War in Syria and a question of equality.

Signpost 12th Ordinary Sunday, 23rd June, 2013: 1 Kings 19:1-15a; Galatians 3: 23-29; Luke 8: 26-39.

When I last wrote a Signpost for the 12th Sunday (it must have been 3 or 6 years ago), I wrote a piece about the behaviour of the mad man in our gospel reading. It reminded me of an event during my nursing period in a mental hospital. I won’t repeat it, so as not to bore people who’ve heard it before. But anyone who wasn’t a Signpost reader at that time and is inquisitive can let me know and I’ll oblige. (There are no pigs in my story.)

Our piece from the first testament reading doesn’t make much sense unless you know the situation beforehand. If you haven’t time to read the background (1 Kings 16:29-34 and 18:1-40), here’s a précis. Ahab, seventh king of Israel, the northern branch, had married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of Tyre and Sidon, so as to get better access to sea-borne trade in the Mediterranean. Jezebel worshipped her dad’s god, Baal, and Ahab followed suit. Because of his displeasure, Yahweh caused a three years’ drought, and Elijah, his prophet was told to lie low until he was told to go to Ahab.

They met eventually, and Ahab accused Elijah of causing the drought. Elijah replied, “No, it’s your fault for worshipping Baal.” Ahab called the nation together on Mount Carmel to see who was right. The prophets of Baal killed their bull and danced around their altar, and nothing happened. Then the prophet of Yahweh did the same, and gave everything in sight a thorough soaking in water. A strike of lightning came, and burned up the bull and boiled all the water dry. Then Baal’s prophets were taken away and murdered. A foot-note in my Bible reads, “In this war between Yahweh and Baal, those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the times.” The situation in Syria right now doesn’t seem any better after about 2,885 years!

To look at it from a different angle, you can open the link in the middle of our Paul’s Signpost last Sunday. It sure did open my eyes.

It seems that Paul (the other one) wrote Galatians quite early in his ministry, and in today’s portion he has boiled down what Christianity really is about, into a hundred and four words. He starts with the picture of one of a family’s Greek servants (slaves) taking his master’s son off to school. He would be walking along getting his charge reciting his A B C, or later on spelling, or times tables, and later still reciting important portions of books.

Now that they are baptised they are all equal, a long list, starting with Jew or Greek, and ending arsen kai thaylu, (male and female), in Christ Jesus. I was careful to look up the Greek, and it is just as the English. Paul is clearly making a list of equals, and the “male and female” bothered me, because I’d a memory that somewhere Paul says that males and females are very clearly to be distinguished. My dear other half Margaret, who’s also my typist, looked up a different key word in our concordance from the one I was using, and instantly found 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. My commentary author refers me to 14:34-35 of the same letter and I think, if anything, it makes things even worse! (He’s an R.C.)

Any comment received will be welcome.

Brye

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