Archive for July, 2015


The premise of the old movie “The Freshman” with Marlon Brando is disturbingly brilliant. It is that if you have unlimited money, your need to be amused will be harder and harder to satisfy. Hence in the movie there is a restaurant that is hidden in a jungle, accessible only by plane and known about only to the jet-setting elite. In that restaurant, your specialness is enhanced because you dine on the meat of endangered species.

That scenario played out again right in front of us yesterday in the shooting of Cecil, the beloved and famous lion in Zimbabwe, by a dentist from Minnesota who paid over $50,000 for the privilege to hunt “big game.” The guy sounds regretful, to be sure, but his actions have struck a nerve with people around the world.

And yet, every day 33 Americans are murdered with guns (Poitifact.com).

How do we reconcile the overwhelming response to the death of Cecil with the lack of significant response to the human lives lost each day?

Well, animals can be easy to love. Many of them depend on us for their welfare, directly or indirectly and we like their gratitude. Their environment is increasingly fragile – our doing. The great whales, the polar bears, the fish in Mille Lac — more and more of them in danger because of human greed.

We assume the pure motives of animals. They aren’t welfare defrauders or drug addicts or law-breakers.

We see animals as instinctual creatures, not as beings that should know better than to mix with the wrong people and be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We assume their innocence.

Not so with those shot down in the streets.

But since today we are mourning Cecil, it is time to revisit the greatness of lions via Frederick Buechener:

“I think the greatest service that C. S. Lewis perhaps ever did, the greatest single service that that very skilled Christian writer ever did was to use as an image for Christ the figure of Aslan, the great lion. I’d trade everything else he ever did for that one thing. If you’ve ever read the Narnia books, you know what I’m talking about. Christ is not the Tab Hunter with the shaved armpits. He’s not gentle Jesus meek and mild; he’s the lion. And one of the things that keeps being said about Aslan is he’s not a tame lion. He’s a wild lion. He’s a dangerous lion, but he’s a wonderful lion. When he appears, the children sometimes climb on his back, and he lets them bury their fingers and the faces in his great golden mane, but also he’s a fierce lion. It’s a wonderful image, which cuts through so much that needs to be cut through.”

Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for this powerful and touching image of God.

And rest in peace, Cecil.

See you in church.      Barbara

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imagesThe 23rd psalm has become America’s Psalm.

Popular at the funerals of presidents and movie stars, I would guess that this psalm appeared in some form at the funeral of someone you knew and have loved.

This workhorse of a psalm appears in gift shops, churches, synagogues, and in popular culture. In the movie “Titanic,” the priest reads this psalm as the ship sinks.

The theme of the psalm is comfort. It offers images of calming, still waters, green pastures, and a god who is completely on our side.

While Christians see Jesus as the Good Shepherd of the psalm, it is important to honor its Jewish roots and remember that it is a song written a thousand years before Jesus, by his ancestor, the great king, David.

I have read this piece of Scripture hundreds of times, if not more, so imagine my surprise when I found something in it that I had never seen before, something that not only gave me great comfort but that pretty much convinced me that the psalmist – and God—has a sense of humor.

I read this phrase somewhere last week and am totally convinced of its truth: “On any given Sunday, some people come to church to have their souls restored — to get their lives back.”

If you are one of these people (and I am for sure) or if you might like to learn how God can understand what you need even in the midst of an argument – stop by church on Sunday and hear about America’s Psalm.

You’ll learn stuff. You’ll be comforted, I think, and maybe even laugh. There’s music, air conditioning, and you’ll be fed, too.

See you there.


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