John 17: 1-11

In music, a coda is the concluding section of a musical composition. Codas are important, because composers often use them to encapsulate and synthesize all the musical themes and motifs that have already appeared in the body of the composition; they are a way for the composer to summarise everything they have said in the piece, to bring the music to a coherent and unified conclusion. Continue reading “John 17: 1-11”

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Acts 17: 22-31

The great American satirist and journalist, H L Mencken, once declared that courts of law were places where Jesus and Judas would be considered equals, with the betting odds in favour of Judas[1]. In so saying, Mencken was criticising one of the most fallible aspects of any human system of justice: the fact that, despite notional equality before the law, those who enjoy the patronage of the powerful, or who have access to monetary resources, are more likely to enjoy success in litigation than those people who, however just their cause, have neither influence nor financial reserves. Continue reading “Acts 17: 22-31”

John 14: 1-14

It is said that during the course of the American Civil War, the US general John Sedgwick was sitting on his horse in the middle of a battle, when some of his subordinates urged him to take cover. Sedgwick sneered at them and declared: “Poppycock! They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Whereupon he toppled off his horse, having been shot dead by an enemy sniper. In a similar vein, the great German political economist, Karl Marx, upon being urged by his housekeeper to speak some final words so that she could record them for posterity, rebuked her sternly: “Get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” Anyone who has waded through all three volumes of Das Kapital will appreciate Marx’s modesty; but the irony is that his wish not to say any famous last words became, in effect, his famous last words. Continue reading “John 14: 1-14”

Acts 2: 42-47

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius taught that the noble person enters into associations but not cliques; while the petty person enters into cliques but not associations[1]. We might be tempted to dismiss this as a piece of pretty philosophical hair-splitting, but for the fact that what Confucius highlighted in this neat little aphorism were the two fundamental – and diametrically opposed – approaches to human existence. The first, which he ascribed to the “noble person”, views life as essentially relational, an interconnected web of human partnerships predicated, not on the advancement of self-interest at the cost of others, but on the advancement of mutual self-interest for the benefit of many. The second, the way of the “petty person”, viewed existence as opportunistic and conflictual, a paradigm in which relationships were of a purely exploitative nature, there to not only advance personal self-interest, but to actively quash the interests of others. Continue reading “Acts 2: 42-47”