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Paul’s Letter to the Galatians – A Contextual Reading

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What follows began as a sermon but has been reworked into an essay on St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, specifically focusing on Chapter 4:1-20, which I believe to be not only the heart of the letter, but also, following the lead of Professor Brigitte Kahl, the exegetical key to the letter. This essay will attempt to outline and reflect on this Biblical text utilizing the insights laid out in Dr. Kahl’s masterful book, “Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished.” Her work shifts the focus of Paul’s critique of “works of the law” away from the traditional negative assessment of the Jewish Torah and refocuses it on the Roman Emperor Worship. Frankly, Dr. Kahl’s exhaustive and detailed work has made this letter come alive for me in ways that I have rarely experienced before. Along with the work of other scholars, such as Dominic Crossan, Deborah Krause, Paula Frederickson, Pamela Eisenbaum, Amy- Jill Levine and Warren Carter there has been a noticeable shift in bibl

Liberty, Freedom, Justice for All? (Viva la libertá!?)

Last night I watched an amazing production of Rossini's final opera - William Tell - from the Rossini Festival in Pesaro with Juan Diego Flores as Arnold and Nicola Alaimo as Tell. It was amazing. A beautiful production and beautifully sung. But what struck me is that this work from the early part of the 19th century and like many works from a variety of writers, composers and artists it deals with issues of liberty and freedom. The Swiss, in this case, are oppressed by the Austrians and (spoiler alert) after the famous incident where Tell shoots the apple off of his son's head the Austrians are finally routed and the bright rays of freedom begin to shine. It is perhaps like many works of the time overly simplistic, but it is a common theme - think Beethoven (Eroica, Fidelio) or even Mozart (Nozze of Don Giovanni "Viva la libertá!") Works and writings about freedom and liberty emerged in the late 18th century and had a huge impact on Europeans who were tired of

Some Thoughts on the Apocalypse

I want to make a comment about the apocalyptic references that have been appearing in the news lately. But politicians (mostly on the hard right) and certain (so-called) Christian "Leaders" like to trot out their version of the apocalyptic story which they claim is from the Bible, but really isn't. Apparently some of these folks are simply thrilled whenever we are appear to be hurtling towards war in the middle east, since, in their mind, this means we can prompt or push God to initiate "Armegedon," the "Rapture" and "Jesus 2nd coming." So where to begin. I'll try to make it concise: 1. You cannot push God into action. All you need to do is look at a little history to see that this has been tried before and unlike the sheeplike mindless and fear-filled followers of your cult God will not be manipulated into action. Whatever is to come will come in its own time. 2. There is NO RAPTURE! I'll say it again - there is NO RAPTURE in th

A Funeral Sermon on John 14

Once more I have had the unpleasant experience of having to listen to a "pastor" expound on the John 14 text in a way which focuses exclusively on "what we get when we get to heaven." Central to this position is the insistence that "you better believe in Jesus - have a personal relationship with Jesus" or else you won't be getting one of those nice mansions." This is not the Gospel and it is not what this text is saying. In fact I find this approach to funeral sermons to be reprehensible as it subjects vulnerable and grieving men and women to a manipulative religious diatribe which is totally irrelevant to the occasion - the loss of a loved one. Not only that, but I have experienced also the dishonesty of evangelical "pastors" enlisting the deceased in their manipulation (e.g. Mildred believed in Jesus so you all should be like Mildred and believe in Jesus). This is NOT the Gospel. This is manipulation and it is irresponsible. So, for al

Reflections and Response to Issues Raised - Turkey and Greece 2019

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Introduction: The opportunity to travel presented itself and I signed on for a trip that was entitled, “In the Footsteps of Paul.” Initially the name did not put me off. I have seen ads for other trips to this part of the world with this title. I presumed, correctly as it turned out, that the trip would focus on the so-called missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul, as laid out in the book of Acts. The trip would also provide opportunities for visiting other sites that would provide an immersive experience in the ancient world. Sounds great! After a little thought I signed up. While I think the 4 missionary journeys of Paul are an ahistorical construct I recognize that both Luke (the book of Acts) and tour agencies might find these to be a useful organizing tool. I signed up and on the 13 th of May flew to Istanbul. What followed was fascinating, physically demanding, spiritually uplifting and (at the same time) exceptionally frustrating and upsetting. I had no idea when I