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

In My Element

 

How could I forget the passing of my father and mother? My father had become terribly sick. My mother cared for him day and night and soon became sick herself. I cared for both until they died days apart. How could I forget those days of loss and the burden put on me at that time? I am Martha and the oldest of three children.

As was our custom, the three of us – my brother Lazarus, my sister Mary and I – mourned for seven days. We did no work; we did no cleaning or cooking. Friends and relatives brought us food and sat with us and mourned with us as we sat barefoot on the floor. When that time was over, I felt isolated and overwhelmed. I felt the weight of the world suddenly on my shoulders. I was only 13 years old.

Before all this happened, I felt carefree. Life was an uncomplicated joy. When our family went to the synagogue, mother, Mary, and I would sit with the women. Father and Lazarus would sit with the men. Everything was as it should be. We were together in our element. But since, the remaining three of us have felt out of place, as if we were illegitimate children. It didn’t help that older women whispered between themselves when they saw us.

And, celebrating Passover was not the same without father and mother. Father would say, “Mary, ask the question”. Mary would respond “Why is this night different from all the other nights?” Then, we each had to give our answer as she asked it four times. I miss them most during these times.

Without father I felt cut off from the community and the events of the day. Father would come home and tell us all that was going on as we ate our evening meal. In his circle of friends there was much talk of the Romans and their taxes and about Caesar’s image on the denarius. (Father told us that he paid the temple tax in Tyrian shekels because those coins didn’t contain any earthly ruler’s image. This meant he had to deal with greedy money changers.)

Father became especially animated when he talked of a Messiah, one anointed by God who would smash the enemies of God and reign over the earth. Everyone he spoke with thought his appearing was imminent. When father talked about the Messiah he would recite the synagogue reading of the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
     and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

 

As the oldest I took charge of caring for my younger brother and sister. Who else would do this? I fed them, cleaned their clothes and taught them the ways of our people as I had been taught by father and mother. Thankfully, father left his affairs in good order. We lacked for nothing and lived in a spacious home in Bethany.

At our home I tried to maintain order, as my mother had done. She watched over the affairs of the household and did not eat the bread of idleness. She was a woman of noble character and I wanted to be like her. So, I did what was needed.

As I busied myself at home, Lazarus and Mary would go to the marketplace to buy food for our daily meal – fish, vegetables, fresh herbs and the like. At the market they also gathered up the recent gossip and news from travelers about the events of the day. One day it happened that they came home and could talk of nothing else except Jesus.

Mary couldn’t contain herself. She swirled as she spoke in her lilting voice: “He healed … a man … of a terrible skin disease! He healed … a Centurion’s … servant! He raised … a widow’s son … from the dead! Unclean spirits … are cast out! The daughter of Jairus … the ruler of the synagogue … healed! A woman … sick for twelve years … healed! A lame man … made to walk…on the Sabbath! Jesus fed thousands … with a few … fishes and loaves! A storm … was calmed … on the sea of Galilee … “

As Mary spoke, Lazarus paced back and forth. When he finally stopped, he said that Jesus had been in the synagogue in Nazareth … that he had been handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah … that he had read the same words that father recited to us so often!

“His words are the words of life!” Mary exclaimed half-twirl. Lazarus wondered out loud: “Could this be the Messiah that father talked about?”

They both tugged on me. “Come and hear what people are saying!” But I had to remind them of the hour.

“It is almost sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. We must prepare for this. Help me do this. Mary, sweep the house. Lazarus, take these fish bones out to the refuse pile.” After the sabbath, I told them, we will go and hear what is being said about him.

 

 

Soon after, it happened that Jesus came to where we were. He arrived with twelve men who followed him intently and some seventy others. The three of us overheard many of their conversations as they gathered in our village. There was excited talk of Jesus being the long-awaited Messiah. “But what good is a dead Messiah?”, was a response we heard over and over. Many were questioning the direction Jesus was taking – going up to Jerusalem. The rumors were that the authorities there were wanting to do away with him.

The disciples discussed and puzzled over what Jesus had said when they were alone: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”. “What could this possible mean?” they asked each other, “Why must he be killed? And “Isn’t the resurrection on the last day?”

Several spoke of Jesus sending them out in his name. They had the authority to cast out unclean spirits in his name! They were sent to proclaim the kingdom of God. There were villages where they were welcomed and were given food and drink. And there were places where they were not welcomed. In response to these places they wiped that town’s dust from their feet and said “Gods’ kingdom has come close to you! It will be more tolerable for Sodom than this town”.

When I heard this, I immediately welcomed the Master and his followers – all of them – to our home. Who else could do this with all of these? And, of course, the house was clean and empty and ready for guests.

The courtyards were soon overflowing – men gathered on the upper courtyard and women gathered on the lower courtyard. I loved the commotion after so many quiet days – days since father and mother passed away. Like my mother, who had received and served many guests, I was in my element. I took charge.

I sent Mary and Lazarus to the market for cured fish, cumin and coriander, vegetables, figs, grapes and almonds. With seventy plus mouths to feed I needed plenty of provisions and plenty of help.

While they were gone I set about baking bread on the hearth, making lentil stew, and roasting a goat on a spit. I went about offering my guests wine, water and goat’s milk to drink. After a time, Mary and Lazarus came back with everything I asked. They said that the whole town was outside waiting for Jesus and they gave us what we needed!

And Jesus was in my home at the center of a group of men. I set down bowls of figs, dates and almonds before them where they sat and talked. At this point, I was coming and going, from kitchen to room to kitchen to courtyard to kitchen. With so many, there was such a din. But I did hear one ask Jesus to tell them a story.

Jesus affirmed that he would. “Hush!” rippled through the gathering. The courtyards grew quiet. Lifting the sound of his voice so that many could hear, he began:

“Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

While Jesus spoke, I went back to cooking and preparing and wondering what happened to Mary. She was not helping me feed all these people. I needed her help. I was shorthanded and getting more flustered by the minute.

I returned the room where Jesus was with more bread and lentil stew. And, there she was! I was shocked! Not only was Mary sitting around distracted from her duties, but she was sitting with the men …and right at Jesus’ feet! O, the impudence!

Right then and there I wanted to say, “Mary, that is not your place. Come and help me.” But I had a better idea – invoke someone with authority to deal with her. There is someone in this room that she will listen to and who will sympathize with me. He will put her in her place. I stood before Jesus.

“Master, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her to give me a hand!”

Jesus looked at me and must have seen the distressed look on my face. Certainly, I thought, he must know all that us women do, especially when we are hosting. He has a mother.

“Martha, Martha, you are fretting and fussing about so many things. Only one thing matters. Mary has chosen the best part, and it’s not going to be taken away from her.”

Well, that wasn’t the response I was expecting. I stood there looking at him and then at Mary who hadn’t moved and then at a room full of faces. Was the kingdom of God staring back at me waiting for my reaction? There was nothing left for me to do but to sit down, eat and join the conversation.

 

 

In the days following, Lazarus and Mary invited many into our home. I’ve hosted hundreds of people! Those who came were eager to hear about Jesus. I fed them. I sat with them. And, I taught them – men and women alike – about the words and ways of Jesus. I serve the kingdom of God and that is all that matters. I wish father and mother were here to see me in my element.

 

 

 

Adapted from the Gospel According to Luke, chapter 10

Same Road. New Vista.

 

What’s that you say? You’ve just arrived from Cyprus and you are new to the area? And, you’ve heard some incredible things? You want me to tell you all that’s happened? Come in for some water and …some bread.

Where should I begin, stranger? There is so much that has happened the last three days – the last three years, in fact! And long before now! Since you are a visitor from Cyprus, I will start with some necessary background so you will understand why my husband and I are so giddy.

My husband Cleopas and I – I am Mary – settled many years ago in this fertile valley below Jerusalem This area is known as Emmaus. We call this place Motza. Our village is about 30 stadia from our beloved Jerusalem.

As you have seen, it is a well-watered area with rich soil and an abundance of willow trees. During the Feast of Tabernacles celebration many come to our valley and gather willow branches. They take the willow branches and stand them up on the sides of the altar with their tops bowed over the altar.

Our valley has many springs watering it. Our people come down to one of Motza’s springs to get water for baking their matzo for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

I’m sure you noticed the Roman Centurions stationed here. My husband says it is a strategic position for them as they can protect the ascent to Jerusalem on the road leading from Jaffa. And, it is strategic in the ways I know of. Cleopas has overheard some of them saying that they would like to retire here because of the many springs and because north of our village the valley widens offering them plenty of room for settlement and for growing food.

My husband and I are simple farmers. But life for us and our people has not been so simple. Many of us have long desired to be freed from the rule of those who do not worship the One true God. When the Babylonians overtook Jerusalem and carried our people away into exile it was the Isaiah the prophet who spoke for us …

O Lord our God,

other lords besides you have ruled over us

but we acknowledge your name alone.

Now, we are back in our land and still the pagans lord over us. So, we wondered: Would our God act again to bring us out of this exile as he took us out of Egypt? And, when will God resurrect Israel and restore her as a nation? When will the messiah, the Anointed One and Son of the Most High from the line of David, restore the house of David? When, when, when …when would God redeem his people and set up his everlasting kingdom on earth?

On many Sabbaths, as we gather in the synagogue, words from the Torah are read. And then the words of the prophets – the haftarah. We all felt the hopelessness and despair in the words of the prophet Ezekiel: “our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” Our leader would then pray these words:

Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
 You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
 Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
 Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

 

Yes, there were times of renewing hope and rejoicing. This past fall my husband and I and pilgrims from Cyrpus and from faraway lands went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the tabernacle. We carried with us willow branches and olive branches to build to sukkah – our temporary booths. When we all gathered together, we shouted praises to God, sang the songs of Aliyah and waved our fragrant lulavs – our willow branches and palm fronds – before the Lord in a spirit of thankfulness.

After the feast, we walked home with the pilgrims on the Emmaus road, the same road that brought you here. Our hearts were burning with expectation as to what God would do. There was much animated discussion about the events of those seven days. And, it all centered on Jesus. You must know about him, don’t you? How can anyone not know?

That day as we walked along we talked about his feeding the five thousand by the shore of Galilee. We talked about our seeing him healing the blind and the lame. And, Lazarus had been raised from the dead! We marveled that demons were being cast out and at Jesus’ authority over them. And, his words! No one ever spoke like he did about the Moses and the prophets. We discussed how our religious authorities despised him and wanted to do away with him. This made us all fearful, as it would negatively affect our synagogues. Yet, they each said that many were believing in him as the one who was to come.

But Miriam told the group that that even his brothers did not believe in him. She learned this from a young doctor named Luke, whom she met at the feast. He told her that Jesus’ brothers wanted Jesus to show himself publicly so that he could become well-known. “Show yourself to the world!” they said to him. They wanted to put Jesus in a situation which would make him prove he is the Messiah. But Jesus told them “My time is not yet. The world can’t hate you, but it hates me, because I am giving evidence against it, showing that its works are evil”. He told them to go up to the feast. Miriam said that Jesus went up later in secret and now we know why. There was a considerable dispute in the crowds. Some said “He’s a good man and others “He’s deceiving the people!” There were those who hated him and wanted to do away with him.

Ruth told us about the twelve-year old Jesus. His family had gone up to Jerusalem for Passover. When they left to return to Galilee with a caravan of friends, they had traveled a day’s journey before realizing that Jesus wasn’t with the group. He had vanished! So, they went back up to Jerusalem and searched for him for three days. They couldn’t find him anywhere. When they finally did put their eyes on him, he was sitting with the teachers of the law. He was listening to them and asking questions. Those listening to him were amazed at his answers to their questions. But, Mary was neither amazed or happy. She scolded him for disappearing. “Child”, she said to him, “why have done this to your father and me? We have been frantically searching for you”. Jesus told his mother, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I would have to be getting involved with my father’s work?” They didn’t understand a word of what he was saying. Wasn’t his father a carpenter?

Oy, there is so much to tell. I will focus on the last few days and on what happened to Cleopas and me this afternoon. What happened the last few days in Jerusalem we learned from the Jesus’ disciples as Cleopas and I were in Jerusalem for Passover. I can tell you that it was a time of weeping and anguish.

As you may have heard, on the night of Passover Jesus was captured by the authorities – ours and Roman. Though he had done nothing wrong he was sentenced to death on a Roman cross. Our authorities pushed for this, shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea and then released by Pilate to the angry crowd. Jesus was crucified like a common criminal. When we learned of this our hearts were broken, our hopes were dashed. “What good is a dead messiah we asked each other? We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” God be praised! There is more to tell you!

We were in Jerusalem this morning. We heard many, many accounts and rumors of visions and of Jesus’ tomb being empty. The disciples were at a loss as what to make of it all. Peter had gone off to see for himself and confirmed that the tomb was indeed empty. But he was as perplexed as the rest of us. We waited for while longer to see what might come of it all and then we decided to head home. Now, this is the part I’ve been waiting to tell you… I can barely …

Cleopas and I headed home to our village. Along the way we discussed all that had happened that morning. We argued, too, about what it meant. As we walked a stranger approached us and began walking with us. He was not at all familiar to us but he must have overheard us. He started the conversation:

Rowan LeCompte and Irene Matz LeCompte, “Third Station of the Resurrection: The Walk to Emmaus” (detail), 1970. Mosaic, Resurrection Chapel, National Cathedral, Washington, DC. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones.

“You’re obviously having a very important discussion on your walk. What’s it all about?”

We stopped walking and turned to him. He must have seen that we were both downcast. Cleopas answered the stranger. “You must be the only person around Jerusalem who doesn’t know what’s been going on there the last few days.”

“What things?” he asked.

“To do with Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet. He acted with power and he spoke with power, before God and all the people. Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel!

And now, what with all this, it’s the third day since it happened. But some women from our group have astonished us. They went to his tomb very early this morning, and didn’t find his body. They came back saying they’d seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Some of the folk with us went off to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see him.”

“You are so senseless! So slow in your hearts to believe all the things the prophets said to you! Don’t you see? This is what had to happen: the Messiah had to suffer, and then come into his glory!”

At this point, we were quite perplexed. Who is this stranger and why is taking this so personally? We were both taken aback by the zeal and authority with which the stranger spoke. We searched his face for answers to what we didn’t recognize in all of the Sabbath words. He began walking and we followed.

We listened to the stranger explain Moses and the prophets and all of Scripture in terms of the One who was to come and ransom Israel and bring her and the whole world out of exile. He told us …

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

He talked about a kingdom on earth and about creation and new creation. As he spoke, everything we had been taught began to look different. Everything was coming into focus and the focal point was Jesus. Everything was becoming clear except for the stranger. He remained an enigma.

We reached the intersection to our village. We turned down our road. The stranger kept walking down the Emmaus road. We called after him urging him to stay with us. He kept walking. Cleopas finally ran up to him and pleaded with him to stay with us. “Sir”, he said, “the day is almost over. Stay with us.” The stranger agreed to come with us.

We invited him in and gave him a bowl of water and a towel to wash his hands and feet. We gave him water to drink. We sat down to a small meal. The stranger took the bread up into his hands and prayed, giving thanks for the meal. He then broke the bread and gave it to us. It was then …it was then …it was then that we were shocked beyond belief! Our jaws dropped and we looked at each other with wide open eyes. Cleopas and I saw that the stranger was Jesus, the resurrected Jesus! And, as soon as we saw him, he vanished from our sight! Poof!

We were speechless. The Anointed One and Son of the Most High was walking with us and talking with us and sitting down to eat with us! Everything we hoped for had come true in our sight, as Anna the prophetess foretold and Simeon prophesied! … Our eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people!

Now, our new friend, Cleopas and I have to return to Jerusalem to tell our brothers and sisters all that has happened this afternoon. We must break bread with them. Come with us and you will see him, too!

 

As we walked the 30 stadia back up to Jerusalem, Cleopas and I kept pinching each other. We walked and danced and walked and ran and clapped. We kept asking each other “Do you remember how our hearts were burning inside us, as he talked to us on the road, as he opened up the Scriptures for us? Cleopas, in his booming voice and with a smile on his face, kept repeating “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” and the words our Sabbath leader prayed:

Why are you cast down, O my soul

And why are you disquieted within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him.

We both shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

 

The Cypriot, not sure what to make of all this, watched us from a distance. There was an amused and perplexed look on his face.

 

 

 

 

Adapted from the Gospel according to Luke (2:41-50)