In the palm of his hand

Excerpted from “Living by the Word” © 2011 The Christian Century. Used with permission. March 8, 2011

Head out on a tour of the castles of medieval Europe and you’ll quickly catch on to a castle’s three key features. What you see first is the bailey—a large area surrounded by a substantial wall where most of the population lived and most of the life of the community was conducted. Then, in one section of the expansive enclosure, like an egg yolk sunny-side up in the “white” of the bailey, lies the motte, a mound of earth raised significantly higher than the rest of the castle. On top of the mound lies the keep, a large vertical structure, sometimes cylindrical, sometimes square. offers no fewer than 39 meanings of the word keep, from “tend” to “hold” to “maintain.” None are dramatic or glamorous; all are prosaic and unpretentious, but also sturdy, reliable, trustworthy, and durable. Keep means permanence. Keep means unswerving loyalty. Keep means provision and care and protection.

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