Century Marks

Century Marks

Priestly digs

Archaeologists from the University of North Carolina are excavating a first-century mansion on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion near the walls of the Second Temple built by King Herod the Great. The mansion has fancy features for the time, such as a bathtub and a cistern 30 feet deep. A large number of Murex sea snail shells have been found among the ruins. A blue dye extracted from these snails was prescribed by Jewish texts as the coloring agent for religious garments. The archaeologists think the mansion could have belonged to a priest of Jesus’ time, possibly even the high priest Caiaphas or his father-in-law Annas (NBC News, September 17).

They’re here

The Muslims Are Coming is a documentary film by an Iranian-American and an American with Palestinian-Italian roots. The film takes on Islamophobia by showing what happens when a troupe of Muslim comedians do stand-up comedy in red-state America. “It was alarming to me that being a Muslim became an accusation,” said one of the film’s producers. They have found that most Americans are usually tolerant, especially once they get to know a Muslim (RNS).

Sick system

The United States spends more on health care than any other country, with too little in the way of results to show for it. The U.S. ranks 25th in maternal mortality, 26th in life expectancy, 28th in low birth weight for infants and 31st in infant mortality. Compared to countries with better health outcomes, the U.S. spends far less on social services. This results in more ill health and requires the health-care system to provide social services that should be available elsewhere. Five percent of Americans account for 50 percent of all health-care spending. These are often poor people who are locked into bad habits in bad environments (Ezra Klein’s Washington Post blog, September 19).

Guilt gone

In his 1958 book on guilt and guilt feelings (Schuld und Schudgefühle), Martin Buber said that some religious perspectives on how to deal with guilt are so important they should be shared with the rest of society. These include the Jewish synagogue tradition, the Catholic practice of confession and the Protestant tradition of preaching about the necessity of confessing one’s sins. In its own way each of these traditions teaches that it is possible for a sinner to be free of guilt if that person is willing to walk the long road of remorse, confession, making amends and asking for forgiveness. What was done can’t be undone, but the guilty one doesn’t need to continue to be identified with the sin (Dialog, Summer).

First testament

Preaching from the Old Testament is a problem for pastors who use the Revised Common Lectionary, since OT texts are usually chosen to match themes in the New Testament texts. The contexts of the OT texts are often overlooked as they are used to retell the Christian story. One option is to suspend use of the lectionary occasionally to preach by drawing on books of the first testament. Another is to make the OT texts from the lectionary the main focus, taking seriously their contexts and the narratives of which they are a part (Expository Times, September).