Monthly Archives: July 2016

Judges 12 – Including outsiders

The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim. – Judges 12:5-6 (NASB)

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The Battle of Lawrence

When I was six years old my family moved within six blocks of Allen Field House on the campus of the University of Kansas. I never really had a chance of being anything but a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks. You can tell a Kansas basketball fan from most other fans. There is a certain amount of pride, which borders on arrogance, which seeps into any discussion of college basketball. We know our history and take pride in the history of the Kansas basketball program. And we hate Missouri. It does not matter that Missouri has left the conference and we no longer play the program to the east, we still despise Missouri. For the historical roots of this rivalry take a moment to read about Quantrill’s raid and the burning of Lawrence.

In college sports we have devised a number of systems to make sure we can separate the strangers rooting for “our” team from the strangers rooting for “their” team. Kansas fans wear blue and red, Missouri fans wear yellow and black. Kansas fans rally around our Jayhawk mascot; Missouri fans rally around their tiger. Kansas fans chant “Rock Chalk” in the closing minutes each home victory; Missouri fans have little experience in celebrating the closing minutes of a home victory. We have developed systems to know who is on our side. Whenever I see a Kansas hat or shirt at the gas station or at work, I stop and make a positive comment to my fellow Jayhawk fan.

People are very good at spotting outsiders. There is something in our brains which cause us to make a nearly instantaneous decision that a person is “one of us” or “one of them”. This tendency is not limited to our college basketball affinities. In fact this tendency has a very dark side and has been a plague on humanity resulting in genocide, holocaust, enslavement, discrimination, and all sorts of evil.

Bronze by Jenny Downing

Our first instinct should not be to look for an outward sign to know if a new person is to be included or excluded. Rather, our first instinct should be to care for the stranger and meet their needs regardless of their affiliation. It does not matter if the stranger I meet is a part of a different group. The thing that matters is that we were both formed by our creator and placed on this earth under a divine mandate that we work with God to create a new and greater world. The strangers I meet are as fully known by God as my neighbors. My enemies are as loved by God as my family.

When I look at a Missouri fan, it is important that I first recognize that they are valued by God and they are worthy of my love, respect, and assistance. It does not matter if they say Shibboleth or Sibboleth; what matters is that I have an opportunity to reflect the light of Christ into their lives.

Application:

  • Write down all of the people you walked by today without acknowledging their humanity (take your time, you’ll be surprised how many there are).
  • Make a goal for one day each week, that on that day you will not let a person go by without acknowledging their value.
  • Reach out to an individual or group you would normally exclude and be a part of their lives for one evening.

Queries:

  • Who do I exclude?
  • Do my actions truly demonstrate that I believe all people are valuable and worthy of love, honor, and respect?
  • Do I actually help people? Do I only think about helping people? Do I even think about helping people?
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A close reading of A House Is a Home by Ben Harper

Entropy by Josh McMillan

Ben Harper was born in Pomona, California in 1969. His father was of African-American and Cherokee ancestry, his mother was of Russian-Lithuanian Jewish ancestry. Ben’s parents divorced in 1974 and he grew up with his mother and her parents. Ben’s grandparents’ owned a music store, The Folk Music Center and Museum, which was foundational to Ben’s development as a musician. Ben began his career in earnest in the early 1990s with the LP Pleasure and Pain and has since released a dozen albums.

His most recent album, Childhood Home, is a collection of duets sung with his mother, Ellen Harper. The Harper’s split the songwriting duties for the album; Ben penned 6 and Ellen the other four. The album seeks to speak to the good, bad, ugly and beautiful parts of home and family life. The lead track on the album, A House Is a Home, was written by Ben.

 

A House Is a Home written by Ben Harper, performed by Ben & Ellen Harper.

a house is a home even when it’s dark
even when the grass is overgrown in the yard
even when the dog is too old to bark
and when you’re sitting at the table trying not to starve

a house is a home
even when we’ve up and gone
even when you’re there alone
a house is a home

a house is a home even when there’s ghosts
even when you gotta run from the ones who love you most
screen door’s broken paint’s peeling from the wood
locals whisper when they gonna leave the neighborhood

a house is a home where the chores are never done
where you spend your whole life running to and from
and if the life that you live is not the life you choose
make your child a home and start anew

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Old House by Singh

My grandparents’ house will always be a special home to me. The house I lived in when I was in elementary school will always be a special home to me. I have no idea who lives in these places now, or if these houses even still exist; but, the memories of those places will make them a home to me until the end of my days.

Rather than focusing on the nostalgia of the home, Harper focuses the first verse on the chaos that emerges when a house is no longer subject to the care that a home receives. The home that was once comforting is now filled with darkness, overgrown grass, and a dying dog. Rather than a place of plenty, this house has become a barren place, a place of want. There is no comfort in this house; yet it is still a home.

The second verse takes this idea further. No longer is the family merely struggling with want; now they are being persecuted. First by ghosts (perhaps memories of the glory days gone by), then by family and friends who once loved them, and finally by the neighbors’ gossip. What listener has not felt, or at the least imagined, a neighbor’s scornful looks and raised eyebrows at the rough edges of the house which the family has not been able to care for. The high weeds, the broken down cars, the old trash bags. Yet, even when persecuted, the house is still a place of refuge. The house is a home.

Aged by Nathaniel Zumbach

The third verse speaks to the rat race of life. The never ending line of dishes and laundry and chores. The mundane tasks that take up so much of your life that it seems there is nothing left with which you can pursue your real dreams. We are all trapped in the upkeep of our houses, of our homes, and none of us seems able to live the life we want. And so we have children, and so the cycle repeats.

The chorus comes in to emphasize the cyclical nature of the home. The house becomes a home for a time, then children grow up, parents grow old, grandparents die, and the house shutters itself up into a dark void until…the cycle repeats.

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Judges 11 – People as objects of possession

Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD gave them into his hand. He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot take it back.” So she said to him, “My father, you have given your word to the LORD; do to me as you have said, since the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” Then he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity.

At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year. – Judges 11:30-40 (NASB)

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In the 1980s Jim Henson’s production company produced a series called “The Storyteller”. One of the stories, titled “Hans My Hedgehog”, was very similar to the story of Jephthah (although slightly less gruesome).


Watch The Storyteller – Hans My Hedgehog in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
Rachel Held Evans writes about this story in her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood:

Unlike the familiar story of Isaac, this one ends without divine intervention. Jephthah fulfilled his promise and killed his daughter in God’s name. No ram was heard bleating from the thicket. No protest was issued from the clouds. No tomb was erected to mark the place where she lay.

But the women of Israel remembered.

Wrote the narrator, “From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah” (vv. 39–40).

They could not protect her life, but they could protect her dignity by retelling her story—year after year, for four days, in a mysterious and subversive ceremony that perhaps led the women of Israel back to the same hills in which Jephthah’s daughter wandered before her death. It was a tradition that appears to have continued through the writing of the book of Judges. But it is a tradition lost to the waxing and waning of time, no longer marked by the daughters of the Abrahamic faiths.

Evans then goes on to write about taking the time to remember all of the “dark stories of the Bible“; that is, those stories in which people (particularly women) are abused, tortured, maimed, and killed. She writes about spending time to remember Hagar and Tamar and the concubine from Judges 19 and women across the centuries who have been used as objects by their culture and family.

Jephthah should not have sacrificed his daughter, because his daughter was not an object to possess. His daughter already belonged to God. You cannot sacrifice something that does not belong to you.

We need to spend time in honest reflection on how we treat the people around us. Are there classes of people which we treat as objects to be used? The poor, ethnic minorities, women, the homeless, work subordinates? People are not objects for us to use for our pleasure or sacrifice for our benefit. We need to remember those who have been treated as less than human, and we need to work toward creating a world in which no people are treated as objects.

Application:

  • Find and support or volunteer at an organization in your community that brings people out of some form of bondage.
  • Eliminate one habit from your life that may keep others in bondage.
  • Think of one relationship you have in which you treat the other person as less than equal; repair that relationship.

Queries:

  • Do I treat all people as children of God worthy of honor and respect?
  • What relationships do I have in which I am treated as an object?
  • What habits do I have that keep others in bondage (drug use, pornography use, inequitable consumer goods, etc.)?
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Judges 10 – Sin is not individual

Idols - not for worshipThe LORD said to the sons of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines?…”Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” The sons of Israel said to the LORD, “We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD; and He could bear the misery of Israel no longer. – Judges 10:11-16 (NASB)

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Sin has horrible consequences that we all suffer. Too often I assume that I am only hurting myself with my sin; but, my sin affects my family, my friends, my church, and my community.

Sin has communal consequences. There is a reason that the Bible often speaks of the consequences of sin being a curse on an individual’s children and children’s children. It takes a long time for all of the consequences of sin to play out. It also takes a concerted effort on the part of those dealing with the consequences to break the cycle of sin.

real loss, 1991Every sin is a nuclear explosion scattering radioactive debris in all directions. Do not brush it off just because you see it as a small sin. You would not brush off the threat of a small nuclear bomb going off in your backyard. The consequences of sin, big or small, reverberate over space and time and affect everyone.

Everyday we have the opportunity to choose God or to choose some other god. There are a multitude of things that I can make the center of my life; but, when I put something other than God at the center of my life, I have fallen into sin and the consequences of that sin will ultimately hurt all those around me.

Application:

  • Choose right now to make God the center of your life for the rest of today.
  • Every morning consciously make the decision that God will be the center of your life that day.
  • Write down how your sings are negatively impacting those around you. Pick one person and work to correct the impact of your sin.

Queries:

  • What have you chosen as the center of your life?
  • How has the sin of others affected you? How has your sing affected others?
  • What sins can you actively work toward correcting?
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