Shabbat shalom

Image Hanukkah celebration 18th c

“… the Messianic end of days … will give back to [humanity] what a thing in space, the Tower of Babel, had taken away. It was the vision of the Messianic day in which the hope of restoring the unity of all [humanity] was won.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1979) 79.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Acts 14 8-11, 19-23)

Karel Dujardin painting Paul healing lame man at Lystra

Possibly someone whose soul Paul will later strengthen …

On Sunday, December 17, we’ll be studying and discussing the Uniform Series text Acts 14:8-11, 19-23. The text includes the first part of a story about a healing miracle performed while Barnabas and Paul are preaching in Lystra, a city in Asia Minor; it then jumps to the conclusion of the story of Barnabas’ and Paul’s first missionary journey, which has incited significant opposition among “the Jews” of the region. Here are some questions we might consider in our study and discussion:

When Paul heals the lame man, he first “looked intently at him” and “saw that he had the faith” to be healed or “rescued.” What do we think this means? What might Paul have been looking for? Can we see (or, “see”) that someone has faith? How – that is, what does it look like? More personally: If someone like Paul looked intently at you, what would they see, do you think? Why do you say that? How do you feel about that? Why? read the rest

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Christian Doctrine (18)

Image - John Calvin

For Calvin, the “marks of the church” did not include “right discipline.” Just sayin’

These are my summary notes [and comments] on Chapter 18 of Shirley W. Guthrie, Jr.’s Christian Doctrine, “Living or Dead? The Doctrine of the Church”:

Guthrie begins by observing how much people complain about the church. He agrees the church is “in trouble.” Church numbers are declining and church influence on individuals and society at large is waning. [Not everyone sees that as a bad thing, either. Some people these days see the church as an active force for evil in the world. Some of those people speak from persuasive personal experience. For them, less church influence would be an improvement.] So it’s not that easy to take some of the doctrinal words about the church seriously: “the people of God,” “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” and so on. Guthrie acknowledges this, and tries to clear up “those points at which there seems to be widespread misunderstanding and confusion today” (351). read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Acts 14 8-11, 19-23)

Karel Dujardin painting Paul healing lame man at Lystra

Paul, looking intently at him …

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, December 17 is Acts 14:8-11, 19-23 (so, skipping most of the story where the people of Lystra mistake Barnabas and Paul for Zeus and Hermes, and are “scarcely restrained” from offering sacrifices to them, even after Paul preaches a sermon urging them to turn to the living God who “made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them”). Here are my notes on the text:

Context: This text continues the story of Barnabas’ and Paul’s first mission trip, which began in chapter 13 with their trip to Cyprus and the episode with Bar Jesus. Barnabas and Paul keep starting out by preaching in Jewish synagogues, followed up by preaching to Gentiles. They encounter interest, but also repeated opposition, from “the Jews” (13:45, 13:50, 14:4-5). All this preaching to and making disciples of Gentiles on this trip will lead into the controversy around how to include the Gentiles, which will form the substance of the 1st Jerusalem council, described in chapter 15. read the rest

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If I Had a Hammer …

I live in a rural area. We had to disconnect our “upgraded” “digital” cable many years ago, because the service was so lousy we could never watch our TV.

After that, when we got hit by lightning the second time, we almost had our living room blow up because of the never-removed cable line into our house. [Since the line is too expensive and too much trouble to disconnect, there it is forever …] I am seriously not making this up.

So you can imagine how enthusiastic I am about the prospect of cable-company-controlled internet. (In case you can’t, it’s NOT.)

I realize this little back-water blog is not going to break the internet, and I couldn’t embed the nifty line of code at THIS SITE in my header because I don’t have custom CSS, but I AM going to call all my congresspeople about net neutrality today, because I feel that strongly about it.

I encourage others to do the same.

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Second Sunday in Advent

Advent wreath with two candles lit

“Light one candle for peace …”

I learned a few things this morning. That the word “comfort” originates in the word for “strengthen.” That in the Bible verse “I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil” (Jeremiah 29:11) which is quoted everywhere and shows up that way in about 1,000 memes, the word translated “good” is shalom, which in that context might be even better to translate “well-being” or “welfare” (which is, in fact, how the NRSV translates it). It just changes it a little. And that well-being or welfare includes forgiveness … not holding people’s limitations and inabilities against them … even, making it possible for us not to hold our own limitations and inabilities against us, the way we do sometimes when we get in that space where we are convinced we are not good enough … read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image - portrait of young girl

“The quality of holiness is not in the grain of matter. It is a preciousness bestowed upon things by an act of consecration and persisting in relation to God.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 79.

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