The Difference between Religion & Faith (in two simple diagrams)

By the Rev. Ken Howard

When some people talk to me knowing that I am an ordained leader in the Church, they often preface what they say with the phrase, “I’m not very religious person…”

When I hear that, I usual respond, “Me neither, but I am a person of faith…”

Recently, I was challenged to illustrate the difference between religion and faith very simply, in one or two simple diagrams.

The following is my attempt to rise to this challenge:

Diagram #1

Religion

Diagram #2

Slide3

Okay… One more slide for folk who like a verbal summary…

In Summary

What do you think?

“the child grew”

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Presentation A: Luke 2:22-40

simeonLet’s see if we can summarize the story of Jesus’ presentation at the temple in Jerusalem.

(Note: It’s not like a PowerPoint presentation…his parents are bringing him to the temple to fulfill the custom of presenting one’s firstborn child to the Lord.)

So that’s what Mary and Joe are up to, and they bring the sacrifice of two turtledoves—no partridge in a pear tree. And an old dude named Simeon is super holy and has that aura of the Holy Spirit all around him and he just goes on and on about how wonderful little Jesus is and will be—how his life will change things…but only if Mary and Joe show him Baby Einstein videos (okay, maybe not).

And then as an afterthought, Luke mentions that there’s also a woman—an old, widowed woman named Anna—who is also pretty cool and praises God for little Jesus.

And then as an after-afterthought, Jesus grows up in only seventeen words, or three if you narrow your focus to “the child grew.” Luke doesn’t waste any time. Given how much of an impact one’s family of origin has on one’s adult relationships and behavior, why is Jesus’ childhood so limited?

Luke took the time to describe Jesus’ parents—Mary is virtuous, faithful, courageous; Joe is patient, understanding, and generous. Luke did not describe them with adjectives but with the story of Jesus’ most unusual conception and birth. And then after that lengthy narrative, Luke gives us a few descriptive words about Jesus growing up; no stories, no parables, no nothing. Are we to imagine that he was perfect? Are we to imagine that he was normal?

If you haven’t read Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, I highly recommend it. This piece imagines, in a humorous way, what Jesus’ childhood may have been like, and it does so in a way that makes fun of the notion that this fully-human human being was “perfect.”

As Robert Farrar Capon put it in Hunting the Divine Fox, “We somehow feel obliged to say that [Jesus] was a little freak who never hid when his mother called him, who always put his toys away in his toy box, and who, when he got to the age at which boys have wet dreams, piously refused to have any. But that’s theological folly. It’s winning a minor battle at the price of losing the whole war. The big things to be defended about Christ are his Godhead and his Manhood. It would be far better to bend the concept of his sinlessness a bit than to lost sight of his humanity in the process of trying to say how good it is.”

We have a real problem accepting Jesus’ humanity; we imagine a human, but better. We put Jesus the man on a pedestal and effectively eliminate the possibility of emulating his life. But Jesus was a man just as much as Christ is God. “There is no manhood in his deity. And there is not one shred of God in his humanity, any more than there is in yours or mine—loose talk to the contrary notwithstanding. The union of the two natures is precisely a union, not an amalgamation,” as Capon also wrote. And “we don’t want to be saved in our humanity;” Capon wrote, “we want to be fished out of it.”

What if what Anna and Simeon saw in Jesus was his humanity as well as Christ’s divinity? The Holy Spirit rested upon Simeon, and at the sight of Jesus he and Anna both praised God and looked forward to redemption. What if they did this not because they saw young Kal-El in Mary’s arms, but because they were especially aware of the ebbs and flows of Ms. Holy Spirit in their midst in the Christ Child?

Maybe their experience is that “Holy-cow, what-was-that, where-did-that-come-from, how-did-that-happen experience of the living God” that the Rev’d Francis Wade describes in a sermon on the mission field. It is this kind of experience that Moses saw in the flames of the burning bush, the people witnessed in the wilderness and later in the temple. The experience of the Living God happens in the scope of human experience. It offers joy and hope as it inspires praise and reveals to us the wonders of this world that God creates.

Why this story? Maybe because it grounds us just a little bit more in Jesus’ reality and humanity, as well as our hope for salvation within our own humanity.

The Rev’d Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday. His personal blog is entitled Bowing to Mystery, on which he posts sermons, articles, pictures, videos, etc.

This is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Sometimes using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.

When is a Conversion Not a Conversion? Thoughts on the “Conversion” of St. Paul

By the Rev. Ken Howard

And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you
according to the wisdom given him,
speaking of this as he does in all his letters.
There are some things in them hard to understand,
which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

Peter – an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ

(2 Peter 3:15-16)

conversion of st paul

A little over 20 years ago, while still in seminary, I had a preaching experience that profoundly transformed my opinion of the Apostle Paul and my thinking about conversion. I was a seminarian at the time – a senior, to be exact – and I had just been assigned my seminary preaching date (Virginia Theological Seminary, at the time, only gave its aspiring preachers one shot at the gathered seminary community). That’s right: my preaching date would be the Feast Day of the Conversion of St. Paul.

Needless to say, I was a little intimidated, Paul being known as the founder of Christianity as we know it, and all, and famous for his “Road to Damascus” conversion experience. Nevertheless, I got to work reading and researching the texts.

What I discovered was nothing less than astonishing: When it comes to the Apostle Paul, we think we know more than we do, especially when it comes to the topic of conversion.

But first a little background…

At the time of the birth of the church on that first Pentecost, Paul (then known as Saul) was a young man, a Roman citizen born in Tarsus, a Jew educated in the religious traditions of the Pharisees. Offended by this upstart movement that had sprung up around this failed messiah, Jesus of Nazareth (who himself had likely grown up within the same Pharisaic tradition), Paul began his adult years as an avid opponent of the Nazarene Jewish Christian movement. But as a result of some mysterious revelation by Jesus in the wilderness, he was transformed from one of its chief antagonists into its foremost apostle. In an ironic twist, this former Pharisee was chosen by God to bring Christ to the Gentile citizens of the Roman Empire. Soon after he returned from his “Road to Damascus” experience he petitioned and won approval from the leadership of the nascent—and then almost entirely Jewish Christian—church in Jerusalem to allow Gentiles to become followers of Christ without first converting to Judaism, and with this approval was born his Gentile Christian movement. Over the next decade or so Paul planted and nurtured a dozen or more vibrant and rapidly growing church communities around the predominantly Gentile, northern Mediterranean. These communities would continue to grow and expand after his death, until eventually, the Gentiles would far surpass in numbers the Jewish Christians in the church.

Over the two to three decades of Paul’s ministry, as an integral part of the process of planting and guiding Gentile Christian communities, he carried out an intense correspondence with them, most of which was helping them to figure out what it meant to be communities centered on Christ. A half-dozen to a dozen of these letters (depending on whose opinion you ask) would become canonized as Holy Scripture—what we now call the New Testament. Within these letters he set forth the words of institution for Holy Communion: “this is my body, which is [broken] for you . . . this cup is the new covenant in my blood…” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26) and he articulated the theological principle of alvation through faith in God’s grace extended to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—not to mention offering much practical advice about the communal life of faith. I think it is ironic that many view Paul as the founder of Christianity as we know it today. Because while his concept of radical grace occupies a revered place – a pedestal at the very center of Christian doctrine – it has seldom been taken down from its pedestal and put into practice in the church’s communal life. So rather than seeing Paul as the founder of the Christian religion, I think of him as a catalyst for a Christianity that might have been, had the church not misunderstood and misapplied his teachings.

And now to the point…

Much of what we think we know about Paul doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. As one of my seminary professors once put it, “Paul got a bad rap.” For example, Paul is often perceived as being antagonistic toward Judaism and toward followers of Christ who observed Jewish ceremonial law. But a closer look at his writings shows that his attitude toward Judaism and Jewish Christianity was more open than popularly believed.

For example, he never described himself as a convert from Judaism or an ex-Jew. When he describes his experience of coming to faith, as in does his letter to the church in Galatia, he simply says, “my Lord was revealed to me” (Galatians 1:15).  Nor does Paul use the language of conversion to describe others coming to faith in Christ. In almost every version of Scripture, Paul is said to describe two of his companions – Timothy and Epaenetus – as “new converts.” But the literal translation of his description of Timothy is “new plant” (“neophutos” in Greek) and his description of Epaenetus is “first fruit” (“aparche” in Greek).

Paul seems to regard the issue of conversion (in the sense of changing religions) as irrelevant, seeing faith in Christ as the spiritual equivalent of the faith of Abraham, rather than a religion of Christianity as a successor to the religion of Judaism (see Romans 4:1ff.).

[1] He was willing to observe the ceremonial law in his dealings with Jews in order to win them to Christ (see 1 Corinthians 9:19ff.). And he was willing to require that Gentile converts observe basic Jewish ethics (see Acts 15:5–21).[2] He did not object to Jewish Christians following the ceremonial law, as long as they did not make the case that it was necessary for salvation, as did the so-called “Judaizers.”[3] With reference to Judaism as a whole, it is clear from Paul’s letter to the Romans that he does not believe that his Jewish brothers and sisters who have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah are lost to God. After much agonized wrestling with the issue, he realizes that he must learn to live with the paradox that while the name of Jesus is the only name by which people are saved, God’s promises of salvation to the Jewish people cannot be broken. So he resolved to continue to try to persuade them, but to leave their ultimate fate to God (see Romans 9–11).

Paul is generally viewed as being authoritarian in his oversight of the churches he founded, handing out and rigidly enforcing rules for individual and community conduct. Yet a closer reading of his letters reveals a more flexible leadership style: advice and counsel about the implications of the love of Christ and the grace of God as it applies to the circumstances of each community. For example, in Ephesians he appears to be encouraging the community to strive for a greater and more charismatic experience of the Holy Spirit. But in his letters to the Corinthians, he seems to try to turn the thermostat down on such experiences. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, he advises the community there to put a person outside the community for sexual immorality, but in the second letter he advises them that they have taken this corrective measure too far, and that now that he has repented they should welcome him back. Space does not allow an exhaustive review, but such examples abound in Paul’s letters, if you don’t come at them with the preconception that Paul is trying to enforce rigid rules. In every case, in every community, he seems to ask the question, “If Christ, then what?” In other words, if the love of Christ and the grace of God are true and transformative, than how ought this to be acted out in the life of this community and in the situation at hand. Paul is not the authoritarian rule-giver we often believe him to be. He was not about uniformity, but rather seemed to revel in raucous diversity within his communities as obvious evidence that it could only be the Holy Spirit making such community happen. In fact, the one thing absolutely consistent across all of Paul’s correspondence was his desire that he, and his communities, “know nothing…except Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

We know that the communities Paul founded—and their humble, radical, grace-centered approach to community in Christ—survived Paul’s death at the hands at the Romans. What we don’t know is for how long. We know that the more organized the church became, the less this approach was followed. As early as the second century—as evidenced by the three so-called Pastoral Epistles—we begin to see a much greater emphasis on uniformity and a more authoritarian approach to life in Christian community. This emphasis and approach would continue to expand in the fourth century as the Church began what would ultimately become a near-merger with the Empire, and as more and more canon law developed over time. While the church would continue to acknowledge the concept of radical grace as foundational to the way of Christ, with Paul as its greatest apostle, it would increasingly operate as though Christian community was based on obedience to Church law.

Related Reading

Boyarin, Daniel. (1997). A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hays, Richard. (2005). The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Howard, Ken. (2013). Excommunicating the Faithful: Jewish Christianity in the Early Church. Germantown, MD: The Paradoxy Center for Incarnational Christianity.

Kaye, William & Anne Amos (2010). Re-Reading Paul: A Fresh Look at His Attitude to Torah and Judaism, Jewish-Christian Relations, retrieved July 15, 2010 from website: http://www.jcrelations.net/en/?id=789.

Lopez, Lavina. (2008). Apostle to the Conquered: Reimaging Paul’s Mission. Minneapolis: Fortress.

Stegemann, Ekkehard & Wolfgang Stegmann. (2010). The Jesus Movement: A Social Histyory of Its First Century. Minneapolis: Fortress.


[1] Patrick J. Hartin, “Jewish Christianity: Focus on Antioch in the First Century,” Scriptura 36 (1991): 38-50.

[2] G.P. Carras, “Jewish Ethics and Gentile Converts: Remarks on 1 Thes. 4:3-8,” in The Thessalonian Correspondence, Raymond F. Collins and Norbert Baumert, eds., (Ithaca, NY:  Leuven University Press, 1990), 306–315.

[3] Roger Beckwith, “The Origin of the Festivals of Easter and Whitsun,” Studia Liturgica 13(1979): 7–8. Beckwith argues that Paul allowed Jewish Christians to observe Jewish festivals privately.

Worrywart

2073303604_6139e71456By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Epiphany 3A: Psalm 27:1, 4-9

Had I not gone into ordained, priestly ministry, I might have made an incredible, professional worrier. I’m not even kidding—I worry almost as often as I breathe. Okay, I may be overstating this point, but my imagination is a powerful thing, and when it decides to worry about something or someone, it comes up with some pretty scary stuff.

When Antonio and I watched the first season of FX’s American Horror Story, I literally did not walk down into our creepy, cobweb-ridden basement for an entire month. I still look behind me as I ascend the staircase after doing laundry (Antonio’s glad that I chip in with that every now and then). The point is, most of the worrying I do is utter nonsense, and it doesn’t do anything except waste time and energy.

Our psalmist is a bit of a worrier too, I’m afraid.

We’ll call our psalmist Davy (and we’ll use our best Christian Bale Newsies accent to do it). Davy begins sharing his worries with a statement of affirmation about the Lord. “The Lord is my light…my salvation…the stronghold of my life…of whom shall I be afraid.” But Davy’s psalm doesn’t stop there, and after we read his concerns, we realize that the affirmation is like when I walk up the stairs from the basement and tell myself, “there is no deranged monster hiding behind the furnace…there is no deranged monster hiding behind the furnace…”

“When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh…though an army encamp against me…though war rise up against me…if my father and mother forsake me…” Davy has just named some concerns that King David might have had, though the concerns got very personal—so personal and so universal that the psalm becomes more relatable than the absurdity of the first examples. We’re not all powerful leaders worrying about armies and war…we certainly don’t worry about evildoers eating our flesh, except when we’re in a creepy basement.

While Davy worries about all of these different things, he continues to move. Davy moves through his life and into community—specifically community worship. He says, “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.” He’s talking about worship; he’s talking about worshipping in the temple—a communal experience. Not only is Davy talking about worshipping, but he is talking about investigating how the Lord can be faithful following and in the midst of pain and suffering and terrible conditions.

THAT, my friends, is the struggle that each and every one of us (and them) live through—it is a lifetime search for meaning and relationship with God. It is with conviction that we, and Davy, search for divine guidance and protection, and when we find ourselves in times when fear overwhelms faith, THAT is when the importance of community is most obvious. Community is essential in life and in asking these kinds of questions—whatever role(s) we play in communal life.

So worry on, but move forward. Be afraid of things that (probably don’t) creep in the basement, but keep on doing your laundry.

The Rev’d Curtis Farr is the assistant rector of St. James’s Episcopal Church. He blogs for St. James’s every Wednesday, offering reflections on the readings of scripture from the upcoming Sunday. His personal blog is entitled Bowing to Mystery, on which he posts sermons, articles, pictures, videos, etc.

This is a weekly contribution to the creative and imaginative process of interpreting the black and white fire of Scripture. Sometimes using an adapted process of Midrash, the author includes historical/cultural information, personal anecdotes, and other theologians’ ruminations on selected passages from the upcoming Sunday’s lectionary readings. All are welcome to journey into the fire by using the comment sections on the blog itself, or on Facebook or Tumblr.

Peter? The Rock? (Reading Between The Lines)

Sermon delivered on January 19, 2014 at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church
(1 Cor. 1:1-9, John 1:29-42)

Andrew found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

black fire on white fireIn the Jewish Talmudic tradition, it is written that the Scriptures are the “eish da’at” –  the “fiery law” of God.[i]  It is also written – and this is the basis for all Midrash – that the texts of Scripture are “black fire written upon white fire.”[ii]

In other words, sometimes, to truly understand what is being said in the Scripture, you have to read between the lines. You have read both the “black fire,” the actual, literal words of the text, and you have to read the “white fire,” the space between and among the words. Because, while the Bible is the inspired word of God, God has purposefully designed the process of that inspiration so that to most fully understand God’s word we have to bring to bear our human imagination.

Today’s Gospel cannot be fully understood without asking what’s has been left out and what’s seemingly been “lost in translation.” If you didn’t ask those questions, if you only paid attention to the black fire, you might make the mistake of thinking that the most important person in this story was Peter and that the point of this story is Peter’s calling. And miss some very important things… Continue reading

Peter the Rock

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Epiphany 2A: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-11, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42

IMG_1233 copyThe supposed site of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan River is a pathetic and muddy stream, as I mentioned last week. The source of the river in Banias is so pure and clean that my group was able to bend down and refill our bottles with it’s water. In between Banias and the site of Jesus’ Baptism are dams that provide Israeli settlements in the West Bank with a water supply.

The area around Banias is significant today not only because it is where the Jordan River begins, but because of how people have used the area over the last few thousand years. Carved in stone above the springs are ancient shrines to pagan gods—dozens of them. It is in this area north of Jerusalem where Jesus may have had a particular conversation with his disciples.

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks Simon and the other disciples.

Surrounded by these shrines to a multitude of gods, Simon says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter (or Cephas), and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

In this instant, Jesus renames Simon. He calls him “Peter,” as translated from the Greek “Petros,” or Cephas/Kefas, from the Syrian Aramaic (the language of Jesus). Both mean “rock,” which is why after Jesus renames Simon “Peter” he says, “on this rock I will build my church.”

Our reading for Sunday follows the same event in John’s gospel, which is not as specific about a location as Matthew but still contains the name-changing exchange between Jesus and Peter. And you know what they say: location, location, location. Remember that if, in fact, Jesus, Peter and the disciples are standing around these cliffs carved with ancient pagan shrines, the rock that Jesus may be referring to could be the rock that surrounds them on three sides. Continue reading

Welcoming Breastfeeding and Radical Hospitality

This article had its origin in a brief post by Shivaun Wilkinson, Missioner for Parish Engagement at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, where I serve as the Rector (or Senior Pastor) in response to the article “Breastfeeding on the rise but at Church is still an issue” on Religion News Service, it started ad hoc conversation among several people in our congregation. One confirmed that fear of silent disapproval had indeed a deterent to some of her friends. Another noted how welcoming it felt to guests of our church who happen to be nursing mothers to have a member of our clergy team (Mother Shivaun) regularly breasfeeding her newborn after church services. Still another, a blogger and photographer, suggested it would feel even more welcoming if we had a picture of said breast-feeding clergy on our Facebook page and website. For my part, I suggested an article on welcoming breastfeeding as an extension of our commitment to radical hospitality and non-proselytizing evangelism. The rest was up to Mother Shivaun.

Related articles

Noturmothersepiscopalian's Blog

In response to this article:breastfeeding on the rise but at church still an issue

Shivaun (edited)

 

This is me, breastfeeding at an Outreach committee meeting. I have also been know to duck to the back when a colleague is preaching to nurse my fussy infant.

 

When my daughter was born, she nursed literally every two hours. She wasn’t efficient at first and a dear friend sent a lactation consultant to our apartment as a gift. With an improved latch, advice to breast feed and then pump the extra needed ounce until she became more efficient and the promise that, with time and practice, she and I would get the hang of it, Miriam and I carried on. I was not the epic failure that I thought I was.

 

However, I still breastfed in hiding. Miriam didn’t like the cover and stopped nursing the minute it was on her…

View original post 373 more words

Jordan Creek

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Baptism of Our Lord A: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17

When we do baptisms at St. James’s, the candidate is usually less than one year old. The altar and clergy are decked out in white. Next to the centered font is a brass pitcher of tap water. During one of the longest “lines” of the liturgy, the celebrant pours water into the font while doing his or her best to read the prayer smoothly. This skill takes years of practice, and it’s why we get paid the big bucks.

Water is loaded with symbolic significance—we recall God cleansing the earth in the story of Noah, parting the Red Sea during the Exodus, and then parting the Jordan River as Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land. The Jordan River is where we find Jesus and John in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Baptism.

John has not printed a bulletin for Jesus’ service, nor has he appointed a committee to create a keepsake banner with the candidate’s name on it, as we do at St. James’s. John is not expecting to Baptize Jesus, he is expecting the opposite. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

You’re picturing this in your head, aren’t you? Maybe you’re imagining the scene as depicted in film. Maybe you’re imagining Art Garfunkel being washed by Sgt. Pepper in a city fountain (a la Godspell). My image of this scene was significantly altered when I visited the Holy Land in the summer of 2012. We traveled to the Jordan River, to the approximate/observed location of Jesus’ Baptism. On the site, numerous Christian denominations built churches, more so on the Israel side than the Jordan side. Also on either side of the river were armed guards with AK-47s. The whole thing sounds like a big production and marvelous site, until you realize that the river is maybe twenty feet from one side to the other, and it’s not more than a few feet deep. Continue reading

ADAPT OR DIE

By Ken Howard
part of the Vestry Papers issue on Vestries: Listen to God’s Call (January 2014)

adapt_or_die_article

At a recent conference I was asked to speculate about what our parishes would look like a decade from now. My answer was brief: “One thing I can say with certainty is this: The only way our churches will look like they do now is if they have been stuffed and mounted and displayed in a museum of natural church history.”

The context in which our congregations exist is shifting so dramatically that mere tweaking of method and message can no longer return us to health, let alone vitality. We are facing radical change – radical as in going to the root – requiring of us both radical recognition and radical response.

As congregational leaders, we must confront the fact that our churches are dying. While we may wish they were timeless and eternal, at the core our churches are living human organisms, and dying is what all living organisms eventually do. But first they are born, live, adapt, create new life, and pass on their DNA to the next generation. We cannot insulate our churches from death without isolating them from the very process that would empower the next generation, not just to survive but also to thrive.

To guide our churches into a vital future, vestries and other church leaders must help our congregations to embrace their organic nature – to see death not as the ultimate failure but as the door to greater life. We need to help our congregations learn how to die in a way that plants the seeds of their resurrection. But how? How can we as congregational leaders learn this radical response and walk this counterintuitive, paradoxical path? How do we help our congregations live into a more incarnational Christianity that values organism over organization? Continue reading

The Duke warns Joseph

By The Rev. Curtis Farr

Christmas 2A: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

2075500063_3ec1fcf42aAfter the wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, an angel warns Joe in a dream that Herod is searching for Jesus and that they should giddy-up (I’m picturing an angel played by John Wayne). Joe is obedient—one mustn’t defy The Duke—and he takes Jesus and Mary into Egypt.

And now we skip over Matthew 2:16-18, three verses that describe a massive slaughter of toddlers by Herod. NBD

But Herod dies, and The Duke comes back and tells Joe, “You can mosey on back to Israel now, pilgrim. The coast is clear.”

Interesting that God chose to use Egypt as a hiding place for a child in danger. In Israel’s memory, Egypt was a place where God rescued children from danger, and now it is a safe haven. Is this move a bit of ironic storytelling on Matthew’s part, or is the flight to Egypt based on historical fact and the act of a good-humored God?

While we cannot answer those questions definitively, we can contemplate its significance on a different level. Continue reading