Sunday, July 19, 2015

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. (Jonah 3:1-3)

Joss Whedon’s TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer begins where the 1992 movie left off, as Buffy Summers and her mother move to the town of Sunnydale to start over after her vampire-slaying antics got her kicked out of school in Los Angeles. She starts out working to fit in at her new school, making new friends and attempting to leave her Slayer days behind her.

Buffy finds, alas, that her dream of being a normal high school student is not to be, because Sunnydale also happens to be the site of a Hellmouth, where vampires and other demonic creatures can (and frequently do) cross to the land of the living. There are also people around who know about her past as a Slayer and keep at her to return to vampire-hunting. Being a Slayer is her calling, and try as she might, Buffy cannot escape from it.

Like Buffy, Jonah tried to run from his calling. He went to great lengths to go anywhere but Nineveh, and it took spending three days inside a whale to convince him that God meant business. I guess it just goes to show, when you are called to do something, you can run but you can’t hide. You might as well embrace your calling, trusting God to equip you for the job, and face it head on.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15)

As usual, the TARDIS has plopped the Doctor, Donna, and Martha down in the midst of significant events - in this case, a war between a group of humans and some aliens called the Hath. Part of the human contingent’s processing of the newcomers consists of taking a tissue sample from the Doctor. His DNA is then used to create a clone, in the form of a young woman (later dubbed “Jenny” by Donna) who is fully grown and already possesses the necessary military knowledge to join the other soldiers in the fight against the Hath.

At one point in the midst of all the running through corridors, Jenny prepares to stay behind and shoot at their pursuers in order to give the Doctor and Donna a chance to escape. The Doctor argues with her over her plan - despite the fact that she’s trying to protect them in what she sees as an “us or them” situation, he is vehemently against killing anyone. “We don’t have a choice,” Jenny tells him. “We always have a choice,” replies the Doctor.

Joshua had taken over leadership of the Israelites from Moses and had seen the people safely into the promised land and living prosperously for a number of years. He brought everyone together as his time in charge neared its end and reminded them that, in the words of the Doctor, “we always have a choice.” He laid out their story, enumerating all the things God had done for them, and declared that they should continue to worship this God that had brought them out of Egypt and through the wilderness and into such prosperity in this new land. But, he told them, they didn’t have to. They had a choice, and they needed to make a decision.

We still have a choice, and we are still asked to make a decision. So, whom will you serve this day?

Sunday, July 5, 2015


The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. (Psalm 24:1).

In last week’s post, I looked at Denethor as an example of a poor steward in The Return of the King, and how Gandalf brought this state of affairs to his attention. He didn’t stop there, however, continuing instead with a description of his own actions, which we recognize implicitly as the way Gandalf thinks that Denethor should have responded:

But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward.

Gandalf demonstrates good stewardship of Middle Earth not in the way he treats the environment per se (although he does tend to be most friendly with the agrarian Hobbits and nature-loving elves and opposes the more industrial efforts of evil beings like Saruman and Sauron), but in the way he cares for the beings that inhabit it. He is friends with Hobbits, Elves, Men and Dwarves alike, and strives to help whichever race he is currently involved with make the best and wisest decisions. He protects whomever falls under his care and seeks to banish evil.

Last week I spoke of stewardship in the sense of caring for the environment. Often when stewardship is spoken of in church, it is in the context of making sure the congregation will be able to meet its budget for the upcoming year. But do we, like Gandalf, ever think of ourselves or our churches as stewards of people? I didn’t before I started working on this post. Gandalf’s example stands out to me as what the church ought to be, first and foremost.

“The earth is the Lord’s,” the Psalmist says, “and everything in it...and all who live in it.” Being good stewards means taking care of the house, including all the people who live there. It means being “fishers of men,” certainly, but also (and perhaps most importantly), it means loving our neighbors, seeking justice, showing mercy, protecting the weak and powerless, and helping the “least of these.”

I asked this question last week, and I ask it again now: We as the Church are stewards - keepers or guardians of this planet we call our home and all the people who live here. What will it take for us to really be true to that name?