She Knew I Knew

Luke 16:19-31 – The 19th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, September 25, 2016

“The poor man died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried . . .” (Luke 16:22)

park-entranceBright lights flashed.

I steered to the shoulder and stopped. In my rearview mirror I watched the Kings Canyon National Park ranger open the door, alight from her seat, and purposefully stride toward me.

My wife sat in the passenger seat, still and silent. Our Minnesota-born niece and nephew, in California to attend college, occupied the back seat. All were witnesses to my foolishness. This was in 2010. I still recall my embarrassment.

The ranger, a slender woman with auburn hair pulled back and a holstered gun on her belt, leaned down and asked me an inevitable, irksome question.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked THE QUESTION.

(Don’t judge me! Being stopped by law enforcement personnel hasn’t been a regular experience in my mundane life. Oh sure, there was the “Nebraska incident.” We were headed for our new home and new life in Wisconsin when a Nebraska cop stopped me to wonder why I was leaving his lovely state at such a rapid pace. And there was also that graveside service I was late for, when another cop stopped me for traveling “slightly” over the posted limit. He encouraged me to tell my pastor’s tale of woe and repentance to the traffic judge while handing me a speeding ticket. Such a helpful cop . . . and the judge turned out to be a swell fellow too.)

Like the ranger at my window, all of the cops asked a variation of THE QUESTION . . .

“Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?” Continue reading →

Trust Dad

Genesis 22:1-14 – The 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, June 29, 2014

“After these things God tested Abraham…” (Genesis 22:1)

Caravaggio's "Abraham and Isaac."
Caravaggio’s “Abraham and Isaac.”

Isaac’s name, the son of Abraham and Sarah, meant “laughter.”

I’m glad the name didn’t translate into talkative or verbose.

Maybe Isaac was a smiling, giggling child and oft justified his name’s promise. Certainly Isaac’s name came from his mother Sarah, who’d laughed at (not with) the messengers from God when promised she’d soon become pregnant in her, er, “golden years.”

Laugh Isaac might have, but based on the Biblical witness, the kid wasn’t a talker. Between Isaac’s birth to his elderly parents and his twin sons’ births when he was 60 years of age, Isaac spoke once in Genesis’ verses. Of note, the second time this revered patriarch of the Hebrew people opened his mouth had to do with muttering a deceit. In Genesis 26:7, well after his twins Jacob and Esau were born, Isaac lied about his wife Rebekah to people he feared: “She is my sister.”

Maybe he was better off when he kept his mouth shut? Continue reading →

Wondering About Hagar

Genesis 21:8-21 – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – for June 22, 2014

“‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’” (Genesis 21:10)

Hagar:IshmaelI mused this week, here and there, on and off, about Hagar. Though pulpit-less, I diligently read the Sunday lectionary “lessons” and so she entered my consciousness after a Tuesday pre-dawn encounter with her in the 21st chapter of Genesis.

Hagar was a slave. Which meant she was worthless, but a price could be put on her body.

Hagar was not Jewish. While I could’ve written the more positive “Hagar was Egyptian,” I suspect Sarah—Hagar’s primary owner—viewed her handmaiden (nicer than slave) in negative terms. Sarah could likely list many Hagar-was-nots.

Hagar was not pretty.
(Or was she too pretty?)
Hagar was not necessary.
(Or was Sarah dependent on her?)
Hagar was not a nice person.
(Or did everyone like her?)
Hagar was not a very good mother.
(Or she seemed the best Mom?)
Hagar was not a believer in the one true God.
(But what had God done for Sarah recently?)
Hagar was not a good influence on Abraham.
(In other words, Abraham did whatever the little b**** asked.)

In truth, I have no idea about Hagar’s physical attributes or whether she would’ve vied for a mother-of-the-year award. But the Bible seemed blunt about one thing: Sarah and Hagar would never be BFFs. Continue reading →