Without the numbers

esvI’ve been reading in the ESV Readers Bible, and I am somewhere in Luke — not exactly sure where (that’s the point, right?). Anyway, John the baptizer has just sent two of his disciples to try to find out whether Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah (since he has been doing all sorts of amazing things).

John’s disciples say: “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The text says that

In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them,

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Notice this — there are six types of people in distress: “blind,” “lame,” “lepers,” “deaf,” “dead” (“distressed” might not be the best word for dead people), and “poor.” The first five are given what we would expect a true miracle worker to give:

    • the blind receive their sight,
    • the lame walk,
    • lepers are cleansed,
    • the deaf hear,

and

    • the dead are raised up

But the sixth receives something quite unexpected — it is not “and the poor are given food,” or “the poor are given money,” or even “the needs of the poor are met.” Instead, Jesus says

the poor have good news [the word is “gospel”] preached to them.

Only one who is authoritatively the Messiah* would be so bold as to give something of eternal value where there are more “immediate” needs.

I draw two conclusions:

  1. Even in this time of crisis, we need to give “good news” to those in distress, even as we need those immediate needs.
  2. We need to remember that life is more than what we consume.**

 


*The numbers and the cross-references can have great value, of course, as they help us keep track of what we learn — if you can find Isaiah 26:19; 29:18-19; 35:5-6; and 61:1, you will see that these acts are part of the redemption that the Lord promises to bring about.

**I’m pretty sure I read that second point about a fourth of the way through Matthew, but I can’t find it now.

Selah

current reading 2This is a time in which it is particularly hard to know whether reading on the internet is going to do us any good, after we get the basic information. On the assumption that each of us will read some things, here are some suggestions:

First, from The Rabbit Room:

O Christ Our Healer,

There is no end to malady, sickness,
injury, and disease in this broken world,
so there is no end to the line of hurting
people who daily need my tending.

Therefore give me grace, O God,
that I might be generous with my kindness,
and that in this healing and care-taking vocation
my hands might become an extension of your
hands, and my service a conduit for your mercy . . . .

Excerpt from Doug McKelvey, “A Liturgy for Medical Providers,”  Every Moment Holy (posted on The Rabbit Room, March 13, 2020) [link].


The COVID-19 disease has uncovered all sorts of weaknesses and problems in our country and our public discourse, including those of epistemology (how we know what we know). Not surprisingly, Alan Jacobs has a thoughtful pair of pieces on Snakes and Ladders:

Rush Limbaugh says, “Yeah, I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says, “I mean, people always say, well, the flu, you know, the flu does this, the flu does that. The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This is ten times that.” (He could have said “at least ten times that.”)

Question: Why does Rush Limbaugh think he knows better than Fauci?

Excerpt from “who you gonna believe?” [link]. On a narrower point, he laments generational Schadenfreude in “a sad bit of fair play” [link].


Some of those weaknesses and problems are not at all new:

Jesus didn’t live during a time of pandemic flu, but he had a lot to say about worrying for the future. He admonished people not to store up treasure on earth, not to worry about tomorrow, and not to wonder where their next meal would come from or whether they’d have a face mask to protect themselves. He told a parable about a foolish rich man who stockpiled his abundant harvest, only to unexpectedly die. While it might seem that worrying for the future could actually prolong our life, Jesus says otherwise. He commends to his disciples a reckless disinterest in the concern for their future wellbeing. Instead of self-preservation, he demands the preservation of others, foregoing our future needs to care for the sick, the helpless, and the needy.

Todd Brewer, “Hoarding in a Crisis, Stealing from Your Neighbor,” Mockingbird (Mar. 13, 2020) [link].


Finally, go back to the Word, maybe especially the Psalms:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Selah

Psalm 46:1-3.

Checks and balances

Not new, but still relevant:

small quotes blueThe whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types—the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.

G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, April 19, 1924.

More Remembering

AEB & ERBSo, two years ago today, just three weeks after my father-in-law died, my father died. (He would say it was just his body, so it was okay.) But still, he left a big hole in our lives.

When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus wept, and of course we have all wept in the last two years. I really can’t write it even now.

I think Dad would say we have done a decent job of recovering, and to some degree we just haven’t had any choice. You do what you have to do, over and over and over. You never quite get everything done, you can’t pick up all of the wreckage.

Last week, in church, we read these words:

small quotes blueBehold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Revelation 21:3-4.

In the end, God repairs it all and makes it right. He completes his redemption of his creation. Finally, forever.

Now, though, we wait, and we weep.

#aterriblewonderfulyear

Syllabi

A couple of syllabi* from two well-known instructors.

From 1941:

Auden-1941 Syllabus

From 1994:

Wallace_Syllabus_001_large

More discussion at Dan Piepenbring, “W. H. Auden’s Potent Syllabus, and Other News” The Paris Review (Jan. 29, 2015) [link]; “W.H. Auden’s 1941 Literature Syllabus Asks Students to Read 32 Great Works, Covering 6000 Pages,” Open Culture (Feb. 28, 2013) [link]; Alan Jacobs, “Auden’s Syllabus,” Snakes and Ladders (Oct. 1, 2012) [link]; and “David Foster Wallace’s 1994 Syllabus: How to Teach Serious Literature with Lightweight Books,” Open Culture (Feb. 25, 2013) [link].

I particularly enjoy Wallace’s caution to his students not to think “this will be a blow-off-type class.” Auden does not seem to think any of his students will make that mistake.

*Apparently not with two “i”s.