08 January 2010

Jan 8

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we hear the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Lord goes down to see if the residents are as wicked as he has heard.  I would think that God, at least God of the modern Christian conception, would already know the degree of evil in the cities.

In any case, Abraham convinces God to spare the city if there are even 10 righteous people in it.  Thus, since the angels destroy the cities, we should conclude there were not even 10 righteous people there.  Not that the angels seemed to look very hard once they got there.  Maybe they just knew with their angelic powers, but then why did they have to go there physically in the first place.  Maybe they have only short range righteousness detectors.

The men of Sodom come and demand that Lot give the angels over so they can rape them.  Lot offers his daughters instead.  Not much better in my opinion.  Fortunately, the angels prevented this and instead blinded all the men of Sodom.

Destruction now assured, the angels tell Lot to leave the city and flee to the mountains.  Lot fears the mountains, so he persuades them to let him go to a nearby town instead.  Lot's wife turns to watch the destruct and is turned into a pillar of salt.  Weird consequence.

Lot makes it to the small town with his daughters, but he was afraid of the people there, so he goes to the mountains (yes, after asking if he could go to the town instead of the mountains).  Since no one else lives in the mountains, Lot's daughters decide to get him drunk and have sex with him to get themselves pregnant.  Like with the story of Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham, this story tries a little too hard to assert Lot's innocence and ends up casting suspicion on the story instead.  The story is also suspect because it says Lot's daughters could not find husbands because there were no men left in the area, but why not go back to Abraham (since it was conflict over wealth that caused them to part, not personal discord)?

New Testament

Jesus tells us not to worry so much.  God takes care of the lilies and the birds, so he must take care of us.  The course of action Jesus advocates is sensible, but not for the reason given.  So much lies beyond our control that worrying over it has no effect.  But it will all turn out okay in the end because humans are resourceful and resilient.  For the most part, we can find happiness by accepting what is and not worrying about what could be.

Jesus gives a good lesson about avoiding hypocrisy.  Avoiding judgment cannot prevent others from judging you, but those who are judgmental seem to end up being judged more.  Those who are hypocritical are treated more harshly they make mistakes or experience bad fortune.  Improving yourself will bring you much more happiness than criticizing others.

Today's lesson on prayer is a passage that causes pain for those losing their faith.  Jesus promises
Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeking and you will find.  Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Faithful Christians who have doubts struggle with this passage because it implies a lack of answer is their own fault. Since, as faith fades, the sense that prayers are being answered departs the doubter is trapped in a vicious cycle where they feel that their doubt is destroying their ability to pray and that moves them further away from their faith.  Thus, this passage makes a painful process even worse.

Golden rule!  Everyone loves it.  (But remember, it's not exclusive to Christianity.)

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm is a psalm of praise. This psalm has one bit that I like
When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers --- the moon and the stars you set in place --- what are mere mortals that you should think about them
Now, if only the psalmist had stopped there with that beautifully expressed sentiment of the vastness of the universe and not have gone on to insist that humans are special, "only a little lower than God".