Daily thoughts on aesthetics and theology, and the entire world in between.

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Pride and Prejudice at Gonzaga

So I'm under the weather, wondering if it's H1N1, or R2D2, or whatever it's called.

But my wife gets tickets to Pride and Prejudice put on by students at Gonzaga.

Just great. I'm sick and I've got to sit through a chick-flick (well, a chick-play) put on by a bunch of Bulldogs. I envision a high-school-like auditorium, missed lines, amateur stage settings, achy eyes and a low fever on the rise.

Nothing of the sort. I was totally impressed by the performance.

Not a single missed line in a complicated and sophisticated production. The Magnuson Theater was intimate, featuring a peninsula plan with three-quarter-round seating. We were so close to the actors you could reach out and touch them, which I refrained from doing. The lighting was an integral part of the production, woven into the fabric of the scenes.

The young lady who played Elizabeth could easily be a convincing understudy at Ashland or Stratford.

And Mr Collins -- played by a freshman -- will for me be one of the few performances I've seen anywhere (the gestures, the comport of the character, the depth of psychology conveyed) seared into my memory for years to come. Kudos.

He deserved an Oscar or Emmy (I don't know the difference) much more than some deserve Nobels.

The whole thing re-vitalized my sagging confidence in undergraduate education. This was not sham mediocrity passed off as "learning."

This was true excellence.


Philippians 4.8 ... Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Why we read biographies

Between coffee and toiletries this morning, I spotted a one-page obituary on Irving Kristol in the Economist. So I read it.

It clarified for me some reasons why we enjoy reading biographies -- even a one page obituary, well written, of a life well lived.

1. Biographies stir our desire to imitate; and imitating well gives us pleasure. Aristotle once said : "Imitation is natural to men from childhood onward ... (of all creatures) men are the most imitative ... and learn by imitation ... it is natural for everyone to take pleasure in works of imitation." Biographies motivate us to emulate lives well-lived so we can live our own lives well.

2. Biographies remind us there may be greatness embedded in the most ordinary of life's circumstances. There's that old adage: "I didn't know X before he was X" -- as in: "I didn't know George Washington before he was George Washington." This means you knew George, perhaps, when he was just a kid, long before he became a great general and first president of the United States. It's pleasurable to find out that X-the-nobody turned out to be X-the-somebody because, wow, who would have thunk it? All he did was chop down that cherry tree... And so we are encouraged to see more value in our own days of (apparently) small things.

3. Biographies are windows into times and worlds other than our own. And so biography is armchair travel in the finest sense of the term. It is not travel into a fantasy world, as reading fictional works would be, but travel into our world -- but our world at another time and another place. Of course the biographer has spun his version of the story for you. But that just means you need to read several biographies of the same person. It takes nothing away from the fact that biographies are about actual lives lived in the actual world. And so biographies stretch us to appreciate just how varied this world -- in other places and at other times -- can be from our own.

4. Biographies celebrate the fact that life, indeed, is a journey. Reading them gives us pause to stop and assess our own journey: where we are in it; how we've conducted ourselves along it; what there is of it still up ahead.

And how much better we can live what remains, now that so much has already been lived.


Hebrews 6.11 And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Hebrews 12.1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Zechariah 4.10 For who hath despised the day of small things...? (KJV)

The citation from Aristotle comes from his Poetics 1448b6-9.

The everyday prophet

Most prophets have the courtesy to tell you when and where they lived.

But all Habakkuk says is "Hey, I had this vision, and here it is ..."

Why couldn't you be like Zephaniah, the prophet after you? At least Zeph says he lived during the reign of Amon king of Judah. (O yea, that guy...).

Why couldn't you be like Nahum, the prophet before you? At least Nahum says he's from Elkosh. (Oh yea, Elkosh... isn't that where you get those great falafel balls?).

But all Habakkuk says is "I had this vision, and here it is ..."

This, in fact, is the first lesson of Habakkuk: Habakkuk's vision is for every day; Habakkuk's vision is for all days.

Not that those other books aren't for all days as well. It's just that Habakkuk wasn't much of a history major -- and we can learn from that: We learn that the Bible is not just a history book.

We learn that the Bible is an everyday Book.

For example, Habakkuk -- whenever he lived -- said this about when he lived:

"Look around the nations and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it..."

Okay Habby. When exactly was that? When did God do something so amazing that no one would believe it ...?

I mean, the world you describe was a pretty miserable place: violence everywhere (1.2); people love to argue and fight (1.3); and there is no justice in the courts (1.4). What amazing thing was God doing? What you write sounds pretty ho-hum to me...

(Habby: are you getting this stuff from the Economist?...).

Fast forward centuries: The Apostle Paul is somewhere -- it happens to be Psidian Antioch in present day Turkey -- and what does he say to the people?

"Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it..."

But why did Paul invoke Habakkuk then? Paul, living in that awful time of the Roman tyranny over the Jews? Violence was everywhere; people love to argue and fight; and woe betide you in the courts if you were not a Roman citizen ...

... sounds like something right out of the Economist ...

In the headlines today: Death toll rises in Afghanistan; arguing and fighting over health care; wacky court appointments...


Habakkuk 1.5 Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't beleive even if someone told you about it ...

Acts 13.38 "Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God--something the Jewish law could never do. Be careful! Don't let the prophets' words apply to you. For they said, `Look, you mockers, be amazed and die! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn't believe even if someone told you about it.'

The aesthetics of God the Invisible

To be successful in living a Christian life, you have to see the invisible.

This was the concluding point from Charley's sermon yesterday. He was talking about Moses: "By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible."

Charley pointed out that Moses had spent 40 years in the desert tending sheep. Nothing but the stars and the sand and the wailing of animals. The prospects for a fast-track career were not very high.

"You've got to slow down to speed up," Charley said. He meant that Moses, who as an ambitious young man had killed an Egyptian only to be reproved by his own people, had needed those 40 years in the desert -- to slow down -- before he could actually be used by God.

Slow down ... to speed up. It may take 40 years.

And through it all you've got to see God, who is invisible.

From the pew (well, for us it's folding chairs) I struggled with how, exactly, does one see God the Invisible. The desert I can see; that's a no-brainer.

But what are the aesthetics of God the Invisible?

As Charley spoke, he seemed older, more frail, than when I first met him 12 years ago. That wasn't 40 years ago, but 12 years is a long time too. I considered his wife and four sons. I know of the quality of their lives. Could Charley have given this message 12 years ago? Well, yes, but it would have been more theoretical.

I then considered Phil, his wife and family, sitting on the other side of the room. Twelve years ago Phil struck me as somewhat quirky (he is, after all, a fellow academic). Now he just seems dear. Phil prepares the music for worship each Sunday.

I considered John, who just the night before wrote an email that irritated me. But I looked at his family; they have the most well-behaved and solid kids I know.

I looked at Steve and Sally.

I looked at Dan, at Lyle and Kathy, at the Danielsons, at Jason and Emmy, at Tom, at Margaret.

There they were all sitting on those folding chairs.

And I got a glimpse of God the Invisible.


Hebrews 11.27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Jonah the Grouchy

So Jonah goes the opposite way from where God told him to go, and manages to get himself swallowed by a whale.


But to his credit, it occurs to him that maybe he should repent. So God gives him a second chance. Now will you go to Nineveh to announce my judgment against the people there?

This time Jonah goes, smelling pretty fishy.

So what happens?

He gets to Nineveh -- and this is a major city, capital of the Assyrian empire; it would be like being sent to Washington DC -- he gets to Nineveh and announces God's judgment against it.

And the whole city repents.

Wait, did I read that right? "The people of Nineveh believed God's message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow ..."

Man. That's pretty impressive.

I feel like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. I never ran the other way just to get swallowed by a fish. I've been trying to be a good boy. But no town ever fell to its knees after one of my sermons ... not even close. But this guy shows up to the biggest city of his day, still smelling pretty fishy; he shouts "Boy are you guys gonna get it!" -- and the whole city repents. That's pretty good.

That's real good.

Then what happens?

When God sees the repentance and decides not to punish the town ... Jonah pouts.

Jonah, God just used you to bring the biggest city of your day to repentance, and you pout? Because you're disappointed that God is so kind?! Because you just knew he was going to forgive these people?! How awful!

As the story of Jonah fades into history, he is sitting under a vine (which God generously provided), and he's GROUCHY.

As the story of Jonah fades into history, the last voice we hear is still God's, pleading with Jonah ... " Now look here Jonah, don't you understand these are people, and this is a great city? Don't you think if they repent, I should forgive them...? Look at this thing my way for a minute ..."

And the story fades away ...


Jonah 3.5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth and sat down in the dust...

Jonah 4.1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to fell ... I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity..."

Jonah 4.11 "... But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people ... should I not be concerned about that great city?"

Jesus compared to Jonah

When Jesus compared himself to Jonah, did he mean to include you?

Jonah was the guy who, when God told him to go one way, he went the opposite way -- and got himself swallowed by a whale.

This guy wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

And yet Jesus not only compared himself to Jonah, he compared himself to Jonah when Jonah was in the midst of his mistake:

"For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth..."

This doesn't mean that Jesus made mistakes like Jonah. It simply means that, when Jesus died and rose after three days, he bore all the sins of the world with him.

Which is to say, he bore all of our mistakes.

So when Jesus compared himself to Jonah, he did mean to include you and me.

This is why a greater than Jonah is here.


Matthew 12.39-41 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. "For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. "The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The aesthetics of prophetic induction

Now there's a title to discourage further reading. But since my wife says nobody reads this blog anyway (she's such a sweetheart), the risk is minimal.

Induction is a kind of reasoning in which a set of established facts provide enough information to make a general observation beyond those facts. For example, if a dozen people bombed an airplane and all 12 of them were from one country, it is reasonable to be worried about someone else from that country boarding airplanes. This is not bias or prejudice. It is inductive reasoning.

The flip side of induction is deduction. Deduction makes an observation internal to the established facts. For example, it is deductive to say "Mr. Brown is a man." The established fact is the "Mr." That is all you need to further deduce that he is a man.

Which leads to the question of writing and texts.

You might say that a grocery list encourages deductive thinking while a poem stirs inductive thinking. "Bread and wine" on a grocery list simply means "buy bread and wine." Did you deduce that?

But: "bread and wine" in a poem, well, that could mean a whole lot of things.

And you don't even need a poem. "Bread and wine" in prose will do. Already in prose, "Bread and wine" can mean a whole
lot of things. And our world is much better for it.

I mean to say that there is an aesthetic dimension to inductive reasoning. When we induce, we encompass the possibility of the beautiful.

Now, the Word of God is not all poetry. But it is no grocery list either.

The Word of God is prophetic. That's what it is. How do we know this? Well, it says that "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." And Jesus is the Word -- the Logos -- of God.

And so when the prophetic Logos says "God is love," you don't deduce that it applied only to John, who wrote it.

You induce to the point that it includes you, who receives it. God is Love, to you.

You induce to the point that it includes the world. God is Love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

And that is a beautiful thing.


Revelation 19.10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God." For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

1 John 4.16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Deadlines and 'The day of the Lord'

We think of time as a line, and on that line we tie many knots we call deadlines.

Dead-lines. Interesting word.

Just how dead is a deadline?

Many of them are pretty dead even before you get to them. That’s because many of them are artificial. In an achievement-oriented culture such as ours, many of our deadlines are culturally imposed:

In keeping up with the Joneses, you’ve got to look like the Joneses. And that entails meeting deadlines:

Let’s get that HDTV, say, by Christmas. That way we’ll look like the Joneses, who already have one (the nerve …!). So now I’ve got to come up with, oh, about a thousand bucks in a coupla weeks.

Once that deadline is fixed, it’s hard to shake. In fact we don’t want to shake it. Our happiness somehow depends on meeting the deadline.

Deadlines are subtle in that way.

Earlier in my academic “trajectory” (think of it as an ascending line), I set the goal of publishing more papers than my peers. That involved deadlines. Dead-lines. I didn’t kill myself meeting them, but I sure know about blood-pressure meds.

In the Scriptures, there is the phrase “the day of the Lord” -- and it is one frustrating phrase. This is because “the day of the Lord” is a moving target. You can’t exactly point to a knot on your time-line and say, “See, that knot is ‘the day of the Lord.’ So watch out, you’ve got about a week and a half left before it hits…”.

You just can’t say that because this “day of the Lord” is here, all around us, as much as it is to come. You can't set up your priorities on a line: this first, this second, this third, to prepare for the day of the Lord … .

It's a hard thing to tie knots when there are no lines.

It's a hard thing to build a stepladder out of water ... when you are in the ocean.


Joel 2.28-31 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Acts 2.16-17, 20 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh … (20) the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day …

Hebrews 1.1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things …

The picture of building a step ladder out of water when you are in the ocean is not mine. I believe it is in one of Cornelius van Til's books.

The yellow light problem

There's no way to prove this, but I suspect I run into more yellow lights than the average bear.

There's that green light far away. You see it through your windshield as clearly as a moth sees a candle, as clearly as a ship in a storm sees the beacon from the lighthouse, as clearly as all of those overdone Christmas lights everybody in Spokane will hang, oh, just a coupla weeks from now ...

There's that green light far away ... and I just KNOW it'll turn yellow right before I get to it.

After everybody else comfortably drives through the green, when Mr. Dave draws nigh, boom: YELLOW.

Yellow for Mr. Dave.

Yellow for Mr. Dave.

Yellow for Mr. Dave. For crying out loud.

This has been one of the BANES of my life since I was a young man in Philadelphia. With two kids, then three kids, in tow. With a wife sitting quietly -- then not-so-quietly -- next to me, knowing that I'm stewing about the next stupid traffic light, which I'm absolutely sure will turn yellow just as I get there.

What nobody else in the world has to worry about -- because they all get the green -- is always a MOMENT OF DECISION for me because...

Boom: guess what? It just turned yelloooooooow. You must be right there at the intersection, aren't you, Dave? You jerk.

Do I stop? Do I rush through it? Do I risk a ticket? Do I look like a fool by stopping halfway into the intersection and then sheepishly putting my car in reverse, going back to "go" with my tail between the rear tires?

I must admit I've muttered things that should not be muttered at many traffic intersections.

Things that should
NOT be muttered.

And a philosophical slob like me tends to generalize this misfortune to larger domains of life. Is my entire life a story of coming up to yellow lights??? Everybody else slipping comfortably through. But I have to wait in suspense because ... I just might not get through. I just might have to wait. It might all turn yellow on me. How many years of my life have been spent waiting because of this YELLOW LIGHT PROBLEM???

But a sure sign of getting older is that I've actually come to appreciate those yellow lights -- one of which I just got prior to writing this (which gave me the idea of writing this).

These days I almost always stop at yellow lights. They are times to pause and be thankful, to be reminded that I don't have to rush to the next forgettable obligation.

If God counts the hairs of our heads, He surely must also have designed all of those yellow lights. And because I get more yellows than most, I'm one blessed guy.


Matthew 10-29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Nobel prizes and virtual accomplishments

"They make money the old fashioned way, the earrrrrn it."

That was John Houseman's famous pitch line for the investment firm Smith Barney. You can still see it on YouTube.

Houseman hammers home the fact that earning money the old fashioned way involves work, hard work. The point is that working hard is not only the surest way towards achieving one's goal, it also gives that achievement a seal of authenticity. The one who finally succeeds deserves any rewards he has coming to him.

Nowadays it seems that Houseman's maxim is itself old fashioned.

That's because we live more and more in a virtual world where the distance between wishful thinking and actual achievement -- at least in an illusory way -- is not as far as it used to be.

Rather than working years to achieve your goal -- and in the process expending your life for it -- today we have the convenience of the click of a mouse. Click that mouse and benefits come immediately: banking, schooling, shopping, entertainment; you can belong to an entire community of friends without physically being with any of them.

But the recent financial collapse should suggest to us that making (or spending) what turned out to be artificial quick-money has its problems.

All of that wealth was illusory.

Houseman's point should still give us pause. To make real money, you might still have to do it the old fashioned way. You might still have to work hard to earrrrrrrrn it.

But market-savvy advertisers today probably wouldn't run the ad because they know that a generation used to getting instant results at the click of a mouse may not be attracted to the notion of hard work.

They may not even recognize the idea. Hard work? You mean I actually have to sweat for my highfalutin ideas? Wow.

Having been in the education business for several decades now, I have noticed that student achievement is less and less measured by hard work. More and more it is measured by how students can express their feelings. Or by how "sincere" they are.

Education used to be about preparing folks for the work and sweat of the real world. And that real world rewarded those who worked and sweated and succeeded -- fully accepting the real world fact that not all will.

Education today is more about creating a virtual world, a world of feeling rather than labor, a world of instant product rather than the gestation of process, a world offering an illusory equality for all because it is a world offering an illusory lack of need for any.

A world of make-believe depths and virtual accomplishments.

And if you can talk about it all really eloquently, you might even win a Nobel Prize.


Genesis 3.19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

2 Thessalonians 3.10 ... If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

Luke 9.23 And he said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me...

James 2.18 But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

On my father-in-law's passing

D. Robert Bastian came into my life 35 years ago, and I was scared to death of him. That was because I wanted to marry his daughter. For Mr. Bastian -- and up to the day he passed away this week, it was always "Mr. Bastian" to me -- for Mr. Bastian, me marrying his daughter was not an acceptable idea.

I remember the night we talked to him about our plans. Basically, he said I could be part of the family if that was his daughter's wish, but his love will only be reserved for his daughters. He also made clear his disapproval over his daughter marrying someone non-white. That particularly hurt, especially during the earlier stages of our marriage.

But let me quickly say this. Years later, when I turned 50-something, I wrote Mr. Bastian a letter. I said, you know, now that I have my own grown children, if one of them were to waltz into my house with someone like the young David Wang: idealistic, unmannered, hair too long, artsy-fartsy -- and yes, of a different race -- and if that person wanted to marry into my family, I would also have serious issues. I would probably flat out say NO. I felt a real need to let him know that.

Characteristically, he never responded. But I know he took note of it.

The fear and hurt have eroded away over the decades; certainly it hasn't been there for me for years. And I don't think it was there for him at the end. In recent years I've always looked forward to seeing him.

And I absolutely enjoyed it when he traveled with us to China in 2005. The man actually gave "scholarships" to his children and their families to enable all of them to go. And so the American and Chinese sides of my family hung out for over two weeks going all over China. I climbed the Great Wall with Mr. Bastian. It was one of the most memorable times of my life.

Now, about that love thing. I'm not sure where he stood on that at the end. Love comes in different forms, and one benefit of growing old is you can spot love in more diverse ways, most of them unspoken ways.

One thing is for sure: love only comes when you're stuck with someone for years. You either learn love over time. Or you split. Mr. Bastian never split (years later we were to find out that he resolved not to disown his daughter over our marriage (!!) -- as when his mother's parents disowned her when she married his father).

And sir, I never split either. And now that it's all over, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

There are three things Mr. Bastian added to my life:

1. He was the most consistent man I ever knew. Never depressed, but never exuberant. Always skeptical of people, but it was a consistent skepticism, one that protected his family. A self-made man who wouldn't pay 15 bucks for long distance phone service, but for over 35 years never ceased to lavish generous gifts to his daughters' families. Mr. Bastian and his wife Phyllis, who passed 7 years ago, raised three solid daughters. It was the grace of God that did it, yes, but God's grace included Bob and Phyllis Bastian.

2. I've never said this to anyone, only because his loss this week clarified it for me for the first time. For me, an immigrant, Mr. Bastian represented Middle America during the mid-20th century. The generation that went through the Depression, the War; the generation that had nothing of what their kids, and certainly their grandkids, have now in the way of material comforts, electronic gadgetry ... negotiable morals. The generation that kept America great during those decades. The America of my childhood. The America I love.

3. Yes, unfortunately for all of his daughters' families who follow Jesus, we were never quite able to get Mr. Bastian to acknowledge his need for Him. But over the years I've become more and more challenged -- which is to say, less and less certain -- as to who, exactly, I will see in heaven. I'm more convinced than ever that I'll be surprised by all who will be there. And that makes me more and more eager to go there myself.

As one of our dear friends wrote upon hearing of his passing, "...shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"


Genesis 18.25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with wicked: and that thethe righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Broken bread

This is what came to me today:

The only purpose for a loaf of bread is to be broken, and the pieces fed to others.

Jesus said he is the bread of life. And the Scripture says " ... as he is, so are we to be in the world."

And what did Jesus the Bread of Life do -- or, as the popular cliche asks: What Would Jesus Do?

Here is what Jesus did: the Bread of Life was broken for many. That is what Jesus did.

And we are to be like him in the world.

It shed new light on my concerns, so much of them having to do with how to hold my life together. Is my job still meaningful or should I look for another? Do I still have time to build my shed before winter? Even this: what series of messages should I next preach?

If I am bread in the world, it seems I not only want my loaf to be unbroken, all my concerns are about how to keep my loaf together -- even to be better looking.

But Jesus the Bread of Life was broken apart for the world. And as he is, so should we be in the world.


John 6.35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

1 Corinthians 11.23b-24 ... the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for* you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

1 John 4.17 ... because as he is, so are we in this world.

The church at the end

When I was younger, I thought Jesus was referring to church starts (nowadays we call them church plants -- quite an organic term) when he said: Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst.

Just two or three. A nice little way to start. As you build up steam -- as you get your mission statement right, calculate the demographics of your neighborhood, come up with the right programs, and perhaps just a little blessing from heaven -- you'll grow, and become a mega-church.

It's like the kid who gets his first job: "Well, I'll be making five bucks an hour to start...", not doubting that the pay will be a lot more later on.

Just two or three in my name -- to start.

But what if "two or three" describes the condition of a church at the end of its trajectory, not the start of it? What if that is what Jesus meant?

What if, after all you've gone through, you're just left with two or three?

Two or three who know you, really know you, and you them?

Two or three who pray for you, and you them?

Two or three to be accountable to.

Two or three who are the human expressions of shelter in a storm. (That is what the early church was -- and still is in many places in the world: a secret shelter for God's people in the midst of storms most of us could not imagine. Those churches did not have latte stands in the foyer, or bowling alleys).

Over the years I've often looked at my "two or three" and have been discouraged. I'd look beyond them to more, because I thought the proof of blessing comes with more. I expected the two or three to become twenty or thirty, two hundred or three hundred.

But the three hundred have never come.

And I am ever more thankful for the two or three.


Matthew 18.19-20 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.