Hawkish Wisdom

hawkOnce we had a predator settle into our neighborhood.

Which fascinated, but didn’t frighten, my wife and me.

What did you think when I mentioned predator? How about if I had written Buteo lineatus instead? Somewhere nearby, probably less than a block away, and way, way up in the one of tallest trees, a red-shouldered hawk had unpacked its suitcase in our neck of the ‘burbs. For weeks, we heard a sharp, repetitive cry across the street. At first, I was convinced it was a bird and probably a robin or blue jay protecting its nest. A few times I wondered if it was a bird in trouble, fallen from nest and parent.

I also imagined the sound could be one of our brash, street smart squirrels. They always seem ready to rumble. Not long ago, I had a squirrel scamper away from me and then dash up a tree. Out of harm’s way, it settled onto a branch to squirp-and-chirp at me. I felt like I was a bad boy and being scolded.

Finally, we spotted Buteo lineatus. A red-shouldered hawk was perched at least twenty feet from the ground, in a tree beside our driveway. Continue reading →

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Between Friday and Sunday

Open doorI know the end, which means I know the beginning.

And yet knowing is only a thin slice of believing.

The most athletic of dates, Easter annually leaps from March to April and back again. Easter represents the end: of Jesus’ earthly ministry, of the disciples having a leader in the flesh to follow, of the religious authorities confident they actually wielded authority, of the empire going about its business as the bully that won every argument. There on Friday, after all, Jesus died. In the end, he was dead and buried thanks to the quick assistance of Nicodemus and an Arimathean named Joseph.

But it represents a beginning, then and now: Easter dawned a morning like every morning and like no other morning. Easter began, long ago before it was dubbed Easter, with those women tramping in the dark toward nothing and everything. Easter, which for every modern Christian preacher has been clearly marked on the calendar for a year, arrives. Once it seemed far away. And then it was next Sunday.

God overcomes death, we preach.

Christ is risen, we preach.

Continue reading →

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In the Safety of the Crowd

nsama paintingOnce—but only once—I preached on Palm Sunday and tried to be funny.

Note the word “tried.”

How interesting, I mused in the sermon, that in Matthew (but not in John, Mark, or Luke) Jesus entered Jerusalem simultaneously riding two animals? I embellished the moment with words and gestures, attempting to help people visualize Matthew 21:6:

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.

There you go. He sat on “them.” Mark and Luke only have a colt. John, hedging a bit, claimed it was a donkey’s colt. But that’s still singular! Why did Matthew’s author seem to have Jesus straddling two different animals? An easy answer was Matthew viewed Jesus’ life as the fulfillment of Jewish prophesies. One of those “predictions” came from Zechariah. If you read Zechariah 9:9, with its longing for the coming of a humble king, you’ll run across a reference to . . . one animal. But Matthew, interpreting that ancient verse, conveys it so literally that it’s as if Jesus rode multiple mounts. Continue reading →

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