Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lent 4 with Moltmann

Here Moltmann considers mankind's aspirations to be god, how those aspirations dehumanize us, and how the cross restores our humanity.
Thus dehumanized man, who must exalt himself because he cannot endure himself as he is, in practice uses these religious insights only in the interest of his own self-deification. As a result, they do not help him to achieve humanity, but only give greater force to his inhumanity. The knowledge of the cross is the knowledge of the contrary of everything which dehumanized man seeks and tries to attain as the deity in him. Consequently, this knowledge (of God through his sufferings and cross) does not confirm him as what he is, but destroys him. It destroys the god, miserable in his pride, which we would like to be, and restores to us our abandoned and despised humanity. (Jurgen Moltmann in The Crucified God. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993, p. 71)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Christian Reconciliation Carnival #11: Call for submissions

Christian Reconciliation Carnival #11 will be hosted by Dr. Pursiful. His call for submissions has been posted: due 03/31/2008, with the Carnival to be posted soon afterwards in early April.

The topic of the month is based on the fact we're about to embark on our annual celebration of Easter / Pascha, and this year finds the western churches and eastern churches a month out of step:
All of this prompts me to propose “Reconciliation and Liturgical Time” as the special topic for this Carnival. How are divergent or competing understandings of the liturgical year an obstacle to reconciliation? Conversely, how does the idea of liturgical time open up possibilities for greater unity? In any event, how do we live out our Christian discipleship among fellow believers who approach liturgical time differently?

Posts are welcome on this or any other topic related to Christian unity.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Son of God and the sons of God

Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hand?
Who has wrapped the waters in his garment?
Who has established all the extremities of the earth?
What is his name or his son’s name, if you know it? (Proverbs 30:4, NJPS)

The phrase “Son of God” is used in many ways in Scripture along with the idea of God as Father. Consider some of the “sons of God” mentioned:
  • God is the Father of Israel; the tribe of Ephraim is his firstborn son (Jeremiah 31:9);
  • the king is the Son of God (2 Samuel 7:14 and others);
  • King Messiah, the Son of David, is Son of God (Psalm 2, Psalm 89);
  • all those who receive the Messiah with faith are God’s sons (John 1:12)

Given the different ways it is used, does the phrase “Son of God” have any particular meaning? Does it express a relationship of approval but little else? How do these various people come to be called “Son of God” and is there any relationship among them? Does “Son of God” say anything about the nature of the person or people called “Son of God”? Or does it simply denote a relationship with God, not necessarily an essential part of the person’s identity?

I would like to begin considering this with one more reference that the Scriptures make to God’s Son:
In the distant past I was fashioned,
At the beginning, at the origin of the earth.
There was still no deep when I was brought forth,
No springs rich in water;
Before the foundation of the mountains were sunk,
Before the hills I was born. (Proverbs 8:23-25, NJPS)

(The surrounding verses are interesting as well, but to go into them would be to involve contested translations and interpretations, which would distract us without adding anything to the overall point.)

Here it is Wisdom who is speaking. Time-honored Jewish interpretations have seen Wisdom as also equivalent to the Torah, God’s instruction, God’s word. Based on this passage, much of Judaism has seen the Torah as God’s firstborn, being used to create the world. From a viewpoint of this history of the world, the first thing called God’s Son is Wisdom or Torah, the word of God.

The next thing called the Son of God, in order of appearance on the world stage, is Israel. But why is Israel called God’s son? Jesus calls our attention to a rabbinic interpretation of Psalm 82:6:
I had taken you for divine beings, sons of the Most High, all of you (Psalm 82:6, NJPS).

There is an ancient Jewish tradition that this refers to the people of God at Sinai (see Avodah Zarah 5a). Jesus comments, “He called them ‘gods’ to whom the Word of God came.” (John 10:35 NIV). Israel stood unique among the ancient nations of the world as the only one to whom the Word of God was revealed. It is for this reason that Israel can be called Son of God and in some sense divine – not divine in an original sense as rival gods, but in a sense of being transformed beyond the confines of an animal existence by the knowledge of God.

In due time in the history of Israel there were kings, also called “sons of God”. I will leave it to the voice of Wisdom to explain the king’s relation to Wisdom:
Through me kings reign
And rulers decree just laws;
Through me princes rule,
Great men and all the righteous judges. (Proverbs 8:15-16, NJPS)

1 Samuel also records that as King Saul and King David were anointed they received the Holy Spirit. Afterwards, both prophesied and spoke the Word of God. Again it is not a random collection of unrelated people referred to as “Son of God”, as if the phrase had no particular meaning outside of a vague and unspecified relationship. In the case of the king, the “Son of God” is one who fills an office rightly reserved for God, one who has the Spirit of God and knows justice through knowing the Word of God.

For last I have saved mention of King Messiah. The first “Son of God” in order of appearance is the Word of God, and this same Word of God is the one said to be dwelling (“tabernacling”) among us as Christ (John 1:14), as John makes a not-too-subtle reference to the Shechinah and the Tabernacle at Sinai, a reference to the event that made Israel God’s Son. With that background, here we may have a fuller appreciation of Christ’s comments on his own relationship to God:

“I and the Father are one.”

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “But for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the Word of God came – and the Scritpure cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said ‘I am God’s Son’?”(John 10:30-36)

Here Jesus is plain: he is "Son of God" in more than the sense in which they were "sons of God" as the people of God. They were called Sons of God because they received the Word of God sent into the world. But he is that Word of God who was sent, the Word of God that makes us into Sons of God, who when we receive him creates that relationship with God within us and transforms who we are by our knowledge of God.

The phrase “Son of God” has layers of meaning with rich overlap between them. Far from being a meaningless phrase, the meanings are interrelated and plot a trajectory of God reaching out to the world through his wisdom and understanding and love -- and ultimately through Christ -- to transform his people into Sons of God.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lent 3 with Moltmann

Moltmann on Christ's rejection by God and what it means for the godless:
[The preaching of the cross] proclaims Christ abandoned by God and crucified by him who is godless. It is the revelation of God in abandonment by God, the acceptance of the godless by Christ himself taking on his (the godless man's) abandonment, which brings him into fellowship with the crucified Christ and makes it possible for him to follow Christ. Not until Christ has taken on our cross as his own is it meaningful to take up our cross in order to follow him. (Jurgen Moltmann in The Crucified God. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993, p. 62).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Shechinah, the Presence of God, and the Messiah

The Shechinah is a Jewish term for God's presence on earth, where God dwells with us. It is seen at Sinai as God's glory, seen in the Tabernacle and the Temple. During Israel's exodus from Egypt, the people saw God's glorious presence when the Torah was given at Sinai. There has been a long association between God's presence -- the Shechinah -- and God's word. Not only does God's presence reveal God's word, but also when people study and know God's word it realizes a blessing promised by God that he will be with them, causing God's presence to rest among the people.

A few examples from Rabbinic literature will give the general feel of how the rabbis of ancient Judaism understood the Shechinah and the promises of God's presence:
Rabin b. R. Adda says in the name of R. Isaac: How do you know that the Holy One, blessed be He, is to be found in the Synagogue? For it is said: God standeth in the congregation of God. (Psalm 82:1) And how do you know that if ten people pray together the Divine presence is with them? For it is said: ‘God standeth in the congregation of God’. And how do you know that if three are sitting as a court of judges the Divine Presence is with them? For it is said: In the midst of the judges He judgeth. (Psalm 82:1) And how do you know that if two are sitting and studying the Torah together the Divine Presence is with them? For it is said: Then they that feared the Lord spoke one with another; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name. (Malachi 3:16) (What does it mean: ‘And that thought upon His name’? — R. Ashi says: If a man thought to fulfill a commandment and he did not do it, because he was prevented by force or accident, then the Scripture credits it to him as if he had performed it.) And how do you know that even if one man sits and studies the Torah the Divine Presence is with him? For it is said: In every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee. (Exodus 22:21) Now, since the Divine presence is even with one man, why is it necessary to mention two? — The words of two are written down in the book of remembrance, the words of one are not written down in the book of remembrance. Since this is the case with two, why mention three? — I might think the dispensing of justice is only for making peace, and the Divine Presence does not come to participate. Therefore he teaches us that justice also is Torah. Since it is the case with three, why mention ten? — To a gathering of ten the Divine Presence comes first, to three, it comes only after they sit down. (Berachoth 6a)

When two scholars are amiable to each other in their discussions in halachah, the Holy One, blessed be He, gives heed to them, for it is said, Then they that feared the Lord spoke one with another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard. (Malachi 3:16) Shabbath 63a

When two scholars pay heed to each other in halachah, the Holy One, blessed be He, listens to their voice, as it is said, Thou that dwellest in the gardens, The companions hearken to thy voice: Cause me to hear it. (Song of Solomon 8:13) But if they do not do thus, they cause the Shechinah to depart from Israel, as it is said, Flee, my beloved, and be thou like, etc. (Song of Solomon 8:14). Shabbath 63a.

When two disciples form an assembly in halachah, the Holy One, blessed be He, loves them, as it is said, and his banner over me was love. (Song of Solomon 2:4). Shabbath 63a.

[T]wo that sit together and are occupied in words of Torah have the Shechinah among them ... [T]hree that have eaten at one table, and have said over it words of Torah, are as if they had eaten of the table of the place, blessed is He, for it is said, And he said unto me, This is the table that is before the Lord. (Pirke Aboth 3)

All this is background to establish the Jewish tradition that whenever and wherever people are gathered around the Word of God, the presence of God is with them. This Jewish tradition was derived from a careful and loving study of the intricate details of God's word, with a focus on when and where God had promised his presence of blessing to his people.

The reason I mention this here and now is to provide better knowledge of the context in which Jesus' words were meant to be understood. Some scholars have contended that the Synoptic Gospels never portray Jesus in terms suggesting his divinity, and that Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels never portrays himself in terms suggesting his divinity. However, this does not take adequate account of how the terms would have been heard by Jewish hearers. The book of Matthew in particular assumes some familiarity with Jewish customs and thought. It is here in the book of Matthew that we find Jesus' saying recorded:
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20).
Jesus' remark that he could be present whenever and wherever people come together in his name is remarkable in itself. However, given the Jewish background of Jesus and his earliest hearers, and the likely Jewish audience of the Gospel of Matthew, it becomes a more pointed reference. In saying that he is the presence who is with believers when they come together, Jesus is identifying himself as the Presence of God, the Shechinah so often mentioned in the Torah and discussed by the Rabbis. This is the implication when he says, "Whenever two or three come together ... there am I with them."

The part omitted in the quote just previous is at least as remarkable: "whenever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." The Scripture contains many promises of the Presence of God which the Rabbis discussed. These promises spoke of the blessing of God's presence on those gathered together either in God's name or to study the Torah, things that tend to occur together. In saying that the blessing fell when people were gathered in his name, Jesus draws the parallel that he is either the Torah -- the Word of God -- or God; he is the one in whose name people are gathered when studying the Torah and learning of God.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Harry Potter: Deleted Scene

This post is for Valentine's Day. Anyone who has no interest in the Harry Potter books will likewise have no interest in this post (just so you're forewarned). Did anyone else think that Severus Snape got an exceptionally raw deal in life? Here is a (fan-fiction) deleted scene to help out.

“If you don’t mind dying,” Snape said roughly, “why not let Draco do it?”

“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.”

“And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?” (Deathly Hallows, p. 683).

The conversation replayed bitterly in Snape’s mind as he ran from Hogwarts. Harry Potter’s parting insult rang in his ears: Coward, he had called him, who had faced dangers Harry could only imagine as a spy in the Dark Lord’s ranks. But he had done it. He had spared Draco from becoming a murderer. And had become a murderer himself. He had killed the only man he had ever trusted. More than that, the only one he had ever respected. But Snape had one surprise yet to play, something of which Voldemort knew nothing – and neither did Dumbledore.

As he left the Hogwarts grounds, he quickly disapparated. He was due any moment at Malfoy Manor. But in this much commotion, a few moments’ delay would not be missed. He apparated on the doorstep of Number Twelve Grimmauld Place. Soon, no doubt, the place would be barred to him. But for the moment, the way was safe. He made his way inside, then strode quickly through musty halls which had been little used since the death of Sirius Black. He had despised Black and his arrogant friend James Potter. But now it was exactly that friendship between his old tormentors, Black and Potter, which brought him back to Grimmauld Place.

Upstairs, he went rapidly through Sirius’ effects. He searched quickly, at first methodically, but then with growing impatience as the minutes ticked on. Finally, he found what he sought: a picture of James and Lily Potter. They were watching their year-old son Harry on a toy broom. Disgusting, he thought to himself as the arrogant James Potter was framed forever in happiness with Lily, who was as lovely as ever. Severus studied the picture in his hand, timing his move carefully. When the image of young Harry was on his father’s side of the picture, he tore the picture quickly down the middle. He let James and Harry fall to the floor and looked into Lily’s eyes. She smiled, though Severus knew the smile was for James and Harry.

“That boy’s soul is not yet so damaged,” said Dumbledore. “I would not have it ripped apart on my account.”

“And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?”

Severus silently performed the powerful spell that would bind the torn piece of his soul, touching his wand to Lily’s picture. It was on Dumbledore’s account that his soul was ripped apart; Snape intended to put that to good use. He wondered: Is it possible for a horcrux not to be dark magic? He looked again at the picture of Lily. She smiled, and now the smile was again for him.

He pocketed the picture of Lily. He would find a safe place for it shortly. For now, he was due at Malfoy Manor. He left Grimmauld Place quickly and disapparated into the night.

A note on the timeline:

If the events recorded in “The Prince’s Tale” (Deathly Hallows) are chronological, then this timeline won’t work since that chapter records the memory of Snape’s return to Grimmauld Place (pp. 688-689) after the memory of the attack on the Seven Potters, long after the night of Dumbledore’s death. However, I think it more likely that the memory of the return to Grimmauld Place isn’t in sequence there, since anti-Snape jinxes were put on Grimmauld Place at some point after Dumbledore’s death (see p. 168 of Deathly Hallows), probably promptly after Dumbledore’s death. Also, one of the anti-Snape jinxes seems to have been put in place by Mad-Eye Moody (see p. 170), who died the night of the attack on the Seven Potters, so again it seems those jinxes were in place even before Potter’s escape from Privet Drive. This makes it more likely that Snape’s return to Grimmauld place had already occurred at that point, that the memories recorded in “The Prince’s Tale” are simply the order in which Harry saw them and not the order in which they originally occurred. In that case the timeline suggested here becomes possible.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lent 2 with Moltmann

Moltmann pondering the cross:
To suffer and to be rejected are not identical. Suffering can be celebrated and admired. It can arouse compassion. But to be rejected takes away the dignity from suffering and makes it dishonorable suffering. To suffer and be rejected signify the cross. To die on the cross means to suffer and die as one who is an outcast and rejected. (Jurgen Moltmann in The Crucified God. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993, p.55)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Internal evidence and the authorship of the Gospel of John

Outside of conservative camps, very few are willing to place historical weight on the Gospel of John. Several lines of argument have been proposed against its historicity. It is intriguing that the beloved disciple is never named; I believe this has already been discussed thoroughly and do not intend to discuss the “beloved disciple” angle here. Beyond that point of interest, it is also argued that the differences between John and the Synoptic Gospels tell against the Gospel of John, and that the existence of the appendix in Chapter 21 makes a devastating argument against a single-author/unrevised view of the book’s authorship. Both of these points will be reviewed along with writings from the early church that address the authorship of the fourth gospel.

John v. the Synoptics
The argument against historical value from the differences between the Gospel of John and the Synoptics run roughly along these lines:
  1. The traditional or orthodox Christian view is that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness, and that the Synoptic Gospels were either written by eyewitnesses or based on eyewitness testimony.
  2. There are marked differences in style, purpose, and content between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John.
  3. Therefore if the Synoptic Gospels have historical value, the Gospel of John does not.
  4. Also therefore, the Gospel of John was probably not written by an eyewitness.

This argument assumes that the gospels should all contain roughly the same material and that they are validated by covering the same material as each other. A review of Matthew, Mark, and Luke shows that they cover much of the same material; if an expectation of a further gospel – or what constitutes a valid and reliable gospel – is based on the similarity of these three, then we would expect a fourth gospel to repeat the same parables, sayings, and miracles as the previous three. A review of the Gospel of John shows that it does not. Why the difference?

An early record is preserved by Eusebius in his History of the Church, in which he referenced Clement of Alexandria’s work Outlines. This work contained notes on many early Christian writings both inside and outside the canon. Eusebius summarizes Clement’s comments on the Gospels:
Clement has found room for a tradition of the primitive authorities of the Church regarding the order of the Gospels. (Skipping discussion of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and other writings; it only bears mentioning for present purposes that the Synoptic Gospels were recorded as having been written before John.) Last of all, aware that the physical facts had been recorded in the gospels, encouraged by his pupils and irresistibly moved by the Spirit, John wrote a spiritual gospel. (History of the Church 6.14, based on Clement of Alexandria who lived circa 150A.D. – 215A.D.).

Here an early church document specifically addresses the differences between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. John was familiar with the Synoptic Gospels and was of the view that those facts already covered by the Synoptics did not need to be covered again. With this in mind, he purposed to record mainly those things which had not been previously recorded. This addresses the objection that the Synoptics and the Gospel of John can be pitted against each other as if they reasonably could have been expected to recount the same material in the same way. It addresses the view that their differences are an unexpected phenomenon which tells against the reliability of the latter. On the contrary, it shows that the Gospel of John’s character is meant to be supplementary, not because of any disagreement with the previous books, but on account of their incompleteness in what they do not address. It shows that the fourth gospel did not consider that the life and teachings of Christ were adequately addressed by the previously-written books. In fact, the text indicates in two places that even this additional information did not exhaust the material that could be written about Christ (at 20:30 and 21:35). In this way, the authors twice made known their intention to add to our knowledge of Christ, not to content themselves with repeating things that had already been recorded.

The Appendix
Scholars consider the last chapter of the Gospel of John to be an appendix, a later addition. The beginning of the appendix in Chapter 21 is marked by the fact that the previous chapter contains what seems intended as the conclusion to the book: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31). These words bring the previous twenty chapters to a fitting close and would have suitably ended the book. Notably similar thoughts are employed as the final words of the book (John 21:25), adding strength to the claim that John 20:30-31 was the original ending. The material in between is then considered an appendix, having a different writing style and content than the rest. It also includes the statement “We know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24), which can hardly have come from a single author or from the same writing session as the rest of the material. Instead, it indicates that the previous material had been reviewed by those writing the appendix. Based on the appendix, some modern scholarship has suggested that the book was written by a community of authors rather than a single individual. Scholars also noted that the Gospel of John was written decades after the events described and that it shows other signs of early editing in the received text besides the appendix. On the basis of these arguments, traditional authorship is disowned and historical value is denied.

The argument against historical value from the appendix and other signs of editing runs roughly along these lines:
  1. The traditional or orthodox Christian view is that the Gospel of John was written by John.
  2. Because of the inclusion of the appendix, a single author/unrevised view is untenable. Because of signs of editing at an unknown date by an unknown person, the historical value cannot be trusted.
  3. Therefore the traditional or orthodox view is untenable and the historical value is denied.

This argument assumes that the view of the ancient church was that John was the single author of the Gospel of John. However, that is a very simplified version of the early church’s view on the subject. Here is an early written record of how the Gospel of John came to be written:

When his fellow-disciples and bishops encouraged him, John said, “Fast along with me three days from today, and whatever may be revealed to each, let us relate it one to another.” The same night it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John in his own name should write down everything and that they should all revise it. (from the Muratorian Canon, likely dates ranging from 170 A.D. – 200 A.D based on internal evidence)

Here the history of the church specifically addresses the community of authors: it was John and his fellow disciples, of whom Andrew is also named, being another of Jesus’ twelve hand-selected apostles and Simon Peter’s brother. It shows that the review and editing that occurred were not performed by a later group without the knowledge or consent of the author, but that the community nature of writing this gospel was part of the intent of the original author. It also shows that the editors were not distant in time and knowledge, but were likewise acquainted first-hand with the events in question, so that the editors’ comment “We know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24) comes from those with direct knowledge of the events and who were independent witnesses of the things recorded. This gives the Gospel of John the character of something both written by a witness and verified by other witnesses: the appendix provides a second attestation to the truth of the contents. Rather than being historically weaker than the Synoptics which have each other for corroboration, the Gospel of John is uniquely situated in that more than one person with direct knowledge was involved in writing and editing the text. In referring to the original author as a witness and adding that they know his testimony is true, they make reference to the legal system of their day and meet the standard that a thing should be accepted on the testimony of two or three witnesses. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke are three witnesses for many events recorded amongst them, historically, the Gospel of John is the only one of the Gospels which can stand alone in meeting the standards of evidence of its day for “two or three witnesses” based on the nature of the appendix: it is the confirmation of other people with direct knowledge.

Planned soon: addressing the arguments against the reliability of the Gospel of John based on its theological perspective.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Celebrity Meme

Anastasia has tagged me for the Celebrity Meme.

If you could spend 24 hours with a celebrity:

1. Who would s/he be?
2. Where would you expect him/her to bring you?
3. Where would you bring him/her?
4. What would you like to do with him/her?
5. What’s the one thing you’d been always wanting to ask the celebrity?
6. If s/he didn’t treat you well, would s/he be your favorite celebrity?
7. What would you give to him/her as a gift before saying goodbye so s/he’d remember you?
8. Tag 3 people.

I pick Bill Cosby. He's my all-time favorite comedian. He would take me to a comedy club where he was doing an act, and afterwards we'd go for coffee or something. All I want to do is hear his material. He leaves me in stitches and his humor is so warm-spirited, not the mean stuff you see from some "comedians." I would ask him: where do you come up with the material? Where do you get your ideas? How do you take a good story and make it better? I might even ask if he *really* likes Coke and Jello pudding. I can't imagine that he wouldn't be kind, but I suppose it would change my view of him if he weren't. As a gift ... well if he really liked Coke and Jello pudding, that would settle the "gift" part of the meme; but odds are he's tired of those by now and maybe a copy of one of his humor collections signed by me and my kids with "Thank you" on it.

So Dr. P, Mark, Jeff, and Phil, feel free to play along if you want to: you're tagged.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lent 1 with Moltmann

This Lent I'll be posting a series of my favorite quotes from Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God. Here Moltmann shows that Christ was far from a passive victim in his death, and that this means that his followers cannot be passive victims of the world in our own sufferings, taking up our cross and following him. His suffering is not in that sense a mere moral lesson in (misguided) passivity, but transforms our suffering by bringing us out of our circumstances.
Jesus did not suffer passively from the world in which he lived, but incited it against himself by his message and the life he lived. Nor did his crucifixion in Jerusalem come upon him as the act of an evil destiny, so that one could speak of a heroic failure, as heroes have often failed and yet remained heroes to posterity. According to the gospels, Jesus himself set out for Jerusalem and actively took the expected suffering upon himself. By proclaiming the righteousness of God as the right of those who were rejected and without grace to receive grace, he provoked the hostility of the guardians of the law. By becoming a ‘friend of sinners and tax-collectors’, he made their enemies his enemies. By claiming that God himself was on the side of the godless, he incited the devout against him and was cast into the godlessness of Golgotha.

The more the mysticism of the cross recognizes (Jesus’ active seeking of the cross), the less it can accept Jesus as an example of patience and submission to fate. The more it recognizes his active suffering, the less it can make him the archetype of its own weakness. To the extent that men in misery feel his solidarity with them, their solidarity with his sufferings brings them out of their situation. If they understand him as their brother in their sufferings, they in turn do not become imitators of his sufferings until they accept his mission and actively follow him. (Jurgen Moltmann in The Crucified God. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993, p.51)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

On the lighter side: Hawk meets kite

It was a beautiful wannabe-spring day yesterday here in southern Texas. We took kites to a nearby park and were flying them. The kites were bird-shaped: the "bird" in the top-right corner of this picture is actually a kite. This is a snapshot of a hawk coming to see what in the world ...