Thursday, September 25, 2003

I bet if you asked most people to tell you the story of the Tower of Babel, their version would be quite a bit longer than the original, and it would probably include many details that aren't part of the Biblical story. In particular, we always talk about this story in terms of pride--and I think that is an accurate reading of the story--but the story does not mention pride explicitly, nor (I think it's fair to say) is that the main focus of the story on a literal level.

Literally, the story is a myth of how languages became varied. It is also a story of how a group of people were scattered across the earth. It is significant in this context that this story precedes the geneology of Abram. As Babel scattered people across the earth, Abram's story is the beginning of salvation history: the beginning of the re-gathering of people into the "City of God." This motif of scattering and gathering is a structure throughout the Bible: think of the many instances in which scattering and gathering occurs, culminating in the scattering that results from the great commission and will only be fulfilled at the conclusion of salvation history.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Lucky. Fortunate. Blessed. Whichever word you choose, we qualify. Isabel came tearing through Richmond, VA, but we were barely scathed. Something like 95% of Dominion Power's customers in the area were without power on Friday; we never lost power for more than 30 seconds. Water was turned off in some areas of our county; we never lost water. We lost water pressure, and until today we needed to boil it in order to drink it, but we never lost it completely. Trees were downed across the area, often damaging homes and cars; we had a couple limbs down and that is all. If Grace is undeserved and based on nothing you did, then it is something like what happened to us this week.

Most of our friends (outside our neighborhood) were not so lucky. My parents have been without power since Thursday night. They had several trees down (though none did damage), and I spent a few hours Friday chopping them up with my chainsaw (my wife thinks the biggest miracle of this weekend is I didn't injure myself with it...).

On a completely different subject, I completed a long-term reading goal by finishing Latourette's 2 volume History of Christianity. Like any survey of so broad a subject, it is necessarily superficial, but I highly recommend it for a broad overview of a world-wide phenomena that is over 2 millenia old. Latourette is particularly good at giving information on areas of the world that often are overlooked in the west--he gives regular updates on the various Orthodox churches as well as Christianity in Asia and Africa. And though it takes awhile, it is easy to read 2 or 3 pages at a sitting. I've just started another long-term goal: reading The Story of Civilization. I don't know that I'll stick with it through the whole thing (it could take me a decade at a few pages a day!), but I've already finished chapter 1 of volume 1! So, let the reading continue...

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Hurricane Isabel is forecasted to head right through our area. By the time it gets here, it should be a tropical depression (maybe a tropical storm). But it's pretty windy and rainy out there already. My parents have at least 1 tree down in their heavily wooded back yard. But so far the power is still on and connectivity is still available!

Keep those who may face the brunt of this storm in your prayers. I will be. And I'm praising God for the extent to which the storm has already weakened.

Monday, September 15, 2003

We survived...But we survived. It was fun; the kids were well-behaved; many of the parents really chipped in and helped.

But now we're tired.

Friday, September 12, 2003

I finished reading Marguerite Duras' The War: A Memoir the other day. It is an interesting book that is a bit hard to classify. The first half is a memoir of a fairly identifiable type. The writing is a bit unusual, but that's to be expected from Duras. The first section covers the period after the liberation of Paris as Marguerite waits for--and hopes for--the return of her husband who had been deported by the Nazis. The second section covers an earlier period where she has a surreal relationship with a Gestapo police officer who claims to have information about her husband. In both sections, she talks about her work with the resistance, and you can often feel the tension of the times.

The second half of the book consists of a couple of "narrativized" memoirs--that is, stories in the 3rd person that are clearly autobiographical in nature. The most difficult reading in the book comes in this section, as she describes the interrogation and torture of a Nazi sympathizer in the post-occupation period. The book ends with a couple of traditional fictional stories set in the period.

Duras claims to have discovered the memoirs (and perhaps the other sections?) in an old house where she used to live. She recalls the incidents, but does not recall writing the material. It makes for a good story, even if that part isn't true. I haven't read many other memoirs of the period, so I don't know how much it would appeal to readers who know a lot about WWII France. For general readers like myself, it's a very interesting book.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I'm re-reading the creation stories in Genesis for my first "real" Disciple II class this Sunday. It's difficult to really focus on stories that are so familiar, so often read. I made an effort to read the first story (the 7 days) slowly, and I was struck anew by something I've always known. In beginning with creating light and separating it from darkness, God creates the "day" by which this story measures creation. But I don't think the actual six days of creation is what is important here: it's the seventh day. After all, the rest of the Bible speaks only rarely of those first six days, but the Sabbath is of continuing interest and discussion. Thus by starting with the creation of the days, God is preparing from the very beginning the possibility of Sabbath. Sabbath is thus not something that comes after work, as an afterthought, but is something that is in the creation plan from the beginning. Throughout these days, God is constantly separating--separating light from darkness, pooling the waters to reveal the earth--and for us no separation is more important than setting aside a day for Sabbath rest. As Jesus said, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. We need it, as God knew from the beginning.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Back from vacation feeling refreshed and energized. We had beautiful weather that allowed us to spend ample time in the pool (much to my children's delight) and have returned to the brisker feel that is a harbinger of Autumn. I met last night with my Disciple class for the first time. There are 6 people enrolled (plus me), but only 3 could make it last night. I think a small group like this will be quite enlightening. From the first session, we already have a broad range of people, from a relatively newly wed young woman with no kids, to a mother with a step-daughter and a son of her own, to a father with two daughters in college. I don't know much about the other 3 members of the class, other than 2 of them are married to each other. We start with Genesis this week.

In my personal Bible devotions, I'm currently reading Numbers. Leviticus and Numbers can be tough reading because they have lots of rules (from which Christ freed us) and (in Numbers) census data that seems of little more than historical interest. John Wesley said of these books that though most of them no longer apply to Christians, they are still studded with moments of great wisdom and advice. I would add beauty to that list, as this blessing from the end of Numbers 6 shows:
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
"So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." (Num 6:22-27)

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