Road to Emmaus–An Easter Story

Road to Emmaus

I could no longer bear the crowds, the sounds,

the smells. Jerusalem had become a place

where dreams were killed and hopes destroyed by

bloody Roman soldiers and godless

religious leaders. Both had lost their

humanity and become void of

compassion. Power and might were all they

desired and sought. Neither could accept

God’s gifts of love and mercy–so, love

and mercy they could never provide.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do,

my friend, Cleopas, and I took the road

back to our home in Emmaus. Our walk

took longer than usual for we were

in no hurry. Where did we need to go

after all? What did we need to do?

While we walked–we talked, we argued, we laughed,

we cried. Had we been foolish to put our

trust, our hopes, our dreams, and yes, our faith

in this one man? Had we only hoped he

had been sent by God? Had we only dreamed

he performed miracles? We marveled at

his teaching but had it all been just a

mirage? Had we been swayed by his

kindness? His mercy? His love?

For if it had all been real, how could he have

let himself be killed by such a mob? How could he have

been treated in such a cruel and shameful way?

“Jerusalem has always killed her prophets,”

Cleopas reminded me. “Yes,” I agreed.

“But didn’t we think Jesus was more than

a prophet? Didn’t he have the power

to heal? To raise the dead? How could such a

one be arrested as if he were

a common criminal? Worse than a

common criminal! More like a

dangerous lunatic! Was he mad?

Or is it we who are mad?”

So wrapped up in our thoughts, our questions,

our despair and our arguments–which all

ebbed and flowed like the Sea of Galilee–

we neither heard nor noticed a man

behind us until he caught up to us

and began to walk by our side.

“What are you talking about?” Such

impertinence coming from a stranger seem to

nettle Cleopas, but with feelings raw,

I felt compelled to share our story with

someone who might give us a new perspective.

But before I could speak, Cleopas

blurted out, “Have you not just come from

Jerusalem yourself? How could you not

know what everyone is talking about?

Perhaps you’ve been living under a rock?”

I nudged my friend and told him not to be

unkind. “Perhaps this man can’t understand

why we are so upset. After all, men

are crucified every day by the Romans.”

“Yes, but not usually innocent men.

Men like Jesus who never harmed anyone.”

“Then why was he crucified?” our new friend

asked. “What brought him to the Romans’

attention? And why are you so distraught

over his death? Were you very close to him?”

“We were more than close,” I affirmed. “We

honored him, we–yes, we worshiped him.

We thought he was truly the One, the

Messiah we have been waiting for–

but now, now he is dead.”

The man nodded as he pondered my words,

his eyes set on the horizon as if

he could see what I could not. I wondered

if he thought us foolish. Foolish to place

such hope in a mere man. Foolish to

believe in his teaching, his miracles,

his love.

Then his pace quickened. “Let me explain the

Scriptures to you. Scriptures about the

Messiah. Then perhaps you will better

understand what has happened and why.”

He then began to expound on the

Scriptures beginning with Genesis and

continuing through the Law, the Prophets,

the Psalms. He explained the prophecies

of the Messiah in a way I had

never heard before, and I felt my heart

burn within me. Even Cleopas

remained silent as we took in the words

of this stranger who now seemed both familiar

and comfortable as an old friend.

Before we knew it, we had reached my home

in Emmaus. Our new friend did not stop

walking but continued on past my door.

Neither Cleopas nor I could bear the

thought of being parted from him so soon.

Please, we begged him, stay and eat with us.

We would hear more of your teaching.

We will fix you a meal

and you can even stay the night.

There is plenty of room.

He seemed reluctant, and perhaps he

had more pressing things to do, but

when we convinced him we truly

wanted him to stay and dine with us,

he agreed, and I made haste to

go in and tell my wife of our guest

and our need for a quickly made meal.

Once seated, we served our guest and waited

to hear more of what he could teach us.

Though sorrow still enveloped our souls,

somehow this man had wrapped us in a peace

and filled us with a hope that our faith in

the man Jesus had perhaps not been in vain.

What happened next remains the most

astonishing of revelations given

to simple men such as ourselves. One

minute we were waiting for our guest, this

stranger in our midst, to further enlighten

us, and the next, our eyes were opened to the

true identity of one we had taken

to be unknown and unfamiliar

to us. When he stretched forth his hand

to pass the bread to Cleopas on

his right, we all saw the round scar–bright and

shockingly white–on his wrist. A scar

so fresh it was scarcely healed and

almost glowed there in the dusky light.

The sight of that scar caused the scales

to fall from our eyes. It was Him!

Jesus! The One we had followed and

seen crucified. The One we thought to see

no more on this earth. What Peter and John

had said was true. He had come back to life!

Then just as quick as our eyes had been

opened, he was gone–along with our

despair and grief, leaving us with joy

and excitement instead. He was alive!

Truly alive! We had seen him in the

flesh. I remembered now. How my heart

had burned within me as he spoke to us.

Spoke truth to us. Now, without

speaking, we knew we must go back to

Jerusalem. And we could not delay.

We had to go back that very night.

My wife protested. We would be tired,

she said. We had only just gotten home.

But even she knew we could never

sleep and we could almost run back to

Jerusalem. To go back and tell

our brothers and sisters the Good News.

P.M. Gilmer

Soli Deo Gloria

 

One Starry Night (rerun)

I posted this story last year in three parts. I wanted to repost but decided to put it all together & hope you will all read to the end. I pray it will be a blessing and a time to reflect on what it must have been like on that first Christmas night–to be the first to hear the Good News.

One Starry Night

A long day finally over, the sheep

now settled to sleep. The weary shepherds

found places to rest–some to lay their heads;

others to keep watch over their flocks (many

of them destined to be a sacrifice 

for man’s sins) alert for any dangers

that might be lurking or for any sheep

that might decide to take a midnight stroll.

Under a clear sky with stars so bright,

the night air took on a chill, causing the

sheep to huddle together and the shepherds

to wrap their cloaks around themselves and most

stayed near one of the fires kept burning throughout

the night. The men on the first watch neither

saw nor heard anything to make them believe

this night would be any different than hundreds

of others. When their time was ended, they 

went to wake their companions for the second

watch. Before they could rouse the slumbering

shepherds, a light so bright filled the sky and

caused the poor shepherds to gasp and cover

their faces. Some fell to their knees and one

even stumbled into the companion

he had come to waken causing a stir

amongst the others whose dreams had just been

shattered. But when they tried to open their

eyes and grumble at their rude awakening,

they too were blinded by the light and covered

their faces in fear. Barely able to 

think or breathe, they heard a Voice speak from–

where? The Light? The sky? It seemed to fill the

the very air. “Do not be afraid!” the voice

cried out. Though still they trembled, they slowly

lowered their arms and their hands from

their faces; and their eyes began to make

out a form. A form so majestic they

knew it was no ordinary being

and had to have come from Heaven. “Behold!”

the Being proclaimed and as he continued

to speak, the shepherds ceased their trembling and

stared and listened in awe. Even the sheep

had shaken off their drowsiness and seemed

to be listening as well. “I bring you

good news that will bring great joy to all

people. Today in Bethlehem, the city

of David, a Savior has been born to

you. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the

Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you

will find a baby wrapped in cloths and

lying in a manger.” Before the shepherds

could marvel at these words, the Messenger

Being was, in an instant, joined by a

whole host of more of these Heavenly Beings.

They began to sing in voices so sweet,

the shepherds stood entranced and the sheep

bleated softly as if in accord with

their song. “Glory to God in the highest

of heavens, and peace on earth among all

those who delight Him.” And as suddenly

as they had appeared, the messenger choir

was gone, leaving the shepherds to stare up

into the star-filled sky as if waiting

for more miracles to appear. The sheep,

however, knew the heavenly show

was over, and so settled themselves to

return to their peaceful slumber.

The shepherds all gathered together to

discuss this news that had been given to

them. “Could this be true?” one old grizzled

veteran shepherd asked. “A baby who

is the Christ?” “Did you ever hear such

singing?” asked another, his eyes still on

the sky and his ears still ringing with the

fading heavenly melody. “What should

we do?” worried a third. “Go and see!”

exclaimed an eager shepherd. This shepherd

put on his sandals, grabbed his cloak and staff,

and made ready to leave for Bethlehem,

not caring if anyone joined him

or not. He wanted to see this baby

whose birth had launched a choir of heavenly

messengers. “Now, wait,” the old shepherd

cautioned. “We can’t just run off and leave our

sheep, especially when we’re not sure who

those creatures were or even where they came

from.” The rest of the shepherds looked at him

aghast. “Why, they surely came from heaven.

Where else could they be from?” “They were angels,

I be certain,” declared another. “And 

I am with Reuben. To Bethlehem, I

am bound.” And he, too, put on his sandals

and took up his sack and staff. Soon, they were

all picking up their things, murmuring with

excitement. “A message from heaven, did

you ever hear of such a thing?” “No,” said

the old shepherd. “I never have and neither

have any of you. Why would someone from

heaven want to speak to the likes of us?”

Reuben placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Good news for all people. Come with us, Asa,

and see if this baby is where the

Messenger said he would be. Our sheep will

be fine until we return.” The old shepherd

considered his companions, shrugged, and fell

in line. A trip to Bethlehem in the

middle of the night seemed like madness to

the old shepherd, but this whole night had been

unlike any he had ever encountered

in his eighty some years. A messenger

from heaven? Or a demon to mislead

and taunt them? His friends seemed certain the word

came from Heaven, but he had experienced

more of the latter than the former. Still,

a surge of hope went through him as he

tottered after his fellow shepherds,

listening to their excited chatter

as they made their way along the moon-lit

road to Bethlehem, the city of David.

They entered through the gates of Bethlehem,

(How did those shepherds know which way to go?)

and walked unerringly through the darkened

streets. Shops were closed and houses still, but from

overflowing inns, light and noise spilled out

and in front of one of these the shepherds

stopped and considered again the words of

the Messenger. “You will find a baby

wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a tiny infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a 

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

put an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the 

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple, whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world, they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to 

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 3)

One Starry Night (part 3)

A manger, they knew, would be found where the

animals were fed, so they made their way

behind the first inn and followed the sounds

(and smells) of animals whose nightly slumber

had been disturbed. Quietly, they approached

a cave carved into a small hill where the

soft, smoky glow of an oil lamp cast a

shadow. They stopped as one when they reached the

entrance, suddenly unsure of their next

move. Just as Reuben decided to go

forward, the cry of a baby broke the

stillness of the night. The shepherds gasped and

several of them surprised themselves with tears.

Going in together, they peered in awe

at the sight. A young woman (a girl to

their eyes) along with a man dressed in

garments plain, crouched over a manger where

a newborn infant lay wrapped in cloths just

as the Messenger had told them. They crept

as close as they dared, wondering at the

babe whose birth had been declared to them by

a heavenly being and even sung

about by a heavenly choir. “We

were told to come here,” the old shepherd broke

the silence. “By a . . .” He stopped, unable

to continue and unsure of how to

explain the phenomenon they had witnessed.

The young woman smiled at them. “An angel?”

she suggested. “Yes!” they all said at once.

Then, mindful of the sleeping babe, they told

their story in excited, though hushed whispers.

“Yes, yes! An angel, that’s what he was. A

messenger sent from God. He told us he

had good news.” “Good news for everyone. The

whole world.” “He said it was great joy.” “For

everyone.” “He said we would find a baby.”

“A baby wrapped in cloths.” “In a manger.”

They stopped for breath and gazed anew at the

sleeping babe. How could such a small, helpless

newborn baby be the cause of such a

revelation? Of a heavenly

announcement? The promise of good news for

all people? “He said,” the old shepherd, Asa,

cleared his throat. “He said, the Messenger, I

mean, that this baby is the Christ. Our

Messiah.” Tears filled his eyes. “I never

thought he’d come for me.” The plain-dressed

man, who seemed to be the baby’s guardian,

placed an arm around the old shepherd’s shoulders.

“We were as amazed as you when the

Messenger came to us and gave us the

same good news. This baby is God’s gift to

us and will do more for us than we can

ever imagine.” “We must go and tell

everyone what we have seen and heard,” Asa

declared. His companions, though mildly

amused at the old shepherd’s change of heart,

joyfully agreed. With a final look

at the Christ child and a farewell to the

young couple–whom they all knew would face times

of trouble and sorrow as they raised this

baby in this sin-struck world–they set out

to walk the streets of Bethlehem as morning

broke and people began to stir. They stopped

and told everyone they met of the

celestial announcement they had received

about the baby and the significance

of his arrival. Though some had no interest

in hearing news of any kind from lowly

shepherds, many others marveled at their

story and spread the word throughout their town

and still others carried the story to

their homes in places near and far throughout

Israel. “A baby has been born to you.”                  P.M. Gilmer     Soli Deo gloria

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 2)

One Starry Night (part 2)

The shepherds all gathered together to

discuss this news that had been given to

them. “Could this be true?” one old grizzled

veteran shepherd asked. “A baby who

is the Christ?” “Did you ever hear such

singing?” asked another, his eyes still on

the sky and his ears still ringing with the

fading heavenly melody. “What should

we do?” worried a third. “Go and see!”

exclaimed one eager shepherd. This shepherd

put on his sandals, grabbed his cloak and staff,

and made ready to leave for Bethlehem,

not caring if anyone joined him

or not. He wanted to see this baby

whose birth had launched a choir of heavenly

messengers. “Now, wait,” the old veteran

cautioned. “We can’t just run off and leave our

sheep, especially when we’re not sure who

those creatures were or even where they came

from.” The rest of the shepherds looked at him

aghast. “Why, they surely came from heaven.

Where else could they be from?” “They were angels,

I be certain,” declared another. “And

I am with Reuben. To Bethlehem, I

am bound.” And he, too, put on his sandals

and took up his sack and staff. Soon, they were

all picking up their things, murmuring with

excitement. “A message from heaven, did

you ever hear of such a thing?” “No!” said

the old shepherd. “I never have and neither

have any of you. Why would someone from

heaven want to speak to the likes of us?”

Reuben placed a hand on the old man’s shoulder.

Good news for all people. Come with us, Asa,

and see if this baby is where the

Messenger said he would be. Our sheep will

be fine until we return.” The old shepherd

considered his companions, shrugged, and fell

in line. A trip to Bethlehem in the

middle of the night seemed like madness to

the old shepherd, but this whole night had been

unlike any he had ever encountered

in his eighty some years. A messenger

from heaven? Or a demon to mislead

and taunt them? His friends seemed certain the word

came from Heaven, but he had experienced

more of the latter than the former. Still,

a surge of hope went through him as he

tottered after his fellow shepherds,

listening to their excited chatter

as they made their way along the moon-lit

road to Bethlehem, the city of David.

They entered through the gates of Bethlehem,

(How did those shepherds know which way to go?)

and walked unerringly through the darkened

streets. Shops were closed and houses still, but from

overflowing inns, light and noise spilled out

and in front of one of these the shepherds

stopped and considered again the words of

the Messenger. “You will find a baby

wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”               P.M. Gilmer

One Starry Night–A Christmas Poem (part 1)

One Starry Night  (part 1)

A long day finally over, the sheep

now settled to sleep. The weary shepherds

found places to rest–some to lay their heads;

others to keep watch over their flocks (many

of them destined to be a sacrifice

for man’s sins), alert for any dangers

that might be lurking or for any sheep

that might decide to take a midnight stroll.

Under a clear sky with stars so bright,

the night air took on a chill, causing the

sheep to huddle together and the shepherds

to wrap their cloaks around themselves and most

stayed near one of the fires kept burning throughout

the night. The men on the first watch neither

saw nor heard anything to make them believe

this night would be any different than hundreds

of others. When their time was ended, they

went to wake their companions for the second

watch. Before they could rouse the slumbering

shepherds, a light so bright filled the sky and

caused the poor shepherds to gasp and cover

their faces. Some fell to their knees and one

even stumbled into the companion

he had come to waken causing a stir

amongst the others whose dreams had just been

shattered. But when they tried to open their

eyes and grumble at their rude awakening,

they too were blinded by the light and covered

their faces in fear. Barely able to

think or breathe, they heard a Voice speak from–

where? The Light? The sky? It seemed to fill the

very air. “Do not be afraid!” the Voice

cried out. Though still they trembled, they slowly

lowered their arms and their hands from their

faces; and their eyes began to make out

a form. A form so majestic they knew

it was no ordinary being and

had to have come from Heaven. “Behold!”

the Being proclaimed and as he continued

to speak, the shepherds ceased their trembling and

stared and listened in awe. Even the sheep

had shaken off their drowsiness and seemed

to be listening as well. “I bring you

good news that will bring great joy to all

people. Today in Bethlehem, the city

of David, a Savior has been born to

you. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the

Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you

will find a baby wrapped in cloths and

lying in a manger.” Before the shepherds

could marvel at these words, the Messenger

Being was, in an instant, joined by a

whole host of more of these Heavenly Beings.

They began to sing in voices so sweet,

the shepherds stood entranced and the sheep

bleated softly as if in accord with

their song. “Glory to God in the highest

of heavens, and peace on earth among all

those who delight Him.” And as suddenly

as they had appeared, the messenger choir

was gone, leaving the shepherds to stare up

into the star-filled sky as if waiting

for more miracles to appear. The sheep,

however, knew the heavenly show

was over and so settled themselves to

to return to their peaceful slumber.            P.M. Gilmer

 

NC Christian Writers Conference 18

Last week I attended a writers’ conference in Liberty, N.C. put on by Serious Writer (www.seriouswriter.com) Going to a conference can be a big commitment as well as an extra expense–especially for struggling writers. What are some reasons for attending a writers’ conference?

  1. To meet other writers. Why is this important? We writers spend our working hours alone and a lot of time just in our own heads. To meet others who also have this strange way of living is refreshing and encouraging. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another ‘What, you, too? I thought that no one but myself . . .'”
  2. To meet people in the “business.” You know, editors, agents, publishers, and, did I mention other writers?
  3. To attend workshops that will help you better your craft.
  4. To have your questions answered. To learn what your questions should be in the first place.
  5. To hear other people’s stories. You know, other writers.
  6. Encouragement. I had to force myself to make some appointments to pitch my book, but I’m glad I did. I don’t know yet what may come of the appointments, but I did get some positive feedback.
  7. Worship. As Christians, we should worship God in whatever we do. Attending a conference with other Christians makes this easier and is a good reminder of Who we’re working for.

I’m already looking forward to next year. What about you? Have you been to a writers’ conference this year? Making plans to go soon?

Dorothy L. Sayers: Apologist and Mystery Writer

“I always have a quotation for everything; it saves original thinking.” Dorothy Sayers.

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) wore many hats, but it is the labeling her as “apologist and mystery writer” by one article which makes me smile, and I believe would amuse her as well.

Born at Oxford, the only child of the Rev. Henry Sayers, she won a scholarship to Somerville College (a college of Oxford, started specifically for women). She graduated in 1915 with first class honors in modern languages.

She wrote her first “Lord Peter Wimsey” mystery, Whose Body?, while working at a London advertising firm. She went on to write several novels and short stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The books are still being published today and many of her readers are unaware of her many other accomplishments.

Sayers considered her best work her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Sayers was 51 when she first read the Divine Comedy, and she became consumed with it. “I bolted my meals, neglected my sleep, work, and correspondence, drove my friends crazy . . .” Deciding to make a fresh translation of his work, she learned the Italian necessary, and the translation remains in print.

Of all her writings, it is concerning a particular play–The Man Born to be King–I want to write about today. She wrote her first play, The Zeal of Thy House, for the Canterbury Festival. She then wrote six more plays including The Man Born to be King. I read this play over ten years ago, and have decided to reread it this year as part of my “Christmas reading.”

This play was originally written for the BBC for broadcasting in the children’s hour. Sayers’ depiction of Christ has him speaking in modern English (since her audience would hardly know Greek) which caused a great outcry of protests. Didn’t she know Jesus (and all those around him) spoke in King James English? One newspaper editor put it this way: “In quoting the Bible we must take the Authorized Version, and not the interpretation of scholars, however wise.” Sayers response: “Of this singular piece of idolatry I will only say that it imposes difficulties upon the English playwright from which the Greek tragic poets are free.” She further explains that as the Incarnation really happened–meaning God became a man and lived among common, ordinary people–he, consequently, spoke a common, ordinary language.

This speaks to me as a writer as I have been wrestling with criticism concerning some of my dialogue. Some say my dialogue sounds too modern, and I wonder if they’re expecting King James English (the Authorized Version) as well? I understand the characters shouldn’t sound like 21st century Americans, but I do not know the Hebrew language and do not believe my characters spoke in any superior sort of way. The whole point of writing about Biblical characters is to remind us that they were real people and not merely “characters.” The sons of King David, though sons of a king, were also shepherds and warriors. Yes, David was a poet and a song writer, but does anyone really think he went around speaking poetically to his sons? Or that Solomon spoke in proverbs in his every day life?

When Sayers wrote her play, she wanted her audience to remember also that these characters did not know what they were doing. “We are so much accustomed to viewing the whole story from a post-Resurrection, . . .point of view, that we are apt, without realising it, to attribute to all the New Testament characters the same kind of detailed theological awareness which we have ourselves. We judge their behavior as though all of them–disciples, Pharisees, Romans, and men-in-the-street–had known with Whom they were dealing . . . But they did not know it.”

Sayers goes on to explain that when we show how real the people were who “made vulgar jokes about Him, called Him filthy names, taunted Him, . . .”, we are shocked, and we should be. However, when we pretty up the language and think of it all as in a culture and people far removed from us, we are not quite as shocked and do not see ourselves as those very people (as we should). “It is curious that people who are filled with horrified indignation whenever a cat kills a sparrow can hear that story of the killing of God told Sunday after Sunday and not experience any shock at all.”

In the same way, I wish for people who read my stories to see themselves in these Bible characters. To understand that we are just as sinful, just as fallen, and just as in need of a Savior. If a reader does not relate to the characters as people like themselves, they will only view the stories as just that–stories.

I’m looking forward to rereading these plays with a new eye than when I read them before. If you want to join along, please comment and let me know!

“The only Christian work is good work, well done.” Dorothy L. Sayers

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part Seven (and the End) by P.M. Gilmer

If you still haven’t read part six of this story, here is the link:

https://pmgilmer.com/2017/09/01/my-name-is-absalom-part-6-by-p-m-gilmer/

And now for the conclusion of “My Name is Absalom.”

 

I woke well before the sun on the morning of my planned dinner. I tried to eat some bread before I tended to my duties, but anticipation kept my stomach rolling. My plans were all falling into place though I did encounter one unforeseen problem: the early return of my mother. I had expected her to stay with her father for another month or so, but two days ago, I received word of her return. Fortunately, Tamar had stayed with our grandfather.

My mother heard (naturally) of the dinner I planned and of my invitation to my father (who had, predictably, declined). She knew me well enough to be suspicious of my show of generosity, but as I refused her commands to come visit her, she had no chance to question me. I’m not saying she would have disapproved of my plan, but she hated to be left out of anything, and I’m sure if I let her know what I was doing, she would demand a front row seat. Her drama I could live without. This was my revenge, and she would just have to hear of it second-hand.

I reminded my servants of their roles until satisfied each one was prepared to play their part. Under my directions, they had put up a tent the day before and were now bringing in a table, cushions, and whatever else should be necessary to make everything ready for this evening. All I needed to do now was continue to oversee the preparations and to wait. Waiting can be difficult, but when you know what you’ve been waiting for is truly about to happen, the waiting becomes a sort of deliciousness.

I tried to rest during the heat of the afternoon, but my excitement was too great for either my body or my mind to settle. I rechecked everything again–made sure my knives were sharpened to a keen edge, counted the skins of wine, and made sure (again) that my servants–Ramiah and Kedar–knew where each brother was to sit. Nothing would be left to chance.

Finally, the sun began to fall through the sky, leaving bright red and orange splashes in its wake. The first of my brothers arrived–Ithream and Adonijah, followed by Solomon and Shammua. I gave them all hearty greetings, making sure my servants seated them properly and served them some wine. In a matter of minutes, all my brothers and a few of our cousins had arrived with the exceptions of Amnon and Jonadab. Jonadab knew to wait until the others had time to arrive before he brought Amnon here. It would not do for them to be the first to arrive. No, let Amnon see his brothers already settled, so that he, too, could settle in and be comfortable.

I waited by the door, along with Kedar, trying to hide my increasing anxiety. What if Jonadab couldn’t convince Amnon to come? After all, Amnon knows me as well as anyone, and, truly, he would be a fool to trust me. I could only hope that imbecile, Jonadab, could convince him of my sincerity in wanting to heal the rift between us. The very thought made me gag. Jonadab would need to be pretty convincing in his deceit, but he was good at that.

Then–I saw them. Walking together, Jonadab seemed to be his usual animated self while Amnon walked silently beside him. My brothers behind me were in a boisterous mood, but I hardly heard them as I kept my eyes on my prize. Then I looked over at Kedar who was also watching the two coming towards us.

“Is it him?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” I murmured. “You already know the loud-mouth next to him, but the other is Amnon.”

When they were close enough to make out their faces, Kedar raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “He is much like you–your brother.”

My face tightened, and I nodded. Yes, people often commented on that. Though we had different mothers, our eyes and facial features were quite similar, and many people could only tell us apart by our hair. My hair was often compared to a lion’s mane because of its thickness and rapid growth while Amnon kept his lighter colored hair cut short, almost shaven. Though I could see it was now much longer than usual, it still was nothing compared to mine.

I plastered a huge smile on my face as Jonadab and Amnon approached us. Amnon seemed to shrink back at the sight of me, but Jonadab kept a firm grip on his elbow and kept him moving forward.

“Brother!” I called out, then pulled Amnon to me in a tight hug. “It has been too long!”

“Amnon has missed being with his brothers, Absalom,” Jonadab said in a loud voice. “We are both grateful for this invitation.”

“Well, come on in. Ramiah will show you to your seats.” I turned to motion to Ramiah, but he was already at Amnon’s side, leading him and Jonadab to their seats.

I watched them–Jonadab strutting past my brothers and Amnon slinking behind him. My brothers had become quiet–only nodding to Jonadab who called out loud greetings–then looking gravely at Amnon who said nothing.

Once they were seated, one of my brothers called out for more wine and another asked, “When is the food going to be ready, Brother? We are starving here!”

As the laughter rang out, I ordered the servants to pour more wine (they had instructions not to water the wine unless asked) and assured my brothers the food would be ready soon. “Patience, my brothers. Good food must be cooked to perfection.” Before they could make more demands, I left the tent–ostensibly to check on the food, but actually to make sure Kedar and Ramiah were ready. They were, and it was finally time to put my plan into play.

From the back of the tent, I gave a nod to Jonadab, and he casually rose from his seat and left the tent just as two of my servants began bringing in baskets of bread and platters of roasted vegetables.

“Come on, Brother!” bellowed one of my brothers. “Where’s the meat?”

With the wine flowing freely, my brothers were getting louder–laughing and teasing one another. Since I wanted them drunk, this brought me some satisfaction (though I knew a fine line existed before they became belligerent and more demanding) until I noticed two exceptions: my two younger brothers, Solomon and Shammua. Both were quiet and seemed not to be drinking as much as the others. I frowned, wondering what could be wrong with that sanctimonious Solomon. I should go over to them and encourage them to drink more, but that would probably only arouse suspicions and, besides, it was far too late for that. Time for execution.

My servants were ready to bring in the roasted lamb, so I nodded for them to come on. My eyes met those of Kedar, and he nodded his readiness. The servants brought in the lamb and my brothers cheered, though one said something about ‘where was something for the others?’

As soon as my brothers began diving into the lamb, Kedar and Ramiah came in behind Amnon. They each grabbed him by an arm and pulled him up, then Kedar drove his knife into my oldest brother’s chest. Amnon looked up at me, and I smiled, watching the shock, then the light fade from his eyes. So great was my pleasure, I was barely aware of my other brothers as–in a flurry–they all jumped up as if the tent was on fire, almost trampling each other as they raced out of the tent.

Once they were gone, my servants and I began to act quickly. We made sure the oil lamps were all put out, then began gathering up the cushions, cups, etc.

“We should be away, my lord,” Kedar said to me, cleaning off his knife.

I nodded, looking around the tent with both pride and contentment. Jonadab would soon be telling my father how I had killed all his sons, and it wouldn’t be long before the great king sent men here. I would be going to my grandfather’s, along with Kedar and Ramiah. I had other servants assigned to take care of the food and take down the tent. Two others would attend to my brother’s body and wait for my father’s men to arrive.

“Very well,” I said. “Let us be off.” I took a last look at my brother’s face before my servants covered it. “Be at peace, Brother,” I said softly. “Your debt is now paid.”

Soli Deo gloria

 

“My Name is Absalom” Part 6 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week’s post, here is part five: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/25/my-name-is-absalom-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

 

After many obstacles and hindrances, I finally began to formulate my plans for revenge. A knife in the dark would probably be easiest, but not nearly as satisfying. No, my revenge must be public as well as complete. I not only wanted my brother to know of my hatred, but also my father. If he had done his duty as a father by protecting Tamar–or failing that, in punishing Amnon–I could have, perhaps, forgiven him. Not that he seemed to want or need my forgiveness. He seemed to have pushed the whole incident from his mind, like an unpleasant taste or a childhood illness. Something difficult and heart-wrenching at the time, but now in the past and best forgotten. But, I would not forget if for no other reason than this: Tamar would certainly never forget.

You may be wondering how Tamar fared by this time. Since she still did not want to leave my home, even to visit our sisters and mother, I made plans for her to visit our grandfather, our mother’s father. As I said earlier, my mother’s father is king of the small country, Geshur, and Tamar could feel both comfortable and cared for there. I wanted my mother to accompany her (I needed both of them out of the city), and though at first she balked at this suggestion (why must she be so difficult?), she eventually consented. Not for any concern for Tamar, but rather because of her own present difficulties at the palace. She never felt she received enough respect there, and since the incident with Tamar, things had only gotten worse. The other wives (with the exception of Amnon’s mother who pretended nothing had changed) tried to express sympathy to her, but she flared up at their offers of “pity.” Also, as my mother could not bring herself to express much compassion toward Tamar, this caused the other wives to go from sympathy to puzzlement to scorn. Anyway, once I had both my mother and Tamar conveniently out of the way, I began to finalize my plans.

My brothers and I all had our own pieces of land where we raised sheep, wheat, barley, and a few even had their own bee hives. With the weather turning warmer and the rains ceasing, the time to begin sheep-shearing was upon us. My brothers often shared chores with each other, so I decided to ask my brothers to come and help me with my sheep-shearing. To make manifest my generous and forgiving spirit, I would promise to first give them a big dinner and to even include Amnon and our father.

Since my brothers and I had not been on the friendliest of terms, I needed to find a way to ask them that would seem casual, yet deliberate; friendly and non-threatening. For some reason, my brothers didn’t totally trust me and a friendly gesture from me could possibly be construed as suspicious. It’s true I didn’t often invite them over for a meal, but again, sheep-shearing was a chore often shared, so, hopefully, they would just see it as my way of getting free labor. Or cheap labor. I would be providing a meal, after all.

Since I needed some help, I decided to make use of Jonadab and his eagerness to be of any assistance and to somehow make amends for his part in my sister’s tragedy. Not that I thought for a moment he truly wanted to make amends except as a way to get in my good graces, but having him at my side would lessen my brothers’ suspicions, and I also needed him to convince Amnon to come.

Obviously, after spending almost two years avoiding Amnon and having nothing good to say about him, it would be difficult for me to just saunter up to him and say, “Hey, Brother! Long time, no see. How about coming over to my place for dinner?” No, even Amnon wasn’t that gullible. But, as Jonadab so aptly put it, for whatever reason, Amnon did trust him, so if anyone could convince Amnon to come to a dinner with all his brothers at my invitation, it would have to be Jonadab.

I found several of my brothers at target practice one morning (thanks to Jonadab who ran to my house with the news). One of my younger brothers, Solomon, was showing off a bow he made during the rainy months, and, of course, I couldn’t resist issuing him a small challenge. The kid takes things too seriously, and I knew he would be eager to try and beat me. He is smart in some ways, but dumb in so many others. I mean, I’m a warrior and was pulling bows before he could even pull himself up. I don’t think a new bow, no matter how well he made it, is going to be much of a test for my superior skills. Still, a little competition between brothers keeps things interesting and could make my brothers believe I wanted to be part of the family again.

After spending a couple of hours with my brothers shooting arrows, (I was on one team and Solomon on the other), I decided to end the match and extended the dinner invitation to my brothers. As I had feared, they first expressed skepticism, but I pleaded with them, telling them I thought it would be good for us to get together and have some family time, blah, blah. Seriously? Family time? I suppose I’m lucky they didn’t laugh in my face, but I finally managed to convince them of my sincerity. I’m sure it helped when I added I would help them later with their own sheep.

Jonadab and I left together, Jonadab wanting to jabber the whole way while I preferred to rethink and go over every detail of my plan. But I had to make sure Jonadab knew his part and was ready to play it, so I let him talk, only half listening.

“Did you see Solomon’s face when you asked them all to dinner? And Adonijah’s? Especially when you said you planned to ask Amnon, too? They both looked like they had drunk some sour wine. Do you think they’ll really come? And are you really going to ask Uncle David to come?”

I smiled, reliving the moments of my brothers’ faces when I said I intended to ask Amnon to the dinner. “Oh, they’ll come all right. A free meal? A chance to see if me and Amnon will reconcile? You just better make sure you get Amnon to come. And, yes, I will ask my father, though I know he won’t come.”

My mind continued to race with the details of my plan. Inviting my father would be a bit tricky, and it was hard for me to decide if I wanted him to come or not. Since he would not come alone (having at least one guard, if not several), my plan’s chance of success would be greater without him. However, without him there, I would never have the satisfaction of seeing his face when he learned what I had done to his beloved eldest son.

We came to where we needed to part ways that Jonadab might make his way to Amnon’s house, and I would go on to my own home. I turned to face Jonadab, grabbing one of his shoulders.

“I will expect to hear from you tomorrow about how you fared with Amnon. No one, and I mean, no one had better suspect a thing.”

Jonadab nodded, his pain from my grip on his shoulder evident on his face, though he tried to mask it. “Don’t worry, Absalom. I know how to talk to Amnon, and I would never betray you.”

I smirked at that. Did he really think I trusted him? My little weasel of a cousin had his uses, but I was not such a fool as to trust someone who turned his affections as quickly as this one. A pity for Amnon that he trusted him, but that’s what happened when you committed such a heinous crime against someone in your own family. It left you with few friends.

“I will see you tomorrow,” I said, releasing his shoulder with a final push, then turned from him to walk home.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 5 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week of this continuing story, here’s the link for part four:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/18/my-name-is-absalom-part-4-by-p-m-gilmer/

Unfortunately, my plans had to be delayed when another tragedy occurred in my family. It is not my intention to speak of this event now. I only mention it to partially explain why it took me almost two years to carry out my revenge.

Once things had settled, I felt free to pursue my plans again with, I admit, an even greater sense of urgency and desire. I began again to consider my need to befriend (or re-befriend) my cousin, Jonadab. As I said earlier, he avoided me when possible, so I knew well enough to take things slowly as I did not want to arouse his suspicion. Since I do not willingly seek to befriend people in the best of times, I knew this to be a great possibility–even for someone as eager to make friends as Jonadab.

So for several months, I would nod my head pleasantly towards him whenever our paths should cross. (I thought I looked pleasant anyway, though the way he always skittered away made me feel I should perhaps work a little harder on my “pleasant look.”) Eventually, I took to waving and calling out to him. He would respond with a quick nod, but he certainly made no effort to come any closer and start up a conversation.

Finally one day, I sent one of my servants to his house to ask him to meet me at an inn that evening where we could share a meal together. Alas, I couldn’t invite him to my own home as he probably wouldn’t come, and also because Tamar still refused to leave. Though she could easily stay out of sight (and did when I had other company), I did not want her to know of my plans. She would never understand, and I was afraid she might feel betrayed if she knew I was meeting Jonadab for any reason.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Jonadab would even show up. I sat at a table outside where I ordered a skin of wine and two cups. Halfway through drinking my first cup, Jonadab walked up behind me. Now, you might wonder why I would sit with my back to the road, and if Jonadab was thinking at all, he would have wondered at it too. But, I was giving Jonadab a chance to change his mind when he saw me, and I also wanted him to believe I trusted him. Of course, I didn’t trust him–not for a minute. And if he had any sense, he wouldn’t have trusted me. But, Jonadab wanted to please people too much. A dangerous attribute to have and, thankfully, not one I was ever cursed with.

“Absalom?”

I turned and gave him my biggest smile. “Cousin! It has been too long! Come, sit. Innkeeper! How is that rack of lamb coming?”

I pushed a stool towards Jonadab, then poured him some wine. I continued to chatter–asking him about his family, if he had been hunting lately, what did he think about the Ammonites and their refusal to pay Father tribute, etc.–while the food came and we continued to drink. Jonadab answered in monosyllables, eating hungrily, and drinking at least two cups to every one of mine.

By the time we finished our meal, night had fallen, the streets were deserted, and Jonadab had relaxed and even laughed at a few of my not-so-funny jokes. In the middle of one of his loud guffaws, I pulled out my knife, laid it on the table, and leaned over closer to him. “It is said that you were the mastermind behind my sister’s disgrace.”

He blanched, and I feared he might lose the meal I had just bought him all over the wooden table. Fortunately for him he didn’t as I would have been sorely tempted to make him eat his vomit if he had.

“No, Absalom,” he finally managed to get out. “That is, it is not what you think or what people are saying. I never expected Amnon to hurt Tamar. I knew he loved her. I thought he respected her! I did encourage him to speak with your father. I thought he would ask to marry her. I couldn’t believe it when he grabbed her like that, and then when he threw her out . . .”

He stopped, his eyes pleading, while I continued to look at him coolly. Inside, I felt anything but cool. It was all I could do not to grab him by his neck and choke those words out of him. Though I remained determined to get my revenge, I did not need the scene described to me. It would be enough to know who to blame.

“I know well enough the sins of Amnon; it is you I want to hear about now. Did you do anything to defend my sister and her honor? Or did you sit idly by? Or perhaps you were the one who threw her out and bolted the door?”

Even with only a flickering oil lamp on our table, I could see Jonadab’s face turn from a scarlet red to an ash gray. It amused me to see a face turn so many different shades. I hadn’t realized this was possible.

He reached for his wine cup, but it was empty as was our wine skin. “Sorry, Jonadab,” I said affably, though not sorry at all, of course. “But we seem to be out of wine. Why don’t you just answer my questions, and we can both go home?”

“It was his servants who threw her out and bolted the door, though Amnon commanded them to. I . . .”

“Did nothing. As I thought.” I picked up my knife and moved it back and forth so the flame would reflect in its blade, then lightly touched my thumb to the blade as if testing its sharpness, though Jonadab well knew I kept my knives and swords sharpened at all times. Then I slammed the blade into the table and leaned towards Jonadab, so close I could hear his rapid breathing and smell his fear-soaked sweat.

“You did nothing,” I whispered, “and I should kill you right now for that alone. However, . . .” I stopped and sat back, giving him time to catch his breath and consider.

Eyes wide, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want, Absalom. I can help you take your revenge on Amnon. He still trusts me. Truly, I’m one of the few people he still trusts.”

I smiled with no attempt to look pleasant now. “More fool him, it would seem. Very well, you shall have a chance to redeem yourself, but you must do everything I say.”

Jonadab nodded so eagerly, I was minded of a dog I had once seen groveling for his Hittite master.

I jerked my knife out of the table and leaned towards him again. “You’ll be hearing from me soon–and, in the meantime, don’t even think of going outside the walls of Jerusalem.” And I left him there, sitting in the darkness.