Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BSD Blogging: A Brief Intro to Corinth

This week our BSD groups begin studying Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth--which we learned in the lesson is the fourth known letter to these early Christians, with the first and third having been lost to us. We can better understand Paul's message if we put on those "three-dimensional" glasses to see what the city of Corinth and the church were like in Paul's day.

First of all, Corinth was really a new Roman city built on the ruins of the Greek city of Corinth which was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC and resettled  by decree of Julius Caesar in 446 BC. Situated on a narrow isthmus of land, Corinth had two seaports: one leading to Italy and one to Asia. The city was a major commercial center and, like most successful port cities, attracted a very diverse population.  

That population included many Jewish refugees from Rome, who had been expelled by order of the emperor in 49 AD. Among these Roman Jews were Priscilla and Aquila, leaders in the early church in Corinth. 

Paul's letter to the Christians in Corinth were read and shared by a number of house churches, not just one congregation. At this time the church was organized by households which in Roman culture (remember this is a Roman city and the Jews in Corinth were Roman Jews) which included more than the nuclear family. Slaves, freedmen, hired workers, tenants and skilled craftsmen were considered part of the household and were expected to follow the faith of the head of the household. They gathered for worship and a shared meal in private homes, not in synagogues or separate buildings. Some of these house churches were led by women who were independently wealthy either by inheritance or through their own business dealings.

Imagine Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians being read aloud in one of the early house churches and then being copied and passed along to the next Christian household! Many of those hearing his words were illiterate and could not have read it for themselves. We are going to spend the rest of our BSD study learning this letter that gives us a window into the early church in Corinth and Paul's sometimes strained but always loving relationship with it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BSD Blogging: Nehemiah's Tweets

What if Nehemiah had a Twitter account to tweet the events we are studying this week in chapters 11, 12 and 13? Might it look something like this....

Shout out to everyone moving into Jerusalem today! Bessings on you! #Benjamin #Judah 

Busy organizing wall dedication for tomorrow. Need more singers and harpists. @musiciansunion

Where are the supplies for sacrifices?Need offerings before nightfall brought to the temple.#priests

What a wonderful day at the dedication! Thanks to the Levites, priests, temple servants for a job well done. #praisetoYWHW

My work is done here. The King has recalled me to the capital. People, keep your covenant!
#priests #levites

On the road again back to Persia. Looking forward to reunion with friends and some great food! #nooasisinsight #arewethereyet

What's up, Jerusalem? Back in Persia and miss you all.  #emailme #friendme

Haven't heard from you Jews for several years. Keeping the covenant? #letmeknow

God calls me back to Jerusalem and the King agrees. See y'all soon! #hatedeserttravel #saddlesores

OH NO!!! #fail #EPICFAIL #covenantbreakers

@Eliashib: What the blazes are you doing? #covenantbreaker #YWHWisnotmocked

@Tobiah: Get Lost! #andyourstufftoo #anddon'tcomeback

Jerusalem's gates  now closed on the Sabbath from sundown to sunrise effective immediately--no more trading on the Sabbath. #covenantbreakers #cutitout #YWHWsaidso

Not apologizing for losing my temper with those of you who married foreign women.#covenant breakers #getawig

Grateful for Shelemiah, Zadok, Pedaiah and Hanan's honest oversight of future distributions to the Levites. #YWHWwillblessyou #standfirm

Duty calls me back to the King. Remember me with favor, O my God, for my faithful work in Jerusalem. #earnestprayers 

Monday, November 12, 2012

BSD Blogging: Link to Lecture on Lesson 8

I'm tardy posting the link to my lecture last Thursday on Lesson 8 which covers chapters 9 and 10 of Nehemiah. Sorry about that!

Chapter 9 is Ezra's penitential prayer on behalf of the people and chapter 10 is the renewal of the covenant between the people and God.

This week our lesson wraps up this study of Nehemiah, and the following week we begin the study of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. If you've been wanting to join us, this would be the perfect time to do it! 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

BSD Blogging: Some Sabbath Books

I'm doing the lecture this week on chapters 9 and 10 of Nehemiah and while preparing the lecture I got to thinking about Sabbath and Sabbath-keeping--or the lack of it--today.

Since that train of thought really didn't belong in the lecture, given the constraints of time, I'm going to share a couple of books on the subject that I have found worthwhile.

The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time by Judith Shulevitz is written by a Jewish author, but she has an understanding of the place of the Sabbath in the New Testament as well. This book is interesting because Shulevitz is attentive both to the spiritual and the psychological aspects of Sabbath-keeping. I wrote a full review of the book here if you would like more information. I notice it is no longer available on amazon.com, but can be found from other sellers.

The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill includes some interesting passages about the concept of Sabbath as well as a fascinating discussion of the importance of the religious concepts of the Jews for western civilization.

Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time by MaryAnn McKibben Dana will be of particular interest to parents of young children who are wondering how to incorporate the principles of Sabbath into modern suburban life. The author is a Presbyterian minister whose family committed to practice the Sabbath for a year and documented the experience. She also provides suggestions for families who are looking for ways to incorporate some aspects of Sabbath into their lives.

Happy reading!