Archive for November 2003

Jesus’ Baptism as a Type

November 13, 2003

If Baptism is a type (figure) of death, then Jesus prefigured His death in His Baptism, and his descent to the dead by His going forth into the wilderness where He faced off with Satan.

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Fisher of Men

November 13, 2003

Jesus, who’d spent His whole working life as a carpenter, left His carpentry shop to go “fishing”–to be the first “fisher of men.”

I can just see the sign He put up on the shop door before He left: “Out of Business (gone fishin’).”

Well, if you’re going to go fishing, where do you go? You go where the fish are, of course–down to the water. And so He did. He went down to the Jordan river. Then He went into the water–with the fish, where He was Baptized. Sounds a bit like the Incarnation…

(What follows is pure whimsy, very loosely based on Matthew 1:18-25, 3:13-4:1, 4:19, Mark 3:21, 6:3, Luke 1:28, 3:23, John 2:1-11, 4:4-42)

A sign hangs on the carpenter’s shop: “Out of Business–gone fishin’.” And the tongues are wagging.

Fishing?! Whatever can that rash upstart be thinking?! Why, He’s barely thirty years old. He’s just begun! He can’t retire yet!”

“Oh, well you know what they say about Him. Illegitimate son of the prettiest girl in town. What can you expect?”

“Well, yeah, but where am I supposed to get my cart wheels fixed now? I don’t want to go all the way to Barsimeon’s in Cana. Besides, how’d I get there with a broken cart wheel?!”

“I know, I’ve got the same problem. Say, did you hear where Jesus actually went? Down to the Jordan.”

“Well, if you’re going fishing, I s’pose that’d be as good a place as any–not that He knows anything about fishing!”

“No, it gets better. He got that desert man John to baptize Him.”

“Oh He did, did He? Well good for Him. Maybe it’ll keep Him out of trouble for a while. That baptism thing’s supposed to be all about repentance, right? Maybe He will “repent” of closing the shop & come back to take care of things again!”

“I don’t think so. Last anyone saw Him, He was headed out for the desert Himself.”

“Oh really! Funny place to go if you want to catch fish!” (laughter)

“Yeah, it’s just Mary left behind to take care of things. Husband dead, son run off on some crazy nonsense. I guess it serves her right for that little fling she had as a girl. I never did really understand that, though. Every time I’ve ever seen her, she’s seemed like the purest creature to ever walk the earth.”

“Not to mention the most beautiful. Wow! Well, you know, maybe there wasn’t much she could do about it. After all, that kind of beauty can drive a man to desperate measures.”

“I know, but that’s what she had a father for, and a fiancé. They’re supposed to make sure she’s safe.”

“Hey, have you ever tried to keep an eye on everything that happens around a girl? No! You only have sons. Cut the guys some slack. It’s not as easy as you think.”

“Oh no! I’m so sorry! I forgot!”

“Yeah, well, Dinah never will.”

“No, I suppose she won’t. Ran off to live with the Samaritans, didn’t she?”

“Outcast among the outcasts, that’s what she said. What gets me is that the guy who did it to her didn’t suffer at all. ‘Fine, upstanding citizen,’ he is. Bah. A curse upon him! But that won’t give me my little girl back. My sweet, innocent, devout daughter. What is she now? Practically a prostitute, married 5 times & now living with a guy–and a Samaritan at that. You don’t get much lower. It just breaks my heart the way she’s turned away from God.”

“It’s tragic all right. You just keep praying for her & taking those sin offerings to the temple. Sooner or later, God’s got to take notice and bring her back. Who knows, maybe this crazy Jesus will be the one God uses. They say it takes one to know one!”

“Yeah, well, I’m not holding my breath. Hey I gotta run. If I’m not home in time for lunch I’m gonna hear about it–relatives are coming over, you know.”

“Oh, I know all about that. We’ve been working on wedding plans for months now & it’s still a couple months away. Gonna be a daughter-in-law in my house pretty soon. I sure hope that doesn’t create any more catfights than we’ve already got! I guess I’d better get going too. I’m in charge of getting the wine & I haven’t gotten to the market yet. See you later!”

And in another part of the town square:
“Well, will you look at that! ‘Out of Business’? Whatever can have happened?!”

“You got me. Midlife crisis, maybe? Seems a little young for that…well, all I can say is that it’s a crying shame when the best carpenter in the country gets it in His head to go off & become a fisherman. Why, carpentry’s a respected trade! Why’d He want to go be a smelly old fisherman?!”

“You’d think His mother’d try talk Him out of it. After all, He’s all she’s got left!”

“Oh, you know Mary. Why I declare, sometimes I think she worships that boy of hers! Only son, and all. He gets whatever He wants! I just don’t see how He came out so unspoiled. A little too direct for my taste, sometimes, but not the whiny, helpless type you usually see when nobody ever says no.”

“’Course, you’ve got to give Mary credit. Every idea of His she’s gone along with has been a goldmine. She just knows a good thing when she sees it. Can you blame her for that?”

“Well, no, but this time that Jesus has really gone off his rocker. She really should’ve done something about it.”

“Maybe we can get some of the relatives together to talk some sense into her and go after Him–it’s worth a try. Besides, my spinning wheel isn’t running so smoothly lately. He needs to get back here & take care of it!”

“Mine too. Well, let me know if you hear anything. I’d better get supper started before the devourers return.”

“I know what you mean. Me too! Bye!”

Oh, He’s coming back, alright. But the things He wants to fix now are a lot more important than carts & spinning wheels!

The Power of Evil?

November 11, 2003

The last time we were at the school I was thinking about what my husband (the teacher) said about death & demonic imagery being so popular among the students & the irony struck me. People think of death & the demonic as being so powerful, when neither has any real power! It’s all an illusion, all just posturing. It’s the ultimate in weakness, in slavery. How can they be truly powerful when they’ve cut themselves off from the Source of all power, from Omnipotence? The true power, the love of God, doesn’t have anything to prove, doesn’t go around showing off the way the devil does.

If we could see with God’s eyes, or even with the angels’ eyes, we’d see just how ridiculous it all is. The little pipsqueak of a twisted angel puffing himself all up like a frightened kitten before the real power of almighty God would be simply hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic. Pretending to be strong only makes us weaker. Acknowledging our weakness so God can provide what we lack gives us the only real strength there is (“When I am weak, then I am strong” -2 Corinthians 12:10).

Imagine you buy a piece of property with an old farmhouse on it that’s falling down, has no windows–you just want to tear down the old house & build a new one. Now imagine that you pretend you’re strong enough to take care of it yourself. You run up to the building and start threatening it. You growl at it, show your claws and teeth, and rush at the house to knock it over. All you’d do is hurt yourself! You might knock a couple boards loose, but that’s about it.

What if, instead, you acknowledged your physical weakness and instead hired a bulldozer to come push the house down? No need to make yourself look ferocious. You just get the job done.

God is our bulldozer.

(I found the picture here)

Your Purpose In Life

November 7, 2003

I’ve been thinking more about vocations and calling and such, and it got me thinking about Jesus’ & Mary’s vocations. We only hear about the high points, but if you read between the lines, there were an awful lot of ordinary times in their lives. Mary was a wife, mother, widow. At a young age, she was raising a little boy, cooking, cleaning and being a helpmate to her husband, very ordinary things, done for the love of God, done because she knew that’s what God wanted of her.

Jesus Himself spent most of His life in obscurity. Sure, the shepherds and wise men came to see Him as a baby, and Herod wanted to kill Him, but then He was a refugee in Egypt, and then just another little boy growing up in hicksville (“can anything good come from Nazareth?”). Even when He had grown to adulthood He stayed home, working in the family’s carpenter shop. All through His 20’s, He lived a very ordinary, daily sort of life. It was only the last three years we really hear about, when it was time for Him to start His public ministry, to go off preaching and teaching and healing. But God used those 30 years in which Jesus was a “nobody.” They were part of the purpose of His Incarnation too. We can’t relate to teaching multitudes or healing people, but we can relate to doing a hard day’s work and going to bed tired. I think that’s part of the reason we don’t hear much about “the hidden years.” If we knew the details, only those who lived the same sort of life would identify with it. This way we can all think of Jesus living like we do, understanding our pleasures and troubles, feeling like we aren’t really making a difference in the world.

Looked at with vocations in mind, I think there are depths I haven’t explored in the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry too (see Matthew 3:13 & following and Luke 4 & following). First He was Baptized. He committed Himself publicly to God and received God’s blessing. But then the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. Wouldn’t you think that once Jesus had publicly committed Himself to God’s service that the Spirit would have led Him to the temple to preach? But instead He’s driven into the wilderness to fast and pray and be tempted. And those temptations take on a new significance when thought of in terms of vocations too. Jesus was tempted to use His powers to turn stones into bread to meet His own needs. We’re tempted to use our skills to provide only for ourselves, to just make money and enjoy it. Then the devil took Jesus to the tiptop of the temple and told Him to throw Himself down–after all, God would make sure He didn’t get hurt. We’re tempted to be presumptuous, since God said He’d take care of us–to not work at all or to just wait for our vocation to fall into our laps without our having taken the time and energy to discern and search for it. Or we might jump into an occupation without bothering to prepare for it, expecting God to make up for what we don’t want to be bothered with (there were probably safer, slower ways of getting down from the top of the temple). Finally, the devil told Jesus He could have all the kingdoms in the world in return for obeying evil. Boy does that one hit home today! If you want to “get ahead” in today’s work world (and sometimes, sadly, even in religious circles), it’s just expected that you’ll step on other people on your way up the ladder, cut a few corners here & there, lie to keep the boss from looking bad–you certainly won’t take God or your conscience seriously! On a more subtle level, there are times when we can see a good outcome, but think that the only way to get there is by doing something sinful. When I took an acting class, I was given a part to play in which I was supposed to use foul language. I wanted a good grade. That’s a good end, and there’s nothing wrong with my wanting it. But in order to get one, I’d have to swear (I refused). There was nothing wrong with Jesus’ wanting to rule the kingdoms of the world, either. In the end, He will rule them. But not by honoring the devil.

Only after wandering and suffering and being tempted in this trackless wilderness was Jesus prepared to actually start His public ministry. That reminds me a lot of the process of vocational discernment!

May we follow Jesus’ example by giving God’s answers to these temptations (it helps if we study the Bible, as Jesus did, so we know what God’s answers are–Jesus responded to each of these temptations by quoting Scripture!).

As We Forgive?

November 7, 2003

The gospel this morning (Luke 16:1-8) was the one about the shrewd steward who reduced the debts of his master’s debtors, one that I’ve long puzzled over. Father’s homily gave me a new perspective. He emphasized the steward’s generosity, conniving as it was, in decreasing those debts, especially since the part of the debt that he forgave was probably what was due to him–his commission on the loan. Father assumed that the master let the steward keep his job. While Scripture doesn’t exactly say that (it just says his master gave him credit for being enterprising), if that were true it would parallel that version of the Our Father that says “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” That sort of jumped out at me today. As the steward forgave the debts owed to him, his master forgave him the debt he owed.

That also puts that line of the Our Father in a new light. Even as we look askance at the steward for giving up his commission only because he wanted to save his skin, so we might look askance at ourselves for only forgiving in order to be forgiven in return. It’s enough of a step in the right direction for God to accept it, but we could do a whole lot better!


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