Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: common english bible

Devotion: Are You My Jesus?

Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3, Common English Bible)

areyoumymother-1Do you remember P. D. Eastman’s book Are You My Mother? The little bird hatches out of her egg and begins searching for her mother. She walks right past the mother bird because she does not recognize her or know what she looks like. She proceeds to ask different animals, “Are you my mother?”

We can identify with the little bird. There are times and moments in our lives when we search for Jesus. But, we don’t recognize him. We may walk right past him, not even knowing it is him.

In Matthew 11, John’s life has taken an unexpected turn. For John, he was imprisoned, and asks, “Are you my Jesus?” For us, we may be imprisoned in our need to be first or right. Or imprisoned in our fussing and complaning. Imprisoned in our busyness.

Or we are imprisoned by the holiday.

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J. Edgar (2011)

J._Edgar_PosterClint Eastwood is a brilliant filmmaker.  We know this.  Just take a look at Million Dollar Baby (2004) or his World War II films Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006).  I had to remind myself of this fact throughout J. Edgar (2011).

Like Invictus (2009), this is a slow-paced film.  Eastwood is not in a hurry to get you somewhere.  But that’s part of Eastwood’s storytelling—getting you there—the journey.  This slow-paced storytelling makes you pay attention to the camera angles, the shades of light, the seemingly random inclusions in the camera shot, and so on.  We are hanging on through it all for the good parts.

As Eastwood weaves this tale through the shadows of Hoover’s complex life visually, I expected a juicy political drama.  That’s what I was waiting for.   Instead I got a tale about relationships.  A somewhat unexpected tale.

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Bible’s Major Players: Jephthah’s Daughter

Slide2The Bible is filled with some major players. Jephthah’s daughter is one from the Old Testament.

The story of Jephthah’s daughter is found in Judges 11. Jephthah was a great warrior.  He was the child of Gilead and a prostitute. When his father’s other sons got older, they drove Jephthah out of town because of who is mother was. He forms together a band of desperadoes and stay at a place called Tov – the Land of Good.

The Ammonites attack Gilead, and the elders ask for Jepthah’s help. He says he will after he is promised that he will be made head of the council. Before going into battle, he makes one last vow to God. He promises that if he is granted a victory over his enemies, he will offer the first thing that comes out of his door when he returns home as a sacrifice.

You see where this is going.

StoryOTB082_p207_JephthahMeetsHisDaughterHe and his band of desperadoes win the battle. When he returns home, the first thing to come out and great him is his daughter, “his only child” (Judges 11:34). Jepthah is heart broken! He cannot break his promise to God. Ironically, his daughter does not protest. The only thing she asks for is two months to be alone.

And so, she retreats to the mountains and wails for her virginity. A modern reader of this tale may find this strange that she would want time to mourn for her virginity. It would seem more appropriate that she would mourn her own death. This ancient society, however, puts a huge amount of importance on the woman’s role as child bearer. As Virginia Stem Owens writes, “One was protected forward in time on the catapult of continuing generations.”

When two months had passed, she returned to her father, and he did to her what he had promised. She had not known a man intimately. But she gave rise to a tradition in Israel where for four days every year Israelite daughters would go away to recount the story of the Gileadite, Jephthah’s daughter. (Judges 11:39-40, Common English Bible)

Jephthah’s daughter turned a tragedy into a tradition.

What women in your life have inspired faith traditions for you?

Resources: Owens, Virginia Stem. Daughters of Eve. NavPress, 1995.

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