Putting Out Fresh Bread

Sunday Morning Watch

Good morning. The lovely Sunday morning sun bathes my bedroom with a glow that exceeds description and my spirit feels the warmth, though outside temperatures have dipped into the 30’s. Something wonderful has happened and I feel compelled to send it up the flagpole of my blog. The reader is not compelled to salute. Because of a resolution about a week ago to post an occasional sermon revised from my past, I considered posting one of about a dozen that are ready to go online. But today I have changed my mind, wishing instead to share thoughts that visited me this morning. Rather than posting something revised from the past, I wish to put out fresh bread. For those interested, I have new paintings in progress, but they are too sketchy and vague to put on the blog this early. I look forward to sharing them when they come together a little better.

Mornings are sacred to me, just as Thoreau rhapsodized about the “wakening hour.” And this morning, though the blog may be a meandering ramble, I want to share the visitation.

I have written in the past that I was in the Protestant ministry long ago, a congregational position that lasted eleven years. Not long after I left the ministry, I entered the field of education, and remained there another thirty years. Now in my third year of retirement, and especially in this time of Sheltering at Home, I luxuriate in a time of introspection, and am writing new chapters of my personal memoir.

What I want to share this morning is this daily practice I have held since autumn of 1972. In my Baptist Student Union days, we called it Quiet Time, a practice of beginning every morning in seclusion, poring over a worthy text, recording thoughts in a journal and expecting an oracle. In the days of the ministry, I was soaking the biblical writings; mornings since 1985 have found me grazing from a multiplicity of sources. I still remember the first time I tried this, on an October morning in 1972, seated at the edge of a forest, looking out over a lake, reading from my Bible, recording notes in a spiral notebook, and feeling a Presence that was affirming and encouraging. It colored the rest of that day, and now, 48 years later, I can still testify that a morning spent in quiet solitude and meditation potentially sets the stage for a more positive day.

For those of you who have followed my blogs, you see the quotes from what I’m reading during my morning watch. This morning (maybe because it’s Sunday, I don’t know), I opened my Greek New Testament to The Letter of James and spent about thirty minutes lingering over the words of the first chapter. A few observations I now wish to share . . .

In the opening verses of this letter, the author encouraged his congregation to be steadfast in trials because of their potential to build character–“that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The word translated “perfect” is telos.  We recognize from the root words such as telegraph, telecommunication, telescope, etc.—the idea of extending to a goal. Aristotle used this word to depict the goal, target or end of every living being. The nature of being alive is this primal drive onward toward completion. Aristotle believed the end was in the beginning. The destiny is already potential in us.

I was also intrigued by the Greek word translated “complete”. The word could be rendered as complete in all parts, entire, sound. The Latin equivalent is integer. Reading this verse reminded me of the conclusion of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible. A jaded old man, convinced that life was full of vanity (empty), concluded his treatise by exhorting his readers to fear God and keep his commandments, “for this makes one complete.” At my current age, I am more absorbed with thoughts about my own life’s purpose and what is involved in being a whole person. I suppose that all of us reach for some peg on which to hang our entire identity, and speaking for myself, I finally acknowledge that art has always been at my core, accompanied by my own pursuit of academics with a deeper understanding of the religious dimension. The life of the mind has helped shape the contours of my art.

In verse eleven of the first chapter of James, reference is made to the sun rising, also reminding me of a passage early in Ecclesiastes and Ernest Hemingway’s chosen title to his first novel. James testifies that this sun scorches, bringing to an end a rich man’s accomplishments. Reading this passage made me think of that arc we always acknowledge in the life of a person or of a nation or an era. There is a birth, an increase, a peak, then the decline, and finally the end. As I look over my own life’s trajectory, I struggle with this, wanting to be better now than ever before in what I do, yet acknowledging that many elements of my life are waning, declining. I still have trouble facing this, yet in my art and ideas, I still work in earnest, believing I can still bring to fruition something of value for me and to share in this world. At this age, I muse about what kind of footprint I am going to leave behind.

Chapter 1, verse 18 also got my attention: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. All of us wonder over our origin. The New Testament’s confession of God as our author comes as no surprise. But the phrase “word of truth” never really sunk in while I was reading this from my English Bible. My debt to the seminary for teaching me Koinē Greek is boundless, and since leaving the ministry I have enjoyed over the years the access to Classical as well as Homeric Greek. The linguistic work of Martin Heidegger also has fueled my interest. Thanks to his work, I now regard the Greek word logos not just as word, but as “the force that gathers.” In addition to this, the word for truth, is comprised of the root lēthe. The mythic River of Lethe was the river of forgetting. The extension of that word involved a covering or concealing. The Greek alpha in front of the root is a negation. Hence, alētheia denotes the unforgetting, or the uncovering, which resonates much more with me than the mere word “truth.” Now to translate: “We have been set forth by the cohesive force of the uncovering.” It takes some mental work and time for that to sink in, but the effort, I believe, is worth it.

And finally, the purpose of our being brought into this world is that we become a “first fruits”. In the ancient Greek world, both inside and outside the New Testament, first fruits is best translated “sacrifice.” Throughout my life, I have been stung by accusations of being selfish, self-centered, egocentric etc., and I understand those labels grounded in behavioral traits I’ve exhibited. But long ago, this word from the New Testament prevented me from wilting under those criticisms and accusations. As a teacher, one pours out his/her life daily, not only in study, but most of all in handing out the precious truths gleaned from a life of experience and study. And the daily outpouring is indeed a sacrifice, another day “spent” in service to something greater than ourselves. The same goes for the artist—with every painting, poem, novel, or song, another piece of the creator’s life has been carved away and sent out into the world. The work we do in life is a sacrifice; it takes away another part of our life and offers it to the world, hoping to leave this world one day better than it was when we entered it.

I know this is one of my “rambling” blogs, but I wanted to send out these thoughts gleaned from a Sunday morning watch.

Thanks always for reading, and I hope you’ll check out my website www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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One Response to “Putting Out Fresh Bread”

  1. Dian Darr Says:

    Incredible! I have so many of these same thoughts as my years increase (somewhat rapidly so it seems). You have given me so many jewels to contemplate- to study. Your words are rich and full – somewhat overwhelming! I often try to describe my life, and it seems so fractured that I am not sure who I am or who I once was. You have helped me want to try to pull these fractures together to make me complete. This is all almost much to think about! (Not sure my ramblings make sense).

    Like

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