Bringing the Text to Life

Seeing the Elephant/Hearing the Owl 2 Samuel 18:24-33

Today, as it has always, the church confronts problems that appear to dwarf both it and its abilities. In the face of issues as massive as war, global warming, the AIDS epidemic and economic recession, Christians face challenges to their personal faith so great that a kind of spiritual paralysis can set in. How can the church get people moving again and buoy up their belief that their individual attitudes and actions do make a difference?

"How to Plan for 1995," a feature article in Fortune Magazine (December 1990), begins with the following declaration by management theorist Ronald Henkoff: "One year into the Nineties and this is shaping up as the decade in which we came, we saw, and we ran for cover." A recessing economy, a warring Gulf, a rising unemployment, a deteriorating environment, and a looming deficit ($50,000 per taxpayer) have all rained on our proposed parade of peace, prosperity, and plenty.

An early American folk expression spoke euphemistically of "seeing the elephant and hearing the owl." (See the book analyzing the diaries and personal letters of 381 soldiers who fought at the battle of Shiloh by Joseph Allan Frank and George A. Reaves entitled "Seeing the Elephant": Raw Recruits at the Battle of Shiloh* (Westport: Greenwood, 1989.) This strange sounding juxtaposition of images was used to describe an encounter with some insurmountable obstacle (hence "seeing the elephant") which threatened the very ...

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