Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rembrant_-_Copy_of_1646_Circumcision

More in the flesh of some than of others

A very short and possibly overly personal reflection on the topic of the Uniform Series text (Genesis 17:1-14) for Sunday, September 10, which was also the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time:

It was difficult. It was difficult to do the exegesis on this text, it was difficult to think about it, it was difficult to prepare for our class on it; it just seemed to raise a kind of reluctance or avoidance. So maybe that is something to pay attention to. Why is that?

There are probably rules for what we can and cannot say, should and should not say, both about the text, and about the practice of circumcision; it must be the case that from some perspectives it is a profound and valorized practice, precisely because of its position in the Torah and its role in signifying the boundary of the covenant community. And from some other perspectives, it is a clear instance of the narrative construction of group boundaries, and is a kind of open invitation to various forms of cultural and symbolic criticism. So I assume there are rules; I just don’t know what they are, not having done enough of the relevant research. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

“The Sabbath is not holy by the grace of [humanity]. It was God who sanctified the seventh day.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 76.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Genesis 17 1-14)

Rembrant_-_Copy_of_1646_Circumcision

“So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.” Genesis 17:13

Here are a few questions about the Uniform Series text for this coming Sunday (Genesis 17:1-14) that we might want to consider in class:

In v 5, God changes Abram’s name to Abraham. (God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah in v 15). What does it mean that God makes this change in Abram/Abraham’s name? What does it say about God? What does it say about the relationship between God and Abram/Abraham (Sarai/Sarah)? If we think about who normally gives people their names, does it make a difference in our answer here? What difference? read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Genesis 14 1-14)

Painting by Rembrandt of a ritual circumcision of an infant

“So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant.” Genesis 17:13

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, September 10 is Genesis 17:1-14, with the whole chapter as background. Here are my [very few] exegetical notes:

Background: Abram enters the Genesis narrative in chapter 12, with YHWH saying to Abram to leave Haran, and with a promise of descendants and land and blessing. Abram goes to Egypt to escape a famine, lies about Sarai being his sister, gets out of that without too much embarrassment and some augmented fortunes (Genesis 13). Splits up with Lot and gets another promise of offspring and land (Genesis 13:14-18). Rescues Lot from King Chedorlaomer et al., and is blessed by the King of Sodom and King Melchizedek of Salem (Genesis 14:17-24). God makes a covenant with Abram that involves animal sacrifice and a vision of a smoking fire pot, and a gift of land (Genesis 15). Sarai still has no children, so comes up with a plan to hook Abram up with her servant/slave Hagar (“the Foreigner”), resulting in domestic disaster #1 (Genesis 16); domestic disaster #2 will come up in chapter 21. So the articulation of a covenant in chapter 17 will be a repetition with variation on a theme already articulated in the story so far. The commentators suggest that this is P’s version, with J’s version having already appeared in chapter 15. read the rest

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Happy Labor Day!

Image - We Can Do It propaganda poster

“No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”
Dorothy Day

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Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Painting of Noah's sacrifice following the flood

It takes a long time to recover from a disaster

[Something like a sermon, on Genesis 9:8-17, the Uniform Series text for Sunday, September 3]

Does God learn?

That’s a hard question, and maybe a trick question. If God has the characteristics that classical theology has classically ascribed to God – like omniscience, full and complete knowledge of all that can be known, along with omnipresence and omnipotence, so that wherever anything can be, God is, and whatever can be done, God can do – then it would seem that God doesn’t have a lot of need to learn, because God already knows. For humans, learning is a good – not just because there are things that it is good for us to know, so that learning is good because it gets us to the good of knowing, but because learning itself, the changes that we associate with learning, the process of experience and insight and delight that is what we mean by learning, that is good all on its own, apart from the usefulness of whatever it is we learn. So it feels a little … not good … to say that God cannot have that good along with all the other good that God has and is. Although God is not us, so it may be that we do not need to worry too much about that. read the rest

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Genesis 8 & 9)

Painting of Noah's sacrifice following the flood

“Or who has given a gift to God …”

The Uniform Series text we’re studying on Sunday, September 3 is Genesis 8:20-22 & 9:8-17. Here are a few questions that we might want to consider in class:

Noah’s first act after the flood subsides and he and his family leave the ark is to take animals that are appropriate for sacrifice and offer “whole burnt offerings.” Does the act of sacrifice take on any different meaning in the context of the aftermath of the flood? Is it a statement or suggestion of what God desires, or what Noah understands God to desire? What is that? How effectively does the sacrifice express gratitude? Why? Does it express anything else? What? Why? read the rest

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