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Chapter Three: Christmas: The Nativity of Our Lord

J. Brian Bransfield Pauline Books and Media ePub

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. (Lk 2:1–3)

Caesar launches a grand scheme—he wants to start taking names. His ambitious task is to count the total inhabitants of the entire known world. Caesar’s ambition is matched only by his pride. He wants to count, to number, all of his subjects. For Caesar, as for any worldly leader, it all adds up: those who seek power also want control. And control must be bolstered at regular intervals. He will count his subjects and then lean back and remind himself how powerful he is. In fact, once he takes the tally, why not tax the tally? Caesar is calculating in more ways than one. After all, it is far better to count money than people. More people on the books meant more money for the dictator.

And so the ruler of this world sets to counting by taking down names. Names are important; they mean something. Names indicate unique identity. In the ancient world, to know someone’s name meant to be able to summon their spirit. Ordinarily, a lot of thought goes into the name a child will receive at birth. The name “Caesar” refers to the Roman dictator. Dictators like to rule, and they want to be in control. What better way to be in control than by having power over other people? What better way to have power than to record their names on a list? Of course, one who has power must give orders in order to wield that power. Control’s central myth is that if we could just somehow change everyone around us, we would be happy. Control is blame’s natural follow-through.

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4 The Language of Jewish Bodies in Michael Wyschogrod’s The Body of Faith

Ken Koltun-Fromm Indiana University Press ePub

4   The Language of Jewish Bodies in Michael Wyschogrod’s

The Body of Faith

Were God to have entered this world in the fullness of his being, he would have destroyed it because the thinning out or the darkening we have spoken of would disappear and with it the possibility of human existence. He therefore entered that world through a people whom he chose as his habitation. There thus came about a visible presence of God in the universe, first in the person of Abraham and later his descendants, as the people of Israel.

—Michael Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith

In the preface to the second edition of his The Body of Faith, Michael Wyschogrod notes the change in subtitles from the first to this more recent edition. Where he had once appended Judaism as Corporeal Election to the title (first edition, 1983), the reissued second edition now defined The Body of Faith as God in the People Israel (1996).1 Much of what interests me in Wyschogrod’s embodied language of authenticity can be gleaned from this acute change in subtitles. Where the first edition focused on Judaism and chosenness (Judaism as Corporeal Election), the second edition emphasized God’s presence in a particular nation (God in the People Israel). This modification delicately alters how one understands Wyschogrod’s book. With Judaism as corporeal election, the word body in The Body of Faith defers to a theological statement about belief. Body reads more as metaphor, such that corporeal election becomes the “body” of faith. The point here seems to be that chosenness is Judaism’s central theological principle. But with the phrasing in the second edition—God in the People Israel—the word body refers less to a theological claim and is far more a descriptive statement about the physical indwelling of God’s presence. And that presence resides in the people Israel—really, truly, in that body. Judaism is neither some kind of chosen religion, nor a theological construct. Indeed, God displaces Judaism altogether, reflected in the subtitle, and chooses to dwell “in” a particular national group. The body of faith is a real, material, and visual body in which human beings recognize God’s presence. This is a claim about visual authenticity and chosenness in a corporeal body. Wyschogrod tethers ocular metaphors to physical bodies, and thereby directs visual discourse into carnal Israel. Faith has a body, so Wyschogrod argues, and we can see it in the Jewish people. In The Body of Faith: God in the People Israel, Michael Wyschogrod envisions God’s presence in an embodied people as an authentic and corporeal display of divine chosenness. This is the embodied language of visual authenticity.

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Medium 9780253010759

1 Excommunications: Kaplan and Spinoza

Mel Scult Indiana University Press ePub

ONE

Too bad we had only one Spinoza.

—Mordecai M. Kaplan, 1939

Most of us think of Mordecai Kaplan as the founding father of the Reconstructionist movement. Indeed he was, but his life was marked equally by another, quite different, biographical event: he was the first rabbi in the United States to be excommunicated by the ultra-Orthodox. Excommunication is usually associated with the Catholic Church and not with the Jews, but, alas, this painful act has been part of Jewish life for centuries. Indeed, the enemies of Maimonides—Jews, of course—burned his books after he died in 1204 and excommunicated anyone who read them. The most famous excommunication in Jewish history took place in Amsterdam in 1656. Its recipient was Baruch Spinoza, one of Kaplan’s intellectual inspirations.

The excommunication of Mordecai Kaplan, which occurred as a result of a prayer book he published in 1945, is a good place to begin a study of Kaplan’s thought. Thinking of Kaplan in connection with Spinoza will also raise some fundamental and perhaps disturbing questions about Kaplan. Did Kaplan fully embrace Spinoza’s philosophy, or were there issues on which the two differed? And how do these paired excommunications, nearly three hundred years apart, enable us to understand twentieth-century Jewish thinking?

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Simplicity

Various Brethren Press PDF

A DUNKERG U I D E TOSimplicityWe cannot serve two mastersMatthew 6:24-34; Luke 12:22-34Curtis W. DubbleThe simple life ,always part of our Brethren heritage, was outwardly visible for generations. In fact, my understanding of this basic belief was clouded in my early years. Upon becoming a follower of Jesus, I adopted a lifestyle where I parted my hair differently, avoided adorning my fingers with rings and my outerwear with lapel images, refrained from wearing decorative apparel such as brightly colored ties, and stored a bare minimum number of items in the clothes closet and bureau drawers.Two primary scriptures from which the teaching on simple living emerges are Matthew 6:24-34 and Luke 12:22-34. A seminary classmate, VernardEller, reflected on and researched this important Brethren belief. In 1973 he wrote the book The Simple Life: The Christian Stance toward Possessions.32His book provided helpful clarification of this core value for Brethren and for believers in other faith communions.

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Medium 9780819854421

Corpus Christi

Daughters Of St Paul Pauline Books and Media ePub

Corpus Christi—Year A

Lectio

John 6:51–58

Meditatio

“…the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Within the eight verses of today’s passage from Saint John, we hear Jesus say in seven different ways that those who eat his flesh and drink his blood will have eternal life. The crowd asks, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They question Jesus because they can’t imagine eating his flesh or drinking his blood. They question him because they can’t understand how Jesus will give his body and blood as food and drink. They do not know that the offering of his body and blood as our food is necessary to complete the sacrifice of the cross. The Eucharist is an essential part of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary.

I can ask the same question that the crowd did when they heard Jesus speaking about his body and blood. How can Jesus do this? How can he give me his body and blood for food? Unlike the crowd of Jesus’ day, as Christians we know about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. So my question comes from a deep awareness of God’s incredible love for me, that God gave me his only Son to be my salvation and nourishment.

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XXIII: Found in God

Bernard Of Clairvaux Pauline Books and Media ePub

XXIII

Found in God

“I sought him whom my soul loves”1—this is what you are urged to do by the goodness of him who anticipates you, who sought him, and loved you before you loved him.2 You would not seek him or love him unless you had first been sought and loved. Not only in one blessing 3 have you been forestalled but in two, being loved as well as being sought. For the love is the reason for the search, and the search is the fruit of the love, and its certain proof. You are loved so that you may not suppose you are sought to be punished. You are sought so that you may not complain you are loved in vain. Both these loving and manifest favors give you courage, and drive away your diffidence, persuading you to return, and stirring your affections. From this comes the zeal and ardor to seek him whom your soul loves,4 because you cannot seek unless you are sought, and when you are sought you cannot but seek.

Do not forget whence you came. Now, that I may take the words to myself 5—which is the safest course—is it not you, my soul, who left your first husband,6 with whom it went well with you, and cast aside your loyalty 7 by going after lovers? 8 And now that you have chosen to commit fornication with them and have been cast aside by them, do you have the effrontery, the insolence, to return to him whom you spurned in your arrogance? Do you seek the light when you are only fit to be hidden, and run to the Bridegroom when you are more deserving of blows than of embraces? It will be a wonder if you do not meet the judge rather than the Bridegroom. Happy the person who hears his soul replying to these reproaches, “I do not fear, because I love; and I could not love at all if I were not loved; therefore this is love.” One who is loved has nothing to fear. Let those fear who do not love; they must always live in fear of retribution. Since I love, I cannot doubt that I am loved, any more than I can doubt that I love. Nor can I fear to look on his face, since I have sensed his tenderness. In what have I known it? In this—not only has he sought me as I am, but he has shown me tenderness, and caused me to seek him with confidence. How can I not respond to him when he seeks me, since I respond to him in tenderness? How can he be angry with me for seeking him, when he overlooked the contempt I showed for him? He will not drive away someone who seeks him, when he sought someone who spurned him. The spirit of the Word is gentle,9 and brings me gentle greetings, speaking to me persuasively of the zeal and desire of the Word, which cannot be hidden from him.10 He searches the deep things of God,11 and knows his thoughts—thoughts of peace and not of vengeance.12 How can I fail to be inspired to seek him, when I have experienced his mercy and been assured of his peace?

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Guardian Angels

Marianne Lorraine Trouv Fsp Pauline Books and Media ePub

Guardian Angels

For he will command his angels concerning you

to guard you in all your ways.

— Psalm 91:11

Our Life Coaches

Would you like to have a personal life coach—for free? Someone who stands in your court, cheers you on, keeps you on course, and pushes you when you feel like dropping out? Every great athlete has a coach. No matter how much raw talent a person has, it needs to be shaped. What’s true for sports is even truer for the other aspects of life. Like a potter who forms clay into a beautiful vase, a good life coach helps shape a person’s life into a work of art. The coach will help the person find direction, set up goals, and figure out ways to reach those goals.

The need for a coach is even greater in our spiritual lives. We make choices all the time—about family and friends, work and careers, and, most importantly, our relationship with God. Life is made of all the things we do each day, and all of them have an impact on our spiritual lives. Our guardian angels can guide us in success, and encourage us when we’re discouraged. As we go through our day-to-day lives, the angels stay at our side no matter what happens.

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ONE Veiling, Fashion, and Social Mobility: A Century of Change in Zanzibar • LAURA FAIR

Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

“The Veil” has never been a static thing, nor have its use and meaning been firm. In this chapter, I explore changes in veiling habits in Zanzibar over the course of more than a century, illustrating both how and why the veil has changed over time. Though “the veil” is often condemned in the West as a sign of women’s subordination, here I illustrate that in Zanzibar women have often used the veil to assert both their freedom and their economic might. The bulk of this chapter examines changes in veiling fashions over the course of the twentieth century, but I begin with a brief discussion of a more recent trend to illustrate that the uses and meanings attributed to the veil worn by women in the Isles of Zanzibar—which includes two large islands, Unguja and Pemba, and several smaller ones which came to be known collectively as Zanzibar—are often completely hidden from casual observers in the West.

At the turn of the twenty-first century a new veiling fashion was increasingly seen on the streets and in the markets of Zanzibar. Suddenly, it seemed, growing numbers of women were donning the niqāb, choosing to cover their faces entirely when in public rather than wearing the more common buibui, which left their faces open, or the more casual kanga,thrown over the top of the head and draped over the shoulders and chest. Where did this new style come from, I wondered? And what was the impetus for this change? (Plate 1).

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SIX “Should a Good Muslim Cover Her Face?” Pilgrimage, Veiling, and Fundamentalisms in Cameroon • JOSÉ C. M. VAN SANTEN

Elisha P Renne Indiana University Press ePub

The issue of veiling in sub-Saharan Africa has received little attention. Perhaps that is because most women as well as men, Christians as well as Muslims, have used various types of head coverings as indicative of social distinctions as well as protection against the sun. However, in recent decades in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa, veiling as a form of religious expression has emerged in juxtaposition with modernity, politics, and laïcité (Van Santen 2010b). Veiling is now associated with particular ideas, events, and actions that link important aspects of social life and can alter during the course of a woman’s life (Van Santen 2010a). In this chapter, I explore one such change in women’s veiling practices, namely the pilgrimage to Mecca, the (hajj), one of the five pillars of Islam. What influence does going on hajj have on women’s veiling practices in Cameroon?

Globalization and increased cash flow have meant that more Muslim women are able to go on the hajj. On their return, these women are allowed to carry the prestigious title of alhadzja. Although Saudi Arabia does not allow Cameroonian women to make a pilgrimage to Mecca on their own (meaning without a husband), organizers of the hajj have found ways to bypass this rule. Thus women from various ethnic backgrounds and social classes arrive in Mecca and are confronted with new notions of what a “good” Muslim should look like. Some female pilgrims return home with a black face-covering veil (niqāb), intending to begin wearing it on their return. Others consider their usual way of veiling sufficient. In the past non-Muslim women wore a simple headtie, and Muslim women would add an extra piece of cloth in the same color as their gowns. However, after women go on hajj, the choice of veiling can become a significant issue and a topic for discussion.

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Chapter Twenty-One: Saint Stephen: The First Martyr

J. Brian Bransfield Pauline Books and Media ePub

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. (Acts 7:54–60)

Two spirits are at work in the world, and they will inevitably meet. First, the thunderous action of the Holy Spirit is often at work, though we mistakenly believe it is very rare. Saint Stephen, the first martyr, proclaims to the crowd that he is so filled with the Holy Spirit that he sees heaven open, and “the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Stephen is filled with the Holy Spirit. Isn’t this the goal of every believer? But the presence of God the Holy Spirit does not mean that suddenly everything will always work out for Stephen. What do the other people do when Stephen asserts the presence of the Holy Spirit? Their response shows us the spirit of the world.

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Chapter Fourteen: The Woman Caught in Adultery

J. Brian Bransfield Pauline Books and Media ePub

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (Jn 8:2–11)

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3 Communicating Capability

Mark A. Tietjen Indiana University Press ePub

3 Communicating Capability

IN CHAPTER 1 I considered Roger Poole’s claim that either one reads Kierkegaard with attentiveness to the indirect communication or one reads him earnestly, “on religious grounds,” as edifying. Kierkegaard seems to anticipate this approach to his work: “In pseudonymous books published by me the earnestness is more vigorous, particularly in those passages in which the presentation will appear to most people as nothing but jest. This, as far as I know, has not previously been understood at all” (JP, 1:301 [#656]). Later in the entry Kierkegaard gives content to the earnestness found in the pseudonymous writings: “Especially in the communication of ethical truth and partially in the communication of ethical-religious truth, the indirect method is the most rigorous form” (JP, 1:302 [#656]). Based on these and similar passages, there is good reason to be apprehensive about Poole’s phrasing of the issue: indirect communication as opposed to the serious, the religious, the edifying. Poole’s false dilemma rests on an undialectical understanding of Kierkegaard’s indirect communication and, in particular, the relationship among the pseudonyms and between Kierkegaard himself and the pseudonyms.

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Response to Timo Tavast

Pro Ecclesia Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Response to Timo Tavast

Robert W. Jenson

I am conscious of the honor which Dr. Tavast has shown me, in choosing my thinking as the occasion of his dissertation. It is, moreover, an added pleasure that he has presented some of his analysis here at Gettysburg Seminary, where I taught for so long and where, indeed, many of the thoughts he elucidates were hatched.

How then do I respond? Mostly by saying, “That is indeed what I have written on his chosen matter, and it is what I meant.”

But going down the list and saying over and over, “Yes, he got that right . . .” would not make the most fascinating of speeches. So I will instead take the liberty of taking up a general question, a quibble with Tavast, and an attempted response at Tavast’s closing query.

The general question is one some of you may have in mind, which is why I turn to it: “Why should we care whether Tavast gets Jenson right or Jenson gets the Trinity right?” I will advance two answers.

First, faith is directed to God. It therefore belongs to the very truth of Jewish or Christian faith that we be faithful to the way Scripture portrays its God. The doctrine of the Trinity is not so much a specific body of propositions, as it is the church’s continuing effort to conceptualize such faithfulness. So whether or not that effort has been well done so far matters quite a lot. Through the church’s history some theologians have hoped to further the effort, and recently a few of us have tried it again. And so also whether we have done well or been misguided in that matters quite a lot. If the church is misled about the Trinity, the very possibility of faith is wounded.

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XX: In Search of the Beloved

Bernard Of Clairvaux Pauline Books and Media ePub

XX

In Search of the Beloved

“In my bed night after night I sought him whom my soul loves.”1 The Bridegroom has not returned when the Bride calls him back with cries and prayers. Why not? He wishes to increase her desire, test her affection, and exercise her faculty of love. He is not displeased with her, he is concealing his love. But he has been sought for, and we must ask whether he may be found, for he did not come when he was called. Yet the Lord said, “Everyone who looks finds”; 2 and the words used to recall him were “Return, my beloved, like a roe or a fawn.”3 When he did not return at this call, for the reasons I have given, then she who loved him became more eager and devoted herself eagerly and entirely to seeking him. First she sought him in her bed, but she found him not at all. Then she arose and wandered through the city, going to and fro among the streets and squares,4 but she did not meet him or catch sight of him.5 She questions everyone she meets, but there is no news; nor is this search and this disappointment confined to one night or one street, for she says, “I sought him night after night.”6 How great must be her longing and her ardor, that she does not blush to rise in the night and be seen running through the city, questioning everyone openly about her beloved, not to be deflected for any reason from her search for him, undaunted by any obstacle, undeterred by any desire for rest, or by a Bride’s modesty, or by terrors of the night! 7 Yet in all this she is still disappointed of her hope.8 Why? What is the reason for this long, unrelenting disappointment, which induces weariness, foments suspicion, inflames impatience, acts as a stepmother to love and a mother to despair? If he is still concealing his love, it is too painful.

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Medium 9780819815620

Glory Be

Sean M. David Pauline Books and Media ePub

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