Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.
Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
John 21 has one of the most interesting of all incidents recorded in sacred history. It’s the conversation between Jesus and Peter.
Jesus and the disciples are having breakfast. After they finish, Jesus proposes three questions to Simon Peter. The conversation goes like this as rendered in the New American Standard Bible.
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord: You know that I love You.”
“Tend My lambs.”
He said to him the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Occasionally, I listen to a podcast called “Homebrewed Christianity” hosted by a handful of PhDs in Theology and Religion who also happen to be involved in local church ministries of various sorts. (They also happen not to be teetotalers, as you may have guessed.) Episodes feature interviews with a huge variety of authors, thinkers, artists, and scholars who contribute in some fashion to Christian thought and practice. The tagline usually contains some variant of “…bringing you the best nerdy audiological ingredients so you can brew your own faith.”
Here I lean over you, small son, sleeping
Warm in my arms,
And I con to my heart all your dew-fresh charms,
As you lie close, close in my hungry hold. . .
Your hair like a miser's dream of gold,
And the white rose of your face far fairer,
Finer, and rarer
Than all the flowers in the young year's keeping;
Over lips half parted your low breath creeping
Is sweeter than violets in April grasses;
Though your eyes are fast shut I can see their blue,
Splendid and soft as starshine in heaven,
With all the joyance and wisdom given
A few years ago, I was called to fill in when the expected Sabbath School teacher, through an honest mix up, did not come. In what was doubtless a Holy Spirit lift, I found myself speaking about the importance of discipleship with greater depth and understanding than I had previously consciously known. It came together more beautifully than I am typically able to accomplish when I spend hours in preparation. The pastor then crowned this experience by focusing on discipleship in his sermon; actually repeating several of the angles we had discussed in class.
Recently, during a rather long episode of very slow stop-and-go traffic, I found myself passing the time by observing the people in the cars around me. A few were on cell phones, or engaging some other mobile electronic device in one way or another. Several others were involved in various other forms of multi-tasking behavior, including eating, reading, checking make-up, managing children, etc. Those listening to music were the easiest to spot; heads bobbing, hands tapping out the beat on the steering wheel or dash board, some even singing along.
“Literature and drama? Hmmm, interesting. And how do you see that fitting in with, you know, the mission of the church?” As an English literature PhD student finishing a dissertation about Victorian theater—Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and a few other nineteenth-century writers you have probably never heard of—I’ve heard this question a good many times from my friends in church. I used to bristle at this question, however kind and polite the tone; it was like being asked, “Please explain why you should be allowed to exist.” But now that I think about it, it’s not such a bad question.