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Archive for April, 2011

As Jesus gathers with his disciples for one final dinner ‘before I suffer’, the air is thick with ironies.

One of them involves the status, stature, and deportment of those followers of his who will survive his extra-judicial murder. What is to become of these, disciples of a man who has been proclaimed a king in the manner of David but who has lived and is soon to die as a pauper? Will they be princes? Or slaves?

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

The answer seems clear. They are to be servants of all, for high status and the prerogatives of lords are anathema to those who would follow Jesus. As he has led them by—figuratively and literally—washing their feet, so their lives shall incarnate a servant’s destined humility. (more…)

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A rough diagnostic of our times lies ready at hand in the profile of those whom we choose to admire.

Our celebrities and our fads are a projection of our values and our desires. Like a modern pantheon, we paint them upon a canvas as peoples choose their deities. If we are not exactly what we worship, we at least aspire to become like the gods we have created for our service. Created to worship someone or some thing, we cannot escape this dynamic nor its determining logic unless we worship our Creator himself. But he demands so much, so we settle. (more…)

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Jesus spoke of calamity with an almost chillingly realistic tone. When asked about the destruction that he hinted would fall upon Jerusalem—an event that could be ominously abbreviated as ‘the end’—he located it over the horizon by sketching out the painful normalcy that must precede.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, ‘As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.’
‘Teacher,’ they asked, ‘when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?’
He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them.When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’
Then he said to them: ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.’

We fear chaos, as perhaps we should. Humanity’s bloodiest runs tend to occur not under the jackboot of empires but rather during the lawless interludes between them. (more…)

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The biblical proverbialist deploys sharp insight into the rhythms of the human heart. He knows what news ails and the report that cures, the loss that deadens the human soul and the novelty that brings it back to life.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

If hope deferred sickens the heart, then one wonders what kind of medicine comes to us in the eighty-eighth psalm. This dark articulation of loss contains not one word of hope. Indeed it has been singled out as the only exemplar in the ‘psalms of lament’ that contains no movement towards hope’s expectation of better things. It simply chronicles the end of things, assigning the causality of catastrophe to YHWH with neither flinching nor apology. (more…)

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