2018 theme... THE GIFT OF TORAH
I’m excited about our theme for Gathered Conversations in 2018. Having just come off our series on the Gospel of Mark, we are now reaching way back to the beginning of the Bible, to the Torah. The Torah is comprised of the first five books of the Bible (sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch, the Law, or the Law of Moses). The importance of Torah in Judaism cannot be overstated, yet its deep importance for Christians is often missed. These books can often be reduced to a few choice narratives (which often become children’s stories) while the sections of laws, or lists of generations are dismissed as the grueling parts we must suffer through to keep up with our “Bible in a year plan”. Much of this can be chalked up over confusion of how to read the Torah, and how to relate a law (claimed to be fulfilled in Jesus) to our lives as Christians. In 2018 we are going to dive into the Torah, and consider the context, purpose, and beauty of this witness to the One and Holy God of Israel.
Gathered is a patchwork community made up of Macquarie Uni students (past and present) as well as young adult folks from the local areas or local churches. You are welcome to join us at any or all of the following dates at 9 Chester St, next to Epping Uniting Church (7pm). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more.
Genesis 1 – the God who speaks and creates
The first creation account presents, through glorious hymn, a God who creates life and light from void and darkness. This creation is uncontested and uncompromised, climaxing in the most important of announcements – that all of this is “very good”
Genesis 2-3 – the God who breathes and forms
The second creation account presents a God who forms, breathes, and walks amongst God’s creation. Here, creation quickly spirals out of God’s control and intention resulting in the barring of Eden and banishment of humanity into a now bitter world. Yet, what is commonly referred to as The Fall is absent from the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Genesis 12-25 – Abram/Abraham, the father of faith
After the dispersion of Babel the narrative of Genesis shifts out of the primordial history and focuses on a man and his family: a family full of faith, fear, surrogacy, promise, longing, and a most notorious (almost) sacrifice.
Genesis 16 – Hagar gives God a name
Hagar bears Abraham’s first son, yet is driven away from the family by a jealous Sarah (who made the surrogacy match to begin with). Driven to the wilderness and ready to die Hagar encounters God, receives her own promise, and calls God El Roi The God Who Sees Me; she is the only person in Scripture to name God.
Genesis 26 & 32 – Jacob swindles a blessing and wrestles an angel
Jacob (the third Patriarch, the son of Isaac) has two stories of going to incredible lengths to receive a blessing. First, his (Shakespearean-esq) plot to steal the birthright of his brother; and second, his nightlong battle with a divine figure. What might these dichotomous ploys to receive blessing (“more life”?) reveal of this troubled figure.
Genesis 37-50 – Joseph: loved son, despised sibling, trusted advisor
Going beyond the Technicolor Dreamcoat to examine the tumultuous life of Joseph. A man sold in to slavery by bitter siblings, who rises (not without obstacles) to a position of great power in one of the world’s mightiest empires. Yet what is the legacy of this ‘success story’? It is Joseph who is responsible for bringing the Israelites to Egypt, the place of their enslavement.
Exodus 3-4 – a bush that burns but is not consumed
On holy ground Moses encounters a bush that burns but is not consumed. He encounters God, who has heard the suffering cries of Israel and will act for their liberation. Moses will be sent to challenge Pharaoh on behalf of I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.
Exodus 5-15 – the Israelites oppressed and liberated
The Exodus narrative is the defining event in the history of Israel. It is the emphatic endorsement that God has created them for freedom and not bondage, that they are to be a people who witness to a God of the oppressed, a God without rival or competitor, a God holy and humble.
Exodus 20 – the Ten Commandments
Universal list of morals that should be displayed outside of courthouses as the basis of a secular legal system, or a vision of how the community of Israel (and those standing in their wake?) should relate to one another and to God? Alternatively stated: reading the Law as a contextual picture of a community.
Leviticus – purity, holiness, and ethics
Leviticus is often skipped over, proof-texted for been bad (Lev 18), or proof texted for been good (Lev 19). How might we read Leviticus in a way which isn’t supersessionist, cherry-picked, or downright boring?
Leviticus – the forming of a witnessing community
In establishing Israel as God’s people, YHWH didn’t request idols or temples, only that this people would be a witness to the kind of God who walked with them through the wilderness. For this reason (among others) Leviticus is customarily the book that Jewish children begin their studies of the Bible.
Numbers 10-22 – the long march and Miriam the prophetess
This section of the book of Numbers documents a generation-long march in the desert from Sinai to Moab. A march marked by frustration, disloyalty, hubris, and rebellion.
Deuteronomy – the heart of Torah and foundation of New Testament
“The New Testament is built upon Deuteronomy, the second law. Jesus cites it against the tempter in the wilderness, he draws out the great commandment from its opening teaching, and he reinterprets it in his great sermon in Matthew, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. St. Paul works and reworks Deuteronomy in his molten hot wrestling over Torah and mission to the gentiles. Indeed, so central is Torah to the authors of the New Testament that we risk simply repeating these Gospels and Epistles when we set out the citations.” Katherine Sonderegger
Deuteronomy – reading history theologically
The voice of Deuteronomy sounds loudly even beyond the pages of its book. The Deuteronomistic history is history read theologically, and you can not progress far outside of Torah without encountering it and its particular way of viewing and compartmentalising the world and its history.
Deuteronomy – the death of Moses but the life of the Torah
The final pages of Deuteronomy record the death of Moses. This was a man whom the Lord knew face-to-face, a prophet, the likes of which Israel has never seen. As Deuteronomy closes, Israel prepares to enter the Promised Land – they may have lost their leader, but they have not lost Torah, and it will show them the way.