When a child is ignoring basic responsibilities, parents rely on a well-known parenting technique to make a point. Mom looks her ten-year-old in the eye while holding a toothpaste tube in one hand and the cap in the other. “This is called toothpaste,” she says, “and this is called a cap. They go together.” The Lord God is not beyond impatience and remedial instruction when people need a reminder about neglected responsibilities. God held a basket of ripened summer fruit beneath Amos’s nose and said, “Amos, what do you see here?” The prophet, sensing that God was serious, didn’t bother joking. “A basket of summer fruit,” he replied. With that brief exchange, strangely similar to a parent remedially instructing a child, the doors opened to a flood of divine wrath.
Summer vacation for me and my family means the beach. Every year, with one or two exceptions, we find a way to travel to the ocean. The place we have settled on is a quiet barrier island in North Carolina. It has no boardwalk, nightclubs or amusement parks, just a grocery store and a fish market.
One of the paradoxes of Jesus as he is portrayed in the Gospels is his way of combining candor with reticence. As understandably concerned as we are with what Jesus said, it is striking to consider all that he did not say, along with the many times when he spoke by indirection. “He did not speak to them except in parables.” “He answered her not a word.”