November 14, 2016

Jeremiah 23:1-6 What It’s About: Shepherds. But also kings. When Christianity was young, and it was trying to piece together how to think about Jesus (was he God? was he a man? where did he fit in to Jewish texts and traditions?), Christians mined Jewish scriptures for models. They found many places, especially in prophetic texts, where something like Jesus could be seen in the margins of the texts. This is a prime example of that exegetical work of the early... Read more

November 7, 2016

Isaiah 65:17-25 and/or Malachi 4:1-2a What It’s About: Both of these prophetic texts offer visions of the future. Both offer hope to people who have been trodden down and persecuted. Out of the midst of all that suffering, these passages suggest, will come a great setting-right of the world. They differ sharply in how this will happen; Isaiah emphasizes that the downtrodden will be pulled up into dignity and restored to their rightful place, while Malachi emphasizes the poor fate of... Read more

October 31, 2016

Haggai 1:15b-2:9 and/or Job 19:23-27 What It’s About: Haggai is a tidy little book, often overlooked in the canon, while Job is of course one of the most distinctive books in the Hebrew Bible. They both have to do with suffering and its endurance; as the section of Haggai that comes just before this week’s reading tells, the book (and the prophet himself) is set in the aftermath of the Babylonian catastrophe, when the temple was in ruins but the people... Read more

October 24, 2016

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 and/or Isaiah 1:10-18 What It’s About: These passages are both from the inaugural portions of the the books, where the prophets Habakkuk and Isaiah are setting the tone and agenda for their oracles. In both cases there is a strong emphasis on the plight of the weak and the disadvantaged, and on the wickedness of the powerful for taking advantage of them. And in Isaiah in particular there is a strong emphasis on the right expression of piety; Isaiah... Read more

October 16, 2016

Apologies for my hiatus; I had a few very hectic weeks with other projects. On to the lectionary! Joel 2:23-32 and/or Sirach 35:12-17 and/or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 What It’s About: The Joel and Jeremiah texts are classic prophetic texts of hopefulness in God’s faithfulness. The Joel passage is most well known from its citation in Acts 2 (the Pentecost story), and the Jeremiah text is probably less well known, but it has a similar theme. The Sirach text, meanwhile, is about... Read more

September 19, 2016

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and/or Amos 6:1a, 4-7 What It’s About: The Jeremiah passage is about a real estate transaction–probably one of the most famous ones in the bible. Jeremiah has an opportunity to buy some family land–that’s what the language of “redemption” is about–and does so. This is perhaps not the best real estate investment strategy, but in the context of Jeremiah’s career it is a great expression of confidence in the future. The Amos text, meanwhile, is pretty standard Amos–decrying... Read more

September 12, 2016

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and/or Amos 8:4-7 What It’s About: It’s funny how some passages of the bible enter into the common lexicon and popular imagination. It’s not always the most obvious parts of scripture that stick in our minds; sometimes it’s something unexpected. Everyone who has spent much time around churches (especially those with, um, traditional music programs) just started humming the tune to There Is A Balm in Gilead after reading that Jeremiah passage. The hymn is also known by its first... Read more

September 5, 2016

Jeremiah 2:11-12, 22-28 and/or Exodus 32:7-14 What It’s About: These are both stories about God’s wrath and the limits of that wrath. In the Jeremiah passage, the prophet is promising a judgement from God, stronger than a rebuke, but not a “full end.” In the Exodus passage we have the famous incident of the golden calf, where God intends to wipe the people out but Moses talks God out of it. In both cases God is presented as wrathful and even... Read more

August 29, 2016

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and/or Deuteronomy 30:15-20 What It’s About: Both of these texts are extended if…then statements. An if…then statement is one where the second part is only true if the first part is true. The Jeremiah and Deuteronomy passages are quite similar in that they both have God setting out conditions for the future. If you turn from your evil, in Jeremiah, and if you obey the commandments, in Deuteronomy, then good things will happen. In particular, the Jeremiah text emphasizes God’s... Read more

August 22, 2016

Jeremiah 2:4-13, Sirach 10:12-18, or Proverbs 25:6-7 What It’s About: Jeremiah and Sirach are both about God’s anger at the Israelites for forsaking their special covenantal relationship with God. Jeremiah’s invective is particularly strong; he recounts a version of the exodus story, reciting the salvation history of the Israelites under God’s direction, and then proceeds to condemn them and “accuse your children’s children.” Sirach, likewise, is all about the relationship of God to God’s people, and the terrible power of God to... Read more

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