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Archive for April, 2009

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Just when it seemed that 24 couldn’t get any better, it did. A lot better.

Season Four introduces the usual agonizing plot twists but adds several exceptional new players: ‘Edgar’, Chloe’s geeky (and ample) sidekick, Secretary of Defense Joseph Heller, his daughter Audrey, and the steely, purposeful terrorist Marwan.

Jack Bauer continues as the show’s pivot: preternaturally principled in defense of his country, tactically beyond the pale, always on the edge of love but never quite achieving it.

The show is riveting, compelling, addictive. Superlatives need not apply, we’ve already got most of the available ones on salary and hard at work.

Good grief, this is excellent television, a periodic DVD treat that’s right up there with fried scrapple, my mother’s macaroni and cheese, and just one or two other really good things.

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The pungent Hebrew word רמיה (remiyyah) gathers a world of disappointment into two and a half little syllables. Often translated as deceit or negligence, it is not a term employed by its perpetrator. He prefers more benign descriptions of his deeds, always self-interested and too often hanging out to dry people who had relied upon him and deserved better.

It is the congregation of the disappointed who turn, in texts like this, and thrust the descriptor remiyyah back in the direction of those who have failed them when failure meant consequences too painful to be endured. Deceit. Negligence. The air hangs heavy with their musky odor. The smell of death lies only steps away. Remiyyah. (more…)

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An army of days stands between the sweaty work of breaking soil and the harvest that puts bread on the table and joy in a cup. Only the courage to trust in labor’s good product pushes through that threat. Anything less and a man lies down, folds his arms, and asks the air ‘What can I do about all this?’

Life takes root in that very courage:

Those who till their land will have plenty of food,
but those who follow worthless pursuits have no sense.

One does not necessarily attribute courage and self-denial to the farmer. His quotidian movements about the land seem prosaic, ordinary, undramatic. Yet in the quiet, often solitary movements of his hoe, the steady removal of weed and thistle, the thankless task of watering parched dirt, the soil’s tiller battles against the lethargy and myopia that promise immediate entertainment and starve one’s children.

He does today what is necessary for the blessing of a moment two seasons from now. He delays fulfillment so that stomachs, hearts, and minds might thrive on the fulness of a well-stocked winter.

So also those who turn a different soil. Each morning’s decision to delay gratification this day builds a future still unseen. The battle for life and blessing does not always produce the clash of swords and a trumpet’s call. The sounds, more often that not, are quieter ones, product of a thousand miniature, consecutive decisions against the easy thing.

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El libro bíblico que llamamos ‘Isaías’ es inmenso. Esta observación es acertada no solamente en alusión a sus sesenta y seis capítulos, sino por la profundidad e impacto que ha causado en la vida de incontables comunidades judías y cristianas.

Quizá el amor—divino o humano—se comprenda mejor cuando el observador tome en cuenta las angustias y los obstáculos que impiden su avance. Un amor persistente se distingue más por sus cicatrices tras décadas de probada fidelidad, que por la deslumbrante fortaleza de su incipiente primavera.

No debe sorprendernos entonces que un libro que respira el amor de YHVH para con su amada Sión, inicie con un pleito. El amor de YHVH es ante todo, un amor que supera el desamor, una pasión casi indescriptible que genera el drama de un Esposo Divino que no abandona a su amada aún cuando su perseverancia le obliga a renovarla y restaurarla mediante el fuego del sufrimiento.

Oíd, cielos, y escucha tú, tierra; porque ha hablado Jehová: Crié hijos, y los engrandecí, y ellos se rebelaron contra mí. El buey conoce a su dueño, y el asno el pesebre de su señor; Israel no entiende, mi pueblo no tiene conocimiento.

YHVH denuncia la obstinada terquedad de Sión, apelando a los únicos testigos que han presenciado su destructiva insistencia en rebelarse contra su Divino Esposo. Su comportamiento lo obliga a dirigirse a ella, ya no como amante sino como un padre airado, con la voz autoritaria del amo que se impone a la insensatez del animal.

Con este clamor contundente el libro pone de manifiesto la ruptura de una relación. El libro del Isaías no negociará a ninguna costa su código moral ni su sistema ético. La ética y la moral se verán en función a la relación que obliga a YHVH y a Sión a caminar juntos, aun cuando esta dolorosa cercanía produzca un profundo sufrimiento en la vida de ambos.

YHVH hablará y actuará peligrosamente apasionado en el libro de Isaías. No es un tratado de verdades estáticas sino el drama de un amante inmerso en el rechazo de su amada y determinado a que la historia de ese amor sagrado no termine en ceniza u olvido sino en fiesta.

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    It often seems as though events move too quickly.

    We feel we live in a reality that is far too fluid. We wish for some stasis, a chance to catch our breaths. We are overcome, sometimes, by nostalgia for a time when things remained the same. Perhaps this static time exists only in our minds, perhaps it once existed in the wider reality. Regardless, it seems not to exist now.

    Even this meeting of the Overseas Council Europe (OCE) board occurs in a moment of pronounced change. We have a new director, the possibility of some newer board members, a new and close friendship between Andreas Kammer and the leader of OCTeam in the United Kingdom, to say nothing of his personal and professional network among the OC affiliates of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. (more…)

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The Mosaic blueprint for an emerging nation does not wallow in sentimental egalitarianism. Nor is it precisely a meritocracy. Critical offices that the nation will require are allocated by a mixture of inheritance and charism. Yet whatever route brings a priest or prophet to his task, the burden of responsibility does not rest lightly.

In a tribal assignment that has generated libraries of inky pages produced by scholars who reconstruct a history behind the text, the Levites inherit a great share of the new nation’s priestly responsibilities. Ironically, they inherit little else:

The levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no allotment or inheritance within Israel. They may eat the sacrifices that are the LORD’S portion but they shall have no inheritance among the other members of the community; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them. This shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach. The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. For the LORD your God has chosen Levi out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.

On the surface, this might look like a cushy guaranteed salary. No matter the work ethic of an individual priest, he’ll eat well on the bounty of meat and vegetable over which less privileged Israelites will have sweat days of hard labor. Yet the prophetic literature alludes with some regularity to tithes that were not given and offerings not brought to the temple precincts for their proper, priestly management.

It would seem that the conceptual architecture of the new nation of Israel contemplates a kind of modified profit motive: the status of the Levitical pantry will to some degree hinge upon the spiritual state of the people. A nation that is casual or even resistant to YHWH’s commands will not bring sacrifices. Priest will grow thin, then gaunt, then perhaps rebellious, and even lethally inventive.

It might have been better to have one of those ordinary inheritances, with soil to turn over and grapes to savor. (more…)

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