Soundings

Want to learn more from different perspectives about our lessons? Soundings is a an opportunity for our Clergy to provide different insights into our readings and scripture. You may not always agree with the Clergy's interpretations. But that is why Soundings was created. To invite thoughtful discussion. You are welcome to email the author of each article to provide your comments. Welcome to Soundings!

Jonah’s Anger – and Ours

By Father David Fisher

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Jonah 3:10-4:11

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

Read more: Jonah’s Anger – and Ours

A Quote

By Father David Fisher

picture of father fisherAttention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer. - Simone Weil

Exodus 12:1-14 and Psalm 149

By Father David Fisher

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The combined effect of Exodus 12:1-14 and Psalm 149 in today’s readings is troubling. The Exodus reading combines a promise of Divine judgment on all the first-born of Egypt with a Divine promise to Israelites that they will be spared from this judgment if they mark the doorways of their homes with blood. Israelites are commanded to celebrate the event as a festival to the LORD.

Read more: Exodus 12:1-14 and Psalm 149

What's In A Name?

By Father David Fisher

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What’s in a Name (or name)?

Moses’ request for God’s name in Exodus receives an enigmatic answer.

I am that I am is a common English translation of the Hebrew phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‎, 'ehyeh 'ăšer 'ehyeh – but it could also be translated "I am who I am", "I will become what I choose to become", "I am what I am", "I will be what I will be", "I create what(ever) I create", or "I am the Existing One". God’s name, it seems, is not something to be uttered or used by humans - we are forbidden to ‘take it in vain.” In Jewish tradition when reading from the Torah the sacred name – אֶהְיֶה -YHWH – is never spoken aloud. The reader bows his or her head, saying “Adonai Elohim” - roughly “Lord God”.

True names and the mystical strength of language were early themes of the late Ursula K Le Guin’s work. Le Guin borrows from a mystic tradition that knowing something’s true name and using it gives a person power over that thing. Throughout her Earthsea series, a true name is a name of a thing or a person that expresses or reveals its true nature. It is derivative of the idea of sacred words or incantations, a central concept in the study of magic. At the beginning of “The Rule of Names,” a schoolteacher reminds her class, “You never ask anybody his name. You never tell your own.” The true name is sacred; its revelation is emblematic of deep trust. Words thwart and create equilibrium. Language is linked to power.

But in our rite of baptism, we do not conceal the name of the person being baptized. In the 1928 version of the Book of Common Prayer, the officiant addresses the sponsors with an imperative: “Name this child”. Our naming of persons can be public because, as we name the baptized, we invoke God’s relational name – “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We recognize that that person is loved, sheltered, and cared for – forever.

The Rock

By Father David Fisher

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Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Cephas (Peter -Petros Πέτρος), and on this rock (petra πέτρα,n) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:16–18

The word used for "rock" (petra) grammatically refers to "a small detachment of the massive ledge", not to a massive boulder. In the Greek text this word is masculine (spelled petros), and describes a small piece of rock (something like a pebble). The word used in the phrase “on this rock” is feminine (spelled petra) and describes a large boulder or a mass of rock such as that found at the cliffs along the seacoast.

The New Bible Dictionary says, “either Peter’s faith or the confession of Peter’s faith that Jesus is the Christ is in fact the ‘rock’ is a very early Christian interpretation. For example, the early church father Origen says, “Rock means every disciple of Christ.”

We might paraphrase Jesus’ words as follows: “You’re a small rock, Peter, but upon the greater rock that you have confessed, the truth of who I am, I will build my church.”