wgafney's blog

We Are the Saints of God

From my Feast of All Saints (2009) sermon at St. Simon Cyrenian in South Philadelphia: All of those dead and rotting things that hide our true nature as the saints of God are stripped from us as were the grave clothes of Lazarus in the gospel. Jesus' command, "Release him and let him go!" is directed to the community.There are some in our community, like Lazarus, who are no longer recognizable as one of God's saints. It may be because of something that they have done or because of something that was done to them. We may never know which. (read more)

Building on the "Begats": God's Legacy to God's Daughters

A Women's Day sermon for the New Life United Methodist Church in Upper Darby, PA: Sheerah built her own city in the Promised Land. She is the only woman in the scriptures who is described as building even one city. She actually built three: Lower Beth-horon, Upper Beth-horon and Uzzen-sheerah. She even named the last on eafter herself. Uzzen-sheerah means "listen to Sheerah"; Sheerah's city was her voice, and her voice is still speaking through the pages of scripture...

Yom Kippur 5770 (2009)

From my afternoon discussion at Germantown Jewish Centre: So then, one response to the question of the place of the Ten Commandments in contemporary Christian piety and practice is the still-proclaimed Gospel of Rabbi Jesus that they are secondary to the Sh'ma and (and/or tertiary to) a modified Ahavta. That is if Christians are followers of Jesus revealed in the gospels, in this case, in the gospel attributed to Mark. You should know that all of the subsequent canonical gospels remove the Sh'ma from the encounter (Matthew and Luke) or drop the story altogether (John). Jesus modifies the Ahavta, the "you-shall-love," by adding a category for loving God with one's mind, understanding or intellect.

Hell On Earth, And Then Some

An excerpt from and link to my post for the Diocese of PA: In the synoptic Gospels, Hell is usually described as a realm of fire, a place that seemingly judges and punishes at the same time, (Matthew 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). The most commonly used word for “hell” in the scriptures is the Aramaic word “Gehenna” that passed directly into Greek. Gehenna literally means “Valley of Hinnom” (In Hebrew, “Geh Hinnom”). The Valley of Hinnom was originally a piece of the Promised Land, a lowland

A South African Athlete and Intersexuality: What Does Biblical Studies Have to Do With It?

My guest blog for the Fund for Theological Education is linked following the excerpt: My first response is curiosity. Why do the scriptures ignore the complexities and varieties of human bodies? (If they do.) But perhaps they do not. The creation narratives in Genesis are written largely to counter other Ancient Near Eastern theologies, particularly those of the Babylonian Empire that had destroyed the remnants of the Israelite monarchy and the physical manifestation of their theology – the Temple in Jerusalem. The emphasis on biological sexual bifurcation and concomitant heterosexual reproduction is the point of those stories: Israel cannot

Let's Talk About Sex!

Do I even need to issue the invitation? In light of recent actions taken and not taken by the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I'm posting the Human Sexuality Study Guide developed for which I wrote on biblical materials: The context(s) and content(s) of the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity do not lend themselves easily to contemporary studies on sexuality and sexual orientation. There are no Biblical Hebrew or Koine Greek words that correspond exactly to "sexuality" "sexual orientation" or even "gender" (as defined above.) And, it is particularly important to note that the ideas and very words, "sexuality and

Shabbat B’har/B’chukkkotai

This D'var Torah was delivered at the Dorshei Derekh minyan of the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia on 16 May 2009. The full text is attached following the excerpt... What strikes me about the difference between the two texts sets – Q’doshim, looking at the neighbor or community (including the day-laborer) and B’har/B’chukkkotai, focusing on family, is that when things get really tight, there are some people who will defraud, cheat and scam their own families, relatives and kinfolk.

Shabbat Pinchas

This D'var Torah was delivered on 11 July 2009 at the Dorshei Derekh minyan of the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia. The complete text is attached after the following excerpt... Jewish and Christian feminists love the story of the daughters of Tzelophehad and how they and God re-write Torah to give them an inheritance in the Promised Land. But I think that their story is properly understood over and against the execution - or is it murder? Or martyrdom? - of Cozbi bat Tzur and Zimri ben Salu.

A Lament for Bullied Children

This sermon was delivered at the Second Baptist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia on 20 April 2009. The full text and lessons are attached after the excerpt... In our world, this month, this week, this very day, children are dying. Children are being bullied to death. Children are killing themselves. Children are bullying other children into killing themselves. These children are not aliens. They are us. Not our future, but our living, dying present.