I was teaching a class on Isaiah and we had reached chapter 40,”Every
valley shall be exalted.” A student piped up, “So Isaiah borrowed these
words from Handel?” He was reading the Old Testament in the light of
“new” history. In Isaiah I find it hard not to read the Old Testament
in the light of the new—the New Testament, that is.
High on the list of people I have most admired is Mstislav Rostropovich, the great Russian cellist who died in April. I admired him first for his courage. In 1970 Rostropovich expressed his support for artistic freedom and human rights in a letter to Pravda, the state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union. In response, the Soviets stripped him and his wife of Soviet citizenship.
God promises the people of Israel that he will not “pass them by.” At
the same time, God sets a plumb line against Israel, using a divine
standard to measure the fidelity of God’s people. A visit from God,
then, is presented as judgment that shall lead to desolation and
As I read through one of the epistles, with Paul hammering an early
congregation for its members’ infidelities and numerous discipleship
shortcomings, I wish I had the guts to give my people the sermonic
tongue-lashing they so richly deserve. Then suddenly, in mid-diatribe,
Paul asserts, “Now you are the body of Christ.”
Illinois claims Abraham Lincoln as a native son, because even though he was not born in the state, he settled in Springfield, which is where he practiced law, entered politics, married and raised his children. We Presbyterians like to claim him too, though he never formally joined a church and his parents were Separate Baptists.
Randy Beckum, chaplain and vice-president of community formation at MidAmerica Nazarene University, was relieved of some of his duties for a “controversial sermon” he preached in chapel at the Olathe, Kansas, school. His audience was riled by the suggestion that Christians should take seriously Jesus’ injunction to love one’s enemies and by his questioning of Christians’ use of violence. MNU’s president issued a statement intended to protect academic freedom, but which had the effect of distancing the college from the teachings of Jesus: “At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations” (Patheos, March 6).