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Archive for December 14th, 2016

A Tale of Two…

The ending of this post’s title is the familiar Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities.  The two cities in question were London and Paris, powerful world capitals, during the seismic upheaval of the French Revolution.  Another familiar fiction title referencing twin power centers is from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the second book, The Two Towers.  The one tower  is in the land of Mordor and the other in Isengard:  the former the dark abode of the dark lord, Sauron and his tower and the latter, under the control of a white wizard Saruman tempted and fallen into the lies of Sauron, called the Black Tower.  Closer to home, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan were a conspicuous sign of corporate power and influence, no doubt the reason for them being a target by the murderers from the east.

This past week in hospice I have been playing for a couple of patients the audio of Luke chapter 1. It afforded me the opportunity to  simply listen to the Holy Scripture as well. Luke began his Gospel with the narrative of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus and so the central figures are their Mothers:  Elizabeth and Mary and the story of  their pregnancies.  It struck me that Luke chapter 1 could be called, The Tale of Two Wombs.   

Reflect with me on the contrast between a tale of two cities (or towers} and the wombs that bore John, the forerunner of the Christ, and Jesus.  Both have this in common in that both are about power, but power of wholly/holy different kinds. Yes, power exerts influence over nations and peoples but Tolkien’s two towers  are about the power to wage war with the engines of war.  Cities have done so as well.  The blessed wombs of Elizabeth and Mary are about peace, the peace of God which surpasses understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7).  

The influence the two different twos make are considerable.  The former is terror over the hearts and minds of men and the latter comfort for sinners to repent from hatred and greed to the living God.  The good news in the terrors of nations is that war will one day cease and the peace of Kingdom of God will have no end.  The tale of two cities and towers are about death. The tale of the two wombs are about life, eternal life.

You may have other comparisons and I will proffer one more.  As I write, we are seeing in our nation a phenomenon on 5th Avenue in New York City as a steady stream of suppliants are making their way to another tower, Trump Tower to have audience with the President-elect. FWIW, I could not vote for the pro-death candidate, Mrs. Clinton.  This now daily scene during the transition is fascinating.  In fact, the use of power in this world fascinates us.  The figures of Saruman and Sauron fascinate us with their aura, even mysticism of the raw exercise of influence…and evil. The origin of the word “fascinate” is most interesting:

1590s, “bewitch, enchant,” from Middle French fasciner (14c.), from Latin fascinatus, past participle of fascinare “bewitch, enchant, fascinate,” from fascinus “a charm, enchantment, spell, witchcraft,” which is of uncertain origin. Earliest used of witches and of serpents, who were said to be able to cast a spell by a look that rendered one unable to move or resist. Sense of “delight, attract and hold the attention of” is first recorded 1815.

To fascinate is to bring under a spell, as by the power of the eye; to enchant and to charm are to bring under a spell by some more subtle and mysterious power. [Century Dictionary]

I am not intimating that Mr. Trump is a ‘dark lord’ in his tower.  The point is another comparison between the ‘twos of this world” and the two wombs, the true stories of Elizabeth and Mary, and it lies with us, the Old Adam and Eve wanting to be like God, controlling good and evil…or we think we can. We enjoy  and are fascinated by those who are apt at the exercise of power in this world, but tale of two wombs is utterly not fascinating because this is power sadly foreign in the world of sin: the power to create life and recreate life.

 In Luke chapter 1, I am drawn to the sheer beauty of these two women.  When Mary goes to see Elizabeth, her kinswoman, the encounter is celebrated with a feast day:  The Visitation.  This visitation is no “power lunch”, no high stakes conference.  The Visitation is beautiful because of the great grace of God unveiled in their wombs for the fallen sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.  There is no beauty in Mordor nor at a guillotine because it is devoid of agape, of love.  There is power there in the Visitation  but it is the power of save and give life not to destroy and take life. If the fascination of the Old Adam is a spell and the enchantment of evil (and I think it is), then the Visitation breaks the spell.    This is the true story of the light shining in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1)

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