Exegetical Exercise (Genesis 8 20-22, 9 8-17)

Painting of Noah's sacrifice following the flood

Killing big animals to demonstrate our gratitude for not having been killed

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, September 3, is Genesis 8:20-22, 9:8-17. Here are a few notes on that text:

The book: We are back to Genesis, the Torah; probably the form we have now reflects layers of stories from ancient times, put together from more than one source – in this passage, a southern popular source (J) and a “priestly” source (P) – around the time of the end of the Babylonian exile, so early 5th century BCE. Which might be important because the text preserves ancient experience and revelation, and in a form that is meaningful to people who have a more recent experience of redemption from a disastrous experience that they, or many of them, understand to have been avoidable, something that happened as a consequence of anti-covenantal behavior. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image - painting of Jewish bride by Gottlieb

“Just as the physical world does not owe its existence to the power of man – it is simply there – so does the spirit not owe its existence to the mind of man.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 76.

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Painting of an angel visiting the soldier Cornelius

Someone not to hate.

[A sermon on the Uniform Series text for today, Acts 10:19-33.] Hate has been making the news of late. But hate is not a new problem. It’s as old – well, almost as old – as humanity itself. We might want to say that hate is the first sin – because the first time the word “sin” is actually used in the Bible, it’s when God is talking to Cain about the hate he bears towards his brother Abel, which ultimately leads Cain to murder Abel. The Bible doesn’t say Cain hated Abel, but we do know Cain was angry, and disappointed, and we suppose resentful … and at that point, at the point he is having that response, God warns him that “sin is crouching at the door; it wants you; you have to overcome it.” As we know, Cain doesn’t do that. Continue reading

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Shabbat shalom

Woodcut of Neue Synagoge Frankfurt including assembled worhsippers

“There is a world of things and a world of spirit. Sabbath is a microcosm of spirit …”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979) 76.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Painting of an angel visiting the soldier Cornelius

Cornelius doesn’t look here like someone you couldn’t go get a cup of coffee with … too much

Questions on the Uniform Series text for Sunday, August 27, that we might be able to consider in class:

Although Cornelius is a Gentile, the text goes out of its way to make sure we know he is a very good person and reveres the God of Israel. How important is this common commitment to the possibility of this Gentile and his household being embraced by Peter and his community? That is – how important was this common love to creating the possibility for communication, despite their definite differences? How would it have been different if Cornelius had not known the God of Israel, and was unfamiliar with the Jewish community, but had revered “God”? read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Acts 10 19-33)

Painting of an angel visiting the soldier Cornelius

Cornelius, looking not particularly 1st century or Roman here, seeing a vision, which does look considerably brighter than the surrounding room

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, August 27 (last Sunday of the Summer quarter) is Acts 10:19-33, a smaller piece of the longer narrative of Cornelius’ and Cornelius’ household’s acceptance into the Christian community, featuring Peter’s vision of the thing like a large sheet filled with treif animals, etc.

Here are my very few notes on this: read the rest

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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

painting of Ananias restoring the sight of Saul aka St Paul

More than willing to follow through on the assignment, after a little more explanation.

The main conclusion from our class this morning, in considering Acts 9:10-19, was that Ananias was a significant influence on Saul [Paul], through his embodiment of the characteristics that any of us ought to strive to embody as Christians: trust in God and obedience; welcoming and loving the people we encounter; making a way into the community. Ananias’ modeling of this approach can be seen in Paul’s later ministry, and there’s no reason to think he did not learn it from his early encounters with the disciples, specifically Ananias. We could do worse than take Ananias’ ministry as a model for our own.

The other thing we realized is that Jesus in the passage is not an authoritarian, “because I said so, that’s why” kind of instructor. Although some of us might be inclined to think it’s a mistake to question the Lord, Jesus honors Ananias’ objection, and responds to it reassuringly, by providing him with a rationale for the instruction. A lot of us appreciated that.

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