Applesauce Communion and Critical Thinking

This months edition of the Lutheran magazine (February 2012) provided some thought-provoking tidbits.

APPLESAUCE COMMUNION

When I first saw the title, I thought, “Oh God… can this be as bad as the Dr. Seuss liturgy highlighted last month?” (You can check that one out for yourself in the January 2012 issue). Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by the article and the issue it raised.

The author, Pastor Janelle Hooper, describes her experience bringing communion to an elderly woman in a nursing home in which she had to mix the host pieces with applesauce so that the woman would be able to swallow it. While I know some people who would be appalled by such a practice, I was quite open to the idea.

Pastor Hooper displayed the ability to adapt to a specific person’s need in a specific situation, and acted out of love. This, I believe, is the key difference between offering communion with applesauce for this woman and advertising “APPLESAUCE EUCHARIST – COME HUNGRY LEAVE HAPPY” for a Sunday. She was not trying to entice more members or be a “hip” pastor–she was merely making Christ present in that circumstance for someone in a way that they could take him.

“CRITICAL THINKING”

I found this among the Letters to the Editor:

[For the Presiding Bishop] to equate the Dream Act with biblical hospitality shows that many parts of the ELCA are thinking with their hearts only, and not also critically with their heads. The U.S. is being invaded, albeit a slow invasion, by criminal trespassers. I am uncertain that God commanded his people to welcome invaders. (emphasis mine)

What the heck is wrong with thinking with the heart? We have too much thinking with the head these days. Taking care of our neighbor “does not compute” because it does not serve our own interests or increase our profits. How presumptuous to tell God, “I see what you’re getting at, but I don’t think you really understand our situation down here,” as if God doesn’t know full well what our situation is. Are you trying to tell me that God is ignorant and that we know better?

Maybe, in the Bible, God didn’t specifically command us to welcome “invaders” (who in this case are more like refugees)–I’d have to really buckle-down in Bibleworks to search for that occurrence. But we are commanded to love the alien among us, treat them like citizens, and to love our enemies. I would rather have God tell me, “How dare you love too much” than “How dare you withhold your love.”

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The Story of King David: Week 1

THE CHOOSING OF DAVID AND THE FRIENDSHIP OF JONATHAN
1 Samuel 16:1 – 20:42

Summary:

God (and Samuel, the prophet and judge) has had enough. It’s time for King Saul to go, and a new king to be chosen for Israel. God sends Samuel to Bethlehem, to Jesse’s house, to find a king from among Jesse’s sons. Much to Samuel’s surprise, God chooses David, the scrawny shepherd.

About this time, God puts Saul in a really foul mood. To make him feel better, Saul orders his servants to find him a skilled musician to play the harp for him. As it just so happens, one of the servants knows of a boy David who is an excellent musician and, completely oblivious to the fact that David is going to be the next king, brings the boy before Saul. David’s music works, and Saul is so impressed, he keeps David around.

Eventually, the Philistines become a threat to Israel and Saul goes out to battle. Enter Goliath the giant, champion of the Philistines. David, visiting his brothers on the front lines, decides to challenge Goliath. With one stone’s throw, the giant is killed, causing the Philistines to flee in terror. Saul is greatly impressed by the boy (again), but even more impressed is Jonathan, Saul’s son. Jonathan and David become intimately close friends that day.

Word spreads of David’s battle prowess and he becomes incredibly popular with the people. This annoys Saul, who is jealous of David’s popularity. Saul falls into such bad moods that he tries, on multiple occasions, to have David killed or to kill him himself. Jonathan continually intercedes on David’s behalf, and sometimes manages to convince his father to cool off. But Saul always eventually remembers his hatred for David. He tries to get Jonathan to kill David, but Jonathan refuses, still shocked that his father would try to kill his best friend, and David escapes again. Saul gets so angry that he even tries to take his own son’s life.

Now convinced beyond doubt that Saul will stop at nothing to see David dead, Jonathan sneaks away to warn his friend. The two share a bittersweet parting, and David runs into the wilderness, neither of them sure if they will ever see each other again.

Discussion:

1. “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). What qualities do you think God looks for when calling someone? How do you think David, the “runt”, felt when he was chosen above his brothers? How do you think his brothers felt?

2. “Now the Spirit of the LORD had turned away from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.” (1 Samuel 16:14). Do you believe God sends evil spirits to people? Justify your position.

3. David vs Goliath: Along with the story about the wife of Uriah, this is perhaps the most well-known story about David. Read the whole story, 1 Samuel 17. What did you read that you had never heard before? How does that change your perception of the story? Is there a justice issue behind this “big man / little man” fight?

4. “Jonathan made a covenant with David, for he loved him as much as he did his own life. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with the rest of his gear, including his sword, his bow, and even his belt.” (1 Saumel 18:3-4) David and Jonathan have a difficult relationship—they love each other more than their own lives, yet Jonathan’s father wants to kill David. What does that say about their relationship? Have you ever experienced a friendship like this?

5. “When the servant had left, David got up from beside the mound, knelt with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then they kissed each other and they both wept, especially David. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn together in the name of the LORD saying, ‘The LORD will be between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’’ Then David got up and left, while Jonathan went back to the city.” (1 Samuel 20:41-42). This is almost the last time Jonathan and David will ever see each other. What does it feel like to lose a friend?

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Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org All rights reserved. This material is available in its entirety as a free download or online web use at http://netbible.org/.

The Story of King David

The high schoolers of First Evangelical Lutheran Church have asked me if our next Sunday school topic could be the Story of King David. There are certain parts of the story that everyone knows: David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba (which is probably not her name, but we’ll get there eventually). But for many people, the story of David goes no further.

I have therefore challenged myself to create a useable series of Bible studies that covers the entire David story, from 1 Samuel 6:1 – 1 Kings 2:12. Based on the number of chapters this covers and the amount of material I feel I can get through each week, I estimate that this will take between six and eight weeks.

Each week, as preparation for that Sunday, I will post the lesson for that week, discussion questions and all. The studies use the New English Translation for two reasons: one, the translation uses more modern language, making it more accessible to those unfamiliar with the Bible; and two, the NET Bible is available freely online for use in ministry, which is a principle I support for the Bible.

I welcome any feedback you may have on these studies, and hope that they may be of use to others.