A Soap Opera for Pentecost.


2013-05-20 by bean481


Preacher: Phil Wood
19th May 2013
Reading: Genesis 11:1-9 (referenced/quoted later in sermon)

Of all the stories coming out of Syria it isn’t only horror on a grand scale that lodges in the mind.  Two accounts from the past fortnight offer more intimate accounts of suffering.  The first, the destruction of the Franciscan church and convent at Deir Azzor, was carried out by U.S. backed rebels.  Fr Tony Haddad, Vice-Provincial of the Friars for the Near East said ‘there are no more Christians’. He continued, “The church of stones can be rebuilt one day, when a spring of peace will appear in our Middle East”.

  Inline images 1
Aleppo Soap (creative commons image)

In a second account, Nabil Andoura, a soap-maker from Aleppo describes how he fled to Lebanon.  Made with laurel leaves, soda and olive oil, Aleppo soap, is widely believed to be the oldest example of soap-making. For centuries, the soap factories were hidden in Aleppo’s souk and traded in the market.  Last month however Andoura fled the country, taking refuge in Beirut.  He says, “A person like me – I am 56 years old – I’ve lost everything. I lost my hard work. I lost my history.” News of buildings levelled, communities displaced and trades uprooted is the everyday backdrop to the Syrian conflict.  Wherever, war touches civilian populations, everyday life is often the first addition to the casualty list.  It has been this way for many thousands of years.  There is an irony in the history, that Aleppo’s famous soap was introduced to Europe by returning Crusaders.
The making of soap has been supplanted by newer and less benign crafts.  What clever chemist produced the gas canisters, reportedly dropped from Syrian government helicopters, near the city of Aleppo?  The same imagination contrived soap and sarin.

Genesis 11:1-9

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.
2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.
6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.
7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.
9 That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Today is Pentecost and our readings are taken from Genesis 11:1-9 and the story of Babel.  Read the account of Cain’s descendents a few chapters earlier and you will soon find a pattern emerging.  The same creativity that marks out craftsmanship or agriculture is turned to hubristic urban planning, military hardware and self-aggrandizing architectural folly.  It is technological development that enables Babel.  In place of the hidden intimacy of traditional skills, the expansionist builders of Genesis 11 wish to make a name for themselves.
Whatever else Pentecost is, it is not only a ‘spiritual’ project.  The economy of Pentecost re-establishes the connection between work, fellowship and life in the Spirit:  The presence of the Spirit is kneaded into bread and stitched into the fabric of a community.  Saul the tentmaker, Lydia the seller of purple and Peter the fisherman – metalworkers, bakers, weavers, carpenters and soap-makers: the Jesus movement becomes a community of the renewed mind.  This is the meaning of swords into ploughshares.  The refiner’s soap cleanses the imagination:

A Prayer for Soap-Makers

Creator God, establish the work of our hands,
Though, not the evil that we do

Holy Spirit cleanse imagination,
From the craft of war.

For the scattered soap-makers
For the truthful writers
For the scientists
For the makers of good bread
For the architects
For city planners
For those who rebuild the ruins
For honest police
For gardeners

Holy Spirit cleanse imagination,
From the craft of war.

For the grass roots activists
For grieving mothers
For troubled beekeepers
For film-makers
For critics
For church workers
For those who make shoes with rubber tyres
For bridge-builders
For refugee weavers
For the scattered soap-makers

Carpenter, strengthen the hands,
Of those whose livelihood is a casualty of war.


See RadRef.Blogspot.co.uk

One thought on “A Soap Opera for Pentecost.

  1. 百家樂 says:

    Nice Blog, thanks for sharing this kind of information.

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