We could accuse this week's texts of setting up dichotomies: Romans
wants us to live by the spirit, not the flesh. Nicodemus and Jesus trade
stories about being born from above rather than below. A bush burns and
life changes; unnatural things abound. Everyone knows that when bushes
burn, they are consumed. Everybody knows where babies come from, and
it's not from "up there."
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.
When I can’t pray I often turn to the end of Romans 8. Here Paul
pulls back the velvet curtain of revelation. What we see is amazing: a
never-ending festivity where there sounds a strained, melodious,
mysterious prayer that all the suffering in this present world cannot
drown out. At the heart of the festivity is the Triune God praying for
In January of this year I went to the Dominican Republic with Edge Outreach to install water purifiers. We were in the capital city of Santo Domingo. I was surprised to learn that the city does not provide clean water to its residents. Those who can afford it drink bottled water. Poor people drink the water from the tap and are frequently ill.
Rephibia is the kind of pet store that most other stores don’t want around. It doesn’t carry cats or dogs or anything else that is cute and cuddly. All its animals are cold-blooded, and some are quite large. The first thing you see as you walk in the door is a massive python almost 18 feet long. But there are also monitor lizards that are bigger than most dogs, frogs the size of dinner plates (they look strangely like Jabba the Hutt), and even an alligator snapping turtle that is so big you think it might be older than you are.