Timshel Take Up Thy Cross…

1st Edition Cover

1st Edition Cover

The birth of a baby is a grand event. All that possibility without any of the cost resides in that crib.  An American myth is that any child can grow up to be President of the United States! The shadow of that is that someone grows up to be the godfather of organized crime. All parents must consider the future with at least notions of growing old surrounded by generations of loving descendents.

Eve and Adam were not comforted in their old age by their progeny. We don’t know where they moved after Eden but eating the fruit of opposites had opened their eyes. What they saw was hardly worth it as things went from bad to worse. The terrible consequences of taking on more freight than humans were constructed to bear devolved into tragedy.

The young Adamson boys had great promise.  For reasons not obvious to the reader God accepted the blood sacrifice of Abel but not the vegetable offering of Cain.  Cain’s face “fell” the text tells us. In Genesis 4:6 God tells Cain that evil is crouching at the door to take him and he must resist it. Of course he does not resist it. He kills his brother.

 Go find a copy of the 1955 film of the Steinbeck Movie East of Eden. The author and filmmaker masterfully display the tension between the brothers and their gifts and their needs for approval. But the death of the younger brother is not the end of the story. Look up the scene in the Garden where the brothers vie for the attentions of a young woman.  It is brilliant film making. But then the novel is celebrated as perhaps the “great American novel.”  Get a copy.  Good reading.

James Dean

James Dean

“Although one of the fundamental ideas in East of Eden is that evil is an innate and inescapable human problem, the novel also sets forth hope that each individual has the freedom to overcome evil by his or her own choice. This idea of free choice is encapsulated in the Hebrew word timshel, the meaning of which Adam’s housekeeper, Lee, has researched. The word, which translates to “thou mayest,” appears in the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible, when God tells Cain that he has the freedom to choose to overcome sin. Lee sees this idea of free will as central to the human condition—in fact, he says that timshel might be the “most important word in the world.” [Sparknotes.com]


Christ Healing the Leper – Icon

In Luke 5:12 a leper said to Jesus that he could heal him if he wanted to.  “I want to,” replied Jesus touching him and making him whole.  Hans Kung in his book Christianity speaks of the basic model of Jesus that echoes timshel”Jesus Christ represents a basic model of a view of life and a way of life which can be realized in many ways.  He is in person, both positively and negatively, the invitation (You may), the call (You shall) and the challenge (You can) for the individual and society. Specifically, he makes possible:

  • A new basic orientation and basic attitude,
  • New motivations, dispositions and actions,
  • A new horizon of meaning and the identification of a new goal.

The key New Testament concept of Christian ethics is discipleship of Christ. This of course is exactly what many have taken up at Saint John’s with Renewal Work. Many have heard the invitation, YOU MAY, in Saint John’s Reads. Regular Bible reading moves our soul such that we then may well hear the call; YOU SHALL, to come and follow Jesus more closely and consistently.  Like morning after night we  hear the challenge, YOU CAN! For what God desires from us he gives us grace for the doing.



John W. Sewell

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