Saturday, March 31, 2012

Turn! Turn! Turn!: An Exegesis of Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 15

What follows is a prospectus I just wrote for my OT2 class for a exegesis of Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 15.  I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions before I get into the heart of the paper!


The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” written by Pete Seeger but popularized by the Byrds in 1965, puts forward a message of peace and nonviolent resistance.  Borrowed from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 of the King James Version of the Bible, the song’s lyrics are only slightly modified from the original Biblical text, with a few changes of verse order and the addition of “I swear its not to late” after the “a time for peace” line.  Beneath the flower power of the popular 1960s anthem however is the centuries old message of Qoheleth, a teacher, preacher, king or assembler living under the political oppression of Ptolemaic Jerusalem.  Once subjected to contemporary methods of textual, historical, sociological and literary criticism, the lyrical source of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” combined with the seven verses following it can become a deep spring of meditative wisdom and reflection.  What I propose then is a type of cultural reading of Qoheleth 3: 1 – 15 that first illuminates the intended message of its original author and then brings the light of that message into the present context of those baby boomers who first heard it with the jingle-jangle of Roger McGuinn’s twelve-string Rickenbacker playing in the background.  My thesis is that when read as indicated above, Qoheleth 3: 1 – 15 wisely argues that peace can only be found in the balance of working solely for the good of God and experiencing the joy of God’s many gifts, despite the relative freedom of fleeting human life.
Proposed Bibliography
Burkes, Shannon. Death in Qoheleth and Egyptian Biographies of the Late Period. Atlanta, Ga:
Society of Biblical Literature, 1999.

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary. New Haven, Conn: Yale University
Press, 2008.

DeYoung, Curtiss Paul, Wilda C. Gafney, Leticia A. Guardiola-Saenz, George “Tink” Tinker
and Frank M. Yamada, eds. The Peoples' Companion to the Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010.

Kr├╝ger, Thomas, O. C. Dean, and Klaus Baltzer. Qoheleth: a commentary. Minneapolis, Minn:
Fortress Press, 2004.

Patte, Daniel, and Teresa Okure. Global Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2004.

Rindge, Matthew S. "Mortality and enjoyment: the interplay of death and possessions in
Qoheleth." Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73, no. 2 (April 1, 2011): 265-280. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 31, 2012).

Sneed, Mark R. The Politics of Pessimism in Ecclesiastes: A Social-Science Perspective. Atlanta:
Society of Biblical Literature, 2012.

Whybray, Roger N. "A time to be born and a time to die:" some observations on Ecclesiastes
3:2-8." In Near Eastern studies dedicated to H I H Prince Takahito Mikasa on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday, 469-483. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1991. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 31, 2012).

Zimmermann, Frank. The Inner World of Qohelet. New York: Ktav Pub. House, 1973.

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rep. Bobby Rush: A Prophetic Witness Speaks Trayvon Martin

What an amazing example of a person of faith being a prophetic witness speaking about race in America in light of the killing of Trayvon Martin:

 

This gets me thinking about all the different ways folks were prophets in the Bible... Ezekiel through both word and action, God raining down the gift of the Torah through Moses, Miriam singing, dancing and playing music in praise of God.  We have plenty of modern day prophets as well, and Rep. Bobby Rush is one of them.  People of faith it seems have been particularly outspoken about the Trayvon Martin story.  Do you have any examples of this sort of prophetic witness in your own community?

God's peace,
Dustin

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Focus Less On Sermons?


Thanks to forward from Don Johnson at Project Connect, I just read a great article from the Catholic News Service.  You can find a link here: Research's Advice to Pastors- Spend More Time on Church Supper's.  The basic gist of the article is that it's not religious services themselves that better the quality of life for church members, but rather the building of community with other people of faith that comes out of worship.  Check out the following quote:
The researchers found that nonchurch friends do not provide the same benefit in terms of well-being and that other measures of religiosity -- belief in God or frequency of prayer, for example -- do not serve as a reliable predictor of a person's satisfaction with life... And churchgoing alone without making friends does not improve well-being, they found.  "In short, sitting alone in the pew does not enhance one's life satisfaction," Putnam and Lim wrote. "Only when one forms social networks in a congregation does religious service attendance lead to a higher level of life satisfaction."
Nothing could make a better case for Luther's mention in the Smalcald Articles of "the mutual conversation and consolation with brothers and sisters" as a way the gospel works on us in addition to Word and Sacrament.  Whether or not one decides to focus less on drafting sermons is certainly up for debate, but this article does affirm that focusing more on community building is a must for pastors.  So what do you think about focusing more on community building?  What does/ would that look like in your congregation?  If you're a church leader, what community building techniques have worked?  If you're not currently involved a faith community, what would you like to see? Make a comment, and let's get the conversation going :)

God's peace,
Dustin 

Dustin is a Masters of Divinity candidate in his second year of study at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building.  In his free time, Dustin really likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

What is Wisdom?

Some ramblings about the definition of Wisdom I wrote for my First Testament course:

Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit works on us through faith or is perhaps even the Word herself: “So the spirit of wisdom is nothing other than faith, our understanding of that same Word; this, however, the Holy Spirit imparts.  Such faith or spirit can do all things…” (LW Vol. 35, 344).  Often in Bible (and perhaps most strongly in Proverbs), Wisdom is personified as a woman, “a lover, bride, friend, wife, teacher,” while juxtaposed against another feminine personification, of folly.  The speaker’s intended audience is important to consider here, in the case of Proverbs being foolish, young males.  Perhaps Wisdom is personified in the feminine as a gift, wholly other yet supportive, simply because that is what foolish young men needed.  Wisdom is given to us through faith and transforms us in a way that relates to our context.

While Wisdom is frequently doing what is needed to provide for a restrained, well-ordered society in Proverbs, elsewhere in the Bible, it comes in a message of empowerment, such as in the Beatitudes: You are poor yet yours in the kingdom of God!  As Luther argues while writing on wisdom literature, many of the ones who appear wise in our world are in fact truly fools: “There you may know that when Solomon speaks of fools, he is speaking not of plain or insignificant people, but precisely of the very best people in the world.” (LW Vol. 35, 261).

Since a characteristic of Wisdom is that she comes to us through our own context, she makes no distinction between secular and religious avenues.  Wisdom may of course come to Christians through the words of the Bible, but many of those same words have at times only reinforced unwise systems of oppression.  For those who are not members of the Christian tribe, perhaps Wisdom comes through a scene in reality television program, through a conversation over coffee, or even through difficult lessons learned in bad economy.  Wisdom speaks of herself as present in first acts of God’s creation.  Wisdom thusly continues to be a creative force of God, one through which the Creator guides his co-creators in humanity.

Psalms of Ascent & the Israeli/ Palestinian Conflict

Just a little something I wrote for my First Testament course at LTSP:
 
The specificity of the Jerusalem psalms puts the contemporary conflict between Israel and Palestine into conflicting perspectives.  On one level, these psalms indicate why it is so hard for some Israelis to accept nothing less than complete control over the Holy City and an opportunity to rebuild the temple.  Jerusalem is meant to be a unified city, “built as a city that is bound firmly together” (Psalm 122:2), and thus split control proves difficult.  Jerusalem generally and the temple specifically is not only the place on goes to worship, but is in fact the place where God has chosen to take residence up on Earth: “This is my resting place forever; here I reside, for I have desired it” (Psalm 131:14).  One can easily imagine a pilgrim singing Psalm 123:1’s “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!” while looking up at the Temple Mount and literally thinking she or he was singing praise to the face of God.

On the other hand, the songs of ascent also pray for peace in the Holy City: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.  Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers” (Psalm 122: 6-7).  Perhaps God is doing new things in our contemporary context, creating peace for the Holy City.  If we prayerfully discern this is so, then continually working to rebuild the temple and thereby perpetuating violence is in vain: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain” (Psalm 127: 1-2).