B is for…


I’ve broken a leg. A finger. A nose. (All mine…I don’t think I’ve broken other people’s bones.) I’ve had a broken heart. However, though I’ve sometimes had little money, I’ve never really experienced being broke. My car’s been broken. My home was once broken into. Not long ago a spoke snapped and my bike became broke.

Some breaks are obvious; most are hidden. But we’re all broken. All. Sometimes, for we’re all fools too, we glance toward others and imagine perfection and contentment. In them. Not in us. But this I know as much as I know anything, all are broken. I believe the ones who admit it welcome healing: the are scarred and scared, but boldly grinning. I believe the ones that deny brokenness invite even deeper wounds.

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Twitter in a Thicket

Let’s tweet Genesis 22:1-14:

God tests Abraham: tells him to sacrifice son. Abe does. God’s angel stops him. Abe sees ram in bush. Son lives; ram killed. God provides.

That’s 138 characters, including words, punctuation and empty spaces. Twitter’s limit is 140, so there’s a smidgen of wiggle room to make changes.

The 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 26, 2011

“Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son…” (Genesis 22:10)

How would you use 140 characters to convey one of the Bible’s central stories? Abraham—Abe to save space—was the faith “father” for the three great monotheistic religions. Moses was indebted to Abraham, as were Jesus and Mohammed. Abe’s trust in God, in a singular Creator, birthed faith traditions now exceeding 3,500,000,000 followers. Are they not (so Genesis 22:17 promised) as “numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore?”

Is my tweet a fair rendering of those fourteen verses? For me, what I kept seems bare-boned essential, and yet also includes key stumbling blocks to (my) modern faith.

First, here’s what I discarded…

  • The journey. Abraham takes Isaac, along with two servants, and travels quite a distance before the attempted sacrifice.
  • Bundles of wood, fuel to start a fire, a donkey and a sharp knife also didn’t make the cut.
  • Isaac, whose name means “laughter,” became merely “son.” After re-reading the story, I was reminded how passive (trusting or ignorant or submissive?) the boy called Laughter was.

What did I include? Even if I revised my tweet, I’d prioritize these four words: test, tells, sacrifice and provides. Without them, this central story of our faith—of my faith—doesn’t matter. With them, it equally undermines and undergirds belief.

Test and sacrifice trouble me. They are stumbling blocks.

In the ways I ponder/feel/glimpse the Holy, I no longer believe the Creator tests creation. But in Genesis, the Bible bluntly described God as Test-giver. So my view, while supported by some scholars, will always cause debate. I’ve had encounters in my ministry where a person—maybe a church member dealing with horrific loss or an argumentative student in a Bible study class—used Genesis 22 as proof that, “just like Abraham, God tested me.” They believed God placed obstacles before them to grade their faith. Nonetheless, I disagree. Instead, I believe the One Jesus called “Daddy” challenges, lures, loves, cheerleads for humans…rather than gazing upon us with a judgmental pass/fail attitude. I’m probably wrong.

Ah, sacrifice! No thank you. I see Abraham prepared to sacrifice Laughter less as depicting God’s ways and more reflecting his ancient culture of bloodletting and eye-for-an-eye vengeance. A knife plunging into the flesh of an animal or human to “please” Jehovah makes no sense to me anymore. I understand its historic context, but not its relevance for a vibrant, modern faith. I’m probably wrong.

However, tells and provides inspire me. Whether twittering or reading all fourteen verses (over and over), these words are foundations for my feeble, inadequate faith. Continue reading →

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V is for . . .


When did the Bible become a sea of numbered verses? I’ll leave it up to you to find out. Or perhaps you’re a better scholar (or trivia expert) than me and already know. I’ll work through my humiliation as you laugh at my ignorance.

1But—liberal or conservative, orthodox or agnostic—most know the Bible’s earliest manuscripts, 2the long-ago source materials, were without numbers. 3There were no miniscule digits superscripted into the sentences. 4Everything was jammed together, sentenceslikesardinesincan, 5verbs clinging to nouns as if they were afraid of the dark.

I’m glad verses have numbers. I’m glad that historical person or persons I don’t want to Google did the hard work of word segregation and sentence division. And I also believe this: the Bible’s verses aren’t magical, or easy to understand, or (best and worst of all) they are often far too easy to understand. (Such as “love your neighbor” or “the first shall be last” . . . drats, those are way too easy to understand.) Nonetheless, every verse represents a flawed, bold human attempt to understand the Holy. But ultimately the verses declare . . . God was, is and will be a mystery. About the best we can do sometimes is put a little numeric order in the Bible and try to keep our faithful heart open.

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