May 2010


If Jesus was in person with us today would this be how he would teach us to pray:

R Pa in hvn, prz ur name, ur hood here, ur wil b done, provide 4 r needs, 4giv r sins as we 4giv peps who dis us.  Keep us frm haters & lead us on da rite path. U r da bomb, glory 2 u 4eva n eva. Amen

This was composed as part of a Sunday morning youth project to rewrite sections of scripture in the words and phrases used in our own culture and in particular to use the shorthand prose used in text messages and to endeavour to synthesize the passage into the length of a twitter (i.e. 140 characters).

Here is how the Lords prayer appears in our Bible:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, [for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]  Matthew 6: 9-13 TNIV

A justification for our modernizing this prayer in our own lingo is actually part of what Jesus was teaching us.  In his day the language of prayer to Yahweh in Jewish communities was that of Hebrew.  However, the language of everyday life was Aramaic.  One of the many novel contributions that Jesus brought us in this prayer is that of praying in the common tongue as opposed to the more formal language of Hebrew, i.e. there is no scared language.

Of course rewriting this prayer isn’t anything new many attempts have been tried here are a few.

Eugene Peterson in The Message:

Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are.  Set the world right; Do what’s best – as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in charge!  You can do anything you want!  You’re ablaze in beauty!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

Rob Lacey in The Street Bible:

God in heaven, you’re our dad.  We respect everything you stand for.  We want others to.  Please bring heaven on earth: people living life your way, like the angels do.  Please bring us what we need to keep us going each day.  Please acquit us, as we cancel our grievances and throw them all away.  Please pull us back from the edge of evil, if you’re to take the credit.  You’re on your own.  It’s your throne.  Absolutely!

(I know it’s not very ‘street’, perhaps it was back in 2003 when it was published!)

The Ship of Fools (a Christian humor magazine) also ran a competition for a text message version back in 2001, here are the top three entries:

dad@hvn, ur spshl.we want wot u want&urth2b like hvn.giv us food&4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz.don’t test us!save us!bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf&ur cool 4 eva!ok?

r pa in evan, respect 2 u, may u rain ear as in evan. giv us r needs, 4giv rsin as we 4giv r nmes. resq us from the evil 1. 4 ur always the most xlent dude. yo

God@heaven.org, You rule, up and down. We need grub and a break. Will pass it on. Keep us focused. You totally rule long term. Amen

I think ours is the best.  What do you think?

Further to the worrying situation with the River Jordan and the Dead Sea (blogged about here and here) I now read about the collapsing fish stocks in the Sea of Galilee (see this article in the Times newspaper).

The article concerns the ban on catching the much sort after ‘St. Peter’s fish’ (formally Sarotherodon galilaeus galilaeus of the tilapia genus) in the Sea of Galilee.

“Stocks have dropped drastically in the past decade because of environmental and human factors. Annual catches of the St Peter’s fish, which takes its name from the New Testament story in which Jesus’s disciple, Peter, netted a fish with a gold coin in its mouth — and paid his taxes with it — have dropped from 300 tonnes to only 8.” James Hider and Yonit Farago from The Times, May 26 2010

The New Testament story is from the Gospel of Matthew:

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27 ESV

As has been astutely pointed about by Mark Goodacre over at NTblog the coin referred to in the Times article as gold was in fact a silver coin.  The greek word, στατήρ (stater), translated in the ESV as a shekel was of course worth four drachma and hence the coin paid for both Peter’s and Jesus’ temple tax.

Fascinating, one of the stated reasons for the drastic decline in stocks includes the following:

“One of the problems originated in the Gulf War in 1991, when Saddam Hussein set fire to Kuwait’s oil wells before being driven out by a US-led offensive. The resulting cloud of smoke permanently diverted migration routes of up to 10,000 hungry cormorants, which now fly up the African Rift Valley to the Sea of Galilee and guzzle its fish.”  James Hider and Yonit Farago from The Times, May 26 2010

Of course one of the major reasons for the fish decline is illegal and over fishing.  It’s a lucrative business providing for all the tourists who want to eat the fish that Jesus ate.

After reading about the shrinking Jordan River (see earlier post) I came across an interesting news article in Nature on the disappearing Dead Sea.  The Jordan River ends it’s course in the Dead Sea and so if river discharge has been declining for some time it makes sense that the water level of the Dead Sea is likewise declining.  In fact the water level has dropped by about 30 metres over the last 50 years and its current rate of decline is around 1.2 metres a year.  However, although currently more water is evaporated from this salty lake than flows into it, there is an interesting natural control limiter at play.

‘The Dead Sea will probably never vanish completely – as its surface shrinks, its salinity increases and evaporation slows.  “The Dead Sea will not die,” says Ittai Gavrieli, acting director of the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem … But if nothing changes, the lake is likely to drop a further 100-150 metres from its current level of 423 metres below sea level, Gavrieli says.’  Josie Glausiusz, Nature, vol. 464, p. 119, 2010

The Nature news article concerns the proposed engineering project to build a conduit to carry water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea.  The water flow in the pipeline would feed a hydroelectric plant and power a desalination plant providing much needed drinking water for the surrounding regions.  The proposed project involves the international collaboration between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority (a unique achievement in its own right!).

A new conduit would lead to a “Valley of peace” with parks, lakes, waterfall,  and a botanical garden.  Could this potential greening and healing of the waters be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy!?

He said to me, “This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, where it enters the Dead Sea.  When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh.  Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.  People will fish along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. (Ezekiel 47:8-10 TNIV)

Well not so fast, there are all sorts of potential environment hazards and consequences that could result from such a project.  The influx of less-salty water could trigger algae blooms turning the Dead Sea Red!  Another scenario could see the waters turning milky white as a results of chemical reactions forming gypsum crystal that would float at the surface.  A series of modelling studies are underway to determine potential impacts of the proposed conduit.  But at the end of the day

‘The decision to stop the sea’s decline, says Gavrieli, “is a matter of choosing between bad and worse.  But the question is, what is bad and what is worse?” ‘ Josie Glausiusz, Nature, vol. 464, p. 119, 2010

I often do a Sunday morning activity with the youth that attend our church service.  A recent project has been to rewrite sections of scripture in the words and phrases used in our own culture and in particular to use the shorthand prose used in text messages and to endeavour to synthesize the passage into the length of a twitter (i.e. 140 characters).

Here is the NIV version of Psalm 134 (by all accounts the second shortest of the bible):

“Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD who minister by night in the house of the LORD.  Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the LORD.  May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.”

We reworked this as follows:

“Prz GOD aL u Gs of GOD hu rap aL nite on da graveyrd shift. Put ur h&z ^ in prz. mA da GOD hu mAkz hvn&erth bls u frm paradize.”

Psalm 134 (the final psalm in a series of “songs of ascent”) talks of blessing (both us blessing God – praising him in the NIV version and God blessing us).  It talks of a people serving all night in the temple, presumably keeping the lamps lit, or on guard duty or perhaps praying through the night.  In our version we took on this sense of being on the graveyard shift (cold, lonely, tired, …) but then suddenly it dawns on you where you are (in the sacred temple) and your filled with a tremendous urge to praise the LORD and lift your hands in prayer and are filled with an awe for him who made heaven and earth.

I often do a Sunday morning activity with the youth that attend our church service.  A recent project has been to rewrite sections of scripture in the words and phrases used in our own culture and in particular to use the shorthand prose used in text messages and to endeavour to synthesize the passage into the length of a twitter (i.e. 140 characters).

We started off with the shortest Psalm (in fact the shortest chapter in the whole bible), that of Psalm 117.  Here is the NIV we took as our basis:

“Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.  Praise the LORD.”

And this is our reworked version:

“Prz GOD, all u Gs. Big em up, all u thgs. His luv is awsom 4 us omies cuz He’s got ur back 4 eva. Prz GOD.”

Although this is the shortest Psalm it has a gigantic scope urging “all nations” and “all peoples” to praise the LORD.  The justification for this praise are the divine attributes of his steadfast love and faithful towards “us”.  Now this presents an interesting puzzle for interpretation, should the “us” incorporate Israel and the “all nations/peoples” or is it that the “all nations/peoples” recognise the overwhelming love and enduring faithfulness that God has shown Israel and will therefore be compelled to praise God!?  Is the psalmist encouraging the reader/worshiper (in my case a non-Israelite) to take a look at Israel’s salvation history and join with them (Israel) in praise at God’s saving works.  Notice that it doesn’t give details … this is if you like the minimalist statement of thanksgiving possible … bare bones stuff.  It could even be possible that this psalm was composed in the return from exile or after the rebuilding of the temple and that there is a hint at goading the enemies (other nations) … ‘you can try and destroy our nation and burn down the temple in Jerusalem, but God’s love for us endured and he had our backs as he promised and now we return and even you must pay tribute to that!’  It can be read as a beckoning cry calling us to acknowledge the incredible kindness God has shown us and take heed of his steadfast truth.  Let us join and become full participants in God’s salvation plans for the world.

“Until the 1930s, the Jordan River carried 1.3 billion cubic metres of water annually from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, but since then it has lost over 98 per cent of its flow, which, according to a new environmental flow report on the Jordan River, has left it a highly degraded ecosystem.”  Hana Namrouqa for The Jordan Times

You can read the full article on the demise of the Jordan River here.

Meandering its descend (its hebrew name means descender) from its source at the foot of Mount Hermon down to the Sea of Galilee and on to the Dead Sea this once mighty river made fertile “the whole plain of the Jordan” (Genesis 13:10).  In fact the Jordan Valley is likened to “the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt” (Genesis 13:10).  Apparently archeologists have found traces of ancient irrigations systems in the plain of the Jordan.

“[Today] diversion of the water by Israel, Syria and Jordan for domestic and agricultural purposes has left it consisting of only sewage, fish farm waters, agricultural run-off and saline water from salt springs around the Sea of Galilee.”  Hana Namrouqa for The Jordan Times

Hardly the sort of place for a miracle wash! (“Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh shall be clean” (2 Kings 5:10) ).  Not to mention the sort of place you’d want to set up a baptizing camp! (“all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him [John the Baptist] and were being baptized by him [John] in the river Jordan” (Mark 1:5) ).  This lowly trickle belittles the monumental crossing of the Israelites led by Joshua (Joshua 3 – 4).

Let’s hope the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is a success.