Ancient Answers

1 Comment

The Darkness Behind the Darkness

I watched the film Tolkien, a film that I failed to see on the big screen last year. And very few people did see it! Even the critics took little notice of it – and those critics who did see it hardly had much praise for it. It amazes me how such nonsense as the Avengers movie could make so much money and be reviewed by practically every movie critic on the planet while the film Tolkien was almost totally ignored. Perhaps part of the reason was that the Tolkien Estate and family disapproved of the film. A pity, because it is a truly fine film about the early years of one of the most popular writers of the 20th century, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – usually written as J.R.R. Tolkien. Like all films about real people it takes liberties for dramatic purposes, but it succeeds in bringing to life the world of Tolkien’s youth and his own deeply feeling spirit. It is a beautiful, mostly quiet film about art, music, love and friendship. But it is also about war.

Tolkien and his three close friends all fought in the First World War. Tolkien and Christopher Wiseman came back. Geoffrey Smith and Robert Gilson died in the Battle of the Somme in France, in 1916. In the most harrowing scenes of the film, Tolkien struggles through the hellish landscape of trench warfare to find Geoffrey. The film shows them calling each other’s name – or maybe Tolkien thought he could hear Geoffrey calling out Tolkien’s name. Tolkien did not find his friend. But in that hellish landscape, Tolkien sees visions of apocalyptic battle between forces of good and evil and in the climax of the scene he briefly sees an image that would become the Dark Lord Sauron in the Lord of the Rings.

What struck me about the scenes in the battle of the Somme is that Tolkien seems to have seen the darkness behind the darkness. The battle and the landscape were hellish enough by themselves. But Tolkien in his vivid imagination saw even deeper darkness behind what was in front of him, which took the lives of his two closest friends and which almost took his own life. And indeed, the war was the most direct inspiration for his great fantasy novels. Out of that great darkness emerged his own literary achievements. Not only that, but he also created a whole world with its own language in order to give depth of reality and meaning to the stories he crafted.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us how Jesus began his ministry after his baptism. He called people to repent, to change their way of thinking – which is what metanoia (meta-nous) actually means. In other words, change the way you see life and the world – and if possible, change it, make it a new world…because the kingdom of the heavens is at hand (ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν). But in setting the scene for the beginning of Christ’s work, Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah – “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.”

The Gospel message: out of darkness light dawns and a new world – because the kingdom of the heavens is near. Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and undoubtedly the message of darkness and light that we find in the New Testament influenced his own literary vision.

Most of the film is devoted to the fellowship of the four friends, and Edith, the future wife of Tolkien. The four friends had a word that motivated all their actions and motivations: Helheimr, an Old Norse name for the realm of the dead. This word became their battle cry for honor as they set out to change the world. War prevented them from changing the world. Two of them died in battle, the third lived on to an old age but war took a different toll on him. Only Tolkien went on to create marvelous works of literature and imagination. But Tolkien did convince Geoffrey’s mother to publish the poetry of her son, and Tolkien wrote the preface to the published book, A Spring Harvest. The last poem in the book was perhaps the last Geoffrey Smith wrote in the battle of the Somme before his death:

So we lay down the pen, 

So we forbear the building of the rime, 

And bid our hearts be steel for times and a time 

     Till ends the strife, and then, 

When the New Age is verily begun, 

God grant that we may do the things undone.

God grant that we may do the things undone. What a hopeful, life-affirming message, written in the depths of war’s hell. Out of a different hell happening right now in Australia I heard a lamentation about the 1 billion animals that have already been destroyed by fires and whole species that are facing extinction. In speaking of these animals and insects, the speaker attributed to them “a purpose and a majesty entwined with our own.” There is a darkness behind the darkness that we see, but in the darkness lie messages to enlighten us and to draw us nearer to vision of a new world, a world that echoes the words of Jesus – Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand. A world that echoes and prays the final words written by Tolkien’s friend Geoffrey Smith: God grant that we may do the things undone. 

I preached this to my congregation on Sunday, January 12th.

1 Comment

When God’s Name Changed

A group of men visited a remote monastery. They were given time to visit with a venerable holy monk, who answered all their questions. Finally one of the visitors spoke to the monk: “Father, could you tell us something about yourself?” He leaned back. “Myself?” he mused. There was a long pause. “My name used to be Me. But now it’s You.”

What happened to that monk sounds to me like what happened with God. When Moses asked for God’s name, God answered, ’ehyeh ’ašer ’ehyeh, I AM WHO I AM, or, I AM WHAT I AM, or, I AM, for short. Sounds like the monk saying, “My name used to be Me,” doesn’t it? But when Jesus was incarnate and became as one of us, God could say, “My Name is You”! When God looks at Jesus, God sees us. Underneath all the hoopla that goes with Christmas is this single profound truth. God is no longer I AM WHO I AM. God can now say I AM WHO YOU ARE. And because this is in fact the Christmas miracle, we can become as Jesus is, as God is! This sharing of existence is what the Orthodox Church proclaims through the doctrine of theosis, or deification. We can become what God is because God became as one of us.

Unfortunately in most Orthodox circles this idea of theosis has become an end in itself, a slogan, a kind of jingoistic affirmation that makes some people better than others – specifically some Orthodox better than everyone else, even better than most Orthodox, more holy, more deserving of heaven. All I can say to that is be careful. Jesus only spoke harsh words to those who thought they had salvation and truth all wrapped up. He never spoke with anger or judgment to the poor, ordinary folks who did not put on any airs. He only expressed anger at the religious self-righteous and to those who aligned themselves with political and economic powers. Here is something you won’t hear Orthodox proponents of theosis emphasise: Theosis is not something to be puffed up about. Theosis is a responsibility, a calling to transcend our self-righteousness and our religious pride and separatism.

Another visitor asked another hermit, “What do you actually do?” The hermit replied, “I live here.” An answer just as profound as the answer of the other monk about his name. What indeed do you do? I live here. What simpler, and yet more profound and life-altering answer than that? How many of us really live? And how fewer of us live here? Here, not in some never-never land, some mythological heaven that is tailored to our own needs and preferences? Here, on this earth, in this place where I am located right now. Do I live here? Or do I spend much of my time dreaming of someplace else, the proverbial place where the grass is greener? Where I don’t have to see people that I don’t like or don’t agree with?

“I live here.” This is the heart of what I call the eucharistic truth of a life truly lived; and a life that does lead to theosis. What do we do at every Liturgy? We offer the Eucharist. The Liturgy is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the only reason why we have Liturgy. A sermon can be preached any time and any place; you don’t need a Liturgy to preach or her a sermon. In many churches the entire purpose of gathering is to hear a sermon. Fine, nothing wrong with that; just don’t call it a Liturgy or a Eucharist, because it’s not. What do we do at Eucharist? We live…here and now. We live the mystery of God becoming as one of us… and God changing God’s name, in a manner of speaking.

Your own of your own we offer to you – the words spoken at the most sacred moment of the Orthodox Eucharist. We offer to God what God has given us, and we offer it in thanksgiving, eucharistia. This has profound implications for how we live. We offer bread and wine as representing the goodness of life. We live here, so we take care of the here and now where we live, so we can offer it back to God. Can you offer to God a polluted life, a polluted gift, a polluted earth? This was the tragedy of the events that followed the birth of Christ. They were not events of thanksgiving. They were events of retaliation against God’s profound goodness. Yes, Herod, thought it was a case of political challenge. But in reality what he showed was his profoundly unhinged inhumanity – the opposite of God’s humanity. And Jesus ended up being a refugee to escape Herod’s evil. That’s how far Jesus identified with humanity that he even accepted to become a refugee like millions of humans have done throughout the ages; and millions do today.

Coptic icon of Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath.
Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ###

You see, when you put together the whole mystery of God’s incarnation…. when you see life as eucharist, you find what it is to live the Christian life and what the Christian life is all about. But does a theology of eucharist make us more accountable stewards of the gifts given to us, including the gift of life here? Or is it just words? Let’s live eucharistically. And let’s not stop there. Let’s not just talk about theosis. Let us resolve to live theosis, just as God chose to live humanness.

1 Comment

The Khora of Salvation

Landscapes were important in defining God’s interactions with the people of ancient Israel. And landscapes were important in Jesus’ own ministry. Desert, mountain, sea, city and village – places, topoi, where the drama of salvation was played out in the Gospels. Those same landscapes became important in Orthodox tradition, in the writings and meditations of the church fathers and mothers, but even more crucially in the iconography and hymnography of the church.

In thinking about what the Bible and theology of the church say about salvation, I’ve found much inspiration from the book Landscape, Nature, and the Sacred in Byzantium by Veronica della Dora, published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. While the letters of the apostle Paul have been the prime sources of much of what the church has taught about salvation in Christ, the iconography and hymography of the church have been guided by the Gospel narratives and the typological interpretation of Old Testament events. The Gospels show us that Jesus was very much connected to the land where he walked and where he brought people into direct knowledge of God. The drama of salvation played out in the landscapes of Judea. Jesus was connected to the land and he became the land of salvation!

Consider two famous mosaics from the 14th century in what is today Istanbul but was then Constantinople. These two mosaics are in the Church of the Khora, now known as Kariye Camii in Turkish. Khora (Χώρα) literally means place, space, country. Why Khora? These two mosaics tell us why:

Both mosaics contain the word Χώρα, Khora. Both Christ and His Mother are represented as spaces of life. She is the space which contains the One who is uncontainable, namely Christ, vividly shown as if contained in her womb. Christ, who is God, cannot be contained in any space; and yet, in the miracle of the incarnation, He comes to be contained in her womb. In words of space and in vivid iconography, the incarnation is boldly represented. You can’t miss the play on the word Χώρα. She is Χώρα of the one who is beyond χώρα or χῶρος, beyond any idea of space – he is αχώριτος, akhṓritos. Amazing theology in just a few words and a beautifully crafted mosaic.

Christ is αχώριτος, beyond any conception of space or containment. But in the parallel mosaic in the same church He is Χώρα. Χώρα of what? Of the Living – Χώρα των Ζώντων. He who is beyond space took on existence within the dimensions of space in order to become for us the place, the space, where we receive Life! He is the Land of the Living! And that’s about as good a definition of salvation as one can give in one or two sentences.

Orthodox iconography and hymnography fully exploited the landscapes in which the drama of salvation played out, both in the Old and the New Testaments. Different topoi – mountains, deserts, seas, rivers, caves, gardens, towns, villages – became places of judgment and redemption in the Old Testament; but they took on new meanings when Jesus entered these topoi in the Gospels. The book by della Dora is a wonderful way to begin exploring this rich dimension of biblical and patristic imagination.


Leave a comment

Iconostasis of Life

Father Alexander Schmemann wrote the following in his book, For the Life of the World:

“…And if I make this new life mine, mine this hunger and thirst of the Kingdom, mine this expectation of Christ, mine the certitude that Christ is Life, my very death will be an act of communion with Life.”

True Christianity can only exist among Christians who have not lost their hunger and thirst for the Kingdom – or better, of the Kingdom, as Schmemann wrote it. We are not hungry and thirsty for the Kingdom – in the sense that we are just waiting to get there, as if there is somewhere. What we need to experience is the hunger and thirst of the kingdom! The Kingdom of God is hungry and thirsty for us. Do we experience that longing in our lives? That is they key question for us who live in these treacherous times of desertion.

We sit around like the paralytic in today’s Gospel reading, waiting for someone to stir the waters, to bring life into a dying institution. But there is no life in institutions. Life is in each of us. Life is given to each of us from the tomb of Christ. Listen to another great theologian of the 20th century, Olivier Clément:

Death is an iconostasis

of the faces of our friends

so let him come who gives us death

as life in Eucharist.

An extraordinary statement. Death is an iconostasis of the faces of friends. Our lives are an iconostasis! And just as in the iconostasis in every Orthodox church, Christ is in the centre. So let him come who gives us death as life in Eucharist. Our lives and our deaths are not separate experiences. They are one. And they are united as Eucharist – as thanksgiving. In the Eucharist of every Liturgy we experience what Father Schmemann wrote: the hunger and thirst of the Kingdom…the expectation of Christ, who is Life…so that our deaths become acts of communion with Life. 

Here is Olivier Clément again, from his book L’Autre Soleil:

Clots of blood fall from the face of God and the Man of sorrows is resurrected. He and everything. Him in everything Everything in Him. The children of Rachel are resurrected, Lazarus leaps out of the tomb for good, the smell of roasted fish on the shores of the lake, the long hair of the harlot, that moment when he makes them lie down on the grass to receive from the five loaves, where Peter was forgiven, and every second of your wretched life where your veins were full of life: all is risen. Everything begins; one can try to love, since there is no more death, since death itself is full of God.


Women of Freedom

I love the Gospel stories of the women who went to the tomb of Christ, especially the version in Mark’s Gospel (16:1-8). There is something almost comic about the women walking to the tomb, to anoint the body of Christ, and wondering who would roll the stone away from the tomb. Clearly they won’t be able to do it, and there are no men that they can count on. The men, the male disciples of Christ, are hiding, they are nowhere to be seen! But despite the impossible task that lies ahead of them, the women keep walking. They don’t let their minds get in the way of what their heart’s devotion urges them to do. Their minds obeyed their hearts. The words of doubt and argument were silenced and their action spoke. Their actions became prayer! 

(This painting appears to be by Herschel Pollard.)

Christians find it much easier to say, “I’ll pray for you,” than to reach out with tangible action and help someone in need and emotional support. Such ‘prayers’ count for little in the eyes of God. God is looking for Christians who walk to serve Christ, to anoint his ‘body’ wherever there is pain and need. Do not let the seeming impossibility of the task or your political preferences stop you from finding the tomb of Christ! The stone will be rolled for you! Trust that it will be. And in that trust is freedom. In their obedience to their duty to the ‘dead’ body of Christ, the women were the freest on the planet.

Søren Kierkegaard in one of his journals wrote:

The Christian is: the page of absolute majesty.

The only art is to worship absolutely – not in words and nonsense, in intricate prose or sonorous verse, but in acts of absolute obedience….to worship God absolutely in everything, always joyful, grateful, smiling.

But the fact is that the concept of the absolute and the image of absolute majesty have long since disappeared from Christendom. People have degraded God, drawn him down into the relativities and wretchedness of finite ends and purposes – foisted upon God the idea that world history is a matter of importance for him.

No, heavenly majesty is not majesty of this sort. The existence of a single Christian, if one does exist, concerns God more than all world-historical monarchies and empires and more than all the noise that we human beings have come up with and to which we attribute importance.

As always, Kierkegaard provokes radical thinking. He always used the word ‘Christendom’, as here, in a highly derogatory sense. For him, Christianity should have never become Christendom, a social-political entity marching through history hand in hand with empires and kings of all stripes. True Christian faith is obedience – not to church rules and regulations, which are prime products of Christendom – but obedience to one and one only: Jesus Christ. 

Orthodoxy in its true essence is not about rules and regulations; it is not the church as handmaid to earthly rulers. No, the real essence of Orthodoxy is freedom – freedom to experience God and the mystery of Christ in Liturgy, in sacraments, in prayer, in icons, in sacred music and chant, in the beauty of worship and earthly majesty. Freedom – not rules, not regulations, not bondage to history and old empires and ancient languages and cultural imperialism. And yet it is precisely bondage to the past that characterizes most Orthodox visions in the 21st century. For some people it works, for others it is a reason to escape and find freedom elsewhere. Tragic, because true Orthodox vision is all about freedom.

And in that vision is the only freedom that is worthy of the name freedom, and the only freedom that truly liberates human beings from all the lies – the brutal lies – of history and the rulers and powers of today. The tragedy is that very rarely do Orthodox people receive from their church leaders this message of ultimate freedom. So we construct myths of our own vainglory. 

Father Alexander Schmemann was one of the most prophetic Orthodox voices of the 20th century. He wrote this in his journal on February 1977:

I realize how spiritually tired I am of all this “Orthodoxism,” of all the fuss with Byzantium, Russia, way of life, spirituality, church affairs, piety, of all these rattles. I do not like any of them, and the more I think about the meaning of Christianity, the more it all seems alien to me. It literally obscures Christ, pushes him into the background.

Fr. Alexander at the Great Entrance of the Divine Liturgy at St. Vladimir’s Seminary Chapel in the early 1980s.

Father Alexander Schmemann was at his best during the Paschal season, the season we are in now. And he perhaps sometimes saw himself like one of the myrrh-bearing women, going with absolute trust to an encounter with Christ. Those amazing women did not know they would meet the risen Christ; they didn’t even know how they would open the tomb to go in and anoint the body of their Lord. But they went, in beautiful obedience, in obedience to freedom! Sounds like a paradox? Obedience to freedom? Aren’t freedom and obedience opposites? Not when Jesus Christ is the source of the freedom and the one who receives the obedience. In Jesus Christ obedience becomes freedom. Those precious women were the freest people on the planet when they walked to the tomb.

Am I speaking nonsense? According to a Princeton University study quoted in Harper’s magazine, Facebook users who are over 65 are SEVEN times more likely to share fake news stories than Facebook users who are between 18 and 29. No wonder Donald Trump was elected president in 2016! Just think how easily people believe stuff that do not liberate their spirit, and how difficult it is to trust that Jesus can lead people to a life of true freedom in the beauty of obedience. The myrrh-bearing women thought they were going to anoint a dead body and they found life – life full of divine beauty and energy. We have been given life – life of divine beauty and energy – and have turned it into a dead relic. I want to be one of those women. Don’t you?



Trinitarian Thoughts

I recently had lunch with a friend who has always impressed me with his knowledge of the Bible. Though I must admit – as I have also told him more than once – the Bible for him is mostly the letters of Paul. Nevertheless, with Paul as his anchor and guide he has in the past managed to delve deeply into the truths of the Christian revelation.

He shocked me, however, in this my latest encounter with him. He has come to a new understanding of the Christian message that excludes faith in Trinity or the divinity of Christ. So he is basically an Arian; and he did indeed refer to Arius and other ‘heretics’ of the first centuries as the heroes of the faith that he reveres.

To be truthful, I found myself agreeing with much of his exegesis that he used to support his new understanding. I also have sometimes questioned the dogmatic definitions of God as Trinity; they are too confident! But instead of denying the Trinity I prefer to resort to the apophatic approach that was very dear to those very same fathers of the church in the fourth century that established the doctrines of the Trinity.

Icon of the “Hospitality of Abraham” at the entrance of Holy Trinity Church, Portland, Maine (Click to further enlarge)

The apophatic approach is the way of negation, which provides a defence against taking our doctrines as complete representations of God. So I have always seen the Trinity as a metaphor, an approximation in human terms of the ineffable. It should come as no surprise that the Orthodox tradition, though rich in iconographic representations, does not allow a literal icon of the Trinity. Though ‘icons’ of two men and a dove to represent Father, Son and Holy Spirit have crept in, in imitation of western paintings, the Orthodox tradition allows only one icon of the Trinity – and it is not even called an icon of the Trinity. That’s because it is not an icon of the Trinity. It is a representation of the scene in Genesis 18, where three men receive hospitality from Abraham and Sara. And thus the icon is called The Hospitality of Abraham. One such icon sits at the entrance to our church building in Portland, as our church is named Holy Trinity.

The text in Genesis 18 opens with the statement, “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre,” and then immediately goes on to say, “Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.” So these three men were the Holy Trinity out for a walk in the desert? Highly unlikely. Were they angels, messengers and representatives of the Most High God? Probably – and the three figures are indeed shown with angelic wings in the icon. But they are also shown with definite identifiers of trinitarian ontology. The figure in the middle gives it away. The halo around his head has a cross inscribed within the circle and three Greek letters, ὁ ὢν. The cross and these three letters are inscribed within the halo in every icon of Jesus Christ. The reference of the cross is obvious, while the three letters form part of the self-identification of Jesus in Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 22:13. The next thing to notice is that the middle and third figures both incline their heads and bodies toward the first figure. Now we can complete our identification: The first figure on the left represents the Father, the middle figure is the Son, and the third figure is the Spirit. Both the Son and the Spirit receive their being from the Father, which is why they both incline toward the first figure. But these identifications are only meant figuratively. This is not a literal icon of the Trinity. It simply takes Genesis 18 at face value and interprets the three men who appeared to Abraham and Sara as somehow representing the three persons of the Trinity. But the iconographic tradition adds ontological symmetry and the dynamic of movement within the symmetry. A fairly sophisticated slice of trinitarian theology is found in this scene of a hospitality in the desert. Let’s leave it at that.

The church fought for the establishment of icons because they added a mystical dimension to theology that mere words and conciliar decisions could not fully express. Icons are genuine expressions of faith. They remind us of the centrality of the incarnation and the human extension of God. My friend now chooses to see Jesus as only a man. He rejects all statements of “the death of God” or “the crucified God” – anything that connects the Cross of Golgotha to God in the flesh. In this manner my friend is saying the Cross has nothing to do with God’s being, since there is no Father-Son relationship. The Cross is thus reduced to a mere instrument for the expiation of our sins. An entire dimension of Biblical teaching is completely lost in such a reductionist revision of Christian truth.

Paul’s letters are the cipher upon which forensic theologies are built. Yet, even Paul sometimes touched on something deeper. Consider that great passage in Philippians 2:5-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV, English Standard Version)

There is nothing about an expiatory death here. Of course elsewhere Paul did define the expiatory significance of the death of Christ. But here in Philippians, the entire dynamic of pre-existence-incarnation-death-glorification is expressed solely in the context of Christ’s relationship to God the Father and the exalted status of Jesus Christ as Lord. One doesn’t have to be a trinitarian to see that there is something more than a man dying on a cross here.

I respect my friend and I have always valued his approach to Bible study. But I fail to see how his commitment to the forensic significance of Christ’s death survives the reduction of Jesus to mere man. I feel the church has overreached in its dogmatic definitions. The apophatic approach was forgotten when intricately detailed dogmas were articulated to describe God’s inner essence and the interpersonal relationships of the three persons of the Trinity. Way overboard, in my opinion. Gregory Palamas in the 14th century attempted a less presumptuous approach to knowing God, but he too ended up inventing a new language of essence and energies that led to new confusion and neo-gnostic monastic practices. But I cannot join my friend in his rejection of the Trinity. The Trinity is at the core of everything that Christianity is about. But it is much more than any dogmas can define. I prefer to meditate on our icon of the Trinity than spend much time trying to understand the Nicene Creed.

Leave a comment

It’s His Nature

In the middle of Lent we pause to reflect on the Cross of Jesus Christ. And we hear again Jesus calling us to take up our cross and follow him. Take up the cross that represents the weight of my ungodly thoughts and actions, the weight of my neglect of the least of his brothers and sisters. Pick up your cross – don’t let it weigh you down any longer. Pick it up so you can follow Christ with it. And as you follow Christ, it will become light and lighter to the point where it simply disappears. That’s the miracle.

There is a beautiful story of an old man who used to meditate every morning under a big tree on the bank of the Ganges River. One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the current brought the scorpion closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched out again to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that the man’s hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

Just then, a stranger was passing by. He shouted out: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes, he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my nature to save.” Just because it was the scorpion’s nature to sting did not mean that the man would change his nature to help and to save. Powerful.

Can you hear Jesus in the old man’s words? “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.” We are like the scorpion, we know not what we are doing. But that does not change Jesus. It is his nature to save and to lead us to new life. But we have to leave the scorpion life behind. Or, better yet, pick up the scorpion nature and stretch it out for Christ to take and heal it. That is the meaning of our cross. So take up your scorpion, your cross, and follow Jesus. Feel your cross get lighter and lighter as you follow him. It is his nature to heal and to save.