Quiz Time

From the Pharisees to Jesus: “What commandment in the law is the greatest?"
Jesus answered the question by giving them what they already knew -- but weren't expecting.
Jesus responded with the perfect answer.
In this week’s Bible reading from Matthew 22:34-46, Jesus responded, to the question by going outside of the expected 10. He recited the scriptures -- first the Great Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (The what? The affirmation of faith that begins with the "Hear oh Israel" phrases that parents are supposed to repeat and teach their children and put on their doorposts. This one is "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.") Then Jesus gave them other words they were familiar with from Leviticus 19:18 -- "Love your neighbor as yourself."
And no one could respond. Jesus gave it to them in plain talk. Those were the two and everything else hinged (and hinges) on them.
Of course, the question, "Who is my neighbor" comes to mind with that second one. Jesus addressed that another time -- with the answer being just as simple. Everyone is your neighbor.
So those two commandments -- the most important ones -- the ones that inform everything else:
  • Love God
  • Love everyone
End of quiz.



This week's Bible reflection (Not called 'God's ahem . . . backside, but rather "Here's what you missed") provided an eye opening beginning for today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove.
"Name" podcast


Here’s what you missed

Before this week’s Bible reading from Exodus 33:12-23.

From last week’s reading

  • Moses was up on the mountain doing the “hanging out with God” thing
  • The people wondered if he was ever coming back.
  • They made a golden calf idol
  • God was really angry and was going to bring evil upon them
  • Moses said, ‘Stop! Don’t! Please change your mind!” to God
  • God changed her mind.

Then – in between last week’s and this week’s reading

  • Moses came down from the mountain and saw what had been happening first hand
  • He dropped the tablets with the 10 commandments and broke them.
  • Aaron said, “I don’t know what happened! I just put all the gold in the fire and this calf came out!”
  • Moses was really angry and got 3000 of the people to fight and kill each other
  • God told Moses that the people would be punished
  • God sent a plague on the people.
  • Then God said that he would help the children of the people make it to the promised land, but not them. They were too stubborn and rebellious
  • The people were sorry.

 And that’s what you missed – except for this little verse that occurs just before this week’s reading. 

Exodus 33:11a Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

Here’s a synopsis of one of those conversations:

  • God promised Moses that everything would work out.
  • Moses asked God, “Show me your glory”
  • God said that no one could see the face of God and live.
  • God let Moses see his back – or “back parts”

 How could Moses speak to God face to face but be in danger of dying if he saw God’s face?
And what did Moses actually see when God went past and then showed Moses his back?

Michelangelo had an idea - and likely based on Jerome’s Latin translation of Exodus 33:23 – that says God showed Moses his “backs” he painted, in one part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a picture of God showing “backs”

And now all you can do is think about that picture.


Last week's questioning Bible reflection (Bible stuff) gave a little bit of context to yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"Mind" podcast


Bible stuff

(Numbers 23:19 NRSV) God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

1st Samuel says almost the same thing:

(1 Samuel 15:29 NRSV) Moreover the Glory of Israel will not recant or change his mind; for he is not a mortal, that he should change his mind."

God’s mind doesn’t change.


Looking at this week's reading from Exodus 32:1-14 . . .

(Exodus 32:14 NRSV) And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

And in Jeremiah there's something very similar:

(Jeremiah 26:19 NRSV) Did King Hezekiah of Judah and all Judah actually put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD change his mind about the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster on ourselves!"

God’s mind does change.

Very well then.


The 10

This week's Bible reflection (3 of 10) started off a not uncontroversial look at the 10 commandments in today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL.
"The 10" podcast


3 of 10

Mel Brooks had fun with the 15  . . . (Drops one tablet) 10 commandments in his film, History of the World, Part 1. Sometimes it takes a bit of comedy to draw attention to something important. Other times it takes a little controversial re-imagining. 10 years ago, the United Church of Christ published a controversial re-imagining of the 10 commandments – called “God is still speaking through the 10 C’s”

Here are just a few -- updated slightly because -- it's 10 years later.  They will likely illicit a response in you.

OUR CULTURE THINKS you shall not make for yourself an idol except for Beyonce; Starbucks; X Box 360; the American flag; The Bible, and Wall Street.
MAYBE GOD says you shall not worship the idol of individualism that leads to the American dream of “success” only for some of God’s children. Or your granite display of the 10 commandments.
OUR CULTURE BELIEVES you shall not covet your Neighbor’s property unless your neighbor’s crib is bigger than yours or has more “toys” that bling-bling. Note: “neighbor” includes other countries and planets.
PERHAPS GOD SAYS you shall not covet another culture’s land or tax benefits obtained on the backs of the poor or global trade advantages . . . water . . . air . . . women . . . or immigrants . . . as personal property.
OUR CULTURE MAINTAINS you shall not kill unless you are one of the states with the death penalty, look different, talk different, think different or you’re trying to off  the ones you classify as terrorists.  (Note: Collateral damage, maimings, casualties, and the like are unavoidable, regrettable, justifiable, and patriotic).
PROBABLY GOD SAYS you shall not kill, period. Not by lethal injection, not by surgical air strikes, or by endangering the lives of millions of Americans by trying to demonize having health insurance or health-inspected food or denying access to life saving and life changing meds.

Just a few.  Is everything I just said part of the 10 commandments?  No.  Can a look at them open up discussions that go there?  Oh. Yes.



This week's Bible reflection (Salicin) starts off with bitter leaves, but ends with pure, healing water. Listen closely for the gulp sfx in today's sermon at St. Paul's UCC.
"River" podcast


In Our Weakness

Last week's Bible reflection (Legs) really got to running as I was on a tear in yesterday's sermon at St. Paul's UCC in Downers Grove, IL
"In Our Weakness" podcast


I spent time over several summers at a dude ranch in Colorado. And every time I was there, I heard the soothing yet powerful sounds of the Middle St. Vrain River out my cabin window. The sounds of the river helped me feel safe and content. They helped me notice life. While I was at that dude ranch, I also spent the better part of every day riding horses. I rode on mountain trails, in beautiful valleys, and across many streams and rivers. Sometimes the horses would walk. And sometimes the horses would really RUN. There are few things that are as exhilarating as holding on to the reigns with one hand and to your hat with another as a horse lopes fast through a smooth, breezy mountain valley.

And there are also few things that cause the kind of lingering pain one feels after an all day horseback ride – walking, trotting, and running.

There are aspen trees along many of the mountain trails I’ve traveled. The taste of the aspen leaves is highly bitter. (It’s common to hear one who as tasted the bitter leaves let someone else discover the bitterness by saying, “Taste these leaves – they taste like root beer!” They don’t taste like root beer.) The aspen leaves also have pain relieving properties. The leaves contain salicin, a chemical that is very similar to aspirin. When one chews on the leaves, they get similar pain relief as that brought on by aspirin. It lasts longer, too.

The aspen tree, among many other things, is for the healing of the soreness of horseback riding.

The aspen tree isn’t the only one whose leaves have medicinal properties. In the Bible reading from Revelation 22:1-5, trees that are lined along the river of the water life have leaves that are for the healing of the nations.

I bet those leaves don’t even taste bitter. Can we have those trees now?