Lent 1: God’s Protection

Psalm 91The First Sunday of Lent* – for Sunday, February 14, 2016

“. . . to protect you wherever you go . . .” (Psalm 91:11)

Syrian refugeesFrightened refugees spread across the world from the hell on earth known as Syria. Soldiers tramp through the hardscrabble, isolated villages of Afghanistan, armed to kill—and perhaps to be killed—7,500 miles from home. Citizens in Flint, Michigan are informed their water is contaminated with lead, but only long after bathing in it, brushing teeth with it, tending a garden using it, and, from infant to elderly, swallowing it. A husband and wife in San Bernardino (who look so blandly normal in the before pictures) walk into a building with legal guns and store-bought bullets. Another child, maybe six years old, maybe with a goofy grin that will break even the sternest of hearts, with an illness that is relentless and opportunistic, enters the care of the hospice where I work and dies ten days later.

Who will protect the innocent when bullets fly, when cancer spreads? Don’t the most fragile and gentle deserve protection?

Who will protect the guilty, even as they scheme to bully or steal or kill? Don’t even the worst of us, raised on hate or seduced by fear, deserve a second or third or fourth chance to lead hopeful lives? Continue reading →

lowercase gods

Psalm 138 – The 2nd Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, June 7, 2015

“. . . I sing your praise before all other gods.” (Psalm 138:1)

Faravahar, the visual aspect of Ahuramazda. Relief from Persepolis
Faravahar, the visual aspect of Ahuramazda. Relief from Persepolis

Though a word often capitalized, it ended the opening verse of Psalm 138 in lowercase: gods.

After that plural word, I couldn’t concentrate on Psalm 138’s remaining seven verses. There it was . . .

I give thanks to you with all my heart, Lord.

I sing your praise before all other gods.

Do you see that final word in the first verse?

What gods? Continue reading →

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 →