The Man With No Name

In the spaghetti westerns that established Clint Eastwood as a global star, his characters were known as “the man with no name.” The credits listed names, like Blondie in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly or Joe in a Fistful of Dollars, but Eastwood’s antiheroes were really anonymous drifters, like high plains wraiths without a past or future.

The man with no name . . . (photo from

The 4th Sunday of Lent – for April 3, 2011

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth… (John 9:1)

The ninth chapter of John’s Gospel depicted a different type of “man with no name.” And yet one thing is decidedly the same because for forty-one verses—for what is one of the longest stretches of Gospel covering a single person’s story outside of the Holy Week events—the “hero’s” name is never mentioned. Instead the hero is called: “blind from birth,” “this man,” “a beggar,” “formerly blind,” “son,” “of age,” “disciple,” and “sinner.” In the NRSV, within those forty-one verses, the central figure is unimaginatively called “man” at least ten times. The print’s so small in the Bible I use for study, I didn’t attempt to count the uses of the more mundane “he.”

Poor fellow. We never know his name!

In the vast sweep of the story, from the first encounter with “the man,” through Jesus’ healing of his blindness, and all the way to the end where “the man’s” neighbors run him out of town, we never know what to call him. Even in the scene with his parents—his parents!—they mention him by using the phrase, “he is of age.” I felt like screaming: speak his name! At least call him Blondie or Joe before he drifts away from the story. Continue reading →

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W is for . . .


I especially think about weakness during Lent. Throughout Lent, in the time of preparation (and sacrifice and penitence) before Easter, I want to do battle with my weaknesses.

I am petty and overly reflective. I judge people too often based on my expectations. I bemoan aging. I curse the young. I grin on the outside while inside I’m grimacing. Darn it all, I’m human. Lent tries to help me remember that blatant fact. I am human. Weak. Frail. Mortal. When I am inhuman, I forget all about my weaknesses. Please God, remind me I’m a ninety-pound wimp. Kick holy sand in my face. Let me smile truthfully, as much as I can, and imagine only the best for the fellow weak humans I struggle for and with.

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You Fit The Description

Jesus talks to women . . . touches lepers . . . invites children forward . . . makes a Samaritan the hero . . . and an older brother a chump.

While a kid in Sunday school, then scheming to become Roy Rogers or Dan’l Boone, I learned about Jesus’ “unless you become like a child, you won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” I didn’t have a clue about Heaven’s Kingdom, but I thought it swell others should be like me. Of course we’d bellow out, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so . . .

Much later, though never achieving my Roy-ness or Dan’l-ness, I learned almost everything Jesus did was radical (even inviting kids onto his lap), contrary to the expectations of his society. And yet, as a faithful adult, I often take the radical nature of Jesus for granted. Ho-hum, he touched a leper; such a sweet tale about that nice Samaritan; chatted up a woman at the well . . . pleasant way to pass the afternoon, eh?

The 3rd Sunday of Lent – for March 27, 2011

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” (John 4:28-29)

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. What an innocent sentence. What a mundane event (John 4:5-42).

Not. At. All.

In Jesus’ time, a man conversing with a woman not his wife, nor in the extended family, was at least unsettling and possibly dangerous. And she wasn’t merely a woman. A Samaritan, she would’ve been despised, avoided because good Jews shunned her and her ilk. However, Jesus talked with her. Radical! Continue reading →

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