Archive for March, 2008

Even among a people less awkward about the unseen than we, the sick woman of Luke must have been shattered by the sudden strangeness of events. Grasping at Jesus as he passed by, she made meaningful contact and felt her long-standing illness reshaped into wholeness as she did so.

She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. Then Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’ When all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.’

For a disquieting moment, the narrative lurches in the direction of magic. Impersonal force seems to surge from Jesus into a person who makes the right mechanical move: ‘If only I could touch him …’ (more…)


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An odd incongruity flavors the pages of the Book of Judges. Amid the stories of Israel’s vicious cycle of declension and the heroic feats of warrior ‘judges’, there is little exemplary behavior that aligns itself with the ethical counsel of the Hebrew Bible. Far more chaos appears than order, more idiosyncratic episodes than steady walking in right ways.

The book makes for great reading. Its heroic figures claimed their place in my memory in boyhood and remain there still. (more…)

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the Robins return

In the lingering twilight of Springtime in Indianapolis, I notice that the Robins have returned. One young fellow told me so by crashing into the window of a basement entry, then fussing about how clumsy that must have looked and flying off. Another, a large one in dire need of a haircut, perched just now on the railing that overlooks that same entranceway. (more…)

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While at table in the home of a certain Simon—one must not fall prey to the pious instinct to hold it against this host that he is a Pharisee—Jesus’ conviviality with the assembled men is interrupted when a ‘sinnner woman’ falls at his feet. She anoints them with a bottle made for the job but adds the improvisation of bathing them with her tears. Her hair serves her for a towel.

There is disapproval round about, not only on the lips of those who think Jesus ought to have known what sort of woman this one is and prevented her making such a scene. Simon himself allows the reader to discern a certain distance from matters of passion, need, and brokenness. In answer to Jesus’ little parable about which of two debtors who are forgiven what they owe is likely to love most, he can hardly fail to answer correctly. Clearly, the one who has been forgiven more. Yet with tell-tale precision, Luke has him begin his response with the words ‘I suppose …’ (more…)

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Just as the book of Joshua begins with a renewal of the covenant that binds Israel to YHWH and his chosen leader, so it ends. Joshua received the baton from the hand of Israel’s aged lawgiver Moses. He now prepares to hand it on to those largely unnamed Israelite leaders who will carry it forward. Joshua, in his own words, has grown old and ‘advanced in years’.

The time for another wrenching change has arrived. Israel will survive because of the strong glue that is covenant. (more…)

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The Book of Joshua leaves traces of a prejudice that was to die hard in Israel. When two and a half of the dozen tribes that populate this narrative of Israel’s entrance into the ‘promised land’ lay claim to an inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River, a breach is opened up between them and the tribes that crossed over to the western side. It was a chasm that would run deeper than mere topography. (more…)

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One grows accustomed to approaching the `last’ works of an artist with an aging master in mind, perhaps resting just a bit on laurels accrued over a lifetime of meritorious productivity. Not so with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of those giants who was taken early from his craft. Perhaps, from an aesthetic point of view, an early demise was not purely tragic. Given what we think we know of Mozart, a long life might have represented endless artistic decline. He died at something close to the apex of his trajectory. (more…)

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