When one hears the story of Jesus and the fig tree in today’s gospel, it has to strike you as one of the strangest in the Gospels. It seems completely out of character for Jesus to curse anything much less a fig tree. When the text goes on to include the detail that “it was not the time for figs” (v. 13), Jesus appears even more unreasonable, and the incident becomes more difficult to understand – and so most people do the “holy nod” – Jesus said it so there must be something there – and move on.
From the good folks at Merriam Webster – the “Word of the Day” – diffident. Probably not a word that is part of my everyday usage, but one that curiously arrived on the Monday of Holy Week. In modern usage, the word “diffident” means: (1) hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence or (2) reserved, unassertive. But it is the now-archaic meaning of the word that also interests me: distrustful. Continue reading
Earlier today I posted a great video from the folks at The Bible Project. The video is part of an on-going series on the nature of God as described in Exodus 34:6-7. Today’s video was on Trusting. Trusting God – or not trusting in God – is a recurring theme in the history of Israel. Like us, it is easy to trust God when things are going well, and when they are not… that’s another story.
One of the descriptions of God that is oft repeated in the Bible is that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations” (Ex 34:6-7). Our good friends at The Bible Project have produced an series of videos that explores and explains this simple verse. Today’s installment is “Faithful.” At the bottom of the page who will be able to see the entire series if you would like a refresher or to catch up. Enjoy!
As I always note, the Bible Project is an amazing not-for-profit group that I think worthy of our support for their great work of evangelization.
This week we’re continuing our reflection on the Bible’s raw and honest portrait of the human condition. We will look at the word “transgression” in the Bible, which refers to ways that people betray or violate someone’s trust. This concept provides us with an important perspective as we continue to lament and draw attention to the realities of racial injustice in our culture.It’s never pleasant to focus on our failures or the ways that we are complicit in the betrayal of others, but it’s necessary. Only then can we open ourselves up to the healing and forgiving love of God that transforms us into agents of justice and peace in our world.
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This day’s gospel is a well known story of an encounter during which Jesus is asked: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus reply is clear and unambiguous:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven. They are testing him because they have no faith nor trust in him. Interestingly, faith-belief-trust, etymologically it is the same word in Greek. So rather than think about “faith” which sometimes befuddles people, let’s consider “trust” and our own experience of trust. Why do we trust some, not others? Continue reading
I feel sorry for the Levites, the scribes and the Pharisees that were sent from Jerusalem to investigate all the commotion and buzz surrounding John, the one baptizing out in the wilderness at the Jordan River. Israel has a history of people coming along and claiming to be the Messiah – the people get caught up in the fervor and are just sure that this is the One to Come who will lead the army that throws off the yoke of the occupying army and re-establish the throne of David. The cycle is this: a self-professed Messiah appears, all the world runs to him, the revolution starts, foreign armies come and crush the rebellion, and in the end, it was a false Messiah. So, you can see why the Jerusalem authorities send investigators down to the Jordan river to ask John: who are you, what are your intentions. The religious authorities in Jerusalem have a responsibility to acclaim the Messiah when he comes, but there is this legacy of false messiah, misplaced hope, and people needlessly dying – all for naught. So…. They seek out John – once again wondering if the promise of the Messiah is true. Continue reading
30 Even all the hairs of your head are counted.31So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Somethings are impossible to count: the stars in the heavens, the grains of sand on the shore, and the hairs on your head (baldness aside!) The impossibility of counting the hairs of the head is proverbial (Ps 40:12; 69:4), but even the impossible is not impossible to God who made them. The Creator’s intimate knowledge of those he has made is expressed movingly in other imagery in Ps 139:1–18. Equally proverbial is the saying “not a hair of his head will fall to the ground” to express a person’s total security (1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 14:11; 1 Kgs 1:52; cf Dan 3:27, Luke 21:18; Acts 27:34.22) The Father who knows the number of each disciple’s hairs will make sure none of them are lost. Continue reading
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
This section does not try to sketch a misleading picture of a God. Sparrows fall to earth and disciples of Jesus are slain, and Jesus never says that it hardly matters. “What these sayings assert is that God is indeed God, that he is above success and failure, help and isolation, weal and woe, holding them in hands that Jesus says are the hands of the Father.” (Schweizter, as found in France, 404) Continue reading