The Days of Cain

 

In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;

He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;

He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know

How to find the way to go.

-Columbus Day poem

 

So, here we are. The summer of 2020. And we find, once again, activists without actualities, wandering through a universe circumscribed by themselves. That which stands in their way, whether human or representation, must be removed, cancelled, done away with. Only their likeness must stand.

The statue of Christopher Columbus was removed from Grant Park during the night. Chicago’s Mayor Lightfoot said the likeness was a “public safety issue”. So, to appease the raging horde who had emerged from their cramped safe spaces (perhaps a darkened basement in their parent’s home lit only by the glare of a computer monitor) Lightfoot removed the static and mute reminder of a discoverer who used fixed reference points outside of himself to voyage to a new world.

As we have come to witness in Chicago, Portland and, Seattle, wanderers with no reference point other than their own solipsistic compass create a world of lawlessness. There is nothing new or Progressive about the ways of the lawless wanderer. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remarked when hearing about the toppled statue, “People will do what they do.” The way of the wanderer is a return to the old world of Cain.

You remember the story of brothers Cain and Abel. Their relationship was removed, cancelled, done away with. The sibling dysfunction began with their mother Eve. After giving birth she declared “I have created a man with the Lord”. Her words go well beyond acknowledging God’s help in the birth of her son. She ascribes to herself equality with God as a source of life. And so, she named her first born Cain (translated in this context: “to create”), imparting to her firstborn the same delusional thinking, the same self-actualization and self-divination, that she and Adam had chosen when they ate from the forbidden tree and were kicked out of the garden for doing so.

(It is interesting to note that Eve named her second son Abel, meaning “breath” or breeze”. Perhaps Eve, after seeing herself in Cain, chose the name to acknowledge that man is ephemeral, transient and, mortal and not equal with God after all.)

Both Cain and Abel worked the land, exerting dominion over it as God had charged in the first chapter of Genesis. Both were aware of God’s presence. Both offer the fruits of their labor to him as a sacrifice. But there is an issue with one of their sacrifices. The issue is not so much the quality of the sacrifice. They both offer yields from God’s good creation. The issue lies beneath the surface.

Abel offers the best cuts from the first born of his flock. Cain offers portions of what’s growing. It cost him nothing to do this. Abel’s sacrifice is a recognition that the growth and flourishing of his flocks were gifts from God. His sacrifice is a recognition that God is God and therefore deserves respect and the best creation has to offer, no matter the cost. Cain’s sacrifice is a recognition that Cain is co-creator with God. He had worked the land and thought of himself as the one who made it grow and flourish. As such, Cain’s sacrifice is an attempt to bribe God into blessing him as caretaker, to make things go well for him.

When his sacrifice is rejected by God, Cain became angry. His face became downcast. Cain felt that he had rights by placing God in debt to him. He did what he felt was required and now God must do what is required and give him his favor. Freedom from anxiety, peace of mind and pleasure were of the highest priority to Cain. He traded some token of produce in order to receive back empathy for his epicurean life.

Cain’s quid pro quo religion – seeking to broker with the god/s for order and harmony in one’s life, would go on to become the religious practice for many in the world, old and new. But religion is mere formality. Doing what is right is more important than sacrifice before God. Doing what is morally and ethically right begins with the acknowledgement of and respect for God as God. So, God gives Cain a choice: do right and be the offering that is accepted or continue his self-divinization; rule over the works of God’s own hands or let the works of his own hands rule over him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4: 6-7

Cain made his choice. He brought Abel to a field and out of jealousy killed him. Perhaps he thought, “I shall have no other gods before me”. But what happens on the field does not stay on the field. Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord. And the just Lord came looking for accountability.

After Adam and Eve made their choice, God asked “where are you?”. Adam answered “I was afraid…” After the murder, Cain was asked: “Where is your brother Abel?”  Cain answered “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain denies culpability. Perhaps he thought, “If I remove the competition the god will have to deal with only me. Besides, I did my due diligence and have nothing to show for it. So there!”. Maybe he said, “People will do what they do”.

Genesis 2:15 tells us that The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Mankind’s vocation was to care for God’s creation, His Temple. That care would include God’s image bearers placed in the temple. Abel did the work of caring for creation and bringing its best back to God. Cain would have none of it. He evaded his responsibility with self-deception and denial. He canceled it. So, God dealt with Cain. Cain was cursed.

The curse God imposed on Adam, Cursed is the ground because of you is similar to but lesser than the curse imposed on Cain: You are cursed from the groundWhen you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. The land and now a man are cursed.

The form of justice to be imposed on Cain could have been a life for a life. Instead, Cain is exiled by God. He is to be a wanderer. But Cain decides to be a whiner and not a repenter.

 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4: 13-14

In exile, Cain has a chance to repent and turn back to God. God will look after Cain. God put a mark on Cain so that anyone who came across him would not kill him. The mark of protection, not described in Gen. 4:15, reminds me of the Passover lamb’s blood put on the two doorposts and lintel of the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. Clearly, God is patient and merciful with Cain. He could have canceled Cain from the face of the earth. Yet, God watches over Cain; God does for Cain what Cain should have done for Abel.

But none of that matters to Cain. Cain will watch after Cain. The self-indulgent Cain goes his own way. Instead of wandering he builds a city. He wanted to make a name for himself and become the kingpin of his own domain, his own safe space. Cain’s descendants glory in their barbarism and in possessing women as objects (Gen. 4:19-24). The dysfunction that began in the garden continued in the line of Cain. He is the father of the self-reliant god-like superheroes who control their own destinies with force.

Genesis chapter 4 ends with the birth of Seth to Adam and Eve. Eve has had a change of heart after the tragedy of Cain and Abel: God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him. There is no talk of being a god-like superwoman. And the line of Seth does not go the way of autonomous Cain.

So, here we are. The summer of 2020. And we find, once again, activists without actualities, wandering through a universe circumscribed by themselves. That which stands in their way, whether human or representation, must be removed, canceled and, destroyed. These are the days of Cain.

 

It is easy to rail against the anarchists and their subjectivist view of morality. It is easy to condemn the barbarism and destruction of the wanderers. It is easy to denounce those who kneel to false gods before games. It is easy to deride the Democrat pols who appease and dismiss the angry mobs with “People will do what they do”. But what about the choices we each make to go our own way and to do what we do thereby creating dysfunction and havoc in our relationships? What happens when we cancel relationships by not forgiving? Some may thumb their noses at God under the guise of American Individualism and self-sufficiency. Some may have even offered some token to God (going to church, putting money in the plate, etc.) hoping to receive back the American Dream (a “Made in the U.S.” sticker placed on a cask of Greek Epicureanism). We make relational choices based on our relationship with God. We become what we do with God. Have you become a likeness of Cain?

In addition to the behavior describe above, Cain is impatient, short-tempered and, 

…self-referring.

…demands tokens of assurance, of victory, of winning.

…uses fear mongering to gain and remain in power.

…avoids all risk to obtain security and protectionism.

…seeks to replace the timeless with the temporal.

…obtains identity from tribal sources and denigrates all others

…is self-centered and narcissistic in his demand for self-preservation.

…makes everything personal.

…has no problem inflicting pain on others

…shuts down discussion and debate

…goes his own way; is his own man.

 

The choices presented to Cain are the same choices presented to each of us. But we don’t have to live the days of Cain. If someone has made wrong choices and has wandered far from God, they should know that God, as he had done with Cain, is asking, “Where are you?” God is ready to show mercy. He wants to bring the wanderer back from exile and to redeem his life from the garbage pit and crown him with love and compassion. God seeks to restore His likeness in His image-bearers. No other likeness will stand before him.

 

He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Psalm 147:10, 11 

The Antique Shop

 

On a street known as Artifact Row, in the historic district of Langford, D&D Antiques offered vintage collectibles. The owners, Dale and Doris, lived in the small apartment above the shop.

Per the rules of the town’s preservation committee, the shops and cafés of Artifact Row were required to maintain their 19th century façades. During the summer months, the lattice ironwork of the display windows and the frame of the double doors into D&Ds were coated with layers of black paint to keep them from oxidizing. Next to D&Ds, the Reitz Artifact Gallery, specializing in graphic arts, antiquarian maps and atlases, repainted its ironwork verdigris green and installed a new awning. On the other side of D&Ds, the wood framed windows and door of Dunwoody’s Furniture Restoration were repainted with a fresh coat of terra beige and brown.

Above D&D’s recessed doors were two transoms which, when lowered, gave the appearance with the doors of being the door’s black eyebrows. And above the transoms was a weathered green signboard with gold letters:

D&D Antiques

Things both Excellent and Rare

The shop’s windows displayed objects collected by Doris from estate sales. On exhibit, a menagerie of items passed down through generations of families including pottery, porcelains, vases, silver platters, a Tiffany lamp, jewelry, spelter candlesticks, figurines, watch fobs and watches, photographs and, postcards. A small banner with a gold star on a red and white field hung in the recessed window next to the door. Above it, a sign posting the shop’s hours. Beneath, a detachment of smartly uniformed nutcrackers that appeared to be standing guard at the door.

The shop now offered consignment, as Things both Excellent and Rare were no longer collected by Doris. A gaunt figure in her eighties, called a flower with a delicate stem by Dale, Doris could no longer attend estate sales. Her knees had become feeble, her gait wobbly, her strength gone. Dale noticed, too, that her mind had become wobbly. Doris no longer knew who he was. So, for a time, she remained with Dale in the shop.

During her days in the shop, Doris would sit listless in the spool-turned rocker. At times she would get up, hobble around and pick up pieces on display. She held them to her ear, as one would do with a sea shell at the beach. A dulcet smile would then appear on her face.

During fifty-five years of marriage, the two had worked hand in hand. Yet a time came to keep Doris upstairs. No longer active, Doris had grown weaker. Dale, also in his eighties, frail and hunched-over, could no longer help his wife up and down the apartment stairs. In the days that followed and at regular intervals, Dale would hang a “BACK IN TEN MINUTES” sign on his door. He would head up the shop’s adjoining stairs to their apartment to care for Doris, where she sat in her arm chair with a vacant stare.

On any given day, except on Mondays when the shop was closed, D&Ds was visited by women poring over each item and husbands who listened to Dale as he regaled them with his stories from his time in the Navy. The children who came along were directed to a corner of the store. There, Dale had set a small table, two chairs and a globe. On the table, Dale’s loose-leafed stamp albums. The children were enchanted by the colorful stamps Dale had collected from around the world. At Dale’s suggestion, they swirled the globe looking for each stamp’s country of origination.

 

It was now Sunday evening. The ageless sounding chimes of the grandfather clock and the sudden “koo-koo” of the Black Forest clock announced six-o’clock. It was time to close the shop. As was his habit, Dale placed the cash drawer and the antique jewelry in a safe. The coffee was shut off. The back door checked. The model train was shut off. The three weights of the grandfather clock were rehung. And, the two streetside lamps that shown down on the face of the shop were switched on.

After one last look around, Dale turned the door sign from “OPEN” TO “CLOSED” and stepped outside into stifling heat of the August night. As he turned the key in the lock, he noticed a thunderous commotion behind him. He looked around. Up and down the Row passersby stopped at window displays. Shoppers walked out of the closing shops. The tremendous clamor, clashes of curses and bellowing voices, seemed to come from the next street east. “Something is in the offing,” Dale thought. “There must be some confusion about the hour.” Tired, Dale trudged up the adjoining stairs.

 

11:10 and the shop was still.  The inconsonant tickticktick of three mantel clocks the only sound.

11:11. The grandfather clock began a sonorous toll. The cuckoo exited with loud rousing “koo-koos”. The conversation began again.

“Let us use our time wisely,” came the booming voice of the grandfather clock.

“Here one minute. Gone the next,” chirped the cuckoo.

“What? We sit here, day after day. Nothing changes,” moaned the mantel clock.

“I do have my ups and downs,” noted the barometer.

“It’s all the same,” sighed the depression glass.

“But we’re not the same,” countered the silver chalice. “Some of us have a higher station in life.”

“I was tops in my class,” said masthead light.

“But I summoned the attention of all,” said the ship’s bell.

“No. It was I,” said the bosun’s pipe.

“I held the compass,” said the binnacle proudly.

“But you are not me,” said the compass. “I gave directions.”

“I was the admiral’s go to,” said the brass ship’s wheel.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without me,” replied the rudder.

“You don’t know the time of day,” replied the ship’s clock.

“I’m getting sea sick,” growled the gyroscope.

“Boys. Boys. Don’t make waves,” admonished the sextant. “Know your place.”

“It’s all the same. Night after night.” groaned the glass.

“But we aren’t!” said the painting pointedly.

“We are!” declared the silverware.

“We aren’t”, squealed the Chantilly porcelain terrine.

“We are. We aren’t,” the rocker hemmed and hawed.

“Things are heating up again,” the fireplace poker jabbed. “Just the way I like it.”

“You’re always stirring things up,” jabbed the ivory letter opener.

“Can’t we all just get along,” the fine china clattered.

“Let’s have a party,” the silver platter prompted.

“Yes, let’s!” shouted the silverware.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“The same. Not the same. The same. Not the same,” choo-choo-ed the tinplate model train.

“At least I don’t go around in circles all day,” remarked the rubber stamp.

“No. You just sit there with ink on your face,” countered the train.

“Don’t rub it in,” the stamp came back.

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” pounced the Murano glass paperweight.

“Look who’s talking,” remarked the art nouveau hand mirror.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

“The same, Not the same. The same. Not the same.”

“I could shed some light on this,” laughed the Tiffany lamp.

“You’re not plugged in,” the flat iron spoke frankly.

“And neither are you,” countered the candlestick holder.

“You can’t hold a candle to me,” bragged the wash basin

“Keep a lid on it,” the tea pot protested.

“I’m with her,” tittered the tea cup

“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” snorted the spittoon.

“Have you no taste? I am fine china!”

“Have some decorum,” pleaded the painting.

 

Tickticktick Tickticktick Tickticktick.

 

“Bor…ring. I’ve more important things to do,” brayed the brass bugle.

“He’s always blowing his own horn,” a nutcracker noted.

“It’s all the same.”

“You need to change your worldview,” the globe giggled.

“Get a hobby,” snickered the stamp album.

“The same, Not the same. The same. Not the same.”

“Let’s change the subject,” broached the book. “I am a first edition.”

“But I was here first!” shouted the Louis the XVI chair.

“And consigned to the dust bin of history,” scoffed the newly arrived brooch.

“I did not know you had come, and I shall not miss you when you go away,” replied the chair.

“I have served wine to kings and queens,” said the goblet. “I deserve better company.”

Mais oui, bien sûr,“ came back the chair. “As do I.”

“Those two are broken records,” the gramophone pointed out.

“I am above all that,” said the annoyed candelabra. “I have looked down on royalty and heads of state.”

Not to be overlooked, the Victorian sewing table said proudly, “Not what I have but what I do is my kingdom.”

“Let’s face it. It’s all about me,” the cameo came back.

“You’re just another face in the crowd,” the mirror mocked.

“The lady picked me up. Held me to her ear.”

“And what did you tell her?” queried the quartz watch.

“If it’s true it’s not new.”

“Are you a philosopher now?” wondered the Wedgewood vase.

“Though Truth and Falsehood be Near twins, yet Truth a little elder is,” recited the limited-edition poetry book with a flourish.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

“Well, you are all waiting,” remarked the rubber stamp.

“Waiting for what?” asked the tintype.

“Waiting to be taken to a home,” cooed the wood doll.

“Home is where the heart is,” replied the postcard.

“You’re just ephemera. Here today. Gone tomorrow,” tut-ted the dressing table.

“You have no utility,” snarked the silver platter.

“I’m a keepsake. A reminder of times past,” the postcard said proudly.

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now,” exhorted the jade Buddha.

“Right on!” shouted the mantel clock.

“Progress!” The cuckoo poked his head out.

“Revolution!” fired off the fireplace poker.

“Diversity!” yelled the stamp album.

“Equality!” exclaimed the stamps in unison.

“Solidarity!” cried the flat iron.

“Can’t we all get along?” pleaded the fine china. “We can all serve humanity.”

“Hear! Hear! Shouted the silverware.

“Keep it together,” begged the bookends.

“It’s all the same.”

“We’re not the same.”

“We are. We aren’t.”

 

Tickticktick Tickticktick Tickticktick.

 

2 AM. Grandfather tolled and the cuckoo called. A loud crash.

“What was that?” questioned the quilt.

“A torch,” said one of the nutcrackers.

“I’ve seen this before,” said the fireplace poker.

“What’s it for?” wondered the watch.

“A torch is for light,” said the candlestick holder.

“But why is it on the floor?” asked the Oriental rug anxiously.

“Perhaps it is to be sold,” speculated the rubber stamp.

“I’ve read about this sort of thing,” stated the first edition. “It doesn’t bode well.”

“Some say the world will end in fire … Some say in ice,” warned the poetry book.

“The fire is coming closer,” fretted the lute.

“Shouldn’t it be on a candleholder where it belongs,” asked the candlestick holder.

“Fire goes where it goes,” replied the fireplace poker.

“It’s going up my leg,” said the Louis the XVI chair.

“How does it feel Mr. High and Mighty?” asked the rubber stamp.

“It feels … ohhhhh …familiar, …! …. like searing passion and raging anger.” The chair tried to maintain composed, but, “… now, ow! Ow! OW! …je suis d’histoire!. Aurevoir à mes amis.” The chair toppled down.

“What shall we do?” roared the rocker engulfed in flames.

“Maybe the shopkeeper will come,” said the cameo.

“Bugle do something,” shouted a nutcracker, his ranks now diminished.

The bugle, overcome by smoke, sputtered and coughed, “splurrrrtttt ….cuh cuh ….cuh cuh …someone get me some AIRrrrrrr …!”

“If I only had water,” said the basin.

“If only someone had taken us home,” cried the postcard.

The mirror, enamored by its reflection, proudly stated, “Look at the light I am reflecting. The whole room is lit up.”

“Don’t you see what is happening?” rasped the rocker. “We are being consumed!”

“I’ve done my job,” replied the mirror.

“I want out!” cried the postcard, the flames edging up his sides.

“We’re all in this together,” wheezed the stamp album with its last breath. The conversation ended.

 

3 AM. There was no ageless sounding toll and no sudden “koo-koo”. The second story had collapsed.

 

 

 

 

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2020, All Rights Reserved

(aka, Lena de Vries)

Taking It to the Park

 

Here are three photos taken during last Sunday’s walk in the park.

 

Tossing The Masks

Holier Than Thou

As one can see, the figure of a prim and proper gentleman disposing of litter was contemporized with masks.

I have no mask to dispose of. I am not a mask wearer. In fact, I refuse to wear a mask. In some minds, perhaps, I am thought of as insensible and unempathetic to the plight of mankind. I may even be thought of as a science denier. So be it.

No doubt, mask wearing is essential for some. If one is dealing with unhealthy, immune compromised people and the aged, then one should wear a mask. Makes sense. If a business like a grocery store requires their employees to wear a mask, it makes sense. The employees, particularly cashiers who are seniors, deal closely with many folks. I understand that via licensing authority the state coerces owners of salons, restaurants, etc. to submit to their orders or else contract a COVID-like demise of their business by revocation.

Black Americans, we have learned, are more susceptible to the virus. It makes sense for them to take precautions. We have also learned that young people are not very susceptible to the virus. Yet, the state has quarantined both the healthy and the weak, for welfare has come to mean protecting the weak from the strong in all their manifestations.

I don’t see a reason to submit to wearing mask. It is ludicrous. So, I’ve cancelled appointments (medical, dental, hair and others). I don’t see a reason for a patron of a grocery to have to wear a mask. I pick up what I need curbside. So be it.

I just saw a young couple wearing masks in their car. I’ve seen healthy adults in masks walking in a park every weekend. The virus, my friend, is not blowing in the wind.

As an adult of senior age, I am not concerned about catching the virus. I have been praying for others and myself: when the virus is contracted, I ask God that antibodies bind and inactivate the virus and create an immunological memory against it. All I ask of government is information to make decisions. I do not want government to make decisions for me.

Masks (and the lock down) are not essential (except as mentioned above). We are essential and we know it. We can use our heads and social distance. You have your space and I have mine. Just like before science became our Lord and Savior.

Social Distancing

A black fist? I thought that Seattle’s autonomous zone Chop (formerly Chaz) had usurped the Black Lives Matter message.

(The end of slavery has been tokenized by Juneteenth. And here I thought that black oppression was rife and systemic today.)

Another Day in America

With calls to defund the police and books and words of their meaning and people and organizations of their voice and the Constitution of its original intent and the Gospels of their salvific narrative…what does moral nihilism fund? Nothingness.

 

You Need to Know …, (added 6-25-2020)
“…social distancing strategies …a high-school science experiment that eventually became law of the land, and through a circuitous route propelled not by science but politics.”
The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea

The data is in — stop the panic and end the total isolation

How Bad Science Led to Disastrous COVID-19 Policies, with Dr. Scott Atlas

A Bad Place

The assumption that spending more of the taxpayer’s money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse. The black family- which survived slavery, discrimination, poverty, wars and depressions- began to come apart as the federal government moved in with its well-financed programs to “help.” Thomas Sowell

“We’re creating a large number of social misfits in the inner city which will prey on the larger community later on.” PBS Documentary about the Robert Taylor Homes

Your housing unit is one of 4,415 units in one of 28 identical 16-story buildings. The buildings stretch for two miles, north to south, in Chicago’s “black belt”. The site was selected by progressive-minded CHA and a Chicago City council member. You are one of 27000 residents in “The Projects”. You are poor. You are a government project.

The following video, the 1982 PBS Documentary about the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, offers an historical apolitical report of public housing flagged as urban renewal. You will want to watch the whole video to create your own assessment. I offer mine below.

There are those who see a good solution to a social problem. So, with untethered optimism and taxpayer dollars, they throw big money at the problem only for the recipients to receive the horrific unintended consequences: life in a bad place – dystopia.

There is the idea that Progressivism, with its humanist “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” rhetoric, equals empathy, equality and justice. Yet, the residents of “The Projects” once put in their place, endured the indifference of vending machine bureaucracy. They shared equally the human misery, squalor, degradation and, overcrowding of “The Projects”. They created their own justice within “their own little world”.

Welfare empathy means giving to, not suffering with. It means distancing policy and policy makers from the impoverished and hurting. It means one-on-one charity is to be replaced with the Marxist ideal of redistribution. Jesus’ words commanding us to love our neighbor as we love our self is the direct opposite of Marxism. Jesus gave us an example of a neighbor in his parable. The neighbor, the Good Samaritan, comes alongside to help the stricken man. The Samaritan follows through, ensuring the man’s wellbeing.

Government throwing money at problems does not create good. Government cannot create good. That is the work of individuals.

As one can see, government welfare is about the “containment” of a problem – people. Hence, the Robert Taylor Homes -“A Little World of Their Own”. (containment: see also COVID-19 lockdown; social distancing, the shuttering of businesses for months on end)

The welfare system is not about the poor. It is about making elites look good and feel good about themselves. It is about virtue signaling, votes and power.

The welfare state promotes infantilism, as people transfer responsibility onto the ‘guardian’ state to solve problems, social and personal. A reliance on the state is created. The state is expected to nurse the dependent to a happy and satisfied state. Adjunct to such dependence is the dissatisfaction with the state, as the state cannot solve social and personal problems or create happiness. So comes the whining, protests, riots and, destruction – reactions of unhappy children.

Welfare, as depicted, destroys human dignity. When people are penned in, fed from the welfare trough and, receive more money for giving birth to out-of-wedlock children – what does that do to a person’s dignity? What does a reinforced dehumanized existence do to one’s soul?

Individuals chose, by their own human agency, to submit themselves to the projects. They chose to bring up children, generations, within the projects and welfare. If they are victims, they were victims of their own choices.

You can see for yourself. Public housing does not foster dignity, initiative and stewardship as does private ownership. Stewardship is mankind’s vocation as stated in Genesis Chapter 1:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

 

How much of the rioting, looting and destruction going on today is the result of the welfare system which created “social misfits”? How much of what is now called “social justice” was born out of the “The Projects” where lawless gangs, drug dealers and, thugs practiced street-justice?

The last Robert Taylor building was demolished in October 2006. How much of that bad place is still housed in the one-time contained and marginalized 27,000 residents of “The Projects” and their descendants?

Sam Castan, “Modern Design for a City Ghetto,” Look, 21 Sept. 1965

The Unmasking

 

As in a morning field. Was it a vision?
Or did we see that day the unseeable
One glory of the everlasting world
Perpetually at work, though never seen

-Edwin Muir, Transfiguration

Why talk about the transfiguration of Jesus during the time of COVID-19? For one, to provide a respite from the incessant fear-mongering pouring out from the 24/7 news cycle and with it the cloying and Orwellian “Heroes” pronounced upon us for submitting to anti-social behavior. A more important reason is to lift our sights above charts, graphs and, metrics that encapsulate our Pareto-ized lives at this time.

The gospels document Peter, James and John’s mountain top eye-witness account of the transfiguration: Matthew 17: 1-8, Mark 9: 2-8, Luke 9: 28-36. Peter recalls it in his second letter, 2 Peter 1: 16-18.

When we made known to you the power and appearing of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, you see, we were not following cleverly devised myths. Rather, we were eyewitnesses of his grandeur. For when he received honor and glory from God the father, a voice spoke to him from the Wonderful Glory, “This is my son, my beloved one, in whom I am well pleased.” We heard his voice, spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

John alludes to the transfiguration in his gospel. (John 1:14):

And the word became flesh, and lived among us. We gazed upon his glory, glory like that of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Recall that Moses, tasked by God to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, wanted a handle on things. Overwhelmed, he wanted to know who will go with him to make the exodus happen. God replied:

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

Moses, anxious about new his vocation, wanted further clarity and security:

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

God accepts Moses’ request, as God wants to reveal Himself to Moses (and the people of Israel).

 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

Moses was not allowed to see God’s face. But the glory of God shone so much onto him during his encounters with God that his face was radiant. So radiant, in fact, that he had to wear a veil whenever he returned to the people (Exodus 34: 35).

The transfiguration –Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus in dazzling light (representing the Law and the Prophets and the New Covenant) – had an earth-shattering effect on the earthlings. Peter wanted to get a handle on all this. He began to speak, formalizing and institutionalizing what he sees (as many have done since). But then God spoke …

When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone. (Matthew 17: 6-8)

An unmasking, a revelation, had occurred. God Very God could be seen in a glorified human form. The transfiguration happened once. But similar revelations happened throughout the gospels. It happened earlier when Jesus read Isaiah in the synagogue. And, later, at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. The veil of the holy of holies was torn from top to bottom and a Roman Centurion, standing at the foot of the cross, said “This fellow really was god’s son.”

The same thing happened when the disciples “recognized” Jesus after his resurrection. And, when Paul encountered Jesus on the Damascus road. And it will happen when we see him as he is and all faces will look upon him. John makes a point in his gospel (and letters) about recognizing Jesus.

John’s only gospel reference to the transfiguration, we gazed upon his glory, could be seen as the theme of his gospel account. “Look! There’s God’s lamb!” “Come and see.” Remove your blindness. Look at Jesus. See in his human face the living God.

Do you think that Peter, James and John were radiant after they saw the human face of the living God? Do you think that they veiled their wonder and joy when they returned to the people? Do you think they came away with a whole new understanding of the infinite-personal God?

 

The transfiguration of Jesus is not a day on the church calendar or a cool yet detached-from-earth-reality event. No. Rather, it is God coming to his creation – his temple -and revealing Himself to us. What did God reveal to His image bearers, the keepers of His temple? He disclosed his glory, grace and truth – and not in generic theological terms. He revealed in person the character and personhood of God. He spoke. He is aware of his creation. He has a will. He is good.

The luminous transfiguration of Jesus allowed Peter, James and John a glimpse of ultimate reality. It also threw light onto where they lived: a world darkened by disease and evil. Yet, as the texts also reveal, the transfiguration offered no escape route (no Rapture) for Peter, James and John to leave this troubled world. No. Jesus comes down the mountain with them. In doing so, he reiterates without words what they had heard in the Moses account: My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

So be it in the days of COVID-19.

Transformative Knowledge

 

The opening of the poem The Agony by George Herbert speaks of the modern way of knowing: the rational scientific mode (“philosophers” = natural philosophers). Herbert says there is so much more to take into account; there is so much more to knowing. He seeks to balance, heal and re-inform our ways of knowing. To radically transform our ways of knowing, Herbert invites us to turn to Christ at the intersection of sin and love – Christ’s Passion.

Closer to home, have you noticed that churches have ways of presenting sin and love? There are churches that speak about sin and damnation. They are ready to point out sin and make love conditional. And, there are churches that speak of unconditional love and inclusion while making sin conditional. Herbert reminds us that transcendent love can only be fully understood when we come to a knowledge of our sin and the meaning of cross.

 

The Agony

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of the seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staff to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skin, his garments bloody be.
Sin is that press and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach, then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

“There Is a Solution …”

 

Lent in the Time of Coronavirus

 

“I’m telling you a solemn truth: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains all by itself. If it dies, though, it will produce lots of fruit. If you love your life, you’ll lose it. If you hate your life in this world, you’ll keep it for the life of the coming age.” -the gospel according to John, 12: 24-25

These words of Jesus were in response to Andrew and Philip. They came to Jesus saying that some Greeks would like to meet him. It seems to be a strange response for a simple request. But Jesus, noting that the “world” was coming to him for answers and for salvation, speaks of his coming death and the means to a resurrected life by following the same vocation. His words define the essence of Lent.

From the earliest days of the church, times of self-examination and self-denial have been observed. The origin of this practice may have been for the preparation of new Christians for Baptism and a reset of their lives. 2020 and the Lenten season is upon us and with it the government recommended “Stay in Place” until April 30th. Easter (April 12th), resurrection day, is the celebratory end of Lent and a restart to new life dependent on what takes place during Lent.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a worldwide intense focus on physical and financial well-being, As we each hunker down and remain sequestered away from the coronavirus, anxiety is compounded: we want to know if we’ll be OK; we want to know where all of this is going and how it will end. The Greeks who wanted to meet Jesus and first-century Jews with their age-old anticipation for a Messiah to set the world to rights had similar concerns.

It is said that Luke, writer of a gospel account and the Acts of the Apostles, was a Greek physician. This being the case, he would testify, if present today, to the infirmities leading to vast numbers of death in the first century. He would recount that there was all manner of infectious diseases, smallpox, parasitic infections, malaria, anthrax, pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, skin diseases including leprosy, head lice and scabies and, more. Dr. Luke would be the first to tell you that first-century remedies were ineffectual against the afflictions mentioned.

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, would tell us how Stoic and Epicurean philosophers dealt with grim reality surrounding them.

The Stoics, around the same time as Epicurus, posited a grim fatalist outlook. Considering themselves cogs in life’s machinery, their response was to lead a virtuous life in spite of “it all”. Materialism and passions were of no interest to them. “No Fear” and apathy towards life’s randomness were the attitudes they wore on their shoulder to appear non-self-pitying. They also advocated for suicide -the ultimate form of self-pity.

The philosophy of Epicureanism, posited by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) a few centuries before the birth of Christ, offered mankind self-pity with license. Per Epicurus, there was no God or the gods were uninvolved with men. And, for him, there was no life after death. So, mankind had to make the best of the atoms he was dealt. Man was to do so by avoiding pain and seeking pleasure in the company of like-minded friends. Self-pity could be dealt with in intimate and safe surroundings.

Around the first century Epicureanism and Stoicism were evident in Greek, Roman and Pagan life. These philosophies gave words to what was inherent in man from his days in the Garden – a narrative of mis-trust in God. During the first century these philosophies were already fused with pantheism and the zeal to worship pagan deities.

To seek relief, paganism, an early form of Progressivism, enjoined pagans to offer the distant gods sacrifices to secure their well-being. Israel, called to be the people of God, chose to lament – asking God to respond to dire circumstances according to revealed His nature. Many of the Psalms are worship-infused petitions invoking remembrances of God’s ability to save and vows to praise Him as he does so again.

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
 How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me

In the news reports we hear “unprecedented” many times over. Yet, this pandemic is no Black Swan event. History records pandemics, plagues, earthquakes, famines and, all manner of tragedies affecting mankind. In my previous post I mentioned weathering last century’s Asian flu pandemic. And though our response to the current pandemic is “unprecedented” mankind will continue to suffer from unexpected devastating events. Mankind will continue to ask, as did the psalmist (Psalm 22), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” We read above that the psalmist has put his trust in God’s unfailing love. He awaits God’s salvation knowing that God has acted to save a remnant of the faithful before.

Lent, this Lent in particular, is a time to lament. We want to know if we’ll be OK; we want to know where all of this is going and how it will end. Asking God to consider the dire circumstances and to answer according to his nature, is a conversation to foster during Lent. It is a time to consider that there is an advocate – the Word Incarnate – who pleads for us before the throne of God. He does so with ‘real-world’ experience.

The Son of God entered the unsanitary disease-filled world described above. He is fully aware of the pain, suffering and groaning of his creation and of man’s philosophies, with its grains of thought which produce no fruit. He did not come to give us social justice platitudes. He did not come to create a Progressive party and overthrow the establishment. If, as God-man, he had not made the sacrifice to redeem his creation, then he would have “remained alone” as a philosopher with platitudes. He came instead, as he stated to Andrew and Philip, to be a grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies in order to bring forth much fruit in his creation.

Per Jesus’ example, Lent is a time to become a grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, dies to the flesh on the world’s self-preservation life-support. It is a time to cultivate healthy spiritual habits, habits that produce the fruits that Jesus spoke about when his time of sacrifice was approaching.

As a season for Christians to mark time and to “Stay in Place”, apart for a time from the world’s pervasive influence, Lent is a time for Christians to hunker down, revise routines, and to focus on what matters. It is a time of reflection, repentance and, renewal. It is a time for fasting, growth and, a return to silence and simplicity.

As we do so, we may find that the silver lining we had purchased in the moment, in the midst of dark days of stress and difficulty, was in exchange for thirty pieces of silver. We may learn that the investments we have made – time-wise, financially and morally – are insufficient to carry us forward. We may find that we have greatly leveraged ourselves to control larger and larger positions in life, positions that are more than we can handle. We may have done so to gain acceptance and security from the world. But now there are margin calls we are unable to pay. This may cause us to look to for more security from the world or to God. During this time, we may also learn that our God-given discernment has been used to criticize others and their “sins” and not for intercession on behalf of them.

 

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic ‘exile’, we may be wishing “If only someone would push RESET and we could get on with our lives as before”. A RESET button has been pushed. Jesus of Nazareth, very God of very God and the Word made flesh, came into the world to reset all narratives, including the historical Judaic narrative, by keeping his covenant promises. The epigraph, words to both Greeks and Jews, tells us how.

The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest RESET and the only one that really matters. With it, the power of death had been defeated. Remember Jesus telling Martha at the time of Lazarus’s death, “I am the resurrection and the life. And anyone who believes in me will live, even if they die.” (John 11: 25-26) Yes, Jesus wept at the overwhelming sorrow caused by Lazarus’ death. But he knew that he would overcome death and that there would be rejoicing in the new-life fruit his death and resurrection would produce.

Lent in the Time of the Coronavirus is a time for Christians to plant the grain-of-wheat RESET and to be ready to go on with their lives as never before.

Coronavirus in the Dock

 

By now you are aware of the CDC guidelines to stave off the spread of the Chinese import – the Wuhan coronavirus. (“COVID-19” is the socially sterile PC term.) I want to offer three perspectives: mine, one from a gentleman who survived a pandemic and the third from a doctor in Lombardi, Italy. I will start with mine, the most strident:

Up until Friday night, I was working at my company’s remote office as usual. Then the Illinois governor ordered “shelter-in-place” for everyone in the state with the exception of those in “vital occupations”. Our company is now following the order. I start working from home tomorrow. I had a limited time yesterday to gather up my laptop, monitors, drawings, etc. before the remote office was closed.

Up until Friday, I had been working out 4-5 times a week. But now, the health club is closed. I would think that maintaining your health would be of maximal import right now. But things have gone berserk. You can maintain social distancing in a health club. The hours can be shortened to allow for sanitizing of the equipment.

No doubt there are legal aspects that businesses consider in shutting down. No business wants to be sued for spreading the coronavirus. We live in a litigious society where many do not want to take responsibility for their own actions and finger pointing is promoted.

The grocery stores have changed their hours to 8 AM till 6 PM. This has resulted in a hoard of people lining up before 8 AM so that they can get in to pillage the shelves. I went to a grocery store yesterday after eight. I picked up a couple of things: a bottle of water and a newspaper for the crossword. I then found that the checkout line was extended from the cashiers back through the frozen food aisle to the back end of the store and continued to the left past the meat deli counter. So much for “social distancing”. And, many of the shelves were empty. The lockdown and the lines are insane for many reasons, including the imposed reliance on the information systems in place – the 24/7 pandemic-obsessed media, with its constant log of coronavirus cases and deaths and shortages. What are you to do with this information?

On a news program just now, I heard that 5 million people could lose their jobs because of the lock-down of businesses – a number that tells you, in effect, that our economy will not recover anytime time soon. The yield curve, the relationship between the short and long-term interest rates of fixed-income securities issued by the U.S. Treasury, is indicating a pending recession. I predict that the lock-down will be withdrawn when the government cannot receive the revenue it needs to function. The Democrat state of Illinois is already in a huge financial mess. Before this happens, though, there will be a nascent outcry from those in lock-down – “Enough Already!” For they will see that the cure is worse than the disease. While there is much talk of flattening the pandemic curve, the economy’s health curve is now inverted and will not begin to flatten until “Enough Already!” or a vaccine is produced.

The federal government’s response – handing out checks to those earning $99K and less – is absurd. This shotgun approach will not help a long-term lockdown. Many are still working and maintaining. Those who lost jobs will go on unemployment. The amount the unemployed receive is around fifty-percent of their previous paychecks. The federal government should provide the balance of that income through the unemployment system already in place. The money provided by the federal government could replicate H. R. 4584: money paid out now would be in exchange for delayed eligibility for Social Security benefits. The focus for citizens should be to maintain income through the imposed lock-down. The focus for small business and corporations should be to keep them afloat with no-interest long term loans, reduced regulations, and a delay in taxation. (A word to Democrats in Congress: you continue to hate on corporations. You continue to deny economic reality. Corporations along with small businesses provide the common man a job. Corporations provide millions of jobs. Corporate profits work to create more jobs (and money for your political campaigns). Corporations provide the infrastructure of supply and demand. Corporations provide your “Precious”: toilet paper.)

The taxpayer’s money should be spent primarily on securing the equipment and means to fight the virus. Such a vaccine will bring an end to quarantine much quicker. I have every confidence in America’s biotech companies. They will find a vaccine that will stop the virus.

Our church will not be open during this lock-down. Though there is an obvious physical component – the virus – affecting everyone’s behavior, there is also a spiritual component at work. It’s as if the Evil One, through the world system, wants to deprive Christians of the Eucharist and gathering in the name of the Lord. It’s as if the Evil One, through the same system, wants the media with its fear-mongering news, its prescription drug commercials and its prurient depictions of life – to be the sole source of how to think and feel during the lock-down. What will you be doing during your shut-in time? Watching TV. The media is a constant reminder that there is a spiritual battle going on, a battle for your heart, mind and soul. The media virus will have its negative effects.

As a church community we are right to obey the authorities. But there is also this to consider:

“A scared world needs a fearless church.”

-A. W. Tozer

At times like this one looks for a reference point from the past. Here’s mine: In 1957 I was five-years old. I became very sick. I had a burning fever and chills. Our doctor made house calls then. He took my temperature: over 103! He said that I had the Asian flu. He gave my mother a script for something. I recovered after a week. I do not recall any lock-down or social madness at that time. I have never been germ-obsessed. So, somewhere along the line, I must have developed antibodies to stave off illness. If I came down with something the kids brought home, I just worked through it. I have never had a flu shot and I can’t remember a time when I had the flu.

Here’s another perspective, a more reflective one. I recently came across an article written by an older man who also had experienced the Asian flu:

Say Your Prayers and Take Your Chances

And another perspective, a sobering one, sent to me from my brother, a hospital chaplain in Indiana:

Testimony of a doctor in Lombardy, Italy:

Never in the darkest nightmares did I imagine I could see and live what’s happening here in our hospital for three weeks now.

The nightmare is flowing, the river is getting bigger and bigger.

At first some came, then tens and then hundreds.

Now we are no longer doctors, but we have become classifiers on tape and decide who lives and who should be sent home to die, although all these people have paid taxes all their lives.

Until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists; it was normal because we are doctors and learned science and science was told to exclude the presence of God. Always laughed at my parents going to church.

Nine days ago a 75 year old pastor came to us. Gentle man, had big breathing problems. He had a Bible and we were impressed that he read it to the dying and they grabbed his hand. Being all the new doctors tired, discouraged, psychologically and physically exhausted, when we had time we listened to the pastor. Now we have to admit that we, as humans, have reached our limits; more we cannot do, and more people die daily. We are exhausted, we already have two colleagues who have died and others are standing. We realized that where what man can do ends, we need God and we start wondering things when we have some free minutes. We talk to each other and we cannot believe that of fierce atheists we have become believers to find our peace, asking the Lord to help us to resist so we can care for the sick.

Yesterday the 75-year-old pastor died, who until today, even though we had more than 120 dead in 3 weeks here, we had all ended up wanting; we are destroyed because the old pastor managed, during his stay, to bring us a peace we no longer expect to find. The shepherd went to the Lord and soon we will follow him. I’ve been home for 6 days now, I don’t know when I last ate, and I realize my futility on this earth and I want to dedicate my last breath to helping others.

I am happy to have returned to God while surrounded by the suffering and death of my peers “…

 

Prior to this current pandemic, haven’t each of us avoided becoming infected via social interactions prior to the pandemic? Haven’t the elderly and pregnant women avoided friends and family when things seemed iffy? Haven’t we tried to stay healthy? Haven’t you been helping your neighbor? If these things are true of you, then “Stay the course”, as my doctor told me at the end of my yearly checkup on Friday.

Homestead Reset: Avoid the media. Play games. Try new recipes. Challenge your mind. Spend time learning a new trade. Take online classes. Learn how to trade stocks. Read classical literature. Read to invoke your imagination. A healthy imagination is life-sustaining. Read to see how others deal with adversity. Read to take your thoughts to new places. Don’t let your thoughts fester on the “Island of Despair”.

And, pray.

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

…..

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.  If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.  If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.  Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.   Amen.

Watershed at the Well

 

This day began like all other days in Sychar. The man that stayed with me last night left my side early, while it was still dark. I turn over and wait. I go out when the sun is highest over Mount Gerizim so as to not rankle the locals.

You see, I have a reputation in this town. It has to do with the men who have come and gone from my life. I keep going back to the well for a different man. Those I’ve been with have been dull, uninteresting and not satisfying at all. The one I’m with now: ehh! I could do better …

No matter. I am supremely self-reliant, like my people the Samaritans. We don’t need the Jew’s affirmation. We have our holy mountain, our Pentateuch and the true religion of Israel. And, I have my ways …

It is time for me to go for water. There is a spring way off in that direction, but I much prefer the water from the well of Jacob our patriarch. Come with me and I will tell you about my people. Cover your head, for the sun is scorching, and carry this water jar. We will fill two water jars today …

My people remained in the land of Israel and were not carried off to Babylon like those of Judah. We are the true remnant of Israel. We are guardians of Israel. We have preserved the true religion of our fathers. Our ways were not altered and distorted by the Babylonian captivity. When the Judahites returned to Israel, they presumed their ways to be true Israel. They presumed their own holy place …

Look at blessed Gerizim. Mount Gerizim is our holy mountain. It has been the true holy place for Israel since the time Joshua conquered Canaan … It is the mountain designated by Moses for our place of worship …

There, at its base is Bir Ya`qub, the well of Jacob our patriarch. That is where we are headed. It is near a crossroad for those traveling north or south … that well is where our father Abraham sent his servant to find the future wife for his son Isaac. The servant was to ask for water. If offered water by a woman there then that was the sign that she would be Isaac´s future wife …

Those who returned from Babylonian captivity despise us. According to the Jewish polemic Ben-Sira, we are “the foolish people that dwells in Shechem” and an enemy of Israel. Over one-hundred years ago a Jewish king, John Hyrcanus, destroyed our holy city of Shechem and our temple on Mount Gerizim. I suspect that the Jewish authorities didn’t like us trying to stop their rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem when they returned. They also don’t like that we married foreigners and took on their ways. They call us half-breeds! …As you can imagine, there has long been religious and ethnic enmity between us and the Jews …Why, they even have hatred against their own people and prophets. They kill them! … So, I want nothing to do with them …

The well is to the right of the road where it bends from the great plain of Makhneh into the pass of Shechem. The well is deep. The water is clear and pure. You must taste it ….

If you haven’t realized it yet, I am fiercely independent like my people, the Samaritans. I support myself. I own property, earned through my dealings with men. I am fiercely independent like my people, the Samaritans. And we are an open-minded people. We have welcomed criminals and refugees and the excommunicated – the violators of the severe Jewish laws. They have found safety with us from the Jewish authorities … I am comfortable living as I do among the rejected …

It is good that we go to the well now, while the sun is hot and the chatter cooled. The women of Sychar have all drawn water early this morning and have returned home. We will be left alone …

I am not only a Samaritan but also a woman of the world. When the Greeks came and conquered Samaria, we took on many Greek ways while keeping our traditional ways. We called our sanctuary Zeus Hellenios to honor God in the language we became familiar with. And, why shouldn’t we acknowledge their gods as being the same as our God. We are open-minded and not like those uppity Judeans who returned from exile with their Judaism. They refuse to associate with foreigners and us Samaritans. They keep their distance and we keep our distance. They have their land and we have ours. They have their ways and we have ours. And when the Messiah comes, he will put things right. The Messiah will show those Judeans that we were right all along …

Just a little further. I can almost taste that cool water …wait! Who’s that? A Jew? Why is he alone? Is he a running from the Jewish authorities? One doesn’t come through these parts alone for fear of being robbed and left to waste. Remember those men we passed earlier? Maybe he is with them. He must be passing through … Look! This ‘foreigner’ has nothing to draw water with. We will ignore him and pretend that he isn’t there in our space. Those Judeans have nothing to do with us Samaritans. They think we are all demon possessed. We will have nothing to do with them….

Give me your water jar. I will lower it into the well … there, water cool and clear.

“Give me a drink.”

(Whispering: This is odd. Why is he asking me for water? He is not my husband. Doesn’t he know that women and men don’t keep company? Doesn’t he know that Samaritans and Jews don’t associate? He is crossing a line. I’ll deal with him.)

“What! You, a Jew, asking for drink from me, a woman, and a Samaritan at that?”

“If only you’d known God’s gift and who it is that’s saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you’d have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

“But sir, you haven’t got a bucket! And the well is deep! So how were you thinking of getting living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, with his sons and his animals?”

“Everyone who drinks of this water will get thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I’ll give them won’t ever be thirsty again. No: the water I’ll give them will become a spring of water welling up to the life of God’s new age.”

“Sir, give me this water! Then I won’t be thirsty anymore, and I won’t have to come here and draw from the well.”

“Well then, go and call your husband and come here.”

“I haven’t got a husband.” (Whispering: Where is he going with this?)

“You’re telling me you haven’t got a husband! The fact is, you’ve had five husbands, and the one you’ve got now isn’t your husband. You were speaking the truth!”

(Whispering: Hmmm. This guy is perceptive. Let’s see what he does with this!)

“Well, ahem…Well, sir, I can see you’re a prophet …Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain. And you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

“Believe me woman, the time is coming when you won’t worship the father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You worship what you don’t know. We worship what we do know; salvation, you see, is indeed from the Jews. But the time is coming – indeed, it’s here already! – when true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth. Yes: that’s the kind of worship the father is looking for. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

(Whispering: OK, I’ll try this.)

“I know that Messiah is coming, the one they call ‘the anointed’. When he comes, he’ll tell us everything.”

“I’m the one – the one speaking to you right now.”

(Whispering: Did you hear that? Did you hear him tell me everything about my life? He told me what was true about me and did it without patronizing me. How can someone know me who doesn’t know me except if he is from God? Could he be the ‘anointed One’? …Now, who are these guys? Judean Jews? They must be with him. They are looking at us and whispering. C’mon let’s go back home. I want to tell everyone and bring them here …What’s that? The water jars? Leave them. They will draw water and refresh themselves. They will be here when we come back with everyone. C’mon. Let’s hurry! …I forgot to ask his name! I’ll call him Joshua. C’mon! Let’s run. My community will want to meet him! This man has a new way of looking at things! A new reality we need to hear more of! My people know me well enough to know that I am no fool! ….

… … …

“Everyone! Everyone! C’mon everyone! Come and see a man who told me everything I did! You don’t think he can be the Messiah, do you? …I hear what you’re saying …you’re saying that you already know everything I have done. But listen. He doesn’t know me and yet he told me everything about me. You don’t have to believe me. Come and see for yourselves! He has a different way of looking at things, things you need to hear for yourselves! Come! Hurry, before they leave the well!”

… … …

My friend, thank you for coming with me this day. This day began like all other days in Sychar but ended like no other. My people were amazed at Yeshua’s words. They believed in him, some based on what I had said and others on hearing him for themselves. Now they want to be baptized by his disciples in the Jordan river.

I must go. We have invited these Judean Jews, the ‘anointed One’ and his disciples, to stay with us before they head to Galilee. We created space for them in our homes. Yeshua has much to teach us … We are learning how to love God and our neighbor with “spirit and truth” righteousness. I thought I was clever, but I’ve had to rethink many relationships today …. I am abandoning my pluralistic and sectarian ways. I am embracing Yeshua and his ways. There is no one like Adonai among the gods. Those old ways now seem foolish and childish and full of carnality and resentment. I was like the Dead Sea, always taking and never giving. Now, I want “living water” to flow through me, to refresh and satisfy those who ask me for water.

Before today, my people had no use for the Jewish prophets. But now, because of the anointed One, I will quote his reciting of Isaiah the prophet:

“And the LORD will continually guide you,

And satisfy your desire in scorched places,

And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden,

And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”

 

 

 

 

… adapted from the Gospel According to John, chapter 4