Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Review of The Gospel of Matthias

I recently read the new translation of The Gospel of Matthias. You might remember a few years ago when The Gospel of Judas caused a stir in the media. The Gospel of Matthias is the newest translation of a gnostic text released to the public. Like Judas it was discovered in the early 1970's in Egypt by a group of archaeologists. A group of scholars have been translating and authenticating the document for the past 20-some years.

Most gnostic texts are full of bizarre stories about Jesus, the Apostles, and Mary, and so was the Gospel of Matthias. What makes this text different is that it is actually funny. I don't know if this was intentional by the author, but I laughed at some of the stories.

Matthias was the man chosen in Acts to replace Judas, but nothing else is said of the new Apostle. The Gospel of Matthias reveals a lot more about this obscure figure. He is portrayed as a bumbling idiot who may not have been the best choice for the job. Many of the disciples are portrayed as clueless, but Matthias comes across like one of the Three Stooges. Maybe this is why little is said of Matthias in the New Testament.

One story that I laughed at was the text's description of Pentecost. In Acts Peter eloquently and humorously explains to the audience that they are not drunk but are filled with the Spirit. In the Gospel of Matthias, the newly appointed apostle actually was drunk! Matthias kept interrupting Peter's Pentecost address by blowing raspberries and belching loudly. That other Apostles had to drag him away while Matthias was cursing!

I tried not laugh at one story, but I couldn't help it. In Acts Stephen addresses the high priest and the council with an impassioned account of Israel's history. The audience becomes angry and Stephen is stoned as he looks into heaven. In the gnostic gospel, Matthias throws a stone at Stephen along with the crowd! Matthias was really aiming at the high priest, but accidentally hit Stephen.

Many of the apostles like Stephen were martyred, but not Matthias. The lot-chosen apostle wanted to show the other eleven that he too had strong faith. Matthias wanted to walk on the water like Peter, Matthias' hero, so he took a boat out on the Sea of Galilee, but when he stepped out of the boat he sank and drowned to death.

I don't think that The Gospel of Matthias will cause the same stir that Judas did, but I still think it would be worth your time to read it. It is interesting to see how this 3'rd or 4'th century writer thought about this little known apostle. Was Matthias really a bumbling idiot? No one will ever no for sure, but possibly The Gospel of Matthias does reveal some of the mystery behind the 12th apostle.

Read it for yourself and let me know what you think. I would be interested in your thoughts.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Pocketfull of Sins

I visited a new church a couple of Sundays ago. I do this occasionally in order to discover how other Christians worship. The church I visited had a friendly congregation. The members were hospitable and helpful. I never felt like a stranger. This church reminded me of the church I usually attend.

The worship service was excellent. The praise band was made up of talented musicians, and the song leader’s voice was clear and powerful. The Spirit was filling the auditorium as song after song was sung. Hands were lifted in praise. Tears were streamed in joy. Voices were raised in conviction. I too joined in the praise by lifting my hands and singing out loudly.

The preacher delivered a life-challenging, amen-echoing sermon in a loud, booming voice that the sound system could not contain. It was as if God was amplifying the preacher’s voice and the Spirit was directing it outside the church so that a passerby would hear the words and be convicted.

The sermon ended with a challenge. The challenge was to cease our sinning because when we sin we are driving another nail into Jesus’ hands. The audience was then directed to the back of the auditorium. Three five-foot cross were lying on the red-carpeted floor. Each of the wooden crosses were separated by fifteen inches.

We were instructed to form lines in front of crosses and think about a particular sin in our life, which we are struggling with. Once I reached the cross I took a piece of paper and pen from the attendant. I wrote down the sin which I am struggling with. Next the attendant gave me a hammer and a nail. I nailed my at the top of the crude, wooden beam.

Hands were hammering away on the crosses as everyone’s primary sin was nailed down. Hammers were shared. Hugs were exchanged. Tears were mixing on the crosses. These nailed pieces of paper were a visual example of what our sins do to the body of Christ. We all walked away with the pounding of hammers in our ears and the challenge of the preacher in our hearts.

Sunday School followed worship. One of the memebers escorted me to a classroom. I was welcomed by the teacher with a chair and a cup of coffee. The class was going through the Gospel of John. Halfway through the lesson I had to use the bathroom. I didn’t want to leave, but I could not hold it until the class was over.

Exiting the bathroom I took a detour. Instead of going back to the classroom I went back to the auditorium. I wanted to have another look at those crosses. I had been thinking all through Sunday School what was written on the slips of paper. I peeked my head around the door and saw that no one was there.

I walked to the cross where I had stood in line. I knelt down and looked at all of the tear-stained pieces of paper nailed to the cross. I looked up to see if anyone was looking and I ripped a piece of paper off. I opened the folded slip and read what was written. It said: “I put Canadian change in Salvation Army buckets.”

I scowled at the sin, and put it in my jeans pocket. I tore another one off the cross and it read: “I insert my name for Jesus while singing praise songs.” I gasped at this horrible confession and balled it up and stuffed it in my pocket. Another sin read: “I flip off the babies in the nursery.” It went into my pocket. “I make paper airplanes out of pages from my Bible.” Another in my pocket. “I use a small cross as a back-scratcher.” “I send diabetics boxes of chocolate signed from a secret admirer.” “I poured a bottle of Coke on a stranger in a restaurant stall.” "I'm not happy and I know it, yet I still clap my hands." "I put rotting meat in my neighbor's mailbox."

Sin after sin was crammed in my pockets. After a few minutes my pockets were bulging with the sins of the church. I was sickened by all that I had read. These sinners were the same ones I worshiped with earlier. I left without saying goodbye burdened with the sins of the church in my pockets. I even tore my own sin off. It read: “I lie a lot.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I Once Wore Cowboy Boots

I recently got engaged. Her name is Amy Perrey and she is the girl of my dreams. I wonder sometimes how I got so lucky to find her. I don't know what I did that impressed her so much that she actually said yes to a proposal, but I do remember trying to play it cool. All guys try this, and eventually the truth comes out. Now that I have been with Amy for over nine weeks she is starting to see the truth--I'm not that cool.

Here are five examples:

1)Amy was impressed with my knowledge of films. I don't watch movies. I watch films. I don't watch hour and half long frat boy movies full of breasts and beer but five hour long German Expessionistic silent films full of paradox and pretention.

But also...I like Star Trek!

2)Amy was impressed with how well-read I am. I don't read novels. I read literature. I don't read airport staples like Michael Crichton and John Grishom with their identifiable, predictable characters, but French existential literature with their absurd, ammoral anti-heroes.

But also...I read fantasy novels!

3)Amy liked how hip my music tastes are. I don't listen to pop. I listen to indie. I listen and brood to proto-punk, punk, post-punk, crust punk, anarcho-punk,skate-punk, prog, experimental, noise rock, shoegazing, new wave, no wave, electro, dub, acoustic, folk,straight edge, political, passifistic, vegan, alternative, straight edge,hardcore, thrashcore, mathcore, lo-fi, avant-garde, sythesized, nihilistic, distorted, atonal, and melancholic music.

But also...I have Mariah Carey's greatest hits!

4)Amy likes my indie look. I don't dress casually. I dress indie: black rimmed glasses, band-tees, vintage shirts, Chuck Taylor's,Dickies, suspenders, shaggy hair, messy hair, messenger bag, and hoodies. For a better visual visit your local B & N.

But also...I had a rat tail in the sixth grade!

5)Amy likes my sarcastic sense of humor. I don't laugh with you. I laugh at you. I have no time for your banal, sentimental observations about every flower that reminds you of your childhood. Your sanctimonious moments are my ironic observations. I roll my world-wearied eyes at your romantic gushes.

But also...I have a scrap book!

Now that you all know this I have to ask, "Please still be my friend!" And Amy, "Please still marry me!"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Capn' Crunch Connoisseur

I am a completest. It is part of my obsessive compulsive disorder. I am a perfectionist about completing everything. I just can't eat Capn' Crunch. I have to eat them all: Capn' Crunch, Crunch Berries, Peanut Butter Crunch, Choco Crunch, Halloween Crunch, Christmas Crunch, Home Run Crunch, and Treasure Hunt Crunch. I even have to list them all for you.

Also I am a completist when it comes to movies. If I watch one Nightmare on Elm Street I have to watch the next 50 sequels. Not everyone has time to watch all of these sequels. Lucky for you I am an unemployed grad student. I have the time, and I can even justify it--I've worked hard for eight years, I deserve it!

I am going to save you the time from watching all of these movies by summarizing them for you. I am going to start with the Rocky movies. This way you don't have to watch over 12 hours of "Eye of the Tiger," Mr. T, sluggish dialogue, and sentimentalized boxing. Enjoy!

Rocky: Rocky fights a black guy and loses.

Rocky II: Rocky fights the same black guy and wins.

Rocky III: Rocky fights a different black guy and wins.

Rocky IV: Rocky fights a white communist and wins.

Rocky V: Rocky fights a white capitalist and wins.

Balboa: Rocky goes back to fighting black guys and loses.

Rocky inspired a nation. Rocky taught us that in life it is more important to go the distance than to win. Rocky taught us that we must get over our political differences. I almost shed a tear when Rocky addressed the Soviet audience passionately saying, "I guess what I'm trying to say, is that if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"

I am so inspired I feel like runnning up the steps of the Philadelphia Arts Museum like Rocky did. However, I'm so out of shape from watching all six of these movies that I will just sit at home and put in Rambo.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Soylent Green is Peace of Mind!

I can not eat out anymore. The reason: feces. I read an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about feces found on lemon slices in restaurants. You might not be surprised to learn this about some fast-food restaurant, but this report was about sit-down restaurants. You know the ones. The ones with miscellaneous stuff found in a gararge sale mounted on the walls. You pay six dollars for mozarella sticks so you can look at rusted bicycles and pictures of Elvis on wood-paneled walls.

I ate at one of these restaurants the other night. What did I order to drink? Water. The waitress said, "Would you like lemon with that." I said, "Yes, please." What she was really saying was, "Would you like a small wedge of defecation with that." What I was really replying was, "Yes, I would like to take a tongue-lapping drink out of your toilet."

I can not eat lemons anymore. I can not even look at them in the grocery store. Before, they were citric, oval, refreshing, yellow pieces of goodness, but now all I see is brown, brown, brown! That is why I am going green. Not Al Gore Green, but Soylent Green.

Soylent Green was a Sci-Fi movie from 1971 starring Charlton Heston. It is a movie about the future and overpopulation. Most of the animals are dead and nothing green will grow. The only food source available to humankind are wafers of soy that are supposed to provide all the nourishment one would need.

This future does not scare me. It gives me hope. It is a future where all the restaurants will be closed. Grocery stores will be abanonded and condemend buildings. Food vendors will be mythical figures of the past No more will disgrunteld workers spit on burgers. No more will flies buzz around and land on deli meats. It is a future where I don't have to worry about lemon slices coated with feces. It is a future for our children.

What if our future comes to this--to soy wafers? What would we miss: taste, texture, aromas, variety, fellowship, and environment? What would we avoid: crap! The future may be bleak and bland, but at least it will not be mined with E. Coli traps. Soy Green is peace of mind!