The Word tabernacles among us

“Under stress, people regress,” a psychologist told me recently. We imagined that pandemic lockdowns and masks would last weeks, but now it’s been five months. Political debates become acrimonious, domestic violence increases. Some impatient people ignore pandemic safety guidelines, which will extend the misery for all of us and lead to more deaths. My (Zooming)…

You are a city set on a hill

Amid pandemic, with national and ecclesial cultures facing up to systemic racism, I hear Jesus speak to the church: Let your example and witness be bold! What will the world see? You cannot hide! When Jesus told followers that they are a “city set on a hill” (Matthew 5), the only example of such a…

Even Jesus protested

When leaders become unjust or blasphemous, people of conscience protest. Jesus once broke furniture at the temple when he saw merchants turning the place into a “den of thieves.” Whatever we make of that dust-up, Jesus’ teaching and actions otherwise were nonviolent. But he did not hesitate to speak boldly to an unworthy political leader….

Silence in heaven awaits our prayers

No, this is not the end of the world. But COVID-19 certainly is an apocalypse—an “unveiling”—as the word is understood in the book of Revelation. The prophet John, quarantined on the island of Patmos, received a vision that unveiled both the misrule of Rome and the sovereignty of God. Readers could see “divine” emperors as…

Starry heavens and healing of the nations

Darkness descends as I drive alone through the desert of southern Israel, vast terrain where ancient Hebrews wandered for forty years. Eager to see a moonless sky in the desert, I pull off the road and wait for my eyes to adjust. Innumerable pinpoints of light appear, and planets blaze against the coal-black canopy. The…

Samson in the revenge hall of mirrors

Take revenge and you enter a hall of mirrors, that endless corridor of reflected images that appears when mirrors face each other. Acts of hatred or violence are likely to be reflected back on the avenger in “mimetic” form—further injuries that mimic what was received. Reciprocal violence can oscillate back and forth for generations as…

Act before it is too late

The man sits as he died 2000 years ago, in a position that looks like weeping. Surrounding him are amphorae jugs used to import wine, olive oil, and fish sauce that fed the huge appetite of Rome at the center of empire (Revelation 18). Somewhere an angel sounded a trumpet in AD 79, “and there…

Hanukkah: Violent resistance and unintended consequences

No, I didn’t slide open the tomb of an ancient revolutionary in Israel. But I did rest on the half-open lid of what might be his grave at the town of Modi’in, and consider what it takes to provoke oppressed people to revolt.  Violence erupted at Modi’in in 167 BCE when foreign ruler Antiochus IV…

Bold in the face of terrible truth

Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem tells terrible truth about the complicity of many, including Christians, in Hitler’s campaign of hatred and genocide across Europe. I leave darkened halls of that museum shaken, remembering that at least a few of my own people—Mennonites—actively participated in Hitler’s mass murder. How could such evil prevail? Never again…