Monday, October 23, 2006

Wedding Weekend

This last weekend my mom got married. I had no idea what to feel about the whole thing other than being nervous since I was going to be the Matron of Honor AND be singing in the service. I haven't sung for real in about 10 years (changed my major in my junior year of college and never looked back) and my mom's new husband was a semi-professional singer around the Boston area so he was going to notice when my breathing was off. I was too busy with school stuff to really be able to practice and get back into shape the way I wanted to, so I was worried. I didn't need to be.

The song went fin, but my mom and her groom, Rob, were both so happy just to be there getting married to each other, I'm not sure how much they noticed about what went on around them. :) They were very cute, smiling constantly and all that typical newlywed glowing stuff. The wedding itself was very formal, my mom in a hat, gloves and a long ivory gown. Rob was in tails and I wore a floor length strapless red gown, also with gloves. I don't dress up a lot, so it was kind of fun! Plus the wedding was in Connecticut so I got to see New England's fall colors and they did not disappoint. Everything was beautiful and it seemed like everyone had a good time - there was dinner, dancing, open bar and a live band at the reception. Very fun. And while it was strange to hear people talking about my dad at times, all in all I think it's very cool that my mom gets to have a second chance at marriage and love.

I know more and more people are having multiple marriages, but my parents always believed marriage was forever. When my dad died, my mom was lost in many ways. At one point I was worried about her taking her own life, and she seemed too afraid to do anything to move on. Seeing her this happy was something I never dreamed was possible, let alone probable. Way to go, Mom. And many thanks to Rob for showing her what is possible and that it's never too late.... May you take care of each other and make each other happy for many, many years.

Biblical Incest

Continuing from my previous post, I changed the direction of my paper for class and ended up working on a totally different passage, although alluding to Leviticus 18 at one point. I focused on Genesis 19:30-38 instead. It's the story of Lot (Abraham's nephew) after he has fled Sodom as it was being destroyed. His wife, you may remember from Sunday School classes, looked behind her after being told not to turn back, and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot runs to a small village called Zoar to escape the destruction, but gets scared to stay there and flees with his 2 daughters to a cave in the hills. While there, the daughters decide to get him drunk and sleep with him so that they can have children. They each end up having sons, one named Moab (explained to be the ancestor of the Moabites) and the other named Ben-ammi or Ammon (depending on which version you read), explained to be the ancestor of the Ammonites. The Moabites and Ammonites were 2 tribes with whom Israel generally didn't play nicely.

What the heck?!?!?!?!?! I was NEVER told this Bible story growing up - or ever. What is this passage trying to tell us? That incest is okay if you get pushed to desperation? I have A LOT of questions about this one.... Why do the daughters have to have children so badly? My guess is that was what women were for - if they don't have kids, they aren't living up to their potential. of course, if they both have sons and there aren't any more kids around, then what? Why do they have to have sex with dad? Why can't they go back to the village to find men to have sex with? Was there something in the village that scared them, as it had their father in the first place? What was Lot's reaction after he realized what had happened? The text says he had no idea when they lay down or when they got up, but surely he noticed their pregnancies. We never hear anything else about Lot - don't know how/when/where he dies, nothing. So was he mad, happy, did he help raise the kids? Who knows.

So what on earth do we do with this? Big Unit - I'm dying to hear your explanation of this one. To be honest, even after reading a lot of commentaries and writing a paper on it, I'm still not sure what to do with it. There are several main theories:
1. This passage was written to explain why the Moabites and Ammonites were "wrong" or "abnormal" and Israel was justified in the way they treated them. They were children of incest and therefore "unclean."
2. This story is written to show how far Lot had fallen. After he chose to live in Sodom in the first place, he had chances to show his righteousness but didn't quite live up to the exmaple in his uncle, Abraham. Before Sodom is destroyed, two angels from God go to check out the situation. Abraham offered them hospitality with great enthusiasm and generosity, but Lot only showed them the bare minimum of hospitality. He then questions the 2 visitors when they tell him to run for the hills, bargaining to go to the village of Zoar instead. Getting drunk and engaging in sexual impurity is the bottom of Lot's barrel.
3. The feminist interpreters see this as a story of empowerment of the daughters (although I would greatly questions this one). While the 2 angels are in Lot's house prior to Sodom's destruction, the men of the town of Sodom come and knock on the door asking for the 2 visitors to be brought to them that they might "know" them, i.e. have sex or rape them. Lot calls the townsmen "brothers" (rather than getting upset) and offers them his daughters instead. So after he had offered up his daughters for sexual misconduct, they turn to the tables on him and make him the object of sexual misconduct instead. Plus they get their sons, making them remembered as determined mothers in the ancestral line.

I honestly don't know what to do with this, so any input or additional insight you can offer would be most appreciated....

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Biblical Authority??

I need to be writing a paper right now but I'm stuck. I'm writing a paper on Leviticus 18 - a chapter dealing with laws of sexual behavior, particularly prohibiting various types of incest. On the one hand, these laws don't seem at all problematic. Our society today has no problems saying incest is wrong (although we don't talk about how often it happens in real life....), but then where is the "interesting twist" for my paper??? I question the Bible's authority in general and yet in this case, I want to go right along with what the words say. Of course, this isn't the only passage where I like what the words say - there are tons, particularly in the gospels.

The problems are more where I don't like what the Bible has to say - such as "eye for an eye" or passages condemning women in positions of authority ove men, or condemning homosexuality. I've learned in several classes, undergrad and seminary, about the ways that the Bible was written (beginning as oral tradition passed down in a lot of cases) and then was compiled much later in history, really only becoming an agreed upon "canon" in the second century. The writers are thought to be a variety of people in various time periods of the history of Israel, the chosen people of God, but these people were all men and were writing for specific audiences and situations. What can a bunch of Jewish men from the ancient near east have to say to a contemporary woman in a same sex relationship??? Many times I think "not a heck of a lot!"

There are many times when I want to write off the Bible as a collection of myths and stories that were deemed important by the writers and some of the their readers, but to which I don't have to ascribe the same level of authority. But the fact remains that I do ascribe the Bible some authority - my sermon was filled with references to Bible passages! I refer to scripture when it suits me, but write it off when it doesn't. One of the biggest values I hold is integrity, and I question whether or not I have any when it comes to the way I read and use the Bible. Does it have authority, or doesn't it?

I don't want this post to come off as too much of a confession (bite your tongue now, BigUnit!) because I know that I'm not the only one who struggles with this. We ALL take some passages as being "more authoritative" than others (for example, do you tend to follow "an eye for an eye" or "turn the other cheek"??). We all choose our own "cannon within the cannon" but the question is DO WE KNOW WHY?? What basis do you use for highlighting certain texts and writing off others? Can we know which texts were "inspired by God" as opposed to written by men serving a specific purpose? Can we know which ones are still valid and applicable today and which ones are bound to the time and place in which they were constructed? This class that I'm in is asking me to figure that out and state it explicitly and I'm don't know the answer yet, but I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Rocky Mountain High

Last weekend I had a last minute trip to Denver, Colorado. My apologies for the lack of entries lately, but this was an important trip to support a friend who had a funeral to attend. Of course, bonus for me that while supporting a friend, I got to go to a place I'd never seen before, and I have to say that I REALLY like the Rocky Mountains. I'm not sure that I could choose them over the ocean, but let's just say that I truly appreciate the magnificence in many facets of God's great creation.

We were staying in a little suburb on the northwest side of Denver, so I didn't spend all of my time hanging out downtown or anything, but we did go to a fun bar with dueling pianos which was a lot of fun, and then we left ourselves one day to drive to Boulder and up to Estes Park. I was very excited to be in the mountains and we actually wentup to the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park but didn't want to pay $20 just to drive through a little part of it in the one hour or so that we had. I know I'm going to have to plan a much longer trip back to the park for some serious camping and hiking. I did manage to get some great postcards to mail to the desert and a new sweatshirt for myself (I needed it with the changes in weather we experienced while we were there - 80's one day and 40's the next!), and took quite a few pictures.
Anyone up for a road trip???


I watched my sermon finally. I'm sorry to let you all know that I won't be posting it on the internet - for a couple of reasons. First, I really do worry about what someone else may do with it "out there" in the public realm. Second, what I typed out isn't really what I said anyway. I put a lot of work into this sermon - from the research into the text to the words on the page and than rehearsing those words on the page. I think it's interesting that when I finally got up to give the sermon, the words on the page were barely used.

It's a very surreal thing to watch yourself on camera - 10 punds or not, I know I'm way too big, and I can't believe how may times I adjusted my hair or gestured with my hands. And I speak faster than most preachers I've heard. Part of that is probably the fact that I talk fast most of the time (NJ upbringing) but I'd like to be more understandable next time. I would also like to know where the hick accent came from - I swear I don't sound like that normally! :)

So now that I've done this sermon and I survived, what do I do now? I had to think about everything that was told to me that day I preached - the compliments and suggestions that this is something I might actually like and should make aregular part of my ministry. At one point I was mad that my teacher/D.S. would tell me that I should reconsider my call - easy for him to say since it's my livelihood on the line! But now I think I'm coming to terms with this. Okay, I preached better than I expected myself to, and better than I really wanted to. I didn't want to be good at it - and I don't know that it wasn't beginner's luck - but the fact is that it went well. This doesn't really change anything. I still do not see myself being a pastor - I don't have the patience or desire. My call hasn't changed. No matter what I end up doing, people will ask me to preach on occasion, and I would have run away screaming before, but now I know that I don't have to do that. I can preach - and that's fine. As long as I don't have to do it every Sunday to the same group of people. :)

I was amazed at how emotionally worn out it made me and I wonder if others have that same experience. When I got done, my legs were wobbly and tears came to my eyes. A big part of that was relief, yes, but there was something more.... I don't really know how to describe it. I just know that it took a lot more for me than it seems to take my peers who di it every week. Perhaps it gets easier with practice (God, I hope so) or perhaps I go about it in a different way, but at least I know I'm capable when the situation arises. One sermon down, one more to go to complete the class...