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Archive for the ‘the great sadness’ Category

Jon Foreman’s magnificently understated rendition of the twenty-third psalm flavors the crisp morning air of this apartment in Cape Town, its door swung open to southern African sun and sky. Life-Long-Friends (LLF) John Bernard, Fritz Kling, and I seek shelter here after long and fascinating days among the Pentecost-like throngs that fill the city’s convention center at this epochal Lausanne-inspired gathering of the Global Church. Into that massive hall and the vein-like corridors and meeting spaces that encircle we bring our worship, open hearts, hungry minds, intense conversation, privileged hugs, and that shared life thing that makes everything worthwhile.

Glorious is not too large a word.

Yet this place and this gathering will ever bear a double meaning for this pilgrim and his broken hallelujah. Here, in the Marimba Restaurant that has become my afternoon cave, I received the email that ended Something Important. A quixotic project and promise, it endured and often thrived for twenty-eight years. It is over now and she is gone. (more…)

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Perhaps your story is not mine.

That would not surprise me in the least. Our stories are all, in many ways, uniquely our own.

But in my world, Winter does not mean wonderland. Christmas is about Christ and not the usual nonsense. Still, Christ commonly gets overshadowed, even in this holy season for me. We had a Christmas planned five years ago, that is before our daughter died. Not much celebrating then. (more…)

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On the rough outer orbit of two of the worst evenings of my just over half-century of accumulated life, I find myself after a good day’s work in the company of a kindred spirit over good steak, crowned with two fine scallops, adorned with something red.

How can such pain mingle so seamlessly with such hilarity, such good company, such joy?

Cast me gently into morning, for the night has been unkind.

—Sarah McLachlan

Those of us nursed and nourished on good decades are, arguably, poorly prepared for anguish, for loss.

We have no precedent for the madness, for the illogic, for the unbending chaos that comes on the lips of those we have loved, those whom we would love still if we were permitted.

What do we do then? (more…)

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It would have been difficult to sketch out the trajectory established by the ‘servant songs’ of the book of Isaiah and arrive before the fact at anything like the profile of Jesus. Retrospect and reflection are a different matter.

The New Testament writers found it natural to view Jesus within the frame established by the enigmatic figure of Isaiah’s ‘servant of the Lord’. These writers connected the dots, as it were, and found in the ancient prophetic text an intimation of a deeply effective agent of the Lord who would know painful rejection, sorrow, and shame. This looked, to them, just like Jesus.

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

A defensible interpretative strategy allows the New Testament’s citations and allusions to draw our exegetical attention not only to the ancient words that are actually cited but to the larger contexts and passages to which those indicators point. In following this readerly strategy, one might permit the sparing but substantive allusions to the famous portrayal of the servant in Isaiah 53 to bring to mind that chapter’s entire Gestalt of the servant. Though the New Testament does not actually refer to Jesus by the poignantly beautiful descriptor ‘acquainted with grief’, these memorable words are thus treated as a component part of the servant’s—now viewed as Jesus’—profile. (more…)

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The seat of mockers is a dangerous resting place. Contempt is among the most corrosive and self-destructive of human postures, particularly because of the power with which it seals off its subject from course correction or guidance from outside her bubble.

Contempt decredentials all comers before they have had opportunity to make their appearance, let alone their case. Because it is potently anti-social, those whose circumstances or choices permit them to evade the company of the contemptuous are called blessed.

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

If contempt is most damaging to its subject, it is at the same time a painful whip upon those who are closest to her and who absorb its venomous lash. (more…)

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