Changed by Challenge

Scripture: Genesis 32:22-30

My full given name is “Obadiah Zarephath Ballinger”. It barely fits on a driver’s license. When we had to put our names at the top of our papers in elementary school, I was always the last person done. I didn’t know how to spell my middle name for the longest time, so I used to spell it “Zero-path”.

To know my name is to very quickly know something of the story of my life. Because as soon as I tell someone my name, questions or comments arise, and the story of its origin generally comes out. Some of you know that I was born and raised in a cult. I got my name from the cult leader. Like many of the other children I grew up with, my name came from where this man’s finger landed at random in the Bible. Whatever page it landed on, parents were told that was God’s choice for a newborn’s name. And here’s the thing: despite all the other malarkey of the cult,
I believe that there might have been a divine hand in my name. Because Obadiah means “servant of God”–my vocation named before I could ever have chosen it for myself. The name “Obadiah” holds my history and my identity in just one word.

Continue reading “Changed by Challenge”

God Has Brought Laughter

Scripture: Genesis 18:1-15; 21:1-7

Something amazing is happening in Chicago this year. The Chicago Cubs look like they’re going to the playoffs! To put this in perspective, remember that the Cubs have not won a World Series in 106 years. Most people here could not possibly have seen the Cubs even compete in baseball’s top series, because the last time the Cubs went to the World Series was seventy years ago. But this year, the “Lovable Losers” are almost certainly headed to the playoffs, and they even look strong enough to go deep into the competition. Could 2015 actually, possibly, conceivably be the year that they go all the way, even winning the World Series??

Continue reading “God Has Brought Laughter”

We are ‘Adam

Scripture: Genesis 2:4b-25

When was the last time you cut open a ripe watermelon? Not the pale pre-cut cubes you get in plastic at the grocery store. I mean a whole huge melon, dark-green from the late summer sun and heavy with juice? Sliding a sharp stainless steel knife into a perfect round melon you are Galileo, discovering otherworldly beauty. As the sides of a fresh watermelon fall open on the cutting board, the dark pink inside turns itself out for all the earth to marvel at. An aroma of sweet summer rises from the cut, hundreds of black seeds lie hidden in orderly rows, the ripe sugars are already almost in crystal form, and an ample rind provides green armor for the treasure within.

Continue reading “We are ‘Adam”