Reflections on Isaiah 51:1-6: The Courage of Optimism

Rarely in the study of the Hebrew Bible can an interpreter be certain of the specific occasion of any writing. Who finally knows when Genesis or Exodus or Deuteronomy or the great tales of Saul, Samuel, and David first saw print? But Is.40-55 offers us no such confusion. He (we assume a male writer, but one perhaps ought not speak with absolute certainty) without doubt was writing during the exile of Israel in Babylon, and most likely toward the end… Read more

The Paranoia and Absurdity of Tyranny

(Lectionary for August 27,2017) The text the lectionary collectors have for us today has far too much material to include in any one sermon. There are two large scenes, intimately connected with one another, but each one of which is fully worthy of a sermonic event. For this occasion, I plan to focus only on scene 1 that catalogues the attempted wiles of the most powerful monarch on earth, the pharaoh of Egypt. This unnamed leader of the land (no… Read more

Reflections on Isaiah 56:1-8

There can be no grander or more important text for our days than this beauty from that third part of Isaiah, a writer we cannot know but may still bask in the glow of his crucial reflections on a topic that continues to confound and confuse many of us now: what do we do with those who are not like us? I need not tell you that our modern USA is a riven one. Hatred leads some to attack and… Read more

Divine and Human Power

(Lectionary for August 20, 2017) As I have stated before in these articles, I do not for a moment believe that Joseph is some paragon of wisdom and virtue who is used by the narrator as a unique model for our emulation, unlike so many of the patriarchs and matriarchs that preceded him in the sagas of Genesis. As I tried to suggest in last week’s writing, Joseph is a spoiled tattletale who is, not surprisingly, despised by his brothers. They… Read more

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: Reflections on 1 Kings 19

 I begin today with a caveat: it is exceedingly dangerous and foolhardy to announce just before making a sweeping claim that “the Bible says…” Indeed, the Bible does say…many things about many things. It is a fantastically diverse collection, written over 1500 years (From Ps.29 to the Pastoral Epistles), and is therefore certain to say many things about many things. It has perhaps no one thing to say about anything. Even Jesus is diverse, remembered to have said superbly loving… Read more

Chip Off the Old Block

(Lectionary for August 13, 2017 The fourth and final section of the book of Genesis comprises the story of Joseph, favorite son of Jacob. It has been termed a novella, because it consists of a tightly woven tale, focused on a complex protagonist whom we observe from his teenage years to his death. The overwhelming consensus of the commentators on this story is that Joseph is some sort of paragon of virtue and wisdom, a model human being created as… Read more

Reflections on Isaiah 55:1-5

The greatest enemy I face in my advancing years is cynicism. So much of the world appears to be on a track that I find wholly distasteful, altogether dangerous and dreadful, redolent more of devastating apocalypse than the realm of God. The current president of my country, Donald Trump, is nothing more than a narcissistic bully, hurling tweet storms at his many enemies while denying our gay, lesbian, transgendered fellow citizens their American equal rights, threatening those of his own… Read more

Who in the World…?

(Lectionary for August 6, 2017) Of all the texts in the book of Genesis, this enigmatic little tale has garnered by far the most reflection, not to mention confusion. Every preacher loves to have a go at it, since no one can much agree what the story is finally about. Nothing like a vacuum of knowledge to generate loads of delightful speculation! I suppose one might say that about a lot of Bible talk in our day—speculation based on very… Read more

Reflections on I Kings 3:5-12 “Nothing New About Spin”

I want to commend to you a book that I have long known and loved. Warning: it is a darkly cynical use of the biblical tale of David and Solomon and will contain ideas you have perhaps never entertained in your religious life, but the ideas are surely worthy of some consideration, especially in the very divided world in which we live, characterized by “alternativefacts” and other like gibberish. The book is The King David Report, by Stefan Heym. Heym,… Read more

Genesis 29:15-28 “What Goes Around…Stories Told for the Fun of It”

( Lectionary for July 30, 2017) It is very hard to read this particular part of the Jacob saga with a straight face. It is overtly hilarious prose, designed to bring forth raucous laughter and wink/nudge common pleasure. It is the ancient equivalent of a modern comedian (or comedienne), who with a slightly raised eyebrow and a small cackle leads the audience into a somewhat nasty place where a prude chuckles in spite of self and a person more comfortable… Read more

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