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Violent Lessons

Children are not exposed to enough violence. Yes, I know the grim statistics, how a child who enters middle school has already witnessed 8,000 murders and 100,000 other violent acts on TV. As he and his friends enter adolescence, they take up first-person shooter video games. In college, he becomes . . . . Continue Reading »

A Christmas Eve Carol

Mostly, I grew up a Jew among other Jews. So how had Jesus entered my imagination? How had he come to occupy its core? It took an effort of memory, but I reached back to the first time I had truly noticed him. It had happened on a Christmas Eve. Continue Reading »

Learning to Play

My piano tuner is well over eighty years old. Each time I call him, I fear I’ll learn that he has died. So far he is still with us, though at each visit a little more white-haired and frailer than before. I worry that he will hurt himself when he lies under the instrument or takes out the . . . . Continue Reading »

Did You Get to Jersey Much?

But if you looked at the map closely you would notice towns with names like Hohokus, and Buttzville, and Ong’s Hat, and clearly those were goof names, which made you suspect that there was actually no such thing as New Jersey, that New Jersey was an idea, an illusion, a conspiracy, a deft jest perpetrated by cartographers in their cups and now accepted as wholly real by all sorts of people. Continue Reading »

Death on a Friday Afternoon

Exploration into God is exploration into darkness, into the heart of darkness. Yes, to be sure, God is light. He is the light by which all light is light. In the words of the Psalm, “In your light we see light.” Yet great mystics of the Christian tradition speak of the darkness in which the light is known, a darkness inextricably connected to the cross. At the heart of darkness the hope of the world is dying on a cross, and the longest stride of soul is to see in this a strange glory. In John’s Gospel, the cross is the bridge from the first Passover on the way out of Egypt to the new Passover into glory. In his first chapter he writes, “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” The cross is not the eclipse of that glory but its shining forth, its epiphany. In John’s account, the death of Jesus is placed on the afternoon of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan, precisely the time when the Passover lambs were offered up in the temple in Jerusalem. Lest anyone miss the point, John draws the parallel unmistakably. The legs of Jesus are not broken, the soldier pierces his side and John writes, “For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of him shall be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced.’” In the book of Exodus, God commands that no bone of the paschal lamb is to be broken. Then there is this magnificent passage from the prophet Zechariah: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Continue Reading »

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