Yesterday’s sermon (June 13, 2021) at Community of the Savior, Rochester, NY, was phenomenal.
My colleague in Old Testament, Josef Sykora preached, combining God’s unusual choice of David (the youngest or smallest of the family) in 1 Samuel 16 with Jesus’s parables (riddles, he called them) of the seed sprouting overnight and the mustard seed in Mark 4; one happens without us, the other seems insignificant.
Josef aptly combined the motifs of the unexpected with the nature of riddles as making us think and drawing us in to be engaged. He wove these themes into a true story of how he tried to “trick” a congregation with a staged riddle and how God tricked him in return, with an outsider.
It was an amazing sermon and I was gripped from start to finish.
I hope you are intrigued, because that is all I’m going to tell you. You’ll have to listen for yourself.
Josef’s sermon can be found at this link between the 38:05 and 1:00:15 marks.
If you want to hear his short children’s meditation on riddles, it can be found at the 33:35 mark.
The two Scripture readings he drew on are at the 22:17 mark (1 Samuel 15:34-16:13) and the 31:54 mark (Mark 4:26-34).
And Josef’s very apt benediction to conclude the service can be found at the 1:26:45 mark.
I am privileged to teach at a Seminary that is associated with a liberal arts college. I have wonderful faculty colleagues at both institutions.
Northeastern Seminary is on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College (in Rochester, NY) and while they are formally separate institutions, there is much practical overlap and collaboration between both the institutions and the faculty.
Of late, there have been joint meetings of the Seminary faculty with the faculty of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at the College. And, although faculty members find their home primarily in either the Seminary or the College, some of us teach in both institutions.
Here I want to highlight some of my faculty colleagues (in both institutions) who are presenting papers at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, which is being held virtually this year (the first time in this format since I began attending in 1991).
In his paper, David examines the changes experienced by those who receive cochlear implants, including new relationships and a different sense of selfhood, to “shed light onto the experiential and subjective dimensions of the transformations that Paul describes in Philippians 3,” including his sense that what he previously viewed as “gain” is now counted as “loss.”
In her paper, Kristin examines competing suggestions for where Zechariah got his image, and ends up suggesting that it is drawn not only from the network of persons in ancient Persia known as “the eyes and ears of the king” (suggested by some scholars), but also from the portrayal of Mithra in Persian religion, who is “associated with fire, light, and eyes that roam throughout the earth for the sake of seeking out injustice.” She apples this background to Zechariah 4:10b, suggesting that the text uses this imagery “to encourage the people that YHWH, the Emperor of the cosmos and maintainer of justice, is at work to bring about a hopeful, purified future.”
He insightfully demonstrates that both Deuteronomy and Luke give similar instructions to those who are sent out, including an offer of peace to those they encounter and two possible outcomes depending on the responses of those they meet. Yet while Luke’s Gospel presents a battle with the powers of evil and the disciples are parallel to Israel’s soldiers, the texts diverge in that in Luke it is God and not the disciples who bring judgment.
My Own Paper Presented on December 1
Although I was scheduled to give a paper at SBL in a session on the Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, the organizers decided to postpone the session until next year, when (hopefully) the SBL will meet in person (in San Antonio, TX).
In these interviews, Fretheim unpacks quite carefully his understanding of God’s relationality (meaning that God enters into the sort of relationship with the world that gives humans and other creatures significant agency, so that what they do matters and that God is not the only one with power).
Tripp gives a brief introduction to Fretheim in the first three minutes or so.
The first interview (with Chad Crawford) starts at the 3 minute 23 second mark and goes up to about the 50 minute mark. The second interview (by Tripp Fuller) goes from there to the end.
I have found Fretheim’s emphasis on creation is the universal horizon of the Bible to be crucial for how we read the rest of the Bible, including the history of salvation.
Fretheim admits that although the Old Testament certainly focuses on Israel as God’s elect people, through whom blessing will come to the nations, Genesis opens with a universal horizon, addressing not only the creation of humanity and the cosmos, but also the development of human history prior to Israel. The story of Abraham (the ancestor of Israel) doesn’t begin until Genesis 12.
One of Fretheim’s most important statements, which crystallizes the above point, is that the election of Abraham and Israel was an “initially exclusive move” in the service of a “maximally inclusive end”—the redemption of creation. This statement is repeated many times in his book, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (2005), (pages 19, 29, 103 etc.), and I myself have quoted it many times in my writings.
In my tribute post to Fretheim, I mentioned the difference between his approach to the Bible and that of Walter Brueggemann, which I illustrated by reference to their commentaries on Jeremiah.
Interestingly, the second interviewer (Tripp Fuller), who had recently interviewed Brueggemann, asks Fretheim about the difference between their approaches to divine sovereignty. This fascinating discussion can be found around the 1 hour 30 minute mark.