Archive for October, 2012

All Saints and All Souls

// October 25th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Sometimes in Texas it is hard to know when autumn begins.  Even though stores are pulling out merchandise for Halloween and Thanksgiving and even Christmas, the landscape is telling a different story.  But soon the leaves will turn from green to red to brown and then the trees will enter their tombs for a few months.  Every year, nature speaks to us of death and rebirth, death and rebirth.  By Sunday the weather should turn a bit, sunny but crisp, the first chilling touch of autumn.  And so we gather to celebrate and grieve with All Saints and All Souls.

These are technically distinct days, but I’m Baptist, so I don’t know any better.  All Saints is the day we commemorate saints and All Souls is the day we pray for the dead.  These are not unrelated.  These holy days originated under the Catholic understanding of purgatory and heaven.  The saints are those who found union with God during their lifetimes and so got to skip Purgatory.  Everyone else, though having been cleansed of sin, must pay for their sins.  We honor the saints in the hope that they will intercede and pass on their excess merit to those who wait in purgatory.  We pray for the dead so that they can be forgiven their sins.  Obviously, there is a whole lot of theology there that most of us don’t affirm,

But I also think there is a lot to hold onto.  Everyone, at some point in our lives, catches a glimpse of the divine.  When we do, we must respond and we can respond in a way that reveals it to others.  Everyone also is driven by fears, doubts, desires, and delusions.  This is sin.  To the extent that we pass those on to others, we increase sin in the world.  When a person dies, all of that is left behind.  We have blessed some and cursed others.  Commemoration of the dead, whether in funerals or on a holy day, is a way of dealing with some of what is left behind.

This Sunday, we will honor those who have passed.  Bring pictures.  Or flowers.  Or a poem.  Something to remember the dead.  It can be someone personal, someone from your family or a friend.  Or it can be someone who has made a difference in your life, though you never met.  Honor someone whose words or deeds became a miracle in your life, whether it was a dear aunt, a musician you’d like to canonize, or St. Francis of Assisi.  Or let go of some pain.  Clear the way for the beatific vision, to catch a glimpse of the divine.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we honor the dead.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

Bread for the World Sunday Recap

On Sunday, we raised $172 for Bread for the World and wrote letters to encourage our representatives to support programs for the poor and hungry.  Thanks to all who participated and gave!

Bread for the World Sunday (Program and Homily)

// October 23rd, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Program

Homily

If it’s alright with you, I’m going to preach a little today.  There’s a lot on the program today, so I just wanted to share some things I have on my mind, things that came up while working on this service.  I’d also like, instead of having the immediate feedback of a conversation, to have folks go home and think about it, meditate on it a bit, and continue the conversation over the next few weeks or months.  Let’s call it an “introvert defensive move.”

This week I asked you to fast.  Did anybody do that?  As I wrote this, I guessed that most did not.  I’m guessing most lead lives where fasting is, at best, inconvenient if not downright impossible.  If you did, you probably found it difficult.  I missed a couple of meals, but it was easier for me.  I didn’t have class this week, so I reverted to my normal, unhealthy sleeping schedule.  And my normal breakfast is small, just some juice and a cereal bar.  When you sleep through half the day and then eat only slightly less than you normally would, it’s not a big deal.  I claim no particular merit.  But, much worse, I didn’t think about it.  I spent no time contemplating what I was doing or reflecting on the plight of the poor and hungry of the world.  In the end, what I couldn’t give up was not food, but time and attention.

We’ve talked about Sophia here a lot, though probably never enough.  Sophia, for those who don’t know is the embodiment of God’s wisdom, the feminine divine, the ordering principle of the world.  In Proverbs chapter 1, Sophia stands on a street corner shouting at passersby.  I’ve looked at that part of the book a lot.  It’s fun.  She’s bold and insulting.  She calls everyone idiots.  But I’ve never really looked closely at the end of that chapter.  There, she promises the people that, if they will listen, they will have a life of ease. Proverbs 1:32-33: “For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

What Sophia wants for us is the good life.  The good life is not a life of idleness, a life of accepting the way the world is.  It’s active.  It’s focused.  It’s focused on God and God’s way.  The good life is life in God and God’s justice.  The good life is secure, free from worry.  The good life is peaceful.  The good life does not include the threat of destruction.  I want to think about these things on three levels: the personal, in the church, and in politics.

First, the personal.  I don’t get the feeling that many of us are at ease.  We’re all busy.  Some are busy trying to survive.  Just going to work and having a family is enough.  And some are going to school or volunteering through other organizations.  Some are overwhelmed by new jobs, old jobs, changing relationships, finding a safe, stable place to live.  When people aren’t busy, they’re trying to forget about all the stuff that makes them busy.  They want a break.  They want some fun.  They want a drink.  They want a nap.  Is this the good life?  Is this life in God?  Struggling to survive and then struggling to forget?

I don’t know if I have the solution to this.  Clearly, I don’t.  But I can offer a way of thinking about it, a way to be mindful of how we spend our time and attention.  See, fasting is not about food.  It’s about becoming conscious of a basic drive and how we fulfill it.  I’d like to suggest that we fast with our time and attention.  Try this week to ask a few questions.  Where is this activity coming from?  Who am I when I’m doing it?  And where does it take me?  I’m not asking you to change anything, but just to ask these questions.  Commit a little time and attention to your time and attention.

Second, the church.  It’s hard to get people in this church together in any organized way.  We spend a lot of time together, for many of us a couple times a week.  That time is precious to me and I think to others.  But then, when we ask for more, when we ask for service or study, it seems to cross a line beyond which the demand is too much.  This is not a judgment, but concern.  My fear is that I’m just adding to the problem.  My first semester at school, every professor in every single class started by exhorting us to some variation of “go slow and pay attention.”  Then they each assigned a hundred pages of reading.  I don’t want to do that.  Some, by personality, will keep taking on more.  Some, by personality, will disappear.  We risk burning people out and driving people away.  I don’t want that.  If you can’t find the good life, life in God, the life of ease that God promises is God’s way, in the church, where can we find it?

Again, I don’t have the solution, but I want us to become mindful of the problem.  As a church, how can we make each other’s lives easier instead of harder?  What models exist in our tradition?  As a church, we are supposed to take care of each other, support one another.  Acts 2:44 tells us that “All who believed were together and had all things in common.”  Some of the greatest advances in culture and science in the West came out of monastic communities where people kept a rule of life, simple lives held in common.  Or consider the Beguines.  The Beguines were women who had no dowry and, so, little prospects for marriage.  They banded together in communities, shared housing, worked, saved, and focused on God.  Sometimes they were able to save enough for their own dowries and moved on to marriage and family.  But sometimes they found that they liked the life they had, working for their own money, sharing it with people they cared about, studying and meditating and working for justice.  They had found the good life and wanted nothing else.  Maybe Sophia is on to something.

Finally, government.  In a few minutes, we are going to write letters to Congress asking them to support programs for the hungry and the less fortunate.  Take a moment to think about how these programs impact the lives that people actually live, how they might move someone toward the good life.  When I worked in an office, I was usually there late.  I got to know the cleaning people a little bit.  One woman told me that this was one of three part-time jobs she held down.  Her oldest kid, 21, was unemployed and getting in trouble with the law.  Her 16-year-old was struggling in school.  She couldn’t go to the parent-teacher conference because she couldn’t afford to take off work.  Even if she could, she would probably be fired if she missed a shift.  There’s always someone else to take her place.  She struggled.  To put food on the table, to keep a roof over her head, and to try to give her kids a chance at something better.  The schools were underfunded, the teachers overworked, and if something went wrong, there was no net to catch her and her family.  Is that the good life?  Is that life in God?  A lot of activity – she wasn’t lazy by any stretch; she worked a lot harder than I did – but not much came of it.  There was no security, no peace, and disaster loomed every moment of every day.  How do you find God in that, even expect the possibility of God in the middle of that?  Where can her time and attention go?

Now, imagine a world in which her children were guaranteed to have something to eat, guaranteed to have a roof over their heads, guaranteed to have healthcare.  How would she be spending her time?  How would they grow up?  Instead of watching their mother struggle in futility, maybe they see her finish her education, fulfill her dreams, and maybe they think they can have dreams, too.  In a democracy, we get to make choices about the lives we create for the people in our world.  We don’t just have to imagine what if.  Remember that when you vote and remember that as you ask your representatives to care for the poor and the hungry in our community.

The essence of worship, of study, and of relationship is time and attention.  Where is yours?  Where is ours as a church?  Where is ours as a nation?  What kind of world are we building in our personal lives, in our spiritual lives, and in our lives as citizens that allows our time and attention to be spent on the things of God, that allows life in God to flourish?  Isaiah tells us that life in God is a life of justice.  Let’s begin to think about how we can structure our lives together so that we might share our bread with the hungry, house the homeless, and clothe the naked so that our light breaks forth like the dawn.  That is the good life.

Empty Bellies, Open Hearts

// October 17th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

This Sunday, we celebrate Bread for the World Sunday. According to their website, “Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.” They lobby politicians to do the right thing, to live into the faith that the overwhelming majority claim as their own. To do so, they leverage a lot of facts and figures about the need for and the success of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. I encourage you to look at those sobering facts. But more than that, this week I encourage you to live in solidarity with the hungry by fasting.

Try missing a meal. Or a day of meals. Allow yourself to feel what the hungry of the world feel. I can’t say it will be fun, but millions of people do it every day. Only they do it without choice, without the luxury of knowing they can end it at any time. You may think that person sits in Africa, suffering from drought and war – and certainly that is true – but that person also lives on your block and works in your building and sits next to your kid at school.

I understand that the demands of your life may be such that you can’t fast. Don’t worry. I have an alternative. Set aside some time to pray for those who hunger. Spend an hour or five minutes – whatever you have – meditating on hunger, praying for relief, being transformed into the sort of person that sees the problems of the poor and seeks to bring them good news.

Whether you are able to fast or not, please join us on Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center. We will be taking up a collection for Bread for the World, perhaps the money you saved fasting or a “matching program” for the money you spent on food. And we will do a letter offering, writing to policy-makers to encourage them to support programs to alleviate hunger. Hope to see you there!

Grace and Peace,
Scott

How to Read the Bible (Program and Sermon)

// October 16th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Program

Sermon Outline (loosely followed)

I.        Introduction

a.       Review

1.      Literal

2.      Allegorical

3.      Moral

4.      Anagogical

b.      Read out loud

1.      Jonah

2.      God

3.      Captain

4.      Sailors

5.      Narrator

6.      Newsreader for the King of Ninevah

II.     Literal

a.       What does it say?

b.      What doesn’t it say?

c.       What voices are left out?

d.      Who wins and loses?

e.       Is it true?

III.   Allegorical

a.       What does this tell us about Christ?

b.      What patterns do you see?

c.       How does this connect to your own life?

IV.  Moral

a.       What should you do?

b.      What happens if you do or don’t?

c.       Can this guidance be trusted?

d.      Are there alternatives?

V.     Anagogical

a.       What does this say about the End?

b.      How are we to live now in light of that end?

c.       What does this say about destiny and fate?

d.      Ignatian Method and discussion.

Biblical Authority as Subjective Encounter

// October 16th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

For my family and sexuality in the Bible class, I was asked to reflect on how I viewed biblical authority.  In the spirit of laying my cards on the table and to cap the How to Read the Bible series, I thought I might post it.  Sorry it’s so long.  — Scott

——————————————-

Certainly, my current understanding of the authority of Scripture is shaped in reaction to my upbringing in a fundamentalist church.  Scripture was thought to be inerrant and God-breathed.  Further, the Bible was thought be a monolithic text with a clear narrative arc and consistent theological view.  Most importantly, the Bible was the center of our faith.  In spite of the problems I saw, I was assured and comforted that it all really made sense if I could just see how, if I could just read it with the Holy Spirit.  College ended that.  Not only did the factual problems I had noticed gain credibility from real scholars, but I started to see how my worldview centered on Scripture actually excluded and harmed a lot of people.  In trying to find a church to attend during college, I discovered that my questions were unwelcome.  I gave up on the whole thing – not just church, but Christianity as a whole.  The journey back lasted twenty years and travelled through the writing of Elaine Pagels and Marcus Borg.  I discovered that I still loved the Bible after all that time and those authors gave me a glimpse of other possibilities, other ways to read that revealed the God that I never stopped seeking.  They set me on the path back to church and on to seminary where my views on the Bible have coalesced.  Today, I view the Bible as a valuable dialog partner with whom I engage in mutual self-revelation to be transformed toward the presence of God.

In order to get to an understanding of the Bible as a dialog partner, we must first understand the Bible as symbolic.  I do not mean “merely” symbolic, but a very specific and rich definition of symbol drawn from Ricoeur and masterfully articulated by Sandra M. Schneiders.  She defines a symbol as “a sensible reality which renders present to and involves a person subjectively in a transforming experience of transcendent mystery.”[1]  According to this view, a symbol mediates between sensible, embodied reality and the transcendent.  It does so by rendering that mystery present, but only as an instantiation of a relationship between subjects.  Thus, the Bible, when engaged subjectively, can be the very presence of God as a subject.

The Bible as subject opens itself, reveals itself, bares itself.  It is the precise opposite of the Bible as an object of study.  Objects are necessarily bounded.  They can be examined, measured, explained, and quantified, but they never speak.  They provide information, but not revelation.  This information can be useful, but it does not matter in an ultimate sense.  One’s being is not at risk when experiencing an object.  But a subject opens onto the vast mystery of the Other.  One risks destruction in the presence of the Divine, but finds truth.  The possible points of connection between two subjects are almost limitless.  As Schneiders points out, a symbol does not merely point to a single reality in a one-to-one correspondence, but to a multiplicity of interpretive possibilities.[2]  She goes further, saying that this plethora of possibilities necessarily keeps the encounter open-ended.[3]  The Bible does not provide information, a narrow meaning to be grasped and held.  It is an ongoing encounter of revelation.  It can never be closed down.  If it can be entirely accounted for, it bears no relation to the Divine.  The Divine does not simply deliver answers to waiting, receptive minds.

No, an encounter with the Divine is a dialog.  God confronts a person, calls out, and awaits a response.  Similarly, we call out constantly for God and await a response.  Intrinsic to true dialog is openness to the other.  The Bible, as encounter with the Divine, speaks to me and I speak to the Bible.  We may view each other skeptically because there is something at risk.  We must take care of each other in this vulnerable space.  Someone could get hurt. But if we give ourselves to the encounter, we are both revealed.  We both become who we truly are.

Thus, reading the Bible is an ongoing process of mutual self-revelation.  A great deal of the dialog is discovering the difference between the embodied and the transcendent.  This is not to break down the symbol into some hypothetical “essential” reality.  Nor is it to reject that which is temporal and finite.  No, it is to understand it as a whole, to be open to all that it is, in all its truth and beauty and brokenness.  I want to know the collective fears and hopes that produced the text.  I want to live in them because I already do.  The Bible asks me right back: What do you hope for?  What do you fear?  Who do you love?  Who do you turn away from?  Who do you destroy?  As an object, an artifact of centuries of human effort, we can study these things, learn these things, but as a subject we can encounter the Divine, we can know our fears, our sin, and be transformed.  This, for me, is the ethical authority of the Bible.

This authority cannot be regarded so trivially as an object.  It must be interrogated, viewed critically, asked to understand itself.  When the Bible understands God to destroy every living thing in a worldwide flood, what anguish and despair and frustration is revealed?  What is hoped for?  Most importantly, are these things mine?  When the Bible speaks of the gendering of humanity, whose interests are furthered?  Probably mine.  Who is harmed?  Probably someone I care about.  Probably someone who calls out in anguish and despair and frustration.  When I encounter that person, my ethical obligation is to make present the God who rebukes evil to bring forth life.

Because this is not an objective process, it is not easy.  Growing up, I was told that the Bible had all the answers.  Now, I think it has a lot of really great questions.  Maybe it has a few really big, really important answers that help us work on the rest.  But, ultimately, the essence of ethics is making decisions as a real, embodied being.  No one has ever been precisely where I am right now.  No one has ever had the collection of experiences I have.  But if I open myself up to the address of the other, we can render God present.  We can find that space between that is both and neither and so much more.  That is the space in which we can be transformed into people equipped for every good work.  Rather than considering our options, weighing the costs and benefits, appealing to an abstract principle of the good, we can simply spend time with one another in God and act with love, justice, and compassion.  That is the Scripture that is written out in our lives.  That is the authority.  That is God’s presence.

The Bible then, is one of the ways we might render God present, to engage in an encounter of ongoing, mutual self-revelation and transformation toward the Good.  I no longer see it as a guidebook, filled with answers about how to live my life today.  Instead, I understand it as a symbol that I must approach as a subject.  We give ourselves to each other and see who we truly are.  We share our fears and our hopes and meet God.  In so doing, we are transformed.



[1] Sandra M. Schneiders, Written That You May Believe: Encountering Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 2003), 66.

[2] Schneiders, 67.

[3] Schneiders, 67.

Coming Out

// October 11th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Thursday was National Coming Out Day.  I’m reading through Facebook comments of friends from high school to whose pain I was oblivious.  I regret that I was not then the person I am sometimes able to be today, an advocate and ally.  I am certain that through my frequent silence, constant blindness, and occasional word and deed, I hurt people.  I am deeply sorry.

To my LGBTQ friends who are still in the closet to whatever degree – it’s never just coming out once; it’s minute-by-minute decisions about what to reveal to who – I say that we support you on whatever time table you need.  We pray for your well being.  We pray that you might surround yourself with people who love you for who you really are.  We pray that you find peace.  To those who are out, I say congratulations and thank you.

I say thank you because your lives are vivid examples of the journey of faith.  We all envelop ourselves in defenses, trying to protect who we really are, who we were made to be.  The expectations of others are a weight that we all carry.  Our fears, our doubts, our desires, all distract us from the divine within, distract us from the certain knowledge that we are all children of God, all carry the image of God, and are all loved without question and without ceasing.  We all have to come out: out from behind the walls, out from behind our egos, away from the grasping for control, to the primal faith in who we really are.  I don’t say this to minimize the particular challenges that face LGBTQ folk in this world, but to celebrate their lives as beacons of hope.  If a 16-year-old can come out as gay, even to one or two people, at Kingwood High School in the 1980s, maybe I can have a little bit more courage to heal a broken world.  God is the original It Gets Better Project.  The experiences of my LGBTQ friends tell me that God’s dreams can come true if some of us stand up, be ourselves, and make a better world.

The first faith is faith in who we were made to be.  Know yourself.  Know God.  Be PROUD.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

How to Read the Bible: The Reading

// October 11th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

And finally we get to try out our new toys.  We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about the classic understanding of the four senses of Scripture: literal, allegorical, moral, and anagogical.  We have explored the promise and the peril of each and looked at some new reading strategies that might open up the text, find the life that beckons from within.  This week, we will try out those reading strategies.

We’re going to focus on the book of Jonah.  I’m choosing this for a few reasons.  First, it is familiar enough that people know it, but maybe so familiar that we have smoothed over some details.  So there may be some surprises.  Second, it is short.  We will read the whole thing on Sunday.  Third, it was a very important text for early Christians.  I think we now regard it as a children’s story, though we simplify it, similar to the way we treat the story of Noah’s Ark.  It will be good to rediscover it.  And, finally, it is ripe for the reading in all four senses as well as many of the alternative reading strategies we have discussed.  There are questions of literal truth, moral guidance, and allegories abound to tell us about God, about ourselves, and what we might hope for.

I don’t often give you advance notice what we’ll be looking at, so I hope you’ll take this rare opportunity to read ahead.  Also, please bring your Bibles.  Lots of versions would be great.  (Fair warning: we will be reading the NRSV rather than the Inclusive precisely because it does not try to smooth out problems.)  If you have commentaries or Bible dictionaries, consult them.  Bring them.  Whatever you think might help our reading.  But most of all bring yourself – completely.

Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center as we read an ancient story with post-modern eyes.  Come early for snacks and coffee.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

How to Read the Bible: The Anagogical (Program and Sermon)

// October 11th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Program

Sermon Outline

I.        Review

a.       Literal

b.      Allegorical

c.       Moral

d.      Anagogical

II.     Classical

a.       Anagogical

b.      Destiny

c.       Prophecy

III.   Modern

a.       Dispensationalism

b.      Process theology

c.       Speaking prophetically

IV.  Post-modern

Finally, we come to the anagogical sense, which interprets the things related in Holy Scripture “as they signify what relates to eternal glory.” This meaning is not restricted to the state of glory in Heaven, but also pertains to the contemplative participation in the heavenly realities here and now. (Brother Andre Marie)

a.       Intertextuality

b.      Reader-response

c.       Lectio Divina

1.      Read

Read slowly, multiple times, shifting focus each time

2.      Meditate

If a particular word or phrase stood out, focus on that word, repeated over and over to enter into the word

3.      Pray

Talk to God

4.      Contemplate

Silently listen for God

d.      Ignatian Method

1.      Center yourself

2.      Read the passage twice

3.      Reconstruct the scene

4.      Place yourself in the scene

5.      Converse with God

e.       Bibliodrama

How to Read the Bible: The Anagogical (Bonus: More Culture!)

// October 4th, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

I had to look that word up.  Being in seminary, words like “hermeneutics,” “exegetical,” and “soteriology” creep into your vocabulary to the point that friends and relatives are certain you are making stuff up, but I have never heard “anagogical.”  It is the final of the four senses of Scripture in the classical model.  It indicates a layer of meaning in the text that points to the End Times.

The End has always fascinated humankind, but it seems especially amped up today.  The Mayan calendar, the Left Behind series, the predictions of Harold Camping – people want to know when it’s going to happen and how it’s going to go down.  Early Christians, including Paul, were certain that Jesus would return in their lifetimes and finally set things right, finish the job he started.  We’ve been waiting ever since.  The one thing every prediction has in common is that it is ultimately wrong.

So you might think me skeptical of this layer of meaning.  I’m not.  I think it is the most important thing about the Bible, the “best” way to read it.  When people speak of the End, they are always talking about who we are now and who we hope to be.  It is our deepest longing made tangible.  When we dare to hope for it with courage and tenacity, we become a little more like that end, we become the sort of people that can make it real.

At one point in history, a world without slavery was unthinkable. But as slaves learned the story of liberation and deliverance found in Exodus, they saw themselves.  They repeated that story over and over.  It found its way into their speeches and their prayers.  In their most difficult hours, they were given courage and comfort by those words.  They stood up to their oppressors and claimed their essential dignity, their right to freedom.  And slavery is no more.  This is what “anagogical” means: reading to become the End we wish to see.

Join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we talk about what ends we hope for and how we might read Scripture to make them real.

Grace and Peace,
Scott

An Iliad

I haven’t had a chance to see this yet – I have my tickets for Saturday! – but our own Paul Semrad is in the Undermain Theatre’s current production of An Iliad, a poetic and musical meditation on war.  It’s getting some excellent reviews, so get your tickets while they last!

How to Read the Bible: The Moral (Program and Sermon)

// October 2nd, 2012 // No Comments » // Church in The Cliff

Program

Sermon Outline

I.        Ancient

a.       Do good, get good

b.      Do good, suffer, get good later

II.     Classical

a.       Bible as guidebook

b.      Problems with literal truth

1.      Transmission

2.      Translation

3.      Interpretation

4.      Application

c.       Problems with allegorical truth

1.      Interpretation

2.      Application

d.      Both create problems with moral truth

III.   Modern

a.       The Bible speaks authoritatively on everything about which it speaks

b.      The Bible speaks authoritatively on everything

IV.  Questions

a.       Does the Bible guide you?

b.      If so, how?  If not, why not?

V.     Post-modern

a.       Ethical interpretation

Everyone comes to Scripture with existing ethical commitments and Scripture is interpreted in terms of those commitments.  For example, the Bible never speaks of abortion, but verses like Psalm 139:13-15 and Jeremiah 1:4-5 are regularly used to support a pro-life position.  These are interpretive moves.  Post-modern commentators simply acknowledge their moral commitments that guide their interpretation.  For example, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is frequently thought to be homosexuality, but their faults are never really explained.  A queer commentator comes to the text with an ethical commitment that would lead to an alternative explanation.

b.      Not-so-post-modern

“Thus Augustine, for example, teaches that any interpretation of scripture that does not promote the love of God and neighbor cannot be a correct meaning of scripture even if it is thought to coincide with the intentions of the human author.” – Dale Martin

VI.  Morality of the meal

Jesus frequently dined with all kinds of sinners, including the much-maligned Pharisees.  There’s something about sharing a meal with someone, regardless of difference, that dissipates anger, fear, and malice.  Hand to hand and face to face, we break down the boundaries that divide us against one another, the barriers that hide the image of God.