In the past…

I totally drew my theological method! :-) via ...
I totally drew my theological method! :-) via tiffkei

Today I am thinking about history…

I love! Especially because I am stuck on this one man…my dad’s, dad’s, dad’s, dad’s dad…My 3rd great grandfather. He is there, I can see him, I just can’t find where he came from! Who are his parents? Were they born in the United States? If not where did they come from? I have spent hours looking, researching possible birthplaces, counties, and states. Considering the size of this industry, I know I am not the only one that does this kind of research.

Which always leads me to ask why? Why is this so important that I would spend my breaks from school trying to find this guy’s parents? Would knowing the name of my 4th great-grandparents really make a difference in my life? I wonder if I traced my family line all the way to the first humans: would their names make a difference?

As I prepare to write a theological paper, as I study mission, evangelism, and colonization, I keep circling back to the questions about history. When exactly does an event change from one that shapes and forms me…into “history” or “in the past?” At what point can I say…” that is history and does not matter” and be telling the truth? I know my parents’ lives affect me, so I would have to go back at least to their birth. Their lives were in turn shaped by their parent’s past…and my grandparents were shaped by their parents…so wouldn’t I have to go back at least that far?

What if I leave my direct family line and talk about the societies that shape us. I think most people would agree and say at least as far back as the writing of the U.S. Constitution, we know that document affects our lives; but then, of course, I have to acknowledge that the men who write it were shaped by their history, families, and society.

I would be shocked to hear anyone say “that’s history and we should just let it go” in a discussion about Jesus or the New Testament. But we couldn’t stop there since the New Testament was shaped and formed by the people and writing that came before it. We can clearly see that Judaism shaped Christianity, and of course, Jesus himself was Jewish.

I somehow know that the life of my 3rd great grandfather and the parents that raise him have some effect on me. Maybe slight…but then again maybe greater than I know. When is history … “history?”

Just not interested

#iseethismoment via tiffkei
#iseethismoment via tiffkei

Job 1:1; 2:1-10

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when we left James. I was just getting into James’s writing style, his snarky attitude and sharp eye. Don’t get me wrong, Job is a good story. Job wrestles with THE question…the “why do bad things happen to good people” question. On top of it, the story of Job is old, like really, really old. Well not the whole book but at least portions of it. Even with these amazing attributes, Job just isn’t speaking to me this week.

On the other hand…listening to Job has been a great spiritual practice! The fact that I wasn’t looking forward to reading/listening to Job again…but doing it anyway. This was good for me. I believe that even though it wasn’t something that I was looking forward to…it did help shape who I am becoming in Christ.  Scripture always shapes me…(even when I wine and it isn’t very fun.)



October 7, 2012
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

World Communion Sunday

Read the texts online at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library:

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26 or Psalm 25 (UMH 756)
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Color: Green

History…Genesis 1:1-4

I am sticking with the Old Testament readings for the time being, this week the Old Testament text is Genesis 1:1-4. To be honest, these are not my favorite bible verses. I find strength and wisdom when I read about human interaction, the community between God and human, and the raw emotional response to life…these things are lacking in these verses. I can close my eyes and envision this story being told around the campfire or maybe during worship in the temple but even that doesn’t hold my interest for long. Maybe studying these versus this week will help me find a connection with the text (or maybe not…who knows?).

If you read the first couple of chapters of Genesis closely, you find a change in voice, the name of God changes, and there are different thoughts and ideas of who God is and how that God interacts with people, the narrator of the story changes. In Genesis 1 God is transcendent and able to bring order to light, land and sea. God is the creator of all order.

The first account of creation, Genesis 1-2:4a feels like it could be a responsive reading during a church service…maybe it was at one time. The Documentary Hypothesis is the theory that believes many different documents were combined over several centuries to create the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Documentary Hypothesis states that there are four different sources, one of them being the “P” source, or priestly source. “The P, or Priestly, source is named because of its emphasis on matters of religious observance and ritual. Thus, in Genesis, the first account of creation, which is P, concludes with the account of divine rest and hence of the Sabbath observance” (Coogan, 53). If this were a priestly writer then it would make sense for a religious leader to lead the congregation with this reading, maybe in a responsive way, or maybe as a hymn that the congregation sings together.

Most academic studies of the Genesis creation accounts include other Ancient Near East creation accounts like the Enuma Elish. Coogan, Yale, and my Hebrew Bible class at Iliff School of Theology all include the study of other creation myths as a starting point for study. The surrounding cultures were part of the biblical world, just like the surrounding cultures today are part of our world. Many parts of the Bible, including the creation accounts are speaking into the countries and cultures of the time. The first creation story in Genesis was a response to other cultures…”your god is the sea? Well OUR God created the sea and all God did was speak a word and then there was order!”

More Reading…

Getting Drunk with the Documentary Hypothesis

Isaiah 9:2-7

United Methodist Lectionary

Yesterday I found out that the United Methodist Church has a Lectionary all its own. That makes things a little easier. The United Methodist Lectionary does not have as many choices as the Revised Common Lectionary, instead the UMC lectionary has four texts, slightly different from the Revised Common Lectionary. It also includes other information to help with Sunday planning! Very helpful!

Isaiah 9:2-7

Isaiah, the Old Testament book that Christians love to quote. It talks of Christ our King throughout the book. We get amazing quotes like “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Today, Christians quote this book so often that it becomes very hard to read the text without the Christian lens. When I hear people talking of Leviticus I often hear about the New Covenant, how the law does not apply to us because Christ has fulfilled the law but I can’t recall anyone ignoring Isaiah because of Christ, instead people quote it for the same reason the ignore Leviticus, Christ. I can’t be “not Christian,” I can’t read this text as an 8th century Judahite. But I can try to understand some of the history, even if I can’t live it.


If we were to pick up a history book and begin reading about the United States of America, Great Britain, President James Madison, France, Canada, Native American’s and maritime rights, then turned the page and began reading about Japan, Germany, Pearl Harbor, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, we would do a double take and murmur a silent “huh?”. We just jumped a few years from the War of 1812 to the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor and we would know it.

We may not notice it but the same happens in Isaiah. The first 39 chapters in the book of Isaiah take place during a time when Assyria’s power is increasing, the second half of the eighth century BCE through the beginning of the seventh century BCE. Assyria is threatening the Northern Kingdom of Israel and eventually the Southern Kingdom of Judah. These 39 chapters, minus a couple of later additions like Isaiah 24-27, (apocalyptic literature probably written no earlier than the sixth century BCE) are known as 1 Isaiah (Coogan, page 332).

Starting with Isaiah 40, we begin to hear a voice from a different time, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is no more and Babylon is threatening the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the capital city, Jerusalem. The Assyria of Isaiah 19:24 is a memory, the Babylonians conquered it in 608 BCE (Coogan, page 349). Starting with Isaiah 40, we have a new voice from a different time, with different kings and even different nations.


As I read Isaiah 9:2-7 this week, I will listen to the promise of child from the lens of a twenty-first century Christian, I will read about the promise of light coming into the darkness of our world. As I read, I will try to remember that Isaiah was living in a darkness, a time and place, very different from the darkness I know. A time when the powerful nation of Assyria could take a land and its people, a time when kings ruled, war was constant, and God spoke to a Prophet telling of a people who yearn for “endless peace for the throne of David and His Kingdom” (Isaiah 9:7).

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

A few weeks ago I completed my first quarter at Iliff School of Theology. One of the first things I studied was the old testament, “Hebrew Bible I.” Which explains the reason for picking this text this week. I’ve already studied this text and have an idea of its history…yes, I’m taking the easy way out! Going with what I already know…

2 Samuel

What I do know is that 2 Samuel 7 is part of the Deuteronomistic History, which is the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. These books are “history books,” maybe not exactly like we would find in history class but they do tell the history of Israel and Judah from the time the Hebrews entered Canaan until the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. These books even have citations like a good history book should (The Chronicles of the Kings of JudahThe Chronicles of the Kings of IsraelThe Chronicles of SolomonThe Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persiaetc.)

2 Samuel 7

King David moved the capital and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. In 2 Samuel 7, David has moved into his new kingly palace and tells Nathan, his prophet, that he would like to build a house for God. Nathan, saying “go for it,” but God does not approve, so they put the building of the temple on hold for later generations. God establishes the Davidic dynasty, the ancestors of David will always be king over Israel.

My thoughts…

It is interesting that David wants to build a temple for God but God very clearly says “no.” God never asked for a temple, he didn’t want one (2 Samuel 5-7).

Did you know that Homer Simpson bought Marge a bowling ball for her birthday one year? With his name on it, of course. The gift was not for her, not really. I am sure I’ve done it, bought a gift for someone, a gift that I fell in love with…but failed to actually consider if the receiver would love it. I know I’ve received gifts that the giver loved but…ya, I know how Marge felt! Maybe this “gift” of a house for God was the same. God said no, God didn’t need a temple, never asked for one…God was not interested.

If we only had verses 5-7, we would know that God did not want a “house.” But that is not all we have, we also have verse 13…”[your child] will build a house to honor me.” Did God not want a temple or did he not want David to build it for him? It is a little confusing. The different voices from different times comes through this text. One voice is clear, “no temple”. Another voice, later in the tradition probably, comes through and adds “yet.” “No temple, yet.”

Even in these few short versus, the depth and complexity of this text shines through. A temple was not just voted upon, built and accepted by all people through all Israel’s history. There is a wrestling here in the text, questions that people are asking.

  • Where will God live now that we have settled in our new land?
  • Who has access to God (Royal Ideology)?
  • How do we, as the Hebrew people, live in our land as a United Kingdom?
Add to that…the authors/editors that pulled these books together into their final form

What do you write now that you are in exile…away from your temple and land? How does a historian write about their history, and promises made, while living in the present, with seemingly broken promises?

Add to that…the fact that this is a couple of thousand years later!

How do we read this text today? Knowing that a temple was built, destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again? Hearing the stories of Jesus, from the line of David, the anointed one, do we hear “your throne will be established forever” and hear, not the story of an ancient people, but instead our story? The story of Christ?

We wrestle with the things of God all the time. Is it really a surprise that thousands of years ago, they wrestled too? For me, it makes these people more real, it makes God more real.