In one of its collections, the Art Institute of Chicago displays rows of medieval European weaponry—swords, rapiers, maces, daggers, helmets, shields and suits of armor—all encased in glass, every detail lit up by museum lights. The tools of war are both frightening and beautiful, with their intricate etchings and gilded filigrees distracting the viewer from their brutal purpose.
It had been almost three months since I made a pastoral call on Jack Matthews, who is one of our elderly parishioners now living at Pittsburgh’s West minster Residences. He mentioned this to an elder, who might have said something to a few other church members.
For five weeks the lectionary journey through the Gospel of Mark is interrupted by a brief sojourn into the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with two familiar stories from the synoptic Gospels: the feeding of the multitude (a story so important that it appears six times in the four Gospels) and Jesus walking on the water. Then there are dialogues, first with the crowd and then with “the Jews” (probably better understood as Judean officials) about the meaning of the miracle of the feeding and about Jesus’ true identity.
Jesus called the Twelve together and put the question to them with unsettling directness: Do you also wish to go away? I wonder sometimes how I would have responded to the question. Because at times the truth is I do wish to go away.
He had real grit, that Joshua. When his fellow spies felt like grasshoppers and the Canaanites looked like giants, Joshua and his friend Caleb urged the Hebrews to take them on even though their compatriots threatened to stone them for their advice.