Showing posts from November, 2012

Stand By Me

We are familiar with terminology that portrays God as a rock, a fortress and a refuge. This imagery is found throughout the Psalms; good examples reside in Psalms 18 and 71.

But if we examine the Hebrew more closely in these passages we discover a remarkable word -- "crag" -- not present in the most common translations including the NRSV, RSV and NIV. At the beginning of Psalm 18 the psalmist sings fervently, "I love you, O Lord my strength, O Lord my stronghold, my crag, and my haven." And in Psalm 71:3 the psalmist begs God to "Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold."
The fact that the Hebrew word for "stronghold" in these passages also implies the "home of an eagle" leads us closer to better understanding the intention of "crag" (a sharp outcropping of rock) as used here. God is not just an unshakable foundation on which we build our faith (rock), or a wall of steel that protects us…

Alms from within

There's hardly one thing congregations want to hear about less than stewardship, the term used to refer to the giving of individual church members or families. Hearts shrink when the inevitable stewardship sermon series roll around or whenever "temple talks" intrude on the order or service. Few of us whose giving habits languish can be transformed by the imposition of guilt or even by hearing about those whose lives were changed by the church. 
As we approach Thanksgiving, it is a good time to step outside of the Revised Common Lectionary and plunge deep into Luke 11, where--starting in verse 37--we encounter Jesus as his saltiest. 
The Son of Man has just accepted a dinner invitation from a Pharisee. The host innocently wonders why his guest has failed to wash his hands before eating. He is doubtless taken aback by the barrage that ensues. Repeatedly pronouncing woe on the Pharisees and lawyers as well (after a lawyer dares to interrupt him), Jesus berates them for foc…


The Rockaway boardwalk, October 31, 2012
"Woe is me! For I have become  like one who, after the summer fruit has been gathered, after the vintage has been gleaned,  finds no cluster to eat;  there is no first-ripe fig for which I hunger. The faithful have disappeared from the land,  and there is no one left who is upright...."                                               (Micah 7:1-2)
Such desolation of spirit doubtless only hints at what so many people in the Northeast are experiencing in the wake of the massive October 29 storm with its powerful surge. This force of nature not only devastated the flowing garland of towns that adorn the storied New Jersey shore, as well with boroughs of New York and other areas of New Jersey which faced the ocean, but it also plunged millions into darkness and hardship that may last for another week or more. Even after power is restored, many will suffer severe long-term physical and financial consequences. 
What was it like for those affected? In…