Tag Archives: mercy

Clergy love.

Disclaimer: My thoughts on the following topic are not my most articulate.  Please do not throw tomoatoes.

On New Year’s Day, a white BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer fatally shot a black man after a fight had broken out.  On Wednesday night, riots in Oakland destroyed the businesses of, ironically, black people.

The officer who shot the bullet resigned his position just before he was otherwise required to issue a statement.  One of many theories is that he thought he was reaching for his gun-shaped tazer.

My heart breaks for everyone.  The victims and the shooter.  When I read that dozens of clergy were willing to meet with the officer, I thought, That is a step in the right direction.  That guy needs some love.

Then I read that the clergy were outraged with him, “demanding answers”.  At that point, they were no longer “clergy” to me.  I could not distinguish them from “everybody else”.

One of my earthly heroes is Sister Helen Prejean.  She came to speak at St. Mary’s College when I was a student there, and she revolutionized the way I think about our justice system.  One idea she has shared is:  “The only way I know what I really believe is by keeping watch over what I do.”  She is beautifully and artfully able to entwine herself in complicated and tragic situations, loving the victims and the accused.  In my heart, she has earned the title “clergy”.  Clergy love.

Sermon Prep (part 2): Lot

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Sodom series

  1. This morning’s sermon will be on …
  2. Sermon Prep (part 1)
  3. Sermon Prep (part 2): Lot
  4. Sermon Prep, part 3
  5. Sermon Prep: Finished!

Lot is an interesting character in this story. At first glance, he’s the hero, but as the story unfolds, we start to see some things that make us question his choices. In fact, one of the questions that keeps popping up for me when I read Genesis 19 is why Lot is called “Righteous”? What sets him apart, other than one moment of courage that, itself, seems sullied by a horrific compromise? So, here’s my run sheet on the guy.

Lot

19:1 Sitting at the gates of the city – this is a position of prominence in the city, the equivalent of a city council meeting, or high court. Lot has obviously done well for himself in Sodom.

Lot mirrors the actions of Abraham in 18:2, bowing to the angels.

Hospitality, one of the cardinal virtues of the ANE. Protection is implied, consent of the guest is a show of honor.

19:3 patsar me’hod – “he single-mindedly, obstinately pressed upon them with urgency, exceeding force”. Lot seems very aware of the kind of welcome the visitors will receive at the hands of the city. How long has Lot been living with the disparity between his position of respect and prominence in a wicked city, and his internal moral voice? The arrival of the guests seems to be a watershed moment for Lot’s moral identity.

19:6 Lot exits the safety of the house. He presumed that his prominence in the city would be a safeguard against the mob?

19:7,8 “do not act wickedly … they are under the shadow of my roof.” Lot’s perspective here is instructive. His assumptions about the people will be important later when we try to understand what the sin of sodom was. He assumes that they are not morally ignorant (they understand wickedness). They know his obligations as a host to the visitors (shadow of my roof). His offer of his daughters shows that Lot believes that the crowd is motivated by sensual lusts, which he hopes to divert away from his guests.

The offer of his daughters is ugly, ugly, ugly, ugly. What’s are the relevant features of this offer? Women as property under the sovereign rule of the male head of household, safety of guests over safety of family, homosexual vs. heterosexual?, how would this affect their status as “betrothed”? Are there other examples of this kind of barter?

How does Lot get called “Righteous” in light of this hideous sort of compromise?

The rejection of the offer shows that Lot’s assumptions about the mob’s motivation was wrong. There seems to be an air of violence about their intent, not just sensuality.

19:9 “who are you to declare judgement against us? You’re not from here, yet in your wealth and status you presume to declare what is right and wrong for us? Why should we bend to your moral pronouncements?” c.f. 19:1 – is this a latent resentment against Lot’s prominence, or a general revolt against moral restraint?

19:14 Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was joking about God’s impending wrath. Are they from the city? How does Lot’s willingness to marry into the city fit with his inner turmoil between morality and position? That they take Lot’s warning as a joke might indicate that they are unused to hearing language about righteousness, justice, and judgement coming from Lot.

19:16 But he hesitated. This is it. This is the window into Lot’s soul. In Sodom, he has wealth, he has position and prominence, he is integrating his family into the city, and everything that he has in this world is within those walls. The laughter of his sons-in-law has given him pause. Who are these visitors? How do I know that they’re telling the truth? Maybe my sons-in-law are right, and this is a huge joke. Should I risk everything by abandoning the city? It’s been a long time (how many years since the split w/ abraham?) since I’ve heard anything about, or from, Yahweh, and after all, the covenant is with Abraham, not with me … Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

19:19 Now he believes. Once outside the city walls, he sees the lovingkindness (checed – mercy? grace?) and compassion that motivated the angels to rescue him (Doug, how very reformed! Lot does not believe, and then is saved; he is saved, and then believes. And then runs!)

19:20 Lot is still looking for a city. Escape to the mountians? They have no Starbucks there! What if I just move to the suburbs instead, and chill over here in this little town.

19:23 The rising sun. Measurements of time are prominent in this story. The angels arrive at dusk, the violent mob assembles at night, at first light the angels urge Lot to run, and when the sun rises, he reaches the safe city.

That’s the wrapup. So, why is Lot called righteous? What righteous actions did Lot take? He offered hospitality, he protected the safety of his guests, and (though it was a bit late in coming) believed in the lovingkindness of God in protecting him and his family. He fled, which was an act of faith. But he was also a man at home in a wicked city, prominent among the people, who seemed to at least be able to navigate the moral ambiguity of that place. He offers up his daughters to be raped by an angry mob. He betrothed his daughters to faithless men. In the moment of decision, his faith falters, and he has to be dragged to safety.

So, why call Lot righteous? Why save him from the destruction of Sodom? 19:29 might be an indication that it actually has nothing at all to do with him or his actions: it says that God remembered Abraham, and so saved Lot.

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