ISSL Reflections January 23 2022 Deuteronomy 16:18–20; 17:8–13 Post 1

I.
Let’s take this as our starting place this week –

“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue”
Deuteronomy 16:20

With that as our lens, let’s read (and reread) these passages paying attention to all that is reported to go into pursuing “justice, and only justice.”

II.
Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (New Revised Standard Version)

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Deuteronomy 17:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version)

If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another—any such matters of dispute in your towns—then you shall immediately go up to the place that the Lord your God will choose, where you shall consult with the levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days; they shall announce to you the decision in the case. Carry out exactly the decision that they announce to you from the place that the Lord will choose, diligently observing everything they instruct you. You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left. As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the Lord your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.

III.
Who do you find identified in this reading?

What roles do they fill in that society?

Other than the call to pursuing justice, what strikes you as foundational?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 16 2022 Exodus 23:1–12 Post 3

IX.
How do these commands call us to act toward our world?

X.
Exodus 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.

You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

XI.
Let’s notice two things –

“… you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice …” (v 2).

“You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens…” (v 9).

We could say these words serve as a guide to how a “just” world can be created.

Is a “just” world created and maintained by knowing and following a set of commands and laws?

In part, I suspect it is.

But by calling attention to the “heart” of the matter – “… you know the heart of an alien …” – I can’t help but think the Torah is not only a call to follow a set of commands but Torah and all acts of justice must have their source in our hearts, in the core of our being.

Go one step more – it seems implicit to me this is a call not only to notice and acknowledge the empathy we have for others but to affirm that by our “God-given” nature we are created and structured to be empathetic.

Is that too much to hope for? Too much to believe?

I recall Rabbi Jesus saying something about doing to and for others as you want them to do and for you.

Where does justice begin?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 16 2022 Exodus 23:1–12 Post 2

V.
Let’s pick up where we left off the other day – noting the people (individuals or groups) mentioned in this passage.

VI.
Exodus 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.

You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

VII.
Who do you see –
You/Me, the wicked, a majority, the poor, your enemy, one who you hates you, the innocent, those in the right, the officials, resident alien, and slave.

It even goes beyond those –
Your land, vineyard, olive orchard, ox, donkey, wild animals and even time (days, years) is brought to your attention.

VIII.
What characterizes the way we are to act toward each of those?

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 16 2022 Exodus 23:1–12 Post 1

I.
Let’s begin our reading of this passage paying attention to who is mentioned and the actions that are mentioned.

II.
Exodus 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)

You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back.

When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.

You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

III.
We often hear that the “10 Commandments” (Exodus 20:2-17, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21) form the core of the Torah, the Law of Hebrew Scripture. I have read many times there are 613 commandments in the Torah. Our passage this week would seem to have a number of those.

What do you think- Are the passages in the Torah that list such commandments an expansion on “The 10” or a commentary on “The 10”?

IV.
Go back to this week’s Scripture and read it once again. Let’s make a list of all the people (individuals or groups) you find mentioned there. We’ll compare our lists later.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 9 2022 Genesis 21:8–20 Post 3

VII.
Let’s look at the folk in this account once again, and see if you notice the kind or kinds of wilderness each encounters.

VIII.
Genesis 21:8-20 (NRSV)

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

IX.
Wilderness comes up again and again in Scripture as a place that humankind finds itself in. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.

If we go back to Genesis 16, we see, “Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her. The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness…” (vv 6-7)

And here in Genesis 21, we find, “… [Hagar] departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba…. Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.” (vv 14, 19)

Hagar finds herself in the wilderness again and again. But notice, God is able to find her here and be present to her. One one occasion she finds a “spring of water” and God. On another, God helps her find a “well of water” she could not find.

In what wildernesses might God find others in this account?

For that matter, how might God meet you in your wilderness?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 9 2022 Genesis 21:8–20 Post 2

IV.
I asked in the last post to notice how you “regard” the folks you encounter here. What impression do they make on you? Look at them again and notice the strengths or lack of strength they bring.

V.
Genesis 21:8-20 (NRSV)

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

VI.
What do you think of Abraham and Sarah?

Who does each “love” and how do they demonstrate that “love”?

Or maybe I should ask, do you think they show love for any others in this account?

Given who they show any “love” for, how does that lead them to act towards others in this account?

We’re told Hagar “wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.”

I assume we are to take it that Hagar physically wandered in an area that one way or another was barren and uninviting.

But, that leads me to wonder if “wilderness” might also be a metaphor for where others in this account “wandered” about. How would you describe the barren places they lived in? Were they aimless in their wanderings in these barren places? What hope did they have of exiting these barren places and finding hope and life?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 9 2022 Genesis 21:8–20 Post 1

I.
This week we turn our attention to Sarah, Ishmael (Hagar’s son), Hagar, Abraham and let us not skip over God and the “angel of God.”

Let us not miss some of the “back story” that brings us to this scene. I invite you to read Genesis 16. There you will find Sarai/Sarah’s concern that she has not given birth to a son by Abraham who will be heir to the covenant God made with Abraham, so she tells Abraham, ““You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2). Abraham follows Sarai’s advice and Hagar gives birth to Ishmael. But even before the birth of Ishmael, Sarai comes to believe Hagar has contempt for her and with Abraham’s permission begins to treat Hagar badly with the result that Hagar runs away. Hagar encounters God by a spring/well and given God’s encouragement and promise of blessing returns to Sarai and Abraham.

Turn now to our reading from Genesis 21. Pay attention to each you encounter there. What do you learn about them and how does it lead you to regard them?

II.
Genesis 21:8-20 (NRSV)

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.

III.
In a few words how would you characterize each in this narrative?

Are there heroes and villains in this account?

Do you have any thoughts on what moves each to act as they do?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 2 2022 Genesis 4:1–15 Post 3

VII.
Today as you spend time with this Scripture passage, pay attention to what strikes you as discouraging and what strikes you as hopeful.

VIII.
Genesis 4:1-15 (NRSV)

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

IX.
What disappoints and discourages you the most in these scenes?

What echoes of these attitudes and actions do you see in today’s world?

X.
Where is hope found in this passage?

Is there hope in Cain’s words as he confronts God regarding his “punishment”?

Do you think God offers Cain hope and a path to redemption?

XI.
Read this passage once again, and notice the choices Cain made and the choices that he could have made.

Does Cain have any reason to believe that his wanderings from this place will not be hopeless?

If Cain asked you “Where can I find hope as I go about my aimless wanderings?” what could you tell him?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 2 2022 Genesis 4:1–15 Post 2


IV.
Let’s turn our attention to how this passage presents God.

V.
Genesis 4:1-15 (NRSV)

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

VI.
How do you encounter God in the passage?

Let’s try this – Describe God’s “attitude” toward (1) Cain, (2) Abel, (3) the offerings, (4) Cain’s actions, (5) Cain’s plea for protection.

Now, can you put all that together to “describe” God?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

ISSL Reflections January 2 2022 Genesis 4:1–15 Post 1

I.
We turn to Genesis to pay attention to an account of two brothers and what leds the one to murder the other. As you spend time with this passage what do you learn about Cain and Abel?

II.
Genesis 4:1-15 (NRSV)

Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

III.
It appears that in the context of Cain and Abel presenting offerings and sacrifices to God Cain becomes very angry.

What gives rise to his anger?

What is it about the one offering that appears to make it more acceptable or appropriate than the other offering?

What is the “root” of Cain’s anger? He directs his anger at his brother Abel, but I begin to wonder if that is the primary object of his anger?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}