Archive for May, 2008

It is a good day in Jerusalem when the priests cannot stand. It means that YHWH has appeared in force.

If any biblical text places supreme confidence in the potency of organized worship, it is the twin books of Chronicles. The microscopic detail of this  book’s passion for genealogical and cultic order is fascinating for those whose temperament aligns with its idiosyncrasy, offputting for others. (more…)


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Twenty years ago, one of the early-evening joys of coming home to our little house on the southeast side of San José, Costa Rica, with the coffee fields gracing the hills across the river like tightly-braided hair on a handsome head, were the swallows.

Something about that cool, clear hour of the day brought them into close-order, cartwheeling, exuberant view as they plucked insects from the air and entertained my admiring eyes.

I have always missed the swallows. (more…)

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YHWH’s promises to David are so lavish that they often accrue the adjective ‘unconditional’. Declared primarily in the Bible’s two great histories of Israel (Deuteronomy-2 Kings and Chronicles-Nehemiah) and then reflected upon in the Psalms and Prophets, YHWH commits himself to David’s ‘house’ in seemingly open-ended manner. (more…)

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My early mornings and occasional other moments in our family’s life on Indianapolis’ north side have been punctuated for about a year by noisy chewing. Apparently, this toothy romp takes place in crawl spaces and attics.

Squirrels have been the main suspects, so I’ve been consulting the half-hopeless writings of blogs and web pages where strategies against these relentless foes are mounted, critiqued, and abandoned. (more…)

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new(ish) visitors

This Memorial Day weekend has provided the time and energy for a major restock of my bird supplies.

The result has been some new visitors:

A Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker has made brief, resplendent visits for seed and peanuts. He’s stayed long enough for this novice birdwatcher to mark the distinction between him and his suspected alternative identity, the Redheaded Woodpecker. (more…)

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Though the Johannine Jesus’ response to news of Lazarus’ illness suggests a startling conflict of emotions, the equanimity of his conversation with Martha and Mary hews to a more placid line. I find the whole picture anything but posed and ungenuine. If Jesus is the person the Fourth Gospel has been suggesting, one might almost anticipate such experience and behavior in the context of the sickness and death of ‘the one whom (Jesus) loves’.

Deep friendship is the backdrop of this story. Those who have known this gift understand something of its potency, something of the forcefulness one confronts when its riches have been invaded by the contrary force of death. (more…)

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The Books of Chronicles are most like the Psalms in their focus upon Israel realizing her destiny in the context of worship. It would be easy to push this observation to reductionistic ends. The topic of worship seems almost to shove people rudely against that wall, often with their lustiest cooperation. This oversimplification and the obsession that ensues is perhaps testimony to the power of the worship idea that inadvertently fuels such passion. (more…)

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The Johannine presentation is not shy about making exalted claims on Jesus’ behalf. The categories are large: he is light, he is life, he is the way, he is truth. One anticipates apotheosis rather than degradation of the gospel’s central figure. Indeed, apotheosis might be considered a guest too late for this party, since Jesus is presented from the outset in categories so fulsome and pristine that in the history of interpretation they’ve (mostly unhelpfully) been explained against a Platonic rather than a Hebraic background.

Yet one finds neither pristinization, re-pristinization, apotheosis, or an untroubled crescendo of recognition of Jesus’ glory and celestial origins. (more…)

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As the owner of a doctorate in biblical studies, I am regularly asked by one aspiring doctoral student or another whether I think he or she should walk the same path. Nearly always, I am taken aback by the vigor and ambition of such people. In my own life, the studies that led up to doctoral work, the immersion in biblical texts and languages that the experience itself made possible, and the skills and network of scholars that it percolated into my life have congealed into a profound blessing.

I believe the endeavor to be capable of fostering deep acuity with regard to matters biblical and theological. Furthermore, I’m convinced that both Church and society urgently need thought leaders schooled and shaped in just this way if they are to experience discernment rather that vulnerability, wisdom instead of folly, and faithful maturity instead of vacuous striving after whatever wind blows most strongly at the moment. With good reasons, certain traditions value their ‘doctors of the Church’ for the critical niche ministry they exercise in her midst.

Why, then, does the joy of such conversations mingle with a touch of apprehension and even reluctance? Reflection on this question persuades me that my mixed emotions come from a veteran’s and observer’s awareness of the deep, unspoken costs that doctoral work in biblical studies and theology inflict upon those who pursue it and those who love them. Most worthy things do just this. (more…)

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It is a moving thing to observe the heart of a people turning to a leader-in-waiting or gathering to him in force after events have lined up behind him. Such is the story of David’s rise to sovereignty over the whole of Israel and Judah. The story is studded with vignettes about heroes, heroism, and the remarkable loyalty that bound an increasing number of rebels, outcasts, and—eventually—societal pillars to the fate and person of this David. (more…)

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