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Archive for February 6th, 2016


Judges 11 and 12: Shibboleth

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo - The Tate Modern, London

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo – The Tate Modern, London, UK

From WIKIPEDIA: “In numerous cases of conflict between groups speaking different languages or dialects, one side used shibboleths . . . to discover hiding members of the opposing group . . . Today, in the English language, a shibboleth also has a wider meaning, referring to any ‘in-crowd’ word or phrase that can be used to distinguish members of a group from outsiders – even when not used by a hostile other group”.

As we read today’s Noontime, we see how the early tribes of Israel struggled to retain autonomy; we also see that they lived in a world which required people to evaluate loyalty . . . their daily survival depended on this.

In our own world, we will use our own shibboleths ­ – either consciously or unconsciously – and when we do, what are the results?  Do we find ourselves closer to God or more distant?  Are we moving toward serenity and union with God, or away from the eternal peace brought by Jesus?  Do our shibboleths introduce us to the freedom bought by Christ or do they sell us out to an imprisonment which stifles us?

The story of the chieftain Jephthah reads like the script of a television drama – full of twists, promises, ironies and secret shibboleths.  Loyalties are tested, wars are waged, outcomes are weighed; yet in the end it is the spirit of the Lord that prevails.  Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord and loses his beloved daughter Mizpah; he also conquers nations in the name of his God.  Much of this is difficult to understand; most of it is hard to take; all of it is – in some way or other – the way we live today.

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

As we move through our own cycle of coming and going, let us examine the vows we swear, the skirmishes in which we engage, and our manner of waiting on the spirit of the Lord.  And when we begin to winnow the valid from the false in order to survive, let us examine the shibboleths we choose.

A Favorite from Friday, February 12, 2010.

 As we approach Ash Wednesday, a time of inner reflection, we have another opportunity to explore God’s yardstick in our lives, and to put aside the false shibboleths that mislead us.

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