When the seventh month arrived – the people having settled in their own villages – they assembled in Jerusalem as one body. Then Jeshua begot of Jozadak, together with the other priests, and Zerubbabel begot of Shealtiel, together with his family, began the building of the altar of the God of Israel so that they might make burnt offerings as was stipulated in the law of Moses, the godly one. They built the altar first, for they lived in fear of the peoples who lived around them…
LGBT Altar by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin @ http://ohlson.se/. Full story @ http://jesusinlove.blogspot.com/
Fear is a powerful motivator. The cruelty that we enact due to fear is limitless. We slander, we provoke, we rationalize, we even kill. In the spiritual realm fear casts just as strong a shadow. Take for example the bullying behavior of those who fear the Sacred. As opposed to the behavior of those who love the Sacred.
In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and AnimalsCharles Darwin reminds us that fear is preceded by astonishment. Hence, in the world of ancient Israel “fear” or astonishment about God is the beginning of wisdom. In this passage of scripture though, fear is the sense of danger that we live with when we know that others do not like us. Fear is what we feel when we know others want us gone from their neighborhoods, and will seek our harm to get rid us.
My sisters and brothers, if you should wander from the truth and another should bring you back, remember that whoever turns sinners from the error of their ways saves them from death and cancels a multitude of sins.
James is a tough book to read. It enjoys its present position toward the end of the Greek Scriptures due to the great reformer Martin Luther who considered it a “right strawy epistle.” Although in Luther’s defense, it appears he missed the major emphasis of this book: faith formation as the key element in communal living.
I can also commensurate with James – it takes hard, hard work to build the beautiful community. That is the community where justice and righteousness or harmony and balance mark all relationships.
James (in theory the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem) is interested in the question of power. Particularly the question of how power plays out in a community of equality. James exhorts us to be stringent in the disciplines of the faith. These disciplines call on us to relinquish our hold on control, turn to those in need, and let go of carefully crafted priorities so they may be replaced by priorities of the crucified and resurrected One.
-full reflection at The Bible in Drag
“When you see the young women of Shiloh dancing in the vineyard,” they were advised, “each of you should seize one of them for a spouse, and come back to the land of Benjamin…”
So this is what the Benjaminites did. They carried off as many young women as they needed by abducting them from the vineyard during their dance.
Judges 21:21, 23
The book of Judges is replete with female characters. While some play minor parts, others are major figures who contribute in significant ways to the progression of Israelite history. The whole of Judges begins and ends with the place of women in society. Achsah, at the beginning demands her inheritance, land where she can make a home for herself. At the end un-named “young women” (13, 14, 15 year olds) are kidnapped from their land and homes.
Females in the book of Judges provide a barometer for the health of the community. As the narrative of Judges unfolds society spins out of control: injustices increase, chaotic confusion envelops the community, and the abuse of women escalates. Just a few versus from the ones sighted the book concludes with “all the people acted as they pleased” (21:25).
Ancient wisdom speaks truth here: if you want to know the health of a society look toward those who are most vulnerable. If you want to measure the wealth of a community take notice of how it supports those deemed “lesser citizens.”
How long, Adonai, am I to cry for help
while you do not listen?
How long will I cry “Oppression!” in your ear
and you do not save?
Life in the “meantime” is difficult. Habakkuk is experiencing his meantime between God’s generous offer of a promise and the fruition of that promise. We know how this feels. Many of us experience the promise of equality while still living in the not-yet of the politically expedient.
Like Habakkuk, we mourn the prayers that go unanswered. Like Habakkuk, we feel that our yearning for communities of understanding is distorted. How long shall we cry for help? Will the Sacred, which professes to honor empathy and personhood, hear our cries?
There are times when God seems so far away that I wonder if I have fooled myself. For Habakkuk and us, our frustration is born out of our experience that this is the same God who breathed life into creation, the same God who split the sea, the same God who entered into covenant, and the same God who raises the dead. Why does this God tarry and turn a blind eye? Why doesn’t this God rouse the divine self and attend once again to the cries of those in need? Why have we only heard of the wonders of God and not experienced them in our time?
This is the tension of the “meantime.” I long and hope and wait for a timing that is known to the Sacred yet is hidden to me. Feeling blocked out I am frustrated. Far more exhilarating is the time of receiving a promise, or the time of seeing it fulfilled. Much harder is living in the meantime. Where is that threshold at which “meantime” becomes “mean (or vicious) time?”