A Sandwich – Deal Visit (Pun Intended)

Deal Castle 1

Deal Castle

This is an interesting corner of Kent.  The place names make for some exploring fun, as you can find street signs for Ham (1/2) Sandwich (3) and travel on the Sandwich/Deal Road.  So in a single visit you can get your can get  “Worth [with] Ham, Sandwich, Deal.”

Deal Castle (which is actually a Tudor era rosette-shaped artillery fortress, is a wonderfully preserved historical site maintained by English Heritage.  I have visited the property on a couple of occasions, once as chaplain to a English Civil War re-enactment group, and once as a tourist.  The fortifications give protection in the round, and the gates are understandably landward.  The gun emplacements cover the seaward approaches, and set very low into earth works and a dry moat, giving extra protection.

Deal Gun 3

Gun Bastion

The castle was built on the orders of Henry VIII and was visited as a resting place for Anne of Cleves on her arrival to England.  It was held by Royalist troops in the Civil War, and played a role as coastal defense in the Napoleonic Wars and in WW2 as well.  In fact, it was hit by German bombs in the latter conflict.

The beauty of the geometrical construction is clear.  Inside there are numerous tunnels and semi-circular bastions to explore as well.

Do be sure to check the English Heritage site for opening times, as there are long periods of mid-week and seasonal closures, though it seems open on most weekends.

As our last visit was on a cold day, we spent only a brief time on the beach at Deal.  It was a pretty, but windswept area, and gave some nice natural views, and had plenty of benches to take it in from, but with the cold, we went on to look at the town’s architecture (which is classic English seaside), and to take photos of the fishing boats, and to check out Walmer.

Walmer Castle is not far away to the South, and the pair of period artillery forts were important in the defense of the area.  Walmer also offers gardens linked to The Queen Mother (who like Lord Wellington) was Warden of the castle. This site too, is maintained by English Heritage, and again be sure to check the website for opening.

We finished the day off with fish and chips [no ham sandwich this time]. Well it is the seaside.

Padre

Walmer Castle link

Deal Castle link

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Slippery Slope Ethics

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Slippery Slope image from The Guardian

The “slippery slope” is often used in the rhetoric of ethical discourse.  It follows a basic pattern.  If A is allowed, it must follow that will or should be followed for the same reason.  An example is the argument against euthanasia. If we allow a terminally ill person to end their life prematurely because it is only speeding up the inevitable, and it is a compassionate act owing to pain or quality of life, then we should allow the same end for someone who is not yet terminal, as their pain or quality of life is of equal value.

Let me first say, I am not advocating euthanasia.  I am in the sanctity of life camp on this one, but as a philosophical and ethical model it is an interesting starting point.  Let’s look at some scenarios.

Person A has a severe terminal ailment in which they will become totally paralyzed and fail to even be able to swallow.  They will die of this, and should we spare them the pain and agony of such a death?  If so, should Person B who was an active sporty individual who has suffered a broken neck be allowed to end their life?  They are not going to die from their injury, but they are now dependent on others for all of their basic needs, including post toilet wiping, and feedings. It can be argued such is no quality of life.  Should this be allowed as an act of compassion?  If so, what about Person C who has a similar but not as severe injury.  They can feed themselves, and have limited mobility via a wheelchair.  But they do not enjoy the level of freedom they had before their injury.  Do they rate the “compassionate” end?  I have seen the slippery slope taken all the way in this vein to Person F who is “suffering” a “bad hair day.”  The question is, do each of these necessarily follow from its predecessor?

I advise my students to check the validity of the slope argument by reversing it to a Slippery Mountain.  Does your end point necessarily lead to the next step?

So much for hypothetical arguments.  What about day to day morality?

It is interesting that the 10th Commandment (Exodus 20:17) in many ways is the most harsh of the set.  It is not based on action, but on thought.  But it is indeed clever to have this mechanism in the commands.  After-all, if you don’t covet your neighbour’s wife you will not be tempted to commit aultrery.  If you are not jealous of his/her reputation, you will not slander them.  If you don’t desire their property you wont steal it.  And if you have no desire for his things, reputation, or relationships – why bother murdering him?

Jesus uses this same approach in Matthew 5:27-28.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Here again there is the challenge to avoid a thought.  Okay, in this case it is linked to the action of looking – but it is specific in the intent behind the “look.”  It does not say don’t gaze upon a woman (or man), but rather don’t do so “lustfully.”  If you are not entertaining impure thoughts, the actions will not follow.  Here we have our slippery mountain scenario.  I Timothy 5 aids us in this in verses 1b and 2, “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”  It is all in the approach and attitude.  If the contact is pure, the actions that follow will be as well.

There are real slippery slopes out there.  We need to approach them in a spirit of purity, we need to not create situations in which one action (or thought) leads to more negative consequences.  It is so in keeping with God’s care of us, that He has given us the models of Exodus 20 and Matthew 5.

Padre

Bible Ladies (Part 3a): The Foreign Women

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There has been some conflict in scripture and a lot of debate in rabbinic literature on marriage. This is especially true  in regards to marrying “aliens.” In this regard, modern Jewish thought holds that one is a Jew (and therefore not “an outsider”) if they are born to a Jewish mother, or if they undertake a formal rabbinically sanctioned conversion process. [See Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s article entitled Who is a Jew?]

I have previously written about Ruth, but she is an interesting case study, as she is a foreigner, but also “mother” of the line which includes both King David and Jesus.

I take it as a given that the scriptures are silent on many points, and if a point is not key to the narrative, the details are often omitted.  Maybe this is the case in Ruth, as there is no reference to her formal conversion to Judaism, but rather a self-attestation that, “Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1:16).”  

There are several scriptures that forbid the marrying of “people of land,” notably Deuteronomy 7:1-2.  “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.  Do not intermarry with them.”  This is a clear prohibition (at least for the people of these nations).

This leads to a consideration of Ezra 9.  This text is a little problematic. “After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites,  Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them (v. 1-2).”  The chapter goes on to clarify the point, in part,  by noting it was “the detestable practices” of these nations, which were the core concern.  Ezra 10:3 shows that in an attempt to return to “righteousness” there was a programme of mass divorce of “alien wives.” 

Notice Moabites [as with Ruth] are on the Ezra list [but not on the Deuteronomy list], as are Hittites [previously prohibited and with possible application with David and Bathsheba account].  In the scriptures we find the celebration of faithfulness of the Moabitess Ruth; and interestingly the sin in the latter case [Bathsheba] was instigated by the Jew David. The “race” of the foreign wife seems in practice inconsequential, it is rather her conduct and righteousness that is the concern.

The marriages of Moses may prove to be good cases in point.  His first wife, Zipporah was a Midianite.  Her father was noted to be “a priest of Midian.” An aside here is important. Midianites were descendants of Abraham, and would have shared the knowledge of the God of Abraham.  While not of  the line Isaac and Jacob, they would  have had knowledge of the God of their father Abraham.  Moses’s wife, Zipporah was from Midian in Arabia, but presumably a mono-theist and acknowledger of God.  Note here again that there is no mention of a formal conversion.  An interesting point by Jewish law, but perhaps not as important as her God-centred beliefs (and those of her father).

It is Moses’ second marriage which gives us some insight to the nature of what should be considered “foreign.”  Numbers 12:1-2 records,  “Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the Lord heard it.”

The details of the dispute are unclear.  It does centre on the fact that “Moses had taken a Cushite woman as a wife.”  Cush is the ancient name for Ethiopia.  Moses’ second wife (who is unnamed) was not only non-Hebrew, but African.  Was it an issue of her race?  Was it that she was not a believer?

Exodus 12:38 tells us that as the Hebrews departed Egypt that “a mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.”  We can postulate that with the exodus of the Jews, that other slaves (among them Cushites) used the opportunity to leave as well.  Jewish tradition holds that Moses accepted these into the Twelve Tribes.  As such, they became subject to the same rules and laws of the covenant.  So presumably this Cushite wife’s beliefs (like those of Zipporah’s) were not the issue.

The main teaching of the passage seems more about Miriam’s self-elevation, but there is a great secondary application which advances our theme. “The anger of the Lord burned against them [Aaron and Miriam], and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous—it became as white as snow. (Numbers 12: 9-10).”  Miriam complained about Moses’ marriage to an African, the result -she [Miriam] is made “white as snow.” It being leprosy, a presumably unwelcome state.  Was this incidental or central to the narrative?  If it is central it is an interesting point to ponder, was it about race or skin colour?  If so, God gave a definitive response. 

In the end, the faith of the spouse, not their “ethnicity” seems the more germane issue.  The concern from God’s point of view seems to be about corrupting influences of  practice.  Ruth and Zipporah are celebrated in the Word.  Foreign by birth, yes.  Foreign to God, no.  The call of God is “To you, O men [and women], I call, And my voice is to the sons [and daughters] of men (Proverbs 8:4) [see also Acts 2:39].” Tribe and nation does not diminish the call, all that is required is to answer it.

Next time in Bible Ladies, I will explore another foreign woman, Rahab.

Padre

 

 

 

Four Responses to Emmanuel

nativity

Sister Amba presented an excellent message yesterday in which she brought in Christmastide with some reflections on how people reacted to the birth of Jesus in the original nativity story.  Her insights into human responses and how we each react to the coming of Emmanuel in our lives was uplifting as well as challenging.

The first respondent to the annunciation of the coming of the Christ was by Mary.  In Luke 1 we find this young woman confronted with an angelic message, that she was to give birth to Messiah.  Her response is straightforward and thoughtful.  “How can this be since I am a virgin?”  When she is told it is through the power of God she simply, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled (verse 28).”  Her response was of surrender and obedience.  “Let it be so.” How powerful is that?  No argument, no appeals to the social consequences.  Just acceptance that God’s will be done. Oh, that we could so easily do so in our lives!

The second response was found in the shepherds of Luke 2.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. . . .”15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Amba powerfully showed us that the birth of Jesus “turned the world upside down.”  The first recipients of the news of the birth of “God with us” came not to the mighty, but to the base.  Shepherds in a field are told of the event that would change lives for ever.  Their reactions of fear (at the presence of an angel), to curiosity (“Let’s go see”), turned to praise. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (verse 20).” We to have different reactions to the Son of God.  That message may have been frightening, it may seem alien to our sense and world view, and it may merely have sparked curiosity.  But has it turned to praise and rejoicing?  It should, it has been meant to be that transformational.

The third response Amba cited was that of the Magi.  These learned men of the East came to find a king born in Israel (Matthew 2).  They had seen His star. There is a lot of speculation on this, but many scholars (well it does fit the present response) believe they saw a “new star” or cosmic anomaly within the constellation which was thought to regulate the fate of Israel.   Using this astrological belief that a king had come to that nation, it was only natural for them to seek him out in the palace in Jerusalem.  This would explain their arrival in the capital rather than humble Bethlehem.  What though was the motivation “to come worship?”  Was it intellectual curiosity?  Was it the acknowledgement of “worldly power?”  Or was it just to confirm their own academic conceit? Whatever the reason, the result was that they overjoyed on actually finding the Christ. [It is interesting to speculate on the reasons they came, but the symbolism of their gifts whether intentional (a sign of faith), or ironic (a God given meaning to their intellectual gesture) still give us much to think about].  Is our response to Jesus of the head or of the heart?

The fourth response was that of Herod.  Matthew tells us that he and all his court were disturbed by the news of the Magi of a newborn king.  Herod is known to despise any rival, and was so obsessed with this even had his own children killed.  But, here we have a reaction of jealousy and outright malice.  He calls on all the children two years and under in the region of Bethlehem to be killed.  His reign is to be unopposed, even by a babe.  Amba noted that we can be like that.  We don’t like what Jesus exposes about us, and we sometimes strike out.  Herod did.

Of our four responses, only Herod failed to, in some measure, come to be changed by the coming of the Christ-child.  Whether our response to His coming and call is total surrender, joy, intellectual comfort, or heart-felt rejoicing – He will have made a change in us.  If all we feel is anger, jealousy, and pride, we have a dilemma.  But even in the case of such a rejection remember this – you may reject Him, but He still welcomes you.  “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”

I thank Amba for giving the core of this post in her message, and I feel blessed to have heard it, and to have her words prompt me to dig deeper into the four responses.

Padre

 

 

Putting Some Order to the Ramblings

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My ramblings have been truly that and my musings and wanderings pretty much show up as they occur to me.  For the rest of December, however, I will try to see if a schedule will work.  Here is the plan:

Rambling Mondays and Tuesdays (general musings on multiple themes)

Witness Wednesdays (faith based posts)

Travel Thursdays (cruise and travel stuff)

Foodie Fridays (recipes and reflections of food in general)

Rambling Weekends (wherever my musings take me )

I will review in January to see if it works, and then decide if I keep the plan, or just ramble.  Thank you to all who read my posts, and for the encouragement several of you have given me.

Padre

Leeks with Roman Mustard

Leeks

Leeks

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic (Numbers 11:5).” Leeks, onions, and garlic are among the foods the Hebrew children looked back on from their time in Egypt.  These savoury foods while basic to use today make a wonderful side dish with fish or fowl.

Leeks with Roman Mustard:

Ingredients:

  • Leeks 5 Medium
  • Spring Onions 3
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Olive Oil splash
  • Salt to taste
  • Roman Mustard 2-3 Tbs [Recipe]  (Commercial whole grain prepared mustard will work in a pinch as well).

Method:

Cut base and tops off leeks and discard along with tough outer layers.  Then slice lengthwise into strips and rinse thoroughly.  Peel garlic and dice along with onions and shallow fry in olive oil sprinkled with a little salt.  When tender stir in 2 Tbs of Roman mustard mixture and warm through.

Dairy variation:  Prepare as above, but stir in 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or ricotta along with mustard. Be sure to mix well and bring to warm, but do not overheat or cheese will become runny.

I hope you enjoy it.

Padre

 

 

 

Forest Walk at Desert Rats Memorial (Park)

 

Desert Rats Memorial

Churchill Tank

The Thetford Forest is a relatively modern invention with the ground works laid out during the First World War, in part to provide the much needed lumber for Britain during the conflict.  It had matured fairly well as a coniferous forest by the time of the next great war, and as such served as both cover and as a training ground for British Forces.

One unit that trained in this area was the 7th Armoured Division (The Desert Rats).  This unit was instrumental in the North Africa campaign, and served throughout the war including the Normandy invasion and then across northern Europe.

 

The Desert Rats Memorial is easily found from the roadway (A1065) by the prominence of the brick plinth and Churchill tank. This is added to by a 1.5 km memorial trail which passes through the Desert Rats’ training grounds. There are multiple education boards located along the route noting information on such things as the headquarters, dining facilities and training regimes; as well as data on the Cromwell tank. It is a good place to visit for anyone with an interest in the Second World War, or just wanting a quiet walk in the woods (with a difference).

Desert Rats Walk 1

The walk is relatively level, and clearly marked, and makes for a pleasant short stroll.

Padre

Desert Rats Association link

Finding Haven in Virtue and Order

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I often have had discussions with my students as to the purpose for rules.  Are rules arbitrary controls established by authority figures to subjugate their followers? Or are they means by which those who have wisdom attempt to aid and protect those around them?

Okay, in a modern political context, maybe a bit of both. But in Psalm 1 we find the following reflection: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaf that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.”

Those who do not associate with people who are laws unto themselves will be blessed.  Those who meditate on the ideals of God with flourish. Verse 2 is interesting as it does not imply “pie in the sky” with a reward will be given later, nor does it promise vast wealth along the lines of the “faithful will be materially abundantly blessed” school.  Rather it is saying, that following the steady God-given course and purpose in life allows for a measure of comfort and fruitfulness.  This is the prosperity of what is needed.

My students at times have said that if we are free moral agents we should then indeed be free to do as we please, and to go after those things we want. Okay, as such a morally-free being you can.  But if the desires of your heart are arbitrary (see here is where the word arbitrary really comes into play), we must suffer the consequences not only of our own “unfettered” actions, but those of other free-agents as well.  What is the result? “Not so the wicked! They are like chaf that the wind blows away.”

This in part is the law of natural and logical consequences.  If you are out in dark alleys in the wee hours, in the company of those who do not value your rights, there seems to be a greater chance of something untoward happening to you, than if you were snugly in bed with a good book.

God’s laws (if followed) offer us protection.  Here we have a potential double fulfillment of the words of verse 6.  We know on the one hand that “every hair on our heads is counted,” and “not even a sparrow falls without His knowledge.”  Herein is His guiding and protecting hand.  But also His laws, guidance, and examples place us in a literal haven as well (as noted above).  Evil, and even merely self-serving actions do lead to destruction in many cases.

We can find virtue in the order that God has established for us.  In that virtue we find care and safety.  Human rules may well be self-serving, but God’s guidance offers sanctuary.

Padre

 

Roman (Inspired) Mustard

 

Here is another recipe inspired by biblical times and by Roman cookery.  It is a variation on Apicius, and an amalgamation of features of several modern adaptions. It is a nice sauce.  It is a little too strong a taste to use with the Honey Almond Fish  (for my liking) but could be used if you prefer the stronger flavour.  It is good with leeks and as a general condiment, however.

 

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup  Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 Cup Pine nuts
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 2 tsp Salt 
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Wine Vinegar

Grind mustard seeds, pine nuts, salt, and garlic in food processor or mortar.  Poor water onto the ground mixture and let stand for 15 minutes, then mix in vinegar.  Place into a covered jar (not air tight) for 24 to 36 hours.

Remember this can used as both a condiment and as a cooking ingredient. Let me know how it works out.

Padre

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