The sacrifice of Abraham and Agamemnon

As I have been studying for my series on James, I’ve been tethered to both a theological and philosophical examination of the book. I am fascinated with various themes that run through James’s letter that provoke me to tensions of thought and practice.

I find these matters reflect the issues addressed in some of the great philosophical debates in the works of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). I am no expert on the works of these philosophers, but I am familiar with some of the profound existential themes, ideas and conclusions that are presented by these great minds. The nature of life, death, meaning, morals, ethics, faith and practice are themes that James wrestles with in his book as well.

One of the shocking stories that James center’s some of his teaching(James 2:20-24) around is the story of Abraham and the near sacrificing of Isaac(Genesis 22:1-19), which is described in the first verse of the story as “God tested Abraham”.

James 2:20-24: “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

I am not sure how anyone can read the Abraham/Isaac story and not be profoundly disturbed by the whole series of events. I would think that any sincere thinker or fairly healthy adult would wrestle with the implications of the mere idea of sacrificing one’s child in response to any supposed Divine command. Most christian circles I have been in avoided serious contemplation about this story, they either offer it up with a sidestep allegorization or avoid it as much as possible.

The horrors of the possibility of Divine sanctioned sacrifice are at the roots of much of the terrorist ideology that we see in the world and to even contemplate the possibility of God asking such things, can sour one’s stomach in revulsion. For some their minds slam shut like a sharp toothed trap, unrelenting in it’s grip, preventing them the allowance to even contemplate the story. But it’s in sacred scripture, and for that matter, I believe there has to be more to it all than just some kind of barbaric, tribal, desert God’s test of one’s ability to submit to the will of the gods over the rights, ethics and conscience of the human.

If God continually forbade and condemned the act of human sacrifice in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 12:31, Deuteronomy 18:10, Leviticus 18:21,Psalm 106:37-41, Jeremiah 7:31), how could He compel Abraham to engage in the potential act? Jame’s himself pushes back against this idea in 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

This confusing apparent moral contradiction can easily compel someone to throw up their hands in frustration and want to pull away from trusting a God who would ask such a thing of any person. How could the death of a son or any child for that matter, bring about any good?

But we find a similar cataclysmic, conscience conundrum in the ancient Greek story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia by Agamemnon, in various works like those of Euripides and others. There are variations of the story, and even Homer in the Iliad doesn’t mention it with any detail. But others have provided us with a similar Abraham/Isaac situation. The fact that the ancients were willing to write, read and extrapolate it in various ways leads me to believe that there is more to this story than just primitive, uncivilized history.

The story goes that Agamemnon offended the goddess Artemis and as a result the winds ceased to blow, leaving the great fleet dead in the water. It was amassed to sail to Troy and rescue or return Helen who was captured or ran off with Paris. But now the gods have them stuck in the harbor and one of the seers tells Agamemnon that he must sacrifice his daughter to appease the god. So a great plan of deceit and dismay unfolds that eventually ends in the good of the State and of the honor of Menelaus, the husband of Helen, to be considered greater than the loss of the life of one daughter. It’s a horrific tale that various authors reworked or provided alternate endings, like Iphigenia offering herself as an act of national heroism as she surrenders her life for the greater good of the many.

That any god is evil, I do not believe.” (Iphigenia. Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris).

If Artemis has decided to take my body, am I, a mortal, to thwart the goddess?” (Iphigenia to Clytaemnestra. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis).

O my father, here I am; willingly I offer my body for my country and all Hellas, that you may lead me to the altar of the goddess and sacrifice me, since this is Heaven’s ordinance. May good luck be yours for any help that I afford! and may you obtain the victor’s gift and come again to the land of your fathers. So then let none of the Argives lay hands on me, for I will bravely yield my neck without a word.” (Iphigenia to Agamemnon. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis).

As to her end, others write that she was rescued by the gods just at the moment of the knife and was replaced with a sacrificial deer. Whatever the case, there are some deep and profound issues that must be wrestled with in such a tale, of which countless authors, sages, theologians and philosophers have engaged since such stories were told.

Even in Christian scripture, the idea that one life sacrificed for the multitudes is at the heart of the gospel story of redemption through the death of Christ on the cross.

Jesus said: “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” When he said these things, the people were again divided in their opinions about him.” (John 10:17-19)

Our justification, being made right with God ,was accomplished by Christ’s self giving, sacrificial act. He was not tricked like Iphigenia or left in the ominous dark like Isaac. Jesus, the son, chose to lay down his life for humanity.

It is this Christological act that captures me as I wrestle with James’s use of the story in apologetic regarding the weddedness of faith and action.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?

I do not want to twist the whole story into some more easily handled analogy that softens the horror and the edge of the actions into some proverbial idea of faith that requires something of us. This tale, these stories, are profoundly more shocking and compelling than a mere faith encouraging moralism can contain. We cannot reduce the cataclysmic complexity of these matters into some nice little Bible story with moral takeaways for a three point message.

This is a story of utter existential torment and decision at the very end of a very sharp knife! One can’t turn away from the demanding attention that this unthinkable situation forces us to face. It is in my estimation one of those stories in the bible that determine those who will walk away and who will stay. There is no doubt that it divides opinions about Jesus as John highlighted in the above passage.

Kierkegaard has his own take on the stories of Abraham and Agamemnon’s sacrifices in his book: ‘Fear and Trembling’, a good resource that you could find more light on this subject. He has some profound thoughts about moving from the aesthetic, to the ethical to the religious that are well worth the read. But I warn you, they are not easy matters to unravel, but the work of it, bears it’s own fruit.

Is there a difference between Abraham, Agamemnon and Jesus’s sacrifice? I think there are many, but a few of my own thoughts center around that ending of sacrifice hinted at in the Abrahamic account with God staying his slaying hand and providing a ram in the thicket. Ultimately Christ is the end of sacrifice:

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” -Hebrews 10:8-10

These are just some of the paths of thought I travel in preparing for a sermon series. They demand rigorous thinking, a prayerful listening heart and a commitment to not shy away from the real provocations of Scripture.

These matters are the ending and starting of worlds and one should handle them with…fear and trembling.

Neo-Paganism, the Wilds and the Word of God: Why I think Nature Matters

Romans 1:20

“Opposition to truth cannot be excused on the basis of ignorance, because from the creation of the world, the invisible qualities of God’s nature have been made visible, such as his eternal power and transcendence. He has made his wonderful attributes easily perceived, for seeing the visible makes us understand the invisible. So then, this leaves everyone without excuse.”

I love nature, not as God, but as a wonderful icon of the glory of God.

I have always thought that Christians who serve a God they believe created the world, seem to be some of the least earthy folks around. Somehow the people who were made out of the dirt of the ground and made alive by the breath of the Spirit of God, seem jittery about nature, ecology, environmentalism and the love of nature. There’s a substantive resistances at times to anything that seems flesh. An idea that only spirit matters, and it often creates a community of ideas that dislocate the individual from the very world they live in day to day.

Recently someone accused me of promoting ‘witchcraft’ by writing about the elements of earth, fire, water and wind in an article about camping in the woods that I wrote for men. An accusation that is outrageous but not surprising considering the ideas above. I purposely write in such a manner to engage or capture the attention of folks that might not be reading from a religious affiliation. I purposefully attempt to come at issues that matter to me from angles that I think might be disarming or fresh in perspective.

I think subjects that are religious in nature are often over communicated in a manner that is quickly dismissed. I have my own voice and it’s shaped and influenced by the things that matter to me and are guided by the missional call on my life.

If one is attuned to the rise of neo-paganism, wicca and other branches of religious naturalism, you know there is a need to communicate the truth of the gospel with a culture that is returning to the pre-christianization ideas and practices.

There is a very real revival of alternative worship that any cultural missionary would see as a field of meaningful engagement. I attempt to find ways to speak to the heart, mind and hands of those who resonate with an idea of spirituality that has a place for the created world and experience.

I do not think Jesus is opposed to the created world and our enjoyment and place in it. What biblical faith is in opposition to, is the worship of it, but wonder is not worship.

Romans 1:22-23

“Behind a facade of “wisdom” they became just fools, fools who would exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation image of a mortal man, or of creatures that run or fly or crawl.”

Jesus spent more time walking and teaching in nature than talking in temples and synagogues. His ministry often took place outside more than inside and his subjects of conversation were profoundly natural and common. The gospels are packed full of animals, rivers, seas, lakes, flowers, food, birds, farming, etc. He saw truth in life and connected people’s lives with the purposes and revelation of God’s will and ways.

Turning water to wine, mud into a miracle balm or asking someone to bathe in a pool for healing isn’t witchcraft, it’s reconnecting humanity with the goodness, truth and beauty of the world in which God as determined them to discover He is at work within.

Nature is one source of revelation, not the only, or highest, but it’s one sphere that may need to be revisited more and more as we move away from a literature loving culture. I will always point people to the holy and sacred gift of Scripture but sometimes I will ask them to the wilds as well as the word.

I will continue to invite friends to walk with me in the woods, to swim in mountain lakes, sit by roaring fires and stand among wind blown trees in hope that they will hear the still small voice of God.

I hope you will join me.

The Elements of Manhood

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“I am not into all that “manly stuff” you guys do at ManCamp. What’s the deal with the bow and arrows, throwing axes, Bull whips and throwing yourself down rock water slides etc?

Let me explain a few reasons behind such activities.

I try to pick various ‘stand alone-pick up when you want to’ activities that almost any man with a little practice can do, no matter their age or fitness level. Most people can throw a horseshoe.

I like to expose guys to things they may have never had a chance to do. These days the activities we look upon as odd, were normal parts of life for men in the past.

Hiking, boating, hunting skills, camping, cooking over flame, chopping wood and building fires used to be part of daily life. There’s something revitalizing about getting out of one’s normal routine of doing things. Seeing or doing normal activities a little differently, opens up new thoughts, feelings and abilities, no matter how small. Many men are stuck in patterns of thought and deed that they need help getting free from. They need fresh perspectives, voices and experiences to push them out of the soul numbing routines that we often allow to keep us from growing.

I was watching a guy at camp chopping wood with a massive maul. He was physically fit as a Spartan but some of the wood brought up to camp was pretty green or full of knots and was very difficult to split. Watching this man throw every fiber of his beastliness into hammering at that wood was almost like viewing art. But as I watched him, I said out loud to those around the fire, that “Chopping wood is a good way to drive out our demons.” All men are fighting some battle and sometimes it’s hard to know where to throw the punches. Wood takes them all.

There’s a grace that can be discovered hidden in physical exertion. The mind and heart can unburden themselves in a manner that few things can touch. Many people can attest to the moment when one finds themselves weeping at the height of some extreme activity. It’s like an inner massage and some of the body’s hormones are released and you are flooded with a visceral high and needed release. It can be healing. We all are full of stress and there’s many who have few outlet to release that pent up poison. We need to find ways to exorcise it in a manner that is healthy. Instead too many men medicate themselves instead and end up creating more problems on top of the issues they already have. It’s a cycle that is killing us, literally.

I believe there’s a ministry of life found in being outdoors. We are made of earth, wind, water and fire and being reunited with those elements has a restoring and revitalizing power.

Wind:

Breathing in clean, crisp mountain air as we hike up stream is energizing, even in it’s exertion. We breathe so shallow and rarely in a manner that our body truly needs. We gasp little breaths that reflect the cramped, hunched over desk life that most of us live. We are mentally and emotionally exhausted but rarely go to bed physically exhausted. At camp, men do.

Water:

There’s an awakening of acute feeling that comes when you plunge into the icy waters that flow out of the mountains. It’s more than the freezing numb, it’s about feeling fully alive. Every nerve stands up! It’s a shock treatment to the common comatose existence.

Many men are desperate to feel anything anymore. Life sucks the soul out of them and if not handled well, the mundane of a good and right life can become drudgery. Men start looking for something to spark their blood, to fire their mind and make their heart pump fast again. This can lead to illicit and dangerous activities as men search for anything to stimulate their flatline lives. Men need other men to show them how to find ways to reconnect with the primal side of themselves, without letting go of their civilized commitments and convictions.

Fire:

There is something deeply meditative and restoring about building, lighting, feeling and watching a fire. We are created full of electrical impulses that flash throughout our physical bodies. Our metabolism is burning within us, we are walking furnaces. A manly life is one that sits at the fires of higher things and rekindles himself in the temple of his soul. Many a man has been launched on a new adventure or found the strength to maintain his own course around a fire as he listens to the tales and trails of other men.

All men need to come more alive, need to see stuff burn up and to learn the wisdom of living life close to that line between heat and burn. Many men have been scorched by unrestrained passion and in some circles they have come to believe that the eradication of passion is somehow the path to moral sanity. Self-hate gets sushi rolled in sanctimonious biblicism and “severe treatment of the body”(Colossians 2:23) is presented as the way to self-mastery. Men are not angels, and they shouldn’t live like demons, becoming a good man isn’t found in “don’t touch, don’t taste” (Col. 2:16-22). Healthy spirituality is found in Christ, not a menu of pre-approved ‘dos and don’t.’ Too many men have surended the fire of freedom and liberty for a form of religious slavery. Fire is dangerous and can burn one’s house or life down or but it can also send you to the moon! Men need to be trained by word, deed and example on how to be civilized beasts in this hyper-paranoid and suffocating paternal era.

Earth:

Men are made of dirt. When is the last time you got dirty, touched earth, stone, sand, or wood? When have you last feasted on that which has fed or grown from the field? Too many men live lives of painfully predictable pre-packaged personhood. Everything is weighed, measured, judged and handled by nervous Nelly’s throwing warning labels on everything we touch! We won’t live forever and many of us have died already! Stop living life like you need to be covered in bubble wrap!

When you come to the top of the natural waterslide and you let go and feel gravity reach out and yank you down a slab of slightly smooth mountain granite covered with rushing river water, you’ll feel just how blissfully powerless you actually are! All your fantasise about control, security and predictability will be ripped from your hands as you speed forward frantically wondering how you are going to stop before cascading over the edge at the end of the slide!

I think many men need these experiences in their lives and these are the reasons I take men into the wild. I hope you will join us next year at ManCamp2019!

Act like Men

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do, be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

What do men do?

I recently spent an extended weekend camping in the water, wind, earth and fire with other men. I witnessed many things that are examples of what it means to ‘act like men’, here are a few observations.

Men serve others:

They pay to go camping and then spend the whole time cooking 5 star breakfasts and dinners for everyone at camp. They prepare menus, purchase items, gather all the needed cooking utensils and spend hours of their time making food that you will think about days after you leave camp.

Men laugh:

The kind of laughing that goes far beyond ridicule, sarcasm or bullying. Sure there’s the innocent jabs that friends do, but it’s not malicious or meant to exert power over another. It’s joking around, poking fun, making connections and observations that make you laugh out loud, not just chuckling or a smirk, but the kind of laughter that comes from boyhood. The kind of laughter men too often forget.

Men get honest:

They speak truth to one another, they confess, they admit their weaknesses and are willing to ask questions. They will say “I have no clue what I am doing.” when discussing parenting challenges. They will share their struggles with addictions, failing marriages, the death of their loved ones, not measuring up to other men, feeling lonely, inadequate and the odd man out. They will weep in front of other men.

Men share one another’s burdens:

They watch, listen and come alongside other men. They speak words of encouragement, they make you feel you can do something you thought you couldn’t. They cheer when you accomplish something worth celebrating. They pray for you, will hug you and give you what you need, to do what you need to do.

Men will challenge you:

They will push you, either by words or by their example. They won’t coddle you, baby you or do stuff for you that you should do yourself. You will have to ‘man up’ in their presence. Men don’t honor complaining, excuses, whining, giving in or giving up. They expect other men…to be men.

Men take risks:

They try new things, challenge themselves and others to take steps out of their comfort zones. They have courage and are not afraid to try, even if they fail or are not good at something yet. They may end up sore, bruised and bleeding but those are signs of developing mastery not the misery of lives of banality and boredom.

Men extend grace:

They know where they have been, so they are merciful and gentle with men who are not where they need to be. They carry men who are wounded and stand with men who are prone to hurt themselves or others, not to condone, but to correct. Men are peacemakers, because they know the cost of necessary and unnecessary wars. They are bridge builders more than burners, though they know some people need to be walked away from for our own survival.

Men are not angels or devils:

They are men of earth and heaven, flesh and spirit. They are not ashamed of their desires, passions and power but they know the time, place and limits of them. Men kindle the sacred flames of earth and eternity. They can feast and fast, they no how to enjoy something, but not be mastered by it. They are sons of God, not slaves, prisoners or pigs.

I am blessed to have seen and heard all that I shared above in the clan of men I walk with in my life. My prayer is that every man reading this will find their place among a group of men who will be and do, all these things for one another. You can not do life alone, you may survive, but you will not…thrive.

8 Types of Men in the Wild

Be watchful,

stand firm in the faith,

act like men,

be strong.

Let all that you do

be done in love.

-1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Act like men”

What is a man supposed to act like?

Throw a bunch of dudes out into the wilderness together and you will discover what each of them to one degree or another, considers what a man ‘acts’ like. It can be a tense experience at times, because sparks fly when iron clashes with iron. Men respond very differently to conflict, contradictions and confrontations that arise when all these different definitions collide.

Bring thirty guys together and the answer to that question gets complicated. What standard do we use as our guide to what acting like a man looks like? Each man has a context, a story, a father and a family from which he formulated those answers for himself. Add the layers of friendships, teachers, team-mates, mentors, employees and employers or brothers in arms and the definitions multiply.

Men are often called animals and not without reason! There’s a brute beastliness about all men that needs civilized. There’s a real toxic masculinity that needs to be dealt with in men, but it’s not the anti-male blather that’s being pumped through the public media sewers these days. All men need to be sanctified, which is a biblical idea that doesn’t mean feminized or shamed for being or acting like men, it’s means maturing men into the men God created them to be.

I love working with men, and I have observed over the years that there are definitely different types of men and how they act are very similar to animals in the wild. So here are eight ‘types of men’ and what ‘acting like a man’ means to them:

The Ram…he talks tough and rough, punctuates every comment with a jarring cuss or curse word. He’s the dude that has to make others feel small, in order for him to feel big and thinks he has to establish dominance by diminishing others. He’s often alone because he pushed everyone away by his behavior. He’s hard-headed, confrontational and usually a jerk. He’s the type of guy that just doesn’t know when enough is enough and when to shut up and his mouth more than anything is what always gets him in trouble.

The Peacock…this guy parades his plume of abs and biceps like some women use their breasts, butts and legs…it’s all bait and tackle. He’s shirtless most of the time, size matters and towels are optional. He’s plucked, perfumed and performs with perfect Instagram angles. He’s beautiful like a picture but as deep as the Starbucks macchiato he’s sipping.

The Mustang…this guy is all about horsepower!

Money is masculine to him and he uses his bling to dazzle dudes with all his motors, toys and trinkets. Cash is king and he has to be at the front of the herd no matter what it costs. He’s the one who has everything, anybody wants…first. Grease, gears and gadgets are his language and if you don’t speak it, you are bucked off or trampled.

The Octopus…these guys are all sticky, gangly appendages. Their whole existence is about grasping body parts. Acting like men involves objectifying women and titillating tales of sexual conquest find their way into every conversation. Tits and dicks is how this guy quips, creeps and crawls through every crowd. He spews his black ink of penis pontifications to hide his stunted growth and out of control appetites. Eight tentacles still can’t capture enough prey for this guy.

The Cheetah…these guys have only learned community through competition. The only way to interact with them is to beat them or be beat by them. Everything and everyone is processed through the grid of conquering and achievement. Success is determined by if they ‘can beat them’ in one way or another. First place is everything to these guys and they wear every ribbon, medal or trophy to show how great they are.

The Owl…some guys have been formed in the crucibles of conversations and their whole interaction with others is intellectual. They are men of talk and ideas, they judge each other from their high, isolated, academic perches of mind. They are often the quiet ones, just sitting there…judging you. Heads spinning all around, gazing, watching, measuring, silently tearing apart your meager minds like small rodents in their sharp talons. They like to swoop in on conversations and sink their beaks into the mushy thinking of dudes and show off their intellectual prowess and then retreat as quickly as they came, licking the blood of their prey with pride.

The Hyena…these are the party animals and acting like a man means getting wild! These loud mouthed hecklers, must use intoxicants, because it ain’t a party until a bottle or a blunt is in their hands and it isn’t fun unless they are blitzed, buzzed or blazed. They incessantly bark laugh at everything but there’s always always a bite behind their gaggle. They often run in ‘bro packs’ but they can be loners too. They dominate the moment but are often driven off by other dudes because of their odd antics and boisterous buffoonery.

The Gorilla…these guys see masculinity as muscle and mastery. They are the fighters and killers and a trail of blood is the scent they leave behind. These men only admire brawn, battle and bravery. Courage is capital in their bank and only men who are dangerous matter to them. If you can’t die doing it, it ain’t worth doing. The are the types that throw the first punch. These men only respect what they can’t take down. The size of someone’s balls is measure of a man to the Gorilla.

The Lion…these are kingly men.

They are powerful men, who don’t need to prove themselves. They bear scars and are often missing parts of their manes, an eye, claw or fang but they are strong. These men can be present, but do not have to present themselves. They can roar, but don’t often need to do so. These men could pounce on you a hundred different ways, but feel no need to dominate. Who they are and what they have done, speaks for itself. These men lead by example, by history and by inspiration. They are the warlords, story tellers, sages, bards and saints. They are the shadows that most young men try to get out from under but older men seek their shade. They are the echoes of masculinity worth listening too and the quarries from which to build.

All these types or sides of men will be encountered in men’s work but all of them can learn to change, harness or transform. All of these men matter, even though encountering them can be a difficult. Love accepts men as they are, but doesn’t leave them there. Authentic ministry to men helps them see themselves as they are and walks alongside them to become better men.

“Acting like men” is a call to be strong and courageous, to do and be who you were created to be. To become a mature man, one who has risen above nature and nurture and strives to be the man God has created you to be and calling you to become.

Why I Write

I want to share a little about why I write and why I choose to be open about my life, thoughts, feelings and even actions.
 
I don’t write to gush emotionally on social media to curry complements or comfort (though I am never one to reject a thoughtful and kind word). I do so, to model characteristics that I think humanize a profession that is pastoral but too often not very, personal.
 
I am a writer and writers, write.
 
The process of writing and reading is where I most often find the comfort of God. It’s a process of prayer, really. In most things I face or deal with I find that I can’t fully move through them without processing them in prose or poetry and prayer almost always dances in and out, before or after the writing experience.
 
I was an artist and a poet before I was ever a pastor.
 
I love pastoring, but not more than being an artist. I don’t see them to be contradictory to one another and I am grateful how my life and the work of the Lord has intertwined in such a way to include all the gifts I love. To be in a work life that involves words both ancient and modern, to investigate parables, fables and myths, to be a teller of stories, to live and love tragedies, to be rooted in a faith that places poetry and song at the center of its worship, and to contemplate people and powers that are larger than life is a tantalizing calling indeed! To live a pastoral life in and among the cataclysms and celebrations of human life produces an artist with more material than one knows how to process.
 
I also think leaders need to be vulnerable, humble and as transparent as they can be on certain levels. There’s way too many knights in shining armor that project an attitude of being above the common challenges, temptations and struggles of all the other mouth breathers. I have struggled over the years with the overabundance of people who want to be everyone’s ‘teacher’ but there’s a dearth of those willing to be ‘fathers’.
 
1 Corinthians 4:15 “For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you.”
 
Father’s don’t just pass on what they know, they give their lives to those they love. Paul said this in 1 Thessalonians 2:8,11-12: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well…For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”
 
I find that the medium of writing facilitates this in some ways, sure it’s hard to truly control how people read it or receive what you say, but it’s an attempt that I find is worth the risks.
 
Well..I do on most days.
 
So thanks for reading, and thank you to those who comment, and a really big thank you to those who engage, ask questions, dialogue and even those who debate. You make it all far more richer and meaningful, and…you give me more things to write about. 😉
 
Painting: ‘Saints Peter and Paul’ by Daniele Crespi, 17th Century

Death and the Grief of Broken Families

I lost a cousin this week, his death was the result of shadows too dark.

Death is a spectre that hides in youth but haunts us as one ages. One’s natural eyes may be dimming as the dusk colors of life can be seen on the horizon, but death can no longer camouflage himself to the the inner eye of truth.

Death has always been here, lurking, taking…but the Sun eclipses the Moon in one’s earlier seasons of life. In these modern times, we have forgotten that we are not immortal. Death surprises us, and we are left feeling we have to explain grief and mourning like it’s a questionable headache that could be assuaged by aspirin or a walk in the fresh air.

I sit here today, not worshipping, but wondering why we allow life to pass by so fast and so often fail to attend to the things that matter most? In the end, we will most agonize over who isn’t by our side or who could of been.

One of the disruptions of divorce that hardly seems to get any voice these days, is the way extended family ties are severed. The axe wound to the soul of it all, can set a relational divide that widens and widens until time has made the chasm seem uncrossable.

We end up not only separated from one another in our immediate home, but the impact of the marital ending sends all of our family relationships out of the previous stable and familiar orbit. Everything is out of place and the results can be lifelong.

If one has wise and healthy people around, there may be a chance to salvage the fabric of family. But usually, it tears into a confusing mess of mismatched, awkward and confusing attachments.

There is no one to really blame, we all fumble forward trying to figure out how to survive, but once we have, we look back or around us, and realize there are important people…missing. Death is like a splash of cold water to the face of this reality.

This small section from an ancient book of rage and warfare, captures these complexities and sorrows. I offer it up like a penitent’s burnt offering, in ashes, dust and tears.

‘The Grief of Achilles over Patroclus’ -The Iliad, Book XVIII

“Nestor came up to him and told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. “Alas,” he cried, “son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen…

A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head, disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief, beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow. Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him as she was sitting in the depths of the sea…

Then said Achilles in his great grief, “I would die here and now, in that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him.”

I am deeply sorry Willie, I wish I could of, or…would of, been there for you.

But now…there is only…grief.

(Art: Jeffrey Jones)

Should Catholics leave the RCC because of the Sex Scandals?

I watched Bishop Barron’s call to not leave the Catholic Church but stay and fight (https://youtu.be/-ani_hnN8Fs) in the latest Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
 
I admire Barron’s cool and reasoned approach in most of his engagements and I think he’s one of the RCC best evangelists. But I just wished he’d take on the real prophet mantle as displayed in the OT or the NT. Where’s the “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Gal. 5:12).
 
He’s appealing to the prophets but the people have no real power of voice. The Catholic faithful can write letters all they want to their Bishops and the Vatican. Catholic laity can post all the videos of disappointment or anger they want but in a system that doesn’t even give Bishops power to police their own, I have little faith in that approach.
 
There’s a rally cry rising among the ‘stay and fight’ crowd that echoes Peter’s words” “To whom would we go?“(Jn 6:68). As a pastor, I can understand such a call, especially in a culture that so easily divorces one another relationally and jumps to another person, church, job or group without much contemplation, concern or conviction. I too appeal to people to “Lead don’t Leave” in numerous situations I see folks struggling with in their day to day lives. Too many people ‘give up or give in’ because they won’t fight, persevere or persist. Life takes courage and real meaningful change takes a willingness to suffer for the future one knows is good, beautiful and true.
 
But in this case, the problem with that appeal, in many of cases and there will be much more uncovered in the days ahead, it’s a call for the abused to submit to the abusers.
 
By saying that you say to the domestic violence experiencing wife that she should stay put. You say to the son of a drunk that he should submit to the familia terror. You say to the daughter whose being molested, that she should believe her father, uncle or sibling’s words. This approach binds the conscience of the abused and locks them into a prison of guilt, shame and fear. They can’t leave because then ‘THEY’ are now the bad or evil people for leaving. This is a very, very, bad ethical or religious power labyrinth with no exit in my opinion and experience.
 
I hesitate to engage with my sincere Roman Catholic friends too much on all this, because, I don’t want to be viewed as someone who is pulling for an exit, or seeking to turn them against the RCC.
 
But I don’t support the exclusivity of any Christian religious group that says they are it and anyone outside of their group is 2nd class.
 
I don’t support any group that won’t purge predatory or practicing homosexuality from its leadership or prosecute sexual predators.
 
I pray for all my RCC friends, I dialogue and debate because I love you but I do think the RCC is in need of a serious counter-counter reformation and I pray this is the beginning for the sake of all the Church, the witness of the truth and the glory of God.

St. Catherine, St. Francis & Reform in the Roman Catholic Church

Once a Waldensian challenged St. Francis of Assisi on his unshakeable reverence for priests, by pointing out the local pastor who was living in sin. “Must we believe in his teaching and respect the sacraments he performs?

In response, Francis went to the priest’s home and knelt before him saying,

I don’t know whether these hands are stained as the other man says they are. But I do know that even if they are, that in no way lessens the power and effectiveness of the sacraments of God…That is why I kiss these hands out of respect for what they perform and out of respect for Him who gave His authority to them.

The Bible has never been shy about the revealing the sins of God’s leaders in the Old or New Testaments. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), Humans sin and need a Savior. The reality of sin, it’s deceptions, dangers and ultimate resulting death is a constant warning throughout scripture. We are all guilty and there’s no casting stones of judgment, but what are we to do with those among us who sin grievously against others, especially children? What do we do when the behavior of spiritual leaders in authority betray the very words of God? How do the faithful not lose faith in God, when His Church and Ministers that represent Him, falter, fail or prey on the very ones they are called to care for?

What do leaders do in such times? How do we navigate a culture that is growing more and more disillusioned, dismissive, resistant or even rebellious to any type of authority? What do we do when our religious communities are increasingly made up of broken people who have been used and abused or have learned abusive behaviors themselves? How can we survive in this stormy relational climate where there’s so much interpersonal betrayal, slander, gossip, offense, rejection, judgment, divorce and skepticism of each other?

The Bible warns of these challenges, especially when it comes to leaders:

Ezekiel 8:12-13: “Then he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? He said also to me, “You will see still greater abominations that they commit.”

Acts 20:29-31: “I know that after I’ve gone, dangerous wolves will sneak in among you, savaging the flock. Some of you here today will begin twisting the truth, enticing disciples to go your way, to follow you. You must be on guard, and you must remember my way of life among you. For three years, I have kept on, persistently warning everyone, day and night, with tears.”

Romans 16:17-18: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, I’d like to give one final word of caution: Watch out for those who cause divisions and offenses among you. When they antagonize you by speaking of things that are contrary to the teachings that you’ve received, don’t be caught in their snare! For people like this are not truly serving the Lord, our Messiah, but are being driven by their own desires for a following. Utilizing their smooth words and well-rehearsed blessings, they seek to deceive the hearts of innocent ones.”

Paul’s writings are evidence that sometimes such dangerous and destructive people, who have been compelled to change and won’t, need to be sometimes named.

1 Timothy 1:18-20: “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

2 Timothy 2:16-18: “But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”

2 Timothy 4:9-10: “Be diligent to come to me quickly; for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…”

I have been wrestling with these issues on two fronts lately. One has been seeking to understand, mourn and respond to the latest uncovering of sexual abuse and cover up in the Roman Catholic Church. The other is dealing with people in my pastoral circle who have issues with me or the church. It’s a struggle to figure out how how to respond to people, how to protect and defend innocents or the truth of some matter in a manner that is loving and authentic and yet, firm. All Christians, especially leaders, have to maintain a balance of personal and public accountability.

Acts 20:28: “Keep watch, then, over yourselves, and over God’s Church, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishop’s; you are to be the shepherds of that flock which he won for himself at the price of his own blood.”

As part of my work to be prayerful and purposeful in my understanding of the issues, I have been reading some examples of reformers of the past in Church history. Since the family tree of the faithful extends back past the 15th century of the Protestant Reformation, I’ve been reading Catholic reformers. One has been St. Catherine of Siena who lived and wrote in the 13th century. One of her works called ‘The Dialogue’ contains some enlightening, challenging and assuredly controversial material to the average Evangelical.

One of the things that captured my attention was that before all the discussions about the subject of how to deal with ungodly leaders, was passages about being a person of prayer. The posture of all who seek to be engaged in any aspect of reform, should be motivated by the love of God for his people, including sinful leaders. A person of prayer talks to God about people, way before they talk to people about God. People of prayer know that all change must first begin in our own hearts and lives.

St. Catherine of Siena: The Dialogue

“I remember that You said, that, on account of the endurance and tears, the grief, and sweat and prayers of Your servants, You would reform the holy Church, and comfort her with good and holy pastors.”

“Oh! best beloved and dearest daughter, I will fulfill your desire in this request, in order that, on your side, you may not sin through ignorance or negligence; for a fault of yours would be more serious and worthy of graver reproof now than before, because you have learnt more of My truth; wherefore apply yourself attentively to pray for all rational creatures, for the mystical body of the holy Church, and for those friends whom I have given you, whom you love with particular love, and be careful not to be negligent in giving them the benefit of your prayers, and the example of your life, and the teaching of your words, reproving vice and encouraging virtue according to your power.”

Below are selections from ‘The Dialogue’ that deal specifically with the topics I added at each heading. I have done the hard work of extracting sections that I think particularly speak to the issues unfolding in the media and also address the over all subjects. I offer them not because I agree with all the conclusions, but because I want to show that the Church has been wrestling with reform since the beginning. The Protestant reformers had a phrase they used to express that the work of reform never ends as long as people are involved. ‘Ecclesia semper reformanda est’ (Latin for “the church must always be reformed” I think we are in such a moment in Church history again.

 

Regarding Ungodly Ministers:

“And I would that you know that, more darkness and division have come into the world amongst seculars and religious and the clergy and pastors of the holy Church, through the lack of the light of justice, and the advent of the darkness of injustice, than from any other causes.”

“Neither the civil law, nor the divine law, can be kept in any degree without holy justice, because he who is not corrected, and does not correct others, becomes like a limb which putrefies, and corrupts the whole body, because the bad physician, when it had already begun to corrupt, placed ointment immediately upon it, without having first burnt the wound. So, were the prelate, or any other lord having subjects, on seeing one putrefying from the corruption of mortal sin, to apply to him the ointment of soft words of encouragement alone, without reproof, he would never cure him, but the putrefaction would rather spread to the other members, who, with him, form one body under the same pastor.

But they act not so today, but, in cases of evil doing, they even pretend not to see. And do you know why? The root of self-love is alive in them, wherefore they bear perverted and servile fear. Because they fear to lose their position or their temporal goods, or their prelacy, they do not correct, but act like blind ones, in that they see not the real way by which their position is to be kept.

But, thinking to preserve their position with injustice, they do not reprove the faults of those under them; and they are deluded by their own sensitive self-love, or by their desire for lordship and prelacy, and they correct not the faults they should correct in others, because the same or greater ones are their own. They feel themselves comprehended in the guilt, and they therefore lose all ardor and security, and, fettered by servile fear, they make believe not to see. And, moreover, if they do see they do not correct, but allow themselves to be bound over with flattering words and with many presents, and they themselves find the excuse for the guilty ones not to be punished. In such as these are fulfilled the words spoken by My Truth, saying: ‘These are blind and leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch.’

 

Regarding Godly Ministers:

My sweet ministers, of whom I spoke to you, who have the properties and condition of the sun, did not, and do not (if there be any now) act so. And they are truly suns, as I have told you, because in them is no darkness of sin, or of ignorance, because they follow the doctrine of My Truth. They are not tepid, because they burn in the furnace of My love, and because they are despisers of the grandeurs, positions, and delights of the world. They fear not to correct, for he who does not desire lordship or prelacy will not fear to lose it, and will reprove manfully, and he whose conscience does not reprove him of guilt, does not fear.

They(ministers) are like precious stones, and as such do they stand in My presence, because I have received their labor and poverty and the light which they shed with the odor of virtues in the mystic body of the holy Church. And in the life eternal I have placed them in the greatest dignity, and they receive blessing and glory in My sight, because they gave the example of an honorable and holy life, and with light administered the Light of the Body and Blood of My only-begotten Son, and all the Sacraments.

“Oh! My beloved ones, they made themselves subjects, being prelates, they made themselves servants, being lords, they made themselves infirm, being whole, and without infirmity and the leprosy of mortal sin, being strong they made themselves weak, with the foolish and simple they showed themselves simple, and with the small insignificant. And so with love they knew how to be all things to all men, and to give to each one his nourishment. What caused them to do thus? The hunger and desire for My honor and the salvation of souls which they had conceived in Me. They ran to feed on it at the table of the holy Cross, not fleeing from or refusing any labor, but with zeal for souls and for the good of the holy Church and the spread of the faith, they put themselves in the midst of the thorns of tribulation, and exposed themselves to every peril with true patience, offering incense odoriferous with anxious desires, and humble and continual prayers. With tears and sweat they anointed the wounds of their neighbor, that is the wounds of the guilt of mortal sin, which latter were perfectly cured, the ointment so made, being received in humility.”

 

Concerning Sinning Ministrers:

“I have shown you, dearest daughter, a sample of the excellence of good priests (for what I have shown you is only a sample of what that excellence really is), and I have told you of the dignity in which I have placed them, having elected them for My ministers, on account of which dignity and authority I do not wish them to be punished by the hand of seculars on account of any personal defect, for those who punish them offend Me miserably. But I wish seculars to hold them in due reverence, not for their own sakes, as I have said, but for Mine, by reason of the authority which I have given them. Wherefore this reverence should never diminish in the case of priests whose virtue grows weak, any more than in the case of those virtuous ones of whose goodness I have spoken to you; for all alike have been appointed ministers of the Sun — that is of the Body and Blood of My Son, and of the other Sacraments.

You should love them therefore by reason of the virtue and dignity of the Sacrament, and by reason of that very virtue and dignity you should hate the defects of those who live miserably in sin, but not on that account appoint yourselves their judges, which I forbid, because they are My Christs, and you ought to love and reverence the authority which I have given them.

You know well that if a filthy and badly dressed person brought you a great treasure from which you obtained life, you would not hate the bearer, however ragged and filthy he might be, through love of the treasure and of the lord who sent it to you. His state would indeed displease you, and you would be anxious through love of his master that he should be cleansed from his foulness and properly clothed. This, then, is your duty according to the demands of charity, and thus I wish you to act with regard to such badly ordered priests, who themselves filthy and clothed in garments ragged with vice through their separation from My love, bring you great Treasures — that is to say, the Sacraments of the holy Church — from which you obtain the life of grace, receiving them worthily (in spite of the great defects there may be in them) through love of Me, the Eternal God, who send them to you, and through love of that life of grace which you receive from the great treasure, by which they administer to you the whole of God and the whole of Man, that is to say, the Body and Blood of My Son united to My Divine nature.

Their sins indeed should displease you, and you should hate them, and strive with love and holy prayer to re-clothe them, washing away their foulness with your tears — that is to say, that you should offer them before Me with tears and great desire, that I may re-clothe them in My goodness, with the garment of charity. Know well that I wish to do them grace, if only they will dispose themselves to receive it, and you to pray for it; for it is not according to My will that they should administer to you the Sun being themselves in darkness, not that they should be stripped of the garment of virtue, foully living in dishonor; on the contrary I have given them to you, and appointed them to be earthly angels and suns, as I have said. It not being My will that they should be in this state, you should pray for them, and not judge them, leaving their judgment to Me. And I, moved by your prayers, will do them mercy if they will only receive it, but if they do not correct their life, their dignity will be the cause of their ruin. For if they do not accept the breadth of My mercy, I, the Supreme Judge, shall terribly condemn them at their last extremity, and they will be sent to the eternal fire.”

 

If you made it all the way through these passages, I commend you. I imagine you are wrestling with some of her conclusions and supposed directions from the Lord. I am chewing on these words, praying and listening. There are things that I think are true and others that I think can be Biblically challenged, by both the example of Jesus and his witness and the Apostle’s writings. But there’s a posture of spirit present in her writings that gives me pause. These are serious times and the people who have been abused and those who have abused others, deserve prayerful, well thought out, courageous words that will help and heal. I am doing my best to be helpful in the hour in which I live and minister. Part of me wants to pull everything down into a heap of rubble but I also know there are true and good people and priests caught up in all this horror. Reform must not just be reactionary, but responsible, just and merciful. We should make sure all criminals are convicted, all liars and culpable powers held accountable and expelled. There should be significant change in the structures that allow predators to hide, but I want to see the Church purified not burned down. Not sure if that is possible with such corruption, all I know is that:

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” -Jesus (Matthew 15:12-14)

What are you thoughts?

Prince Caspian, Bacchus and Christ: Why Turning Water to Wine Matters

“I wouldn’t have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”
“I should think not,” said Lucy.
-Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis
 
In the end of C.S. Lewis’s book ‘Prince Caspian’, there is a war between the usurper King Miraz and the Telmarines for control and kingship of Narnia. The Telmarines presence in Narnia has led to the talking beasts to retreat to the woods and lose their ability to communicate with man. Narnia is forgetting Alsan. To win the war against the Telmarines, Aslan, Lucy and Susan travel to awaken the ancient god Bacchus his old mentor Silenus, come to the aid of Asla’s plan to defeat the Telmarines.
 
In the book there’s a particularly insightful look at believing and following God when others can’t or won’t believe. This connection with Euripide’s The Bacchae is particularly fascinating to me. Here’s a great article that explores that connection:
 
This kind of retelling, allusion or inclusion of old Greek/Roman tales, gods or images is what often got C.S. Lewis in hot water with some religious types. But it’s just the type of thinking, believing and writing that resonates with me. There are those who see the dark side of the moon in the crescent and those who see the reverse. I am one of the later moon gazers.
 
Christ is still turning water to wine.
 
Such an act, captures the dangerous freedom of life under the rule and reign of Christ. Freedom is dangerous, self-control is not a guarantee, cultivating moderation can appear less religious to the advocate and demands of abstinence. But Christ did not come to destroy the pleasures, no, He came to defeat their place of primacy. He came to save and reorder life, for the glory of God, the joy of man and the celebration of all that is good, true and beautiful.
 
The abundant life, the ‘rich and satisfying’ life…is a life lived with Aslan, apart from Him, it falls to disorder, chaos and calamity.
 
Myth speaks to the human experience in ways that stories only can. In my opinion the telling and retelling of stories is going to be a more effective way of engaging truth as our culture moves farther and farther away from modernism. We must have the ability to find the shared roots of human experience and to speak to those realities in a manner that comes around from behind and allows those we are communicating with to think and ponder without the defenses of familiarity and prejudice firmly in place. Kierkegaard called this “wounding from behind”. Lewis discussed this approach in his biographical reflections:
 
C.S. Lewis:
Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was this: that if I met the idea of sacrifice in a Pagan story I didn’t mind it at all: again, that if I met the idea of a god sacrificing himself to himself … I liked it very much and was mysteriously moved by it: again, that the idea of the dying and reviving god (Balder, Adonis, Bacchus) similarly moved me provided I met it anywhere except in the Gospels. The reason was that in Pagan stories I was prepared to feel the myth as profound and suggestive of meanings beyond my grasp even tho’ I could not say in cold prose ‘what it meant’. Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened. (letter to Arthur Greeves, Oct 18th, 1931; Collected Letters, 976-977).
 
I am sure if most Christians wrote the gospel of John, they wouldn’t of picked turning water to almost a 100 bottles of wine, to be Jesus’s first miracle. I am sure to the first century Jew, Greek or Roman, it may have been scandalous too, in light of the worship of Bacchus and his troupe of female Maenads with all their drunken raving.
 
But the Jewish prophets had foretold that a Messiah was coming and his signs would include rivers of wine:
 
Amos 9:13-15
“The days are coming days the Lord, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills, and I will bring my people Israel back from exile. “They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.”
 
Joel 3:18
“And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim.”
 
For Christians, the new wine of God has been poured out.
 
“Whoever is in God’s grace is continually intoxicated with the sweetness of His love, for this intoxication, is so strong and potent that it drives away the thirst for worldly things.” -Divine Grace, Ripa’s ‘Iconologia’
 
This sacred revelation, intoxication and ecstasy is the fullness of all that the myths and the gods were but shadows of, the reality of experience is found in Christ. C.S. Lewis captures this conclusion in his baptism of Bacchus.
 
The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,
Mr Tumnus tells Lucy:
“…about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.”
 
Prince Caspian, The Lion Roars
“The girls watched them out of sight, standing close beside Aslan. The light was changing. Low down in the east, Aravir, the morning star of Narnia, gleamed like a little moon. Aslan, who seemed larger than before, lifted his head, shook his mane and roared. The sound, deep and throbbing at first like an organ beginning on a low note, rose and became louder, and then far louder again, till the earth and air were shaking with it.
 
The crowd and the dance round Aslan (for it had become a dance once more) grew so thick and rapid that Lucy was confused. She never saw where certain other people came from who were soon capering about among the trees. One was a youth, dressed only in a fawn-skin, with vine-leaves wreathed in his curly hair. His face would have been almost too pretty for a boy’s, if it had not looked so extremely wild. You felt, as Edmund said when he saw him a few days later, “There’s a chap who might do anything—absolutely anything.” He seemed to have a great many names—Bromios, Bassareus, and the Ram were three of them. There were a lot of girls with him, as wild as he. There was even, unexpectedly, someone on a donkey. And everybody was laughing: and everybody was shouting out, “Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi.”
 
“Is it a Romp, Aslan?” cried the youth. And apparently it was. But nearly everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what they were playing. It may have been Tig, but Lucy never discovered who was It. It was rather like Blind Man’s Buff, only everyone behaved as if they were blindfolded. It was not unlike Hunt the Slipper, but the slipper was never found. What made it more complicated was that the man on the donkey, who was old and enormously fat, began calling out at once, “Refreshments! Time for refreshments,” and falling off his donkey and being bundled on to it again by the others, while the donkey was under the impression that the whole thing was a circus, and tried to give a display of walking on its hind legs. And all the time there were more and more vine leaves everywhere. And soon not only leaves but vines. They were climbing up everything. They were running up the legs of the tree people and circling round their necks. Lucy put up her hands to push back her hair and found she was pushing back vine branches. The donkey was a mass of them. His tail was completely entangled and something dark was nodding between his ears. Lucy looked again and saw it was a bunch of grapes. After that it was mostly grapes—overhead and underfoot and all around.
 
“Refreshments! Refreshments,” roared the old man. Everyone began eating, and whatever hothouses your people may have, you have never tasted such grapes. Really good grapes, firm and tight on the outside, but bursting into cool sweetness when you put them into your mouth, were one of the things the girls had never had quite enough of before. Here, there were more than anyone could possibly want, and no table-manners at all. One saw sticky and stained fingers everywhere, and, though mouths were full, the laughter never ceased nor the yodelling cries of Euan, euan, eu-oi-oi-oi-oi, till all of a sudden everyone felt at the same moment that the game (whatever it was), and the feast, ought to be over, and everyone flopped down breathless on the ground and turned their faces to Aslan to hear what he would say next…”
 
“…At that moment the sun was just rising and Lucy remembered something and whispered to Susan,
“I say, Su, I know who they are.”
“Who?”
“The boy with the wild face is Bacchus and the old one on the donkey is Silenus. Don’t you remember Mr Tumnus telling us about them long ago?”
“Yes, of course. But I say, Lu——”
“What?”
“I wouldn’t have felt very safe with Bacchus and all his wild girls if we’d met them without Aslan.”
“I should think not,” said Lucy.
 
So, in closing, I ask you, what I am sure Lewis would of asked as well, “Have you come to the table and partaken of the Divine Feast? It’s a dangerous call, but still Aslan calls you to drink your fill.