An inherent consequence of our distance from the world of Jesus is that we primarily understand Jesus’ words as they apply within our twenty-first century eschatological and theological framework. However, Jesus’ teachings reflect his cultural background as a Jewish rabbi in first-century Galilee.
Let’s consider how Jesus would have responded to the damage and loss of life wrought by Katrina. He no doubt would have said, “Do you think these people in New Orleans were worse sinners than all the rest? No, and unless you repent you will also perish” (compare Luke 13:1-5). In other words, this disaster (and all others) should serve to remind us that we need to urgently and seriously examine our own lives!
We Christians sing a hymn that contains these words: “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.” We also sing choruses that proclaim: “Your name is like honey on my lips”; “His name is exalted far above the earth”; “Praise the name of Jesus, praise the name of Jesus….” However, we may have misunderstood, or partially misunderstood, many biblical expressions that contain the idiom, “the name of.”
As a small boy growing up in Alabama I had a deep love of God and a real hunger to know him better. By the age of eight I had read the entire Bible. But, like most people, I often struggled to understand what the Scriptures were saying. Many verses didn’t seem to make sense.
One of the most amazing and unusual experiences we have living in Israel is to see people who are avowed enemies nationally and historically come together in harmony and peace. A number of Israeli organizations bring together Arabs and Jews who have mutual interests (for example, in the area of the arts). Often harboring strong religious and political differences, these people get to know and understand each other on a personal level.
Thousands of Israelis are inundating telephone aid centers. The reason: the difficult security situation and fear of approaching war with Iraq.
One of the strongest impressions I have from my first year in Israel (1963-1964) was taking part in a Passover Seder (the joyous home celebration of Passover). It happened that during this first year in Israel my first contact with the Jewish people took place—there were no Jews living in Cleveland, Oklahoma, where I grew up.
One thing seems certain, in my opinion: we must renew our covenant with God again and again. Our relationship with God is not a one-time commitment, but an ongoing relationship.
As I lay in a hospital bed at Hebrew University’s Hadassah-Ein Kerem Medical Center, it was obvious to me that my body was completely out of control. My heart had been beating erratically for over 100 hours, and the only hope for restoring my heart to normal rhythm was cardioversion (electric shock therapy).
Last night I attended the birthday party of one of my closest friend, Halvor Ronning. Gathered around him were children, grandchildren and friends. Having lived 65 years, Halvor had reached a milestone in his life. There was good reason to celebrate.
Those of us who live in the Middle East often find ourselves in the middle of the conflicts that arise here. I recently attended a conference of Christian Jewish and Arab women held in Jerusalem. The conference was organized by Musalaha, a ministry of reconciliation directed by Salim Munayer.
Hebrew University professor, the late David Flusser once remarked that Jesus’ teachings could be summed up in one word: “Relax!” The more you think about that, the more you realize Flusser is right.
The Jericho Road is no more than a thirty-minute drive from where we live. Yet the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) can be as distant as the period of time in which it happened. Such a dramatic experience—passing up someone in dire need—would never happen to us! But how about someone who is not in such dire need? Let’s consider someone who needs just a little help.
The importance of sharing one’s bread with the poor has remained in the Jewish consciousness until today. Many people do not want to throw away bread. Instead of dumping their bread along with the rest of their garbage into the garbage carts parked along the streets, they save the bread in plastic sacks and hang it from the metal projections on the sides of the carts (used to hoist the carts into the garbage trucks). That way, the bread is potentially available to the poor.
Are any words of Jesus better known than these: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, KJV)? This ringing declaration holds a prominent place in Western thought, and has exerted a powerful and even prophetic influence upon the American way of life in the last two centuries. Incised on our hallowed U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., it expresses the best of our ambitions and ideals as a nation “under God.”
The Gospel writer Luke recorded a story that Jesus told about an anonymous rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Living in splendor, the rich man enjoyed his wealth, whereas Lazarus pined away outside the rich man’s gated home. The story gives the reader the impression that the rich man did little to alleviate Lazarus’ pain. He probably reasoned that what was his was his, and what was Lazarus’ was Lazarus’.