Foggy Thoughts on the Wise Guys

Matthew 2:1-12 – Epiphany of the Lord – for Sunday, January 3, 2016

“Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.” (Matthew 2:12)

On some foggy days, it's hard to tell the difference between morning or afternoon . . .
On some foggy days, it’s hard to tell the difference between morning or afternoon . . .

It’s the foggy season here in California’s Central Valley.

Storms lumber across the Pacific, nod at Hawaii, slink into San Francisco and then pour into the 400-mile long Central Valley soup bowl between the Coast Range and the Sierra Nevada. Some of our wintry weather departs Alaska, heading south with a cold, snippy attitude. On good years, rain moistens the flatlands while snow piles in the mountains.

The rain bringing fog to this immense valley is like Bella of the Twilight novels getting a paper cut and all of the local vampires appear. It’s like buying a pickup truck and suddenly lots of “best friends” want your help to move something. One thing leads to another.

In the Central Valley, there are “fog days” for schools that mean delayed starts. Air traffic clogs because planes can’t land or take-off. The roads, since you can’t see ‘em, become dangerous. Continue reading →

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Circumlocution Confessions

Isaiah 40:21-31 – The 5th Sunday after Epiphany – for February 8, 2015

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God . . .” (Isaiah 40:28)

It seems such a puny, one-syllable word in English . . . God.

The-Names-of-GodThe Italians (Dio) also have three letters, whereas the Germans (Gott), French (Dieu), and Spanish (Dios) boast a grand total of four. Hmong (Vajtswv) and Filipino (Maykapal) increase the count average, but how much of that is based on translations in the English alphabet?

For Scrabble, G2-O1-D2 amounts to 5 ho-hum points (unless linked to other words or when the tiles are placed on a double or triple square).

As I, and countless others, have joked (or have been very, furry serious), god spelled backwards is dog. Which, given what I’ve learned from dogs, is never an insult. My puppy Hannah died at 14 years of age last year. If I were to distill all the lessons learned from her into one, I’d claim how humbling it was to be around unconditional love. And, thanks be to YHWH, that’s a darn fine way to understand God.

God, of course, was rarely known as “God” in the original Hebrew or Greek of the Bible. Even confined to the English translations I’m familiar with, God was often known by the aforementioned and unmentionable YHWH, along with Lord, Creator, Almighty and other more-than-three-letter words. If the tetragrammaton YHWH was used in Hebrew scriptures to skirt saying and writing the holy name, then Jesus’ use of Abba—Papa, Daddy—served as an intimate Christian testament counterpoint.

Isaiah declared (from the Common English Bible),

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

The creator of the ends of the earth.

He doesn’t grow tired or weary.

How can we adequately say or describe God? David James Duncan, in his reverently irreverent “God Laughs & Plays,” wrote: Continue reading →

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Adverbial Jesus

John 1:43-51 – Second Sunday after Epiphany – for January 18, 2014

Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” (John 1:46)

Unleash the adverbs!
Unleash the adverbs!

Like the majority of Jesus’ disciples, Nathanael barely received a nod in the gospels. Unlike most of them, Nathanael delivered one of the most memorable questions about Jesus.

But first, another disciple named Philip—who could’ve been Nathanael’s co-worker or neighbor or third cousin or boyhood best friend or maybe even his sister’s husband’s brother’s boss—told Nathanael about a swell fellow named Jesus. Part of Philip’s explanation included Jesus’ hometown: Nazareth.

Nazareth? Nazareth!

According to the fourth Gospel, Nathanael responded, “Can anything from Nazareth be good?”

Hmmm?

No one knows how Philip knew Nathanael. Their relationship either didn’t matter or was a blank slate to the writer of John. Indeed, the ignorance about the disciples’ various relationships prior to following Jesus appears inconsequential to any of the gospels’ authors. It’s what comes after, right?

As with Nathanael and Philip’s relationship, John’s Gospel remained ambiguous about the tone of Nathanael’s query. In the sparse retelling of Jesus’ ministry chronicled in the four traditional gospels, the ancient and modern believers weren’t overloaded with clues about the emotional reactions of the disciples.

What did Nathanael really mean by his question? How tempting to add a singular word to verse 46. Continue reading →

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