Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem marks the culmination of the whole middle movement of the Gospel of Luke “toward Jerusalem.” Popular anticipation built from “all the deeds of power” along the way now unleashes in celebration. The proclamation of the multitude—“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”—is adapted from Psalm 118:26, which may have been used as a greeting to pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. As they “praise God joyfully” it rings with relief, possibly not only remembering Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but also joyfully anticipating the overthrow of the new Egypt—Rome.
I have always been fascinated with the lives and habits of writers—especially poets and novelists—people who bend over a page and pour themselves out. Some are methodical and disciplined, others unpredictable. They often live the kind of lives that look prodigal and impractical from the outside. But in the act of writing, each is weighing out the world as well their own soul, losing and discovering themselves in the writing and the written.
“They couldn’t have been more different.” I had heard it said of siblings before, but as my wife and I draw near to the birth of our second son, it sunk in closer to home this time. We sat after dinner with a couple whose two sons are now adults, and as our own son explored their home, they reflected on how their first as a child had been so easy and peaceful. The second: “holy terror."
For the Jewish worshipper, desert language in the psalms would conjure images of the Exodus and exile, times of wilderness, weariness, and want. Paul reflects on these annals of Hebrew wandering and the way God guided and provided: “for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them.” Paul may be referring here to a Jewish tradition that the rock from which God brought water was actually carried by the Israelites as they journeyed.
“Keep death before your eyes daily."
This is one of the “tools of good works” listed in chapter four of the Rule of St. Benedict. Though it is only one of over seventy, it jumps off the page. It is how we begin this season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, being reminded “that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Lent has death at the start as well as the destination.
Every time I officiate a wedding, I warn the couple that if their ring bearer and/or flower girls are under 6, they are almost guaranteed not to make it down the aisle by themselves. (It's not a bad thing; I just want to make sure they know.) I share this from experience not only as a pastor but as a former toddler. At three or four, I was ring bearer in a family friend’s wedding. The story goes that my parents told me so often not to “wander off,” that by the time the reception came I looked at them and groaned, “Can I wander off now?"
The small town in Illinois where I went to college had an inexplicable wealth of thrift stores, and I quickly developed a thrifting habit. (“Habit” sounds better than “problem,” right?) I shared this secondhand lifestyle with my roommate, and we would do the rounds at the local shops at least once a week. For me there was (and still is) something deeply satisfying about the treasure hunt, the searching and discovery. During one of our forages among the dusty shelves, my friend found a light therapy lamp—one designed to mimic sunlight and shine on your face to combat seasonal depression.
Jumping into Genesis 45 feels like dropping in at someone else’s family reunion right around the point when everyone has “drank freely” (43:34) enough to start a tearful trek into the past. We are left to catch up. This passion has patiently waited over the twenty years that have passed since Joseph’s brothers jumped him, threw him in a pit, sold him into slavery, and lied to their father that he was dead. Joseph is known for his dreams and interpretations of dreams, but I wonder how he slept those long years.
I was by myself taking care of a particularly overflowing sink of dishes on what I believe was a Tuesday night. On the mission style armchair behind me was a copy of Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses, my seminary reading that I had just put down to go about some housework. One blessing of such ordinary tasks is the space they leave for the mind. Mine began to wander.
Today, we usually imagine “reading” as a primarily private act and “reading the Bible” as the definitive devotional act. Such has only been the case for a few hundred years. In the ancient world especially, for the vast majority of people Scripture was something spoken. Setting Scripture within its original context of the worshipping community, we are poised remember something central about what Scripture even is.
Since beginning at Peachtree, I have come to delight in officiating weddings. Few events are so paradoxically weighty with meaning and light with joy. All the preparation and anticipation is released in a moment. All rise. The doors open and there stands the bride. Fanfare builds and climbs to a breathless rest. And she enters. While all eyes are fixed on the bride, mine move to the groom.