesn't just end-- I believe this is inbuilt, hardwired into humanity. We ache to go on, to last, to dwell well and to dwell long. The Bible even says, "He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end." (Ecclesiastes 3.11)

So how do we go on? How do we make it to the other side, as Ben longed, and I believe, as Woody longs?  Maybe this YouTube I made will help unpack some of my thoughts. See the YouTube here. 
I'm pretty sure that the only pictures which we readily recognize, the angels in all white, on a white cumulus cloud, plucking a harp on one side, and a devil with red pitchfork and anger on the other-- I don't think that's what heaven and hell are really about.

But getting to heaven-- that's hardwired into us. And then there's the issue of the 'just in case.' What would it kill you if you don't believe, to go ahead and believe? Some use the phrase "Pascal's Wager" to describe this gamble.

Whether you agree with the authors' conclusions here about Pascal's Wager, the thinking is worth reading and considering. Here's a long article with philosophical thoughts. Here's the link. 

Just in case there's a heaven, Pascal argued, why not believe it?  I'm not sure that this would be enough, and certainly falls short of the biblical definition of faith, BUT it's way better than knocking religion altogether. So said Pascal.

What do you say?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

THE SCRIPT SECTION:
Despite the efforts of two high-priced lawyers, he was sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing.

BEN: This is Father Brolian. He's guiding me down the stand to Christianity. Today, we discussed the sixth Psalm. "O Lord! Do not punish me in anger. Do not chastise me in fury, right Father?"
BOBBY: Ben, Ben, I'm flabbergasted!
BEN: You know, we didn't have time for this bullshit, but when the end's near, you need somethin'.
BOBBY: Yeah! And you don't wanna be buried as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery?
BEN: The Jewish religion doesn't believe in an afterlife.
BOBBY: Right. I guess, but I can't believe what I am hearing from you.
BEN: I have to know that all this just doesn't end. You know what do I mean? I have to believe that a part of me keeps goin'. We all got a soul. Right, Father?


NEXT SCENE: Back at Ben's sister's house. The speakers are all Jews. Which line is given by which person is inconsequential.

First a murderer, then he becomes a Christian. What did I do to deserve this? Which is worse? He explained it to you.
The Jews don't have an afterlife.
We are all afraid of dying, Marty!
But we don't give up the religion we are born into.
I'm not afraid of dying.
You're too stupid to appreciate the implications.
I didn't say I like the idea. and I will resist death with everything I have. But when the Angel of Death
comes down to cut me down, I'll go. I'll protest. I'll curse. You hear me? I will go under protest.
Protest to who? What the hell are you gonna do?? Write a letter to the Times?
I will protest in silence. Because my whole life, I pray and I pray and there's never an answer!
What are you saying?
No answer, is also an answer.
Too bad the Jewish religion doesn't have an afterlife. They would get a lot more customers.

FINAL section I'm referencing in this blog:
In late July, Ben was executed at Sing Sing.
He died a Christian and stated he wanted to be cremated. Ben had requested his ashes be scattered in Manhattan. And Bobby scattered them outside an establishment that had given Ben many evenings of pleasure.

Read the whole script at: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=cafe-society
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
The whole of Psalm 6:
Psa. 6.1 ¶ O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, 
Nor chasten me in Your wrath. 
Psa. 6.2 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away; 
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed. 
Psa. 6.3 And my soul is greatly dismayed; 
But You, O Lord — how long? 
Psa. 6.4 ¶ Return, O Lord, rescue my soul; 
Save me because of Your lovingkindness. 
Psa. 6.5 For there is no mention of You in death; 
In Sheol who will give You thanks? 
Psa. 6.6 ¶ I am weary with my sighing; 
Every night I make my bed swim, 
I dissolve my couch with my tears. 
Psa. 6.7 My eye has wasted away with grief; 
It has become old because of all my adversaries. 
Psa. 6.8 ¶ Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, 
For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. 
Psa. 6.9 The Lord has heard my supplication, 
The Lord receives my prayer. 
Psa. 6.10 All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; 

They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed. 
Despite the efforts of
two high-priced lawyers,
he was sentenced to die
in the electric chair at Sing Sing.
This is father Brolian.
He's guiding me down the stand to Christianity.
Today, we discussed the six Psalm.
O Lord! Do not punish me in anger.
Do not chastise me in anger, right father?
Ben, Ben, I'm flabbergasted!
You know, we didn't have time for this bullshit,
but when the ends near, you need somethin'.
Yeah! And you don't wanna be buried
as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery?
The Jewish religion doesn't
believe in an afterlife.
Right. I guess but I don't believe
what I am hearing from you.
I just have to know that all this just doesn't end.
You know what do I mean?
I need to believe that a part
of me keeps goin'.
We all gotta soul.
Right, Father?
First a murderer,
then he becomes a Christian.
What did I do to deserve this?
Which is worse?
He explained it to you.
The Jews don't have an afterlife.
We are all afraid of dying, Marty!
But we don't give up the
religion we are born into.
I'm not afraid to die.
You're too stupid to appreciate the implications.
I didn't say I like the idea.
And I will resist death
with everything I have.
But when the Angel of Death
comes down to cut me down,
I'll go.
I'll protest.
I'll curse.
You hear me?
I will go under protest.
Protest to who?
What the hell are you gonna do??
Write a letter to the Times?
I will protest in silence.
Because my whole life,
I pray and I pray
and there's never an answer!
What are you saying?
No answer, is also an answer.
Too bad the Jewish religion
doesn't have an afterlife.
They get a lot more customers.
In late July, Ben was executed at Sing Sing.
He died a Christian and
he wanted to be cremated.
Ben had requested his ashes
be scattered in Manhattan.
And Bobby scattered them
outside an establishment
that had give Ben many evenings of pleasure.

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=cafe-society
Despite the efforts of
two high-priced lawyers,
he was sentenced to die
in the electric chair at Sing Sing.
This is father Brolian.
He's guiding me down the stand to Christianity.
Today, we discussed the six Psalm.
O Lord! Do not punish me in anger.
Do not chastise me in anger, right father?
Ben, Ben, I'm flabbergasted!
You know, we didn't have time for this bullshit,
but when the ends near, you need somethin'.
Yeah! And you don't wanna be buried
as a Jew in a Jewish cemetery?
The Jewish religion doesn't
believe in an afterlife.
Right. I guess but I don't believe
what I am hearing from you.
I just have to know that all this just doesn't end.
You know what do I mean?
I need to believe that a part
of me keeps goin'.
We all gotta soul.
Right, Father?
First a murderer,
then he becomes a Christian.
What did I do to deserve this?
Which is worse?
He explained it to you.
The Jews don't have an afterlife.
We are all afraid of dying, Marty!
But we don't give up the
religion we are born into.
I'm not afraid to die.
You're too stupid to appreciate the implications.
I didn't say I like the idea.
And I will resist death
with everything I have.
But when the Angel of Death
comes down to cut me down,
I'll go.
I'll protest.
I'll curse.
You hear me?
I will go under protest.
Protest to who?
What the hell are you gonna do??
Write a letter to the Times?
I will protest in silence.
Because my whole life,
I pray and I pray
and there's never an answer!
What are you saying?
No answer, is also an answer.
Too bad the Jewish religion
doesn't have an afterlife.
They get a lot more customers.
In late July, Ben was executed at Sing Sing.
He died a Christian and
he wanted to be cremated.
Ben had requested his ashes
be scattered in Manhattan.
And Bobby scattered them
outside an establishment
that had give Ben many evenings of pleasure.

Read more: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=cafe-society