Monthly Archives: July 2016
The writer who gave us Ecclesiastes can certainly not be accused of painting an over-optimistic portrait of life. Probably most contemporary Christians have never really read much of this book at all because, frankly, it’s a bit of a “downer,” and, life’s depressing enough without getting depressed from reading the Bible. Nonetheless, this is our lesson today.
Let me start with a little vocabulary lesson. This writer’s Hebrew title and name of the book is Qohelet, a form derived from a verb meaning “to gather,” and, so “a gatherer,” of everything, anything, wealth, health, wisdom, etc. Qohelet began by saying… Continue reading
The Bible is full of stories set in specific times and places that tell of the work of God in the world. One of the difficulties of reading and understanding these stories is that, while they are all specific, at least in their origin, as generations of communities, first of all, transmitted them, and, then, read them, the stories have come to be understood in more general or even universal ways. To take the most obvious example for Christians, the coming of a specific, real Jewish baby named Jeshua (Jesus in Greek) at a certain place in the land of… Continue reading
Today’s lessons are understood best if we start by seeing them within the social context of life in an ancient Mediterranean culture. The story in Genesis 18, although probably composed much later than Abraham’s time, does have a genuine remembrance of ancient social customs and roles because, in many ways, these had not changed for the centuries between Abraham and the writing of this story about him. The culture dictated that males took the lead in matters outside of the home, while females were in charge within it. That is why Abraham is the one who actually invites and welcomes… Continue reading
I cringe a little when I get these purple passages from which to preach, and “The Good Samaritan” is, surely, one of these. We’ve all heard (or preached) many sermons that purport to be about this passage. Most of us are familiar with approaches that that attempt to make us feel guilty about some opportunity that we had to “be nice” to someone who needed help and didn’t get it from us. I think this parable has become diminished by overexposure and dumbed down into just being nice. Now, it isn’t a bad thing to be nice, but I think… Continue reading
Ancient and modern literature is full of examples that suggest care in choosing what we deem important and valuable in the world. What seems, initially, to be of first importance, may not be. There are priorities in life. Sayings such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or “Nice things come in small packages,” or even “Look before you leap” offer the lesson that common cultural values are not necessarily the ones that will lead to lasting satisfaction in life or are of the highest priority. Even an old Beatles’ song has the lyric: “I never cared too much… Continue reading