Ahab Is among Us Today
2010-06-09 by Safiyah Fosua

 The word later that begins 1 Kings 21:1 led to curiosity about King Ahab’s Bible record.  After an entire lifetime of hearing about wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, I was surprised to find a man who might not be shocking enough for the front page of the daily news. When Ahab felt that his life was on the line, he listened intently for God (1 Kings 20) and followed God’s instructions – well, almost to the letter.  Later, when the times were more relaxed, he lusted after “things” enough to murder Naboth.  I am disturbed when I note the similarities between Ahab and people in leadership today, because we think of Ahab and Jezebel as bad people – don’t we? (And, we, after all are basically good people – aren’t we?)


Ahab may be seen as an extreme example of what happens when we strike out on our own.  He reminds us of what human beings are capable of doing when we are not vigilant.  When we are paying attention, we have the ability to do great things for God.  But, when we follow our own inclinations and bow to the gods of materialism and possession, we humans often fall into great sin.   I am frightened at the prospect that Ahab is among us, and could even be any one of us having a bad day.

Sin, Community, and Me
2010-06-08 by Stephen Schuette

(PS - I focus here on the alternate 2 Samuel text)

There seem to me to be two arching themes running through the readings.  One has to do with community and the other has to do with one’s own self-understanding and the ability (or inability) to see in one’s self what one sees in others.  And clearly they’re both related.

First, community.  Since we survive (live or die) in community, in relationship, in fellowship, disruptions in relationship create a crisis that threatens both the community and the individual.  Just as the Great Commandment deals with God and neighbor, sin is disruption of our ability to live in loving relationship with both.  This may be one of the ways, or even the principle way, that sin leads to death.

False community is gained at the expense of others, is exclusive rather than inclusive, and ironically seeks to create “life” out of “death.”  It’s “us-them” community, an oxymoron.  In each of the passages this false community is offered as a solution which stands over against another solution – a solution that refuses to deal in death, that refuses to limit community, that sees the possibility of forgiveness, reconciliation, and life for all.

(Suggestion:  read “Gentile sinners” in v. 15 sarcastically.  I believe Paul is ridiculing the ridiculers, emphasizing the smallness of their vision.)

In order to overcome the “us-them-ness” of false community, in order to break down this fixed view of “them” as different from “me,” story/parable is utilized.  It is generally beyond the human capacity to learn about oneself directly.  It’s too close for us to get past our blind spots and what our defenses would have us avoid.  Story allows us to see tangentially what is impossible to take in directly.  (I believe Paul is using the meta-story of Jesus, the stories in the other two passages being obvious.)

Last week in the story of Jim Joyce and Galarraga, the invitation extended to Galarraga to come to the umpire’s dressing room – in itself a journey across a well-defined boundary – to receive an apology was powerful.  Made me think of the odd line from the medieval poem included in Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols:  “Blessed be the day that appil taken was…” (because without it Christ would not have come.)  Could it be that the power of reconciliation and peace is stronger than us-them-ness so that we look back on the sin that, now from a new vantage point, was nothing more than the prelude to newness and wholeness?  Maybe that’s why the cross is the symbol of the Christian faith.

A quote from the inimitable Yogi Berra, remembered by someone last week:  “If it were a perfect world, it wouldn’t be.”  Maybe God’s aim is for something better than perfect.

Musings for Monday, June 07, 2010
2010-06-07 by Safiyah Fosua

I will be your guest blogger for the week of June 6-13, 2010.  This week’s story of Ahab Jezebel and Naboth is filled with the kind of intrigue from which telenovelas are made and offers a wonderful starting point for a sermon about taking risks for the sake of truth and integrity. The Galatians passage provides an opportunity to explore the classic justification by works vs. justification by faith dichotomy.  The gospel passage reminds us that those who are forgiven much often love more intensely than those who are unaware of their sins.

For today’s blog entry, I would like to share my initial treatment of three of the texts posted on the GBOD website in the worship work area:
http://www.gbod.org. (Select the tab for PREACHING on the blue tabbed bar below the list of lectionary readings.)  

Safiyah Fosua

Power and the Implications of Miracles
2010-06-04 by David von Schlichten

Stephen Schuette provides some fertile comments about conventional views of power and God. Scroll down to read Stephen's work.

For Sunday, I will preach on how Jesus' raising of the widow of Nain's son is a miracle with socio-economic implications and on how miracles in general tend to have such implications.

Praying for the Gulf, I am

Yours in Christ,

David von Schlichten, Lectionary Blog Moderator

Spiritual Power
2010-06-02 by Stephen Schuette

A prophet is not a fortune teller.  A prophet is not even a person of personal power.  In fact most prophets are reluctant prophets, all too aware of their weakness…

On the surface it might seem that each of the readings has to do with the authenticity of the credentials/call/personal gifts of a prophet.  Supporting that view at the end of each reading there is affirmation of each one.  Elijah is identified as a “man of God.”  Others “glorified God” because of Paul.  The “word” about Jesus spreads throughout all Judea.  There’s no way any of them could do what they did and not draw attention to themselves.

But inside the prophet’s own heart and spirit I think it’s an entirely different matter.  For them it’s not about what they’re doing but about what God is doing.  They just seem to be in tune with where God’s Spirit is moving, living into God’s plan and design.  So it’s not so much that they themselves have a power, but they are in touch with a greater power, seeing and interpreting God’s intention.  What appears on the outside is not what it is at all on the inside.  The lineage of the prophets attested to in these stories is actually through persons who point beyond themselves.  In other words neither Elijah nor Jesus could revive the young men on their own unless it were God’s will.

Spiritual power is different than the typical way we think of power.  Usually we think of it as the ability to control or determine something, in other words, “power over.”  And part of what makes us feel so helpless in the Gulf oil disaster is our powerlessness in traditional terms.  We tinker without effect.  We listen to the most powerful man in the world take responsibility, but he cannot solve it.

Primitive religion was about controlling God, offering sacrifices, etc., to sway God to do what we want.  That’s power over God.  It’s about bending God to our will.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t pray to God for what we would like, including daily bread, forgiveness, and being spared temptation.  But faithful prayer in the end trusts God with the answer.

So if this power to which scripture points is different, dependent upon living into what God wants of us and open to God’s future then my attitude is what needs to adjust to God, not God to me.  This may be a profound moment when deep listening is called for, listening also being a part of faithful prayer.  These stories ought to get our attention, not for what they provide which we can then expect, quid pro quo, God to provide for us too, but for what they say about God in whom we live and move and have our being.

May these prophets open our eyes to this truth of God!

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