Hinge Point

Posted in: Current Events, Spirituality by bill-o on January 24, 2009

The use of the term “hinge point of history” by Pastor Rick Warren during his Inauguration Prayer for President Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, has received some interesting discussion.

For example, please see:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258545247904479.html

Evidently, an exact definition of the term “hinge point” is not known. The phrase seems to bring us to images of how a door swings on its hinges, thus allowing a door to close or to open.

Regardless of the “official” definition, I think, though, that Pastor Warren’s intent was to say that history, with the inauguration of the Mr. Obama, is now making a clear turn from one era to another.

Whether Mr. Obama’s ascent to the highest office in the United States represents a new era (the Age of Obama, perhaps), I’ll leave it for others to decide. As is usually the case with such things, time will tell. As a history professor once told me, it really takes at least 25 years of time to pass before past events can be put in the proper historical perspective. It’s at that point that politics begin to pass into history.

What I can say here is that, for the spiritual seeker, the true quest in life is to find the door, the “hinge point”, between time and eternity. As the book of Ecclesiastes says, we are each born with “eternity in our hearts”. Yet, at the same time, we have been placed in a world where the eternal is somehow restricted. The desire to press through from this present world to the mysteries of the everlasting can never be completely pushed away. For this is the journey for which are spirits yearn for, cry out for. It is the spiritual call which gnaws at us and drives us forward, yet it is also the search from which we are sometimes so easily distracted.

As you consider the term “hinge point”, please consider not just politics or doors, but the spiritual journey. For it is this eternal hinge point that matters most.

Helen Suzman, Remembered

Posted in: Current Events by bill-o on January 14, 2009

As regular readers of this blog probably already know, Shadows and Symbols does not normally comment on political issues or politicians. However, I think that the recent death of a remarkable anti-apartheid leader in South Africa is clearly deserving of an exception to that rule.

For about 13 years, from 1961 to 1974, Helen Suzman was the only opposition member in South Africa’s parliament. Known as the conscience of white South Africans, she was tenacious in publicly questioning the apartheid policies of her country, even during a time when doing so was unusual for white South Africans.

Please follow the following links to read more about Helen Suzman:

http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12884799
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Suzman
 
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/01/world/main4695097.shtml?tag=main_home_storiesBySection 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1694056.stm 

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An Amazing Animal Friendship

Posted in: Science and Nature by bill-o on January 03, 2009

Please watch this amazing story about a friendship between an elephant and a dog:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/01/02/assignment_america/main4696340.shtml

As the reporter says at the end of this story, if two very different animals can learn to forge such a great friendship, then why can’t people learn to do the same with each other?

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Something Greater Than Solomon Is Here

Posted in: Spirituality by bill-o on January 01, 2009

Jesus said many radical things. One of the things that he said was that “something greater than Solomon is here”. Jesus said this in response to certain religious leaders of his time. These religious teachers and scribes had asked to see a visible, miraculous sign from Jesus.

It was clear in the rest of the gospels that Jesus could and did perform miracles (signs). Yet Jesus never performed miracles because he was commanded to do so by other people. If he had done so, it would have demonstrated that he had had the power but not the authority to do what he was doing. It would have shown that he was working under the authority of earthly authorities, religious or political.

To Jesus, authority was more important than power. It was the authority of Jesus that first impressed the people who had first listened to him (see Luke 4:31-32). And, later on, the direct question of authority from the religious leaders led to the puzzling response that Jesus gave back to them: A question about authority that they chose not to answer. This led Jesus to say to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” To Jesus, you must know who truly are before you can know what to do. To humanity, the natural thought process is usually reversed: in other words, might makes right. If you have the power, then others must obey you. For Jesus, this was not the way of life, … the way of love.

For the people of Jesus’ time, Solomon, the son of the great king David, was the most powerful and most wise king. Solomon reigned almost 1,000 years before Jesus. His kingdom’s boundaries were greater in extent than at any other time in the history of Israel. The capital of Jerusalem was so wealthy during his rule that silver was considered to be as though it were worthless: only gold was valuable. And, of course, his wisdom was legendary. In Jesus’ time, the authority of Solomon as a great king was unquestioned.

For Jesus, however, Solomon the king was a symbol, a shadow of something greater that would ultimately come later in history. Solomon’s reign was one of visible displays of greatness. Yet, with this story about Solomon in the common thoughts of everyone in his society, Jesus made the amazing statement that something greater than Solomon was there.

Rather than the restoration of the kingdom of Israel to the greatness of the days of Solomon, Jesus spoke of another kingdom, the eternal kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God? Rather than answer that question directly, Jesus invites us here to think about the greatest rulers that the world has ever seen. (And don’t restrict yourself only to thinking about political rulers: think about business leaders, scientists, and others, also, who have made significant contributions for the greater good.) Then, once you have carefully considered the greatest qualities of each of these rulers and their kingdoms, then consider each of them, even at their very best, to be a mere shadow and preview of the goodness of God ruling in and through people. … And what is goodness? It is power carefully constrained under proper authority to do things that will be beneficial to others, especially the less powerful, in love. … When goodness is reflected from God into the world, then this is the kingdom of God, and this kingdom has a king.

The familiar leads to the unfamiliar. The knowledge of the best of the kingdoms of this world present a shadow and a type of the kingdom of God.