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About a year ago at a family gathering, my siblings and parents confronted me about how stressed they thought I was. Up till that point I thought I was probably just busy. I figured my schedule would soon loosen up and that I’d get back to normal. This was, of course, self-deception of the most common variety. But the concern of so many of my loved ones pushed me to think about stress and how I might handle it. I’d like to say that I went straight to my Christian tradition, to the principles of Scripture in order to study how to handle it, but that isn’t what happened.
The lesson this week reminds us of the scriptural promises that we don’t need to feel anxiety, worry, or fear. This is undoubtedly intended to be encouraging, but unfortunately the quotation from Ellen White with which it ends could be taken to mean that being anxious is a spiritual failing. It seems to imply that the only reason we don’t have “peace and happiness as we pass through … this life” is because we don’t have sufficient “faith … [and] trust in our heavenly Father” .
I was fortunate enough not to grow up in the generation that was taught to picture God as peering down at us, waiting for us to slip up, make a mistake, fail to do a good deed, so he could then shake his finger at us and give us a good scolding. My parents told me stories of coming to Sabbath School when they were young, listing the good deeds they had done, and then having them GRAPHED from week to week! The kind of God who demands that isn’t likely to smile a lot, much less laugh.
Both his pedigree and his curriculum vitae are extremely impressive. At first glance, one would expect him to be among the foremost of America’s founding fathers. He was the grandson of the famous theologian Jonathan Edwards and the son of the president of Princeton College (later Princeton University). He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War and spent some time as an officer on the staff of George Washington. Later he was chosen as a United States senator from the state of New York, and his political star was on the rise.
“The other reality is that my parents don’t want to eat non-Korean food; they want to hold on to what they know. What else do they have but the taste of those familiar dishes”, writes Korean-American novelist Chang-Rae Lee in “Magical Dinners: An Immigrant Thanksgiving”, in The New Yorker (69). Lee explores in this personal essay how the deep memories associated with food informed his family’s immigrant experience. With little money for luxuries, the family could not afford to eat out often [“We dine out maybe four times a year,” recalls Lee (69)].
The tragic case of the “Man of God” (1st Kings 13) bears special relevance to Adventist belief. For starters, Jeroboam does two things that mark him as a shadowy precursor of the Anti-Christ: he makes the Hebrew religion “easier” and he also messes about with the Hebrew calendar. On both counts he anticipates, quite neatly, Ellen White’s warning of an emerging “Apostate Protestantism”, fully enamored with both false revivals and false sabbaths.
At the heart of a story about keeping and breaking covenants, revenge, and ritual execution is the poignant action of a heartbroken, noble mother. That Rizpah and her two sons are named (whereas the five grandsons also slaughtered are not) suggests that who she is and what she does is of utmost importance to the story as a whole.
Literary critics, not least the one to whom I am married, remind me that a popular theory within literary criticism is the notion that all stories fall under the rubric of a group of larger meta-narratives. Several well-known genres include that of the journey (epitomized by The Odyssey), the coming of age or maturation, the tragedy, the romance, as well as several others depending on which school of thought you lean toward. In this week’s lesson Abiathar, one of the lesser-known biblical characters, is highlighted.
The narrative of 2 Samuel 11 is known traditionally as the Story of David and Bathsheba. Preachers, artists and musicians have exploited their encounter and used it to moralise about the dangers of sexual lust. Uriah, if mentioned at all, is seen as the victim of David’s desire for his wife, and his murder plays second fiddle to the adultery between Bathsheba and the king. In reality, however, Uriah plays a much more significant role than his wife in this story. She will perform on centre stage later, when she manoeuvres her son Solomon onto the throne.