Monthly Archives: June 2016

Covenant of Love

     What is the significance of the texts of the Judeo-Christian religions to one who doesn’t consider them rules to be followed, or instructions for how to be good, or even the capital ‘W’ Words of God? What does ‘covenant’ mean in that situation? Does it even have meaning?

     It may be that this Bible does not condemn people whose sexuality doesn’t conform to that same preference as the majority. If it did, would that matter? Not to me, because that isn’t what I’ve become convinced is the purpose of the Bible. It may seem odd to Bible-literal Christians that those who take a different view on the authority of scripture can think of it having any power at all, but it’s even powerful enough to affect a life when a person doesn’t believe every Bible story is a literal historical event. In that context, what does ‘Covenant’ mean?

Well, I don’t prefer the same music as the majority, though the Bible recommends certain instruments, and some even interpret Ephesians 5:19 to recommend (some say require) non-instrumental music.

Rumour has it Moses hated Jazz
Rumour has it Moses hated Jazz

Various rules (or dogma), doctrine, commands are held up by some believers as holy writ. They’re free to do so, and here’s the important thing: those who take a legalistic, literal view of scripture must be allowed room to see it as they do. A person can’t be made to change their perspective on how the entire universe is composed by argument. In fact, the evidence shows that argument only solidifies an opposing viewpoint where religious fundamentalism is concerned.

     I once thought women couldn’t be ordained ministers, but then I married a woman who is possibly the best preacher I’ve ever heard. Yes, her words mean more to me because of the intimate relationship I enjoy with her. Even with my natural bias, I recognise her aptitude through those who don’t have such a close relationship, or any relationship at all with her, each of whom react as if quenched of a great thirst. Yes, women can and, if called must preach.

  keep-calm-and-meet-new-people-20   I once thought that any kind of sexuality other than heterosexuality was an aberration, an abomination to God. Then I was befriended by men and women whose same-sex relationships were loving, honest, and every bit as beautiful as my own marriage. Nothing aberrant, and certainly not abominable. Not only are such people not condemned, but openly blessed in life, marriage, and even in ordained ministry.

     I could go on at further length about how my view of scripture has shifted, but thats not the point. I’m not writing to point out the error of those who take the literal view. I’m writing to show that scripture still has meaning, even if one doesn’t believe that these are the words of God transmitted by direct dictation to writers who somehow found God’s phone number. That it still has influence is a testament to its power and divine influence.

     This is how covenant, a word with legal implications, can have meaning to those who don’t hold that the Bible is a legal book; that the biblical dogma is in no way the “Law of God.” Ancient cultures from which these words came were tribal. Life was harsh and the times were savage. They sealed agreements with marriages, livestock, and sometimes blood. Quid pro quo was just how their world worked. If one nation didn’t hold up their end of a bargain, there was nothing for it but brutal, bloody war. If just enough rain fell to provide a good harvest, if the beasts propagated and multiplied, people naturally assumed that the gods were pleased, and they continued in their contractual obligation to make burnt offerings. If the nation is conquered and its leaders are made captive, one assumes that God is angry. If your army decimates an entire race, you are justified because those people were evil and you, the true people, are expected to destroy them. This is not an indictment of any single early culture. In many early languages the word for one’s nation or tribe translates roughly to “The true people.” (http://www.native-languages.org/original.htm) This was the way of the ancient world, before the message of Love-your-neighbour-as-yourself managed to break through. What is remarkable is that, even in these early times, there are hints of the cosmic meaning of the word covenant; that even when broken, God still honours it.jud2-1_covenant

     Just a few centuries later things continued to progress. With the wisdom teachings of Hillel the Elder (100BC ~ 10AD) and Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount (~30AD), a deeper meaning is revealed beyond a do-this-or-else understanding of the nature of the relationship humanity has with God. Love is the law. Love God, love people, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” This isn’t a one-verse doctrine; the over-arching story of God is a progression from human understanding of tit-for-tat, quid pro quo, to a godly love that extends beyond anything that can be broken like a childish earthly contract. It’s the divine understanding of God’s love — not just that God loves us, but that God is the embodiment of perfect love. The-Beatles-featuring-Yoda-all-you-need-is-love

     It’s almost trite… maybe it is trite: God is Love. Throughout scripture there are references to the covenants between God and humanity, between people and other people, husbands and wives and children. Love is the root of all relationships that truly affect a person’s life. What kind of covenant can one have with God? What agreement is there to be had with the very embodiment of Love? The only covenant a person can have with Love is to love. The only way to break a covenant of love is to withhold love, yet even then love sometimes breaks through. 

     That is the covenant God kept trying to get through to the writers of scripture. Many interpreted it in legal context, but in a lot of places the message made it through with blazing clarity. This is the only law, the only dogma, the only doctrine. Whatever name you use to call out to the Architect of life, if you are calling on the Author of Love, then you’ve found a covenant of ultimate freedom; what the whole idea of a covenant was meant to be from the beginning of time to the end to time-outside-of-time.

Your first Scotch done right

If learning to drink Scotch is on your to-do list, here are a few tips.

First, if you’ve never had it, try some real cheap-ass blended Scotch Whisky (note the lack of ‘e’ in Whisky – this is important – Scotch is Whisky, not whiskey). Cutty Sark should do. It will be terrible, but you will respect the drink. Now don’t fade out on me here. Get back on the horse and get some GOOD Scotch. Easiest-drinking stuff out there (that’s reasonably affordable between US$40-$60 per fifth) is the Glenmorangie “Quinta Ruban”, or my personal favourite, the Balvenie 12-year “Double wood.” Their “Caribbean Cask” is also heavenly.whisky-scotch

You also might like to try a Scotch from Islay, like Bowmore or Laphroaig (pronounced, la-FROY). Laphroiag is well described by people who enjoy it as, “Like getting kicked in the mouth by a horse who’s been galloping through a peaty bog.” Also, I’ve heard it said that, “A nip of Laphroaig is akin to licking the wet residue of a chimney sweep’s broom.”  Yumm! (No, really – I seriously like that kind of thing.) In all actuality, it is just a very smokey-tasting whisky from an island internationally known for distilleries that produce liquid camp fires and bottling it as Scotch. It is truly a phenomenal experience to try.

How to drink it:
Do not EVER put more than one ice cube in a fine single-malt Scotch, or else you’ll be wasting your money and some burly lad will show up at your door in a kilt, Tam O’ Shanter on his red mass of curly hair, and a Claymore on his hairy back,  seize your bottle of whisky from your startled grasp with a silent glare telling you in no uncertain terms that you’ve been very naughty indeed, and if you’re lucky, do you the honour of punching you in the mouth for insulting the homeland. If you must have it on the rocks, one ice cube is enough, and you won’t be run out of the Highlands for it; some distillers actually recommend a single rock. Traditionally, it’s either neat (nothing but Scotch) or a splash of pure, distilled water which is good for cutting through the ‘skin’ layer and opening up the whisky so you can have a proper taste. Don’t waft it like a wanna-be wine connoisseur. Give it just a minute to breathe, then stick your nose straight doon the glass to take in the aroma. Get a breath of fresh air, then do it again. People put their lives into this drink, some went to prison for it, and some have died defending their family distillery. It’s worth-while putting a little effort into enjoying; stories always add to the flavour.™ Take a careful sip, slosh it around, hold it for a moment, and let the gold liquor slide down your gullet into a grateful belly. Now think about what you’ve done. The malt from which it came grew and was harvested in one of the most beautiful places on Earth (Don’t believe me, bring up Scotland on Google Earth and see for yourself – better yet go there — even better yet, move there and help the economy by dutifully paying taxes). You’ve got water that’s filtered through the graves of a million Scottish and Pictish warriors, poets, inventors, and farmers travelling through your pipes. Just what the hell are you going to do with the rest of your life to compare with that one sip, eh? Now their story is a part of yours.

Quite a responsibility, aye.

Think mebbe I’ll go and have a wee dram more responsibility.