Note to Readers: My historical fiction novel Prester John and the Brigand King is once again available to read in full. Just click on the novel's title in the "Full Series" menu on the sidebar.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fire in My Bones

I'm on vacation for part of this week, so I'm going to post an old poem and add more to my poem about the Church of the East when I get back. Here's a poem I wrote in 2006, describing (in somewhat hyperbolic grandiosity) the sense of being a person called toward ministry, and of the expectation that God could do anything through a man who was wholly committed to him.


Fire in My Bones


He has made of me the whirlwind,
And the beggar in the streets—
The ragged, raging madman
Who calls men to believe.
Up from the wilderness,
From the desolate cave of endless wealth,
The discovery of all things new—
Up from the empty, violent waste
He sought me—now brimming with delight,
The fiery fullness of gentle valor.
Unyielding and cold I was plunged into the flames,
And now He draws me out again—
White with fire, red with heat,
And soft enough to pierce
A hardened world’s heart.
The hammer-blows reshape me now,
Smashing me, loving me,
Turning me in hands that are not mine,
But which bear my wounds for me.
A sword from the wilderness,
A hammer from the waste,
Here from this desert I return
To plant the flag in Ariel’s barren shrine.
The arrowed wings of falcon-flight
Bear me to the sky, and there I loose
My violent, joyous cry, and dive…
Plunging through the stormy zephyrs
Of my Master’s love
Until I break through the slate-gray
Ceiling of the sky
And see that beautiful, verdant land beneath me,
Crying for the unveiling of the sons of God.
It was He who taught me in the wasteland,
He who forged this bright and restless steel,
He who gave me wings to fly.
Like the burning phoenix, I am reborn,
With fire in my bones…
And the world will never be the same.
He gave me the wisdom that made me mad,
And taught me the laughter of the heavenly fool,
The endless tears of the ancient sage.
He has made of me the whirlwind,
And the beggar in the streets—
The ragged, raging madman
Who calls men to believe.
 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Photo of the Week

All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.

                                - Psalm 104:27-28 (NIV)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Quote of the Week

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates...
This, like thy glory, Titan! is to be
Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory!

- Percy Bysshe Shelley, from the poem "Prometheus Unbound"

 (Painting: "Prometheus," by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636, oil on panel)

Friday, September 25, 2015

How Should Evangelicals Feel About the Pope?

I consider myself an evangelical, despite some heavy theological borrowing from the Orthodox tradition--I attended evangelical schools for my undergraduate and graduate work, I pastor an evangelical church, and the Christian practice I teach draws heavily on the evangelical perspective. But it's worth noting that there are some generational differences that have begun emerging between "the younger evangelicals" and those that came before us. One of those differences is that we younger evangelicals tend not to feel quite as strongly about the importance of denominational differentiation. Though I grew up Baptist and pastor a Baptist church, I identify more with the broad "mere Christianity" of evangelicalism than with Baptistic particulars alone--thus I've happily attended churches that are Anglican (during my London semester in college), Wesleyan (through the remainder of college), Brethren in Christ (my wife's home denomination), Assembly of God (the church I partnered with in Angola), Mennonite Brethren (all through seminary), and, on occasion, a jaunt down to a Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox service to enjoy a more liturgical form. 

Evangelicals of previous generations were, it seems, decidedly more guarded about denominations, especially when it came to Roman Catholics. Growing up in a Baptist church in an area in which Catholics formed the largest denomination, I was given the standard apologetic arsenal against Catholic doctrine, and it mostly had to do with dissenting from transubstantiation and submission to the pope. There was also a general suspicion that Catholics had reverted back to an anti-Pauline theology of "salvation by works," and that most of them thus never developed true, authentic faith.

My position has changed since then, largely from the practice of reading the great Christian classics, and finding that the works of Roman Catholic saints were full of beautiful, vibrant, authentic, life-transforming faith. There are still points of their theology on which I would dissent, but I now have tremendous respect for the great Catholic tradition, and in recent decades they have become the evangelicals' greatest ally when it comes to advocating Christian perspectives on social issues in the public sphere.

So, with Pope Francis doing his rock star tour through our country, how should evangelicals feel about the papacy? I think we can move past the old Protestant resentments, that so often cast the pope as the head of a subversive anti-church, sometimes as the Antichrist or "whore of Babylon" itself. It is clear here that we have a man of genuine faith, of winsome love and deep compassion, a man who, regardless of what we might think about his views on the Lord's Supper and the intercession of the saints, shares with us an all-consuming devotion to the basic core of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  

But we can't quite leave it there, because Catholic theology has such a firm position on the papacy that it demands a response. Their claim is that Christ founded his church on Peter's authority, the shepherd of the whole flock of the people of God, with authority over doctrine and practice in every place where Christians live; and that, further, this specifically Petrine authority was passed down through the apostolic succession in the line of the bishops of Rome, such that the Pope, even today, acts as the infallible voice of God's teaching for his church when speaking ex cathedra. These are arguments which, if true, demand our loyalty, our conversion, and our repentance for our long legacy of schismatic behavior. But they are also questions which are open to biblical and historical testing (with the exception of the infallibility claim, but, as I've written before, there's no reason that evangelicals should quibble with this part of the claim, since we too believe that God can use humans--specifically, the biblical authors--in an infallible ministry).

The biblical case for or against the papacy is, to my mind, not all that conclusive one way or another. An arguable case can be made for either the Catholic or evangelical positions on the matter. Really, this is what you would expect, since there are lots of Catholic Bible scholars out there, and lots of evangelical Bible scholars, and not a very high percentage of either camp is thoroughly inept at their jobs. If the biblical evidence were compellingly clear, we would expect all Catholic Bible scholars to become evangelicals, or vice versa. But we don't see that happening. The main text for the Roman Catholic case is Matthew 16:18-19: "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (NIV).
Evangelicals have always tried to worm out of this one by claiming that it was Peter's profession of faith, not Peter himself, who was the "rock" on which Jesus would build his church, but this attempt at inventive semantics never seemed to me to square with the plain force of the text, and the most compelling exegetical studies I've looked at support the RC position that Jesus really is declaring a measure of authority for Peter, but it's not clear whether this is specifically for him alone, or for him as a symbolic representation of all church leadership. On their side, the evangelicals can present the evidence of the book of Acts, which does show Peter as the initial leader of the Jerusalem church (thus fulfilling, at least in part, the words of Matthew 16), but then he cedes the office to James, and in the first recorded "ecumenical church council" in history, in Acts 15, though Peter has a prominent voice, it is James who is given the final word on the matter (in Acts 15:19, James ends the council by stating, "It is my judgment, therefore..."). If Peter were "the Pope," we would have expected him to fill this role. There are other passages that can be brought in on one side or another, but in general, they tend not to bring the case to a full conclusion one way or the other--some readers will find one position persuasive, and others will find the opposite position persuasive, and there seems to be room for either interpretation.

What, then, of history? This, to me, is the more compelling case, though it's not open-and-shut either. We've already noted that the history of the church even within the NT might cast some doubt on the RC doctrine of the pope (and I think Paul's somewhat uneven take of Peter as a Christian leader could plausibly add to that doubt). But the main question we're asking here is, "Did the early church--those closest in culture and language to the proclamation of Matthew 16, and thus probably better able to understand it than us--did they interpret that passage in a Roman Catholic way, or in an evangelical way?" Even here, the evidence is a bit shadowy, partly because our sources are somewhat patchy. But in general, what we can discern is that it's something of an emerging process. Churches seem to develop rapidly toward a hierarchical episcopal structure such as we would find in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, but it's hard to make a historical case one way or the other as to whether this was done for reasons of Christian doctrine--that is, by the explicit instruction of the apostles as a normative pattern for all Christians everywhere--or simply as a practical step for creating a sensible structure of church leadership and preventing loss to charismatic heretics. (The weight of early church fathers' teaching on the subject leans toward the former explanation, while the earlier biblical evidence might tend toward the latter.) 

 According to Scripture, Peter was the leader during the founding of the church of Jerusalem at Pentecost (and Jerusalem was clearly regarded as "the mother church" throughout the NT period). Tradition later has Peter going to Antioch and participating in the apostolic foundation of that church (thus the current bishops of Antioch claim an apostolic succession beginning with Peter), and then finally to Rome, where he is given credit for co-founding the church there, together with Paul (though biblical and historical evidence both indicate the presence of a church there before either Peter or Paul arrived on the scene). Two parts of the Roman Catholic story about Peter's authority being transferred to the bishops of Rome can be called into question. First, biblically: Is there any indication in Matthew 16 that Jesus' words to Peter apply also to his successors? There's no biblical reason to read those verses as anything other than an application to Peter himself, relating to his action in guiding the church of Jerusalem; nothing in Scripture warrants their continued application to anyone else unless Jesus was speaking of Peter as a symbol of the church leadership as a whole (and, in that case, it wouldn't be limited to Rome). Second: if Peter was also the apostolic founder of Jerusalem and Antioch, why wouldn't the bishops in those apostolic successions inherit equally the authority of Jesus' words to Peter?

Now, let's ask another historical question: How did early Christians perceive the Pope? There are indications early on that the church of Rome is given special honor among all the churches of the Empire. It develops a theological reputation of being faithful to orthodox Christianity even in the midst of heretical attacks, and of finding a middle road in theological disputes where other influential Christian centers (such as Alexandria and Antioch) took opposite ends of the debates. The earliest mentions of this sort of honored reputation, however, seem to be toward the whole church of Rome, not always focusing on the Pope himself. This seems, then, to be the overall consensus of the early church--the church of Rome was given a preeminence of honor as the first among brothers, but there aren't a lot of early indications that they were treated as a final authority on matters of doctrine and practice for all Christians everywhere (though they may have exercised that kind of authority over their regionally-dependent bishops in the western Mediterranean). Later on, one finds a second pattern emerging--many of the Latin-speaking theologians in the West start to give added emphasis to the position of the Bishop of Rome itself, speaking in terms that would sound familiar to Roman Catholic ears. This was still well within the golden age of patristic theology, when other doctrines that we hold dear, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, were still being explained into the forms that we now ascribe to. However, the trouble here is that the theologians and churches in the Greek-speaking East do not start mentioning the Bishop of Rome in ways that would now sound familiar to Roman Catholic ears. There, the old conception--that the Bishop of Rome was given merely a preeminence of honor, but not necessarily of magisterial authority--still prevailed (and it should be noted that the East was the more fertile theological field in those days, with about three "gold standard" church fathers for every one that the West produced). When the bishops of Rome in later centuries began to actively and aggressively push their theology of the papacy, it met with surprisingly stiff resistance from the churches of the East. 

All in all, then, there is room, both biblically and historically, to make a valid case for our evangelical dissent from submission to the Pope. However, if we take the Bible seriously, and if we are willing to listen to the voice of the church fathers when they talk about the Trinity and the Incarnation, then we ought to be willing to listen to them here as well. The Pope represents one of the most ancient and venerable institutions of our faith, a church that has outlasted the Roman Empire and medieval kingdoms and which will outlast the modern nation-state too. He self-consciously accepts the mantle and legacy of Peter and attempts to model his ministry on the great disciple, to be "the servant of the servants of God," and to answer Christ's call to love Him and feed His sheep. As such, he is worthy of tremendous honor, even from evangelicals. We need to give him our respect, as a fellow brother in Christ and as a great servant of the global church, as well as acknowledging that he seems to be a man of great personal holiness. Let us love and honor our brother, let us strive to learn from his wisdom, let us thank God for his humble ministry, and let us pray for him and for his church. 

(Images: Sketch, top: "Old South Church, Boston," from Gleason's Pictorial, 1853, public domain. Colored woodcut, inset left: from Martin Luther's German Bible (1520), Revelation 17, "The Woman on the Beast," in this picture, shown with a three-tiered tiara representing the papacy as "The Whore of Babylon," public domain. Painting, inset right: Detail from "Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter," by Pietro Perugino, 1482, fresco, public domain. Photo, bottom inset left: "Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square," by Alfredo Borba, 6 June 2014, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Flame in the Night, Chapter 5

(See sidebar menu for links to all previous chapters)

~ 5 ~

Edward’s legs ached and his stomach twisted with hunger as he walked along, hoping with every step that he would break out of the heather-cloaked moors to see the valley of the Tyne before him.  He had left his friends behind at the border of the Scottish lowlands, and was now making his way alone to meet his brother.  He walked for hours without respite, the sun tracing its way slowly over him in its daily arc across the heavens.  The terrain looked all the same, and he quickly tired of studying it.  Mile after mile of heather and thyme, an undulating sea of vegetation that stretched across the land.
        How long has it been since I traveled through this country?  Not since I left my father’s house…not since that night…
He shook his head, forcing the memories back.  Exhausted, he threw himself down onto the ground beside the road, watching a raven slowly mount the air currents above.  It peered down at him, squawked one long, discordant cry, then flew rapidly southward.
“Lord, help me,” he breathed, forcing his muscles to pull him back up again.  As he rose to his feet, though, he caught some movement at the corner of his vision.  He turned his gaze quickly northward, but whatever it had been was gone just as rapidly as it had come.
After he had set off again and walked another few leagues, he turned again to peer northwards.  Miles behind him, barely visible, was the form of a man following the same way.
        Relax.  It’s probably just another traveler.
So he sat down once again beside the road to see who it could be.  The minutes stretched on and on, until he was certain that the follower must have turned aside as well.  Well, I don’t have any time to waste sitting here, he thought to himself, and he made his way southward once again.  He proceeded at a quicker pace now, trying to force aside speculations about who might be behind him.
It was late afternoon by the time he came within sight of the rising towers of the castle and its little town.  His shadow was growing ever longer, so he pressed on into the heart of the city, keeping watch for anything that could be called ‘the abode of the Jews.’
Newcastle was a fairly small town, and its most noticeable feature was the bastion from which it took its name.  Its great stone walls were positioned on the crest of a hill, high above the town that supported it.  It thrived on the trade from the river and on several small fiefdoms scattered about the Northumbrian countryside.  The road that Edward had followed from the border continued on through the city and over an old Roman bridge, where the province of Durham began.
Edward elbowed his way through the market-day crowds, his eyes scanning every house and shop.  It was not until he came to the southern outskirts of the town that he finally reached the building he had been looking for.  But as soon as his eyes fell on it, he knew something had gone terribly wrong.  The handsomely painted sign had been slashed and partially burned. The house itself was in shambles.  Running up to it, he looked inside, past the broken door.  Planks had been smashed in, leaving gaping holes in the walls.  Three beds were arranged within, but the mattresses had been slashed and ripped open, and most of the furnishings of the room had been stripped away.
Alfred? he thought as he looked around in shock.  Was it possible his brother had done this?  No, Alfred left Northampton on the sixth.  He couldn’t be here before late tonight.   
“Well, my brother,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair.  “It appears someone has been here before you.”
His legs were aching from the long march, so he gingerly let himself down on one of the slashed beds and reclined on the torn padding.  His exhausted mind allowed his eyes to close, but he did not sleep.  If the raiders decided to come back to the house, he would have to be alert.
~ ~ ~
The battered door swung in slowly, creaking in an ominous tone as it threatened to release from its last remaining hinge.  Edward drew his breath in sharply, lying as still as he could on the bed.  He opened his eyes to see the silhouette of a woman standing in the doorway, framed against the golden tinge of the evening sky.
She drew in an involuntary gasp as her eyes swept over the rubble within.  Her gaze never fell on the corner where he lay, and he remained perfectly still, not wanting to startle her with an abrupt appearance.  He watched with interest as she stepped further inside and turned slightly so that the light from the open door illuminated her face.  In that instant, he felt the blood freeze in his veins.  That countenance had been burned in his mind, but he had never actually expected to see it with his own eyes.  The dream…she was the one…
Her eyes flooded with tears, but she bit her lip and choked them back.  “Oh God,” her voice sounded small and hollow in the smashed room.  “What do I do now?”
Edward’s heart burned with pity for her, but still he made no move, watching as she sank to her knees.  Her fingers traced over the torn edges of a bright tapestry, its remnants slashed and in tatters all over the floor.  Just then, a child’s cry rang out from outside the house.  She drew a deep breath and brush away the tears from her cheeks.
“Han!” the cry came again, this time with a rising note of fear.
She sighed, pushing her long black hair away from her face as she rose.  “I’m coming, Samuel.”
After throwing one last glance around the demolished room, she made her exit.  Edward leapt up from the bed and rushed over to the far wall, where he peered through a crack in the beaten timbers.  He saw her walk over to a small brown mare and take its reins, stooping down to pick up a little boy, who held his chubby arms out pleadingly to her. 
“Quiet, Samuel,” she said, barely loud enough for Edward to hear.
“Home,” he pleaded, pointing to the ravaged building.
“No,” she said, shaking her head as she began to walk toward the river.  “We’ll sleep in the cave tonight.”
Edward watched them from his lookout until they disappeared from view, turning west and proceeding upriver along the bank.  When he was fairly certain that he was not being watched by anyone in the town, he slipped out of the house and followed her path down toward the river.  He found a faint trail that pressed through the underbrush, barely discernable unless you knew what you were looking for.
He scanned the area ahead, but saw no sign that she had turned around or had paused.  Eventually he came upon what appeared to be a shallow depression in the face of a large boulder.  He would have been fooled and proceeded past it except for the fact that the young woman’s voice seemed to be coming from inside the rock.  A large patch of lichen covered an entire face of the boulder, and it did not take long for Edward to discern that this was nothing more than a cleverly hidden doorway.
Still not certain why he was there or what he was doing, he sat down outside the mouth of the cave, glancing back down the trail.  For an instant, he thought he saw the shape of a man dart quickly behind a stand of trees and once again the memory of his phantom follower on the road came back to him.  After staring hard at it for some time, he decided it had been merely a trick of the light among the dancing leaves.
 Inside, Hannah was still unaware of her follower.  She sat down wearily on the hard-packed dirt floor, weeping softly.  Who could have done that?  We have been in this city for years, and no one has ever… 
“We have no home, Samuel,” she said softly, stooping down into a corner of the little cave to pick up a candle.  Using a small piece of flint, she was able to light the candle, shedding light around the room.
“If there were riots here," she mused to herself, "I wonder what happened to Ruth. Perhaps we should have looked in on her house.  I haven’t eaten in…how long has it been, Samuel?”  The little boy gazed calmly back up at her with his dark, innocent eyes.  She laughed softly.  “Well, you wouldn’t know, would you?”
She shook her head, running a hand through her dusty hair.  Now, where was it?  Clambering over a few large rocks in the back of the cave, she easily found the little hollow and dragged out the contents: two leather pouches, exactly identical.  She crawled back to her sitting spot and carefully emptied the first one.  Hundreds of coins of all types fell onto the floor in a glittering shower.  She looked it over carefully.  How much?  Certainly not enough to free Uncle.
She smiled at Samuel, who reached out to play with some of the small coins.  Shaking her head, she carried him to the other side of the cave so he couldn’t try to eat them.  Kneeling in the dirt, she began to sort and count the coins, hoping against all possibilities that there would be enough.  It took several minutes, but when she was done, she sat back, a depressed frown on her face.  Eighty-seven.  Not enough.
         “Well, Samuel,” she grinned at her brother, “we may be going to Northampton.  Let’s see.”   
         She took the second pouch and carefully removed the contents into her lap: old cloth and parchment.  She smoothed out the wrinkles in the ancient garment and refolded it.  When it had been neatly placed beside her, she took a look at the other object: a scroll of several parchments, all rolled together.  With a deep breath, she unrolled the first, holding it up to the candle to read it.  Her father had taught her to read, but the handwriting she found was strange, and the spelling followed no logical pattern.  It took her a while to decode it, only to find that there were three more letters, all in the same hand.
By the time she was done, her mind was reeling from what she had read.  Placing a steadying hand on the ground, she tried to breathe deeply, looking at the garment.    
“Strange,” she whispered to herself, lifting it up before the light.  It was obviously very old, and had at one time been a shade of dark purple--patches of the original hue still remained.  Most of it, however, had paled from exposure, making it nearly white.  It was torn in many places and soiled with several dark stains.  All in all, it did not look very valuable.
Where can I hide this? she thought, gazing around.  If she were to travel to Northampton with it, and if it were as valuable as the letters claimed, it would have to be somewhere no one would expect.  After a few minutes, her eye fell on her little brother, and a slight smile crossed her face.  Well, perhaps it is the only way.
        Stepping over, she lifted up her brother, who gurgled happily at being the center of her attention again.  She glanced worriedly at the new linens around him.  She sighed, wrapping the garment in an outer layer around his body.   
        “If you get this wet,” she laughed, “you must promise not to tell the Christians about it.  They’d probably kill you.”
The toddler laughed again, reaching out to touch her cheek.  She glanced down, checking it once more.  Not your ordinary child's robe, but it might work.  She smiled again, kissing him lightly on the forehead.  “Soon we will have Uncle back with us, Samuel.  Then we can be a family again.”
She attached the money-pouch to her belt and covered it with her cloak, then sighed, patting the mare’s nose gently as it grazed on the grass that was growing just inside the mouth of the cave.   
"Well, it’s almost sundown now.  We will wait until tomorrow to set out.”
~ ~ ~
Edward yawned, looking out at the river close below him.  It swirled around in sun-dappled eddies near the shore, showering a million sparkles of dancing light over the banks.  The orange rays of the setting sun cast the entire scene in a fiery display.  He watched the river and the sundown as he waited, wondering what he could possibly do next.
He heard the girl’s voice every so often from the cave, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying.  At one point he thought he heard the cry of the child again, but he wasn’t sure.  He frowned, watching the sun sink down to the west.  Whoever she was, she had some connection with the usurer, and was therefore in danger from Alfred.
Should I tell her?  He sighed, running a hand over his face slowly.  It was such a difficult decision.  He hoped that his brother would find the usury-house destroyed and return south, but he knew not to be too expectant.  It was more likely that Alfred's brigands would try to attack the village if they thought that what they wanted had been plundered away.
His mind wandered back to his mysterious stalker on the road, but even though he had seen no sign of him for hours, the nervous feeling had not left.  Again he glanced back at the woods through which he had come, his mind conjuring up images of dark eyes peering back at him from beneath shaded boughs.  He shuddered and rubbed his arms vigorously to ward away a growing chill.
Just then, a small gasp echoed from the mouth of the cave.  He glanced over to see the young woman standing there, her mouth open in surprise as she watched him.   
“What…” her voice sounded firm, but strained.  Her eyes held his, and he could see the fear in them.  “What are you doing here?”
As he looked into her eyes, though, he was speechless.  The memory of his dream came back to him, flooding him with questions.  She had been dying in the dream…
“Who are you?” she asked, and this time her voice was barely above a whisper.
He stood up, dusting off his tunic.  Her dark eyes continued to hold him.  And what he saw there caused his spirit to cry out, to want to comfort her.  
“My name is Edward,” he said, holding her gaze.  “From Melrose of Scotland.  And you?”
Her brow furrowed as she processed the name, searching her memory to see if he was there.  She drew a deep breath, regaining some of her composure and authority.  
“My name is Hannah.  But as for you, Edward of Melrose—why are you here?”
Instead of answering the question, he pressed one of his own to gauge her reaction.  “You’re Jewish, aren’t you?”
For an instant, horror flooded her face, but she quickly recovered.  “If I am, sir, what does it matter to you?”
“Forgive me.  I meant no harm to you.”
“Very well, then, Edward of Melrose.  Perhaps you should move along.  After all,” her voice resounded with scorn, “it certainly wouldn’t be proper for you to speak to a Jewess.”
“So I understand,” he replied.  “But I haven’t come here to speak to you.  I’m meeting someone. My brother, actually, though I wouldn't mind if we miss end up missing each other.”
“You're meeting him here?” she motioned with her hand to the brush-covered banks.
“No, I was actually supposed to meet him at the usurer’s house.”
“The usurer’s house is in the village,” she pointed back down the path.
“I know."
“Then—why don’t you go back?” she pressed bluntly.
“I think that I have a purpose to fulfill here,” he said, pursing his lips in thought.  “I’m not sure what it is yet.”
She wasn’t sure how to respond for a moment.  Edward reflected on his own statement and blushed at how ridiculous it sounded.
“You’re probably wondering if I’m some sort of crazed wandering mystic.”
She nodded, a hint of a smile forming at the corners of her mouth.  “But if you’re just waiting here, then I’ll be on my way.”
“No, wait,” he said, blocking the path.  “The roads probably aren’t safe—not with my brother on them.”
“So I should wait here with you until your dangerous relatives arrive?  That wouldn’t exactly be the height of wisdom, would it?”
He couldn’t help but smile at her dry analysis of the situation.
“The roads are never safe for Jewish women,” she said, glaring straight at him.  “It’s something that I have to deal with—I can’t live my life in worry, sitting around with, as you put it, a crazed mystic.”
“But the sun has almost set,” Edward protested.  “Surely you’re not planning to travel by night.”
“I have some friends in town,” she said, ducking quickly back in the cave.  She came out again with the small boy in her arms, her brown mare following behind.  “So I will be going now, Edward of Melrose.  I wish you luck with your brother.”
She stepped around him and made her way back down the little footpath.   He watched her move off for a long moment, wondering what to do.  
Heaving a great sigh, he began to follow her.  When she reached the edge of the woods, she turned around and raised an eyebrow at him.  “I don’t know what this purpose is you’re looking for, Edward of Melrose!” she called back.  “But I can assure you, it doesn’t include me.  Leave me in peace.”
He smiled, accelerating until he was walking beside her.  “I’m not so sure of that,” he said.
She brushed aside a branch from the path.  “Why must you plague me?” she wondered aloud.
“If you must know,” he said, smiling down at Samuel’s wondering gaze, “I was concerned about you.”
“About a Jewess?” she laughed bitterly.  “Perhaps Melrose has never heard of the social rules that classify all Jews as worthless.”
“I know of the common thought,” he said.  “And I happen not to share it.”
“Really?” she smiled--a genuine smile of bright surprise.  “Perhaps I should enjoy the company of crazed mystics more often.”
He began to muse out loud.  “Perhaps the Jews do deserve God's wrath for rejecting Christ, for having him killed. But it strikes me that Christ himself chose Jews to build his church.”
She tilted her head slightly, her eyes scanning the path ahead of them.
“So even Jews must be worth something,” he continued.  
She let out a sigh and shook her head as they broke out of the sheltering foliage into the openness of the town.  “Well, Edward of Melrose, I will bid you goodbye.  Perhaps I shall see you again, perhaps not.”
“Goodbye,” he said, standing next to the shattered frame of the usury-house as he watched her lead the horse down the narrow street.  
“And I know we shall meet again.”