Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14; 2: 18-23

Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas.  Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

It is a truism that the Bible has been the source of innumerable sayings that have, over time, entered the popular lexicon, many of them in contexts vastly different from their biblical original.  And of all the books of the Bible, one of the most productive in this regard has been the text now known as Ecclesiastes, but which, to its Hebrew authors and audience, was known as Qoheleth.[1] Continue reading “Ecclesiastes 1: 2, 12-14; 2: 18-23”

The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35) – Two Poems

PRESCRIPT: Today I have attended the first day of Wisdom’s Feast, a biennial conference of Scripture, culture, and art hosted by the Uniting Church Centre for Theology and Ministry in Melbourne.  Aside from the inestimable privilege of being able to hear the noted biblical scholar and former Bishop of Durham, N T Wright, deliver the keynote address, I was also fortunate enough to attend a workshop on re-telling the biblical story through creative writing, facilitated by the poet Cameron Semmens.  He challenged us to re-examine the story of the disciples’ encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus with new eyes and a different perspective.  In the first of these poems, my attention was drawn to verses 30-31, when Jesus re-enacts the Last Supper and the disciples at last see him for who he is – and I decided to write a poem from the perspective of the bread that was the instrument of Jesus’ revelation.  But I also had in mind two paintings on this same subject, depicting this same moment, one by Velasquez, the other by Rembrandt. Continue reading “The Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35) – Two Poems”

Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

The American writer and satirist, Ambrose Bierce, once cynically declared that hospitality was nothing more than the act of feeding and lodging those who required neither feeding nor lodging[1].   In so saying, he was referring to the social custom of “calling on” one’s friends and neighbours, a custom which was very much a part of social tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries.  It involved unexpectedly turning up at someone’s house with the expectation that they would provide hospitality, usually in the form of food and conversation, but often also entertainment of one form or another.  As a practice, it was an intricate part of the social politics of the time; and anyone unable to meet the obligations of being “called on” suffered a serious blow to their social standing.  Bierce’s remark was a biting criticism, both of the social conventions which governed this practice, and the fact that many people took advantage of it in order to secure a free meal or garner ammunition for gossip and rumour-mongering. Continue reading “Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20”