Bible


Ok.  Here’s my sermon (draft, at least) for Sunday:

I think it’s hard for us to feel and understand the full impact of what we’ve come to know as Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan today.  Today, because of the role this story has played in our cultural history, the term “samaritan” is synonymous with being a do-gooder.  In Jesus’ day, it would have been more like being a voodoo witch doctor:  someone who might still bear some of the outward trappings of our religion, but who’s rites and practices were clearly perversions of the real meaning of our faith.  In fact, I’m feeling that I’m overstating the case against someone who practices voodoo.  But I’m pretty sure jews in Jesus’ day would have felt I was understating the case against Samaritans.  It was so bad that jews from Galilee had to travel in large groups to pass safely through Samaria.

Jesus, by the way, is in a very adversarial situation when he tells this story.  He’s being questioned by his enemies, who are looking for something they can use against him.  A debate between presidential candidates might be friendlier! (more…)

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I know I’ve read chapter 24 of Genesis before, though not necessarily as a unit.  But I’ve always been inclined to dismiss it simply as “they found the boy a bride.”  I’ve never really looked at the chapter.

It comes right after the story of Sarah’s death, and Abraham’s purchase of land in the Promised Land for her burial, and her burial.  Abraham, for the first time, is a land owner.  It sounds like Isaac would have been born when she was about ninety years old, give or take a year or two.  She died when she was 127 years old.  So Isaac was probably 35 plus years of age at the time of her death.

Always assuming we’re supposed to pay any attention to ages in a chronological sense. (more…)

So, once more, here is a draft of tomorrow’s sermon for Yuba City:

Easter 6 C

I’m going to throw you a curve this morning, and use the alternate gospel reading for this Sunday.  Not only that, as allowed by canon, I’m going to preach on a slightly longer text than is specified.  We are always allowed to expand the reading, and I’m doing it so that you hear the whole story.  Don’t worry, it’s not that long!

When the story starts, Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem, to attend a religious festival.  When he arrives, near the Sheep Gate, which may have been how he entered the city, he passes a pool of water, around which are gathered all kinds of invalids.

Why are they gathered there?  If you look at the copy of the gospel I passed out at the beginning of the service, you will see a bold footnote, number 1, just before verse 5.  — Did you notice that our reading had no verse 4?  What the footnote tells us is that the best and earliest sources did not have a verse 4.  But other sources had, wholly or in part, an explanation:  they were waiting for the stirring of the water, because when an angel stirred the water, the first one in would be healed.

One man had been waiting by the side of the pool, receiving charity from the faithful for his livelihood, for thirty-eight years.  I’m thinking he had become comfortable and complacent in his disability.  And I’m thinking Jesus thought so too.

Recognizing that the sick man had been there a long time, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?”

You would think the obvious answer to this question is, “Yes!  Yes!  Please God heal me.” (more…)

John Miller shared a post by Derek Flood on FaceBook.  I liked it enough to share some excerpts here:

God is love.
If that’s true, then Paul’s famous hymn of love in first Corinthians 13 can be read like this:
God is patient, God is kind.
God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud.

God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking,
God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. (more…)

I’ve been thinking this week about how religious traditions build on the customs and sites of those who have gone before – even when those who have gone before are of different faiths.  Christmas trees are derived from non-Christian traditions in Germany, I’m told, and Halloween is derived from Celtic druidic practices – though they have been “baptized.”  A Christmas tree is not used by Christians to worship a different deity.  All Saints’ (or all Hallow’s) Eve remembers those who have died in the faith (even with all the spooky stuff about death and spirits) and who are now alive in Christ.  For that matter, Christians take the Jewish holy writings and look at them through a new lens, and Muslins take both Jewish and Christian holy writings and look at them through a lens of their own.

And it’s not like this is something new.

In chapter 12 of Genesis, when Abram first comes into the land of Canaan, he arrives at the sacred place at Shechem and comes to the oak grove of Moreh.  It is very likely that this oak grove was already a site of worship for Canaanite deities. (more…)

There was a strand in yesterday’s office reading from Jeremiah that I hadn’t noticed before.  In it, starting at 15:27, Jeremiah says:

I took no pleasure in sitting with merrymakers; with your hand on me I sat alone,
choking with the indignation you filled me with.
Why is my pain ongoing,
my wound incurable, refusing to heal?
Why, you’re like  a spring that dries up when it’s needed most,
like waters that can’t be relied upon!

The commentary in The Jewish Study Bible suggests that Jeremiah has failed in his office of being a prophet. (more…)

I was rereading the story of Noah in Genesis today.  It’s so obvious to me, now, that this is not actual history and that the story uses two sources that I have to remind myself that this was not always so.

The sources are pretty obvious (if mixed together) when you look at the story  We go back and forth between one pair (a male and a female) of every species in the first source and seven pairs of all clean species (and only one pair of all unclean species) in the second source.  (more…)

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