Paul, a contemporary of Jesus, wrote letters prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 66-70. His correspondence remains our only porthole into the first-century conflicts of a Jewish movement and how it branched out into a Greek-speaking world before Israel was trampled under Roman occupation.
Paul's vision was to make his brand of Judaism -- with the recognition of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah -- a world religion easily accessible to everyone. At no time did he repudiate Judaism or declare that he represented a new religion.
Many choose to view God as distant. Observable. Manageable. Close enough to consider. Distant enough to never impose nor interfere. From a distance, no wonder is ever too wonderful, no power too powerful, no master ever too masterful.
In Paul's definition of the trash-people as the divine collective, the crap and the holy are joined together in a type of parallax similar to what we find in the wave-particle duality discovered by physicists.
We should have stopped trying by now. We should have thrown up our hands in despair and cried, "Enough." We should have relented by now, given up any hope that our lives would cease being punctuated by random violence. We should have stopped hoping for something different. But we haven't.
What might a truly sustainable church (a "church in the green") look like? By sustainable, I don't mean, of course, what people usually mean when they say "self-sustaining." I'm talking about a radically intentional effort.
If we are being honest with ourselves, we must admit that our national histories, our ethnic histories, our religious histories, our family histories, our personal histories, all take precedence over the Bible.
The way of enemy love is not intuitive. The very idea of loving the person you would normally hate is an intentionally provocative idea. So how can we learn to have what Paul calls "the mind of Christ"?
Alan Segal graced us for a while -- to teach and inspire, but, most of all to befriend those who shared his mortal journey. Whether or not he was conscious of it, he did his part to heal, repair and transform this world.
We can assume that a stout majority of evangelicals voted for Mitt Romney. Their candidate lost and today they almost assuredly wrestle with crushing disappointment. Perhaps intead of rising up, they need to kneel down. Maybe rather than protest they need to pray.
On Election Day, voters in Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland will decide the future of same-sex marriage. Many of them will cast their vote based upon what they think the Bible teaches about same-sex marriage. But how many actually know?
In the midst of the wall-building that is going on all around, those of us who claim to be followers of Christ should be about the divine work of reconciling people, of tearing down the walls of hostility.
Most conservative scholars will view the money transaction through a mythical lens and argue that Paul's collection given to the Jerusalem Apostles was not a "bribe" but an attempt to unify the church. But is that all it was?
For centuries, Scholars have debated Paul's mysterious "barb." It has been the source of much speculation, including Paul's lusts, sexual preference or physical ailments, including malaria and eye disease.
Paul, in his Galatians autobiography, identifies James as a man who replaced Peter as the head of the early Church. Additional apocryphal and secular sources assume James as heir to the church and rightfully so as his brother.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "To be great is to be misunderstood." If Emerson was right, then the Apostle Paul might be one of the greatest men to ever live. Few religious leaders have been as grossly misunderstood as Paul.