Saturday, July 27, 2019

“An Ambush of Angels” - July 28, 2019

II Kings 6:8-23

            English can be a playful language sometimes.  One of those ways shows up in our collective terms.  Here’s a little game to demonstrate.  What do you call a group of…

                        Sheep?                         Flock
                        Cattle?                         Herd
                        Dogs?                          Pack
Fish?                            School
                        Lions?                         Pride
                        Crows?                        Murder
                        Penguins?                    Huddle
                        Snails?                         Escargotoire
                        Owls?                          Parliament
                        Salamanders?              Congress

Continuing on those lines, I know that a group of angels may be a choir, but I want to propose that the better term might be “an ambush”.

            This morning’s reading presents part of my reasoning.  It comes from the time when the original kingdom of David and Solomon had split into two countries.  The southern kingdom, Judah, had Jerusalem for its capital.  Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom, Israel.  When we pick up the story today, we find the Israelite city of Dothan waking up to find itself surrounded by the armies of the King of Aram.  Inside the walls of Dothan was the prophet Elisha who had been targeted for capture.  One of Elisha’s servants panicked as they looked out at the hostile army.

“’Alas, master!  What shall we do?’  He replied, ‘Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.’  Then Elisha prayed: ‘O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.’  So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  [II Kings 6:15-17]

Thus began one of the oddest battles recorded in the Bible.  The hostile army was struck blind, not dead.  Elisha offered to lead them to safety, and he took them straight to Samaria, where they regained their sight, now surrounded by Israelite soldiers and standing in front of the Israelite king.

            The king’s first instinct was what you would expect, but this was Elisha’s battle, and

“he said, ‘Father, shall I kill them?  Shall I kill them?’  He answered, ‘No!  Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill?  Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.’” [II Kings 6:21-22]

If they were killed, this would have been just another battle, and just another reason for revenge.  Feeding them put them under obligation as guests who could not lift up a weapon against their host.  Sending them home would let them tell the story – not just one of them, but the whole group – about how Israel’s God was fighting for his people and why you don’t want to mess with him.  That would be effective defense for at least a generation or two.

            The angels had got the jump on them, and they never saw it coming.

            All too often, we believe that we have to fight our own fights alone, and don’t realize that God has placed allies of all sorts at our side.  First and foremost is his own Holy Spirit, who moved across the face of the deep at creation, and by whose presence in the life of a girl named Mary the Son of God came to take on human flesh, and who works in and through all who live by faith in the Son.  But there are others who help, under the Spirit’s guidance.

            The word “angel” simply means “messenger”.  An angel is one who brings us a message from God, whether it’s a word of challenge or comfort or courage.  An angel might be some heavenly creature, some being sent from God directly.  That’s what John Wesley was thinking when he wrote his sermon “Of Good Angels”, where he points out that, as was the experience of Elisha’s servant, God’s help for us is very real and direct but not always visible or simple to identify unless someone opens our eyes to it.  Of such messengers, he says,

“Is it not their first care to minister to our souls?  But we must not expect this will be done with observation; in such a manner, as that we may clearly distinguish their working from the workings of our own minds. We have no more reason to look for this, than for their appearing in a visible shape. Without this, they can, in a thousand ways, apply to our understanding. They may assist us in our search after truth, remove many doubts and difficulties, throw light on what was before dark and obscure, and confirm us in the truth that is after godliness. They may warn us of evil in disguise; and place what is good, in a clear, strong light. They may gently move our will to embrace what is good, and fly from that which is evil. They may, many times, quicken our dull affections, increase our holy hope or filial fear, and assist us more ardently to love Him who has first loved us.”[1]

In this he stresses, as I would also, that what matters is not so much the messenger, but the message.

            There are people who pay way too much attention to things which are not central to faith.  There is such a thing as superstition, and if someone is surrounding herself or himself with magic medallions or candles or suchlike, and emphasizing angelic presences or heavenly visions or spirits, that is probably walking way too close to idolatry.  In the book of Revelation, John gets a message from God in a vision where an angel speaks to him.  John bows down at his feet and the angel cuts that sort of thing off right away.

“You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades who hold the testimony of Jesus.  Worship God!”  [Revelation 19:10]

A lot of outright pagan practices disguise themselves by claiming connection to angels or saints.  A real angel, instead, will call as little possible attention to itself and as much as possible to God.

            That’s why it isn’t just the armies that confront us that may be ambushed.  We ourselves may be suddenly and unexpectedly shocked by the hidden grace of God that surrounds our lives at even the least dramatic moments, although those may turn out to be the ones that wear us down and where we need backup the most.  A poem written by Gail White is entitled, “Written on the Head of a Pin”.

“The car breaks down with appalling
regularity.  If I have bronchitis,
three credit cards overdrawn and no love
affair going and the white cat died,
it breaks down just the same.  The
clutch goes, the linkages slip,
it blows a gasket, runs a piston
rod through the engine block. 
Today it’s the brakes, so I’ve done
the shopping on foot.  And feeling
slightly suicidal, I look
around me for signs of hope. 
Now is the time for a messenger. 
Time for a drink and sitting
in the backyard; a good time for any
passing dragonfly, mockingbird, fieldmouse,
or calico cat to say, ‘I am Gabriel. 
I stand in the presence of God.’”

I remember reading that poem in The Christian Century sometime many years ago and cutting it out, not quite sure why.  I stuck it in a book where I found it this past week and something tells me …  Or maybe I’m just being silly, but …

“The Lord opened the eyes of the servant and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.”  [II Kings 6:17]

Saturday, July 20, 2019

"Faith and Gadgetry" - July 21, 2019

II Kings 6:1-7

            Elisha was apparently associated with several miracles.  Those that involve healing or the deliverance of a nation from invasion we can appreciate.  The one that we have heard about this morning, where he made an ax head float, is just weird.  At best it sounds like some sort of magic trick.  There’s more to it, though, and to get at that I want to tell another story.

            My Aunt Dot worked for the town of Tonawanda, NY for many years.  I am not entirely sure what all she did, but I do know that it involved typing.  It must have involved a lot of typing, because she developed carpal tunnel syndrome from it.  Many years after she retired, she was typing away on a computer keyboard and drinking an orange soda, two activities that don’t always go well together.  First, she spilled the soda onto the keyboard.  Then she grabbed some paper towels and began running them over the keys to soak things up.  Do you know what can happen if you just press on random keys?  It occurred to her that she should maybe unplug it after that, which was a good move considering that the next thing she did was to keep the whole thing from getting sticky was to take a wet dishrag and wipe it all down.  She let it dry but it still felt sticky, so she sprayed everything again with windex before she plugged it in again, only to find that the screen was filled with funny lines and the machine was making odd noises.

            She was not dumb.   Everything that she did would have made sense if she had been using a manual typewriter, or even an electric typewriter – and, yes, there were luxurious IBM Selectric models whose use overlapped with current technology.  My aunt, whose mind was at the start of what would eventually become a profound forgetfulness, had simply begun to revert to the more familiar side of the technological divide that she had lived through.

            The story of Elisha and the floating ax head is hard for us to appreciate fully because it comes to us from a time of even deeper transition.  The situation involves woodcutting, not typing.

“When they came to the Jordan, when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.  But as one was felling a log, his ax head fell into the water.”  [II Kings 6:4-5a]

So far, it’s pretty normal.  Anyone who has used an axe knows that they break.  That’s one of those things they taught us in Boy Scouts; never stand near someone using an axe or a hatchet in case the head flies off or the haft, the handle, breaks.  Listen to the woodcutter’s response, though, when that happened here, and the ax head flew into the river.

“He cried out, ‘Alas, master!  It was borrowed.’” [II Kings 6:5b]

Maybe you’ve had to borrow a chainsaw.  When was the last time you had to borrow an ax?  It’s one of the basic tools of survival.  If you were going to build yourself a cabin, it’s one of those things that you would be sure to keep on hand.  The fact that this one was borrowed is a reminder that, as one commentary puts it,
“Whereas axes were relatively inexpensive in modern times, they were not so in ancient Israel, where iron was scarce and, in time of war, largely reserved for military use.”[1]

It wasn’t just that iron ore was scarce.  In the same way that national security leads us to restrict the sharing of certain types of technology, the ability to smelt iron was not general and, in some cases, was controlled knowledge.  A few generations earlier, according to the First Book of Samuel,

“there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines had said, ‘The Hebrews must not make swords or spears for themselves.’” [I Samuel 13:19]

We are right here at the end of the Bronze Age.  Iron is cutting edge technology. 

A lost ax head is equivalent to having a company’s entire IT system go down.  Since the ax was borrowed, it wasn’t just the user who would feel the loss, but the owner as well, and anyone else who might have benefitted from the blade later on.  That’s how these things work.  The summer after I graduated from high school I worked on data entry in the financial aid office at Swarthmore College.  One day a question that I did not quite understand appeared on my screen and since it was a yes-or-no question I figured I had a 50-50 chance and pressed the button for “yes”.  Then the screen froze.  It stayed frozen until the end of the day, when my boss came in holding a pile of paper about two feet thick.  “This,” she said, “is a print-out of the entire financial aid package for every student in the school.”  At that time, they were working on a mainframe and there was one printer for the whole system.  They would call you when your work was done and you could pick it up, which is what she had done.  For most of the day this had been the only document printed on campus, while all the other jobs had waited in line behind it.

We laugh about this stuff.  We get a chuckle when Grandpa puts his milk in the icebox. But not all the effects of changing technology are benign or trivial.  Not all have to do with getting used to new programs or gadgets or terminology.

What happens to people when a new technology is out of reach, like an ax head that is underwater?  Huge social changes come about because of what might be called (at least later on) technical progress.  Some of those changes may be painful to live through and there are people who are just not up to it.  When an old industry slows down or dies out, not everyone can simply move smoothly into another field.  Some are too old and by the time they retrain, no one wants to hire them, or they have financial obligations that they cannot meet on an entry-level wage.  Some do not have the ability to learn whatever the up-and-coming fields require.  Some who would move with the job market are limited by obligations to family.  Others who might be able to overcome all of this face a degree of depression and anxiety too great for them. 

You see some people give up.  Look where you find the greatest trafficking in illegal drugs and you can pretty much track where the changes of our own day have upset the earlier patterns without replacing them with others.  If people are shooting up in abandoned factories and vacant houses, maybe those buildings themselves bear witness to the connection between a lack of meaningful opportunity and drug use.  There are almost stereotypical images that link rural poverty to the establishment of meth labs.  One report from the National Institutes of Health states the obvious:

“In Central Appalachia, focus groups have identified economic disparity, unemployment, and under-education as characteristics that may increase both substance use and treatment failure.”[2]

In other words, when the ax head sinks into the mud, everything else goes along.  Without the tools, you cannot get the work done.

            That’s why it’s imperative not to lose sight of the way that God, through Elisha, made a piece of iron float back up from the bottom of the Jordan river.  That’s the same river where Naaman’s deadly leprosy was cured.  It’s the same river where Jesus would be baptized and the Holy Spirit would settle on him like a dove.  At the direction of Elisha, the man of God, the iron ax blade floated back up to the surface.

“He said, ‘Pick it up.’ So he reached out his hand and took it.” [II Kings 6:7]

More is happening here than a veiled promise that if you just give everything enough time it will all work out.  That is just not true.  There have been many places and many societies and many people who have not been able to steer through times of profound change.  Some have collapsed.  But the same report I just read from about conditions in Central Appalachia goes on almost immediately to say this:

“Characteristics such as strong faith in God, strong family ties, strong sense of pride, and valuing self-sufficiency, on the other hand, may act as preventative factors and help to bolster treatment effectiveness in the region.”
I love it that the first characteristic it identifies as a source of hope, even for people who have gone under in some way, is “strong faith in God”. 

            Change is going to happen.  We are not still living in the Bronze Age.  We don’t just use iron to cut lumber to build homes.  We use steel itself as the framework for skyscrapers and barns alike.  God does not put technological change on hold for us, but does help us negotiate the difficulties that come with it.  Not all change is good, but faith helps us to evaluate the good and the bad, that we may choose wisely and, when there are unintended consequences, respond with compassion and care to the people who get left out or get caught in the middle, because there are a lot of them around.

            Over in Mont Clare on Canal Day last month, I read the history of the old Lock Keeper’s house that sits back behind St. Michael’s playground.  It was built at a time when the Schuylkill Canal was busy.  Someone had to be on call twenty-four hours a day to maintain and run the lock, and sometimes to deal with problems among the barge workers who came through.  Eventually, though, the freight traffic shifted to the railroads, and later to trucking, and the canal closed down.  But no one forced the last lock-keeper, or his sister and nephew who lived with him, to leave the house that was their home.  Change came, but caring was already there, and because of the caring, change brought hardship but not catastrophe.


[1] Choon-Leong Seow in The New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. III (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 199.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

“God and Greed” - July 14, 2019

II Kings 5:15-16, 19-27

            Money itself is not bad.  It is a convenient method of getting things done, and unless you live in a society that works by bartering, money is a necessity of life.  I cannot go up to the window at Dairy Queen and offer the girl at the counter two peppers and a zucchini for a chocolate blizzard.  Using money, a commonly-accepted standard of exchange, makes it possible for us to regulate the relative worth of physical commodities, people’s work, their skills, their time, and so forth.  Whether it is hard currency or credit on the books, quarters or bitcoin, it makes our interactions far simpler and smoother than they would be if we were exchanging a can of sardines for five minutes of internet access.

            The problems start when money becomes a tool for manipulation instead of simplification, for controlling relationships instead of making them easier.  Power and prestige push in.  That doesn’t happen because of money, but it shows up in the way money can be misused.

            Today’s Bible reading picks up on last week’s.  Naaman the Syrian had traveled to Israel to find healing for the leprosy that he contracted.  After some preliminary difficulties centering on his own pride, he finally did as the prophet Elisha directed him and washed seven times in the Jordan River and was cured.  So far so good.

            He went back to thank Elisha.

“Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.’  But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!’  He urged him to accept, but he refused.”  [II Kings 5:15-16]

Elisha himself had done nothing.  He had simply passed on directions from God.  He certainly had not cured Naaman himself.  That was God’s doing, and God’s alone.  To accept a gift, which to be fair probably was meant as a gift, was coming too close to looking like accepting payment.  That would have been tantamount to putting himself in the place of God.

            Now, here I have to step onto uncomfortable territory.  We’ve got a church to run, here.  We have electric bills and water bills to pay.  I also collect a salary and get good benefits.  I am very grateful for that, and aware of where the money in the budget comes from.  So I’m going to make a distinction here, and I believe it’s a valid one, but something to keep a close eye on.  That is to say that there’s a difference between supporting the human work that goes into an organization and somehow thinking that God’s work is in any way bought or sold.

            Since this comes up in connection with a story about a healing, I’ll point out that doctors are far better at openly addressing such matters than clergy.  More than once I have heard a doctor remark, “God does the healing and the doctor collects the fee.”  Hawkeye Pierce even said that on MASH one time.  In mental health circles, there’s the old joke that says a neurotic builds a castle in the air, a psychotic lives there, and a psychiatrist collects the rent.

            Elisha’s servant Gehazi didn’t see what God had done for Naaman.  He saw what Naaman could do for him.

“But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, thought, ‘My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered.  As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.’” [II Kings 5:19-20]

Which he did.  He made up a story about how the money was needed for the ministry, but it was really for himself. 

            Gehazi has many successors, some of whom make him look like a total bumbler.  Kenneth Copeland is a TV preacher who bought Tyler Perry’s private jet.  I guess he was being financially prudent, even frugal, by buying a secondhand plane instead of a new one.  “He made that airplane so cheap for me, I couldn’t help but buy it.”[1]  That’s a direct quote from an interview I watched online when a reporter ran up to him to ask about it.  The whole interchange is well worth watching.  Just don’t do it on a full stomach.  He goes into amazing convolutions about why he cannot be ready to preach if he flies commercial.  He also admits that he uses the plane to visit his vacation homes.  (That’s “homes” with an ‘s’.)

            Elisha called Gehazi to account.  When we do our job, the religious community as a whole does the same.  It’s only by honest recognition of how things can and do go wrong, of how people’s vulnerability can be and far too often is misused, that we can maintain any kind of credibility with the world as a whole – but most importantly before God, who looks into hearts and minds. 

            In our day the so-called “prosperity gospel” preachers teach that if you give them money, that it will be a sign of faith and God will therefore bless you with more and more wealth.  That appeals to the desperation of exactly the people who have the least, and who therefore feel that they have nothing to lose.  It’s the same dynamic that puts the majority of lottery tickets into the hands of the poor. 

            Naaman could easily afford the money that Gehazi took from him.  What he could not afford, and what Gehazi’s greed took advantage of, was his newly-developing understanding of how God works.  Elisha’s refusal of his gift highlighted that you don’t need to buy God’s goodness, and that it isn’t ever for sale anyway.  Gehazi’s little scam threatened to undermine that.  The Bible doesn’t say what happened to the money.  I hope it was sent back.  What it does say is that God had shown Elisha what had happened and Elisha knew enough not to sweep it under the carpet.

God bless auditors and accountants!  Say what you will about denominational structures and organizational bureaucracies.  They make mistakes.  They can become creaky and cumbersome.  Yet they provide oversight and answerability that does more than just keep people honest out of fear that they might get caught.  Even when they do only an average job, they keep God’s people focused on real ministry and help hold greed at a distance. 

Money is not a bad thing.  Greed is.  John Wesley put it well when he said, “Earn all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can.”  The Bible, of course, puts it best of all:

“Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.”  [I Timothy 6:6-8]

Saturday, July 6, 2019

“Restoration” - July 7, 2019

II Kings 5:1-14

            The Syrian general Naaman was in big trouble.  He had contracted leprosy, and the disease would be fatal.  In the course of it, he would also find himself cut off from contact with others as what we would now call a public health measure.  It would mean permanent quarantine.  A man in his position probably would not be driven away into the wilderness, as happened to most lepers.  People with his kind of power and prestige were treated slightly better.  In Israel, when King Uzziah was struck with the disease, he could not stay in the palace, but they built him a separate house [II Kings 15:5] and his son Jotham ruled as regent until his death.  Essentially, though, he was kept in isolation until he died.  That might have been the best that Naaman could have expected – permanent solitary confinement on an aristocratic death row.

            Word of his situation got around his household.  His wife and his servants could see what was going on.  After all, it was a disease that showed up on the skin, and eventually it would not be able to be hidden.  The king had become aware of the situation already, too, and would not let Naaman stick around indefinitely, though he may have been reluctant to lose the service of someone who apparently was an effective officer.  During the short window of time before it became public knowledge, Naaman must have become desperate.  He grasped at straws, taking the recommendation of one of his wife’s slaves, a girl taken captive in Israel.

“She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  [That would have been Elisha.]  He would cure him of his leprosy.’  So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said, ‘Go, then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’”  [II Kings 5:3-5]

So off went a sort of combined military and diplomatic expedition that showed up on the doorstep of the king of Israel, ordering Naaman’s cure.  The king of Israel figured that this was a setup to provide a pretext for another invasion.  He couldn’t cure this man, but if he disobeyed his overlord’s order then he risked punishment.

            Enter Elisha, who heard about things and sent a message saying that he could take care of the situation.  Naaman was sent on his way.  He arrived at Elisha’s house with his horses and chariots [II Kings 5:9], and here’s when it got interesting.  To this point it has been a story of politics.  It’s about to become a story about faith.

            Elisha left Naaman outside.  He didn’t receive him.  He didn’t greet him.  He did send a servant out, who told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan and then go home.  [II Kings 5:10]  It’s a borderline insult, and Naaman took it as more than borderline.  He was not being treated in the fashion to which he had become accustomed. 

“Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ’I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!”  [II Kings 5:11]

That little “for me” says a lot.  He figured he deserved special treatment.  It was not enough to be blessed with life and health.  He had to be recognized as the powerful, mighty Naaman!  Who is this Elisha, and who is this Elisha’s God, to be so unimpressed?

            It was a good thing for Naaman that his servants understood how to manage and how to handle him.  You get the feeling this was not the first tantrum that he had thrown.  They protected his fragile little ego, and talked him into going along with the process.

“Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean?’”  [II Kings 5:13]

What they didn’t see is that Elisha had, in fact, asked him to do something difficult – at least for Naaman.  That was to accept God’s gift as something unearned, as what we call “grace”.  God would (and did) bless him, but it would not be because God was impressed with Naaman’s riches and power, but because God was aware of his need.

            There was even a need that Naaman didn’t see.  Left to progress, his leprosy would cut him off from human contact, but Naaman’s pride had already turned to arrogance toward the people around him and, left to progress, would lead him to turn away from the God who could restore him not only physically, but in relationship to those people and to God himself.  On God’s behalf, Elisha had presented a true challenge to Naaman: “Get over yourself.”  Only then would there be a real cure, both body and soul.

            I submit to you that this is a challenge we all face.  We all have to learn, one way or another, to accept God’s love at face value, pure and simple, when so much of the world tells us that what matters is our wealth or our achievement or our beauty or our intelligence or how many friends we have – pick your measure of self-worth.  None of that is any measure of our God-worth.  That comes from God alone, and if there is any kind of requirement for us to be restored to our fullest being, that requirement is to trust God and to take the love that he offers, a love so entire that Jesus lay down his life so that we could be enveloped by it.

            When Naaman gave up on impressing anybody, he was cured.

            When we accept God’s gift of grace as a gift, our life in Christ, our real life, begins.

            On July 16, 2011, in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, people had gathered from all across Europe for the funeral of Otto von Hapsburg.  The service was presided over by the Archbishop of Vienna and there was a full orchestra.  At the end they sang the “Kaiserhymne”, the Austrian equivalent of “God Save the King”.  Soldiers in ancient uniforms picked up a coffin covered with a flag embroidered with his complicated coat of arms and in a cloud of incense hundreds of people lined up behind it to process on foot to the Capuchin monastery where the imperial crypt is found.

            As had happened before at the funerals of his predecessors, when they arrived they found the front door closed and locked.  The Master of Ceremonies knocked three times.  A voice came from inside.

“Prior: Who desires entry?
MC: Otto of Austria; once Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary; Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and the Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, of Oświęcim and Zator, Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. etc.
Prior: We do not know him.
(The MC knocks thrice)
Prior: Who desires entry?
MC: Dr. Otto von Habsburg, President and Honorary President of the Paneuropean Union, Member and quondam President of the European Parliament, honorary doctor of many universities, honorary citizen of many cities in Central Europe, member of numerous venerable academies and institutes, recipient of high civil and ecclesiastical honours, awards, and medals, which were given him in recognition of his decades-long struggle for the freedom of peoples for justice and right.
Prior: We do not know him.
(The MC knocks thrice)
Prior: Who desires entry?
MC: Otto, a mortal and sinful man.
Prior: Then let him come in.”[1]