Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lecture 3: Murder, Flood and Dispersion

Lecture 3: Murder, Flood and Dispersion

What are today’s equivalents for “sacrifice” – a practice in antiquity as common as we find watching television?
My first thought is that today’s “sacrifice” is offering – bringing gifts to God as an act of worship.  I would add to that the practice of sacrifice during Lent – giving up something in order to grow closer to God.  Could that be extended to practices such as fasting?   Could “sacrifice” be defined as an outward ritual to indicate an inward devotion?  Then perhaps communion could be used as an example – a ritual remembering of Christ’s sacrifice and an outward movement of devotion to indicate a internal communion with God.
 Is Noah a hero?  Is his story comforting or threatening?  Why would ancient Israel so describe its flood story’s protagonist and its God?
Heroes in the Bible are rarely perfect.  Noah is considered a hero – someone God calls to move forward the work of God’s kingdom.  The story is really not comforting.  It is a story of a society so separated from God in sin that God decides to destroy it.  He saves one person and his family – maybe only so that Noah can provide care for the rest of creation?  I hope that is not the case.  We do receive a promise that God will not destroy creation with a flood again, but it’s a promise with a rider – only by flood.  And there is nothing in the story that says God’s creatures, humans, have improved any.  God doesn’t stay his hand of flood destruction because we have done better, only because he has promised not to respond to sin in the same way again. 
Ancient Israel would have nothing to tell if it avoided telling about non-perfect people.  I think the story portrays the society’s (far from perfect) understanding of God and its real understanding of sin.
Why does Israel detail, at the beginning of its sacred history, God’s disappointments and humanity’s continual failures?
The answer to this one is much the same as the answer to the last question.  What would the stories be about if not humanity’s continual failures.  We continually fail.  Anything else would be disingenuous.  We continually disappoint God.  We need stories to demonstrate to us God’s response to our failure, because that is where we are.  And that’s why this story isn’t very comforting.  We don’t like this response.

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