The Seventh Time

2 Kings 5:1-14 – The 7th Sunday after Pentecost – for July 3, 2016

Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.” (2 King 5:10)

The River Jordan
The River Jordan . . .

Elisha, inheritor of Elijah’s prophetic mantel, God’s miracle-worker and sage, lived in an odd era compared to our modern days.

It was a time of kings and the conquered.

Of wars and warriors.

Of famine and futility.

Of hatred and hubris.

Of borders and battles.

Of slaves taken and servants mistreated.

Of gods and God.

The powerful ruled the powerless; the rich became richer; generals forged decisions with the spilled blood of the young; orphans and widows increased in number; the poor became poorer; the 99% scraped by and the 1% schemed for more wealth.

Not like our time at all.

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In the time of Kings, in the tales of Elisha, there came a warrior named Naaman. He was a general for Aram, from the land to the east.

Diseased Naaman was.

Shamed Naaman was.

He would give away gold and slaves and probably some of his wives (and even his children) if only he could rid his body of the illness. Continue reading →

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Duffers and Death

Luke 9:51-62 – The 6th Sunday after Pentecost – for June 26, 2016

“Then Jesus said to someone else, ‘Follow me.’ He replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’” (Luke 9:59)

Blame it on Thomas Lynch, author of the laugh-out-loud, cry-at-the-next-page The Undertaking.

golfOn a recent walk I angled—probably illegally—across a golf course about fifteen minutes from home. When I wasn’t dodging the abundance of fowl (let’s be polite) crapola around a water hazard, I gazed at the lawn’s verdant, undulating expanse and the fake groves of trees planted to look natural, and thought two thoughts.

First, I pondered golfers on that sunny June day. Blue sky. Air clean enough to view the details of the Sierra Nevada Mountains forty miles to the east. But not one duffer strode, golf-carted or created divots on any of the six or seven holes I tromped near while trespassing for my morning exercise. Not one! Of course, the wind blew a steady twenty mph. Gusted to thirty. The colorful triangular flags marking the greens where hackers aimed their dimpled spheres bent like bows about to launch an arrow against the gale. Still, can’t a hardy fellow or gal with a thoughtful eye and steady swing compensate for a hurricane and still enjoy a brisk round of eighteen?

Wimps, I tell you. Continue reading →

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Thin and Quiet

I Kings 19:1-15a – The 5th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 19, 2016

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice . . .” (I Kings 19:12)

Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .
Cradled in granite formed before human history was written . . .

As a baby boomer raised in the burgeoning California suburbs, I first heard about the “still small voice of God” at the Baptist church we attended.

It didn’t matter to me that the Revised Standard Version (RSV) tucked in the pews and clutched in the hands of the Sunday school teachers mirrored—word for word—the renowned King James Version’s (KJV) translation of I Kings 19:12. Both read . . .

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

Why should I care what God muttered or what old Elijah heard?

I cared more about the crack of the bat and the ball plopping on a leather glove during the thousands of baseball games I played.

I cared about Mom’s voice announcing dinner.

I cared—and trembled—when hearing, “Lawrence George Patten, please come here.” Whenever the benevolent dictators known as my parents spoke all my names, the future was bleak. Sometimes I knew what I’d done wrong and sometimes not, but there was misery in every one of my steps to judgment.

I cared about the theme from Bonanza since it meant I was allowed to stay up an hour later, even though the next day was a school day.

A little older, and I started caring about how a girl giggled. What if she liked me? What if she, with her sweet voice, might someday want to—gulp—hold my hand? Continue reading →

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