Jenna Barnett 12-27-2022
A teenage girl holds her boyfriend around the waist from behind, while the boyfriend hugs a golden cross from the front.

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

“I’m getting into you / Because you got to me in a way words can’t describe.”

WHEN I FIRST heard these lyrics in the early 2000s, I was smitten. I pressed the soft foam of my headphones against my ears to better hear the lyrics of Relient K. My crush, who we’ll call “Jamie,” had chosen this song as track one on the mix CD he burned for me. Near the top of the CD, he sharpied the name of the song: “GETTING INTO YOU” (emphasis Jamie’s).

Surely this was confirmation that Jamie didn’t just like me as a classmate — he was, as Paramore sang it best, into me. But I was naïve; I was mainline; I interpreted Relient K’s lyrics romantically when I should have approached them hermeneutically. Reader, I was so Presbyterian Church (USA) that I had never heard of the PCA. I knew there was an old rugged cross on a hill, but I’d never heard of Hillsong.

Sarah James 12-27-2022
An 11-foot puppet designed to look like a Syrian child is surrounded by a crowd with signs advocating for relief for refugees.

The Little Amal puppet joins the 2022 Manchester Day parade. / Mark Waugh / Alamy Stock Photo

LITTLE AMAL, an 11-foot-tall puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee, is the star of “The Walk,” a live public production to honor millions of displaced children in the world. Named after the Arabic word for “hope,” Amal took her first steps at the Turkey-Syria border in July 2021. Since then, she’s traversed more than 5,500 miles in 13 different countries to share a poignant plea: “Don’t forget about us.”

Four puppeteers help Amal walk. One person sits inside her torso, visible through a cage, to operate her face, head, and feet; two move her hands with external rods; and one offers balance support from behind. Amal towers over the crowds who greet her, and the enormous space she occupies sends a powerful message: Forced displacement is an urgent and collective responsibility. The Walk embodies compassion, care, welcome, and belonging — core principles of Christianity. Amal, who has more than 170,000 followers on Instagram, has become a well-recognized humanitarian symbol, reminding us that displaced people are not “aliens” or “strangers.” They are our siblings, parents, children, neighbors, and friends.

The Editors 12-27-2022
A son embraces his mother from behind, who lift up their hands together to clap.

From God's Creatures

Communal Sin

The psychological thriller God’s Creatures follows a mother who chooses to hide her son’s secret, a decision that has damaging ripple effects in her remote fishing village. The film explores how a community’s complacency in covering up sin can systematize and amplify evil.

Da’Shawn Mosley 12-27-2022
Uncle Clifford (Nicco Annan), the owner of The Pynk strip club, stands beside Lil' Murda (J. Alphonse Nicholson) as they look off in the distance.

From P-Valley

P-VALLEY IS A DRAMA about employees of a fictional strip club in Mississippi called The Pynk. Watching the show, which Starz has renewed for a third season, gives me déjà vu. In the opening minutes of the first episode, we see a neighborhood overtaken by a flood, the camera eventually focusing on a floating suitcase — which a woman who looks like she just survived a hurricane grabs. I’m reminded of Toni Morrison’s titular character Beloved, who “walked out of the water”; it’s all instantly reminiscent of the Southern, sin-filled aura of stories by Flannery O’Connor. A few minutes later, I’m hit with production design as colorful as that of the TV show Pose — unabashed theatricality.

This description should feel as dizzying as twirling around a stripper pole — that’s the inevitable impact of the artistic and spiritual heft P-Valley wields. The show, which is an adaptation of a play by Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony Award nominee Katori Hall, is about nothing less than free will. Hall explores complex topics such as sex work, abuse by men, abortion, and homophobia. Here in the Mississippi Delta, viewers get to know a mostly Black community trying to live as freely as the Constitution of their nation built by slaves declares white men should.

Zachary Lee 12-27-2022
A woman is pictured holding up a fork full of noodles to her smiling mouth while posing for a photo

From 'Triangle of Sadness'

IT WOULD HAVE been tough to be both a disciple of Jesus and a foodie. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus certainly valued food — his earthly ministry was filled with meals: The gospel of Matthew describes Jesus as one who “came eating and drinking” (11:19). As Robert J. Karris wrote in Eating Your Way Through Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was “either going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal.” But what the Chosen One had in meal frequency, he lacked in meal diversity.

A “foodie” is someone who eats food as a hobby — a passion, even. The more exotic the better. If you pull up to your local boba shop, why settle for regular milk tea when you can order one infused with butterfly pea flower that turns it bright blue?

However, for Jesus’ meals, at least the ones recorded in scripture, the fish is served broiled (Luke 24:42), not creatively deconstructed. And if you’re rolling with Jesus, you better like eating bread.

Though his plate may have lacked the splendor of the centurions’ or high priests’ spreads, Jesus viewed the table as a radical place of inclusion. For many powerful religious leaders of the time, dining was yet another way to shun the outcasts. In contrast, Jesus intentionally invited those very same “unclean” people to dine with him, breaking bread (because of course it was bread) with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes.

In the past year, several films have articulated a hunger for the type of table Jesus championed. Flux Gourmet, Triangle of Sadness, and The Menu critique class inequality through stories revolving around fine dining. In each movie, wealthy people have rich flavors but a dearth of meaningful relationships. The exclusivity of the table seems more important than the actual food served on the plates. Jesus’ table, on the other hand, lacked variety but overflowed in inclusivity — a true palate cleanser to meals that symbolized selfish consumption.

Moya Harris 12-27-2022
An illustration of a black woman with headphones on is closing her eyes with the side of her face to the viewer. Another woman has her back turned with a tattoo of Lauryn Hill on her neck.

Illustration by Gabi Hawkins

MUSIC IS MY safe space. When all hell is breaking out, I can put in my AirPods and turn on part of the soundtrack of my life and reset. The pandemic created a chronic hell that illuminated oppressive forces that have existed for centuries. Music became even more essential for my survival.

I am a Black clergywoman who is clear that “my emancipation doesn’t fit” many people’s equation. Let me say that another way: My authentic expression of self makes some people uncomfortable. My unapologetic expression of womanist Blackness often sheds light in the shadows of a corrupt world.

I won’t pretend that I have always felt free to be me. It took a pandemic to give space to be reminded by theologian and prophet Lauryn Hill that “deep in my heart, the answer, it was in me.” Hill’s lyrics and very existence compelled me to “[make] up my mind to define my own destiny.”

Some consider Hill to be one of the greatest lyricists of all time. An eight-time Grammy winner (with 19 nominations), she sings, raps, and acts. She is hip-hop royalty. In the ’90s, I wanted to be her. She wore the dopest locked hair style, had the most beautiful brown skin, and expressed her Blackness with boldness and class. She had, and still has, a lyrical flow that men and women couldn’t ignore. She was fly. (Translated as cool, sexy, smart, and stylish.)

Her industry-shaking debut solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, released in August 1998, will stand the test of time. Hill speaks truth in ways that penetrate the soul. I was a young mother when the album came out. She articulated things that only a Black woman could identify with. She spoke of the tension and beauty of having a child when society was telling her that motherhood and a career couldn’t coexist. She sang and rapped about self-respect, love gained, and love lost. This album is life. This album ministers. This album is sacred.

Mae Elise Cannon 12-27-2022
A heavily filtered photo of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in chest armor with "PRESS" emblazoned across the front. She is surrounded with illustrations of Arabic text, plants, and a microphone with doves flying out from the mic.

Illustration by Rami Kanso

PALESTINIAN AMERICAN JOURNALIST Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed in May 2022 while covering an Israel Defense Forces raid on a refugee camp in the Palestinian West Bank village of Jenin. Abu Akleh had been standing with a group of other journalists and was wearing a blue vest with the word PRESS printed across it when she was shot; her producer was shot in the back but survived. Hours after Abu Akleh’s death, Israeli police went into her home, took away Palestinian flags, and prevented the singing of Palestinian nationalist songs.

In mid-November, the FBI opened an investigation into Abu Akleh’s death; Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would refuse to cooperate since, Gantz said, the IDF had already investigated the IDF actions in the shooting. The U.S. State Department commented, “Not only was Shireen an American citizen, she was a fearless reporter whose journalism and pursuit of truth earned her the respect of audiences around the world.”

Before her death, households throughout the Arab world knew Abu Akleh’s work. Nicknamed “the daughter of Palestine” — and “the voice of Palestine” — Abu Akleh had worked for Qatar-based news outlet Al Jazeera for a quarter century. Viewed as courageous and thoughtful, Abu Akleh inspired many, including women interested in pursuing a career in journalism in the Middle East. A common signoff for her broadcasts summarized her motivation for being a journalist: “I chose journalism to be close to people. It might not be easy to change the reality, but at least I can bring their voices to the world. I am Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Jenna Barnett 12-27-2022
A cropped picture of Jean Vanier's eyes, his face fractured with thick red lines. A photo of members of the L'Arche community is superimposed over his forehead.

Illustration by Mark Lucien Harris / Archival photos from L'Arche International

THIS IS ONE way to tell the founding story of L’Arche:

The main character is a sailor-turned-ethicist named Jean Vanier. The son of the governor general of Canada, he was, as his biographer Anne-Sophie Constant wrote, “a child of privilege, he had danced with princesses, dined with politicians and philosophers, and circled the world twice.”

As the story goes, Vanier gave all that up in 1964 when his spiritual mentor, Thomas Philippe, a Dominican priest, took him on a tour of the psychiatric facility where Philippe was a chaplain. There, Vanier discovered, as he put it, “an immense world of pain.” This is not an exaggeration: At the time, asylums, which were notorious for overcrowding and abuse, functioned more as prisons than treatment centers. Inside these walls, Vanier heard an invitation — from Jesus and the men with intellectual disabilities — to do something.

So Vanier bought a broken-down house in Trosly, France, and invited two men from the mental institution to live with him. He named the home “L’Arche,” French for “The Ark,” a biblical symbol of protection in a storm-tossed world. Vanier traveled around the globe to tell the story of their life together, and soon L’Arche communities sprouted up in Canada, India, Australia, Haiti, and beyond — a constellation of communities where adults with and without intellectual disabilities have aspired to live, work, pray, and play together as equals. L’Arche became integral to the movement for the deinstitutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities, and Vanier became a best-selling Christian writer and hero to all of us looking to practice a faith that prioritized those on the margins.

When he was introduced to give lectures, Vanier often said, “I feel uncomfortable when people say nice things about me.” Yet the world had lots of nice things to say, bestowing upon Vanier countless awards, including the French Legion of Honor, the Companion of the Order of Canada, and the Templeton Prize. But for me, a certain 2010 accolade feels the most poignant: Astrophysicist C.J. Krieger discovered an asteroid and named it after Vanier. Vanier is above us; Vanier spins on a different celestial plane than the rest of us.

Before he died, Vanier was often called a living saint. Upon his death in 2019, Pope Francis sent his sympathies, asking Jesus to welcome Vanier into heaven as his faithful servant. It’s the type of eulogizing that you expect for someone who saw beauty and divinity where others saw shame and destitution.

It’s an inspiring story that changed thousands of lives: At the time of Vanier’s death, there were 147 L’Arche communities in 37 countries, home to approximately 10,000 people with intellectual disabilities. The protagonist of the story also saved my faith, showing me how Christianity is capable of destabilizing dangerous institutions, rocking the boat, building new arks.

Unfortunately, it’s a bad story.

José Humphreys III 12-26-2022
A 3D cartoon illustration of a Black man points to the sky with a smile as he wears a virtual reality headset. He is surrounded by vibrant shapes.

As Good As Possible / Shutterstock

DNA RESEARCH HAS been a sacred journey of mine for the last 10 years. What started as an exercise in building my family tree evolved into a global adventure unearthing my West African roots. Little did I know that more than 50 percent of my ethnic heritage traces back to West Africa through Nigeria, Benin, and Cameroon (connected to the Bamileke people).

The African roots of the Puerto Rican story often remain obscure. Like many Puerto Ricans, I was taught a one-dimensional story of my heritage. Puerto Ricans often, with beaming pride, share their connection to the cultural heritage of Spain or their Indigenous roots, namely the Taino Indigenous peoples. But, for many, the African strands of identity are held at a distance, even suppressed like a muted djembe beat.

Rose Marie Berger 12-26-2022
An illustration of a person on a purple backdrop. She wears a tired expression and is surrounded by twisting arrows weaving around her and pointing in all directions.

yokunen / iStock

HAVE YOU EVER had one of those perfect moments?

My wife and I sat on a bench at the farmers market with a plate of steaming hot tamales before us and a bag of crisp fennel bulbs, Pink Lady apples, and fresh spinach at our feet. The air smelled of salt and cooking oil. A deep yellow and iridescent gold light wrapped around us. Every noise fell away in a holy hush. We met, however fleeting, the “still point of the turning world” described by poet T.S. Eliot. Held and beheld.

To be honest, I usually miss these moments. Though I try (religiously) to keep custody of my mind and attention, the world we live in now beeps, dings, buzzes, and updates 24/7. It’s hard for God to break in. Perhaps this description of digital architecture’s pointed intrusions into our one beautiful life is too minimalist. Most days, I’m holding my breath against the crushing dynamics of digital onrush and knowledge outflow. I miss the still points between the crest and lip of that wave.

John C. Wester 12-26-2022
An illustration with a red backdrop of two hands wrapped around a nuclear missile that's been broken in half.

wenjin chen / iStock

IN NOVEMBER, a stray missile from the Russia-Ukraine war landed in Poland, killing two men in their 60s who worked at a grain warehouse. It took several emergency meetings with NATO officials to determine whether Russia had intentionally escalated the war into the region of the Western military alliance. All parties deemed it an “accident.” (The missile came from Ukraine.)

What if that stray missile had a nuclear warhead?

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine must be firmly condemned, as well as his cruel and illegal war with its continued escalation. But accidents happen. Even a limited or regional use of nuclear weapons could have planetary effects, blocking the sun enough to cause a global temperature drop, collapsing crop production, and resulting in massive starvation, according to a report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

As the Poland example shows, today we are facing the most serious nuclear threats since the Cuban missile crisis 60 years ago, which then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said we survived only by luck.

Nuclear weapons raise biblical issues. The continuing survival of God’s creation and the human race cannot rely on just “luck” but instead needs providential intervention. A few weeks before the November missile crisis in Poland, Pope Francis said, “Today, in fact, something we dreaded and hoped never to hear of again is threatened outright: the use of atomic weapons, which even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued wrongly to be produced and tested.”

Kristin Kumpf 12-26-2022
Faded silhouetted illustrations of people against a gray backdrop, who are walking with children and bags in hand.

LenLis / iStock

I KNEW ALMOST immediately it was bad news.

“Maria was separated at the border from her auntie,” my friend said in a phone call. “We don’t know where she is. Her auntie was sent back to Mexico and we think is being held by a drug cartel. They separated them under Title 42.”

I felt sick. Four-year-old Maria (not her real name) and her aunt were fleeing violent circumstances. They arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border to exercise their legal right — protected by both international and U.S. law — to request asylum, as other members of Maria’s family had done prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, everything changed. The Trump administration, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), invoked a rarely used subsection of public health code called Title 42 to close U.S. borders to asylum seekers and unaccompanied children under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID-19. It made that decision against the advice of many public health experts, including some within the CDC, who agreed there was no public health rationale for a ban on asylum seekers as a group. Though the border remained open to truckers, temporary workers, students, and others, border agents turned back asylum seekers to Mexico or their home country.

Adam Russell Taylor 12-26-2022
An illustration of a father reading a book to his son. Other books are spread across a table in the background with a girl looking at an open book.

Illustration by Candice Evers

BLACK HISTORY MONTH traces back to Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which established the second week of February to be “Negro History Week” as a counterbalance to the erasure of Black contributions to U.S. history. Black educators and students at Kent State University created the first Black History Month celebration in 1970, and President Gerald Ford recognized it in 1976, the year I was born. While Black history deserves attention every month, the past few years have provided plenty of evidence for why this month of particular emphasis is still needed. God reminds us in many ways of the dangers of forgetting our history, including the command, “Remember your history, your long and rich history” (Isaiah 46:9, MSG).

As the father of two young Black boys, I spend a lot of time thinking about the role of education in shaping our nation’s future. What our kids learn about the nation and the world from their parents, teachers, and peers profoundly shapes their worldview. That in turn deeply affects the direction our society takes as today’s children become tomorrow’s leaders, activists, and voters. It’s no wonder that education has served as a political battleground at many times throughout our nation’s history — from the Scopes trial over the teaching of evolution to the battles over racial integration in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education.

The Editors 12-26-2022
An illustration of Janes Evans and a German Shepherd over his shoulder, accompanied with a quote: "I want people to think of pet ownership as being as diverse and complex as pets themselves. There is a pet out there for everyone."

James Evans is founder and CEO of Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE), which strives to make animal welfare and rescue more equitable. / Illustration by Tiarra Lucas

ALL THREE FEATURE articles in this issue revolve around issues of power. Jenna Barnett looks at the power wielded by charismatic leaders such as Jean Vanier, one of the founders of the L’Arche communities, and how his power — and a lack of accountability — became a fountainhead of abuse. Mae Elise Cannon, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace, explores the May 2022 killing of Palestinian Christian Shireen Abu Akleh by the Israeli military, a consequence of the massive power imbalance between the State of Israel and the Occupied Territories of Palestine. And Sojourners’ Moya Harris, an itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, looks at the spiritual power of Lauryn Hill and other female rappers who address questions of “sexual power, sexism, embodiment, racism, and economic issues” in their lives and music.

As Christians enter the season of Lent, we reflect on human brokenness and who we are before the cross. Abusive power is not new. But it also does not have the final word, as the people in these stories show.

An illustration of two people in the bottom left corner of the image who are looking up into the night sky, where the Star of Bethlehem pierces through the clouds.

Illustration by Kelly Belter

JANUARY OPENS THE season of Epiphany: In the North, the light begins to last longer, and we reawaken to the world outside our doors. Each Jan. 6, my family performs the old European Epiphany ritual of “chalking the door” to our home. While I pray, my spouse hoists our kids up to write the blessing on our front lintel. This year the markings will look like this: 20+C+M+B+23. Twenty marks the beginning of the year. The letters recall the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) whose visit we celebrate and also the Latin prayer: Christus mansionem benedicat (“May Christ bless the house”). The final number closes out the year. The markings are strange. We’re asked about them often. We recall the great light that led the people out of Egypt, the great star that guided the Magi, and the Holy Family’s hospitality. These signs keep evil spirits out and invite God’s Spirit in. And that’s a lot to explain to the FedEx guy.

But Epiphany is a lot! It invites us to explore the complex roles we play in God’s redemption: our complicity in evil as we reach for the good, our relationship to violence, and how we’ll practice hospitality post-COVID.

In this season we also travel with the community of Jesus-followers at Corinth. Much like them, Christians today have become increasingly divided — even among those who agree on the values of compassion, community, and caring for those most vulnerable. The pandemic has made it difficult to find a vision for how to live out our shared values. What striking illumination will this season bring?

Josina Guess 11-22-2022
A black-and-white photo of poet Lucille Clifton, sitting in a chair wearing black robes and several layered necklaces.

Lucille Clifton, 1995. / Afro American Newspapers / Gado / Getty Images

I was wrapping up some research in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University when I requested a box of Lucille Clifton’s personal writings. I had not come to study Clifton. I was researching anti-lynching activism in Georgia, specifically a 1936 lynching photograph. But by the end of the week, I began turning to Clifton’s personal writing as an oasis. “Resolve to try to fear less and trust more and be healthy,” she wrote in her red Writer’s Digest Daily Diary on December 31, 1979. Clifton was a published children’s book author, memoirist, activist, and the poet laureate of Maryland when she wrote those words. She was also 43, the same age I was that September day. Her body of work, which includes Two-Headed Woman and Blessing the Boats, crossed oceans, told family stories, and revealed both the sting of injustice and the heart of what’s holy.

The day after Clifton resolved to “fear less and trust more and be healthy,” she wrote in her journal that she returned to a house with “no central heat; bad plumbing; and foreclosure.” A few weeks later, the house was auctioned off to the highest bidder. She sat down and wrote something anyway.

Sarah Vincent 11-22-2022
An x-ray image of a faded van Gogh self-portrait, which depicts him in a slight side profile to the camera. Van Gogh has a short beard and is wearing a hat and jacket.

An X-ray image of the hidden van Gogh self-portrait / National Galleries of Scotland

ART CONSERVATIONALISTS RECENTLY discovered a previously unknown Vincent van Gogh painting, a rare find that has excited the art world. On the back of his 1885 portrait “Head of a Peasant Woman,” tucked beneath layers of cardboard and glue, is a hidden self-portrait from early in van Gogh’s career, before he famously cut off his left ear. But the discovery is significant for more than its artistic importance. The hidden self-portrait is symbolic of van Gogh’s larger life and works, illustrating his Christian faith, compassion for the poor, and lifelong struggle with religious rejection.

Van Gogh grew up attending church and wanted to become a clergyman, just like his father, Rev. Theodorus van Gogh. But these hopes were dashed when he was unable to enter religious studies, in part because of behavior considered “eccentric” — a sort of manic shifting of interests. This was an early manifestation of van Gogh’s lifetime of mental health struggles, and the beginning of a complicated relationship with the church.

Felicity White 11-22-2022
An illustration of a mother sitting down in a bathroom breastfeeding her infant. She leans against a wall with green tiles on the bottom section and swirls of orange paint on the top third of the wall.

Illustration by Hannah Lock

What moved me the most was a tiny hand,
like the claw of a cub, pawing at my
rib cage in time to the suckle of his lips.
This beautiful, wild person sustained
by milk drawn from unknown wells within me.
I remember nursing once in the basement
restroom of the zoo’s primate house.
The floor tile was cold — no other place to sit.

Julie Polter 11-22-2022
An illustration of a squirrel hanging upside-down outside a window, looking in and winking at the viewer. A white cloud, blue sky, and river are visible behind the squirrel

Illustration by Melanie Lambrick

I RECENTLY SUFFERED a home invasion by one of the Four Rodents of the Apocalypse, which are mice, rats, squirrels, and something called “roof rats” (rats tired of the climate-change-induced uptick in flooding of sewer-front properties). I was blessed with the deceptively cutest of these four: Squirrels. In. My. Ceiling.

(Reader, I want to be clear that “squirrels in my ceiling” is not a reference to my scattered thoughts but to literal bushy-tailed rodents doing tumbling runs in the crawl space above a bedroom.)

Squirrels strike a rare balance: They are both adorable and terrifying (like some toddlers I know). One day they’re hanging upside down outside the window to say hello or sitting and nibbling on a nut held just so in their wittle paws, so winsome! The next, a squirrel appears out of nowhere as I enjoy a sunny day on my front stoop, its eyes locked on mine. It skitters forward, then freezes. Forward and freeze, forward and freeze, like a glitchy squirrel robot. It is undeterred by “Shoo!” or “What do you want from meeeee?” Staring blankly, it just keeps coming — for the peanuts it imagines are in my pockets? For my soul? Or are there now flesh-eating squirrels? I run inside and lock the door.

An illustration of a woman in the background of a desert trail looking at an unseen figure in the foreground; only the silhouetted bare feet of the foreground figure are shown.

Illustration by Hokyoung Kim

APRIL 2019. On the second day of our 65-kilometer walk on the Jesus Trail in Galilee, I began feeling dizzy and faint. Berry, my hiking partner, told me to drink more water. That helped, and we were able to make our way from Nazareth to our next stop in Cana, site of a wedding Jesus attended.

But the Jesus Trail continued, often on narrow stony paths speckled with animal droppings, up and down hillsides, across streams of springtime water where thistles grew over our heads, through meadows of waist-high grasses, and finally up and over Mount Arbel leading down to the Sea of Galilee. Our destination was Capernaum, site of Jesus’ headquarters during his ministry.

Exhausted at the end of our hike and with blistered feet, I turned to Mark’s gospel. Already in 1:21, Jesus “went to Capernaum”; the next morning he “went to a deserted place to pray” (verse 35). Then he “went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message” (verse 39). I will never read the words, “Jesus went” the same way again. Not by horse, carriage, automobile, train, or plane. Not communicating by telegram, radio, phone, email, YouTube, or Zoom. Just trudging by dusty, sandaled feet, bereft of Nikes!

‘Lords of the world’

SINCE THAT HIKE, I have been pondering the Incarnation. Was it necessary for the Infinite One to go that far down? To be born a lower-class, brown-skinned, black-haired Middle Eastern Jew whose only means of transport was by scratched and calloused feet? To live under an enemy occupation determined to keep its subjects poor and politically powerless?