February 12, 2019

2019 is the year of my wife’s and my 50th wedding anniversary. It hardly seems imaginable that we have been together that long, but the calendar is not, as they say, fake news. We were indeed married in Stafford, KS on August 23, 1969, and if my poor math skills do not fail me, that means that this August will be 50 years from that hot Kansas afternoon. A golden anniversary it will be, though I very much doubt that… Read more

February 11, 2019

The long book of Jeremiah is at times a very loose collection of sayings from various Israelite traditions. Though one may discover a thread of prophetic biography in the book, from Jeremiah’s call at the beginning to his removal to Egypt toward the end, in between there are all sorts of literary fragments that over the years have attached themselves to the collection. The text for today appears to be one of those. There is finally no way to provide… Read more

February 5, 2019

If I were more perfectly accurate, perhaps I ought to have entitled this series; “Reading the Bible for Preaching and Teaching.” I assume that any of you who have been reading have already drawn that conclusion from the first three installments. In those essays I tried to address, in however rudimentary form, what the Bible is (and is not), who it is who is reading the Bible, and with whom we are doing that reading. Today, I wish to explore… Read more

February 4, 2019

Please note that sly little five-verse section included in today’s text selection, encased (and thus deep frozen?) in those parentheses. There is perhaps unintended irony on the part of the lectionary collectors when they dropped those verses into their choice for today, because for me those verses are nothing less than the key to the entire passage, though heaven knows vs.8 has become the hallmark verse for most people when they think of these famous words from 8th-century Isaiah. But… Read more

January 29, 2019

In the previous two essays of this series, I have addressed two elements of Bible reading: just what the Bible is (and by implication is not) and just who the reader is who actually is reading the text. Today I want to think about with whom we read the text, that is, who accompanies the reader on the journey of reading. The possible answers to that question are both complex and much contested, precisely as the answers to our first… Read more

January 28, 2019

Every preacher must have in her homiletic quiver the arrow of the story of her call. The congregation has the right to know just why this person stands in front of them week after week and claims to speak for God, however they and she understand that claim. Those understandings are almost certainly very different, for it has long been noted that as a group preachers are far more progressive than those who sit in the pews. This is by… Read more

January 25, 2019

In the first installment of my ruminations on reading the Bible, something I have done joyfully and doggedly for 50 years, I discussed a few ideas concerning just what the Bible is and is not. Of course, much more could be said about that; I have by no means exhausted that subject but have barely scratched the surface. Today, I wish to turn to a subject that receives far too little attention when it comes to Bible reading: just who… Read more

January 21, 2019

The historical complexity of the books and lives of Ezra and Nehemiah, the former a priest and the latter a building foreman and erstwhile governor of a rebuilding Judah in the 5th-4th century BCE, has been the subject of numerous reconstructions by scholars. Suffice it to say that consensus on these contested questions is highly unlikely. Still, it may be said that these two men, each perhaps resident in the Persian court, albeit some decades apart, were sent to Judah… Read more

January 15, 2019

The Bible is a glorious, frustrating, challenging, absurd, delightful book, or a collection of books, or a lengthy, choppy, over-arching narrative, or a hodge-podge of disparate writings, representing nearly 1500 years of human thought. It has been characterized as all of these things, as well as in numerous other ways, by readers over many centuries. Just how one delineates the book will go a long way in determining just how one reads it, as I will discuss in this first… Read more

January 14, 2019

Here is a fun passage from the third section of Isaiah’s prophetic grab-bag collection, a group of oracles and narratives and poems that cover perhaps as much as 300 years of composition. This chapter 62 is certainly from late in the collection, but just when or under what circumstances it may have been written is impossible to determine. Suffice it to say that whoever wrote/spoke this material knew her Hebrew well and was having a right good time playing with… Read more

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