Mr Comeuppance

For my money the best character in any disaster, horror, or survival movie is a guy named Mr. Comeuppance. That’s the guy who ignores, the big disaster that’s on its way, acts like he has all the answers when he actually has none and mocks the hero along the way. I first met this man in a movie called Daylight staring Sylvester Stallone. Its a bad movie, awesomely bad. Viggo Mortensen plays a CEO who is arrogant and sure he has all the answers. When he and the other characters get caught in the Lincoln tunnel he is sure he is the man to save the day. His plan is to rock climb out of the tunnel. When the other characters tell him he can’t because it’s to unstable it goes like this..

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(I have all the answers I’ll ignore any and all advic… )

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(Guess we were right about the cave in)

Mr Comeuppance comes in many forms, the guy who says the aliens are our friends just before they get him, the Guy who says the weather is not a problem, then gets caught in a twister and of course the cocky Lawyer who gets eaten in Jurassic park.

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(Surprisingly this doesn’t end well for the Lawyer)

 

The basic idea is that wee seem to like characters who get what’s coming to them, characters whose arrogance is their undoing. We want to see the hero be a hero and the arrogant jerk face get what he has coming to him. The story of Daniel in the Bible has a Mr. Comeuppance too.

 

Daniel 5


King Belshazzar made a great festival for a thousand of his lords, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. 

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the vessels of gold and silver that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. 

Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s face turned pale, and his thoughts terrified him. His limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king cried aloud to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners; and the king said to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever can read this writing and tell me its interpretation shall be clothed in purple, have a chain of gold around his neck, and rank third in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar became greatly terrified and his face turned pale, and his lords were perplexed. 

The queen, when she heard the discussion of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall. The queen said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts terrify you or your face grow pale. There is a man in your kingdom who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father he was found to have enlightenment, understanding, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and diviners, because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation.” 

 

Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain.

 

So Belshazzar is arrogant, disrespectful and blasphemous and ends up dead that same night, a Mr. Comeuppance if ever I’ve seen one. The question this raises though is a more troubling one, did God do it. Clearly God was the one sending the message so was God also responsible for his demise? Quite often you here people talk about God’s plan, and God being behind events that seem unfathomable. Indeed many see this death of Belshazzar as God’s punishing him for his actions. I’ve always had trouble with this idea. I know it can be comforting to some but to me it seems like this sort of belief is unfair to God. In this case it would make God part of the assassination of Belshazzar, sure he may have deserved it (comeuppance guy and all) but is that how God works? I think that Daniel’s involvement in this paints a different picture. Daniel is a prophet, a person whose job it is to point out where your current actions are leading you. Like when your mom said stop hanging out with your friends they are leading you down the wrong path. Belshazzar is being told that this fate is the sum total of the way he behaved. The lesson is simple treat people well and you can expect better returns than if you teat people poorly. God is always there to help show us a better way to be in community with one another.

Peace

Jamie

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(This guy was on to something)

 

Two and a Half Naaman

I realized something unfortunate the other day, the Show Two and a Half Men has been on the air for 11 years. Thats a long time, in fact the half man (get it because he was a child when the show started) is now an adult. In that time I have watched exactly 0 episodes. The show simply does not appeal to me. It seemed to be a tired old premise that actively tried to avoid originality. In those few desperate moments that the show has come on while I frantically look for the remote my thoughts about the show have been confirmed, it’s not good, clever or creative.

 

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(With Two and a Half Men on and the remote nowhere to be found this man retreats to his happy place)

It seems to simply be a quilt of sophomoric jokes cobbled quickly together. I was able to ignore it’s existence until earlier this year when the “half man” ( he probably loves being called that) actor Angus Jones essentially left the show because it conflicted with his values. He was a recent christian convert and felt that the show glorified promiscuity. It raised a lot of conversation Which I honestly didn’t think much about until I paid attention to today’s reading.

 

2 Kings 5:15-19a (NRSV)

Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!” He urged him to accept, but he refused. Then Naaman said, “If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.” He said to him, “Go in peace.”

 

Naaman is a general who had leprosy and despite some heavy doubts and his idol worshiping is healed by God. His healing leads to a conversion which leads to the passage you just read. Naaman after a conversion tries to reward the prophet who healed him, no dice. So finally he makes one request that God will understand and forgive him if he kneels down in a pagan temple. As a general Naaman has to answer to the king, who was not known for being a nice guy. The king, and his country are built around the idea that their God Baal is the bestest God everest and way more powerful than other Gods, like that God of Israel. Retirement plans in those time consisted of no longer being alive and Job mobility was non-existent. What that means is that Naaman’s future would be one of fear or of disrespecting the God of Israel. But he checks with the prophet and asks if will God know he’s not disrespecting him if he goes to another temple and the prophet lets him know that’s fine.

 

Angus Jones felt his work led him to disrespect God so he quit but not all of us are that fortunate. Some folks out there have to make the choice to do things that conflict with their beliefs, like work on Sunday, or for a company that holds values that they don’t agree with, like Namaan’s and his king. In other words your livelihood may conflict with your beliefs and in such cases make sure your heart is in the right place like Naaman did. Perhaps you may leave that Job or perhaps you may decide you can’t but the lesson here seems to be that where your heart is matters. It is easy to be afraid of disrespecting God, and some people can get extreme, from those that decry the witchcraft of Harry Potter to those who avoid yoga because of its connection to Hindu meditation even folk that avoid travels to places like the Parthenon in Greece because it was a pagan house of worship.

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(It turns out that very few of these people are secret worshipers of Athena, not so sure about that guy in the hat though)

Naaman learned that God knows the difference between those folks who like books, stretching and ancient geek architecture and folks who doing those activities for other “nefarious purposes”. So make sure your heart is in the right place, that you are focused on God and live a life as full as God intended, not ruled by fear.

God help me keep my heart focused on you. AMEN

Hopping on the Breaking Bad Bandwagon

Usually I don’t have any idea what image I want to use when I write one of these devotionals.

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(For instance I’m Still waiting to use this image)

This week was different. I’m a big fan of the show Breaking Bad. The show is about a Chemistry teacher ,Walter, who after being diagnosed with cancer decides to begin manufacturing drugs, using his formidable knowledge of chemistry. Suffice it to say The show is definitely centered around adult themes and is far from family friendly. What caught my attention about the show wasn’t the story line it was the characters and the acting. This is a show about character development as Walter develops from a mild mannered teacher into a criminal. It’s also about the development of the characters around him whose own development is altered by Walt’s actions. It’s fascinating how simple character development executed so well can be so gripping. You end up caring about the characters curious about what will unfold in their lives and how those events will change them. Many critics have gone so far as to say that in terms of writing, acting and story that it is the best show of all time. On Sunday the show aired it’s final episode, there was a lot of story lines to tie up and many wondered how they would do it. I had a different question though it was what was Walt’s ultimate motivation, what led him to follow such a destructive path. Was it Money, power, family, fear or something else. As the episode went on this question went unresolved. And with two minutes remaining this scene aired.

(Thanks for introducing me to that awesome song btw)

Walt takes his final moments to say goodbye to his lab, where he made the Baby Blue methamphetamine mentioned in the song. He did it for his love of chemistry. The chemistry that led the character to almost winning a Nobel prize, to being a teacher and eventually into his drug business. Through his love of chemistry he lost his morality, his family, his reputation and eventually his life. Yet even to the end he looks upon his equipment with a faint smile and without regret. His devotion had taken him down a dark path but he remained devoted. I found it quite gripping and hoped it would in some way fit a devotional, then I looked at today’s reading.

Revelation 2:8-11 (NRSV)
Be faithful until death

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life:

“I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death. 

The prophet of revelation is commending his readers to have a devotion to God even until death. In other words a devotion to God like Walter’s devotion to chemistry. This devotion to God will lead down a much different path it will strengthen and inform morality, it will build up the relationships of family and friends and will lead to life in all it’s fullness even as the end approaches. I think we could all stand to cling as tightly to our faith as this character was able to cling to what he loved. In the end I hope I can look as lovingly and as peacefully at my faith as death creeps in as Walter was able to look at his lab. Knowing of course that death is never the season finale of our story ( I don’t care if that line was cheesy I like it)

God help me to value my faith in you above all else AMEN

Note: Now I have to find a new show to watch

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(What do you mean it was cancelled?!?)