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Topics - Brian Stoffregen

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Your Turn / Shameless
« on: August 28, 2021, 01:38:15 PM »
There has been a lot of discussion about Nadia Bolz-Weber, and especially her latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.

I'm wondering how many people have actually read the book.

Your Turn / When was the Bible written?
« on: July 30, 2021, 11:38:48 PM »
The earliest known Hebrew writing discovered is dated about 1000 BC - during the time of David. This means that none of the Hebrew scriptures could have been written before that time. None of the events prior to the monarchy could have been written in Hebrew.

It's possible that since Acts 7:22 tells us: "Moses learned everything Egyptian wisdom had to offer, and he was a man of powerful words and deeds" (CEB); he may have learned the older Egyptian writing. Even so, they could not have been translated into Hebrew for 300-400 years after the time of Moses, when Hebrew became a written language.

More likely, the older events were told through stories and song, and later written (rather than translated from an Egyptian language).

I generally use the word "compiled" rather than "written," because much of the Old Testament history seems to be a compilation of older stories. E.g., there was no writing at the time of Adam and Eve, Noah, the Tower of Babel. Someone compiled those stories into the book of Genesis.

A theory held by many Jewish and (liberal) Christian scholars is that are five sources to the historical books.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers were compiled by the Priestly [P] writer (600-500 BC).
Prior to P's compilation, sources he used:
     The Yahwist [J] had written down stories around 950 BC.
     The Elohist [E] had written down stories around 900-800 BC.
     J & E were combined around 722 BC.
     Other stories and Covenant Laws.
Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuels, & Kings were compiled by the Deuteronomist [D] (600-500 BC).
     He or they (if a group of scholars) used other sources than JE and the law found in 622 (2 Kings 22)
Chronicles, Ezra, & Nehemiah were compiled by the Chronicler (400-350 BC).
     He used some of D and added from other sources. (Centered on the Southern Kingdom).

Something to note: in the Jewish Scriptures, Joshua, Judges, Samuels and Kings are part of the Nevi'im (Prophets) (more specifically, "the former prophets"); Chronicles (which covers the same history), Ezra, and Nehemiah are part of the Ketubim (writings) - the third and last group of books to be considered part of their scriptures.

Your Turn / Thinking in Hebrew
« on: July 23, 2021, 07:54:18 PM »
This article got me thinking more about the differences between thinking in Hebrew and thinking in Greek.

Some differences in my memory banks: Hebrew tends to be verb driven (actions) while Greek tends to be noun driven (thoughts). That is, Hebrews will tell stories about ways God loves his people (which sometimes means acting in unloving ways to discipline them). Greeks write essays about how God is love.

Hebrew was a spoken language. The consonants had to be read (always outloud) in order to know what the words meant. As I will show later, the letters: אמן ('mn) can have a variety of meanings depending on the vowel sounds when they are heard. ἀλήθεια will be pronounced the same way whenever it's read from a text.

Greek was more of a written language.

A key difference is that literate cultures ask, "What do the words mean?" Words are used to evoke ideas or pictures in the head. Oral cultures ask, "What do the words do to the hearers?" Words are used to evoke responses, e.g., laughter, crying, sympathy, anger, etc. When God spoke in Genesis 1, the words did something. They conveyed more than just information.

Specifically, looking at Greek and Hebrew words for "truth". (Going a bit further than the essay link posted at the beginning.)

ἀλήθεια = f. noun truth, truthfulness; reality
ἀληθεύω = vb. speak the truth; be honest
ἀληθής = adj. true, truthful, honest; real, genuine
ἀληθινός = adj. real, genuine; true; dependable
ἀληθῶς = adv. truly, in truth, actually, surely

This group of Greek words (and definitions from A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, revised Edition, prepared by Barclay M. Newman (at the back of my Novum Testamentum Graece 28th Revised Edition).

This group of words  come from ἀ = negation + λήθω = "to elude notice, to be unseen, to be secret". Thus, this group of words is about revealing what might not have been seen or noticed. That is, they are about revealing what is real. "The true God" is the God that is real.

The group of Hebrew words related to "truth" have the root: אמן ('MN). (We get "amen" from this root.) The origin of this root is centered on that which is firm, reliable, trustworthy.

Verb, אָמַן 'aman can refer to pillars or other things that support a building. It can also refer to adults (like a nurse) who support children. It then can refer to the trust or belief one has in a trustworthy person (or God).

Related words and definitions from A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament ed. William L. Holladay,

אֹמֶן = 'omen = n.m. reliability
אָמֵן = 'amen = adv. surely, truly, amen
אֵמוּן or אֵמֻן = 'emun = n.m. true, reliable
אֲמוּנָה = 'emunah = n.f. steadiness, reliability, honesty
אָמְנָה = 'amnah = adv. in truth, truly
אֲמָנָה = 'amanah = agreement
אָמְנָם = 'amnam = adv. surely, truly
אֱמֶת = 'emneth = n.f. steadiness, reliability, permanence, continuance; fidelity; truth; true

While not at odds with the Greek idea that "the true God" refers to the God who is real, who has been revealed. In Hebrew thinking, "the true God" refers to one who is reliable, trustworthy, believable. I think that the closest analogy we have to the Hebrew thinking is the phrase, "a true friend." "True" refers to the quality of the relationship, rather than indicating that the friend is real.

Your Turn / John 5:29
« on: May 26, 2021, 06:18:49 PM »
A comment about the Athanasian Creed included a paraphrase of John 5:29 got me to look more closely at John 5:29. An interesting verse (from a Greek perspective). A chart of the verse with Greek and a translation. (I've tried to line up the parallel words and phrases.)

καὶ ἐκπορεύσονται,
οἱ     τὰ ἀγαθὰ     ποιήσαντες  εἰς ἀνάστασιν ζωῆς,
οἱ δὲ τὰ φαῦλα    πράξαντες    εἰς ἀνάστασιν κρίσεως.

and they shall go out,
the ones the good      doing                  into resurrection of life.
the ones the evil?       doing?                into resurrection of judgment.

Although most translation use forms of "to do" for both verbs, the verbs are not the same in Greek: ποιέω and πρἀσσω.

One approach: the verbs are synonyms. They mean the same thing. BDAG under the first definition of πρἀσσω says: "oft. without distinction from ποιεῖν."

Another approach, the words have different nuances. BDAG goes on to indicate that πρἀσσω has "more the sense practice, busy oneself with." Lowe & Nida do not list the two words as synonyms. Both words are used in Romans 1:32 and are usually translated differently: "do" and "practice" (twice). The idea of "practicing," like a practicing lawyer, or practicing the piano, suggests an ongoing activity a bit more than what ποιέω might indicate.

A similar distinction is made in John 3:20-21 where πράσσων φαῦλα "practicing evil" is in contrast to ποιῶν τὴν ἀήθειαν "doing the truth."

A few translations use different verbs in their translations, e.g., NASB, NLT.

Another thing that struck me was the use of τὰ φαῦλα in opposition to τὰ ἀγαθά. Much more often, as BDAG indicates, quite often the opposite of ἀγαθός is κακός (e.g., Romans 7:19; 12:12; 16:19). However, in the gospels, πονηρός is often in contrast to ἀγαθός, e.g. Matthew 5:45; 12:35; 22:10.

Again, one approach is to view φαῦλος, κακός, and πονηρός as synonyms with no difference in meaning.

Another is to look for different nuances. BDAG states that ἀγαθός is "pertained to meeting a high standard of quality … worth and merit." In contrast, it says of φαύλος: "pertaining to being low-grade or morally substandard" or "inferior in quality." φαύλος doesn't seem to indicate something that is a great evil, e.g., murder, stealing; but just not trying to do one's best. (I've described some congregations as "they strive for mediocrity and usually reach it.") It might be that striving for mediocrity rather than striving for high standards of quality could fall under the meaning of φαῦλος.

I also looked at Genesis 2 & 3 in the LXX to see what terms are used for the forbidden tree. They are καλὸς καὶ πονηρός. Neither of the terms used in John 5:29.

Your Turn / Definition and Purpose(s) of Confirmation
« on: May 19, 2021, 06:27:13 PM »
Perhaps the most interesting finding to me in Confirmation and First Communion, is that the Lutheran Church had never had a definition of confirmation. It's something that we just did. There isn't any scriptural reference for it. I remember a seminary professor saying that he tried to find the origins of it. The best he could discover is that it was a process where bishops could confirm the faith of youth who had been baptized by priests who were later declared heretics. (I believe that in the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion, bishops still officiate at confirmation services. This is one reason why The Episcopal Church has about 100 diocese where the ELCA has 65 synods; while they have about have the membership of the ELCA.)

The book looks at the early church. Tertullian in On the Resurrection of the Body, has baptizing, anointing, sealing, the laying on of hands, and admission to the Lord's Supper as part of one long ceremony.

Hippolytus in The Apostolic Tradition, has even more steps; but the baptisms, anointings, and admission to the Lord's Supper were part of one rite. The Eastern Church has kept this practice: one ceremony for baptism and first communion. The Western Church, somewhere in the third and fourth centuries, divided the two.

Anyway, the book offers "A New Definition of Confirmation."

Confirmation is a pastoral and education ministry of the church
that is designed to help baptized children identify with the life and mission of the adult Christian community,
and that is celebrated in a public rite.

In a congregation, I had the council look at our confirmation ministry. Beginning with this definition they revised our whole program. (There was the suggestion of dropping confirmation all together, but they didn't go for that.) One new, key element, was that at least one parent would be involved in each class. Statistics show that the activity of the parents in church is the best indicator of how active the children would be. Part of our program was to try and get parents more involved in the congregation.

Your Turn / If not "function," then what?
« on: May 17, 2021, 03:47:47 PM »
In looking over the ALC constitution, there was this article:
"6.33. The status of the clergy differs from that of the laity only as to function."

The ALC clearly viewed ordination as a setting apart for function. This is what I remember being taught at seminary. That also raised the question if someone is not functioning as a pastor, i.e., word and sacrament ministry, should they remain on the clergy roster? An example would be those teaching in a college or seminary.

I don't know what might have been in the LCA constitution, but their understanding of clergy was a bit different than in the ALC. One example:

All LCA clergy were automatically voting members at synod and churchwide conventions by virtue of their office. In the ALC, clergy had to be elected by the congregation to be voting delegates. This meant that some clergy in specialized ministries would never be elected by the congregation to which they belonged. It also meant, as a friend did, he had the congregation elect two lay people, usually a husband and wife, and he as the pastor went as a visitor. He didn't have to attend meetings. He couldn't vote. He went for the fellowship with his friends.

What are other views of ordination besides the functional one?

Your Turn / What Happened to the "Scapegoat"?
« on: April 24, 2021, 03:34:06 AM »
Chad Bird has written a book, Unveiling Mercy: 365 Daily Devotions Based on Insights from Old Testament Hebrew. He also provides daily devotions from the book on Facebook.

The devotion for April 22 looks at Leviticus 16:7-8.

He writes:

Older translations understood Azazel not as a proper noun but a combination of ez ("goat") and azal ("to go away"). Thus we get "scapegoat" (short for "escape goat"). Most scholars today, however, identify Azazel as a desert demon, as indeed some rabbis did, calling him Azael. This goat is not an innocent victim that bears the blame (as we colloquially say, "The boss is using Cindy as a scapegoat for his mistakes"). Rather, on Yom Kippur, the sins have already been atoned for by the first goat sacrificed (Lev. 16:15-19). When the high priest lays his hands on the head of the Azazel goat, confesses, and sends him into the wilderness, this goat bears witness not of guilt but of absolution. The goat goes to the devil, as it were, parading the atonement on the accuser's own turf.

When Jesus, after his death, descended into hell, he was parading before the enemy in a victory march that beat the drum of forgiveness. After the final Yom Kippur of Calvary. Satan had no claim on us. It is finished. (p. 112)

I raise this issue, partly because I find it interesting. Growing, I had often heard about the importance of the scapegoat in the Bible (at least in the KJV). (The RSV doesn't use the word.) (An interesting exercise is to check Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26 to see what they do with the Hebrew,  עֲזָאזֵל.

Related to this, it is also a way to introduce folks to Chad Bird. He was a speaker at a Crossings Conference. Check him out.

Chad, in his Facebook post., also pointed out that Azazel, is used in 1 Enoch. The New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible says about this: A demon named Azazel, leader of angels who corrupt humankind, is bound and buried under sharp rocks in the desert (1 En. 8:1-4; 10:4-6)

A second reason for this discussion relates to a discussion about the unchangeability of scriptures (and our Confessions). While Scriptures may not change, our understanding of it certainly changes over the years. Not only has the scapegoat of the KJV disappeared in many translation; but so did the unicorns (found in 9 verses of the KJV). People familiar with the KJV will find changes when they read newer translations.

Your Turn / Moveable Justice?
« on: April 21, 2021, 05:16:07 PM »
With the recent discussions about justice, I've found the following quote by James Limburg about Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” to be quite interesting. (I also recall a speaker making a similar point in a long-ago lecture.)

The picture that word “justice” brings to mind in our western tradition is that of a woman, blindfolded, holding a set of balances before her. Thus “justice” is a static concept, a noun, describing the achievement of fairness and equality and symbolized in the state of balance where all is at rest. The image Amos calls to mind is entirely different. Justice is like a surging, churning, cleansing stream. All is in motion and commotion. Nothing is at rest. … This is the prophetic picture of justice; it is more like an onrushing torrent than a balanced scale. (Hosea-Micah, Interpreter’s Commentary, page 107)

If justice (מִשְׁפָּ֑ט/κρίμα) and righteousness (צְדָקָה/δικαιοσύνη) are like flowing water, they are moving; dynamic. What might be justice/right in one situation might not be so in another.

Your Turn / What Does Τοῦτο Refer To?
« on: April 16, 2021, 02:24:20 PM »
What does “this” refer to in “this is my body”?

All four biblical accounts use essentially the same words.

1 Cor 11:24     τοῦτο μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν.
Luke 22:19      τοῦτο ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα μου τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διδόμενον.
Mark 14:22     τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
Matt 26:26      τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.

τοῦτο is a nominative or accusative singular neuter demonstrative pronoun or adjective.

As a pronoun, it stands for some neuter noun.
As an adjective, it would modify some neuter noun.

ἄρτος = “bread” or “loaf” is a masculine noun. It wouldn’t work as the antecedent to τοῦτό or the word it is modifying.
σῶμα = “body” is a neuter noun, but saying, “This [body] is my body” doesn’t make sense.

τοῦτο can be used as a noun = “this thing,” but we are left wondering what “the thing” might be.

It is clear in 1 Cor. and Luke in the second act that “this” modifies, τὸ ποτήριον = “the cup.”

1 Cor 11:25     τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι.
Luke 22:20      τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι.

Although Mark and Matthew don’t use τὸ ποτήριον.
Mark 14:24     τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμα μου τῆς διαθήκης
Matt 26:28      τοῦτό γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμα μου τῆς διαθήκης

Since τὸ ποτήριον (mentioned earlier in Mark and Matthew) is a neuter word, τοῦτο could be connected to it: “this cup.”

It is clear in the second act that τοῦτο does not refer to οἶνος = “wine,” a word that doesn’t occur in any of the Words of Institution. It, like ἄρτος is a masculine noun, so it wouldn’t match the neuter τοῦτο. (Mark and Matthew both use the phrase "fruit of the (grape)vine" later in their accounts; and wine would have been part of the Passover Meal.)

1 Cor. and Luke use τοῦτο in another sentence in their accounts.
1 Cor 11:24     τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.
Luke 22:19      τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

1 Cor. uses τοῦτο again in the next verse:
            τοῦτο ποιεῖτε ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.

In these verses, τοῦτο, is not a “thing,” but actions: eating from the loaf and drinking from the cup; or the acts of blessing, breaking, and sharing the loaf with one another and blessing and sharing the cup with one another.

I note that very early this sacrament was called by some of these actions: “the breaking of bread” and “eucharist.”

I also note that “for the forgiveness of sins,” which is key in Luther’s explanation, is found only in Matthew’s account. Paul, Luke, and Mark do not include that line.

It may be that the words of institution are not so much about a change in the bread and wine; but a change in us who eat and drink. We become the one body of Christ by eating from the one loaf and drinking from the one cup. That is the emphasis I see in Paul (1 Corinthians) and in the Didache.

“This, namely, y’all eating from the blessed loaf, is my body.”

Your Turn / Study Bibles
« on: March 26, 2021, 03:10:31 PM »
I have a fairly large collection of "study" Bibles, but neither of the Lutheran Study Bibles.

I believe that the first one I got was The Jerusalem Bible when I was in Jr. High. The KJV Thompson Chain Reference was used at Concordia, Portland. I've never liked the KJV language, so got the Thompson Chain Reference in NIV when it came out. Other study Bibles in my library.

The New Catholic Study Bible, Jerome Edition, TEV
The Learning Bible, CEV
NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
The Access Bible, NRSV
The Harper Collins Study Bible, NRSV
The Interpreter's Study Bible, NRSV
The Orthodox Study Bible, based on NKJV
The Jewish Annotated New Testament, NRSV
The Jewish Study Bible, JPS
The Torah: A Modern Commentary, JPS
The Haftarah Commentary, JPS
The New Oxford Annotated Bible, NRSV
The CEB Study Bible

The Oxford Annotated Bible (first edition) was the preferred one at seminary. I now use the third edition. I just checked and there's a fifth edition: "new and expanded." I'm not a big fan of the NRSV translation. I thought that the NIV flowed better - especially for public reading. I liked the TNIV when it came out with more inclusive language and used that for worship services, until I shifted to CEV, then to CEB. Now the 2011 NIV pretty much follows the TNIV. However, it lacks the Apocrypha, which I get whenever possible. Bot the CEV and CEB are available with Apocrypha. CEV is a bit too simplified; but many people in the pews are not too biblical literate. My "go to" translation and study helps is the CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha. However, my detailed study is in the original languages without any study helps.

One major help of the study Bibles is to help give an overview of an entire book. Too often we only look at a particular tree without seeing the whole forest. Someone suggested that exegeting a text is like dissecting a rose. We will much better understand all the little details of the parts of the rose, but we've lost the beauty of the whole thing together. Understanding an outline of a book and how a particular pericope fits into the whole is essential for understanding the text. Similarly, while a dictionary can help understand a particular word, it's only within the sentence and paragraph can one really discern the meaning of the word within that context.

I would often use the study helps to write brief introductions to the Sunday readings. Sort of like guests on late night TV shows setting up the clip of their latest movie. Often the set up is necessary to understand what we are seeing and hearing.

Your Turn / "Palm" Sunday texts
« on: March 17, 2021, 02:56:24 AM »
The following are "notes" that I compiled for the triumphant entrance texts.

Palm Sunday: Exegetical Notes – Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; John 12:12-18.

Biblically, “Palm Sunday” is probably not a good title for the day. “Palms” are only mentioned in one gospel during the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.

Only John mentions branches [βάϊον - baion] of palms [φοῖνιξ - phoinix].
In Mark, the disciples cut leaves [στιβάς - stibas] from the field [ἀγρός - agros].
In Matthew, they cut off branches [κλάδος - klados] from the trees [δένδρος - dendron].
There are no branches of any kind in Luke!

Whatever they crowds were carrying, what do they mean? There is nothing quite like this in the Old Testament.

One suggestion is that the actions described by John resemble one of the standard processions of Tabernacles where the people carried twigs of myrtle, willow, and palm. Originally these were used in the construction of booths (Nehemiah 8:13-18). Later some of them, at least, were bound together into a sort of festal plume, called the lulab, to which a citron was also attached. The lulab was a symbol of rejoicing and was carried ceremonially during the daily singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113-118).

Another connection – a stronger one, I think – is with 1 & 2 Maccabees. I’ll quote the appropriate sections from the Common English Bible (with my emphases in boldface and additions in {brackets}.

1 Maccabees 13:49-52 – Capture of the Pagan Fort in Jerusalem

49Those who were in the elevated fortress at Jerusalem were prevented from moving around to buy and sell in the country. So they were very hungry, and many perished from famine. 50They appealed to Simon to make peace with them, and he did. But he expelled them from there and cleansed the elevated fortress from its pollutions. 51On the twenty-third day of the second month, in the year 171, the Jews entered it with praise and palm branches {βάϊον - baion}, with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs. A great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel. 52Simon declared that they should celebrate this day annually with rejoicing. He strengthened the defenses of the temple hill alongside the elevated fortress, and he and his soldiers lived there.
2 Maccabees 10:1-8 – The Rededication of the Temple {Hanukkah}

1The Maccabee and his companions, with the Lord leading them, recovered the temple and the city. 2They demolished the altars that the foreigners built near the marketplace, as well as the sacred precincts. 3They cleansed the temple and made another altar. Then they struck flints to make fire and they offered up sacrifices after a lapse of two years, and they prepared incense, lamps, and the sacred loaves. 4After they had done these things, they bowed to the ground and pleaded with the Lord that they would not experience such misfortunes again, but if they should ever sin, they would be disciplined by him with fairness and not turned over to slanderous and barbaric nations. 5On the anniversary of the temple’s defilement by foreigners, on that very day, the sanctuary was purified, on the twenty-fifth of the month, which is Kislev. 6They celebrated eight days with cheer in a manner like the Festival of Booths, remembering how during the previous Festival of Booths they had been roaming about in mountains and caverns like animals. 7So they held ivy wands, beautiful branches {κλάδος – klados}, and also palm leaves {φοῖνιξ - phoinix}, and offered hymns to the one who had made the purification of his own temple possible. 8They voted and issued a public decree that all Jews should celebrate these days each year. 9And so the matters concerning Antiochus called Epiphanes came to an end.

The use of palm branches in Maccabees was related to military victories. Is that what the people were expecting from Jesus? When they shout “Hosanna” – “Save us” (not part of the shout in Luke); do they consider that “salvation” to be like that of the Maccabees – saving us from the occupying forces in Jerusalem – driving out the enemy from city and temple? If so, then Jesus failed miserably to live up to their expectations. Roman soldiers remained in Jerusalem. They will force Jesus to go out of the city to Golgotha.

What about the animal? What does it symbolize?

Only Matthew and John make reference to Zechariah 9:9. John’s shorter quote avoids the strange situation of Jesus riding on a donkey AND on a colt. It is one of Matthew’s themes that Jesus actions fulfill Old Testament texts. Because we know what will happen to Jesus in Jerusalem, we have tended to emphasize the “humble” aspect of the king who comes riding into town on his donkey. However, Zechariah’s oracle describes the king as “triumphant” and “victorious”. He “cuts off” chariots, war-horses, and battle bows. The Harper’s Bible Commentary says that the oracle in Zechariah 9 is one of “defeat and destruction for the foreign nations and return and restoration for Israel.”

Given this context of Zechariah’s king riding into town and the use of palm branches when the Maccabean forces defeated the foreign nations and rededicated the temple, I would assume that similar expectations were in the minds of the crowd on the first “palm” Sunday.

Robert Capon in Hunting the Divine Fox maintains that the typical American paradigm of the Messiah is not Jesus, but Superman. We don’t want a savior who does a stupid thing like rising from the dead. We want one who never dies. We want one who will supernaturally defeat all our enemies like Superman did in every ½ hour show.

A contrast between the palm Sunday’s crowd’s expectations (as well as our own) of the superstar, saving (meaning: helping us avoid pain) Jesus, and the real, suffering and dying messiah who promises life on the other side of pain, may be the message we need to proclaim on Passion Sunday.

Your Turn / When “homosexuals” entered the Bible.
« on: March 10, 2021, 09:44:57 AM »

Your Turn / Can faith increase? What would it look like?
« on: February 28, 2021, 06:13:54 PM »
In listening to a sermon online this morning, the pastor (not a member of this group,) talked about increasing our faith. I wondered if that is possible. That is, didn't God give us enough when we first believed?

I've argued in other discussions that we can do nothing about our relationship with God. God has already done everything necessary through the death and resurrection of Jesus and sending the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith.

At the same time, I recognize that the disciples' ask Jesus in Luke 17:5: "Increase our faith." Does their request indicate that one can have more or less faith? What was the clue that they had an inadequate faith? Earlier Jesus (9:1-6) had sent them out with power over demons and diseases. They preached and healed. They went about without any supplies of their own. They had the faith to trust God for their necessities. They had the faith to heal the sick and cast out demons. They had the faith to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God. Why do they now ask for more faith? Did they need more faith to stand up to temptations to sin? To cease from causing others to sin? To rebuke those who had sinned against them? To forgive one another? Perhaps moving mulberry trees (or mountains as in the parallels) into the sea is an easier act of faith than moving us to “rebuke” and “forgive” people who have sinned against us; to confront sin rather than always being nice.

An analogy that I used in my notes on Luke 17:1-16: I think that our growth in faith is nearly always a movement from faith to faith (rather than from unbelief to faith). While the faith I have today is similar to the faith given at baptism, it is also different. Similarly, who I am today is both the same and different than who I was as an infant. My essence – my DNA is exactly the same, but my knowledge, physical size, abilities, etc. have changed considerably since birth.

I think it is more accurate to talk about a growth in understanding our faith. We certainly can and should grow in understanding what God has done and promises to do for us. We certainly can and should grow in our responses to the faith God has given us, e.g., increasing our actions of love towards neighbors (and enemies). Also, given the context of Luke 17, improve (1) in the ways we avoid scandalizing other people; and (2) our rebuke and forgiveness of those who have sinned against us. I'm not sure I would call these "a growth in faith." Rather growing in understanding or maturing in the faith God has given.

However, assuming faith can increase, what would an increased faith look like?

What might happen to us if and when God honors our request for more faith? I’m not sure that we really want more faith. More faith could lead us to stop doing some sinful things that we really like to do. For example, be less greedy and give away many of our possessions that we don’t really need. (Actually, as I think more about it, more faith could have us give away the stuff we really cherish. Then it’s sacrificial giving.) More faith could lead us to be more forgiving towards those who have sinned against us – and we really don’t want to forgive some of those mean, rotten people. In some cases, we would like to see them dead. More faith would mean loving them as Jesus has loved us.
More faith could lead us to be more like the slave in the story at the end of our text. That is, we become more dutiful slaves of God. Doing our duties willingly: Being more dutiful in attending worship services every week; being more dutiful in contributing generously of time and money to the church and to the needy; being more dutiful in participating in Sunday school and committees and other church activities; being more dutiful and doing such duties willingly, without grumbling or complaining. Could more faith mean sacrificing one’s own pleasures for the sake of the needy? Could more faith mean following more closely the footsteps of Jesus – which led him to the ridicule and suffering and death on the cross?
I’m not sure that a lot of people really want more faith. They may want more of the faith that will help them out – a faith that might heal themselves or a loved one, a faith that will help them pass a test, a faith that gives them assurance of eternal life; but do they really want a faith that will make them more Christ-like in sacrificial giving, in sacrificial loving, in sacrificial forgiving? I’m not sure if people want that.
It has been suggested that many people want only an inoculation of Christianity – just enough of it to protect them from catching the real thing. There is a danger in asking God to give you more faith. You might get it – then what?

Your Turn / Sex. Gender. What's the Difference?
« on: February 27, 2021, 12:38:52 PM »
The following quote is part of a longer article (linked below) called: "Gender: When the body and brain disagree." It begins with an example about Zoë. In our discussions about sex and gender, we should try to come to a common understanding of what the terms mean. As I've understood it, and as this paragraphs state: sex is about genitalia; gender is about "cultural accepted norms," gender identity takes place in the brain: "our inner sense of who we are.",how%20they%20dress%20or%20behave.

Sex. Gender. What's the difference?

Although many people use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, they mean quite different things. Indeed, sex and gender don’t necessarily agree. That’s how it is in Zoë’s case.

Gender is based on culturally accepted norms — attitudes or behaviors that are typical for males or females. Gender identity has to do instead with our inner sense of who we are. People often express their gender identity by how they dress or behave.

Meanwhile, sex is determined at conception by the genes each of us inherits from mom and dad. It may become visible by ultrasound several months into pregnancy.Highly magnified image of X and Y chromosomes — pair # 23 — from a human male. When both chromosomes are X’s, a child will be female. If a child inherits a Y from dad as one of those chromosomes, he will be born a male. But in transgender people, their genetics and brain-based identity will not match. Chromosomes hold genes. They’re the tiny pieces of DNA that tell our cells what to do. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. One pair consists of sex chromosomes . They come in two forms: X’s and Y’s. Women have two X’s. So when they share half of each pair of chromosomes with their offspring, the sex chromosome they offer will always be an X. Men have an X and a Y. So if dad shares an X chromosome with his child, it will make a girl (XX). If he shares a Y chromosome, the child will be male (XY). Or at least, that’s usually the case. When it comes to sex, researchers have learned that biology can be more complicated than just ‘boy’ or ‘girl.’ For instance, some people carry two X chromosomes mixed with a fragment of a Y chromosome. These people develop into what look to be males. That happens even though the presence of two X chromosomes means that they are female, at least biologically.

It gets even more complicated when gender identity enters the picture. For more than 99 percent of the world’s population, gender identity and biological sex will agree. Such a person is called cisgender. (The Latin prefix cis- means “on the same side.”) But a small share of people experiences a mismatch between sex and gender.

Some of these people grow up feeling like they aren’t the gender the rest of the world — including their parents and doctors — sees them as. This experience is called transgender. The term transgender is distinct from one’s sexual orientation, meaning whether a person is attracted to males or females.

Transgender individuals may outwardly appear male or female. But for reasons that are still unclear, they feel like — and, eventually report knowing themselves to be — the opposite gender. Some may even identify a little bit with both genders.

Untangling sex and gender

During pregnancy, genetic factors influence the development of the embryo as it grows into a fetus. An XX person (girl) usually develops ovaries. An XY person (boy) will usually develop testes. In individuals with XY chromosomes, there is a gene on the arm of the Y chromosome, called SRY. This gene signals the development of testes. When an SRY is not present, an ovary will develop. That will then lead to development of the female anatomy. If testes develop, they will go on to produce the male hormone called testosterone. This hormone instructs the body to make male genitals. It also leads to the development of bigger bones, a brain structure unique to males and other male physical characteristics.

Our sense of gender comes from what our brains tell us. But no one knows what part of the brain does this. It also remains unclear why that identity in transgender people does not match their biological sex.

The basic biology behind how chromosomes and genes signal the body to take on a female or male anatomy has been known for a long time. Still, researchers are learning a great deal about how much more complex this sex determination is than they had originally thought. And researchers know far less about what drives gender. “To my knowledge, no studies have conclusively demonstrated where our sense of gender identity comes from,” says Kristina Olson. She works at the University of Washington in Seattle.

As a developmental psychologist, Olson studies how people develop and change as they grow from infancy into adulthood. Some people have speculated that genes, the environment or hormone levels might play a role in influencing gender, Olson says. In fact, she says, “I know of no study showing one, the other or which combination makes gender.”

For thousands of years, careful observers — namely, parents — have noticed that children at an early stage begin to strongly express a preference for certain toys, colors and clothing. Around this same early age, children also begin to express their gender identity.

“What we know from typical gender development is that kids generally know and can say whether they’re a boy or a girl around age 2 or 3,” says Olson.

By that same age, many transgender children also will express their gender identity. But in their case, it will differ from the expected, Olson says. “Most people find it shocking that a transgender kid could ‘know’ that they are or are not a particular gender so early,” she says. However, Olson’s research tells her that it makes complete sense that gender identity can show up at the same age in transgender and cisgender children.

Your Turn / Women Ordination in Roman Catholicism
« on: February 17, 2021, 12:37:00 AM »
This YouTube video gives the Roman Catholic explanation for not ordaining women.

It has nothing to do with the passages about women being silent, subordinate, or not assuming authority.

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