Sunday, October 11, 2015

More Palaver about Parables

“You know, it almost comes as a relief to hear a cantata that isn’t particularly inspired,” I told Lady. “It’s reassuring that there were times when Bach relied just on skill, as well as a tried-and-true model. Because otherwise, he would have been running around Leipzig on a perpetual inspirational bender. I mean, you do have to sober up once in a while….”

“So what was it?” said Lady.

“BWV 162, also known as Ach! Ich sehe jetzt da ich zur Hochzeit gehe.”

“’Ah, I see, now as I go to the wedding,’” said Lady, who knows no German. She is, however, a resourceful girl, and has probably stumbled onto the same website as I— —which is as exhaustive as it is unpolished. Want to remember what the web looked like when you had dial-up? Check out the site…

“The good news is that the other two cantatas are knockouts,” I told. “Which is somewhat surprising, given that the texts for the 20th Sunday after Advent are really pretty nasty. First we get Ephesians—and if I’ve ever read Ephesians before, this will hardly lure me to start again. We have to walk circumspectly, and not waste time, and not get drunk, and sing songs of praise and give constant thanks to God for all he’s done for us.”

“Well, I’m generally on board with that, though I do have a glass of wine occasionally with dinner. Oh, and beer with lunch.”

“You are perilously close to falling into the sinner’s path,” I told her. True, but it has to be said, when it comes to drunkenness, I virtually marked the trail.

“Anyway, I walk circumspectly, I think,” I told her. “But the rest of the reading is pretty appalling. It’s another parable, and trust me, there’s every reason it’s not better known. Try this: Jesus said that heaven is like the marriage of the king’s son.”

“Say what?”

“So the king prepared the wedding for his son, and sent out all the invites. But guess what? Everybody ignored them…”

“What kind of idiot would ignore a king’s invitation? I’d be out shopping for something to wear….”

“Of course you would, but so sunk in depravity have these heathen fallen that they ignore the king’s invitation.”

“Totally stupid.”

“And it gets worse, because some people, travelling well past Ignore get to the town of Murder. OK—the King James says it better: And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

“Are these guys total morons?”

“Things like this happen in the Bible, and anyway, it’s all metaphor, unless, of course you’re evangelical, in which case every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and thus true.”

“But the Bible is full of contradictions,” cried Lady, “starting with the little detail of where Jesus was born!”

“OK—but now the king gets really pissed. OK, in the King James, he was wroth, which you have to admit is not where you want your king to be.”

“Most certainly not,” said Lady, “and you have to promise me, Marc, that you’ll never be wroth with me….”

“How could I be wroth with you when you just texted me yesterday, ‘Just to let you know that I’m thinking of you.’”

“Indeed I was.”

“Though I did find it curious that you then said, ‘now I’m going to take a nap.’ Is thinking of me so tiring an activity? Or worse, so boring?”

“Never,” said Lady. “It’s just that you tend to call me after I text you. Admit it—you’ve figured out how to receive texts, but not to respond!”

“The feet of ancients tread slowly in the meadows of technology,” I told her. “Anyway, I certainly would have sent polite regrets to the king, even if I hadn’t gone to the damn wedding.”

“Hey, what happened to those guys?”

“Next verse: he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

“Good for him,” said Lady. “He’s clearly both kingly and Biblical at the same time!”

“Then the king dreams up his next bright idea, which is to go round up whatever stray humans can be found on the streets, and they at least had the grace to come, although who knows? Maybe they were forced? But is the king satisfied? No, because one of the guests is not wearing a wedding garment.”

“Wait a minute—aren’t you supposed to indicate the dress code? You know, ‘formal attire,’ or whatever.”

“Now here’s where it gets interesting, since the king asks him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? Direct quote, King James, by the way.”

“Well, reasonable question….”

“Except for what then happens, which is—prepare yourself for more King James—Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“I love this king!” cried Lady. “Just the kind of man I adore: strong, decisive, and not afraid to cause a little weeping and gnashing of the teeth.”

“You and Sylvia Plath. Remember “Daddy?”

Every woman adores a Fascist,   
The boot in the face, the brute   
Brute heart of a brute like you. 

“Poetic license,” said Lady. “Though sadly, there’s sometimes some truth in it. Anyway, is this parable done yet? I have some casitas to paint.”

“It ends with one of the 16 zillion famous lines in the Bible: Many are called, but few are chosen.”

“Hmm, could apply to poets, too. Well, get to work. You should be able to do better than that, though I’ll give you free coffee for a week if you trump the last line.”

“Tomorrow,” I told her. After all, how much spirituality can I muster, even if it is the 20th Sunday after Advent?