Wednesday, October 20, 2004
An exercise in humility
Has it been a good couple of days?

Well, you're reading the dude who set the curve for last week's church history test. Yes, that Collins church history test known the campus over by its reputation and spoken of in hushed tones, if mentioned at all. "Don't even study for it. You'll make the same grade."

40/50 + 5-point curve = the only "A" in the class

[we now return you to your regularly scheduled pearls of humility.]

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, a good couple of days...

There was the unexpected $500 check in the mail yesterday from old friends. And who just told them that a tuition payment is due Friday?

And the Sox just became the first team in playoff history to overcome a 3 games to none deficit, win 3 in a row and force a Game 7. First. Time. Ever. Read that and weep, Timbo. Man, I hate that A-Rod guy. And my online New Yorker pals did indeed confirm to me that the fans were chanting "Bull-shit!" as they hurled projectiles onto the field after A-Rod was called out for his little stunt. Classy bunch those cityfolk are.

Forgot to mention it earlier but I started therapy last Friday. I say "therapy" because it sounds so much more dramatic than "counseling" for "divorce recovery." Almost makes me feel like I'm a character in a Woody Allen flick.

"I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much how I feel about relationships. Y'know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and, but, uh, I guess we keep going through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs."

Went well. Low-key, casual, get-to-know you stuff. Got to read about the five stages of grief. This looks promising. Especially as its with a professional and not some laity crackpot who took a weekend seminar.

Oh, and the seminary is paying for it.

For all the grief my Matthew inductive Bible study class is giving me, I'm getting some real gems out of it. The principles I know, it's the particulars that are jumping out to me here. Consider:

Beginnings and endings are important.
Matthew begins ringing the note that God is among us: "...they will call him Immanuel"--which means, 'God with us'" (1:22).

The author brings the theme full circle when he closes his book with the words "surely I am with you..." (28:20).

And that's the end. No description of the setting. No mention that Jesus then rockets into the sky a la Neo at the conclusion of the first Matrix. No explicit narration than the mention of a mountain and that some disciples believe and some doubt. "Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus doesn't go anywhere. El Fin. The implication here being that Christ is still among us.

We begin with the origin of the God-with-us child and end with the picture of the Christ still with us.

There's a punchline in repetition.
Take 4:23--Jesus went through Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

And then flip over in the pew Bibles to 9:35--Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

Preaching. Teaching. Healing. In almost the identical language. These verses represent brackets in the large structure in the narrative of Matthew. In between them, we see the author highlighting each of these activities of Jesus. There's the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7. Chapters 8 and 9 then chronicle 10 different divine acts and healings. This first segment of Matthew between these two similar verses spotlight the ministry of Jesus. Beginning in chapter 10, we see Jesus sending out the 12, involving his disciples in the ministry of preaching, teaching and healing.

There's a punchline in the details.
Observe the geneology that begins the book. Specifically, observe the deviations from the genealogic formula "_____ the father of _____."

The phrase "and his brothers" comes up twice. The first time in reference to Judah, the patriarch. The second to Jeconiah, the final king of the monarchy before the exile to Babylon. While the individuals, specifically Abraham and David, legitimize the Messianic identity of Jesus, the relationship of Jesus to the entire nation of Israel is paramount to the author's Jewish audience.

In mentioning the brothers of Judah, the author connects Jesus not only to the single patriarch, but to the whole family of Israel. There's a problem with the "brothers" of Jeconiah. According the Old Testament geneaologies in 2 Chronicles, King Jeconiah has but a single male sibling. "Brothers" here has to refer to countrymen. Again, Jesus is connected not just to a single individual but to the nation as a whole. His identity is confirmed not just in an individual sense, but also in a communal one.

Observe also "Perez and Zerah" (1:3). Nowhere else are two brothers mentioned together by name. This is a reference to Genesis 38:28-30. Two twins. At birth, one sticks out his arm and has a scarlet thread tied to it before drawing it back in. He is the firstborn, but not the firstborn.

And just what if this is a picture of the nation of Israel: A nation believing it to be the firstborn of God's blessing, but now no longer in light of Christ's work and the Church? A nation confused in its identity before God? A nation claiming rights to itself that are not hers?

Much to think about.

Couple of new sites one should check out.

First of all, I was invited to join a xanga blogring called "Poets/Prophets/Preachers." I would have preferred something along the lines of "Scalliwags/Scruffy-Looking-Nerfherders". Same difference, right? But hey, I didn't get to name the thing.

Secondly, there's Church Marketing Sucks. Don't give me those dirty looks, Mom. Read the subtitle:
The blog to frustrate, educate and motivate the church to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ.

Includes an interview with Brian McLaren. I look forward to exploring this one some more.

I'm just folding some laundry. And it hits me: I'm folding the socks in the exact manner in which the Lovely Ex brainwashed me. Lay the socks flat against each other. Fold them in half. Turn the outer one inside out over the other. Then you've got a flat pair of socks for efficient storage.

I try to bring myself to do it the old way I used to fold socks before I met her. I can't do it. This pisses me off.

You know, if the old adage is true that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, then I'm a helluva lot stronger than I ever wanted to be.

posted by Peter at 2:10 AM
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