Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A couple of letters in the latest issue of Sojourners magazine (April 2014) caught my attention.  They were both critical of an article in which the writer had "focused in on the Pharisees as elitist, judgmental and indifferent to the poor as a contrast to Jesus."  The Pharisees were defended in these letters against "the stereotype of them as being self-righteous hypocrites."  Both letters spoke highly of the Pharisaic party, one even making the claim that "a strong case can be made that Jesus himself was a Pharisee."

Yes, historical records and Jewish tradition tell us that the Pharisees were members of a sect within Judaism which was highly regarded.  They were Jewish patriots.  They held to a strict interpretation of the Scriptures and a strict observance of the traditions.  They are considered by many to be the forerunners of later rabbinic Judaism.  The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee, as was the historian Josephus.  Jesus was well-acquainted with their teachings, though I know of no evidence indicating or even hinting that He was a Pharisee.

And the author of the offending article gave a very apologetic reply, saying that while "Many Christians take the gospels generally negative portrayal of the Pharisees as factual history ... others don't think much about historical accuracy, choosing instead to interpret the Pharisees as characters in a story ..."  He goes on to tell other views and even have been a contributing factor in the later anti-Semitism.

However, we need to face the fact that while a few Pharisees are presented favorably in the gospels, Jesus' attitude toward them was essentially negative.  In fact, they are presented as one of the few groups Jesus could not get along with.  So what gives?  Which picture is correct?

I recently started reading American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante.  It's the story of Anne Hutchinson, who co-founded Rhode Island along with Roger Williams.  The setting of the tale is Anne's trial before the Puritan leaders of Massachusetts in the year 1637, with flashbacks, telling her life story.

For what was Anne being tried?  Those who were both her prosecutors and her judges didn't seem quite sure, although they knew she had committed some offense(s) worthy of chastisement.  She was called "the instrument of Satan," "a witch" and "Jezebel" by her accusers.  She had dared to lead home Bible studies attended by men as well as women.  She had dared to interpret the Scriptures on her own and to call into question the teachings and interpretations of the Puritan divines.

In this story and in the story of Roger Williams (as well as popular literature), the Puritans look like self-righteous hypocrites.  And yet the Puritans were heroes in their day.  They wished to "purify" the church from what they believed were pagan practices.  They were the dissenters who dared to stand up for the gospel against the leaders of the Anglican Church.  Some of Anne's accusers had themselves been imprisoned for their beliefs.  They had left their home-country England and come to the New World to escape the suffering and oppression they had experienced in England.  They had come here to establish a "City on a hill," to be an example to the world.  They hold an important part in American history.  Their writings, as well, are deeply spiritual and have blessed many readers down through the years.

So again - which picture is correct?

About 100 years ago, a movement began which came to be known as Fundamentalism, taking its label from a series of articles known as "The Fundamentals."  These articles were written by scholars who had left their mainline Protestant denomination or who were still struggling within them.  The struggle was over the truth of the Scriptures; historical-critical interpretation along with theological liberalism had taken over large portions of their denominations.  These men had taken a stand, often at great cost to themselves, for the literal interpretation of the Bible and what they felt were the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.  They were considered heroes by their followers.

And yet today the term "fundamentalist" is used almost as an epithet.  It is applied to Islamic terrorists as well as to Christians; it has taken on new meanings.  And it has become synonymous with "hypocrite," and with a particular political viewpoint.  To call one a fundamentalist is not considered a compliment!

And so I ask for the third time, which picture is correct?

Sadly, I have to say that I believe that for all three, both pictures are correct.  The Pharisees, the Puritans, the Fundamentalists and probably many other movements, all had good beginnings, fighting battles that probably needed to be fought, standing for truth, standing for freedom, standing for God.  And yet somehow they have themselves become at times the oppressors of God's people.  These party titles - all three - have become synonymous with hypocrisy, legalism and narrow-mindedness.

I believe that it is very easy for those of us who are seekers of God's truth and who have deep convictions about these matters, to feel that God is pleased, not only with our understanding of His truth, but with us ourselves for having that correct understanding.  From there it is not a large step to believing that He is displeased, not only with the "incorrect" beliefs of others, but with those others themselves.  It then becomes easy to believe that we have a  corner on the truth and thus a corner on God, to believe that we have God in our box.  And that those who are not in our box cannot possibly please God.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


The church at Corinth was a sorry lot - at least by the "standards" of many modern day moralists.  They were contentious, dividing themselves into parties; they dragged each other into court over petty offenses; their worship services were wild and disorderly; some of them even came to the communion table drunk; they had sex with whomever they chose - one was even sleeping with his stepmother; others were denying sex to their marriage partners; they demanded their rights in certain matters, even when their behavior caused weaker believers to stumble.

Those people today who wring their hands over what they see as a decline in morals in the church and who see the early church as some high place from which we have fallen, have apparently never given any attention to the church we see in the Apostle Paul's two letters to the Corinthians.

And yet Paul calls them "saints."  He describes them as "the called," as "blameless," as lacking in no "spiritual gifts."  He even says he thanks God always for them.  And all this in the first eight verses of his first letter!

Do saints behave this way?  Do they bring into the church the culture that lies outside the church?  Do they live by the same moral standards as their unbelieving neighbors?  Well, apparently the Corinthians did - and the morals of pagan Corinth were recognized as the worst - even by the other pagans.

And so it is today.  I have been a pastor and I know a bit about it.  I can emphasize with Paul.  I empathize with my pastor.  Riding herd on the saints is no easy job.  No, they don't all behave in the same way as the Corinthians.  In 2000 years the saints have come up with many new ways to misbehave.

So what's Paul's solution?  He has many words of exhortation, but one passage is startling.

"Or don't you know that the unrighteous won't inherit the Kingdom of God?  Don't be deceived - neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God!" (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10)

Now Paul sounds more like the kind of preacher some of us have come to know.  He seems to have finally given up on all that positive reinforcement, all that "saints" business; he seems to be threatening his readers - the whole church - with damnation if they behave like those described above.  And I've heard and read quite a few preachers who would agree with that interpretation.  I've been tempted to agree myself, at times.  They see this passage as a warning, "If you behave like that you better examine yourself - you may not be saved," or "If you behave like this you will lose your salvation."  (Pick your threat, whether Calvinist or Arminian.)

But Paul isn't saying anything like that; I don't think he's threatening his readers at all!  This should be clear if we read the next lines.

"And those are what some of your were.  But you got yourselves washed, but you were sanctified; but you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God!"  (6:11)

I'll make this personal.  Paul isn't talking about what we shouldn't BE, he is telling us what we WERE and he is telling us what we now ARE.  We no longer belong in any of those categories mentioned in verses 9 and 10.  Even if we behave that way!  We are new creatures through faith in Christ.  And the implied exhortation is, "Now live like who you ARE, not like who you WERE!"

I don't believe that we who are members of the Family of God need to fear being disowned by our Father, nor do we need to keep examining ourselves to make sure we belong in the Family.  But we do need to recognize that we need to live as members of the Family.

Will we slip back?  Most likely; I have.  But our family relationship doesn't change when we do.  Our relationship with God as our Father is based on the work of Christ, not on our behavior.

But as members of the Family, we do need to live in a way that will not bring shame to our Father or even other members of the Family.  We need to remember Whose children we are!

Monday, March 17, 2014


A few weeks ago, while browsing through my favorite used book store, I came across a couple of volumes that looked intriguing, especially since I could get them cheap.  They were entitled, Patience with God:  Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism), (2009) by Frank Schaeffer and The End of Faith:  Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, (2005) by Sam Harris.  Since I was not reading anything at the time, I decided to dive into them both.

Though I usually am reading two or three books at a time, to avoid confusion, I try to avoid reading those with the same or similar topics.  So reading these two together was an interesting experience, almost like witnessing a debate.

I should note that this post is not an attempt at reviewing either volume; I am simply trying to interact with them and the thinking expressed in them.

Perhaps a few words are needed about the authors and why their books piqued my curiosity.

Frank Schaeffer is the son of Francis Schaeffer, the well-known philosopher and Christian apologist.  Though Frank began a career in Francis' ministry, he had parted ways with his father and taken another spiritual path, as he described in his book, Crazy for God, which I had read a few years ago.  (SEE POSTS:  CRAZY FOR GOD?, Part 1  and CRAZY FOR GOD?, Part 2.)

Sam Harris is probably the most outspoken of the so-called New Atheists.  I had not read anything of his or had I had any outstanding desire to do so, but thought I might as well see if he had anything to say more than his fellow Atheists.  He doesn't really, but he does say what he says more vehemently.

Both authors have very different backgrounds, and obviously disagree on a number of matters, especially on what I would see as basic beliefs.  Yet they also held to some similar beliefs, and as I moved from one book to the other, I quite frequently had feelings of déjà vu.

The main area of agreement is that both are opposed to "Fundamentalism."  I don't recall Harris as giving a clear definition of the term, though he does use it frequently and he does condemn everything that he perceives as religious belief.  He tells us that most people "believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book" and that respect or tolerance for those who disagree or are unbelievers "is not an attitude that God endorses" (page 13).  He claims "every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable" (page 23).  His second chapter, "The Nature of Belief" is well worth reading.  He defines "believing" on page 51 as "Believing a given proposition ... faithfully represents some state of the world," and "faith" on page 65 as "belief in, and life orientation toward, certain historical and metaphysical propositions."  Though both definitions are similar, it appears that his big gripe is with religious belief, because it is not founded on facts, as he tells us on page 232, "religious faith is the belief in historical and metaphysical propositions without sufficient evidence."  (I realize I'm oversimplifying.  He gets pretty long-winded and repetitive.)  So I'd guess that he believes all religious people are fundamentalists in varying degrees.

Schaeffer is much less wordy and a lot clearer on page xvi in his prologue.  "My love-hate relationship is with fundamentalists who say they believe in God and with people who are so sure there is no God that they've turn atheism into just another brow-beating religion."  So he would classify people like his parents as fundamentalists, but would also classify Harris and his fellow Atheists as the same.  On page 9 he says "My definition of fundamentalism, religious or otherwise, is the impulse to find The answer, a way to shut down the question-asking part of one's brain."

Both authors fill much of their books with tirades against these fundamentalists.  Harris devotes much material to attacking the shameful behavior of Islam, Medieval Christianity and the Religious Right.  Schaeffer on the other hand, while attacking "evangelical/fundamentalists," such as those he at one time kept company with, also says that "The New Atheists, like their evangelical/fundamentalist counterparts, aren't on an intellectual journey.  They are already at their destination" (page 11).

I found much in both books to agree with, especially when they attacked the thinking and actions of those with whom I disagree.  Of course, neither of them would agree with me, as both would consider me a fundamentalist.

I won't spend much space attempting to refute these people.  They appear and present themselves as much more learned and erudite than people such as I.  But I will say a few things about where their journey takes them, which appears to be nowhere.

Harris presents himself as a consistent full-blown materialist.  However, he is unlike Richard Dawkins, who attempted to find a biological/materialist reason behind religion and ethics and consciousness itself.  Harris gets really fuzzy when it comes to these matters and ends up saying things that seem quite religious.  However, he claims that his idea of "spirituality" differs from religion and that spiritual experiences "are worth seeking" although "the popular religious ideas that have grown up around them, especially in the West, are as dangerous as they are incredible" (page 40).

Schaefer too ends up with his feet firmly planted in mid-air.  (I believe that I got that phrase from something his father wrote or said.)  His opposition to dogmatism, whether religious or atheistic, leaves him in a position which I'd have to describe as dogmatic uncertainty.  He is a member of a traditional, ritualistic church and takes comfort in this, even though he has doubts about God.  He finds ancient Christian writings and traditions more to his liking than the Scriptures.  He, like Harris wants "spirituality," which he feels he finds not in dogma, but in experience, much like those existentialists with whom his father did battle.

So, what do I conclude after reading these two books?  That these two men who disagree with each other are very much alike and much like the ones they criticize.  Both are very sure of their own positions and feel that those they disagree with may even be dangerous.  Both, while abhorring dogmatism, are extremely dogmatic themselves.  Harris is certain that he has a corner on the truth, that all his beliefs are empirical and based on reason.  Schaeffer is much fuzzier and is certain that one cannot be certain.

Both, however, are religious.  Schaeffer enjoys religious rites and feelings even while he is not certain that God even exists.  Harris is certain God does not exist, yet finds comfort in meditation, which he insists is "empirical."

My certainty in the truth of my own religious beliefs is, of course, slammed by both.  Harris and Schaeffer both say beliefs such as mine are untrue; however both retreat into religious ways of dealing with life, based on their concepts of truth.

Friday, March 7, 2014


On Ash Wednesday, just before leaving for our church's evening service, I came across a short post:  "Only Religion Could Get People To Worship a Foreskin" on my friend Canadian Atheist's website.  This article had a link to:  "The Cut That Divided Jews and Christians - and the Mystery of the Missing Circumcision in Artworks" in the HUFFINGTON POST  Intrigued, I gave both articles a brief scan and then Uni and I went off to worship.  While I forgot it during the worship, it did come back to mind, so after a brief comment on Canadian Atheist's post the next morning, I decided I needed to read the longer article more carefully and interact with it.  I found it well worth reading and even recommend it.

The article was written by Bernard Starr, whom we're told is a "psychologist; Journalist; College Professor."  He is also "author of 'Jesus Uncensored:  Restoring the Authentic Jew'" and is organizing an art exhibit entitled "Putting Judaism Back in the Picture:  Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide."

Mr. Starr introduces his article with a description of the Christian Feast of the Circumcision, which celebrates Jesus' circumcision "with a parade featuring Jesus' foreskin carried in a reliquary which villagers stormed to kiss," in what I suppose could be described as an act of holy fellatio.
The article goes on to tell us that the 2,000 year old holy foreskin disappeared over 30 years ago and many suspect that the Vatican was somehow involved in the theft, as even the mention of Jesus' foreskin was declared grounds for excommunication in 1900.  Though apparently the Feast is still celebrated, the focus has shifted to Mary the Mother of Jesus.  The author questions as to why Christians would celebrate such a thing.  "Weren't" he asks, "differences about circumcision a major factor in the split between Judaism and Christianity?"
Well, I'd answer that question with a yes and a no.  While circumcision was a factor, the major factor was recognition of Jesus as Messiah.  There were in the early days, as well as today, still Jewish Christians who were/are circumcised.  The big split over this issue was in the first century church itself.

The author does a pretty good job of relating the story of the introduction of Gentiles (non-Jews and uncircumcised) into the early church, except for his assertion that "Paul introduced the notion of 'circumcision of the heart'" as a "symbolic substitute for physical circumcision."  He quotes Paul's words in Romans 2:28, 29:  "But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter."  This was however, no new idea of Paul's.  His predecessor Stephen had earlier accused those of the Jewish Sanhedrin of being "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears" (Acts 7:51).  Of course, the idea preceded Stephen by about 1,500 years and is found in both the Torah and the prophets.  In fact, circumcision of the heart was predicted as a future act of the LORD in His restoration of His people:

"And they will confess their iniquity ... then at last their uncircumcised heart will humble itself ..." (Leviticus 26:40, 41).

"And the LORD will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, that you may live" (Deuteronomy 30:6).

"Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskin of your heart" (Jeremiah 4:4).

"Behold days are coming declares the LORD when I will punish all who are circumcised and yet have a foreskin ... for all the nations are uncircumcised but all the House of Israel are uncircumcised of heart" (Jeremiah 9:25).

Paul saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the Messianic promises and those who were "in Christ" whether Jew or Gentile as the recipients of those promises.  He recognized the Jewishness of Jesus as well as his own Jewishness and states that his desire is for Israel to turn to their Messiah.  It is sad, even tragic that those who came later rejected this Jewishness.

There is a quote that is misleading:  "The Savior's circumcision was the occasion of the first shedding of His precious blood. The Cross overshadowed the Lord Jesus even while He lay in a crib by swaddling bands bound. The knife which cut the Lord's flesh on that day foreshadowed the centurion's spear which would pierce His side, releasing the saving torrent, the blood and water (John 19:34)."  While it appears to be attributed to John's Gospel, that is not its source; John said no such thing!
The article is illustrated with Medieval and Renaissance art depicting the baby Jesus as uncircumcised, even when He is obviously "looking more than eight days old."  And of course, Michelangelo's well-known sculpture of David depicts him as uncircumcised.

Mr. Starr does not buy any of the arguments for this "falsifying" and very ably refutes them.  He sees the ignoring of historical context as an explanation for the pervasiveness of not only the falsifications but as part and parcel of the anti-Semitism of the times. when "Jews were demonized, marginalized and persecuted - as well as charged with killing Jesus."

The author's contribution to the effort at reconciliation is an art exhibit "with new renditions of existing works" which he is organizing ("Putting Judaism back in the Picture").  Let's hope he has some success with it.  (I wonder if Michelangelo's David could be reworked with a Dremel tool?)

Back to his original question:  "Why would Christians ... celebrate - no less worship - Jesus' circumcision?"  Answering from my perspective as an evangelical Christian and attempting to be biblical, I'd have to say that the worship of a foreskin is idolatry; there is no biblical warrant for this or any other adoration of relics.  But to celebrate Jesus' circumcision is another matter (though I have no desire for a feast or a parade).

His circumcision was a Jewish rite in which He partook as a member of the covenant community of Israel.  It was done in accordance with the Mosaic Law and it was a beginning of a lifetime of Law-keeping.  Jesus kept the entire Mosaic Law; there is no recorded instance of His violating it, though He did cross the line many times when it came to man-made interpretations.  It is because He fulfilled the Law actively by keeping its precepts and passively by taking its penalty, that I as non-Jew can partake of the promises given to Abraham and through the whole Hebrew Scripture.

So I believe we should celebrate Jesus' Jewishness.  There is no room in Christian faith for anti-Semitism, or even of attempting to ignore our Jewish roots.

Monday, March 3, 2014


More and more electronic devices keep appearing in my adult Sunday Bible studies.  At first it was one or two of those little electronic Bibles that looked like cell phones, then along came smart phones, tablets and other devices.  Still, a greater percentage of students carry bound paper Bibles, but these folks are older and their number is decreasing.  I can't help but wonder if and when the time will come when I'll be the only dinosaur.  (Your wife will be too. - Uni)

I love My Bible(s).  I don't own any electronic version nor do I even know how to find one on my computer.  What's more, I don't even own any of those electronic aids.  I have shelves of aids - books - taking up space in my study: dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, Greek and Hebrew grammars.  All of these could be thrown out and replaced by a few discs or online subscriptions.  I have many reasons (or excuses) for not doing so: I have a lot of money invested in these and can't afford to invest in any more; I started with these and know my way around in them; I need the exercise of pulling them off the shelves.  (Liddell and Scott's Lexicon of Ancient Greek weighs 8 pounds.)

Please don't misunderstand.  I'm no Luddite.  I don't object to technology as such.  I'm using it right now!  Christians, as people of the Word, have always been open to technological advancement, especially in the area of communication.  For instance, Christians were among the first to utilize the codex - the modern book form - as opposed to scrolls;  it made Scriptural preaching much simpler when one could locate a passage more easily.  The printing press was welcomed by the early Reformers and Bible translators as a way to get the Word into the hands of the common people - the plowboy and the milkmaid.

And so we welcome the new ways of accessing and studying the Word.  A recent article in CHRISTIANITY TODAY, "The Bible in the Original Geek" (March 2014) discusses the many ways new technology "will change the way you think about Scripture."  We are able to data mine the Word for all sorts of insights.  We can even build our own translations without the need for knowledge of the original languages, or for those who have such knowledge.

Hopefully this is getting more people into the Bible and helping people to understand and gain insight.  And those who want to go deeper - scholars, preachers and seminarians - can do so more quickly and with greater ease.

I feel like I'm John Henry racing the steam drill!  (If you don't know who he is, you can Google him.)

I feel, however, that my techie friends may be missing out on a few things.  One thing is familiarity, not only with the Bible, but with books in general.  When I read a book - any book - I get intimate with it; I feel it; I smell it; I break it in by cracking its back in multiple places; I mark its pages; I flip back and forth; I write my thoughts, questions and disagreements in the margins.  I suppose one can do some, maybe most of these things with a book on a Nook, a Kindle or an iPad - but it seems to me that that would be like making love to a robot.

My Bible is more than data to be mined.  It's an old friend.  It's a letter from my Lover.  It's a story I'm familiar with.  It's a reminder of my past and present spiritual walk.  It saddens me to think that the very technology that can help us gain greater knowledge is depended on by many to give them greater understanding and wisdom.  Perhaps it can.  But these only can come through familiarity.

So if I may sermonize:  Read your Bible; don't just mine it for information.  Get familiar with the Book and its authors - both the human and the Divine.  Let its "data" penetrate your thinking, whether this comes about through electronic media or through paper and ink.  And let it penetrate your life and actions.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


When I was a little boy my family's home was on a lot on a corner of my maternal grandparents' farm in Michigan.  Apparently Gramma and Grampa Lorenz had given a small lot to my family as well as to an aunt and uncle who lived next door.  So while technically I did not grow up on a farm, it was only 100 or so feet behind us and their farm house was not more than a half mile down the road.

But walking down that half mile was like stepping back in time.  My grandparents' house was old and not furnished with all the modern amenities that our house was.  They had no indoor plumbing and no running water.  Gramma did her cooking on a wood-burning stove.  Water was furnished from a well which was located just off the front porch and on top of which sat a wooden platform with a huge (to me) forest green cast iron pump.  Sometimes I would be assigned to fetch the water.  I would affix a porcelainized steel pail by its wire handle to the top of the spout projecting from the front of the pump and pump the handle up and down while a beautiful stream of clear cool water filled the pail.

Then with both hands I'd struggle to carry the pail in and place it on a shelf near the door.  On a smaller shelf just above the pail sat a porcelainized dipper.  Whenever anyone desired a drink, they'd dip the dipper in the water and place it to their lips.  When finished they'd shake it off and replace it on its shelf for the use of the next person.

We all drank out of the same dipper.

Later in life when I moved to Texas, I heard the expression, "He drinks from the dipper," used I suppose to describe a person who was just a regular guy, no better nor worse than the rest of us, one who did not feel he was above sharing in the normal matters of life with others.

Whenever I read the story of Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman at a well as John relates it in the 4th chapter of his gospel, my mind returns to the above thoughts.  A portion of the story is as follows:

"He had to pass through Samaria.  He comes then into a town of Samaria called Sychar ... There was in that place the well of Jacob.  Jesus, since He was worn out from the journey was sitting thus on the well.  It was about 6 in the evening.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.

Jesus says to her, 'Give me a drink.'  (His disciples had gone into town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman says to Him, 'How do you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman for a drink?  Jews do not use things in common with Samaritans!'"  (John 4:4-9)

[NOTE:  I translated "the 6th hour" as 6 P.M.  John appears to use Roman time rather than Palestinian reckoning - see 19:14.  I also translated the Greek word sunchraomai as "use things in common" rather than the usual "have dealings with."  Obviously the disciples were "dealing with" the Samaritans to purchase food.]

The woman was astounded by Jesus' request for a number of reasons:

Jesus was a Jew - probably obvious to her by his tasseled garment - while she was a member of a group shunned by Jews for what was regarded by them as a corrupt religion and a corrupted mixed race.

Jesus was a man.  Jewish (and probably Samaritan) men did not speak to women 

publicly. This even was surprising to His disciples on their return later, as John says in verse 27:  "... they were amazed that He was talking with a woman."

She was also probably carrying some shame concerning her past and present marital/sexual activity.  Of course she didn't know till later in the conversation that Jesus knew all about her "checkered" past.  Verse 18:  "... you've had five husbands and the one whom you now have isn't your husband!"

She was apparently carrying a single water jug (verse 28). The only way for Him to get a drink from her would be to put her water jug to His lips.  He was asking to drink from her "dipper"!

While people of the first century were not germ-phobic as the people of our day are - they knew nothing about germs - the orthodox Jews were even more fearful of ritual defilement.  And this would have been that - big time.

There's much more to this story, but this simple request of Jesus is, I believe a metaphor for what He had done in His incarnation.  He, as preexistent God, took on Himself humanity.  He wasn't afraid of "contamination."  He became one of us.  He drank from the dipper!

So if Jesus could drink from the dipper, shouldn't we who claim to be His followers do the same?  Jesus broke down all sorts of barriers in this simple story:  racial barriers, religious barriers, gender barriers, barriers based on sexual behavior.

Do we?