Shabbat shalom

painting of two men and two women visiting on the Sabbath

“[Judaism] seeks to displace the coveting of things in space for coveting the things in time, teaching [humanity] to covet the seventh day all days of the week.”
Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005), 91.

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Questions for Reflection and Discussion (2 Chronicles 7 12-22)

Painting of Solomon sacrificing to idols surrounded by his wives

God seems to have seen this coming.

The text we’re studying for Sunday, March 25 is 2 Chronicles 7:12-22. Here are some questions it might or might not be helpful to consider in class:

God (YHWH) appears to Solomon at night – possibly in a dream or “vision of the night.” What would be our response to an appearance from God? Why? read the rest

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Just Say No More

painting of an old woman with shawl and cap reading a Bible

The daily lectionary for March 22 includes Numbers 33:40-35:34

Noticed in today’s reading: “Nor shall you accept ransom for one who has fled to a city of refuge, enabling the fugitive to return to live in the land before the death of the high priest. You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.” (Numbers 35:32-33). Setting aside all the death penalty implications of this text and its context for the moment, it seems odd that someone eligible to hide out in one of the cities of refuge in the first place – namely, not a murderer – would pollute the land, unless contained.

Unless it’s not that the fugitive himself (or herself?) would do the polluting. Maybe the problem is that taking a ransom and letting that person go back to their hometown would be an invitation to the “avenger of blood” to go after them, which would likely precipitate actual murder, and moreover, murder that’s going to be considered legitimate or un-avenge-able (per Numbers 35:27). So, it’s just inviting more of that bloody pollution. Sort of the way taking that glass of grape juice into the living room is just asking for a great big stain on the sofa …

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More on “Tradition in Action”

the cover of the book Awake to the Moment

Tradition: solve the problems, make use of the possibilities

Notes on Awake to the Moment1, “Tradition in Action” (69-104):

The second chapter of Awake to the Moment discusses Christian “tradition” as a resource for constructive theology. What most readers probably think of as tradition, “sets of shared meanings and practices that repeat, or have continuity with, the past” poses both “problems and possibilities” for doing constructive theology (70). Christian tradition may have more than its share of heinous charges laid at its door, like the “crusades, inquisitions, slavery and pogroms” (71). And tradition appeals to authorities, who may become authorities initially because they are the biggest or strongest or loudest or richest members of the community, and who then turn around and authorize as authoritative tradition the very unjust privileges and patterns that made them authorities in the first place, in a vicious cycle (77). But the new life we associate with Christianity also comes out of the ground of tradition. So theologians can’t simply break free of tradition. Instead, they have to engage with it in constructive ways. “If there is anything unique about the approach of constructive theology to tradition, it is this: we grant privilege to the witness of those who have been hurt and harmed in our world and found faith to be the source of life, over the dictates of those who have been set upon thrones by the workings of religion (72).” (This is about where I left off last month.) read the rest

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Exegetical Exercise (2 Chronicles 7 12-22)

Painting of Solomon sacrificing to idols surrounded by his wives

Unfortunately, we already know this isn’t going to end well …

The Uniform Series text for Sunday, March 25 (Palm Sunday, already!) is 2 Chronicles 7:12-22. Here are my notes on the text:

This text is one long speech by God – the Holy One. It follows Solomon’s prayer and the narrative of the dedication of the Temple, which began in chapter 5 and winds up in the first section of chapter 7. When God announces to Solomon that God has “heard” Solomon’s prayer (v12) we can’t tell for sure whether God is appearing to Solomon and speaking to Solomon directly as a direct consequence of that prayer, or whether God was planning to speak with Solomon anyway. Either way, what we hear is pure monologue; there’s no dialogue with Solomon, no report of Solomon’s response. And there’s no report of anyone besides Solomon being there – besides us, who are in a position to overhear what God says to Solomon. Whether this makes us lucky or not might depend on how we interpret God’s message. read the rest

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Happy Hawaiian Shirt Day!

Aloha shirts in varied colors hanging on a rack

“The spirit of the grasses’ joy makes fair
The winter fields …”
John Masefield

Once upon a time, where I used to work, we celebrated the official arrival of Spring every year with Hawaiian Shirt Day. This was in Chicago, so there was a good chance we’d be wearing our Hawaiian shirts to work under our anoraks. But it didn’t matter, because we knew we’d turned the corner. From here on in, every day was going to be a little longer, if not uniformly a little warmer, until one day not too long now all the trees in Grant Park would be in full flower, and then five minutes later it’d be the middle of summer.

We did not work without hope; like “even the grass,” we had our happy moments, and Hawaiian Shirt Day was one of them.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

a gnarled twig with buds

It will look different when it blooms, we know that much

We spent some time in Sunday school this morning considering the meaning of worship for us in connection with the text of 2 Chronicles 7. We thought some about the meaning of numbers, specifically the extravagantly large numbers of sacrifices in 2 Chronicles 7, wondering whether what we were supposed to think in our own day and age was that this was a really important occasion – whether or not the numbers were precisely as high as that. More important seemed to be the idea of worship, and its connection to sacrifice – that is, literally, making things sacred – and how our own worship also accomplishes that. We do make sacrifices and offerings: time, energy, talents, gifts of various kinds, money and other things … and giving focus and attention to God. Worship also means “hearing” – the way our parents sometimes use the word “hearing,” as in “did you hear me say ‘please take out the trash?’” So, “hearing,” as in “hear, O Israel, the Holy One is our God, the Holy One alone, and you shall love the Holy One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4), and doing what that hearing tells us. read the rest

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