This morning’s devotional from St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Memphis features the following morning scripture reading, part of which is reproduced below:
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”
17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi…
Every time I see that passage (the Authorised Version refers to it as “the jawbone of an ass”) I think of a story told by my second year Latin teacher, the Rev. Raymond O’Brien, a fine Episcopal minister. (My story about him, intiction and the French bread is here.)
He told the story of an Episcopal seminarian who informed his committee that he wanted to take his oral examinations as a fundamentalist. The committee was aghast; what self-respecting Episcopalian would want to do anything as a fundamentalist? So one of the committee members asked him, “Do you really think that Samson slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass?”
His response: “Well, when I consider the havoc the jawbones of some asses have wrought…”
When we consider the course of the Anglican/Episcopal world since then, the response makes much more sense.
Full disclosure: while pursuing my PhD, I successfully petitioned out of my oral examinations. I doubt I’d have a comeback quite as snappy as that one.