midwifing ideas
2008-08-21 by Tom Steagald

thanks to David and Rosemary for chiming in. My head does not feel quite so empty and the echoes are not quite so loud!

I am still thinking about displacement, which is its own way a kind of generativity, I think. What is interesting is in the Exodus text is the  midwives' defiance of Pharaoh, itself an act of generativity, of course, and born, as it were, of their own sense of displacement--they are strangers in a strange land but will serve their God over against the wishes of the local god. 

What I am struggling with in my own life and congregation is the ways we are not defiant enough, do not choose to defy the local gods. We do not help birth liberators or build Pharaoh's tomb. Which is to say we lack generativity--perhaps because we do not know we are in slavery. We feel entirely to "in place," or as Lewis would say, we are far too easily pleased.

David, your point is interesting. The difficulty,  of course, is that both transfigurings are in fact passive--something we cannot effect on our own. How do we preach, then, for "transformation," as it were?

Midwives to What?
2008-08-20 by Rosemary Beales


Thank you for stimulating my thoughts and imagination toward this Sunday . . . as I have focused on the Exodus lesson (1:8--2:10)without a lot of focus on the gospel, or certainly on Romans. Building Pharaoh's tomb is a rich metaphor, and one that parallels with my internal conversation with the midwives Shiphrah and Puah.

 I am thinking a lot these days about "generativity" -- always important but with extra impetus by some time spent with Dan McAdams, a psychologist whose chief work (at Northwestern) is in capturing the life stories of unusually generative people in midlife.  A lot of what we heard at a conference at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific last month comes from his book "The Redemptive Self." He has found that life-story themes fall into certain major categories, one of which is the redemptive theme: someone takes a presumably negative event in his/her life and not only overcomes it but finds new purpose and blessing -- not despite but because of the negative event.  They pass on their own redemptive narratives and also are unusally committed to the well-being of future generations.

How does this relate to the midwives in Exodus? Wlel, we don't know their "back stories," but we do know their generativity -- that they were committed, at some risk, to something greater than themselves. They literally saved the next generation -- and, through Moses, many generations to come.

Of course, Pharaoh's daughter also plays a role, but I am most interested in the women who were oppressed, foreigners, aliens . . . who did some of the most important "dirty work" of the community . . . and their relation to those we call aliens among us today.

Too much, perhaps, to blend into one Sunday sermon in August, but I hope enough to stimulate my hearers' imaginations about their own generativity. Who, or what, will each of us become a midwife to? Will we build Pharaoh's tomb, or will we bring forth new life?



Hello, Tom
2008-08-20 by David von Schlichten

I pray that others will drop into the tub with Tom to discuss the texts. Please scroll down to read his entries so far. They are as stimulating as the tub's masaging jets.

I find stunning the idea in Romans 12:2 of being transformed by God. The word there is the same used to describe Jesus as transfigured in the gospels. The word is the one from which we receive the English word "metamorphosis."

I am considering starting with this metamorphosis word and then leaping to the Gospel, where Peter and the others are transformed by the Father-taught confession of Christ.

I imagine the gates of Death, bending and then breaking under the force of the holy metamorphosed ones, united but having many gifts, sent by Christ, keys in hand, bashing down death, unlocking the kingdom of heaven by God's power and for his glory.

What are others thinking on?

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Hello? Helll-ooooo--ooooo?
2008-08-19 by Tom Steagald

Remember that scene in Airplane when Robert Hays hears his own voice echoing in his head...and as if he were the announcer at Three Rivers or somewhere says,  "And now batting for Pedro Borbon, Manny Mota...Mota...Mota..."

I am having the same sensation. "Now blogging for David is Tommy...Tommy...Tommy..."

Anyone out there?

Since my last blog entry I have been thinking more and more about the Store City Syndrome, a phrase of my own coining, but wondering if we could not compare that with Stockholm Syndrome. The latter is the victim taking the part of the victimizer; while the former might be characterized more as a form of resistance. I am thinking of Eugene Peterson's notion of Subversive Spirituality: that we look like everyone else but we are subversives, working to bring down the idolatries of the world in favor of true worship.

The Gospel is leaven, it is yeast, it is a virus on the world's operating system.

We seem to be working for Pharaoh, but we are helping only to build his tomb. I rather like that last image.

Tuesday with Pharaoh and Paul
2008-08-19 by Tom Steagald

Free associating a little bit here, but that is what I do this early in the week, trying to find a place to land, a metaphor to expand, a truth to tell.

I am reminded of C.S. Lewis' observation, variously recorded as a question or a statement, either way to this end: a fish does not know it is wet. Perhaps the biggest problem in dealing with the Romans text is the fact that we preachers and our people do not know all, or perhaps even many of the ways we are swimming in the cultural pools. The usual suspects, I guess, are things like money and power, greed and largesse... but I wonder if we are not in much deeper water than that. So deep that, like some fish, we are blind.

Perhaps that is why Flannery O'Connor turned to the grotesque as a way of shaking us to sensibility--that the "freakish" worked for her in distinctively theological ways, offering a sense of displacement to the reader. It is in fact displacement that we most often do NOT see or feel, because we swim so comfortably in these waters.

How else might one recognize the acculturation that moves our gills but deadens our hearts? How might we foster a healthy and spiritual, on-the-way-to-freedom displacement in our preaching (which hopefully translates into our people's hearing)?

I think of the text in Philippians 4: think on these things, which are not grotesque but beautiful, really beautiful, and not in the cosmetic, pachaged, fashioned and styled. I think of the old hymn, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus..." and the accompanying counsel of Charles de Foucauld, "I must remember only Jesus, think only of Jesus, as a gain any loss at the price of which I have more room in myself for thought and knowledge of Jesus, beside whom everything else is nothing." The Gospel lesson makes this same point but, again, is so familiar as to be cliched at this point. I wonder whether anyone has ears displaced enough to hear it, lips displaced enough to preach it without it sounding deadeningy pious? If so, one might have to turn to John's memory of the disciples' confession: "we have nowhere else to go; you have the words of life." The disciples know they are displaced, to be sure, at least from their former life and thinking.

Slaves, of course, are painfully aware of their displacement, but the anger and resentment at injustice can itself become so familiar that the exile itself might yet appear to be home. On the other hand, slaves who are not suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" or "Store City Syndrome," while forced to build Pharaoh's store cities and tombs--that last is a powerful image, I think, that in unjust slavery as well as faithfulness  followers of the Lord are helping Pharaoh to build his grave--still maintain hope against the available data (Brueggemann) that by grace justice will be done.

It is understandable how former generations read the Exodus texts allegorically; if that hermeneutic is itself displaced by more critical sensibilities, the metaphorical power of these stories remain very current.

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