Monday, October 24, 2011

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?

originally podcast 4/22/05

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