Dangers in the text.

Signpost for Sunday, July 30th, 2017: Gen 29: 15-28.  Ps 105: 1-11, 45b. Rom 8; 26-39.  Matt 13: 31-33, 44-52.

A couple of years ago, Marjorie and I inherited a few hundred books from her brother. I have been finding things in our library that I should have read years ago, and am catching up. The one I am on now is “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. It was filmed some time back and is now being issued as a TV series.

Laban asks what Jacob’s wages should be and he ends up married to the two sisters and gets a flock as a bonus. We have usually venerated Jacob as a Patriarch. But we know that Patriarchy is one of the greatest unresolved issues of our times. It is behind the oppression of women, and closely related to racism, colonialism and other oppressions.

We have also to remember that such passages as this from Genesis, and the Psalm which is its response today, are used to justify the last throes of European colonialism  –  Zionism. There was even a Hawke’s Bay Church that protested recently at New Zealand’s efforts in the UN to make Israel be fair to its Arab citizens!

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I was a Methodist from the age of eleven to twenty-five, so it is not surprising that my reaction to Romans 8; 29-30 is very Arminianist.  (I recently found that a nasty war took place in the Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century over this doctrine.)  Not even Karl Barth has reconciled me to the narrower Calvinism. So I have problems with those two verses. Verses 38 and 39 are the real heart of the matter.

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Then there are five parables and a comment. At least this selection avoids the tendency of the Gospel writers to make Parables into allegory. Jesus here is represented as part of the Rabbinic tradition of parable purveyors. We probably go too far if we claim that all the parables in the Gospels are original to Jesus, just as we would probably be wrong to attribute the allegories to him.

If I had to preach on these lections, I would centre on those two verses from Romans, but expand them with the Pearl of Great Price and the Net Full of Fish, symbol of all the nations of the world. The danger of the Romans text alone is to make our appreciation of the love of God self-centred.  “Us” cannot be restricted to  the in-group. The love of God is aimed at the whole world.




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