Friday, April 29, 2005

Running Over Where?

wIj HIvje' qettaH Dung
My cup runs over

podcast version

Half full? Half empty? That evaluation of a partially filled glass is the classic way to measure whether a person is an optimist or pessimist.

Which are you? And what happens when somebody fills the glass SO full it overflows?

That's what David considers in Psalm 23 when he writes:

wIj HIvje' qettaH DungMy cup runs over

God can (and will) bless his people beyond their mere needs. He just will NOT stop!

[My guess, by the way is that the pessismist will gripe about the work cleaning up the over flow, while the optimist delights in the surplus - "aren't we LUCKY to have more than we need?"]

The mechanical process of creating the Klingon Language Version of the Bible involves a simple program that replaces English words with Klingon translations, one word at a time. When that works we get Klingon text arranged in English grammatical fashion - a pidgin Klingon that a translator can polish off. "wIj HIvje'," for "my cup" can be made grammatical by attaching the first person possesive suffix (wIj) to HIvje' (glass, or tumbler): Hivje'wIj becomes a good translation for the Hebrew koesee (my cup).

We're not as lucky with "runs over," since the word "qettaH" means "run or jog". "Dung" means overhead, and was used for the KLV purposes to mean something like "over there." 'My cup runs over there,' does not come too close to the Psalm. Keep this odd wordplay in mind - think of it as "my cup of blessing moves out." I'll come back to that in a moment.

A better translation would be buy'qu' (really full) - HIvje'wIj buy'qu', my cup is really full. Even better, there is a colloquial Klingon expression "buy' ngop" which literally means "the plates are full." It is a way to say "Great news!" A grammatical translation of Psalm 23 might well express the great news of God's generosity, "my cup runs over," with "buy' ngop."

Jesus said: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:10b). He wants our lives to be rich and full - not just good enough, but so complete that the bounty spills over! And St. Paul says God can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...(Eph. 3:20) God doesn't intend to give us a thimble full of grace.

Everyone does not have a life of overflowing bounty. Every believer does not experience this surplus of blessing. We don't know why - and even beginning to explore the reasons is beyond the scope of this word study.

But those of us who do experience "the cup that overflows" have a different question: what do I do about the spill? Maybe "my cup of blessing moves out" isn't such a bad translation after all.

The faith of the Bible is not a tribal faith. God may have begun with Abraham's family, but God's intention is clear: "All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you."(Genesis 12:3). Jesus made clear that the answer to "who is my neighbor" is EVERYONE. When Jesus gave marching orders he said "You will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth."


buy' ngop! GOOD news!

If your plate is full, if your cup really runs over, then gather it up. Take your blessings and share them to "the uttermost parts of the earth..."

Better yet, share them "'u' HeHDaq" to the edge of the Universe.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Double Take

Daq vo' wIj jaghpu'
in the presence of my enemies

podcast version

Nobody likes to say it out loud, but inviting people to a party means, on some level, you've decided who not to invite. That is why one might look twice at what David says in Psalm 23 -

You prepare a table before me

I like hearing this; God wants me to be his guest.

But then I read

Daq vo' wIj jaghpu'
in the presence of my enemies.

and I ask, what is going ON?! What are my enemies doing at this party?

The Klingon word for enemy, jagh, appears here in the plural form jaghpu'. It is worth noting that Klingon has three forms of plural suffixes: "mey", which is plural for things, for example yIHmey means "tribbles." "Du'" indicates the plural of body parts, as in ghopDu', "hands". In this case we use the third form "pu'" which is plural for things that have speech - usually taken to mean intelligent beings, i.e. people. Using jaghpu' here, instead of jaghmey, indicates that our enemies are not just a figure of speech as in "the weather is my enemy." We're talking about some person who plots against us, who wants to do us harm.

What is going on? Why does the psalmist think God's banquet is in the presence of my enemies? Who invited them?

Now, I've got two ways to look at this: comforting, and challenging.

First look at comforting:

Usually this verse is seen to show how we can be confident that, despite our enemies, God will show his love and care by preparing a table for us - even in the heart of battle. Do not despair - God cannot be prevented from blessing us - even when we are faced by real enemies. We need to hang onto this kind of assurance.

Here's the challenging side:

Who invited these enemies? Maybe I did. OR should.

When I cast about for other verses in the Bible that touch on "enemies" and "meals" I find a terrific passage - actually I find it more than once. It is a passage in Proverbs that St. Paul likes so much, he quotes it in the letter to the Romans:

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink: for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and Yahweh will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21 or Romans 12:20 )

Now if I were looking for a particularly Klingon way to tell people to "be nice," this has got to be it. Not hard to picture a Klingon saying "yesss!" to that coals of fire stuff, is it? Think you're a really tough tlhIngan SuvwI', a Klingon warrior? Then prove it: open your heart, your love to everyone - not just to the easy target. Jesus says it this way: "if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?" (Matt. 5:46)

We do have enemies. There really are people out there who want to do you and me harm. No, they are not going to be your best friend, or the first choice to put on your guest list. Yet, I know I need to take a stock of my 'hospitality,' my charity and then listen to Jesus's words:

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.'

But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.
(Matt. 5:43-45a)

Who's on your guest list?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Table Service!

SoH ghuH a SopDaq
You prepare a table

podcast version

Mealtime is more than a way to refuel the body: it is sacred. We see this in the very beginning of the Bible, in the garden of Eden where God made every tree to grow that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food(Genesis 2:9) or when the promise of an heir and descendants to Abraham came after the patriarch had hosted his mysterious visitors to a great feast. (Genesis 18) And we see this at the very end of the Scriptures, in the last book of the New Testament, when the blessed "are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb."(Revelation 19:9). The Bible uses "meals" as a way to portray how God's love reaches us.

Meals can be a place where we have some of our most treasured moments. I know that, in my life, those are the times that stand out: graduations, milestone birthdays, anniversaries. There are few important times in our lives when we do NOT gather to break bread together.

And meals are central in our religious lives. Look at the Passover Seder, or Holy Communion, the celebration of the Eucharist and you can see how believers continue to find ways to use a meal to reenact the saving acts of God.

Here in Psalm 23:5 we now move away from the simple image of the sheep and shepherd to the picture of God as our gracious host inviting us to be his dinner guest.

SoH ghuH a SopDaq You prepare a table

SopDaq, the word used here for "table" was coined when we didn't now the exact Klingon word for the piece of furniture we call a "table" (we now know it is "raS"). SopDaq, literally "eating-place" is a word formed from the verb "to eat" (Sop) with the nominal suffix indicating location. It parallels the known word for bed, QongDaq, i.e. "sleeping-place." Think of SopDaq as an irregular word for the banquet table, or a buffet spread out for the guest, as opposed other sorts of tables, say a work bench or in a library.

As much fun as we might have at those more utilitarian tables, it is at the dinner table where we gather to celebrate and give thanks (and we should remember that thanksgiving is literally the meaning of the word "Eucharist", the greatest Christian meal.) More than nutrition, we find God inviting us to a table were we can rejoice and enjoy fellowship with him, to be like Abraham, a "friend of God." (James 2:23) I think of Jesus' promise, that if a person answers his call "then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20).

Now that is a dinner invitation no one should refuse!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Worst Case Scenario

QIb vo' Hegh
Shadow of death

podcast version

Murphy's law spells out the pessimist's creed: if something can go wrong, it will. Some find an odd comfort in this "expect the worst" philosophy. With it, you'll never be disappointed - the worst that can happen is that you will be happily surprised if things turn out okay.

But I think merely expecting the worst isn't going far enough. Better is doing what David works through in Psalm 23 - the worst case scenario and how to be ready for it.

David looks to the good Shepherd, not merely to solve temporal problems like food and drink, guidance and safety. Whatever good the Lord provides for this life, David does not expect it to forestall the absolute worst:

The QIb vo' Hegh, the shadow of death

The Klingon words QIb (shadow) and Hegh (death) are used here for the Hebrew term tsalmaveth, traditionally rendered "the shadow of death," a phrase that captures just how this dark cloud hangs over all of us. The Bible says it simply " is appointed for men to die..." (Hebrews 9:27) Yet the response here in Psalm 23 is not despair, but confidence that this final passage is not to be feared, if we are accompanied by this shepherd who truly walks alongside us.

Notice that in this verse something important changes. The previous verses speak about the shepherd - he does this, he does that. But in this verse David speaks directly to him:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Death's QIb, its shadow, looms over all of us - no exceptions. In reviewing our options, our plans, this is what we must all be prepared for. Medicine, wealth, or position will not keep us from it. There is no castle or protection that will ultimately keep it away.

But we do not have to enter that last frontier alone. If we go with the one who has gone through it himself, we need fear no evil. For with the one who has conquered death by our side, that path through the shadows can, and will, be the path to victory.

Friday, April 01, 2005

On Board!

vaD Daj pong chIch
for his name's sake

podcast version

Thanks to NASA, last year I went to Mars! Not just me - I took the whole family, even my dog Kokomo! We also went along on a mission to bring back samples from a comet, and at this moment, we're en route to blast a piece off of another comet in July.

Now, full disclosure requires I tell you that in fact, we didn't pack bags and climb on board these ships. Our travels were in name only, that is each of these spacecraft carried our names, not our selves, into the heavens. Why did NASA collect our names (and the names of thousands of other space enthusiasts) for these voyages? Because, when our names were added to these ships, in some small way, we became a part of the mission, and our interest in it increased tremendously.

David tells us that God "leads us in paths of righteousness," vaD Daj pong chIch / for his name's sake. The Klingon word for name, pong is as simple a word as you can find, just as it is in the Hebrew word (shem). Name, pong, or shem it means simply - the title by which any person or thing is known or designated.

What does it mean to say that God leads us, for his name's sake? I think about the interest that I have, when my name is riding off to Mars, and I get a glimmer of what this means: my attention, my concentration is directed to what is happening out there. I'm rooting for that craft, cheering it on. I may have no power to assist it, but I care about what happens to it.

Can you imagine that God, having put his name on you would care any less? Nor is he powerless to come alongside and help you, watch over you, as you navigate your own voyage through life.

Feeling like a nobody? Feeling like you aren't good enough to be noticed? Think again. He's put his name on you - and he's going to see you through. Look at the promises of Psalm 23, the promises of the Bible, and you can see he's on your side - he's on board, so to speak, and he'll do much more than just cheer you on.