As we struggle to stay alert to the constant demands of the needy, we pastors sometimes forget that we take for granted others in our congregations who seem strong and whole. This applies particularly to those men and women whom we instinctively count on as the backbone or the core of the congregation.
You may share an experience I often have: I enter a room where friends are engaged in a spirited conversation about someone and try to guess who it is that they are describing. If I succeed, it’s usually because they are referencing words or actions that I recognize as familiar. These words and actions form a pattern that I associate with a particular person.
The Bible is full of strange things—oil cruets and flour containers that never become empty and young bodies that are restored to life at a word from Jesus. Are we supposed to believe that these things happened? Maybe the ancient peoples did, but we moderns suffer under the curse of Bultmann’s lightbulb: we know why the light switches on. We are cursed by rationalities that prevent us from seeing the Bible as one overarching story in which our own lives play a key role.
Aron Ralston knew he would die before the next morning’s sunrise. Five days earlier he’d been walking a trail in a narrow desert canyon in Utah and had climbed down from a large chockstone along his route. A chockstone is a huge boulder that’s wedged between other stones or canyon walls. This one may have been there for hundreds of years, but when Ralston came down, he somehow loosened the boulder, and it fell on him.
Support the Christian Century
The Century's work relies primarily on subscriptions and donations. Thank you for supporting nonprofit journalism.