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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturday Night

The desert air is cool and dry tonight. Nothing new has happened yet. I find myself wondering, "What could possibly happen in the next few hours to bring us from mourning to gladness, from bitter weeping to ecstasy? What could have dramatically opened the eyes and transformed the souls of the followers of the Way so long ago?"

And of course, the bigger question is: Is there a way that we could capture this? Is there a way we can find what they found and be transformed as they were? Can we turn our weeping into gladness?


The Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, and the Gospel of John go directly from the burial on Good Friday to the empty tomb on Sunday, with nothing about Saturday. (The links are to the specific passages) The Gospel of Matthew has a few words about what happened on Saturday:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."

"Take a guard," Pilate answered. "Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
So, what was written about the Saturday was a curious story that must have occurred directly after Jesus' death.

Saturday must have been the saddest day, I think. On Good Friday there was the intensity that precedes death so often. Appeals to one authority after another, the courage of those who help the dying bear his cross, the cowardice of those who flee. Tearing clothes and bitter tears.

But on Saturday, he was gone. He was in the ground. The movement defeated and the followers scattered. It felt like he was gone forever, like he had been ripped away. I imagine the followers of the Way sat silently.

UPDATE: There is a great book Pat is reading by Borg & Crossan, titled The Last Week. It does a great job of detailing the Jewish traditions that lead to the idea of descending into hell on Saturday. (Which is not really our idea of hell, and descending is probably also not the best translation!) Here is a blogger who handles the matter in a little less detailed matter, but you can read right now rather than after getting a book.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Did Jesus have to die?

Why couldn't Jesus have lived into old age like the Buddha or Mohamed? I believe he could have, but I believe Christianity would have been different. I believe that for our faith to be the way it is, Jesus had to die. Executed at the high point of his ministry, the profundity of his message was emphasized. His victory over death was magnified. The failure to silence the Christ, even through execution has so shaped our faith that but for it, Christianity would be entirely different.

I do not believe, that Jesus was killed to satisfy a debt or fulfill a prophesy. I think it is a tragedy that Jesus was killed. But through that tragedy, a truth was revealed that may have remained hidden and through that tragedy we became stronger. More & Better from the BBC here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Epicycles & Electrons Part I

A long time ago, the scientist Ptolemy was trying to understand why the planets move the way they do. He knew that things in the sky orbited around the Earth, basically. And he knew that things in the sky moved in circles. However, his observation of the planets did not match with the idea of an Earth in the center with orbiting bodies above. So, he figured out that the planets must be riding on disks that rotate, with the center of the disks rotating on the main disk holding the earth. These were epicycles that allowed Ptolemy to have his observations and at the same time keep his immutable principles. More here.

Not quite so long ago, the scientist Bohr was trying to understand the nature of matter. He hypothesized that atoms were made up of descrete subatomic particles. One of these were electrons, which orbited a nucleus. The Bohr model of the atom is the model that the non-scientists in the room know. More here & here.

The trick is both guys were wrong. Sure, in both cases the hypothesis had some support from observation. But an electron is not a ball bearing spinning around a center. Here's a bit from Wikipedia that matches my limited knowledge of physics:
According to quantum mechanics, electrons can be represented by wavefunctions, from which a calculated probabilistic electron density can be determined. The orbital of each electron in an atom can be described by a wavefunction. Based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the exact momentum and position of the actual electron cannot be simultaneously determined. This is a limitation which, in this instance, simply states that the more accurately we know a particle's position, the less accurately we can know its momentum, and vice versa.
The curious thing is that Bohr's model is/was very helpful. It furthered human understanding of the natural world, while Ptolemy's was not helpful. It hindered movement toward the more accurate description of the natural world. Was there a fundamental difference in their methods?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

This Speech Mattered

Barack Obama just became an important person in American history as far as I am concerned. This speech on race in America was more than powerful and inspiring. It was an insightful call to action. It identified the challenges we face as a nation and the ways in which racial politics can interfere with addressing those problems. It courageously recognized legitimate motivations behind racially charged fears, but challenged us to overcome them. This is our Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Quick note

I'm back in the office, and carrying out the standard post time-off catch up dance. I thought I'd post the dreaded before and after picture, so everyone who has not seen me yet can brace themselves.

More blogging soon.