As we recently marked the holiday of Shavuot, many of us in the wee hours between darkness and dawn marked our receiving of Torah on Mount Sinai by studying Torah all night. After 49 days of counting, we have finally reached the apex of the journey we began then.
In a recent article, I referred frequently to the "Old Testament." Someone immediately wrote and asked why I was using that "offensive" phrase. "Old Testament," he said, "implies that a New Testament supersedes and surpasses it."
With all that is happening in the world today, it can seem like there is no hope and everything is going down the tubes with no way to stop the flow. Human suffering and despair are present in all corners of the globe.
Friday night -- At opening time, the merchant who adds cash to the ATM machine slinks in as quiet as a mouse. He stocks the money nest with tens and...
If we insist on continuing to equate stone-casting to simple, yet critical accountability, particularly when children are abused and neither their abusers nor those over them are held accountable, then I have just one question. Where's my pile of stones?
Then things go very wrong. But when Noah's family gathers food for all the animals and for themselves into the ark, they all share again, living peaceably for the year they spend shut in during the flood.
Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the gift of Torah, begins on Saturday night. The Torah itself describes this occasion as being accompanied by dramatic and terrifying noise and spectacle: thunder, long shofar blasts, earthquake, fire and smoke.
It's hard to have mercy for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It was Jesus who said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." And he certainly demonstrates that mercy on the cross as he forgives the people nailing him to it. But as a follower of Christ, mercy seems like an audacious thing to ask of us.
On a public level, substituting "fidelity" for "faith" in our discussions would let us get past the tired faith-versus-science debate (or even the faith-versus-works debate). And on a personal level, all of us could benefit from analyzing our own embodied lives to find out to what or to whom we are authentically faithful.
We rely on hope as a force to inch us forward. No one wants to believe that our best days as individuals or as societies are behind us. Everyone wants to be a hopeful person. Or, at least, there are plenty of people out there eager to make sure everyone feels hopeful.
The Torah is very clear that the punishment for not allowing the land to rest every seventh year is exile. In other words, we can either give the land her sabbaths while we dwell here, or she will simply take them when we are long gone. Wildness will out.
What happens when you cross a first-rate New Testament scholar, a genuinely funny guy, and a former fundamentalist?
Some years ago, I made a careless and unintentional comment to one of my students about the deplorable conditions in the city where she grew up. She was visibly offended and although I immediately apologized and tried to take back my comment, I could tell she wasn't ready to forgive me anytime soon.
I worry that Christian faith communities may be missing an opportunity to talk about problems that embed and replicate themselves at the systemic level--problems such as racism and failed measures to ensure police accountability.
What we need now is a priesthood of the imperfect -- in which all of us who are "disqualified" in one way or another (which is to say, I'd venture, all of us) accept and embrace our imperfections, learning from one another and teaching one another what we have learned in the course of our lives.
The Biblical story recounted in Acts 10:44-48 is also a story of transformation and relational border crossing between people who, though not at all strangers, were practiced at holding each other at a distance.