January 30, 2020

Mark 6 gives us the very finest soap opera in the New Testament! It is fully worthy of a stage play, and so it happened when Oscar Wilde wrote his scandalous account of the story of John the Baptiser’s grisly death in the play, “Salome,” written in French in 1893, translated into English in 1894. The play was quickly banned from the stage, due both to its salacious depiction of the heroine as well as its use of biblical characters,… Read more

January 29, 2020

I hope you looked carefully at the picture that accompanies this article. It is surely worth several close looks and is rife for comment. It appears to me to be a photo that is rich in political and religious idolatry. The idol is, of course, the current occupant of the White House, and the worshippers include any number of self-identified Christian evangelicals, led by the official White House spiritual advisor, Paula White, the head of a large Florida-based ministry organization… Read more

January 27, 2020

I have just finished a fascinating book by Aviya Kushner, called The Grammar of God. Kushner combines something of a memoir with her serious engagement with the Hebrew Bible in translation. Her story is quite unique. She was raised in a near all-Jewish enclave, Monsey, New York, a brief distance from Manhattan. Almost all the residents of the town are Chasidic Jews of various kinds; Kushner’s family was not Chasidic, but was a very serious practitioner of Orthodox Judaism. Her… Read more

January 24, 2020

Mark 5 presents to us two of the more famous healings in Mark’s narrative, the revival of Jairus’s dead daughter and the stanching of a woman’s unnatural 12-year flow of blood. In Mark’s particular style, the two healings are wrapped inside of one another, the former being delayed and heightened by the latter. At first, Jairus’s daughter is described “at the point of death,” but because Jesus spends time aiding the unfortunate bleeding woman, the daughter dies, and Jesus is… Read more

January 15, 2020

As I was closing my 33-year career as a member of the Perkins School of Theology faculty, there was an persistent conversation in many churches and their agencies centered around the topic of leadership. What the contemporary church lacked was leaders, we in the seminary were told, and therefore we were urged to take much more seriously our task in forming genuine leaders for the 21st century church. We responded to this summons by creating a Center for Religious Leadership… Read more

January 14, 2020

The text for today is absolutely replete with Mark’s characteristic stylistic gems, while summarizing his claims about Jesus and moving the plot of the gospel speedily along. This story is told directly after the disciples have asked our central question once again: “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him” (Mark 4:41)? Wind and sea may obey this Jesus, but few if any of the humans in the story ever will, at least will obey him to… Read more

January 9, 2020

Some 18 months ago, I set out to skewer Donald Trump by comparing his behavior to various biblical characters. These essays varied from moderately amusing to rather too vicious. I finally ended the series, after 15 essays or so, when I determined that my assaults on the current president were in the end counterproductive to my own soul. To focus my wrath so laser-like on Trump was to descend to his own behavior; surely I did not wish to become… Read more

January 8, 2020

There is something distinctly hilarious about this portion of the Gospel of Mark. No, the parables found here are not in themselves funny ones, though they are certainly enigmatic. What is funny is the relationship Jesus has to the use of parables, and his apparent conviction that while his common listeners are very unlikely to understand what he is talking about, his disciples, his inner core of followers, will surely be on board with what Mark calls “the secret (literally… Read more

January 7, 2020

I am currently reading an interesting book, entitled Doubt: A History, by Jennifer Michael Hecht, 2003. In a brief comment I found from the author, she said she was writing a history of atheism, but her publisher decided that such a title would limit the book to religious doubts only, and they had something broader in mind. Nevertheless, what Hecht has produced in fact is a history of atheism, beginning with ancient Greece, moving to the Bible, to various eastern… Read more

January 3, 2020

A significant challenge of the Narrative Lectionary is to decide just what portions of the rather long pericopes to discuss as one approaches the tasks of preaching and teaching. The goal of this list of texts is to provide a clear sense of the narrative movements represented in the chosen material. The Gospel of Mark is a parade example of a text that demonstrates obvious plotted movement, and lends itself beautifully to a narrative approach. Yet, it must be admitted… Read more

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