Surviving the failure of God--II

Week 13, Day 3 For December 3 Isaiah 11. 1-10; Luke 1. 26-38 The full text for this week is given below. Isaiah 11. 1—A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Isaiah passage for this week begins with the subtle admission that God has failed. Or that, to all appearances at least, God has failed. The tree of Jesse, the lineage of the father of King David, has been cut down and probably burned up or left to rot on the ground. A stump sticking up out of the ground—this stump anyway, since this is the eternal kingdom of God’s own people we’re talking about, is the very image of broken promises and lost hope. Luke’s account of the Annunciati

Surviving the failure of God

Week 13, Day 1 For December 3 Isaiah 11. 1-10; Luke 1. 26-38 The full text for this week is given below. Jesse was the father of David—the shepherd boy who grew to be a man “after God’s own heart” and became the greatest king of Israel. While he lived God promised David that the throne of Israel would, through all time, be occupied by one of his descendants—as long as those descendants remained faithful to Yahweh. Later writings and prophecies altered that promise to David, making it unconditional. Because of David’s faithfulness and because of God’s great love for him, the royal line of David’s dynasty would never fail. That was God’s irrevocable promise. Then Nebuchadnezzar, the Babyl

Buy Without Money

For the 1st Sunday of Advent November 26, 2017 Week 12, Day 1 The commercial Christmas Season began this year on October 21st, when Farm and Fleet opened their Toyland. That marked the start of a season filled with high hopes and genuine good will. “Merry Christmas” will be an many lips and the sentiment will most often be sincere. But most of us also know this as a time when our worries for the Christmas to come and our disappointments from Christmases past will combine and conspire to create days of intense and unwelcome stress. For this we have Advent. Advent is a time for quiet waiting, for thinking and hoping and looking forward to the fulfillment of the promise: “Immanuel, God is wit

Imagine what God can do with the living

Week 11, Day 5 Ezekiel 37. 1-14 Here is Israel’s question, felt and spoken from the depths of exile: Is this all there is? This is our question, too, felt and spoken in times of despair and darkness: Is this all there is? God’s question, “Can these bones live?” hints at the answer the Jews in Babylon would have given—“Of course not. Don’t be silly. Dead is dead. Don't you get that?” Come next spring, many of us will dig up our gardens and plant seeds. The seeds will die; we know that. But we trust that in dying they will be transformed into a new and more fruitful life. Even those of us without green thumbs have some confidence in that. When the dark days come, though, we have a hard

"Can these bones live?"

Week 11, Day 3 For November 19 Ezekiel 37:1-14 From the Annals of Sennacherib, the King of Assyria: “With the bodies of the enemy’s warriors I filled the plain, like grass” That’s quite an object lesson he left behind after conquering a country. No one would miss the point and very few, certainly none of those who survived, would be interested in challenging him. The God of Israel, however, will rise to the challenge Ezekiel is carried “by the spirit of the Lord (who) set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry”. And the question comes to him, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Now t

"O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD

Week 11, Day 1 For November 19 Ezekiel 37:1-14 “Our bones are dried up, our hope has perished; we are cut off completely.” Eze. 37.11 With these words the Jews in exile in Babylon, lamented their loss—the loss of their homeland, their faith, their future. As difficult as it is to contemplate our own death, though we know it lies ahead for each of us, it is perhaps more difficult to imagine living into a future in which you see yourself already as good as dead. When people have no hope, when their trust has evaporated into the desert heat and they are literally cut off from everything and everyone they hold dear, it is indeed hard to go on. The prophet Ezekiel, living amon

What you think the Bible is has a strong influence on what you think the Bible says

Week 9, Day 5 I Kings 19. 1-18 For my Day 5 post this week I am giving you part of a recent article by the Old Testament scholar Er. Peter Enns titled “The Bible Invites Us on a Quest". Your assignment for today (if you were looking for one, that is) is to read this article paying special attention to the 3 points he makes: that the the Bible is—“ambiguous, ancient and diverse”. Then read (again) from the text for this week—I Kings 18.20 through I Kings 19.18 looking not for the facts contained in the story, but for the wisdom that can be gleaned from it. Ask this, for instance: How might this story inform the way I relate to neighbors whose culture or religion or politics are different

Of two minds...

11-1–17 Week 9, Day 3 I Kings 19. 1-18 I Kings 18. 20,21: So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ The people did not answer him a word. Ahab ascended to the throne in Israel and brought Jezebel along to be his queen. Together they did everything they could to promote the worship of Baal—Jezebel’s favorite god. Between them they turned the religion of Israel on its head. Baal, with Ahab and Jezebel as his representative, was the polar opposite to Yahweh, the God of Israel. In th

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