Monday, February 23

A Ten Sleepy Virgins Story (part II)

(Image from The
Protestant Cathedral of Magdeburg in Germany, Luther preached there in 1524 ;...the picture detail shows three of the foolish virgins )

( FYI this is the 2nd part of one of my sermons, first part here...)
II What the people who listened understood...

The main difficulty to understand this parable is our limited knowledge of historical context and cultural background. So to better put ourselves on Jesus public, we need to get a little insight on traditions of the time.

In fact, a traditional wedding at the time established that the broom had to arrive from his home (or his town) to join her future wife to celebrate the great feast at her place. (Let's remember that it is tradition for the parent's fiancée to be those who do the reception)Also tradition allowed the virgins of the village to be invited to the feast if they dressed in white and went to welcome the groom on the road. They had to bring along oil lamps that would light on the groom's arrival and accompanied him in a beautiful parade of lights until the fiancées door. They would probably even sing some joyful songs. It was indeed, a very beautiful tradition. Later the young virgins who embellished the procession with their lamps were invited to join the feasts. Here we have a simple and wonderful tradition that Jesus used to send a strong message.

Several points become clear, the virgins were not the fiancées (so polygamy was not even insinuated) they were asked to join the parade without merit, they were simply asked to escort the broom on beautiful way. For this they had to be a little patient and wait for him ready since they were unaware of the broom arrival hour. At his arrival, at anytime, they would light his lamps and honour his arrival with a beautiful parade of lights. A beautiful event, later they would join the feast without being original members of the family. They would not use her lamps anymore. So their lamps do not shine all night, only during the parade!

To whom Jesus said all these things? And why?

We are on Matthew chapter 25, Jesus has already entered Jerusalem, they were apparently Tuesday before Easter, two days later he would be delivered to be crucified. Jesus was addressing his last messages. His disciples, simple people, people from the countryside and instead preparing themselves for the upcoming events, they were fascinated and distracted by the City of Jerusalem and its buildings.

So we read in Mathieu 24 :1-3 As Jesus went, out of the temple, his disciples came to him to point out the buildings. But he said to them: Do you see that? I say to you, it will not stay here stone upon which is not reversed. He sat on the Mount of Olives. And the disciples came to him privately: Tell us, when this things will happen and what will be the signs of your coming and the end of the world?

So throughout chapters 24 and 25, Jesus gave them a private explanation and an insight on the end of time. And we arrive to chapter 25 which has three parables that would describe the kingdom of God; The first parable (the good and the bad servant) has a clear message: Expect the Kingdom, while remaining on the will of God. On the third parable (the parable of the talents) the message is more troubling, it deserves a sermon in itself. Let's just say that Jesus calls us to overcome, to understand that God's will for us is to give fruit in abundance.

But the second? What is the message of the second? And who are these sleepy virgin? Jesus. He said: Then the kingdom of heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps, went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five wise. The sentence is clear; the kingdom of heaven is a clear reference to the ten virgins.
For the audience, Jesus' close disciples, the message of the Ten Virgins sleeping is partially clear. His public may have even laughed at the stupidity of girls leaving the village without bringing along enough oil, or not oil at all (verse 3) Only part of those who follow Jesus would wait for the kingdom properly prepared. The lamp and the oil are secondary images to enhance the care of once and neglecting of the others. For the disciples, it was a clear call for wisdom when expecting the Kingdom! But wisdom started before the waiting itself, and the foolishness too.

Even if the message to them was apparently clear, it is only partially, because at that time, many things were not revealed to them yet. So in light of the following events and the word of God ...

III What would Jesus wants us to understand "today"?
... to be continue

Thursday, February 12

French Deconstruction

It is interesting how post modernism and deconstruction are so often associated with French Culture. Indeed the two main Post Modern Philosopher are French (Derrida and Foucault) Yet that's all you will get as French Post Modern Culture.
Truth is that they are only know in France by an "Intellectual Elite" and mostly from Political Sciences circles.
Actually for French people, and I mean well educated French, Postmodern philosophy is not known at all, not even discussed. They just do not bother to learn about it.
Actually they are still more concern about Decartes.

This morning at work I was amused in how one of my colleges played so often with his French words and I said "I like the way you deconstruct your own language." Every body around me (all French) laughed thinking I had just invented a new word.
They were very surprised to know (through Wikipedia) that the word actually existed in French .

What is interesting too is the Wikipedia French definition of "Déconstruction"

"La déconstruction est une méthode, voire une école, de la philosophie contemporaine. etc etc ect "

At first, no association at all with the Post Modern school. (Neither the English version does) Later, it says that Heidegger uses it and only at the end it says that it is Derrida who systematizes it. Yet it does explain that "deconstruction" was associated to Post Modernism in US as well as the British Analytic Philosophy.

".... obtint une grande notoriété aux États-Unis, où il est assimilé à la philosophie postmoderne,"

Otherwise the French article does not associates it at all to French main philosophies, it only fills hardly three pages and it gives very few references. Yet the English wikipedia article, an impressive and complete essay, fills almost 20 pages and gives us so many references.

Post Modern culture and deconstruction are not part of French life, and even well educated French scholars ignore it or understated it in a different way as The English cultures do.

For example the Woody Allen Film "Deconstructing Harry" was translated in French "Harry dans tous ses états" something like "Harry in all his moods" so it could make sense to French auditors. Woddy Allen is loved and admired in France, but "deconstruction"... well it is just ignored.

So when I say that I am Post Modern Protestant in Paris, it may not mean what you think it means, or perhaps it does. You better deconstruct it.

For another similar experience read here

Tuesday, February 3

Five reasons that Calvin was a postmodernist - well not quite

I love this post I have found Down Under ( An Australian Anglican)

Ironically I think "point 5" may be "inexact" (read here for an American in France on PostModernism ) Yet he may be right. I will post later my own thoughts on Postmodernism and French culture.

As a footnote (or headnote?) I am a calvinist on a very French way. I still have a hard time to understand somme Dutch or English calvinist. I always wonder if some calvinist are more Calivinist than Jean Calvin. This is one of the reasons I like the open minded approach of
Michael Jenses. His post is clever and original

Michael Jenses
My Photo is a Doctor on Martyrdom and a teachear of Christian Doctrine at Moore College, all the way in Sideny Australia. He has another clever article on Jean Calvin too. Have a look

  1. Calvin thought author's intentions were not decisive for interpretation, though not irrelevant. You can't understand biblical prophecy if you are wedded to author's intentions! In fact, it was the Enlightenment that was obsessed with origins and psychological states, not the Reformation. The text is to be understood with reference to its self, primarily.
  2. Calvin recognised that texts produced a multiplicity of possible meanings depending on context and purpose - because he believed that the text was speaking to us today, and had spoken to people in the past. The text has a tradition of interpretation that is not irrelevant to understanding it.
  3. But Calvin's not an allegorist - he believes in history, of which we are a part. He doesn't seek 'eternal spiritual truths' from the text. Rather, he is aware of its time-boundedness. So, NARRATIVE is really important for him
  4. He thinks hermeneutics has a context - ie, it serves an interpretative community. 'Who is this for?' is a question that really matters for the interpreter.
  5. He was French -so must have been a postmodern!

Sunday, February 1

The Museum of Protestants History .

I become a Protestant when I was still in South America (Peru). It has been 18 years walking this path. Coming from the Americas sometimes we feel as if faith started with us. Being in France has given me a sense of History. I have discoverd my roots and I am always in admiration of these men that changed history and struggled so we can live freely our faiths today.

If you come to France make sure you take your time to go to the South (sorry, not the Frecnh Riviera, but the Cevennes) and visit The DESERT MUSEUM. The Cévennes is a southern French region , I think 700 km from Paris, with a rich history of protestantism. Most of Historical French Reformed Evangelical Churchs are based in these regions (and in the south east of this region.
The DESERT MUSEUM brings to life the Huguenot past and the history of the Camisards.

Why "The Desert"?

In the history of French Protestantism, the expression Desert defines the period of time between the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) and the French Revolution (1789).

Deprived of freedom of worship, far from the cities, hidden in isolated areas, deserts (in the wilderness, forests, caves, or gullies…), where the Protestants in France (in the Cevennes, but also in Haut-Languedoc, in Poitou, Dauphiné, Vivarais…) were obligated to live out their faith in hiding.

The word Desert also had a biblical sense for them, the 40 years the Hebrew people of Exodus wandered in the desert, a place of tribulations, temptations and despair, but also where they would hear the word of the Lord.

This chapter of history touches all of France, but specifically the Languedoc region and the Cevennes, where Protestantism was largely established at the beginning of the XVIth century.

Entrée du Musée du Désert

The Museum Specifically :

- The ‘Desert’ period (1685-1789), from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the French Revolution.

- The Camisards war

- Persecutions and resistance.

- The clandestine life.

- The long road to freedom of conscience achieved at the French Revolution.

It also intends to bear testimony to Protestant faithfulness.

Through fifteen rooms, the Desert Museum presents the following :

- Antique furniture and domestic objects from the Cevennes : costumes from the era, a fully equipped authentic XVIIIth century kitchen, products that are grown and fabricated in the region.

- A reconstitution of a family evening in the Cevennes.

- Original weapons and hand-drawn maps from the Camisards war.

- Hiding places for hunted men and forbidden books.

- Authentic documents, manuscripts and prints ; official letters and decrees from the royal powers.

- Clandestine pulpits, communion cups, birth and marriage certificates.

- An impressive collection of Bibles and Psalters.

- A large collection of paintings and prints.

This information is taken directly from its web site