the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

September 4 - Year A - Proper 18

Matthew 18:15-20

This is a hard passage for me. I am not in favor of church discipline as practiced by my church 20 to 30 years ago. We have a history of a member bringing charges against another member and having them voted out of the church. After 90 days the excommunicate is allowed back into the church. He then proceeds to bring up on charges the member who brought him up. I'm happy to say this was before my pastorate here. But it is all in the minutes of the business meetings.

I will be studying this passage and reading what others have said about it all week. Stop back by later in the week to see how I am doing. If you can shed light on this passage for me, please feel fee to post in the comments.

Theology of the Psalms

In his Spirituality of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann wrote
The Book of Psalms provides the most reliable theological, pastoral, and liturgical resource given us in the biblical tradition.

I have always understood the latter 2 resources: pastoral and liturgical. But I have never before thought of the Psalms as "the most reliable theological... resource given us in the biblical tradition?

In future posts I will try to explain Brueggemann's thought in this regard as presented in his Theology of the Old Testament.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Pedegree of Jeremiah.

David had two high priests: Zadok of the line of Aaron and Abiathar of the line of Eli (the line of Moses according to F.M. Cross)

At David's death Solomon banished Abiathar to Anathoth

1 Kings 2:26
The king said to the priest Abiathar, "Go to Anathoth, to your estate; for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before my father David, and because you shared in all the hardships my father endured."

The line of Zadok continued in the position of the high priest down to Hezekiah. The line of Abithar continued as defrocked priests, living in and around Anathoth.

Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, slaughtered many of the priestly establishment.
2 Kings 21:16
Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he caused Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.

Manasseh reigned for 55 years. That means that only the very, very old could remember the true worship of God under Hezekiah by the time of his death. Except , of course, for the clandestine religious, some living in Anathoth.

Manasseh's son Amon was 22 when he assumed the throne. But his reign was short lived.
2 Kings 21:23-24
The servants of Amon conspired against him, and killed the king in his house. But the people of the land killed all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made his son Josiah king in place of him.

Under Josiah the worship of God resumed under the leadership of a new family of priests. One of those priests discovered a book in the temple. Some scholars believe this book to be the core of our present book of Deuteronomy.
2 Kings 22:8
The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, "I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD." When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it.

The priest who found the book of the law was Hilkiah, presumably the high priest who alone could converse directly with the shaphan.

Now we turn to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:1-2
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

1. That the people who placed Josiah on the throne were the "resistance" movement under Manassah.
2. That when the murderers of Amon were rounded up and they gained power in the land, they reinstated the priestly line of Moses/Eli/Abithar and their hight priest was Hilkiah.
3. That this same Hilkiah is the "Hilkiah of the priests who were in Anathoth" that is said to be the father of Jeremiah.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Can You Change the Mind of God?

Scripture: Matthew 15:21-28

How inviting are we? How wide are the doors of our Church? Is there place in our Church for everyone? We know and profess that God is the Father of all people. We believe and announce that Jesus died for everyone and all. Yet, is that the reality? We even look down on other Christians, and at times on other Baptists too, because they do not honor the Lord in exactly the same way as we do. Let us ask the Lord of all to help us do away with all discrimination and with him to make us open to all.

What do we think of aliens and strangers and how do we treat them? What is our attitude toward people who are different? The Christian position should be one of acceptance and welcome, for this is God's attitude. All are God's children, and he wants the happiness of all. He calls all to his house and wants it to be a house of prayer for all. With Christ, let us welcome all.

I owe Dylan Breuer at for these thoughts:

Three forces that keep us from understanding God's will for our lives"
1. The conviction that you are already fully aware of what God wants.

2. The conviction that you don't need to listen to certain people or groups, bcause they are not as enlightened as I am.
Ananias was sent by God to a man who was a known persecuter of Christians. What if he had said to himself, "God doesn't need people like that?"

3. The conviction that if you knew what God wanted before, that no further instructions were necessary.

Jesus is confronted by a woman who calls out to him demanding help. Jesus doesn't respond.

Jesus' culture was a shame culture. In a shame-culture, social mores revolves around the related ideas of honor, duty, country, glory, loyalty, name, praise, and reputation. It is very much concerned with group-identity. Paradigm cases are the Iliad, the Indian caste-system, imperial Japan, Chivalry, and the Mafia.

Warrior-cultures are shame-cultures. This extends to certain subcultures that are either genuine warrior- cultures (e.g., the military), or quasi-militaristic (e.g., street gangs, professional sports).

Another commonplace of anthropology is to distinguish between ascribed and achieved status. Tribal cultures are shame-cultures. You have an ascribed status that is assigned to you by birth—by your place in the clan. However, it is also possible, through honor or dishonor, to acquire an achieved status that either raises or lowers your ascribed status.

Calling out to Jesus in public as she did was a very provocative act. It put Jesus in a position of ignoring her or appearing to the crowd that she was either an equal or a superior. At first He ignores her.

But she is persistent. She is making a public spectacle of herself and is becoming an embarassment, which is felt by the disciples. The disciples want Jesus to make her go away. But Jesus says he is only called to minister to the lost house of Israel. The Woman of course, is a Gentile.

Persistently she approaches Jesus and literally begs him to help her. And in the exchange that follows, Jesus' mind is changed. His choosing to listen and to heal cost him his honor in the eyes of the crowd. But in so doing he demonstrated how we should seek the will of God.

Knowing God's will is not about certainty. Especially not when certainty threatens to over ride compassion.

Knowing God's will is not about knowing who not to listen to. Jesus gave us the example in our lesson today that all people are worthy of our attention.

And once we think we understand God's will for our lives, that doesn't mean that that is all he calls us to do. Jesus answered God's call to go to the lost souls of the house of Israel. But Jesus was sensitive enough to the ever changing will of God that he heard the call to minister to all people.

Jesus' understanding of God's will was to enter into relationship with people. Real relationship with others is what love, real love, is all about. As our scriptures testify: God is Love. And God is changed in loving relationship.

We are taught to ignore the homeless. Don't look them in the eye. Whatever you do, don't speak to them. Pass by ignoring them and their pleas for a handout. We train ourselves to see them as objects, not real people.

This woman was so convinced that Jesus could save her daughter that she believed only the crumbs from the master's table, the leftovers, would be sufficient to save her.

Here was the incarnate son of God, so powerful he could have caused this woman to hush. He could have sent her to to top of some mountain far away. He could have struck her dead on the spot. But exercising Divine Power was not what Jesus was about. Jesus' message, the good news, the Gospel, is that God is Love, God is compassionate. Or what was the cross for?

Did Jesus change his mind because the woman was persistent? Yes.

Did Jesus change his mind because of her Faith? Yes.

Did he change his mind because he is a compassionate and loving God? Yes, Yes, Yes.

Abraham changed God's mind about the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah. Moses changed God's mind about the destruction of the Israelites in the Wilderness. All through appeals rooted in the love of people.

We look at others less fortunate than we and say "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." Do we mean that these people do not have the Grace of God, as we do? Do we not feel compassion and even pain when we see the down-trodden?

Written by Bobby Austin and Thomas Sapaugh.
(© Airefield Music / Glen Campbell Music Inc. / Songs Of Windswept Pacific.)
From "Glen Campbell's Twenty Golden Greats", © 1987, EMI Records.

If you see your brother standing by the road,
With a heavy load from the seeds he sowed.
And if you see your sister falling by the way,
Just stop and say: "Well, you're goin' the wrong way."

Well, you've got to try a little kindness,
Yes, show a little kindness.
Yes, shine your light for everyone to see.
And if you try a little kindness,
Then you'll overlook the blindness,
Of the narrow minded people,
On the narrow minded streets.

Don't walk around the down and out,
Lend a helping hand instead of doubt.
And the kindness that you show every day,
Will help someone along their way.

Well, you've got to try a little kindness,
Yes, show a little kindness.
Yes, shine your light for everyone to see.
And if you try a little kindness,
Then you'll overlook the blindness,
Of the narrow minded people,
On the narrow minded streets.

You've got to try a little kindness,
Yes, Lord, show a little kindness.
Yes, shine your light for everyone to see.
And if you try a little kindness,
Then you'll overlook the blindness,
Of narrow minded people,
On the narrow minded streets.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Praying the Psalms

An ancient form of prayer in the Church, especially among monastics, has been the use of the psalms as prayers. Thomas Merton said, "the Church loves the Psalms because in them she sings of her experience of God, of her union with the incarnate word, of her contemplation of God in the mystery of Christ."

Perhaps it is the contemplation and meditation that attracts me to the Psalms. Using the Psalms in prayer is a new experience for me. But using them, as prayers themselves, has occurred to me before. I have not used them as such until quite recently. Here is one of my favorites:

Psalms 139 (RSV),

O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,"
12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them-- they are more than the sand; I come to the end-- I am still with you...
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Is Your God Too Small?

In simplistic terms, Science is the disciplined study of God's creation. The more we learn about His creation, the more we learn about Him. There are two paths to Truth. One path certainly is Faith. The other, equally valid, path is Science. There is only one Truth. The Truth of Faith and the Truth of Science are, in fact, the same Truth. They seem different to us at times beause of the knowledge gap between where Faith and Science take us.
A simplistic analogy for this dichotomy in the serarch for truth is the building of the Tunnel under the English Channel, England started from its side of the channel and France started from its side. For a long time, the engineers lived in hope and fear that the two tunnels would meet in exactly the same spot. They did, but until they did they could only hope and fear. At this point I would offer a scripture reference, again from Paul: I Corinthians 13:11-12.
NRS 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Protestant Evangelical Fundamentalists believe that God's revelation of Himself stopped at the close of the New Testament. A study of History clearly contradicts that belief.
Each time there has been a new discovery about the creation, it seems to contradict a teaching of the Bible or Doctrine of the Church. The Church and Society have struggled through their growing pains. First comes denial and punishment of the heretics. They have been forced either to recant their discoveries or pay the ultimate of price of letting God be their judge in Heaven. But always the Theologians and Churchmen have been able to rethink the teachings of the Bible and the Doctrines so that the understanding of God continues to evolve.
Of course the classic example is Copernicus, and Galileo after him. The discovery that the earth revolved around the sun and was not the center of the universe clearly upset the Church Fathers. But now even the most radical fundamentalist would admit that Copernicus was right. The Scientific heresy dejur is Darwin. Or perhaps it is the Big Bang. Or are they the same thing? Those who refuse to accept new ideas and discoveries spend a lot of energy denying their validity.
What drives the passions of the radical right that refuses to accept any change in the ancient world view? Remember the analogy of the tunnels? What were the engineers doing before the two ends of the tunnel converged? They lived in hope and fear. Hope that they would meet at the designated spot. And fear that they would not.
Forty years ago, J. B. Phillips wrote a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. In this book he talks about people whose concept of God is so small that He must be bound by rigid human definitions. At the conclusion of the 2000 SBC convention, the newly elected president stated very emphatically that "God could not go against His word." In other words, God is seen as being, not the Omnipontent, not the Omniscient, and not the Omnipresent One. He is seen as being only what a human mind can comprehend.
God is bigger than the SBC. God is bigger than Evangelicalism. God is bigger than Protestantism. God is bigger than Christianity. God is bigger than Humankind.
Speaking the word of the Lord, Isaiah wrote

NRS Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Mankind can never understand above the limits of the human brain. But God did give us the gift of inquiry and the gift of reason. As the databank of knowledge grows, we are able to understand more and more of what God's creation is all about. And, therefore, more and more of what He is about. We know more about creation now than the writers of the first book of Genesis. We even know more about God now than the leaders of the inquisition. I cannot even imagine what 500 years of discovery will bring in the future. We will never fully understand God. But by the grace of God we will be closer to Him then than we are now or ever have been.