1000 posts!

Today marks our 1000th post to a simple desire.

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34b; Context: Mark 8:27-9:8)

When I started writing “a simple desire” on February 27, 2006, my goals were simple: to write honestly about my experience in encountering the scriptures presented by “A Sip of Scripture.”  I took it up as a personal discipline, and as a way of connecting with the Mennonite Church. For the first year, it was important that I do this commentary for every day’s scripture, and God helping me, this happened. It was, in a very small way, a fulfillment of today’s scripture to deny myself and take up my cross. I especially tried not to care about a large readership or great eloquence–and, indeed, the number of readers of this weblog is a pretty small number (about 25 thousand “page views” of these posts, (In contrast, a single post I made to a weblog I run devoted to job postings for the relatively obscure programming language, Lisp, got over five thousand page views in a single day). 

As often happens, though, the real joy of this weblog has been the new friendships that I have formed. Carole Boshart, who writes for “a simple desire” more frequently than I these days, is one of those new friends. The editor of “A Sip of Scripture,” Melodie Davis, is another. John P. Thomas doesn’t write much any more, but I am glad to have made his acquaintance. And it’s been fun to keep up with my good friend Mark Nielsen both here as he writes, as well as his personal weblog. 

I’ll admit to an inveterate reliance on the text of poetry from the Sacred Harp, the American shape note tune book. I think of the words sung to Irwington (author unknown):

What poor, despised company Of travelers are these,
That walk in yonder narrow way, Along the rugged maze?

Ah, they are of a royal line, All children of a King;
Heirs of immortal crowns divine, And loud for joy they sing.

So, it’s been 1000 posts–about 1000 days–of writing in “a simple desire.” A small thing in the eyes of the world, and probably in the eyes of God as well. But walking along with such travelers, and within such a kingdom, I do feel like singing “loud for joy.”

An Unfamiliar Biblical Neighborhood

“Keep away; let us work on this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. “

Ezra 4:1 – 6:22

One of the hidden benefits of following a lectionary or breviary like the Third Way Cafe’s Sip of Scripture –aside from the discipline of daily study and the spiritual help it provides — is that a lectionary sometimes takes you to places you would not normally go if left to your own choices. Like today’s scripture section, in the book of Ezra, which I confess I have never read. 

If you’re like me, you probably go back time and again to a “favorite” gospel, a couple of favorite major prophets, one minor one, one or two sections of the original Torah, a dozen Psalms, and a couple of Paul’s letters. What can I say? We like what we like, and we know what we know, and we can never know it all. I hope that’s okay with God, because I might never read the book of Numbers cover-to-cover. I hope that won’t get me a rap across the knuckles with God’s ruler for not having done my homework.

Nevertheless, when we are lead by a church lectionary or a teacher toward biblical themes and stories that challenge us, or that we simply have not experienced yet, there’s something potentially powerful about that. It’s the type of submission and development of new habits that can keep one’s faith fresh. It’s a way of being open to the Spirit, Who speaks through the entirety of scripture to the entirety of human history, myself included.

I do not worship in Jerusalem anymore, nor have I any practical need to stay connected to God through that holy site, thanks to the work of Jesus and His Spirit.  So the rebuilding of the temple to which Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah refer seems more of secondary historical importance to me than of primary theological importance. Yet I still worship the same Lord as Ezra, and because that great temple mattered to Him, it also matters to me. Not to mention, the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon is one of the central metaphors throughout the Christian and Jewish traditions. Even Jesus makes use of it, when he says “this temple” will be torn down, then rebuilt in three days (referring, of course, to his body, not the brick and mortar temple in which he stood at the time).

In this, the springtime of the year for the northern hemisphere, a time of renewal, let the struggle to rebuild the temple according to God’s instructions be a reminder that the temple of our own faith needs regular renewal and rebuilding as well. And the scriptural bricks for that rebuilding project can sometimes come from an unlikely location, a biblical neighborhood we’ve sometimes heard about, but never visited.

Congratulations to Melodie Davis

Melodie Davis, who is the editor for the Sip of Scripture passages we use for a simple desire, was the subject of an article in The Mennonite Weekly Review: ‘Another Way’ columnist marks 20 years of outreach. Unfortunately, the article is not online.

One of the pleasures for me of starting a simple desire has been to get know know Melodie, at least virtually. Perhaps some day we’ll even meet in person!

Welcoming Mark Nielsen

I’d like to welcome Mark Nielsen to our crew of writers for “a simple desire.” I met Mark when we were both members of Reba Place Church in Evanston, Illinois. Mark still attends Reba. In fact, he’s been writing about Reba’s 50th anniversary at his regular weblog, Marking Time. Mark always has a quirk’s eye view of the world, and scripture, and the godly life; I’m glad he’ll be able to join us from time to time.