E is for . . .


A friend in seminary joked that exegesis sounded like “stage directions for Jesus.” Exit Jesus, stage left. Dumb humor. Years later I still remember it. If exegesis is the believer’s scriptural goal—to humbly and openly learn/discern from the word rather than blanketing it with our own manure—then I do think that, sometimes, Jesus needs to exit the “stage.” An actor first memorizes an author’s lines. But the play or film will have no life until the actor embodies the lines. I love that we have the great parables, from the simple woman seeking a lost coin to the complex tale of a father with two sons. But they are merely swell stories that Jesus told long ago until we begin to live them out in our daily lives, until we claim our tiny, essential place on the stage to increase our faith and help others in their journey of faith.

Sideswiped by the Trivial

What do you think when you hear the Biblical name, Lazarus? When I asked a 30-year old friend who doesn’t attend church, I received a blank stare. Oh well. I thought everybody knew!

There’s no Lazarus mentioned in the Old Testament. The name, derived from the Hebrew Eleazar (by way of both Latin and Greek), can be translated, “God has helped.” Lazarus appeared only in the New Testament: once as a named character in a parable and, on several occasions, as Mary and Martha’s brother . . . who was raised from the dead by Jesus.

The 5th Sunday of Lent – for April 10, 2011

“After having heard that Lazarus was ill, he (Jesus) waited two days longer in the place where he was…” (John 11:6)

Persons might be described as “Lazarus-like” if they metaphorically returned from the dead (after a divorce) or literally escaped death (surviving a plane crash). Like Judas (a betrayer) or Job (one who suffers), Lazarus can be used without Biblical knowledge.

But I read the Lazarus account (John 11:1-45) and frequently never get to the dramatic conclusion. I am sideswiped by the trivial. Yes, I know how the story ends. And yes, I can teach a class or preach a sermon on the details of Lazarus’ rising, of Jesus’ trust in God, of the traditions and symbolism that enrich this complex miracle story. However, verse six tossed a banana in my path: “After having heard that Lazarus was ill, he (Jesus) waited two days longer in the place where he was.”

Two days longer. Jesus waited. Really?

We live in a society that doesn’t like to wait. We hurry, worry, zoom, fret, rush, and count nanoseconds rather than minutes. Is it done yet? Why are you taking so long? I wanted that yesterday! Continue reading →

N is for . . .


Negotiating with God has many fine Biblical examples. Confronted by God, Adam blames Eve for his forbidden snack in a bid to cast blame elsewhere. Moses thought his brother Aaron a better choice to guide the escaping Israelites. Most of the prophets mentioned they preferred their safer, day jobs. Many of Paul’s letters, delivered over long distance by hand, include pleas or hopes or reminders of past agreements that were slow-motion negotiation. Didn’t Jesus negotiate at Gethsemane, when he asked for the cup to pass from him? He spoke metaphorically, but bargaining was an ingredient in the drink’s holy mix.

Humans negotiate. Doesn’t the Holy? The Bible reveals a God who can and will change. Still, I think of God as less a negotiator and more a Creator willing to wait a long time for humans to mature. In the Eden myth, with the closed gates guarded by flaming swords, and Adam and Eve trudging away, where does the story place God? With, not separate from, those foolish humans. Negotiating never seems as divinely important as companionship.