20 Days Ago I Had Lunch With Mom

Luke 13:10-7 – The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, August 25, 2013

“When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.” (Luke 13:13)

Ah, those old fairground booths that snapped a few quick pictures...
Ah, those old fairground booths that snapped a few quick pictures…

Can any passage in the Bible ever be read without context influencing a reader’s response?

I can’t study John’s Revelations, the last gasp of the New Testament, without considering the pettiness and power of the Roman Empire. You betcha Patmos-bound John dreamed a future without tears, and that a brand spanking-new Jerusalem would soon materialize. With Caesar brandishing the sword and cramming his “divine” hand into every available pocket for the empire’s taxes, old John cast his contextual visions to oppressed believers who were wary, wounded and weeping.

When I discovered the Gospel of Thomas (and other non-canonical–or rejected–gospels), I could no longer study Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with the same innocent eyes. In the context of the Christian Testament’s emergence, in the era where a movement inspired by Jesus evolved into an institution with haves and have-nots, insiders and outsiders, believers and apostates, was one gospel really better than another? Yes, winners get to choose how history is recalled and what traditions are revered. But does that mean the losers’ views are chopped liver?

And what about the context of where and when I live and who I am? Continue reading →

Negatives + Positives = Learning

-19,000 + 19,000 + 10,000 – 9,000 – 990 = 10

The calculation above was the response a fourth grader provided when asked to create a mathematical sentence with “10” in it.

school-kids-classroom-raising-handsThe fourth grader’s response was given to my wife a few years ago when she visited that student’s classroom. My wife teaches at Fresno State and, as an education professor with an emphasis in elementary math, she delights in participating with kids in their classroom. For her, working with fourth graders and helping teachers learn how children learn is far more joy-filled than spending time on a university committee.

Often, when we get home in the evening, we’ll talk about what happened in each of our days.

“What’d you do today?”

And so I learned about a fourth grader who confidently used negative numbers in a problem. That little “-” before the 19,000 excited my wife. Negative can be positive! The student understood the complexity of numbers. Numbers are negative and positive and there are myriad ways to solve problems. Wow!

“What’d you do today?” My wife asked me.

This was when I served a church . . .

My day had been spent in a hospital’s intensive care unit, with a woman in our congregation near death. On the prior day, her “plugs were pulled,” and death, whether it would take minutes or days, was not far away.

My wife had been in a classroom with children’s hands waving over their heads: “Let me try an answer!!”

I’d been surrounded by medical machines and white-coated doctors.

One of the dying woman’s sons was there. The decision to remove her life support had been made by him in consultation with physicians and other members of the family. Close, beloved friends were present. Throughout the day, though she was categorized as “non-responsive,” friends held her hands, hymns were sung, and prayers—spoken and silent—were shared.

No one in the hospital said, or probably thought, “Wow!”

And yet, I believe there were more similarities with my wife’s day to mine than differences. Continue reading →