1 Corinthians in Handel’s Messiah

Behold, I tell you a mystery

1 Corinthians 15-55One of the few things I have added to my list of things to do is attending a weekly Bible study at my church. The group was in the midst of reading the Koran in the first part of the sessions; interesting stuff.

The second half was reading the Bible, specifically, when I started, 1 Corinthians. This is the book that contains that reading of Chapter 13 that is used so often at weddings, though the King James Version ends with “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” But the Revised Standard Version and most later translations conclude with “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Chapter 15 is quite familiar as well. “The center of Part III [of Handel’s Messiah] is a sequence of six movements based on a passage from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians on the resurrection of the dead, a passage that Brahms also chose for Ein deutsches Requiem.”

As I happen to be the reader in Bible study,

it was VERY difficult NOT to break into song!

46 Since by man came death (Chorus) 1 Corinthians 15:21–22
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

47 Behold, I tell you a mystery (Acc. B) 1 Corinthians 15:51–52 Resurrection of the dead
48 The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be rais’d (Air B) 15:52–53
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

49 Then shall be brought to pass (Rec. A) 1 Corinthians 15:54 Victory over death
50 O death, where is thy sting? (Duet A) 15:55–56
51 But thanks be to God (Chorus) 15:57
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s the entire Part III of Handel Messiah, including 45. I know that my Redeemer liveth (Air S) from Job 19:25–26; 52. If God be for us, who can be against us (Air S) from Romans 8:31,33–34; and 53. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain/Amen (Chorus) from Revelation 5:12–13.

LISTEN to:
Various artists
The Bach Choir & Orchestra of the Netherlands, Pieter Jan Leusink

Jesus Sought Me: Luke 19

Come down from that tree!

Zacchaeus tree.Palestine_Jericho
Zacchaeus tree in Jericho, Palestine
Now it’s the second day of Triennium, so it’s Tuesday. No, wait, it’s Wednesday. We left on Monday, got here on Tuesday. It WAS Wednesday.

The scripture of the day was Luke 19, specifically the first ten verses, and the theme of the day is Jesus Sought Me. After breakfast, there are discussions with our group of 18. We were joined by a couple of women from Connecticut, who were their entire delegation.

Jerry, the pastor, led the discussion about Zacchaeus, the tax collector. It was a despised profession because they only made a real profit when they overcharged those who owed money. And he was the chief tax collector in the area, so he was particularly loathed

Verse 3: He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. The first “he” was Zacchaeus. But Jerry opined that the second he was NOT Zaccheus but Jesus and that Jesus was short.

Ha! That dovetails with my working theory that Jesus was not only height-challenged but homely as well, which I shared with one of our visitors afterward.

The broader message was that Jesus picked that unlikely guy, deciding he needed to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night. The crowd grumbled, “Why is Jesus hanging out with THAT dude?” Zacchaeus declared he’d give up half of his possessions to the poor, and if he cheated anybody, he’d pay them back four times the amount.

The message continued later that morning in the small group discussions. I was probably older than the instructor and there was only one other person over 40. The rest appeared to be older teens or in their early twenties. I enjoyed the intergenerational interaction.

I should explain the worship services. It’s in a hall that holds most of the 5000 people attending the conference.

The session started, always, with what they called “The Energizer”, doing various exercises to pop music from a variety of artists, including Taylor Swift and BTS, the latter which thrilled my daughter. I thought it was, in the words of Frank Zappa, “enforced recreation,” but I was clearly in the minority.

Our group showed up closer to the start time of the worship services, but the Energizers started slightly before the scheduled time. The kids in our group would try to get there early.

There was a band who sang and played a folk/gospel/rock amalgam. They were quite good. The lyrics to the songs, all but one of which were unfamiliar to me, were shown on a couple of screens. It’s usually not my cuppa, but most of the songs were pretty good.

The sermons during the week, from five diverse speakers, were good across the board. They spoke of an inclusive, rather than exclusionary God, a God that would welcome even a tax collector.

While no specific political statements were made, it was clear that the speakers were cognizant of a certain rhetorical disconnect out of the District of Columbia.

Go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized

FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy.

Hebrews 13.16I took on this assignment to write something for the FOCUS Churches of Albany’s Advent devotional. This was my submitted copy, which may or may not be what shows up.

Text: Hebrews 13:7-17. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
As Christ was killed outside the city gate, let us also go ‘outside the camp’ to the marginalized and risk “the abuse he endured.”
In gratitude, “let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God…”

Quite a few of my friends are apathetic or even antagonistic towards the church. I totally get that. I’d been there myself some years ago.

My friends often see some elements of the church favoring those who have, the insiders. “Send money” so the pastor can have a bigger house, a better plane. I actually heard one of these guys say that if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, rather than the first, he’d be riding around in the newest and fanciest airbus.

That’s not the Jesus I’m seeing in this passage. He is instead a sacrificial Lord. While He is learned enough to swap scripture with the scribes and elders, he’s spending most of His time tending to the marginalized.

I’ve been a member of a FOCUS church since 1984. What inspires me about service to others is that doesn’t end at the sanctuary door. It goes “outside the camp” (v. 13), meeting the needs of the broader community.

Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, and FOCUS does that with food pantries, a breakfast club, and other services. “Do not forget to do good and to share with others.” (v. 16)

But FOCUS volunteers also sacrifice their time to do advocacy, trying to address the root causes that require a food pantry that was designed as a temporary activity to be in place for nearly five decades.

Just as Jesus brought people together to express God’s will, occasionally turning over a table or two, FOCUS mobilizes “individuals and other community organizations to work for systemic and structural change to address issues including poverty, social and racial injustice.”

Prayer: When people come to Advent services, they see the lighted candles and hear the familiar hymns. May they also see the love in our hearts that comes from caring for others, even those ragged people outside the door, per the example of Jesus.
***
Yes, There is a War on Christianity

Submission, women, the Bible: 1 Timothy 2

“There are those who believe this text is making a blanket statement about the role of women in the church. “

religious-inclusion01There was this picture on Facebook of a guy holding a sign that women “should be quiet, submissive to husband, cooking, ironing, silent in church”. It specifically cites 1 Timothy 2.

I came across this article by Jenna Daniels, who was, at least as of the publication date was associate pastor at Awaken Community Covenant Church, St. Paul, MN. The piece was undated but was posted at least two years ago.

Rev. Daniels pulls our verses 11-15:

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”

She notes, correctly, that “There are those who believe this text is making a blanket statement about the role of women in the church. There are other passages that seem to say this same thing, where women are to remain silent, or that they are the glory of man, they are to submit, they can’t lead.”

So what is she doing preaching? She sees Paul’s writing in this and other cases as a contextual prohibition. Specifically, the apostle may have been referring to the culture in Ephesus and the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility, for example.

Paul “is addressing a group of women who were false teachers influenced by the Artemis cult in which female supremacy was the norm. When [he] talks about the authority these women are exercising, he uses a word that is used nowhere in the entire New Testament: authentein, translated as ‘exercise authority.’ Other times when Paul is referring to authority, he uses [the generic] exousia

“But authentein carries a sense of abusing power and acting on your own authority. These women are teaching things that aren’t true, and doing it in an abusive way, so Paul tells them to be silent. Interestingly, he still tells them to learn.”

In this vein, here are Six Things Submission Is Not by John Piper, coincidentally also a Minnesota pastor. My broader point is that it is easy to cherry-pick scripture to support oppression; American slavery was justified in that manner.

As Rev. Daniels notes, “I believe the Enemy’s greatest and strongest work is to cause us to misunderstand God’s Word in a way that binds up and constricts and prevents where God’s intent is freedom and life in Christ for all people.”

All I want for Christmas this year

There’s nothing that will fit on Santa’s sleigh

My wife asked me for my Christmas wish list. I want the new Hess toy truck, and…

I was stumped. I didn’t have a book I wanted that would sit on my “I really need to read that” pile. There’s always music but I don’t always listen to what I have already.

Unfortunately, what I REALLY want is a country that believes in encouraging people to cast their ballots and one person, one vote, rather than restricting the franchise and gerrymandering their districts.

I want a country that values our natural resources, rather than ignoring climate change and despoiling the earth for profit. “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, ” as it says in Numbers.

I want a country that doesn’t elect known sexual predators to high office.

I want a country that welcomes the immigrant and appreciate the strength that diversity brings to the country, rather than promoting bigotry and divisiveness. “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land.” (Leviticus 19:33)

I want a country that provides a living wage and a secure safety net, with access to resources for those who need it, rather than tax breaks for those with private planes. “If you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon.” (Isaiah 58:10)

I want a country that believes in transparency of government, not backroom dealings with lobbyists.

I want a country that works for peace, not goads others into war. “Let there be peace on earth,” and all that.

You get the idea.

And the really annoying thing about my Christmas wish list is that there is not anything that will fit on Santa’s sleigh.

Even worse, in order for me to be able to get the presents I want, I, and a whole slew of other folks will have to work, to fight to make it happen.

What kind of presents are these anyway? They are the presents that require us to be present.

Ugh, activism. OK, then, let’s see how close I can get to matching up with my wishlist.

But I still want the Hess truck.

Merry Christmas.