Tag Archives: Christian

Time and Again

Quick Summary of the Episode

As Voyager starts to make its way through the Delta Quadrant on its way home to the Alpha Quadrant, they pass a planet which has been decimated by a polaric energy disaster. When the away team go to investigate, Janeway and Paris are pulled back in time to just before the disaster – the explosion had shattered time and space into fractures.

Unable to get back, Janeway and Paris attempt to investigate the cause of the detonation, but (to cut the story short), it transpires that it is Voyager’s own rescue attempt that causes the disaster, and when Janeway acts to counter their beam cutting into the past, the disaster is averted, and the whole incident never happened. We are returned to Voyager before they find the planet, and since it is a pre-warp civilisation, they just move on by without visiting.

Notes

This is the first time we learn about Kes’ special mental abilities – when the civilisation is destroyed, Kes sees the explosion happening.

I really love these time travel episodes, there are so many wild possibilities! I just love time travel!

In My Life

I have been physically out of fundamentalism for six years but it is only this year that I have started facing up to what that means, working through it, ‘deconstructing’.

Recently I have started to be flooded with flashbacks and memories of my years growing up in the church in the 70s and 80s.

The name of this episode always makes me think of Cyndi Lauper’s song ‘Time after Time”, which in turn makes me think of being a teenager in the 80s, in a world of conflicts between what I was seeing at school, in the news, and in ‘real life’ as compared with the worldview inside the bubble of the strict Baptist, evangelical church we were attending at the time.

Now, when I say “attending”, it wasn’t just once on a Sunday. It was 3 times on a Sunday (10.30 morning service, 3 pm Sunday school and 6.30 pm evening service), Bible studies on Wednesday evenings, and ‘Youth Group’ on Fridays, constant dinners and visits with other members – rarely a day would go by without some kind of contact or another. We had effectively exchanged one cult for another.

I regularly search for friends I had in these churches, but their names have zero hits on internet searches. It’s as if they have fallen off the edge of reality, as though I conjured them up out of my imagination. What happened to them? It always amazes me slightly when I search for the churches that there are no hits describing them as horrible, damaging cults. Did nobody experience them in the same way I did?

I’ve already mentioned my friend who was being abused by the Sunday School Superintendent. But I wanted to share another incident that really affected me at the time and which I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

One of the older girls got pregnant. It was never discussed openly, only whispered about in quiet corners. This was not long before my mother got ill with her Bipolar, so I don’t know how this affected the church but I do know the girl in question was forced to give up her baby for adoption. I often wondered whether she was given the choice of adoption or marriage. I suspect that she was never even given a choice. I don’t know how this affected her, I only know how it would have affected me. I was and still am heartbroken for her.

I can’t really put into words exactly how evangelical thinking is so toxic – so many other writers are doing so ably elsewhere.

“It seems I’ve found myself on the voyage of the damned.” – the Doctor

What really beats me is how, having got out of it almost completely when my mum got ill, I put myself under the same teaching again later on.

I wonder now, what our lives might have been like if we had never got involved with evangelical fundamentalism? What if, when my parents met the American missionaries, they just said “no thanks, we’re happy where we are”? We wouldn’t have moved on to another toxic church, I wouldn’t have put myself under such toxic teaching again as a young mother.

I am sure that my mother always had bipolar, as she had a breakdown before I was born, but she was stable for most of my childhood. I wonder, though, if she would not have got so ill if she hadn’t been triggered over and over by the toxicity of the church?

But ultimately, it’s probably not very helpful to go over the ‘what if’s’. Sadly we can’t go back and undo what we did and what was done to us. I just need to know how and where we go on from here.

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Parallax

“I can do some wonderful things with vegetables, Captain! My feragoit goulash is known across twelve star systems.”

– Neelix

Summary

In the episode, the Voyager crew respond to a distress call from an unknown ship trapped in an anomaly, which – thanks to temporal mechanics, which are notoriously unpredictable – turns out to be their own distress call after they find themselves trapped in the same anomaly after trying to rescue the other ship, which is in fact Voyager.

Meanwhile, Torres fights with Jo Carey who was in line for the position of Chief Engineer, and shows herself to be the most competent despite her issues with self-control and disliking the suffocating Star Fleet structure.

Having realised they are looking at a time-delayed mirror image of themselves, they have to punch their way out of the rift in the anomaly, making sure that they head for the real Voyager and not the mirror image.

Notes

I just love temporal mechanics! Time loops, time leaks, temporal incursions, effect preceding cause! It’s great! Some of my most favourite episodes and films (within Star Trek as well as elsewhere) involve time travel or related weirdness. Unlike the real Janeway – who makes a point of trying to avoid time travel, temporal mechanics would definitely be my favourite subject at the Academy! (If only!)

Real Life

In the last few weeks, I have started looking at my childhood and young adulthood within Christian fundamentalism, and the effects it has had on me, my family and my children. Thankfully I got out before I allowed it to do any significant damage to my children. But coming face-to-face with what I was, what I believed and now what Christian Fundamentalism continues to do, is a little horrifying. I can’t believe that I’m looking at myself, even if it is a ‘time-delayed reflection’.

Ironically, when it all gets too much to face, my natural inclination is to retreat back to the bubble of Fundamentalism, because it is so familiar and comfortable, it feels like home. This is classic Stockholm Syndrome. Even when the opportunity to escape presents itself, the world outside has become more scary (due to indoctrination) than the toxic world you know.

I read just a day or two ago that it can take years if not decades for survivors to recover from the effects of spiritual abuse. I swing through a range of emotions, including a lot of self-loathing and lack of confidence, as well as an underlying arrogance I know I need to keep in check. I think this is all probably quite normal under the circumstances. But I’m beginning to realise that I need to be less hard on myself. What happened to me was not my fault. But I do need to take responsibility for my part in perpetuating the abuse, the legalism, the judgementalism.

Where do I go from here? I feel as though I can’t trust my own judgement anymore. I don’t know what I believe, or what is true. I keep asking myself the question, is it possible to come out the other side with a ‘sane faith’? I think I need to go right back to the very basics and start again from scratch. re-examine what I thought I knew, what I believed to be unquestionably true. Somehow I need to throw off all the baggage of negative teaching and get to the other side. If only it were as simple as making a one-time decision, to ‘punch through’. I suspect it will be a little bit like forgiveness: I forgive, but I have to continue to forgive the same infraction over and over, every time it comes to mind. I must ‘walk in forgiveness’. Perhaps, equally, I must ‘walk’ in re-examination, critical thinking, accepting the good, rejecting the bad, over and over. My Dad’s motto in life, which he often repeated to me, was “Eat the meat, and leave the bones.” I think that’s a useful philosophy. Weigh it up. Analyse. Question.

I particularly like the way Janeway and Torres bounce ideas off each other in this episode. I have seen a bit of talk on finding a ‘Spiritual Director’ lately (as well as an ‘Elder Board’ of peers to keep one accountable), and I am reminded how much I miss my Dad who was my mentor for a long time. I don’t know anybody who could match his intelligence and knowledge, or his warmth and kindness and depth of insight. Despite his experiences within Fundamentalism, and the real damage it did to him, it was he who showed me the God of love.

In command school, they taught us to always remember that maneuvering a starship is a very delicate process, but over the years, I’ve learned that, sometimes, you just have to punch your way through. Mr. Paris, full impulse power.

LLAP, Kathryn.

Why as a Christian I am voting…

The link below to an article on “Why as a Christian I am voting Conservative” was posted on a group I’m on this morning and I thought it was worth sharing.

I absolutely won’t be voting Conservative this time, and I struggle to understand why Christians continue to support the ‘Right’ even in the face of all the evidence of how utterly un-Christian they are.

I think that, if you vote for the principle of small government (which on the whole I do – and in fact I have in the past advocated not voting at all, as voting validates a fundamentally corrupt system that I doubt can ever be anything but corrupt), you actually have to step up personally and be the ‘Big Society’.

I don’t see that happening.

And this is the issue. If individuals won’t act sufficiently charitably (and yes, I know the rise of foodbanks has been phenomenal, but it’s nowhere near enough to cover all the needs that government addresses), it cannot be ‘Christian’ to allow a slide back into Victorian laissez-faire government, where the rich and powerful thrive and the poor and powerless lose more and more at the mercy of people who, well, have very little real mercy, it would appear.

If you’re Christian and vote to cut the support out from under people who desperately need it, on principle, but offer no alternative (I seem to remember Margaret Thatcher talking about giving people a hand up so they can begin to help themselves, but I don’t see even that being talked about now), leaving people in despair, how is that Christian?

I do think that ultimately, we have to recognise that government can and must never be looked upon as saviour (as we are seeing so clearly in the US with Trump), and it is always a case of choosing the lesser of two or more evils. You just have to ‘pick your poison’.

But we can’t allow our choice of government, or our ‘principles’, to abandon people in the pit of despair without doing anything to help them.

https://www.psephizo.com/life-ministry/why-as-a-christian-i-am-voting-conservative/

There are lots of reasons why I would not vote Labour either this time round, but that is for another day’s discussion.

Last Sunday of Advent

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Readings

Psalms 80:1-8, (and 18-end)
OT Reading: Isaiah 7:10-16
NT Reading: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-end

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I didn’t have the opportunity to visit a liturgical church this week (and indeed have not been able to for a long time, and who knows what the new year will bring? It does not seem to be a likely option for me, since I need to take my mum wherever she decides suits her).

I will continue to read the set readings and post my notes. Today, though, I drew a blank. My brain just did not seem to be able to connect the passages or make any sense of them, so I offer this sermon link which explains it all as illustrating “how to live the holy life”:

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/sermon/4th-sunday-advent-year-sermon-day

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The fact that the 4th Sunday of Advent is supposed to represent love (where the first 3 weeks represented hope, peace and joy) emphasises for me the fact that that Kingdom life is primarily to be characterised by Love above all things.

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Third Sunday of Advent

Psalm: 146:4-10 or
Canticle: Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55)
OT Reading: Isaiah 36:1-10
NT Reading: James 5:7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11

Last Sunday was the third Sunday in Advent, and is known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’, that is Rejoicing Sunday. The readings all refer to the coming of the Lord, and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven – a kingdom where the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and the dead are raised up.

The following is a lovely version  (my favourite!) of ‘Gaudete’ sung by The Mediaeval Baebes.

Again, this hope of the Kingdom is not only referring to the first Advent of Christ coming as a baby and doing miracles as a man, but the hope of a future coming – the second Advent – as the King, when all of these hopes will be fully realised.

I did not realise that Advent is considered a period of ‘penance’ in the Roman Catholic church. I don’t suppose that really applies in Anglican churches, but ‘repentance’ featured in the readings for the 2nd Sunday in Advent. (Repentance seems to me to be a slightly preferable word, since the word ‘penance’ gives the impression that one can atone for one’s sins oneself, whereas ‘repentance’ is rather turning around and going in a new direction).

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The passage in James (read the whole chapter if you can) gives us a clue how we can repent and pursue the Kingdom while we wait for its ultimate fulfillment :

  • Don’t live anymore for pleasure on earth
  • Be patient
  • Establish your heart
  • Grudge not (grumble and complain) against one another
  • Consider the examples of the prophets when times are hard
  • Swear not (don’t make promises or oaths)
  • Pray
  • Sing psalms
  • Confess faults to one another

Romans 5:1-5

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Find this passage at Bible Gateway (you can choose other versions if you prefer)

As I may have mentioned, we recently moved house and my mother has moved in with us. Since I am not established in a particular church, we are starting to find a new church that would suit mum. So far we have tried Methodist and the Charismatic Pentecostal church I used to go to. These notes are from the passage that was preached on this last Sunday. I won’t try and turn it into any kind of coherent study, I’ll just post the notes I took and leave them for you to make of them what you will.

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The topic of the sermon was hope and character.

  • “Jesus intercedes hope into our lives.”
  • Faith needs to be exercised (like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the bigger it grows).
  • Nothing is impossible with God.
  • We need to take our eyes off our reality and our problems (and fix our eyes upon Jesus).
  • If we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.
  • Prayer will turn our problems into miracles, our ‘ashes’ into beauty.
  • Suffering produces perseverance which produces character.
  • Position yourself in a place of hope
  • Pursue character
  • Consider the story of Joseph.  In between his dream and its coming into fruition was suffering which produced character. It was the same with Moses and with David.
  • The enemy won’t attack you at the place of the dream, but at the place of character. That is our foundation.

The foundation of contending for Hope and Character:

  • Live Righteously
  • Know the Word, read, study, obey
  • Pray, spend time, be in the Presence
  • Surrender to His Will
  • Worship, praise

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  • Don’t wait for the breakthrough to pray, read, worship and live rightly. The breakthrough depends upon prayer, Word, worship and holiness. This is what ushers in the Kingdom of Heaven.
  • Don’t turn your back on God, turn your back on the problems.

Toledot

Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
New Testament: Romans 9:1-31

The portion Toledot means ‘Generations’, after the first words of the portion, “And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son.” Toledot includes the following stories:

  • Birth of Esau and Jacob
  • Esau sells his birthright
  • Covenant with Isaac confirmed
  • Sojourn in Gerar
  • Dispute about wells
  • Covenant between Isaac and Abimelech
  • Esau’s wives
  • Jacob steals Esau’s blessing
  • Esau’s disappointment
  • Jacob flees to Padan-Aram

Birth of Esau and Jacob

Right at the beginning of the passage, we are told that the twins Esau and Jacob struggled with each other within Rebekah’s womb, and this sets the scene for their relationship. Rebekah asks, “Why?” and the LORD tells her, “Two nations are in thy womb… and the elder shall serve the younger.”

Esau sells his birthright

The next section tells the story of Esau selling his birthright for ‘pottage’ or lentil stew. But really, it seems rather more that it is the story of Jacob taking advantage of his brother in his hour of need, but we are told “Thus Esau despised his birthright” so in other words, it is less important that Jacob obtained the birthright in a dishonest way than the fact that Esau did not value it as he should have done.

Covenant with Isaac confirmed

Next there is another famine in the land, and the LORD tells Isaac not to go back down into Egypt, so he goes to Abimelech of the Philistines to live in Gerar. He is told “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with theee, and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed, I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father.” We are reminded that these promises are not dependent on Isaac’s obedience. “Because that abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

Dispute with Abimelech

We now have another sister/ wife narrative in which Isaac attempts to pass Rebekah off as his sister, but Abimelech sees Isaac behaving in a way that indicated she was his wife, and so Abimelech instructs nobody to touch her. Again it seems that the foreign kings are more moral than the Patriarchs!

Then we are told that the Philistines have filled in all Abraham’s wells, and Abimelech asks Isaac to move on because God has blessed him so much during his time there so he now has great wealth, “Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we.”

Then Abimelech’s servants fight with Isaacs over the ownership of the wells and the water.

Then, at Beersheba, the LORD appears to Isaac and tells him he will bless and multiply him (give him children and descendents).

Looking at the chiastic structure of the portion (see Christine’s Bible study in the links below), this contention over Isaac’s wife, wealth and water are the central axis of the whole passage.

Covenant between Isaac and Abimelech

Abimelech approaches Isaac to make an agreement that they won’t do any harm to each other, apparently seeing how great Isaac has become and fearing him a little. Isaac retorts “Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?” (I think he was teasing them a little there!) They answer “We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee.”

Esau’s wives

We then have a short paragraph about Esau marrying foreign girls, “which were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah”, and although we are not told why this would be, we can assume it is related to their ‘foreign gods’.

Jacob steals Esau’s blessing

We now have the most incredible story of Rebekah collaborating with Jacob to trick Isaac into giving Esau’s blessing to Jacob instead with an elaborate rouse – sending Esau out to hunt venison for dinner while they cook a kid at home and Jacob pretends to be his hairy brother by covering himself in goat skin! Why does Rebekah do this? Is this a simple case of favouritism or is it another case, like Sarah, of trying to force events to fit the promise? It seems thoroughly immoral, but Jacob receives the blessing whether he deserves it or not.

Esau’s disappointment

Esau is bitterly disappointed, having apparently realised too late what a big mistake he had made already in selling his birthright. He begs his father to bless him too, but evidently Isaac cannot give him the same blessing as the blessing is prophetic, and so Esau receives only what is left. Esau remarks, “Is not he rightly named Jacob (meaning supplanter or deceiver), for he hath supplanted me these two times.”

Jacob flees to Padan-Aram

Of course, Esau hates Jacob for what he has done to him, so Jacob flees for his life, and Rebekah once again collaborates with him, sending him to her relatives back in Padan-Aram, convincing Isaac that it is so that he wouldn’t take a wife from among the ‘daughters of Canaan’ as Esau had done.

Esau’s response is to go to Ishmael’s family to take another wife from his family. It is not clear whether this was a good thing or just as bad as taking wives from Canaan, and we are not told whether or not this pleased Isaac. We can probably assume from silence that it made little difference. Esau will become the father of a nation (the Edomites), but the birthright, the blessing and all the promises go to Jacob.

Links and Resources

Overview of Genesis as a series of Toledot http://www.lanz.li/index.php/9-article-for-edification/12-the-toledot-structure-of-genesis

Toledot at Hebrew for Christians http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Toldot/toldot.html

Toledot at Messianic Educational Trust http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/weekly_parasha.htm

Toledot at Christine’s Bible Studey (with chiastic structure) https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/genesis-2519-289-annual-cycle-toledoth-generations/

First Sunday of Advent

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Psalms: Psalm 122
OT: Isaiah 2:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 24:36-44
Epistles: Romans 13:11-14

The Psalm for today was 122, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord.”

I was unable to go to church this Sunday because, in addition to my own health issues, I am now looking after my mother who suffers from bipolar disorder.

My mother always becomes anxious, tearful, angry as Sunday rolls around. Having grown up in what was effectively a very abusive religious home, she is deeply conflicted about church. She wants to be there, she yearns for community, but it is tainted by the memory of forced religion.

I, meanwhile, would love to be there but my health more often than not prevents me, and I am constantly angry at the way the church neglects us, rejects us, forgets us.

I saw this poem on a facebook group and decided to share it because the words are so close to my own heart.

How baffling you are, oh Church,
and yet how I love you!
How you have made me suffer,
and yet how much I owe you!
I would like to see you destroyed,
and yet I need your presence.
You have given me so much scandal
and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is.
I have seen nothing in the world
more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false,
and yet I have touched nothing
more pure, more generous, more beautiful.
How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face,
and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you,
because I am you, though not completely.
And besides, where would I go?
Would I establish another?
I would not be able to establish it without the same faults,
for they are the same faults I carry in me.
And if I did establish another,
it would be my Church, not the Church of Christ.
And I am old enough to know
that I am no better than anyone else.

– by Carlo Carretto, from The God Who Comes

Chayeh Sarah

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Torah: Genesis 23:1-25:18
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1-31
New Testament: Matthew 1:1-17, I Corinthians 15:50-57

Chaiyeh Sarah, ‘the life of Sarah’ includes the following stories:

  • Death of Sarah
  • Rebekah chosen for Isaac
  • Laban and Bethuel
  • Isaac meets Rebekah
  • Abraham’s Sons
  • Death of Abraham
  • Descendants of Ishmael
  • Death of Ishmael

Death of Sarah

The portion begins saying Sarah was 127 years old, “These were the years of the life of Sarah”, and Sarah died.

Abraham mourns for Sarah, and purchases a parcel of land – the field in Machpelah near Mamre in Canaan – for her burial place, and there’s a funny little bit of bartering, and so Sarah is buried in the cave there.

Rebekah Chosen for Isaac

Abraham sends his servant back to his family in the old country to pick a wife for Isaac. When he goes to feed his camels outside the city he prays that God will arrange for the wife He has picked out for Isaac should come and help him with the camels, which He does – a young woman helps him, and it turns out to be Rebekah, a relative of Abraham. Rebekah is the daughter of Bethuel, and Laban is her brother.

Laban and Bethuel

Abraham’s servant asks Laban and Bethuel for Rebekah to be a wife for Isaac, and recounts his story of his prayer that God would lead the wife He had picked out for Isaac to help him with his camels’ water.

Laban and Bethuel agree, but they don’t want Rebekah to go right away, which is perfectly understandable. They invite the servant to stay ten days but he wants to go back the next day. They eventually agree, and shower Rebekah with gifts of silver, jewels, gold and clothes. Rebekah’s mother is mentioned but not named. It’s hard to imagine having to make a decision like this in just one day to let your daughter go and marry a relative they’ve never met, knowing they might never see her again. Her unnamed mother would have mourned for her I think!

Isaac meets Rebekah

There’s a little paragraph describing Rebekah meeting Isaac, which mentions that she puts on a veil right before they actually meet. I don’t know for sure – it seems a little strange – but I suspect that the veil is to signify that she is effectively married from that moment. I’d be interested if anybody can tell me otherwise.

Abraham’s Sons

Abraham takes another wife, Keturah, and has more sons by her, the names of whom are listed at the beginning of chapter 25. It also mentions concubines.  The dictionary defines a concubine as “a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives”. So Hagar would have been considered a concubine.  This is an ancient polygamous practice which is very peculiar and hard to understand from our modern, Western perspective.

Death of Abraham

Abraham divides his wealth, giving all that he had to Isaac, other than gifts which he gave to his other sons and then sent them away eastward. Then Abraham dies aged 175 and he is ‘gathered to his people’ and buried in the cave in Machpelah where Sarah was buried. Again, from our modern, Western perspective, this treating of children differently with such blatant favouritism is really difficult to understand.

Descendants and Death of Ishmael

The descendants of Ishmael are listed – ‘twelve princes according to their nations’, and then Ishmael dies aged 137. It says he was ‘gathered to his people’ and that he died in the presence of all his brethren. For this bit of information to be included in the Bible, we can presume that all the brothers came together again and that would have included Isaac and the sons of Ketubah and the concubines.

Links and Resources

http://torahclub.ffoz.org/portions-library/chayei-sarah/

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Chayei_Sarah/chayei_sarah.html

http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/parashiyot/khayiy-sarah-14.php

https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/genesis-231-2518-chayei-sarah-the-life-of-sarah/

 

Vayera

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Torah:   Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah:   2 Kings 4:1-37
New Testament:  Luke 1:26-38, 24:35-53, 2 Peter 2:4-11

I’m running late, as per usual! So apologies for that. I will try to  post regularly but I can’t promise the topics will be on time.

Vayera means ‘and he appeared’, and covers the following stories:

  • Abraham’s angelic visitors
  • Abraham intercedes with God regarding Sodom
  • Lot’s angelic visitors
  • The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Lot delivered by his wife is destroyed
  • Lot’s daughters
  • Abraham and Abimelech
  • The Birth of Isaac
  • Hagar and Ishmael sent away
  • Covenant at Beer Sheba
  • Sacrifice of Isaac

Abraham’s angelic visitors

Abraham is visited by three ‘men’, which he addresses as ‘My Lord’. The text also says “the LORD appeared unto him’, LORD in capital letters referring to The Name, (YHVH – Jehovah or Yahweh) They are usually understood in Christian thought to be Angelic messengers, and the three in some way representing the Trinity. The angels tell Abraham that Sarah – despite her advanced age – will conceive, and Sarah laughs to herself (it’s ridiculous!) The angel perceives that Sarah laughed inwardly, and asks “Why did Sarah laugh? Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” Sarah denies it, and the angel says “oh yes you did!” (“Nay, but thou didst laugh.”)

Abraham intercedes with God regarding Sodom

The angels talk amongst themselves and decide to tell Abraham of their plans to destroy Sodom, and gives Abraham the opportunity to bargain with them – asking, what if there were 50 righteous men there, you wouldn’t destroy the place if there were 50 righteous, and then (perhaps knowing that there were very few righteous men there, Abraham gradually whittles the number down until it is just ten, and the angels agree that even if there were only ten righteous men there, they would not destroy the city.

Lot’s Angelic Visitors

Now only two of the angelic visitors are mentioned, which is curious. I should imagine there might be some significance there but I don’t know what. It seems that they visit Lot for Abraham’s sake , rather than Lot’s righteousness. The men of Sodom come and threaten the visitors. The KJV uses the very gentle euphemism “that we may know them”, but this of course means that they want sex and presumably they mean rape, and appallingly, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to them instead!

The angels tell Lot to gather up his family so they can get them out of Sodom, as they intend to destroy the place, and they somehow smite the men with temporary blindness so they can escape. Lot’s married daughters’ husbands think it’s all a joke and so Lot leaves only with his wife and his two unmarried daughters (all of whom are left unnamed).

The Descruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

So Sodom and its surrounding cities and villages are all destroyed with ‘brimstone and fire’ and they are told not to look back, but Lot’s wife (unnamed) famously looked back and was turned into a ‘pillar of salt’.

It often used to be suggested, because sex was mentioned as one of the sins of Sodom, that homosexuality was the reason that God destroyed Sodom. But we learn in Ezekiel 16:49 “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” – did you get that? Pride, greed/ gluttony, laziness, and not looking after the poor.

Lot’s Daughters

Lot and his daughters are too frightened to go and look for another city, so they hide out in a cave. Apparently the daughters are convinced that there are no other men left in the world, and so they conspire to get their father drunk so he will have sex with them and get them pregnant, and as a result they conceive children Moab and Ben-ammi who become the forefathers of the nations of the Moabites and Ammon.

I always wonder about this story, and the implication that Lot was completely innocent in this incestuous encounter. It seems unlikely.

Abraham and Abimelech

Here we have the second of the three sister-wife narratives, where Abraham tries to pass Sarah off as his sister and she is taken into the harem of Abimelech, Abimelech is given dreams by God warning him not to touch her, and Sarah is returned to Abraham along with gifts of sheep, oxen, ‘menservants’ and ‘womenservants’.

The Birth of Isaac

So miraculously, Sarah conceives when she is 90 and Abraham is 100, and Isaac (meaning laughter) is born. On the seventh day he is circumcised according to the Covenant.

Hagar and Ishmael sent away

Sarah sees Ishmael ‘mocking’, and tells Abraham to “Cast out this bondwoman and her son” which he does very reluctantly. God confirms to Abraham that he should listen to Sarah in this, promising that he will take care of Hagar and make her descendants into a nation for his sake.

Covenant at Beer Sheba

Abimelech approaches Abraham to make an agreement to treat each other kindly, and Abraham brings up the fact that one of Abimelech’s servants has taken a well from Abraham. The covenant they make is at Beer-Sheva which means ‘the well of seven’, or the ‘well of oaths’. The text mentions that Abraham calls on “the LORD, the Everlasting God”, YHWH (Jehovah) El Olam.

Sacrifice of Isaac

Here we come to the section of the parsha which makes this one of the most important readings of the Torah cycle – the ‘binding of Isaac’, or the ‘Akedah’.

God tests Abraham’s faith and obedience by asking him to take Isaac, his long-awaited son, and sacrifice him. He obviously does not tell Isaac of the plan, as Isaac asks where the lamb is for the burnt offering, and Abraham answers “God will provide himself a lamb for the burnt offering.”

Just as Abraham is about to go through with the sacrifice, God intervenes and tells him not to, and does indeed provide a ram for the sacrifice.

Animal sacrifice is so far removed from our society, it is very difficult to understand why God would desire or demand this at all, and the fact that Abraham is willing seems really off to our modern thinking. It seems to make him more of a monster than a righteous man. But we learn from this that God does not ever desire human sacrifice, and later he tells us that he does not desire sacrifice at all, but he does value obedience.

In Christian thought as well, of course, Isaac here is considered to be a ‘type’ of Christ, that is a picture or a foreshadowing of Christ – an innocent sacrifice who does not deserve to die.

And so God confirms his covenant with Abraham, reminds him of all his previous promises, and promises more blessings.

The portion ends with the list of Abraham’s brother Nahor’s descendants.

Links and Resources

http://torahclub.ffoz.org/torah-portions/genesis/vayera/

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Parashah/Summaries/Vayera/vayera.html

http://www.messianictrust.org.uk/parashiyot/vayera-14.php

https://christinesbiblestudy.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/genesis-181-2224-vayeira-and-he-appeared/