Finding the Shepherd

HITACHI

Stray Sheep

Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

This is a Psalm of comfort and of promise.  The image of God as the the protector and provider prefigures Jesus’ image of Himself as the same in John 10.  It reads, 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” 

The shepherd we are told prepares good pastures, and leads near still waters.  He provides food (and even anoints with oil).  He is prepared to lay down His life for His flock, and knows each individual.  What could be more comforting?

This Psalm was one of my earliest religious/spiritual encounters.  Its promise of safety, and care was and is reassuring.  The passage was recurrent in my youth as a scripture regularly in interfaith contact between Christians and Jews.  The same God, the same promise.

Too often today we gloss the promises of God.  The Psalm passes us by, and in the words of John 10, we start to put our trust into the hirelings.  Those individuals who seem to have authority (political, social, and yes even religious) and yet do not have the same fervour for our well-being as the “True Shepherd.”  No wonder we are so often left feeling let down by failed political promises, social one-up-man-ship, and at times barely veiled indifference.

Let us therefore turn back to the Shepherd today.  Remember, He is known by His own!

Padre

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Tilbury Fort, Essex

Tilbury Fort Sign

When I visited Tilbury Fort, I  found it an interesting experience with a few surprises. The fortifications themselves are impressive, and they offer great views of The Thames, Gravesend, and Tilbury. The Water Gate (ceremonial gate) is very grand, and the empty plinth was intended for a statue of Charles II, but even without it is is a great piece of architecture.

The fortifications date back to the time of Henry VIII, and underwent their first upgrade during the Spanish Armada scare of 1588.  They played some role in the English Civil War, and following the Dutch raids in the post-Restoration period they were upgraded again to the star-bastioned fort of today.  That was not the end, however, as the fort was used as a river defense as late as the Second World War.

The barracks, gun emplacements and bastions give a feel for the wide range of history the site has been involved in. 18th Century guns are backed up onto modern (WW2) gun positions, giving a feel of the changes.

On the day I attended there were reenacters on site as well. It was a great learning experience.

The ramparts provide for some great views of the Gravesend side opposite, including the Sikh Gurwara.  There are also well maintained barracks, and an incredible moat system to check out.

The fort and the “seawall” also let you just watch the traffic on the river, and to get a feel of the past.

Tilbury Fort - Canon

Gun and Parade Field

Padre

English Heritage Link

 

Bible Fish (Part 2): White Fish in an Olive Sauce

Olives at Gethsemane

Olives at Gethsemane

My last Bible recipe was for salmon and almonds.  This dish is along the same lines, using Kosher fish, olives, and herbs available in the Holy Land.  It is a very different flavour to the honey glaze of the salmon and almonds, and a much stronger taste.

Ingredients:

  • White Fish (Hake or Pollock) – 2 fillets (100-150 g each)
  • Mixed Olives  250 g (1/2 Cup)  (I used Spanish Queen and Kalamata varieties) [These need to be firm and pitted]
  • Garlic Cloves  2 large
  • Parsley (leaves only) – handful
  • Basil – a few leaves
  • Olive Oil  –  1/4 cup extra virgin
  • Black Pepper

Tagine method:

Use 2 tsp of the olive oil to coat the bottom of the tagine. Place fish into oil, and then flip. Dust lightly with ground black pepper.  Place lid on tagine and set heat to low.

Put olives, peeled garlic, parsley and basil in food processor and blend till crumbly mix.  Slowly mix in remaining olive oil until a paste.  Remove lid of tagine and spoon 2-3 TBS of olive mix onto each fillet (reserve any left over olive mix).  Add 2 TBS of water to tagine and replace lid and allow to cook 2 hours.

Oven method:

Preheat oven to 190 C (350 F).  Place a large sheet of foil into baking pan and oil with 2 tsp of olive oil.  Place fish onto oiled foil and drizzle a small amount of extra oil.  Sprinkle with black pepper.

Put olives, peeled garlic, parsley and basil in food processor and blend till crumbly mix.  Slowly mix in remaining olive oil until a paste.  Spoon 2-3 TBS onto each fillet, and then fold foil into “tent.”  Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Serve with vegetables using any additional olive mix as a condiment.

Please share how you get on.

Padre

 

 

Black Church, White Church, Christ’s Church

I came across some YouTube videos today entitled “Black Church vs. White Church.”  These were rather cute as parodies, and they relied heavily of stereotypes. Fair enough they were intended as comedy.  But it is sad that many still think in such terms as “Black” or “White” church.

I have written before that I come from a mixed religious tradition, with my Irish fore-bearers doing the unthinkable by entering into a Catholic/Protestant marriage.  While very rare at the time, it nonetheless set the stage of my life.  This idea of being a religious “outsider” didn’t really come home to me though.  I was who I was, and my faith was my own.  Later when I was in the forces, I on several occasions worshiped at Japanese churches.  Yes, I was dependent of translations, and some practices were alien to my own tradition (such as worship in the round rather than facing forward towards an altar or pulpit). I felt “at home” all the same, as I was in the presence of God’s people.

This “at home-ness,” was also seen when I went to university.  I had a work study job on campus and worked for a man whose “Sunday Job” was as the pulpit minister at a “Black” church.  Because of our friendship, and not having a “church home,” I began worshiping with his congregation, and for a while mine was the only “White” family at the church.  This gradually changed (but sadly was resisted by some of the older members).  Again, I will say fair enough, I and my light skinned fellows were reaping what “our fathers” had sown.  The church in question was in the Tennessee/Mississippi border area – enough said.  But through it all, I saw brothers and sisters.

Okay, there are differences between worship styles, but these are not fundamental differences in the gospel.  I have worshiped “High” church, and “Low” church.  I have experienced and appreciated the liturgical and the “free moving” of the Spirit.

What I am saying is simple, we need to look beyond tradition, race, and any diversionary influence and come together as people of God.   Galatians 3:27-29 reminds us, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Friends whether it is “Praise the Lord” (while jumping and clapping) or solemnly muttering “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” It is all Christ’s church and His body.

Just something to think about.

Padre

An Attitude of Entitlement

number1

There has been a lot of discussion on the issue of entitlement of late. Michelle Obama has cited an attitude of entitlement among men, and there have been been blogs on the subject of regional and national attitudes.  It seems though that this concept, that one group of people should assume privilege over another, has been with us far longer than the present debates.  Whether it is British over their imperial subjects, the Party over the “ordinary” Soviets, or any other construction of presumed position.

This was true in the time of Jesus as well.  Luke 16 gives an account of a rich man and a poor man that slept rough at his gates. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 

Here we have a man accustomed to his riches of purple and linen.  He has feasted and not merely dined, and he has a house with gates and not just doors. When he dies he is sent into torment, and seeing the poor man in the presence of Abraham, he calls on the patriarch to send the poor man to comfort him.  His attitude of superiority has not been tempered by his situation.  When it is explained to him that he is beyond help, his concern shifts to his family, but even still he does not see the error of his attitude to Lazarus, for he again calls for him to be sent to serve his (and his family’s) needs.

So what do we do about this assumption of “I am owed” something?  When I was in the forces we owed a symbolic respect to superior officers.  This was manifested with a salute.  Interestingly, we were repeatedly reminded that this rendered courtesy was not directed to the person, but the position: “You salute the uniform, not the man.” There is a check on entitlement, if only but one.

With that aside made, we need to remember that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and as such are “entitled” to the same share of dignity.  Jesus expanded on this when He called on His followers to ” . . . ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these {along with loving God} (Mark 12:31).” He even used a despised Samaritan to illustrate His point (Luke 10).  

First John 4:7-8 provides a great starting point in changing our attitudes to entitlement. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Those who love, share.  Those who love, seek to bless those with whom they are in love.  Those who willingly give, move beyond “self.”  When the self is diminished, “entitlement” fades.

Padre

 

Bible Foods: Fish, Honey, and Almonds

 

Here I go again with the recipes.  I need to first acknowledge that salmon (the fish in the recipe) is not mentioned in the scriptures, though it is considered Kosher as a “clean fish [Lev. 11].”

I was looking for something a little different for dinner and as a pescetarian was looking beyond just the veggie options.  So here is a recipe which honours (if not equates to) biblical fare.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Salmon Fillets (100 – 150 g each) [Leviticus 11:9]
  • Honey 2 TBS [Proverbs 24:13]
  • Wholegrain Mustard (prepared) 1 TBS [the Bible reference is difficult as the reference may not be of the exact type we would call mustard today, though our mustard was common in Roman cookery –  Luke 17:6]
  • Dijon Mustard (prepared) 1 heaped tsp  [Luke 17:6]
  • Slivered Almonds 1 heaped tsp [Numbers 17:8]
  • Salt – just a pinch [Mark 9:50]
  • Olive oil – just a splash [1 Kings 17:12]

Preheat oven to 190 C /350 F.  Place a large piece of foil into an oven pan and lightly rub with olive oil.  Place the fish skin side down onto the oiled foil, and gently rub a pinch of salt into each fillet.  In a bowl mix the honey and mustards, then spoon the mixture onto the fish, spreading it evenly. Then place the almonds onto the honey coated fish.  Make a “tent” of the foil, and then place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully open the foil tent and serve fish using a spatula to life it from underneath to leave the mustard grain and almond coating intact.

As always, let me know how you get on with it.

Padre

 

 

Cruising Oslofjord

Oslofjord From the City

Oslofjord from the City

The Oslofjord is about 100 kilometres long and connects the city of Oslo with the North Sea.  As we had traveled the northward passage at night, we had the opportunity to take in the scenery and history of the bay on our southward exit.

The “fjord” in its northern section (Drøbak to Oslo) is lined with tree-lined hills, and  small settlements, and it is dotted with islands of various sizes.

 

The October voyage was cool and crisp, but allowed for much of the changing colours of autumn to be taken in. While much of the coastline was rocky, there remained a sense of tranquility, with calm seas, and natural beauty.

 

As we traveled further south the clouds came down to meet the hilltops and made for some really spectacular views.  The islands, some no more than large rocks, and others tree-topped with small settlements of their own gave a variety and diversity to the scenery.

 

On one of the larger islands, we came across the Oscarsborg Fortress, which played a vital role in Norway’s defense on the 9th of April 1940.  In what has come to be known as the Battle Drøbak Sound, the island’s batteries, and the torpedo batteries on the main land came into action to repel the Nazi invasion.  The valiant defense led intentionally to a Norwegian victory with the sinking of the German cruiser Blücher, and the damaging of the Lützow.  The success was short-lived as the Germans continued their assault on Oslo via a different route, it remained important as it allowed time for the Norwegian Royal Family, the parliament, and the national gold reserves to escape before the Nazi arrival.

After Oscarsborg we continued into the ever widening bay as it extends southwards towards the North Sea.  We soon were into the shipping lanes, and the coastline and islands blurred into the distance.

 

This was a wonderful passage, and while Oslofjord is not a true fjord in geographical terms, it has made me want to make a “fjords cruise” in the future.

Padre

Pomegranate

 

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Pomegranate

The pomegranate is a fascinating Biblical fruit.  I have posted before on foods from the Bible (see Glory-of-the-Humble-Olive ) as well as a couple of recipe blogs.  Today, I will take a slightly different tack with this, and mix a Bible bit with a recipe bit.

There is a lot of Biblical lore on the pomegranate.  Some have suggested that it was the forbidden fruit of Genesis (rather than the apple).   Others have held that the fruit contained 613 seeds, and as such was the embodiment of the mitzvas of the Torah. Its image was woven into the hem of the robe of the high priest in Exodus 28:33-34.

If nothing else there is the fact on the foodie front, that it is one of the seven special fruits mentioned in the Deuteronomy.

So here is the (I think fourth) installment of Bible Foods recipes.  This time featuring mint and the pomegranate.

Pomegranate and Mint Cooler [A cooling iced tea-like drink.]

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large handful of fresh Mint leaves
  •  600 ml Water
  •  200 ml Pomegranate Juice
  • Honey or sweetener (to taste)
  • Ice

Bring water to the boil and add the mint leaves, steep until water takes on pale minty colour.  Add sweetening and allow to cool.  Add pomegranate juice and pour over ice.  Makes approximately 2 glasses.

Pome-almond Drink [This is a tasty drink that has a lovely aftertaste of mint, after an initial smoothness.]

Ingredients:

  • Seeds of 1/2 Pomegranate
  • 500 ml Almond Milk (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 250 ml Pomegranate Juice
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp dried Mint (depending on taste)
  • 1 TBS Honey (if using unsweetened almond)

Simply place all ingredients into a blender and process for about 2 minutes for all seeds to be ground.  Makes about three glasses worth.  I had this with dinner last night and found it very pleasant.

As always let me know how you get on.

Padre

 

Whirlwind Visit to Oslo

Marco Polo Oslo

Marco Polo in Oslo

A while back, my wife and I made a whirlwind visit to Oslo in Norway.  We had arrived on the MS Marco Polo before dawn, and were able to make our way into the city as the sun rose.  I spent a half and hour or so taking in the port and Akershus Fortress before heading into town.

Akershus Fortress at Dawn

Fortress on a Misty Dawn

The fortress is impressive, and as we were moored in its shadow it allowed some great external views before it opened to the public for the day. At the foot of the fortress is a memorial to Norway’s Holocaust victims. I have posted on these in the past.

Holocaust Memorial 2

Holocaust Memorial

 

A monument to the Norwegian Navy is also in the area.

Norwegian Navy Memorial 1

Naval Memorial

I passed by the Kongens Gate and headed as is our family practice to hard Rock Cafe.  This is very close to the National Theatre (which a a beautiful building in its own right), and is very convenient to the central government buildings.

We arrived on the day of a state visit by the prime minister/president(?)  of India to Norway.  The entire city centre was decked with Norwegian and Indian flags.  There were some security cordons in place, and it did briefly limit our (my wife and myself) access to the main thoroughfare.  To kill a few moments after Hard Rock and while waiting for the road to clear, we stepped into the tourist information centre.  We looked around and then departed out a side door rather than the main entrance, just in time to come within metres of the royal car with the smiling queen and Indian officials.  We couldn’t have planned that one.

Hard Rock View of State Visit Route

State Visit

After our visit to the centre, I headed to the last monument of this excursion, The Scandinavian Star Memorial.

Scandinavian Star Memorial

Scandinavian Star Memorial

On the 7th of April 1990, a fire broke out on the Scandinavian Star.  As it spread the stairwells became chimneys and the fire became even more intense.  Attempts to cut off the fire only served to spread it, and in the end 159 people died.  The memorial remembers the victims of this tragedy.  Another memorial is the fact that the disaster led to the reworking of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

As we only had a morning to take in Oslo, we were very limited in our sites.  It is definitely a place to return to.

Padre

Of Youthful Fervour and Mature Wisdom

Capture

I have been teaching young people ever since I was technically one myself. I have seen amazing things from the young.  There is an enthusiasm in youth which those of us of less tender years can marvel at.  There are some drawbacks to this fervour as well, such as the tendencies to see things only as “black and whites” with little understanding of nuance, and the zeal which makes them at times rush in less than prepared.

There is an interesting case-study of this in John 8: 3-9.  The crowd was in an uproar.  Both old and young, were full of “righteous indignation.”  “ The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.” 

Jesus’ charge to have the one without sin cast the first stone, called for reflection.  Jesus’ meaning was therefore picked up upon by those with the most experience first. They could see and understand their own shortcomings.  They could when using their own conduct as the measure, see beyond the “black and white.”

The Apostle Paul seems to have grown in wisdom during his ministry.  He a man a zeal in the early chapters of Acts, was full of his youthful, culturally based “truths” as well.  He persecuted the church because it was “the right thing to do.”  But the Damascus experience turned him in a new direction.  But not without diminishing his fervour (or self-view).  His, maturing is road-mapped in his own writings.

In Galatians 1: 1 (written circa 53 AD), he refers to himself as, “Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”  Paul and his office are introduced.  Yet, within a year, he addresses himself as “the least of the apostles” 1 Corinthians 15:9 (circa 53-54 AD).  This gradual diminishing of his self and elevation of “Him crucified” continues in Ephesians 3:8, “I am the least of all the saints…” (circa 62 AD).  Here no longer least of the apostles, but of all Christians.  His journey of Paul chief of sinners 1 Timothy 1:15 (placed by many as circa 64-65)

This should not be surprising.  Job 12:12 reflects, ” Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” This said though, we need to give youthful zeal its do. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (I Timothy 4:12).”  Even the young can show maturity (in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” It was evident in Timothy and in David as Psalm 71:5 “For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.”

Such maturity is not always easy (not even for many of advanced years), but Peter offers a starting point to this attitude of wisdom, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).”  This was the lesson Paul seemed to learn between Galatians and I Timothy.

These musings call each of us to examine our walks.  For the young – are you seeking wisdom and guidance? It is not the place here to seek a dig at “youthful folly” (Proverbs 7:7 and others) but to encourage as Paul and Peter did, the attitudes of maturity that the young are so remarkable in achieving. For those of us who are older (and we pray wiser), do we still hold on to the vision and zeal of our youth (either physically or spiritually)?  And do we show the humility of an aging Paul?  Do we offer our wisdom in a spirit humility with the goal of lifting others and not ourselves?  May God give each of us balance.

Padre