Chariot Duo

Meditations from the Classics

Chariot Duo
Homer: Iliad 5:839 (762 B.C.)
Matthew 28:20


A chariot in the Iliad.

In a tense scene outside the battle-scarred walls of old Troy, Diomedes (a young Greek commander), was chastised by Athene, the goddess with the flashing eyes.

“Why aren’t you fighting?” she asked the idle soldier wounded from an arrow.

Diomedes replied, “it’s because Ares the War-god is fighting against us and you told me not to fight against the gods.”

“My dearest Diomedes,” cried Athene, “I understand; but with me at your back, you need have no fear, either of Ares or any other god. Quick now and get at him! Drive up, and do not stop to think ‘this is the redoubtable War-god’, but let him have it at short range.”

As she spoke, she reached out, dragged Sthenelus ( a captain in the army) back, and hustled him out of the chariot. “The eager goddess took her place in the car beside the noble Diomedes, and the beech-wood axle groaned aloud at the weight it had to carry, a formidable goddess and a mighty man of arms.”

It’s that last line that gets me. ” … a formidable goddess and a mighty man of arms.” δεινὴν γὰρ ἄγεν θεὸν ἄνδρά τ᾽ ἄριστον.⌉

What a team! A god and a man. An unbeatable combination.

I see this duo often in the Bible:
There’s little David running down the valley toward the giant with nothing but a sling and a stone-oh, and God.
There’s Daniel standing in the furnace, the flames hot and menacing. Oh, and God was with him.
There’s Jonah in the belly of a voracious whale all alone except, well except for God.

God and a man. Now that’s an unbeatable combination. It’s a duo you can count on if you are a disciple. It was the last thing Jesus promised before his ascension:

 “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

So remember.
It’s you and God in the chariot together.
There’s nothing you two can’t handle.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.

⌉The Greek text:
Chariot artwork:…



Meditations from the Classics

Horace, Odes–Book 1, Poem 6 (23 BC)haughty

Horace was asked once by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (/əˈɡrɪpə/; 64/62 BC – 12 BC) to write an epic poem in celebration of his military successes and those of Octavian (Augustus, Rome’s first emperor).  Though the world knows now that there was no greater poet than Horace, the humble writer turned down the job.

“…Agrippa, I don’t try to speak of such things,…
I’m too slight for grandeur, since shame and the Muse,
who’s the power of the peaceful lyre, forbids me
to lessen the praise of great Caesar and you,
by my defective artistry.”

Imagine that.  The incomparable Horace claiming incompetence.  He goes on to say that his ability limits him to compositions of silly things.

“I sing of banquets, of girls fierce in battle
with closely-trimmed nails, attacking young men…”

Surely this is a commendable frame of mind.  Every saint could profit by emulating the humility of the talented Horace.  All of us are too quick to sing our accomplishments and position ourselves for promotions.  In truth, the Christian’s goal is genuine spiritual humility, an awareness that our lives are meant to be hidden in Christ.

John the Baptist had it right when he said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Paul would have admired this trait in Horace who lived just a generation before him.  Paul had a similar outlook on life, one with the same mood and timbre as the poet that preceded him:

“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.  Do not be wise in your won estimation” (Rom. 12:16).

David R. Denny  Ph.D.
Meditations from the Classics

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Meditations from the Classics

Julius Caesar
Gallic War, Book VI (50 BC)


Druids often commune with nature.


When Caesar conquered the Gauls, he observed the customs of the Druids.  These priests of the people had a habit of memorizing all their sacred traditions.  This could take as long as twenty years!  They never wrote these mysteries down.  They trusted their memories more than ink and paper.  The fear of forgetting drove them to master their minds.

But wait.  The Lord has a better system for remembering:

“Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.  Behold, I have engraved thee upon the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:16).

Better than mere memory.
Better than ink and paper.

We’re engraved on the palms of the Lord!  With His every activity, every movement, every motion, we pass before His eyes.

When He salutes the angels on a morning march, He sees you on His raised hands.
When He reaches down to feed a faltering sparrow, He sees  you in the creases of His fingers.
When He distributes your daily bread, He sees your face in the hollow of His palms.
When He celebrates a new birth, He claps and thinks of you.

Forgotten?  Never.  As long as God has hands you will be cherished and remembered by Him.


David R. Denny  Ph.D.





Zachariah 9:9/Matthew 21:4-5

What was Jesus’ favorite passage of Scripture?  Remember, He only had the Old Testament to read.  The New Testament was written after His death.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask Jesus which passage of the Bible He loved to read the most?  Would He have chosen Psalm 23 which so many Christians love today?  Maybe.  Or would He have chosen Isaiah 6, the vision of God high and lifted up in the Temple that Isaiah saw?

I can’t answer this question, but I think I can pick one passage He loved–Zachariah 9.  Perhaps you’re not familiar with this one.   Take a minute and look it up.  Jesus not only read it and loved it.  He fulfilled it.


Jesus rides into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-5)


The first eight verses might seem obscure, but if you read on with patience the light grows stronger, and the presence of Jesus soon shines from the page.  Verse 9 tell of a King who will ride into Jerusalem upon a colt.  The entry into the city will herald a great victory and celebration.  The king on the colt will possess certain characteristics.  He will be just, endowed with salvation, humble, and a bestower of peace.

Imagine how Jesus felt when H read these verses. The fulness of time came, and He mounted a little colt outside Jerusalem and rose humbly into the city ready to die.

Surely this was one of Jesus’ favorite passages.  Which one is yours?  Do you have one?  Why not read it over today.  Better yet, share it with a friend.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.


Meditations from the Classics

Apuleius (124-170 AD)
Golden Ass 11

The custom of going into a temple or house of worship, standing at the pulpit and speaking sacred words, was an established practice in Biblical times.  Paul often took the podium in synagogues where he traveled.


Ancient Jewish synagogue

Jesus stood in the bema (a raised platform with a lectern), at the synagogue of Nazareth.  He read from the Scriptures and then delivered his message.  The people listened attentively but grew restless and eventually angry at His words.  Then,

“… they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff” (Luke 4:29).

A similar custom was practiced in temples of the ancient world.  Apuleius gave us this description of a day at a temple in Corinth:

“On arrival at the temple, the high priest, those who bore the divine figures, and those who had been admitted into the inner light of the cult, collected in the sanctuary of the goddess.  First, they put back the breathing images into their right places: then a man (whom all entitled the scribe) took his stand in a high pulpit before the doors, and the Society of the Pastophori (such is the name of the sacred college) was convoked.  The scribe thereupon read out of a book a set of patriotic prayers for the great Prince, the Senate, the Equestrian Order, the Roman people, and all sailors and ships which come under the jurisdiction of Rome.  After that, he pronounced in the Greek tongue and manner the ‘Laois aphesis’.  The people were then dismissed” (Golden Ass, 11).


Temple of Apollo in ancient Corinth


I can’t help but notice the way the people left their service in contrast to the Lukan dismissal.  When Jesus finished, the people escorted Him out to a cliff to dispose of Him.  In other words, angry to excess.

But in the pagan temple service it was quite different:

   “The shout that followed showed the popular approval of the day’s proceedings a; and the congregation began to file out, beaming with joy, carrying boughs of olives and other votive wreaths, and garlanded with flowers.  As they left the precincts, they one and all stopped to kiss the feet of a silver image of the goddess that stood on the steps.”

Two speakers.
Two readings from different pulpits.
Two reactions.

Jesus preached the truth, and the congregation lynched Him.  The other priest preached patriotism and the listeners responded with frenzied applause.

 David R. Denny  Ph.D.
1.  Ancient synagogue:
2.  Temple in ancient Corinth:

Mink Money

Parakeets in the Choir

Chapter Three
Mink Money

Minnie adjusted her pink peacock hat looking discreetly into the small pocket sized mirror held at waist level beneath the pew tops. She had arrived early padding quietly to her MInk1prominent place on the front right of the sanctuary. With social seniority over the other minks, she was always seated first. Her husband, Chauncey, usually came along later preferring to chatter with the boys at the side door until he heard the first hymn.

Minnie was a no-nonsense mink with little patience for irregularities. She expected her pew to be vacant and cleaned and for the service to start on time. She demanded a noon departure. Her prayer requests were always read first from the pulpit. When she stood for a hymn, everyone else stood. When she spoke, which wasn’t often, everyone listened.

Minnie liked jewelry. She wore a thick set of iridescent pearls, hand-harvested in the Persian Gulf, about her flaccid neck. Blending smartly with the white speckles on her dark brown fur, the nacreous pearls added a particular distinction to her demeanor. She was often seen touching the pearls during the service as if they were prayer beads, which they were not.

She had a black onyx ring on her left paw which she had picked up while visiting relatives down in the Gulf of Mexico on a worldwide romp several years back. She also had several gold bracelets. She enjoyed competing with the golden candlesticks that bedecked the altar in front of the church.

Minnie always asked her husband during the offertory for the checkbook. She spoke just loud enough for others to hear. “Chauncey, darling, the checkbook please,” she would say.

“Oh. Right, Sweetie. Here it is,” replied Chauncey always quick to oblige his wife.

“How much should I write it for Chauncey, dearest?” she would ask. “Is a thousand enough?”

Chauncey, who neither made the money nor had permission to spend it, usually just nodded politely. “That’s fine, Sweets,” he would say.

Then Minnie would scrawl out the zeroes with large sweeping strokes and hold the plate a few seconds while she placed her check on top of the other small bills. A flutter of impressed sighs would rise from the ranks about her, and the plate would pass on to the single mothers and blue-collar fathers sitting further back.

Minnie didn’t like surprises, which made the service last week all the more memorable. Just as the first hymn was beginning, a group of visiting Bolivian chinchillas hopped up the center aisle of the sanctuary looking a bit lost. Neither comprehending the rules of prestige nor having an understanding of a church pecking order, they excused themselves politely and stepped right past Minnie and sat down in her pew.

The choral director nearly swallowed her tongue. The congregation gasped in between the second and third verses of “Rescue the Perishing.”

These chinchillas were from one of the poorer barrios of a Bolivian ghetto. Their mottled gray fur was streaked with dirt and full of field burrs. Their large ears sagged. They looked tired. They had a slight riverbank odor.Mink2

Minnie squirmed the entire service long. She squeezed toward the center aisle side of the pew and never once greeted the visitors. When church ended, she went immediately to Mr. Barret, a long railed weasel who had been the head usher at the church longer than the polar ice cap had been frozen over.

“Mr. Barret? What is the meaning of this, this outrage?” snorted Minnie, pearls flipping and jiggling on her taut neck.

“What’s that, Minnie?” asked Mr. Barret feigning ignorance. “Something bothering you?”

“You know what’s bothering me, Mr. Barret. How could you let those cheap chinchillas get down as far as my row? Why didn’t you put them in the back with the rodents? Such a breach of protocol is very grave, Mr. Barret. Very grave.” Minnie wasn’t smiling at all.

Mr. Barret fought back his nervous giggle that weasels have. “I don’t know how they slipped by me, Minnie. I will certainly do better next time.”

Minnie was not impressed. “I hope so,” snapped Minnie her tail whipping about with a fury.

The chinchillas never came back.

The offering was down a thousand dollars the following week.Mink3

“Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5)).





Joyful Noise


Psalms 100
Joyful Noise

11_kids_parade The homespun instruments were spread out on the sanctuary podium like dueling pistols awaiting a dawn adventure.  There was the cornet mouthpiece that you play like a kazoo.  Next to it was the toy drum and rattly toy tambourine.  Two tiny cymbals rested beside several dinner spoons serving as cymbal thumpers.  There were three recorders, a homemade dulcimer with a single twangy string, two cha cha Mexican shakers and a two-bit brass bell the size of a baby’s fist that I bought just the day before at a Saturday sale.

It was children’s church time in the morning worship service.  The kids sat in the front row twitching nervously, mischievously, as they looked first at the instruments then at the adults and then back at the instruments wondering if this was too good to be true.  That they could make noise, loud noise, wanton, reckless and uninhibited noise on Sunday morning was too much to grasp.

When the signal came, they surged forward, each child with an eager hand out hoping for just the right melody maker.  The bell went here, the cha chas went there, the cymbals to this one, the recorder to that one until every child had something.

Then they marched around the sanctuary.  Marching and playing.  Playing and marching.  The adults leaned sideways parting like the Red Sea as the parade passed.  Marching, smiling, smashing, blowing, tinkling, laughing, drumming and making happy childhood memories of being in church.


“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands” (Psalms 100).


David R. Denny  Ph.D.
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Bottom Feeders

Parakeets in the Choir

Chapter Two
Bottom Feeders

Cornell, a Mississippi channel catfish with extra thick barbels and a perpetual scowl, swaggered down the church aisle to his customary pew. He sat in the middle section to the right, the preacher’s left, just in front of the Alabama mud hens who loved to cluck and gossip about trivialities.

Cornell was often seen swiveling about in his seat to hear the latest news. The talk today was about Mrs. Jessep’s daughter, Silvia, who was running with a hulky fellow who had chains dangling from his belt and silver earrings in his lobes. Silvia, the deacon’s daughter and a vivacious feline with silver tipped paws, was a bit rebellious.

Cornell gobbled up the news, his back fin wriggling with nefarious delight. He knew better. He had heard several informative sermons on the illicit dangers of perpetual bottom feeding, but none of it stuck. Gossip, innuendo, rumors, and whisperings, which resided in the muck of the social graces, had a grip on his senses. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t forswear these vices.

Bottom1Many times Reverend Smathers, the preacher, would look right at Cornell during the sermon, pointing a stiff and censorial wing in his general direction saying, ” . . . and furthermore, it’s just plain wrong. Anybody who loves to muzzle up to the muck in the river bottom, if you know what I mean, is a pretty sorry church person, I’ll say that. Whoooee, yes sir, I’ll say that right here in front of God Himself.”

Preacher Smathers was a serious heavy-lidded white-faced owl who didn’t take well to insubordination, snoring in church or bottom feeding. He didn’t mind preaching about it either.

The mud hens usually took it pretty hard. Parishioners nearby could hear them clucking softly during these sermonic tirades. But Cornell paid little attention to this. He just scribbled on the bulletins, drawing stick figures of cats on fence railings and dogs howling against large moons. Once the service ended, he was quick to swivel around and continue any conversation interrupted by the call to worship.

I can’t recall exactly when the change in Cornell started. I think though it happened the day his sister, Malinda, a slender catfish with white lips and alluring eyes got pregnant. This event, of course, caused great consternation in Cornell’s family.

The tides rose and fell around Malinda. She was the star of the household, and her parents had high hopes for their talented daughter swimming the full length of the Mississippi and earning an athletic scholarship to college. The local media had already interviewed her twice. She had even appeared once on the six o’clock news.

Then came the unexpected pregnancy. (Malinda wasn’t married). Now her future was suddenly in question, and her story appeared in several catfish tabloids. It was starting to get nasty.

Cornell heard the mud hens whispering about her in church one Sunday morning. He had just slipped into his pew and there it was. He didn’t turn around, but he could make out the coded language.

” . . . and she heard it from Jake who swore on his mother’s picture that it was true,” said one hen covering her mouth with a wing.

“You can’t believe Jake,” said another hen. “He’ll say anything to get attention.”

“No. This time, he wasn’t joking. He saw Malinda picking out maternity clothes at Jibes Pet Store downtown.”

“Really?” said three hens together bending in toward one another in a mud hen half circle.

“Yep. I swear it.”

Cornell couldn’t stand it. He was getting mad. His back fin stood straight up trembling and fluttering with agitation. He turned around and told them all just before “Holy, Holy, Holy” was set to begin, that they shouldn’t talk about other people like tBottom2hat. “That’s wrong, you know. People have feelings. And besides, this is a place of worship, not idle talk.” His whiskers pointed like tiny daggers at the hens who pulled back with fright pressing into the back of the pews.

Cornel sat rigidly through the entire sermon, his lips shut tight. He scowled so hard he could barely unlock his jaw after the last prayer and the people rose to leave. I’m not sure what Cornell was thinking during that sermon but this one thing I know: Cornell never gossiped again. In fact, he has since become a model catfish serving on the deacon board and helping out in the seven-year-old classes during Sunday school.

And by the way, his sister, Malinda, had her baby and still swam the river. She will be attending, on full scholarship, Catfish State in the fall.


“For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances” (2 Cor. 12:20).

Dr. Nicholas Trusaint



Triumphal Entry

Meditations from the Classics

De Rerum Natura: 2  (Written 50 B.C.)
(Nature of Things: Book Two)

Do you hear the drums and the clash of cymbals?  It’s getting closer.  What is it?  Oh, yes, there it is.  It’s the procession for Mother Earth, (Cybele) the goddess of the ancient world as she enters another town surrounded in a glorious frenzy by her followers.  It’s like a triumphal entry.

A thunder of drums attends her, tight-stretched and pounded by palms, and a clash of hollow cymbals; hoarse-throated horns bray their deep warning, and the pierced flute thrills every heart with Phrygian strains.  Weapons are carried before her, symbolic of rabid frenzy, to chasten the thankless and profane hearts of the rabble with dread of her divinity.  So, when first she is escorted into some great city and mutely enriches mortals with wordless benediction, they strew her path all along the route with a lavish largesse of copper and silver and shadow the Mother and her retinue with a  snow of roses (Lucretius, De Rerum Natura: 2).



Earth: triumph of Cybele, sitting between Bacchus and Ceres in a chariot drawn by two lions and surrounded by satyrs, putti and women carrying baskets of fruits and flowers (1721 etching–British Museum).

Quite a show, isn’t it?
But wait.  Another parade is approaching.  Who is it?  A great crowd is gathering.  The sounds of Hosanna echo up and down the country road.  It is Jesus, the creator of Earth.  See how humbly He comes?  Riding a donkey!  There are no weapons before Him to frighten the masses into submission.  He is not some stiff and frozen statue nailed to a mobile platform.  He is alive.  He beckons the people to come to Him.

And most of the multitude spread their garments in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees, and spreading them on the road.  And the multitudes  going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!’
(Matthew 21:8-9).

Two spectacular triumphal entries:

The first was led by Cybele whose wooden face and painted smile betrayed her wooden heart.  The second was led by Jesus who blessed the masses and healed the lame and gave His life a ransom for many.

Go ahead.  Gather your things and join the throngs.  But choose carefully which triumphal procession you will join.

David R. Denny  Ph.D.

Image from the British Museum




John 13

After the introductory expressions of courtesy: the greeting, and the kiss, the Eastern guest was offered water for cleansing the feet.  Traveling down country roads made it hard to keep clean.  So it was customary for a host to provide this courteous ritual.  Servants would pour water upon their feet over a copper basin and then wipe them clean using a towel.  The best place to see this custom in action is in the upper room scene in John 13.

washing feet

“After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciple’s feet…”(John 13:5).

It was the evening of the Passover meal when the disciples entered the room selected for the occasion.  The memories of Bethany behind them now, the circle of disciples gathered to dine and wonder at the Savior’s intentions.

The table was set, and Jesus’ followers reclined around the triclinium.  Everything seemed ready.  The food was on the table and the evening seder was in progress ( καὶ  δείπνου  γινομένου).  Candles held back the darkness gracefully.  But where was the servant?  The pitcher was on the table near the entrance.  The water basin waited, untouched next to the linen cloth  (λέντιον) used for drying the feet.

But where was the servant?  A long and uncomfortable silence settled over the disciples.  It was the custom for a servant to wash their feet before they ate.  There was no servant.  No one moved.  How could they?  This task demanded a slave.  They were the future rulers of the new kingdom of Jesus.



The triclinium of ancient Rome.

They grew impatient.  Furtive glances left and right brought no relief.  Someone would have to act, to go and find the tardy slave.

Scripture is majestic in its brevity here.  The text says simply that at this moment of crisis, in the servant’s absence, “Jesus rose from the supper.”  He knew His hour was here.  The Cross confronted him.  Time was accelerating now and the years of preparation thrust Him forward for life’s final crescendo.

Having yet to feel the cut of the spear’s cold edge and the calloused cries of the Roman soldiers, he knew these atrocities were near.  He knew yet He rose from supper and laid aside His garments.  He rose to gird Himself for this menial yet meaningful expression of spiritual intimacy.

The disciples noticed His preparation for the menial task immediately.  They knew His intentions, but no dared to stop Him at first.  Jesus removed His tunic.  He wrapped the long linen towel about His waist.  No one protested.  The light splash of water in the copper basin elicited no outward outrage.  The Son of God and right King of Israel became the absent servant.  In the flicker of the candle light, Jesus passed from king to servant.

Peter protested but quickly learned the higher lesson and relented embracing the touch of His master.  With a tenderness natural in solemn farewells, Jesus lingered before each man.  He poured the water, rubbed and dried the feet of each disciple.  And in this intimate expression of a Savior’s love for His closest friends, He pledged Himself anew to them all.  No words or oaths were sworn.  But there was a commitment extended that would span the ages.  In this solemn act, Jesus confirmed each disciple and conveyed the same love He offers to us each day.

David R. Denny  Ph.D

 Artwork from: