Whew! First intensive week is over. It was amazing! Today we looked at the entire book of Hosea with Dr. Ellen Davis. We looked at the challenging metaphor that Hosea uses, an unfaithful wife as the image of Israel. The first thing that is important to say about Hosea is that the metaphor is difficult, in some ways very hurtful, and violent. We need to treat this story as the shocking sermon and allegory that it is. One of the reasons that the story persisted in Israel’s memory was that it was both startling but also impactful. So impactful that it is picked up in the New Testament. In addition to the difficulty in the story, it also contains some of the most beautiful intimate poetry of God’s heartacheand love for God’s people….
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak tenderly to her.
16 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.[d]’
23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.[i]’
I will say to those called ‘Not my people,[j]’ ‘You are my people’;
and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
Notice that the poetry has two relational connections…. You will call me “my husband” a deeply intimate relationship. The New Testament will pick up this metaphor for Jesus as the bridegroom of the church. The second is the connection to fertility and abundance, “I will plant her for myself in the land.” God’s relationship is not just to human beings, but the whole world, the earth and all the rocks, plants, animals and water. We often think of God’s relationship with us, but what about God’s relationship with the rest of God’s creation.
So… I am full! Full of new thoughts and friends. Filled with a spirit of God’s love from my teachers, the books and my classmates. Filled with hope for us as a family of faith and filled with a sense that God continues to nourish us and God’s world with hope.
I’m on a plane tomorrow morning at 8am. Glad to have this week of study. Glad to be heading home to be with you all!
Today we spent most of our morning talking about some of the most difficult texts in the Old Testament: First, the story of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11 and second the story of the Levite and His Concubine in Judges 19. These are both very violent and challenging texts. Let me say by way of too simple a summary let me say that these texts are both to be read as failures of leadership, failures of faithfulness, failures of human beings to exercise agency in support of life and as examples of the consequences of lost trust in God. From one of our readings, “Judges does not in fact condone violence; to the contrary violence appears primarily as a sign that Israel has lost its way in relationship to God, that God’s people failed to recognize God’s reign over their lives and they subsequently spiraled downward into violent chaos.” The book of Judges ends with, “In those days Israel had no king, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). The point being that selfishness, and individuality ruled in the people’s hearts, violence and chaos began to spread.
We often shy away from reading these stories because they are challenging and possibly dangerous. Challenging because they may cause us to reflect on our own situation and recognize our own violence and selfishness. Dangerous because they might convict us of our failures, but hopeful in that they point to God’s tenacious love despite even the most violent and despicable actions of human beings. New life is possible.
I also cannot say enough for my colleagues, professors and school administrators. My classmates are simply amazing. Smart, articulate, thoughtful, kind, vulnerable and open. It would have been worth $10,000 just to spend this one-weekwith these people in this setting. The professors are some of the most outstanding in their field. Dr. Ellen Davis is one of the most sought after Old Testament scholars in the country. Dr. Willimon is a well-known preacher, former Methodist bishop and well-known author. As I’ve already noted my colleagues are simply amazing.
So, thank you. Thank you for the time away to study. Thank you for the gift of financial resources to do this. Thank you for your prayers and support while I’ve been away. I am looking forward to being home and being back with you all and our staff. I’m also looking forward to cooler temperatures… it’s currently 93 at 5:30pm… too hot!
First, I am so grateful to be given the opportunity to go back to school. Thank you to the church council, members of SOTH and our staff for the encouragement and support. Thank you for your prayers, words of support and your financial support. I could not do this without your help in all of these ways. Thank you!
Second, I am also exceptionally anxious. Like many adults I have a deep-seated fear of looking stupid! In many ways I pray for the open, vulnerable, unassuming freedom of my niece and nephew who have no fear of not knowing. In part, being a learner means that you first must admit your ignorance. You must admit there are things you don’t know. It is a vulnerable position. It is a humbling position; especially for someone like me (and maybe you too) who likes to be in control and create the illusion that I know what I’m doing! I am asking to be kept in your prayers, and I’m asking for your kindness as I strive to be vulnerable in the learning process. I’m sure I will quickly learn how much I don’t know!
Lastly, I hope you will join me along the way. I plan to write occasionally about my learning and post occasionally on our website and our Facebook page. I want to be sure you have the opportunity to learn along with me, and overhear some of the joys and struggles of church leadership. In many ways now is one of the most challenging times in recent history to be in church leadership. In many ways now is one of the most exciting and opportune times to be in church leadership. As always, whether we are in a time of growth and stability, or in a time of challenge and decline, God’s promise is to be with us, love us and bring new life. We are in this together! So ready or not, here we go!
Below you can download the syllabi for the two courses I’m taking this fall. You can also download my schedule for this first week of classes and my orientation weekend. I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts. I will be on campus at Duke August 9-17 to meet my colleagues, get oriented and spend a week in class. Look for pictures and updates on our Facebook page during my first week.
Thank you for this opportunity! I look forward to all that is in store!
Peace - Pastor Scott