In this issue: RCL Notes / An Apostles' Creed / Short Stories by Jesus
ON BUILDING UP CROSSWAYS INTERNATIONAL / MARCH 2019
A Message from the Executive Director:

Ezekiel 37:1-14
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.”

Again, He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the Word of the LORD: “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’

So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life.’””

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’"

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.

Powerful, isn’t it, the Word of the LORD?

God tells us what to do. Sometimes we obey. Sometimes we protest. Sometimes, like Moses, we say, “No Lord! Not me! Send someone else.” Sometimes we run far, far away, like Jonah, before we do it. But in the end, He does what He says He is going to do.

God keeps His promises. He uses all of us—even me—to accomplish His purposes. He places us where the impossible seems to be in front of us. He puts us in the middle of a valley of dry bones. He knows what He is about to do, and He tells us what to do next. And then, He promises us that we will know that it is He, the LORD, who has spoken and done it.
He tells us the truth. Sometimes we pretend not to hear because we are afraid of what He has to say, but He always tells the truth. And in the end, He’s always right.

So, when God speaks to you, what do you do? Read more .

Kate Silvas / Executive Director
SHORT STORIES BY JESUS: THE ENIGMATIC PARABLES OF A CONTROVERSIAL RABBI / AMY JILL LEVINE
Amy Jill Levine is a Jewish scholar of the New Testament and, should you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you will know that she is a marvelous storyteller. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that she would write about Jesus’ story-telling as recorded in the Gospels. 
 
In the introduction to  Short Stories by Jesus , Dr. Levine addresses a big problem with our reading of the parables, namely, our tendency to domesticate them, to be content with being entertained by them, rather than to directly engage them and allow ourselves to be troubled about their meaning. To counter this tendency, she situates Jesus’ parables within the long tradition of Jewish storytellers who used them to challenge their hearers’ behavior or ways of thinking. Part of what makes parables so controversial is that they are comparison stories, usually beginning with the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like….,” but without revealing their intended meaning. In fact, parables can have multiple meanings, depending on the life situation of the hearer.  
 
Dr. Levine also notes the importance of understanding the historical and literary setting of Jesus’ parables. She argues that these parables had to have been fully understood by the initial hearers of the Gospels or else they would not have been preserved for today’s readers. Thus, it behooves us to learn about the history and culture of the early Jesus followers—e.g., farming, sheep herding, social class, wealth management and family relations—if we want to fully understand the parables of Jesus. She also warns against turning parables into allegories. A parable is a short story that uses comparison and surprise to point to a single message. An allegory is an  interpretation  of a short story that assigns symbolic meanings to each of its characters and events to convey a generalized message about abstract ideas. In short, allegory allows us to sidestep a personal encounter with the absurdity of Jesus’ parables.  
 
Following this very important introduction to  Short Stories by Jesus , Dr. Levine offers an analysis of 11 of Jesus’ lesser known parables. She begins each chapter... Read more .
 
Catherine Cory, Ph. D. / Theological Council Member
SHARING GOD'S GOOD NEWS
Harry Wendt
REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY NOTES

" Although this parable related to the situation of Jesus’ day, its message is timeless. In His mercy, God continues to give us—His people—many more 'second chances.' However, this should not lead us to presume upon God’s goodness. There will be a last chance. The owner’s patience was eventually strained to breaking point with the barren fig tree. Sir Winston Churchill once mused, 'I wonder what would happen if God lost patience with the world.'

Read the Rev. Dr. Wendt's March 2019 Revised Common Lectionary Notes .
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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Take a fresh look at what we really mean when we begin reciting the ancient words, “I believe in God the Father Almighty…” with An Apostles' Creed for the New Millennium .

"The appendix, featuring clear discussions of 15 early church issues, will be invaluable to anyone who teaches Church History." James Baird
Learn what Jesus had to say about the mission on which He was sent and on which He sent the disciples with Jesus and His Vision of Mission DVD .

The eight lectures from Dr. Kenneth Bailey include the vision of the prophet Isaiah, the Great Commission, Evangelism, and more.
Think through what we are really professing when we confess our faith with the Embossed Apostles' Creed .

It fe atures the Rev. Dr. Harry Wendt's thought-provoking variation on the traditional Creed, and is suitable for framing.
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Luke 5:9-11

9  For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;  10  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people." 11  When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

(NRSV)
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A PRAYER TO SHARE
Great and living God, we thank You for teaching us to know You through Your written and Living Word. Empower us to look beyond the things that surround us to the wonders of the heavens above and to the miracle that each of us is. We give thanks that You have prepared an Eternal Home for us, and pray that You will keep us in faith so that we might live with meaning, and eventually bid farewell to life in this world with peace, joy, and sure hope. In the name of Jesus, Amen. (From An Apostles' Creed for the New Millennium leader's manual)
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