Friday, April 26, 2013

Daily Readings: Life after Death Edition

Before I arrived: A sea of chaos. Now? Organized Chaos
I always liked the motto of the Benedictine monks and nuns the world over. Ora et Labora: work and prayer. As a general rule, as lazy as I can sometimes be, I pride myself on getting my work completed to within a shade of an acceptable degree of appropriately. As it happens, today I was having a rough, dark day, and so I threw myself into work as a way to get away from the general-purpose blandness that happened. When I got home, the very last thing on my mind was doing my readings. In point of fact, this will probably go up as a day late, though you have my assurances that it's still thursday as far as my internal clock is concerned, and it was legally Thursday as well when I began.

Today's readings started off with some encouraging detail - far more interesting than yesterday's readings from Acts, with a reading from the First Epistle of Peter, 5:5-14. It begins with an admonition to younger people (that'd be me - and, statistically, probably you) to be subject to our elders. I've always been uncomfortable with this advice. It's certainly true that most people older than other people have more experience than the people they are older than. It's not always true that said advise translates into proper wisdom. I agree that it is important to be polite to our elders, and to take what they say in stride and under advisement, but it should be taken with a grain of salt, otherwise any of a number of things that are Not At All Okay would certainly be Okay, because old people have told me so. It also admonishes us to be humble, which I do agree with, within reasons. We should be proud-but-thankful. Unrestrained humility is why many people younger than myself have a hard time meeting new people or finding work, in spite of any divine intervention in the matter.

The overall message of the passage is that, if you trust God, everything will ultimately turn out alright. I always considered that somewhat "come-what-may" attitude to be defeatist in nature. I think of divine intervention in the same way I think of luck. Luck, as Timothy Zhan once wrote, is little more than the ability to spot opportunity, and the improvisational nature to take advantage of it. Divine intervention, to my way of thinking, is the providing of that opportunity. It's the surprise free lunch, the opening door of a vacant job, the good fortune to be born in a country where, Thank God, I don't have to worry about affording my medication, without which I would not properly function. So I trust God, sure, but I have to keep my own eyes open for the moment to strike, as it were.

I see your corn snake, and raise
you my hog island boa.
The gospel reading was from Mark 16:15-20, and were five verses I have had a problem with since pretty much forever. The passage gives a list of miracles associated with belief, each as bizarre and improbable than the last. The first is the idea that snakes could be safely handled. This is hardly miraculous. Corn snakes pose about as much threat to humans as house cats - an infant could handle them safely. Any snake can be handled easily through naturalistic means, and the ability to safely handle a snake has more to do with a person's confidence in their own safety than confidence that God will protect them.

The remaining miracles are genuinely miraculous. Exorcisms and the gift of tongues are generally a good sign that something supernatural is going on, if it's the genuine gift of tongues (the silver-tongued kind), rather than the ability to speak coherent gibberish while the language centres of your brain misfire in a pseudo-epileptic fit. Drinking poison and emerging unscathed is likewise miraculous, though this might explain this disproportionate amount of people who drink tap water unfiltered and emerge relatively hearty and free of toxicity problems. And of course, the laying on of hands would be a miracle I would think the world could use a lot more of.

But what do I know? I'm a cynic, who has a hard time in believing in miracles that can actually be tested, but can somehow believe in the Transubstantiation.

Are you reading your bible every day? If you are, leave a comment below, and I will add Daily Reading post links to the relevant day's posting.

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