What does the nation Egypt represent in the Bible? When Scripture mentions Egypt, Assyria, or any country, is it talking about historical empires, or is something more going on? What happens when we understand the nations mentioned in the Bible as characters in a story? Is Egypt a good or a bad character? What is the significance of Hosea’s proclamation, “Out of Egypt have I called my son”? (Hosea 11:1) Working through these questions, Richard and Fr. Marc consider the many ways that Christians today continue to betray the Lord, turning away from him to seek the favor of empires long gone, but still very real. (Episode 34)
Today, after listening to the podcast, “Are You Rich,” I came up with the following ways to know if you are wealthy. You don’t have to have them all, just one or two. Here they are in no particular order:
1. You’re in a club.
2. You have food.
3. You have shelter.
4. You have possession(s).
5. You believe you have rights.
6. You believe you have entitlements.
7. You know you’re going to heaven (another club).
8. Someone loves you.
9. God loves you.
10. You express yourself in clothes and/or accessories.
11. You have access to this list on the internet.
It can go on and on……………….
This week, Fr. Marc and Richard reflect on the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. Why was it wrong for the young man to call Jesus “good?” Beyond the obvious problem of greed, what does the young man’s wealth reveal about the aims of false religion? Why wasn’t Jesus pleased to hear that the young followed the commandments? Can the story’s admonition against wealth be applied to everyone, including the poor and working class? Can the rich enter the Kingdom of God? Do you really think it’s possible to squeeze an impressively large animal through a very small opening? This is not a trick question. (Episode 33)
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the way in which St. Paul uses the categories “weak” and “strong” to undermine human judgment in 1 Corinthians. This sets the stage for God to shame the church in Roman Corinth with the foolishness of Paul’s weakness. It also set the stage for a lecture Fr. Marc presented later that evening on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. This week’s podcast was recorded at Holy Myrrh-bearers Orthodox Church, in St. Cloud, MN, in front of a live, inter-faith audience. (Episode 32)
What is the biblical response to poverty, violence and suffering in the world? How does the biblical commandment to love the neighbor differ from progressive ideas of social justice? In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard explore St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 4 and the way in which the Bible undermines human paradigms of “right and wrong,” “good and evil,” and “victim and oppressor.” (Episode 31)
In this week’s episode, Fr. Marc and Richard discuss the painful but critical role that slavery and hierarchy play in St. Paul’s epistles. Reflecting on the same teaching in Older Testament, they explore how the freedom proposed by the Pauline articulation of the Cross differs from popular concepts of social freedom. While the gospel seeks to aggressively undermine human tyranny, it does so in a way that places as much pressure on the downtrodden as it does the oppressor—hardly the stuff of Hollywood legends. (Episode 30)
Fr. Marc interviews Richard about a sermon he recently presented on Matthew 14:14-22 and 1 Corinthians 1:10-18. Richard explains how in both readings, the American obsession with “being special,” is undermined by the Bible’s critique of the natural but deceptive human impulse to seek differentiation either through personal achievement or affiliation. (Episode 29)
According to a 2014 study published by the National Education Association, approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying. In many cases, the experience of cruelty or isolation in American schools has led young people to commit suicide or worse. What are the implications of the New Testament for American high schools? How can church school teachers equip their students to confront high school life with the wisdom of Scripture? Guest speaker Thomas Drenen talks with Richard and Fr. Marc about Roman paganism, its parallels with the culture of modern high school, and the pressure that the story of Jesus Christ places on both. We encourage parents to share this week’s podcast with their teenagers. (Episode 28)
I met the man when he asked me for a drink of water after I had just slurped down the last of my bottled water.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any water left,” I said
”That’s ok. How are you today? What are you up to?” he asked.
“I’m fine thanks. I’m waiting for my mother to get here on the bus from St. Cloud.” I stepped closer to the man and bent down reaching out my hand. “My name’s Renée. What’s yours?”
“I’m glad to meet you, Moses.” As our hands met, he looked skeptical for a second, then asked,
“Are you really?”
“Yes, I am. What are you doing?”
“I’m waiting to catch a bus to Chicago.”
“Do you live there?”
“No I’m going to see my boys. Where do you live?”
“In Minnetonka. How many children do you have?” His face lit up like a Christmas candle and he grinned, “Three, but two of them live in Chicago and I can’t wait to see them.”
“How old are they?” I asked sitting down on the sidewalk next to him.
“Eight and eleven.” He smiled again with the obvious joy of a father.
“How often do you get to see them?”
“Not very often.”
When I had first parked my car on the street a few feet from where Moses was perched on the sidewalk and walked the block to the Minneapolis bus terminal I had noticed a tall policeman with broad shoulders parked on a bicycle about 90 feet from Moses. He seemed to be keeping an eye on the mostly black people milling around the area. None of them seemed intimidating to me or bent on causing harm, but as I passed the police officer and said, “Good morning, how are you?” he didn’t look at me but answered tersely, “Fine mam.” He seemed to be on alert and wary. When I arrived at the bus station and found that my mother’s bus was going to be a half an hour late I had returned to my car to clink a couple more quarters into the meter. That’s when Moses had asked me for a drink of water.
As Moses and I visited, our conversation moved quickly from the superficial to the profound. At one point Moses gestured to the area around us and said, “We could make a documentary about the things that happen here. Things that people seem not to know about.”
“What do you mean? Can you give me an example?”
“See that policeman over there ? What do you think he’s here for?”
“To enforce laws, I guess.”
“He is hired to enforce laws on people like me with black skin,” Moses said and he stretched out his hand towards me. “Now, I understand that people are killing each other, and we need the police to mediate the madness. But when you give someone a badge and they believe they are the authority they are likely to abuse that authority.”
“I hear what you are saying, Moses, and I admit that I can’t even imagine what it is like to be black, what it is like to be you.”
“The abuse and killing has to end,” Moses said forcefully. “We have to stop now.”
“I couldn’t agree more.” I said. What do you think about the killing in war?”
“The United States has got to bag it up! We had no business being in Iraq and we have no business going around the world using our military might for our own greed. We’ve got enough problems here at home.” He paused for a moment in deep thought. Then he learned forward closer, looking me straight in the eye. “There is a right way to treat people, and a wrong way to treat people. Which way are you going to treat people?”
“I’m going to try…”—he cut me off abruptly and said uncompromisingly, “Which way are you going to treat people?”
“The right way.” He nodded.
“Much of the problems in the world are about people wanting more than their neighbor,” he continued.“It’s greed, you see, because I don’t have your blue car. Because I don’t live in Minnetonka. It’s greed all of it, and everyone is sick with it no matter rich or poor or what the skin color. The madness is about greed.”
“I think you’re right,” I said.
As our conversation paused, I took in the goodness of the moment. After several days of rain and grey woolen skies, the morning was silky with light and a soft breeze caressed our skin and like a child’s chuckle seemed to float wherever it wanted. I didn’t think of it then, but in retrospect I see now what a cheap answer I gave to Moses’s question about the purpose of the police officer. Technically I had answered correctly; “to enforce laws” would have passed as an answer on any standardized test. But thinking about it now, another answer comes to me. We hire the police to enforce fear. Anyone may feel fear when the police are around, or pull in behind our car on the highway. “What am I doing wrong?” we may wonder. So what must it be like for those whose skin color is not the same as the majority of the police and the politicians, for those who are stereotyped as takers, as lazy, as unambitious, as thugs, drug dealers and criminals? We may like to think that we are so-called “color-blind” in this country, but there is no such thing. When Moses stretched out his hand to me, without being him, I already knew that he is seen as more likely to break the law than me. However, when I had reached out my hand to him when we first met, it wasn’t because I was there to help him. I was extending my hand as a beggar, because I know that I’m the one that needs help. I’m the one who in spite of having all I need one hundred times over still takes more. I’m the one that lives away from the materially poor in a mainly white suburb where if many of us saw one or two black people dawdling on the corner we would call the police—to enforce our fear. I may not live in a visibly gated community, but the gates in our minds are locked, surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by vicious dogs of fear. We don’t need God to protect us because we trust in violence. We buy guns and make laws to jail the poor while we are in fact the criminals whose greed and self-preservation has no boundaries. We are poverty stricken and ill from persecuting God in our neighbor if he tries to take such piddly objects as cell phones, entertainment systems or cosmetic jewelry.
“Moses, I’ve got to get my mom in a minute, but I want to know if you’ll come to my church and speak sometime? We need to hear from you.” Moses looked taken aback. But before he could speak, suddenly, abruptly the police officer skidded up on his bicycle and dismounted.
“Alright sir,” he said to Moses. I’ve been watching you. We need to talk.”
“I haven’t done anything sir, I’m just sitting here with my friend.”
“I need to see your i.d.” the policeman said sternly. “Give me your i.d.”
“But what have I done? We’re just having a conversation.”
“I see that, but you have an open beer next to you. It’s illegal to have open alcoholic beverages on the street, and I think you know that. Give me your i.d.” Moses pulled out his wallet, took out his i.d. and handed it to the officer who then spoke to me,“Are you with a church or anything?” he asked.
“I’m waiting for my mother to arrive on the bus from St Cloud and we started visiting,” I said motioning to Moses.
“So you’re not here to solve any problems?” The question confused me and I was wondering if he would ask for my i.d. After all, Moses and I were in the neighborhood for the same reason, the bus terminal. But before I had a chance to answer he turned to Moses again.
“Moses, instead of taking you to jail, I’m going to give you a judicial,” he said while writing on a form.
“Excuse me, officer, could you please explain to me what a ‘judicial’ is?” I asked. “I’m not familiar with that term.”
“I’ve given him a date in two weeks to show up at city hall. At this hearing they will see if he needs help getting off alcohol or any other addictions.”
“Could I attend?” He shrugged, “If you want to.” He handed the form to Moses and told him to sign it, and Moses complied. Then the officer gave him a copy of the form, picked up the beer and walked away with it, returning seconds later to clean his hands with an antibacterial wipe. I turned to Moses. “Moses, what if I came to the judicial and we talked about you speaking at my church? I really want you to come. Maybe my pastor will attend the hearing too.”
“I don’t need to go to a judicial,” he said angrily.
“Think about it Moses, just think about it. I promise I’ll be there.”
I didn’t tell him then, but I am not going to the judicial for him, but for me. When you find the teaching, follow it.
* * *
*Not his given name.
In the gospel of Luke (4:22-30) Jesus warns his own people that “no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Hearers of the story usually equate this with the demeaning American expression, “who do you think are?” In fact, Jesus’ people esteem his position, coveting the benefits of his honor for themselves. Working through the storyline, Fr. Marc and Richard discover that Jesus’ people were enraged simply because he illustrated, through the story of Elijah and Elisha, his loyalty to his Father’s teaching over loyalty to his own people. So incensed were all those in the synagogue, that they physically threw Jesus out of the city. Why was the story of Elijah and Elisha so painful? Jesus did not recognize the difference between insider and outsider; instead, he fulfilled Isaiah, bringing good news to the poor, without distinction. (Episode 27)