Archive for May, 2011

In a proverb like this, the asymmetry of biblical parallelism matches the imbalance of the righteous and the wicked:

The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. (Proverbs 15:28 NRSV)

The subtle (because inexact) parallels between the two lines touch on at least five pairs of expression:

* mind // mouth
* the righteous // the wicked
* the singularity of the righteous individual // the plurality of the wicked
* ponders // pours out
* how to answer // evil

It is a beautiful proverb, light on its feet in term of the possibilities that the Hebrew language affords and penetrating with regard to its diagnosis of human behavior. (more…)


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Reliable instruction for life not only directs one’s steps on right paths and busies one’s hands with labors that matter.

It also sets the heart to singing.

Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. (Psalm 119:54 ESV)

If we have sung our loudest and our best in the mosh pit, it becomes difficult to imagine instruction’s restraint generating music that is worth the listening. When release and self-realization have been the consistent theme of our favorite melodies, we struggle to comprehend that ‘statutes’ and ‘songs’ should occur in the same sentence. (more…)

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One stumbles easily into the mistaken impression that following Jesus is a way of ‘becoming religious’. The understandable misapprehension that the job is to figure out what to say, what not to say, and when, can be forgiven if it does not persist and therefore become an obstacle to laying hold of the reality.

The gospels present us with the fortunate example of Thomas, who didn’t understand what Jesus was getting on about, and said so.

(Jesus said:) ‘You know the way to the place where I am going.’
Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

The Fourth Gospel makes hay on initial misunderstanding and its elaborate correction by Jesus. Usually, as here, Jesus’ disciples play the foil. (more…)

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Why do we love David?

There are so many reasons not to.

A question might just as well be placed from the God side of the matter: ‘Why is this David a man after my own heart?’

Perhaps they are the same question. (more…)

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Israel’s King Saul was a tragic figure or a grave disappointment or, perhaps, some combination of the two. The young David had ample opportunity to consider the options as Saul pursued his doomed and jealous efforts to be done with this shepherd and poet warrior.

Yet when Saul was dead—and with him, his son Jonathan—David spared no effort to elevate the defunct monarch’s legacy. It is too easy to cite realpolitik as the sole explanation of David’s verbose generosity. By this explanation, David eulogized Saul because it was in his interests to curry favor with that king’s partisans now that death in battle had removed him from the scene. (more…)

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Though many of the biblical proverbs speak of the power that lies at the ready in the use of words, few delineate the tongue’s power as boldly as the saying found at Proverbs 15.4:

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 NIV)

The italicized words represent a difficulty faced by translators of the text, for the Hebrew expression understood here as ‘a tongue of healing’ can as easily depend upon a Hebrew root of similar appearance that would offer up a translation like ‘a gentle tongue’. The NRSV, for example, reads the proverb in this way:

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4 NRSV)

The first translation, then, understands the tongue with respect to its healing capacity, the second in connection with its manner of employment. (more…)

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La visión bíblica proverbial palpita al ritmo del corazón humano. Ella sabe lo que lo aflige y conoce las palabras que lo curan, reconoce la pérdida que mata al alma humana y las buenas noticas que lo vuelven a la vida.

13:12 La esperanza que se demora es tormento del corazón; Pero árbol de vida es el deseo cumplido.

Si la esperanza que se demora enferma al corazón, entonces la pregunta que surge después de leer el Salmo 88 es: ¿qué tipo de medicamento nos provee este salmo? Esta oscura articulación sobre la pérdida constante a la que los seres humanos nos vemos sometidos no contiene una sola palabra de esperanza de tiempos mejores. De hecho, se ha señalado el Salmo 88 dentro de los ‘salmos de lamento’ como aquel que no manifiesta movimiento alguno en sentido de la esperanza. Simplemente es una crónica del final de las cosas, asignando la causalidad de la catástrofe a YHWH, quien no vacila ni se disculpa. (more…)

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Changing while God does not
All-Africa Institute for Excellence in Christian Leadership Development
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 4 May 2011

In one of Jesus’ briefest and least quoted parables, the Master commends to his listeners a very fortunate man. Jesus explains to us with striking brevity one of this man’s virtues:

He is capable of making good and even reverential use of those features of God’s economy that come from the past.

The same thing might be said of many human and beings, no doubt. Yet this man stands out from the crowd, as it were, because of a second quality that he exercises together with the first:

He finds it possible to recognize and embrace the new thing that is by God’s grace becoming possible.

You will recognize these words, from the thirteen chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

(Jesus) said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.’ (Matthew 13:52 NIV)

We come together this week to discuss institutional sustainability and organizational change. Together, the challenge they present can be threatening and ominous, not least because we engage this challenge as frail human beings who struggle to make the best of things even as they now are. Change lies one horizon beyond and can seem a bridge too far. (more…)

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