John field notes 3e: Earthly things

After the birth & the wind:

Nicodemus answered “How can such things be?”

Jesus answered “You’re the teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things? Amen amen I tell you what we know we tell and what we’ve seen we witness to.  You don’t accept our witness. If I tell you earthly things and you don’t trust, how will you trust if I tell you heavenly things? (John 3:9 – 12, Reynolds Price’s Three Gospels)

What are the earthly things?  Maybe:

John’s implied and extended metaphors act as the Synoptic Gospels’ parables.  Jesus’s “If I tell you earthly things” is the synoptic gospels’ “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He replied, ‘To you it has been granted to know the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven, but not to them.'” (Matthew 13:10 – 11, REB)

Maybe:

The earthly things / heavenly things dichotomy is John’s version of Luke’s least / much, unrighteous mammon / true riches, another man’s / own:

“Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?” (Luke 16:10 – 12, REB)

Maybe:

John doesn’t see itself as a “polyphony of private settings and unclear referents playing above a plainchant of trial-court language (testimony and witnesses),” as I describe it in field note 2d.  Instead, private settings, unclear referents, and, now, implied and extended metaphors are the testimony — the earthly means by which Jesus testifies. (So, like, if that’s earthly, what’s heavenly?)

Maybe:

We Westerners need a book like John, which doesn’t give things away too easily.  Reading the synoptic gospels, I tend to shuck the parables like shellfish and tread the pearls Jesus later offers to his disciples alone. I rend rather than render the text.

But John makes me sweat.

[I’m reading John’s gospel. My reactions here vacillate between notes — a list of impressions — and something less sketchy. A note on nomenclature: the note number in my post’s title indicates the chapter of John’s material I’m reacting to. A title’s letter, though, differentiates the post from earlier posts about that chapter. “John field note 2c,” then, is my third post about something in John’s second chapter. N.B.: 12a may precede 3d: I skip around.]

John field notes 3d: Between prayers

There’s blindness, half-blindness, and sight:

[Elisha] offered this prayer: ‘Lord, open his eyes and let him see.’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw the hills covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.  As the Aramaeans came down towards him, Elisha prayed to the Lord: ‘Strike this host, I pray, with blindness’; and they were struck blind as Elisha had asked. Elisha said to them, ‘You are on the wrong road; this is not the town. Follow me and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria. (1 Kings 6:17 – 19, REB)

The reader of 1Kings is in sight’s middle kingdom, an interregnum of half-light. Only through prayer do we see what Elisha sees.

We’re also in sight’s middle kingdom in John, seeing more than some and less than others.  We are the servants at the wedding, privy to the miracle (unlike the wedding’s officer) but not privy to what Mary and Jesus’ conversation points to.

John’s reader sees men as trees, walking.  Indeed, the reader exists between Jesus’ two prayers as much as between Elisha’s:

And they brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him.

Taking the blind man’s hand he led him out of the village and spitting in his eyes and laying hands on him he questioned him “Do you see anything?”

Looking up he said “I see men that look like trees walking.”

So again he put his hands on his eyes.

Then he looked hard, was restored and saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:22 – 25, Reynolds Price, Three Gospels)

I’m heartened that Elisha’s and Jesus’ prayers are answered. It’s not the men’s influence, however, but their creativity that gets me.

[I’m reading John’s gospel. My reactions here vacillate between notes — a list of impressions — and something less sketchy. A note on nomenclature: the note number in my post’s title indicates the chapter of John’s material I’m reacting to. A title’s letter, though, differentiates the post from earlier posts about that chapter. “John field note 2c,” then, is my third post about something in John’s second chapter. N.B.: 12a may precede 3d: I skip around.]

mole

Listening to Tibetan monks or nuns chanting is in itself a lovely esthetic experience, even if you have no idea what they’re saying. The imitation of it in unmetrical, toneless English is a rather dismal, drawling drone, like schoolchildren, who have given up all hope of recess, reciting their lessons. I take inspiration from it, now, and I love the prayers, awkward, clunkily-worded translations though they are. There are even particularly gifted chanters who can make them beautiful, and sometimes you’re lucky enough to sit beside one. But it would take a very generous outsider to guess at the beauty we old hands are experiencing.

From mole.

Mulch

http://storify.com/SlowReads/mulch

This is my first attempt at using storify.com.  Its plug-in should have given Kurt attribution for the first of these two shorts.

The formatting isn’t pretty, but I like the idea of storify because it promises to make easy connections. Connections among posts are the most serendipitous thing about blogging.