Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent again: Rachel continues to weep

Much activity in preparation for a visit this week that could change everything. Including a conversation with Martin.
Stephen has picked up the posters for Dzieci’s upcoming Fools’ Mass and also our whole December preview and has installed them in the windows. 
Joseph Conrad
Robert Louis Stevenson
Teddy takes me to the Dead Poet for a birthday drink. If I can name a dead poet with the same date, it’s free. I go with Joseph Conrad....more a novelist that poet, but it counts. And a bonus for knowing this was the day that Robert Louis Stevenson died. Barely 44. 
Sitting there, I remember that it was just a year ago that I was here for my birthday with Amanda. It was within days of our 100th Anniversary Celebration,100+.  Feels like it was two or three years ago at this point. How far have we come since then?
Sorry to have missed Dan J and his mom, in town for another court date. My letter on his behalf seemed to help. They’ll be back letter in the month. Seeing him back as the man I knew he is, working,’s a victory. Teddy ready to let their past issues go.  
Tonight’s Bible study is on the birth narrative in Matthew. As if it were the only record of Jesus’ birth we had. 
  • The beginning of the book, with it’s genealogy (genesis) sets us up for what will follow. A new genesis, a new beginning, a parallel journey through the history of the people of Israel. 
  • Out of these 14 generations, only 4 women: 
    • Tamar, a prostitute who saved Israelite soldiers who were hiding
    • Rahab, the harlot who was married to Hosea
    • Ruth, the Moabite woman who stayed loyal to Naomi, uncovered Boaz feet in the middle of the night and thus won him as her husband...saving the line of David...
    • The wife of Uriah, IE, Bathsheba, for whose love David would set up her husband for death to save his own honor
    • And then finally Mary, wife of Joseph, mother of Jesus

  • All these four before Mary were Gentiles. All were engaged in some kind of outre sexual activity.(Could we discuss the Biblical image of marriage again? Please?) Through these were the people saved, their narrative continued. 
  • So we’re being told that Mary’s story will challenge convention.
  • In Matthew, it’s more Joseph’s story than Mary’s. he is the only real human actor here, making choices, moving the story. Won't happen without has acting. 
    • He was righteous, IE, Torah(law) abiding. Putting Mary out, even quietly, would eventually subject her to stoning. His taking her for a wife saves her. Did this story get told to Jesus? Was this in his mind as he saved the woman taken in adultery from stoning? His own mother saved by grace?
    • He is instructed by dreams, just like that other Joseph in the Old Testament. 
  • The magi were Persian court officials, ambassadors, emissaries from another empire with which  Israel had collaborated to return from Babylonian exile.
  • An unsuccessful revolt had been led by Bar Kochba, son of the star. A failed messiah. Jesus, messiah, will be born under a star. 
  • Herod, knowing his own illegitimacy as king, will be threatened by one who can lay claim to prophetic legitimacy, even if the prophets were referring to something Cyrus of Persia?
  • Just as Joseph went to Israel and then all his people, this Joseph takes this holy family into Egypt. Jesus is living again the  his people’s narrative.
    • I recall my visit to Egypt. The folk tales of the Egyptian Copts, descended from be first Christians, the descendants of the pharoanic peoples. Their own  stories, places of pilgrimage. Jesus’ home in Cairo just a few blocks from where Moses was pulled out of the Nile. 
  • Herod’s fear leads him to massacre a region’s worth of little boys under 2. The Holy Innocents, the first martyrs.  Did knowing this story influence Jesus? 
  • And so do threatened fearful tyrants always treat the innocents. Rachel never ceases weeping for her children at Ramah. There is still no consolation. Syria, Palestine, Mexico, Honduras, Haiti, Africa.... Rachel weeps. 
  • Matthew foreshadows the  whole gospel story line  in the infancy narrative. 
  • So we know....even though this story is rooted in our deepest history, our most passionate longings, it will take us somewhere we never expected. 
It’s been a good night, the feeling of the closeness of God as we study. Advent again.
(Bible study informed by Raymond Brown, Wes Howard-Brook, Jose Saramago)

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