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Showing posts from April, 2009

Life in Greencastle

About a week ago, I entered our church parlor accompanied by Pam Anderson. Pam and I were met by a host of other women, talking and enjoying some snacks. We were gathering for a bible study - an exploration of Luke's themes of rest and release. Before we dug into God's Word, though, we shared some news with one another. Included in the news was the sober reality of Barbara Silander's declining health. As I talked about my last visit with Barbara Silander, Barbara Bates spoke up ... "You do know that Barbara was a poet, don't you?"

'No," I said. And before I could say another word, Barbara Bates handed me a collection of poems that Barbara Silander had written.

As the women continued to talk about Barbara Silander - remembering and celebrating all that she has done for us - I took to reading through a few of the poems. I was immediately impressed with the precise beauty, the thriftness of thought, the truth of the emotions. And, I discovered thi…

Life in Greencastle

My senior year at DePauw Polly Elizabeth Marchese was diagnosed with Leukemia on the very first day of Fall classes. For a bunch of seniors arriving after one final summer of freedom, the news hit all of us hard, awakening us to the reality of danger in the midst of life. For the next several months, Polly battled the disease, but - eventually - she died. She died around this time of year - in the spring of her life.

Not long after she died, the annual Relay for Life was held to celebrate not just Polly but the many others that faced this disease - some of whom died, some of whom continued their struggle, and some of whom could gratefully call themselves "survivors". I will never forget that night as the bags were set aglow all over Blackstock Stadium. It was and is incredible to see: all of the bags a story of one of God's children. And together they make a whole litany of lives - glowing in the dark night, some of them shining for the message "Hope."

We …

Life in Greencastle

"All the world is a stage," Shakespeare said, "and all the men and women merely players." So it is. But, what is this drama? What drives the story of "life?" The drama - the tension of life - is the ongoing battle between the bitterness of death and the sweetness of life. That is what plays out upon the stage of our lives. We are at once and forever learning about dying and about living.

Now - beginning today - the drama increases; it intensifies. We move now into the heart of our faith: the holy communion of Thursday, the darkness and dying of Friday, the awful silence of Saturday, and the joyful birth of Sunday. We move into dying and living. We move along with the lead actor - this Jesus from Nazareth.

So where are you in this drama? What role do you play?

Are you like the disciples sent ahead to prepare the Seder meal - following your Master's orders obediently?

Are you like the disciples who find it hard to stay awake - nodding off to sle…

Longing for Deliverance

For the first time, I am planning to participate in a Jewish Seder Meal, albeit one that has been slightly altered to fit the Christian tradition as well. I was thus very interested in the most recent Speaking of Faith on National Public Radio: Exodus, Cargo of Hidden Stories, which is a conversation Krista Tippett had with Dr. Avivah Zornberg, a leading scholar on Torah and Talmud.

Throughout the conversation, Tippett and Zornberg explore the meaning behind the story of the Israelite Exodus, and Zornberg utilizes the Jewish tradition of midrash to access several other stories or commentaries on the Jewish Exodus. I was particularly struck by the "mirror story", which was read on the program out of a fifth century Midrashic collection (Tanhuma Pekudei) ...

"You find that when Israel were in harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh decreed against them that they should not sleep at home nor have relations with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimeon bar Chalafta, 'What did the daughters…

Life in Greencastle

Three times a year the Jewish people would set out for Jerusalem. They would leave their homes and embark for the Holy City. Pilgrimage, we call it. Mothers would see that their children would have food to eat for the journey. Men would ready the oxes and donkeys. Children would begin to grow giddy with excitement, and two days into the journey they would conspire, "Are we there yet?" And up the people would go to Jerusalem. Every time: up. Regardless of where they lived: up ... because Jerusalem was literally a city on a hill, a high point in Palestine. So, for the three major festivals, faithful Jewish families would set out as pilgrims, venturing towards Jerusalem.

And the biggest festival was the Passover. Jerusalem would be overcrowded with pilgrims. For one week the city would be so packed with people even nearby Bethpage and Bethany would be teeming with families.

On the way to Jerusalem, the people sang songs: the shiray hammaloth, the Songs of Ascent. …

It's Easter in America

I just interviewed 10 children. And, all 10 of them agreed: Easter is about ... (drum roll) ... candy!

That's right. The high point in the Christian calendar has officially been overrun and co-opted by Mars Candy Corporation.

This all began when I started talking to Ms. Juliette January, the director of our daycare who was born in the Caribbean. She was telling me how much more Easter was recognized and celebrated in her native land: Good Friday and the Monday following Easter were both recognized as national holidays, bars and stores were closed, families would gather for large meals celebrating the ancient story.

But what did Juliette discover when she came to the United States? Answer: bunny rabbits, candy galore and - for good measure - chocolate bunny rabbits. She could not believe what she saw.

I knew she was right. But, I couldn't resist polling the kids. One by one, I asked them, "When I say the word 'Easter', what do you think about?" And, one…