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Archive for May, 2015

Though we would never willingly hire its services, grief is an accomplished unifier.

One of the ways that Jesus’ experience takes in that of pained humanity is his acquaintance with grief, and of its adoptive requirements.

But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 19:25–27 ESV)

The ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ is likely a humble self-depiction of the Fourth Gospel’s author. Some strength of friendship, very close to sibling affection, linked Jesus and this man in an almost family way. Among Jesus’ dying words from the cross comes this formalizing of family, produced not by biology’s traceable accidents but rather by the unforeseen sinews of friendship that link friends more closely than brothers, and occasionally draw a weeping mother into its awesome web. (more…)

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Jesus’ claims the ultimate solidarity with those whom he calls ‘my sheep’.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. (John 10:11–13 ESV)

It is possible to imagine that even the most responsible hired hand would practice the craft of shepherding with excellence.

But not at the cost of his life. (more…)

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We find it convenient to hide behind our supposed complexity, our nuance, our shades of gray.

There exists a genuine sophistication, and it is entirely worthy of admiration. Yet we so easily fall prey to its diminutive imposter: my complexity as my refusal to give an answer to those who matter most. To stake a claim. To declare who I am and commit to remaining that person, growing as that person, becoming strong and wise as that person.

We prefer to keep all our convenient options open. (more…)

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Misplaced certainty leads to the most regrettable errors.

Jesus’ teaching moved the hearts and minds of the masses. They had heard nothing like this, so compelling it stirred the deepest longings, so clear it seemed a window into truth, so accompanied by power that it must have come from God himself.

Yet they knew their facts, and those facts left no room for Jesus. (more…)

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Thing is, the biblical Proverbs have less to say about YHWH than you’d expect.

He is assumed to be the guarantor of the way things are, because that’s the way he made them. But he’s hardly the loquacious divinity who can’t stop talking. Rather, one learns about him indirectly, by scrutinizing what he’s made. (more…)

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Truth is a little tricky to corner.

It does not surrender itself easily, requiring of its seeker a bit of diligence to prove his or her worth.

Biblical wisdom traffics in two dynamics that work out this evasiveness in space and time. (more…)

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Jesus performed surgery with questions.

The gospels describe him wielding the interrogative like a scalpel. At first sight, these can sound like stupid questions. No doubt onlookers scoffed. He must have known this, yet he pressed into his surgical task with uncommon persistence. (more…)

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One wishes we had more of the Baptizer’s words.

What we have makes him sound a little like a provider of set speeches. Every syllable seems burdened with meaning, adding up to become sentences that are always profound. One wonders what his smaller talk was like. (more…)

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The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. (Proverbs 14:15–16 ESV)

Life comes at us in textures and layers. Many of the latter are transparent to the careful observer. Under scrutiny, they can be seen through to what lies beneath.

The person who has practiced wisdom nearly forgets that life is this way, so accustomed does she become to living thoughtfully. For her, first impressions are merely that. The first glimpse, to be followed by careful reflection and—soon—sacrificed to the more complete picture.

That is to say, the wise person studies life. It would be facile to turn this into caricature, to imagine that this kind of life knows nothing of spontaneity, of artistry, of joy. That would be, again, rushing carelessly to conclusions, which is what the simple do as a matter of course.

In reality, the wise woman’s eyes often sparkle with discovery. She is alive to the manifold artistry, design, and hidden delight that she discovers in human interaction, in ‘nature’, in the ordered chaos of a good community living out its good life, in the unlikely trajectories of recovery and restoration.

The wise man ponders, sometimes with the furrowed brow of concentration. He gazes upon others with the half-smile of the discoverer who leans forward into conversation, into life.

One knows that a venomous snake may lurk in this riotously flowered garden. So one treads carefully rather than standing feebly on the asphalt parking lot next door.

The simple believes that everything is simple. The prudent knows better, deciding to walk here rather than there. Here where the angle of view is better and one lives long to tell of it.

 

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Heartbreak is not only the wolf at the door. It is also the ant in the cupboard, already inside the house and waiting only to be discovered.

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. (Proverbs 14:13 ESV)

Because biblical wisdom is so thoroughly committed to the world as it actually is, it is serially impatient with euphorias and tenaciously opposed to utopias. (more…)

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