Monday, May 29, 2006

:: travelers together ::

:: Job Moved Me to Tears::

Well, I'm behind still but plodding and blogging. Just read all of Job tonight, and it moved me to tears. I will re-read it. Last time I read Job was about 10 years ago when I was going through a horrible, frightening time and I looked to Job for hope. (I was having a pity party).
Tonight I read it and was struck by the beauty, the poetry - like I experienced in some of my college English courses on John Donne or Milton. Some things are so timeless - those things always strike me as amazing...when something hits the core of human experience.....despite culture, language, century....we all understand faith and doubt, faith and fear...I was greatly moved.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Contradictions?

I think I'll stir up the bee's nest here with this post :)
Needless to say I'm still WAY behind - though I am making progress. (I'm still in Deuteronomy!)
I'm so tempted to skip Deueronomy since it seems to be yet another rehash of Exodus... but I won't. Over the weekend I saw the Da Vinci Code movie. While looking up some info about the movie on IMDB.com there was a discussion thread about bible questions. I was curious. Needless to say it quickly turned into people getting upset, a bit of name calling etc... But one of the things that struck me was the contradiction of the 10 commandments "Thou shalt not kill (murder)". Yet, time and again Moses is leading his people on a genocide to conquer land and other tribes. In addition to the brutality of the war, God instructs Moses, who then instructs his armies to destroy the Women and Children. Isn't this in contradiction to "thou shalt not kill"?
I was trying to put Moses' story in today's context, and I think he would be considered a war criminal!? I'm very confused (and a bit disgusted) at the way the Israelites are running through the countryside taking land and life of both animals and humans (women and children too). Very barbaric.
I had heard somewhere (probably online) a minister saying that people are constantly saying that the bible is full of contradictions, yet he challenged the reader to point to one... Did I just find one?
One of the arguments posted in the messageboard was that God was instructing Moses to kill these other tribes as "punishment". But I don't see it that way? am I missing something?
ok, I'll stop hitting the bee's nest with the stick now :)
By the way... how does it feel for the rest of you to be more than a third of the way through the Bible!?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Moms

One thing that strikes me in the monarchy narratives is that whenever they introduce a new king, they almost always say who his mama was.

I find this especially interesting because I've heard, read and passed on the "insight" that the geneology at the beginning of Matthew is extraordinary because it contains women: Tamar, Ruth, the wife of Uriah, etc. But apparently this is not extraordinary at all. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

yeast

Does anyone know why there was such a big deal made about bread being made without yeast? All of the other rules (unclean, no blemish, etc... I can somewhat understand as they may be health related issues, but the yeast?).

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Original Worship Wars

Alright, I'm going to try and be slightly more articulate about what I'm noticing here.

I think as I wrote in a previous entry, I was bowled over by the book of Leviticus when I read it a couple weeks ago because I had never realized that it is in essence a liturgical document. The majority of Leviticus is concerned with proper ritual behavior for the new Israelite nation. I noticed for the first time that an essential part of becoming a people was to become a ritualized people--it was necessary to establish ritual guidelines in order to shape their identity as a group.

As I have continued to read through these books at such breakneak pace, I've been able to carry this liturgical lens into the other books. And I've noticed that the theme of worship is never far below the surface of the text.

In 1 Kings 12:28, we read that King Jeroboam de-centralizes the worship practices of the Israelite people by refusing to allow them to travel to Jerusalem anymore. Instead he builds two altars in the north which he requires them to use instead. To make matters worse, he creates two golden calves (or bulls) and tells them: "'Here are your gods (or elohim, in Hebrew, a name for God), O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel and the other he put in Dan." Jeroboam also appointed festivals and priests for these altars.

As we travel through the era of the Kings, we hear that some of the kings did what was evil in the sight of God--they followed in the ways of Jeroboam. Which means they continued the practices of worship at these altars.

In my previous hurried posting, I mentioned Isaiah's cameo appearance in 2 Kings 18ff. (Can I just mention, I thought that was so cool to have Isaiah show up there!) But coming across his name in 2 Kings really triggered something for me, because Isaiah is the ultimate liturgical critic in my mind. The first chapter of Isaiah is a scathing critique of worship when it becomes separated from ethical actions. He cries out:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and
calling of convocation--
I cannot endure your solemn assembies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood
. . . cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow . . .

That's got to be the toughest biblical passage for liturgical scholars. At least it always has been for me. But at the moment, I'm beginning to hear it differently. Because suddenly I've realized that Isaiah is proclaiming these words in a context that had been fraught with worship wars for a very long time.

This emphasis on "correct" worship goes deeper than mere instructions on how to perform an effective ritual. It has everything to do with relationship. The instructions God was giving the people of Israel were not mere busy work. They are not evidence of God's peculiarities. They are the means God provided the people to be in relationship with God. They were a way to cultivate and care for that relationship without being consumed by the Holy One. Not only that, but they were a way of maintaining the people's memory.

When Jeroboam set up two golden bulls and told the people that these were the gods who had led them out of Egypt, he was re-writing history. He was writing Adonai out of that history. And in doing so, he was destroying the possibility for the people to be in relationship with Adonai. God becomes un-known.

The God who led the people out of Egypt was a God who cared fiercely for justice. A God who heard the cries of the people. A God who rescued the oppressed. When the people of Israel forgot the character of their God, then their worship was truly empty precisely because it had ceased to be relational.

This vision of worship does not see God as the object to be worshipped. (As one might worship the golden bull.) Rather, God is fully subject, the Other, the known and inexhaustably knowable. God is exactly the opposite of the object receiving worship from this perspective. God is the one who wants desperately to be communicated to and through the people. Who wants to provide the people with a means to come into God's presence without being consumed.

It is for these reasons, as well, that Jesus' statement in the gospel of John seems even more radical than I'd ever thought. When he is addressing the Samaritan woman at the well, he tells her:
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:22-24)
Notice he speaks of worshiping "what you do not know." This suggests the alienation from God that had clearly happened over time. The people had ceased to know the character of God.

Okay. That's enough for now.

Peace.

Worship at the Center

I have been wanting to write something and never seem to find the time to do it. I have only a minute or two right now, but thought at least I'd get some very beginning ideas now and build off them later.

One of the things that is impressing me most as I read through these texts is just how much of it is focused on the worship of the people. Mind you, I'm studying for my PhD in liturgical studies--so I am rather predisposed to noticing this. And I think it's because of my reading context that I am noticing it in a way I never have before.

The "sin of Jeroboam"--as it's referred to again and again in 1 & 2 Kings--has to do with worship.

I love when Isaiah shows up in 2 Kings, by the way. And I hear the echo of the first chapter of Isaiah that goes on and on about empty worship (worship separated from acts of real justice).

This is the very quick tidbit I have time to write at the moment. I'll revisit it later.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Don't ask...

I keep falling behind. regretfully. I have not given up yet, nor do I plan to, but I don't think I'll ever catch up - not a problem for me though. Takes the pressure off :)
I tried skipping ahead to catch up, but then fell back behind, and now I don't want to skip ahead again. So I'm going to go back, and try to keep pluggin away at it. I find this very difficult, and yet I'm not sure exactly why. It could be A.D.D.? It could be that over the years I usually do my reading at night, so I only get a few pages in before sleep, so now when I do read, It's like a trigger for sleep? I don't know. But... I'm still in this, I just will be bringing up the rear is all :)
Where? Oh alright, I guess I should confess... I'm still in Leviticus.
Latest thoughts? I'm a bit shocked at how a lot of these people we are reading about are not nice people. So much talk about death too - Look at someone cross-eyed and you are to be put to death.
Anyone else fallen behind in this marathon race? :) I feel like I'm in the Boston Marathon, stopping at every water station, and maybe even ducking into a local bookstore to read a magazine before heading back out into the race.
Well, I'm off now to get a few more pages done - and maybe a drink of water too :)
I'm ROOTIN for you guys in the front of the pack! Way to go!

Testing One Two Three .... Check .... Check ....

Where am I?

Yeah, ummm .... I had jumped on board with this group somewhat early on because, although I was the instigator of the previous spot, life made me drop out somewhere into Leviticus. But, since you all were still somewhere in Exodus, I figured that gave me a little wiggle room to pick up where I left off and be back on track again.

Except .... somehow I lost track of it, playing the "Oh, well, I'm ahead of where they are and so I don't have to jump on immediately" until I realized that I was behind. Again. So I haven't posted anything because I'm just trying to catch up. So where am I right now? The computer room. Probably finishing Numbers tonight.

My Bible's back in my bedroom, but the one thing that I do remember being very confused about (besides the whole "adultry potion" that someone else already mentioned) was with the whole Balaam story. So ... Balak wants Balaam to come with him. God tells him not to go, so he doesn't. Then Balak comes back; this time God tells Balaam to go, so Balaam goes. But, en route, the Angel of the Lord comes to get Balaam because God is mad that Balaam went? Even though God told Balaam to go?!?!?

Course, the Old Testament God does have kind of a reputation for occasionally being a bit impulsive and fickle ....

Check In Time

Alright, folks. How are we doing?

It occurred to me today that I could post a link to the daily reading, if that would make it easier for anyone.

And I'm wondering if we're all around the same place? Or all over the place at this point?

If you're up-to-date with the Easter Sunday start, you would be in 1 Samuel right now. Here's the passage: 1 Samuel 2:8 to 1 Samuel 15:14.

Leave a comment (or better yet a post) and lets find out where each other are.

Grace and peace and blessings and grace and grace and grace and grace and grace . . .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Leviticus On the Way Home from the Office

I haven't posted in a while. First I took a little break 'cause I worried I was dominating the blog. Didn't want to be a blog-hog! Then I got a little behind in my reading. Then I got distracted. And now I'm finally writing.

I'm pretty much caught up. I think I'm a day behind. Thanks to Songbird for mentioning that you've found reading the entries on the computer screen through the Zondervan site to be more helpful. I gave that a try yesterday as I put in a marathon session to catch up and I found it really worked for me, too. (Something is happening to me. I used to think I'd be the last one to prefer a computer screen to a book, but I'm not so sure anymore.)

What I do miss the most when reading off the computer screen, though, are my notes from seminary (and the footnotes in my Oxford edition). But last night I leafed through my seminary Bible and was able to make a bit more sense of things later.

Here's a cool thing that happened the other day. I had the privilege of taking a man home from church. He is a seminarian from Trinidad. Brilliant. Committed. Deeply concerned about justice, especially among the impoverished in our cities. He's also Seventh Day Adventist, a tradition I know next to nothing about.

He mentioned that the biggest differences between his tradition and mainstream Protestant traditions are that they hold Saturday as the sabbath (and day of worship) and their dietary laws. "We don't eat any unclean foods. Like shellfish: no crab or shrimp." I asked if that meant they keep Kosher. "No," he answered, "We follow the dietary rules found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy."

"Oh, sure." I answered, "I was just reading those instructions this past week." :) It made me feel very legitimate. :)

I have more to write about, but I'll keep it here for now. You know. The blog-hog thing.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Still Playing Catch-Up

I'm in Numbers 5 this morning (don't even want to really know how far behind I am; I'll look it up later). How did you all feel reading about the actions taken when a man feels jealous, whether or not his wife has done anything wrong? I have read this before, I know, but for some reason I didn't remember this particular chapter. I find it deeply distressing. It illustrates the dangers of swallowing scripture whole, not taking the trouble to read it in context. The last verse is chilling:

31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.