Circumlocution Confessions

Isaiah 40:21-31 – The 5th Sunday after Epiphany – for February 8, 2015

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God . . .” (Isaiah 40:28)

It seems such a puny, one-syllable word in English . . . God.

The-Names-of-GodThe Italians (Dio) also have three letters, whereas the Germans (Gott), French (Dieu), and Spanish (Dios) boast a grand total of four. Hmong (Vajtswv) and Filipino (Maykapal) increase the count average, but how much of that is based on translations in the English alphabet?

For Scrabble, G2-O1-D2 amounts to 5 ho-hum points (unless linked to other words or when the tiles are placed on a double or triple square).

As I, and countless others, have joked (or have been very, furry serious), god spelled backwards is dog. Which, given what I’ve learned from dogs, is never an insult. My puppy Hannah died at 14 years of age last year. If I were to distill all the lessons learned from her into one, I’d claim how humbling it was to be around unconditional love. And, thanks be to YHWH, that’s a darn fine way to understand God.

God, of course, was rarely known as “God” in the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible. Even confined to the English translations I’m familiar with, God was often known by the aforementioned and unmentionable YHWH, along with Lord, Creator, Almighty and other more-than-three-letter words. If the tetragrammaton YHWH was used in Hebrew scriptures to skirt saying and writing the holy name, then Jesus’ use of Abba—Papa, Daddy—served as an intimate Christian testament counterpoint.

Isaiah declared (from the Common English Bible),

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

The creator of the ends of the earth.

He doesn’t grow tired or weary.

How can we adequately say or describe God? David James Duncan, in his reverently irreverent “God Laughs & Plays,” wrote: Continue reading →

Intimate and Affectionate

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-17 – The 2nd Sunday of Lent – for March 4, 2012

“I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of people will come from her.” (Genesis 17:16)

And thus the Lord appeared to Abram and gave him a different name: the man from Ur of the Chaldees became Abraham.

This same Lord instructed the newly named Abraham to rename his wife Sarai: the woman married to the man from Ur of the Chaldees became Sarah.

Important stuff, eh?

Abram means “the father is high” (and, all Biblical literalism considered, I doubt that carries any modern connotations about recreational drug use). Sarai, as you likely know, means “princess” (or “noble woman”) which is probably easier to brag about than “the father is high.” But that’s just me. I’m a bit vain about my name—Lawrence—because it’s derived from laurel. In ancient times, a laurel wreath was often placed on the head of a king or queen. Royalty. The Big Cheese. So, when you think of me, even if you use my friendly nickname Larry, please crown me with at least one metaphoric crown.

According to the writers of Genesis, the Lord made the Abram-to-Abraham and Sarai-to-Sarah name switch and, ta-da, for all the generations following these revered “parents” of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths will be known as (wait, wait) . . . “the father is high” and “princess.”

Hmmm? Is this Biblical sleight-of-hand?

In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” the old king of the title bemoans:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Are Abraham and Sarah’s swell new names mostly a “sound and fury” that “signify nothing?” merely a ruse to amuse? Continue reading →