Monthly Archives: March 2013

Thursday-Friday devotional, part 8

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to the Easter.

People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “ Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself and come down from that cross!”

In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him. From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”


“My God, My God, why have you left me?” I’ve wondered the same thing.  “Why?” is a common question that is posed to God.  All too often the answer is left unanswered.  Some may find it disconcerting to think of Jesus asking this question while on the cross.  How can God abandon Jesus?  If they are one in the same, how is this possible?

Tomes have been written on the subject by people more learned and articulate than me.    So we discover another “Why” question in the midst of the ultimate “Why?”  There are a lot of explanations to Jesus’ cry.  Whole sects and heresies have risen and fallen based on different answers to this question.  In seminary, this is the part of the class that started throwing out words like “Neo-Platanism, Gnostics, and Arianism.”  This was the part of the class that my eyes got glossy, and I longed for the next coffee break.

I value my seminary education, and cherish every moment I spent immersed in the transformative learning that I experienced in seminary, yet I admit I am no Biblical scholar.  I would fail miserably as a seminary professor.

I speak only as a man of faith when I say that Jesus’ cry on the cross haunts me and comforts me.  It is both a great source of humility and a source of strength.  For one, I know the Psalm which Jesus is quoting.  When he cries out “Why have you left me?” he is quoting Psalm 22.  It is as if he is shouting out the title of a song, which starts with loss, isolation, and abandonment, but ends with assurance, comfort, and victory.

It is entirely possible that in Jesus’ last cry the whole of the Psalm is captured.  And thus, the whole of Jesus’ mission.  It is a call forward, not just of despair, but of promise that out of despair God will raise us up.  Psalm 22 is a promise to all generations, to the future people of God that God will be present.  Given the fact that crucifixion is meant to wipe out one’s future legacy, this is a bold statement.  To claim Psalm 22 is to claim the promise of God even in the midst of apparent loss.

I also feel though, that I have to be careful to not read too much into Jesus’ cry.  It is, on surface, a cry of lamentation.  I have to ask myself, is it okay to leave it that way?  Is it okay to leave Jesus on the cross alone and forsaken?  Is it okay to leave Jesus a man that is facing his own mortality as any other man would?  Is it okay to have a Savior that was that vulnerable?  Is it okay to let Jesus be abandoned?

When I have fallen on my knees in shame, when I have pounded the ground in despair, when I have let myself be vulnerable, only to be taken advantage of and wounded, when I have screamed at the top of my lungs in agony, is it okay?  There is a part of me that finds it reassuring to know that Jesus is not high up on a cross, dying with quiet dignity, above the fray.  I am comforted in knowing that when I am at my lowest, Jesus is there too.  When I feel beaten, battered, and bruised, I pray to a God who knows what I feel.  I pray to a God that has died with me.  When I scream at God in despair, I know that I do so in good company.  I am not going to be offered easy answers.  I am simply going to have a Savior that wraps his arms around me and whispers, “I am with you.”  And I will know that he speaks from experience.


My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? It is a question I have asked before, and if I am honest, it is one I will surely ask again.  Even in my asking I know that it will never really be true.  Even in my struggle I know that you are always present, and for that I am forever grateful.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 7

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to Easter.

Mark 15:16-28.  The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters, and they called together the whole company of soldiers. They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!”

Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.  Simon, a man from Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus’ father, was coming in from the countryside. They forced him to carry his cross.

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left


Crucifixion was more than a death penalty.  It was total annihilation.  The purpose of crucifixion was to remove a person from existence.  By stripping a man naked, flogging him until he was covered with blood, hanging him on public display along a popular path, the Roman authorities knew that the one crucified would be wiped from consciousness.  Those crucified were made permanently unclean.  

No one could touch them from the moment they were hung, and yet no one could turn away.  Adam Hamilton, in his gripping Bible study 24 Hours that Changed the World, explains that one being crucified was not hanging high, isolated from those passing by.  The elevation of the cross, he claims, was actually only about 9 feet.  Jesus’ head would have been lower than a basketball hoop.  His majority of his naked, beaten, bloody, body would have been at eye level.

The humiliation of this death was complete.  It was meant to rob a person not only of his present life, but of his past and of his future.  There would be no legacy for those crucified.  The pain was such that memory would be purged.  The words and deeds of the crucified could not be remembered.  The loved ones and relatives of the crucified one would never claim him.  Crucifixion was a physical, emotional, and spiritual death.

This is what Jesus faced.  The Gospel of Mark does not soften the blow.  There are no redemptive words of forgiveness, as we have in Luke.  There is no tender moment of compassion, nor determined strength of a man carrying his own cross, as we have in John.  There is only a man too weak to carry on.  There is a only a man that is hung with outlaws, spat on and mocked.  There is no dignity in this death.  There is nothing good on this Friday.

On some level, this needs to be the message of Good Friday.  Allow that irony in that name sink in.  Allow the questions.  Allow the sadness.  Allow the reality of injustice hit you with all of its force.  The world is broken, and there is no greater evidence to that fact than the cross on Golgotha where a man was led to die.  God was made flesh, and we crucified him.  That is all we need to know about the human condition.


My soul cries out to thee, O Lord.  Out of the depths do I cry.  The injustice of this world is crippling.  It is paralyzing.  When I ponder for a moment the injustice and cruelty that people are capable, it causes me to tremble.  Tremble.  Tremble.  I seek no quick fixes or easy answers.  I seek only comfort and a promise that this is not the end of the story. Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 6

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to the Easter.

Mark 15:1-15  At daybreak, the chief priests—with the elders, legal experts, and the whole Sanhedrin—formed a plan. They bound Jesus, led him away, and turned him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “ Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus replied, “That’s what you say.” The chief priests were accusing him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? What about all these accusations? ” But Jesus gave no more answers, so that Pilate marveled.

During the festival, Pilate released one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. A man named Barabbas was locked up with the rebels who had committed murder during an uprising. The crowd pushed forward and asked Pilate to release someone, as he regularly did. Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”  He knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of jealousy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead. Pilate replied, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, so he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.


I’ve heard all my life that Jesus was sent to die for our sins.  It is such an important part of the American Christian ethos that it is usually said uncritically.  “Jesus died on the cross for me.”  For some, this just rolls off the tongue without much thought, and when people do think about it, they think only of their own sin.  It becomes a very privatized way of thinking of Jesus.  And while I am not opposed to thinking that Jesus died on the cross for me, I can’t think it uncritically.  Something about this passage doesn’t sit right.

If I am to believe that Jesus came to die on the cross for me, than why I am so upset when I read about this exchange?  If Jesus’ mission was to die on the cross, then isn’t it a good thing that the people chose to save Barabbas?   Then why does reading this fill me with regret?  Why do I get frustrated with the suddenly neutered Pilate who just wants to appease the crowd?  There are a lot of ways to understand what happened when Jesus died on the cross.  One of them is to believe that Jesus came to die on the cross for me.  But this just doesn’t sit well as the only explanation.  If it was, then this scene wouldn’t be heart-wrenching.

Here’s another way to understand what happened here.  Jesus came to announce “God’s good news; saying; ‘Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!'” (Mark 1:15) He announced it to fishermen, interrupting their lives even in the midst of a catch.  He was so compelling that the set aside full nets to follow.  He proclaimed it to the demon-possessed, to the lepers, the sinners and the tax-collectors.  He gathered followers along the Judean countryside by forgiving sins, feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked.  He reached out to women and children.  He healed on the Sabbath. He calmed the storms, fed the multitudes, and redefined what it meant to be holy.  He looked beyond the letter of the law and revealed to the people the heart of God.  For all of this, and for upsetting the powers that be, he was condemned.

He was given a mockery of a trial, and taken to the Roman authority to be dealt with.  He was condemned to death, not because God needed him to die, but because we could not allow him to live.  In our brokenness, humanity clung to old ways of knowing about power.  They clung to a system that subjugated a people.  They clung to an institution that robbed the widows’ of their houses.  They clung to the power of the sword and the Pax Romana, as enforced by the Legionnaire’s spear.  How tightly do we still cling?

When given a choice between Jesus or Barabbas they chose.  They chose the man that had committed murder during an insurrection.  They chose the sword.  They chose the power of the world.  They chose the one that would try to overthrow Caesar by the only method that they understood.  And in that choice lays the ultimate tragedy of our existence. When humanity had the choice between the Kingdom of God and the power of the world, they chose the world.  When given the chance to save the man that taught them to “love their enemy,” they chose the man that murdered his enemy.

They made the choice then, and it is the choice we continue to make.  Every time we choose to hold onto bitterness and anger. Every time we refuse to reconcile. Every time we turn a blind eye to injustice and suffering.  Every time we condemn another to make ourselves feel safe. Every time we choose the way of the world, we choose Barabbas.  And we may as well be shouting “Crucify him!”


Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.  Hear our cries for redemption.  As you go closer to the cross, we see our own complicity.  I want to be blind no longer.  Open my eyes that I may see not only the cross, but the path that led you to that cross.  Open my eyes not only to the cross, but to the hope that lies beyond it.  Keep that hope alive in me on this journey.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 5

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to the Easter.

Mark 14:53-72

 They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders, and legal experts gathered. Peter followed him from a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the guards, warming himself by the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they couldn’t find any. Many brought false testimony against him, but they contradicted each other. Some stood to offer false witness against him, saying, “We heard him saying, ‘I will destroy this temple, constructed by humans, and within three days I will build another, one not made by humans.’” But their testimonies didn’t agree even on this point.

Then the high priest stood up in the middle of the gathering and examined Jesus. “Aren’t you going to respond to the testimony these people have brought against you?” But Jesus was silent and didn’t answer. Again, the high priest asked, “ Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed one?”

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Human One sitting on the right side of the Almighty and coming on the heavenly clouds.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? You’ve heard his insult against God. What do you think?”

They all condemned him. “He deserves to die!” Some began to spit on him. Some covered his face and hit him, saying, “ Prophesy! ” Then the guards took him and beat him.

Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed. The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” But he denied it again.

A short time later, those standing around again said to Peter, “You must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.” But he cursed and swore, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” At that very moment, a rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered what Jesus told him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down, sobbing. (Common English Bible)

A widow's mite is now on sale for $29.95.  Seriously, I'm not making that up.

A widow’s mite is now on sale for $29.95. Seriously, I’m not making that up.

Why did the chief priests and scribes want Jesus dead?  The Gospel of Mark makes it clear.  Follow the money.  The chief priests and scribes operated as a part of the institution of the Temple that kept them in power.  It was an institution that kept them comfortable, but it was a precarious situation.  The chief priests had to keep the people coming, buying doves, changing money, and making sacrifices.  At the same time, they had to keep Rome appeased, lest they get removed.  The major charge against Jesus in his trial is that he threatened the Temple.  He threatened their power, status, and comfort.  For this, he had to be removed.

In the Gospel of Mark Jesus goes to the Temple shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, and leaves without incident (11:11).  The next day, Jesus sees a fig tree and curses it for not having any fruit.  The next scene is Jesus again going into the Temple.  This time he drives out those who were “selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.”  Intentionally waiting until there would be a crowd, Jesus disrupts business at the temple.  Mark explains that it is after this scene that the chief priests and scribes decide they have to kill him.  He is costing them money.  The next day, the fig tree that Jesus had cursed is withered.  The fig tree and the Temple are the same.  Jesus sets himself against the Temple authority.  He disrupts the institution that has been built up around the temple.  Later, he denounces the Scribes for “having the best seats in the synagogues,” as they “devour widows’ houses.”

It is immediately after this denunciation that he sees the widow making an offering in the Temple.  This was an illustration of how the scribes “devoured widows’ houses.”  When he foretells the destruction of the Temple, it is in reaction to a system that kept some in poverty so that others may be comfortable.  When they left the Temple, the disciples marveled at its grandeur.  All he saw was a pile of stones, ready to be reduced to rubble. He knew that it only stood on the whim of the Romans.  It was God’s power that he was concerned with, not adroitly straddling a fine line between comfort and destruction.  The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed was not one of huge buildings and massive armies.  This was the only kind of kingdom that the people understood, but he was seeking a different kind of Kingdom.

For this. the chief priests and scribes feared Jesus.  They feared him because he was stirring things up.  They feared him because he was a threat to their wealth and comfort.  They feared him because they saw through their pomp and grandeur.  He saw through their hypocrisy. He saw through their empty ritual, their heartless sacrifice, and their religious trappings.  He saw through them, and that was frightening.

It can be an uneasy feeling when someone looks through the shell and sees the soul.  That kind of vulnerability can unleash emotions.  It can unleash something unpredictable, and downright frightening.  In the chief priests, it unleashed an inhuman rage directed at an innocent man.

I wonder sometimes, what kind of response would it unleash in me?


Fear is a powerful emotion, O God.  Help me to understand my fear, and name it.  Help me to be honest with myself and with you.  Comfort me in my struggle, and forgive me in my own hypocrisy.  Lead me to a better place, and a higher calling.  Take me to the kingdom that cares not for comfort or trappings.  Help me rest in thee.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 4

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to the Easter.

Mark 14:32-51

Jesus and his disciples came to a place called Gethsemane. Jesus said to them, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John along with him. He began to feel despair and was anxious. He said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell to the ground. He prayed that, if possible, he might be spared the time of suffering. He said, “ Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

He came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “ Simon, are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay alert for one hour? stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, he left them and prayed, repeating the same words.  And, again, when he came back, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open, and they didn’t know how to respond to him. He came a third time and said to them, “ Will you sleep and rest all night? That’s enough! The time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let’s go! Look, here comes my betrayer.”

Suddenly, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came with a mob carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests, legal experts, and elders. His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss, and take him away under guard.”

As soon as he got there, Judas said to Jesus, “Rabbi!” Then he kissed him. Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him. One of the bystanders drew a sword and struck the high priest’s slave and cut off his ear.  Jesus responded, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me, like an outlaw? Day after day, I was with you, teaching in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.” And all his disciples left him and ran away.  One young man, a disciple, was wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked. (Common English Bible)


I’ve written before on this blog that Gethsemane is the most important part of the gospel story to me.  It is the linchpin of the gospels.  It is the moment that starts the passion.  If you enter the story for the first time, then the ending is still up in the air until Gethsemane.  While in the garden, Jesus still has options.  He could run.  He could go into hiding.  He could gather arms. He could resist the mob coming to get him.  The men that he was with might not have been able to stay awake, but they probably would have been willing to fight.  The options for Jesus are open while he prays in the garden, but he also knows clearly which path is the way of God.

He wishes there to be another way.  He wants to avoid the pain, humiliation, and torture that comes with the cross.  He was a man.  He was a man that could suffer.   He knows that his mission lies not in running away.  His mission lies not in fighting.  His mission is that of standing up and facing what the crowd would throw at him.  It is in the garden that he stands up for what he had lived for.  He stands up, and chooses the will of God.  The rest of the story is decided when Jesus stands in the garden and faces his betrayer.

It is not an easy story to hear, but it is one we must face if we are to truly understand the extent of humanity’s ability to do evil.  It is one we must face if we are to see the extent God is willing to go for love.  It is one we must face if we are to catch a glimpse of just how amazing grace really is.


Holy and Gracious God, it is easy to become weary.  We seem to live in a constant state of tiredness.  The world presses in on us.  Fears and doubts wear us out.  It would be so welcome to lie down and sleep.  You remind us though, to stay awake.  Strengthen us to stand up when it is needed.  Help us to stand up for justice.  Help us to stand up for grace.  And when we fall asleep, wake us up, and help us rise again.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 3


Mark 14:23-31 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. I assure you that I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way in God’s kingdom.’ After singing songs of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will all falter in your faithfulness to me. It is written, I will hit the shepherd  and the sheep will go off in all directions. But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’

Peter said to him, ‘Even if everyone else stumbles, I won’t.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘I assure you that on this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’  But Peter insisted, ‘If I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.’ And they all said the same thing.”


Communion is our family meal.  It is the time for Christians to come to Christ’s table and share in the saving work of God.  There are a lot of ways to do it.  Some try to make sure certain words are said, or certain bread is used.  Sometimes there are arguments over how often it should be done.  There are most serious disagreements about who should be allowed to come.  Should children?  Should the unbaptized?  Should the non-members?  Should those that vote for pro-choice candidates?

When I read the story of Jesus’ last supper, I see no boundaries.  I see no filters.  I see no rules.  I see simply a man gathered with his friends.  I see sinners.  I see a betrayer.  I see a denier.  I see a tax collector.  I see fishermen.  I see rich men.  I see men that know only that they want to follow Jesus, though even they might not be sure why.  I see love, fellowship, wonder, fear, and community.  It is an imperfect community, made perfect through love.

I love Communion. I love having that piece of bread placed in my hands.  I love sweet taste of the bread mixing with grape juice.  I love to let it sit in my mouth so I can savor it.  I breath deeply, eyes shut, so I can tune every sense into this one thing that I am doing.  I do not know what exactly I’m doing when I eat from Jesus’ bread and drink from Jesus’ cup.  It is a mysterious ritual that still astounds me.

Is it symbolic? No – that word seems too flimsy.  This is more than symbol that I hold in my mouth.  It is more than symbol that fills me with hope and power, humility and awe.

Is it changed atomically? No – My scientific mind knows that it remains bread and grape juice.  I am not participating in some magical cannibalistic ritual.

Is it really Christ’s body and really Christ’s blood?  I’m not sure how to answer that, but I’m okay with living in the mystery that something about Communion is real.  Something about it connects me to Jesus himself.  That table stretches across time and space, and there is room for the saints of the ages.  There is room for the sinners that come together.  There is room for the betrayers and the deniers.  There is room for the tax collector and the Pharisee.  There is room for the young and the old. There is room for the rich and the poor.  There is room.

It is our family meal.  It is a time to share in God’s saving work in the world, and that work is real.


Jesus, you have called us together to your table.  In the act of breaking bread, you invite us to be your companion.  In the sharing of the cup you offer forgiveness.  I am humbled by your invitation, and strengthened by your grace.  Fill me with your love, and empower me with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 2


Mark 14:12-22 “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, the disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?’  He sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city.  A man carrying a water jar will meet you.  Follow him.  Wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks, ‘Where is my guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?'” He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished.  Prepare for us there.’  The disciples left, came into the city, found everything just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.

That evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.  During the meal, Jesus said, ‘I assure you that one of you will betray me – someone eating with me.’

Deeply saddened, they asked him, one by one, ‘It’s not me, is it?’

Jesus answered.  It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping bread with me into this bowl.  The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him.  But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.'”


There is much debate over whether or not Jesus’ last meal was a Passover meal as we envision it.  While the historical likelihood that what Jesus and his disciples did had any resemblance to a modern Passover Seder is low, it is clear that Mark’s gospel wanted to show the last supper was connected to the Passover.   My understanding of the Passover meal is that it is a re-presentation of God’s saving work as found in Exodus.

A modern Passover Seder is full of symbolism, reading, prayer, and meaning.  All of it has the purpose of pointing to the fact that God saved the Hebrews from slavery.  God stood by the promises made to Abraham.  God stood with a people that were oppressed.  God stood against the greatest power the world had ever known – and triumphed.  This is the message of Passover, and this is the message of Jesus’ last meal as well.   This is the parallel that Mark is trying to convey.

During the meal Jesus announces that one will betray him.  He announces that the betrayer is there, and that he is one with whom he will dip bread.  This tells us two things.  Jesus knew Judas would betray him.  Jesus ate with him anyway.  And not only did he eat with him anyway, but he sat next to him.  Otherwise, how could they have dipped the bread together?

Mark does not tell us when Judas leaves, but we know that they started the meal together.  Jesus knew what Judas was thinking, and still he broke bread with him.  Still he offered him friendship.  Still, they dipped the bread together.  I can only imagine the heartache that Jesus must have been feeling.  Some read Jesus’ words toward Judas as words of reproach, vengeance and anger.  That’s not how I read them.

Instead, I hear Jesus words as sorrowful.  I hear them wishing that his betrayer would change his mind, but knowing that he won’t.  I hear Jesus giving Judas one last warning – “you’re going to regret it,” not as a threat, but as a heartfelt plea.  I see Jesus heartbroken that the time they spent together hadn’t been enough.  The words, the healing, the signs and wonders – none of it had been enough.  Still Judas didn’t understand.  Truthfully, none of them did.

Sometimes I wonder if I do.  Sometimes I wonder if I realize just how much Jesus loves me.  How many times has Jesus seen me and wished he could change my heart.  How many times has he seen me on the precipice of betrayal and screamed, “Don’t do it!” Only to be ignored.

Still, he invites me to this table.

Still, he calls me to his side.

Still, he breaks bread and shares it with me.

Me. Still.



Jesus, friend and teacher, you prepare a place for me still.  You invite me to your table still.  Still, I fail.  Still, I fall.  Still, I cry to you.  Please don’t stop calling.  Amen.

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Thursday-Friday Devotional, part 1

The next few posts are going to be a running devotional, reading through the Gospel of Mark, with short commentary and prayer.  I will post several of these over the next few days, leading up to Easter.
"They promised to give him money"

“They promised to give him money”


Mark 14:10-11 “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money.  So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him” (New Revised Standard Version)


What motivated Judas to betray Jesus?  In Matthew, it seems as if Judas is looking for some kind of gain in order to betray Jesus.  In Mark, the reward money seems like an afterthought.  In both Luke’s and John’s gospel, the blame is placed on Satan, who enters Judas.  The passage we find in Mark comes immediately after a story of a nameless woman that anoints Jesus was very expensive ointment.  During this exchange, “some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?’… and they scolded her.”  John’s gospel names Judas as the one that was angry, “not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief” (John 12:6).

So what do we make of Judas?  Was he possessed by the devil, not acting of his own accord?  Was he under some sort of demonic control?  Was he simply scheming for a way to make a little money?  Was he, as some posit, disappointed that Jesus was not gathering an army?  We don’t know what motivated Judas, but when I read “Satan entered him,” I understand this to mean that Judas was tormented.  I may not understand how or why Judas betrayed his friend, but it seems clear that Temptation overwhelmed him.

And I understand that.  I understand what it means to fall.  I understand what it means to fail someone I love.  I understand what it means to come up short when tested.  I may never know the heart of Judas. I don’t need to. I know my own.


Holy and gracious God, I have betrayed you.  I have forgotten your commands.  I have ignored your pleas.  I have turned away from the path that Jesus has shown us, and chosen my own path.  Forgive me.  Strengthen me in my weariness.  Though I do not deserve it, I seek the power of your love, forgiveness, and grace. Amen.

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2013 Mascot Bracket

The 2014 Mascot Bracket is out.

Welcome to the Fifth Annual Mascot Bracket.  This has become one of my favorite posts of the year.  It has also become one of my most popular.  If you don’t know what the Mascot Bracket is, then you’ve been missing out on the greatest formula for picking the winner of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.  Instead of picking the winner of each game based on silly things like the talent of the players, experience of the coaches, or the complexities of match-ups  the Mascot Bracket picks the winners based on this:  Which mascot would win in a fight?

There are some important rules to follow.  The rules seem cut-and-dry, but like the Levitical code, the interpretation of these rules can get messy.

If you want to compete with the Mascot Bracket, join this free yahoo group.

The rules

  1. When determining the winner, origins of the nickname are of primary importance (see Blue Devils and Jayhawks).  Current official mascots are used to find out needed details, such as whether or not the mascot is armed, and for disambiguation, such as which type of Aggie?
  2. Inanimate objects, e.g. colors and plants, always lose to animate objects.
  3. Predators beat non-predators and unarmed humans.
  4. Humans beat non-predators.
  5. Humans with weapons beat predators.
  6. Humans with weapons beat humans without weapons.
  7. Humans with superior technology/weapons/training win.
  8. Supernatural beings and killer weather systems defeat human warriors.
  9. Many animals, especially birds and fish, can survive devastating storms.
  10. If the schools have the same mascot, then the higher seed wins.
  11. Prepositions lose to everything. (See explanation of What’s a Hoya)
  12. Don’t turn your back on bears.

Midwest Region

First Round

16 North Carolina A&T Aggies def. 16 Liberty Flames. Right off the bat, there is a tough one.  Aggies are always one of the hardest mascots to pin down.  On the most basic level, an Aggie is simply someone involved in agriculture.  The problem is the “Aggie” is one of the most inconsistent mascots there is.  There are seven schools that are Aggies. Delaware Valley College uses a ram.  New Mexico State uses a guy with a lasso or gun, depending on which logo you use.  Oklahoma Panhandle State uses a slick-looking guy riding a horse. Texas A&M uses Lassie.  UC Davis uses a horse.  Utah State has a anthropomorphised bull.  North Carolina A&T’s Aggie is a bulldog.  So, do I use a farmer, or a bulldog?  Liberty doesn’t make it any eaiser.  A flame is pretty non-descript.  A flame could be a raging fire or a match stick.  Their mascot though, is an Eagle (a flaming Eagle?).  In Bulldog vs Eagle, I pick the bulldog.   This might be disputable, but bulldogs are tough SOBs.  They were bred to fight wild boars and bears.  BEARS.

11 St. Mary’s Gaels def. 11 Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.  If you watch this little video, you learn that at one time the mascot for the MTSU was some guy dressed up as Nathan Bedford Forrest.  This is the same man who is largely identified as the founding father of the Ku Klux Klan.  The video says this practice stopped in the 1960s, and that the blue winged horse named “Lightning” was adopted in the 1990s to update the school’s brand.  According to wikipedia, Lightning was the name of Forrest’s horse, but several other sites identify his horse as “King Phillip.”

The St. Mary’s Gael on the other hand, is a tough one.  In its purest sense, a Gael is simply someone from Ireland or Scotland.  The Gael is not inherently armed, nor particularly fierce.  In some sense, I am a Gael, and I would stand no chance in fighting against a pegasus without (or probably with) a weapon.  St. Mary’s though, uses an armored, mounted, knight as their mascot.  This means we are dealing with a fight between an unmanned pegasus and a mounted knight with lance.  This is a clear, if somewhat fantastic, example of rule #5.

Second round

16 North Carolina A&T Aggies def. 1 Louisville Cardinals.  If the bulldog could take out an eagle, a cardinal wouldn’t have  a chance.  A 16 has never beaten a 1.  Earlier in the year, I predicted this is the year that it would happen.

9 Missouri Tigers def 8 Colorado State Rams.  A ram is pretty tough, but the tiger is one of the most fearsome predators on the planet.

Did someone say Movember Madness?

Did someone say Movember Madness?

5 Oklahoma State Cowboys def 12 Oregon Ducks.  The ducks are going to need more than supplemental health insurance after squaring off against a gun-toting Cowboy.  Plus, the Ok State Cowboy features one of the great mascot mustaches of all-time.  This is one of the biggest blowouts of the first round.

13 New Mexico State Aggies def. 4 Saint Louis Billikens.  I swear, the Aggies need their own rule.  As I said before, New Mexico State  features a farmer with either two six-shooters or a lasso.  The Aggies’ mustache could create quite a second-round match up, if they can get by the Billikens.  Which, of course, brings us to one of the most mysterious mascots in all of college sports.   The story behind the billiken involves a sports writer, a Drug store owner, a student artist, a popular lucky charm from the early 20th century and a basketball coach look alike.  While at first glance, the Billiken looks like it might have some magical powers, beyond luck, it seems defenseless.  So Billiken, you’ve got to ask yourself one question.  Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

The Fighting Scooby Doos are up against the perennial power Blue Devils

The Fighting Scooby Doos are up against the perennial power Blue Devils

2 Duke Blue Devils def. 15 Albany Great Danes.  Albany has a unique mascot.  According to, they are the only Great Danes in college sports.  Going into the tournament, I was pulling for the Fighting Scoobies.  Unfortunately, they don’t have much of a chance against the Blue Devils.  Fans of the Mascot Bracket should know by now that the Blue Devils are named for an elite World War I unit that were renowned for their courage.  Before Duke was named after the Blue Devils, they were known by some as “The Methodists,” whose biggest rivals were the Wake Forest “Baptists.”  So, sorry Scooby,  that Blue Devil  is not Old Man Withers from the haunted amusement park.  He’s a well-trained soldier.

10 Cincinatti Bearcats def. 7 Creighton Blue Jays.  While a blue jay is considered a pretty mean bird, it would not stand a chance against the binturong.

Ken Burns' "The Spartans"

Ken Burns’ “The Spartans”

3 Michigan State Spartans vs 14 Valparaiso Crusaders.  This is another tough match-up.  Sparta was a city-state devoted to building soldiers.  Everything in the society contributed to one goal: creating shining, almost chromatic abs (as  seen in Ken Burns’ documentary 300*).  The Crusaders are knights in shining armor.  So here we have the question: Abs of Steel or actual steel?  It is really hard to bet against a Spartan against any human without gunpowder.

11 St. Mary’s Gaels def. 6 Memphis Tigers.  While this would be an interesting match, I have to invoke rule 5 again.

Third Round

8 Missouri Tigers def 16 NC A&T Aggies.  I’m still in awe of the bear-fighting bulldogs, but Tigers are pretty intense.  I mean, clearly Tigers are no match for an Indian kid on a boat with a stick, but still.  I’m going with the Tigers.

13 New Mexico State Aggies def. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys.  The Aggies and the Cowboys are virtually identical.  This looks like a Rule 10 match.  The only discernible difference lies in the quality of their mustache.  While the Oklahoma State Cowboy is unkempt and bushy, the NMSU Aggie could be played by Ron Swanson.

This might be the greatest picture I've ever created.

This might be the greatest picture I’ve ever created.

2 Duke Blue Devils def. 10 Cincinatti Bearcats.  Rule #5

3 Michigan State Spartans def. 11 St. Mary’s Gaels.  For almost the exact same reasons as Michigan State’s second round win.

Regional Semifinals 

13 The Fighting Ron Swansons def. 8 Missouri Tigers.  Afterwards, Ron has tiger meat for dinner.

2 Duke Blue Devils def. 3 Michigan State Spartans.  The abs are glorious, but they cannot stop bullets.

Regional Final: Duke Blue Devils def. New Mexico State Fighting Ron Swansons. “Capitalism is what makes America great, England ok, and France terrible” (Ron Swanson, in Parks and Rec).  The Blue Devils were a French unit in World War I, and while the French now have a terrible military reputation, for centuries the French were the most respected army in the world.  This is a tough call to make, but I have mad respect for the French army in World War I.

South Region

Second Round

The result is the Western Kentucky Hilltopper

The result is the Western Kentucky Hilltopper

1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 16 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.  The Western Kentucky Hilltopper looks like the love child of the Red M&M and Ronald McDonald’s best friend.  If I had to guess the origin of the WKU Hilltoppers, I would have thought it had something to do with a Civil War battle or group of soldiers.  Nope.  According to this article, the Hilltoppers got their name from moving the campus, yes, up a hill.  This means that a Hilltopper is simply a college student carrying a box.  This does not paint the picture of a fierce fighter, but neither does a Jayhawk, which bears a striking resemblance to Foghorn Leghorn.

I say. I say, I say, what is a Jayhawk, boy?

I say. I say, I say, what is a Jayhawk, boy?

The story behind the Jayhawk though, reveals that it is much tougher than that.  The term Jayhawk comes from one of the most tumultuous eras in our nation’s history.  As Kansas approached statehood, there was a great debate over whether it would be a slave or free state.  It was decided that it would be decided by a vote of its citizens.  This resulted in a whole slew of shenanigans from both free-state and slave-state supporters.  Those engaging in the shenanigans became known as Jayhawkers.  No one is quite sure where that term came from.  Eventually though, it became identified with the free-staters.  All of this means that a Jayhawk is someone willing to steal a horse, burn down a house, damage crops, or possibly turn violent.  A Hilltopper is suck-up student carrying some books.

8 North Carolina Tar Heels def. 9 Villanova Wildcats.  There are two stories about where the term Tar Heel came from.  The cooler one is that Robert E. Lee used it to describe a group of North Carolinan soldiers who were so unlikely to retreat that the only explanation was that their heels were stuck to the ground with tar.  This means a Tar Heel is a Civil War soldier, which can shoot a wildcat.

5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams def. 12 Akron Zips. While the Zips use a Kangaroo as their mascot, the origin of the name Zips is actually a shoe.  Zip is short for Zipper, which was the name of a popular shoe from the early 1900s that was made of rubber.  Akron is the rubber capital of the world.  You see the logic? A kangaroo versus a ram would have been a very interesting fight.  A ram against a shoe?

sdsujackrabbits4 Michigan Wolverines vs 13 South Dakota State Jackrabbits.  This is one of the few battles in his bracket that could actually happen in nature.  It would not turn out well for the Jackrabbits.

2 Georgetown Hoyas vs. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.  What’s a hoya? The very question could  be translated as “What’s a what?”  Let’s just say Georgetown’s only hope for advancing in this bracket is to play Ohio State, Harvard, or Syracuse.

10 Oklahoma Sooners def. 7 San Diego State Aztecs.  This one really puts the rules to the test.  Neither the Aztec nor the Sooner is inherently armed.  Neither mascot is depicted with a weapon.  If they could get their hands on some arms, an Aztec would be caught holding a spear while looking down the barrel of a rifle.

14 Northwestern State Demons def. 3 Florida Gators.  An early favorite emerges as the Demon is going to be tough to beat.  There is no origin or explanation to the demon beyond the supernatural.

6 UCLA Bruins vs 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers.  If the gopher is solid gold, it is an inanimate object.  If it just a golden-colored gopher, it gets eaten by the bruin.

Third Round

1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 8 North Carolina Tar Heels.  The Jayhawks eventually became the name of a regiment of Union soldiers in the Civil War.  Not sure if the Union Jayhawks or the Confederate  Tar Heels would win?  I think history tells us this answer.

4 Michigan Wolverines def 5 VCU Rams.  This, to me, feels like a fight between a trained fencer and a MMA brawler.  The ram is incredibly powerful with what he does, but if faced with an angry wolverine, I don’t see it having much of a chance.

10 Oklahoma Sooners def. Florida GC Eagles.  I might be stretching the rules here, but I think a sooner has a weapon.

14 Northwestern State Demons def. UCLA Bruins.  I’m not even sure how this works.  Perhaps the Demon actually possesses the Bruin, takes over its body, and becomes  some sort of super-evil-Bear.

Regional Semifinals

1 Kansas Jayhawks def. 4 Michigan Wolverine. That is assuming that the Jayhawk makes the first shot count.  If he needs two, things could get interesting.

14 Northwestern State Demons def. Oklahoma Sooners.  Even the Sooner’s rifle can’t stop the possessed bear.

Regional Final: Northwestern State Demons defeat Kansas Jayhawks.  This is an unlikely pick, but I have to go with Northwestern STate to make the Final Four.  I’m not sure how a Demon is going to get beaten.

East Region

First Round

Duke of Crowborough. Not sure if he's a fighter.

Duke of Crowborough. Not sure if he’s a fighter.

16 James Madison Dukes def. 16 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.  I don’t know much about Dukes (maybe I need to watch more Downton Abbey), but I’m thinking this guy could handle a blackbird.

1 Indiana Hoosiers def. 16 James Madison Dukes.  The origin of the Hoosiers is clouded in mystery.  There are many theories, but it seems like a Hoosier is simply someone from Indiana.  A Duke, no matter their crown-wearing bulldog mascot, is a level of British royalty.  Neither a Hoosier nor a Duke is inherently armed.  I don’t know any Dukes.  I do know a couple of Hoosiers.  They are good guys, so I’m betting on them, with a touch of rule #10.

8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 9 Temple Owls.  The Wolf Pack has a number advantage.  A pack of wolves is an intimidating force. A lone owl would not stand a chance

5 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels def. 12 California Golden Bears.  Despite Rule 17, I’m going with the Rebels.  That is a mighty big shotgun he’s toting.  And it is an even mightier mustache.

13 Montana Grizzlies def. 4 Syracuse Orange.  Syracuse is an early-round exit every year.  Montana is a perennial Cinderella pick.

2 Miami Hurricanes def. 15 Pacific Tigers.  A Tiger is tough, but I don’t think it can stand up to the winds of a hurricane.

7 Illinois Fighting Illini def. 10 Colorado Buffaloes.  This matchup has some historic roots.  The Native American versus the Tatonka.  The Illini win this battle, but they do so with the utmost respect.  They are good stewards of the gifts the buffalo provides, and they do not put the species at risk by wasteful over-hunting.

Do you want to mess with this guy?

Do you want to mess with this guy?

3 Marquette Golden Eagles def. 14 Davidson Wildcats.  A wildcat is not a very big animal.  An Eagle would have to take more than one swipe, but I think it would wear out the wildcat.

6 Butler Bulldogs def. 11 Bucknell Bison.  A Bison is 2000 pound animal with huge horns on its head.  But it is usually pretty docile.  A Bulldog was bred, as I said before, to hunt wild boars and bears.  In the wild, a Bison doesn’t have many predators, though in my reading I found that a wolf pack could prey on one, and a single wolf has been known to take down a bison.  Bison vs bulldog is a fascinating match.  This cute video of bulldog puppies doesn’t paint a fierce picture of the breed, but I’m still leaning toward the bulldog.

Third Round

Even Harry Hoosier would  lose to a wolf pack

Even Harry Hoosier would lose to a wolf pack

8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 1 Indiana Hoosiers.  Really, the hoosier doesn’t have a lot of hope in the Mascot Bracket.  One student is trying to change that.  This Facebook group is lobbying to change Indiana’s mascot to a Buffalo-looking creature called Howie Hoosier.  It is an uphill battle.  They have 19 members.  Even if Indiana was this strange boxing buffalo, we have already learned that a wolf pack is a natural predator of the Buffalo.

5 UNLV Runnin Rebels def. 13 Montana Grizzlies.  This Rebel better be a good shot.  He took out the Cal Bear in his first game.  He would have to take out the Grizzly to advance to the Sweet 16.

2 Miami Hurricanes def. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini.  Severe weather systems are tough to beat.  The Illini could  wait it out, but it is a pretty formidable foe.

6 Butler Bulldogs def. 3 Marquette Golden Eagles.  If Marquette were still the Warriors (as the CBS announcer incorrectly called them during the Selection Show), they would stand a chance, but Bulldog vs. Eagle was already decided in the Midwest Region.

Regional Semifinals

8 North Carolina State Wolfpack def. 5 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.  The Rebel isn’t going to be able to reload fast enough to take down a whole pack.

2 Miami Hurricanes def. 6 Butler Bulldogs.  Again, it is hard to stand up to a hurricane.

Regional Final: Miami Hurricanes def. North Carolina State Wolfpack.  In the last five years, 187 people in the US have been killed by hurricanes.  20 people have been killed by wolf attacks in the world since 2000.  The Hurricane is clearly more dangerous to humans.  While it is possible to imagine that a couple of wolves could somehow survive a hurricane, thus allowing the pack to survive, I think it’s a long shot.

West Region

First Round

Somebody brought a knife to a gun fight.

Somebody brought a knife to a gun fight.

13 Boise State Broncos def. 13 La Salle Explorers.  The Explorer would be able to see the bronco coming from a distance, so it would not be a surprise attack.  Being prepared probably wouldn’t help him much as the Bronco trampled his jaunty hat.

Second Round

16 Southern Jaguars def. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs.  According to Bleacher Report, the bulldog is the most frequently used mascot in division one sports.  By now, my admiration for the toughness if a bulldog is clear, but a jaguar can weigh up to 300 pounds.  I just don’t see the bulldog standing much of a chance.  My biggest wish though, is that the amazing Human Juke Box would play at halftime and form the score of the game.  That would be sweet.

The Human Juke Box

8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 9 Wichita State Shockers. The Shocker mascot is a bundle of wheat that looks like the merry-go-round operator in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.  A panther is a huge predatory cat that is looking ahead to an epci battle with the jaguar.

5 Wisconsin Badgers def. 12 Ole Miss Rebels.  At first I thought this was a clear case of Rule 5.  Then a closer look reveals that the Ole Miss Rebels is really, um, Old.  He’s an old guy with a cane, not a soldier toting a rifle.  The badger is a nasty little animal that clearly don’t give a care.  I don’t think the cane is going to help.

13 Boise State Broncos def. 4 Kansas State Wildcats.  A wild cat is really not an impressive animal.  If it was a wildcat versus my garbage can lid, I’d pick the cat. I’m going with the bronco on this one.

15 Iona Gaels def. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes.  I hate The Ohio State University.

10 Iowa State Cyclones def. 7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  The end result of this match might be the origin story for how the munchkins came to live in Oz.

3 New Mexico Lobos def. 14 Harvard Crimson.  Colors always lose.

11 Belmont Bruins def. 6 Arizona Wildcats.  Not even a close fight.

Third Round

8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 16 Southern Jaguars.  Jaguars and panthers are pretty much the same animal.  The difference lies in location, habitat, and color.  Ties go to the higher seed.

13 Boise State Broncos def. 5 Wisconsin Badgers.  I just don’t see how a little badger could take down a huge horse.  I think eventually the little crazy honey badger would get trampled.

10 Iowa State Cyclones def 15 Iona Gaels.  The cyclones are sticking with the Celts in the first two rounds.  The Gael won’t do any better than the Fighting Irish.


Probably a photo shop image, but still intriguing.

11 Belmont Bruin def. New Mexico Lobos.  This National Geographic video depicts a stand off between a wolf and a bear in the wild.  The narrator says, the bear “can break a wolf’s back with a single swipe of her paw.”  In the end, the wolves are chased off by the bear.

Regional Semifinals

8 Pittsburgh Panthers def. 13 Boise State Broncos. I just don’t see the horse having enough offense to combat the ferocity of a 300 pound panther.

10 Iowa State Cyclones def. 11 Belmont Bruins.  In meteorological terms, a cyclone is simple a low-pressure weather pattern of swirling clouds.  In common usage though, it is used synonymously with tornado.  A tornado can reach wind speeds of 300 mph, and could toss a brown bear miles in the air.

Regional Final: Iowa State Cyclone def. Pittsburgh Panthers. While survival is possible, I just don’t give the panther a real good shot of making it.

Final Four

final four

Iowa State Cyclones defeat Duke Blue Devils. Again, survival is possible if there is adequate shelter, but in the Mascot Bracket Arena, I don’t see it happening.

Miami Hurricanes defeat Northwestern State Devils. I honestly have no idea how to argue this.  A weather system versus the supernatural entity is the hardest type of Mascot fight to pick.  I think Rule #10 applies here as much as anything.

Miami Hurricanes defeat Iowa State Cyclones.  I’m going with total destructive path on this one.  A cyclone packs a higher top speed, but inflicts damage in a more precise manner.  Hurricanes bring not only wind, but flood waters and affect regions with a much broader stroke.  If we’re looking at the actual mascot, the angry Pelican or the strange whirling Cardinal are not going to win any intimidation contests, but that’s not what I’m looking at.  I guess you could argue that this isn’t really a Mascot bracket so much as it is a nickname contest.  Feel free to comment below.  Just remember, in 2010 the Mascot Bracket won my yahoo group – beating picking all the favorites, Joe Lunardi, my actual picks, and President Obama.  Happy March!

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2012 Mascot Bracket

2011 Mascot Bracket

2010 Mascot Bracket

2009 Mascot Bracket

Also of interest – The Best College Basketball Program Without a National Championship

*Ken Burns did not actually produce the movie 300.


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What does pi sound like?

Happy Pi Day! (3/14)

Happy Pi Day! (3/14)

What does pi sound like? I had never thought of that before seeing this video.  The musician in the video makes each digit correspond to a note on a scale.  He then “plays” pi for 100 digits.  The result is both random and beautiful – which is a perfect description of the number pi.

Pi is an irrational number.  It cannot be expressed by a ratio of two integers.  Instead, it describes the ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle.  It goes on forever in randomness.  According to wikipedia, pi has been extrapolated to 10 trillion digits (that would make for a very long song).

Pi is one of those pursuits that has endless applications.  The more I learn about pi, the more I realize I know very little about it.  I find that there is an incredible beauty in mathematics and things like pi and the lesser-known, but equally impressive phi (1.618).

What is less often discussed when it comes to things like Pi and Phi are the theological implications. Theology and science and mathematics are too often seen as competing interests, but to me these fields are about the search for meaning and truth.  There are certainly distinctions that need to be made between these fields, but treating them as mutually exclusive is a a mistake as well.  They use different tools and methods, but the search for truth is part of what makes us human.

Many see phenomena like pi and think, “there is no need for God.”  I see pi and see a remarkable tool that God created.  I cannot prove that I am correct.  This is a faith statement, and faith is irrational.  That does not make faith un-real.

For me, pi itself is a metaphor for faith.  Pi is a reasonable construct of irrationality.  Its very irrationality is a part of this universe that is full of randomness and chaos.  It is out of chaos that God called things into order.

OK, so now I’m starting to get deeper than I originally intended, but I think this is an interesting conversation.  I am fascinated by math, science, evolutionary biology, anthropology, astronomy, and theology.  They are distinct, but cannot be separated.  I believe that the pursuit of knowledge is a God-inspired pursuit.  Happy Pi Day!

For more about how Religion and Science coexist, I highly recommend this book, What About Religion and Science, by Paul Stroble.  You can follow @PaulStroble on Twitter, and read his blog called Journeys Home.

Another post about the wonder of science.

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