March 15, 2020 (Lent 3): John 4

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Home, Family and Security
Everyone needs a home base. We feel safe at our home base. We feel at home. Early childhood development shows that when children feel safe, they become curious and they explore. When children feel insecure and unsafe, of course with some personality differences and exceptions, they are anxious about exploring the world – often described as being “clingy” or having a separation anxiety.

Have you seen toddlers and little children at play in playgrounds? The will seemingly roam around for a bit. Then, they will spot their guardian or come back for a hug. They check in with their home-base, then go play again.

As we grow, we create our home-base in order to feel safe. Sometimes these are social clubs. Sometimes these are religious organizations. Sometimes these are political affiliations. Sometimes these are hobbyist groups and special interests groups. Some gather around a particular cause. Whatever the common ground people find, there is often something that is characterized as the group’s affinity.

Affinity: a natural attraction of feeling of kinship

a close connection marked by community of interests, similarity in nature/character

We feel safe with things we are familiar with. There’s sense of loss when the familiar goes away. Even with changes that are not negatively correlated are considered in psychology as traumatic events/changes: wedding, moving, going to college, joining workforce. People change. Routine changes. We are confronted with a different parts of the society with different ideas about our society and us. Even in our adult lives, we seek our home-base.

My Home Against Your Home
The Jews had their home-base in Jerusalem. The Samaritans had their home-base in Samaria. They both claimed their home-base to be the authentic place of worship of God. The problem wasn’t that they had a different home-base. The problem had to do with their denial of the toher’s home-base. From today’s passage the barrier between the two cultic centers is quite clear: the tmple in Jerusalem and the shrine at Mt. Gerizim.

The Samaritans built a shrine on Mt. Gerizim during the Persian period and claimed that this shrine, not the Jerusalem Temple, was the proper place of worship. The shrine at Mt. Gerizim was destroyed by Jewish troops in 128 BCE but the schism between Jews and Samaritans continued (cf. John 4:9).

(Gail R. O’Day, New Interpreters Bible: Luke and John, 563)

The tension is real here. Suppose that a group from a different denomination (Let’s make one up: Perfect and Same Christians Only – PASCO) comes to our church and destroys and vandalizes our sanctuary. Not only will we have a certain feelings towards PASCO, but we will likely to be united like we’ve never been united before. It might even feel good that we find ourselves with the unifying feeling. Even those who didn’t get along in our church will begin to get along for the common cause, or rather, the common enemy. Unity. Family. Affinity. These are not inherently bad. However, they are no longer Christlike when it means hating others.

We can be Quick to Judge Others: Moralizing Others’ Lives…
Notice that the disciples leave Jesus, then Jesus talks to this Samaritan woman. Much speculation has been made about this woman. Five ex-husbands and now with a partner. She comes to draw water in the heat of the noon time. The popular interpretation is that she was a “sinner” and a victim of shame culture. Raymond Brown and some other scholars question whether we draw our conclusion too quickly: “Verses 16-19 have been consistently misinterpreted, resulting in the popular portrait of this woman as a sinner. The text is not, as interpreters almost unanimously assume (Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII), 171), evidence of the woman’s immorality. Jesus does not judge her; any moral judgments are imported into the text by interpreters. There are many possible reasons for her marital history other than her moral laxity. Perhaps the woman, like Tamar in Genesis 38, is trapped in the custom of levirate marriage (Deut 25:5-10; see also Luke 20:27-33), and the last male in the family line has refused to marry her. Significantly, the reasons for the woman’s marital history intrigue commentators but do not concern Jesus.” (O’Day, New Interpreters Bible: Luke and John, 567) Sometimes we are more obsessed about moralizing about other people’s lives than it is beneficial for us. Jesus certainly doesn’t linger on this with the Samaritan woman.

One more interesting insertion. Given John’s tendency to use two-fold meanings, this may be another possibility. The unnamed Samaritan woman, in a way, is a spokesperson for Samaria. (notice her second person plural…) When the northern Israel was exiled by the Assyrians, “the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the town of Samaria to replace the Israelites.” (2 Kings 17:24) Settling of peoples from other regions would have meant settling of other region’s local deities and cultic practices. In the Old Testament prophets where adultery and apostasy were expressed metaphorically, the Samaritan woman’s five previous marriages could have inferred pluralistic nature of their regional religious practices. The dialogue between Jesus and the woman develop into the matter of religious practices, which may reflect on the particular theme of fidelity to God. Jesus does affirm here, that Salvation is from the Jews. (v.22)

Nevertheless, Jesus doesn’t judge the Samaritan woman. Jesus doesn’t even say, “Your sins are forgiven.” This dialogue isn’t primarily about moral issues regarding the woman. The woman in the dialogue does not show any sign of being timid for feeling ashamed in this conversation. She is actually quite bold and perhaps even self-differentiated enough to hold her own for some time in the conversation. Consider the following, which she spoke boldly:

  • You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (4:9)

  • Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?” (4:11) My paraphrasing: “You say you have this ‘living water?’ You don’t even have a bucket.”

As the conversations develops, he continues to be inquisitive. She is curious, and she is not afraid to call things as she sees/understands it.

Jesus’ Scandalous Breach, Crossing Barriers
The Samaritan woman’s personal life and history are not what’s scandalous in this passage. It is not any possibility of her moral laxity that is scandalous either. What’s scandalous about his passage is that Jesus breaks a couple of important social conventions of that time. The disciples “returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”” (John 4:27) This was a big deal.

[v9] The Samaritan woman responds to Jesus’ request with amazement because it violates two societyal conventions. First, a Jewish man did not initiate conversation with an unknown woman. Moreover, a Jewish teacher did not engage in public conversation with a awoman (“Hence the sages have said: He that talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the law and at the last will inherit Gehenna.” p. Abot 1:5; cf. 4:27). Second, Jews did not invite contact with Samaritans. The Fourth Evangelist’s aside in v. 9c underscores the seriousness of the breach between Jews and Samaritans. A fear of ritual contamination (note the alternate translation of v.9c in the NIV – “or do not use dishes Samaritans have used”) developed into a prohibition of all social intercourse.(Gail R. O’Day, NIB IX: Luke and John, 565-566)

In other places in the Bible, Jesus warns about communities that are like a “family,” with an extreme sense of affinity. A family-like family sometimes has its side-effects of indifference, alienation, fear and even hatred towards outsiders. The warning is for the impenetrable, navel-gazing, family-like communities. Jesus describes that such a community is like Sodom and Gomorrah. In the same chapter (Matthew 10:15) he told such a family/community: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but a sword.”

Jesus crosses a barrier, and it became a scandalous event. Jesus reverses the scandal of communities that cannot seem to understand that Jesus brought sword that slashes our impenetrable, strong barrier against the other. Eugene Peterson puts it this way:
In the previous chapter, Nicodemus risks his reputation by being seen with Jesus. [John 3]
Here, Jesus risks his reputation by being seen with the Samaritan woman [John 4]

There is a sense of ignoring conventions here on both sides, a crossing of the lines of caution, a willingness on both sides to risk misunderstanding. When we get close to the heart of things, we aren’t dealing with assured results or conventional behavior. So –
A man and a woman.
City and country.
An insider and an outsider.
A professional and a layperson.
A respectable man and a disreputable woman.
An orthodox and a heretic.
One who takes initiative; one who lets it be taken.
One named, the other anonymous.
Human reputation at risk; divine reputation at risk.

There is also this; In both conversations “spirit” is the pivotal word. “Spirit” links the differences and contrasts in the two stories [Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman] and makes them aspects of one story. (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Thousand Places, 18)

Only towards the end of his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus declares that we will worship the Father in spirit and truth. But it all began with Nicodemus risking his social reputation and Jesus risking divine reputation.     Amen.

Narrative Lectionary (1/27/2019): Matthew 5:1-20 “The Galilean Teacher”

Jesus sets out from Galilee & its significance: Just before chapter 5, Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing diseases & sickness among the people. People followed Jesus from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan…

This could have been somewhat problematic. Galilean region was known for the popularization of zealots with strong anti-Roman sentiments. Some resorted to means of violence in their political endeavor. Jesus getting attention from that region would likely have meant he was drawing some attention from militant, revolutionary activists as he sat at the mount.

No mamzer shall enter the congregation of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 23:3) Jesus is not an ordinary teacher.

In the absence of proof, Jesus was considered a mamzer, what the Mishnah at a slightly later period calls a shetuqi, or “silenced one” (Qiddushin 4:1-2; see also Qiddushin 70a in the Talmud), which out a voice in the public congregations that regulated the social, political, and religious life of Israel (Deuteronomy 23:2).

Scholars have overlooked the fact thta the conditions of Jesus’ conception as Matthew refers to them made him a mamzer, no matter what his actual paternity was Western cultural preoccupation with sex before marriage has caused scholarship to convert the issue of Jesus’ status in Israel into the anachronistic question of his “legitimacy,” and thus to ignore one of the most powerful influences on his development. On any theory of his birth, he belonged to the caste of the mamzer or “silenced one.” From the beginning of his life Jesus negotiated the treacherous terrain between belong o the people of God and ostracism in his own community. (Bruce Chilton, Rabbi Jesus, 13)

No rabbi would have accepted Jesus as a talmid…. until John the baptists did: “… the one who is  more powerful than i is coming after me.” (Matthew 3:11)

So, this Jesus speaks from the mount, and his words may have been received differently by different people: disciples, bystanders, Pharisees & Saducees, and those who represented political Roman… Imagine yourselves there & hear again the beatitudes:

We stood at a distance, watching. We looked on silently as Jesus took his place on the top of a mound, waiting patiently for those who had gathered o settle themselves. We looked with a certain displeasure and discomfort at the disorderly mob that surrounded him. There must have been hundreds of people pushing in to hear his words, most of them poor and hungry. The place was brimming over with the sick and the dispossessed, the widow and the orphan, then ones without a voice and without hope. We watched as Jesus looked at them with compassion and prayed peace into their lives. As he stood before them, we heard him pronounce blessing upon those who are poor in spirit, for those who are mourning, for those who are meek, for those who are merciful despite their hardships, those who are pure in spirit, and upon those who seek peace rather than war.

But Jesus challenged them saying, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pay for those who mistreat you.” He said to them, “ If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. If some forces you to carry their pack one mile, carry it two. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”….

When he had finished, he turned toward the west, where we were sitting, we who have the power, who have the authority, and who have a voice. For a time he just stared at us, then he approached and addressed us directly: “Do not be mistaken, these words are not for you.” Then Jesus raised his voice and said, “I am sending you an infinitely more difficult message.” 

A time is coming when those you now treat as enemies and slaves will show you nothing but love in return, when those who you curse with indifference will offer you blessing. When you slap these people on the right cheek, be prepared, for they will turn their left cheek toward you. When you steal their cloak, they will offer you their tunic. And when you demand that they carry your possessions for one mile, they will freely carry those possessions for two. They will give freely what you demand from them, and they will not seek to gain back what you have stolen from them. They will treat you s they would long to be treated. You will judge them but they will not judge you. You will condemn them but they will not condemn you… (Peter Rollins, Orthodox Heretic, 20-21)

Jesus’ beatitudes may have disappointed some, but his words would have been words of hope for those with their backs against the wall. The early Christians were on the side of the oppressed, at least until the Constantine era commenced.  So, why are we so worried that Christianity is “losing” popularity in our culture? Because we’ve been a cultural majority for so long. It’s time that we return to the heart of the beatitudes, with our mamzer rabbi Jesus who comes alongside all who need hope for today and for tomorrow. Amen.

Narrative Lectionary: Matthew 4 – Wilderness [January 20, 2019]

January 20, 2019
Matthew 4:1-17
SERMON – “Wilderness”

Wilderness is a special place. Sometimes it is translated as a desert, but it doesn’t capture the meaning. It gives us an impression of a desolation or lack of resources or abundance… but,
there’s more to the wilderness scene.

First, last week’s chapter 3 begins with John the baptist in the wilderness scene.  Today, Jesus is in the wilderness in chapter 4.

In the Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, the wilderness = where the word is found.
Hebrew: wilderness=midbar. Midbar’s root-word=davar (word/thing/event/order/etc…)
דָּבָר                                          מִדְבָּר
In the ancient Hebrew mind the wilderness, in contrast to the cities, is a place of order. Many people today live in the cities, a place of hurrying, rushing and high crime. The city can easily be seen as a place of chaos. And, ironically, the wilderness is where we find order. (davar)

God lead the people of Israel into the wilderness to set things in order. The people were taken out of the great city of Pharaoh to have their identity defined.

The wilderness is where Jesus’ identity is affirmed: “You are my son, in whom I am well pleased.” The wilderness is also where he faces the devil who says: “If you are the son of God…” The wilderness is where Jesus leaves the city to receive the affirmation of his identity, at the same time faces challenges against his identity. Wilderness is a wonderful and a chaotic place at the same time. It’s like solitude/silence & loneliness at the same time.

Serenity and dreadfulness come together. Wilderness provides both. Wilderness is a forgiving and unforgiving place at the same time. Everything is stripped away, and we have nothing for show.

I imagine when the people of Israel first left Egypt, they would have taken all the valuable things… only to realize that many things did not help their mobility. Things were too heavy. God kept moving. The Pillar of cloud/fire, God’s presence kept moving from one place to another. God was highly mobile, and God’s people had to be mobile, too. They needed a movable temple, so they had to build a tent – a tabernacle.

  • People had to travel lightly.
  • Agriculture was out of the question.
  • They had to depend on manna that God sent down.
  • They had to depend on quail.
  • They were extremely vulnerable and dependent.
  • They had to keep following the highly mobile tabernacle.

Simplicity brought them closer to God, but it was a challenging journey.

We identify ourselves with bells and whistles in life & our society’s standards.
We build ourselves with experience, skill set, goods, tools, social network.
Shedding all of these things is hard, because we’re not okay with ourselves.

When we’re silent, and when we’re in solitude, that’s the wilderness.
We face God. We face ourselves. We face our pain. We face grace.
Wilderness is where we hear, “you are my son/daughter.”
Wilderness is also where we come to know our vices and brokenness. Simply naked.
This is why we avoid wilderness and prefer busyness. After a breakup or after loss of their loved ones, solitude brings up too much pain. Wilderness is the revealing place. God is revealed and we are revealed.

Jesus goes to the wilderness to face temptations of glory, power and status, because Jesus didn’t come for any of those things. Jesus came to us.
“I love you. I love you plus nothing.” “Just you.”

So we bring our non-busy selves to God in the wilderness, and our lives our re-ordered. We re-affirm our identity, and we face the pain of our solitude… those moments where we just don’t love ourselves without our possessions, status and busyness. Wilderness is where we lose everything and gain everything in God. Wilderness is where we see our naked selves, even things we hate about our selves, where God rewrites our narrative. We face our demons and the new identity. It’s an extremely brave place. Only when we are happy and healthy without anything, we can find happiness with everything. Next week: Amen.

NL Year 1:Baptism of Jesus (Mt. 3)

January 13, 2019

Matthew 3:1-17

SERMON – “Baptismal Faith

Typically, as we follow Matthew, we are told that Jesus is 1) baptized, 2) tempted and then 3) begins his ministry. The titles in our red bible leave us the similar impression:

The Baptism of Jesus (3:13-17);
The Temptation of Jesus (4:1-11); and
Jesus Begins to Preach (4:12-17)

In this sequence, we could be getting the impression that preaching begins God’s ministry. However, in today’s passage, we learn that Jesus begins ministry. Jesus’ baptism is the ministry.

Several dynamics going on here. We can lift up two contexts here:
The people:

  • We see the seemingly ascetic John: Mt 11 seems to portray John as an ascetic…
    • Camel’s hair was not a fashion statement. Not a fur coat…
      Some traditions refer wearing prickly camel’s hair as a form of asceticism
      One thing that is consistent is that this points to Elijah:
      He was a man with a garment of hair
      and a leather belt around his waist.”
      The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” (2 Kings 1:8)
      To this day, Jewish Seders include an empty chair at the table
      in the anticipation that Elijah will return to herald the Messiah
      in fulfillment of Malachi’s word.
      See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful
      day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their
      children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will
      come and strike the land with a curse. (Mal 4:5-6)
      A baffling way to end the last book of the Old Testament…
      Christian canon arrangement puts Malachi last… and
      Matthew comes in as the first book of the New Testament
      Anyway, John the baptist is the hard-line guy:
      “Turn or burn” “Now is the time” type of a prophetic message
  • Some respond – confessing sins and were baptized:
    People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole
    region of Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the
    Jordan River. (3:5-6)
  • Some came by and were scolded:
    Those of the establishment – the Sadducees
    Scholars, teachers & role-models – Pharisees
    (Who knows, some might have been baptized, but that would mean losing
    their establishment and status, wouldn’t it?
    Either way, they had a lot to lose if they decided to be baptized.
    Perhaps trying to find ways to shut down John’s operation.)

So people are there for different reasons.
And we read today that Jesus has his own response – God’s will.

He doesn’t want to wait. John tried to dissuade him…
“Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”
Then Jesus gets baptized…

What was that about? Jesus certainly had a few options here, and that was uncalled for.

A few difference decisions Jesus could have made at the bank:
– Side with John the baptist, or take over John’s job: I’m sure Jesus would have done better.
– Side with the Pharisees & Sadducees: He might have done well to climb the ladder of success.
– Side with people confessing their sins, being baptized by John.
Jesus said it was proper for them to do this to fulfill all righteousness.

Siding with the humble, broken people walking into the water… insecure but hoping for forgiveness… hoping for a new start – this is Jesus’ way of fulfilling all righteousness:

This is exciting enough for the entire triune presence…
The sky rips open & the Spirit descends & the voice says:
“This is my Son…. (and in my paraphrase)

Have you ever wondered something we can participate that might perhaps please God so much to say, “That is awesome, church”?

Even John Calvin admits that full immersion under water is preferred, but not every church can afford a swimming pool…
Descending under water can mean cleaning, but also means death.
As we, the broken, the suffering, the humble sinners descend into the dead…
Jesus joins us under water… And we rise with Jesus.
That’s why the early church was so fearless.
You can’t scare dead people, I think.

In the early church, they stressed dying to the old life. Living the resurrection life, or living well, meant dying well. Baptism was a funeral to old self.

For the first 300 years the church was focused on its mission to a society despite sporadic danger of martyrdom. Martyrdom means making a witness with one’s life. The Early Church mission strategies were cup of cold water ministries and orphanages. (Quite Hebraic)

That was a pre-Constantinian era, Christianity was the cultural minority. This is why I don’t feel discouraged by Christianity not being the hot culture today. It’s time for reform/renewal. Jesus starts with his ministry today that the River in joining us, under water. Baptism itself is the ministry. Baptism itself is our vocation. As we are called children of God, we are called to see and witness to those who are suffering/broken under water, “Hey, Jesus is there.” Amen.

Narrative Lectionary (12/2/2018): Advent 1 & Habakkuk

December 2, 2018 – The Prophet Who Sings

Habakkuk 1:1-7; 2:1-4; 3:3b-6, 17-19 & Matthew 26:36-38

Theodicy – the problem of whether God really rules this world with justice – was a term that was coined in the early 18th century. However, people seem to have always wrestled with the question of theodicy. God is powerful. God is righteous. God is loving/merciful. “Books on the problem of suffering continue to be written, for every generation encounters pain for itself and struggles to find the reason why.” (Donald E. Gowan, The Triumph of Faith in Habakkuk, 5)

This is a tough one: intellectually, we have to acknowledge this. The three premises collide:

God is all-powerful

God is all-loving

Suffering exists. Evil exists. (Existence of the serpent is mind-boggling…)

This was a real question I suffered and wrestled with.

Whenever the “faithful” people tried to offer answers, it only drew me farther way.

Typical answers were:

God could have made us with no moral ability, depriving us from the moral

ability to respond to or choose good

God could always move us to do good, and never allow us to choose evil.

God can bring bring good out of any evil.

The list goes on…

But these answers are flimsy.

The main problem is that we are trying to defend God & our defense is flimsy.

Passionate non-believers have seen all the arguments on Youtube, and they know what Christian answers will be… At least the philosophical ones.

This is why in the 21st century social media-driven world, apologetics is out of style.

What brought me back to the church was a Christian who validated my doubts, frustration and didn’t defend church or God. He simply said, “Yeah, that’s a hard question.”

That response was so liberating to me. “I’m not going crazy all by myself here.”

I thought all the Christians got it, and just not me.

I needed an affirmation, “Yeah, I wrestle with that, too!”

I heard that difficult times in life have driven people away from God.

Habakkuk is prophesying in the time when Babylon was taking over Jerusalem.

Now that’s a difficult time.

Does he defend God? No. He takes God to the task.

God’s response isn’t an answer to our questions, but a reminder:

Keep going and live faithfully. I’m here.

Stay on that path, even when things get tough. I’m here.

Form Criticism/analysis is one of the methods used to determine a genre of literature. Before I sound too academic, this is something we do daily. If I begin reading:

“Once upon a time….”


The kinds of language used by the sportscaster, the preacher, the congressman, and the disc jockey are all different. During the season of election, knowing the genre of a politician’s speech in a campaign ad is important.

Determining a genre is helpful in understanding Habakkuk.

Form analysis informs me that Habakkuk sings like a song. Like a Psalm.

A song that doesn’t defend.

A song that invites.

A song that grieves denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance… all kinds of

experience in life

Directed to God.

I think I was in a phase in life when I needed someone to simply validate, acknowledge and let me be myself in that moment. I was tired of people trying to fix me.

Surely, you’ve never had that experience, have you?

So this unusual prophet named Habakkuk has an unusual “message.”

It is quite rare to remember a daily devotional entry for years. Sort of like, sermons.

I don’t even remember my sermons. Sermons, in my mind, are proclaimed in its particular time and particular place. With exception to a handful of sermons, most of my sermons can’t be reused or recycled… Back to daily devotional entries: It’s rare for a devotional entry to “stick” for years: Who knew I’d be sharing this with people even after 15 years?

A five-year-old boy John returned from his Kindergarten.

The mother asked Johnny: “How was your day?”

Johnny: “Good. Billy was really sad and he was crying today, so I helped him.”

Mother: “How did you help him?”

Johnny: “I cried with him.”

This is Habakkuk. Habakkuk sings the cry of the people & brings people together in this difficult time. In a way, the prophet prays with the people and grieves with people, and even says, “How long? How long? I’ve had enough.” That’s Habakkuk. In Gethsemane Jesus is grieved and asks disciples to watch with him. Prophetic “singing” is one that is sung as community. Like the blues and gospel music, the songs are sung in response to oppression, evil, and suffering.

This is a Holy Spirit thing. Amen.

Narrative Lectionary (9/30/2018) – Exodus 14 Brief Study Notes

Interpretation: Bible Studies (James D. Newsome)

Verses 5-9 escribe Pharaoh’s pursuit of the Israelites in some detail. Mentioning chariots in the Egyptian army, including Pharaoh’s personal chariot (v. 6) is in keeping with the historical record. The armies of the Pharaohs were among the most skilled in the ancient world in using this device of speed and power. Sex hundred chariots represents a large force, and perhaps reflects the number of Israelite fugitives given in 12:37-38

600,000 men on foot, besides women and children

Many others & livestock (51)

Interpretation (Terence Fretheim)

Earlier in chapter 13:17-22, the narrative emphasizes God’s strategizing. (154)


[Yaweh] wets a puzzling route no [one] would have thought of, to confuse Pharaoh by an appearance of confusion and to win further and final glory himself at Pharaoh’s expense.” 187

The rescue climax.

Genesis ends with the promise of population fulfilled. But they are not in the promised land.

God’s faithfulness in God’s covenant.

Who is God? The LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and bondage

God’s identity in relationship with the people of Israel is defined in today’s passage:


God of your ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob…etc.


The LORD your God who did this for you.

NT equivalent would be: the Empty tomb

Echoes of the flood:

People who are committed to death.

Pharaoh’s stronghold on the people of Israelite

Text of hope and victory for people who were oppressed

This is a dangerous text if misused by people in power

This is not about “God is on our side”

Proper context here is that justice is the Good News for the oppressed

and not such a good news for the oppressor

This is not about vengeance. The people didn’t fight.

The people didn’t bring judgment

The people were to stand firm and witness God’s work

Isaiah 51:9-10

Awake, awake, put on strength,

O arm of the LORD!

Awake, as in days of old,

the genereations of long ago!

Wasit not you who cut Rahab in pieces,

who pierced the dragon?

Was it not you who dried up the sea,

the waters of the great deep;

who made the depths of the sea a way

for the redeemed to cross over?

The imagery of the wind blowing over the deep waters and splitting the waters is the imagery of creation. Isaiah 51 links crossing of the Red Sea to creation to life.

This connection reveals God as being more than the god of one nation fighting against an Egyptian deity. The message embedded in it is that it is the God the creator who has power over national tyrants and their weapons of war and natural tyrant of the deep waters.

God divides the water from the land, as if we’re reminded on Genesis 1 creation

God also creates both light and darkness

God creates a new humanity, graciously forming a people out of ragtag bunch of former slaves

This revolution takes a process

The angel of the Lord who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army withdrew and went behind them.” (Exodus 14:19)

It is difficult to sustain a revolution, because one loses all the benefits of the old system well before there are any tangible benefits from what is promised.” (NIB, p.793)

Narrative Lectionary (9/23/2018) – Gen 39 Study Notes Part 1


The Narrative Lectionary brings us to Genesis 39:1-23. The Narrative Lectionary calendar titled this week, “Joseph in Prison,” with the description: “Joseph is unjustly put in prison; yet God is present with him there.” The NT passage is Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people revile you…”

There are some observations I made, with some potential directions for sermon this Sunday…

Genesis 39:14, 17 – on “Hebrew”

the noble woman’s comment in verse 39: “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us!”
I recall that “Hebrew/Habiru/hibri”, in a Near Eastern texts in general, does not necessarily refer to an ethnic group but those who were on the fringes of society. “The Habiru sometimes appear as mercenaries, sometimes as fugitives, sometimes as slaves, sometimes as outlaws” (Collins, “Intro. to the Hebrew Bible”, 85)
Potiphar’s wife’s use of “Hebrew” may well be a pejorative one.

Also worth considering: “…because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 43:32)

Garments and transitions in the life of Joseph:

I found it interesting to re-read all the places that mention garments/coat/clothes in the Joseph cycle. It really brings out images of emotion, status, relationship, power dynamics…etc. : Gen 37:3; Gen 37:23-24; Gen 37:29-34; Gen 39:11-18 and Gen 41:41-15. Notice that we can see transitions in his life, particularly in terms of status as follows: 1) Jacob’s favorite 2) captivity 3) freed to rise to power 4) back in captivity 5) freed again to rise to power. The below are the scripture texts

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. (or a coat of many colors)” (Gen 37:3)

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him in to a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Gen 37:23-24)

When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes. He returned to his brothers, and said, “The boy is gone; and I where can I turn?” Then they took Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat, and dipped the robe in the blood. They had the long robe with sleeves taken to their father, and they said, “This we have found; see now whether it is your son’s robe or not.” He recognized it, and said, “It is my son’s robe! A wild animal has devoured him; Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” Then Jacob tore his garments, and put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” (Gen 37:29-34)

One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; But as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” (Gen 39:11-18)

And Pharaoh said to Joesph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck.. Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath – paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:41-45)

Lent 3C: Repentance & Community (Luke 13:1-9)

Luke 13:1-9 requires pastoral sensitivity. Theodicy is apparent. People’s judgment leaps out of the text. Of course, God’s impending judgment and urgency of repentance has often been preached to scare people out of hell – or, sometimes, scare the hell out of people.

The Gardner/Vine dresser is an interesting character. He intercedes. So, the lectionary text flows in this way: deaths (beyond judgment; expectation and anticipation), then repentance (which orients us toward fruition), then intercession. Here the gardener isn’t just interceding in hopes of a mere better chance. The gardener requests time for nurturing. (Lk 13.8) He doesn’t ask for the fig tree to bear fruit on its own.

Repentance is communal. Just as sin pervades community, so does repentance.

RCL Year C: Lent 1 (Luke 4:1-13) – Meditation

This post is not to reflect on my studies. Just a few things for me to meditate on, that you might also want to do so.

Two conditions that begins the narrative in this text: 1) Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit. 2) Jesus is hungry. When I think of the Holy Spirit, things that come to mind have to do with life-giving power. (i.e. creation in Gen. 1, Ezekiel 37…etc.) Hunger is something we constantly deal with… as long as we’re alive. Life-giving. Hunger.

I came across a post that reflects on the temptations as follows (my emphases bold-printed):

“Hellenistic hearers would have connected the three temptations with their threefold categories of vice: the love of pleasure, the love of possessions, and the love of glory.”

As we kick-off this Lent, some things for me to be mindful of/meditate on: