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Archive for April, 2008

The voice of our wonderful Colombian-born veterinarian was somber when I called her from Frankfurt to inquire on the results of Tucker’s biopsy. The veterinariological technical lingo added up to just one thing: Tucker is not long for this world.

‘Just enjoy him!’, she counseled with the textured, comprehending warmth of a woman who could have been a pastor, a psychologist, a physician, or a veterinarian. She chose the latter, and not for lack of options. (more…)

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The biblical material assiduously undermines the logic of human achievement. When Yahweh does his remarkable work, he nearly always uses badly flawed human agents.

The waning days of David’s rule read like an ‘I told you so’ anti-monarchical screed. The aged king commits the atrocity of numbering his people, a violation of the tribal traditions against a standing army and a centralized political-military apparatus. Then, while a beautiful young virgin warms him against the dark night, a palace farce unravels outside his door. Two of his sons line up behind their corresponding priestly advocates in what sounds like a shameless playground exercise of ‘Take me! Take me!’ (more…)

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Jesus makes plan to those who would follow him that the cost of doing so was everything they owned and everything they were. His was an exclusive claim upon their loyalty and the virtual extinction of their self-determination. Yet in the odd economy of the ‘kingdom of God’ whose imminence and presence he proclaimed, there was to be recompense for such extreme self-surrender:

Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

To this day, many who declare themselves followers of Jesus, both prosperous and paupered by the economies of their time, declare this guarantee to have been made good in their lives. Indeed, it bears a striking and recurring prominence in Christian testimony. (more…)

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In the face of his son Absalom’s insurrection, David’s flight to the desert is the stage upon which a colorful handful of characters display, respectively, deepest loyalty, most loathsome self-interest, and opportunistic vengeance. It seems that David’s prior sojourn in Gath has won him the loyalty of a considerable number of Gittites. One of them, Ittai by name, now articulates what love means when it links one warrior to another:

All his officials passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king. Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why are you also coming with us? Go back, and stay with the king; for you are a foreigner, and also an exile from your home. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about with us, while I go wherever I can? Go back, and take your kinsfolk with you; and may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you.” But Ittai answered the king, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.” David said to Ittai, “Go then, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on, with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.

Blind loyalty is perhaps always wrong. Yet there is a sighted fidelity that looks almost like it, and it is a very good thing indeed. Ittai’s unexplained solidarity with a deposed Israelite monarch puts even his own men and his ‘little ones’ at risk for the sake of its beloved object. It is the glue that makes history something nobler than iron filings duly lining up around the strongest magnetic force. When circumstance stretch men’s chesed to its breaking point, some find it thicker than blood, more enduring than the tribe, more compelling than all alternatives. The biblical anthology is capable of recognizing the nobility of this sentiment, indeed of elevating it among the virtues as the achievement of men and women under stress who might have acted more pragmatically and saved themselves hardship and calamity. (more…)

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After discovering this product, one wonders why we ever stuck those adhesive mounts to our windshields to announce to passing thieves, ‘Stop here! Easy hit!’.

(more…)

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Faith that is shaped and nourished by regular contact with Scripture learns to anticipate sudden turns in circumstances. More often than not a certain merciful lurching becomes our experience as what some call Providence directs our steps in ways that contain equal parts peril and mercy. (more…)

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The institution of slavery and the concept of duty no longer arouse us to noble thoughts. We find the first offensive and the second pedestrian. More often than not our moral aesthetics not only incapacitate us for sympathetic reading. They also betray us by the extreme selectivity with which we assign deficits to the moral codes of other times and other places while skating over the incoherences that afflict us in this time and this place. (more…)

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