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The Bible as/and Literature -- Sightings (Richard Rosengarten)

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The Bible represents different things for different people. It can be understood as literature, as history, as mythos, as theology. For one like me who is a Christian pastor and theologian, it is the primary source of revelation. For others it is the key to understanding literature. How can you appreciate Handel's The Messiah, without some understanding of the Bible. The King James Version was translated and published to make the Bible accessible. Over time it has become a cultural icon. The Historical Critical method takes the Bible a part, hoping to find its true meaning. Literary critics look at the whole and not just the parts. Robert Alter's recent translation of what Christians call the Old Testament and Jews Tanak, approaches the text from a literary point of view. I've not yet read from it, but it sounds intriguing. In any case, Richard Rosengarten offers us a brief essay for Sightings on the way all of this works.  It is worth pondering. 

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God Provides, Reconciles, and Redeems - A lectionary reflection for Epiphany 7C (Genesis 45)

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Genesis 45:3-15  New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not d…

Christ’s Resurrection: First Fruits -- A Sermon for Epiphany 6C (1 Corinthians 15)

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1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Today’s hymns, scripture reading, and the sermon title might suggest that Easter came really early this year. Don’t worry.  You didn’t sleep through Lent. While the service has the feel of Easter, it is good to remember that the resurrection is itself an epiphany. It’s a manifestation of God’s presence in the world. Besides, as the song puts it: “Ev'ry morning is Easter morning from now on!  Ev'ry day's resurrection day, the past is over and gone!" 
In the spirit of Easter, we have already sung: “Thine is the glory, risen, conquering Son, endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.” Death did its best to keep Jesus in the Tomb, but by raising Jesus from the dead, God put Death on notice. God declared that life, not death, will emerge victorious, and we can join in serving the risen savior who is in the world today. We can “see his hand of mercy” and “hear his voice of cheer” (“He Lives,” Chalice Hymnal, 226).
Paul’s foundational message shared…

For the Life of the World (Miroslav Volf & Matthew Croasmun) -- A Review

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FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD: Theology that Makes a Difference. By Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. 196 pages.

I understand that many Christians, let alone people outside the faith, consider theology to be irrelevant to real life. In fact, many clergy believe this to be true. It seems to be an esoteric exercise with no real-world application. As one who is trained as a theologian (historical theology), I would beg to differ. Despite my protests, I expect that I would not convince the skeptic of the value of theology. Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun, both of whom teach at Yale Divinity School, have heard the same critique of theology, and in For the Life of the World,offer their response.
Volf and Croasmun are not naïve. They acknowledge that the study of theology is at this moment in the midst of a deep crisis. For one thing, seminaries are in decline, which makes it difficult for academically trained theologians to get teaching positions. Seminari…

Catholic Schools Tomorrow -- Sightings, (Martin Marty)

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In this essay Martin Marty comments on the state of Catholic education. I am interested in this topic not because I'm Catholic or attended Catholic schools (I was educated in public schools until college). The reason is that my wife, who like me is Protestant spent ten plus years teaching in Catholic schools. As revealed here, there are mounting challenges to the extensive Catholic school system, in part due to the decline of religious institutions in the United States. Yet, they remain an important element of the faith community. And as Marty hints, the reason why this system was born was the anti-Catholicism of an earlier time that used public schools to reinforce Protestantism. Like I said, he hints, but doesn't go to far. So, if you're interested in Catholic education, take a look!  

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Trust in the Lord and Live Abundantly - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 6C (Jeremiah 17)

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Jeremiah 17:5-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
    and make mere flesh their strength,
    whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else;
    it is perverse—
    who can understand it?
10 I the Lord test the mind
    and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
    according to the fruit of their doings.
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Having encountered the calls of first Jeremiah and then Isaiah to their respec…