March 18, 2019

I have just concluded a three-week series on the book of Job for members of my church, Westwood United Methodist Church, though currently in protest of the recent actions of the called General Conference, we have blacked out the words “United Methodist” on all our external signage. Thus, we are currently “Westwood Church,” close to the name used before the 1968 formation of the United Methodist Church, when it was known as “Westwood Community Church.” My long study of the… Read more

March 18, 2019

Today’s lection is chock full of very familiar biblical lines: “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!” “Seek YHWH while God may be found, call upon YHWH while near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to YHWH, that YHWH may have mercy on them, to our God, for God will abundantly pardon.” The author of II- Isaiah surely had a way… Read more

March 16, 2019

I imagined when I wrote a blog about my reactions to the United Methodist Church’s called General Conference some three weeks ago, that I would confine my disappointment and rage to one outing. But then I wrote again about some matters that had come up in my aging brain. Today, I will add a third response to the conference with no guarantee that it will be the last. Since I have been a UMC clergyman for 50 years, I trust… Read more

March 15, 2019

The obvious reason for choosing this passage in the Lenten season is found at Gen.15:6. The NRSV translates as follows: “And he (Abram) believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.” However, this translation has been made primarily under the influence of the Septuagint, that 4th- 3rd century BCE Greek translation of the Hebrew, necessitated by the Greek takeover of the known world by Alexander of Macedon. The LXX (Septuagint) name is based on the myth… Read more

March 4, 2019

I can hardly say that any of the dust has settled from the called General Conference session of the United Methodist Church; if anything, a veritable dust storm has been kicked up during the past week. When my wife, Diana, and I went to choir practice at our church, Westwood UMC in Los Angeles, last Thursday night, we quickly noticed that someone had placed black tape over the “United Methodist” part of our church’s full name. Furthermore, this same “meme”… Read more

March 2, 2019

Let me indulge today in a bit of scholarly talk about the Hebrew Bible that I hope will lead to a useful discussion of what preaching from this text in Lent might mean. Gerhard von Rad (1901-1971) was a widely influential German scholar of the Old Testament. For von Rad, the Hebrew Bible was neither literature nor history, but in fact the written confessions of the people of Israel. Though that statement may be ultimately true about his work, any… Read more

February 26, 2019

There is no use pretending otherwise; the called General Conference of the United Methodist Church, recently concluded in St. Louis, has been for many of us an unmitigated disaster. I had, it appears fatuously, hoped that the One Church Plan, that would have provided for a kind of local option when it came to matters swirling around the LGBTQIA community, might have received a positive vote during the conference, but instead the plan of choice was the Traditional one that… Read more

February 25, 2019

On every Transfiguration Sunday, the collectors of the lectionary choose this odd little passage from Exodus as a pairing with the far more famous transfiguration tales that adorn the Synoptic Gospels. In the Gospels, Jesus is said to be “transfigured” on a mountain top, that is somehow changed from a simple teacher into some manner of divine being, radiating a blinding whiteness to two of his disciples and conversing with two ancient worthies from the past, Moses and Elijah. Those… Read more

February 19, 2019

When I was growing up in Phoenix, AZ, I announced to my mother that I intended to be a life-long bachelor, and after gaining a PhD in English literature, I planned to settle into a teaching job in a small liberal arts college somewhere, wear jackets with patches on the sleeves, smoke a pipe, and give my life to scholarship and my students, a Mr. Chips reborn. That dream lasted until I met Diana Brown in college; she and I… Read more

February 18, 2019

The tale of Joseph among his brothers has been called a biblical novella. That title may seem a bit pretentious, given that the story is a mere 14 chapters long; it could easily be read in less than an hour. Still, by biblical narrative standards it is quite a long story and possesses a rich plot, excellent characterizations, and irony and complexity aplenty to keep the most careful reader deeply engaged. After all, Thomas Mann, one of the great novelists… Read more

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