Friday, April 29, 2022

What Are We Talking About?

In response to Yahweh’s call, Moses led Yahweh’s people out of Egypt, to Mount Sinai, through forty years of living in the wilderness, and finally to the very edge of the Promised Land. Sadly, Moses was to die before leading Yahweh’s people that last step across the Jordan River.

Not wanting to leave anything to chance or the Olympian gods, Moses chose, during his final days, to remind Yahweh’s people of all they had learned of Yahweh’s relationship to them and of theirs to Yahweh. He reminded them of Yahweh’s supremacy over all other gods and gave them a great confession of faith: “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our god, Yahweh alone” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Proclaiming the Supremacy of Yahweh

For decades Moses has been herding sheep for his father-in-law in the Sinai Peninsula. Suddenly God speaks to Moses. God tells of the suffering of his people in Egypt. He then calls Moses to join him on the most unexpected adventure: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10, English Standard Version, here and following).

At first, Moses refuses. He tells God that he’s too unimportant. Then he complains he doesn’t know God’s name. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). This name revealed by God—I AM—is a translation into English of four Hebrew letters. This Hebrew name is usually translated as the LORD. If we simply substitute four English letters for the four Hebrew ones, we would get YHWH or, adding the needed vowels, Yahweh. On Mount Sinai, God reveals to Moses that his name is Yahweh.

On Being Economical with the Truth

In The Plague (1947), Albert Camus (1913-60) describes the ebb and flow of a fictional epidemic in the actual city of Oran, French Algeria. Figuratively, he describes the ebb and flow of evil, including falsehood, in any society at some time and every society at one time or another.

At the beginning of the novel, the plague has just appeared in the form of otherwise discreet rats suddenly appearing publicly to die of some mysterious ailment. Coincidentally, a reporter employed by a daily paper in Paris just arrived to investigate the conditions of people living in Oran’s Arab districts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Best We Can Do?

In his book, The Plague (1947), Albert Camus imagines how the people of the North African port city of Oran might have responded if unexpectedly stricken by that disease sometime in the 1940s. Before introducing the plague, and scrutinizing their response, Camus gives us some sense of ordinary life in this city of 200,000.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Nowadays Who Needs Jesus?

There are two ways we may live in the world. One way is the way of Jesus. He is the narrow gate and his is the difficult path. Each day Jesus calls us to follow him on the difficult path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and leads to eternal life. 

There is another, far more popular way. That is the way of Satan. Satan is the wide gate and his is the easy way. Each day he bullies, bribes, and deceives us to follow him on the broad smooth highway of power that is based on falsehood, expressed through indifference, and ends in despair, destruction, and death. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A Pioneering Imagination

In O Pioneers! (1913), Willa Cather (1873-1947) settles the Bergson family on the Nebraskan prairie before confronting the sturdy good Alexandra Bergson and her two adult but younger brothers with three years of drought. Alexandra loves the land and responds to the challenge by deepening her roots in it. Her brothers share a contrary inclination.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Loving the Land

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8:19-22, English Standard Version).

Willa Cather (1873-1947) set the plot and characters of O Pioneers! (1913) in the late 1800s on the vast challenging prairie of frontier Nebraska. As a young child, Alexandra Bergson had been brought to that land from Sweden by her parents. Her father died when she was only a young adult and he left his farm in her hands.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Respecting the Integrity of the Land

The parents of Willa Cather (1873-1947) moved their family from Virginia to Nebraska in 1883. Cather would live in that state until she graduated from the university in Lincoln sixteen years later.

Cather published O Pioneers! in 1913. It opens in 1883 and describes the lives of European homesteaders around the fictional town of Hanover. Plot and characters center on Alexandra Bergson who immigrated with her father John and family from Sweden to the area in 1862.

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Land Has Its Own Integrity

Willa Cather (1873-1947) featured sturdy good characters in at least three of her books: Alexandra Bergson in O Pioneers! (1913), Ántonia Shimerda in My Ántonia (1918), and Jean Marie Latour and Joseph Vaillant in Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927).

O Pioneers! opens on a winter’s day, 1883, in a fictional town on the Nebraskan prairie. Fifteen-year-old Carl Linstrum is giving a ride in his wagon to Alexandra Bergson, four years his senior, and her little brother Emil as they return to their adjacent farms. The Linstrums and Bergsons emigrated from Sweden years earlier to attempt a new life on the American frontier.