Forty-five years ago I dissected a frog. I say that not by way of confession but to examine a paradox. As is common in secondary science curriculum, during the unit on anatomy one dissects something. At Lexington High School, Lexington, Alabama, we were not so exalted as to warrant fetal pigs so we tackled the more prosaic amphibian.
The lab reeked of thermaldohyde as we took up scalpels and performed exploratory surgery on the supine corpse. The exercise was informative as to vascular systems and the ordering of bodily functions. At the end of the smelly process by my station there was a small pile of frog parts. I had learned a lot but the frog wouldn’t hop.
If you want to really know a frog you need to see it hop.
European Tree Frog
Dissecting a frog is analogous to studying scripture. I have spent my adult life studying scripture: parsing, comparing, and dissecting Holy Writ in service of sermons, lectures and articles. As illuminating as that has been there is a danger that what is gained in insight is at the expense of the living experience. Experience is as we say, “hands-on” while reflection and theories of meaning are abstract. When we begin to explain we are no longer experiencing, having moved from “hand to head.”
This brings me again to the knot I am worrying these days. What is needed must move us beyond mere “frog data” to “frog hopping.” How do we hop? We take up those ancient practices that formed the first Christians in faith that the Holy Spirit that led them into truth will do the same for us. JWS
Recently I found a new title on Dove Booksellers, “Forsaken Firstborn” a study of how God seems to choose the “wrong” one rather than the one that should be the heir. We find this pattern in the Old Testament. God chooses Isaac over Ishmael. Jacob is chosen over Esau, his twin, even thought he is a stinker. Judah is chosen over his older brothers to be the father of the principal tribe of Israel. Joseph is chosen over his older brothers to be the one to deliver his family even though his brothers reject him. Jacob then blesses the younger of Joseph’s sons to be the chosen son.
Jacob Blessing his Grandsons – C V Vos
As an oldest son I hope that senior birth order is not always the source of perdition and divine rejection. However this does seem to point to the spontaneous, creative and even, if I may say, playful nature of God who makes leaders out of cowards and elders of the deceitful. It gives me hope. Then a thought seized me that I had never thought before. Jesus, the first born, the beloved, was abandoned on the cross. Here the divine pattern is played out in a cosmic way. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” is the cry not just of Jesus but also of all the forsaken firstborn.
We are the descendents of Adam the firstborn yea even the forsaken firstborn alienated by sin. Jesus became for the forsaken firstborn. If that were the end of the story it would be a tragedy. But it is not the end of the tale. Jesus is not the forsaken firstborn he is the firstborn of those that sleep. His resurrection is for the forsaken firstborns and all those who have wasted their inheritance (and we all have) in the far country. The good news is that like Jacob the heel grabber who was reconciled with his forsaken older brother Esau, we too are reconciled by the death of Jesus who died as the forsaken firstborn, risen from the dead that we too might not be forsaken but have not only life in the age to come but life and that life full in this present time. Praise be to God who gives us the victory.