Hope in the wake of a brutal killing

Perhaps those who have lost a loved one to the brutality of terrorism or war can begin to understand the disorientation and paralysis of two traumatized disciples on their way to Emmaus on the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 24:1-35). Drained by the horror of Friday, confused by reports of Christ risen, the two apparently…

Cautionary tale of an arrogant leader

We know Gideon as the military strategist who startled and defeated an invading army of Midianites with a mere three hundred soldiers by sounding trumpets and smashing jars (Judges 7). But what happened after Gideon’s victory is a cautionary tale for all who would self-promote and gain power by trampling others. Gideon (also called Jerubbaal)…

Where truth confronted power

Today multiple versions of “truth” compete for attention in politics and media, and we ask the same question Pontius Pilate famously put to Jesus: What is truth? (John 18:38). Truth already had been compromised on the night Jesus stood in Pilate’s judgement hall. At the house of High Priest Caiaphas, Peter had lied by declaring…

Women at the growing edge

  Among recent immigrants at the church where I worship in Indiana, it is women who come to faith first. Women then invite husbands and relatives, providing energy for outreach. Throughout church history, women often have led the way in growth and change. The first Christian in Europe whose name we know was Lydia, who…

Sanctuary for Jesus’ grandmother

With anti-immigrant fever festering in countries of the Western world, I find it instructive to drive on the King’s Highway into ancient Moab, east of the Dead Sea in modern Jordan. Here ancestors of David and Jesus found sanctuary during the era of judges when drought devastated Bethlehem and their Judean homeland (Ruth 1:1–5). The ancestors were…

In praise of the innkeeper

That poor innkeeper at Bethlehem! For centuries the church has berated him for turning away a woman in labor and making her give birth in a stable. It is possible, though, that the innkeeper actually provided the warmest, safest, and most private place he could for Mary to give birth. Will we show the same…

Do you want to be made well?

With cancer in his middle-aged body and the prospect of lifespan shortened, Doug Brewer joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2014 while health permitted. Near the start of the Via Dolorosa—the traditional “way of suffering” where Jesus carried his cross through Jerusalem—Doug and fellow pilgrims visited ruins of Bethzatha (Bethesda) Pool. A man…

Peacemaking in a whirlwind of betrayal

The whirlwind appeared so suddenly, and came so swiftly toward us on the dusty road at Tel Dothan, that I scarcely had time to take the lens cap off my camera. Then the little twister was upon us, blinding our view and rattling the car. Was the spirit of Elisha—who once famously lodged at Dothan—getting…

A politician behaving badly

Stories of politicians and clergy using positions of power for sexual abuse are painfully familiar, a reminder that no leader is above the need for boundaries and safeguards. I ponder this as I look down on neighboring houses from the top of the City of David, a small spur of mountain immediately south of today’s…

The two Joshuas of Jericho

Anyone who grieves the loss of life through war in Syria today might also lament the slaughter that took place more than three thousand years ago at Jericho when Israelites crossed the Jordan River into Canaan. Israelites “devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young…