Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chiasms and Similes and new efforts, Oh, My!

In seminary we learned things about how the Bible is written - you will recognize them as I write them: there are poems, Psalms of lament and joy and wonder and prayer. There are narrative stories by those who wrote the Gospels and there are first hand experiences such as those relayed by Saul of Tarsus now known as Paul. There some writing styles called chiasms where certain ideas are repeated. In their repeating they are alphabetically differentiated so that “A” is equal to “A-.” As an example, in looking at the substance of part of Genesis we learn that certain themes repeat themselves. In Genesis 2:4-4:1, early talk of generations is equal to “A” and later talk predicting birth of a child becomes “A-” even when “A-” occurs may verses later. For some reason, I really liked this in my Hebrew Scriptures class.

In addition to the above, there are similes and metaphors that are used to say how one thing is like a second. A grammar site (knowgramming.com) differentiates the two:

A good book is like a good meal. A simile suggesting that a book may be as (mentally) nourishing and satisfying as a meal.
A wire is a road for electrons. A metaphor suggesting that electrons actually do use a wire as a road to travel on.

The simile is what I choose for writing this day for Tuesday Thoughts. The simile of a community and a church. (I won’t belabor the point by saying how the two may be different.)

To the point! Last weekend was Dickens weekend in our community. People drive from all over Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and as far as Maryland, Virginia and Ohio to experience this interesting and fun weekend. Motel reservations are made one year in advance. This is an important weekend for our local merchants and though many in the community know most of what is happening, they volunteer to help various art organizations, choirs, acting troops and community theatre to assure that success of this annual fete.

On Saturday, weather was perfect reading 0 C on the digital bank clock, no wind and to top it off, we had snowflakes floating through the air sticking to eyelashes and faux fur collars of coats. As is the custom at this time of year, most everyone was holding hands as they walked, smiling up and down the streets, and I did not hear one cross child at all. The 5PM peace walk brought 40-50 walkers going toward the town green where several hundred gathered to listen to a few carols and light the Christmas tree.

I had volunteered to sell clam chowder for Kiwanis from 10 to noon. I walked to town early to look over the vendors’ wares brought to tempt me though I knew I might only purchase one item: a carved Christmas tree (apparently the line formed at 5:30AM and I was too late at 8:30 - even though selling was not to begin until 9AM). After walking and touching and restraining myself, I got to the Kiwanis booth at 9:50 and sold clam chowder - $3.50 for each 8 oz cup: oyster crackers and salt and pepper optional.

While at the booth, others from the community were helping in some way make this weekend a success. Some acted in one of two indoor staged presentations of “A Christmas Carol.” As I left the Kiwanis stand, hands frozen, to return home for awhile, evidence of other community helpers abounded: one of the impromptu theatre troops performed in the middle of the street affecting a Dickinsonian-like gathering. All were dressed in period clothing and participating with good cheer. Half a block away, youth with top hats and rosy cheeks gathered to sing carols. I know, though I did not go, the Presbyterian Church offered soup to warm the innards and music was played at the Gmainer Art Center to give folks a reason to be out of the cold for a few minutes of warmth.

It was, in short, a group of community citizens partnering with merchants and the arts to make this tourist weekend a success. This, in chiasmic terms, becomes “A.”

This “community action” reminds me of church (the simile). One person begins an effort and others, wanting to see success, help in whatever way they can. Our Fourth Sunday Supper is like this. At first, during a congregational meeting, a few brave folk voted to host this supper each month. We decided to give it a try. Not something that could be thought of as “easy-peasy.” There are responsibilities: getting congregation members to prepare food or have food donated, then cooking, then setting tables, collecting and washing dirty dishes and table wear, making sure the floor is clean before we leave and disposing of the trash. But each month, people gather to make this a success. We are into this 18 months and still going strong. Depending upon the weekend, as many as 90 people come to eat, to talk with others and to listen (perhaps line dance) to live music. All for free - with no preaching. It is our way to be Christian in the community.

Lately, I have noticed that some who hear about us come to help. Someone may bring an extra pie, a couple helps in the kitchen even to cleaning the floor at the end of the evening. Others - whether within our community or outside of it - send money to help defray expenses. Monthly, musicians offer music for two hours.

In short, this is a group of caring individuals partnering with others and each other to make this meal a success. This part of a chiasm would be labeled “A-” and be the completing component of a symmetrical depiction of community.

“A” and “A-” combined is the simile: showing how one community event may be likened to another. In this case, both are a success though of course, the simile could be used to depict a terrible event. At this time of the year, I tend to want to be Pollyannaish even as I seek similes for Sunday’s sermon on John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-11).

This is exciting: We are preparing to add another (less demanding) activity to reach others as we continue being Jesus-like Christians in our community. Stay tuned for this new effort.

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