Joseph’s Inward Musing: a word from the ancient church

“Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly….he…considered this” (Matthew 1:19-20)

When studying for my message on Joseph this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I stumbled upon this excerpt from a sermon by an anonymous church leader in the early church. The way that he speculates on the thinking of Joseph about Mary’s situation was enlightening. This excerpt is taken from an incomplete work on the Matthew, Homily 1.

Perhaps Joseph thought within himself: If I should conceal her sin, I would be acting against God’s law, and if I should publicize it to the sons of Israel, they would stone her. I fear that what is in her womb is of divine intervention. Didn’t Sarah conceive when she was ninety years of age and bring forth a child? If God caused that woman who was like dry wood to flower, what if the Godhead wanted to cause Mary to bear a child without the aid of a man?

Does the conception of a woman depend on a man? If the conception of a woman depends always on a man, doubtless when a man so desires, the woman will conceive. But in this case it is not when the man so desires that the woman conceives but when God so desires. Therefore, if a woman’s conception does not depend on a man but on God, what is so incredible if God should wish to give her offspring without a man?

What shall I do then? I will put her away secretly because it is better in an uncertain matter that a known prostitute should get off free than that an innocent person should die. It is indeed more just that an unjust person should escape justly than that a just person should die unjustly. If a guilty person should escape once, he can die another time. But if an innocent person should die once, he cannot be brought back.

Anonymous, Incomplete Works on Matthew, Homily 1, from Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 12-13.

The Weekend Wanderer: 8 August 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Last week I took a break from “The Weekend Wanderer,” as I was at Fort Wilderness speaking for one of their summer family camps in the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin. Here are a couple of photos of the beauty.

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Beirut explosion“16 Beirut Ministries Respond to Lebanon Explosion” – Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, directly affected people within our church and partners in that part of the world. We are praying for the country and the believers as the recover and talking with church partners as they fashion a response (support our efforts by giving financially here). Here are some examples of ministries responding on the ground in Beirut in an article at Christianity Today. You may also benefit from reading about the way this reflects deeper problems in Lebanon (“Beirut Explosion Looks Like An Accident — And A Sign Of The Country’s Collapse”), the impact on humanitarian aid for refugees (“More than $600,000 in humanitarian aid for refugees destroyed in Beirut explosion”) and one journalist’s attempt to explain this disaster to his children as they live in Beirut (“How I Explained Beirut’s Explosion to My Kids” ).


CT bodily worship“Preserving Our Body and Bodies for Worship” – One of the most important aspects for worship and discipleship is our bodies. Those who serve an incarnate Lord serve Him incarnationally, following Him by offering our bodies as living sacrifices and living together as the redeemed community. Here is Hannah King reflecting on the importance of this in relation to the body of Christ, our bodily life, and the church at worship. “Corporate worship demonstrates this reality weekly. We gather as bodies, presenting our whole selves to God in praise and thanksgiving. We sing and lift our hands, we kneel to confess and to pray, we take the bread in our hands and eat. But we also gather as a body of bodies, embedding our individual faith within a larger, corporate reality. Christianity is never merely personal and private, but interpersonal and familial. Our communion with God is the fellowship of a family.”


51MxgeRI+ML._SL250_“Barbara Peacock – Soul Care in African American Practice – Review – In The Englewood Review of BooksOpe Bukola reviews a book I hope to read soon: “Though I was drawn to contemplative practice, the little I knew of it made me doubt it was ‘for me’ as a 30-something Protestant black woman. I know my share of prayer warriors, so praying intentionally resonates strongly as part of black Christian practice. But contemplation? Not so much. I’ve since learned of the African roots of Christian contemplative practices, from church fathers like Augustine and Tertullian, to 20th century giants like Howard Thurman. So when I first heard of Dr. Barbara Peacock’s book, Soul Care in African American Practice, I was immediately drawn to the term ‘soul care.’ In the book, Peacock highlights the spiritual practices that have sustained generations of African American Christians and urges black Christians to prioritize intentional soul care.”


Science_poetry_98603463“What Poetry Means for Doctors and Patients During a Pandemic” – As a lover of poetry and limping writer of poetry, I found this article in Wired fascinating. What is it about poetry that helps us in times of difficulty? “When Rafael Campo took over as poetry editor at The Journal of the American Medical Association a little over a year ago, he wasn’t expecting to field quite so many submissions….At first, Campo says, he got about 20 or 30 poems each week. Some are from patients or family caregivers. Most come from doctors and nurses. But as the pandemic got underway, more and more poems arrived. Now, his inbox is bursting with over a hundred weekly submissions. ”


White fragility“White Fragility: Why this Book is Important for Evangelicals” – Ed Stetzer invites Allison Ash to be the first in a series of interactions with Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She writes: “I think this book is important for evangelical Christians, particularly white evangelical Christians (both people who would identify as progressive, conservative or a combination of the two), because it speaks a language that has been almost completely missing within the white evangelical church throughout its history.” For another perspective you may want to look at an article I posted in July by George Yancey, “Not White Fragility, Mutual Responsibility.” 


Flannery O'Connor“The ‘Cancelling’ of Flannery O’Connor?:  It Never Should Have Happened” – Flannery O’Connor is a twentieth-century southern novelist whose Christian faith weaves in and out of her work with a mesmerizing and sometimes ghastly force. If you’re not familiar with her work, I’d encourage you to start with her short stories in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. O’Connor, however, has recently come under scrutiny for some of her views, leading Loyola University of Maryland to remove her name from a building because “some of her personal writings reflected a racist perspective.” In Commonweal, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell takes the university to task for this decision.


Music: Bon Iver, “AUATC.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

A Prayer inspired by Hebrews 3:1-6

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Throughout our new series “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I am writing prayers related to the text on which we are preaching each week. This prayer is drawn from Hebrews 3:1-6. The complete list of prayers inspired by Hebrews is included at the bottom of this post. You could also view my message, “God’s House,” from this passage here.

Our Father, You are the builder of everything,
from the beautiful expanse of the created world
to the gracious household of Your people, the church,
both of which have come into being through Jesus Christ.

Lord Jesus Christ, we fix our thoughts on You.
You are worthy of greater honor than Moses,
who served God by bearing witness to the truth.
You are the Son of God who has not only born witness,
but sacrificed Yourself to birth that new household, the church.

We fix our thoughts and the eyes of our hearts on You, Jesus,
while also confessing that so many things cause us trouble.
We stumble and trip along the way because of sin and burdens.
Please strengthen us to hold firmly to our living hope in You.

We are absolutely lost without You,
and that is why
we pray to You,
the Triune God—
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—
to whom be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.


Prayers from Hebrews:

A Prayer inspired by Hebrews 2

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Throughout our new series “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I am writing prayers related to the text on which we are preaching each week. This prayer is drawn from Hebrews 2. The complete list of prayers from Hebrews is included at the bottom of this post. You could also view a message, “The Mystery of the Incarnation,” from this passage by Pastor Nic Fridenmaker here.

Father God, we praise You
for Your mysterious wisdom
in sending Jesus, Your eternally-begotten Son,
as our incarnate Messiah.

Jesus the Son, we are in awe of You,
the perfect human who restored our fractured glory
by taking the destructive way of the Cross
and making it the way that brings life.

Thank You for sharing the humility of our flesh and blood
by entering into human temptation and suffering.
Thank You for bringing divine balm for sin’s pain
and freedom from death by breaking the power of the devil.

Holy Spirit, we need Your presence and power
more than we understand within every moment of every day.
Strengthen us to receive divine grace through Christ’s sacrificial gift
and empower us to live our daily lives yielded to You.

All this we pray in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—
One God, from eternity past to eternity future—
to whom belongs all honor and glory both now and forever.
Amen.


Prayers from Hebrews: