After meeting Jesus, an excited Philip seeks out Nathanael to tell him they have found the one “about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” But Nathanael’s response is not very promising. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he responds skeptically.
In Psalm 29, the writer proclaims with majestic confidence that God is greater and stronger than every form of chaos, and by implication, than every idol through which we imagine we can control the manifestations of chaos. God is victorious over the wildness of water, storms and wind. Even mountains and trees appear unstable in the presence of God’s strength.
"It’s all grace,” my dear friend replied. For some reason, I was surprised at the simplicity and firmness of her answer. I’d asked how she was able to face the last stages of cancer with such peace, generosity and good humor. The complete absence of bitterness or resentment in her demeanor and words was striking.
In a culture that has made efficiency a moral requirement and credit-card purchasing a way of life, delays are frustrating. Instant messaging, fast food meals and express deliveries reinforce a sense that waiting for almost anything is a waste of our time and a poor use of our gifts and resources.
The sins revealed in these first three scripture passages are blockbusters—betrayal, idolatry, adultery and violence—the raw material for larger-than-life stories and films. The Bible does not whitewash the sins of its major characters. Their awful failures and wrongdoings are part of the story, as are the human consequences, divine judgment and forgiveness.
In the fragility of goodness, author Martha Nussbaum writes, “The peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability.” Goodness is fragile and its vulnerability is part of its beauty. But in several of these scripture texts, it is not the fragility of goodness that stands out but the sturdiness of righteousness.
As a weekend gardener, I have discovered the deep satisfaction of seeing the fruit of a well-watered garden. Months of tending and watering yield a delightful harvest of well-formed, abundant produce. In contrast, a hot summer with little water yields plants that are shriveled and produce that is unusable.
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