Saturday, May 07, 2011

Gamaliel's Advice

Peter and John were preaching. The Sanhedrin was not happy: "Let's lock 'em up." The angel opens the prison doors; John and Peter resume their preaching the next day. "Shut up!" But Peter and John didn't shut up. "What are we going to do now?" "I know; let's kill 'em." That's when Gamaliel stood up and advised the Sanhedrin to knock it off. "If this movement is from man, it will fizzle out on its own. If it's from God, you can't stamp it out, and you ought not be fighting against God." So the Sanhedrin took the proverbial chill-pill, beat up the apostles, and sent them on their way without assassination attempts.

How come we know what went on in this "executive session" of the Sanhedrin? Because Paul was there.

Wait a minute. Paul was there? He grew up in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3) and his mentor was, of all people, Gamaliel. He had respect for his teacher. And yet, his teacher said to leave the Christians alone. Saul didn't leave them alone. He persecuted the Church, hunting down Christians to imprison them and murder them.

When Jesus called Saul to be a Christian and an apostle, He said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

Hadn't Gamaliel told Paul something similar?

If it were me, after God had claimed me, I would seriously regret having blown off my mentor's objective advice.

No wonder Paul had clear memories of that meeting of the Sanhedrin.


You moms know what it's like. "What's for dinner?" And two minutes later, another voice pipes up, "So, what's for dinner?"

Once upon a time, when we had eight (count 'em, EIGHT) people living in our house (and one of them was ME), I was exhibiting some level of patience ...

... until I was asked for the EIGHTH time [remember, there were only seven other people in the house] "What's for dinner?"

I didn't have a recipe. I was putting together something that would be edible, nutritious, and hopefully tasty. It didn't have a name. But it was food. And I was tired of being asked. "Don't ask me again! It's food!"

And the ninth time [siiiiiigh] I was asked what supper would be, "ARGH! Don't ask me again! It's food."

And thus was born a new word: "DAMAIF."

D on't
A sk
M e
A gain
I t's
F ood.

"Mom, what's for supper?"

Now the urchins will occasionally (at time when they are not valuing their lives) be foolish enough to ask, "So what kind of ingredients are in this damaif?" Naughty urchins.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Relentless Accusations

Remember when Magdalena was caught in adultery (John 8)? The Pharisees wanted to stone her. Trying to trap Jesus, they asked Him what He thought of Moses' law. He responded that "he who is without sin cast the first stone." The men eventually all dropped their weapons and wandered away. Jesus asked Mary, "Does no one condemn you?" No one accused her. No one condemned her. Jesus assured her, "Neither do I condemn you."

Another time, we hear the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus. I think we can surmise, by looking at what history and the different Gospel accounts tell us, that this woman is Magdalena. (But it's not really critical at the moment whether we have her identified.)

In Luke's account of the anointing of Jesus (chapter 7), we hear of Simon's accusation. This woman is a scuzz. She ought not be touching Jesus. Why is He allowing this anyway? Doesn't He know?!!? We know how the story proceeds: Jesus' response is to teach Simon that he who is forgiven much loves much. We know that Jesus forgives the woman.

But, now, think about that for a minute. He forgives her. What did she do? I mean, hey, in the story, she is doing something good. What's she's doing needs no forgiveness. On the contrary! She is honoring Him because she loves Him. She is right smack-dab in the middle of a good work! And He says, "Your sins are forgiven."

Is the forgiveness irrelevant? NO.

Jesus has this idea that --in the face of accusations-- the solution is forgiveness of sins.

Even when you're not doing something bad.
Even when your sins are stale and old.
Even when you've already been forgiven.

"I forgive you."
And again.
And again.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. (John 15)

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth. (Isaiah 53)

And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls. (Leviticus 17)

By Thy baptism, fasting, and temptation;
by Thine agony and bloody sweat;
by Thy cross and passion;
help us, good Lord.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Their Eyes Were Restrained

My pastor loves the story of the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24). He often talks about how their eyes were restrained from recognizing Jesus on that Easter afternoon. Even though they were Christians, they (like we) are simultaneously plagued by unbelief. Because of their doubts and unbelief, they did not know Jesus until they recognized Him in the preaching and the breaking of the bread. It is preaching and catechesis which awakens faith that we might see Jesus.

But look at another Easter story (John 20). Magdalena is in the garden, weeping on Easter morning. She sees Jesus, but (like the Emmaus disciples later in the day) she does not recognize Him with her eyes. Her eyes too are opened when she hears Him with her ears.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Enemy

In Psalm 35, David prays for God's help when he is being attacked by his enemy. He prays,
They reward me evil for good,
to the sorrow of my soul.
But as for me, when they were sick,
my clothing was sackcloth;
I humbled myself with fasting,
and my prayer would return to my own heart.
I pace about as though he were my friend or brother;
I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.

I don't know when David wrote that. Maybe he was writing about King Saul who tried repeatedly to hunt him down and kill him. Maybe he was writing about his son Absolom and the coup attempt. Maybe it's about somebody else, or about all the different antagonists in David's life.

But it's also Jesus' prayer. (All the psalms are!) When we responded to God's goodness with evil, it brought sorrow to Jesus. When we were sick in sin, Jesus fasted and prayed for us. Even when we despised Him, He regarded us as a friend or a brother.

Monday, May 02, 2011


As much as I love the cheery yellow brightness of dandelions in bloom, I hate the stems poking up all over the yard the day after you mow. The dandelions are multiplying quite rapidly, so we determined that this year we'd resort to poison (aka, fertilizer and weed-killer). One dose. Maybe two. Not dousing the yard monthly in all the smelly stuff some of the neighbors use.

Now I wonder. I headed outside well before chapel this morning, while the dew still lay on the lawn. The hummingbird that came to check out my tulips and lilac flitted away. The taste of the poison was strong in my mouth; I had to keep spitting. (I wasn't licking the stuff. Honest! But it sure tasted in my mouth like I was. Blech!) The kitties were not allowed outside until this evening, much to their chagrin. This evening I'm exhausted and feel sick to my stomach. It may be coincidence, but I'm wondering whether it might be better to live with a yard chock-full of dandelions than to use the Scott's.

And then there's always that nervous feeling that, someday soon, I may be glad to have [chemically-untreated] foods to forage in my yard. Dandelion, clover, lambs-quarter, and pigweed are edible. Grass, not so much.