“The Fearsome God of Isaac”

Painting of an old woman reading the Bible by a fireplace

The daily lectionary includes Genesis 31:17-32:12

Just noticed this: In Genesis 31:42 and 31:53, Jacob refers to the God of Abraham and the something God of Isaac; NRSV translates it as “the Fear of Isaac” and notes that the Hebrew is uncertain; similarly JPS; NLT translates it as “the fearsome God of Isaac.” So people think it has something to do with fear, which probably makes a lot of emotional sense if you consider that Isaac and Abraham have asymmetrical experiences of the God of Genesis 21.

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Second Sunday after Epiphany

Icon showing golden image, fiery furnace, and lion's den

Commitment has a way of being rewarding

Despite the winter storm watch on Friday/Saturday, the parking lot this morning had been ploughed and was not too slippery, and most of our driveways must have been sufficiently passable, because almost as many people showed up for worship as usual.

I think our class concluded that a word that describes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would be “committed.” This might also describe people who show up to worship God in 6° weather, though it’s clearly a matter of degree.

The sermon encouraged us to think about what it means to be called by name (in light of 1 Samuel 3:1-10 and John 1:43-51), to remember the enthusiasm we felt as children, like in kindergarten, wanting to be called on, to remember what it was like to get a phone call (e.g., back in the days when there was one phone in the house, and they were mostly for grownups), read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

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“The holiness of the chosen day is not something at which to stare and from which we must humbly stay away. It is holy not away from us. It is holy unto us.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 87.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Daniel 3)

Icon showing golden image, fiery furnace, and lion's den

“… for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Daniel 3:29

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, January 14 is from the story told in Daniel 3. Here are some questions we might (or might not) find useful for reflecting on the text and discussing in class:

Who is the “main character” of the story – or, who is the story “about”? How do we know? Could anyone else be the main character? Who? If we change who we think the main character is, does that change what we think the story means? How? (Why?)

With whom does God (that is, the God of Israel) communicate in the text? How? With whom does God seem to “have a relationship” in the text? How would we describe that relationship? With whom does God not have a relationship? What does any of this tell us about God? Why? read the rest

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Something Entirely New

Painting of an old woman reading the Bible by a fireplace

The daily lectionary for January 12 includes Matthew 9:1-17

Finally realized that I have always missed the point of the metaphor in Matthew 9:16 (“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth?” NLT). Hello, it’s clearly NOT about patching things up. If what you have is new cloth, you won’t be patching the old clothes, you’ll be making new ones. See Mt. 9:17 (new wine, new wineskins, all new …)

So, sticking with the metaphor, what’s the “old thing”? Way of life? Religion? Ideas about reality, and the appropriate practical response to it? Other?? Anyway, Jesus is not here to install a patch, he’s here with a whole new operating system.

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Waking Up to the Moment

the cover of the book Awake to the Moment

An introduction to constructive theology

I’m starting out the theological year by reading Awake to the Moment: An Introduction to Theology.1 This book has sat reproachfully on the “read me” shelf almost since it came out in 2016, while other preoccupations kept pushing it aside, so I’m getting to it at last with a mixture of relief and excitement.

Although it’s subtitled “An Introduction to Theology,” Awake to the Moment is authored by members of the Workgroup on Constructive Theology, and is explicitly “… an opening and an invitation to constructive Christian theology” (18). So it’s not just any old systematic theology text.

The introduction lays out some of the background assumptions and commitments that inform the constructive theology project. Sources for theological reflection include the “threads” of the Christian story: Jesus, the creator and incarnate God, the omnipresent spirit, the ever-present consciousness of poverty and of promise. But they also include everyday life in the contemporary world, the human experience into which the story speaks and which frames … read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Daniel 3)

Icon showing golden image, fiery furnace, and lion's den

“They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” Daniel 3:28

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, January 14 is Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28 – but the story being told occupies all of Daniel 3. It’s the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace, and it’s the third of four stories that concern King Nebuchadnezzar. Here are my notes on Daniel 3:

First Impressions and Questions: How big is sixty by six cubits? (Evidently, ninety by nine feet – so, a really tall, skinny statue.) Of what? (We are never told. It might have been of one of the Babylonian gods, or a person, or even “of” nothing in particular – it might have been an obelisk or stele.) Where is Dura? Why would King Nebuchadnezzar do any of this in the first place?? And why “a furnace of blazing fire” (v5)? Wouldn’t it be simpler just to run people through with a sword or something? (So, does the furnace mean something?) read the rest

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