Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
"Studying Leviticus in Sudan" by Ellen F. Davis
...“So,” I said, “you tell me how animal sacrifice has been practiced in your tribe, and what it means to your people.” Many hands flew into the air for the first time; for the rest of that day and on into the next we heard accounts, as detailed as those in Leviticus, of sacrificial practices among the Dinka, Moru, Shilluk, Zande, and Nuer. In some cases these were based on first-hand experience; many Southern Sudanese Christians grew up in families and villages that practiced African traditional religions. In other cases the students were recounting rituals they themselves had never witnessed. The Moru, for instance, have been Christians for a century, yet Mama Ludia, a diminutive priest with wrinkled face and sparkling eyes, could speak at length about the sacrificial practices of her ancestors. This, I realized, is the power of the oral tradition in a culture that has treasured it over centuries, maybe millennia.
...But does this experience of studying Leviticus in Sudan have any significance beyond the interest and edification of those of us in the room? To put the question boldly: Does the 21st-century church stand to gain anything from it? Perhaps. For it challenges the assumption long established and widespread in the Western church that it is our task to teach Africans how to read the Bible with understanding and critical insight. When British missionaries began translating the Old Testament into tribal languages, they omitted Leviticus altogether—fearing that the new converts would find too much similarity between African traditional religion and biblical faith! Yet ironically, the Western church itself has produced little theological insight into that book. So I suggested at the end of our week of study that maybe it is time for Christians in Sudan to write a commentary on Leviticus, and on other books—Isaiah, Psalms—that have guided and sustained their faith through much suffering. It is time for us to begin reading the Bible through Sudanese eyes.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Trinity Sunday 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Interpreting Zechariah Through Art
Monday, May 05, 2008
My New Introduction to 2 Isaiah
Saturday, May 03, 2008
My Homily on Ecclesiastes 3
Stephen L. Cook
Friday May 2, 2008, 6pm
“To everything (turn, turn, turn) / There is a season (turn, turn, turn) /And a time for every purpose, under heaven.” At first glance our text is encouraging. It is heartening to hear of a fitting order to things and to hear a witness that one may seize a propitious moment and get something meaningful accomplished. One might be tempted to preach an activist homily based on this text, one commissioning you all to go forth and change history. Perhaps I should sing to you that “I swear it’s not too late!” But not so fast…
If you would rightly estimate the situation of Saul and the reward and honour which are due to him, you must see it all in its Old Testament setting. We are biased in this matter of reward by our over-developed individualism in its dangerous weakness. We expect all reward to come to us personally in our own life-time, and we are apt to complain unduly if it does not come, so that we can savour it to the full. The Old Testament with its strong sense of the individual as but the creature of a day, who yet contributes his own act to the corporate body out of which he has come, who passes himself but who leaves his world richer by what he has sought to do for it, has a juster sense of what constitutes a due reward.
We are driven by the utility of the world and the importance of results. What counts is what may be seen, achievement, victory, whether it be over hunger or a political foe or what have you. What matters is that it be useful. … To want to attain results is necessarily not to be a witness to the free gift of God. If we are ready to be unworthy or unprofitable servants (although busy and active at the same time), then our works can truly redound to the glory of him who freely loved us first. God loved us because he is love and not to get results.
Beauty is for the beholder lifesaving or life-restoring—a visionary fragment of sturdy ground…. One’s daily unmindfulness of the aliveness of others is temporarily interrupted in the presence of a beautiful person, alerting us to the requirements placed on us by the aliveness of all persons, and the same may take place in the presence of a beautiful bird, mammal, fish, plant…. Beauty seems to place requirements on us for attending to the aliveness or (in the case of objects) quasi-aliveness of our world, and for entering into its protection.
I believe that we ought to love and trust God in our lives, and in all the good things that he sends us…. To put it plainly, for a man in his wife’s arms to be hankering after the other world is, in mild terms, a piece of bad taste, and not God’s will. We ought to find and love God in what he actually gives us.
My thoughts and feelings seem to be getting more and more like those of the Old Testament, and in recent months I have been reading the Old Testament much more than the New…. It is only when one loves life and the earth so much that without them everything seems to be over that one may believe in the resurrection.