May 30, 2007
Today’s Old Testament lesson is Deuteronomy 4:25-31:
When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land, if you act corruptly by making an idol in the form of anything, thus doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and provoking him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples; only a few of you will be left among the nations where the Lord will lead you. There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him. Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.
Why in the world would I choose this lesson to write about? Well, for those who have been through seminary or EFM, no good reason. But I think there is a lot about the Bible that can be helpful to everyone, not just those with an interest in formal Biblical studies, and I think this text– this otherwise rather plain text– is a great example of it.
First some background on where this occurs in the story. This is set in Deuteronomy, after the Exodus, when Moses freed the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt and led them through 40 years of journeying in the wilderness seeking the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey. Now, in Deuteronomy, they are ready to cross over into the promised land, and before they do Moses is reminding them of their responsibilities to Yahweh as they move into this land.
Now that’s not really very interesting. What is more interesting is that about 1000 years later, Israel would fall siege to Babylon and would be exiled into the lands around the region (diaspora). Deuteronomy was not written until that time period.
Yes, that’s right– while it presents itself as a book originating at the time of Moses (around 1500 BCE), it in fact was not authored until nearly 1000 years later (sometime around 500-600 BCE). Read the rest of this entry »
May 28, 2007
If you haven’t read yet (or worse, seen), a large-scale gay-bashing took place in Moscow Saturday:
Russian police detained gay protesters calling for the right to hold a Gay Pride parade in central Moscow on Sunday while nationalists shouting “death to homosexuals” punched and kicked the demonstrators.
Riot police detained gay rights activists as they tried to present a petition asking Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has called gay marches satanic acts, to lift a ban on the parade.
Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers held icons and denounced homosexuality as “evil” while a group of thick-set young men turned up with surgeon’s masks, which they said would protect them from the “gay disease.” (Click here for whole story.)
The gay rights activists sought to peacefully present a petition, yet the “Nationalists and extreme Russian Orthodox believers” attacked them.
Back in the Episcopal church, a Bishop who faithfully shepherds his diocese has been refused an invitation to Lambeth because another group of bishops has denounced homosexuality as “evil.”
There are consequences for failing to uphold the gospel imperative of inclusion, love, and faithfulness in community.
We saw them on Saturday in Moscow. Read the rest of this entry »
May 27, 2007
Looking for a little light Memorial day reading? Well… this isn’t so light. It’s my final exam from my Bible class this past year. The most important paragraphs are summarized here:
(1) In Mark, the tension for the modern interpreter comes from reading it without being in a powerless, oppressed situation- especially when removed from the first century context. Such a reading removes the context of the original authorship and audience. For most white, straight, middle-income, male audiences in the United States, the stories in Mark become metaphors for completely unintended issues because it is difficult to acknowledge that they are the new power-holders. Perhaps they are not as oppressive as Pilate, the scribes, or the Pharisees, but nonetheless they hold the power in this country and it is difficult to gain acknowledgement of such a power system in our socio-economic system.
(2) Looking at how we interpret the text in our situation today, we also have to make sure that we keep “fresh eyes” to the text. We have to ensure that “the tradition of the elders” does not become so ingrained that we lose the original message and intent of the Scripture- in this case that it is not so important to have simple rules that one follows as it is important to have deep virtues by which one lives one’s life in relation to one’s neighbor. That does not mean that we have to discard the tradition of the elders, but it means rather that we use it to help inform our views as we seek to come anew to the text rather than taking it blindly. If we make the Patristic Fathers, or the founders of the reformation, or anyone else an idol then we will be in exactly the same place as the Pharisees in this passage. And that would simply put those Fathers, theologians, and reformers, in a position of greatness and power that I do not think is in accordance with Jesus’ teaching in this gospel. Rather we must take more time to learn first what is going on in the world of and behind the text so that we can try and understand how the text affected the people to whom it is addressed before coming to our own decisions about what the text is doing, and to whom. Read the rest of this entry »
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May 22, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“Integrity is outraged and appalled,” said Integrity President Susan Russell. “This is not only a snub of Bishop Gene Robinson but an affront to the entire U.S. Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury has allowed himself to be blackmailed by forces promoting bigotry and exclusion in the Anglican Communion. This action shows a disgraceful lack of leadership on Williams’ part.”
“Integrity calls on all the bishops and the leadership of the Episcopal Church to think long and hard about whether they are willing to participate in the continued scapegoating of the gay and lesbian faithful as the price for going to the Lambeth Conference. It is purported to be a conference representing bishops from the whole Anglican Communion. That can’t happen when Rowan Williams aligns himself with those in the Communion such as Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria who violate human rights while explicitly excluding gay and lesbian voices from their midst,” Russell said. “Our bishops must ask themselves this question: ‘Is complicity in discrimination a price they are willing to pay for a two-week trip to Canterbury?'”
Integrity is currently contacting the leadership of the Episcopal Church and consulting with our progressive allies about this situation. We expect to make an additional statement in the near future.
The Rev. Susan Russell, President
Mr. John Gibson, Director of Communications
May 22, 2007
If you haven’t heard, the invitations to Lambeth 2008 are in the mail.
Well, most of them. A few are notably missing and will never arrive.
So +Gene will not be invited to Lambeth, but may attend as a guest, and Minns and Murphy (of CANA and AMiA) will not be invited either.
So much for Communion and Reconciliation. Read the rest of this entry »
May 21, 2007
Our local paper, The Austin American Statesman, interviewed ++Katharine when she was here last week for graduation. An excerpt:
“I think some people expect that the church should look like the church did when they were 15. The reality is, the church doesn’t live unless it continues to change. And it’s struggled with who’s in and who’s out from the very beginning. The first great controversies were about whether or not gentiles could be followers of Jesus. Do they have to be circumcised? Do they have to follow the dietary laws? We have struggled over and over again in this country with the place of slaves, African Americans, the place of immigrants, the place of women in the church. Today it’s about the place of gay and lesbian people. There will be another group next. I don’t know who it will be, but it’s our human nature to say (we want) people like us.”
Read the full story here.
May 21, 2007
Posted with permission of Philip Turner+
Attending the graduation of my colleagues at the Seminary of the Southwest last week was an amazing thing. With the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, as the preacher, we had a packed house. I was serving as an usher—and with a packed house I soon came to learn that an usher’s job is not an easy one. We had our hands full with a full house, overflow seating in another building, a separate balcony with stairs for people to navigate while trying to get to Communion, and a cry room for those with little ones. It is also particularly difficult when you are in a facility that nobody knows well, and participating in a liturgy for graduation that is not well known by anybody. (Oh, the woes of ushering!)
Be all that as it may, it was a wonderful service. The presiding bishop spoke eloquently. It was both sad and uplifting to watch the graduation—sad to know that my seminary experience is now going to be different because this year’s class will not be a daily part of it, and uplifting because they have been for so long and they will make such excellent priests and ministers of the Word and Sacrament.
One of the other amazing things about the service has already had some comment out in the cyberworld and blogosphere. That is that our interim dean and president, the Very Reverend Philip Turner, presented the Presiding Bishop with an honorary degree from the seminary. As Philip+ is a founder of the Anglican Communion Institute and Adviser for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, his presence on our campus did not come without controversy. As the Anglican Communion Institute has been in the news lately, his name has come up again, drawing this event into the headlines as “ironic” by some, and ending his tenure at the Seminary of the Southwest with the same headlines of conservative-affiliation with which it began. Read the rest of this entry »