Sunday, December 25, 2005

reH DuSIgh vavlI'

pol jIH, joH'a', vaD Daq SoH ta' jIH tlhap lulIgh.
Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

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reH DuSIgh vavlI' - (your father is part of you always) is a remark Worf once made to Lt. Commander Data, and I agree. I think of this as I begin these studies of Psalm 16, for I am certain that any Bible my father owned, or gave as a gift, will be found to have verses of Psalm 16 underlined (even the one he carried as a prisoner of war in WWII). One Bible of his even had the notation by this verse "my confession.

pol jIH, joH'a', vaD Daq SoH ta' jIH tlhap lulIgh.
Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge.

Do you find that you are drawn to that declaration? At least I know I am, and want to make that my confession as well. I know I need a refuge - to whom CAN we turn better than God? Turning to God for that refuge requires the will to depend on God.

I expect no one will have a short list of things we need a refuge *from*; daily life, if not the daily news, will give an ample supply. The word here, lulIgh, is a rare Klingon word for 'refuge' (it's in the dictionary, but there aren't any known canonical examples of using it in the Klingon literature), and translates the Hebrew word chacah (khaw-saw'), which shows up over 30 times in the Bible. "chacaw" carries the idea of "to-flee" - perhaps not a Klingon-sounding concept, but even the most valiant warrior must seek safety at times.

And the focus of the Psalm is not a negative (fear) but a a positive (serious devotion to God). One writer notes:

Almost every verse of this psalm speaks of some aspect of singlemindedness: i.e. throwing in one's lot with God in the realms of one's security(1), welfare(2), associates(3), worship(4) and ambitions,) [Tyndale OT Commentaries]

Preserve is rendered pol (keep) and comes from the Hebrew word (used more than 400 times) shamar, with the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. You might also use the Klingon word "shield" (yoD) or "forcefield" (botjan).

The idea of this hedge, this defense, around the believer calls to mind the words of another psalm

The Duy vo' joH'a' DabtaH around chaH 'Iv taHvIp ghaH, je delivers chaH.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Ps. 34.7)

What is your source of refuge - to whom, or what, do you turn? Here's a tip - if you have a Bible and a pencil handy: underline Psalm 16.1 and start making it your confession today.

pol jIH, joH'a', vaD Daq SoH ta' jIH tlhap lulIgh.
Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge. Psalm 16:1

Saturday, December 17, 2005

reH 'eb tu'lu'

vaD everything jatlhpu' Sum joH'a' ghaH DuH.
For everything spoken by God is possible. Luke 1.37

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This is a Biblical verse, appointed for the fourth Sunday of Advent, that would delight a Vulcan - pondering the logic of it is a tricky business, particularly if you look into the Greek text and realize that it says literally "nothing spoken by God is impossible. (I wonder if the translators who put it in the positive were trying to avoid the dreaded "double negative?")

However you put it, it has potential to fuel long debates along the lines of "can God make a rock so heavy he can't lift it?" And to do so would, I think, miss the point. The context for this passage is the angel Gabriel announcing the miraculous birth of Jesus to Mary. This is the angel's answer to Mary's objections:

vaD everything jatlhpu' Sum joH'a' ghaH DuH.
For everything spoken by God is possible. Luke 1.37

The key Greek word is adunateo ad-oo-nat-eh'-o - is only used twice in this form. It means "to be unable" (that is, impossible) and comes from the negative "a" plus "dunateo" to be able. The root of "dunateo" indicates power (to be able) and is heard in English words like "dynamic" or "dynamite." For the Klingon, I've used "DuH" (be possible). To say "impossible" it would be DuH plus the -Ha' suffix: DuHHa' - not-be-possible. So nothing - even a baby where none would or should be expected - nothing, God says is impossible.

It's worth noting, the other appearence of this word - when Jesus is explaining to the disciples
their failure in healing :

"He said to them, "Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you." Mt 17:20

Not just for Mary - for all believers "impossible" is out of the vocabulary. What a challenge! And what a promise. It recalls a Klingon proverb: reH 'eb tu'lu' - there is always a chance. In other words, never give up.

I wish I could keep this foremost in my heart every day - and say "I believe, help my unbelief!" I need to write this in places that I'll see it every morning and every night: nothing God says is impossible! Oh, may we live by those words!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Keep On Praying!

tlhob Hutlh mevtaH.
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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This verse - part of the third Sunday in Advent readings - is another great entrant in the "short-easy-to-memorize-Bible-verses" list. In no more than NINE words, you can memorize this verse in THREE languages: Latin: sine intermissione orate English: Pray without ceasing and Klingon: tlhob Hutlh mevtaH. [You can even do it in fewer words. A more grammatical Klingon might be "reH yItlhobtaH" - always you-be-praying.]

The important word here is pray. In Greek it is proseuchomai (pros-yoo'-khom-ahee), from pros- (unto, toward), and euchomai (yoo'-khom-ahee, to ask) and it appears over 80 times in the Bible. For Klingon, I've used the word "tlhob," to ask.

This season, the season celebrated in churches as Advent, represents a time of anticipation for Christians who understand our moment in history as one of waiting. They prepare for the coming of Jesus - his advent - by recalling and reenacting in story and song, his arrival as a baby. Caught in this tension between remembering and longing for his return, we really do need Paul's advice:

tlhob Hutlh mevtaH.
Pray without ceasing.

The message of Advent and its completion in Christmas is Immanuel - God is with us.

This may sound simply like acknowledging the presence of God. The Vulcans have a word for that - a'tha. This is the Vulcan word for the experience, the knowledge of God's presence - something apparently present in ALL Vulcans from birth. This does not seem to be our human experience, nor the Klingon one judging by the Klingon claim to have "killed" their gods

But just knowing, even experiencing God's existence isn't enough though. As James notes: The demons also believe, and shudder. James 2:19

Here is where

tlhob Hutlh mevtaH.
Pray without ceasing.

is essential. A life of prayer - continuous prayer - is a life of relationship, not mere "fact." Praying links us closely to God - just as regular conversation with friends builds your relationship with them. After all, how much do you think about a friend you haven't talked to for years?

This time of year so often focuses on PRESENTS -and too often our prayers are like Janis Joplin's "Oh Lord, won't you give me a Mercedes Benz?" - mere Santa Claus lists. But if we live - continually in prayer it will be God's PRESENCE with that we seek. The gift I need to open and use are in these simple words:

tlhob Hutlh mevtaH.
Pray without ceasing.

Monday, December 05, 2005

These little ones....

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

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If you're a pastor, and looking for a way to quickly be driven out of your parish - I can't think of a better controversy to raise than.... a discussion about Santa Claus. I fear at times that the deepest beliefs of the Bible could be question without the kind of difficulties a preacher would meet if they weighed in on the reality of Kris Kringle.

Nor am I brave enough to tread on this legend - though I wonder what a Klingon would make of some of the stories? The Klingon dispostion toward things military lend to a tendency to be (shall we say?) paranoid. Imagine how they'd feel about a silent intruder who routinely slips in past all defenses to surprise the inhabitants! Motivated by generosity or not - I expect a Klingon hearing of such stealth would be more alarmed than happy.

But - maybe if they were introduced to the real Santa Claus - St Nicholas:

St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. As priest and bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life and ministry. His concern for children and others in need or danger expressed a love for God which points toward Jesus, the source of true caring and compassion. Embracing St. Nicholas customs can help recover the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus.

Understanding St. Nicholas as the original and true holiday gift-giver also helps shift focus to giving rather than getting, compassion rather than consumption, need rather than greed. This can help restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.

St. Nicholas is beloved throughout the world and continues to be revered in Christian tradition, especially as protector and patron of children in the West and as Wonderworker in the East. The St. Nicholas Center aims to bring Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians together in common purpose—to help people understand and appreciate the original St. Nicholas, the only real Santa Claus.
[http://www.stnicholascenter.orgI encourage you to visit the site to learn more]
As a people - Klingons are depicted as fierce warriors - potent enemies in battle. But anyone who reads at all far in the lore of Star Trek will know how fiercely they honor and guard their family - they know the value of protecting children. They'd likely be impressed by the stories - some quite fantastic - of St. Nick's rescue of children. Or how he protected the honor of dowry-less girls by secretly presenting them with gifts of gold coins.

In the Bible Jesus says these words, used in the readings for the commemoration of St. Nicholas:

'ach vaj 'oH ghaH ghobe' the DichDaq vo' lIj vav 'Iv ghaH Daq chal vetlh wa' vo' Dochvammey mach ones should chIlqu'.
Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The mach - little - ones matter. Not just to a saint like Nicholas, but to God. In this season we have many opportunities to be generous. What can we do to protect the neediest among us?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A tlhIngan Christmas?

" batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest, Daq tera' roj, QaQ DichDaq toward Hoch."

"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward all." Luke 2:14

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Picture this: Some December, oh, a few years from now, you find yourself wandering down a corridor in the Klingon section of Deep Space 9. Late at night, the lights are low and you hear a noise - a lot of noise! Spilling out into the hall is a crowd of boisterous tlhInganpu'. These Klingons are coming from the Klingon multifaith lalDan pa' (chapel). Of course! They just finished their Christmas Midnight service and they're off to celebrate. AND... they're heading your way.

What do you do? More importantly, what do you say?
  • nuqneh?

  • nuqDaq 'oH puchpa''e'?

  • QISmaS petIv!

  • toDwI'ma' qoS yItiv!

Well, of course the answer depends on many things, for one, whether you celebrate Christmas (many don't - even the early Christians were far more focussed on Easter as their celebration. Historically there have been times that Christians adamantly opposed the festivities). You might just call out the angels's song from Luke's gospel: "batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest" "glory to God in the highest." (though, by the time you're on such a space station, I hope you'll have a more grammatical translation than the Klingon Language Version - but it's a start.)


This is the all purpose Klingon greeting - "what do you want," literally. That's an okay thing to say when meeting Klingons, though not quite in the spirit of the occasion.

nuqDaq 'oH puchpa''e'?

That would be fine - IF you're looking for the bathroom - otherwise, it might not make the best impression. While we're at it, one more "nuq" phrase - even more useful - is "nuqjatlh." It's the Klingon "hunh?" and means "what did you say?"

QISmaS petIv!

This gets more in the spirit of the celebration. The first word QISmaS is an attempt to transliterate "Christmas" into a Klingon spelling. After all, we don't translate "Christmas" into English - it's a word composed of Greek and Latin parts. It seems reasonable for Klingons to adopt this term to denote the celebration. The second word, petIv, is an imperative "all-of-you-enjoy-it!" You may decide to soften this with "botIvjaj" "may-you-enjoy-it" - or if you celebrate Christmas too, you could say QISmaS wItIvjaj "may we enjoy Christmas!"

toDwI'ma' qoS yItIv!

This is a phrase to indicate you, too, celebrate Jesus's birth. Literally "our-saviour's-birthday you-enjoy-it." Note here I said "yItIv," which is the singular "you" command "enjoy". You could also, as I noted earlier, say petIv or botIvjaj.

So - what would you choose to say? It's perhaps a fanciful question - after all I haven't quite built my spaceship to go off to Deep Space Nine. But it isn't hard to find people of many tongues celebrating this holiday. Nor is it hard to find places on the internet that provide Christmas greetings in every language from Afrikaans (een plesierige kerfees) to Yugoslavian (Cestitamo Bozic). As Christmas approaches this Advent - why not take a moment to learn a new way to call out with holiday cheer, so with the angels you too can say:

" batlh Daq joH'a' Daq the highest, Daq tera' roj, QaQ DichDaq toward Hoch."

"Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward all." Luke 2:14