What is truth?

22 November 2015
Last Sunday after Pentecost
The Reign of Christ
Proper 29B (RCL)
2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

In the wake of recent events (attacks in Beirut, Paris and the backlash against Syrian refugees in this country and around the world), I have been wondering about the ideological advantages of fear. I think I can figure out the evolutionary advantages of fear: individuals who retreat from or conquer threats are more likely to survive and pass on their genetic memory to future generations. I question, however, the advantage of fear for the survival of the species as a whole. Fear, I suppose, makes it easier to enforce group loyalty, and prevent defection. The Washington Post published an article that points out that Daesh (ISIS is not a state) practices terrorism precisely to get “us” to respond in fear, in order to drive the wedge between “us” and “them” deeper, and force Muslims into radicalism in response to “our” fear. Continue reading “What is truth?”

Birth pangs

15 November 2015
Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 28B (RCL)
1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10 (The Song of Hannah)
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 13:1-8

Hannah’s predicament is not an uncommon one in biblical story. Probably official YHWHism’s suppression of the fertility cults left many women without choice but to resort to “magic.” The glee of the rival wife at her rival’s infertility would be a continuing reminder of one’s shame. The biblical story gives us several examples of the official cult resulting in a pregnancy. YHWH is not just a war god, but also handles cases of infertility. The births that come about through YHWH’s intervention always have a high significance for the ongoing story of G-d’s people (Isaac, Samuel). Continue reading “Birth pangs”

Offering our lives

8 November 2015
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 27B (RCL)
Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

The story of Ruth seems to me to be a response to the edict of Ezra after the return from Exile that those who had remained behind and married foreign women must send them home. The author of Ruth seems to be saying, “Not so fast: the great grandmother of David was a Moabite.” It’s a charming and humorous story. Naomi tells her daughter-in-law to wash herself and perfume herself and then go out to the threshing floor, where the men will have been eating and drinking and notice where Boaz lies down. She tells him to uncover the man’s feed (a nice euphemism), “and he will tell you what to do.” Indeed, he will. As the story ends, and Boaz goes down to the gate to work out a deal with the nearer kinsman, who chooses not to buy Elimelech’s land, since Ruth comes with the deal, the elders at the gate wish that with the children Ruth will bear him, Boaz’s house may become like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah. Tamar, of course, played the harlot with Judah to force him to exercise his redemption of her. Matthew includes both Tamar and Ruth in his genealogy of Jesus. Continue reading “Offering our lives”