Head out on a tour of the castles of medieval Europe and you'll quickly catch on to a castle's three key features. What you see first is the bailey—a large area surrounded by a substantial wall where most of the population lived and most of the life of the community was conducted.
I have finally gotten around to putting away the green garden hose I tripped over all fall. After some extended travel time, the sudden frigid weather caught me off guard. Trying to coil cold plastic hose in a chilly garage seems impossible. Getting the job done properly requires time and patience. I was determined to take hours if necessary and to do it with humor and the long view.
I spent my early childhood on the high altiplano of Bolivia, where we took for granted spectacular views of mountains and lakes. I hiked the hills, explored caves and played among the Incan ruins. My siblings and I would accompany my parents by boat to villages and towns scattered around Lake Titicaca.
During college, I taped a
religious poster on my dorm room wall. Under a photo of a white country church
against a green, timbered hill were the words, "I lift up my eyes to the hills
from whence cometh my help."
I liked the Bible verse, the scene was pretty, and I enjoyed the peaceful
reminder of rural home places. But a friend who was knowledgeable in scripture
said the poster was theologically incorrect.
Some years back, I was surprised to hear John called the beginner’s Gospel. Surely the Gospel to begin with was Mark, the shortest and most likely the oldest, or Luke, with all those wonderful stories. John seemed to me a second-semester topic—or a graduate-level course. I saw it as an astonishing theological elaboration and re-presentation of the person of Jesus of Nazareth seen in the other books. The testimony of those sources needed to be heard first, I thought, before John’s majestically self-describing Christ could be understood.There was an additional reason that I thought it a mistake to hand the fourth Gospel over to “baby Christians.” I thought the book dangerous.