Questions for Acts 13 1-12

etching of Elymas being struck blind

a lot of people have their hands out in this scene …

Here are some questions we might consider in class when we look at Acts 13:1-12, the Uniform Series text for this coming Sunday, and reflect on what it might mean for us:

Acts 13:1 names five individual “prophets and teachers” “in” the church at Antioch. Is this a similarity to our church “at” wherever we are, or a difference? In what way(s)? What images or impressions do we have of these prophets and teachers? Where do those come from (since Acts 13:1 doesn’t describe them beyond their names)? How might that (our background, things we already know) affect the way we read this story? read the rest

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Christian Doctrine (17)

Image - John Calvin

“… let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord.”
Institutes III.6.v

Here are my summary notes on Chapter 17 of Christian Doctrine, “Are You a Christian? The Doctrine of Sanctification.”

Guthrie starts by quoting Albert Camus, calling on Christians to back up their convictions with action, finishing up with “… if Christians made up their mind to it, millions of voices – millions, I say – throughout the world would be added to the appeal of a handful of isolated individuals who, without any sort of affiliation, today intercede almost everywhere and ceaselessly for children and for men.”1 The idea is that Christian faith ought to be visible in a Christian life as commitment and action consistent with … well, love, and compassion, and justice, it seems Camus implies. read the rest

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Exegetical Notes (Acts 13 1-12)

etching of Elymas being struck blind

“Immediately mist and darkness came over him …”

The Uniform Series (“International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching”) text for Sunday, December 10 is Acts 13:1-12. In brief, the Holy Spirit sends Barnabas and Saul on a mission trip to Cyprus and points beyond; the first event reported in detail is a conflict with the Jewish false prophet/magician Bar Jesus/Elymas, in which Paul wins, Elymas is struck blind, and as a consequence, the proconsul Sergius Paulus believes Paul’s teaching about Jesus. Here are my notes on the text: read the rest

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First Sunday in Advent

photo of two cats in a window looking at an advent candle

Looking forward to something during Advent

Yesterday, our pastor explained to our tiny congregation that the First Sunday in Advent is the “Christian New Year” – at least in the sense of it’s being the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. Happy New Year.

Every year, Christians who have this liturgical consciousness embark on an annual cycle of observance, remembrance, celebration, and so on with Advent, and finish up 52 weeks later with Christ the King Sunday (or, in inclusive language, Reign of Christ Sunday). On Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday (last Sunday) we affirm – because faith makes us crazy that way – that Jesus Christ is in fact the ruler of this world, and at the same time we admit – because, we are supposed to tell the truth* – that we don’t see a lot of evidence of that rule in the world around us and would like to see all that love and justice and peace with our own eyes. During Advent, we remember the sacred-historical time when God’s people looked forward to the arrival of a Messiah – from the Christian vantage point, Jesus, the incarnate Word – and remember that we are still looking forward to the ultimate arrival of the Messiah. So whether we call that ultimate arrival the second coming or the Parousia or the end times or the Kingdom of God or whatever, Advent reminds us that we are still looking forward to it, and to the better world it portends. read the rest

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Shabbat shalom

Image of synagogue at sundown

“Great are the laws that govern the processes of nature. Yet without holiness there would be neither greatness nor nature.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 76.

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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time


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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