Sunday, January 25, 2015

One book or many?

"our perception of the Bible's unity may obscure a complicated reality" - p xvii HCSB

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Misused Verses

This article Five Bible Verses You Need To Stop Misusing shows the perspective I have been missing. I think a better course would be to start using them in context.

I really miss Downtown Bible Class (in Portland, where I don't live anymore) because Pastor Scott really knew and could share the historical context.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Epiphany of Our Lord Year B (2015)

Today's Readings

I knew Epiphany as the day the three kings showed up to see Jesus (probably when he was a couple years old, not a dozen days after his birth.) This is the story in today's gospel reading, Matthew 2:1-12. Wikipedia's article about it shows that it is much more complicated than that. For instance, it is also 12th Night. As well as the anniversary of the day John the Baptist baptised Jesus. And much more in many diverse countries and denominations. It is a reminder that there is so much I (and most Christians) don't know about our faith.

The carol We Three Kings of Orient Are was written for Epiphany.

The other readings for today are very much about justice. In particular, I liked the Psalm reading, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14:
Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more. May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles
    render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
    bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
    all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call,
    the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
    and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
    and precious is their blood in his sight.
I think it is interesting that some Psalms are filled with anger in response to oppression, while others are filled with hope. Even knowing much of the history since they were written, I can't say what is or was the better response but I do know that for myself, while being angry has it's value, I need hope as well to work for justice. I can be angry on my own (ie based on my own observances), I am more likely to need outside help with having hope.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Advent 2014 After Report

As proposed in this post, I read and blogged both the daily and weekly Lectionary readings for the 4 weeks of Advent. In that post I asked:
what would it mean to me if I engaged with the daily lectionary every day for Advent. (Engage = force myself to do more than skim over it in a haze, although some days a mental haze is as good as it gets.)
 It was an interesting experiment, but not really in any of the ways I thought it would be.

  • John from my church sends out a weekly email with his study of the weekly lections and whether I read it or not (too often not!), I value it as a resource. I specifically did not read John's studies over the course of Advent because I didn't want them to influence my commentary. John's studies include historical background related to the lections which I really miss. He also asks better questions of and about the texts than I do, but doing the readings on my own forces me to practice! On a faith or biblical learning basis I'd call it a wash.
  • Reading the daily lections was pretty much a waste of time for me. They did not help me better understand the previous (Monday through Wednesday) or upcoming (Thursday through Saturday) readings. I would have been better off studying the Sunday readings in more depth by reading background or studying multiple interpretations or reading something else. I won't be reading the daily lections again. Also, I often found the practice of reading a single psalm over and over for the daily readings irritating, especially when it didn't seem to be related except by being the prior or next psalm.
  • During the course of Advent I got the idea that my partner found me to be more overtly religious. I don't know if this was due to my blogging here or other things related to Advent this year. My Christmas gift to my Mom was a bit more overtly faith based, for instance, just because that is how things worked out. And because my health has limited me so much, writing here has been a large percentage of my time. It may also have been because many of my blog posts were sent to Google+ automatically (where he saw the notification at least), although I swear I told it to not do that.
  • Having to write and publish daily in a context where my thoughts or writings on the topic are inherently suspect and can just be pulled out of my ass (or more likely misfired parts of my brain) is very freeing. I'm not functioning well (thanks epilepsy and epilepsy meds!), but I don't have to to write on this topic. Religious ramblings of epileptics are a legitimate genre in and of itself. (Thanks St. Paul) I don't feel the need to make sure I'm making sense before I hit publish, not making sense may be the point. I could get the same experience from using someone's writing prompts on the basis that I publish what I write from them with little more polishing than fixing words the browser tells me I misspelled (and I've seen groups set up to do that), but this works for me.

I'd prefer to get back to where I was in October, where I was writing non-fiction I felt good about and felt like with revision it would be saleable (or at least part of a potentially profitable blog or self-published book.) But then again, we've tried the 2 med revisions since then because we wanted to get me past having analytical thinking (ie coding!) be a seizure trigger. If my mental function continues at the current level, I think I do want to continue writing here regularly again (ie weekly plus Christian holidays.) I don't know that I'd feel that way if my cognition got better, because then I'd want to put more research and cross-referencing behind my posts and I'm not sure that is useful to me. And while if anyone else finds this blog useful, that's great, it is here for me.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Day Year B (2015)

There are two possible sets of readings for January 1st, New Year's Day and Holy Name of Jesus (the day Jesus was circumcised and named.)

I decided to focus on New Year's Day.

I must agree that Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 is an excellent way to start something, even if it is a fairly arbitrary start date (as our New Year is.)
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain have the workers from their toil?
I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.
He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;
moreover, it is God's gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.
Also in today's readings are some of my favorite verses Matthew 25:34-40. This is a theme that shows up other places as well, and is well worth remembering. It also strongly supports one of my most important reasons for being a Christian - following the example of Jesus and his earliest followers will make me a better person and the world a better place.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’
Image Attribution:
Pebbles with Quarzite By Sean the Spook (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Stil Stapeln By Krethiplethi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons