Shabbat shalom

Image of synagogue at sundown

“What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 75.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (Acts 8 26-40)

painting of the baptism of the Ethiopian by St Philip

Why does this baptism take place in the wilderness, do you suppose?

Here are some questions over the Uniform Series text, Acts 8:26-40, that we could consider in class this Sunday:

How, or what, does the setting of the story – a desert road going from Jerusalem to Gaza – contribute to the meaning of the story? What are some of the meanings “the desert” or “the wilderness” has in scripture (e.g., in the Old Testament; in the gospels’ description of Jesus’ baptism)? Are any of those meanings present in this story? How does that affect your understanding of the importance of the story for us? Why?

There are a number of possible references or echoes in the author’s telling of the story to other stories in scripture (for instance, the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, and Jesus’ comment on that visit in the gospels; the Hebrews’ rescue by God at the Sea; Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist). How do these other stories affect your understanding of this story? Do things that happen in your own life ever make you think of scripture, either passages of scripture, or stories? How does that help you in those situations – or does it? Why, or why not? read the rest

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Remembering Political Correctness

Apple II ad 1977

Playing to what people thought about tech in 1977

Lately – that is, over the past year or so – I have heard more and more references to “political correctness.” I used to think I knew what that term meant. Now, however, I have concluded that it is yet another example of the creeping obsolescence of everything I learned in college.

Going by context and usage, “political correctness” now seems to mean something like “having to say things we don’t really believe because the people who control everything will yell and make trouble for us if we don’t.” For instance, someone who thinks that women are innately less suited to work in “tech” than men, and who thinks that lots of other people share this conviction, might announce that “political correctness” keeps the less courageous from saying this. “I’m not politically correct” seems to have come to mean something like “I’m not afraid to come right out and say what we all think, even though a bunch of easily-offended thought police will object to it.”

And here I had been thinking, literally for decades, that “political correctness” had something to do with having good values, and aligning your political behavior with them. read the rest

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Christian Doctrine (15)

Image - John Calvin

“If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.”
(Institutes II.2.xv)

Summary notes on Christian Doctrine1 Chapter 15, “What’s New? The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit”:

Moving on to the next paragraph in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” The identity of the Holy Spirit is one issue. The Holy Spirit is personal – so, not something, but someone. There are also good reasons, including feminist ones, to resist the impulse to pack all the “feminine side” of God into the Holy Spirit. Guthrie is going to stick with gender-inclusive but personal references.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the God of Israel. The Spirit shows up in the Hebrew Bible – in particular, as someone at work in the creation and the preservation of life (e.g., Genesis 1:1, Psalm 104:30); as the source of “all human culture, art, creativity, and wisdom” (293); and as the motive force behind justice for the poor and helpless – whether as enacted, for instance by leaders, or as demanded, for instance by prophets. And the Spirit is mentioned a lot in the New Testament, blowing where it will, noticeably in the lives of individuals and the Church. read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (Acts 8 26-40)

painting of the baptism of the Ethiopian by St Philip

Baptism in the wilderness

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, August 13 is Acts 8:26-40. These are my notes on the text:

This is an amazing text from a literary point of view; and there are a lot of ideas packed into this text-as-literature.

Similar and Related Texts: The gospel accounts of the work of John and Baptist and the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:1-17; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:19-34); Mark 1:1-11 is especially interesting, because there is parallel language and events (e.g., Jesus “comes up out of the water” and sees the Holy Spirit … cf. the experience of Philip & the Ethiopian in v. 39); Luke’s account is immediately followed by Jesus’ genealogy – maybe significant, since we are dealing with the same author, and there’s a little stress on the problem of genealogy in this passage, and since Luke’s genealogy stresses the genealogy that all humans share with Jesus, and since the idea of the universal availability of the gospel is one of the ideas in this passage. There is some real resonance with Exodus 14 & 15, the crossing of the Red Sea & its celebration, as well. read the rest

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Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Painting by Carpaccio of the consecration of St Stephen

“… full of the spirit and of wisdom …”

[Something a little less than a sermon on the Uniform Series text for this Sunday, Acts 6:1-8:]

As we look in on this episode from Acts, this story of the life of the early Church, here’s what we see: a conflict is taking shape. That’s the first thing. These early Christians do their best to treat everyone – literally, everyone who’s part of the group – like family. They share and share alike; maybe someone doesn’t have a great place to live, and someone who does will take them in; maybe a woman’s husband dies, and she can’t provide for herself – because in those days, it wasn’t that easy for a single woman to support herself financially, there weren’t that many paying occupations women could have, and not all of those were really even thinkable – so the other Christians would see to it that the widow’s needs were met, and presumably the widows helped those people out in what way or ways they could. Thus, it seems to have come about that, in a group that was growing by leaps and bounds, by thousands on the first day of Pentecost, as we read in the second chapter of Acts, someone hit on the idea of making a list of all the widows and making sure that every day they got food around to those women. Paul makes a reference to the “list” in use in Corinth in the letter to the Corinthians, for instance. Great idea! Whoever came up with it, it was an effort to meet the growing demand of living in this new kind of community. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image -

“To [Rabbi Hayim of Krasne] the Sabbath is the fountainhead … of eternity, the well from which heaven or the life in the world to come takes its source.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 74.

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