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Nov. 27, 2018 Psalm 28, John 7:1-52, Psalm 51:1-19, (9)

This was in many ways a preview of the holy week in Jerusalem. Jesus initially told his brothers that he wasn’t going to go down to Jerusalem because it wasn’t his time. Then he later went down quietly and tried to stay out of sight. There was a lot of discussion in the text about whether Jesus was the Son of God and the Messiah or just some other pretender Messiah. His brothers didn’t have faith that he was the Messiah. However, he again taught in the temple and taught with authority to demonstrate that he was God and came from the father. We decided that we needed more time on this chapter so will continue on this chapter next week.

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Dec. 19, 2018 psalm 104:1-17, john 6, psalm 18-35, (24)

this is a cbapter with the theme of bread. interspersed with bread is the beginning of communion, as well as several miracles. this is the basis of Catholics doctrine of transubstantiation. jews weren’t permitted to drink blood and this action by Jesus would have caused problems to the Jewish christians. Dualism and determinism come out of this chapter of John. there don’t appear to be explicit reference to evangelism, but he is reaching out in a number of of instances, like the Samaritan woman, the healing and other miracles. barley bread is the brread of poor people. when is the last day that Jesus talks about in verse 40. what about people who haven’t heard about jesus, are they condemned. this may be the basis of missionary work. what about the predestination message? am i just deluding myself that i have free choice in my life or are all my actions kniwn in advance and am i predestined to do the things i do. will there be a day when all will believe in God. 

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Dec. 12, 2018 psalm 94, John 5, Psalm 97, (26)

this is a story dealing with not working on the Sabboth. there is a concern that Jesus said to the lame man he had healed that he should sin no more. does that mean that all suffering is caused by your sin. very troubling! is sin realy just missing the mark. you may be missing the mark may be more that you are ai.ing at the wrong target. Al says that there are a number of rules about what could be done on Sabboth. some of it is quite ridiculous. verses 31-34, jesus talks about authority and who can verify the truth. there is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15 where Moses talked about a prophet that would come and jesus in verse 46 says he is that prophet. your life may be the only bible someone sees. it may be the only witness to your faith that people see. verse 18 says the Jews pushed back agaist jesus weakoning the sabboth rules. verse 25-27 and 30 and 24 are intent on showing the authority of Jesus. verse 28 then talks about the resurrection of the dead and the judgement of who is saved and who is dammed. 

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Dec. 5, psalm 132, john 4, psalm 133, (28)

the reading is about the Samaritan woman. the Samaritans were in the northern kingdom and intermarried with others when they were conquered by the Assyrians. Thus, they were lesser Jews and considrred inferior to those from Judea. a question was raised about  what baptism was then. iit was probably a purification ceremony.  did Jesus baptise or was it left to his disciples. jesus may have not wanted to baptize because then they would have thought them superior to being baptized by others. it is amazing that Jacob’s well still existed 1000 years after Jacob. this well is not mentioned in the testament. his route took him thru Samaria which was unusual. why did Jesus do uncustomary things. Maybe to reach out to other people who might not otherwise be reached. it appears that Jesus had some sort of plan for his ministry. john is conveying a message to us and thus is part of a whole sequence about the power of water. he gave her leave to tell others about him as messiah while jesus frequently admonished them not to tell others. at the time this was written christian jews were not allowed in synagogues. 

it was generally not acceptable for a rabbi to talk to a woman. 

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Nov. 28, 2018 psalm 13, john 3, psalm 131, (26)

it is interesting that psalm 30 ends by referring to Israel in masculine  ot the usual feminine.  big discussion of John 3:16 at football games. john 3:18 implies that grace doesn’t save one, sort of once condemned you are lost. Nicodemus is F.s heros by dis using water and spirit. also john talks about the scientific method, probably the Greek influence. also noticetice how john weaves nicodemus into several places into his gospel. john is a more theoretical or philosophical gospel. in verse 5 He says one comes by way of water and the spirit. what is meant by kingdom of God. is it synonymous with heaven? are the various words used for this an attempt to provide people with examples of what is meant by the concept of heaven. 

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Nov. 15, 2018 psalm 39, john 2, psalm 57, (27)

interesting oalm lots of different thoughts. wedding of Cana and the cleansing of the temple  is john deifying the body of christ. c has a book describing the veracity of the gospels and what is described in john 2 is a myth. probably not a christian group, they decided on the color coding byp concensus of a group of 14. this was done by the Jesus Seminar, wartburg seminar thought it interesting but not necessarily good scholarship. peter Block says the only thing we know for sure is that we were born. this is a very depressing thought. then we are left at the mercy of the people putting together a story and then selling it to us. al thinks the scholars in the Jesus Seminar were historical not tainted by the theology of a particular church body. each of us has a truth about my life  but others may have a different view about me. there was a story about Edison that his second grade teacher who sent a note home saying he was desruptive and said he was kicked out of school, his mother told him instead that he was too smart for the school.look what happened to him. pastor miller says that John is trying to tell us something about the nature of jesus.

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Nov. 7,2018 psalm 71:1-16, john 1, psalm 71:17-24, (26)

debate about john who wrote and when  probably anywhere from 80-95  could be written by a disciple of john  what does it mean to see the word was god or in the beginning was eternal wisdom  could you say that in the beginning god was pure energy. dirk sees energy is from the spirit. the audience was the Greek people, and greeks understand the idea of logos and didn’t require them to know about Jewish history. maybe why there no parables. maybe true should be real. so what does it mean real light. this could be referring to the idea that jesus came as a real man. the Greek gods had human identities. did john the baptist really not know Jesus. their mothers knew each other well. synagogues used to have pools outside to cleanse before going in. this may be the beginning of baptism as sort of a cleansing act. the muslims have this tradition of cleansing. 

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Oct. 3, 2018 Psalm 131, ecclesiastes 10, 11, Psalm 133, (21)

There are a lot of platitudes that tell us to live life to the fullest, but know that you are accountable to God. The message interpretation is a very good way to read this book. Cast your bread on the waters and you may receive a return in many days. When we are judged is it with your knowledge or without it. Does it make a difference. Ecclesiastes says you spend a lot time building up things only to have them come crashing down around you. Is this book a build up from other books and ideas of that time. This was written in a time of economic growth led by the Persians, thus there was a lot of Persian influence in this book. Ecclesiastes doesn’t have much to say about God or the nature of God. 

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Sept. 26, 2018 psalm129, ecclesiastes 9 Psalm 130, (23)

We had a discussion on why ecclesiastes was lncluded in the Bible. D says he has been told the Bible is the organized or authorized argument of the church. Is this telling us we don’t have control of our lives but this denys free will. But the human aspect is that we make mistakes and hurt others. Is vanity pointing to the end of life. N says he hopes for a continuity of knowing. But Jesus came and gave us hope. This book has a lot of Persian influence. This was a well developed strain of thought and occurred close to the time of the New Testament times. At the time of Jesus the main thought of the Jews was that probably life after death was Sheol, the valley of the dead. Memories go back at most 4 generations. Don Madsen died at age 95 and he made a motion that the church should have a lay president, rather than a pastor. Proehl was a long term pastor at Zion and had always been the president of the congregation and resigned the day after the motion  passed. This chapter is a fatalistic point of view that got us off on this topic of the meaning of life. 

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Sept. 19, 2018 Psalm 43, ecclesiastes 8, Psalm 112, (24)

This mornings Psalm was short and uplifting and refers to altars and thankfulness. Is vanity more like futility. In those days heart was the thinking part of a person which explains why heart is used rather than mind as is used in some translations. We had a long discussion about the origin of the ELCA and the various factions of Lutherans like Missouri synod, ALC, and LCA as well as the supporters of Seminex. There also was a discussion of Luther’s view on inclusion in the church. The background of Ecclesiastes came out of the struggle between the literalists and the interpreters and adapters of scriptures. Just like the interpretation of our constitution. Everybody has to figure out how to handle situations that are not directly addressed in the original document or its amendments. In the OT there was a sort of connection between belief in God and good fortune in life. There is an increasing emphasis on the concept of membership versus discipleship. 

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Sept. 12, 2018 Psalm 77:1-11 , ecclesiastes 7, Psalm 77:11-20, (23)

S. read a great comic about squirrels and churches. We talked about whether this was a downer or sort of medium. Sorrow is better than laughter. Is the tone of the chapter verse 26 which says I find something more bitter than death:the woman whose heart is snares and nets. Don’t stop too soon. It goes on to say that he who pleases God escapes such a woman. This probably was newer than the other OT, and was changed by Persian, Syrian, and Aramaic writings. Some think Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, which would have placed it 1000 BC. There is more evidence to a later time of writing. We talked about verse 10, which says the old days are not necessarily better than today. Verse 3 and 4 present the idea of learning more from hardship than success. Do we learn more from mourning than by laughing about everything. R. says the dam lawyers fit into the last verse God made man upright but gave figured out many schemes to get an advantage. 

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August 29, 2018 psalm 134 ecclesiastes 4, psalm 62 (22)

a really short psalm. he says the dead who are already dead – is this profound versus redundant. this reminds us of Amway’s marketing process.  maybe this is a way to approach a good way to view work. vs 8 suggests that one works for others. We can be called to a profession that can help others. it matters what we do with what we have. Bill Gates is an example of giving to help others. is every job just for getting things for oneself and not necessarily to help others. is it necessary to learn how to want to be helpful and think about others. is there a switch from seeking riches to seeking power. Is there a switch or is it just a continuation of their quest for riches. Do people have to be trained to give to others and to act not in one’s own interest all the time. there are various kinds of power and how it can be used. institutional, reputation, etc. 

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August 22, 2018 Psalm 44:1-16, ecclesiastes 3:9- , (23)

this is a strange book, god is just and good, but the author is full of crap. this the book of vanities the word fear in 14 probably means revere and awe. isn’t fear judgement or is it more the idea of jaw breaking awe idea. everything has been done and will endure for. it suggests that since what god has done endures forever, possibly god instituted evolution and contonually creates changes in the world and all its creatures. there is nothing new under the sun. maybe that is why the author is called a philosopher not a prophet. does this mean god had everything created and we reveal that as we learn more about what really exists. V9 asks if it really makes a difference what we do. is v 12 life, liberty, anx the pursuit of happiness. the author questions if humans are really different from animals. is that what god meant when he told adam and eve that the knowledge of good and evil is the difference between humans and animals. when did the concept of soul originate? 

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July 11, 2018 psalm 54, I Thessalonians 1, psalm (25)

earliest writer from the early church. thessalonica was in Macedonia. the letter shows pauls relationship with the church he had established. they still thought jesus would come any day. people have served many gods but we believe in jesus as true God. distinguish between a conversio and a call. the differencef between jewish christion and jewish beliefs. look at bishop tsendall. calls and conversion. paul was with the disciples in Damascus and learned about the church. the early years they just fragments, but by 150 there were whole letters. paul congratulates them on getting new members and living their faith. when the jews conquered territories the people linving there might become jews and the major distinction was that such jewish women couldnt marry priests.  verse 5 suggesta that the oral tradition was what the people believed. did they actually reference the gospels in other books. when did the jews settle on what their scriptures are? is it just the pentateuch? 

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June 27, 2018 Psalm 94:1-14, Mark16, Psalm 94:15-23 (19)

only the first 8 verses are from the original. they are from possible other gospels. the 8 verses end with an empty tomb, so that presents a problem so the early church had to make an addition that sounds like something that had to be changed. what does that mean for the veracity of the church and the scriptures selected for the Bible. does it mean that it has substance since it has survived so long. where does the basis of the church at that point, was it in Jerusalem, Galilee. there groups affiliated with john the Baptist, early beginnings of Paul, Peter, and even the mystic views of John. there were others who believed Christianity was just another Jewish sect. so it was very Jewish. there is a collection of early scrolls called the Nagamonti, which proceeded the dead sea scrolls. (here is a link to the early versions of the scriptures: Description of early scrolls ) there was also an oral tradition that carried on to determine some of the substance of Christianity. was Jesus a Christian?  the letters of Paul provide the basis for the future direction of Christianity. we will do I Thessalonians starting on July 11, and will then follow with Romans. an early heretic said the new testament should be Mark and 10 letters of Paul. which letters were actually were written by Paul? Is Paul trying to persuade or explain or infirm them.
We will proceed to read I Thessalonians on July 11, 2018
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June 20, 2018 Psalm 97, Mark 15, Psalm 134 (27)

this is the parable of the tenants and the landowner was extraordinarily patient. If the vineyard owner was God and he sent prophets who are mistreated or killed and finally his son. the people were probably the Israelis at that time. also should they pay taxes to Caesar? then the woman with 7 brothers as husbands. this whole chapter is about giving and the first story is about what is due to God, the second is what is due to Caesar. it finally ends with the poor widow giving everything. he is speaking out against the Herodians who were the leaders of the Jews at that time. this gospel came out in the 70-80s amid the destruction of the temple snd Jerusalem. the Herodians were people working with and for Herod in the 30s. this chapter is about the rabbi type of questioning, challenge and response format. the last section of ch. 11 questioned Jesus authority and in 12 his answers to rabbinic questions which were intended to trip him up. Babylon was a veiled reference to Rome because you didn’t criticize the Romans. anathema was the split between those who had to pay the temple tax and those who didn’t. early Christians didn’t want to pay taxes so said they weren’t Jews. this raised the whole problem of whether Christians had to become Jews first. the Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch.

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June 13, 2018 Psalm75, Mark 14, Psalm134 (27)

Jeff gives the reason for having the young man who lost his linen cloth and ran away. he said it was John Mark. we discussed the woman he poured the nard over Jesus. was his statement about giving to the poor a weak statement? is thus like people attacking the poor today? was Judas predestined to do betray Jesus. Jesus really condemned him and said it would be better if he had never be born. chuck had a version whose notes said that Judas hated Jesus. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him and that was why Jesus chose him. Why is this story told as it was. does the time influence how Mark wrote this story. Judas was probably one of the scariot sect, the dagger people, who had assassinated people they opposed. there was a version of this story without Judas and he was added afterwards for the affect. Dan is going on about how god is somewhere in the future and knows about what is happening to us now. Jim was saying that he had seen the last supper in Haiti and everyone was black except for Judas who was white interesting. what changed Europe more, the reformation or the discovery of the new world?

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June 6, 2018 Psalm 71:1-13, Reclaiming Jesus, Psalm71:14-24

Tom led our discussion of Reclaiming Jesus. Bill suggested that in many ways things are going very well economically and political. chuck says there are strong issues that are protested and rightly so. he thinks that the protesters today maybe demeaning and disrespectful of their elders. what is truth is a real question. there is a lot of disruption that has occurred. the situation is worsened by our president being a megalomaniac. Jesus made extreme statements about what we should do in our lives and how we should treat others. historically violence is a part of social change. Sinclair Lewis’ book It can’t happen here might be a good thing to read and understand how so many small changes can make a huge change and undermine our way of life. why isn’t the problem of incarceration included. Here is the link to this article  http://reclaimingjesus.org/

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May 30, 2018 Psalm 56, Mark 13, Psalm 70 (28)

this is the parable of the tenants and the landowner was extraordinarily patient. so the vineyard owner God and he sent prophets who are mistreated or killed and finally his son. the people were probably the Israelis at that time. also should they pay taxes to Caesar? then the woman with 7 brothers as husbands. this whole chapter is about giving and the first story is about what is due to God, the second is what is due to Caesar. it finally ends with the poor widow giving everything. he is speaking out against the Herodians who were the leaders of the Jews at that time. this gospel came out in the 70-80s amid the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. the Herodians were people working with and for Herod in the 30s. this chapter is about the rabbi type of questioning, challenge and response format. the last section of Ch. 11 questioned Jesus authority and in 12 his answers to rabbinic questions which were intended to trip him up. Babylon was a veiled reference to Rome because you didn’t criticize the Romans. anathema was the split between those who had to pay the temple tax and those who didn’t. early Christians didn’t want to pay taxes so said they weren’t Jews. this raised the whole problem of whether Christians had to become Jews first. the Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch.

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May 23, 2018 Psalm 97, Mark 13, Psalm 134 (27)

this is the parable of the tenants and the landowner who was extraordinarily patient. so the vineyard owner was God and he sent prophets who are mistreated or killed and finally his son. the people were probably the Israelis at that time. Also the issue of paying taxes to Caesar was brought up by the Pharisees to catch Jesus.  then the Sadducees who don’t believe in life after death brought the dilemma of the woman with 7 brothers as husbands. this whole chapter is about giving and the first story is about what is due to God, the second is what is due to Caesar. it finally ends with the poor widow giving everything. he is speaking out against the Herodians who were the leaders of the Jews at that time. this gospel came out in the 70-80s amid the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. the Herodians were people working with and for Herod in the 30s. this chapter is about the rabbi type of questioning, challenge and response format. the last section of Ch. 11 questioned Jesus authority and in 12 his answers to rabbinic questions which were intended to trip him up. Babylon was a veiled reference to Rome because you didn’t criticize the Romans. anathema was the split between those who had to pay the temple tax and those who didn’t. early Christians didn’t want to pay taxes so said they weren’t Jews. this raised the whole problem of whether Christians had to become Jews first. the Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch.

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May 16, 2018 Psalm 81, Mark 11, Psalm 83 (25)

tom is back!! this is all about authority and where Jesus got the authority he had. why did he curse the fig tree? the fruitless fig tree is symbolic of the fruitless Israeli people. in that day fig trees belonged to the person who planted it. work without faith is fruitless. he was foretelling the destruction of the temple. before this chapter we have had a lot of healing, now we get the judgment from Jesus. supposedly the people were praising him with the words of psalms 113-118. I am not so sure about the crowd gather and praising him so spontaneously. what are you praying for? verse 24 says whatever you ask in prayer believe that you have received it and it will be yours. Jesus is praying for us. What should we be praying for, maybe it is for safeness or strength and fulfillment. is prayer anything than self talking preparing fir what may will happen. the eastern form of prayer is more contemplative and focuses on listening to God. is there something about what we pray for that requires us to change something about ourselves. the question could be why not act towards others as we would like to happen. only be peaceful with those like us is easy.

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May 9, 2018 Psalm 23, Mark 10, Psalm 113 (25)

Adam told about a shepherd, a young girl, who fought off jackals for her sheep. Mark talks about divorce and the difficulty of coming into heaven. bill says obviously Jesus was talking to a very selfish person, he wasn’t talking about us for whom money and possessions aren’t the center of our lives. it is difficult to know when the Bible is inerrant and when you ignore it. are we in the kingdom now and what does that mean. if you can’t earn it, why come. with God, everything is possible or else why are we here. we can’t be good enough to save our self. the point of emphasis of thus chapter is the healing of Bartimaeus was done by his faith. In Germany the nation creates the church funding and to change or drop membership you have to go thru paperwork with the country. Is Jesus espousing predestination? But who do you trust in Jesus, or yourself, or someone else or just have faith. the chapter goes back and forth between simple ways to belief and things that stand in our ways.

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May 23, 2018 psalm 97 Mark 12, psalm 134 (28)

this is the parable of the tenants and the landowner was extraordinarily patient. If the vineyard owner God and he sent prophets who are mistreated or killed and finally his son. the people were probably the Israelis at that time. also should they pay taxes to Caesar? then the woman with 7 brothers as husbands. this whole chapter is about giving and the first story is about what is due to God, the second is what is due to Caesar. it finally ends with the poor widow giving everything. he is speaking out against the Herodians who were the leaders of the Jews at that time. this gospel came out in the 70-80s amid the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. the Herodians were people working with and for Herod in the 30s. this chapter is about the rabbi type of questioning, challenge and response format. the last section of Ch. 11 questioned Jesus authority and in 12 his answers to rabbinic questions which were intended to trip him up. Babylon was a veiled reference to Rome because you didn’t criticize the Romans. anathema was the split between those who had to pay the temple tax and those who didn’t. early Christians didn’t want to pay taxes so said they weren’t Jews. this raised the whole problem of whether Christians had to become Jews first. the Sadducees only believed in the Pentateuch.

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April 10, 2018 Psalm 77:1-20, Mark 4, Psalm 43 (20)

Psalm 77 talks about the problems of old age but ends in praise to God. i. mark he talks about sinners. who were the sinners and were they called sinners publicly? Were they tax collectors? the revenues went to Rome for the temple of Jupiter. this was a terrible thing for the Jews. in that society honor meant wealth. what is Jesus saying to us not to put new wine in old wine skins. Is this saying that the old system is defunct and we need to move to Jesus’ system. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen. but if He is all powerful, why can’t He stop bad things from happen? What does this mean about repentance? How did Jesus perceive what the scribes were thinking, maybe it was the way they looked at him. Is confession central to absolution? Jesus heals the paralytic because of the faith of the people who carried him there. Jesus uses the words ‘son of man’ to stress his humanity. Why would Jesus emphasize his humanity when he was imparting forgiveness to someone, a godly task? Is faith intellectual ascent or is it trust? Hebrews contains the meaning of faith. To Abraham it meant righteousness. in matter evangelical churches they focus on how to follow Jesus. the disciples of John were a source of division as compared to Jesus’ disciples.

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April 11, 2018 Psalm 130, Mark 6, Psalm 132 (25)

THIS IS A CHAPTER about faith. he started out saying he didn’t heal in Nazareth because they didn’t believe him. we are taught faith comes thru the Holy Spirit not by our efforts. Yet when he got in the boat with his disciples he hardened their hearts. Jesus just walked on the water and yet they didn’t believe. However Jesus then went and healed many people. pastor M. says this, particularly the empowering of the 12, is about the partnership in the ministry. norm says many times when asked to do something he is overwhelmed by the task but by faith he can do it or he joined with others to accomplish the task. how about the story of John the Baptist. he was killed on the whim of a teen aged girl influenced by her mother. Compare death of Jesus and John. Both killed by a leader whose hand was forced by the crowd or someone else, disciples didn’t claim Jesus’ body but they did claim john except his head. The audience was gentiles in Rome. Mark was written to help the people outside of Palestine. This was written just at the reign of Niro. What about shaking the dust off their feet if not received warmly. This is like cursing the town or the people therein. John the Baptist was upset by Herod marrying his brother’s wife which was a violation of Jewish law. And Herod was upset by this killed john without consulting with the Jews or the Romans.

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April 4, 2018 Psalm 112, Mark 5, Psalm 129 (24)

steve read about the pope’s comment about hell for bill’ s benefit. we talked about what some versions talked about a horn blaring in verse 9. we didnt reach a conclusion. this is all about healing. jesus actually told someone he was healing to tell people he was healed by jesus. but then he told Jairus not to tell others abiut the healing. Dan brought up the topic of Martin Luther King’s death 50 years ago. this was just after his famous Mountain Top speech. It is a different path than jesus healing others. we talked about the racial problem that exists even to thus day even here in Iowa City. This whole chapter talks about the purity of the temple. we talked about the woman who touched his robe and felt the power left him and healed her. Did jesus know who had touched him, but yet he frequently told people not to tell about the healing. it is a premise that God gives us faith. Does that mean God can withhold faith from us?

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April 3, 2018 Psalm 139:1-12, Mark 3, Psalm 139:13-24 (26)

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand —  when I awake, I am still with you.”
Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/10-great-prayers-from-the-psalms.aspx?p=6#rD8bC0sAKkLsy8SU.99
Jesus selected the disciples and renamed them. he had already started his ministry and he called the disciples as early as possible. the question was raised about how early the disciples were named. but it appears that this time of choosing the disciples is similar in all the gospels. the unforgivable sin (28-30) is to blaspheme the holy spirit, but it is different in Hebrews and Matthew. we discussed work on the Sabbath because of the controversy the Pharisees started about Jesus healing the leper on the Sabbath. blaspheming the holy spirit is to deny the work of the spirit. what is the Holy Spirit? does this not conflict with the trinity? the doctrine of the trinity answers the question of the different persons referred to as God. Is the Holy Spirit a force within us for good? Chuck sees the Holy Spirit as the enabling force of God. did the painters like Michelangelo do us a disservice by giving us a representation of God. for some their belief in faith is more trust in God  rather than intellectual belief.
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March 28, 2018 psalm 73:1-14, mark 4, psalm, (24)

The psalm may be the cry of a victim. Ed asked about vs. 22-25. it may be about understanding the gospel. why did he think he had to talk in parables? vs 12 says lest they turn and be forgiven. is he saying these people refuse to be forgiven. this could interpreted as the gospel of wealth. Jesus challenges us to learn about him and our faith. is the role of ministers to comfort or challenge? what does it mean to bear fruit? to preach the gospel is it necessary to use words? do we need stories to make things come alive. people listen to a pastor not to hear the story but to hear what the message of the story is. we talked about the evangelical preachers like billy graham and oral Roberts. they preached fire and brimstone but people liked what they heard but can’t repeat what they hear Pastor Miller says that those who have understanding will receive more. people react differently to storms and their ability to weather them. bill asked, which seed are you? possibly all of them. thus nay have occurred at different spaces or times.

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March 21, 2018 139::1-12, mark 3, psalm 139:13-24 (26)

Pastor started us out with a psalm prayer:

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand —  when I awake, I am still with you.”

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/ilovejesus/features/10-great-prayers-from-the-psalms.aspx?p=6#rD8bC0sAKkLsy8SU.99
Jesus selected the disciples and renamed them. he had already started his ministry and he called the disciples as early as possible. the question was raised about how early the disciples were named. but it appears that this time of choosing the disciples is similar in all the gospels. the unforgiveable sin (28-30) is to blaspheme the holy spirit, but it is different in Hebrews and Matthew. we discussed work on the Sabbath because of the controversy the Pharisees started about Jesus healing the leper on the Sabbath. blaspheming the holy spirit is to deny the work of the spirit. what is the Holy Spirit? does this not conflict with the trinity? the doctrine of the trinity answers the question of the different persons referred to as God. Is the Holy Spirit a force within us for good? Chuck sees the Holy Spirit as the enabling force of God. did the painters like Michelangelo do us a disservice by giving us a representation of God. for some their belief in faith is more trust in God  rather than intellectual belief.
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March 14, 2018 psalm 77:1-20, Mark 2, psalm 43 (20)

Psalm 77 talks about the problems of old age but ends in praise to God. i. mark he talks about sinners. who were the sinners and were they called sinners publically? Were they tax collectors? the revenues went to Rome for the temple of Jupiter. this was a terrible thing for the Jews. in that society honor meant wealth. what is jesus saying to us not to put new wine in old wineskins. Is this saying that the old system is defunct and we need to move to Jesus’ system. God doesn’t cause bad things to happen.  but if He is all powerful, why can’t He stop bad things from happen? What does this mean about repentence? How did jesus perceive what the scribes were thinking, maybe it was the way they looked at him. Is confession central to absolution? Jesus heals the paralytic because of the faith of the people who carried him there. Jesus uses the words ‘son of man’ to stress his humanity. Why would jesus emphasize his humanity when he was imparting forgiveness to someone, a godly task? Is faith intellectual ascent or is it trust? Hebrews contains the meaning of faith. To Abraham it meant righteousness. in matter evangelical churches they focus on how to follow Jesus. the disciples of John were a source of division as compared to Jesus’ disciples.

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February 28, 2018 Psalm 134, Jonah 4, Psalm 44, (22)

we finish Jonah today and will go a different book next time. we will do Mark next. we talked about Gods will and the timeframe in which He works. how does this relate to current Palestine? God has acted differently at various times. when Abraham came to Palestine he just tried to fit in. Lot’s city, Sodom, and Gomorrah were destroyed. Joshua led the Israelites against Jericho and surrounding cities which were destroyed when the Israelites came back from Egypt. now He is trying to save Ninevah. we can’t predict Gods actions or are they really man trying to imposing his answer to a situation. we should be trying to determine what the message to the people at that time. people project their biases onto God. The Jesus faction or direction at this point is changing direction because of the nagonomie digs to include more influence to Thomas as a gospel. We go to Mark next. We last discussed Mark before 2012 in the era when Jerry wrote notes for Paul Horick for our record of the Lost Boys.

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February 21, 2018 Psalm 49:1-12, Jonah 3, Psalm 49:13-20, (21)

This was probably a centuries later than it appears. There is some Jeremiah and Isaiah in here. It is the first time a foreign country or city was forgiven. Why was Jonah so afraid of going to Ninevah. What was the bad thing that Ninevah had done? Ninevah was a city of 200000 and must have been a challenge to talk to and get the message. Assyria of which Ninevah was the capital was responsible for dismantling the northern kingdom. This occurred in the 700 bc time frame. So this is a scary place and I don’t want my god forgiving Assyria. Israel started its decline after the monarchy started and then it was divided. Look at the list of kings in the lutheran study bible. There is also a timeline in which Jonah is listed. At this time people were into omens and many were found in this area. Jonah wad a better missionary than he thought he was and the king set a better example. What to Assyria after this. Did any good things happen after Assyria admitted its faults? This was written at the time of Ezra’s reforms after the Babylonian exile. Israel was rebuilding its society, customs and looking inward. And forget about the rest of the world and that God loves them too. How does God influence us to live in love and hope? Bill says it would be fun to know who wrote it down and why it was written. What was expected of his audience?

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February 13, 2018 Psalm 100, Jonah 2, Psalm 1 (24)

John talked about the problems of translation. Then moved into spreading the word of god to others. Another purpose is to read during Yom Kippur, sin and forgiveness. Jonah went the opposite way. God threw the storm at them and the people on the boat threw Jonah overboard into the mouth of a big fish. God is in charge throughout. A version says he went Sheol or place of the dead but removed from god. But the translations can make big differences, like a place of the dead, belly of hell, banished from God, depths of the grave. But God sent the fish saved him from dying and then the fish vo.ited him upon the shore. God acts in unlikely ways. This is a story told to children to convince them to do the right thing. Is that the way God works in us as well. Paul says all things work together for good, not that all things are good. We sometimes find people saying after the fact that there was good that came from a bad thing that happened to them. Al says Ninevah is called the city of the fish, a sign of God speaking to them. Luke 11:9, Matthew 12:38 this is an indictment of the times in Ninevah. The parables were rewritten several times before they got the point correctly. Like artists repainting a picture till they got it right. Matthew 12:42 talks about the queen of the south or queen Sheba. The errors in translations in the Psalms are greater than all the errors in the rest of the Bible.

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Februrary 6, 2018 psalm 48:1-14, Jonah 1, psalm 96 (13)

He promises to be our guide forever to the end. What is time? How did we get the time divisions we have today. There is a link to Tarshish in Jonah. There are 5 minor prophets including Jonah. Only 5 words of prophecy in Jonah. And Nineveh will be destroyed. We discussed the stated size of Ninevah being 3 days walk. It might be a realtors exaggeration!! Jonah is the first apostle to the Gentiles. Sometimes we get involved in an intellectual discussion of something in the bible and we get caught up in an attempt to assess whether it could happen. We need to look at what the message is about and what God is telling us to do. Does God care about the people of Nineveh? This book tells that God speaks to others beyond the Jews. Is Jonah a Jesus figure, but Jonah is resisting gods will whereas Jesus is carrying out gods will. Jonah was running from God because he didn’t want to confront the people of Nineveh. The large problem for us is how to discern that there are prophets and who we should trust and believe. Prophecy is more about telling the people what God wants us to do not necessarily a fortune teller.

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January 30, 2018 psalm 19:1-6, II peter 2-3, Psalm 18:7-14, (20)

This psalm is supposedly the amalgam of 3 psalms. Here we talk about God’s glory as the dawn breaks. II Peter 2 talks about false prophets and how their writings were to be avoided. This is similar to Jude. Among the Gnostics, the body doesn’t matter, only the mind. Therefore you can do whatever you want with the body. Similar to epicureans. II Peter shows how we should live. This is the world Job wanted to live in. Were the angels running around in the streets? This comes from Genesis and refers to the giants in the early earth. Angels refer to messengers or the mouthpiece of God. We must be aware of false prophets, but the problem is recognizing these people. Al says a tenet of Islam is that if you hear of about it and don’t believe then you are condemned. Many Jews believe in a redeemer who would come to bring a new order and deliver them from the Romans. Christ didn’t return as they expected, so Peter referred to the psalm that talks about each day to god is like a thousand years to us. We don’t really know the time. There is a tension throughout scriptures between God’s will and ours. This is so hard to understand so don’t twist it into your own uses.
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January 23, 2018 psalm 124, I peter 3, psalm 125, (21)

So what did Peter have in mind when he was encouraging women to bring their husbands to faith in Christ. They are not referred as the inferior but maybe the delicate vessel. In the first generation of Christianity men and women had equality. Why did Peter feel he needed to make this statement to women. Interesting that Noah was saved from the water and are saved by the water in baptism through Christ. This chapter sets

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January 16, 2018 Psalm 126, I Peter 4, Psalm 127, (19)

The Psalm talks about what God gives to us. If we avert a tragedy god is watching over us, if we don’t avert it then we hold God accountable. But Jesus says we may have to be persecuted in his name. We suffer for the evil that we do, but even in evil, there is still repentance available. Chuck talks about how choices are part of our God-given free choice and pray for others not necessarily for us. Sometimes we want answers and don’t understand why bad things happen or for that matter good things. Your suffering ties you to Christ. Verse 6 talks about the gospel being preached even to the dead and could be saved after death. Is this the justification that can come to others only at the end of their lives.

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January 9, 2018 Psalm 123, I peter 3, Psalm 125 (21)

So what did peter have in mind when he was encouraging women to bring their husbands to faith in Christ. They are not referred as the inferior but maybe the delicate vessel. In the first generation of Christianity men and women had equality. Why did peter feel he needed to make this statement to women. Interesting that Noah was saved from the water and we are saved by the water in baptism through Christ. This chapter sets the criteria for speaking with God.

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January 2, 2018 Psalm 123, I Peter 2 (150

The psalm asks for relief without bargaining for it. They didn’t offer to be good in exchange for help. It was a song they would sing to god for many years. We then talked about music in ancient times. In I Peter there is a longing for a heavenly home. The concept of purgatory might have come from Jesus saying he had to be made whole and then in Maccabees there is a description of playing for the dead. We are likened here to sheep who tend to wander off and Jesus will bring us back. The people are told they shouldn’t fight back when oppressed by others, but you should live justly no matter how much adversity you face. It was set in a time when Christians were a subject of derision. Peter writes to Christians who struggle because the live in this world but are really citizens of heaven.
He was encouraging people by saying that the time would come but we don’t know when. This could have been addressed to the servants in order to be saved and have the hope of heaven. We have to be careful that we don’t just knuckle under no matter what. Do we face suffering today although we think our faith is a result of our superiority and is a reward to us for our goodness.
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December 12, 2017 psalm 50:1-11, No reading from John today, psalm 50:12-23, (23)

(We had a discussion today but didn’t read another chapter. )
John talks about sin and redemption but in john sin is unbelief. In other gospels, sin is more of missing the mark and not obeying the commandments. Many churches talk about big sins and this makes abortion or homosexual behavior a test of whether you are Christian or not. But sin should be more about having a right relationship with God. John the Baptist came to make our relationship with God right. Belief comes via the holy spirit. Believing is a gift of God. But then what is belief? Believing is trust in God.
Is sin more of apathy in belief rather than an active disbelief. We also have the 10 commandments and other laws of society to help us live together. How do we keep from making belief an action of ours, as opposed to a gift of God. How can we know for sure we are saved. If bad things happen to us is that a sign that God hasn’t saved us. Is it because we believe too much in ourselves. If we believe in ourselves too much we diminish our trust in God. But he comes with faith and a right relationship with God. Our human temptation is to make repentance a condition for that right relationship with God. This in fact interferes with our relationship and makes us sinful. At a recent funeral the pastor talked about the difference between a celebration of life as opposed to a celebration of the resurrection. Possibly the celebration of life can become all about the individual. We are more about life with Christ now as opposed to being all consumed about what happens after death. Maybe we leave the afterlife to God. Is the life we live now a foretaste of the life with God when our physical life ends. Does life after death mean just a continuation of our current life without pain and suffering or is it a totally different existence. Read psalm 8, about our significance in the universe. Determining what the afterlife becomes like determining the end of the universe.
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December 5, 2017 psalm 106a:1-23, john 20, psalm 106b24-48, (27)

Reciting the sins of the people in psalm. 106. John talked about keeping up with the current commentaries and peoples idea of how they interpret and  understand the text. Where was Jesus at that time? We discussed the verse that says you can forgive the sins of others but if you don’t, they remain unforgiven. The message says if you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them. John made the point that John tied the Old testament into his interpretation of Jesus’ life. Jesus was giving the holy spirit to the disciples, not to everyone. Forgiveness doesn’t take away the consequences of sin nor the fact that the event happened. Is repentance required for forgiveness. The word of forgiveness has to be accepted by the forgiven. It is up to God to ultimately consummate the forgiveness? Is punishment the opposite of forgiveness?

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November 28, 2017 Psalm 54, john 19, Psalm 14, (29)

What a great God described here. John writes about the trial of Jesus by Pilate. He continued with the description of the crucifixion nd his burial. He is scoured by the soldiers and beaten with lead pipes and with other instruments. Someone was probably nearly dead by the time they were put on the cross. We however have the timing all wrong because this was before the Sabbath. This version doesn’t really discuss the other people who were crucified with him. This was a very cruel day. The Jews sacrificed as many as 100,000 lambs at the Passover and this is the time that Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, was killed or sacrificed. When did Joseph die? Psalm 22:18 is the reference for what happened during the crucifixion like the soldiers gambling for his cloak. A footnote to Matthew 26:14 says it was Christ’s destiny which is from the Aramaic. The Jews succession is thru the mother and Rabbi Portman said this happened in the first century ad because you could tell the mother but not necessarily the mother. Pilate wrote the inscription the king of the Jews which is represented bi the letters. INRI. The Jews wanted him to write Jesus says he is king of the Jews, Pilate responded what is written is written.

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November 21, 2017 psalm 35:1-16,john 18, psalm 35 17-28, (26)

The psalm is all weeping and gnashing of teeth. The evil have overcome us. John described the temple rock mosque in Jerusalem. Then the wailing wall below. The mosque commemorates where Mohammad rose to heaven. The church of nations is at Gethsemane. This is the story of Jesus’s betrayal by Judas. Al says the swords were utility swords to ward off vermin. What about the duality of Peter’s role in all this is weird. He bravely tried to oppose the soldiers but then denied Jesus later and then his confession became the rock on which Jesus built his church. John said there were probably 600 Roman soldiers, so they were expecting Jesus to have many supporters. John has 7 “I ams” in his gospel. Pilate says this is not a political uprising, but a spiritual event. In that case Pilate would have no jurisdiction. In the ESV  Barabbas was a robber, but in other versions, contemporary English version, he was a terrorist. The zealots were a group trying exert their goal of having one god and objected to roman rule and the roman rule that ceasar was god. What if Jesus had raised an army would the story be different. But jesus wasn’t about force and violence. Jesus ministry from the beginning was a peaceful one.

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Nov. 14, 2017 Psalm 134 john 17, psalm 13, (26)

We had a good discussion of the psalm in the give praise in the night. Priests would be awake on call through the night and prayed as well.
John is all about unity and relationships. This lis the high priestly prayer. Why does the world hate followers of Jesus, because the world is for number 1 while Jesus is for all including the poor, the sick, those who are out of favor. The trinity is in all of us. Note Jesus says, this is eternal life that they know you the only true God and Jesus whom you have sent. The word God means the word of the breast. A caring mothering presence. We need others in our quest for God to apply the wisdom of all to understand this concept of God. At worship we come together as one and then go out as an individual to witness to the mission of Christ. God said to Moses that “I’m who I am and God is called Yahweh. The Jews think of this as a sacred reference to God. There is a difference between the Greek approach , that if reason as opposed to a mystical representation of Jesus. We like the image of Jesus as God. It doesn’t threaten us as the Old Testament prophets did. What purpose does mystery serve in our religion?
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November 8, 2017 Psalm 88:1-10, John 16, Psalm 88:11-18, (24)

John M. agreed to lead us. All asked why don’t celebrate the helper or advocate (the Holy Spirit), the Holy spirit is an abiding presence in us as a representative of Jesus. Jesus makes us think it is a big deal of sending the helper to us. If the Holy spirit is in us we are equipped to carry on for Jesus. The holy spirit comes to us through the scriptures. So is this a continuum leading from God through Jesus sent by god to us and then on to the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus to us. So then wrap them up into one God. Is the Holy Spirit more of a verb than a noun. Don’t you know of the Holy Spirit by the fruits of your labors with Christ. The gifts of the spirit are all around us. This is one of the mysteries of life. Can we look back in our lives and see the spirits work in our life? What do people who haven’t known Jesus do good things. John M. Says God is present in all of us no matter if we have known Jesus or not. We practiced

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October 31, 2017 psalm 81, john 15, psalm 86 (26)

This Jesus talk about the parable of the vineyard. We don’t talk about abide, but the words about love flow off our tongues. The message says abide forever in me. Verse 22 Jesus says if he had come and introduced sin, and therefore now had no excuse. He is talking about abiding and staying firm in your belief. Is this more of a call to act kindly to others. You are beyond redemption only if you chose to reject God. Luther believed that some are not saved. Eldon asked if Hitler could be saved and pastor Koch had said of course if God wanted to. Hal though is that Jesus was talking about the present moment and how we should act towards others in that moment. Do saved people do bad things? If people have to give up something to act like Jesus, it is often a problem. We are saved by gods faithfulness, not by our own works and deeds. Where is the real faith, in Jesus or our own constructs of what God would do. We can’t judge others because we don’t know our inner thoughts as God does.  We read more verses by al to honor Mark on his retirement and leaving our group. He has done a great job keeping us together and focussed on the bible.

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October 24, 2017 psalm 2, john 14, psalm 47, (23)

John 14 begins the farewell passages. Philip asks the way and Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  He also says he is essentially in the father and he is in me. This is very confusing to see the relationship between Jesus and the Father. The question raised by john is whether we are part of the you from Jesus. The question then is do you have to know Jesus to be saved? Where do you find the authority? No one comes to the father but by me? Is it a done deal and that allows us to change the world through Jesus. Hell is reserved for those who reject Jesus and through him with the Father. Do we limit the metaphor of God, or are there other versions of God like that of Buddhists. But here Jesus says no one comes to the gather but by me. We got into a discussion of death and how we know it is time. But remember the Catholics believe it is a mortal sin to take your own life. Al suggested the the testament  of the 12 patriarchs. Pastor Pries says we should not worry about the salvation of others. Nothing can separate us from the live of God. It was important for Luther to read Romans such as Romans 1:16-17. Do we focus more on the afterlife as opposed to how live now in our current life. Chapters 14-17 may have been added later. This changes things greatly. The bible is the basis for us to live in Christ according to the ELCA. In john 13 Jesus says a commandment I give you to love one another.

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October 17, 2017 psalm 67, john 13, psalm 110, (26)

Jeff had a big fire in his hog barn and lost a lot of hogs. Mark read from the Augsburg study bible about Lincoln. Not all the actions are in the biography, as john includes the items about Jesus to lead us to believe in Jesus. There are more books written about Lincoln than anybody else. Everything in john is there for a reason. This is  lot of detail about washing the feet of his disciples nd using the story to talk about the kingdom of God. Include here is foot washing, love command, betrayal, and confusion among the disciples. Verse 33 has Jesus talking about his conversation with the Jews and this may have referred to his conversation with the Jews from Greece in john 12:20-30. We talked about Judas and the possibility that Jesus told Judas to do what he was going to do, namely the betrayal. Why did Jesus have to be identified by judas when he had been among them many times. Washing feet is an important part of Islam. Jesus insisted on washing the feet of the disciples and in that way becomes a servant of them. Is Jesus talking in the love command about how the disciples should treat each others. Or is this command for all Christians? Greek has several words for different kinds of love. The admonition to love occurs as early as Leviticus. Jesus is moving away from the Jews here and possibly opening the church up to us others. Mark read Philippians 13 about love replacing love with Jesus. Psalm 110 mentions the priesthood of Malchizedek. He is a Zepher, just showing up without mother or father.

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October 10, 2017 Psalm 18:1-15, John 12-22-50, Psalm 118:16-29, (24)

We are on the threshold of glory for Jesus. All the gospel writers have Jesus going to Jerusalem. Mark, Matthew, and Luke focus on death and sadness, but John on the coming glory. John doesn’t have a transfiguration. Here we have Philip saying the people (the Greeks) have come to see Jesus. In chapter 6, Andrew talks about the boy with some fish to feed the 5000 and Philip complains about the cost of feeding all these people. Why was it the Greeks to whom he announced that his time had come. Why didn’t he say this to the Jews. We talked about ancient scriptures assad the language in which they are written. The dead sea scrolls are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Greek has neither spaces or punctuation. Verse 31 says the ruler of the earth will be thrown out. Who is this ruler? Some versions say it is Satan. This moves Jesus to a realm beyond the physical to the spiritual, God versus Satan. Jesus is saying that if my rule was physical, it would be limited to my lifetime not forever. Luther 2nd live in the law gospel tension, where we are condemned and saved at the same time. Which is the way, you have to believe therefore you do, or do in order to believe. Do nonbelievers get to heaven, pried sa us it is none of my business. In verse 42, do we choose gods way or the peoples way, please God versus pleasing the people. Here is a good deed that is judged on the basis of whether it pleases God or people around us. Verse 10:34 compares with 12:36 In terms of being in the light of God. According to luther be ablaze with the light of Christ.

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October 3, 2017 Psalm 51:1-12, John 11:45-57 , Psalm 51:13-19,(20)

Psalm 51 is the source of original sin. We start out hearing about Jesus being a wanted man by the priests and Pharisees. Jesus appeared to want to choose his time for death. He appears to be incognito at times he chooses. Maybe it was because he wanted to fulfill scripture about his death. He went from a triumphant entry (riding on a donkey) to his death later that week. The priests were trying to maintain their political power. Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus was going to die. But the Romans didn’t have a problem with Jesus but the Jewish leaders were afraid he would stir up a problem with the Romans that could undermine their authority. Killing Lazarus would be a problem because Jesus would enhance his standing by raising him again. Just a note about Nard. It is perfume from a flowering plant which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, India and China.

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September 26, 2017 Psalm 27, John 11, Psalm 28 (21)

Bill  gave a handout of the miracles of Jesus. John has fewer miracles than the other gospel writers. There were a number of people who claimed to be doing miracles, so it was important for Jesus to have this evidence that he was the messiah. Where was Lazarus during the 2 days till he was raised. Jesus felt people must believe in this miracle. John is the only one who has this miracle. Dan referred to YouTube documents on alpha about the value of this. Nicki gumbo is the researcher on this. A question was raised about which john wrote whether it was john the apostle or john the elder. Did Lazarus  say anything after he was brought back to life. Jesus says he is doing this for the crowd. A note in the text says the Jews believed the soul left the body after 3 days so Jesus waited the 4 days to make sure the people knew he was dead. Thus it would be a real miracle and Jesus adds to his credentials as the messiah. The bible doesn’t say Jesus raised Lazarus, but he petitioned God to raise him from the dead. Then he thanks God for bringing Lazarus back to life. In verse 25, Jesus says that whoever believes in me shall never die. So why do people die. There is a note to the effect that everyone dies but we live in the hope of resurrection

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September 19, 2017 Psalm 25-1-10, John 10, Psalm 25:11-22 (17)

We had a discussion about sheep as john 10 is about. Jesus was talking about his divinity. Notice that he slipped away when they were about to stone him. There are slight discrepancies between 30, 36, and 38 about his relationship with God. He says he is God and also son of God. Verse 16 seems to refer to all the others to whom his ministry is directed. The Mormons think it is about them. Supposedly Jesus came to the Mormons in new York and was supposedly inviting them into his kingdom. Maybe Jesus was using the shepherd as the magnet for the people to follow him as the sheep followed their shepherd. Would the shepherd actually lay down his life for the sheep. But a hired hand would not according to David in Samuel. Why did they want to kill Jesus? If God didn’t a discussion, he shouldn’t have chosen the Jews to be the people to whom Jesus came. Here Jesus says here that they should believe that the miracles he has done are from God.

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September 12, 2017 psalm 18:1-24, john 8:49-59,Ch. 9 psalm 18:25- (21)

David described God as all fire and brimstone, but he saves us for good works. Here Jesus says he is the son of God, whereas before others proclaimed he is the son of God. John 3:16 is more encompassing, but here he is more confrontational with the Jewish leaders. Other gospels are more forthright but it seems there is a healing of a blind man. Note Jesus says he is i am who I am and lived before Abraham.  How do you respond when you came face to face with a miracle. The Pharisees expressed disbelief. When should you say that someone is wrong? Do you wait until it is dangerous to them? There are stories about near death experiences which may be the basis for CPR. Did Jesus intentionally heal on the Sabbath to spite the Jews. The purpose of this book is to convince  people to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Knowledge becomes certainty when you surrender to it. Then you live according to Jesus’ precepts. How is trust conveyed. What does it take before you believe someone? It is getting to be difficult when there are various criteria on what is the truth. It is more than the president. We have become inured to marketing campaigns that are based on various levels of truth. It is also things that take away the trust in others, like the first offer from Equifax upon the loss of 142 million identities. They said they would give credit protection for a year but would require your credit card so that they could start charging you for the service at the end of the year. They also required you to hold them harmless in the event of a loss even if it was their fault. You could not sue them over any identity loss. Also three of their top officials sold off $2M worth of stock 3 days after the identity loss was identified, but before being publicly exposed. It amounted to 7% of the CFO’s holdings. He said he didn’t know about the security breach. His sale was not part of some planned sale either. What a hypocrite.

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September 5, 2017 Psalm 23, John 31-48, Psalm 95 (24)

we start with verses 31-48, and it could be seen as boring.  People do think of themselves as being free, but we are slaves or subordinates of many factors. However freedom entails responsibility. Sometimes we give up our life for freedom as when you join the military. This is talking about freedom the law?? take up the stake that holds you in a rut of life. Maybe we are talking about the freedom from ignorance. Are we chosen, or do we take our relationship with God. You can see how Jesus turned things upside down with the Jews. Why should we follow Jesus? Do we treat our fellow man like Jesus would have done. Did people understand the difference between being children of Abraham or following Jesus? People hijack God for their purposes. For example Joel Osteen with his gospel of prosperity.

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August 22, 2017 Psalm 133, John 7, Psalm 124, (21)

This psalm is set at My. Hermione. At the Syrian border. The festival of booths is a family retreat time. It was discussed in Leviticus. But Jesus said it wasn’t his time. He says this several times in this passage. I think Jesus has been rather shadowy here, appearing and disappearing at well. Verse 24 talks about judging, you should not judging by appearance but judging righteously. The message version says to not nit-pick, but use your head and your heart to discern what is authentically. James was the brother of Jesus and was supposedly the bishop of Jerusalem. Verse 39 says the spirit has not yet come. The spirit seems to appear and reappear at will. In In acts 2:1-13, Pentecost the spirit came to the people in attendance that day. John is much more spiritual than the synoptic gospels. The spirit comes to us repeatedly through the scriptures. Many times we think of the spirit as breath. Last Sunday was the lesser festival of Bernard of Clairvaux. He was the teacher of faith in 1153 ad. The meditation time is to recognize the presence of the spirit. Discussing of family events brings us face to face with other traditions and such things as the overriding demands of sports for our kids these days.  The New World Encyclopedia has the following description of St. Bernard of Clairvaux: “Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – August 21, 1153) was a French abbot and the primary builder of the reforming Cistercian monastic order. The dominant voice of Christian conscience in the second quarter of the twelfth century C.E., his authority was decisive in ending the papal schism of 1130. A conservative in theological matters, he forcefully opposed the early scholastic movement of the twelfth century, denouncing its great exponent, Peter Abelard, forcing him into retirement from his teaching position at the University of Paris, and later convicting him of heresy. In association with his former protegé, Pope Eugenius III, he was the primary preacher of the Second Crusade, a cause which failed to achieve the glories he expected of it.” For more info on St. Barnard, go to http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Bernard_of_Clairvaux

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August 29, 2017 Psalm 24, John 8:1-38, Psalm 85, (22)

We talked about Harvey and the victims. We talked about the difficulty of people caught in floods. Somewhat of an anomaly in that it starts with a familiar story and that departs and comes back. A question was raised about what Jesus was writing in the sand. Some day it was doodling, others say it was writing the sins of the accusers, others that he was writing the sentence he was going to impose, etc. The study bible has a note that suggests you have to find the people caught in the act and then stone both. The Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus doing something against the law. This was a sin against the law if noises, so they abandoned their responsibility to sentence her and have the Romans do it.

We wouldn’t allow a person to verify what Jesus was saying about himself. But jesus wasn’t trying to get out of a worldly sin, but rather to tell people about his new way of life.

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August 15, 2017 Psalm 131, John 6:16-71, Psalm 132 (19)

Vs 14-15 The response of the mob
VS 16-21 a very present help in time of trouble. Jesus walks on water
VS 22-27 the mistaken search — ask for the bread of life from the son of man
VS 28-29 the only true work
Vs 30-34 demand for a sign
Vs 35-40 the bread of life
VS 41-51 the failure of the Jews
VS 51-59 his body and his blood
VS 59-65 the all important spirit
VS 66-71 attitudes to Christ
Would we rather have monotheism? This is written years after this happened and some theology had been developed and was being sold here as well. Does it make a difference if Jesus is God or the son of God? If God is a life force, God can appear however he wants to. But this is hard to accept for some. This the reference to the last day and we will be taken into heaven. Many of the Jews didn’t believe in life after death so Jesus is introducing this to his disciples. Some of the people with him were disciples beyond the 12, sort of like groupies. These people aren’t really named but they undoubtedly helped spread the word about Jesus to their friends.
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August 8, 2017 Psalm 129 (A Pilgrim’s Song), John 6:1-15, Psalm 130, (16)

Mention the Church of the Multiplication and the vandalism that occurred. Verses 1-15 is the fee ding of the 5000. The only miracle recorded in all gospels. Mr. 14:13-21, Mk. 6:32’44, Lk. 9:10-17. Case 15 Jesus withdrew so they wouldn’t make him king. Vs 16-21 Jesus walking on water. Note how they didn’t recognize him. Vs 22-40, the bread of life. Al mentioned the metaphor of bread made by humans, fish by God, baskets by people. The people wanted something physical like foo d or deliverance from the Romans. Is there a difference between NT god and OT god Jesus. We got into a discussion of hierarchy and why God chose that time for Jesus at the time of the Romans. How does a leader get made.

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August 8, 2017 Psalm 129, John 6:1-15, Psalm 130 (16)

Mention the Church of the Multiplication and the vandalism that occurred. Verses 1-15 is the fee ding of the 5000. The only miracle recorded in all gospels. Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32’44, Luke 9:10-17. Case 15 Jesus withdrew so they wouldn’t make him king. Vs 16-21 . Al mentioned the metaphor of bread made by humans, fish by God, baskets by people. The people wanted something physical like food or deliverance from the Romans. Is there a difference between NT god and OT god Jesus. We got into a discussion of hierarchy and why God chose that time for Jesus at the time of the Romans. How does a leader get made.

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August 1, 2017 Pssalm 143, John 5, Psalm 150, (22)

We had a discussion about the death penalty for healing on the Sabbath. What about the link between sinning and the consequences of that sinning. Jesus cured him with a word so that the man didn’t need the water. There was no mention of faith here as there have been in other healing. The authority of the son is a somewhat confusing section of text, but introduces the concept of eternal life. Jesus said that Moses had prophesied about Jesus being the messiah. If Jesus is God’s equal why does he have to be educated. Dan says that Jesus is coequal with God. In born humility you walk with the gospel and it inflames you with the spirit.

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July 25, 2017 Psalm 40:1-10, John 4, Psalm 40:11-17 (18)

Samaria was the capitol of the northern kingdom and was in the mountains of the west bank. John remarked that this was the second sign of jesus. When the northern kingdom was taken to Assyria they assimilated and the judeans resented that and destroyed their temples. It was probably the case that she was barren and no t a tramp. Women appeared to have a more prominent position than they did in the middle ages. It has continued to this day. Mohammad didn’t demand women cover up as they do today. Sandal talks about this issue of women in the church. Is verse 36 about heaven or the pleasant time. But isn’t this about the time that people were writing about virtual heaven and John was part of the virtual heaven. Feminization of the church started 200 years ago, says Mark. We also discussed strong women of the church in our lives. Our view of God (Jesus) have obviously changed from biblical times. We relies on metaphors to understand the Bible. The word Yahweh is used many times in john. The purpose of john is to accept the messiah and that he is the savior.

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July 18, 2017 psalm 72:1-14, john 3:22- psalm 72:15-20, (21)

How did John the Baptist know that Jesus was the messiah? Possibly the oral tradition, possibly the fact that this was written 70 years after Jesus’s death. There is a legend that John studied in Nepal. Who knew? What is the difference  between Jesus and John. Jesus baptized with the holy spirit and John did it for repentance. Registering a baptism is done on the web site. When you are baptized you become a member of the church. Prices tries to keep confirmation from being the second baptism. Baptizing infants is from Acts 10 for Cornelius household. We do the mechanics but God makes the transformation of the individual. Luther says baptism is by faith alone. Who gives the authority for baptism, maybe it can be done by most anyone, but it is by the authority of God. It is a rite of belonging. Would I want to be baptized to be part of the community. How important is the church as a community or is that the main reason to go. Does that diminish God? It is a symbol, and does that mean they aren’t members of Christ. Does baptism make one Christian?

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July 11, 2017 psalm 46, John, 3:1-21,, psalm 48, (18)

The psalm 46 is the basis for a mighty fortress is our God. Nicodemus was a significant person and probably a teacher as well. Being baptized opens the way for us to be sanctified and we are aware of this change and revel in it. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews. John is speaking to Nicodemus but at the same time he is speaking to the whole group. John is in a rush to tell people about the things Jesus is doing, while the other gospel writers are more secretive and dramatic in their release of information. Verse 18 can be a difficult verse because of the implied condemnation. We might think of this more as self examination rather than a judgement from some other person of authority. Verse 17 makes it more inviting and always there is help. Maybe it should be a chain reaction to bring people to Christ. Was the door to opened by Jesus, but that door was not open before. In v 13 the concept of heaven being up is stated and says there has been no one except for Jesus who came down who will go up. There is a heaven but we don’t know where it is. The Nicodemus story is significant because it opens the story up for us. What does Jesus bring that is different than Jews had experienced. Jesus freed us from the law

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July 4, 2017 Psalm 45,1-9, John 2:12-25, psalm 9:10-17, (9)

John has the cleansing of the temple earlier in the other Gospels. John has many trips to Jerusalem, while others have just one. Jews seem to ask for signs, Greeks ask for wisdom. The temple merchants had a large markup on sacrifice animals and there was chaos. There is a question of commerce in the church. Maybe this is the beginning of Jews as money changers and other merchants. The Jews were practicing usury, however there is a question of what usury actually is. Jesus wants the temple to be a place of prayer. In Tanzania they have 4 offerings, regular, sacrificial, Thanksgiving, and special needs. It is significant that the cleansing of the temple is near the Passover and Jesus wants people to understand why the temple was there. Emphasize the worship. The zeal of thine house hath consumed you means your faith is your expression of your life. You obsess about it. High level of enthusiasm.

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June 20, 2017 Psalm 100, John 1:19-51, Psalm 8, (16)

We start with a brief introduction to John the Baptist. He was clear about not being the Christ. We discussed immersion vs sprinkling in baptism. It seems that immersion was big about the time of Christ. The temple had an immersion vat. What about babies, can they accept Christ? Obviously not! But God accepts them. Pries says baptism for a dying baby is more for the parents. Baptism is a sacrament, therefore a ministry. What were the words John the Baptist used in baptism? Look at Mark 16:16. It says you must be baptized to be saved. Can you change baptism or can it change you. Is this the first mention of the spirit. John doesn’t baptized Jesus. What did the 10th hour mean? This is the first reference to Peter as the rock. What does it mean to know Jesus? John is very invitational and evangelistic. Is Christianity an exclusive club? Lutheran core is very concerned about what is being taught in seminaries. Are future ministers being taught about social ministry more than about the faith. Are they being taught less about the faith as taught in the Bible. What is included in acceptance of people with various identities such as LGBT, etc. How do you become a leader in a community if you haven’t been in a community. Is this a bad direction or is it not enough not to have a real focus on faith as the guiding principle. What was the background of Philip. Here is a link with information about Philip. http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/the-apostle-philip-biography-life-and-death/

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June 13, 2017 psalm 69:1-18, john 1, psalm 69:19- 36, (19)

John is an upbeat book about the successes in Jesus ministry. We last read John in 2012. Pries gave an outline of the book. John starts off like Genesis does by saying “in the beginning…”. The first thing God created was the light and John picks up on this as he starts on the light of Christ ministry. Written at the end of first century. John is telling a story about the life and ministry of Jesus. Why the choice of the word word in the beginning of John. This goes back to logos the gnostic word that goes back to god creating the world. Maybe it is the vision of the beginning of the idea of God as distinct from the other gods who existed in that era. You could think of logos who thinks of all things. Hebrew has only about 10,000 words whereas Greek has 200,000 words thus talking in Hebrew is more direct  because you have fewer words to express nuance. John writes about Jesus as the physical representation of God. John 1-19 is proving that Jesus is God for Missourians, show me. This is to take some of the godliness of John the Baptist. The first part of John starts us off with poetry about Jesus. Grace and mercy came thru Jesus and is a change from the God of the old testament. In olden times you had to be worthy of communion or forgiveness and therefore it was given only on special occasions. Now it is a fellowship meal.

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May 16, 2017 psalm 63 Deuteronomy 31, psalm 92, (19)

A song of Moses is in chapter 32. This is spoken to all the people but the forecast is that people will desert the Lord and then He will desert the people. Different ways to study scripture. Form, text , historical. Pries thinks this is jumbled together texts. It is like telling children that they will screw up and fail many times in their lives. There will be consequences of your actions. God was saying here is a beautiful land for you and Moses said you will screw up and lose it. Is 14 to 23 just part of the commission of Joshua. Why is it that God fights against the idols of the native people’s of the land. Is it that he is trying to keep us from the outcomes of those religions. There is a short term fun and long term happiness. It is hard to achieve a balance. Psalm 32 is a Bal hymn. We somehow got into a discussion of chosen where the people would breed into problems because of inbreeding. Elevated risk in the probability background. Read psalm cannonade Psalms.

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May 9, 2017 psalm 140:1-8, Deuteronomy 29-30, psalm 140:9-13, (21)

I noted verse 29:26, it sounds like there are other gods God could have given them. Deuteronomy 4:19 also refers to this. We say today that we worship other gods like money, family, celebrities. But isn’t this the presence of other things that we worship. They wanted the Israelites to win and therefore  they attributed it to god. Gene says that his daughters church in the communion says when Jesus is betrayed they say when Jesus hands himself over to the Romans. There is a lot of repitition of the phrase obey God or suffer the consequences, meaning your destruction. The life concept is repeated 6 times for emphasis. Hear the commandments and have a good life. Verse 14 says that your operating procedures get embedded in your being. If you live in God’s commandments then wealth will come to you in many ways. What is the evidence that God loves you it you love God and are attentative to gods call. One of Frank’s favorite phrases in a sermon is Now. There is an immediency to this which brings us into our lives. Assimilation can take many forms. Assimilation may include conformity. Language carries culture.

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May 2, 2017, psalm 109:1-19, Deuteronomy 28, psalm 109:20-31 (25)

This book is a pretty terrible description of the curses that are extraordinarily nasty. You could characterize in 3 ways, ag curses, personal illness, and enemies would defeat them. Bob Kaplan visited us today. He noted the evilness of catabolism. Pries noted there were rewards and curses in the same manner. This may be the basis for wealth for believers and sickness and evil for non believers that Job struggled with. This may be the source of the wealth ministry but doesn’t deal with the curses and what that means. These are the many stories told by various people. Why was this included? There is no Jewish equivalent to the pope. And therefore there is much diversity among Jewish people. Pries remarked about the constant fight against idols made of precious metals and stone. Kaplan said he didn’t think Deuteronomy could be seen as a transcription from God to the people. Why bad things happen to good people is certainly a by product of all of this. It certainly is a problem for people who believe every word in the Bible is inspired by God must have problems with the inner inconsistencies. There is much diversity of beliefs among Judaism. Mariachi  is a collection of stories which is least formidable part of their beliefs. The Jewish Bible includes the prophets, the Talmud, and of course the Torah. Bill asks if this is a change in our perception of God or is a change in how God chooses to act. Al says that this is the basis of treaties in the middle East at the time. The concept of grace doesn’t come up in Judaism, but there are certainly are references to kindness, helpfulness, and almost grace among people. Jews believe more in using the concept of God to guide their daily lives and really don’t have discussions about the afterlife.
Kaplan was asked about the priestly line from Aaron was because their father said so. The name Cohen and Kaplan is a variation of the priestly line come from Aaron. A rabbi is not a priest but rather a teacher. There appears to be no formal priestly function in Judaism but possibly calling on Cohen’s or Levites to formally end Torah readings.
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April 25, 2017 Pssalm55:1-11, Deuteronomy 26, Psalm 55:12-23, (24)

The fact that this being a land of milk and honey several times. When did the land become less arid than it is today. We also discussed the people who gave to remember the ancesters and God said they should not do that from the tithe. John mentioned the CNN series Believer which features Reza Anselm about different religions. Al says there is a strong emphasis on growing products outside the water saturated Delta areas. How did people get to be chosen? Maybe it is an identity thing that these people are writing their relationship with God. There might have been other people’s who also had this relationship with God. In early times there were other gods, but it has evolved into one God. This happened in about 300 ad.
We then turned to check 27. This is the chapter of rules and the people acquiescence to them. Verse 9 says thou art become a people of God. Might the use of uncut stone be a reaction to the pharaohs who set them up as God and thus were an affront to jehovah to the creation?
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April 18, 2017, Psalm 17:1-7, Deuteronomy 24-25, Psalm 17:8-15 (22)

A question about Miriam who had leprosy. It is a skin disease carried by armadillos and is now called Hansen’s disease. Why would it be an abomination. Nationbetween. This is the kind of law you might work out over the kitchen table by the Pharisees. It is also like case law. Is God writing this down? If the Bible isn’t all correct then can we believe anything. Where is women’s rights in all this? Luther was also interpreting the scriptures at his time. This is a culture trying to make order for their society.
Chapter 25 deals with protecting the maleness of the society and preserving the patriarchal determination of the society. The 10 commandments were probably added in later and these rules were adopted to guide the city. In those days ones shoe was used to seal a business deal.
We are looking at dealing with questions about the readings we are dealing.
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April 11, 2017 psalm 134, Deuteronomy 22-23, psalm 12, (21)

What was the difference between the clothing of men and women’s clothing. Why was it an abomination to god for a man to wear men’s and women’s clothing. It is the attitude of the individual not the actual clothing. No cross dressing because that confuses the sex of the person, and God has specified sexual differences​. What things do we take as rules to live by in the OT and what things can we ignore. Is the writer making up these laws. These laws came about through the levites but it was probably the regional society’s version of justice. Laws are important to nation building. And it was important to have rules to protect the morality of the people and the nation. These laws are based on some standard for the country and does it change over time. Does our constitution need changing or amplification by the supreme country for example to amplify the 2nd amendment. Chapter 23 is a wired set of rules. The eunuchs are trusted in Isaiah 52 than they are here. Verse 15, they speak against returning a slave to his master. Why are the people of the middle East so opposed to the use of interest on loans of money. Yet in latter years Jews have been very involved in money lending.

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April 4, 2017 salm 4, Deuteronomy 20 and 21, psalm 5, (21)

We get to choose which things we do today as in war, in some cases you kill every living thing and in other cases you kill just the soldiers. Jesus said many things in opposition to the old testament. There is a bit of nation building. Try for peace first. Then make sure everyone is really ready then go in and kill them. You don’t kill everyone who are a long way away because you need to maintain the supply line. Is this kind of war we waged against the Indians in the west. For close cities, you wipe out the people and their practice.
Chapter 21 has rules for how you treat the vanquished. The rules for the body that were made were about purifying the ground. They assumed that a body would be from the closest town. There was no compassion for the body, but purify the people who found it and purify the ground.
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March 28, 2017, Psalm 41, Deuteronomy 18-19, Psalm 99 (22)

This is a rant about how badly his friends thought of him and how treacherous they were to him. Interesting to hear the dietary restrictions of the levites. The intention is to support the Levites but not too well. Advice is given about how to recognize a prophet. If what he says doesn’t happen, he is a false prophet. Divination is finding the future and that is an abomination to the Lord. What is it about foretelling the future that makes it evil. Is it because they took advantage of the people or was it because it was a challenge to God. Thomas Merton met Buddhist monks to find their revelation and wisdom. The glue holding the people together was religion, but others may have similar thoughts. There are Beal hymns among our hymns. Is a false prophet one who takes advantage or makes people do bad things. We like right on our side. A pastor Sinn sad he grazed in all pastures but gave his perspective to what was being said. The Lord said that they should designate sanctuary cities for people to take refuge when they commit involuntary manslaughter. Otherwise, others may avenge the death. They lived in an era of blood dishonor. Were they setup to protect the Innocents? Were the levites happy to be priests?

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March 21, 2017, psalm 33:1-9, Deuteronomy 16-17 psalm 33;9-22, (24)

This is a calendar of religious activities. Four festivals of unleavened breads, harvest, weeks, and booths.  The calendar for Passover was set to be when the barley is ripe. (7 times 7 weeks till the barley is at the right level of ripeness. Some people see Jesus in these festivals. We followed some sort of calendar which may follow some sort of these kind of festivals. Al said that although Constantine made ok to be christian, it was at Thessaloniki when christian Jews became untaxed. This was when lots of people became christian. Moses imposed an order on the people and is really the beginning of Judaism. In chapter 17, a judicial system is established with punishments and hierarchy of rulers. Hither to the Lord has chosen us. God said they could have kings, but this was actually written in the time of kings. Look in Exodus 20:22-24 for more about kings. There are penalties for not obeying the Lord.

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March 14, 2017, psalm 132:1-10, Deuteronomy 14:22-28, 15, psalm 132:11-18 (19)

We read about the tithe and remember the poor and homeless. Notice that the Levites had no part of the tithe. Chapter 15 is about the year of Jubilee. They incorporate both northern and southern concepts, merging the Moses tradition with ideas of David and Solomon. This text is interesting because of the concept of Jubilee. Eldon said they is not good for bankers. It says the poor will always be with us. Is this reference to something like affordable Care act. Why not provide universal care for all. How do we care for people. The level of care in the US will decline. How do we address the issues of unfairness whether it be health care or lack of shelter, food, etc. The lack of justice is the problem with care of any kind.

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March 7, 2017, Psalm 131, Deuteronomy 13 Psalm 132, (18)

Moses wrote this but it seems to be different voice from what needs to be done. This is to kill people who didn’t believe. Pastor Pries read from a member who recounted a discussion he had had about Muslim jihad against infidels. In this text there is their God but he appears to be other gods as well. In the mega churches, they have the same sense of community. At Parkview they interview people to decide on the group they should join. Also the mega churches promise wealth as does this chapter. Muslim children have to beg for money in the community. Is this where the Mormons get the missionary practice? Are we more likely to be tolerant of those who are tolerant of us. In our society we teach our children autonomous and independent but then they belong to be part of community. We had a discussion about prayer and what it means when prayer isn’t answered. Possibly it has become a place of resting and personal peace in God.

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Feb. 28, 2017, psalm 129, Deuteronomy 12 psalm 130, (18)

Shrove, as in Shrove Tuesday, is absolution. We talk here about statutes and rules given to by the Lord God. A large admonition against following the religions of the people who were living in the land given to the people of Israel. There is a repetition of what the Lord says in this chapter. What the distractions from your worship can you eliminate? Do these passages form the basis for getting other people who are not of your faith? Chuck suggests that we need to make our religion’s point of view known. There has to be a rule of law. You don’t have to believe the law but you can’t violate them. Jesus said give onto Cesear what is due Cesear. You give to god what belongs to god. In Micah we are told love justice, be kind, live morally, and do good to others. In the OT we wipe out the signs of religion but we don’t try to convert people in the New testament. The people should have focus on your religion and avoid the trappings of others. When is civil disobedience justified. Does anything in this chapter justify it. In Exodus you talk about property and life, and in Deuteronomy we talk about morality and worship rules.

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Feb. 21, 2017, Psalm 121, Deuteronomy 11, Psalm 122 (17)

The writing here seems to switch between the voice of Moses and that of God. God here is demanding full allegiance from us and in exchange God will give material things or victories that provide land to the people. We talked about the Jewish refractories from Deuteronomy 6 that Jewish people touch or at least recognize as they pass it. Gene also talked about the book God’s Pause as a daily reading. We started to talk about angels. There are 7 layers of angels. The Muslims believe in angels as do the Catholics. How in this life be cognizant of God’s presence in our life, and Pries recommends daily recognition of God’s presence. Karen Armstrong has a book about religion and violence.

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Feb. 14, 2017, psalm 148, Deuteronomy 10, psalm (17)

Is Moses the Jesus person? Many people think that is the case. God told Moses he had to make tablets and an arc to hold the tablets, then he would write the commandments on the tablets. This is the authority for our lives. The language is so important to give us the way to interpret the word for us. The reform of the Jews a couple of centuries after Moses gave a focus on the relationship with javhway and gave Moses voice. We had a conversation about the 5 extra books, the apochrafa. It provides more information but some are thrown out because they challenge accepted doctrine. We talked about Rob Bell. It appears that Betsy deVos’ family drove Rob out. Bill says he was just tired out. There is the naming of the tribe of Levi who were committed to keeping the commandments and would not share in the land. God is always there watching over you. The used the tithe to support the levites. It did not always mean necessarily 10℅. John brought up a movie called is Genesis history, a faith based move in a series with the shack, and others. We read Isaiah 7:14 which shows the power of translations.

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Feb. 7, 2017, Psalm 90:1-8, deuteronomy 9, Psalm 90:9-17, (15) foggy today

We talked about the physical difficulties of this passage and frank reminded us that it is just a story. Bill said the counting is Trump arithmetic. You can last a week without water, a month without food. God told the people they were getting the land because the current people were so bad. Why did they make the calf, possibly some traveling people who were successful with that kind of idol. What about Moses bargaining with God. Does God know what happens tomorrow? What does it to our use of prayer? You need a life like brother Lawrence who prays for the presence of God and becomes more contented and calmer during the day. Who made the other people on the land, didn’t they have the promise of God? The Hebrews were the church and were the chosen people. Thus an exclusive relationship. Is this being too exclusive or exceptional? As long as there is a story there is life. Possibly a caravan came thru with riches and they may have bought the golden calf from them. When you practice the presence of God you have God with you. Maybe you can bargain with God and be able to understand what is happening to us.

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Jan. 31, 2017, psalm 32:1-5, Deuteronomy 8, psalm 32:6-11 (19)

God provided everything they needed. It appears that they had no scarcity, clothes that did not wear out. While in the wilderness, they were a community and shared many thing. This led us to a discussion of how our parents saved and hoarded things. This was another test of obedience. Although there were times when people thought things were pretty good but when they heard of Canaan they were anxious. We hear about the struggle with suffering but awaiting the promise. Pries sang the magic penny about faith increases if you give it to others. Some people think God gave them land and they fight to keep it. Our Muslim speaker last Sunday was very articulate. A couple scoffed at what he was saying and walked out. It is confusing to study the Trinity and more straightforward to believe in one God. They believe Jesus wasn’t crucified but was taken to heaven.

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January 24, 2017 Psalm 144:1-8. Deuteronomy 7, Psalm 144:9-16 (20)

Israel must destroy everything about the stronger foes completely. No inter marrying and do not worship at their altars. Don’t even use the gold and silver left over from the idols. The meaning of the word hornet here is uncertain, possibly it means a plague. In v 21 they are told to destroy the kings one at a time lest the wilderness overtake them. Canaan refers to the area of Phoenicia and Egypt rules this area for 5 centuries. Possibly this explains the Hebrew story of being under Egypt and they ran into the desert to escape. The Hebrew people were sent into the wilderness to preserve their uniqueness and their civilization. Then when they were ready they came back to wipe out the other tribes. Does God change asks bill, Paul Tillich says the answer is Jesus. The Muslims believe all that happens is always caused or allowed by God. Jesus says only if you exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, can you come to heaven. Gene says I am lost. But bill says the righteousness of Pharisees is self righteous and hence you can easily exceed them. Our perception of God changes, from one who punished us for falling short, to a view that I can’t do enough but have the promise of God to save us despite our failures.

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January 17, 2017 Psalm 142, Deuteronomy 5:22-6:25, Psalm 143 (17)

God wanted the people to fear him. They knew of his commands to kill all of their opponents and he seemed to elicit fear of what he might do to them if they crossed him. Verse 4-9 are most repeated verses in the OT because Jews recite them each morning. It is a real change to go from the wilderness into the Oasis west of the Jordan. The sources for chapter 6 are primarily from sources J and E. The 10 commandments are very similar to other laws at that time. The first 3 commandments are spiritual.
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January 10, 2017 Psalm 83:1-8, Deuteronomy 4-5:21, Psalm 83:9-18 (14)

God is setting up the way we live righteously. Neither add to nor take away from the law. There are always loopholes in the law. Here we are nation building as the israelites take over a new land and have to live with new lands. They had to get used to live in close terms of avoiding the religions of others. They didn’t have to worry about these things after life being by themselves in the wilderness. Joseph got the people into Egypt and Moses got them out. In the same way Jesus went to Egypt then came back across the Jordan to be baptized by John. By whose authority do ministers go to the pulpit. Moses gained his authority by the burning bush but cemented it by leading the people out of Egypt.
We moved into chapter 5, the commandments. The third commandment has had more rules written about it. The 3rd commandment has a lot of explanation while other commandments don’t offer this kind of explanation. Other people have these kinds of rules on a day off every 7 or 8 days.
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January 3, 2017 Psalm 49:1-9,, Deuteronomy 3, Psalm 49:10-18 (16)

This describes the taking of the east bank of the Jordan from Sihon, king of Heshbon. He also took over the land of Og of Bashon. God says that they should kill all men, women, and children as they took over the land. They could take over all of the belongings of the 2 conquered kings. How do we interpret this text for us today. It shows the voice of God and the obedience of the people to God. God said you are my chosen people so therefore anything goes. We do have to remember however that when you conquered a people you had to kill the enemies. Is it any different today with rulers like Assad of Syria or Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein. Lots of enemies were destroyed by these leaders. Archeological studies don’t show the devastation that the Bible describes.

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December 27, 2016 Psalm 134, Deuteronomy 3, Psalm 26, (18)

Rabbi Portman talked about Hanukah which Commutating the fight with the Maccabean. People make the case for a fight for religious liberty. Very minor holiday for Jews. He brought gifts, coins and tops. The Shaman Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Affirmation of one God. The Shamaz is the witness to the one God. The rabbi showed the prayer regalia. This was discovered in the dead sea scrolls. Is Torah more important than prophets? Yes you read it every week but only occasionally are the prophets read. The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are worded differently. All prayers are time limited. Women are exempt from prayer. The prayers are regimented and they always say the same prayer. In Deuteronomy God sets the place of worship, Mt. Sinai which they called Horan. Jews are awaiting a Messiah, the reformed say it could be a movement while conservatives believe it is a person. People have both evil and good inclination and a belief in God helps people overcome the evil inclination and follow the good inclination. Maybe half of the Jews in Iowa city affiliate with the synagogue.

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December 20, 2016 Psaslm 4, Deuteronomy 1:46-2:37, Psalm 91, (22)

People get distracted when reading it because God kills so many people. The Pope just indicated that creation is not inconsistent with evolution and the big bang theory. This is the story of the Israelites coming out of the wilderness to take over the land. This shows there was a lot of contention over the land in Palestine. The 40 years in the wilderness amounted to an 11 day walk. How about the interaction between God giving conquests to the people or at least in the theology of the day. Bill says it is the imposition of a theology on a story of the Israelites taking land after leaving Egypt. They had to have a strong belief in God to wander the desert when they could see the fertile area beyond. It’s God’s will to kill people including women and children, isn’t this hard to accept. The Jews teach that after the flood God promised he would never start over again. The people would have to make do with their ability to deal with lack of faith in God. Al says that these stories were designed to give a history to thee Jewish people. Luther says you are free until you submit to gods will. It stops us in our tracks to hear it said that God’s will is that in a conquest that all humans of the enemy will be killed.
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December 13, 2016 Psalm 141, Deuteronomy 1-3, Psalm 98, (22)

KDE and P sources. P is about one third of Deuteronomy. We are reading the first 3 chapters.  the Hebrews didn’t trust God when he told them to take the land but instead did a scouting trip and said they ran into giants and cast doubt on being able to conquer the land. Look at Jared Diamond and his book guns, diamonds, etc. God demanded faith in taking over the land of the land of the Amorites. we don’t know what the relationship God planned for the Hebrews and the Amorites. Read chapters 2 and 3 for next time.

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December 6, 2016 Psalm 135:1-13, I Peter 4:12-5:14 (20)

Deuteronomy will be next. Og was a giant who was the son of a fallen angel and a woman and was among a race of giants. These were Nephalum.
Some interesting verses in Peter. When you are in suffering you are in league with Jesus. Possibly the pride can be in having a relationship with God. If suffering for gods will, continue to do good. does God just prepare us to handle the things that happen to us and to try to help those who are trying to deal with problems. is it our role to help others even in our being to the faithful creator and continue to do good. I see some meaning in these passages that could be helpful in dealing with suffering. there is a great variety of translations of this book. We can’t deal with a god who controls everything, because God controls both good and evil. Peter seems to me to be telling people how to stay faithful to god. Not so much an evangelist.
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October 25, 2016 psalm 120, I Peter 1:1-12, psalm 121, (21)

It might be written by Sylvanis, Peters secretary. It was written to the dispersion as an evangelical piece. Some say it is like Paul and could have been part of the writings of Paul and his associates. Take this is the word of God whether or not it is written by Peter. It was probably written for converted Jews. I peter looks similar to Ephesians. A question came up about whether peter was first pope? The early leaders in the east were called by the Greek for papas which by the 11th century became pope in English. Jesus resurrection is the defining aspect that sets him apart from someone who does miracles and preaches be good to others and to the poor. Then the Ascension comes. Was foreknowledge in verse 2 predestination?
Luther’s 95 thesis.
This is a treatise on the selling of indulgences to build st. Peters and all the statuary and gold incorporated in it. Luther says forgiveness is not for sale. This is also an argument of salvation by faith.
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October 18, 2016 psalm 147:1-11, Luke 24 psalm 147:12-20 (21)

The monks at st. Mallory read Psalms 4 and 94 and they start with 135. Luke has a wonderful story of what the resurrection means to people. Jesus continues to teach after his resurrection. Al talked about the council of Nicea which decided on the books included in the Bible. There was a great deal of political dealings and even Alexander was involved. Why was his identity hidden? So many things in his ministry he seemed to want to keep private. Why? Maybe he felt that common man couldn’t expect he would arise from the dead. It never occurred to them that he would come back from the dead and so he felt he needed to introduce them to this gradually. The study Bible says Luke was writing for two audiences, the people of Jesus time as a history, and secondly for all the followers of Jesus over the ages. Then it is possibly a marketing ploy to let his followers in on the inside story. In verse 24, they came and found the stone rolled away. This lends some credibility to the story by naming the people with each other. A reference to Hebrews 7:23-26 is a strong indication of the need for a pope. Al suggests Luther’s 95 theses should be studied by our group
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October 11, 2016 psalm 65:1-8, Luke 24 psalm 65:9-12 (23)

This was the whole crucifixion story. Lots of changes happen here, Herod and Pilate become friends, there is the trial and lots of accusations and upset people. Verse 34 doesn’t appear in all versions. Barabbas was probably someone who led a rebellion and was desired to lead the Jews against the Romans. Al says it would be very unlikely for the Romans to release someone who might then lead a revolt against the Romans. This is a strange circumstance since we have barabus who was convicted by the Romans of insurrection and murder whereas they found Jesus innocent. The crowd must have been out of control. The Jewish leaders must have been really convincing. Verse 3 says when asked if he was king of the Jews responded you have said so. There was a discussion of the language used here but I think it would have been the language of the people at that time but written in Greek by Luke many years later. Latin was the official language of the romans, but lots of citizens didn’t speak it. Under Alexander the great koine Greek became the language of the day. Mark 15:34 is the translation of a couple of Aramaic dialects into Greek. Matthew 27:46 says for this I was spared but they don’t say from what he was spared. But Matthew adds that Jesus said this was our destiny. Jesus said you will face adversity and there will be a decline in your current circumstances. There are lots of characters to discuss here.
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October 4, 2016 psalm 86:1-11, Luke 23 psalm 86:12-17, (18)

The passion of our Lord. Jesus says the disciples should sell a cloak in order to buy a sword but then when peter uses it Jesus rebuked him for doing so. Dan brought up Mel Gibson’s film and how graphic was the description of the passion and death of Jesus. Frank has an article about the physical death of Jesus and how terrible it was. What was peter afraid of when he denied Jesus? The other disciples had scattered when Jesus was taken, but peter had followed along at a distance and was probably afraid the High priests would take him into custody as well. There are 3 cups described here , the cup of plagues, cup of redemption, cup of acceptance or praise. The 4th cup will be drunk in eternity and the hyssop of  The traditional use of cups was created at this time. The Eucharist is tied to the third cup, and therefore to the Passover. Why isn’t Passover and Easter at the same time. The disciples were probably interested in knowing who would be the leader after Christ and continue the movement. The Jewish people probably weren’t benefiting from the Romans like their leaders. Was it common to share a drink at every meal or was it special and have special meaning. In verse 20 Jesus announces the new covenant to save us but then almost right away he talks of and how judas is headed for his doom.
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Sept. 27, 2016 Psalm 86:1-11, Luke 22, Psalm 86:12-17 (18)

This is Luke’s version of the passion of our Lord. Jesus says the disciples should sell a cloak in order to buy a sword but then when peter uses it Jesus rebuked him for doing so. Dan brought up Mel Gibson’s film and how graphic was the description of the passion and death of Jesus. Frank has an article about the physical death of Jesus and how terrible it was. What was peter afraid of when he denied Jesus? The other disciples had scattered when Jesus was taken, but peter had followed along at a distance and was probably afraid the High priests would take him into custody as well. There are 3 cups described here , the cup of plagues, cup of redemption, cup of acceptance or praise. The 4th cup will be drunk in eternity and the hyssop of  The traditional use of cups was created at this time. The Eucharist is tied to the third cup, and therefore to the Passover. Why isn’t Passover and Easter at the same time. The disciples were probably interested in knowing who would be the leader after Christ and continue the movement. The Jewish people probably weren’t benefiting from the Romans like their leaders. Was it common to share a drink at every meal or was it special and have special meaning. In verse 20 Jesus announces the new covenant to save us but then almost right away he talks of and how Judas is headed for his doom.

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Sept. 20, 2016 psalm 81:1-8, Luke 21, psalm 81:9-16, (18)

They read Luke 20 last week , but didn’t discuss much about the warning against teachers of the law or the widows mite. Al asked if Einstein had ever thought about widows mite when he thinks of relativity. Jesus said this generation will not pass away before these things happen. Luke wrote this after the temple had been destroyed and why he would talk about the second coming. People must have thought when the temple was destroyed they must have thought the second coming was imminent. If this is written in the 70s or 80s, Jesus was predicting the history at that time. Verses 16 to 19 the words are written to the individual you not the corporate you. You as an individual need to see this as a person. Many of the scholars think of that time as being about the near history of the Roman rule at that time. The temple had been destroyed several times so it was a safe bet that it might be destroyed again by the Romans. Does it mean that the coming of God will be fulfilled in the near time or sometime in the future. Jesus thought there was going to be a life after death because of his response to the Sadducees’ riddle about who was the true husband. Luke could have been a very wise man as he he tried to write the story of Jesus life. He was trying to convince the non Jew of the life of Jesus. These verses have carried a lot of people to try to forecast the second coming. Do these verses describe the individual and how the second coming is the awakening in our lives of Jesus. We find the interpretation we want to find.
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Sept. 13, 2016 Psalm 107:33-40, Luke 19:11-47, Psalm 107:41-43, (22)

This is the parable of the servants given money by a master. He chides them for not making more on what they have. Is he rewarding the shrewdness if the Jewish person. What would happen if they had invested and lost money. 14 and 27 are connected and he kills them off. This is setting the tone for the Psalm Sunday entry emphasizing that we aren’t ready. His kingdom requires a different attitude. Jesus was hated by people because if teachings like this. People go to make a case against them. The subjects hated the merchant and sent a delegation to confront him and he killed them. People had to make choices. Times are tough. Align with the ruler either the Romans or the Christians. And make your choice grow. Now Jesus enters Jerusalem. Does this help with the parable. It doesn’t line up as an allegory but maybe it sounds like a parallel with the ruler in the parable. I find the connection puzzling. The Lord needs the donkey. How did they know who the Lord was. Maybe it is easier to see as a contrast between Jesus and the ruler. In 40 he is talking to the Pharisees and his other enemies. Jesus is emphasizing that he is not the usual kind of ruler but they still kill him. This is more than overthrow Rome. But the people believed in him, but the Pharisees and other enemies sought to kill Jesus. The way he got power was to die as a martyr and his heritage has lived on to this day. Rome destroyed Jerusalem because of the Jewish problem. Maybe the master of the parable is the Romans and they are happy as long as the Jews are making money for them but with the influence of Jesus aligning them with someone not making money for them so they destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish problem of Jesus. In Luke there are a 2 chapters to finish the story.
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Sept. 6, 2016 psalm 107:1-18 Luke 18:31-19:10 psalm 107:19-35 (23)

Three passion predictions by Jesus. There were 2 predictions before this in Luke. Other Gospels had them all together. After this a blind person is healed as if to tell them they aren’t seeing. The blind man knew the power of Jesus and had faith in his power. It illustrates the disciples lack of faith, and not understanding the crucifixion. Were fishermen like the disciples practicing Jews. What part of his prediction of the cross did they not get. There doesn’t seem to be a OT reference to the Messiah’s death. There were other would-be Messiahs around who were making. Jesus the man had to die before Jesus as God could come into being. Did the disciples acknowledge Jesus as Messiah? Chuck asks if the second coming has already happening? Will Jesus come just one more time? Many religions look for the continuing revelation. We read on the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus gave half of what he had. He was probably a tax collector for the Romans. When people give their testimony they tell how and why they were lost. Also he vowed to repay 4-fold to anyone I have wronged. Verse 9 says Jesus bestows his forgiveness on Zacchaeus’ house, but then extends it to all sons of Abraham.
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August 30, 2016 Psalm 99:1-9, Luke 18:15-30, Psalm 134:1-3 1(18)

We talked about faith last week, but here we talk about children and their innocence being in the kingdom, whereas a rich ruler is too caught up in his life without Christ. Compare innocence with ignorance. Kids accept out of innocence but others do bad things out of ignorance. Do we have to have acceptance in order to overcome our human tendencies to like ourselves and our lives. Where does cynicism enter into our lives.  Do we mellow as we age or do we become cynics. Is that becoming less accepting of Christ’s message. No amount of heroic effort will get us to being part of Christ.
But verse 22 puts us back in our place. Why does he use good as an adjective, maybe sarcasm. Giving up all that he owns is difficult because we don’t want to give simple acceptance. Jesus is looking into his heart and finding what the true love of life. It made Peter nervous because of all he had given up for Jesus. What about the and follow me means. Don’t fall in love with stuff because it stands in your life as a deterrent to his way. We need to trust God. We have satisfied. The 10 commandments give us a way of life but don’t the humanists do the same things. So what is the promise we seek, is it peace of spirit. Trust in God.
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August 23, 2016 Psalm 136:1-13, Luke 18:1-12, Psalm 136:14-24, (19)

Do we have to continue to ask in order for prayers to be answered. In the message it says that the judge would attack me if I don’t give her justice. God isn’t in the mood for give me a prayer for a pony. Do we need to bombard God with prayer. Prayer is invoked for sickness, but maybe you should pray for God’s will be done. Does God listen to our prayers? Is God passing judgement when he doesn’t answer our prayers? We project our humanity onto God. John quoting C’s lewis said continually petition God for gods knowledge and power to carry out God’s will. How many of us really think God has a predetermined plan that is not known to us and when prayer is not answered we think it violates his plan. We are self centered and is that our greatest sin? When does God really talk to us and could dreams be a way of communicating with us. Mick Jaeger said in a song you don’t always get what you want but maybe you get what you need. We went on to the Pharisees and the tax collector.  How many of us are really the pharisee? Do we as humans have to have someone to look down on? Like in White trash the us founding fathers thought having slaves would ruin the lower class of people. We got into a discussion of the Trinity. It addresses a spiritual need.

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August 8/16/2016 Psalm 128, Luke 17:11-22, Psalm 46 (18)

Dan has pity instead of Mercy in vs 13. Very different connotation. Jesus is the priest for the leper who came back to give thanks. Maybe that is why he gives thanks. Leprosy affects nerves and circulation. And fingers can fall off. Vs. 21 says the kingdom is in your midst. It is within us. It doesn’t refer to Jesus as kingdom of God but rather it was the concept of kingdom of God. The women’s movement change this to realm of God rather than kingdom. The kingdom of God will come as revelation without signs. This is a call to get busy. Don’t be waiting for Jesus to come. The Q or Qualla source is in all the Gospels. Look at Frankel’s search for meaning. We have just been saying the realm is in our midst, but in vs 34 it talks about being taken in the judgement. The eagles and vulture references put it in the time and place they were in then. Very gross. The days are coming when you will desire to see Jesus again or the days of the Son of Man. We try to think of things happening in a linear way but Jesus thinks more in possibly things will happen in a general way with multiple things just happen. Living and dying are the realities. Maybe we looked at things more as a future, not like these verses of the kingdom in our midst.

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August 9, 2016 Psalm 125, Luke 17:1-9, Psalm 126 (17)

Bill related how God smote the tree he was trimming when he broke his leg by tree trimmers in the 5fh month after his accident. Look at the whole text not just individually. He days forgive those who repent, faith like a mustard seed, unworthy servant. These are serious sins that compromise the mission. Al asked if they had been together for some time because of the way he is talking to them. You either have faith or you don’t. Repent means turn yourself around and don’t do what you have been doing. Causing you to stumble has to do how you treat with children. Is drowning an easy or hard way to die and it probably is fairly easy as such things go. A lot of people say if they had more faith this bad event wouldn’t have happened. I believe, help my unbelief. Tillich wrote doubt is edge of growth. That is how we grow in faith. Matthew 18 should precede this passage it can make sense. Jesus is concerned about the dress and that it be proper for the occasion. Witness this passage in verse 7and the man who was refused by regular guests so brought people in off the streets buy then throws someone out because they were not dressed properly. Should we put the Gospels together in one narrative? Would that be instructive. If you did that what is the message. Mark, Luke, and Matthew and John each have a unique message. Jesus is saying that you should forgive again and again despite our attempts to our judgements that tend to continue. This is judgement. We don’t let things go, we hold them for future use. Is faith outcomes in this life or in the next life. Is faith so important because it is our ticket to heaven. The opposite of faith is apathy. We can believe in faith but heart is involved in trust that God will do as he says. Is faith a communal act. Probably so. Luther said the community prays for him when he couldn’t pray himself. We all have faith moments and we have doubt moments. We band together because of willingness to share our concerns and not have to all agree to the same idea.

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July 26, 2016 Psalm 120, Luke 16 10:18, Psalm 122 (17)

We began talking about how we live in retirement. Some cultures like Tanzanian where children care for their elderly parents. We live with the help of our friends today. Can you take this to different cultures. Is it having money or is it the love of money. Maybe it is the love of material things. In the US having money is a sign of faithfulness or is it only our selfishness. The verses about divorce and adultery are in an insert in the text. Verse 16 says that John was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Verse 18 was an argument between two groups of rabbis, Hillel and Samuel, one who taught that divorce is very hard to do, the other made it very easy to be divorced. Is V 18 the specific law that was being discussed. Luther said that the law drives us to Jesus who provides us the way to life. How do we interpret the Bible: as an absolute that we need to follow to the letter of the law; or is it irrelevant because it is to hard to interpret so we ignore it and become an atheist; or is it all explained by the grace Jesus brought to us. Chuck talked about word alone and how it appears to be promoted by a fantastic preacher who convinced lots of people and now is in ruins. Divorce has been difficult for the community as well as the individuals. How should the community or family be treated or cared for in these circumstances. In those days in some cases divorce was very easy for the man and the woman received nothing and was usually shunned by the community.

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July 19, 2016, Psalm 143, Luke 16:1-9, Psalm 113 (17)

This is the story about the servant who wrote down the amounts owed his master to help the servant. Why would the master praise the servant for squandering his debts. Jesus said that people should be street smart for the right things. Using adversity to stimulate you to be creative in the spread of the gospel. Concentrate on bare essentials so you will really live. What we have is a loan from God. We should manage things for our own good. This seems a very selfish action and not an instance of good stewardship to my way of thinking. Is the servant just marking down his commission. Are we talking about limiting excessive interest. The passage says to be faithful to your future and be nice to other people. The point here says take advantage of the wealthy for the benefit of the poor. Luke has a lot on people and wealth and how they handle it. What gets in the way of a communal life style? It may be human nature. The ten commandments specify how we should live. The first 3 specify a relationship with God, the last 7 living with other humans.

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7/12/2016, psalm 38:1-11,luke 15:1-11, psalm 11:12-22, (20)

Is this about material things? Great concern between loss of a herd of sheep and a coin. This is code language for an area of desolation which may be a description of where the Jews were in. The actions may be out of proportion to reality, but that is how God works. This is an example of how God cares for all and searches for the greatest and the least. No matter how list I may feel, God is there. What must I do to get eternal life, but it depends on God not me. Luke sets the context of Jesus being with sinners and the Pharisees grumble about this. When you find what is lost there is great joy. Who is rejoicing in heaven? You can’t negotiate forgiveness. In a marriage one has to forgive each other many times. What is the definition of forgiveness? Now on to the prodigal son. Was the son repentant? What would happen if he had been successful and came back and loaded over his brother. Showing compassion is not very often mentioned, but it is the reaction here. Can we ask for forgiveness or do we need to repent. From God’s viewpoint forgiveness is there but for me I need to recognize the wrong I have done. What if the father had disowned the son and didn’t welcome him back. Is the father lost forever. Could he ever be saved. In the Christian setting of that day were they excluding people and this is saying be open to others unlike you? The older son is jealous of his brother who wasn’t as good as he was. It would be nice to see the complete context, although maybe there is enough here to give us good indication of how to react.

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7/5/2016 Psalm 107:1-23, Luke 14:15-35, Psalm 38 (11)

The standard of the day was a save the date and here was the formal invite which people were invited to. What is really being discussed here. Is he really talking a bout extending his ministry to others than the jews but also to the gentiles. Possibly paul’s outreach to non jews. Maybe not! Ths may be more about commitment to Jesus talking about the kingdom of God. Are we too busy to be a disciple? Maybe this is a call to action or to work in the kingdom.
Going on to the call to discipleship  he is saying not to hate but to commit your loyalty to Christ. Does it mean that you recommit your main loyalty. You would have liked Jesus to elaborate more on what he really meant by leaving all and giving total loyalty to Christ. Theopolis might have been a fairly high official in the church. Is being a half asset Christian better than nothing? C. S. Lewis says we tend to become what we pretend to be. Is it possible to do anything totally altruistic? Probably not because of sin. I am not the one to trust to judge people going to the kingdom. Do we do good works for gold stars or because we want to be like Christ?

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6/28/2016 Psalms 85, Luke 13:31-35, 14:1-14, Psalms 87 (16)

This was Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, a puppet of Rome and a nasty guy. It was an interesting way to respond to the possibly false concern of the Pharisees about his future. He literally says he is too busy healing people for the next 3 days. Does Jesus actually know the future? Therefore he knows this isn’t the way my death will happen. There is a question about Jesus’ divinity. It is alluded to in John and Peter. But never really by the name Trinity. Is it upsetting to God that we have troubling thoughts about some of the writings about God and Jesus. Alcoholics need to give themselves to god. Many if us have strange journeys through our faith development. Why did Jesus heal, possibly because Luke saw healing as his main point of ministry in life. In Luke 14 he says you should invite the poor to your banquet feasts rather than just your friends. The purpose of the law is to free us, but we can’t fulfill us. Jesus brought grace to take us the rest of the way. Are we searching for a gold star from God or is that a matter of our pride which then is a sin.

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June 21, 2016 Psalm 49-10-19, Luke 13:18-30, Psalm 79 (18)

Some think all will go to heaven, but Jesus says strive to enter thru the narrow door. You are liable be shut out if you don’t work towards entering the life with Christ after death. Our psalm implied there is nothing after death, here there is a narrow door, and Paul preached grace. It is a tension between justification and sanctification. After I received grace then I have to leave it out. God gives us many chances even if we keep failing. I can’t save myself by what I do. There is a mystery about this relationship and we don’t really know how this works. What about people who don’t believe in Jesus. What about Muslims and others who have other beliefs. God is God and will do what he wants to do. We can’t depend on works at all because they are tainted by sin. And then we have the spread of a mustard seed. Look at Jesus ministry has spread throughout the world. We don’t know the impact of some of our or other’s actions. He is talking kingdom of heaven which is our lives today, not some future by and by.  Verses 28 thru 30 indicate an ongoing kingdom of God not necessarily in the immediate future. God doesn’t talk about the state of heaven and it may not be on a far off planet but just some sort of revitalization of our life here. Possibly it is more about the journey rather than destination. Worry about what you do here not what your future home will be.
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June 14, 2016 Psalms 48, Luke 13:10-17, Psalms 49:1-9 (22)

First, a discussion of the Orlando murders. The Charleston murders were done by a ELCA Lutheran Bishop Elizabeth Eaton opened forums on this. Was he in the club before this happened? We stick to our political narratives no matter how the facts fit the narrative.

Maybe the woman had severe osteoporosis. Jesus switched from condemning the synagogue ruler and broadened his condemnation to all present. Why was the Sabbath so important? It was probably to structure the people and their government. Possibly it is the first labor rule. Jesus said you treat your animals better than you treat people. How did Jesus cure the woman. She didn’t ask for it and be didn’t say your faith has made you well. Jesus challenged the religious elite on the issue if helping people. Al talked about the terrorists will be so bent on a paranoid fearful person who looks for a way to express anger and fears. Are they so hopeless that any thing is done. The woman when healed praised God. The notes in my Bible say she was afflicted by a spirit that caused her being bent over, so removing the spirit took away the physical affirming. Read Exodus 20:5-6.

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June 7, 2016 Psalm 46, Luke 13:1-9, Psalm 47

I wasn’t able to attend this session.  the first part is kind of weird talking about the Galileans whose blood had been mixed with their sacrifices by Pilot. Here is what a Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers says about this: “The Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.—The incident is not related by Josephus or any other historian, but it was quite in harmony with Pilate’s character. (See Note on Matthew 27:2.) We may fairly infer it to have originated in some outburst of zealous fanaticism, such as still characterized the followers of Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), while the pilgrims from that province were offering their sacrifices in the courts of the Temple, and to have been repressed with the same ruthless severity as he had shown in other tumults. It was probably one, at least, of the causes of the enmity between Herod and Pilate of which we read in Luke 23:12″

Here about the barren fig tree in starting in verse 7-9 inEllicott’s Commentary for English Readers “) A certain man had a fig tree.—The parable stands obviously in very close connection with the foregoing teaching. The people had been warned of the danger of perishing, unless they repented. They are now taught that the forbearance and long-suffering of God are leading them to repentance. The sharp warning of the Baptist, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down” (Matthew 3:10), is expanded into a parable. As regards the outward framework of the story, we have only to note that the joint culture of the fig-tree and the vine was so common as to have passed into a proverb (2Kings 18:31;Song of Solomon 2:13). The interpretation of the parable as to its general drift is easy enough. The barren fig-tree is the symbol of a fruitless profession of godliness; the delay represents the forbearance of God in allowing yet a time for repentance. When we come to details, however, serious difficulties present themselves. If we take the fig-tree as representing Israel, what are we to make of the vineyard? If the owner of the vineyard be Christ, who is the vine-dresser? Do the three years refer to the actual duration of our Lord’s ministry? Answers to these questions will be found in the following considerations:—(1) The vineyard is uniformly in the parabolic language of Scripture the symbol of Israel. (See Note on Matthew 21:33.) (2) The owner of that vineyard is none other than the great King, the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 5:7). (3) If this be so, then the fig-tree must stand for something else than Israel as a nation, and the context points to its being the symbol of the individual soul, which inheriting its place in a divine order, is as a tree planted in the garden of the Lord. (Comp. Psalm 1:3; Jeremiah 18:8.) (4) The “three years” in which the owner comes seeking fruit can, on this view, answer neither to the three stages of Revelation—Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Prophetic—nor the three years of our Lord’s ministry, but represent, as the symbol of completeness, the full opportunities given to men, the calls to repentance and conversion which come to them in the several stages of their lives in youth, manhood, age. (5) The dresser of the vineyard, following the same line of thought, is the Lord Jesus Himself, who intercedes, as for the nation as a whole, so for each individual member of the nation. He pleads for delay. He will do what can be done by “digging” into the fallow ground of the soul, and by imparting new sources of nourishment or fruitfulness. If these avail, well. If not, the fig-tree, by implication every fig-tree in the vineyard that continued barren, would be cut down.”

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May 31, 2016, Psalm 43:1-5, Luke 12:35-54, Psalm 84:1-12, (15)

This is a disturbing passage. We don’t know when Jesus will come and we must be ready. Is his rising from the death his second coming. If it is, he has promised to come again. Does revelations mean something beyond confusion? What do we know about heaven? Is there a heaven on earth or was this discredited by the early church? Why do we do good things for people? Maybe it is because of Christ’s life here on earth. He urges us not to spend our time caring about the material things of this world. But at the same time he urges us to live our lives in his example. As Matthew Henry says in his commentary, we should prepare bags not of gold, but of grace in the heart and good works in life.  These things will last. Having these kinds of treasures cannot be stolen from us. Christ is the master and we are the servants doing his will and being prepared when he comes again. It is interesting that Jesus says that those servants who know about Jesus and yet do not obey will be severely beaten, but those who do not know will be beaten lightly. Jesus warns us not to use the delay in his return to indulge ourselves in sinful behavior and selfish pursuits.

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May 24, 2016 Psalm 42:1-6, Luke 12:13-34, Psalm 42:6-11, (21)

How many kinds of greed? Money, property, power, position. We talked a lot about worrying. Does it border on prayer. What is the opposite of worry. Is it shalom? Is anxiety pulling us apart? He talks to the crowd then to the disciples. No one denies a responsibility to those in poverty. But how much is enough. If wealth is everything to you it is a problem. Strive for his kingdom and these other things will be there. How much good would we do if we gave all our wealth to the poor? How much is enough? We need to give until it isn’t the main thing in your life. Can we be a blessing as we deccumulate from a lifetime of accumulating things. Is income inequality an issue for both rich and poor. How many people are really in a situation of bankruptcy and have no alternatives to continue life. A poor man walks  in at this point. Is this an omen? Was that a sighting of God? Is he part of the neighborhood we serve and can we better support it better? Maybe we can change things, or is it futile? Brian says my witness is what we do not demand. do we have the wrong performance standards when we try to help others? How do we help the poor? Can you put yourself at risk by helping others? Yes but how much does it hurt us compared to the rich who take advantage of us. Jesus spoke about all kinds of greed, not just that of the wealthy. The passage suggests that greed takes all kinds of forms and can be an issue for rich and poor alike if we focus our life on some aspect, like a collection, money, position. power, etc.

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May 17, 2016, Psalm 11:1-7, Luke 12:1-12, Psalm 12:1-8, (26)

Today is Syttende Mai!! We discussed hypocrisy. Verse 10 is a problem because a sin is against the Holy Spirit is denial of God. You cannot deny the Holy Spirit, is there a difference between the two. Is this a denial of the Trinity. Who is the audience here? It is the disciples, who thought that they were better than the Pharisees. He admonishes his disciples that whatever he says will ultimately get out. Are we to fear God? Yes from the point of being awestruck by God or the concept of God. God is approachable through the Son, Jesus. Jesus here is giving good advice. Haven’t we always had the Holy Spirit? Yes even from Genesis 1. Verse  6-7 from the Message says if you knowingly attack God, by taking aim at the Holy Spirit that will not be overlooked by God. Who determines if we are preaching the right thing. Some say it is the group of which we a part, like the ELCA. But can’t we proclaim we are a prophet and speak out against everyone else? Brian says there weren’t many prophets and they usually didn’t want the job. Verses 6-7 gives us the image of Jesus caring for each of us right down to each hair on our head. It is a great comfort that we as individuals matter to God. There is a big moment for Abraham that God cared about him. This is the one time in the church year when we focus on the spirit. The spirit brings us to God. I cannot by myself come to god. I have this gift but it comes not because of me but in spite of me and for me. Do we have individual spirits or is there just one spirit.

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May 10, 2016 Psalm 78:55-66, Luke 11:37-53, Psalm 78:67-72 (22)

Here Jesus took the lawyers to task for worrying about the procedures and outside trappings and not be concerned about your inside thoughts and actions. We puzzled over the reference to Zechariah being killed between altar and temple. We should emphasize the blood spilled in the Old Testament which has been replaced by the gospel of Jesus. There is value to using the same version of litergy, etc. So that it sticks. But maybe you get fresh insights from different thoughts on the way to interpret a text. The Jews are laying wait to get him to discredit him. We also talked about the Q source for material in Matthew and Luke. There are parallels like this in Paul’s epistles as well. Why are the Gospels ordered as they are? Mark starts with the geneology of Jesus and John finishes with what happens after Jesus. What is Holy. There was such concern about external purity, but not our internal being. How intertwined are the purification laws with the holiness of an individual. Hal said we should use wholly instead of Holy to emphasize the whole building and not just the outside. Are we the teachers of the law or the people Jesus identified with.  Tom suggested that the concept of entropy suggests that there is a tension between nature taking over and man exerted control over the environment. Brian emphasizes I cannot on my own understand the grace of Jesus and his teachings.

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May 3, 2016 Psalm 78:17-32, Luke 11:14-36, Psalm 78:33-44, (22)

Jesus was casting out demons and the crowd asked if he did it with the power of the devil. Jesus asked if he did it in the name of the devil how can it be in the name of the devil. A house divided cannot stand. Lincoln used that verse in his speech. Having a demon could have meant deafness, muteness, as well as mental defects. Does verse 27 argue against worshipping the Virgin Mary. We got into a discussion of versions of the Lord’s prayer. Gene pointed out the newer version has been around 34 years. If it becomes too familiar it becomes mindless and we need to be part of us. Luther’s catechism has been changed. We briefly talked about the Heidelberg catechism. It is very long. It also convicts us of not being able to come to God. Jonah was a prophet but he was reluctant. It seems that the generations all think badly of the generation before or after them. Jesus says he is the sign to the people as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. Who is the sign of the people today. Maybe our sign is still and always be Jesus. The light should flow out of us. This interior light can radiate out from our enthusiasm. There is a back and forth about asking for signs and believing even if a sign hasn’t been given to us. Pain is real suffering is a choice. Should we be mindlessly follow or should we always be mindful about our relationships with Christ and with others. Did our free will cause the struggles with our faith.

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April 26, 2016 Psalm 78:1-8, Luke 11:1-13 , Psalm 78:9-17, (23)

Does this say we should nag God in our prayers. Do we have an obligation to do things when we ask for things from God in prayer. Two different people could be praying for opposite things.  Where does faith come in and how does it differ from persistence? Maybe what we pray for isn’t really what we want or need.

Chuck V. Wrote the following.
When we were reading the parallel passage in Matthew (Chapter 7, Verses 7 and following)  you may remember I read you a mini-sermon, in which I contended that it isn’t the mere asking, but rather the continual bugging, as it were, of the Heavenly Father, which finally gets us what we want.

I think that’s born out in this parable of the importuned friend.  I believed then—and I still do—that Jesus was giving us this tip out of his own personal experience. (Used the Holy Spirit as a channel between his humanity and his divinity, perhaps?)

But something still bothered me;  my persistent nagging of God is not going to let me win the lottery, is it?  Or—even closer to home—not even my fervent and prolonged haranguing of the almighty Father is going to cause my choral arrangements to be performed and loved.  The best I can hope for,  according to verse 13, is the Holy Spirit.

But wait!  It came to me last week:  Isn’t possession of or by the Holy Spirit the ultimate gift?  What greater blessing could God give than the Holy Spirit.

How do we know we have the Holy Spirit? Intern says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in baptism. Dan is going through a serious situation with his wife. What can he pray for? He wants a miracle but is it going to happen. Community may help. How will persistence prayer help? What should we be praying for in a case like this? Should we bargain with God by making promises with our prayer? Whatever he does is maybe out of his control and all he can focus on is some comfort for her. Should we be asking for the courage to face life’s problems however devastating they may be. We and Christ are in this together. How do we clean up the loose ends in the event of death. It is good to be able to clean up the loose ends. Is the Holy Spirit in us or among us. Jesus says in John 14 that he will send an advocate to help us come to God and seek his help. What is the supposed unforgivable sin, the sin against the Holy Spirit. It is to harden your heart against repeated attempts from the Holy Spirit to reach you.

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April 19, 2016 Psalm 68:21-27, Luke 10:38-11:4, Psalm 68:28-35 (25)

Story of Martha and Mary. There were stories of mothers and wives who were these two people. These are Lazarus’ sisters, but before the time that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead as reported in John 11. This is in a reading talking about a work ethic. Sometimes you have to chose the right attitude towards work, sometimes we are too busy to see the lovely tree in the forest. Was Martha too busy with daily things to learn what really mattered. Jesus told Martha to stop worrying so much and pay attention to what he was saying. Jesus calls Martha to be a disciple and learn from Him. Maybe we need others to step up and help Martha with her work. Both men and woman could be a Martha and be so busy about the arrangements. Martha was admonishing Jesus to tell Mary to work. The point of the story is that we should be listening to the Word that Jesus brings to us.

We read the Lord’s prayer. Is the form more important than the words? It appears that John the Baptist had prayers giving his disciples the form to pray. He didn’t tell us to ask for specific things but rather to keep his name holy and wish for the kingdom of God to come. Luther thought the fewer the words the better the prayer. It seems that there is very little in the Lord’s prayer that would suggest that praying for anything more than our daily sustenance is what we should do. It doesn’t suggest that we should pray for things or successes or relief from pain or to be saved from tornadoes or anything of that nature. Pray for a right relationship with God and that our sins should be forgiven. If we are in the right relationship with God, we will have what is needful.

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April 12, 2016 Psalm 68:1-10, Luke 10:21-34, Psalm 68:11-20, (26)

No one knows the father but the son. The disciples had to faith in Jesus gave them the confidence to go on the mission. Jesus may not have the mist transparent mission at times, see only the father knows the son and the son the father. We are all searching for faith. Who is the authority in our lives? Why is it that little children seem to have the faith.
The good Samaritan.  Who is my neighbor? Is the guy on the corner begging Jesus? The young lawyer asks what do I have to do for eternal life. Worship, praise, study, share are faith practices. The priest and Levite didn’t recognize the man as a neighbor. This conflicts with Jesus teaching to the Samaritan women that he came to the lost nation of Israel. The Levite and priest were doing what was required of the law. They would have been required to be clean for the task. If the beaten man was a Jew why didn’t the Jewish priest and Levite help him out. But maybe the beaten man was beaten because he had lost the faith or didn’t believe in God. You have to remember this is a rabbinic parable. Luke put together a very powerful story that touches many issues. Who was good one and Jesus says the one who showed him Mercy. Our good Samaritan law gives some legal protection to those who help others on the highway. Bonhoeffer says “Only the believing obey, only the obedient believe.” who in our world would show Mercy. This is the point of the rabbinic parable. Have you been in the ditch, have you been the Samaritan, have you been the priest or the Levite? If I were destitute what would be on my sign? Where would I find my help?

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March 29, 2016 Psalm 129, Luke 9:37-62, Psalm 130 (23)

Brian led the group today as we discussed Jesus’ activities after the transfiguration.  A lot of it dealt with the disciples activities trying to do healing and not having the faith necessary to do so. We also discussed the difficulty of understanding what Jesus was all about and what he had to do.

. Heading on Lutheran Study Bible Jesus heals boy with demon. Al asked if this meant Jesus healed him or the demon healed him? Jesus rebuked the people as faithless about the disciples ability to heal. But maybe when he said someone was failthless he was referring to the disciples not the people. Since In Matthew the disciples asked why they couldn’t heal the boy and Jesus said they had too little faith. Does this mean we don’t have the faith to heal unless Jesus gave it to them. We discussed whether we could do amazing things if we only had faith. They were all amazed as the greatness of God, does it mean Jesus glowed or something like that.

We are forgetful people and need to be reminded of what Jesus is and what he can do. Mark writes about Jesus in a very human and yet godly way. What does mean about the least among us is the greatest. Do we make things too complicated and so he says to believe like a child. Jesus predicts his suffering and death, but the disciples fail to understand this.

In verse 45 who was concealing what has happened really means. Were they still thinking he will be an earthly king. Maybe it is not so simple but he is turning the order of things upside down. If after saying this maybe the disciples were competing to be the humblest among them. Jesus is asking them to be radical.

Why was Jesus demanding so much from them. Jesus told them to go out and proclaim the kingdom of God. Is there where Martin Luther says, if something in Scripture bothers you move on to another part of Scripture. What is Jesus demanding we do? We can carry out our family obligations but remember that it is most important to proclaim the kingdom of God. Discipleship is change and what does Jesus say discipleship is all about. Jesus is saying you need to go forth NOW. We can’t let all these excuses getting in the way. We tend to become what we pretend to be. (CS Lewis complements of Bill) It appeared that the disciples never did get it, because they all disappeared when he was arrested and none of them appeared at the cross, only the women were there. The women went to the tomb as well. Why was Jesus’ true mission concealed?

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March 22, 2016 Psalm 127, Luke 9:28-36, Psalm 128 (21)

The transfiguration. Al asked how they would know what Moses and Elijah looked like? What about the statement in 33 of Peter, not knowing what he said. Possibly the futility of prolonging the moment, or building an image that people would worship almost like an idol. Is this the point where the 3 disciples have seen the coming of the kingdom of God. Pope Benedict says this is the view of the kingdom of God that Jesus had promised that some would see before they died. Jesus was made a lens through whom the kingdom of God could be seen. http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-jesus-transfiguration

We have done all sorts of things to commemorate Jesus life, are they wrong? This is about Jesus praying and then something happened, the transfiguration. This was about the middle of the ministry. What is the kingdom of God. Is it an experience or a frame of reference or a way of life. Kingdom of God is wherever God’s presence is celebrated. It is all about the good news. The focus of Jesus is to get his disciples to go do something in his name. Jesus told the disciples to keep quiet about this event.

Mt. Tabor is said to be the site of the transfiguration as opposed to Mt. Herman. Here is a description.  Modern Har Tavor, Tiberian Har Tāḇôr, Arabic: جبل الطور, Jabal aṭ-Ṭūr) is located in Lower Galilee, Israel, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Sea of Galilee. It was the site of the Mount Tabor battle between Barak under the leadership of the Israelite judge Deborah, and the army of Jabin commanded by Sisera, in the mid 12th century BC. It is believed by manyChristians to be the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus.[


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March 15, 2016, Psalm 125, Luke 9:21-27, Psalm 126 (18)

Psalm seems rather uninspired, but yet it talks about a rock that is a foundation for us. Mark says that Psalm 88 is a real downer, but the psalms provide the basis for prayers for all of us, just some do it better than others.

Here Jesus is talking about his upcoming death and urging the disciples to continue to follow him. It also talks about the upcoming Kingdom of God that will come in splendor even in the lifetime of some of the disciples. Is Jesus a suffering Jesus or a glorified Jesus. What was their place in the world. He was probably making a challenge to the authorities. Did Jesus die for our sins? We need to figure out why did Jesus have to die. If we don’t have the sacrificial lamb, then why have Jesus die. It is a revolution in how God did things from the blood and guts of the wars of Joshua, David, and Abraham. Verse 27, did the kingdom of God happen in their lifetime? The resurrection was the game changer. Why did Jesus do this? to save us? The Message version is almost a pep talk by Jesus. What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus. John mentioned cells or caves in Syria for monks in earlier times. The thought that would get them closer to God. Don’t be like a working ox going around in a circle to accomplish their work but pull up your stake and follow Jesus in his message. Luther was hardly unique except for his enduring melancholy.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016, Psalm 123, Luke 9:12-22, Psalm 124 (20)

This story is the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. The setting for the story is that the disciples have just come back from mission trips where they had demonstrated the power to heal and cast out demons and to preach about what Jesus was teaching. Mark suggested that he had begun to understand this as a miracle of the heart, in that Jesus suggested that Jesus organized the people in groups of 50 and then told the disciples to minister to them by feeding them. Is the miracle  that Jesus got them all together and share what they had with others. It is the case that people had to come a considerable distance to see him so that it is more than likely that more people than one boy would have had food and the trick might have been to get everyone to share with others the food that they had. So it could have been seen as a large potluck. So the organization of the meal by Jesus is what the miracle is all about. Does this explanation diminish the act. It does say there is some miraculous thing happening to provide the food. Is this a story about sharing or a miraculous story about providing food for thousands of people. The Lutheran Study bread links this episode with that of feeding the people of the Exodus by God thru Moses. This is what happens when you trust in Jesus, he provides for you. When you name something as a necessity it is provided. This story is in each of the Gospels. (The feeding of the 5,000. This is a miracle of the heart, and the miracle is that Jesus got them all together and share what they had with others. So the organization of the meal by Jesus is what the miracle is all about. Does this explanation diminish the act. It does say there is some miraculous thing happening to provide the food. Is this a story about sharing or a miraculous story about providing food for thousands of people. The Luth. Study bread links this episode with that of feeding the people of the Exodus by God thru Moses. This is what happens when you trust in Jesus, he provides for you. When you name something as a necessity it is provided. This story in each of the Gospels.The feeding of the 5,000. This is a miracle of the heart, and the miracle is that Jesus got them all together and share what they had with others. So the organization of the meal by Jesus is what the miracle is all about. Does this explanation diminish the act. It does say there is some miraculous thing happening to provide the food. Is this a story about sharing or a miraculous story about providing food for thousands of people. The Luth. Study bread links this episode with that of feeding the people of the Exodus by God thru Moses. This is what happens when you trust in Jesus, he provides for you. When you name something as a necessity it is provided. This story in each of the Gospels. (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-15) Each of the other gospels actually says that they had 5 loaves and 2 fish and that Jesus blessed them and told the disciples to distribute them to the people. After they finsihed, there was 12 baskets left over. Should we be teaching children about sharing from this story rather than the miracle of producing the food. Is the real miracle here the opening of the disciples hearts to promote sharing to provide the food to people. This followed Jesus sending the disciples out to preach, teach, and do miracles and depend on the people for your sustenance. Now they are asked to provide for the people.

Jesus asked who do you say that I am, and Peter says you are the Christ of God. Jesus keeps saying being the Messiah is complicated and the disciples don’t understand. Jesus will win not by conquering people like Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, etc., but by being a martyr who will win by losing. Is this a better way to conquer the people. Should we be teaching children about sharing from this story rather than the miracle of producing the food. Is the real miracle here the opening of the disciples hearts to promote sharing to provide the food to people. This followed Jesus sending the disciples out to preach, teach, and do miracles and depend on the people for your sustenance. Now they are asked to provide for the people.

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Feb. 9, 2016, Psalm 105:25-35, Luke 8:9-18, Psalm 105:36-45, (18)

Al questioned whether Muslims have to kill someone who doesn’t believe having heard the words of the Quoran must be killed. Not so, Mohammad said you should do the good you say you will do and not just say things. A nice reference to this is provided about what the Quoran says about terrorism: Islam and Terrorism Verse 10 says it is a mystery that some can’t understand so he is telling a story to help some to see what he is trying to tell them. Sometime the story provides a linkage to match the concept. You can’t be a Christian just on Sunday. Al says people of that date knew about the law and the various interpretation at that time. We had a discussion of the resurrection of the body and some believed and some did not. Some felt there is a physical place we are resurrected to at the end. This is all about doubt that people have. We then talked about people who light lights don’t hide them. Verse 18 is a problem.  The message says that we should share his message not try to keep it all to myself. For by sharing with others your own faith will be enhanced. If you hold it to yourself, it will be decimated.

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Feb. 2, 2016, Psalm 105:25-36. Luke 8:1-9, Psalm 105:36-45, (16)

Comments about the Psalm where the plagues were unleashed to allow Moses to leave. God is referred to as Israel. We had a discussion about whether Jesus married or not. Mary Magdalen was relieved if her demons and she was the first one to acknowledge Jesus was arisen, whereas Peter only verified the tomb was empty. We should be looking at the why of an event. Do Catholics believe their priests should be devoted to their parishners and therefore be celibate. We talked about where pastors go for a confessor. Can a pastor be a friend to parishners? Maybe friendship is a continuum, so that there is a difference in depth of friendship. Does a pastor lose perspective if he is a good friend to someone. Does familiarity breed contempt in terms of being a friend and a pastor. Pastors are trusted and can be a source of wisdom. We have a lot of relationships with others but only a few are the really trusted and someone who can be totally honest with you. Who do we go to when we need a person in authority to discuss things with. We have a form of automatic respect for pastors that gives us an automatic relationship with a pastor. Would we want Jesus to be in a relationship with a wife and all that comes with it.

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January 26, 2016, Psalm 105:1-12, Luke 7:36-50, Psalm 105:13-25 (16)

Sinner Woman who washed Jesus feet, parable of money lender who forgave debt. Why the big emphasis on women covering their hair. It is that way throughout the middle East. I think it is men exerting their control, although women are asserting their modesty. In verse 48, your sins are forgiven. Is it by God or is Jesus. The Message says, that Jesus says “I forgive you your sins. Jesus puts the story about the money lender forgiving debt to contrast someone for whom much as been forgiven to compare the woman who the Message says was the town harlot, with the Pharisee and indicates that she had much to be forgiven and that her faith in Jesus saved her. He is building on his legacy. In verse 50 Jesus suggests it is not the washing feet but rather her faith that has saved her. Simon said to himself this is if this man were a prophet he would have known she were a sinner. Why was she in the house at all? It almost appears that this was an open house and people just wandered in. Maybe the money and land forgiven in jubilee gave this money, gave the money in light of this. The question of baptism came up as to the question of who can do it and we have evolved to a looser interpretation that in emergencies lay people can do that. Forgiveness and apology come very hard in our environment here in Iowa City. Maybe we are afraid of the legal implications of an apology. Maybe  just want to appear invincible.

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January 19, 2016, Psalm 10:1-9, Luke 7:18-35, Psalm 10:10-18

The psalm this morning is about the wicked and how one should deal with them and how God will handle them.

Here we have the questions from John the Baptist about who Jesus is. Jesus and John the Baptist. John is in prison wondering who this Jesus was and was he the Messiah. The tax collectors are mentioned here and probably it was because they were Jews hired by the Romans.  The Jews paid a religious tax to the Jewish authorities to maintain the temple. They also paid a tax to the Roman government. This tax is estimated to have been 30-40% of an individual’s income. The tax collectors were independent contractors. They were usually Jews who paid a fixed sum to collect. Anything they could collect in excess of the tax required by the Romans was profit to them. There was a lot of abuse, as collectors would open every carton of goods traded, arbitrarily assess its value, and exact a tax payment. Assessments were usually inflated but there was no recourse or appeal of the decision about an unjust assessment. they also made money by making false charges of smuggling, then extorting hush money. They also targeted citizens unable to pay so that exorbitant interest could be charged them.  Tax-collectors were despised by their fellow Jews. “They were an ever-present symbol of foreign oppression, they used cruel methods to become wealthy at the expense of their countrymen, and they worked in close association with Gentiles. For these reasons, tax-collectors were treated as the lowest class of sinners. Socially, they were rejected. Politically, they were regarded as both traitors. Religiously, they were excommunicated as apostates. Being a tax collector created an indelible black mark on a man in the eyes of the people. Tax collectors were not allowed to hold any office of community responsibility. They were not allowed to testify in Jewish legal courts. Rabbis debated whether it was possible for a tax-collector to experience true repentance.” http://www.pursuegod.org/tax-collectors-in-jesus-day/ Of course, everyone dislikes taxes and the people who collect them.

Johns baptism is about redemption, where Jesus was about forgiveness. The evangelicals believe that baptism and the receipt of the spirit are separate. Both must should happen. It initiates us into the fellowship of all believers. If the infant has just died you still do the baptism for the parents sake. The baptism is the combination of the word and the water. And we should invite people to be baptized. We have a lot of trust in our parents or whoever has us baptized when they tell us we were baptized. Affirming baptism is part of the 5th grade acceptance into communion. It begins the confirmation process. How does a sacrament like baptism differ from a symbol of our faith. This is a gift of grace given by God. Jesus gave us grace which allows things like baptism to be a gift of faith to us whereas Jews and Muslims worry about the details of the law. It also makes someone a part of the community.

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January 12, 2016, Psalms 37:27-40, Luke 7:1-17, Psalms 52 (17)

We talked about Acts 8, and the spirit had not shown up yet. Possible we look on baptism differently. Is the issue efficacy or that the baptism isn’t complete yet. Maybe being baptized in the spirit is separate from baptism. Isaiah 43, there is a description of a big land deal. Luke 7. The story of healing the centurians servant. The centurian also had to blow his own horn, but he used this to acknowledge Jesus had authority like his in different way. Does faith make a difference? Monica with stage 4 cancer and is to have mistletoe therapy. Faith can strengthen us for a rocky way that we have to face. Possibly we have to let go and let things happen as we pray it works out OK. Is faith a letting go and seeing that you have to let go and let God do his will and accept that. Let’s make the most of the hand we have been given. If you pray and it doesn’t turn out your way what do you do then. It isn’t our lack of our faith that causes bad outcomes. Do physical processes control some of the things that happen in our lives. Faith is present in all of us, we have to come back to our faith in God and that he will see us thru our trials and tribulations. Brian’s prayer is for healing and Gene adds prayers for strength in difficult situations. Maybe we have to use the serenity prayer to fight for the things we can and to accept those we can’t and the wisdom to know the difference. What did the widows son do after being raised from the dead? Is there a purpose to everything that happens? Is there a grand plan to what happens? Maybe the purpose here is to help the mother, who is a widow and needed a man to help her. Maybe our purpose is to serve as a warning to others not to do as we have done. Maybe a trial has helped us to bridge to a higher purpose. We had a good open discussion about the role of faith and prayer in our lives along with having to deal with from our perspective both good and bad outcomes in life. We believe in a heaven at the end of life for those who are faithful, but is it not possible that the way we conduct our life in difficult times also a possible heavenly situation on earth?

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January 5, 2016 Psalm 37:1-13, Luke 6:43-49, Psalm 37:14-26 (23)

We talked about the thought in the psalm that the wicked will be gone in the future.

 “The prophet Isaiah dreamed of the day when the lion and the lamb would lie down together, when, in other words, the law of nature which prompts the strong to devour the weak would be abrogated….Sometimes the contrast between the real and the ideal is drawn so sharply that the religious man despairs of the achievement of the ideal in mundane history.  He transfers his hope to another world….The gospel conception of the Kingdom of God represents a highly spiritualised version of…Jewish millennial hope, heavily indebted to the vision of the Second Isaiah. Wherever religion concerns itself with the problems of society, it always gives birth to some kind of millennial hope, from the perspective of which present social realities are convicted of inadequacy, and courage is maintained to continue in the effort to redeem society of injustice. The courage is needed; for the task of building a just society seems always to be a hopeless one when only present realities and immediate possibilities are envisaged.”
Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932)

Mark talked about not finding value in any tree, not just those bearing fruit.  I brought up the problem if Honey Locust trees with their lethal thorns, but Jim said that these trees are where the warblers go for refuge from hawks. Are we aware of a great foundation for our faith like that of a strong house. There is a very severe dualism here while in Romans 7 Paul says the good that I would do I don’t. Is it aspirational for a tree or a person to want to do good. Is this just a statement of fact about good and bad. You don’t get good fruit from a thorn tree. The message uses healthy versus diseased rather than good and bad. Your thoughts become your words become your deeds and then become the tree. Never lose hope. What kind of tree are you and what are you producing because this defines you. It is who you are not what you say is what is important. Who you are should be congruent to who you are and what you do. The question in Pella is “are you saved?”, but that is God’s prerogative. Mark said in Pella a man came to him and said that if you are missing something come to my house and I will show you how to live without it. Even the most open minded person has principles that are absolutes. But absolute are these things really absolute. Luther’s evening prayer is penitential and asks for safety through the night but his morning prayer is hopeful for the day ahead.

The closing psalm says to depart from evil and do good and adds that the wicked shall be cut off.
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Dec. 29, 2015 Psalm 47, Luke 6:37-42, Psalm 133 (10)

Big controversy about the use of brother vs neighbor in the parable in different versions. The Greek uses brother. This led into a discussion of sexist language. Is the judge not that you be not judged. This is done in the mode of condemnation. You should create a culture of what you would like the world should be. The golden rule is also Matthew 7:12. The bit about measures is to give fair measure. How about the blind leading the blind. The powers of observation may overcome handicaps. Maybe a blind man could lead you in a dark situation as opposed to some who can only use their sight. Is Ferenz a great college coach or is it the players or both. He has good motivational skills, but certainly is not an expert at all positions. A combination of skill, knowledge, and teaching need to be combined. The speck in someone else needs to be pointed out, but how is this done. How do you manage family relationships involving criticism without judgments.

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December 22, 2015, Psalm 110, Luke 6:17-38, Psalm 2 (19)

Is there a reference to the Messiah being the son of God in the Bible? Al has been puzzling about this. This was a reference used by a number of rulers at the time to aggrandize themselves. Although there does not appear to be a reference to the Messiah being the Son of God in the Old Testament, there are many references in the New Testament, including a reference of a voice from on high saying this is my son in whom I am well pleased. Some say that it was an alternative to saying Messiah. It is different from the concept of the Trinity which says God the Son and asserts not only that he was the Son of God, but God himself.

Matthew uses kingdom of heaven, and Luke and others use kingdom of God. Jesus teaches about the gospel of the kingdom of God and can be seen as God’s plan for the earth. Only Matthew uses the reference to Kingdom of Heaven and there are parallel references in other gospels to the same circumstance being referred to as the Kingdom of God, for xample Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, and Matthew 5:3-10 adn Luke 6:20-22, as well as others.

What about all the references to the wealthy and they will not receive the kingdom of God. What about the rich man having more trouble getting to heaven than a camel through the eye of a needle. We are the rich. Woe to you who rich for you have received your reward. Maybe people thought it was gods blessing to be rich and he was saying no if you think that you have  already received your reward. The point is that it is what we do with what we have. St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myrna, gave all he had away. So did Francis of Assisi. You give as you are able. Do these passages refer to this life or the next? What is the Greek word for rich, precio, much. Are cooperatives and communual living short term responses to adversity which can’t exist long term. For example, the Amana Colonies were created out of a need to survive, but changed their form in the 30’s. They were part of a German group called the Community of the True Inspiration or teh church of the true inspiration. The group led by Christian Metz left Germany to find religious freedom in the US in 1843-44. The leaders took the name Amana from the Song of Solomon 4:8.

There are 3 uses of the law, civil use, convict you of sin, establish your relationship with God and how you should live.

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Dec. 15, 2015, Psalm 119:145, Luke 6: 1-16 Psalm 119: , (22)

Lost boys psalm 119:145-160, Luke 6:1-16, Psalm 119:161-176  (22)

We talked about rubbing grain in their hands and eating it. Did they have a problem with property rights that taking grain might be a problem. I don’t think that was a problem. This was about the Sabbath law. Did Jesus say that the rules on Sabbath were never intended to be like they were intended to be. Can you do good on the Sabbath? Christian reformed are very serious about observing the Sabbath. How many times do men make laws that are intended to supplement the laws of God, but take them to the extreme and expect people to follow them. Luke is concerned about insuring that people not be afraid of the coming of Christ’s coming. Jesus is confronting the system. Isn’t the point to say these commands are of human origin not necessarily God’s. It seems that some people  choose to obey the laws that are clearest and easiest to follow. Although many times, these laws take on a life of their own. It is a way to judge others, but pointing to a standard of laws that when all things are black and white are easy to say when someone is violating the law and when it is being upheld. Today, almost all of us ignore the Sabbath laws, when it is convenient to do so. Maybe our routine changes a little on Sundays, Hassidic Jews take the Sabbath law very seriously. Paul says Jews seek signs, Greeks seek wisdom, and I preach Christ saves us. The miracles are amazing and there had been no prophets for 400 years until John the Baptist and then came Christ as a prophet. Do we know prophets of today? Why did Jesus rename some of the disciples and not all of them. I think it is like giving nicknames to friends and working associates today. Peter was really Petros, the rock. . Psalm qqp to the end.

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Nov. 18, 2015 Psalm 119:9-24, Luke 4:14-44, Psalm 119:18-27, (23)

He healed people, preached in the synagogues, and taught from the scriptures. We talked about coming back to their home town. He said Isaiah’s scripture were fulfilled in him. The people said prove it by healing somebody here. He said a prophet is without honor in his country. Is prozac a demon killer. There is something positive about personalizing a mental illness. God assigned demons tasks as in what happened to Saul. It appeared the people wanted this amazing man to do miracles for them and he said I can not do as much as you want from me and refused to do do that and so they drove him out of town. He went to Capernaum and healed people. We discussed the purpose of the book. It was supposedly written to Theophiles. Some say that it was written to the ruler Theophiles but he filled in 160 and Luke was written in 60. After saying he was following Elijah in helping just a few, he goes and heals all who come to him.

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Nov. 10, 2015 Psalm 150, Luke 4:1-13, Psalm 119:1-8, (27)

Psalm 150 is the last chapter in Psalms and is a praise full Psalm.  The temptation of Christ. He was praying and meditating in the desert. Then the devil tempted him. Who are you and what are the temptations that you face in your life. How about the dissatisfaction of the current age, is that a temptation? In the midst of our security a temptation. Does Satan act like the data mining internet knowing our inner thoughts and desires so that he can tempt us in the ways we are most likely to succumb.  Where did the direct quotes come from, was there a third person there. Jesus quotes are from Deuteronomy and the devils are from Psalms. Tom suggested you need to stay far away from temptation. He suggests spiritual fitness as something you constantly work on. Was the devil invented to make God able to be more pure. This is a teaching story where Jesus is telling the story about how to deal with temptation. We each have a wilderness and temptations come to us at that time. Sometimes as soon as we congratulate ourselves on doing good at something we screw up. But Brian says that he is perfect in Christ and only in him. We need to place ourselves in the story so we can find the spirit of the Lord and he has been assimilated into our lives. The final Psalm we read today is 119 which is a long Psalm that we will read in sections. We are blessed by God if we stay on course on the road revealed by God.

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Nov. 3, 2015 Psalm 118, Luke 3, Psalm 67 (21)

We discussed Mercy vs love as the words in the Psalm. But when we ask God for mercy we are asking for gods enduring presence in our love.
Now to Luke 3. We begin with John the Baptist and his ministry. John was the forerunner to Jesus and began his policies. John makes the claim he is the one who fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah. People who prepare for the king make the road easier for the king and John claimed to be the one preparing for Jesus as king. When did this happen, it is triangulated by when people were in the areas mentioned. What do you need to do according to John, be. More charitable and don’t cheat. Luke’s gospel is more global and reaches out to others. The gospels were probably group projects and people shared their memories. For example, John was probably over 80 when his gospel was written and it was a group project. Steve read the genealogy of Jesus, which starts with Jesus and goes back to Adam and to God. Some people think that Luke was giving Mary’s genealogy here and not Josephs. It is supposed that Mary was related to David and not Joseph. and at that time, women weren’t supposed to be important. both Luke and Matthew provide genealogies, with Luke starting at Adam and Matthew starting at Abraham. The two genealogies are the same from Abraham to David, but differ drastically from there on. That is why some people think that Luke’s was for Mary while Matthew’s was for Joseph. Matthew’s lineage is in Matthew 1:1-17.


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October 27, 2015 Psalm 51, Luke 2 (25)

Psalm 51 is the psalm of the confession of David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. In Luke 2, note the royalty of the first part. Caesar was conducting a census so he could tax everyone, but God announced Jesus birth to lowly sheepherders. This was a great contrast. This is the Christmas story. The religious story is great but the government is little in the Magnificat, but here govt. Is greater. Global mission planning a mission festival Jan. 24, and Elizabeth Trost will speak. She is currently in Jerusalem. The part about Simeon is not talked about too much in the church, but the Nunc Diminicus is part of lots of our services. Why does the Bible skip from age 12 to 30 because maybe he wasn’t very complementary according to some sources. There are lots of other sources that describe Jesus growing up. Think about the distances Mary and Jesus covered at this at time. They went from Bethlehem to Egypt and then all the way back to Nazareth. It had to take a lot of time for this to be done. How did Joseph afford these travels. Did he work along the way? Here God sent Jesus to the Jews but what about other religions. Is not this a religion for all? We weren’t a very talkative group this morning. 

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October 20, 2015 Psalm 34, Luke 1:57-80, Psalm 66 (19)

Comments about heading to psalm. One version says David feigned madness, and another said he changed behavior.  Quite a difference.

Mark started us off by a suggestion he had heard from a seminarian introducing Luke by reading the first 4 and the last 4 verses: In the first 4 verses we hear about the veracity of the text that will follow. From the beginning, there were eye witnesses and ministers of the word. Then the last 4 verses where Jesus finishes his physical ministry on earth and then ascends into heaven.  Verse 57 is the birth of John.

What did Zechariah, who lived in the 6th century BC,  and was the name sake of the father of John the Baptist, prophesy? He was a captive in Babylon but was released along with 50,000 of his Hebrew kinsman and returned to their native Palestine around 586 BC. Zechariah attempted to rekindle a spiritual fire in the people while Haggai encouraged the completion of the temple project. Zechariah prophesied the destruction of the temple in 70, and also had a decidedly emphasis on messianic predictions, including one in which he prophesied the betrayal of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver in Zechariah 11:12-13.

Why don’t the Jews accept as Messiah? Jesus frequently uses passages from the Old Testament to justify his claim to be the messiah. But he didn’t come with an army and drive the Romans out. In Zacharias song at the end of this chapter, Zacharias sings about God coming to defeat their enemies. How can Jesus claim to be the messiah if he doesn’t even attempt to defeat their enemies? Jesus acceptance was difficult and split the people in terms of acceptance of him as Messiah.

We got into a question about the existence of God. It is the ultimate question. Verse 18 says that because of Zacharias’ unbelief he would be speechless until his son was born. Jim saw the last supper picture in Haiti and all disciples are black but Judas who was white. Why do we do things in Jesus name without recompense? Lots of people question this, but this does not alone justify us, as humanitarians who may be non-Christians do this as well. The Nones don’t understand this. Maybe they really didn’t know who their enemies are. Zacharias’ song spoke of the Messiah who would defeat our enemies. That could undermine Jesus as Messiah. We talked about uniforms and what they mean about our lives. The new pm of Canada will allow Muslim women to wear burkas and cover their faces. What do our uniforms say about us. Next week the Christmas story.  Mark recited the last 4 verses which was the ascension of Christ and the finish of his physical presence ministering to us on earth.

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Oct. 13, 2015 Psalm 30, Luke 1:39-56 , Psalm 141 (23)

This is the Magnificat. It is one of 4 canticles in Luke.  These songs are Mary’s Magnificat; Zechariah’s Benedictus (1:67-79); the angels’ Gloria in Excelsis (2:13-14); and Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis (2:28-32). In form and content, these four psalms are patterned on the “hymns of praise” in Israel’s Psalter. In structure, these songs reflect the compositions of pre-Christian contemporary Jewish hymnology. The first stanza displays graphically a characteristic feature of Hebrew poetry—synonymous parallelism—in ascribing praise to God: “my soul” mirrors “my spirit”; “proclaims the greatness” with “has found gladness”; “of the Lord” with “in God my Savior.” The balance of the opening two lines bursts out into a dual Magnificat of declaring the greatness of and finding delight in God. The third stanza again demonstrates parallelism, but in this instance, three contrasting parallels: the proud are reversed by the low estate, the mighty by those of low degree, and the rich by the hungry. Mary starts off with praise to God, then she describes herself as handmaiden to the Lord, then the reversal describing Christ’s ministry, as being not to the wealthy and powerful, but to the poor and down and out. She concludes her magnificat by placing this event into the history of the Jewish people.  We had a discussion of the women at this point. The Catholics believe the immaculate conception was Anne bearing Mary, and the virgin birth is Mary bearing Jesus. This was decided by the Pope and his advisors in 1880. Mary then stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months maybe because of her unmarried status. This great reversal describes how Jesus would bring down the mighty and support the poor. But most people view their status as less than others and therefore seeing Jesus as helping them as one of the poor. We shun the poor and down and out, but Jesus came to help them out. But we are too proud to help them and think we are above them. In this, we lose the sense of community with others and can put them out of our mind. This speaks of the way we use song to teach about the gospel. (Brian Stevenson wrote a book called Just Mercy that describes our current justice system.) do we have a just system, or is it one that keeps certain people in check. The Jewish were people of the promise and maybe acted in that way. Wealth is a way to live comfortably below our means.

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September 29, 2015 Psalm 25, Colossians 4, Psalm 27 (19)

Lots of Greek names in this passage, Chuck H. did a good job reading them. Onesiamus the freed slave is one of the names.  A question was raised about the gender of Nympha as in most versions Nympha is a woman, but in King James Nympha is a man. Mark said that in the Greek version Nympha is masculine.  This is area where Christians lived in tunnels persecuted by Romans. Paul was a Roman citizen. Tom asked how. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth. Others had to buy their way in or perform some important service to the empire. It was an important thing to be a Roman citizen and it was rare for a Hebrew to be one.  How does Pope Francis relate to Colossians in terms of reaching out to people.  I think that he is following the words of Paul as much as possible. What kind of push back did he have from US bishops. It appears that the most outrage occurred from sexual abuse victims as they interpreted his remarks on Sunday to the bishops in which he said to the bishops and priests in attendance that he felt thir pain. This seemed to signal to the sex abuse victims that he was trivializing the church’s role in responding to the sexual abuse victims. He has not met with them even as much as the previous pope did.  Will there ever be any kind of unity among Catholics and other churches. The consensus was that it would not happen. There was discussion about Catholic practices of not offering the Host to non-Catholics. Dick Trost’s sermon based the outreach of Jesus to all not just the Jews was based on the words of Peter. Paul is usually much more pronounced about preaching that Christ reached out to all, not just to the Jews. Peter, in Rome, was associated with Christians there being Jews, so it is interesting to read Peter’s words about Jesus reaching out to all, not just the Jews.  Paul’s teaching brings Jesus’ teaching to personal relationships as opposed to rules about relationships between individuals and God. Bill say its a problem when we say we are the only answer.

Next time we move to Luke.

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September 22, 2015 Psalm 18:16-32, Colossians 3, Psalm 18:33-50 (18)

We noted the Psalmist saying how good he was and how he followed God, and therefore God would reward him. This kind of writing was very typical of early Psalmists.

Just a little geography this morning before we start our discussion. Colossae is located in southeast Turkey just down the Meander River from Ephesus. It no longer exists as a city. It is not too far from the current city of Perge. The Christians were being persecuted by the Romans in areas not too far from here. Many of the early Christians lived in caves and tunnels as they tried to avoid the Roman Persecutors. So you can see the concerns of these people. Paul was under house arrest in Rome, and he was the principle leader of the non-Jewish Christians. It would be easy to be discouraged and so he would write about how they should live their lives.

Early Christian leaders thought the 2nd coming was imminent and they didn’t always write their thoughts down, but here Paul did write down this change in rules.  As Hal says he wrote how to live in Christ, and this is very like living the  golden rule. How do we think about God. What is our image of God when we pray? How do we think about heaven? Bill poses these questions to us and it prompts all of us to think about what our relationship with God really is all about. Paul says do it thru Christ, meaning that we should live our lives in Christ. This was a counter culture in that day. Pope Francis is suggesting the same kind of things that we live in Christ first and put the laws of the Old Testament in second place.  It seems that this is precisely what Paul was saying. Put on a new set of clothes for our lives, those of Christ, compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, etc. The words Paul gives about our family lives tell us to live with respect for others in our families. All of this is to show these lives lived according to the will of God. We got into a discussion about how God chooses those who will be saved and I don’t think there is a randomness or willfulness about it, but rather almost an idea of you turn away from God by your repeated actions against the will of God.

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September 15, 2015 Psalm 95, Colossians 2, Psalm 18:1-15 (22)

At Gene’s request, we are incorporating Psalms into our schedule, one at the beginning and one at the end. Tom suggested that we follow the schedule used by the monks at the New Melleray Abbey. The link to their schedule is here New Melleray Abbey Psalm Schedule The schedule of Psalms given in the schedule is done according to the Hebrew version, but most of us have the Greek version, so the number is one greater than the one listed.

Early Christians were trying to figure things out about Jesus and who he was and what his ministry was about. Paul was trying to help them out and speak to the problems that were most vexing to each of the churches. They were having troubles in Colossus figuring out whether they needed to follow the Jewish laws and regulations, so in this chapter Paul addresses that question.  Paul says we should not be bound by rules of Sabbath, and other such rules. He talks about emancipation from the law on one hand but on the other hand how orderly your life and faith in Christ is. We discussed the order in our lives and how many of us have a set schedule and when we can’t follow it we become upset. The idea here is that we need to have a discipline and order to guide our faith in Christ. Paul is giving his interpretation of Jesus to the people of the area. Many times we are more interested in hard and fast, black and white rules that we can follow, like the clerk in Kentucky who has the rule about not allowing gay marriage. Yet she ignores other possibly equally relevant rules for her life. How do we decide when we should use civil disobedience to address moral stands on various issues. This is an age old problem, and if we take this tack, we need to take the consequences of our actions from the civil authorities. Look at the many years Desmond TuTu spent in prison for his objection to apartheid. What should we think about euthanasia? Where does the moral line fall between encouraging life and admitting there is no hope of continuing life. Chuck talked about his daughter who had a massive stroke and they decided to cease life support despite her desire to continue life, but she would not have had a real life and would have had an existence of a vegetable. But she was not going to be alive in any real life. What about the role of angel worship that is outlawed here? Does this become the end for many people such as various Catholics. This may be a matter of support for our faith that helps out in situations. Can people use an angel or Mary to intercede in their faith as a helper. Mark made this somewhat cryptic comment that “the most compelling thing about theology is heresy” and I think it means that you study what is meant in theology by studying the things that are labeled heresies. In this chapter, we are looking at the heresies surrounding the thought by some in the early Christian movement that to be a Christian, you first had to be a Jew and that you had to follow the practices of Jews. Paul said that was not the case. However, this was somewhat a contention between Paul and Peter. Peter was in Jerusalem where the church was based on the Jewish people there, while in Colossus, many people became Christians who had not been Jews. We concluded with Psalm 18:1-15.

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September 8, 2015 Colossians 1 (20)

Mark introduced Colossians and said there is always a discussion about whether or not Paul wrote it. One way to look at it is the common words in the book as compared to other books that are known to be written by Paul like Galatians. The evidence is not completely clear. It was thought to be written in the 50’s. Era of gnosticism. Significance of rituals. Discussion of the role of body and how it should be treated. There was a lot of licentiousness among these people. They thought if the body didn’t make any difference to eternal life, you could do anything.  Paul maybe told his secy. to write to this people and he wrote a greeting and summary. There is a real difference in the translations and some are very cumbersome. Tom remarked the OT is similar in the Message but NT is different. Brian thinks the message is more of a commentary and maybe the NT is where Peterson is more adept with his Greek than Hebrew. Curt asked how we can reconcile all of these versions into our orthodoxy. NIV wants to be more literal and possibly more orthodox. Tyndal was persecuted for his translation of the NT and ultimately killed. Look at the difference in the message and NIV in Jude 2. The NIV states “Mercy, peace, and Love be yours in Abundance.” A beautiful phrase. KJV says ” Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.” while the message says “Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; Open your hearts, love is on the way.” and this just doesn’t say it for me like the other versions. Sometimes the way the verses are stated make it come alive and become significant for me. This is certainly the case for me with the NIV statements of verses Colossians 1:15-22. Verses 15-20 is base of the gospel here. Significance of the resurrection is here in this section and it is a strong argument for one god, whether it be called God or Jesus. Verse 21 is also very significant here. Verse 22 says “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation –” but establishes a caveat based on the actions in which he sees the people engaging. Here is the caveat: “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.” You gave here the image of the invisible. Christ is exact likeness of God who can’t be seen. .

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September 1, 2015 I Samuel 28-31 (19)

This was the story of David taking over from Saul and Saul’s death. Discussion about mediums and the witch of Endor. By divine law, mediums and spirituals were banned from Israel in Deuteronomy 18:11 and were not to be defiled by them (Leviticus 19:31). So when Saul brings this to a medium, he indicated he was very distressed to go against this long established principle of God, one more indication of how far Saul had departed from God. The story surprisingly the power of the witch of Endor as when Saul asks her to find Samuel and bring him back from the dead, she does just that. And Samuel then tells Saul there is no hope for him and that he is doomed to die either by the Philistines or himself the next day.  I guess this is an indication of the writers’ belief in mediums or spirituals.  The web site Samuel, Saul and the Witch of Endor states essentially that the author says that “Satan would like nothing more than for people to dabble in the occult world of spiritism and necromancy. God’s commandments regarding these things are designed to protect us from the schemes of our enemy, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).”

What validates God’s presence in our lives. It brings up the discussion of where Is God. Maybe we aren’t pleased with the response. What is the covenant? It is not a contract like we may want it to be. Can we think about how good and bad both happen as part of our lives. God works in mysterious ways. Did Luther say there is no free will, we are bound by sin. The spirit comes to us to strive towards God. We don’t find God, He finds us. It isn’t an absent God but a god we keep striving after. No matter what happens it is what God is willing for us. Saul’s death is one of 4 suicides in the Bible.  What is God’s plan as presented in this story.

Here are some Bible dictionaries’ definitions of Ziklag. Ziklag Definitions There is an interesting reference at the following website: http://www.theschoolofchrist.org/articles/ziklag-the-test-of-kings/   The author, Chip Brogden, makes the point that David makes the point that this story in I Samuel 30 is one of the most severe tests thus far  in David’s life. The Amalekites had invaded the south and burned Ziklag and taken all the women captives including David’s wives  Abigall and Ahinoam. David and all his 600 men were extremely distressed at this disastrous turn of events. The men were so angry that they threatened to take it out on David and stone him. but how did David respond? David asked Abiathar the priest to bring him the ephod and David inquired of the Lord as to whether he should pursue the Amalekites. The Lord answered that he would surely overtake them. David immediately set off and with the help of a defector from the Amalekites found them and destroyed them all slave 400 young men who escaped on camels. David rescued all the women and children who had been  taken.  We had a little discussion about the fact that there had been 200 of the 600 men who were not able to go with to kill the Amalekites and yet David gave them of the spoils of the battle as well. The men were grumbling about it, and David said “What the Lord has given us, we will share with those who stayed behind with the baggage. And furthermore, he made it a rule of Israel from that day on to share the spoils of war with the support folks. Maybe this is like Jesus and his story of the 3 laborers who showed up at different times of the day at the vineyard and nevertheless received the same pay.  Would it be inconvenient if Jesus walked into the room and talked with us. Don’t diminish the spirit that appears to us.

We will do Colossians next with a reading from Psalms as our beginning.

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August 25, 2015 I Samuel 26-27

It is interesting to follow this story, because some Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah and told him where David was hiding and Saul immediately set out to find him but didn’t succeed. Yet a little later, Jonathan easily found David in the area. Maybe they communicated by cell phones, but Saul didn’t have the latest technology. Then later, David goes to Saul’s camp and finds him unguarded but says he will not kill Saul, because Saul is anointed of God to be king. Then later on, David announces to Saul that he has been in his camp and had the opportunity but didn’t kill him. Saul says he will not kill David. Then David moves to the area ruled by the Philistines and settles in but proceeds to act as if he is a terrorist. Achish who allowed him to be in Ziklag  would ask who he had raided. David replied, “Oh, the Negev of Judah, or the Negev of Jerahmeel, or the Negev of the Kenites. These were all towns in Israel, and sow Ashish thought he was creating a problem for himself and would never be able to go back to Israel.He never left a single person alive lest one show up in Gath and tell Achish what David was really doing. Achish wasn’t aware he was raiding the Canaanite people of the area such as the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites.  This would strengthen the appeal to the Isrealites. Here is an interesting reference site that describes what is going on with David and Saul at that time. David, Achish, and Saul

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August 11, 2015, I Samuel 22-23 (16)

Saul appears to be acting in a bipolar manner in that at times, David is a trusted person in his court and at other times, Saul is intent on killing him. Interesting that Saul couldn’t find David, but Jonathan found him quite easily. Doeg killed all the priests and other people at Nob at Saul’s command.  Why did Saul kill all these people. It doesn’t make sense, but then Saul frequently acted out of paranoia and was out of control.  How could God allow this to happen. See I Samuel 2:27-32. There is a big contrast between god talking to David and not intervening to save the priests. Saul started as a good guy but was corrupted over time. Saul is jealous. Is he an archetype of a jealous God. We got into a discussion of a benevolent dictator and the ways in which that works. That appears to be a reason that Donald Trump is so popular today, because he says he will do things immediately. Some people want action and that seems to be lacking in our government today. Why do we take the Old Testament stories more seriously than most of the Jews. Our faith is based on the NT and not the Old Testament today.
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August 4, 2015 I Samuel 20-21 (18)

We discussed 21. The first part was about the consecrated bread and lead to the holiness of the bread and communion. Everything is holy? It may be about matters of respect. How do you treat the holiness of the bible. People were concerned about throwing away lesson inserts as they were part of the bible. Man can’t make something holy. Vs 10-11 he fled from Saul and others thought he was king. And David was afraid of king achish. This a bunch of disconnected stories.

David was going to act on whim but Abigail stopped him. Then Nabal died and David married Abigail. She saved Nabal’s life but god killed him later. Abigail was a woman of wisdom. They didn’t seem to have a concept of the value of life. David wanted some hospitality from Nabal.

Abigail didn’t tell Nabal until the morning of the feast and  Nabal had a heart attack and died ten days later. David’s instinct was to wipe out naval because of the disrespect. What about the hospitality of the Arab people.

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July 28, 2015 I Samuel 18-19 (16)

This begans as a story of the love and friendship between Jonathan and David. The Lutheran Study Bible makes sure that this does not refer to homosexual love. They say that this is the love like that between Jacob and Benjamin and even between Saul and David. They also indicate that the Hebrew verb means the friendship version of love, not the sexual version. It is interesting that Jonathan pledges allegiance to Israel’s future king despite the fact that Jonathan should himself be in line to the throne after his father Saul. It is also rather amazing that despite all of the intrigue between Saul and David, that throughout the next few chapters Jonathan stands by David.

This begins the issue of David’s jealousy when the women praise David for his victories over the Philistines and sing of Saul killing thousands while David kills his 10 thousands.  So obviously, David will have the kingdom because that is the only thing left for him to pursue. Again we hear mention of the Spirit departing from Saul but being with David.  And again, the Lord was with David and therefore David had success in all his undertakings. This is the underpinning of a lot of the religious right that they will be successful if they only court God’s favor. This is the message of the Crystal Cathedral and the preaching of Pastor Schuler.

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July 21, 2015 I Samuel 16-17 (18)

Here right away in chapter 16, God tells Samuel that he has rejected Saul as king and points him to David, Jesse’s son. Yet we go on for several chapters continuinuing to hear the travails of the problems between Saul and David. It appears that God doesn’t have a good way to deal with getting rid of Saul. It is interesting when Samuel comes to Bethlehem the elders come to him trembling and asked if he had come peaceably? Then when Samuel views Jesse’s sons, he chooses the youngest one who has a ruddy appearance and David will follow the principal that there is one God rather than Saul pursuing many gods. It is noted in verse 16:13 that the spirit stays with David. The Lutheran Study Bible notes however that the Spirit comes and goes three times for Samson and twice for Saul. It also says that Samuel’s focus is directed away from Saul’s ruined potential to what God will do through Jesse’s youngest son. Now David was employed in Saul’s service to become his armor-bearer. One of the many twists in the relationship between Saul and David.

Then we get to chapter 17 and the battle between David and Goliath. It must have been interesting to see the armies lined up on separate parts of the valley facing each other and this huge giant of a man challenging to have someone come and fight him rather than the armies fighting each other. It sounds like a western shoot-out!! Goliath’s army weighed over 125 lbs. At that time, duels between representative strongmen were a common way to avoid more widespread bloodshed.  Here again, Saul lost his faith in God’s ability to help Saul win the battle. David compares his ability to fight agains lions and bears who were threatening sheep with his ability to fight Goliath. Here again, even though David had been Saul’s armor bearer, Saul in verse 17:55-56, that he didn’t know who he was. He asked Abner and Abner too and he didn’t know either.

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July 14, 2015 Samuel 15 (17)

Here again, God required total obedience and Saul disobeyed by saving the prime sheep and goats in his battle with the Amalekites. He also saved King Agag. Despite the fact that Saul made a burnt offering to God with the prime sheep and goats he took, God did not see that as a good thing. Here it seems that Saul has tried to appease God by giving him a burnt offering which God has not accepted. In this case, it appears that God didn’t accept it because it was the result of Saul’s disobedience. When Samuel found out he called for King Agag to be br0ght to him and he hacked him to pieces. There are several different translations of how the king felt about meeting Samuel. The Message says that Agag went by dragging his feet and muttering that he would be better off dead. He didn’t know that Samuel thought that as well. In the ASV it says that Agag came cheerfully and thought everything would be ok. KJV has Agag coming delicately and thought the bitterness of death is past. The Lutheran study Bible says the same as ASV, and adds a note that it may also be translated as he came trembling or in fetters and also expresses false confidence about his fate. It seems very strange to see such different translations. After Samuel had hacked the king to death, he told Saul that God would not let him remain king of Israel because of his disobedience. Is this sour grapes on Samuel’s part? He never wanted a king for Israel in the first place. Mark says this is a story that is intended to be told in order to suggest the important role of God in the lives of this small group of people who are trying to accomplish the promise of God and establish themselves in this land. It is interesting that they say they could mount a force of 200,000 men from Israel and 10,000 men of Judah. Steve says that God is being used as an excuse by Israel to suggest a higher being was directing and guiding all their actions. Mark suggested that this book was written about a century after it happened and that maybe verses 34-35 were added to finish out the chapter and the story by putting Samuel in place as the person who heard from God and carried out his command. Mark talked about living your life by rules. He gave as an example dealing with his discretionary fund where he has a rule of not giving more than $250 per year to non-members. But if he hears a good story of a really troubling problem he breaks his rule. Would the God of this story understand or would he insist that Mark follow the rule no matter what? This is a story that deals with the establishment of a nation, namely Israel who had prophets and judges and then finally a king. They had a vision from God about the nation they would create and they built stories that showed how their nationhood was achieved. All of these stories were built around God’s promises, guidance, and commands.

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July 7, 2015 I Samuel 13-14

Today we launched into Saul’s battles with the Philistines. It is an interesting story. In chapter 10 verse 7, Samuel says Saul should go forth and prepare for battle, but to wait for Samuel to give the burnt offering in order to have God’s guidance. But after the initial battle, and while waiting for Samuel, Saul became impatient when Samuel didn’t arrive when he was supposed to, and Saul thought he would lose his people, so he offered the burn offering. When Samuel arrived, he was extremely angry and said that because Saul had not followed his orders, Saul would not serve his whole life as king. Then Saul went into battle, but the other big story is his son Jonathon. Saul told his troops that they should not eat until they had defeated the philistines. Jonathon had not heard this and he saw some honey on the ground and ate it and then he got a great idea to go up to make battle with the Philistines. He made a deal with his armor bearer that depending on what the Philistines said they would either charge or hold back. The word came and they charged and killed 20 men just like that. This led to a rout of the Philistines. When Saul found out that Jonathon had disobeyed, he said Jonathon would have to stand for the punishment which was death. But the troops rose up and said this was a foolish oath because they had been too hungry to fight. Saul can’t win even when he tries to do the right thing. But as Mark kept pointing out, this is Samuel’s book and his writers are going to show him in the best light. There was also the issue of the Hebrews fighting with the Philistines at first against the Israelites. Then when they saw things going against them, they left the Philistines and fought with the Israelites. I guess they were sort of mercenaries. I think this is a story about the fight between two powerful men who wanted to show their power. However, Saul needed a better publicist to get his version across. But in the whole set of events, Saul was always at the edge of God’s will. He hurried the priest in his blessing, and he made rash judgments.

Mark talked about the source document theory. Namely that the J source is full of factual details about the event such as is seen in Genesis 1, while the P source is more poetic and flowing like Genesis 2. Here is a link to a reference about the source theory: JEDP Source Theory

Bill’s question in all this is whether this is to be treated as an interesting story as Rabbi Portman  suggested, or does this provide some lessons for life and how we should live our lives in God. If so this suggests a sort of unbalanced view of the necessity of obedience to God in our lives.

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June 30, 2015 I Samuel 11-12 (19)

Tis was the first action of Saul that cemented his rule in place. In Ch. 12, we have Samuel recounting his history and still says it is evil that the people wanted a king. John raised the issue of the SCOTUS decision to legislate morality. This is a free country Mark said. Mark doesn’t think they are doing thus. This led to various so called religious freedom laws that says companies can discriminate on the basis of the religious views of the owner. We discussed the separation of church and state.

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June 23, 2015 Samuel 10:09-37 (15)

Samuel anointed Saul as king. Saul was reluctant to be king and tried to hide from Samuel, but it is hard to hide when you are as big as he was. Gene asked why the Benjamites were chosen as the source of king. Saul prophesized and it would be interesting to know what he said. John said the woman who identified the killer from Charleston said God was absent during the killing. We talked quite a bit about the killing in S.C. And the discrimination that is still very prevalent there. Steve asked if Saul had a flag since we talked a lot about the confederate flag. Where was god? Is he just there when it agrees with our belief. It is difficult to attribute certain actions that god does or doesn’t do or is responsible for accomplishing. The bible encourages us to gain wisdom and that may be what we should be seeking. There are consequences of our actions but where does forgiveness fall in what happens to someone like the shooter in SC. Does it help our own mental health. Was god present or was it evil or the devil in South Carolina. Is God available to be with us in times of need, and not in control of things that happen. Gene talked about God being ever present, but sometimes we don’t recognize his presence and we can’t always understand his actions. Does God actually control our lives, or does God provide a means of dealing with the circumstances that come our way. An important aspect of the shooting in South Carolina was the way survivors and family and close friends feel about the shooter. One said that he had taken so much from her but she forgave him. Mark says there are consequences of our actions and that might be the death penalty for the Mr. Roof. But then how should we feel about him? Can we ever forgive him or is that what God wants us to do. Is it only the downtrodden that do this, like deeply religious African-Americans or the Amish, or should we all feel that way?

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June 16, 2015, Samuel 9-10:8 (16)

Samuel met Saul and named him the new king. You could see the hand of God in this story. Saul was seeking to find his father’s donkeys and had traveled along way from home. His servant said he should consult the seer to aid him in his search. Samuel was the seer and invited Saul to his special dinner that he held when he was in the town. Samuel went from town to town as the judge for the people. He instructed his servant to give Saul the best piece of meat and then anointed Saul with olive oil to make him the leader of the people. Samuel met Saul and named him the new king. Talking about the stature of Saul, Mark asked how tall we were when we were younger. He mentioned that Samuel was the seer. John said that the donkeys led Saul to Samuel according to a commentary from the Bible Hub. Saul was tall and commanding among his peers. If you are doing relational work you need to have a magnetic personality. What other leadership characteristics did Saul have. Samuel as the seer went from town to town the people would know when he was coming. Saul was initially reluctant to take on the job. How do we deal with the challenges of job change. You wonder how Saul dealt with the challenge of taking over the leadership of the nation of Israel. We got into a discussion of why we join a church and how we then fit into that community. How did Saul then begin to fit in with the people and assume the leadership of the people and was anointed to lead the people.

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June 9, 2015 Samuel 7:3-8 (17)

The Israelites got the ark back and then they vanquished the Philistines with the help of God. They are still are going after foreign gods during the lifetime of Samuel. The judges made up rules and laws as they went, even though laws like the ten commandments and codes like that of Hammurabi had existed since 1750 BCE. They wanted a king maybe because Samuels sons were corrupt and the people were not willing to continue under the judges. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and they observed how the Philistines and others prospered under their kings. They didn’t observe the problems kings caused. The judges were closely associated with the religious aspect of the people.
Source theory tracks Samuel from his mothers prayer thru Eli from one source, then another source describes Samuel as a judge, then yet another  source describes the beginning of the kings, Saul and then David. God seems to be woven in and out of their history at this time. God told Samuel to warn the people about the bad things kings can do to a people. Despite Samuel’s warnings the people wanted the king. They felt they were a bunch of unstructured tribes and needed unity to deal with their neighbors, and since all of the neighbors had kings they wanted one too.  God told Samuel to warn the people about kings but then at the end of chapter 8 he says give the people what they want. Ch 8 is sort of praying thru a problem. Mark raised the question of “Who is the authority in my life?” It prompts me to think about that. In that regard, I responded to a survey on global warming yesterday and it prompted me to ask myself if I am doing things that really reflect my views about global warming. The question about who is the authority in my life prompts me to think the same way about God in my life.  And at the time of Samuel, the people see and did what is right in their own eyes, but when people get their way maybe the choices are not always right. Many people today think that they should be able to do, say, and act as if their’s is the only opinion that matters, no matter what this may do to others. This is a very self centered approach. We questioned the number of men in the army, as 400,000. It seems like a huge number to raised by a bunch of nomadic tribes.  We got into a discussion about anger. Be angry., but do not sin. Anger is the luxury of normal people, is a  principle of AA. Several people in our group are angry at one thing or another at this point and it is important that we help them deal with the issues with our prayers and our support in other ways as well.
We briefly go into a discussion about the issues between Islam and Christianity. Living in an essentially Old Testament world as the Muslims and Jews do puts them into an environment of hearing God telling them to vanquish their enemies and slaughtering them all as ISIS is doing. Jesus turned that around with his revolutionary teachings. As Gene says, Jesus is the important God in his life. Christianity is a strange amalgam of the OT and its stories contrasted with  Jesus’ teachings.
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June 2, 2015 Samuel 4-7:2 (15)

This is a story about a failure of the Israelites to overcome the Philistines. It is an important story about death and birth, with Eli, and both of his sons dying and Phineas’ wife gave birth after she found out that both Phineas and his brother Hophni had died at the hands of the Philistines. The Israelites set out under the leadership of Hophni and Phineas to defeat the Philistines. They thought that if they had the ark of the covenant with them they would be certain to win the battle. So they directed it to be brought, and the Philistines were very afraid and said we will have to fight our best to overcome the Israelites with the ark. It worked like a motivational speech to a football or basketball team and the Philistines defeated the Israelites and killed 30,000 men that day including Phineas and Hophni. Their evilness in the holy places and their presumption that the ark would bring them victory were probably behind God not supporting them.

The Philistines then found the arc was not a good thing for them as it caused tumors in the people of Ashdod so they passed it to the other cities and the same thing happened so they said the gods of Israel are too powerful and we need to give it back, so they made 5 golden mice and 5 golden tumors and put it on a cart to go back to Beth-Shemish. Hal said that some scholars think that the disease was the Bubonic plague, hence the mouse or rats and the tumors. The Levites took charge of the Ark at that point when it got to Beth-shemish. It is interesting that although the Philistines thought the god of the Israelites was super powerful, they did not convert or begin to worship God. God seemed to abandon them in battle, but then came to bring disease to their enemies.

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Christianity Face to Face with Islam

We talked about the essay on Islam. The following link from the www. firstthings.com website will let you see the article. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/01/001-christianity-face-to-face-with-islam This source tries to be politically neutral with respect to  Islam, it is a good work if you avoid committing a sin. Can Islam continue to grow despite the limits on personal freedoms? Will that rise up to bite them. A friend of John’s said Islam is the perfect religion with its five pillars. The five pillars are included below. Briefly, they are
1. Profession of faith.
2. Prayer
3. Almsgiving
4. Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan
5.  the pilgrimage to Makkah

Tom’s test on the article:

1. Name the Biblical figure/person who forms the common basis of Christianity and Islam.
2. Rank these religions in terms of their age of existence.
A. Islam
B. Judaism
C. Christianity
3. What to Muslims believe is wrong with Christianity
4. Complete the following phrase which Muslims regularly recite.
“There is no god but God and ________ is his messenger.”
5. What is geographically remarkable about the parts of the world that are today majority Muslim, as compared to the parts of the world that are majority Christian?
6. There are more Muslims than Christians in the world today.
A. True
B. False
7. Which prophet is most frequently named in the Quoran (Koran)?

Bonus Questions (from John)

8. According to Islam, what age was the prophet Noah when he was called to prophecy?
9. Adam is a prophet of Islam.
A. True
B. False
10. What do puritanism and Islam have in common?
11. Multiple choice. Which of the following beliefs are not shared by Christianity?
A. the Oneness of God
B. Original Sin
C. Te day of resurrection
D. Life after death
E. The virgin birth of Jesus

(key to quiz below)

5 pillars of Islam

Shahadah, profession of faith, is the first pillar of Islam. Muslims bear witness to the oneness of God by reciting the creed “There is no God but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This simple yet profound statement expresses a Muslim’s complete acceptance of and total commitment to Islam.

Salah, prayer, is the second pillar. The Islamic faith is based on the belief that individuals have a direct relationship with God. The world’s Muslims turn individually and collectively to Makkah, Islam’s holiest city, to offer five daily prayers at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening. In addition, Friday congregational service is also required. Although salah can he performed alone, it is meritorious to perform it with another or with a group. It is permissible to pray at home, at work, or even outdoors; however it is recommended that Muslims perform salah in a mosque.

Zakat, almsgiving, is the third pillar. Social responsibility is considered part of one’s service to God; the obligatory act of zakat enshrines this duty. Zakat prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim’s possessions for the welfare of the entire community and in particular for its neediest members. It is equal to 2.5 percent of an individual’s total net worth, excluding obligations and family expenses.

Sawm, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, is the fourth pillar of Islam. Ordained in the Holy Qur’an, the fast is an act of deep personal worship in which Muslims seek a richer perception of God. Fasting is also an exercise in self-control whereby one’s sensitivity is heightened to the sufferings of the poor. Ramadan, the month during which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, begins with the sighting of the new moon, after which abstention from eating, drinking and other sensual pleasures is obligatory from dawn to sunset. Ramadanis also a joyful month. Muslims break their fast at sunset with a special meal, iftar, perform additional nocturnal worship, tarawih, after evening prayer; and throng the streets in moods that are festive and communal. The end of Ramadan is observed by three days of celebration called Eid Al-Fitr, the feast of the breaking of the fast. Customarily, it is a time for family reunion and the favored holiday for children who receive new clothing and gifts.

Hajj, the pilgrimage to Makkah, is the fifth pillar and the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity in the world. For those Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey to Makkah, the Hajj is a once in a lifetime duty that is the peak of their religious life. The Hajj is a remarkable spiritual gathering of over two million Muslims from all over the world to the holy city. In performing the Hajj, a pilgrim follows the order of ritual that the Prophet Muhammad performed during his last pilgrimage.


Key to quiz: 1. Abraham; 2. B, C, A; 3. the Trinity, not just one god; 4. Mohammad; 5. Islam is clustered around the equator in African and Asia and the middle east, Christianity is in north and south America, and Europe as well as southern Africa; 6. False; 7. Mohammad.; 8. 480; 9. true; 10. strict moral code; 11. b, they believe man is tainted but don’t subscribe to the idea of original sin as in Judaism and Christianity.

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May 26, 2015, Samuel 2:12-3 (17)

Chuck says Hannah’s prayer is in the form of a psalm. Was Elkanah upset with the lords visit to Hannah when she got pregnant, or is just the use of words here? The Lord said Eli’s two sons were destined to die because of their evil because the sons stole from the burnt offerings. The Chinese are more practical as their offerings go to the priests and the poor.  We have problems here with corruption in the temple. The priests had to be fed from the offerings. How else were they supported. Samuel was sent to be trained by Eli to be a priest even though Eli had failed with his own sons. It was all set up as a kosher offering and the two sons used the three pronged fork to defile it. Samuel means name of god. Chuck V. Related how at his wife’s death the nurse related how warm the auto around here was as opposed to the coldness that offends death. Chuck T related how his daughter in her illness awakened him one night with a glow about her and said she felt the prayers surround her. Mark said that when kidneys shut down strange things frequently happen to the body, but people report emotional things happen as their loved one died. When the lord says Eli should restrain his sons, but what should he have done. Isn’t is very hard to control your sons or daughters as they mature? Were their misdeeds really Eli’s fault, and if so, why did God entrust Samuel to Eli’s instruction?

We talked about the essay on Islam. The following link will let you see the article. http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/01/001-christianity-face-to-face-with-islam This source tries to be inn Islam, it is a good work if you avoid committing a sin. Can Islam continue to grow despite the limits on personal freedoms. Will that rise up to bite them. A friend of johns said Islsm is the perfect religion with its five pillars. Include Toms test.


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May 19, 2015 Samuel 1-2 (19)

Today we move into Samuel which is the prelude to the era of kings of Israel. It is the intermediate place between the era of judges and kings. Mark indicated that this probably occurred sometime around 1020 BCE but was not written down until the seventh century BCE  The books of Samuel are part of the Deuteronomistic history, a series of books, namely, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings that constitute a theological history of the Israelites. Jewish tradition was supposedly written by Samuel but was composed in the period 630-540 by combining a number of independent texts of various ages. Samuel was the last of the judges and it is interesting that he is a descendent of Korach who led a revolt against Moses. It, of course, did not succeed and Moses crushed it modestly. There was not a real revolt against Samuel other than the people demanding a king ultimately. In some sense, you could say that Samuel put Israel together after years of just being separate tribes each going their own way. Samuel’s father was Elkanah who was one of the most wealthy and respected members of the Levite tribe. His mother Hannah was childless for many years and was a modest and god fearing woman. She was a prophetess and made a promise that if God gave her a child, she would dedicate him to God. He would grow up as a nazarite, not unlike Samson’s mother had done. When she became pregnant she prayed the wonderful prayer of praise that appears in Samuel chapter 2. Samuel came at a critical time in Jewish history. During the period of the judges, the people in the 12 tribes were divided and were sometimes fighting each other, witness what we read about how the tribe of Dan was disciplined in Judges. The Philistines, the enemies of the Jews, took advantage of the situation and attacked the Jews. The holy town of Shiloh where the sanctuary was located was destroyed. As we read in Judges, the people did what they wanted to without much regard for Israel and they adopted the Gods of the people like the Philistines. This took them away from God. Islam discusses the judge prophet Samuel, but not by name and says that he was influential in naming Saul as king of Israel. Elkanah had two wives and Hannah was childless. She was scorned by his other wife who made things very difficult for Hannah. We discussed the whole issue of childless women today and in some sense how sensitive the writers at that time were to the plight of Hannah. Today, there is much more acceptance of women who either choose not to have children or who may not be able to have children, but in the days of Samuel, it was important for many reasons for women to have children, not the least of which was the economic reasons. It seems that there are lots of themes that get carried out in this Deuteronomist tradition, one of them being that women are childless until God decides to give them a child who will become an important leader, witness, Sarah and Abraham, Samson, John the Baptist, and not Samuel. We had a short discussion about religions and Tom noted that about 1/3 of the world’s population are Christians, while 1/5th of them are Muslim. Supposedly, Christians hold the largest amount of wealth, about 55%, while Muslims hold about 6%. To repeat Mark’s point about who does the publicity for someone, Samuel had some devoted people that did a good job of enhancing his role in the life of the Israelites.

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May 12, 2015 Judges 17-20 (18)

Today, we finished Judges, a weird book and one that we will always wonder what the purpose was of including it. Maybe to account for a period of time and to prepare for the coming of the age of kings for Israel. It lasted about 100 years and was marked by periods of seeming lawlessness and disregard for the God of Israel.

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May 5, 2015 Judges 16

Today we discuss chapter 16, the story of Samson ad Delilah. Earlier, there was mention that God was somehow using Samson’s affair with Philistine women for some good purpose, other than u.timately killing many of them when he pulled down the building in which they were ridiculing Samson and his God,I can think of no good reason to do this.  Didn’t Samson understand how bad Delilah was For him?  I guess he was blinded by her charms long before they pulled his eyeballs out. I guess the moral of 5his story is to not become infatuated with someone from the emeny, which enemy you are trying to defeat. For all the power God gave Samson, it seems to be one of many failed judgeships. It can be characterized as many things in Judges are, “and every man did as he chose.”


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April 28, 2015 Judges 13-15

this is the story of Samson. Of major interest here are the differences between Japhthath’s birth. Japhthath was a son of a harlot and had to fight for respectibility. Samson was born in an Agawam and Sarah typy of circumstance where an angel of the Lord came to her and told her how she should comport herself. She was told, just like the young women of today, that that should not drink wine or eat any unclean food to preserve the child. Samson would not cut his hair and would be like a Nazerite to the Lord. There were some interesting back and forth about the wife Samsung wanted to take because she was a Philistine. But the Lord told his parents he was leading him by using the Philistine woman. Then there were some strange happenings where the father of the girl gave his daughter to Samaon’s companion and wanted to give Samson his younger daughter Ala Jacob and Laban. There are just lots of parallels here to make Samson to be a real patriarch of the people In the fashion of Abraham or Jacob. Of  rse we can’t forget Samson killing a thousand Philistine withthejawboneof an ass, and then getting a sweet drink from thejawbone. Also we must remember hi killing the lion and the bees and honey appearing in it.these were astrangesetofcircumstancesal,planned to show him to be a strong leader. 

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April 21, 2015 Judges 10-12 (17)

Mark asked professors at Wartburg Seminary how to sum up Judges. They said look at the last verse. In the last verse, it says in those days there was no king and everyone did what they felt was right. AL brought up the Luke passage that mentioned broiled fish and thought that sounded terrible. This was a description of the battles of Jephthah who was a sort of hired gun. Jephthah vowed to God if he would give him the victory he would kill the first being that came out to meet him. Jephthah’s daughter was the first to meet him. She asked for a 2 month reprieve to mourn her virginity with her girl friends. It then became a tradition for  girls have a 4 day commemoration of Jephthah each year. Human sacrifice was not part of the Israelite tradition and some commentaries say Jephthah kept his daughter in isolation, maybe she was the first nun. Despite it being against God’s will to do human sacrifice, God appeared to agree with the promise and gave Jephthah the victory. Afterwards, the people of Ephraim said Jephthah should have included them, but Jephthah said he tried and there was no response, so he ended up killing 42,000 soldiers from Ephraim when they came to get him. It is interesting that Jephthah had just one daughter, but the judges who came after him had 20-60 sons and daughters and they all rode donkeys. It must have been a status symbol of some kind.

Is there a meaning to the numbers used in this text. Mark suggested that there is a martyrdom of the Christians in the near east and east. Possibility it is a martyrdom of the western world.

Communication is much better today and it makes it easier to broadcast minority opinions and terrorist attacks and others join in the fight because of insults and affront from others. Do we want vengeance today just like the terrorists do.

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April 14, 2015, Judges 9 (20)

Chuck is going home from the hospital this week. Gideon had died and immediately the people turned to Baal. ( Ch. 8) what a graphic story!! Gideon had 70 children because he had many wives. Jerubbaal (who was Gideon) had expected that his sons who numbered 70 would rule after him, However, Abimelech went to the people of Shechem and said, “Would you rather be ruled by the 70 sons of Gideon or by me since Gideon was my father as well Abimelech was a servant’s son and seems to be a strange choice to succeed Gideon. The USA has not had a tradition of beheading like France and England and the middle east. Milling grain was woman’s work and thus a woman could handle a millstone. Even though Abimelech had his aide kill him it is still the case 3200 years later we still read he was killed by a woman. But at the end it is credited to God to rout the evil. The whole parable of the trees may illustrate the Peter principle and the leader becomes unproductive. We had a discussion about church mergers and the differences in culture between them. Here is the way that Abimelech consolidated power. Frank talked about a program on Iowa culture on Iowa public radio. In this chapter a man seized power, tried to exercise power, failed and god requited the people as evil. Why did the author attribute the saving of the people to God? Mark said when he has made mistakes and hurt people,  he throws himself on grace rather than on the sword. It allows us to live with ourselves and our mistakes. The struggle is with how much of our history of the church is really part of our history. We continue to struggle with the relevance of stories like these as being part of our heritage in some way.

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April 7, 2015 Judges 7-8 (17)

The life and battles of Gideon. What about the dream that foretold Gideon’s victory. It is always interesting how dreams get interpreted. Why fight with 300 against the masses  of the Midianites. It seems quit improbable but the story is intended to show the might of God. Your disobedience doesn’t make God unfaithful. There is a lot of friendly fire among the Midianites  and the camels stampede to defeat them. Camels tend to be nasty beasts anyway, and don’t make good pets. I can see them rebelling against their bosses. The Midianites were a roaming people who were marauders and roamed in the area, so Gideon was protecting the ag interests in the area. Even the people who drink like dogs were those selected to defeat the Midionites. Or maybe the people who lapped like doges were keeping an eye out for the enemy while they were drinking. Thus they were more vigilant and thus were the better soldiers. The tribal system served to separate the people and they tended to not communicate with each other. Tom told about people in NE Russia who counted their wealth in reindeer but couldn’t eat them or use them as well. In chapter 8 Gideon tries to get help from other Jewish tribes people and were refused so Gideon promised retribution. He then killed the people of Penuel and slew the men of the city. Chuck is doing better.

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March 31, 2015 Judges 6 (Fleece Prayer) (19)

Fleece prayer was where Gideon put god to the test. Asher (or Asherof) pole is indicator of where altar of Baal was located. Henny Youngman said “Jewish holidays are all alike they try to kill us they failed so let’s eat.” It was 7 years after Deborah to Gideon. The people were seduced into the religion of the Mideonites which was a sex religion. Baal was a fertility cult with religious prostitutes. This interaction is there are consequences for your deeds. God could have shown them how to leave peacefully with their neighbors like the pilgrims. Why didn’t He?
Why fleece prayer special? Some people have made it into a sign that if an unusual thing happened then something else happens that is a sign from God. How will our society of of sex get changed? Maybe we will be given over to ISIS. We persist in turning a blind eye to the prevalence of sex in our society. We got into a conversation about Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders as a symbol of sex in our society. What happens in our communities as a result of these shows. Why does the society in Amsterdam not lead to a society of objectivication of women? Jesus was a victim of the system. And so he prayed that he might not have to be crucified, but left that up to God the Father to decide.
Here are a couple of references to fleece prayer: http://www.gotquestions.org/prayer-fleece.html   http://www.brandonweb.com/sermons/sermonpages/judges3.htm  Flipping coins to determine God’s will as a fleece: https://924jeremiah.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/all-about-fleeces-asking-god-for-a-sign:
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March 24, 2015, Judges 4-5 (22)

Rabbi Jeff Portman visited us today. We always enjoy having Rabbi Portman with us to give us the Jewish perspective on what is being described in the Old Testament.

Judges were active around 1200 to 1000, although some say they were around for 400 years rather than just the 200 years indicated bove. Judges is part of the writings describing what was happening with the prophets somewhat less important than the Torah but more than the songs and poetry of Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc.

Deborah must have been a very strong charismatic woman to be a leader at the time. Chapters 4 and 5 really show women having prominent roles in the life of the Israelites at that time.

How did God speak to the people at the time differently then than now. We don’t really know because so many of the good and powerful things that happened then are attributed to God, but we really don’t know if it really happened in that way.  There are different theologies represented in different books which means there is a different interpretations. In some we see the idea that God rewards you for doing good and punishes you for evil, but in others, good people have bad things happen to them, while evil people prosper. Did John Smith have fresh wisdom from God when he wrote the Book of Mormon that indicates God was speaking to John. Jeff says right behavior is more important than right belief. Rabbi Portman says he welcomes the struggle with scripture. It enhances his understanding and faith.

John read from a source that suggests that the writers of Judges may have embellished a squabble between two tribes in a small area into a major war. Deborah calling upon 10,000 men to go to battle sounds like a major war but may be exaggerated and obviously the number may be an “in the ballpark” estimate . We get different stories from different people who supposedly saw the same thing.

The Jewish exegesis of the scriptures is to take the scriptures and see how things today are fulfilling the words of a prophet or to shed some light on what our behavior today should be. Someone else would write a different account of our discussion this morning than I have. Jews recognize the Masoretic text as the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism, but they certainly have other versions as well.

Different aspects of the battle between chapter 4 and 5 are described. There is an incredible richness of the description and comparison between the prose and poetic version of the times. The role of women as leaders is certainly important here. Rabbi Portman says he doesn’t say too much about God, but rather it is up to us how we lead our lives and we use the scriptures as well as the role of God there to help shape our behavior.

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March 17, 2015 Judges 2-3 (15)

Most people think judges was written in the 5th century BC. The events described happened somewhere in between the twelveth and tenth century BC. The commentaries note that when the people go away from God, they are called Israelites, while when they are with God they are children of Israel. We discussed hero’s as leaders but noted that many heros have worts. The word judges were some tribes people who became leaders. When you mingle the value systems there can be problems. The Israelites face the problems like all people and they needed people to sort out their disputes and some of these became very important leaders as well. Bill brought up the notion of priests from Samuel. Where were they during judges. What happens when the culture requires us to sacrifice our children? This was happening in the religion of Baal and Ashertof. We got into the promiscuity of today. What does it mean about our society? Is it wrong that we value some teachings of scripture more than others. For example, our lives today pretty much deny that adultery is a sin. Does convenience and our happiness trump our fidelilty?  We got into the promiscuity of today. What about the Bachelor? Curt says divorce and marriage happens long before the actual legal proceedings happen.

There was an interesting opinion piece in the NYT about the US being a Christian nation. The link to it is http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/a-christian-nation-since-when.html?_r=0

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March 10, 2015 Judges 1 (19)

Joshua and Jesus spelled the same in Greek. Judges starts with a couple of prologues and 2 epilogs. Mark talked about Huntington as the first president of the continental congress. In Judgs, they cut off big toes and thumbs to prevent the captured kings from wielding weapons or running. The scripture writers wrote history after the fact to give God the credit. The Israelites were  ruled by the patriarchs but they now no longer were there and so they turned to judges to rule Israel. Note that old gezers come from v 19. They didn’t kill off everyone but made some slaves. The Israelites tried to assimilate people in some cases rather than kill them. This, however, sometimes led to serious problems. It may have been somewhat like the immigrant problem today.

How did it feel to be enslaved in Egypt and then be freed and how would they react to being in charge. Human genetics found rare diseases because of inter marriage in these tribes of the Negeb. Why are we surprised at the violence of ISIS but that is the way it  has been for a long time. The judges took over to accomplish a limited task of moving into an area. Joshua took over the promised land but this Era happened after that and there is a lack of leadership. They wrote this in 1000 BC and attributed much of what happened was due to God and his promises. These judges had the job of settling disputes among the people. Why did the people attribute activity to god. The constitution encapsulates our belief system and the supreme court interprets it for us. The judges back then had more leadership roles. God did good things through judges like Ehud, Gideon, Deborah, Samson, as well as some other individuals. Judges chronicles the moral decay that afflicted Israel and led to its oppression, at time recording shocking events. We can use these events as a warning against spriitual indifference and the moral decay that stalks our lives today. The providential decided. Next week Judges 2 and 3. The invention of lying is a movie.

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March 3, 2015 Matthew 28 (17)

This morning was a very icy drive for all of us. Chuck Traw didn’t make it till almost 7 am. I had to wait for 30 cars to get on highway 1. But we all made it ok. Today is our last day on Matthew. We had a discussion about the women at the tomb and exactly what happened. each of the gospels tell it a little differently. John says Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and He told her not to touch him as he had not ascended to the Father yet.  All versions have Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Sometimes He appeared to either Mary or the disciples at the tomb, but most did not. I am sure there was a lot of confusion at that time, and as Mark keeps telling us, the Bible is not a DVR recording everything exactly as it happened. Matthew frequently discusses aspects of his ministry for Jewish Christians. Thus he is more interested in telling them about how different this ministry of Jesus was from that of the Jews. It is significant to him that Jesus was crucified for our sins. It is of lesser importance to him that Jesus rose from the dead, witness the shortness of chapter 28 as compared with 26 and 27 about the events leading up to the Crucifixion and the crucifixion. However, the resurrection of Jesus sets him apart from all of the other Messiah wannabes that were preaching at that time. Vatican 2 raised the stakes on Easter. The word for Easter comes from Origin of the Word Easter: This mythical figure is said to have been the goddess of the sunrise and the spring. She is the Teutonic goddess of the dawn. The direction of the sunrise, East, is named for her. In Norse mythology, the name is spelled Eostare. Another considered the Norse/Saxon goddess of spring is Ostara. Eastre is believed to be an ancient word for spring. – See more at: http://www.allabouthistory.org/origin-of-the-word-easter-faq.htm#sthash.7aMu1u6I.dpuf

Both Jews and Muslims recognize Jesus as a great prophet. The Muslims even recognize that he ascended into heaven.  But they also say that Mohammed ascended into heaven as did a number of people who claimed to be prophets in their sect would have ascension stories, usually to receive instructions from God for their people. http://religionresearchinstitute.org/Mohammad/ascension.htm

We talked about various Easter remembrances and experiences that people had as they were growing up. Gene talked about playing his coronet at Easter. Norm about the Japanese experience at Easter. They had all climbed a high hill before dawn to see the sunrise. Bob said that all of Saddam Hussain’s staff were Christians because he didn’t trust the Muslims. Mark noted that Luther was more interested in the incarnation of Jesus as opposed to his resurrection.

Next week we go to Judges!

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February 24, 2015 Matthew 27 (17)

Lost Boys will be preparing and serving the soup supper for Lenten services tomorrow evening. Curt is in charge of the volunteers. There will be 3 soups available, namely, chili, venison chili, and chicken noodle soup.

Today we read another long chapter from Matthew about the events leading up to the death of Jesus. We started out by discussing John’s article about whether or not the church is sexist. Is this just a way of distracting us from the gospel? Mark said we should address God in the way most helpful to each individual. He also said that the discussion of the language in the 70’s and early 80’s most ended with the use of the apostolic language of books like Matthew.

The phrase in Matthew 27:51-54 that says the saints or holy people were raised from the dead and came out of their graves when Jesus died and went into Jerusalem with the resurrection was interesting. I don’t think this appears in the other gospels. What did they do while Jesus was in the grave? Jesus himself didn’t appear in Jerusalem right away in public, so this seems really strange. There are several commentaries at the following link that discuss these verses. http://biblehub.com/matthew/27-52.htm They all sound a little far-fetched to me.

Finally, we got to a discussion of Judas. John and Mark pointed out a discussion by Schweitzer where Judas was not trying to betray Jesus by pointing him out to the high priests, but rather facilitating Jesus to display himself as the Messiah who would lead the revolution against Rome. Judas was probably part of the Zealots group along with Simon. He also was probably a Judean, in contrast to the rest of the disciples who were from Galilee. The urban folks including Judas probably looked down on the fishermen and other common people who were the disciples and Judas probably j0ined the 12 because he thought Jesus really was powerful as evidenced by his miracles and could be expected to lead the revolution against Rome and when Jesus entered Jerusalem in a triumphant parade on Palm Sunday, this would further this thought in Judas. I suppose one could say that Judas accepted the 30 pieces of silver that he accepted would go into the disciples treasury to pay for whatever needs the revolution would have. When things all started to go wrong, and Jesus was headed for an ignoble death on the cross, Judas said this isn’t my plan at all. A link to this type of thinking is found in the Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies article entitled “Why Did Judas Betray Jesus?” http://www.thenazareneway.com/holy_week/why_did_judas_betray.htm This article says that Judas was disappointed in the direction Jesus’ teachings had gone recently and thought Jesus must pay for this deception. However, the events of Jesus before Pilot and the high priests convinced Judas that he had made a grievous mistake. Another reference that might interest us is at the following link: http://www.gotquestions.org/Judas-betray-Jesus.html

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February 17, 2015 Matthew 26 (16)

Matthews passion of Jesus. Was Peter denying Christ an unforgivable sin. Schweitzer says Judas was treasurer and maybe Judas was concerned about Jesus not delivering on his promise. How did Peter recover from his denials. What about Judas asking if it was he? Jesus replied you have said so. In some versions it says “Yes it is you.” If Jesus knew it was going to happen was Judas destined to do this betrayal. Did Judas have free choice not to do it, or was he destined from birth to be the fall guy of the disciples. All the disciples went away from him. Jesus said I will deny before my father all those who deny me. Why didn’t Jesus deny his disciples, rather than make all of them Apostles to carry on His ministry?  In Luke Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the ear. When you deny the Holy Spirit you don’t allow God access to your spirit. This is the unforgivable sin. The problem is not blind ignorance, but rather willful rejection. Blasphemy against the Spirit is an ongoing attitude of rebellion. Blasphemy against the Spirit is something being done deliberately and unrelentingly in the present. This represents a defiant rejection of everything Christian.

John G. submitted the following link to a sermon by Luther on the text we read today. “ol Martin may have believed in short prayers, but evidently not short sermons:


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February 10, 2015, Matthew 25 (16)

AL talked about the law from Corinthians and from lessons Sunday. Jesus came to free us from the law. We create bondage for ourselves. Gene says the Vatican has enacted laws to enrich themselves. We raise children with boundaries and consequences. Are we just doomed to continually enact laws about behavior.
Here we are talking about Jesus second coming. Have lots of oil in preparation for the end. This passage prompts us to give to charity but have we been led astray by people  taking advantage of us when we give. Make a difference in the world while we are waiting for Jesus to come. When we take advantage of a situation are we doing wrong, for example, a vending machine that gives us 2 bottles of pop rather than the one we paid for. Discussion of Sally Mason salary. It is in the culture. Jesus brought us all in. Jesus was to die for all of us. Lots of judgement here. Is this a contradiction to the concept that salvation comes by grace. Christ came to save all of us but how do we match that up with this text. Do the Catholics have it right in individual confessions and then being offered a path to get back to a right relationship with God. Baptism frees us from shackles of sin like an extortionist getting out of a straight jacket and chains. Matthew and peter are saving the institution of the church while Paul is following the path of evangelism. Therefore they offer different messages.

The message of Matthew is sometimes difficult to decipher. why is it important to double what the master has given you. It seems that the third servant who buried his talent should have known that would not be a good thing to do just because of what he said about the master reaping where he didn’t sow, etc. I think this is a reference to the cleverness that is prized by the Jews. And why didn’t the so-called wise virgins share of their oil. Maybe the bride groom could have been on time or helped them out too. I guess the message that we are supposed to be always prepared and not take the message any further. Matthew is really focusing on the second coming in this chapter, and therefore that becomes his message that must be taken from what has been said, not necessarily other aspects of it.


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January 20, 2014 Matthew 22 (18)

The host was to provide a wedding garment and if someone comes and refuses to wear the garment he insults the host. We had a discussion of wedding practices. Mark has a practice of agreeing to marry only couples from the church he is serving, so has turned down a former parishner of his who is now in California. He asked our advice, but didn’t get much response. Chuck brought up the Ohio bomber who had been baptized but became Muslim. Is he still baptized. Yes!! We then talked about excommunication and how it affects an individual. But Jesus said we should seek out these people to save them. Even after excommunication, people become like the tax collectors in Jesus’ day and should be sought out and cared for.

The discussion about whether you should pay taxes or not may be about separation of church and state. God provided government to keep order and we need to support that.

Pharisees believe in resurrection but it is a sort of preservation of matter. There was a discussion of science and Tom talked about gene editing. Matthew pushes the point that heaven is how we treat each other. It is not necessary a place we go after death Matthew is the only one that talks about the Kingdom of God and its implications for this life. Other gospels like that of Magdalene and Thomas also talk about this.  Tom will send a blog from his daughter talking about being a good Senegalese wife.

The long drawn out discussion about who a wife who was passed between 7 brothers would be married to in heaven was  an attempt by the Sadducees to trick Jesus into making the wrong response. They were trying to mock the whole idea of resurrection because they didn’t believe in it.

Whose son is Christ. Is he really saying that they don’t believe Mary was a virgin so Jesus would be a descendant of David through Joseph.

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January 13, 2015 Matthew 21 (17)

Today, we read of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and then his disputes with the chief priests and scribes. It is similar to what we have seen in the last few chapters, however, it holds together because his visit to the temple sets things up for a confrontation with the chief priests and scribes, the rulers of the temple.

We had been having an email discussion about Islam, and I took the liberty of quoting a book, No God but God by  I have been reading about Mohammad who did a similar thing to the rulers of the Mosque in Mecca. “In Yathrib, he categorically outlawed usury, the abuse of which was one of his chief complaints against the Meccan religio-economic system. To facilitate the new economy, he established his own market which, unlike controlled by the Banu Qaynuga, charged no tax on transactions  and no interest on loans. He also instituted a mandatory title called zakat, which every member of the Ummah had to pay according to his or her means. Once collected, the money was distributed as alms to the community’s neediest members. Benevolence and care for the poor were the first and most enduing virtues preached by Muhammad in Mecca.” He appears to be in conflict with the ruling people about how women were treated as well.

We also discussed the fig tree which Jesus condemned. It appears to be a matter of Jesus being angry with the tree and therefore he condemned it. However, it appears that scholars have turned this into a measure of faith in terms of what Jesus and his followers could do. It is also a way of striking out at the Pharisees and others of their followers.

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January 6, 2015 Matthew 20 (11)

Eleven of us braved the snow that had fallen the previous night to make it this morning. Most of the main roads were already plowed by the time we got up. We had about 5 inches of snow. You snowbirds enjoy the nice weather of the south and west!

Mark read from a commentary in Acts that comments on how to be a Jesus follower. Dense writing that took too much to say just a little.

Three stories in this chapter, starting with the one about a Vineyard owner paying the same to all employees no matter when they started work, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John, asking if they could be at His right and left in His kingdom, then Jesus heals 2 blind men in Jericho.  We started to discuss the trinity. I mentioned Islam no God but god was against the trinity or the pagan gods of the Arabian people at that time.

Mark talked about blessing a rosary at the request of an uncle of the child baptized last Sunday. He agreed to do it and went into the sanctuary and quietly did a Benedictine prayer to bless it. The uncle thought that it had been held in a holy place and was something special for the child. The community sets people apart for certain tasks. Bill Russell translated Schmalkald articles and described Luther’s use of the rosary. Lutherans are very up in the head in their faith and need sometimes to bring it into their heart. Luther talked about faith of head and heart. How do we take the faith of the head to became faith of the heart?

John talked about Ted Haggard’s church in Colorado Springs, the New Life church doesn’t believe in creeds, communion, and our religious trappings, but they have a firm belief in a narrow view of what constitutes Christianity. He said the traditional carols on Christmas Eve were sung in more of a hip-hop manner. One of their beliefs is that homosexuality is wrong.  We talked about Zion being a reconciled in Christ church and what that means. We talked about whether we marry same sex couples. Is this a problem endorsing the reconciling in Christ organization. How do we reach out to all without endorsing all lifestyles. Is it a problem to be too accepting of others no matter what they believe?

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Dec. 30, 2014 Matthew 19

I am not able to attend this moring as we are celebrating Maryellen’s birthday in Paris. Comments from anyone attending are welcome. The reading for today covers a number of somewhat difficult topics. The topics include divorce, eunuchs, wealth, children, and disciples position in Christ’s kingdom.

Jesus said couples should not divorce, but recognized that it was not possible for all to obey this because of the human condition and we are weak at times. This is a chapter in which Jesus is stating how perfect we must be to enter the kingdom on our own and how difficult that is.

His discussion about eunuchs seems to me to question the Catholic church’s requireenter of celebacy and how difficult that is to maintain. He also talks about the time in life that people become eunuchs for a variety of reasons.

He welcomes childRen to his kingdom. This seems the easiest thing he says in this chapter, but maybe not for all. Some people abuse children. But it maybe a child’s innocence that is the entry key. But it even seems that some children lose that too quickly.

the words spoken to the rich young man can be in structure to all of us. How can we keep the wealth and things in our lives stand in the way of our relationship with God. Jesus says the young man must give that which stands in his way of the kingdom to get there. What does that mean for each of us? It is not good deeds that we can do but rather keep those things from our lives that stand in our way.

it is somewhat contradictory that Jesus then promises the disciples prominent places in the kingdom. My thought is to expect a lack of classes in the kingdom. It is hard to understand the kingdom, and what it will be like. It would be interesting to put all of Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom to get a better picture. I am sure someway has done this.


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Dec. 23, 2014 Matthew 18 (18)

After reading Matthew 18, we began to discuss various issues, but tended to focus on the verses that talked about dealing with a brother who had sinned. The prescription given by Jesus is to go that person and talk with him, and if he continues to sin, to bring 2-3 others and continue to talk with him. Mark says that when discipline is invoked on a parishioner that there is a responsibility to continue to reach out to that person and continue to care for their spiritual needs. We then got into how judgmental we can be in some instances. Norm described an instance he had with a friend and felt he might have been too judgmental with the friend. As he and the friend parted, Norm said come see me again, and the friend said no, you are too hard to visit. I think it is hard to be confrontational in many cases because it requires that I make a judgment about a behavior and it is many times easier to walk away and let it go. Mark said it is the community and its mores that determines what is sin. It seems that is a very difficult thing to live with. Was the fact that dancing was prohibited at Luther College in the 50s really a sin because it was the mores of that school and those people at that time. What changes as the community changes and the mores change? Is there anything that is inviolate for all times? Living in community is a learned activity and may be self serving. Could it become sinful? I think so!! At the conclusion, Bill noted that we had skipped verses 7-9 about cutting off those members that offend us. Maybe we need to discuss them at a future time. Tom suggested that a resolution for 2015 was for the Lost Boys to undertake some kind of service project.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and enjoy their families and friends!!!

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Dec. 16, 2014, Matthew 17 (19)

Pope Francis is 78 today. We discussed the transfiguration. It is foretold in Malachi 4:5-6 that Elijah will return after being taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. The purpose of the gospels is to convince people that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. John the Baptist is barely mentioned yet Jesus says that is who it is about. Jesus had said that he would come on the wings of angels in the glory of the Father. Is the transfiguration the coming he was talking about? The whole issue of messianic secrets is another mystery. We discussed people who have a lightening experience and have changed the direction in their lives much like Paul on the road to Damascus.

There is a difference between Baptism by John the Baptist and the baptisms of the early church. Luther said you should remember your baptism in your daily life, and do not commit your former deadly sins.

A question came up about infant baptism and John G. came up with the following answer:

“Luther freely admitted that infant baptism is neither explicitly commanded or explicitly mentioned in Scripture.”
and, “The direct witness of Scripture is by itself not strong enough to provide an adequate basis for beginning infant baptism were it not already practiced.”(from The Theology of Martin Luther by Paul Althaus)
“If this sacrament were to be given to adults and older people, I think it could not possibly have retained its power and its glory against the tyranny of greed and superstition which has everywhere laid waste to divine things. Doubtless the wisdom of the flesh would here too have devised its preparations and worthiness, its reservations, restrictions, and I know not what other snares for taking money, until water fetched as high a price as parchment does now.” (“THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH”)
So it appears that Luther was motivated to defend infant baptism not only because it was a prevailing practice, but also for the same reason that he railed against indulgences.  Adult baptism would simply give the church authorities another means to exploit someone for financial gain.  
“Even so it is not baptism that justifies or benefits anyone, but it is faith in the word of promise, to which baptism is added. This faith justifies, and fulfils that which baptism signifies.” (“THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY OF THE CHURCH”)
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12/09/2014 Matthew 16 (19)

Mark gave us a short Greek lesson with words dealing with the sign of Jonah.

There was a discussion of verse 13 in which Peter makes the statement that “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus says on this rock, I will build my church. Some say He is referring to Peter, others to the faith statement that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It is very interesting that almost as soon as Peter makes this faith statement, that Jesus reprimands him for saying that Jesus will not have to face death in Jerusalem when He goes there. It is as if we are being reminded of how easy it is for us to not understand the workings of the Way that Jesus was preaching and to fall into sinful ways. Jesus says to Peter, “For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Vs 23 Jesus has said church built on rock then says get thee behind me Satan. Satan means adversary or accuser or person in the way of God.

Jesus makes a statement about avoiding the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees and the disciples misinterpreted it as talk about bread. Jesus said that they had misinterpreted Him when they thought he was talking about not having bread, but rather He was talking about getting caught up in all of the misinterpretations and petty rules promoted by the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees demanded signs that he truly the Messiah. It reminds me of the city fathers in The Music Man wanting credentials from the Music Man. Jesus says that no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah and this may refer to the fact that Peter is also called Simon bar Jonah and again refers to his confession about the Son of Man. This is a repeat of chapter 12 verse 38 with the Pharisees asking for a sign.

Verse 28 is interpreted by some as the second coming and its immediacy in the view of many at that time. Maybe it was referring to the transfiguration that came shortly but maybe it also could be referring to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  In verses 24-28, Jesus gives his prescription of how we should follow him. Jesus when the Son of Man comes again, he will repay each person according to what he has done. This is my great fear if I do what I should with my life. Mark suggested that the Son of God decision theology says yes, I’m in.

Words of penance are to focus and to commit your hope to not repeat the offense. Office of the keys important in the Catholic church

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12/02/214 Israel Slides (21)

Warren presented slides from his recent trip to Israel. They showed visits to the area of Galilee, including the church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, Church of the Multiplication (Feeding of the 5,000) and Church of the Beatitudes. The visit to Jerusalem included stops at Bethlehem and the church commemorating the birth of Jesus, then in Jerusalem, there were visits to the Wailing wall, the stations of the cross, the church of the tomb and Golgotha.

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11/25/2014 Matthew 15 (18)

There is a strong defense of taking care of your parents at the beginning of the chapter. We commented about that in the past children were much more active about caring for parents, now we turn to institutions to do this. It is much like our response to caring for the less fortunate people we encounter. If there is an institution we can direct them to, we do so, rather than having to deal with them personally. Is this what Jesus intended for us, to create institutions that handle these problems? It appears that some of the Pharisees were directing funds that should have been going to their parents to the church and maybe to themselves indirectly, and Jesus told them this was wrong. Al asked where the money was going. Maybe it is like the Vatican today? They seem to have a wealth of resources that should be directed to people in need. But on the other hand, Jesus said when Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, anointed him with oils and lotions and Judas objected and said that the money spent on the expensive perfume should have gone to the poor. Jesus replied, that she should be allowed to honor him and then said the  poor are always with us. This was on the way to Jerusalem where he was killed on the cross, and is recorded in John 12:1-8. An internet reference to all of the interactions between Jesus, and Mary, Martha, and Lazarus is in http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm   

Eldon also pointed out the reference at the end of chapter 12 in which Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were standing outside waiting to speak to him and he said “Who are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Yet here in Matthew, he says that one should obey the 4th commandment and honor thy father and mother and implying that the Pharisees were not doing this.

Then we moved on to the Canaanite woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter and he said that he came to minister to lost sheep of Israel. At what point does he say that he has come not only for Israel but for all people. Maybe the great commission. We discussed then our role in helping others. Mark talked of people who kept coming back for handouts. Do we continue to give even when it appears we are possibly being taken advantage of by the individuals? What would Jesus have us do. Should we put conditions on our gifts? I will help you but only once, then you need to take care of yourself. I will give you something, but don’t you dare use it for alcohol or cigarettes or pets. How many other conditions to we establish and did Jesus do some of the same kind of thing to people. Do our institutions, both private and public relieve of these responsibilities to help the poor and unfortunate?

The chapter concluded with the feeding of the 4,000 whom Jesus felt responsible. He stretched 7 loaves and a few fishes to feed them. We didn’t discuss this very much as we had just talked about the feeding of the 5,000 in a previous session.

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11/18/2014 Matthew 14 (18)

This chapter starts with the death of John at the hand of Herod Antipas (20 BC -40 AD). Mark introduced some information about the various rulers named Herod. Herod the Great ruled Judea as King and rebuilt the second temple in Jerusalem. There were some 8 men named Herod who ruled over various areas in the middle eastern area now called either Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. Herod Antipas ordered John the Baptist’s head at the behest of his daughter by wife, Salome. Salome was the daughter of Herod II (27 BC – 33AD).  There is a rather complicated genealogy of the Herods. Herodias was married to Herod II, the son of Herod the great and had a daughter Salome. Herod Anipater II was Herod the Great’s eldest son and he objected to the marriage above, so Herod the Great put Herod Antipator ahead of Herod II in the line of succession, however Herod Antipator was executed when he plotted to poison Herod the Great. This could have led to Herod II being in line to succeed Herod the great, but Herod II’s mother knew of the poison plot and didn’t do anything to stop it.

Mark also commented about the numerology in the Bible. The lesson last Sunday had the number of talents given the servants as 5, 2, and 1. There were 5 loaves and 2 fishes at the feeding of the 5000 in this chapter. There were 12 baskets left over and there were 12 disciples and 12 tribes of Israel. There is a lot of this type of numerology in the Bible. Although there were some questions about the flow of the narrative in Matthew, it does appear that that despite meeting the outline of this book by the author there is evidence of the flow. In chapter 13, the author’s goal was to discuss the Kingdom of God and it was done with various parables from Jesus while teaching in Nazareth, his home town. We also read about Jesus feeling unappreciated in Nazareth as he repeated the saying from Jeremiah.

We then confronted the miracle of Jesus walking on water and Peter walking to meet him and then starting to sink. Jesus used it as another lesson in faith, but questions were raised about whether or not this could have happened. Some say that it was at the edge of the water and there were rocks that he was stepping on to get to the boat. Mark said, God created all the galaxies and we question being able to walk on water? This is one of the mysteries of God and that is what keeps us coming. Aristotle wrote about faith and doubt and Paul Tillich renewed this discussion. Aristotle wrote that Doubt is the beginning of wisdom. Faith and doubt are two sides of the same coin.

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11/11/14 Matthew 13 (22)

There was an early explanation of why Jesus spoke in parables so much. Part of the explanation is that it is the way the rabbis of that day taught the people. The whole lesson was about trying to describe the kingdom of God. Matthew is the only gospel that really tries to prepare for the kingdom of God and others do not mention it in the way that Matthew does. Matthew faces the problem of coming home and lacking the respect of the locals. The people here were unwilling to embrace his wisdom and miraculous powers. Jesus made the point that he did not (would not) act because of their unbelief. If there is a hostility of unbelief, they will not receive an attestation of His power. The kingdom of God is surprising and is quite counter intuitive to the way that many of us think. We think in terms of earthly kingdoms or regimes and how they must act. But here we have a kingdom that doesn’t act at all like we are used to seeing a king act. It is not even  like the past kings of Israel.

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10-21-2014 Matthew 11 (17)

Again we see Matthew building the case of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. In this chapter, Matthew is using John the Baptist as the springboard for Jesus. Jesus casts John’s role as that of preparing the way for Jesus. Although the Jews think of the last prophet as Malichi, Jesus says John is a prophet who comes to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God and the long promised Messiah. However, John thought that Jesus would come as to head a physical reign and deliver the Jews from their foreign captors, namely the Romans. Therefore, John sent disciples to Jesus asking who he was, and Jesus said, can’t you  tell by the works that I am doing?

Later on, Jesus casts himself in the tradition of John’s call for people to repent by calling for the cities where he had done most of his work, such as Capernaum, to repent. He compared them unfavorable to the city of Sodom and said that the people of Sodom would have a better standing in the day of judgment than the people of the several cities which he named which included Capernaum. As usual, Jesus railed against the arrogant people and said that the meek would have a better chance on Judgment day. He offered his frustration at the leaders who castigated John for his fasting and ascetic ways, but at the same time depicted Jesus for eating and drinking to excess. Jesus said they can’t have it both ways.

Jesus concludes with the oft repeated verses saying “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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10-14-14 Matthew 10 (18)

I think that the book of Matthew is a collection of snippets from Jesus’ life that resembles a piece of modern art. The individual pieces sometimes don’t make sense, but the whole piece has a point and you have to look at its entirety to see that. You also have to put it into historical perspective that the author had a strong reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 by Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian. This was a terrible siege and a ferocious battle, so it made a tremendous mark on anyone involved and the memory of this horrible event affected people for generations.

This chapter has warlike settings somewhat like what was happening with a lot of the zealots roaming around who were sometimes very violent. Jesus was sometimes seen merely as another of these zealots who were proclaiming themselves to be the Messiah. There seems to be a lot of aggression on Jesus’ part in this chapter. Jesus seems to speak for the peacemakers in other parts of Matthew, like the Sermon on the Mount, but yet here he speaks for the sword. He speaks about setting father against son and mother against daughter. Does God just change His mind, or is this another aspect of God that we just don’t understand? It seems that God must have to change his mind, or else our world has already been totally determined, and we just have to accept that there is no free will. God may respond to the circumstances and the times that exist. Certainly we have evidence of that happening before. Abraham was told to kill Isaac as a sacrifice and then when all was prepared and Abraham showed willingness to do God’s will, God provided an animal to sacrifice in place of Isaac. Pastor Jennifer used the term absurd to describe the gospel Sunday from Matthew. Here is an interesting link to one person’s thoughts about why Matthew wrote the gospel in the way he did. http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/matthew.htm

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10/07/2014 Matthew 9 (18)

There is a whole variety of experiences here. We start with him taking a ship to his city and being brought a man sick of the palsy. Jesus healed him by saying your sins are forgiven. Then Jesus enters into a discussion of the difference between saying your sickness is healed and your sins are forgiven. Then he recruits Matthew, a tax collector, to become one of his disciples. He then told the Pharisees that the Publicans and sinners had more need for him and his healing than they, the Pharisees, did. Then there was a conversation with John’s disciples about fasting. Jesus said that you don’t fast while the bridegroom is with you, but the implication  was that they would fast when he left them. Next, there was a little piece about not putting new wine into old wineskins, or new cloth as a patch on old garments. A ruler wanted him to come and raise his daughter from the dead. On his way to see her, a woman touched the hem of his robe and was healed. He said that her faith had made her whole. When he arrived at the ruler’s house, he said she was only sleeping and he awakened her. Then he cast out a devil from a dumb man. The Pharisees said that he was casting out devils in the name of the devil. He then went about the area teaching, preaching, and healing. He said there was much to be done and few to do it.

One wonders what the relationship is between healing from sickness and forgiving sins. This has been an ancient controversy as to whether sickness comes because of sin. If so, then why to good people suffer from sicknesses and bad people don’t?  What would we do today if Jesus showed up and asked us to follow him? I expect we would be too busy to follow. If you are serious about your faith will you evangelize to your friends? Do you look as death as merely a deep sleep? Was this part of the belief at that time that Jesus would go into heaven and then have come back to wake the people who had fallen asleep (or died) in the faith? After all, this was written a number of years after Jesus’ death.

One might also wonder why of all the leaders that had been sent to the Israelites, that Jesus didn’t come as a mighty person who led armies or had vast resources at his disposal. It is a real change and one can understand why the Israelites didn’t believe he was really the Messiah.

Do we worship the wealthy today and rail at the poor because they don’t do better with their lives? Who is more likely to be arrested, a poor black person who takes drugs or a wealthy young man who takes drugs? I think we all know the answer. If we see two women buying soda in a grocery store, one with food stamps and another with a check. Who do we think is the lazy irresponsible one?

It is difficult to figure out what Matthew’s purpose in this assortment of stories that are told here. What are we to make of this discussion of healing from sickness and sin? What is the difference in Jesus’ mind?

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09-30-2014 Matthew 8 (16)

We finished the Sermon on the Mount and are now reading about the continuation of Jesus’ ministry. Here we find Matthew asserting that Jesus really is the Messiah and fulfills the writings of the prophets. He therefore describes how Jesus came and healed and defined his ministry. In some cases, it appears that Jesus in Matthew’s view was regal like and almost egotistical. It was like Jesus demanded that he be treated like a King. It was harsh to say you should not bury his father. Jesus really comes off as egotistical in demanding so much of others to his benefit.This contrasts with some of the humility He later showed. Jesus uses Son of Man often. Jesus uses this terminology 32 times in Matthew, 15 times in Mark, 26 times in Luke, and 12 times in John. Overall in the New testament, there are references to Jesus as the Son of Man. “When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself. The Jews of that era would have been intimately familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.” from:http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Son-of-Man.html#ixzz3Eo4hv2a6

It was essential for people in that day to have signs and so Jesus did miracles. Matthew was writing to show that Jesus satisfies the prophets. He healed the diseases of people. It was custom for the priest to verify that a man was free of disease. Does evil cause genetic disorders in life? Very little in scripture about euthansia, suicude, abortion for genetic problems of fetuses.  This leads to medical ethics. So many things we face without training. People don’t understood who Jesus really was. Matthew built up that Jesus was extraordinary and there was no limit to what Jesus could or would do. When did Jesus say son of god? Yes, he said this as reported in John 5:18, John 8:56, and John 10:33 among other references.


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Sept. 23, 2014 Matthew 7 (19)

Today, we conclude our reading of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew. We started out talking about the parable of the man who paid everyone who worked for him the same wage no matter when they started to work. It was the lesson from last Sunday. Mark said that the parable was really talking about the kingdom of God as he did on Sunday. There is a reference to the fact that Jesus didn’t talk about the kingdom of God as if it were just a reference to a heaven somewhere that we go to at the end of our earthly life but that it is possible to have it as our life on earth.

We then discussed the Judge not that you shall not be judged. Does it refer to all of the talk that people do behind their friend’s backs and we need to avoid doing that. Everyone is in a different circumstance and this may determine what they do without anyone knowing why they do it. It is between them and God, not for us to criticize and judge.

Chuck V. read a nice summary of his thoughts about the verse Ask and you will receive. He said that to him it was an indication that we should continue to pray to God without ceasing. Persistence in prayer to God is important. But what should we be praying for? The Lord’s prayer is an indication. Tom mentioned that when Muslims pray they finish with the phrase “God Willing.” Many times we pray for relief or a cure from illness and several people in the room had experienced the death of a son or daughter. Why didn’t God grant them their wish of having the illness cured? It is sometimes hard to see the hand of God in times like that. Maybe that is the only way to give the person peace. When we ask for something from God, it is usually because it is beyond our ability to do it, so it becomes an act of humility for us to ask, like a man asking for driving directions.  We are excellent in taking buts of Scripture and make it doctrine.

The statements in the Sermon on the Mount are ruiles for how you should be here on earth. Is it wrong to take these passages like parental guidelines? We set the sermon in the mount apart and how it talks about the kingdom of God as heaven on earth. This is a collection of sayings  that Matthew put together based on what he knew about the philosophy of Jesus.

If false prophets come to us we seek them out. The broad way is the way of lots if distraction the narrow way is the path of obedience. It is the difficult way to follow Christ. Is the narrow way an easier way because it was restricted and because we don’t have the distractions that we otherwise face?

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09-16-14 Matthew 6 (19)

This again is part of the Sermon on the Mount and am0ng a lot of other statements of our faith it includes the Lord’s prayer. We talked about giving for quite a while. We tend to not want to talk about our finances in public.

What about worry. Jesus says not to worry, but that is hard to do, as there is always something that can happen that presents a difficulty for us. Is it because we have too much and therefore worry it won’t be enough while maybe those who have little just want enough to get by from day to day?It is nice the scripture makes us uncomfortable.

Fasting was widely practiced in that day. There is an article about fasting in Wikipedia at the following link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting There is a quote from Shoghi Effendi discusses fasting and says the following: There is a nice quote in Wikipedia about the Baha about fasting.  “It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”[

What about the Lord’s prayer. Should we be like the Baptists and not recite written prayers because a prayer must show a personal relationship with God. How can relationship with God be anything but personal? Here Jesus was telling the people about the relationship with God. Does the prayer of the day to call things to God’s attention. Lord you know our needs, meet our needs. Is the prayer of the day more for us than for God? We humble ourselves when we put our prayers out to the people. Is it part of our quest for a heaven on earth? Does the church give out too much info for people who give the people’s prayer.
What is the origin of the Lord’s prayer. It follows a Jewish tradition. Do you pray to Jesus or to god? I Thessalinians 5 says pray without ceasing. Did prayer become less corporate with these words of Jesus. In the early days, prayers to God were done for the people by priests and the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray. The first three petitions address God while the other 4 petitions of the 7 relate to our needs and concerns. The Lord’s prayer also occurs in Luke 11:2-4. Here is a version of the Lord’s Prayer from Luke: “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” There are many parallels to traditional Jewish prayers in both the Old Testament books of I Chronicles 29, Isaiah 63, Ezekiel 36, Ezekiel 38, Obadiah 1, Samuel 3, Proverbs 30, Psalm 119, Genesis 22, I Samuel 24, and I Chronicles 21.


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09/09/2014 Matthew 5 Sermon on the Mount (17)

Today we read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It was seen as a statement of beliefs about what the life of a Jewish Christian at that time should be. There are many evidences of Matthew writing to the Jewish Christians of his time. He talked about how they should not be like the Publicans which can refer to either tax collectors or gentiles. He makes it sound like you had to be Jewish first to become a Christian. But yet, Jesus widens the scope of Christianity beyond the Jewish people by Paul.

The chapter starts with the Beatitudes which say Blessed are a lot of people, and maybe that is saying Hooray for these people. In another way, it is saying that it is better to be downtrodden or poor than it is to be wealthy. But then later in what has come to be called the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to be generous to those who have less and may be in trouble.

Jesus talks about what it means to be in the Kingdom of Heaven as if it were something to be achieved here on earth rather than a place to go to at the end of life. Mark said in the quest to make the Bible less sexist, that people referred to the kingdom as the realm of heaven. So Jesus is talking about where we will be in the realm of heaven and it makes it somewhat more relevant.  In verses 21-22, Jesus talks about murder, saying that murder not only can mean taking a life, but can also mean saying evil things about or to someone. Peterson in the message says “if you call your brother an idiot or call your sister stupid that also qualifies us for the hellfire. ” This again suggests that Jesus was talking about the realm of heaven is here on earth not a place to go to upon our death.

There is a lot of discussion about how wrong it is to take an oath to a city, state, or another entity other than God. This probably refers to the fact that at that time, everyone was being urged to take an oath of obedience to Caesar as God. How does this apply to us? Is it more generally in the concept of Realm of Heaven, to mean believing in other Gods, like wealth, standing, proficiency in something, exercise, etc?

The discussion about adultery is interesting and Mark broadened it to mean a general statement about relationships. Thus it could mean that one should treat others in our personal, business, professional, and other aspects of our lives with respect and that adultery means not taking advantage of others. It means not enticing another away from their relationship into one with you. Again, Jesus is broadening the strict law about adultery into a more general stipulation about living in the Realm of Heaven and how that affects our relationships. John asked about what this meant about marrying a divorced woman? The general consensus was that this was more about things in the time of Jesus, not today when things are more in the realm of what the state allows, possibly.

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09/02/2014 Matthew 4 (17)

There were two stories in our reading today, namely the temptation of Jesus by Satan and Jesus then starting his ministry by recruiting Peter and Andrew and other disciples and preaching and healing in Galilee. After we read about the temptation by Satan, there were several questions. One was who told about the temptations so that it could be written down? Jesus must have used as he taught about His kingdom. A second was why does God allow Satan to do this kind of thing. I had sent out a commentary about this passage to the Lost Boys. The link to that commentary, “God’s Son Passes the Test” is at https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Gods-Son-Passes-Test The commentary says that the tests underline the principle that God’s calling must be tested. The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. Essentially saying that if God is calling you to do something, you must be tested first. This is a very Jewish think with the same or similar thing happening to Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and Job. The first test is to turn stones into bread in a magical way. Jesus essentially says I will not be a magician, using words from Deuteronomy and I will not abuse the calling from God in a callous manner. Next Jesus is not a deluded visionary thinking he can do all sorts of daredevil things and God will save him. And thirdly, Jesus will not be let astray seeking other kingdoms like power, money, physical fitness, or any of the other diversions that we obcess about in our lives today. After Jesus had answered all of these temptations in a very Jewish way, quoting an appropriate response from Deuteronomy and reconfirming the commandments, the angels were sent from God to minister to him. Gene pointed out an interesting comment in the commentary, that it was stated that we could overcome any temptation and that is hard to believe. But maybe if we face the temptation with Jesus help, we can overcome it.

The second story in Matthew 4 is about recruiting Peter and Andrew. After Jesus heard of John’s death at the hand of Herod, he felt it necessary to go the Capernaum and preach in the area of Galilee. This is a long way from Jerusalem, up in the area of Syria.  I have included a map below to show the area he was in.  He followed this by recruiting James and John as well. These men were asked to follow and help Jesus. They may well have continued their fishing jobs during the day and worked with Jesus in the evenings or when Jesus had an important teaching job. Or at least that was the consensus in our group. It is interesting that although Jesus would not do the magical act of turning the stones into bread, one of the strong points of his ministry is to heal people. He developed quite a following. It was pointed out that even though Jesus was creating quite a stir, the people in Jerusalem didn’t appear to know too much about him.


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8/26/2014 Matthew 3 (17)

This was an interesting reading today with lots of implications for us. We discussed John the Baptist. His father was the high priest and obviously well connected in political and religious life. But he appeared to be a righteous man and was a prophet of God. His son went out in the wilderness somewhere by the Jordan river in rough camel hide garments and a leather thong belt and preaching against the wealthy people in that era. He railed against the Sadducee and the Pharisees, and obviously, his father was possibly a Sadducee or a Pharisee. However, one rumor is that Zechariah refused to tell Herod where his son was when Herod was killing all 2 year old boys and was therefore killed. In the Quran, Zechariah, John the Baptist, and Jesus are seen as ushering in a new era of prophets — all of whom came from the priestly descent of Amram, the father of the prophet Aaron. We then got into a discussion of the wealth disparity in this country and where we were in the hierarchy. Are most of us in the 1%. Many of us probably are. Certainly compared to the rest of the world. Norm asked how we deal with the people that have less than us and bring them out of poverty. He mentioned that a homeless man he had met at Free Lunch said that he had been shooed away from Zion because he had been sleeping in the window wells. So he couldn’t go back. Is this what we want and are we so uncomfortable with the poor that we just want them to go away? Are we the Sadducees of today? Would we be uncomfortable to have Jesus around because he would make us rock the boat and take us out of comfortable lives?

It is also interesting to note the emergence of the concept of the trinity in verses 16-17. This may be the first indication of that and it is certainly a New Testament concept. There are Old Testament references like Isaiah 61:1 that talks about the spirit of God to dwell upon you, but I think they are a little far fetched. The form of the word Elohim is a plural word which could imply a trinity. But I think it is more of a New Testament concept as it appears in Matthew 3:16-17.

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August 12, 2014 Matthew 1 (13)

Matthew wrote to Jewish Christians. Dated about 80-90. He supposedly wrote down sayings and observations collected and then ascribed with the name Matthew. Mark is the first one to write a gospel, but probably followed with oral traditions and some early writings. See verse 17. The prophet said his name would be Immanuel, but the angel said he should be Jesus. Martin Luther says Mary is great. The mystery of the faith is Christ died and rose again. Mark says he doesn’t know how Jesus got here but he is happy he did. Faith comes thru the word and this is the basis of our belief. Jesus comes as a vertical extension of God. We live out our faith in the horizontal but are not saved by these works but are saved by Jesus. Tom says our kids are embarrassed by the fact that they are made during sex. Was Mary’s pregnancy really an invitro birth from God.
Bill days that Jesus had been a terrible person until saved by God and began his teaching. The infancy gospels. The life of Brian is a movie where Jesus and Brian were born in a joining stalls.
This is the document that Mark gave to us all. synopticgospels004
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July 15, 2014 Job 31-32 (17)

Eliphat, Bildad, and Zophar all give their take on why this has happened to Job. Bildad says it is the kids, Zophar says that Job is impious and non repentant. Several psalms sound like this.  Is he saying I haven’t done any of the ifs? I think so. The while structure is if. Then. Are the consequences punishable? John G. says god may be the center of the book. God and Satan have agreed to the test to see is job righteous because he expects wealth. Whatever steps were in place God would reward job in the end. How does God work? Is job so righteous that he in no way would merit the kind of treatment he has received. Mark says that life gives me circumstances and we have to deal with it. Riches aren’t the measure of righteousness. The idea of god gets us thru things. When bad things happen to good people why.  God knows there is a silver lining and he is waiting for us to find it. We should be prepared for what will happen. Man can’t be God may be the point of the book. The age in years doesn’t make one wise. Go back to Deuteronomy 4-5 the for the schema. What is meant by lovong god. Jesus said it isn’t about loving god but love each others. OT is book for Hebrews. God are you in the midst of this or not. 

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June 24, 2014 Job 1-3 (15)

Bill led the beginning of the discussion on Job. He started by asking us some questions. Do we believe that God gives us a good life? Do we believe that God is responsible for the bad things we experience in life? Does God direct both the good and evil that happens in life? Is God responsible for evil? or just the good things that happen in our lives? Can we be angry with God over our lot in life? Should we ever curse God? Chuck added some comments by Victor Hugo and Thomas Carlyle about what great writing this was. We really don’t know exactly when it was written or who wrote it.

Chapter 1 detailed how Satan asked God’s permission to inflict losses on Job. Satan is not really identified as the devil, but more as the accuser and seems to be an individual who has God’s ear. So Satan took away his flocks, herds, camels, and his children. This inflicted doubts on Job, but didn’t inflict personal harm or illness to Job. That was in chapter 2. Then in chapter 3, Job cites the poem of defeat asking that he wished he had never been born. He says that it would have been better not to have ever entered this life. We discussed how this is different from suicide. Isn’t it interesting that in this time frame of the patriarchs, say around 2000 BC, that people were raising these questions and trying to find answers to them. Frank had three reasons for God to promote evil in our lives, one is punishment for our sins, another is to make us stronger or refine our faith, and the third is to provide an example to others of handling evil in our lives. Presumably we can do it well and our faith remains strong. Maybe we strive for heaven on earth which may be to be in the right relationships with our family and friends. Possibly death is the great equalizer and there is no king or pauper. None have more money than anyone else because there is no money. The third chapter is a beautiful poem but it expresses a feeling of hopelessness while much of the Bible expresses hope in the future. A commitment of God to make an enduring covenant with us.

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June 17, 2014 I Samuel 28-31 (12)

This reading was about the historical relationships between Judah and the Philistines and the Amalekites. The battles between them and the intrigues that went on between David and Saul. We start off with Saul seeking the help of the Witch of Endor in order to talk with Samuel and get advice about the coming battles with the Philistines. Earlier, Saul had outlawed all mediums in Judah. David had gone to work and live with the Philistines because of the threats of Saul who was afraid that David was going to kill him to become the king of Judah. Interesting set of relationships. Then the Philistines told David he couldn’t march with them to meet Judah because the Lords (commanders) of the Philistines were afraid that David was a spy and would betray them to Saul. I think that David would more likely use the Philistines to end the king ship of Saul and take it over himself, and then probably wage war against the Philistines to further the territorial needs of the tribe of Judah. Unfortunately, when David went home to Ziklag, he discovered that the Amalekites had raided the area and taken all the women including David’s two wives, as well as the cattle, sheep, goats and anything else of value. So David immediately set off with 600 men to avenge this loss. He got all but 200 across the river and was able to kill all of the Amalekites except 400 who escaped and took back all the spoils. Then David gave the spoils to the men with him, but also to a whole list of towns in the area. Ed said this was a political gift that would help him become the King of Judah. Then we had Saul’s death after he saw defeat was imminent. He asked his armor bearer to kill him and when he refused, Saul fell on his sword. Mark said this was one of 4 suicides mentioned in the Bible. This was a fairly violent account of tribal warfare in this period of history. Here is a map of this time in history and the location of Philisitia and Amalec.


Next time we will start Job under the direction of Bill.


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June 10, 2014 I Samuel 21 and 25 (16)

We discussed 21. The first part was about the consecrated bread and lead to the holiness of the bread and communion. Is everything holy? It may be about matters of respect. How do you treat the holiness of the bible. People were concerned about throwing away lesson inserts as they were part of the Bible. Man can’t make something holy. Vs 10-11 he fled from Saul and others thought he was king. And David was afraid of king achish. This a bunch of disconnected stories. David was going to act on whim but Abigail stopped him. Then Nabal died and David married Abigail. She saved Nabal’s life but god killed him later. Abigail was a woman of wisdom. The Israelites didn’t seem to have a concept of the value of life. David wanted some hospitality from Nabal. Abigail didn’t tell Nabal until the morning of the feast and  Nabal had a heart attack or something like that and died ten days later. He was probably so angry with what Abigail had done. David’s instinct was to wipe out Nabal because of the disrespect he had shown David’s people. However, David had appeared in a very busy time and maybe he should have understood.   What about the hospitality of the Arab people.

Next time Ch 28.

Chuck V. brought in a article that discussed what a prophet is or was:

“A person who spoke for God and who communicated God’s message courageously to God’s Chosen People — the nation of Israel.

“The Prophet’s call. A prophet received his call or appointment directly from God. Some prophets, like Jeremiah or John the Baptist, were called before birth (Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:13-16), but their privilege was not a birthright. their authority came from God alone whose message they bore (Ex. 7:1). Who can match the eloquence and brilliance of Isaiah, the depth of emotion and melancholy of Jeremiah, or the dramatic  and dogged spirit of Ezekiel? A prophetic call was a call to liberty and freedom to be oneself (John 8:31-32). It enabled the prophet to be unaffected by human bias and criticism. The call of the prophet required that he not be intimidated or threatened by his audience (Jer. 1:7-8, Ezek. 2:6).

“A prophet sometimes became quite dramatic and acted out his message. Isaiah went naked and barefoot for 3 years (Is. 20:2-3). Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 more (Ezek. 4:1-8). Zechariah broke two staffs (Zech. 11:7-14). Making themselves a spectacle, prophets not only aroused curiosity but also invited the scorn of their peers (Jer. 11:21).

“Except for God’s call, prophets had no special qualifications. They appeared from all walks of life and classes of society. They included sheepbreeders and farmers like Amos (Amos 7:14) and Elisha (I Kings 19:19) but also princes like Abraham (Gen. 23:6) and priests like Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:3). Even Women and children became prophets (I Sam. 3:19-20; I Kings 22:14). In rare circumstances, God used the hesitant or unruly to bear his message. Balaam prophesied (Num. 22:6-24:24) the Lord’s message but was actually an enemy of God (2 Peter 2:15-16; Rev. 2:14). Saul certainly was not in fellowship with God when he prophesied (I Sam. 10:23-24).”

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June 3, 2014 I Samuel 18-20 (16)

Story of Jonathon and David. Does an evil spirit come upon Saul. Is it hard to recognize that younger people may be better and you should recognize that. Is evil spirit sent by god. In Ch 9 Saul was handpicked by god. Nothing else going on for god to do with then. What is the reason god wants the philistines dead. Why do we worry when god does evil happens by god happens. Suffering can make you stronger is a continuing theme in Christianity. Is there grace in the narrative. Are the evil spirits of today the way we try to avoid responsibility for our actions. God has a tool box of evil spirits that god can be use to strengthen us. God didn’t become  a personal god until later he was god of a people. Has our greed caused climate change that creates intensive storms. How does god speak to us, thru parents? We talked about the synod election. What is prophecy? Is it the foretelling the future, or is it being prepared for future changes. The presiding bishop said god isn’t going to keep us the same as we were but we have to look at the future. When do we find the future path.

Since we have several people named Chuck, Eldon found the following Shakespearean terms of Endearment. “Chuck (chuchk) the archaic term of endearment chuck first appeared in Shakespeare’s time meaning roughly ‘my love’ this nickname was applied to husbands in addition to wives, children and dear friend. It comes from the Middle English chuk, a word that approximates the sound of chicken clucking in Love’s Labour Lost, Shakespeare writes ‘Sweet chucks — beat not the bones of the buried.”


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05-27-14 I Samuel 17 (15 + Al)

This is the story of David and Goliath. We had a lot of questions about when this happened. Supposedly about 1025 BC roughly. There were also questions about items in the text. For example, why did Saul act as if he had never heard of David, and yet he okayed him to go and meet Goliath? David had been playing the lyre for Saul as well for some time. Did Saul not know that David was going to be his successor? It seems that would be hard. This is probably a story that set things up for David to become king. So many times in the Bible, the unlikely one is chosen. In some sense, the one who is least prepared. Many times as in this case and also Joseph’s, it is the younger ones in the family. The Jewish culture is one in which clever is prized even possibly to the point of taking advantage of someone else. We talked about the Palestinian question and what the solution might be. The Jews have always been interlopers in Palestine. Abraham came down from Haran, Moses came from Egypt, and now they are trying to get rid of the people who have been living in “their land.”

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05/20/2014 I Samuel 16 (15)

We re-read the story of the choice of David to succeed Saul. We go from a situation where Samuel is afraid to leave Bethlehem for fear that Saul will kill him to the selection of David to succeed Saul, and finally to David being a top assistant to Saul and calming him with his lyre music.  Much of our discussion was about the origin of evil. The Lutheran Study Bible note says “Because of Saul’s disobedience to God, the Holy Spirit does not abide with those who, on account of the instability of their will, easily reject the grace which they have received. An instance of this is seen in Saul, a harmful spirit from the Lord. Harmful, or evil spirits are subject to God’s control and operate only within divinely determined boundnaries. What God permits, God is said to do.  God still guides what Saul does. ‘God permits , allows, suffers sin in the sense of deserting or leaving someone to it.” This can be troubling to think about. Why do they say that God caused an evil spirit to occupy Saul? What do they mean by God controlling evil. How does the presence of evil spirits fare with our understanding of mental illness today? Part of the confusion is because the Old Testament writers tend to believe God is behind all things which befall the people, both good and bad. Pope Francis seems to believe that evil spirits can be exorcised from individuals as depicted in the article John sent to all of us. We don’t distinguish between evil happening and an individual being possessed by evil.

Why did Saul lose his leadership? Was it because he came in, united the people, put their enemies down and then there was a malaise among the people and a feeling by Saul that he was invincible and became too proud of himself? Is this a natural outcome of a successful leader. Is the concept of servant leader helpful here? I think that it is a very useful concept because otherwise we fall into the trap of thinking that we are invincible and can do no wrong.

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05-13-2014 I Samuel 13-14, 16 (16)

We started out reading chapter 13 about Saul and then had to read some parts of chapter 9 and 10 to find out how he had been chosen to be king and why they decided to have a king. It appears that the judges were not able to keep the people under control. After all, there were 12 separate tribes each with their own space. All of the other people around them had kings and maybe the people n different tribes had different ideas about what should happen. The judges who were the rulers of sorts probably had limited capabilities to unite the people and they may well have been besieged from time to time by the kings of the tribes around them. So the people decided they wanted a King. God, somewhat reluctant decides to go along with their wishes, although he had worked through the judges, particularly Samuel, to make his wishes known to the people. Prior to Samuel, God’s word to the people particularly as noted in the story of Eli, was scarce, but He appeared to be talking to Samuel in words that Samuel relayed to the people. So we saw how almost by chance Saul was selected by God through Samuel and then anointed by God to be the first king of Israel.

We commented on the battles with the Philistines and how Saul was constantly doing things against the will of God, like burning all the burnt offerings given by the people to him, although I don’t know why this was so bad. It does appear through these readings that God wanted obedience and not a confession after the fact and he would rather have an obedient king rather than one who sinned and then asked for forgiveness with a burnt offering. This may be the beginning of God’s rejection of burnt offerings from his people, even though the practice continued through Jesus’ time. Then in chapter 15, there was the word of God as communicated to Saul by Samuel that he should kill the Amalekites, and literally slaughter men, women, children, and all of their animals as well. Saul instead slaughtered most of the people, but spared the king and the prime cattle, sheep, donkeys, etc. He also had the silly rule about the soldiers fasting when they were battling the Philistines where Jonathan was so successful. Saul, seemed also to rule a lot by chance as when Jonathan was singled out because he had eaten some honey after Saul said everyone should fast. Samuel was angry with Saul several times and corrected him and told him God was distressed with him and would ultimately replace him. Saul tried to defend himself and then pleaded with Samuel to forgive him and plead Saul’s case before God. It sounds a lot like us today. We try to defend ourself when we do wrong and then plead forfgiveness. God seems to demand obedience no matter what and this is a theme running through the Bible. We wondered about the need to issue the commands to kill everyone, but God was consistently doing that in order to keep his people special. I wonder about the use of these methods today? I know they would not be acceptable. Is this not what the warlords in Africa are doing?

We then moved on to read chapter 16 about the choice of David to succeed Saul, although Saul was never informed of his successor. A couple of things stand out, one, is that Samuel feared for his life on this mission, as he asked God to give him some subterfuge that would allow him to have an excuse to go to Jesse so that Saul wouldn’t see what he was doing. So God said take a heifer and take it for a sacrifice to Jesse. So Earlier God wasn’t happy with Saul’s burnt offerings, but now Samuel was to give such an offering. Then the choice was made for the replacement of Saul and David’s 7 brothers were considered and found wanting and then David, the runt of the family was called for and was chosen. One version suggested that David was good looking and had beautiful eyes. I suggested that this would be evidence that God was a woman, as which of us men would notice beautiful eyes in a man? We didn’t have much time to discuss this and a suggestion was made that we continue to discuss this a little next time before we go on to chapter 17. Chuck also suggested that we spend a little time talking about the article on evil that John had sent to us. Here is the link to John’s article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/a-modern-pope-gets-old-school-on-the-devil/2014/05/10/f56a9354-1b93-4662-abbb-d877e49f15ea_story.html?tid=ts_carousel

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05/06/2014 I Samuel 2:12-3:21 (19)

We started our discussion after reading I Samuel 3, but soon decided that we needed to finish chapter 2 because of the need to know about what Eli’s sons were doing that was so terrible in God’s sight. We then started our discussion about a call from God and what constitutes a call. Frank said that he felt he was called to come to Iowa City. Ministers respond to a call when a congregation wants to employ them. How does that differ from a job offer in other disciplines. Certainly, there is a lot of thought that accompanies an offer to take a job in another city or another state or even country. In many cases there is prayer that accompanies the discernment of where God wants us to be. Curt discussed his role as a member of a committee that determined if an individual should be offered a call into the ministry. Psychological tests were administered and the results were used to determine if the individual was suited to being a minister or not. He said that sometimes he was overruled by other members of the committee in determining if an individual should be allowed to receive a call. We had a lot of discussion as to whether or not an individual is called into a job or not. For example, is a used car salesman called in that job? There might be many other kinds of jobs that we might wonder if individuals are called to be in that profession.

One other aspect of Samuel’s call was the fact that people revered dreams in those days. Does that determine some aspect of what a call might be? Was Samuel’s call from God really a dream? Are all calls successful and for that matter what does it mean to have a successful call. Here we are talking about the calls that ministers receive. We can think about individuals who have received calls at Zion who may have had less than what could be regarded as successful ministries while here at Zion. But is that really fair, as there are so many criteria that could be used to determine the success of a ministry. Possibly the called individual touched someone’s life in a life changing way. Is the only successful call one that results in the growth off a congregation or is the minister of a small congregation in North Dakota accomplishing as much by preaching the word of God to that small group of people. Does it give hope to the people about the presence of God in their lives. Or is that even our attempt to say what God thinks is successful for a ministry? Is it pre-ordained by God that someone would be called and does God have the task in mind for that individual? We are caught up in this discussion of what God wants us to be doing with our lives and whether we are ordained to do something He has in mind for us?

Another aspect of the passages we studied were that Eli wanted to know what God had said to Samuel about what would happen to his family? Samuel told him, but Eli already knew as much because he knew how corrupt his sons had become. That would be very hard to be told that your sons would have to imprisoned or worse because of what they had been doing. I don’t know how I would deal with such information. So many times, things like that present so many problems. I do know that despite such revelations, I would try to redeem my sons and help them to get to a better place in their lives. They would have to accept whatever punishment they deserved, but they would need the support to get them to a better place in their lives.

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04/29/2014 Samuel 1-2:10 (21)

Mark suggested that we use the confirmands’ study Bible’s plan of study and read and study the important parts of Samuel in 4 weeks. We started this morning by reading the beginning which recounted Hannah’s struggle to get pregnant and then fulfilling her promise to the Lord to give her son to the service of God. The passage detailed her frustration with getting pregnant, her visit to Eli at the temple and her prayers that she might be allowed a child who she would promise to bring back to Eli for training. There are some inconsistencies in the text, but it appears that Samuel lived in about 1100 BC, this book was written at a somewhat later time. It is suggested that the book was compiled by someone from the prophetic school using documents from Samuel, Nathan, and Gad. In I Samuel 27:6, it describes the divided monarchy when the ten tribes rebelled against the two tribes of Judah, which occurred after Solomon’s reign. This suggests that the book came together sometime after the death of David (971 BC) through the death of Saul (1011 BC). This book is important because it was a time when the people of God transformed from a loosely affiliated group of tribes into a unified nation under a form of government headed by a king. They traded the turmoil of life under the judges for the stability of a strong central monarchy.

Al suggested that verse 2:6 is a prophecy of Christ dying and being raised from the dead. The Message version of this verse is “God brings down death and God brings life, brings down the grave and raises up.” This is part of Hannah’s song. This song brings to mind Mary’s Magnificat. This poem or song is very similar to Psalm 112. There is a discussion of it in the following link: (copy to your browser to see this page, or do a search on Song of Hannah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_Hannah It is suggested that this song paves the way for a major theme of the book of Samuel, the Power and willingness of Yahweh to intrude, intervene and invert. Some people also believe that this song was actually the song of praise directed at a king rather than a prayer referring to the birth of a prophet. They think that this might have been the song dedicated to the kingship of Saul.

Al suggests again that Hannah might be presumed to represent Israel and wonders about the meaning of Israel being barren, while others are being very fertile. Maybe this was the barrenness of not being a cohesive and being ruled by the Philistines at that time. Maybe God needed them to come together to fulfill the plans he had for their future.

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4/22/2014 I Samuel 30 (19)

Today, we read I Samuel 30 which described the early life of David and his time at Ziklag. The reading described how David was anointed by God to be the next king of Israel at the age of 15. However, Saul was not ready to give up as king so he followed David and tried to kill him. David went for refuge at Ziklag, the home of the Philistines and acquiesced to Saul’s demands there for 16 months. Then he obeyed God’s commands to  defeat the Amelekites who had invaded Ziklag and burned it and taken all of the women captive. When David pursued them, he fought from daylight one day to nightfall the next and destroyed them and released the captives including his two wives.

Then we listened to an evangelist, Rod Hairston from Baltimore, talking about the need to take charge of our lives by praising the lord. We had a number of questions at the end about whether it is the right thing to take charge by our selves, but his admonition, was to take charge by praying to God, and by praising God. He said that the problems occur in our lives when we attempt to do things on our own without God’s help. But many aspects of the talk were like a pep talk to help people in a lot of trouble. We will discuss our reactions to this next week.

We welcomed Hal to our group today.

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4/15/2014 Galatians 6 (18)

We finished our discussion of Galatians today. Paul started off by addressing his Brothers, but in newer versions, it suggests Brothers and Sisters. Women were significant in the Bible, but were often nameless. There is a conflict between verse 2 to help others,  and in verse 5 to be responsible for yourself. Chuck says the word that comes to us is humility. Humility is acknowledging our role in life whereas self degradation sometimes is just done to gain attention. We discussed this quite about. We need to be honest about our role in life and our purpose in life. That led us to the question of what it means to be spiritual. It was suggested that being spiritual mean being faithful to your beliefs in Christ. Going to the Abbey helps Tom and Mark recharge their spiritual batteries. Is Paul saying that we should think about what you are doing in your life and faith? Verse 2 refers to the law of Christ, does this negate the role of the spirit? The law of Christ is to love your neighbor. If we define love as knowing how to treat people and not trying to slot them into categories or stereotypes. To return to the admonition in verse 2, how do we help the people who are in need through no fault of their own. Do we abandon our help to those in need because there are some misuses of what is provided to them? How can we follow the law of Christ. I was reminded of the Buddhist Ten Commandments that were very interesting. I saw them on our recent trip to Viet Nam in a Buddhist temple. The commandments below came from http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.com/2010/10/buddhisms-ten-commandments.html.  Buddhists really don’t have commandments, but these are precepts that people are encouraged to follow in their lives.

  1. Thou art well advised not to take the lives of living beings.
  2. Thou art well advised not to take what is not given.
  3. Thou art well advised not to engage in sexual misconduct.
  4. Thou art well advised not to commit perjury (speak falsely when questioned as a witness).
  5. Thou art well advised not to speak divisively (separating those who are united).
  6. Thou art well advised not to speak harshly (offensively).
  7. Thou art well advised not to speak frivolously.**
  8. Thou art well advised not to covet.
  9. Thou art well advised not to harbor ill-will.
  10. Thou art well advised not to hold wrong-views.***
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3/25/2014 Galatians 3 (18)

V 11 is Luther’s justification by faith. Also in Romans and Habakkuk 2:4.bill says this salvation allows us to obey the law. Bonhoeffer talks about cheap grace and it presumably is the disconnect some people feel and don’t think the law needs to be obeyed. CS Lewis say pretend to be something and it becomes reality. Does one wait for faith? Do you have faith because you act in the life that Christ intended for Christians. So faith is like basketball you want to become unconsciously competent. It is easy to obey a few rules but to have faith is scary. We struggle with knowing we are saved and are secure in that and therefore living by the law and in that law. You have confidence in the saving grace of Jesus. Why don’t we go crazy because we are saved and evangelize all over the place. What makes Lutherans so afraid to speak out about their faith like the evangelicals do. Mark says it is because of pride, we are afraid that someone will think less of us because we are Bible thumpers if we tell others of our faith! Frank says our cup runs over and we have the freedom to shout it out. Pride prevents us from becoming demonstrative.  Bill says that this view that Paul preaches about the law has to do with picky Jewish law. So circumcision became the representative for all picky Jewish law. Acts 10:34 s an instance of this conundrum. God can save people not in your church. The Judaizers are the false prophets of that day and were saying people had to become Jewish before becoming Christians. Paul and James have completely different views and speak to different audiences. In creation god gave us everything but we didn’t follow thru so he repeatedly tried various ploys to get us back culminating in the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. We have the promise of  heaven but now how do we live out our lives under that promise.  That is the question.

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3/18/2014 Galatians 2 (14)

Mark read the whole book of Galatians from the Jefferson Bible and it was condensed into 2 pages. It seemed to skip all of the even numbered chapters. We were reminded that Galatians was Luther’s favorite book as it was the basis of his teachings that being saved is a free gift of God through grace and is not earned due to our works or following the law. Peter visited the Galatians in Antioch and was having fellowship with them until the Jewish Christians came and then switched over to them and the principle aspect of this difference is the rule of law as exemplified by the practice of circumcision. Paul preached that a person is saved by faith in Christ and his death on the cross, not by their adherence to the law. Is Paul being hypercritical about his rants against Peter and concerns about what Christ did for us. I think not, I think this is the basis of the gospel and represents the new way under Christ that doesn’t depend on the law. The law is followed as an outgrowth of our faith in Christ, not the other way. Al noted the duality of things in this text, Peter and Paul, the law and the gospel, etc. It represents a style of presentation that helps clarifies things. The Message interpretation of the Bible is particularly apt here. The author, Peterson says in verses 15-16, “We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over ‘non-Jewish sinners.’ We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know that? We tried it — and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.” I think Paul was trying to identify the false prophets of that time and their teachings so that people would know the falseness of their teachings. He didn’t want to see a hierarchy in which Jewish Christians were better that Gentile Christians. He thought they should all be Christians. One aspect of the writing that was noticed was the alternative uses of Peter and Cephus and Mark noted that it was that way in the Greek version as well as current versions. Peter is the Greek word, while Cephus is the Aramaic version of Peter’s name. In the way it was used, I think that Paul was saying Cephus to emphasize that Peter was backsliding into a ministry just to the Jews but that Paul wanted the message of Christ to be universal to all whether they were Jews or Gentiles. There would be no distinctions.

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03-11-14 Galatians 1 (15)

We started to read Galatians again. We read it in June of 2013 with Pastor John Meyer. It will be interesting to read it again now as we go through Lent this year. It is a book that gives us the freedom in Christ to live.

Mark said as we began our discussion that the ancients have stolen our best ideas. Galatians is the monograph of new congregations. Luther thought it was the handbook for new churches. After Paul had established the church in Galatia, he left and some Jewish people came in and said you had to be Jewish to be Christians. Now Paul was writing to straighten them out. Tom asked if the evil age continuing to this day v4. He is talking about false prophets and what they were  preaching is not the gospel at all. The Message interpretations has a very powerful version of verses 6-9 which concludes with the phrase “If anyone regardless of reputation or credentials preaches something other than what you received originally , let him be cursed.  Is this just Paul’s arrogance, I think not. Paul is saying that Jesus gave us the freedom to life and we don’t need to let the rules of a church stand in our way. In those days, it was things like the circumcision required to be a Jew or the dietary rules required of Jews. Might it be the rules we have for maintaining membership in our church that sound like club rules. Have communion at least once in 2 years and make a gift of record to Zion.

Tom asked, “Why evangelize, if God is all powerful why does he need us to spread the word?”  The gospel makes us free.  We lean on something so that it becomes a habit and becomes a part of us. Disagreement about Jewish traditions necessary for Christians.

What did Peter teach Paul in his 15 day short course with him. Peter lived in Jerusalem and most of the people in the church there would have been Jews, so he faced a different environment than Paul did in Galatia. Did Peter agree with Paul about what the club rules would be for people who were not originally Jewish.

Luther said Galatians was his gospel. If grace is Gods wishes for us to be free then saying no to that undermines the gospel of Jesus. Don’t let the rules deter us from accepting Christ’s gospel and the freedom it gives us. Why come to church? The community helps us remember the gospel and understand its message. Should we change the constitution to say if you are a member take advantage to help understand. Bill asks what do I have to believe, how do I have to act, how do I have to think. How can I screw up my salvation. Jesus came to save us and we are free to accept it. Tom asked, “Is baptism necessary to come to Christ.” Why do we need some human institution to realize the promise that Jesus made to us with his death and resurrection?  V 5.1 is the meat of the issue. Christ sets us free to be His faithful servants.

Here is a link to the differences between the teachings of Peter and Paul: http://graceambassadors.com/midacts/list-petervspaul One that I think highlights their differences is Peter’s view that “Salvation and the law; justification by faith in Jesus as the Messiah accompanied by necessary works.” Whereas Paul said, “Salvation apart from the law; justification by faith alone in the cross work of Jesus Christ.” Also their view of the church. Peter thought “Separation between the Jew and Gentile; Israel is God’s chosen people. Gentiles blessed through Israel.” while Paul’s view was “No longer Jew nor Gentile  but all are part of a new creature in Christ called his Body.” Another view on this is given by Pastor Mike Schroeder of the Amazing Grace Bible Study Community gives his interpretation of the differences between Peter and Paul that was quite interesting at the following link: http://www.agbsf.com/The-Ministries-of-Peter-and-Paul/

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03-04-14 II Thessalonians 3 (18)

We are finishing Thessalonians today and we will start Galatians next week. Paul made a point of saying that he had paid his own way while he had been with them. He didn’t depend on them for his meals or lodging. Tom raised a question about whether Paul wrote this chapter. Mark responded that most of the time people thought he dictated his letters and someone else actually wrote them down. But in this case, it sounds like someone different wrote them down and so possible Paul actually wrote the conclusion of the letter. Some people think that there is a different teaching on the second coming compared to that of I Thessalonians, but aspects such as I Th 5:2 are common to both. Paul suggests that people should work and not be idle. It was probably a reaction to people thinking that Jesus was coming soon again and therefore they didn’t have to worry about caring for their families and working to provide for them. Again, Paul prays that they might be delivered from wicked and evil men. There were a lot of people saying they knew the way of Jesus who were just in it for the money they could take from people. Christ gives authority to those whom He has called into the apostolic Office of the Holy Ministry and is true to His promises. We got into a discussion about humility. Tom suggested that Paul was referring to this, but didn’t really follow it himself. Tom says we need to find God’s will for us and then do it. Bill suggested that humility is being honest about yourself and using that to help others.Teach others to treat others with love and respect. Paul sometimes speaks flatteringly of himself. We have to take ourselves and use that to follow God’s will for us.

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2/25/2014 II Thessalonians 2 (15)

Consider the eschatology. What is being said about the times before the second coming?  There has to be a rebellion before the 2nd coming. Why does there have to be a military type aspect to the 2nd coming? Is Paul adopting the Jewish idea that the messiah would be a military leader and he would lead the rebellion. To asked if there was an us and them in terms of those who will be saved? Are some destined to not be saved. Lutheran theology stipulates that God wills all people to be saved. But in I Thess. He says some will go to hell. Isn’t this double predestination where there are some destined for heaven and some for hell? It is easier if you can identify your enemies. Bill says you can stop your enemies but not hate them. A policeman has to be sort of paranoid and not be taken in by the bad guys. Curt described a T-session about getting to know your neighbors and found a policeman was packing. Curt said he was too trusting that everyone had left guns behind. Vs 11 god sends delusion that they may believe what is false. The Message groups 9-12 together and condems people who consistently choose not to follow God. The Greek version indeed does say god sends a delusion for evil doers to continue their evil. But Paul says God chose you as first fruits to be saved thru sanctification thru Holy Spirit and belief in truth in vs 13. This is the theology of a young Paul, not the more mature thoughts in Romans or Galatians. Paul was facing a situation of a lot of false prophets. How do you respond to that?  Bill says so much is written about persecuted, downtrodden, etc but we have such a good existence. Is our current well being a false prophet in our lives?

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2/18/2014 II Thessalonians 1 (13)

We started today talking about Pastor Dotzel’s sermon on Sunday particularly the discussion about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Creationism vs evolution. Both are adamant in their beliefs and Ham relies on a proof text to support his position. We then proceeded to read the 1st chapter of Thessalonians II. Paul is trying to explain to the people why the second coming of Jesus hasn’t happened yet. He says the people have to remain strong because Jesus will come on clouds of fire with mighty angels to accompany Him. This is how the Jews expected the messiah to come to them. Jesus, it appears, didn’t come that way and had a very different ministry which most Jews didn’t recognize as one that would be that of the Messiah for them. They wanted another King David who would vanquish all their foes and conquer the Romans and take them out from under the domination of the Romans. Now the people of Thessalonica were under the domination of the Romans and also facing the questioning from the Jews as well. They had been h0ping for Jesus to return and Paul had to urge them to remain strong, not give in to false prophets, and to continue to pray to God who would include them in the salvation that He offered and that they would be taken with Jesus to heaven in the second coming of Jesus. We spent a considerable amount of time discussing verses 5 and 11, as they seemed difficult to understand and there is a lot of difference in various translations of these verses.

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02-11-2014 I Thessalonians 5

Paul ends this letter talking about the second coming of Christ. He says that the people of the Thessalonian church don’t need to be told when Jesus will come again. They are prepared no matter what. This may be a ploy on Paul’s part to convince them that they need to be strong in their faith. He says the second coming will come as a thief in the night or just totally unexpected, but they need to be prepared. He has a nice phrase for the preparedness he desires of them. He says that they should put on the breastplate of faith and love and for a helmet the hope of salvation. He makes them to be soldiers that have armor to protect them until Jesus returns. Then he goes on to tell them how they should live their lives. He urges them to encourage one another and to treat each other with respect and encouragement. Do not repay anyone evil for evil but always seek to do good to everyone. He urged them to pray and give thanks in all circumstances. Test everything, but hold fast to what is good. Matthew Henry in his commentary says that a truly religious life is a life of constant joy. I think that people should focus on this aspect and the charge to do good to others and put a positive spin on life even in times of difficulties. We must be careful not to quench the holy spirit. We could do this by indulging carnal lusts and affections and minding only earthly things. He says believers hinder their growth in grace, by not giving themselves up to the spiritual affections raised in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. He concludes by urging the people to read the scriptures and that they should strive to insure that there will be versions of the Bible that are accessible to everyone in their language. This must have been what Martin Luther was reading when he got upset with the Catholic church.

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02-04-2014 I Thessalonians 4 (18)

Mark announced the sad news about Frank and Mary Scamman’s daughter’s death. We then started reading I Thessalonians 4 and we focused on several verses that were interesting. A question was raised about verse 3 where Paul cautions against sexual immorality. The verse in Greek is pornias which is the root of pornography. I think the key is verse 4 that believers should know how to control their own body and this is stated in singular first person as opposed to most of the rest of the verses here which seem to be plural versions of the pronoun. We discussed why Paul was cautioning against sexual immorality. Was it because there were so many influences like the pagan sex worship all around, or was it because there were people among The Way who were doing this? John R. W. Stott is quoted at the link  https://bible.org/seriespage/sanctification-sex-and-love-1-thessalonians-41-12 that it is such a basic human urge, but also because of the promiscuity of the Graeco-Roman world. Also both Corinth, where Paul was writing, and Thessalonica, where the people who he was writing to lived, were infamous for their immorality. I was quite likely that some of the women who were in the church had been temple prostitutes. In Corinth, Aphrodite sent her servants out as prostitutes to roam the streets by night and Thessalonica was associated with the worship of dieties called Cabiri in whose rites  gross immorality was promoted in the name of religion.  It was fairly accepted at that time that men either could not or would not limit themselves to their wife as their only partner.

We then talked about V 13 where some versions have people asleep in Jesus awaiting the second coming when they will go to heaven, whereas other versions have people dying in Jesus and then being taken to heaven at the second coming. Paul was preaching the believers would be taken to be with Jesus at the right time. People at that time were wondering when the second coming would happen. This is the scripture that is associated with the ‘rapture.’ The Holy Spirit here could be interpreted as life giving breath. In looking at the Greek for this passage, the stem is ‘than’ for death, but ‘quinono’ for asleep and the believers are associated with quinono or sleep and Jesus was associated with than or death. So Jesus died in order to overcome death and we are asleep in Jesus to be taken to Him at the second coming. Paul’s words became so dominant in the early church because he was writing to all the churches away from Jerusalem, whereas the disciples like Peter and James didn’t need to write so much. There probably isn’t much to say that what Paul was writing didn’t disagree with what Peter and James were teaching. The one big dispute is on the issue of whether Gentiles needed to be circumcised. Paul talked about Kairos or wonderful as apposed to the chronos or time of something happening.

We talked some about the beginning of Thessalonica, and a link to Wikopedia says The city was founded around 315 BC by King Cassander of Macedon, on or near the site of the ancient town of Therma and twenty-six other local villages. King Cassander of Macedon named the new city after his wife Thessalonike, a half-sister of Alexander the GreatShe gained her name (“victory of Thessalians”, from Greeknikē “victory”) from her father, Philip II, to commemorate her birth on the day of his gaining a victory over the Phocians, who were defeated with the help of Thessalian horsemen, the best in Greece at that time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thessaloniki

Out thoughts and prayers are with the Mary and Frank and their family at this time of sadness.

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January 28, 2014 I Thessalonians 3 (19)

More effusive intro. Some have persecutions in verse 3 rather than affliction. Gene asked about vs 1 and what was it he could bear no longer. Why was he alone? We sent Timothy to you to establish and exhort you in your faith. What about our witness? What is our persecution? Mark says there is a social lid on our witness. We imagine there will be an adverse reaction to our witness. Al talked about a medusa on their front door, an indication of welcome and good will. Vs 8 Paul delighted in knowing that the people at Thessalonica were still faithful because of the report from Timothy. In Athens where Paul was at this time, the Christian witness was difficult because the people were caught up in the the cult of Rome. It was the government established religion. Paul is encouraged by the continued faith of the Thessalonians. Frank brought up the difficulty because of the distance involved as it was over 300 miles from Athens to Thessalinica. But yet, the mail in the Roman empire was delivered in 30 days between any two points in the empire.

We then got into a discussion about Satan. Satan stopped him in 2:18, but Jesus got them thru in 3:11. Erasmus said Christians are superstitious and there is little  difference between the pagans and Christians in that regard. John said the whole idea of Satan is superstitious. Does God or Satan punish or reward us? Don’t we try to see God as being responsible for good things in our lives, while satan is responsible for those times when we fail or bad things happen to us. Satan must be very powerful!

Paul thought his experience meeting the spirit of Christ on the road to Damascus could happen to anyone and it is glorious if it happens to you. How do we maintain relationships and what causes them to go awry. Maybe August: Osage County is an example of relationship problems. Does cancer take something away that will overcome problems in a relationship? Who is the enemy? We have gotten so used to profanity or vulgarity that we can’t distinguish what the role of language is for us. People in that time were dying without Christ and Christians having doubts about their faith because they had been taught to expect Jesus’ return at some near term time. They faced the same problem we have to this day of not knowing when Jesus will come again. How do we maintain our faith in light of this?

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01/21/14 I Thessalonians 2 (16)

As Paul writes to the Thessalonians he is realizing that his thoughts about the future with Jesus returning soon were not happening. He has to adjust his thoughts to the way this affects how people should live in the hope of Jesus. In this chapter Paul expresses the most anti-Jewish sentiments of any of his writings. In 2:14-16, he accuses the Jews  of persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem and also says they were responsible for the death of Christ. Some think this section wasn’t written by Paul, because he doesn’t include anything like this in his other letters. However, some say the Jews were just playing a role that God intended for them, because Jesus was intended to die. Some thought that these were the words of Paul in his younger days and that he may have repented of them as he grew older. Was Paul being arrogant because of his practice of reciting his accomplishments or was he just trying to provide the people with authority for his words?

We got onto a discussion of Luther’s three uses of the law because of the views that the Gentiles had to understand about the laws that Jews had followed for years. The first use of the law is to keep sin in check, while the second use of the law is to mirror sin in believer’s hearts to lead them to see their sins and in that way prepare them for the gospel. The third use which some think came from Philip Melanchthon is to serve as a means of sanctification of the believers. This was an attempt to explain the use of the law, because Jesus shows us God as being defined by the good news of the gospel, whereas just seeing the law presents God as a hard taskmaster who can never be satisfied.

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01-14-14 I Thessalonians 1 (17)

We talked some about the background for this letter. This was Paul’s first letter and was probably written by the end of 52 AD. Here is a link to a site that suggests a time line for Paul’s journeys and the epistles he wrote. http://www.matthewmcgee.org/paultime.html   It was the first written book in the New Testament. Bible scholars think Paul wrote this letter from Corinth after Timothy rad returned from Macedonia with news of the state of the church in Thessalonica. Paul was encouraging the people there, but the last two chapters addresses issues of doctrine. Paul urges them to go on working quietly while waiting in hope for the return of Christ. The letter was an affirmation for some of the converts in Thessalonica. Verse 8 probably refers to Paul and Silas (Silvanus) and he indicated that because of his earlier work there and the way they were evangelizing that he and Silas need not do further evangelizing there. We got into questions about how much people traveled in those days and how long Paul’s journeys took and how he traveled. There is a map below giving Paul’s second missionary trip which was the one on which he visited Thessalonica. While he was on the trip he received a message from God to visit Thessalonica. Here is a link that describes his second trip. http://www.apostlepaulthefilm.com/paul/journey_02.htm

For some background on Paul and this letter to the people at Thessalonica. Paul’s conversion took place not long after Christ’s time on earth in 33-36. Paul visited Thessalonica with Timothy and Silas (Silvanius) on his second missionary journey. He visited one of the chief Jewish synagogues in the area and for 3 Sabbaths explains why Jesus is the prophesied Savior. It is suspected that some of the Jews were envious of the Gospel’s success formed a mob and started a riot. The crowd went to the house of Jason where it was reported that Paul was staying and forced Jason to go to the local magistrate to defend himself. Jason was soon released, but Paul and Silas were sent by the brethren of Jason out of the city to Berea. Thessalonica became part of the Roman empire in 168 B.C. There were a lot of gentiles that attended the Jewish synagogue. Here is the link to the above info: http://www.biblestudy.org/biblepic/thessalonica-apostle-paul-missionary-journeys.html

Pharaisaic Judaizers went to Antioch (Acts 15:1-5) in the late summer of 49 A.D. and taught that circumcision is necessary before a person can be saved. Paul, Barnabas, and others (Galatians 2:1-2) are sent to Jerusalem to confer with other apostles , elders and brethren concerning the relationship between circumcision and salvation. This gathering has been called the Jerusalem Conference. Paul and others had a private meeting with James, Peter, and John about this question and they agreed that circumcision is not required for Gentiles to be saved. James wrote a letter to this effect that Paul and Silas then took to Antioch to deliver this letter to the people there. This was the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. The link to this material is http://www.biblestudy.org/maps/apostle-paul-second-missionary-journey-map.html

There is a map of Paul’s second missionary journey below:

Large Map of Apostle Paul's Second Missionary Journey


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01/7/2014 No Lost Boys Today (Too Cold, Brrrr!)

John suggested the following reading today, so I will give you the link:

In place of Lost Boys this morning, a thought-provoking opinion piece from Ross Douthat, a prominent conservative intellectual.  His background is interesting.  According to Wikepedia, he became a Pentacostalist as an adolescent.  He is now Roman Catholic.

Douthat is in favor of more doctrine rather than less, but that is a story for itself.  If you are curious, read Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

December 21, 2013

Ideas From a Manger


PAUSE for a moment, in the last leg of your holiday shopping, to glance at one of the manger scenes you pass along the way. Cast your eyes across the shepherds and animals, the infant and the kings. Then try to see the scene this way: not just as a pious set-piece, but as a complete world picture — intimate, miniature and comprehensive.

Because that’s what the Christmas story really is — an entire worldview in a compact narrative, a depiction of how human beings relate to the universe and to one another. It’s about the vertical link between God and man — the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But it’s also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low.

It’s easy in our own democratic era to forget how revolutionary the latter idea was. But the biblical narrative, the great critic Erich Auerbach wrote, depicted “something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurrences of contemporary life.”

And because that egalitarian idea is so powerful today, one useful — and seasonally appropriate — way to look at our divided culture’s competing worldviews is to see what each one takes from the crèche in Bethlehem.

Many Americans still take everything: They accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.

But this biblical world picture is increasingly losing market share to what you might call the spiritual world picture, which keeps the theological outlines suggested by the manger scene — the divine is active in human affairs, every person is precious in God’s sight — but doesn’t sweat the details.

This is the world picture that red-staters get from Joel Osteen, blue-staters from Oprah, and everybody gets from our “God bless America” civic religion. It’s Christian-ish but syncretistic; adaptable, easygoing and egalitarian. It doesn’t care whether the angel really appeared to Mary: the important thing is that a spiritual version of that visitation could happen to anyone — including you.

Then, finally, there’s the secular world picture, relatively rare among the general public but dominant within the intelligentsia. This worldview keeps the horizontal message of the Christmas story but eliminates the vertical entirely. The stars and angels disappear: There is no God, no miracles, no incarnation. But the egalitarian message — the common person as the center of creation’s drama — remains intact, and with it the doctrines of liberty, fraternity and human rights.

As these world pictures jostle and compete, their strengths and weaknesses emerge. The biblical picture has the weight of tradition going for it, the glory of centuries of Western art, the richness of millenniums’ worth of theological speculation. But its specificity creates specific problems: how to remain loyal to biblical ethics in a commercial, sexually liberated society.

The spiritual picture lacks the biblical picture’s resources and rigor, but it makes up for them in flexibility. A doctrine challenged by science can be abandoned; a commandment that clashes with modern attitudes ignored; the problem of evil washed away in a New Age bath.

The secular picture, meanwhile, seems to have the rigor of the scientific method behind it. But it actually suffers from a deeper intellectual incoherence than either of its rivals, because its cosmology does not harmonize at all with its moral picture.

In essence, it proposes a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusory. And yet it then continues to insist on moral and political absolutes with all the vigor of a 17th-century New England preacher. And the rope bridges flung across this chasm — the scientific-sounding logic of utilitarianism, the Darwinian justifications for altruism — tend to waft, gently, into a logical abyss.

So there are two interesting religious questions that will probably face Americans for many Christmases to come. The first is whether biblical religion can regain some of the ground it has lost, or whether the spiritual worldview will continue to carry all before it.

The second is whether the intelligentsia’s fusion of scientific materialism and liberal egalitarianism — the crèche without the star, the shepherds’ importance without the angels’ blessing — will eventually crack up and give way to something new.

The cracks are visible, in philosophy and science alike. But the alternative is not. One can imagine possibilities: a deist revival or a pantheist turn, a new respect for biblical religion, a rebirth of the 20th century’s utopianism and will-to-power cruelty.

But for now, though a few intellectuals scan the heavens, they have yet to find their star.

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12/31/2013 Phillipians 4:10-23 (13)

For our last meeting of 2013, we finished the book of Phillipians, reading the verses starting in chapter 4 verse 10 to the end of the chapter. Verses 11 and 12 provoked much comment. Do we reach a point in our lives where we are more content with our lot in life and have less anxiety over the future and things that bother us? Some say that we achieve more wisdom as we age, but maybe there are just fewer opportunities to upset us. I guess it remains an open question. On our recent vacation, I remember getting upset over a number of little things like people coming in late for performances and disrupting those behind them, or administrative details of the vacation being handled poorly in some cases, and in general the rudeness and thoughtlessness that some people exhibit. I suppose that I should learn to be less concerned and more accepting of the foibles of others. Paul was facing some large problems as he was writing from prison and could be fearing for his life. The Romans had killed others who followed ‘The Way’ at that time. But he said earlier in chapter 1:21-26, specifically verses 23-24,  that he might prefer to take on the body like that of the transfigured body of Jesus, but that if God had more planned for him in his present life, specifically to continue his work with people like those at Philippi, he could accept that as well.

We then discussed the issues surrounding end of life for us. Frank posed some very interesting questions that prompted some interesting discussion. .
Frank says there is dual intent in death in that sedation can ease pain but
also accelerate death. What is difference between physician assisted death and
staying off  tube and having morphine. Is determining time and
place  of death and suicide different. Chuck asks what is the right time
for death. Verse 11, can we be happy with our terminal event? In 3:21, Paul
wants a glorious body like Jesus had. What is the difference between going to
heaven immediately and being raised at Jesus second coming? Mark says there is
no time after death,  so there is no difference. Jesus resurrected body didn’t stay on earth, but is with God. Think about it as the redemption of the physical body. Doctors are instruments of God says Tom. John says why should you says it is a sin to say you shouldn’t take your life in any way. Humility is a tough thing to
obtain and if we think we have it we may be sinning on our assumption. Sin is
pervasive in us. But the church should not abandon an individual no matter

Next time I Thessalonians.

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12/24/13 Phillipians 4:1-10

This is such a beautiful section of the book. It is marked by his requests for encouragement for the women that have worked side by side with him. It is as if he knows these people so well and wants them to get along with each other. He urges Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences. They must have had a problem and he urges everyone there to help them, because their names are written in the book of Life. Then he urges them to Celebrate God all day, every day and he even says to revel in God. That is more than mere celebration of your love and respect and willingness to follow God and to do his will. Then he says to help them to live as if the Master could show up at any time indicating as many believed at that time that the second coming was coming soon. At least within their lifetimes. I think of how long the Jewish people had longed for a Messiah and then when one came, they didn’t recognize Him. Then Paul finishes off the section with a beautiful verse 8 that emphasizes all the wonderful things that come because of God and then gives a little benediction that the God of peace will be with you.

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12/17/13 Phillipians 3:17-21

Here Paul urges the people to walk as he and others in the way of Christ and he urges them to resist walking as enemies of the cross of Christ. He says that their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and we want our present lowly body to like his glorious body in heaven. Paul talks many times about wanting to be with Christ and is of two minds, knowing that he has work to do here to help people find the Way of Christ and yet wanting to be with Christ. Remembering that he was in prison all this time, it must have been difficult to keep up his work. One thinks of Nelson Mandala who spent so much time in prison but kept encouraging the people to fight against the apartheid of South Africa. He must have wanted to give up as well, but continued to be a witness towards what he believed.

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12/10/2013 Phillipians 3:12-16 (19)

Straining towards the Goal: This is the title of this section in The Lutheran Study Bible. And that is what Paul is pushing towards. His goal is the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He is pressing forward doing what he can to achieve this prize, but says he can’t do it on his own, but only because Christ Jesus has made Paul his own. And then he urges the people to hold true to what we have attained. Don’t be a back slider.  The Lutheran Study Bible says the goal is the promise of our transformation in the resurrection. It says that we often focus on earthly comforts worldly examples of success, and maintaining a beautiful youthful appearance. All of these things are nothing compared to citizenship in heaven. He urges us to turn away from the destructive ways of human nature and towards the heavenly calling the promises that contains.


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12/03/2013 Phillipians 3:1-11 (14)

Paul’s goal here is to do whatever it takes to attain the resurrection from the  dead to be with Christ. He starts out warning the people about the evildoers who mutilate the flesh. Maybe they had people at that time who did body piercing or tatoos! Then he gives his credentials for his ministry. It includes his standing as a Jew being to the tribe of Benjamin and a pharisee, and he adds that he was blameless. But then Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. The next statement is that surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ is worth all of the fine things I had before and the standing I had before. And this is from a man who knew Jesus Christ only from the transformational experience he had on the road to Damascus. I am sure the disciples who had been with Christ must have looked at Paul saying this as a bit presumptuous. They had been with Christ and Paul at best had a few minutes with him. But it is interesting that Paul would make this kind of witness even with that few minutes with Christ. It is an amazing witness and probably is the point of many of Jesus’ teachings about the difficulty of wealthy coming into the kingdom of Jesus.  Paul then goes on to explain that righteousness comes from God, not of his own doing which would come from the law, but it comes as a free gift through faith in Christ. He even asks to share in Christ’s sufferings so that he could be like Jesus in death. Such a powerful witness, that Paul is making here!!!

It must have been a difficulty among the Jews who were converting to be Christians, and they thought that they had to be Jews before they could become Christians. So what a break when Paul teaching to the Gentiles would say that it wasn’t necessary to be circumcised. There would certainly be some enmity between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians because of this. We speak of this today from our perspective as Gentile Christians. We think Paul was completely justified, but I am sure that Peter had a lot of trouble on this account. Circumcision was widely practiced in ancient times to distinguish a group of people. It dates back to the ancient Egyptians. We discussed the calling to be a monk. Mark noted that Monks spend much of their time praying. Is that wrong? Should they be more gainfully employed? But they do have to work to sustain their order and their own living expenses. We shouldn’t diminish the monk’s calling.

By the way, there is a Men’s Retreat at Ewalu  Feb. 7-9

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11-19-2013 Phillipians 1:27-2:13 (19)

This letter was written to  a small group of Jewish Christians in the town of Philippi. Lydia was one of the believers and seemed to be one of the leaders. There was some discussion here about this being a pep talk for the people of Philippi. They were being persecuted by the Romans who thought of Philippi as being one of their star cities. Leroy Huizenga writes about the process of de-Christianization of the church in the USA and says it is similar to what was happening at the time of this letter in Philippi. The letter was written in the 60’s. The Christians of that time suffered from persecution because of their faith in God through Jesus, they had to reject their prior identity as Roman citizens and they could not honor or worship the pagan gods and no longer could they worship the image of the emperor. Therefore, the Romans regarded them as atheists, since they rejected the Roman gods, and thus as traitors, as the Roman gods guaranteed the health of the empire. A reference to the whole article is http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/01/the-new-philippians The de-Christianization of the USA means that kids don’t know the Bible, and the stories therein. Some confirmation age children don’t know that Jesus died on the cross. School activities make it difficult for students to have time for church. Is faith truer in times of persecution. Mark made the comment that Romans 5:3 was trying to raise hope among the people. They needed encouragement, and that is why I think that Paul was not pointing out their flaws because that might just make it difficult for them. Sometimes we want things to be too well defined and that can make it difficult for us. It is important for us to see what Paul was doing with and for the people of Philippi.

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11-12-2013 Philipians 1:12-26 (19)

Our discussion today seemed to focus on the differences between the way churches interpret what a church should focus on and what beliefs the people in that church should have. Mark discussed an interaction that his daughter had had with someone from the Open Bible church where they were aghast that a woman could be in a position of authority in the church, in this case church council membership, and could be taught by a female pastor. So why would a church take this seemingly anti-women approach, or at least one that seems to put women in the background of the church. This seems to be a broader issue in many churches, not the least of which are the Muslims. I have often wondered why women are relegated to the background of so many churches and that is thought in these churches that only men can have substantial impact on the church. It seems that while growing up there my church had such a focus on being opposed to alcohol and dancing and social activities of that nature, while the Catholic church in my home town seemed to embrace those activities. So where do our beliefs get formed? Who sets the rules of how we should lead our lives in the church? Is it pastors? synod bishops? the ELCA bishop? or do individuals have an important role in deciding this question.

However, the more interesting question here is that posed in verse 1:21 where Paul says “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” It seems to pose the question about what life is all about and if there is no value to life we should all just end it as soon as possible to be with Jesus in heaven. But Paul says that to live is Christ, so that Christ provides meaning to our lives and that preaching, writing, and talking about Jesus makes life worthwhile and gives us purpose makes us to live in Christ and make it worthwhile to continue our task on this earth. Is living in this mode more like a heaven on earth? Is Paul saying that we should aspire to a life like this in order to fully realize a worthwhile life? Does this not say that everyone both women and men can realize a life in Christ and not be limited to artificial diminution of these roles by arbitrary rules of the church? And then Paul seems to make his choice in verse 25, saying that he will abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith. In the message, Peterson writes, that Paul is saying, “I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues.” Thus, I think he is saying that trusting in God and carrying out the commands of God makes for a worthwhile life and one to be desired by all. Possibly even better than the act of being with Jesus in heaven. It is important to know that Paul was probably either in prison at the time he wrote this or had been in prison and I am sure that being in prison in those days was not a bed of luxury. So Paul was going through a lot of persecution for his faith and actions and yet he still thinks it is worthwhile to continue and to be like Christ.

I also found it interesting that Paul seems to have by this time in about 62-63 AD have moved away from the belief that the return of Jesus was imminent and therefore was looking more towards being with Jesus in heaven.

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11/05/2013 Acts 16:11-40, Philippians 1:1-11 (19)

The selection in Acts set the stage for Paul’s letter to the Philippians some 2 years later. In Acts, we read about the first visit to Asia by representatives, namely Paul and probably Luke and others in their entourage. They had been traveling along the coast of Asia, but the Holy Spirit at that time had forbidden them to speak the word there. Then Paul had a vision that a man from Macedonia asked that Paul come to Philippi and Paul received the Holy Spirit’s word to go there. We spent some time discussing the woman who proclaimed that Paul and his people were the servants of the most high God who declare to us a way of salvation. She was employed as a soothsayer and had a spirit of Python. Paul told the spirit to come out of the woman and it did, thus ruining her employment because it was because of the spirit that she was a soothsayer. We discussed why this woman was judged to have a spirit when she was proclaiming that the men were from God. Possibly she was making a nuisance of herself and Paul felt she was mocking them. Her employers were so upset that they roused a mob against Paul and his followers and ultimately had them beaten and jailed. The jail was destroyed by an earthquake or God, and Paul did not escape but stayed and converted the jailer.  Then we  got into a discussion about what it means in verse 31 when Paul said to the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Some translation used in instead. The Greek would be translated as On. This led to a discussion about whether we go to heaven upon dying or if that happens when Jesus comes in his second time when it says that the dead will be raised up from their graves. We have become like the Jews waiting for their messiah for a long time as we wait for Jesus to come while the early Christians were expecting Jesus imminently. Does this mean that for us the expectation is better than the actual? I don’t think so, but it might mean that we live our lives as if we have realized the second coming and have communion with Christ in our lives.  Here is a map of Paul’s journey.



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10/29/2013 Jeremiah 42-52 (18)

HooRay!! We made it through Jeremiah before the end of the year. Next stop Philippians. Mark summarized a bunch of the last chapters as it appeared that there was nothing new in those chapters. God warned the people not to go to Egypt, but they went anyway. Then we read 44:4-10 which described the remnant of the people who went to Egypt and remained faithful to God. They were told not to worship Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven who was a fertility god. But many of the people did worship her anyway. People thought things were better when they worshipped her. The came all of the judgments. We skipped most of them. We read 51:59 through chapter 52. It was interesting what happened to the various kings of Judah, namely Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. They ruled in the time of the Babylonian conquest. jehoiakim was an unprincipled opportunist vassal to Pharoh Necoh to whom he owed his throne, until Necoh was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar. He was then an enforced vassal to Nebuchadnezzar for 3 years along with the petty kings of Western Asia, then he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar when he thought he could, but was ultimately killed by Nebuchadnezzar and thrown outside the walls unburied. A nice reference to all of this is http://bibleencyclopedia.com/jehoiakim.htm .

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10/22/2013 Jeremiah 37-41 (15)

One wonders what Babylonians thought about the God of the Israelites or if they were even aware of Him. Some of their reactions make you think that King Nebuchadnezzar was aware of God and respected Him. These passages describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Baruch is writing the story here and possibly he is putting words into the mouths of the Chaldeans in 40:2. How can we say that it is our God. How confusing does it get when culture changes as it is doing here at the time of Jeremiah. Or for that matter what is happening in our world today. This is the meaning of reading about these times in Jeremiah so we can better understand how God understands us and works with us in difficult as well as easy times.

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10-22-2013 Jeremiah 37-41 (14)

Mark summarized what was happening in chapters 37-38 and then we read chapters 39-41. This detailed what Jeremiah reported about the Babylonian conquest of the kingdom of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. A somewhat detailed history of this time is at the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babylonian_captivity Here is a similar link from the Jewish encyclopedia: http://www.bible-history.com/map_babylonian_captivity/map_of_the_deportation_of_judah_jewish_encyclopedia.html 

We had a discussion about the difference between the Chaldeans and the Babylonians. Here

Here is a summary of important dates and events from this time.

The following table is based on Rainer Albertz’s work on Israel in exile.[21] (Alternative dates are possible.)

Year Event
609 BCE Death of Josiah
609–598 BCE Reign of Jehoiakim (succeeded Jehoahaz, who replaced Josiah but reigned only 3 months)
598/7 BCE Reign of Jehoiachin (reigned 3 months). Siege and fall of Jerusalem.
First deportation, 16 March 597
597 BCE Zedekiah made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon
594 BCE Anti-Babylonian conspiracy
588 BCE Siege and fall of Jerusalem.
Second deportation July/August 587
583 BCE Gedaliah the Babylonian-appointed governor of Yehud Province assassinated.
Many Jews flee to Egypt and a possible third deportation to Babylon
562 BCE Release of Jehoiachin after 37 years in a Babylonian prison.[22] He remains in Babylon
538 BCE Persians conquer Babylon (October)
538 BCE Decree of Cyrus allows Jews to return to Jerusalem
520–515 BCE Return by many Jews to Yehud under Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest.
Foundations of Second Temple laid
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10-15-2013 Jeremiah 35-36 (17)

Jeremiah talked about the Rechabites and their adherence to the commands of their ancestors who said they should not drink wine, nor grow any of the crops that are used to make wine, and they should live as nomads, that is in tents rather than have dwellings in cities. Here is some information about the Rechabites: This information comes from the Jewish Encyclopedia at the following link: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12616-rechabites The Rechabites are said to be the descendants of Hobab(Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses (Judges iv. 11) In Jeremiah 35, they are said to have been taken to the temple and offered some wine to drink, and they declined on the grounds that Jehonadab, son of Rechab, their ancestor, had commanded them not to drink wine or other strong dring, or to live in houses, or to sow seed, or to plant vineyards, and had enjoined them to dwell in tents all their days. Jeremiah used them as an example of people who kept to their principles and didn’t disavow them as the people had done to the word of God. So people this morning said why is it such a big deal to hold to the principles laid down by their grandfather? Well, it appears that their ancestry goes back to Jethro, the father of Moses. and in the Jewish Encyclopedia, it is stated that Jehonadab appears in II Kings 15:23 as the companion of King Jehu when he slaughtered the prophets of Baal. Jehonadab was apparently a champion of the worship of Yehwh as against that of Baal. God made a promise to the Rechabites that they “shall not want a man to stand before me forever” Jeremiah 35:19 is interpreted by some as meaning that they would become scribes and sit with the Sanhedrin. One rabbinical scholar said that God’s covenant with the Rechabites was superior to the covenant with David because David’s covenant was conditional while that of Rechabites was without reservation. They are sometimes thought to be the Nazarites of later times. In any event, they appear to be a group of Jews that aren’t thought about with the 12 tribes.

We read how Jeremiah had directed Baruch to write down his words and read them to the people. As one would guess, King Johiakim was not happy with these words and so he had Baruch’s scroll burned. So Jeremiah told Baruch to write the scroll again. Poor Baruch!! We talked a lot about translations and how different words can evoke different understandings. For example, the KJ version says that Jeremiah was hidden and therefore Baruch had to go, the Message says he was black balled by the king, so he couldn’t go. It carries a different connotation. What is the difference between a translation like the many that exist for example the Lutheran Bible, King James, The Message and an interpretation like Good News for Modern Man? Here is an article espousing the validity of translations http://www.greeklatinaudio.com/transinterp.htm It doesn’t do so much with translations. Here is a link to an article by the St. George Orthodox Church that discusses the Bible: its translation and its interpretation. Whereas the earlier article talked about translations being pretty good, this one talks about the differences between the various Bibles of Christians, Cahtolics, and Eastern Orthodox churches. It is interesting. http://stgeorgepa.net/about/what-is-the-orthodox-faith/faqs/the-bible-its-translation-and-its-interpretation/

Finally, we had a discussion about obedience and God is always asking for obedience. Bill asked which is more important, that we obey or what we obey. Is it more important that the Rechabites supposedly obeyed a somewhat moral principle not to drink alcoholic beverages or to follow the tenets of God as outlined in the Ten Commandments? [Bill, if I got that wrong please correct it in a comment.]

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10-08-2013 Jeremiah 33-34 (12)

We spent sometime talking about false prophets and how one discovered who was a false prophet and who was believable. We also spent some time talking about the kings and what happened when they returned from captivity. Jeremiah really ranges all over the map. It appears his message keeps going from the terrible things that will happen to people in captivity and the promise that awaits them when they return. Of course, none of the people who were taken to Babylon will return. It will be there descendents and the story needs to be told to them so that they will be strong in their captivity and continue to believe in Jehovah.

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10/01/2013 Jeremiah 32 (15)

We read what appears to be the summary of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah which included them being conquered and the best and brightest being carried off into Babylon (604-506 BCE) by King Nebuchadnezzar and then the prophecy of God to make a covenant with the remnant who would return both from Israel (who had been conquered and carried off to Assyria in 732 BCE) and Judah. Some might say that the Samaritans might have been the Northern Kingdom people. The Assyrians were defeated by the Babylonians with the decisive battle coming in 605 BCE at Carchemish. The Assyrians had their capitol in Ninevah until it was overrun by the Babylonians in 612 BCE, and then they moved it to Harran in present day Turkey. When the Babylonians defeated them there in 608 BCE, the Assyrians moved their capitol to Carchemish. Egypt was allied with Assyria and marched to their aid against the Babylonians. In 609 BCE, the Egyptian army of Pharoh Necho II was delayed at Megiddo (in Israel) by the forces of King Josiah of Judah. Josiah was killed and his army defeated. The Egyptians were further delayed at Riblah, and Necho arrived at Carchemish too late. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar had surprised the Assyrians and and captured Carchemish. He then turned on the Egyptians and thoroughly defeated them in a bloody battle and the combined Egyptian and Assyrian forces were devastated.  This took place in 605 BCE. (this account is from the link: http://www.padfield.com/2008/carchemish.html ) Jeremiah 46:2 and 2 Chronicles 35:20-24 describes this as well. Here are some maps describing the conquests of Judah and Israel..





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10/01/2013 Jeremiah 32 (15)

Today we read Jeremiah 32. It was almost a reprise of the whole book. It talked about the prophecy of being conquered by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans and Babylonians but also held out the promise of God to remember a remnant of the people from both the 10 tribes of Israel and also the 2 tribes of Judah. The 10 tribes had been conquered years earlier and had been carried off by the Assyrians. There are other maps of this time in history at the link


By the time of the Babylonians, the Assyrians had been defeated by the Egyptians who were obviously part of the Assyrian empire.

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9/24/2013 Jeremiah 31 (11)

We read chapter 31 today, a remarkable change from what we have been reading before, although things started to change in chapter 30. There is much included here that people suggest is a prophecy of the coming of Jesus and the changes that he brings to the world. Where before Jeremiah had been delivering prophecies about how angry God was with the people, all of a sudden, he is telling how God is going to make a new covenant with them and promises them land and a new spirit. He talks a lot about Ephraim and seems to see him as a rallying cry. Ephraim was a son of Josephs. He says the watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim and say Arise, and let us go to Zion to the Lord our God. This new covenant shall be one where the law is written in the hearts of men and I will be their God and they will be my people. It will be an innate knowledge of each of the people that they are the people of God. One version has God saying they will live by love not by law, because the law is written in their hearts not something they have to learn about. this sounds a little pollyannish after Jeremiah had been so upset about the people. This is of course the prophetic announcement of Christ the messiah who would come to the people.

Matthew Henry in his commentary says “He that scattered Israel, knows where to find them. It is comfortable to observe the goodness of the Lord in the gifts of providence. But our souls are never valuable as gardens, unless watered with the dews of God’s Spirit and grace. A precious promise follows, which will not have full accomplishment except in the heavenly Zion. Let them be satisfied of God’s loving-kindness, and they will be satisfied with it, and desire no more to make them happy. Rachel is represented as rising from her grave, and refusing to be comforted, supposing her offspring rooted out. The murder of the children at Bethlehem, by Herod, Matthew 2:16-18, in some degree fulfilled this prediction, but could not be its full meaning. If we have hope in the end, concerning an eternal inheritance, for ourselves and those belonging to us, all temporal afflictions may be borne, and will be for our good.” I don’t know about this.

Some asked about the map of the tribes of Israel. Here is a version of it.


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9/17/13 Jeremiah 30 (16)

This whole chapter is about the significance of the land for the Jews. It has been the case since Abraham, Noah, and even Adam. There has always been a covenant that promised land in exchange for obedience. That could be one of the reasons that it was so catastrophic when the Jews were made slaves or carried away from their land. V9 has the promise of the return of the Davidic kingdom. Those were the glory days  and rescue would come from the outside. It could also explain why Christ’s coming would be a letdown for the people who were expecting someone to come and restore land to them. It might be helpful here to see what was happening in the days of Jeremiah in the rest of the word. Here is a chart that shows where in time we were. Look for King Nebuchadnezzar.


We read about Jeremiah telling the people they had to submit to their captors. Chuck wondered if that was why there was so little resistance to the Nazis in WWII. It was a strange time for the Jews and there was a high premium for shrewdness among the Jews.


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09-10-2013 Jeremiah 29 (16)

We read from chapter 29 today. It like much of Jeremiah is somewhat strange. There were two main themes today. One was the concept that Jeremiah spoke from God saying that the exiles taken into Babylon were going to be the favored people of God when they return and the remnant who had remained would be afflicted by pestilence and other woes. This remnant who had remained must have continued their evil ways. They were being led by their priests whom Jeremiah labeled as false prophets. This then was the second theme of how to identify false prophets. Starting with verse 24 through 30, Jeremiah labels Shemaiah, the priest a false prophet. It is a somewhat strange piece which could have been clarified if some pronouns had been replaced by the names. It seems that a letter has been sent to Shemaiah talking about the false prophets and saying words to the effect of since Jeremiah has been telling the exiles to get comfortable in their exile, that he should be labeled a false prophet and put in stocks and chains. Zephaniah is reading the letter to Shemaiah about being a false prophet to Jeremiah and this seems strange if Jeremiah wrote the letter in the first place.

It also is interesting that God who has picked a remnant of his people before would choose the people who were taken into exile as His chosen people at this point. I guess that the people who stayed behind had continued in the practices that they had been condemned to being conquered by Babylon in the first place. But with all the pressures of being in exile in a foreign land how these exiles could be the ones to believe in God seems strange. The interpretation clarifies the passages 24-30 in a nice way. It says “This is the message to Shemaiah that you sent letters to all the people in Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah that God has put you in charge of God’s temple and made you responsible for locking up any crazy fellow off the streets who takes it in his head to be a prophet.” Then Jeremiah says in effect why haven’t you put me in stocks if you are sent from God and I am saying something different from your preaching. So Zephaniah read the above letter and Jeremiah says that God sent him to tell people that Shemaiah is preaching lies to you. God didn’t send him. God will punish Shemaiah and his whole family, they will end up with nothing because he has preached rebellion against God. Again note that if you are for God, you will do well, if not you will suffer and have nothing.

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9/3/2013 Jeremiah selections from 19-22 (13)

Today we read more of Jeremiah. Pastor Mark suggested sections of Chapter 20, 21, and 22. We read about his dealings with Pashur who heard about what Jeremiah was saying and put him in stocks. Jeremiah said that Pashur would from that time be known as ‘Terror on every side.’  Then he talked about the coming conquest of them by King Nebuchadnezzar. He essentially said that God would enable the king of the Babylonians to conquer the king of Judah and carry off the best of the people to work in captivity.

Here is the territory of the Babylonian empire from 606-536 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and he destroyed the first temple in Jerusalem. He is featured in the book of Daniel and mentioned in other books. Nabu is the Babylonian deity of wisdom and the son of the god Marduk. To find out more about Nubuchadnezzar, here is a link in Wikopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebuchadnezzar_II

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08/27/13 Jeremiah 16,18 (14)

This morning we read excerpts from Jeremiah 15-18, and essentially they were the poems that Jeremiah would sing or say from the mountain tops to the people. They were written down on Papyrus by his scribe, Baruch. Jeremiah kept saying, “Thus Saith the Lord” in order to give authority to his words. Everyone wonders about God speaking to someone, as we don’t seem to see that happen very much today. When Jeremiah visited the potter and noted how he molded and remolded his clay objects, he used that as an object lesson for how God molds and shapes us. The evangelistic preachers and those who believe in predestination could use the words of Jeremiah as he talked about God using the enemies of Israel to discipline the people. He also used pestilence, but for example in verses 16:1-15, he also gives them hope. But God is certainly involved in both the good and bad that happens to the people. He is like a parent who punishes when he needs to and provides support when he approves of what his people are doing. One wonders at how much of this was really prophecy or responding to the events of the day and how they were unfolding. For example, Jeremiah could see how King Nebuchadnezzar was building up strength and was a menacing force taking over kingdoms right and left. It is easy to see him taking over the promised land as it was a fertile area. Mark talked about the passage in verse 16:15 where it states that the Lord brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them. I think that this refers to their return from the area controlled by the Babylonians after their captivity.

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Prophecy of Pastor John Meyer by Bill Nibbelink

Last Saturday, during an archaeological dig near Luther Seminary, we uncovered a partial manuscript entitled “The Prophecy of John.” . . . . . The writer happens to be our very own John, the Most Reverend John Meyer. . . . . And to think, . . . . some of us have insisted that there are no new revelations.

We would like to share with you what we found.  The passage we found is quite suitable to responsive singing.  We trust you will be inspired.

And now, the following from the Prophesy of John.

(Two persons sing, one singing the first line of each verse and the other responding with the second line.)

Deep in a dream a stern voice called unto me.

There is an odd thing in Iowa City I demand that thou see.


Early each Tuesday thou shall rise from thy bed,

and to a strange place called Zion thou shall be led.


There thou shall find a gathering of bewildered old men,

who know not where they go, nor where they have been.


Thee have I appointed to shepherd these pitiful sheep through holy writing.

Thy task shall be to make the Old Testament relevant and exciting.


Then I cried out, “What have I done to deserve this woeful assignment?”

Surely my planets and stars have been cast in a horrible misalignment.

“This,” said the loud voice, “shall be thy personal testing by fire.

But thou shall be given the strength that this task doth require.”


It will go poorly if thou presentest thyself as their preacher.

While not admitting to be it, thou must serve as a teacher.


When putting forth wisdom, be as brief as you can.

Most of these Lost Boys have a delicate attention span.


Expect from some of them a measure of incorrigibility.

Forgive them for they suffer the early onslaught of senility.


A few of them fancy themselves to be quite theological.

In spite of their academic degrees, they can be quite illogical.


Beware of those who consult their smart phones and Wi-Fi machines.

They count as divinely inerrant that which appears on their screens.


Some cannot shake off their need to possess right belief.

Nothing thou offerest to such souls can give them relief.


Some of these men will reject the Old Testament demands to obey,

insisting that this is not what the New Testament writers say.

Forgive those who think themselves more righteous than they’ve ever been.

They confuse righteousness with no longer having the strength to sin.


Forgive also those too eager to acknowledge their sins.

Such flaunting of sinfulness is where their foul pride begins.


Often they shall intentionally throw thy lesson off track.

It shall require of thee strong will to get the topic back.


They may threaten serious contemplations like marauding sharks.

They will undo thy sage instruction with their wiseass remarks.


Their uncircumcised humor may smite thee as disgustingly raw.

Like naughty children they fixate on foreskins instead of the law.


Whilst thou art with them they may take thee for granted.

But they shall miss thee sorely when thou art transplanted.


As they look back they will all be confessing

that thou hast to them been a wonderful blessing.


The time is at hand when thou shall be leaving.

Turn not around to behold their sad grieving.


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08/20/2013 Jeremiah 14-15 (14)

Today we welcomed back Pastor Pries after his sabbatical. He distributed a numerical summary of his sabbatical which was an impressive record of travel, meditation, (both at the monastery and while fishing), research, and writing. After Mark led us in prayer, we read Jeremiah 14-15. In 14, we read about the plight of the people and learned that the people had been involved in worshiping other gods, such as Baal, than the true God of the Israelite and that God was prepared to abandon them. Jeremiah describes the plight of the people in the drought that was happening and that they were searching for help anywhere they could. So they were praying to God as well as Baal for help in ending the drought. Jeremiah discussed the problem of false prophets who were saying that everything would be OK if the people just continued to endure. But this was at a time when there was an increasing threat from the Babylonians and they ultimately did come and took away the best and brightest from Israel.

In chapter 15, we read of how God has promised to destroy the people because they have not obeyed him and have gone away from worshiping and obeying Him. Then Jeremiah recites his credentials and states that God has designated him to be the prophet that He will speak through. Jeremiah says “your words were found and I ate them.” Thus Jeremiah starts the framework to ask God to save the people.

Several questions were raised with one of our regular questions being that of what is the importance of this reading for us today? What instruction can we take from these books in the Bible? Do we read them just because they are in the Bible, or is there some message for our faith life we can take from them? Various answers were giving such as saying that here we read of a time not unlike today when people are worshiping a variety of gods and maybe our worship of God has gone to the back burner. There are many false prophets and we need constant vigilance to find them and expose them. Jeremiah presents us with his credentials which provide us with a path to an understanding of how God talks with him and leads him to obey and worship God.

There is an open assignment to read the next 14 chapters of Jeremiah before next time, through Jeremiah 29. This would complete the part of Jeremiah that is thought to be written by Jeremiah and prepare us for the section written by his secretary Baruch. Jeremiah is credited with writing the books of Jeremiah, I Kings, II Kings, and Lamentations. Judaism regards Jeremiah as the second of the major prophets, and Islam considers Jeremiah a prophet as well. Actually, when Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 586 BCE, he ordered that Jeremiah be freed from prison and treated well. This couldn’t have been a good thing for Jeremiah’s credibility with the Israelites.

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08-13-13 Jeremiah 13 (14)

Pastor John started off with a discussion about Matthew’s references to Jeremiah. There were three references that he noted: (Information about these references can be found in detail in http://www.auss.info/auss_publication_file.php?pub_id=730&journal=1&type=pdf Matthew in his references is trying to link Jesus and his ministry to the prophecy of Jeremiah.

1. Matthew 2:17-18 Matthew was describing how Herod thought he was being mocked by the wisemen at Jesus birth decreed that all male children under the age of 2 should be killed. Matthew links the mourning of Rachel for her children as related by Jeremiah to this current act of Herod. Rachel was Isaac’s wife so this goes back to the early years of the Israelites.

2. Matthew 16:14 Here people were making comparisons of Jesus and saying that he is John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets. This reference states Jeremiah as the specific one of the prophets. Some say that this reference was because of Jeremiah prophesying about the destruction of the temple and Jesus making a similar prophecy about the temple at his time.

3. Mathew 27:9-10 This is the story of Judas who after he betrayed Jesus, said that he had sinned, threw the silver on the floor of the sanctuary, and went away and hanged himself. The prophecy from Jeremiah referred to taking 30 pieces of silver and established a Potter’s field which is where Judas was buried. Biblical scholars say that Matthew was referring to Jeremiah’s words in 32:6-10 but many say the quote was actually from Zechariah 11:12-13. Zechariah says, “And I said to them, if ye think good, give me my hire; and if not forbear. So they weighed my hire thirty pieces of silver. and Jehovah said unto me, Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prized at by them.” The reference in Jeremiah 32:6 is more about a purchase of land rather than the direction of Jehovah to throw the silver back at them.

We then went on to discuss a variety of topics from Jeremiah 13. In particular, Jeremiah writes about God telling him to take a sash and burying it in the Euphrates. Then going back to after some time and finding it in tatters. God said that because of the ways in which the people had been disobeying Him, meaning God, that is what they are as a nation, all in tatters. He then has another parable in which he says that the people are acting as if they are filled with wine and drunk all the time. They can’t obey God as they should. We had quite a bit of trouble with these two analogies.

Our session finished with Bill and Al reading a very clever thank you and tribute to Pastor Meyer for working with us during Pastor Mark’s sabbatical.

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07/16/13 Jeremiah 3-4:4 (15)

Today, we started on Jeremiah 3, where Jeremiah uses a metaphor that compares Israel, the northern 10 tribes to a prostitute and warns the kingdom of Judah that it is going down the same path.

A question that Pastor John addressed were about the northern and southern kingdoms. The following is a list by land apportionments: 1. Reuben, 2. Judah, 3. Issachar, 4. Zebulun, 5. Dan, 6. Naphtali, 7. Gad, 8. Asher, 9 Benjamin, 10. Ephraim (son of Joseph), 11. Manasseh (son of Joseph). Neither Simeon or Levi received territorial allotments, but had scattered cities within tribal portions. (Genesis 49:5-7) The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The Northern Kingdom was referred to as Israel and had been conquered by Assyria in 547 BCE led by Sennacherib, during the reign of King Hezakiah in the Kingdom of Judah. At that time, Hezakiah strengthened the defenses of Jerusalem to keep the Assyrians from conquering them as well despite the fact that the Assyrians laid siege to Jerusalem.   The Southern Kingdom consisted of Judah and Benjamin and Levi which had not received a land commitment but were the tribe of priests and were scattered in both kingdoms, but were mostly attributed to and present in the Southern Kingdom. http://jewsandjoes.com/blog/what-tribes-made-up-the-northern-kingdom-of-israel/

Why did God forsake Israel and “Cause” the Assyrians to conquer them? So they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.

The Southern Kingdom, or Kingdom of Judah was occupied by Babylon and they pillaged Jerusalem and took 10,000 of the best and brightest Jews back to Babylon. This was done by the Babylonian ruler Nebuchadnezzar. This was not done because the Jews rebelled against Babylon, but rather Israel rebelled against God. The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 422 BCE.

Jeremiah was called to speak to the people in Israel who had forsaken God and worshipped many other Gods such as Baal, yet God in his mercy still extended his loving hand to his “unfaithful bride.” Some have said of Jeremiah’s writings that they were looking forward to the arrival of the messiah, Jesus. Some mentions of circumcision of the heart seem to refer to more of a virtual presence rather than a physical sign on the body. There are other similar references. The Old Testament was in many ways an attempt to get on God’s good side and then the people would receive the blessings that God could bestow on them. The Lutheran Study Bible talks about Luther’s understanding of Jeremiah and called the epistle of James, the epistle of straw because of its emphasis on works and Luther knew that didn’t work for him. A question was asked in terms of God causing the Assyrians and the Babylonians to conquer the Jews of that day of there were people who said that the holocaust was caused by God and if so, what were the Jews of that era doing that would cause God to such a horrific thing? I think there are certainly limits to this kind of thinking and the holocaust is not something caused by God!!!

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07/09/12 Jeremiah 1-2 (18)

We finished reading Galatians last week, so decided to go to Jeremiah this week. It is a long book, so it will take us awhile to read it. He started his work in about 626 BCE The web site http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/464029/jewish/The-Prophet-Jeremiah.htm
provides the following information about Jeremiah. He was the son of the prophet and high priest Hilkiah and born in Anatoth in Benjamin’s area. He started his prophecy during the time of Prophet Zephaniah and Prophetess Huidah in the 13th year of the reign of King Josiah.

At this time, the northern kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians. His first mission was to go to the exiled 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom and encourage them and try to get them to come back to their native land. King Josiah’s death was a real tragedy for Jeremiah because he was the last pious king of Judah. And Jeremiah knew that with his passing, it would only be a matter of time before the land of Judah would lose its independence. Indeed, after Josiah’s death the people soon reverted to idolatry and he was shocked at the new relapse of the people and strove to keep them from the tide of spiritual depravity which threatened to undermine the high moral standards they had had with their belief in God when Josiah was king.

King Josiah began a religious reform in Judah at about 622 BC. “Never had there been a reform so sweeping in its aims and so consistent in execution!”[34] Josiah was free to cut off all tribute to Assyria and even extend his power to the north, into the former territory of Israel, because after the death of Ashurbanipal (in 627 BC), the already weakened Assyrian empire began to disintegrate. Also in 627 B.C. Jeremiah received his call to be a prophet and thus with others spurred Josiah’s reforms on. “By asserting that the nation was under judgment and would know the wrath of Yahweh if she did not repent, the prophets help to prepare the ground for reform.”[35]

The people of Israel had even gone as far as building high altars to Baal in order to burn their children in fire as offerings.[27] This nation had deviated so far from God that they had broken the covenant, causing God to withdraw his blessings. Jeremiah was guided by God to proclaim that the nation of Israel would be faced with famine, be plundered and taken captive by foreigners who would exile them to a foreign land.[28][29] wikibedia

After the death of Josiah, Jehoahaz was placed on the throne but the Egyptians took him in exile after only 3 months. The Egyptians made Jehoiakim king; he allowed the swift deterioration of Josiah’s reforms and vexed Jeremiah. He wasted the kingdom’s resources on a new palace. In 605 BC, the Egyptians were routed by the Babylonians at Carcamesh and thereby the Assyrian Empire vanished. The Babylonians moved into the Philistine plain the next year and devastated Ashkelon as well as causing great anxiety in Jerusalem. Jeremiah took advantage of the situation to preach his “Temple Sermon” (ch. 26). “His preaching was not merely an attack on the state, it was a call to individual men to decide for the Kingdom of God against the kingdom of Jehoiakim. And his own life was an illustration of the immense cost of that decision.”[36]

Jeremiah’s message was the primacy of God to the people.  “Thus saith the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the Lord Who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

For My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water… “Therefore… will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall become a desert.”

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07-02-2013 Galations 5-6 (11)

Today we finished Galatians. Next time we decided we will start Jeremiah. Some discussion transpired about some other books, such as Job, which we decided we should hold until Bob returned. A suggestion was made to look at C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, but we decided that this should be a Bible study, not a book study. Paul was addressing specific problems with the congregation in Galatia. Some people had come after Paul had started this church and said to the people, that the only way they could have salvation was to be circumcised and this could also save them from persecution. This also leads them to want to do faith kinds of tasks just to be sure they are being saved. Paul said no, all you need is faith in Jesus Christ. Paul also said that you need to stand up for your faith and if that means persecution, so be it. He is, I think, also saying that you have to take risks in the faith. Trust in Jesus not all these man made kind of ideas. You have to go out on the limb with Jesus.

It is interesting to read the sins of the flesh and there is quite a list, but then to add to that list as Jason suggested in his sermon on Sunday as well in our session this morning. It is easy to add to the list and it makes you think about what Paul was saying to the Galatians and what he would say to us today. Bill raised an interesting question about who wouldn’t be welcome to Zion as a member. We are not very selective in lots of ways. It is difficult to screen people when Jesus through Paul makes such an open ended offer of salvation through Jesus Christ. And then the gifts of the spirit are difficult not to accept. They are love, joy, peace, etc.

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06/25/2013 Galatians 4 (12)

We started with a discussion of Galatians 3:26-29. Here Paul suggested a new order that didn’t distinguish between Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free as a basis for having faith in Jesus Christ. This was a revolutionary concept. Al suggested that we recognize differences but they shouldn’t make a difference in their faith. Tom talked about phenotype associated with genotype which some think as something before genotype. This may be some reference to God existing and providing the basis for the genotype. How do we see the Bible in our culture? Paul says there is man or women in the faith which shocked the people at that time.

An allegory is a way of interpreting scripture. In this case it was the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah and gives new meaning to the Galatians and their faith. How important were women in the church in Paul’s time. How much did the dark and middle ages shape the churches concept of women. What were people looking forward to? Life after death? Heaven? Paul is asking, are you going to be a slave to the law or will  you live in the promise Jesus brings? Jesus rebelled in the face of the law. What is the new law.

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6/18/13 Galations 3 (11)


Pastor John distributed some notes on Galatians 3 to us at the beginning of our session this morning.  I have included a link to these notes at the bottom of the page. Click on it to open it up and read it.  There is also a link to an editorial in the Iowa City Press Citizen that talks about proof texting. I think it is very confusing, but it points out the problems in proof texting.

Think about Paul and how he says I do what I don’t want to do. We don’t know what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Various people think that this was not a real physical disease or ailment, but rather it was something God sent to Paul to keep him humble. Paul says it is from Satan.

Paul is lifting up stories of God’s love. Do we need to tell personal stories of God’s love. Does everyone have a conversion story? Bill asked if everyone is spiritual? Bible camps provide a spiritual experience for many. God opened up to gentiles by giving the promise to Abraham. It is interesting that Islam which draws its beginnings from Abraham teaches that there are two types of people those who are Muslims and who are saved and those who are infidels. The Christian church believes that salvation is available to all, but not everyone accepts it through Christ.

Paul is strong in the law but says we must be saved by faith. Tom said Christ did works to save us. Jesus is the scapegoat for all of us. Jason says this is a relationship kind of discussion. It is about who Jesus was and what he did. Jason says Jesus doesn’t say this is your last or only chance.



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06/11/2013 Galations 1-2 (11)

We made a huge leap from Exodus to Galatians today. We have made a radical move from the recitation of laws in Exodus to the epistle that has been called the Charter of Christian Liberty.

Pastor John compared Greek style of thought in the New Testament and Hebrew style of thought in terms of their method of communications. The Greek style values reasoned discourse while the Hebrew style is based more on story telling. In the NT we have reasoned discourse like God is love whereas in the Old Testament, you read a story about Creation and how God loved Adam and Eve, or the stories about God’s interaction with Abraham and how he promised him to have unlimited descendants as a measure of his love. Here you see that the authors get their point across by story telling. This is Paul’s declaration of justification by faith. When it was written is more of a problem. And who it was written to. If it was written to the ethnic people of the kingdom of Galatia, that would be the northern part of the area, whereas it could also be the more expansive area that the Romans designated as Galatia. Then it might be addressed to the southern part of Galatia. Those who think of the northern Galatia area date the book about the time of Paul’s Ephesian ministry, or about 56 A.D.  On the other hand, those who believe it is addressed to the southern Galatia people date it just before or after the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 and the date here would be 48-49 A.D.

Galatia is in present day western Turkey. If written to southern part in the 40’s,but if to northern parts, 53-54. First letter of Paul.
Augustine says love God and do what you want. But if we love God we will do what he wants. Paul introduces himself and makes the point that his teaching comes from Jesus not from any human source. This is what Jesus would say. Peter was the defacto leader at that time in the early church. Paul had been very Hebrew but speaks about the new way of Christ. Shocking. When did the word pope come into use?  Who were people teach the false faith? Paul talked to Peter and James but insisted his words came from Jesus. Some people see Islam as a Christian sect. Was Jesus a good Jew? Verse 2:14 Paul calls out Peter and says he lives as a gentile but requires others to have the trappings of Jews. Compare Christianity and Islam as sects coming out of Abraham while Christianity comes out of Judaism.

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06-04-2013 Exodus 31-12-32 and 34 (13)

Today, we read the episode of the golden calf that the Israelites began to worship while Moses was on the mountain talking with God. Another happy story says Gene. How explicit God was about keeping the Sabbath. Steve asked how men in battle deal with the Sabbath. How do we deal with God’s command to kill sons brothers and neighbors. Is this a story of how you got the priests. What about Aaron. Did God discipline him. Aaron probably saw this as an image of God in his mind. Aaron was a Levite. God was ready to abandon this people and Moses argued for the people. Was this foretelling of Jesus. What is our representation of God? Is it like the child who says, “you will know when I finish this picture.” Is it Charlton Hesston. Moses saved the people by arguing with god as Abraham had argued for Lot. What about the plague that was mentioned. This was a story to emphasize the specialness of this people. Is an example of this the idol worship of Hawkeyes. Do the Jews have a lectionary?  Rabbi Portman says this is about obedience to God. Making the rules black and white may be a mistake and a human attempt at being God. Jason says the Sabbath is the day for being focused with God and holding him as first in our lives.

We will move to Galatians next week.

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5/28/13 Exodus 27-28 (15)

We are going to start at Exodus 31:12 next time, so your assignment is to read chapters 29-31:11 on your own before then.

These two chapters described the way that Aaron should be outfitted as a priest of God and how the arc of the covenant should be built. We rebelled to some extent about the continuation of the mundane recital of laws governing the place of worship and the description of the priest. Aaron. But then questions were raised about various aspects of the church and its rituals. A question was raised about how one of the very important parts of the law, namely, to keep the Sabbath holy was violated so much today, and yet it was imposed on Adam and Eve by God all the way back to creation. Another question was raised about Luther and what he preferred to be called since he was both a priest and a monk. A reference to Lutherquest.orgg states that the pastor was a servant to home and state by divine decree. He thought that the pastor was to speak and teach as God’s servant in the church and that the pastor is accountable to God to preach and teach God’s word correctly. He also thought that the congregation was more important than the pastor. The reference for this is http://www.lutherquest.org/walther/articles/jmc00312.htm. Yet it seems that here in Exodus, God was making Aaron to be a very high being. He was being decked as someone superior to the ordinary people. Yet it appears that Luther didn’t see it that way. Aaron is designated as the person to be in the chamber with God and therefore he needs to be properly clothed. We talked about communion and how ministers prepared for it. Cultures have myths and they create traditions that remember those myths. Does that mean that we are just superstitious about all the details of the church and its operation? A question was raised about why all of this stuff was included in the Bible. Bill replied that all the fights about the inclusion of books were about the New Testament, and the Old Testament we taken as it had developed for many years.


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05/21/2013 Exodus 25-26

Vicar Jason Adams provided the commentary today.

  • Pastor Meyer started off by discussing the use of different sources in the text, and the importance of understanding the original context in reading the OT
  • Eldon brought some resources about the Ark of the Covenant and the shrine and the ways in which Israelites understood the ways in which they were to honor God.
  • The building of the Ark and the Tabernacle are examples of the new way in which God will dwell among the people, going where they go in the wilderness, into battle, and into the Promised Land. Just as they are a people set apart, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant are items that are set apart for God.
  • Lots of gold was used in the making of the Ark and the Tabernacle – the people must have carried golden items out of Egypt, and they were giving the “best they had” to be obedient and to build the Ark/Tabernacle.
  • We noticed a difference in the way Jesus lived a very simple life, without adornment
  • The Kaaba, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaaba at the center of Mecca, is stated in the Qur’an to be the first house of worship for people to worship Allah.
  • Like the Tabernacle, it might be considered a holy place in which items dedicated to God are contained.
  • Bob Moninger told a story about St. Pat’s & St. Wenceslaus’ remodels, and compared to St. Mary’s in Iowa City.
  • Some questions:
    • Why would God need such an elaborate place?
    • What does this say about how the people viewed God?
    • How has wealth and human influence changed the church and the ways we worship today?
    • How do economic differences and power imbalances affect how we view God active in our lives?
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05-14-2013 Exodus 22-24 (19)

Today, we read a lot of the laws and rules that God gave the people to guide them as they wandered through the wilderness. Some of them were interpersonal rules of how to handle disputes between individuals, and some were rules that specified the relationship they should have with God. We discussed the authority of the scriptures and what this should mean to our lives. How can we decide which of the laws to continue to abide by and which are just more appropriate to the times. Since most of us don’t have oxen, the rules about what happens if you steal or kill an ox are not really relevant to us. But among all the rules there were several that emphasized our interaction with God. There are also several that have been emphasized time after time.

One of the main items in the covenants with God has been the one God belief. Most people in those times believed in multiple gods, so that there is a specific god for each aspect of your life. God specified that he was the one God and that the people should have no other gods before Him and they should honor Him. This was unique at that time and represents a giant leap for the understanding of the people.

Secondly, another law was the tenet that there should be a day of rest and worship every week. This was first part of the covenant with Adam at the conclusion of creation. It was reiterated to Moses. Maybe it was because the people had been slaves in Egypt for so long and had been required to work 7 days a week. But it seems a fairly strong command from God. We also then get into the numerology of the importance of 7 and some multiples of 7. There is a nice reference to the importance of the Sabbath in http://www.worldslastchance.com/biblical-christian-beliefs/sabbath-in-the-bible.html

All of the laws were part of a general reliance on covenants in those days. Some of these were covenants like the ones that God created with His people, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. But there were also covenants between peoples. Possibly one group controlling another and laying down the restrictions and the ways that interactions between peoples should be conducted. It was important in Moses’ case that the people be represented so 70 elders of the people as well as Moses and his assistants climbed the mountain for this conference with God and then ratified the agreement that they would agree to the terms of the covenant with God. Remember, that only Moses was actually able to be in the presence of God. Here is a brief discussion of the event as described in Exodus 24. http://blog.spu.edu/lectio/covenant-ratification/ Here is another reference on the Biblical covenants that I found interesting. http://www.gotquestions.org/bible-covenants.html


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05-07-2013 Exodus 21 (16)

We are privileged to have Pastor John Meyer join us in Mark’s absence. I am sure we will all profit from his presence. This chapter contains the rules that God set for the Israelites on how servants should be treated and how personal injuries caused by someone or something should be handled. Pastor John suggested that one of the reasons for God giving the Israelite laws was to distinguish them from other peoples at that time. The Ten Commandments might well then be recognized as those laws which are at the top of the list and which must be obeyed above all to be in compliance with God’s covenant with us. And they require we place God above all other gods. The other laws and rules are important but are used to provide rules of conduct with each other, not as important as the primacy of God.

We are presented here with rules set down at this time and one of the issues we must deal with is which of those rules apply today and which don’t. John G. found a web site that had an interesting discussion about this issue. Here is the link. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2013/05/06/christians-follow-old-testament-laws The article suggests that there are a couple of ways that people think about following Old Testament laws. One is that changes are made with new covenants, and in one case, all laws stand except those changed by the covenant, and the other is that a new covenant provides a new set of laws. At least that is my rudimentary understanding of it.

The commandments can be organized into three categories:
1. Relationship with God
C1. No other gods before Me
C2. Don’t make graven images of me or other Gods
C3. Don’t take the name of the Lord my God in vain

2. Religious or family kinds of laws
C4. Remember the sabbath to keep it holy
C5. Honor thy Father and Mother
C7. Thou shalt not commit adultery (although some societies make this a civil law.)
C9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor (lying under some circumstances is a civil offense)
C10. Thou shalt not covet

3 Civil kinds of laws
C6. Thou shalt not kill
C8. thou shalt not steal

The laws about God and those I have classified as religious or family are those that may well set apart our lives from those who choose not to live by these laws given to Moses by God.


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04-30-2013 Exodus 19-20 (21)

This was Pastor Pries’ last session with us until late August because he will be on his sabbatical until then. Today was a session on the Israelites’ relationship with God at Mount Sinai. Chapter 19 talks about God not wanting the people to actually see him because they can’t stand it, they will die if they see God’s face. We are reminded here of Peter’s reference to the chosen people in I Peter  2:9 referring to them as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. Recall that Peter like all of the disciples was a Jew and still thought of Christ’s followers as being the Jewish people. Chapter 20 is the first statement of the 10 commandments. We start out with a discussion of God’s place with the people. The people actually heard from God. He spoke to them and said they should have no other gods before Him. If you honor your parents your children will have learned how they should honor and respect you and care for you in your old age. Hopefully that will happen!!  Some commandments were straightforward and could be stated simply, while others needed explanations.  Commandments were attempts to civilize the people. They continue on in the next chapter. The ten commandments are restated in chapter 34 in the other voice of the OT> Then they are restated again in Deuteronomy 5. I have been interested in the relationship between the code of Hammurabi which was written on clay tablets in 1700-1800 BCE in Babylonia. Since Moses was supposedly of the time frame 1400-1500 BCE or so, it would appear that Moses or God copied the code of Hammurabi since the two are so similar. However, there are several earlier references to God’s commandments and laws. In Genesis 26:4, God gives the covenant to Abraham and in Genesis 26:5, God says he is making the covenant with Abraham because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My Statutes, and My Laws. This was a good 400 years before Moses and at least 100 years before Hammurabi’s code. In Exodus 16:28, the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?” This indicates again before Mt. Sinai that God had commandments and laws that the people knew about and didn’t always keep. One distinction between the two is that God’s commandments recognized that the intent of a crime made a difference in the punishment. This was not the case with Hammurabi’s laws. So God recognized the difference between Murder and manslaughter. Here is a link that compares Mosaic law with that of Hammurabi on a commandment by commandment basis. I wouldn’t put much stock in the discussion of when they were written down, but it is interesting to see the comparison.  http://www.specialtyinterests.net/codexhammurabi.html It is interesting that people of that time thought it was important to have specified laws to deal with problems between people.

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04-23-13 Exodus 17-18 (22)

The chapters we read today focused on Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, who gave advice to Moses about delegating authority over the judging that he was doing for the Israelites. It was getting to be a sizeable task as the number of people grew and along with that the disputes among themselves and their desire to find out the will of this God who insisted that they wander around this wilderness, the Desert of Sinai, for 40 years. Jethro was a Midianite priest and also a sheepherder. Moses had worked for him a sheepherder and had married his daughter, Zephania.

The Israelites were complaining as they wandered in the wilderness. As usual, the good old days looked very good. Chaos breeds complaining, so now they complained about the lack of water. So God thru Moses gave them water. Moses also gave them an external foe, the Amaleks who were waging little battles against the stragglers. Who were the Amaleks? The Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that the Amaleks were a nomadic nation south of Palestine. They were a stock related to the Edomites. Amalek is a son of Esau’s first-born son Eliphaz and of the concubine Timna. So they were linked in this way to the Hebrews. The link to this reference is http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1351-amalek-amalekites They were referred to even in Abraham’s time. See Genesis 14:7. At this time they are indigenous tribesmen and God said that Moses should direct Joshua to annihilate them. Obviously they didn’t do that because they were still around during the time of David and Saul. The Wikipedia reference is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amalek

A timely article brought up by Steve was an opinion piece in the Press Citizen suggested that from Pharoah’s perspective, Moses was a terrorist. That doesn’t fit very well with our perception because Moses was working for God and was freeing the people, but I suppose a lot of innocent people suffered and even died in Egypt might dispute that as well.

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04-16-13 Exodus 15-16 (20)

Here we talk about getting established in the Wilderness, and here is a map of the wanderings in the Sinai desert.


Miriam is credited with both verses 1 and 21 as songs of praise to God. Miriam was listed as Aaron’s sister not Moses’. She probably included here as the voice of the people. Then God through Moses made the water sweet so they could drink it. At this point, God laid down the law for them and said that if they obeyed him, they would not fall prey to the fate of the Egyptians. Then the people were introduced to manna. It might have been a sort of flour. Here we have the first mention of the Arc of the Covenant in that it is used to store a sample of manna for their future remembrance.

I asked what the Muslims say about Moses. According to Islam, Moses is mentioned more in the Quran than any other individual and his life is mentioned more that that of any other prophet. They believe that there are many parallels between the life of Moses and that of Muhammad. Moses is also seen as receiving the revelation of the Torah which is regarded as one of the true revealed scriptures in Muslim theology. The story of Moses is very similar to that which we have been reading in Genesis.

This may have been the first mention of the Sabbath in the instructions about Manna since Adam in the Garden of Edom. The Catholic church appears to be somewhat like the tribal model that Moses followed in his time. Did the Israelites think about heaven? When did heaven come about? some evidence suggests it was available in the time of Job.

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The description of the natural cause of the plagues in Exodus

Bill provided the article that he found that discussed this and discussed them briefly in our 4/5/13 session.

There are numerous sources of these natural causes, but many of them seem to refer to the Santorini volcano and its effect on Egypt. One source is at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7530678/Biblical-plagues-really-happened-say-scientists.html Here is an argument that the Santorini volcano didn’t have the effect that was indicated. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/592-the-bbcs-theory-on-the-biblical-plagues .

The Trigger: Right around the time of the Ten Plagues, the volcano Santorini erupted multiple times, effecting Egypt differently from eruption to eruption depending weather patterns.

Historians have suggested that the plagues are passed-down accounts of several natural disasters, some disconnected, others playing part of a chain reaction. Natural explanations have been suggested for most of the phenomena:

  • (plague 1—water turned into blood, fish died)
    • The redness in the Nile could have actually been pollution caused by volcanic activity, specifically that of Santorini, which erupted around 1600 B.C. and whose ash is found in the Nile region. The silt could make the Nile turn blood red, and would also render it undrinkable. Heavy rains in the red-soiled area of Lake Victoria could have caused reddened water to wash downstream. Also the algae of the red tide could have been responsible for the redness of the Nile, the algae is harmful to drink and kills the animal life in the water it is present in.
    • Alternatively, a red toxic algal bloom (red tide) could have produced large quantities of toxins that would kill fish. (Also, an environmental change, such as a drought, might have turned the water red, following the death of fish.[36])
  • (plague 2—frogs) Any blight on the water that killed fish also would have caused frogs to leave the river and probably die.
  • (plagues 3 and 4—biting insects and flies) The lack of frogs in the river would have let insect populations, normally kept in check by the frogs, increase massively. The rotting corpses of fish and frogs would have attracted significantly more insects to the areas near the Nile.
  • (plagues 5 and 6—livestock disease and boils) There are biting flies in the region which transmit livestock diseases; a sudden increase in their number could spark epidemics.
  • (plague 7—fiery hail) Volcanic activity not only brings with it ash, but brimstone, and also alters the weather system, occasionally producing hail. Hail could also have occurred as a completely independent natural weather event, with accompanying lightning as the “fire”.
  • (plague 8—locusts) The weight of hail will destroy most crops, leaving several insects and other animals without a normal food source. The remaining crops therefore would become targeted heavily, and thus be destroyed by swarms of locusts which would otherwise be distributed rather thinly. Or the locusts could have increased because of a lack of predators. Also, locusts breed when the ground is wet, and if there had been a massive amount of hail, the ground would have been soaked. Even without these explanations, swarms of locusts are not uncommon today.
  • (plague 9—darkness) There could be several causes for unusual darkness: the very hail storm described in plague 8, a solar eclipse, a sandstorm, volcanic ash, or simply swarms of locusts large enough to block out the sun.
  • (plague 10—death of the firstborn)
    • If the last plague indeed selectively tended to affect the firstborn, it could be due to food polluted during the time of darkness, either by locusts or by the black mold Cladosporium. When people emerged after the darkness, the firstborn would be given priority, as was usual, and would consequently be more likely to be affected by any toxin or disease carried by the food. Meanwhile, the Israelites ate food prepared and eaten very quickly which would have made it less likely to be infected.
    • In the 2006 documentary Exodus Decoded, filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici hypothesised the selectiveness of the tenth plague was under the circumstances similar to the 1986 disaster of Lake Nyos that is related to geological activities that caused the previous plagues in a related chain of events. The hypothesis was that the plagues took place shortly after the eruption of Thera (now known as Santorini), which happened some time between 1550 BCE and 1650 BCE, and recently narrowed to between 1627–1600 BCE, with a 95% probability of accuracy. Jacobovici however places the eruption in 1500 BCE. According to the documentary, the eruption sets off a chain of events resulting in the plagues and eventually the killing of the first born. Jacobovici suggests that the first borns in ancient Egypt had the privilege to sleep close to the floor while other children slept on higher ground or even on roofs. This view, however, is not supported by any archaeological or historical evidence. As in Lake Nyos, when carbon dioxide or other toxic gases escape the surface tension of a nearby waterbody because of either geological activity or over-saturation, the gas, being heavier than air, “flooded” the nearby area displacing oxygen and killing those who were in its path.

A volcanic eruption which happened in antiquity and could have caused some of the plagues if it occurred at the right time is the eruption of the Thera volcano 1,050 kilometres (650 mi) to the northwest of Egypt. Controversially dated to about 1628 BC, this eruption is one of the largest on record, rivaling that of Tambora, which resulted in 1816’s Year Without a Summer. The enormous global impact of this eruption has been recorded in an ash layer deposit found in the Nile delta, tree ring frost scars in the bristlecone pines of the western United States, and a coating of ash in the Greenland ice caps, all dated to the same time and with the same chemical fingerprint as the ash from Thera. This transcript is from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagues_of_Egypt

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4-9-2013 Exodus 13 (21)

This chapter describes the feast of unleavened bread. The question was raised as to why it would be important to eat bread that didn’t rise. I have drawn on the web site www.therefinersfire.org/yeast_or_leaven.htm for this discussion. One explanation of why they would be told to use unleavened bread is that they were going to have to leave Egypt quickly when the word came and that there would be no time to wait for bread to rise before being baked. There is some confusion about some of the words used here. In the Hebrew the word being used is Chametz which got translated into Greek as Hametz and then to English and other languages as leaven or yeast. The Jews were to avoid eating Chametz which is anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt (a kind of wheat) and is cooked within 18 minutes after contact with water. No leavening is allowed. Thus the bread is done very quickly in line with having to leave their homes in haste.

In Jesus’ time, he talked about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees as a bad thing. It meant that they dawdled about and worried about the exact wording of their prayers and the laws they lived under and weren’t so interested in the reality of what God wanted of them.

How did yeast come about. Some speculate that it came about in ancient Egypt where wine making and brewing occurred alongside baking and its possible that some fermenting brew, a kind of liquid yeast known as barm, could have ended up in the bread dough that caused the dough to rise. And the people probably liked it. But this is probably not what Chametz was. The way it probably came about is similar to the making of sourdough bread dough. This is created by mixing flour and water and then letting it sit until it starts to sour and ferment. After awhile, it starts to have bubbles in the surface and if you let it go and stir it regularly, it will become sourdough starter and if you keep this around, you can use it as yeast in new bread and allow it to make your new bread dough rise. So it is a continual process. Here again we turn to Jesus’ words from Matthew 16:5-6 On their way to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring along bread. In the meantime, Jesus said to them, “Keep a sharp eye out for Pharisee-Sadducee yeast.” And this whole discussion about yeast is supposed to mean that we should not be led astray by man’s ideas, no matter how erudite they may seem, but to pray that YHWH will reveal those words that cause misunderstanding and ask YHWH to give you the desire to seek the true meaning.

This is all confusing and I am not sure that some of it isn’t just the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees that make it all confusing.

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04-02-13 Exodus 8-10 (21)

Today we read and discussed the plagues from the Frogs to the institution of the Passover and the deaths of the first born sons of every family in Egypt.

Why did God say to use unleavened bread. One writer says it is because there wouldn’t be time for the bread to rise as the Israelites were going to have to leave in a hurry. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_no_leavening_used_on_Passover The Jews are not supposed to possess any leavened product during Passover, so they have come up with an interesting solution. They sell it all to a Muslim who is willing to help them out. See the reference: http://www.pri.org/theworld/?q=node/25584

There is another reference that gives quite a detailed explanation of this prohibition on using leaven. It is at the following web site: http://www.therefinersfire.org/yeast_or_leaven.htm This author says that many of the new translations are inaccurate. That what we are really talking about is something called chametz and this is created by letting flour and wat

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03-19-13 Exodus 5-6 (13)

Jason led our discussion today as we read and discussed the beginning of the story of how Moses and Aaron began to negotiate with the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the desert. The Pharaoh was nervous about the size of the Israelite contingent, and so he had made them slaves who made bricks for his buildings. Upon Moses asking if the people couldn’t go into the desert for a retreat, the Pharaoh said no and then just to make sure the people didn’t get any ideas of any sort of slacking off their work, he said they had to gather their own straw to use in their bricks. (straw was a binder to keep the bricks from disintegrating.) The people, probably rightly so, said to Moses, “What are you doing to us, quit negotiating with Pharaoh because God is telling you what to do.” But Moses kept trying anyway!

The King James version used the term uncircumcised lips to mean poor speaker as Moses explained why he shouldn’t be the spokesperson for God. this is strange terminology. There is a retelling here of the story similarily to many other stories in Genesis and Exodus. This is attributed to another writer giving a different take on the same thing.

This all happened about 1500 years ago and was written about 900 years later. Gene gave a useful timeline where things happen roughly every 500 years. The first part came from a book written by David Beckham, entitled Exodus from Hunger. We as a group sort of added onto that timeline as follows:
Abraham 2000 BCE;
Moses 1500 BCE;
King David 1000 BCE;
Babylonian captivity and Jews being sinful 500 BCE;
Jesus 0 AD:
Constantine established Christianity 500 AD;
Crusades 1000 AD;
Luther 1500 AD.
Reestablished Israel in Canaan 2000 AD.

It is an interesting chronology, maybe a little too creative on our part and certainly approximate.

Why had they forgotten about Canaan? Maybe the genealogy was meant to remind them of this as well as their ancestors.  It reminds them of the history of the people. It is also interesting in the genealogy that they indicated how long the major leader lived. They were all in the range of 130 plus years. Despite the fact that other evidence indicates that people at that time were living only 35-40 years by and large. Maybe this is the historical era of the leader’s influence or the time until the leader was forgotten.

It is interesting that Joseph why wasn’t part if God’s continuing plan even though he had saved the people from starvation. I found an interesting commentary about Joseph at the following link: http://bible.cc/genesis/50-26.htm They say that Joseph’s body was embalmed when he died and put in a coffin and when Moses departed for Canaan, he dug up the body and carried it with them as they left Egypt. Possibly since he married an Egyptian, there were no Israelite offspring to carry on after him. Joseph’s sons were Ephraim and Manasseh who were promised to be the beginning of a great people. Here is another interesting reference about Joseph. http://www.angelfire.com/ok/bibleteaching/genesis11.html

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03/12/2013 Exodus 4 (19)

We started out this morning with a goal to read chapters 4-6:14, but only got through chapter 4. The reading opened up lots of discussion topics. This is the story of Moses being chosen by God to lead the people from Egypt to the promised land. It is the story of a man reluctant to be the leader of the people. In some sense, it is interesting that Moses was not in Egypt at this time having gone to Midian to seek a wife. He had married Zipporah, the daughter of the Midianite priest Jethro and had continued to live there and they had two sons by the time God called Moses. So here we have a man who is not living with the people, had experienced growing up as the pharaoh’s daughter’s son, and who had not experienced the hardships that the people were now facing in Egypt and yet was called by God to lead the people from Egypt. One wonders if the miracles that God gave to Moses weren’t intended to convince the Israelites that God had anointed Moses as their leader as much as to convince the Pharaoh to let them depart from Egypt. Perhaps that is why God was going to harden the heart of the Pharaoh so that Moses would be separated from the ruling Egyptians and made to suffer the hardship of the Israelites and thus enhance his leadership potential among them. Another thing Moses had to overcome was his marriage to a Cushite woman. Both Aaron and Miriam discussed this and confronted Moses about it.

A second thing happens on the way back to Egypt and it is rather strange. The story goes that God tried to kill Moses and that Zipporah fights back by using a flint knife to circumcise their first born son. There is an interesting discussion of this in the Wikipedia reference  Here is another reference I found interesting: http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/exodus/bbex7.html In this reference, Steve Rodeheaver from The Christian Resource Institutes’ The Voice Website, says that the circumcision practiced by the Jews has been replace by baptism at the time of Jesus and continued in our time. He says, “God seeks to kill us in this narrow sense, [Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”] to bring about this baptismal death, in order that we might have the life of Christ within us.” and then follows this by saying about Moses’ struggle with God: “Could it be that this was the kind of killing that God had in mind for Moses?  That the battle was not just physical, but that it was deep within Moses’ heart and affecting his whole being?  Could it be that Zipporah saw/felt Moses tossing and turning all night, wrestling with God, even oppressed by God to the point of death, if he did not surrender himself utterly to God?  Was God after Moses’ life, heart, soul, will, body, identity, his very being, in the same way God is after ours in the call of Christ?  Was the vicarious circumcision of Moses really (what we Christians now understand as) the “baptism” of Moses, in which he “died to self” and finally fully accepted a new life/identity in Yahweh?  Or to put in in the opposite terms, is our death to self in Christ really the circumcision of Moses in which we surrender our very life to God?” Another interesting reference about this is from the Jewish encyclopedia: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/zipporah-midrash-and-aggadah and here is another discussion form the web site Let us Reason that gives an explanation for the whole event: http://www.letusreason.org/Biblexp81.htm

We discussed Luther’s commentary about this topic. Luther was not big on using metaphors or allegories, but he made his commentary to help the people understand what was being written. It is interesting to muse about the role of commentaries in the life of the church. Rabbi Portman indicated that the Torah was important, but even more so are the Rabbis’ discussions and commentaries on the Torah. The Catholic church thought that the Pope’s interpretation along with that of the priests was more important than the scriptures for the people in the middle ages. Luther thought otherwise, yet he provided extensive commentaries to help people understand God’s will for them. In some sense, the New Testament is made up of the stories about Jesus in the gospels followed by commentaries in the epistles that follow which explain what the story of Jesus is all about. Was this story carelessly written. Luther didn’t think so and he preached on this and didn’t think it was just a story.

God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and tells Moses that He, God, created Moses’ ability to speak. This opens up the concept of whether god causes the car wreck and then takes the soul of the person home. Free will allows us to make bad choices and does this violate god as creator of all.  Do we understand the concept of God as a changing and evolving concept? The Greek mind would have god and our understanding of Him remain the same but the Hebrew thought would have god changing.

Is god of children same as god of ours today. In conclusion,  Moses was empowered by God to make a difference and lead the people to the promised land. This is how God chose to free the people from the yoke of the Israelites.

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03/05/2013 Exodus 1-3 (11)

Well it was a snowy day today with about 5 inches of new snow. But 11 hearty souls showed up to begin the reading and discussion of Exodus. The story is about the Israelites in Egypt and the beginning of the movement towards leaving Egypt. It is the story of the birth and early life of Moses. A new king of Egypt had forgotten about what Joseph had done for Egypt over 400 years before. Joseph had been dead for many years and the king worried about the increasing number of Israelites in their midst, as the Israelites appeared to be very prolific. They had grown from a group of 70 people who had come in the time of Joseph to a multitude. This is about 20 generations of people. The king decided to crack down and make them slaves to do the menial work of Egypt building. There is a historical record of a group of people who did much of the menial building work at that time in Egypt. But our task is not necessarily to look at the historical accuracy of the book of Exodus, but rather to try to interpret the story and decide how it helps us know God today.

We have all known the story of Moses from our Sunday School days. It is interesting that there is little written about Moses from the time his mother weaned him and handed him over to the Egyptian princess to the time he married Zipporah, a daughter of a Midianite priest and he got into trouble because he killed an Egyptian overseer who had been abusing the Hebrew workers. Then it continues with his encounter with God in the episode of the burning bush. This is where God gives his name as I AM, or Yehweh, where the letters for Lord are YHWH.

One wonders how much the Israelites had integrated with the Egyptians in the 400 some years they had lived there. It is interesting that the edict from the King was to kill the boys whereas it might have been more effective to kill the girls. However, it was mentioned that the girls became concubines and served other useful purposes. It doesn’t appear that the edict was terribly  effective as Aaron also was not killed although he might have been born before the edict went out.

The encounter that Moses had with God was interesting. The phrasing was something like God remembered the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and saw that the people were suffering under the yoke of Egyptian slavery. So he decided to renew the covenant with Moses. He had to introduce himself to Moses so it seems that the people had sort of forgotten about God as well. There was a lot of pressure among the people to conform with their neighbors and worship multiple gods. God then promised Moses the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey and populated at the moment by Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. However, there is no problem moving in on these people, as God will just give the Israelites the power to destroy them. What a God!!! Moses said to God, “indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The god of your fathers has sent me you’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God says I AM WHO I AM. and I AM has sent me to you. This is kind of strange to our ears, but I guess Moses was alright with it. Then he repeated the covenant of a promised land to Moses again. Then in a kind of interesting sidelight, God said that every women should ask of her Egyptian neighbor for articles of silver, gold, or clothing so that you can put them on your sons and daughters and thus plunder Egypt. I guess they were going to use this plunder to trade with the nomads in the wilderness for the next 40 years, because there probably wasn’t going to be a place to look lovely for the next 40 years.

So how do we understand all this. It was a story showing how God continually cares for this people and makes them special. Again, there are hints of the need to be obedient to Him, but again there is the promise of a people being set aside and being established in a land of their own. How did we inherit this title of a people set aside for the purpose of serving God? It must be through the grace provided by Jesus Christ through His ministry.

Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of a priest who is referred to either as Reuel or Jethro. The midianites were descendents of Abraham. After Sarah died, Abraham took a wife named Keturah. Genesis 25:1-2. They had a son named Midian. Midian was located on the East shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The Midianites had a religio-political connection with the Moabites and are thought to have worshipped a multitude of Gods, including Baal-peor and the Queen of Heavon, Ashteroth. This info is from Wikipedia searched on Midian. Some people believe that Yehweh was first worshipped bin pre Israelite times in the Levant region of Midian. Other information about Midian. Joseph was sold by his brothers to the Midianites. Moses spent 40 years with the Midianites. God instructs Moses to collect an army and destroy Midian. Israel is oppressed by Midian during the time of the Judges. Gideon is called by God to deliver Israel from Midian’s armies. The Quoran talks of Midian as one of the cities destroyed by God while Lot was fleeing from them. The Quoran suggests that Lot was preaching repentance to them.



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2/26/13 Joshua 13 (21)

Dirk helped us all out today by reading Joshua 13 with all of its difficult to pronounce names. And he did it all very well. We were privileged to have Rabbi Portman visiting with us today and sharing his insights with us. This chapter lays out the boundaries of Canaan which God told Joshua to capture for the Israelites. It also indicates where the various tribes will be located in this new land. It indicated that the tribe of Levi would have no land to itself as that is the tribe of priests who will be supported by everyone by their offerings to God. This was mentioned twice both in verses 14 and 33. The Lord God of Israel is their inheritance. It is interesting that the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites and that these people still live in the midst of Israel. Was this because the Israelites failed to drive them out or did God have some reason to leave them there? Might this remnant be the Palestinians of today? [See the map of the conquest below.]

This is a description of the territory of Canaan and how the land was to be divided among the tribes of the paper. Levi didn’t get a land share as they were the priests. Rabbi Portman was our guest. RP said the scriptures have to come from God because it is too bizarre to imagine it. The writers put the words into Gods words to make it more powerful.  This part of the word, the so called prophecy books,  isn’t usually read along with the first five books, the pentateuch. Rabbi Portman said that Jews see NT is a description of one character and his ministry whereas the Hebrew Bible has many characters. The torah and its teachings are most important and god is almost secondary. People wonder why god would violate His commandments by all these killings and plundering. Mark said that we have to remember this isn’t as reliable historically as maybe the civil war accounts. Although even accounts of the Civil War are sometimes sketchy. Our faith is built on the totality of texts that describe the god here. Rabbi Portman said this was a story of how the people heard God in their day. Inspiration today is how we write how God speaks to us.

Approach the scriptures as a whole for how to interact with god.Dirk told story about a man named Mark hitting tree in his car while texting, drinking, or some other distraction and when he was taken to the hospital, the chaplain there said that he had received the just reward for his action. However, his nurse for the hospital stay was a beautiful woman who cared for him during his hospital stay and he married her. After 30 years of marriage, he wrote that the crash which put him in the hospital was God’s way of introducing him to this wonderful woman who would give him a wonderful life. Now which interpretation is the correct one or is it the perspective of the writer and is it the way the chaplain and Mark each interpreted the story in a different way. Al said maybe  it is the inspiring word of god as opposed to inspired word of god. We are still writing the story of our interaction with god. We gather around studying the bible to discern our relationship with God and to understand how God talks with us.

Go to Exodus next week.

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2/19/13 Joshua 11-12 (13)

Today we read about the continuing conquest of the land of Canaan by Joshua. It is a story of Joshua fighting and winning against tremendous odds over the 31 kings who controlled cities in Canaan. All is attributed to the will of God. The people were commanded to kill all those who they fought against, even the women and children, but to keep the spoils. We have to remember that we are reading about a people who were making their way in a world at approximately 1440 BCE. The story was believed to have been composed in the early part of the Babylonian captivity around 600 BCE. However, there are a number of archeological scholars who believe that there is little evidence of the Israelites in Canaan until about 1250 BCE. There is evidence in the 11th and 12th centuries of the presence of Israelite people who settled in small towns in the highlands of Canaan.  There are also questions about all of the battles that were fought and the subsequent genocide that supposedly happened. There is evidence that many of the kings who were described as those killed in the battles the Israelites fought for the land existing in much later times.

So what are we to make of the story that we consider today? Should we see this as rabbinic Jewish literature depicts it as describing Joshua as a faithful, humble, deserving, wise man who is obedient to the dictates of God and therefore illustrative of these qualities and of the rewards from God he received because of them? Or is there more to it than that. What was the role this text plays for the people at the time it was written? If it was written in the early part of the Babylonian captivity, was it a pep talk for the people talking about how strong they had been under Joshua being able to conquer all of the people in Canaan and in a bravado saying that they had marched through killing everyone in sight? How would this play out with a people who had been conquered by the Babylonians and taken away to be slaves in Babylonia? Maybe it would rouse a spirit among them that better days are coming and God will again support them as they become a great people again, throw off the Babylonian yoke, and conquer a land for their homes again.

The other question raised by this story is what does it mean for us today. In Hebrews 4:8-10, Paul identifies Jesus as a better Joshua, as Joshua led Israel into the rest of Canaan, Jesus leads the people of god into salvation. Early Christians considered Joshua to be a type of Jesus Christ. Some say that Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan is mirrored by Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, Joshua’s military campaigns foreshadow Jesus’s battles with Satan, specifically His time in the wilderness and the temptations of Satan that followed, and Joshua’s succession of Moses symbolizes the end put to Mosaic law by Jesus. A comparison can be made of the temptations of Jesus by Satan with the experiences of the people following Moses and then Joshua. I don’t see all the points of comparison. There is obviously the 40 years in the wilderness by Moses, and the 40 days by Jesus. There is the creation of a kingdom by Joshua and the way that Satan calls out to Jesus to establish a kingdom that Satan will give him. But Joshua appeared to create the kingdom, whereas Jesus created a virtual kingdom that we would obtain for a life of obedience to God. Was it the case that among these bronze age people they would not understand any of the virtual ideas that Jesus presented therefore they had to describe physical success in order to keep the people obedient to God. There are lots of questions about this aspect of our study of Joshua!


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2/12/2013 Joshua 9-10 (16)

Chapter 9 is about a clever ploy by the Amorites to avoid being wiped out by the Israelites. The oath that the Joshua and the priests made with the Amorites appeared to be very strong. If they would break the oath, God would punish them. Why would God be so concerned about an oath that was made and then tell them to murder everyone in a city. What did it mean to be a neighbor in those days? Was it the same kind of neighbor as is referred to by Jesus when he says you should love your neighbor as yourself.  It is certainly the case that God has changed over time and takes different positions at different times. God had made an agreement with Moses that the land should be taken and all the inhabitants should be killed. But he honored the oath that the people made with the people who said they had come from afar, but were actually only 3 days away. Interesting, these people became slaves to the Israelites and were wood cutters and water carriers for them.

Chapter 10 presents all the gory details about the conquest of all the other kings and their subjects in the area. All were killed with the 5 kings’ deaths in particular highlighted and only the booty was saved. One asks the question whether all of the people were actually wiped out or if some were permitted to join the Israelites as Rahab had done. Possibly they had to be circumcised before joining them. In some sense one would think that God had an army that could be devoted to helping the Israelites. Because Joshua faced impossible situations and the Lord would turn to victory. Israel had to rely on the Lord for both offense and defense. Was the whole story meant to teach the people about obedience and to honor their commitments? That might indeed be a good outcome.

A question was raised as to how Jesus could be the God of the Old Testament. The two messages are so different. In the Old Testament, God wanted to separate and purify, and went to great lengths to show how the people who followed him profitted by their relationship. Whereas in the New Testament, Jesus welcomed all particularly the downtrodden and they didn’t even have to be circumcised. What would Rabbi Portman say about Jesus, that he was a very good Rabbi?

A note from the Lutheran Study Bible on verses 10:29-43. “The Lord leads his people through a series of successive victories. Consider the deliverance that came by God’s hand as you reflect on the challenges you face. What a blessing that by Christ’s crucified hands, he gives us his victory against all our sin and death’s power. He equips us for every new challenge. ”

Map of Joshua’s campaign to conquer Canaan.

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02-05-2013 Joshua 8 (14)

We read Joshua 8 today. This is the story of Joshua taking the city of Ai in the foothills above Jericho. I assume that he did this to protect the area around Jericho from attack. They would have a lookout at a high place. The Lord told Joshua to kill everyone including the King of Ai and burn the city leaving only the spoil and its cattle as booty. The conquest of the city was certain because God willed it.

This was a case of genocide as were many of the conquests in that day. The people weren’t allowed to take plunder in Jericho, but were encouraged to do so here. There is a reference to aliens among them, probably some people who had just joined in the group and it could also include the family of Rahab from Jericho. They used a battle ploy to entice the King of Ai into battle. They hid the main battle troop and had a smaller troop of soldiers that came toward the city and when the King of Ai came out to meet them with his whole army, the group waiting in ambush attacked from behind and vanquished the army. Joshua was told by the Lord to hold out his spear until all are killed. So some 12,000 people were killed including the soldiers, but also all the women and children. The king of Ai was hanged on a tree. Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord and the priests paraded in victory with the arc of the covenant.  The story talks about obedience to the Lord, but what are we to make of this story for our times. Does God want to protect them from enemies in the future by killing off potential enemies? Joshua was obedient, but received the plunder as a reward. Are we obedient to God so that we will be prosperous? And then we have to blame ourselves for bad results.

We talked about our legacy in life. Mark raised the issue of Paul Horek’s legacy in terms of the articles he left behind as well as his autobiography. It will be a legacy of bravery and courage and the willingness to overcome a physical ailment, in his case to make a mark in the hearing world.  He showed that even in the midst of his regular routine he could make a difference.

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1/29/2013 Joshua 6-7

We began with prayer and a reminder that we are reading the stories of how Israel became a nation. Pastor Pries noted that the reference to Iron comes from a later time. These passages do not show up in our regular lectionary, in part because the lectionary serves to unite Christians in proclamation that follows a certain rhythm in the church year, and of course because we have such a hard time understanding these stories in our contemporary context.

Vicar Jason provided this summary of our session as I was not able to be at the Bible Study:  We questioned what would burn when these ancient cities made of rock and stone were set ablaze. How do we understand war in the name of God? We can often question whether some of these stories might contain some amount of allegory. In our post-modern era of religious plurality, it is difficult to claim this scripture as relevant. Yet, we do hold that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the New Testament God is revealed in Jesus Christ. We seek comfort in the questions and the mystery of faith. How is this scripture useful for us? Those in need of God’s protection could find here an example that God is faithful to the promise to protect us from enemies.

The Canaanites worship another god, and this seems to imply that the God of Israel has no problem making them ‘dedicated for destruction.’ One of the themes in Joshua and in the Old Testament is that disobedience to God carries consequences. Obedience makes sense to us, even when some of the details of the story do not.

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1/22/13 Joshua 5

When the Kings west of the Jordan heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites, they didn’t want to face them. The first thing the Lord told Joshua to do is to circumcise all of the men. It seems that whereas all the men going to live in Egypt had been circumcised, they had dropped the practice while they were in Egypt. So the Lord reinstated it before the fight for Jericho. The Lord said sharpen your flint knives and do the deed to all male Israelites. Then they celebrated the Passover at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho.

Then the Lord did an amazing thing. He told Joshua to have the priests carry the arc of the covenant around the outside of the walls of Jericho along with 7 men playing their trumpets for 6 days. They were followed by armed men. On the 7th day of doing this, the armed men were told to shout after they had circled the city and the walls collapsed and the city surrendered to the Israelites. They were told to go into the city and get Rahab, the prostitute and her family as they were to be spared. Everyone else was to be killed and they put the gold and silver they captured into the Lord’s treasury. The Lord said the city should not be rebuilt and the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.

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1/15/13 Joshua 4 (17)

Today we read and discussed Joshua 4, which details how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and how the river parted for them as the priests carried to Arc of the Covenant across it. It detailed how Joshua deployed the priests to carry stones from the middle of the Jordan to convey the idea of the crossing for the future.

Jason led today and started off with a discussion of how grandparents had told stories to us and maybe how reticent they were. A number of us contributed stories about the stories told us by our grandparents, usually grandfathers. Many noted how reticent they were to tell these stories. Bill says thinking that sin entered by Adam for all of us and one sinless person, Jesus, took it away from all of us. It seems preposterous just like the Jordan parting for Joshua. But that is what faith is about, to find meaning in these words from the Bible. We want proof of things spiritual. People who say science destroyed their belief in God don’t know science. Religions like people grow by forgetting. Most profound ethical or moral foundations are those that are acted upon. When a major breakthrough occurred in science there would be enthusiasm but in religion there is distress. Is it the religious organizations that cause all the problems in the world? The Doge of Venice who supplied the ships for the crusades said it was for the glory of God and 10% for him. Eldon asked what happens in revisions. Look at the revisions made by Mohammad in his revision that became the Koran written well over 1,000 years after these stories of Abraham and Joshua. So that the people may know that god was with them and guided them. In what circumstance do you feel closest to God? A few answers were provided. Several mentioned music as the time when they feel closest to God.


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1/8/13 Joshua 1-3 (16)

We are grateful to Jason who led the Bible study this morning.  After Moses’ death, Joshua was named the leader of the people and was given permission to lead the people out of the wilderness to the land promised to Abraham. So Joshua sent two men as spies to find out how hard it was going to be to take Jericho. Of course, the men found a prostitute that they could stay with. There seems to be a history of these people of Israel consorting with prostitutes as they went on their ways. The spies came back to Joshua and told about how they could overcome the people.

The God promised them they would prosper if they followed him. this is really Calvinism and it raises the question of whether there is a real god but yet the people from Abraham on down have prospered and always attribute it to their God. These nomads who have traveled many miles through many territories always land on their feet, displace the people who had used the land before they came, and at the end come away with more flocks, herds, slaves, and wives and a larger entourage.

A comment was made that Jews and Mormons have a lot in common. Their ways have helps that  that identify the people and serve as guides for the people. Did Jesus really tear the fabric of this whole people apart with his talk of helping the poor and saying it would be difficult for a rich person to enter His kingdom?

It was noted that Rahab was listed as one of the ancestors of Jesus. It appears that the men were doing something besides user her house as a hideout!!!

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Dec. 25, 2012 Jude (5-6)

The Lost Boys met on Christmas morning and read Jude, the whole book. (at least one chapter) It is an interesting book in which Jude starts with the statement that he is a slave to Jesus Christ. He then tells the story of the people of Israel in a somewhat off-beat manner. He has some memorable phrases such as “Fight with all you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish.” Then he goes on with the history. He warns of false prophets, who appear he says beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. No difference between some people tat that time and some people today. At another point, he talks of these false prophets who are warts on your love feasts as you worship and eat together. “They’re giving you a black eye — carousing shamelessly, grabbing every that isn’t nailed down.” these words are from the Message interpretation of the Bible. He finishes by urging the believers to have faith in Jesus Christ and Him only. the rock of our faith.

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12/18/2012 Genesis 45-50

(I am away from the group today) the last chapters describesome experiences Abraham’s descendants had while in Egypt. It included the death of Jacob and burial in Canaan. Then it described the death of Joseph and the way tat Judah was designated to be the tribe to carry on the heritage of Abraham. I wonder why it wasn’t Joseph. .

The following commentary was supplied by Al Grundstad:
Lost Boys Mad Dash to the End
Genesis: Chapters 45-50: Tuesday December 18

These are some of the issues the Lost Boys dealt with on our quick march to the book’s end.

Chapter 45:

This chapter tells the story of Joseph and the reconciliation between him and his brothers.  Joseph had been made “a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”  Joseph says that this is all God’s doing, and that his being sold into slavery to the Egyptian was God’s plan for the salvation of the Nation of Israel.  This allowed Joseph to protect his family during a 7 year famine, and give them the “land o’ Goshen” in which to settle.  He sought to save his family rather than seek revenge.  This chapter was all about the forgiveness and reconciliation that god required of Joseph’s family so it would continue its nation building.

Chapter 46:

This chapter tells of the transfer (somewhat a leap of faith in that day as it would have been very difficult and dangerous) of the entire Nation of Israel to Egypt.  The most notable comment of the story was Bill Nibbelink’s clever dodge of the difficult reading of all the names of the 12 sons of Jacob (frequently called Israel) and the sons of their son’s.  This is the enumeration of the twelve tribes that would become the Nation of Israel.  He reflected that chapters 9-25 contained many names that would be suitable for naming cats.  He then picked up the story at verse 26.
An interesting segment dealt with the livelihoods of the tribes.  They and all who went before them were shepherds and keepers of livestock.  Joseph, knowing full well that Egyptians do not abide Hebrews let alone shepherds, makes sure that, when asked (in chapter 47), the brothers all tell Pharaoh that is what they are.  We speculate that this may have been an ethnic purity tactic, allowing only these tribes to live in Goshen, apart from the Egyptians.

Chapter 47:

What is a blessing?  What does it mean to be blessed?  Who can give a blessing?  There was a bit of blessing going on in this chapter.  We discussed the possibility of a blessing sometimes being a promise, as “I will bless you with a child.”  In a lesser way a blessing can be a wish or projection of some future outcome.  It was discussed that blessings usually came from a high place to a lower place – a king to a subject, a priest to a parishioner, a father to a child, God to his people.  So how does one come to a position where they are able to give blessings, and recipients come to expect the outcome?

Briefly we reflected back on the burials of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac back in Hebron.  The tribes are in their new land, surviving a period of starvation and famine, but when it comes time there is every intent that one will go home.  Jacob insists that he be taken back to Canaan upon his death.  Birthright, family, tribe, nation; Israel was to stay united even after death in the land which God promised them.

Chapter 48:

More blessing.  Jacob is near death.  His favorite wife Rachel has died.  Jacob blesses Joseph and asks to see Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  Jacob puts his right hand on the head of the younger child (Ephraim) and his left hand on Manasseh – breaking the rules of primogeniture.

Chapter 49:

Blessings to end all blessings.  Jacob blesses his sons, the tribes of the Nation of Israel.  Here a blessing appears as a future projection based on one’s past behaviors and/or basic nature.  Down the line Jacob lays the expectations of each tribe, in front of all the leaders of the tribes.  Some good; some not so good.  Some will be great; others not so much. Jacob also appears to be outright future telling by saying things like “Gad, atroopshallovercomehim: butheshallovercomeatthelast.

After he had blessed all the tribes, Jacob reclined to his bed, drew his feet under himself, and expired.  It would appear at that point Israel had become a nation.

Chapter 50:

Jacob is buried in the manner he wished.  The brothers now are frightened that Joseph will now exact revenge on them for what they did.  Joseph rather decides to leave that judgment to God.  He promises to nourish the tribes and the tribes recognize him as their leader.


Joseph lived out the remainder of his 110 years and is buried in Egypt.  We questioned the significance of the decision to bury him there and not in Canaan.  It may be that, as Joseph believed to the end that God had sent him to Egypt as part of a great plan, they felt that God had decided that Egypt, not Canaan, was Joseph’s home.

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12-11-2012 Genesis 41-45 (17)

Today, we discussed the story of how Joseph got back together with his brothers and father. It is quite a long convoluted story that led ultimetly to Jacob and his whole clan moving down to Egypt. Mark made a comment about how it was moving down to Egypt saying that it was always Jereusalem was always up from wherever you are at. We have a couple meanings of up, one is to go up to higher ground and the other relates to our maps and we go down or up on the map depending on down being going south on the map and up being going North. We had a conversation about this that Tom pronounced worthless. I noted that when Abraham originally went from Haran (up) to Canaan (down), in chapter 12 it said only that he went to Canaan.

Al raised the point that this is the foretelling of Jesus coming as a savior of the people just like Joseph was a savior of all people. Thus this is a phopecy of Jesus coming. It was noted that Judah became the spokesman for the brothers here and tried to keep from having to bring Benjamin to Joseph. He said it would kill his father if anything were to happen to Benjamin. Judah was the fourth and last of the sons of Leah and interestingly Jesus would come through his lineage, not Joseph. Judah also argued for selling Joseph rather than killing him. Ruben the oldest brother had argued that Joseph should not be killed but just put in a pit, as he planned to come back and get him out later.

It appears that historically, there was a famine in the middle east at about this time, 1700-1600 BCE although there may not be evidence of a Hebrew person controlling the resources of Egypt at that time. It may or may not have happened.

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12/04/2012 Genesis 40-41 (22)

This is the story of Joseph’s interpretation of the baker and Butler’s dreams. In one case, Joseph interpreted the dream to mean the butler would return to power and in the other, a loss of the baker’s head, hence his life. These interpretations finally made their way back to Pharaoh and Joseph was called to interpret the dreams about the 7 fat cows followed by the 7 thin cows who ate the seven fat cows, and this was followed by a dream of 7 fat ears followed by 7 thin ears which then consumed the fat ears. Then the butler remember how Joseph had interpreted his dream and the Pharaoh called upon Joseph. Joseph said that Egypt would experience 7 years of plenty followed by 7 lean years. It would behoove Pharaoh to stock up during the good years so that there would be plenty for the bad years.

Secular archaeologists and Egyptologists have found the dating of the Biblical famine difficult. In 1890, Charles Wilbour discovered a stela on the island of Sahal that described a seven-year drought that occurred during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, said to have reigned during the classical Third Dynasty. However, this stela does not mention a preceding seven years of abundance, or any adviser who ordered that one-fifth of the produce be held in reserve. In fact, it tells a story of anarchy and mutual robbery, hardly in keeping with the Biblical story of how order prevailed in all stages of the crisis, no matter how dire the need became. The stela does mention an increased tribute to be paid to the Egyptian god Khnemu after the famine had ended; that might be more in keeping with the Biblical narrative. It was suggested that this might have occurred around 1716-15 BCE.  http://conservapedia.com/Famine_in_Egypt

There is a very interesting story about what really happened during this time in the link below. It indicates that Joseph saw a way to get all of the animals, property, and money for the Hebrews by working with the Pharaoh who had recently conquered Egypt and was trying to hold the people down. The Egyptians later overthrew this Pharaoh and took everything from the Hebrews and made them slaves. http://conservapedia.com/Famine_in_Egypt

We also discussed the possibility that this occurred around the time of the Santorini volcano which was about the right time.

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11/27/12 Genesis 38-39

(I was not able to attend today.) this is the story of Judah and the fact that he became part of the Canaanite culture. He married a Canaanite woman and appeared to be part of her culture. This illustrates the continued disintegration of Jacob’s family. Reuben and Levi avenged Dinah at Shecham. The brothers kidnapped and sold Joseph. Judah even had sex with his daughter-in-because he thought she was a prostitute. I guess that excuses him a little, but really a prostitute! Then she blackmailed him. Good for her, not the deception but it served him right. It is like a Shakespeare play with confusion between twins that he wouldn’t know his daughter-in-law.  Jacob must have been very upset to see his family straying from God in this way.  Jacob must have wondered who would carry on the tradition

On Nov 28, 2012, at 8:51 AM, John Grundstad wrote the following report about our study on Tuesday. Thanks so much to John for his excellent commentary.

Today, on “sexy Tuesday,” we read Genesis Chapters 38 and 39.  Chapter 38 recounts the masturbation of Judah’s son Onan to circumvent his father’s orders to send up seed to Tamar, the wife of his deceased brother Er (who had been killed by God for his wicked ways).  For this detestable act, Onan was then also put to death by God. (Note: the obscure English term “onanism” refers to masturbation).  Chapter 38 also contains the story of how Judah himself, after his wife died, had a sexual encounter with Tamar, who had disguised herself as a harlot.  In fact, he even agrees to pay her for her favors.  Upon being discovered with child, Tamar avoids being burned for harlotry by revealing who the father was. The issue of this unseemly episode were Perez and Zerah, with the former being in the direct line of genealogy of Joseph, husband of Mary. Finally, in chapter 39, we have the story of Joseph in Egypt.  Joseph was much blessed by the Lord, including being very handsome.  So much so, in fact, that Pharaoh’s wife does her best to seduce him, even tearing his garment off in the process.  She explains the left-behind garment with a vindictive canard about a Hebrew servant (presumably identifiable through circumcision) who tried to defile her. Pharoah throws Joseph in prison, but he is protected there by God?

The reading gave rise to a discussion of sexual mores, past and present.  The actions of Judah in particular are interesting because there seems to be no particular stigma or censure attached to Judah’s use of what he believes to be a prostitute.  If anything, there is embarrassment over the fact that the woman turns out to be his own daughter-in-law. It is also interesting that, if one accepts the genealogy accounts in the Bible, Jesus is descended from a woman who has prostituted herself.  Quite a contrast to his eventual miraculous birth by a woman who was sexually pure.  But then there is the question of whether the genealogy of Jesus is accurate in the first place, and not a contrivance of the biblical authors to document the dominance of the male in Jesus’ lineage. The latter would be consistent with a pervasive theme throughout the OT that women had little worth independent of their husbands.

The Genesis stories can be troubling to the modern reader and give rise to questions about God’s actions in the world, his “will,” his devotion to a morally challenged tribe of people, etc.  But then morality is a matter of time and place and cultural circumstances and perhaps it is inappropriate to judge one era from the perspective of another. The question was raised as to whether morality today is generally in decline, for instance in regard to sex outside of marriage.  There are many examples of the tragedy of wayward sexuality in our lives.  Pastor noted the reality and the challenge of ministering to couples according to the teaching of the church, while recognizing that in most cases they are not celibate when they come to the sacrament. But of over-riding importance is the idea of community in the context of marriage, that marriages are not only blessed by God, but by the community that passes its blessings on to couples along with a pledge to support them in their lives together, in the process maintaining and perpetuating itself.

We touched also on Biblical “law” and whether it should be binding as literally written, or whether it is a moving target and subject to evolution and interpretation.  Again, it is a challenge to apply centuries-old tradition to modern life.

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11/20/2012 Genesis 37 (15)

Today was the beginning of the account of Joseph’s dreams. Joseph lorded it over his older brothers because his father favored him because helonged Rachel more than Leah, the older boys’ mother along with a few born to the wives’ maidservants. Jacob had quite a household with his two wives and their maidservants with sons from all of them, as well as a daughter, Dinah, with Leah. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph probably because he was the first son of his favorite wife Rachel. He showered him with gifts like the multi-colored coat and didn’t make him work on the fields like his other brothers, although he did tend sheep in nearby fields. Joseph also tattled on hus older brothers bad behavior o hi dad as well But the straw that broke the camel’s back was his interpretation of dreams where the sheaves of wheat bowed and the sun, moon and 11 stars bowed down to him. Jacob rebuked his son for interpreting the dreams as he had . The brothers born of the maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah, were particularly resentful of Joseph. When the brothers were tending sheep and the fields a long way off, Jacob sent Joseph to see how they were doing. When they saw him coming they conspired how to get rid of him. They decided to take his coat, beat him and throw him in a pit to die. Then a group if Ismaelites came by and some of the brothers decided to sell him to them. The two authors talked of different groups, the Yahwist source says Ishmaelites and the source Elohist say Midionites. Reuben, the eldest son of Leah and Jacob, decided it was wrong of the brothers to leave Joseph in the pit, went back and found he was gone. They said they had sold him. They then put blood on his coat tore and told their father he had been killed by a wild animal. They sold him for 20 pieces of silver invoking a comparison with Jesus as savior.

We discussed among other things the two dreams, the two visiting groups and concluded they probably came about because of the two versions of the story, Elohist and Yahwist. We also talked about dreams and people like Freud, Jung and Erik Erikson who interpreted dreams in various ways. What is it about a dream that causes you to remember it when most dreams are lost to us. Possibly it is their incongruity, their inclusion of familiar or highly unusual items.

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11-13-2012 Genesis 35 (19)

Homework for next week – Read Genesis 36 about Esau’s genealogy. We will read Genesis 37 and 38 and discuss them.
Today we discussed Genesis 35, which is the story of the birth of Benjamin and the death of Rachel in childbirth. It is also the death of Isaac who was then buried by his sons Jacob and Esau. Rebekah’s nurse was also buried. So I guess the authors devoted the chapter to the deaths of all these people as a precursor to moving with life in the next phase.where we talk about Joseph’s adventures.

We talked about a number of issues including the importance of Rachel’s death, the conflict seemingly between polygamy then and monogamy now, Reuban’s affair with Billpay, Rachel’s concubine, the role of foreign idols. We also talked about the way that the people at this point were very nomadic and just seemed to take over land from others based on a conversation with God. Was the conversation with God just a justification to do this. Some questions were raised about modern day Israel and how the British created modern Israel although it appears that modern Zionists owned much of the land that became Israel. More about all of these later

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11-06-12 Genesis 34 (18)

This is the story of Jacob and Leah’s daughter Dinah and the problems she had with Shechem, the son of Hamar. Various versions of the Bible either say she was raped or or at least forced. Her brothers, particularly Simeon and Levi were very upset that their siste had been defiled. Shechem said he wanted to marry Dinah, and the brothers told him that they could not allow that unless Shechem and Hamar as well as all the other men of their tribe be circumcised. Shechem andHamar said we will be circumcised and then when we marry the daughters of these people, we will surely get all their wealth as well. On the other hand, Simeon and Levi decided that on the third day after all the men had been circumcised they went and killed them all. Then Jacob was upset that others would come after him, so he prepared to escape.

Mark indicated that this was a passage that speaks out against violence against women. The Isrealites appeard to value their women at least against foreigners and didn’t treat their women like livestock as some of the others in the area did. It is interesting that Dinah’s brothers carroed out this operation and did all the negotiations. Jacob did not appear to show indignation and was afraid for his life at the end of the episode. Curt talked about rape and said that it is a matter of control and rage. Chuck suggested that people validate their instincts by attributing it to God. The value system changes as the culture develops.

It is interesting that Hammurabi who was king of Babylon circa 1795-1750 BCE inscribed laws on a black stone monument, eight feet tall, and placed in public view. A lot of it was devoted to civil law and contracts, but there were significant parts of it about how people should treat other people. Note that this was over 1000 years before the time of Moses and the Ten Commandments. This is a link to a summary of the code: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp Drowning was the punishment for rape of a betrothed maiden or seduction of a daughter-in-law. I guess they were serious about this at that time.

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10-30-12 Genesis 32-33 (18)

This was the story of Jacob coming home from the 20 some years he spent with Laban. He was coming back to the area controlled by Esau in Edom. He worried about the homecoming fearing that Esau would still be angry at him. He sent servants ahead with offerings to try to appease him. But Esau was happy to see him and said it wasn’t necessary for Jacob to give him gifts, but he finally agreed to take them. Then Esau invited him to come to his home, but Jacob said that he would come later, but delayed it even more by going a different route. Then Jacob wrestled with someone. It may have been an angel of God, or it might have been God. It isn’t clear which it was. After this, Jacob received a new name, Israel. That seems to be the practice when God makes a covenant with his chosen he changes their name.

Bonhaeffer talks about cheap grace as the kind where you claim the blessing of forgiveness, but then go back and do the same thing again. Was Jacob using cheap grace by his testing of God? Bonhaeffer says that costly grace is the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross. We don’t always trust God’s grace as we should. We doubt and question God! Mark says we don’t fight hard enough for the principles that God establishes for us. Mark and Tom both talked about difficult situations where they had opportunities to go but ultimately decided that it wasn’t right for them to do so.

The Lutheran Study Bible says that Israel means a prince or God’s fighter, that is, he who wriestles with God and wins. This happens through that faith which holds so firmly to God’s will, until it overcomes God’s wrath and obtains God as the gracious father. Jacob wanted absolute proof of his rival’s identity. Apart from the revealed word, we should not ask for or seek a hidden name of God. He blessed him. He repeated the blessing he gave to Jacob earlier. For through faith, in the struggle of the cross, one learns to recognize and experience God rightly.

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10-23-2012 Genesis 31 (16)

Today we read the story of Jacob departing from his Uncle Laban’s household. Jacob had been there 20 years and had purchased his wives Leah and Rachel from Laban by working for him for 7 years each. There are supposedly 2 writers of this story so their writing gets merged and results in the story being told twice. There were a number of issues that were raised by this story. For example, Jacob taking all of his flocks and wives and children, but Laban didn’t realize it for a short while. How could such a large movement be missed? Rachel took her father’s idols and how that relates to the wider issue of the multiplicity of gods worshipped in those days. These household idol was like the blessing given by the father to his eldest son. When Laban caught up with Jacob, God intervened and kept him from killing Jacob or taking all his possessions back. God seemed to protect Jacob and for that matter the descendent line from Abraham. What did God get in return for this? Did Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fight against the idea of multiple gods and idols that represented them as the Muslims believe based on writings in 400-500 ad? Or was it more being faithful to the principles of God? This is what we seek to discern from the stories that have been passed down to us in Genesis.

We discussed the idols of the time and who were the gods of those days and how the Jewish people came to believe in a one God. That had to be a relatively revolutionary concept. The Greeks and the Romans all believed in multiple gods, as did the American Indians and other primative peoples. So here is this tradition dating back to almost 2000 BCE and yet, the Greeks and the Romans much in 500 BCE to 500 AD still believed in multiple gods. And what role did idols play in the Jewish and then the Christian churches? Do the icons, statues, art work, even music become idols that become worshipped as if they were indeed gods in themselves?

A discussion ensued about how we should view the Bible. What part of it is the history of people seeking a relationship with God and is that what is meant by saying it is the inspired word of God? Is the Bible a guide of how to live within the social context we live in? So when the Bible talks about how to treat slaves, was that because in the social context of that day, people had slaves. What does that mean about the social context of today? How is God being reveled to us today and what does it say about the currrent social context?  What would the writers of the Bible focus on within the social context of today? Would it be issues such as abortion, gay people, pre-marital sex, imprisonment of minorities, etc? Why is one a bigot because he believes in traditional views on issues? What is the greater good, to be tolerant of the actions of others or to believe in the adherence to the law? Can tolerance be taken too far?

An interesting topic would be to look at how the rules of society have been formulated over time. For example how did the Law of Hammarribi compare with the laws imposed on the Jewish people as well as other codes of civil behavior? John suggested an article that he is finding intersting, namely “Is America a Christian Nation” by David Lose. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lose/is-america-a-christian-nation_b_1646389.html

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10-16-12 Genesis 28:10-30 (19 )

Here is a link to the Islamic view of Abraham as reported in Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_Abraham

This is the story of Jacob leaving Beersheba and having the dream of seeing the ladder to heaven at Bethel. Then he went on to Heran where he went to Laban his uncle. The story continues with Jacob working for Laban and then making a deal to work 7 years to get Rachel as his wife, but then Laban slipping Leah in to be his wife instead. Then he worked for another 7 years to get Rachel. The passage describes the interactions between the married triple, of Jacob along with Leah and Rachel. Leah thought that she could be the favored wife if she bore him children so she had at least 6 and one daughter, but that wasn’t enough so she had Jacob be with her maid Zilpah and she had a child. Rachel couldn’t have children so she had Jacob sleep with Bilhah her servant who had a child between Rachel’s legs so that she could have a child. She later had a child, Joseph and then Benjamin as well with Jacob. It is quite a tail of the issues of a relationship like this. It may be the reason that Mohammad had 4 wives so that he could emulate Jacob, even though Jacob is part of Isaac’s line while Mohammad was in Ishmael’s line of people.

There are several interesting things about Jacob’s dream of a ladder to heaven with Angels Ascending and Descending in that order. That must mean that the angels started out on earth, went to heaven and then came back to earth. Also of interest is the promise that was made that this would be the land of Jacob in the future. For the moment though, Jacob had to continue on his way to Heran to see his Uncle Laban and find a wife to marry since Rebekah his mother didn’t want him to marry a Canaanite woman. I find it interesting that God sets aside property for his people in spite of the fact that there were already people living there. Maybe all the people of that time were nomadic and so there weren’t property rights as we have today, so maybe it wasn’t a big deal to say this would be there land. I think however that it was a big deal. Gene appropriately pointed out an article in last week’s Newsweek that described a minister’s seeing heaven in a near death experience. A very interesting article along side this dream of Jacobs.

Then we go on to see Uncle Laban’s trickery in terms of how Jacob got his wives. It seems that the author was very taken up with the way that the peoples that were the descendants of Abraham came about. It is quite remarkable that this family that started with Abraham went in two different ways, namely with the descendants of Isaac that led to Jesus and then on to the Jews and Christians of today, and the descendants of Ishmael that led to Mohammad and then on to the Arab peoples of today. Many of our family names have disappeared so that it is extraordinary that supposedly these family traditions have continued. This led to a discussion of the role of servant women who had children for their mistresses with Jacob and I suppose other patriarchs over the years in order to continue the family line.

Mark pointed out that the Mormons have a belief in continuing revelation while we are not so big in that direction. Possibly we should be continuing to see this continuing revelation of God’s work in our lives.

Next week we will go to Genesis 31.

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10-09-12 Genesis 27-28:9 (18)

Here we have the story of Isaac expressing his desire to bless his son Esau and make him the person who will continue the covenant that Abraham received from God and then passed on to Isaac. Rebekah schemed with Jacob to steal the blessing from Esau. It reminds me of the plot of an opera where they conceal someone’s true identity with the most basic of disguises but they trick Isaac into thinking that Jacob is actually Esau so Isaac gives Jacob the blessing and says that God’s covenant given to Abraham will continue on with Jacob. When Esau returned from his hunt and went to his father with a savory stew, Isaac said he could do nothing. Esau asked if he could not be blessed too, and Isaac said no, but he promised that he would lead a good life. Isaac indicated that Esau would live by his sword and would serve his brother, but that in the end he would be able to break the yoke of working for his brother. Rebekah said to Jacob, that surely his brother Esau meant to kill him, so that he should flee. She sent him to her brother Laban in Heran. Then she utters the stereotypical complaint of a Jewish mother by saying, I am weary of my life because of thers Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife of one of these Hittite women, what good will my life be to me?

We discused how Isaac was fooled by the simple disguise that Jacob adopted. We also talked about the praise of cleverness that is part of this early story. It seems it is important to how God continued his covenant. This was all foretold, as God had told Rebekah that the second one would be first, so Rebekah was just fulfilling God’s command. I don’t know why Isaac wasn’t in on this command. God seems to work with the person that was most convenient at the time and the most willing to work with Him.

A question was asked by Steve about when we can match up the comings and goings of these people with actual historical events that had been written down. Mark said that probably would be at the time of Joseph with his sojourn into Egypt, because there were written records of the Egyptians and Joseph does appear in some of them. The Hebrews kept mainly oral records, because until the time of Moses, they were a nomadic people and record keeping happened mainly in the cities. It is interesting to think about oral records and how they will be maintained by even the next generation or our families. Will they know or care much about their heritage or will we leave something that will be important to them in the future if they care to look at it. I think that in every generation, there are people who care only about the moment and don’t care about history and there are others who are interested in preserving a family history and knowing its importance in defining who we are.

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10-02-12 Genesis 26 (19)

This is the story of Isaac. He is living in the area controlled by the Philistines with King Abimelech. He tried Abrahams ploy of saying Rebekah, his wife was actually his sister. At least with Abraham, it was technically true or at least half true as their father was the same. Again God told Abimelech not to let his men be with Rebekah Isaac didn’t do as well with this ploy as Abraham did because Isaac had to pay Abimelech.

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09-25-12 Genesis 25 (18)

This is the story of Abraham’s death, and then it goes on to describe Ishmael and Isaac’s family tree. Thus we see how the heritage of Abraham continues through his sons. It also describes that when Sarah died 40 years after having Isaac and seeing her son marry Rebecca, Abraham at hage 140 marries a concubine, Keturah and has 6 sons with her. None of them were part of his heritage, howeveer. Abraham was 175 years old when he died. After his death, Isaac and Ismael buried him in the cave of Machpelah which is near Mamre, in the field of Ephron, the son of Sohar the Hittite. This is the field that Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth.

Then we continue with the story of Esau and Jacob. We see the story of parents favoring one or the other of their children and Jacob cheating his brother out of his birthright for some soup. I am sure that when Jacob said he would give Esau some soup if Esau would give up his birthright to him. Then Jacob had to disguise himself to his father and trick him into giving him Jacob the blessing. If this is the person on whom the Jews and Christians build their heritage, it is a very tricky start. Abraham seemed like a much more honorable man. But yet, we think it is ok for Jacob to do this because he was the one chosen to continue the covenant given to Abraham. Maybe this is also the reason that a person is deemed a Jew if his or her mother was a Jew, because Rebecca favored Jacob.

It was interesting to note that God was involved in the births of both Isaac and Jacob. Both wives were barren until God stepped in and gave them children. God also didn’t seem to be present all the time in this history. Did they have free will? What exactly did Abraham have to do in order to uphold his part of the covenant because the Torah wasn’t around until Moses time. The Jews today believe that Abraham upheld the Torah exactly because it was part of his understanding with God.

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09-18-12 Genesis 24 (18)

An interesting note for today, that this is Rosh Hashanah, Jewish new years for the year 5773. This chapter describes how Abraham sends a servant to Nahor in Mesopotamia, near Heran where he had lived before he came to Canaan, and find a wife there among his relatives. Abraham had an interesting way to make the servant to swear that he would not let his son Isaac marry someone from Canaan, namely to put his hand under his thigh. Abraham told him that God would send an angel before him to prepare the way. The servant had a conversation with God and proposed a test to find the young woman who would be Isaac’s wife. The servant would set near the well and ask the young women who came to fill water pots if they would draw water for a drink for him. If they agreed but also said they would draw water for his camels, that would be the right woman for Isaac. Rebecca did just that. Now Rebecca’s mother was Bethuel whose mother was Milcah who was married to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. So Rebecca was Nahor and Milcah’s granddaughter, and that would be Abraham’s grand niece. Rebecca must have been an over achiever to offer not only to draw water for this stranger, but also for his camels, and he had 10 camels along. So it was a big job.

Here is a short note about Nahor from http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2011/11/nahor-and-his-descendants.html “Abraham’s older brother was Nahor. Nahor ascended to the throne of their father Terah in Mesopotamia. Terah’s territory appears to have extended between Haran and Ur, along the Tigris River. Nahor was the progenitor of twelve Aramean tribes through his 11 sons and 1 daughter. Eight were children of Milcah and four were children of Reumah (Gen. 22.20-24). Since the lines of Nahor and Abraham intermarried, it serves us well to learn all that we can about Abraham’s nephews. ” This article also says that Lot was Nahor’s grandson as well.

Well, anyway, Rebecca agreed to go back to Canaan with Abraham’s servant. When she agreed to go with him, the servant inserted a nose ring of gold into Rebecca’s nose and gave her silver bracelets. Laban was Rebecca’s brother and we will find out more about him later. Laban and his mother tried to have Rebecca stay with them for a few more days, but the servant wanted to get back to Abraham before he died, so he insisted that they leave immediately. So, Rebecca accompanied the servant back to Canaan and she met Isaac. When she saw him, she put her veil on and went to meet him. He took her into his mother Sarah’s tent and he took her and she became his wife, and he loved her.

This opened up a whole discussion on the topics of premarital sex and marriage. The point was made that marriage is between a man, a woman, and God but it is also a cultural event governed by our society and the government. We considered the question of whether pastors should assume more of a gate keeper role in their pre marriage counseling. Mark said that he had stopped one couple from getting married in his career. It is very interesting how the servant made a contract with God so that he would know the right woman to bring back to Isaac. We also discussed the topic of arranged marriages, with such questions as are arranged marriages more or less successful than the marriages we see here today, and what is the arranged marriage usually the wife’s responsibility despite the fact that this one was all Abraham’s doing.

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9/11/2012 Genesis 23 (21)

Today, we discussed Genesis 23 which is the account of Sarah’s death but even more, the arrangements that Abraham made for her burial. Sarah died at age 127 so that by that time Isaac was an adult. She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan. Then we go on to discuss how Abraham negotiated with the Hittites who controlled Canaan at that time to purchase land for her burial as well as probably his and his family graves. Jason commented that this is the first mention of the Israelites owning land in Canaan, the land of the covenant. [Note on Hittites: In the early 20th century, the Biblical Hittites were identified with a newly discovered Indo-European-speaking empire of Anatolia, a major regional power through most of the 2nd millennium BC, who therefore came to be known as the Hittites. Modern academics propose, based on much onomastic and archaeological evidence, that Anatolian populations moved south into Canaan as part of the waves of Sea Peoples who were migrating along the Mediterranean coastline at the time of the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Many kings of local city-states are shown to have had Hittite and Luwian names in the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age transition period. Indeed, even the name of Mount Zion may be Hittite in origin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Hittites ]

We had a discussion about the negotiations that went on between Abraham and Ephron, the Hittite which controlled the area at that point. Ephron said that Abraham could bury his wife here at Hebron, but Abraham wanted to own the property where she was buried. Up to this time, it appears that Abraham didn’t own any property, he just moved like a nomad from one territory to the next and let his sheep and goats graze there. He might even have supplied mutton and goat meat and cheeses to the Hittites, so they were probably on good terms with each other. Anyway, Abraham finally got Ephram to name a price and Abraham just paid it without further negotiations. This will then turn out to be the burial place for Abraham as well.

Then Mark turned the discussion to funeral plans. He indicated that he and Heide are working on a document on the Zion website about advanced directives. This effort is labeled Honoring Your Wishes which is a community-wide advance Care Planning Iniative that has an event scheduled for Oct. 3, 2012. Look at Zion Announcements under Get Informed for more information. There were a variety of opinions expressed about individual’s ideas about their funeral or burial options. They ranged from almost free burial if you deed your body to the University to cremation or to doing it yourself. Mark urged everyone to make the church aware of your funeral plans so that what you want will not surprise the church staff.

Some people feel they need to see the body to get closure, but many felt that wasn’t necessary. Cemetary plots at St. Johns in Sharon Center are free. Mark would make a funeral service a celebration of the congregation of saints rather than a celebration of an individual’s life, with songs like “Lift High the Cross” and “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

A question that fundamentalists would ask is whether burial is required by the Bible since Abraham clearly chose that mode.

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9/4/12 Genesis 21-22  From Istanbul

 I am in Istanbul today, but here is a brief summary of chapter 21. Isaac is born to Sarah and Abraham circumcises him when he is 8 days old. Hagar shows an attitude with Sarah again and Sarah tells Abraham to get rid of her saying that she doesn’t want Isaac sharing the covenant promise with Ishmael. God says she is right and that Abraham should send Hagar on her way. So he gives her a skin of water and sends her into the desert. After a few d as she is convinced she and Ishmael are going Rosie of thirst and then God comes and shows them a well and renews his promise it Ishmael. Ishmael becomes a bowman and marries an Egyptian woman. Remember, Hagar came from Egypt when Abraham was there earlier. Abraham has a discussion with King Abimelech about a well and ends up giving the king some goats and sheep. A commentator says that God visited Sarah and in that way had a personal part in causing her to have Isaac. The commentator says “that the Bible stresses that the Lord causes conception; that children are a gift of the lord. Psalm 127:3.” Does this mean the conception of a child when rape was committed, that conception is caused by God. I don’t believe that!

Chapter 22 is the story of God demanding that Abraham show his obedience to God by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. There is also a mention of Isaac being his only son. What about Ishmael. This command also seems to contradict the covenant God made with Abraham to give him many descendents through Isaac. One way to see this is to show that God will provide if you have faith in Him. It is a rather strange command, however, to use this as a test of Abraham’s faith. Afterall, Abraham had traveled all his life hither and yon because of God’s commands and God had enriched him in numerous ways even though he didn’t appear to be too good about always trusting in God, like having a son by Hagar, and passing Sarah off as his sister a couple of times. Is a god that demands this kind of obedience one we can believe in?

Many people believe that this is the foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. The ram in the bush is like the coming of Christ with the bush being the crown of thorns. There were two promises God delivered on here, one is the one of words saying that Abraham had lived a righteous life, and secondly, the promise to deliver the sacrifice in the form of a Ram stuck in a bush.


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8/28/12 Genesis 20

I am away from our meetings for two weeks, so will rely on comments to describe the discussion that took place. In chapter 29, Abraham decided to move to Gerar which is controlled by King Abimelech. Abraham was afraid, so said that Sarah was his sister, and just like in Egypt, God went to the king and said that the king would be killed as well as his people of he took Sarah as his wife. The king said spare me and gave Abraham lots of cattle and sheep and land. So again God saved Abraham and Abraham added to his wealth. It seems this is a good gambit on the part of Moses and Sarah.

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Our reading this morning was the story of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed. These were the two angels that had visited Abraham and who along with God had earlier visited Abraham when Abraham had bargained with God about not destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot met them at the city gate and then took them to his home. Some men from Sodom came and wanted to have carnal relations with these men, and Lot said no, but offered his virgin daughters to them. They refused the offer. Then the angels told Lot he had to leave the city before it was destroyed. He tried to get his sons-in-law to go with him but they thought he was joking. He was told to go into the mountains, but said he only wanted to go a nearby village of Zoar. He and his family were told not to look back, but Lot’s wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt. Abraham again rescues Lot and Lot was afraid of the people left in Sodom and hid in a cave in the mountains. His daughters then felt he should have a male heir, so they got their father drunk and had intercourse with him and became pregnant. They both had sons and one became the father of the Moabites and the other the Ammonites. It is interesting to note that Ruth who is in the line of Jesus was a Moabite.

Rabbi Portman visited our group today and gave us some insights about the Jewish thoughts about what we read in Genesis. His view of the covenant is that God will do his part and the people need to do their part in order to improve the world in which we live. His comments about circumcision is that there is no controversy among the Jewish people, Sons are circumcised. The reason he gave for the sign of the covenant being circumcision is that it was to be something very intimate to an individual. I guess that makes it a personal covenant being God and the individual because only the individual knows for sure that he is part of the covenant. It is interesting that there is no physical sign that women are part of the covenant, but a person is by blood a Jew if the mother is a Jew. Rabbi Portman also said that there is no distinction between those who are born Jewish and those who convert. But he did say that once you are a Jew, there is no turning back, you are always a Jew. One of the issues raised about the middle eastern hospitality that Rabbi Portman raised was how much a family should be put at risk in order to offer hospitality. He said it was clear that Lot’s offering his daughters to have sex to keep the people away from his guests was too much.  Rabbi Portman closed our session this morning with a prayer.

  • Some of the lines of discussion that we followed were as follows: Lot demonstrated the hospitality that the inhabitants of the middle east are known for. Even offering his virgin daughters to the crowd to get them not to take advantage of his visitors. Offering your daughters to appease a crowd request may be going a little too far.
  • A second theme that is carried out is that of the presence of laughter, with Lot’s sons-in-law thinking Lot was joking when he said they had to leave Sodom because it was going to be destroyed.
  • We also discussed the concept of how the stories in the Bible are to be used by us as an inspiration or as a guide in our spiritual life. Rabbi Portman said that we need to look at the Bible as a guide to how we can make the world a better place.
  • People who see the Bible as a proof for their views and who cherry pick the verses that support their viewpoint. It was pointed out that there is a statement in Leviticus that condemns homosexuality and that a number of young people who believe in that have tattooed themselves, but there is also a statement in Leviticus against tattooing oneself as well.
  • We briefly mentioned the evil of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and whether it was more than adultery and homosexuality, but we didn’t really discuss that much other than to point out the futility of cherry picking Bible texts to support one’s views.

I had questions about the descendents of Ishmael and the claims from the Muslims that they are the descendents of Abraham through Ishmael and that because of that, they share the covenant that God made with Abraham. There are several web sites that disagree with that and raise all sorts of issues with that perspective. One of the most strident is the following:  http://www.faithdefenders.com/articles/worldreligions/are_the_Arabs_the_descendants.html This article tries to debunk the claim by Muslims that they are descendents of Abraham through Ishmael and that the covenant God made with Abraham was extended to them through Ishmael not to the Jews through Isaac. Here is another site that discusses this more in a sermon format. http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/isaac-and-ishmael-then-and-now/ It presents an interesting perspective about the peoples who are part of both Jewish faith and Muslim faith that very few can claim to descend from Abraham. The Islamic view of Abraham is presented in this article about Ishmael and about how the origin of the Muslim faith was attributed to Abraham and the people who descended from Ishmael.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_Ishmael

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8/14/12 Genesis 18 (21)

In this chapter 3 angels including God appeared to Abraham to discuss the covenant with him. They repeated the promise that Sarah would bear a son who would carry on God’s promise to Abraham of many descendents. Sarah chuckled about this promise, saying both she and Abraham were too old to have a child. God said to Abraham that by the time they returned in the next year, Sarah would have a child. Mark suggested that he would be a little suspicious at such a promise! Abraham directed that the visitors be fed with cakes and a calf, the bedowin courtesy to visitors. Then they started discussing what would be done with Sodom and the 5 other cities there as well. Recall that Abraham had saved these cities from the northern kings a few years ago. Abraham negotiated with God over the number of righteous people it would take to save the city. He got the number down from 50 to 10.

Dirk talked a bit about the issue of circumcision for both men and women in Senegal. The ages for doing this vary significantly, from 8 days for boys to 25-35 for both women and men in some societies to 3-7 years for girls which sort of coincides with the time that Muslim children are expected to begin praying. At one point in time, women were circumcised to show that they belonged to a man, and that they had to be faithful to him. This got into the issue of polygamy as well. There seemed to be no good reason why circumcision, a private kind of marking, should be chosen as a mark of covenant. There is a religious ceremony that accompanies circumcision of women that emphases faithfulness.

Tom said this must be a fake god that came to Abraham, because a real god would have known about the evil doing of the people of Sodom and would not have to go and check it out physically. It also appeared to be a god that could be challenged as witness the negotiating that Abraham did with him. But, on the other hand, this showed god to be have a personal relationship with Abraham. Mark said that this showed a god that is reasonable and one with whom Abraham could interact. An interesting point was made that We believe that God created the heavens and the earth and now Abraham and Sarah are questioning whether he can make Sarah have a baby at her advanced age.

An interesting point was made about the way that words are used in Genesis 17 and 18. In 17, after referring to God in the opening verse in the same way as Genesis 18 begins, all the rest of the references are to God, whereas in chapter 18, after the opening verse, all references are to Lord. Mark indicated that this could be because of the god sources, in other words the different god sources are translated in different ways, namely in this case God and Lord. We are reminded again that this part of Genesis was written somewhere in the range between 900 to 650 BCE and was written after the 10 commandments were available. Again, it was written to uplift and encourage the people at the time of the Babylonian captivity that theirs was a long history and that Abraham who was the patriarch of the people had received the promise of God and they were living in this covenant.

A comment was made as to how this could be uplifting in our daily life when there are so many contradictions and wierd things going on. I think that it can be uplifting because of the broad scope of the covenant and the continuing relationship between God and Abraham. Here was a man who for all his human foibles, such as lying about whether Sarai or Sarah was his wife did what God had asked of him, and he was the one chosen by God to be the vehicle for the continuation of being with God on earth. That covenant goes on today through the belief in God through Jesus as savior.



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8-7-2012 Genesis 17 (16)

Today we read the continuation of God the almighty’s relationship or covenant with Abram. Here we spent time struggling with the sign of the covenant, namely circumcision. But in addition, there were the promises that were made about a people that would be descendents of Abram, so that God changed his name to Abraham which means the father of a multitude of people. He also made a promise to Sarai that she would be the mother of a dynasty, and God changed her name to Sarah which means Princess. Initially, we discussed circumcision and why this was chosen to be the sign of the covenant. Could this be the last test of purity of being part of the people as a woman would be able to see before intercourse if the man was truly one of the people of God? John talked about circumcision and how it had been used by a number of people as a visible sign of belonging previously. It appears that circumcision was begun for unknown reasons int north eastern Africa and the Arabian pennisula and theories suggest that it was a way of purifying individuals and society by reducing sexuality and sexual pleasure. http://www.cirp.org/library/history/ Lots of discussion about it. In Yiddish, discarded foreskin is called schmuck. Greeks and Romans forebade people from doing circumcision. This was not specifically directed at the Jews, but was another way in which Jews could be persecuted by the Romans in particular. Germany currently has a law barring circumcision. There seems to be a very German attitude against Jews. Certainly Hitler with his Aryan emphasis was extremely anti-Jewish. And obviously the holocaust followed. But John read a passage from a Martin Luther document of 1543 when Luther was 60 which was a diatribe against Jews. Calling them all sorts of bad names and including circumcision as one of the bad things they practiced. Hitler used some of Luther’s words in his campaign against the Jews and the modern Lutheran church has been trying to distance itself from these Luther writings.

It is interesting to think about circumcision from the perspective of when this story was written. Supposedly it was written centuries after the events described here happened. So there must have been a group of people whose men were circumcised that had some sort of common heritage that the writer(s) here have formed into a people led by God the Almighty.

The main focus of this chapter as well as this section of Genesis has to be, however, about the covenant that God established with this people. The promise of this covenant was that the people would be a great people and would last on the earth forever. It seems that the covenant is different from common real estate subdivision covenants which seem to be rules by which the affected homeowners have a common sense of how to govern the properties so that property values will be maintained and that questionable practices will not be allowed. In the case of God’s promises, the main request by God of Abraham was that he obey the commands of God. In exchange for that, God will see that Abraham is the Father of a great multitude of peoples who will likewise be expected to follow God.  One part of this covenant was that Abraham would be given the land of Canaan. This must have been a problem for the people who currently occupied Canaan. It continues to this day in that most of the Palestinians are descendents of Ishmael, and are Muslim. The Israelites are decendents of Isaac and are the people to whom Canaan was supposedly given. But where were all the people that God promised to Ishmael supposed to live? In the desert? This was the beginning of the problem!!!

Bill raised a good point about how one of the great sticking points of religions is how man things that he has to decide what God wants to happen and then man has to make it happen. For example, Abraham suggested that God look with favor on Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar the servant girl. God said “No, I want the continue the covenant with your son with Sarai, who has come with you all the way from Ur and is also from the line of people coming from Noah and Adam.” God straightened out Abraham from deciding what is the best way, but today, too many of us are deciding what God really wants and then proceeding to do it in the way of man. We need to let God do the work of God and then carry out what He wants to do in the way He wants it done.

We will continue to read and discuss the covenant God made with Abraham and the promise contained in that covenant as we read more about it in future chapters.


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7-31-12 Genesis 16 (16)

The story today is about the way in which Abram and Sarai took into their own hands God’s promise that their descendents would be countless. Sarai suggested to Abram that he take her servent/slave Hagar and have intercourse with her and try to create a son which then Sarai could claim as her own. However, after Abram got Hagar pregnant, Harar started to lord it over Sarai that she, Hagar, was going to be the one who would fulfill God’s promise for Abram not Sarai. Sarai was very distressed with this and went to Abram and said “What should I do?” Abram in a very man type of response said, “She is your servent, take care of her the way you want.” So Sarai made life miserable for Hagar and Hagar ran away. She went into the desert and there God’s angel came to her and said, “You have to go back to Sarai and Abram.” and as an incentive, the angel said that Hagar’s descendents would be innumerable. (This is somewhat of an empty promise because it would be easy to say this because most people have chidren and although a family may die out, it could be continued just as likely. However, it is unlikely that such a family would be around for centuries as is Judaism, Islam, and Christianity which all claim Abram as the father of their peoples.)The angel also told Hagar that her son would be a wild jackass of a man. Just think of how thatwould make a young woman feel. Maybe she thought that he would avenge Sarai’s treatment of her.  So Hagar went back and had a son who was named Ishmael. Ishmael had 12 sons and they are thought to be the people that we think of as Arabians today. It is also thought by Muslims that Ibraham (Abram) took Ishmael to Mecca and established the holy place for all Islam there.

Genesis is a peptalk to the Jewish people who were in captivity in Egypt and the writers wanted to show the people that they needed to remain faithful to God because of God’s promises to Abraham. This would counter the pressure that the people faced to worship the gods of the Pharohs in Egypt.  This then becomes a way to instill hope among the people that they would get away from Egypt and get back to the promised land which was promised to Abraham and in which Abraham lived most of his life.

We also discussed the scholarship about the source of the stories about Abram. A scholar by the name of Blankinsopp from the University of Notre Dame suggests that Abraham is not clearly and unambiguously attested to in the Bible earlier than the Babylonian exile and that in the Persion period, a model for those who would return from Babylon to Judah. This is interesting because the original story of Abram’s origin had him coming from Ur which is not far from Babylon to Canaan which is where the people in captivity in Babylon wanted to return. It is also thought by a number of people that this narrative originated in the 5th or 6th centure BCE. Many scholars thought that the Abraham story served a theological purpose following the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Davidic kingship despite the loss of these things. It described Jahweh’s dealings with the ancesters provided a historical foundation on which the hope for the future could be built. Here is a link to this info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham It is also likely that a lot of the Abraham story was made up which in Bill’s view doesn’t make it not true.

Paul in Galations 4:22-23 states that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave women, and one by a free women. The son of the slave was born according to the flesh but the son of the free woman was born through promise. Then he says that this can be interpreted allegorically namely that Hagar corresponds to present Jerusalem which is in slavery with her children whild the Jerusalem above is free, and the chidren of this tradition are free and have the promise of God for their future.

It is interesting to discuss how men and women interact in their relationships. A lot can be learned about these relationships by reading this chapter. There is jealousy and lording it over another and it illustrates how these feelings get in the way of a relationship with God. It also suggests the difficulty of having multiple wives because of the natural jealousies that can be generated. It also suggests the reasons for trusting and depending on God for our future.

When did monogamy become part of our teachings? was it the Ten Commandments?  An article in the Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that monogamy was a desired relationship all the way from the time of Adam and Eve as well as Noah and his wife. But polygamy was never outlawed until probably the 14th century AD or so. Much of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament extols the benefits of monogamy.

There is an interesting discussion of Ishmael in Wikipedia and here is te link to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael  Here is a reference to Ishmael in the Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael  Here is a link from the Jewish Encyclopedia which also contains the Arabian or Muslim references to Ibraham, Ishmael and Hagar: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7021-hagar

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7-24-12 Genesis 15 (17)

This is the story of how God came to Abram in a vision and told him that he was to be the beginning of a long line of people that would be his descendants and this people would be the specal people of God. Abram had a vision of God telling him that he was establishing a covenant with Abram and promising that his descendants would be a special people and would follow God. This is the important part for us is the living covenant that continues between God through Jesus and us to this day.

The question always comes up as to why doesn’t God speak to us today as clearly as he spoke to Abram. Bill commented about how his dreams can usually be interpreted in terms of recent events rather than what will happen in the future. Maybe we need a few gypsies to explain how our dreams might be the future. But do we not get visions. For example, Mark’s experience coming back from a Zion interview with the thought that this was the place he would continue his ministry. We have the word with all that it contains as a guide to our future and what God expects of us and this all merges into our intuition as well as the way we proceed into the future trying to carry out the directions in which God wants us to go. We ask God to help us as we develop ways to further the mission of God and it is formulated sometimes in the strategic plans we prepare. In other times, it may be the vision of a skilled leader. Abram must have been just such a charismatic leader because the people followed where he led them. After all, why would you sacrifice a grown cow, goat, and ram as well as a turtle dove and a young pigeon to be burned. What an interesting sight it must have been to see the fire consuming them. But this story of the giving of the covenant sustained the people through the whole sojourn in Egypt say nothing about the captivity in Babylon later on.

Al raised a question about why the animals were split in half for the sacrifice. That is all animals were split in half but not the birds. The Lutheran study bible has a note that says that the animals were split in half because the recipient of a promise or covenant was reminded by this of what would happen to him if he welshed on his promise. In this God through the flame pot walked between the halves and thus assumed the guarantee of the covenant. This can be seen as a precursor of Jesus coming to continue the covenant and dying to save us from our sins. Thus God again became the guarantee of the promise or covenant to us.

Why were the people in Canaan so evil? I read a source saying that this whole description of Abram was part of the break with the tradition of having multiple gods to having one true god, the whole concept of monotheism. When Abram started from Ur, at the command of God, he probably believed in multiple gods, but then as he moved north to Haran and then south to Canaan, he developed or through communications with God developed the concept of One God who had created the universe and was the Most High God. This was a remarkable turn of events. Although Adam, and then Noah were also part of this tradition of one god, not many. But it seems to have been cemented in the story of Abram. I think that God always said that the people of Canaan were so evil because they continued to worship many gods as opposed to the one true god. I think it was this aspect, because there seem to be many times in the Bible where God strikes out against the worship of multiple idols and gods, and the people keep wanting to do it. We certainly see it in the time of Moses. The indigenous people in Canaan all believed in multiple gods and the descendents of Abram I am sure thought they should cover all the bases and pray to any god that could help, rather than trust in the God of Abram.

This covenant was a long term commitment of God to the people of Abram and it even foretold the long sojourn of Abram’s descendants in the land of Egypt where they went during the time of Joseph. The other aspect of this long term commitment is that David and then Jesus are both continuations of this covenant made way back in the time of Abram. It is quite amazing that this word and covenant were part of the tradition that stayed with the descendants of Abram for all these years even to today.

There is a complicated description of why Eliezar from Damascus was the heir to Abram’s kingship. In Genesis, Abram is not really called a king, but was one. Eliezar was the firstborn of Masek, one of Abraham’s concubines, and was Abram’s only heir at the time. The fact that he was listed as being from Damascus may or may not mean much. It could have been that Abram sired him while he was in Haran or on his way down to Canaan and hence he might have chosen to settle in the Damascus area which is nearer to Haran than to the area that Abram settled in Canaan. Here is a reference to this whole complicated discussion about what determined the heirs to a King. It included both wives as well as possibly concubines. It seems similar to the discussion of an heir to Lord Grantham in the Masterpiece Theatre series Downton Abbey where the heir is a third cousin once removed. Here is the link: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-was-eliezar-of-damascus.html Look at the comments made by Alice Lindsey at the end of the article.

Eldon read a note from the Lutheran Study Bible in which the reference to Malchizadek in Genesis 14 was priest of a higher God than the God of Abram. Possibly the god El-Elyon who through Malchizadek blessed YWVH the god of Abram. There is some reference to this in a Wikipedia reference to the interaction between Abram and Melchizadek. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

Questions were asked about the Islam teachings about Abram. Note that the Muslims call him Ibraham. There is a piece in Wikipedia about this. Here is link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_Abraham

and here is an excerpt.

“The Qur’an makes it clear that the people of Abraham were idolaters. When Abraham had become older, he decided to finally teach his community a lesson. He told his people that he had a plan for their idols, whilst they would be gone away.[17] The Qur’an goes on to narrate that Abraham subsequently broke the idols, all except the largest, which he kept intact.[18] When the people returned, they began questioning each other over the wreckage, until some of the people remembered that the youth, Abraham, had spoken of the idols earlier.[19] When Abraham arrived, the people immediately began to question him, asking him whether he had anything to do with the broken idols. Abraham then, in a clever taunt, asked the people as to why they don’t ask the largest of the idols, which, they believed, could indeed hear and speak.[20] The people of Abraham were then confounded with shame, and admitted that the idols were incapable of anything.[21] Although Abraham’s people admitted their fault, they are said to have ignored Abraham’s warning and instead retaliated by throwing him into a fire and exclaiming “protect your gods”.[22] Although the natural nature of fire is one of intense heat, God commanded the flame to be cool and peaceful for Abraham.[23] Abraham, as a result, remained unhurt both physically and spiritually, having survived the fire of persecution. The people continued to taunt and persecute him, but to no result, as the Qur’an says that it was they “that lost most”.[24]”

“After the idol wrecking incident, Abraham had an argument with an unjust ruler, who claimed lordship for himself.[25] Abraham, guided by God, showed the King the falsehood of his argument, but he continued to disbelieve and refused to accept Abraham’s message. Abraham then left his people for good, with his believing nephew Lot and his wife, and all were directed towards the blessed land.[26] As Sarah was barren, Abraham had a second wife, Hagar, as a result, bore Ishmael, who was Abraham’s first son. Lot had also subsequently been made a prophet by God, but he was ordered to leave Abraham’s household and was sent to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, to preach against the sins of the people there.”


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7-17-12 Genesis 14 (17)

We start this chapter, as Bill says with one bunch of kings conquering another bunch of kings. Four kings of cities in Mesopotamia came to battle 5 kings of cities south of the Dead Sea in the fertile area of the Jordan River including the cities of Sodaom and Gomorrah. They conquered these cites and king Chedorlaomer of Elam stayed to rule them and or course collect tribute from them. He ruled them for 12 years and then in the 13th year, the king of Sodom rebelled. Then in the 14th year, the four kings from Mesopotamia returned and conquered the whole area again and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah tried to flee, they fell into the tar pits at the south end of the dead sea. The 4 kings took all of the possessions of Sodom and Gomorrah and ll their provisions, and also took Lot and his possessions. Abram was told about this turn of events and he mustered a force of 318 men along with men from 3 allies of Abrem to go after Lot. They attacked by night to surprise the 4 kings and defeated them and Abram pursued them almost to Damscus. Then he brought back his nephew Lot along with his possessions including the women and children that had been taken and also took back all the possissions of the people who the three kings had conquered. There are a number of interesting questions that are raised here. Why did Abram take this risky actoin against some very powerful kings? Did God tell him to do this? Did God promise to support Abram in this venture? How did he manage to defeat the 4 kings with all the possessions they had with his 318 men and his three allies and their men? Even attacking in stealth by night it would be difficult to do, but God must have promised him God’s help. Then one asks about this God that Abram believed in, how did he have all this power?

[There is a very interesting article that discusses this whole event and shows maps of the area in which it took place. The link to the article is http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/abraham-and-lot.html#Map of Chederlaomer’s Alliance This site has a number of interesting maps and commentary about the early travels of Abraham and his descendents.]

Then when Abram got back home, he left Lot in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah and the King of Sodom said that if Abram gave the people he had taken back to him, Abram could have all the possessions and provisions. Abram said no, I did this to the glory of most high God and I don’t want it said that you made me rich. Even in those days of many gods, Abram apparntly believed in the concept of one god, the most high. He did say that his allies could take their share of the spoils of the battle. We had several comments about God and what is his form and how he would have communicated with Abram. This lead to a little discussion about the extent of the universe and what it means to have something that seemingly has no boundaries.Is God infinite like it appears his creation is? Or what does it mean that man was created in God’s image? Does man look like God? Does man have the same characteristics that God has in terms of how we live? It is interesting to see how Abram’s concept of God was so very advanced compared to almost any other people at that time. As a matter of fact, the concept of one god appers to come from Noah who supposedly lived a couple thousand years before that.

Then the end of the chapter becomes a very interesting interaction between Abram and God as God must have sent King Melchizedek from Salem to deliver a blessing to Abram. It says that Melchizedek was King of Salem which many take to be Jerusalem. It is thought that Melchizedek was a descendent of Shem and it appears that this was the beginning of Jerusalem as the holy city for the people of Noah. Melchizedek was not only king of Salem, but also priest of God most high. Melchizedek blessed Abram and brought him bread and wine. This can be seen as a precursor of Jesus giving his disciples bread and wine to commemorate his life and also the communion we use to celebrate Jesus life and works. Abram gave him a tithe of a tenth of everything. It was after this that the king of Sodom offered Abram all the rest of the spoils and Abram declined saying that he, Abram, had lifted his hand to the Lord, God most high, possessor of heaven and earth and therefore was beholden to him not to any earthly king. This act by Melchizedek is the theme that is carried down through Issac and Jacob and on through David to Jesus where Jesus is seen as a high priest in the line of Melchizedek to all of the people not just the people of Noah.We read about this in Hebrews 6:20-7:19 where this this type of priest-king was a type of the eternal and universal priesthood of Jesus Christ.

it is interesting that we have such great detail here including the names of the kings and their cities as well as the size of the force that Abram mustered to fight the kings when this happened over 4000 years ago. Also think of the fact that this whole story of Abram was not really an oral tradition, but was thought to be created by literary circles who put this history and ideas together to give the people heart when they were carried away to Babylon and saw their magnificent temple destroyed.

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7-10-12 Genesis 13 (12)

[Last week, someone had asked how far it was from Ur of Chaldes, which is thought to be near present day Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq‘s Dhi Qar Governorate, to Haran on the border of present day Syria and Turkey. I looked it up and it is approximately 730 miles. Not a huge distance but if you had to take flocks and herds along with you it could take considerable time. They probably camped along the way and stayed at a place until the sheep had eaten everything and they had to move on. I reported this incorrectly this morning. Here is a web site that provides info on Ur http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ur ]

This morning we read about Abram’s return from Egypt where he spent time during the drought in Canaan.  There are several themes that can be seen in this chapter. One is the emphasis on the wealth that Abram and Lot held in terms of flocks, cattle, as well as people and gold and silver. They were wealthy men and a recurrent theme in the Bible is how we should deal with wealth. Then we have the conflicts between their herdsmen. Abram offers a deal to Lot that allows them to split the land in front of them. The question can be raised as to what the Canaanites, who were there when Abram came there, thought of this deal. Then there is the issue of Lot and his actions. Was he evil or just kind of rude as he pushed forward to take the better land for his own? Did he know about the evil people who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah or was he just anxious to have all they fun living them that they appeared to be having? We had lots to discuss.

We spent a lot of time talking about the wealth issue and whether people should have equal opportunity for wealth or whether wealth should be redistributed to all. There were comments made about h0w in the best example of wealth distributions, namely the communists, that the leaders made sure that they got more of everything and there was a lot of corruption in government as each tier of officials made sure they got more. Then others suggested that maybe we don’t have equal opportunities for wealth but should have equal opportunities for applying our selves in the world as we make our way. Jesus said a lot about how difficult it was to be wealthy and still enter the kingdom. Yet God at this time was rewarding people and seemed to be saying if you are wealthy that is evidence that you are in a good place with God.

Tom raised a very interesting question about which was the most surprising of the commandments. Mark suggested that the idea of one god was most surprising in a world where at that time you believed in the god that appeared to be helping most. It was pointed out that the Japanese were willing to believe or to try different religions just in the hope that it could help them. Others pointed out that certain commandments were no brainers when it came to insuring order within a society. For example, murder and robbery. But was it a surprise that it is even a sin to envy someone’s possessions or spouse? Why did the sin of adultery become so important? Since we are so involved with the homosexual issue today and there are some who think that this was the sin against the Lord that the people of Sodom committed, why was this not in the 10 commandments? It was also pointed out that except for the commandments to love and worship the lord and to honor one’s parents, the commandments restrict us from doing things. It waited until Jesus to talk about the things that we should do in life like work for peace or to help those less fortunate among us. One discussion that Steve suggested was that education was a way that people could have equal opportunity. However, the question was raised as to whether or not those with wealth who could send their children to private schools and universities were not better prepared and able to have things that are not available to the poorer people among us who may just struggle to complete high school and would really have a struggle to go to even a community college.

We always want to delve deeper into the issues that are told in these stories and we have to be reminded that things that are being described here have been pieced together in order to get what we have and this isn’t a video tape of what happened. We see so much detail of everything that happens in our every day lives and we would like to have an investigative reporter who would question Lot and Abram and see who knew what and when they knew it. Lot seemed to jump at the chance his uncle proposed to him of taking what appeared to be the best land with the most water available to him and his flocks, herds and the people that worked for him. How many of us wouldn’t jump to this same conclusion. We could say that his uncle expected this to happen. Anyway, he could say that Abram was an old man and Lot was young and was the future of the people. If Lot knew about the iniquity of the people of the region he was moving into, did he just think that he could continue in the ways that he had learned as a child at the feet of his father and what he had learned from his long association with Abram, or was he gleefully looking forward to some of the fun he and his wife could have with the people of Sodom? I am sure that if he was thinking of the fun with the Sodomites, he was sure he could maintain his own integrity. But many times that is a slippery slope and the best of intentions fails us because of the circumstances that happen to us.

I would welcome your additional comments about things I missed in my commentary or your additional thoughts about some of the other themes of this chapter that we didn’t really discuss this morning.

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07-03-12 Genesis 12 (13)

This morning we started with a short presentation about Abraham, his timeline, where he lived and traveled, and some information about his life. We looked at maps of the area in which he lived in the time between 2000-1700 BCE. Then we read the chapter about his early interaction with God. Questions were raised about why he tried to pass off Sarai as his sister to the Pharaoh, didn’t he trust God to make sure he wasn’t killed. After all, God said that he would bless Abram and him who dishonors you I will curse. Didn’t Abraham believe God. But yet, Abraham went on this long journey from Ur to Shechem and Bethel in Canaan because God told him to go. Questions were also raised about how Pharaoh surmised that the sickness of all his people was because of Sarai and Abram. Did God talk to Pharaoh, or how did the information get to Pharaoh? Did he just presume that since everyone got sick when he took Sarai as his wife that there must be a problem and he was very willing to add the influence of another god if he could heal his people.

We talked about the purpose of this story, because a lot of historians don’t think that this story was part of the Jews oral history, but rather seems to have been made a part of the history in order to help people get through the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. [Note: Archaeological evidence suggests that that the first settlement was established around 4500-3500 BCE and archeological evidence suggests that by the 17th century BCE, the Canaanites had built massive walls on the eastern side of Jerusalem to protect their ancient water system. According to Henry Cattan, The Palestine Question, pp. 247-250, Jerusalem was founded by the Canaanites. Cattan suggests that Melchisedek, the righteous king first build a temple in Jerusalem, formerly called Salem. The temple was built approximately in the time of Abraham, which would place it about 1800 BCE. It was populated by the Jebusites, a Canaanite subgroup, until David captured the city in about 1000 BCE.]

We discussed the continuing question of why God interacted on such a personal basis with Abram, but then at the same time, why didn’t he reassure Abram when he was passing Sarai off as his sister and tell him that Abram didn’t need to worry because God would take care of him. Maybe it was a plot by God to get Pharaoh to give Abram all of the flocks, herds and servants that he gave to him and to urge Abram to get back to Canaan.

It was good to have Tom back with us after his long sojourn in Australia.

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Abraham’s Background

Here is some information that may give you a little more understanding about Abraham, where he lived, his travels, and when he lived.

Abram is credited with being the father of the Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Abram was a descendent of Noah’s son, Shem, his father was supposedly Terah, tenth in descent from Noah.  Terah also fathered Nahor and Haran, and Haran fathered Lot. Haran died in his native Ur of the Chaldees and Abram married Sarai. Terah, Abram and Sarai, and Lot departed for Canaan, but settled in a place called Haran. According to the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an, Abraham through his sons Ishmael and Isaac is the forefather of many tribes including the Ismalites, Israelites, Midianites, and the Edomites. Christians believe that Jesus was a descendent of Abraham through Isaac and Muslims believe that Muhammad was a descendent through Ishmael. When God made the covenant with Abram, his name was changed to Abraham.

There have been many attempts to match the biblical chronology to dates in history, with two of the more influential being the traditional Jewish dates that Abraham lived from 1812 to 1637 BCE and another historian dates him from 1976 to 1801 BCE.

Some Scholars believe that the Genesis story of Abraham was not transmitted by oral traditions, but originated from literary circles of the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. It was used to assure the Israelites in exile that despite the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Davidic kingship, Yahweh’s dealings with their ancestors provided a historical foundation on which hope for the future could be built. Abraham’s association with Mamre and Hebron, in the south, in the territory of Jerusalem and Judah, suggests that this region was the original home of his cult.

God appeared to Abram and told him to depart. After settling in Haran, where his father Terah died, God then told Abram to leave his country and his father’s house for a land that He would show him, promising to make of him a great nation, bless him, make his name great, bless those who blessed him, and curse those who cursed him. (Genesis 12:1–3) Following God’s command, at age 75, Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and the wealth and persons that they had acquired, and traveled to Shechem in Canaan.

Link to a Map of Abraham’s Travels:



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6-26-12 Ephesians 6 (16)

Today we discussed Ephesians 6. There are a number of noteworthy aspects to this chapter. In the opening section Paul discusses how children should have respect for their parents, and the parents for their children and then he does the same thing for employers and their servents/slaves/employees. A second major part and very important is to put on the whole armor of Christ in our sturggle to live our lives in God. This chapter concludes the book of Ephesians.


We spent some time discussing the meaing of the first section on how to treat children, parents, employers, and employees. It was pointed out that Paul was suggesting that the gospel of Christ made it possible for anyone to come to Christ irrespective of their status or position. This does not mean that Paul was suggesting that we change the way the society operated. Some people in civil war times used this passage to justify slavery. Mark and Bill suggested the example of Vermeer as a company they thought was following Paul’s advice about respect between employer and employees. They gave several examples of ways in which this respect and consideration was demonstrated in the history of the company. Some suggested that employers can do this better in good times and sometimes they do it to avoid having a union. But truly enlightened employers do it for the good of all and not necessarily to avoid dissadent structures that create problems in the company.


Next week we will go back to Genesis and read about Abraham. The plan is to read Genesis through chapter 25, the death of Abraham.