Class schedule, and tomorrow’s class

Antonio Balestra (18th Century)

I have updated the class schedule to reflect recent changes. Last week we were off the schedule, and now we will be back in line with what is published. Tomorrow’s class will be based around chapters 40-55 of Isaiah and pages 59-79 of Brueggemann’s book.

No class this Sunday (October 8, 2017)

Binkley Chancel Choir

The choir will be away this Sunday for our annual choir retreat, and I will be with them. I will look forward to seeing you again on October 15!

Cultural Consciousness and the Practice of Prophecy

Detail from Solomon at his throne, by Andreas Brugger

Brueggeman presents the notion of “Royal Consciousness” in his second chapter (pages 21-37). This Sunday we will examine this idea and our own cultural consciousness as objects of prophetic criticism and energizing. Join us for a lively discussion.

We will read three short passages from 1 Kings and explore questions raised by the royal agenda and impact of Solomon. We will also examine ways these same questions remain relevant in today’s world.

The presentations that I will use can be found here.

Book to accompany the Prophetic Imagination Class

In this morning’s discussion introducing the class, I failed to mention the book by Walter Brueggemann that I will be referencing during the first several weeks. The book is entitled The Prophetic ImaginationYou can obtain a print copy of the book at, or an electronic copy for Kindle.

The class schedule will let you know which pages to read before each class. Next Sunday we will discuss Exodus 1-18 and pages 1-19 of Brueggemann’s book. You are not required to read the book, of course, but you may find that it makes the discussions more meaningful.

Schedule page for the Prophetic Imagination class

Schedule ImageI have added a page for the new class (The Prophetic Imagination in the Bible and in American Culture). It includes a tentative schedule with three open Sundays at the end of the term. I have left those Sundays open so we can adapt the class as we go along, expanding where needed to suit the interests of those of you who attend.

I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there on September 10!

Flood Stories

Water over Rocks, by Holly Chaffin

Last week I read the flood story from the Gilgamesh Epic aloud to the class, then each of us with a partner read the Yahwist flood story that lies behind part of the biblical account. We then talked about the similarities and differences between these stories.

Tomorrow we will look again at the Yahwist version, then read the Priestly version of the story that is interwoven with it in the story that we find in the Bible. We will discuss how these stories are combined in the biblical text and what early Israel may have been asserting in this combined narrative. What key theological claims are being made? How does the combined story set Israel apart from its neighbors?

I look forward to seeing all of you at Binkley at 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Hagar and the Naming of God: Genesis 16:1—16 and 21:9—21

Hagar in the Wilderness
Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness, Francesco Cozza, 1665

Genesis tells the extraordinary story of an Egyptian slave woman thrown out of the home of Abraham and Sarah. She encounters God in the wilderness and is the only character in all the Bible who gives a new name to God. Why? What is the significance of this story of mistreatment, grace, and deliverance?

The story of Hagar can inspire us to think in new ways about the nature of God and our language about God.
Those of you who attended the class on feminist readings of scripture two years ago led by Susan Rogers, Velma Ferrell, and Micheal Palmer will recognize this story. Feel free to contribute your reflections on its implications for today’s church.

Jotham’s Fable Discussion

Rock Buckthorn by František Pleva, Public Domain

In this morning’s class we had a stimulating discussion of a rather obscure passage seldom read at church. Jotham’s fable ( Judges 9:7-21) is a strongly anti-monarchy tale that many christians would not find relevant to today’s church, and this is probably why it is seldom read in church. Still, Jotham’s criticism of his brother being declared king is framed in ethical terms (“acting in good faith”), and those ethical questions still remain relevant in our time. What are the implications of our choice of people to govern over us? When we choose candidates, are we acting in good faith?

We also looked at the name of Jotham’s father used in the introduction to the fable (Judges 9:1-7). There he is called Jerubaal. In the previous chapters he has been called by that name only once, and the rest of the references to him use the name Gideon. As is often the case in biblical stories, the names are important. “Jerubaal” could mean “Possession of Baal” (i.e. one dedicated to the Canaanite god, Baal), but the name “Gideon” is related to a Hebrew word meaning “to cut down.” Jerubaal/Gideon is presented in the previous chapters as a charismatic leader who left the worship of Baal and “cut down” the Asherah’s (wooden poles representing the goddess often portrayed as the consort of Baal and sometimes even the consort of YHWH) and destroyed the alters of Baal.

After Gideon’s death, the people of Shechem act in bad faith toward his family, killing all of his sons except two: Abimelech, whom they name king, and Jotham, who condemns them for doing so.

I did not mention the meaning of Jotham’s name (יוֹתָם) this morning, but you may find it interesting: “YHWH is complete, without blemish.” His brother Abimelech’s name means “My father is King.”


Jotham’s Fable (Feb. 14, 2016)

In this Sunday’s class we will discuss Jotham’s Fable,  Judges 9:7-21.

Here’s the text in the New Revised Standard Version. Reading the preceding verses will help in understanding the context.

When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you.

The trees once went out
    to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree,
    ‘Reign over us.’
The olive tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil
        by which gods and mortals are honored,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
10 Then the trees said to the fig tree,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
11 But the fig tree answered them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness
        and my delicious fruit,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
12 Then the trees said to the vine,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
13 But the vine said to them,
    ‘Shall I stop producing my wine
        that cheers gods and mortals,
        and go to sway over the trees?’
14 So all the trees said to the bramble,
    ‘You come and reign over us.’
15 And the bramble said to the trees,
    ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you,
        then come and take refuge in my shade;
    but if not, let fire come out of the bramble
        and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’

16 “Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and honor when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as his actions deserved— 17 for my father fought for you, and risked his life, and rescued you from the hand of Midian; 18 but you have risen up against my father’s house this day, and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his slave woman, king over the lords of Shechem, because he is your kinsman— 19 if, I say, you have acted in good faith and honor with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you; 20 but if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the lords of Shechem, and Beth-millo; and let fire come out from the lords of Shechem, and from Beth-millo, and devour Abimelech.” 21 Then Jotham ran away and fled, going to Beer, where he remained for fear of his brother Abimelech.

I hope to see you tomorrow morning.

0NE MORE CLASS! A Preview of Sunday, March 29, 2015

We were mistaken, we have one more class, which is great, since we cancelled last Sunday’s class to hear Rep. David Price present to the Not Just One Way class. So, please look back at the assignment for last week. If you cannot locate it, just focus on reading Chapter 6 in Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg.

We hope to see you!

Charles and Michael