All his life, Jacob was a cheat. A con artist. He came out of the womb trying to obtain something for nothing. Ironically, it’s only when he makes himself vulnerable that he finds himself transformed.
Jacob was one of a set of twins, so desperate to be the first-born of the two, and thus enjoy all the benefits of the older son, that he is said to have been born grasping the ankle of his older brother, Esau. In fact, the name Jacob means “ankle-grabber.” He cheated his brother out of his birthright blessing. He cheated his uncle Laban by genetic manipulation to build up his own flocks and increase his own wealth. And every con artist needs a victim.Continue Reading
How Much is Enough?
It’s late in the metaphorical day for Jesus here in the seventeenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. He is journeying toward Jerusalem. He carries in his heart the weight of the great act of love yet to come. He’s tired. And like you and me, or at least like me, when Jesus is tired and stressed, he gets a little testy.
Hence the nonsense with the mulberry tree. Continue Reading
In the summer of 1983, when the threat of nuclear war seemed very close at hand, the movie WarGames was released, starring a young Matthew Broderick as a high-school computer hacker who accidentally sets off just such an event. He thinks he’s playing a war game against a computer, but in reality he is instructing a very powerful military computer program to launch actual nuclear missiles aimed at the Soviet Union.Continue Reading
This is one of the most challenging passages in the Bible to dwell on. It appears that not only is everyone involved in this parable underhanded and a cheat, more interested in the ends than in the means, but also that Jesus is praising such sneaky behavior: “You children of light could learn a few tips from the children of this age.” A few years ago at a ministerial conference, a group of twenty or so pastors gathered to study this text, which was coming up in the lectionary. After more than an hour of discussion, none of us felt really enlightened by a narrative in which dishonesty appears to be the order of the day.Continue Reading
Tell me a story. When our daughter was very young, her bedtime ritual always included stories. And for a while, she had a pretty good scheme in place: “I’m 3 years old,” she would say, “so read me three stories.” Fair enough. But she hung on to that formula. Four stories. Five stories. I think we finally pulled the plug around age eight.Continue Reading
Four hundred years ago, in 1619, a woman named Angela set foot on land along the Virginia coast, near Point Comfort, in what we now call Hampton. Nineteen or so other Africans followed her, probably rowed ashore in one or two boats from a Dutch warship anchored nearby.Continue Reading
It’s easy to be a good host, right? Just anticipate the guest’s every need and make sure there’s more than enough of whatever the guest could possibly want. And it’s even easier to be a good guest. Just say “No, thank you” to everything because you don’t want to put anyone to any bother.Continue Reading
For those of us of a certain age, it’s hard to encounter Psalm 103 without hearing that song from Godspell. Oh, bless the Lord, my soul; his praise to thee proclaim; and all that is within me join to bless his holy name.
Verse 8, where the reading concludes today, tells us: The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.Continue Reading
It’s not a pretty picture.
When death comes for the archbishop, in the novel by Willa Cather of that name, it claims him as it has claimed the other main character. Both Latour, “the tower,” and Vaillant, “the valiant,” have their lives come to an end. So does Buck Scales, the abusive innkeeper who tried and failed to murder them in their beds.Continue Reading
The Sunlit Meadow
The slow-motion run and embrace of people who love each other, usually across a broad sunlit meadow or sparkling beach, is such a cliché in the movies that The Muppet Movie made fun of it when it came out in 1979. One reason it’s a cliché, perhaps, is the mathematical formula that distance does not equal relationship, or rather, a relationship conducted at a distance is a much more complex and challenging organism than a relationship when you’re in the same space.Continue Reading