In Matthew’s midrash of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus tours all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, curing all kinds of diseases, and proclaiming that God’s kingdom has come. The verses in Chapter 4 selected by the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary for the third Sunday after the Epiphany are the preface to Matthew 5:1 through 7:29, the great Sermon on the Mount. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, and invites his disciples to leave their nets and become “fishers for people,” traditionally interpreted to mean saving souls from hell. But John Dominic Crossan, points out that Jesus could have brought his message anywhere in Roman occupied Judea. Why Galilee? Why Capernaum?read more
The one thing that almost all theologians, biblical scholars, and historians agree on when it comes to Jesus is that the kingdom of God was foundational to his mission and ministry. It is front and center, it is at the heart and core of his life and work.read more
At times like this, I wish more people who identify themselves as Christians or followers of Jesus knew more about the roots of their own tradition, Judaism. The Mother religion of our tradition has a very different kind of New Year called Rosh Hashanah. Jesus, or Yeshua, was a Galilean Jew. As should be expected, his teachings are heavily influenced by his own tradition and its teachers. For Jews, Rosh Hashanah is preceded with a long period of time for introspection. It’s time for looking back at the mistakes of the past year and thinking about those whom they may have harmed. This intentional self-inspection ends with the holiest of holidays, Yom Kippur, ten days later. The time in between is referred to as the Days of Awe or Days of Repentance.read more
Millions of children in the Northeast quadrant of the United States will have to miss their annual spook-fest and candy shake-down on October 31 this year. Something far more terrifying than any Halloween slasher film rose up from the tropics and swooped onto the mainland in the last few days of October. Like a fell creature from JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the “Frankenstorm” named Sandy, spinning counter-clockwise (the Devil’s own widdershins), spread its Nazgûl wings from North Carolina to the Great Lakes. What began as a late-season Hurricane (strange enough) was sucked into an early Arctic cold front, and created a weather system never before experienced in recorded human time.read more
The earliest version of the New Testament, now in English for the first time!
History preserves the name of the person responsible for the first New Testament, the circumstances surrounding his work, and even the date he decided to build a textual foundation for his fledgling Christian community. So why do so few people know about him? Jason BeDuhn introduces Marcion, reconstructs his text, and explores his impact on the study of Luke-Acts, the two-source theory, and the Q hypothesis.read more
On the First Sunday of the Advent season this year – for those Christian faith communities that observe a liturgical calendar — the traditional four weeks of waiting on the tiptoe of expectation only lasted until 1:37 PM that afternoon for our family; when my own daughter gave birth to her first-born child.read more
1. Ancient stars would shed their light,
Shining bright, both day and night;
Heralding some wondrous birth
Of some god’s descent to earth;
The four gospels divide Jesus’ followers into three groups. The Greek word “ochloi” refers to the crowds who gathered when Jesus preached; “Mathetes” refers to the followers who stuck around for more teaching; and “Apostolos” refers to the disciples, those chosen by Jesus as his inner circle.read more
What does the New Testament tell us about Mary? Mark, the earliest gospel, did not include a birth narrative, so his mentions of Mary are vague and not very flattering. He says Jesus’ family (the family isn’t specified; does he mean Mary and Joseph or Mary and Jesus’ brothers?) attempted to restrain him because people were claiming he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). If Mary was present, it seems strange that other gospel verses say she was visited by an angel who told her that she would conceive a special child or to whom Luke says shepherds came in wonder to visit her newborn child or to whom Matthew says wise men journeyed to bring gifts to welcome her wondrous child’s birth.read more
American retailers have essentially pre-announced that the annual Thanksgiving observance — when we presumably pause to gratefully remember everything we have — has been cancelled so bargain shoppers can get an even earlier jump-start on their holiday shopping for all the things we don’t have yet.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world a typhoon of record proportion hit landfall only a few weeks ago; nearly wiping an island nation off the face of the earth, and leaving those who survived with virtually nothing. Then last week an unseasonable swarm of twisters flattened whole towns across the Midwest. By comparison, it all makes the plight of those first pilgrims facing the harsh realities of their first Thanksgiving in a brave new world look like a walk in the park.
And, all the while, the airwaves and media have been filled with docu-dramas and documentaries commemorating the half-century mark of those events that shattered an age of relative innocence for those of us old enough to remember it; ushering in an age of extraordinary upheaval and anxiety, starting with what social critics and historians alike attribute to the assassination of JFK. Juxtaposed and taken together, these events represent a seeming un-reality that hasn’t really abated much in the last fifty years. We live in an age of anxiety.
Jesus masterfully taught in the philosophical tradition known as Jewish cynicism, with such parabolic tales and quaint-sounding imagery as the “lilies of the field.” And he did so at a time and age that – while seemingly ancient to our modern way of thinking – may not have been all that different from our own anxious age. Consider then our fretful, misbegotten ways, and the wild lilies of the fields.read more
the full-text of the New Testament—and one of the only Bibles organized in chronological order and including explanatory annotations that give readers a more informed understanding of the Scriptureread more
Part One in this series considered the notion of “God,” or “gods,” as the single most elusive idea the human imagination has ever concocted or tried to fathom. But we typically constrain ourselves, thinking only in theistic terms; and fashion our notion of “God” in an anthropomorphic image so we can more easily relate to the idea. We ascribe to such a being all kinds of desirable characteristics that might comprise this composite character. The Christian then proceeds to incarnate that idea with a Christology in which Jesus is typically construed as mediator and chief negotiator; to the extent such a savior is willing to atone for all our wretchedness and secure our own immortality in another existence. It’s all pretty fanciful stuff. But for those progressives for whom such a construct is no longer viable or credible, it is not simply a question of what remains amidst the theological rubble, but what more, or other, might yet be discovered? As such, we ask how we might speak of such things. What language might we use?read more
Beyond the stats, beyond the grief, beyond the finger-pointing, beyond the “culture wars” lies the solution to eleven thousand deaths by gunfire per year in the United States.read more
When it comes to religion, Atheism is as good as any, since religion is simply about how you put some order in your otherwise chaotic world, and come up with a list of things you believe or disbelieve. The atheist and the theist both want to ask the same basic question: Do you believe in God or not? Often they are not interested in going much deeper than that. The oft-repeated response a famous preacher once gave to a religious skeptic went, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in. Chances are I don’t believe in that kind of God either.”read more
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These grand words are etched in the American consciousness, and serve as a preamble of sorts to the Constitution’s subsequent ideal goal of “a more perfect union.” With the recent split Supreme Court decisions over voting rights and marriage equality, along with and passage of an immigration reform bill in the Senate that naysayers declare is DOA in the House of Representatives, it would appear that while progress has been made, we clearly remain a work in progress, as well.
As we prepare to celebrate our Independence Day holiday this year the fireworks have been set off a little early with the debate over the intelligence surveillance practices of the so-called Patriot Act by a government that was established of, by and for the people. Call them heroes or traitors, whistleblowers or hack-tivists, there are also a growing number of anti-authoritarian tech geeks who claim to be motivated less by notoriety than a certain principled conscience to which they claim to have pledged a higher allegiance.
So, what is the nature of “natural” or “divinely-bestowed” rights? What of human conscience, earthly authority, and more? And – for those of us who might consider ourselves both a red-blooded American and Christian of one sort or other — what might constitute a “Christian” conscience, based on a Jesus life-ethic?
You can find the latest commentary Here.read more
Once upon a time, political conservatives in America were stereotyped as hard-headed realists, and liberals were described as ungrounded dreamers. How times have changed!read more
The death by suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s youngest son is not an indication of any spiritual failure. Cancer, depression, mental illness and natural disasters strike among people of faith at the same rate as everyone else. The mortality rate is 100%. We pray, as Kierkegaard said, not to change the One to whom we pray but to change the one who prays. Our spirituality gives us community, encouragement, strength and hope to face the challenges of living in a capricious universe.read more
Jesus tells us to not only resist retaliation but to turn the other cheek. While I attempt to humble myself to this calling by listening closer, measuring my words, and remembering that with with God’s help, I am strong enough to let go of my need to be right, I struggling with this concept when it comes to my children.read more