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26 March 2015: Part XLV Matthew – Judas Iscariot Person or Myth? Part II

There are at least three traitor stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. They were all well known to Jewish readers of those scriptures. They would not, however, have been familiar to those Gentile Christians, who became the majority in the Christian movement by the year 150 CE. Most Christians, through the centuries, therefore, tended to be …

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Q & A:

Years ago your book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, changed the way I think about this man we call our Savior and Lord. I'm a 90 year old homemaker and I can no longer bear to watch the evening news. We are all children of God. Why isn't this present generation being told the gospel truth?

I listened to the Nicene Creed being broadcast in our Lutheran worship service last Sunday-centered on "People of the Second Century" and thought about how the world has changed since that creed was written! How can anyone say "we believe" when we don't even know our own beliefs? I couldn't help but wonder what you'd think of my own version of the Nicene Creed. It might go like this:

I believe in one almighty God, maker of heaven and earth and all that is seen and unseen.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who, for our salvation, was born of Mary and Joseph and was truly man, was crucified, died and rose to life and will come again and his kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son and who has spoken through God's person on earth since time began.

I believe in the international Israel of God and look for the resurrection of the living dead and an everlasting life to come. Amen.

As I wrote to you with regard to your essay “Two Popes Made Saints,” dare we hope that by placing Pope John XXIII together with Pope John Paul II in sainthood we can now bring unity to the Catholic world? Don’t you think a revision of the Nicene Creed might help? All people are colored - only the dead are white.

 

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19 March 2015: Part XLIV Matthew: Judas Iscariot – Myth or Reality? Part I

Among the best known characters in the New Testament is the one who is sometimes called “The Anti-Christ.” He is always painted in dark colors, as slinking around corners, shielding his face. It is said of him that “he would do anything for money.” In biblical dramas from Hollywood’s “The King of Kings” to Broadway’s …

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Q & A:

Can you explain to me how the Bible (God) sees Suicide? What is your point of view on suicide? I am 20 years old. I am an existential, anxious person who is standing at the gate of Suicide. I experience anxiety, stress, and depression in many ways in my life (especially in regard to my family). There is no love or peace in my family. I try to live according to the heart and will of God revealed by Jesus Christ (love, care, forgiveness, justice etc.) but nothing ever gets better. There is still a problem in my family and in my life. Now, I think about suicide. I so often think that if I die, my family would be in a better situation. Can you help me?

 

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12 March 2015: Part XLIII Matthew – The Passion Narrative: Discovering the Liturgical Outline

In Matthew’s story of the Passion of Jesus, based as it is on Mark’s original written passion narrative, we can discover by a close analysis the outline of a twenty-four hour vigil. This vigil, based on the pattern of the synagogue vigil of Shavuot or Pentecost that Matthew was the first to develop, consists of …

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Q & A:

I am a "fan," I suspect, eagerly looking forward to your weekly email. Your response concerning the Paleo-Indians touched on such a wide range of issues that I will have to re-read it often to plumb its depths.

I have a grave concern about the way it appears that current Christianity in all denominations is becoming irrelevant in modern culture. As an Episcopal priest, I try to use whatever insights I have in preaching a message true to the Scriptures and useful to my congregation. I sometimes fear that those insights are not consistent with the view of Jesus’ identity and importance that is proclaimed in the prayers of the Church. Do you have any suggestions of a way that Eucharistic people can proclaim a faith that suits modern understanding, at the same time doing justice to the ancient story?

 

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5 March 2015: William Maurice, i.e. Willie Mo, I Baptize You

It was a strangely emotional moment for me. I was in All Saint’s Church in Austin, Texas, holding in my arms a nine months old baby boy, preparing to baptize him. He was the first grandchild in my only brother’s family, a grandchild he would never see or know. My brother, William Conwell Spong, died …

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Q & A:

You often mention Elaine Pagels and Karen Armstrong. What are your thoughts on the writings of Joan Chittister – especially her book: Called to Question?

Also, I would like your opinion of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

 

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26 February 2015: Part XLII Matthew – Identifying the Sources of the Passion Narrative

If we can demonstrate that Jesus never spoke the words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” from the cross, but that rather the earliest gospel writers, Mark and Matthew, lifted those words directly and verbatim out of Psalm 22 in order to place them into Jesus’ mouth in the passion narrative, then …

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Q & A:

Recently I read your articles on “Atonement Theology.” While I agree with you, I am left with a question. All four gospels give considerable attention to the crucifixion and death of Jesus even more than to the resurrection. Atonement theology explains this. What is your explanation of the importance given to Christ's crucifixion and death in the gospels?

 

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19 February 2015: Part XLI Matthew – Entering the Passion Narratives

We looked last week at the passion narratives in the New Testament. We noted the additions, the deletions and the contradictions found in these central stories of our faith tradition. We asked the obvious questions. How accurate can narratives be when they do not agree with one another? This week, we press deeper into these …

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Q & A:

I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in my teens. Eventually, I left because I could no longer accept parts of the Nicene Creed as literally true. Due to your writings and the modern liberal paradigm of our current Presiding Bishop, I have returned to the church. Unfortunately, I have met with some opposition from several clergy members who are concerned that my beliefs are not “orthodox enough.” One local rector actually “interviewed” me and refused to admit me to membership status. I am perplexed. I know some parishes are more conservative than others, but I hadn’t expected to run into this sort of trouble. Do you have any advice for me? I sure could use some help.

 

 

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12 February 2015: Part XL Matthew – The Passion Narrative Begins

It is a familiar story. It has been burned into the collective consciousness of the Christian world over the centuries. Many of its elements have long since left their place of origin in the gospel narratives to become part of the secular world. Almost every one of us, whether Christian or not, has heard of …

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Q & A:

I attended an event sponsored by an Episcopal Seminary, likely laying foundations for fundraising. Hearing how seminarians are prepared for their encounter with fundamentalists, e.g. those anticipating the Rapture, I posed the question: Can (and should) Christianity be experienced fully and to good effect on a non-metaphysical platform? Expressed differently, will the graduates of this seminary generally be comfortable ministering to a congregation that finds metaphysical formulations of Christianity off-putting?

The response I received was to the effect that, while some Episcopalians have a non-metaphysical faith that works for them, the role of metaphysics remains strong. I take from that an assumption that a proper formation of seminarians need not include serious consideration of Christian faith without metaphysics.

While I believe that financial support of seminaries is critical to a vibrant future for the church, that future seems to me at risk if seminarians aren’t encouraged to envision a faith without metaphysics. Are some (Episcopal) seminaries less frightened by traditionalists and fundamentalists? Your writings are acknowledged but, at least in this case, kept at a distance. What have you found hopeful in the formation of our future church leaders?

 

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5 February 2015: Part XXXIX Matthew – The Apocalypse and the End of the World

In Matthew’s narrative, the Jewish year came to an end with the month of Adar. The Passover would be the first celebration of the New Year which began with the month of Nisan. Passover, according to the Torah, however, did not occur until the 14th and 15th days of the month of Nisan. If Matthew …

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Q & A:

Why do Christian ministers have to wear a uniform, big crosses, colored tunics, etc.? It is very off-putting to me and I think it acts as a barrier. Jesus did not have to wear those things, he was one of the people and had to be recognized by a kiss on the cheek.

 

 

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29 January 2015: Marcus J. Borg 1942-2015

He was one of the giants in the Christian faith during the last 25 years, widely read, widely known and widely respected. He was a quiet man, humble and unassuming, yet simultaneously he was brilliant, provocative and stretching. He was one of the three major shakers and movers of the Jesus Seminar, the other two …

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Q & A:

I am a 54 year-old gay man who "came out" to my parents (and others) in the early 1980s. Of course, at that time there was a great deal of homophobia in America and one of my struggles was the negative reaction of my mother, who had raised us in the Methodist Church. Somehow, however, by the late 1980s my mother started to become more accepting, perhaps naturally "softening" on the gay issue as it related to her son, but also influenced by social changes around her.

Somewhat ironically, some of her changing views came from within her church, which by that time was the Episcopal Church, my mother having changed denominations. At the time I was dimly aware that the Episcopal Church was a forerunner in the religious movement to fully accept gays. In any event, I can remember around 1990, my mother made a point to tell me about a new book she’d read by Bishop Spong of Newark, challenging and reinterpreting some commonly held biblical injunctions against homosexuality. The book was Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality. At the time, to be honest, having made great progress in my own self-acceptance as a gay man, I had little interest in what any person, such as yourself, within “organized religion,” had to say, good or bad, on the subject.

Of course, my mother had been inspired by your book, but in mentioning it for me to read, she was “really” saying that she had reconciled her religious beliefs with my (and others‘) sexuality and had become accepting. Quite an evolution in only a few years-and of course I was delighted.

Skip to this past weekend when, due to my mother’s recent move to a senior facility, I was sorting through some of her books and came across Living in Sin? In the past few days, I read a few chapters, including the excellent one about what the Bible really says-and doesn’t say-about homosexuality. In other words, I was “discovering” 35 years later, the book that had helped transform my mother. I look forward to finishing the book in the near future.

Thank you, Bishop Spong, for your book that is indeed provocative, powerful and compelling and has, in the way I described above, made a difference in my immediate family. I am happy to see you are still writing and being read by many. I will visit your website from time to time, to see some of your latest work. My above account may be written a bit roughly but it is sincere.

 

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22 January 2015: Part XXXVIII Matthew – The First Confirmation Class

Most people are not aware that Judaism, at the time of Jesus, had become a missionary, conversion-oriented religion. People all over the Roman Empire were finding their way into synagogues and many of them were deciding to convert. This movement was large enough that the Jewish authorities had to develop a program for the incorporation …

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Q & A:

My question is: What is the soul? Is it separate from the body and what happens to it when we die? I really enjoy your books, but have not yet found the answer. None of us around the table here seem to know.

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