It’s easy for us to forget that the message of Jesus and the entire Bible come from an intensely Hebrew context and worldview. Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews, and bringing the words of scripture back to their original Hebrew language and setting, understanding what the first Jewish hearers of those words would have understood, is the closest we can come to their original intent.
Dave Brisbin | 5.28.17
The theme of balance in kingdom life continues as we consider a very strange saying of Jesus: to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. In sending his followers out to teach and heal, what is he trying to tell them and by extension, us? To balance “shrewd,” as intelligent, thoughtful, discreet, practical, and cautious with “innocence,” characterized as simple, sincere, straightforward, without deceit is a difficult mix that seems to be in basic contradiction at first glance. But as with all of Jesus’ instructions, it’s not only possible, but necessary, of course.
Dave Brisbin | 5.14.17
Mothers’ Day: I was recently asked that though we know God loves us, how can we know he likes us? Great question, one that goes to the heart of our human experience. On Mothers’ Day, and by way of answering, it’s always good to be reminded of the ancient Hebraic understanding of the roles of mother and father that is coded right into their language. To understand father/Ab, as “strong house,” the support and structure of the family, and mother/Em as “strong water,” the glue that holds the family together, is fundamental to their life in family, tribe, and nation. But it also reveals their view of God as well.
Dave Brisbin | 5.7.17
The cross of Jesus is such a big and central message in Christianity that we need to spend more time on it. So continuing the discussion from the previous week’s message, “Lamb of God,” and in answer to the perennial questions—why is the bible so violent, and why would God sacrifice his son?—we’re looking at deeper ways of understanding Calvary that neither compromise the sacrifice of Jesus nor the love of the Father. In typical midrash fashion (see the message “Deeper Reading” for more on midrash), the New Testament writers portray Jesus on the cross using three deeply embedded images from the Old Testament: the Passover Lamb, the Lifted Up One, and the Scapegoat. To fully understand how Jesus’ first followers understood his sacrifice on the cross, we need to know how these three images functioned in the spiritual lives of the people and how they applied to the spiritual truth of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Dave Brisbin | 4.30.17
No matter what questions we ask of religion or church, scripture or theology, the subtext, the question we’re always really asking is the same: with all life’s pain, uncertainty, absurdity…do I matter? Am I safe? Whether we’re asking about heaven, hell, salvation, law, or any esoteric point of theology, what we’re really looking for is assurance, confidence in our own acceptability. That’s the human condition. And so it also is as we ask about the cross, about what it really means, and how Jesus as Lamb of God, an innocent blood sacrifice, impacts the nature of a God who Jesus tells us is absolutely all loving. Is there a way to understand the Lamb and the sacrifice in such a way that God’s loving nature is not compromised?
Dave Brisbin | 4.23.17
Just as Jesus’ closest friends were kept from recognizing him after the Resurrection because of their limiting expectations and beliefs, we are kept from seeing the deeper meaning of scripture for the same reason. But even to make such a statement that interprets a passage of scripture beyond the strictly literal meaning of the text demands some explanation. What is an acceptable method of scriptural interpretation that can take us to a deeper reading, a reading beyond the literal, moving us to a spiritual understanding and relevance for our daily lives that is still consistent with the author’s original intent? To answer that question, we need to know how the writers of scripture understood the interpretation of sacred texts in their own time.
Dave Brisbin | 4.16.17
Easter Sunday: Why do all the Gospels preserve stories of Jesus’ closest friends not recognizing him after the Resurrection? Mary in the garden, travelers along the Emmaus road, Peter and the fisherman on the lake. The central question the angels ask the women who have come early Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body–why do you look for the living among the dead?—questions our deepest assumptions and beliefs if we will let it. The women expected Jesus to be exactly where they left him Friday afternoon, and we do the same in slavishly following our own expectations and belief systems. Jesus is ushering in something radically different, always in motion, just as spirit itself is always in motion, as life itself is defined by motion.
Dave Brisbin | 12.11.16
In the run up to Christmas, what does the infancy narratives in Luke and Matthew have to tell us that is relevant to our day to day lives and choices? Especially, what are the details in those narratives that, understood from a first century, Jewish point of view, can not only make the story real, but clue us in to the central principles the authors were trying to convey? When we know what the word that has been translated as “inn” really means—start erasing our modern western concepts—the story takes on new life.
Dave Brisbin | 9.25.16
How important is prayer? A kneejerk reaction says of course it’s important, essential to our spiritual lives. But a more important question may be what kind of prayer is essential to our spiritual lives? When you take all the different types of prayer that we commonly think of as prayer—recited prayer, freeform prayer, petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praise—what is common to all of them are words. Words form the basis of most if not all our prayers, and yet words can never capture the deepest parts of our spirituality or the relationship we have with a God who can’t be seen or expressed in any way. The Hebrew word for prayer, slotha, points back to the roots, sela, which is actually a hunting term for laying a snare or setting a trap.
Dave Brisbin | 9.18.16
The Bible makes a big deal about knowing God. There are dozens of references to knowing that tell us this is an area to which we should pay attention. And we have been, but the solution of Western Christianity for the past 500 years to search scripture for any and every bit and piece of data to add to our collected theology has nothing to do with what the writers of scripture had in mind. To know in Hebrew is something borne of long, close association. It is an experiential knowing that could never come out of a book. Our word for such knowing is intimacy, and tellingly both words also serve as euphemisms for sexual relations: the closest and most intense knowing we experience as humans.
Dave Brisbin | 6.19.16
Fathers’ Day: Ancient Hebrews envisioned their God the way they experienced the patriarchs of their clans—as king, judge, executioner, administrator—as the strength of their houses, which is what the Hebrew word for father, Ab, actually means. And though they also had a balancing notion of God as mother too, as wisdom, compassion, love—the glue that held the family together—it was Ab by which they referred to God. Jesus had an ingenious solution to create balance. He called God his “abba,” the name children would use for their fathers…a term of intimacy and affection.