Announcement = Lections, Hebrew and Greek notes, now being posted at another website

Parma Psalter Psalm 1

Psalm 1, Parma Psalter (13th century)

This is important. For the past several months I have been posting Lections, Hebrew notes, Greek notes, and even sermons at another website. I can tell from the Stats (how many people visit this website, where they live, which posts) that (1) this website does not see a lot of traffic and (2) some of the traffic is for my Lections and Hebrew notes posts. To those people I say welcome and thank you.

However I created a second website which is devoted more to Bible and theology. Which includes Lections, Hebrew notes, Greek notes (which I have started preparing and posting), Sermons, and occasionally some cool quote or not so cool thought about Scripture and Christian doctrine. The idea was…

To start a separate blog that focuses on theological and biblical topics and stays away from politics and culture. So if church members peruse this blog hopefully they will not come across anything too controversial. Although good theology must sometimes risk controversy by challenging false teachings and the spirit of the age.

I was inspired partly by a an Anglican priest in Massachusetts (apparently from my home town) who maintains at least two separate blog sites. One is more strongly focused on Scripture, theology, and so on. The other is more “personal” about his hobbies and interests. I was increasingly concerned that Mangy Dog – which regularly delves into culture and politics – was mixing the personal and sometimes more controversial with more “neutral” topics like Scripture, theology, Christian ministry, and so on. What if people are interested in what I post on these topics and are put off by what I post on other topics?

The point of this specific post is to say thank you for visiting! you are very welcome! if you are here to check out posts on Scripture and theology – including Lections, Hebrew and Greek notes – I encourage you to visit my other blog site Plenum Creaturis. I will start the process of deleting and/or moving to the other site those posts that deal with Scripture, theology, and ministry. I greatly appreciate your interest in those topics and those posts.

Posted in Announcement, Aramaic, Bible, Greek, Hebrew, Hebrew Bible, Hebrew Notes, Language, Lectionary, New Testament | Tagged | 1 Comment

SERMON – The vision of (re)creation (Genesis 1:1-2:4)

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Ed = Received some good feedback on this. I don’t normally delve quite so much into biblical theology (here drawing on the work of Jon Levenson and Samuel Balentine).

Sermon = Vision of (re)creation
Scripture = Genesis 1:1-2:4
Sunday = Trinity Sunday (A)

Presentation_Genesis 1_TrinityA_20200607 (PDF)
Presentation_Genesis 1_TrinityA_20200607 (DOCX)

  • The world is in chaos
  • *** At first the chaos seems far away
  • On the other side of the world
  • Our nation does not keep millions in re-education camps
  • Or override democratic process in a semi-autonomous city state
  • Or send armed forces to its border with a neighboring country
  • Our cities – our community is not engulfed by protests or fires or violence or looting
  • Although there have been protests in Baton Rouge not far from our home
  • The issues giving rise to these protests do not seem to be a problem in Livingston
  • The pandemic is a form of chaos
  • Not so much chaos of noisy protests or even violence
  • But the strangely quiet chaos that disrupts normal life
  • Businesses closed
  • Places of worship closed
  • People not able to work
  • Children home from school
  • Chaos of precautions and concern
  • Wearing masks
  • Keeping distance
  • Cannot touch
  • The chaos is also here although in different ways
  • What does this have to do with Trinity Sunday
  • With Scripture reading from Genesis 1
  • With people called Methodist in Livingston
  • *** In the beginning God when created the heavens and the earth
  • The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep
  • While a wind from – or the Spirit of God swept over the face of the waters
  • Then God said let there be light
  • And there was light
  • In the beginning the world is in chaos
  • Indeed the world is chaos
  • Christians usually do not recognize this
  • We usually say God calls into being things that are not
  • There is nothing and then something
  • We call this creation ex nihilo
  • *** Creation out of nothing
  • Yes God creates everything
  • And at some point God created out of nothing
  • However in Genesis 1
  • When God begins to create the earth is tohu wa-bohu
  • A formless void
  • A ball of water with no shape no life and no light
  • The world is chaos
  • And God creates partly by speaking into being
  • *** Mostly by organizing the chaos into light and darkness

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Posted in Bible, Church and Civil Society, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics (Interpretation), Old Testament / Hebrew Bible, Sermons, Society and Culture, Theology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The lathe of Babel and the forge of Pentecost

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Preface = I write this while there is tremendous turmoil and unrest – even riots and violence – throughout the United States following the death of Floyd George while he was being restrained by police in Minneapolis. Many clergy have spoken up and addressed what is going on and the larger issues of racism and systemic injustice.  

Some years ago I read The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula LeGuin. If the handful of dear readers will let me quote a summary from Wikipedia =

The book is set in Portland, Oregon, in the year 2002. Portland has three million inhabitants and continuous rain. It is deprived enough for the poorer inhabitants to have kwashiorkor, or protein deprivation. The culture is much the same as the 1970s in the United States, though impoverished. There is also a massive war in the Middle East, with Egypt and Israel allied against Iran. Global warming has wrought havoc upon the quality of life everywhere.

George Orr, a draftsman, has long been abusing drugs to prevent himself from having “effective” dreams, which change reality. After having one of these dreams, the new reality is the only reality for everyone else, but George retains memory of the previous reality. Under threat of being placed in an asylum, Orr is forced to undergo “voluntary” psychiatric care for his drug abuse.

George begins attending therapy sessions with an ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher named William Haber. Orr claims that he has the power to dream “effectively” and Haber, gradually coming to believe it, seeks to use George’s power to change the world.

Basically what George dreams becomes reality. And his psychiatrist Haber decides to use George’s strange oneiric power to fix the world. I have never forgotten what happens when Haber tells George to dream of a world without racism. Warning = spoiler alert!

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Posted in Academia, Biblical, Church and Civil Society, Ethnicity and race, Hebrew Bible, Hermeneutics (Interpretation), Language, New Testament, Personal | Leave a comment

“When you hide your face… they die and return to the dust” (Psalm 104:29)

Republished from 2014-06-06 for the Feast of Pentecost 2020

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:27-30, NRSV)

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust” (verse 29) has bothered me for years.

Psalm 104 is an exquisite psalm that probably we can categorize as a psalm of praise with wisdom elements. (Psalms of praise are psalms that emphasize who God is and/or what God does.) It is important for its vision that God creates everything and provides for everything that he has made. This includes most of creation that does not seem to have anything to do with human beings (similar to Job 38-41). Everything has a purpose. Everything has a place. Everything has a time. Everything has what it needs for its purpose. And the psalm presents a humbling picture of human beings as just one part of a much larger creation (verse 23) – and note that work and labor are part of our purpose in creation. Psalm 104 presents a very theocentric rather than anthropocentric vision of creation. This does not contradict what we find in Genesis 1 (where human beings image God and manage the world for God and with God) or Genesis 2 (where human beings partner with and participate in the creative activity of God) or Psalm 8 (where human beings are put in charge of creation – not to exploit or ruin but to care for it).

My point is not to repeat what others have said and present an exegesis of Psalm 104 but rather to focus on that one verse that has bothered me for years.

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust” (104:29).

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Sabbath, parts I-XXVI

Ed. Starting in 2006 I wrote a series of at least 26 short articles on the subject of keeping Sabbath and its importance for the Christian church. Here they are. All of them.

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Ed = Republished from October 2017

Holy Play (or) S-, part I

Richard M. Wright

(The S- is going somewhere. Trust me.)

There is a theme – a theological theme that requires a change in how we live – that has been impressing itself upon my soul/awareness. Play.

Three days in Atlanta for the (apparently well known) Catalyst Conference. The world’s largest pillow fight involving thousands at the Gwinnett Arena on Friday morning. The dodge-ball national championship team – comprised entirely of “youth pastors”, why are we not surprised? – shows up… a dozen from the audience throw official dodge-balls at them which they dodge or catch-and-return-with-force then quickly (d)evolves into thousands throwing their red rubber balls at these masters of a play-ground sport who manage to dodge-or-catch-and-return not a few amidst the red maelstrom.

Yeah the conference was inspiring, informative, challenging and all. But it was also fun.

Which brings me to one of the speakers: Kevil Carroll of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball fame. Worked for years as a “creative catalyst” at Nike.

One of his central points was adults do not play enough. Without play… imagination and creativity shrivel. And perhaps the reverse is also true? That play can be a holy activity. And one that can fuel creativity and imagination and by extension our ability to perform… succeed… innovate… problem-solve… fulfill our mission as individuals and as a church family.

I first learned this lesson from a Baptist campus minister at Cornell University by the name of Armetta Fields. (Interesting first name.) She thought Cornell students were too serious, studious, and stress out. (Oh and arrogant.) So she made us play once or twice a semester.

Crayons and coloring books at Thursday evening “Bible study/prayer” meeting. Taking us to a nearby vocational school at night to spend a couple hours on the playground. Swings and slides and death-by-monkey-bars.

More than therapy but fulfilling (in part) a divine commandment. Care to guess what letter it starts with?

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Posted in Bible, Christianity, Hebrew Bible, Judaism, New Testament, Sabbath, Sexuality, Society and Culture, Worship and Liturgy | 1 Comment