Narrative Lectionary Reading: 2 Samuel 12:1-9 (also Psalm 51 and Matthew 21:33-41)
TRIGGER WARNING: This sermon deals with matters of rape and sexual assault. This may be uncomfortable for some readers.
Though the Ten Commandments came up in the lectionary two weeks ago, we have not left it behind. Last week we tackled the sin of covetousness (“Do you have a flag?”), and today we tackle adultery—but also covetousness, and, murder, idolatry, stealing, and most of the rest of the Ten Commandments too. Because today we have before us the sordid tale of David and Bathsheba, in which most of the Ten Commandments get broken. Continue reading →
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Joshua 24:1-15 (and Matthew 4:8-10)
I begin today with an additional reading: Joshua 10:28-30, 40:
28 Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho. 29 Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. 30 The LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left no one remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. 40 So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Exodus 19:3-7; 20:1-17 (and Matthew 5:17)
The salvation effected at the banks of the Red Sea was not without cost, for such a display of Divine majesty and power could not help but change the people who beheld it. Ironically, it was the Egyptians who learned this lesson best, for when they pursued the Israelites on to the Red Sea’s floor but found themselves bogged down in the ground between the walls of water, they cried out in fear: “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.” In that moment it is the soldiers who affirm the sovereignty of God over that of Pharaoh. The Israelites, on the other hand, didn’t learn the lesson half as well, as the story reminds us again and again. Still, the long cycle of falling away into disobedience and idolatry has not yet quite begun, for we are still at the cusp of a new creation, and Israel is going to get a chance to get it right. Continue reading →
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Exodus 14:10-14, 21-29 (and Matthew 2:13-15)
It’s sometimes still the case that you can mark the passage of years by whether you’ve seen The Ten Commandments on television. It usually airs once per year close to Easter, as millions of folks gather in front of their TV’s to watch the parting of the Red Sea, as Charlton Heston, resplendent in his gray beard, mustache, and flowing hair, stands on a rock with staff outstretched, calling out, “The LORD of hosts will do battle for us! Behold his mighty hand!” But it’s not just a memorable moment in a movie, because it’s the most memorable scene in the entire Exodus account in Scripture. Even more than that, it’s the central story of Israel.
Narrative Lectionary Reading: Genesis 39:1-23 (Joseph in prison)
The television program The Outer Limits always began with an ominous promise: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.” What made those words ominous was the assurance that “they” had taken control of your television set. What was more ominous was the unspoken implication that “they” could take control of even more. Continue reading →
For a story that is, all told, quite large, today’s reading from Genesis about Abraham is awfully short. All we get of his adventures and journeys is this tiny, little bit, where God says to Abraham, “Go where I send you and be a blessing to the world, for I am going to make of you a great nation.” That’s it. There’s no fanfare, no angelic choirs, no prophecies of just exactly HOW it is that Abraham is going to be a blessing. There’s just a promise. Still, that’s a pretty big promise, and it implies lots of corresponding promises. A survey of Abraham’s life might help to make this clearer.
Narrative Lectionary text: Genesis 6:16-22; 9:8-15 (Flood and Promise)
I have a poorly-kept secret to share: the Flood story isn’t real. Didn’t happen. It’s not a baseline for determining the age of the earth; it’s not a historical record of how God once got so mad at humanity that we got drowned. Furthermore, it’s not precisely “our” story (in any Judeo-Christian sense), because there are hundreds of versions of it in cultures spanning the globe; in fact, we spent three weeks studying many of those stories last spring. What we do have is our version of the story—a unique take on the Flood that came from Israel—and make no mistake: it is unique, especially when compared to its predecessors in the Ancient Near East, that land we now know as the Middle East. To understand that uniqueness, though, we have to study and know our own version. Continue reading →
It occurs to me that I inadvertently misspoke last week, when I referenced again what I saw as three ways the story of Ruth is valuable. The first, again, was of its testimony about the abundance of God versus the scarcity we so often grasp. The third was the story’s inestimable value as a voice for gender equality in a world and a church where all too often women are still told they are inferior to men. The second was that it gives us a glimpse into the lineage of David—and it was here that I misspoke, because I said I would not address that.
Two weeks ago I offered three perspectives on the value of the book of Ruth. One was that it spoke of abundance and scarcity. Another was that it tells the story of an ancestor of David. The third one is that it is a great story that is one of the only Bible books that focuses on a woman—and more than that, it’s driven by not just one, but two female main characters, Ruth and Naomi. The significance of this last bit cannot be overstated, because the Bible is, fundamentally, an “androcentric” work, meaning that it focuses primarily on men. Of this there can be no doubt. Continue reading →