Interfaith Thanksgiving Service

This service reaches back to the days of the Abrahamic Accord – a relationship between Christian and Jews on the East Side. The Accord has ceased to function for some time now, yet the interfaith Thanksgiving service has continued, alternately hosted by Temple Beth-El and St Martin’s. Attendance has been falling each year at this service, and although billed as interfaith it is now mostly Christians who attend.  This year as the host I signaled a desire to review the approach to this service.  Following the Pittsburgh shootings, I then wondered if we needed to hastily put something together to signal community solidarity with our Jewish neighbors. In discussion with the Temple, we decided that having had a tremendous community vigil to mourn the shootings, and with busy calendars, nothing further was needed at this time. We have jointly agreed not to hold an interfaith Thanksgiving service this year.

Vestry Matters

Nominating Committee News 

We are seeking nominations for the positions of Senior and Junior Warden, Treasurer, Clerk, and one Vestry member

Our parish bylaws require that the Rector and Wardens appoint a nominating committee at least eight weeks before the Parish Annual meeting which is traditionally held the last Sunday in January. Our parish custom has been for the Rector, Wardens, and retiring vestry members to constitute the Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee will nominate persons for the positions of Senior and Junior Warden, Treasurer, and Clerk as well as the number of necessary parishioners to replace those Vestry members whose three-year team has expired. It is customary for the Junior Warden to move to the Senior Warden slot. This is not required and others may be nominated to stand for election to Senior Warden at the Annual meeting.

This year, we will be seeking names of parishioners who would be capable and willing to serve in the four Parish ‘officer ‘ positions: Senior and Junior Warden, Treasurer, and Clerk — we do anticipate that John Bracken will stand for nomination as Senior Warden for a one-year term, having ably served as Junior Warden. In addition, the committee will be seeking one person to  serve on the Vestry for a three year term.

Note that we are only attempting to fill one vestry position this year rather than the customary three. We are proposing to change our bylaws to allow for a smaller, more streamlined vestry that is more in keeping with the current size of the Parish. The proposed change, also to be presented at the annual meeting, reduces the size of the vestry from 14 to 8. We feel that this change also acknowledges that many of our capable parishioners who would like to serve on the Vestry are simply too busy to be able to serve in the  fully committed fashion they would prefer. Please contact the Rector or one of the Wardens if you would care to nominate someone to serve in one of the positions mentioned.

Help St Martin’s continue its work

 

Leave an Enduring Legacy by Contributing to Saint Martin’s Endowment

Since it opened its big red doors at 50 Orchard Avenue in 1922, Saint Martin’s has brought to the Greater Providence area a thoughtful approach to Christianity; one that combines the beauty of traditional Episcopal liturgy with vigorous outreach programs and a striving for social justice.  In order to help ensure that Saint Martin’s continues to thrive the Parish Is strengthening its endowment and asks your help.

Saint Martin’s Endowment was set up decades ago to help fund long-term expenses and to insulate the parish from the vagaries of economic cycles. The endowment provides an ability to offer financial support to new initiatives and to make needed repairs to our beautiful and historic facility in a timely and cost-effective manner. It has also been used to support jump start new ministries and outreach programs. Dedicated funds within the endowment also fund special music programs on Christmas and Easter and allow the replacement of worn vestments and the like.

Our goal is to grow the size of the endowment so that we can restrict withdrawals to 4-5% of principal per year range. This is a sustainable level and is consider a “best practice”.

How can I help?

There are many ways to contribute to the Endowment. Some are simple and straight forward such as: an outright gift of money or assets such as stock or real estate, including Saint Martin’s in your will, making Saint Martin’s a whole or partial beneficiary of a life insurance policy, or a gift from an Individual Retirement Account. Other techniques such as Charitable Gift Annuities and Charitable Remainder Trust are more complicated but well worth considering if a sizeable gift is contemplated. Consideration of tax and estate law can make your gift more powerful by reducing taxes and expenses.

Common Ways to help strengthen Saint Martin’s Endowment

  • Simple & Immediate Gifts. Cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate and personal property can be given at any time to the Endowment. Some people have the idea that a gift to the endowment needs to be large. That is not the case. Any amount is always welcome. You can give a small affordable amount each month which adds up over time; Others choose a larger one-time gift. The parish can also take title to real estate and valuable personal property such as jewelry or paintings and sell them with the proceeds going into the Endowment.
  • Gifts from an IRA, 401K and some other retirement plans. This is an increasingly common technique. The money that has accumulated in the plan has never been taxed but is taxed when you withdraw or when it goes into your estate when you die. However, gifts from such retirement accounts to charitable or religious organizations such as Saint Martin’s are not taxed at all. In addition, you may be entitled to a charitable deduction in the amount of the gift.
    • Tip: If you are over 70 1/2 the IRS requires that a portion of your IRA account be distributed each year until your death. This is the so called Required Minimum Distribution (RMD). If the money goes to you, it is taxed at your individual income tax rate. However, if you instruct your IRA to give the money directly to a not for profit such as Saint Martin’s then the distribution is not taxable to you.
  • Deferred Gifts: Wills and Bequests. A bequest through a will is the most common way the Endowment has been funded. It is a simple and straight forward way of giving and creating a legacy of good that will live on. Bequests can be in simple dollar amounts, or as a percentage of your estate or even a percentage of the remainder after other specific bequests such as gifts to children or other charities have been made. The language needed to add a bequest to an existing will can be quite simple: “I give devise and bequeath to Saint Martin’s parish 50 orchard Ave Providence RI the sum of $ XXX. to be placed in its Endowment.
    • Tip: You should always use an attorney to develop your estate plan and draft and make changes to your will. Even if you do not have a lot of money, a will helps your family and friends understand how you would like to handle things. It can also avoid complications and confusion. The Episcopal Church Foundation’s “Planning for the End of Life” booklet contains considerable information about these topics. It can be found on line at http://www.ecfvp.org/webinars/122/basics-of-planned-giving-2.
  • Life Insurance. You may have life insurance that is no longer needed (children grown, spouse have passed) Some name the parish the beneficiary or partial beneficiary of such excess life insurance.
    • You may get a tax  deduction for the cash surrender value of the policy not its ‘face value”. If the policy requires continuing the premiums, those too can be deductible.
  • More Complicated Techniques. There are some techniques which only make sense if one has considerable assets. These include charitable gift annuities, Charitable remainder Trusts, and Pooled Income funds. Should you wish to explore these options Saint Martin’s will be happy to work with your advisors.

For further information please contact the church office or one of the Clergy or Vestry. The phone number is 401-751-2141; church@stmartinsprov.org;

(Information provide in this brochure is of a general nature. You should always consult your own lawyer or accountants before making important decisions)

 

 

Days 134-141 editorial comment

The books of I & II Chronicles seems to start the whole story we have read through Samuel and Kings all over again. But we will note how different Chronicles is. It’s a more one-sided version of the story of Israel told only from the perspective of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Clearly written during or after the Exile it’s the story of those that were left.

 

With Paul’s letter to the Romans, we now enter into a very new world, a world fashioned not by Jesus but by Paul. Paul wrote a good chunk of the N.T. although scholars dispute his authorship of all the books attributed to him by tradition. However, Romans is Paul, through and through. His central message is the Jewish Messiah is for everyone and not simply the Jews. Following his dramatic conversion, Paul came to understand that Jesus was God’s surprising ending to the story of Israel. This was an ending that the traditional reading of Israel’s story was not set up to handle.

Jesus himself played fast and loose with Scripture, using it as the scene setting device for taking the story in new and shocking directions from a Jewish point of view. Paul does likewise. He takes the long history of Israel and gives it its most universalist twist. Actually, the universal inclusion of all the nations on Mount Zion was already part of the prophetic tradition evinced by the Third Isaiah. So Paul simply picks up where Third Isaiah left off and moves to his central thesis.

In Romans, Paul spends a lot of time debating the merits and demerits of the Law. Put simply Paul notes that according to Israel’s reading of its own story, failure to keep the Torah was the core problem that led to national catastrophe and exile see the last chapter of II Kings for a heart-wrenching description of this. If Torah keeping was the core of Israel’s struggle, then it seemed logical to the Jewish Christian lobby that Torah keeping should be the gentiles’ problem as well.

In Romans and elsewhere Paul lays out his case, that Torah keeping is no longer the problem for either Jew or Gentile. Sin is a universal human problem, not exclusively a Jewish or Gentile problem. Jesus’ death and resurrection gives a new twist revealing God’s plan is the defeat of sin through death. Henceforth the promise given to Moses becomes the promise to all peoples.

Day 127-133 Editorial

Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, ….are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Israel?

So ends the First Book of the Kings. The period covered by First and Second Kings is a period of fragmentation with a series of very unsatisfactory kings sitting on the thrones of the now divided kingdoms of Isreal and Judah. As the state of kingship continues to decline there arises a new breed of prophet in the land. As typified by the great Elijah and his successor Elisha we encounter the rise of the political prophet as the antidote to the corruption of the monarchy. The office of the political prophet is to speak truth to power. The prophets function like the Supreme Court, guardians of the constitution. At the heart of the Hebrew constitution lie two key concepts:

The political prophets function like the Supreme Court, as guardians of the constitution. At the heart of the Hebrew constitution lie two key concepts:

As typified by the great Elijah and his successor Elisha we encounter the rise of the political prophet as the antidote to the corruption of the monarchy. The prophets function like the Supreme Court, guardians of the constitution. At the heart of the Hebrew constitution lie two key concepts:

  1. The definition of Israel as those who God brought out of the land of bondage. The Exodus is the defining moment in the birth of the Israelites as a distinct people, a people born in slavery and liberated by God to be his chosen race.
  2. There is to be no other God but Yahweh who is the only true King in Isreal.

In all ages and in each political system there needs to be a mechanism for judging unconstitutional actions by those in authority, a voice that speaks truth to power. Thus all the kings are assessed by how faithful they are to God.  In Canaan the king was sovereign. He was God’s appointed surrogate. Like God, the king stood above the law. In Israel, the king was not sovereign, he was a servant of God with the responsibility to ensure faithfulness to the laws of God, sitting under God, not above him. This was easy for Isreal’s kings to forget when they become mesmerized by the example of real divine Canaanite models of kingship all around them.

First and Second Kings is a chronicle of the failure of each king to remember and to obey the founding principles of the covenant. So each comes to a sticky end – hastened by the work of the political prophet who declares what is valid and what is not according to the laws God has established in the Covenant with Moses.

First and Second Samuel and First and Second Kings comprise that phase of Hebrew history we refer to as the Monarchy. The struggles recorded reveal a universal tendency that without checks and balances power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts, absolutely. This is a powerful message for us to remember in our own current period. We see the resurgence of the figure of the nationalist dictator aided and abetted by the resurgence of an uncritical and paranoid nationalism. We see how this resurgence has not left America untouched. We witness the tensions when a dictatorial interpretation of presidential leadership, aided and abetted by a resurgent nationalism with all the xenophobic elements of fear of foreigners, those who are not of the tribe, of racism, and sexism expressions of the patriarchal systems of oppression, arises within a system founded on checks and balances designed to place limits on executive power.

To read the Bible is to read and learn that there is nothing new under the sun.Vigilance emerges from a knowledge of history and a long, long memory.

Day 114 Editorial Comment

The story of the rape of Tamar (2 Samuel 13) is one of the most horrifying episodes in the Hebrew Scriptures, arguably second only to the story of the rape, murder and dismemberment of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19. These “texts of terror,” a term coined by theologian Phyllis Trible, leave the reader stunned at the least, and potentially triggered at the worst. How can we possibly read such horrific passages spiritually? How can such despicable behavior be part of our sacred Story?

The first thing to remember is that our sacred Story is a checkered one. It reflects the stark and often cruel reality of the human condition. The key is to read each episode as being in the context of the broad arc of God’s relationship with Creation—a relationship that progresses toward reconciliation in fits and starts from the very beginning; one step forward, sometimes five steps back. And in this passage we are currently in a dizzying backward swing.

So how to read this story? One possible option is to avert our eyes and pretend it isn’t there. That isn’t too difficult to do, since this is not part of the regular lectionary; there is little chance that you will hear it read or preached on in a Sunday service. But averting our eyes doesn’t make it go away any more than closing our eyes to human suffering makes it cease to exist. No; we need to look more closely, not away, and interrogate the text. What is the writer trying to tell us? And where is God in this story?

Up to this point in the account of David’s life and kingship, if we look closely, we can see that David’s biographers aren’t exactly enamored of their subject. David is light and shadow—a lot of shadow. There are times when David shows humility and love for the God who called him to lead God’s people. But by this point in the reading of Samuel you may have also noticed that a lot of people around David have died violently, and somehow David has avoided responsibility almost every time. Nothing sticks. And in the case of his daughter Tamar, the writer makes quite clear that David is indifferent to what is going on, effectively under his nose. This entire episode precipitates a family tragedy of epic scale, ultimately alienating David’s son Absalom from his father and dividing Israel.

Remember how the Deuteronomist writers made clear that God wanted one thing and one thing only of God’s people—to put God first? Remember how Samuel warned the people that if they got a king they would forget God and regret their decision? This rather sideways portrait of King David and his sons invites us to hear the writer say, “I told you so.”

But what of Tamar? She speaks 82 words as she begs her half-brother to see sense and not do this horrible irrevocable thing. And once it is done, and he recoils from her, she begs him again not to cast her out in disgrace. Just 82 words. But it is her actions that are most eloquent. This young woman, whose life has been effectively ruined by the combined actions of Amnon (rapist), Jonadab (conspirator), Absalom (who tells her to remain silent and waits two years for revenge) and David (willfully ignorant) refuses to accept her fate silently. She tears her garments, puts ashes on her head and wails with grief as she makes her way home from Amon’s chamber. In effect, she demands that the entire community witness to what has happened to her.

Where was God? God was in the ashes Tamar put on her head. God was in her tears. God remains in her testimony read through millennia, and in the testimony of abused and abandoned women everywhere and in every time. This text of terror invites us to hear Tamar’s call for justice and comfort for people like her, and to respond on their behalf.

The inspiration of Scripture isn’t just in the writer. It is also in the reader, if we have ears to hear.

 

Day 110 editorial comment

Luke, in Acts chapter 7 reports the death of Stephen. Stephen was one of those who in chapter 6 we learned were entrusted with the social and pastoral support of the members of the community, especially among the poorer Hebrew Christians. These men were called servants or diakonoi and are the first in the ministry of those today we call deacons.

Stephen is brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council where he retells the history of Israel. Stephen’s speech is reminiscent of the long speeches that occur in Exodus and Judges in which Israelite history is rehearsed for the benefit of the people, lets they forget their origins as those whom God brought out of slavery in Egypt.

Every time Hebrew history is rehearsed it’s always to make a particular point. The present always dictates how you think about the past. With Stephen we get a good view of how the first generation of Christians related to the Hebrew Scriptures. They were incredibly inventive. Unlike us to day, they did not feel constrained to paint only within the lines of conventional interpretation.  For the early Christians, Jesus had changed the course of Jewish history and vastly expanded the destiny of Abraham’s children.

Luke employs the literary convention of rehearsing Israel’s history throughout the early chapters of Acts. When Peter addresses the authorities he, like Stephen begins with historical rehearsal as the basis of introducing a new twist to account for the effect of Jesus. It’s this new twist that gets them into trouble. The purpose of Stephen’s rehearsal of history is to land in a new and different place in order to explain how Jesus has changed everything. So we see Stephen landing on the theme of the Jews rejection of their prophets, and so their rejection of Jesus was nothing new. Now, stung by his words, his hearers become consumed with murderous intent.

The purpose of Stephen’s rehearsal of history is to land in a new and different place in order to explain how Jesus has changed everything. The purpose of Stephen’s rehearsal of the story all his hearers already knew by heart was to land on the theme of the Jews rejection of their prophets. This is the point he wants to bring out about Jesus. He is saying you killed him like you killed or rejected all the prophets before him. So their rejection of Jesus was nothing new. This is too much for his religious hearers. Stung by his words, they become consumed with murderous intent.

When we rehearse the history of God’s relationship with Israel, how does our 21st-century twist shape the way we read the Biblical story? What do we hear in the story and what conclusion does it lead us to that informs us of God’s presence among us?

The Bible read as a kind of rule book or owners manual on how to live life in the present is likely to miss the point that Luke, Stephen, and the other early Christian writers show us. The words on the page are not the story. When we lift our eyes from the literal fixation on the words we come to see the words are part of a bigger story shaped by Jesus, who is bigger than the Bible.

Luke concludes chapter 7 with one seemingly insignificant detail. He tells us that the man entrusted with holding the cloaks of the men who stone Stephen is one called Saul. Luke’s introduction of this seemingly insignificant bystander prepares us for a dramatic shift taking his narrative of the early days of the church in a new direction.

Commencing Day 106 editorial comment

In 1 Samuel we continue with the saga of Israel’s transition from a confederation of tribes into a kingdom. Israel is in continual warfare with the Philistines. Samuel the last of the Judges, against his will, anoints Saul as the first king. But things don’t go well with Saul and so a substitute needs to be found. Read on to find out more.

Up to this point in the New Testament we have been reading through the four Gospels. We now transition from John into the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is a New Testament equivalent to the history tradition of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles in the Old Testament. Luke writes his Gospel of the life of Jesus and then writes a history of the early days of the Church following the Day of Pentecost. So in a way, Acts might more properly follow on from the end of Luke’s Gospel, and should be read as such. The missionary work of Paul is the focus of much of Luke’s writing in Acts. Lukes account is often rather glowing and the events he records provide a counterpoint to Paul’s own accounts in his epistles or letters to the new churches springing up around the Mediterranean World.

The Bible can be found at the heart of much American political discourse. It’s important for mainline Christians, like Episcopalians, to reclaim our relationship with the Bible in order to be in a better position to identify and challenge the frequency with which the Bible is appropriated and misused by factions within the larger body politic. The daily reading program presented by the Bible Challenge is challenging. We find ourselves continually confronting our received misunderstandings of how to interpret the texts. Visit sermons to see how we are handling the Bible experience in greater depth.

Days 94-100 Editorial Comment

Reading the last three chapters of the book of judges is a sobering experience. Here, we are presented with the graphic details of violence against women, reading like an editorial from ISIS held territory. We also learn of inter-Israelite civil conflict every bit a brutal as the Israelite treatment of the Canaanites depicted in Joshua.

It’s a huge relief to move onto the book of Ruth. Ruth is only four chapters long. Ruth is a tender and intimate story notable for the way it portrays the intimacy of loyalty between Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi – a beautiful portrayal of female solidarity in a patriarchal world. The book is also notable for the way it presents the acceptance of a foreigner and refugee into Hebrew familial structures. The style of writing presents the participants in the story in a way that is completely familiar to our modern sensibilities.

The book of Ruth marks a transition point. Genesis to Judges presents a prehistory out of which the Hebrew people emerge as a tribal nation. Ruth marks the beginning of a new story about the Kingdom of Israel. From I Samuel to II Kings is the story of the creation of Israel as a nation with a King. These books also relate the sorry tale of monarchy leading to the ultimate division of David’s kingdom into two the kingdoms of Isreal, and Judah after the death of Solomon.

Ruth sets the scene for David and establishes his genealogy. In this sense Ruth is important for us also, for as David’s great grandmother, she features at the beginning of a line of descent the ends with Jesus. With Samuel begins the age of the great prophets of Israel. More about that in due course.

Commentary approaching Day 101

Musings on the experience of reading the Bible

I find the Bible a tough read, even the good bits. So there I’ve said it. To say this makes me feel bad, especially when I am insisting that my community engages with The Bible Challenge, a 360-day reading program encompassing the entire Bible. But I will get back to why this is also important, later.

 

I feel guilty about finding the Bible a tough read because at the edge of my conscious awareness I fear my attitude damages my relationship with the God I deeply love. I’ve been taught that this makes me bad, and punishment is what awaits bad boys and girls.

I want a nice God, a God who is forgiving but gentle with it. So when I turn to the pages of the Bible I am confronted with a not nice God. I find there a God who does not easily fit with my expectations and this leaves me feeling guilty – after all, it’s not meant to be this way, surely I must have misunderstood. Maybe this explains my attraction to traditions that sit lightly to Bible reading outside of the weekly liturgy. The fact is that reading the Bible is the fastest way to really challenge one’s own self-projection onto God. Throughout the pages of the Bible God simply refuses to act according to my expectations and play nice.

Maybe this explains my attraction to traditions that sit lightly to Bible reading outside of the weekly liturgy. The fact is that reading the Bible is the fastest way to really challenge one’s own self-projection onto God. Throughout the pages of the Bible God simply refuses to act according to our expectations and play nice.

Those of us at St Martin’s, who have been persevering with The Bible Challenge, will on Monday arrive at day 93. Along the way, we have waded through some pretty tedious and gruesome stuff. Recently in the Bible, the book of Joshua’s depiction of Israel’s genocide of the Canaanites as God’s chosen instrument gives way to the same storylines, now retold through the lens of the book of Judges. If we detect Judges retelling the Joshua story let’s not be too hasty and skip over. If we do we will miss noting that the two books tell two different versions of the same story of the settlement of the Promised Land. Joshua presents it as a blitzkrieg campaign during which no quarter is given to the poor old Canaanites. However, Judges presents it as a long process of gradual infiltration with the Israelites winning some and losing some. The end result is a picture of assimilation, with Canaanites living cheek by jowl with Israelites.

The book of Joshua’s unremitting chronicle of slaughter, worthy of a Viking Saga or from the Game of Thrones gives way to a more complex picture in which the tensions of fidelity to the old ways and assimilation into newfangled ones – an age-old story, forms the central narrative. It’s interesting to note that modern archaeology tends to confirm the Judges version.

Here is an interesting thing about the Bible. When we read through the lens of modern expectations of reading either descriptive truth or even reliable history, we get bogged down at the level of the words on the page. Read as descriptive truth or somewhat vague yet reliable history the words describe events that outrage our modern expectations of a loving God, gentle in all his ways. Yet, if we raise our eyes from the words on the page and pay attention to the directional flow of the narrative, e.g. take-in the story flow from Joshua to Judges, we begin to catch a glimpse of the shape of the forest above the tree line, a forest stretching towards the horizon.

It’s something of an overstatement, but not much of one to say that the consistent directional narrative of the Bible concerns the keeping of promises. The repeating plot line is one of the covenant -the reciprocity of promise keeping. The ups and downs in the relationship between God and the Chosen People chronicle the repetitive cycles of remembering and forgetting promises. Things go well when the people remember their promise to worship the Lord. Things go badly when they forget God and stray into worshiping other gods. All the while the long epic of the relationship is moving towards greater inclusion under laws of justice and mercy, thus bending the arc of the universe towards justice.

 

The text is always written by the authors for those of the generation who first read what is written.

Why read the Bible, especially the early books of the Torah? In them, we read page after page of the violent practices of tribal exclusion. We read about an image of God that we vehemently protest is not our image of God. But me think we protesteth too much. As current events swirl around us, the surfacing of tribal memories assail us. Animosities we thought long since transcended raise their ugly heads again. White tribalism, racism, and anti-Semitism dare to speak their names once again upon the civic stage.

The text is always written by the authors and those of the generation who first read what is written. There are three contextual aspects to keep in mind as we read Scripture. The first is the context described in the text itself. The second is the context within which the text is actually written. The third is our contemporary context readers. Scripture is written for the writers and their context. The original context described is a fiction constructed to confront the generation who author and first read the text. Whatever mythological events described, and whatever the authors of the text intended to convey, we read from within our own context. How does the text inform us about ourselves and our unacknowledged projections into God?

Context 1. The books of Joshua and Judges describe the conquest of the Promised Land, now shrouded in the mists of time. Primitive tribal nomads, as a rule, do not write down their experience. At best, they record their experience in oral stories, repeated by word of mouth. All generations project themselves onto the blank canvas presented by God. So we should not be surprised that Moses and Joshua’s God is remarkably like them.

Context 2. Scholarship now indicates that the books of Joshua and Judges were written down during the period after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 during the prolonged experience of captivity in Babylon and Persia. Joshua and Judges make their appeal to a captive people who are struggling to hold onto their identity after the destruction of nation and Temple. The message is, don’t lose faith, do to not forget their glorious past. God’s faithfulness and Israel’s unfaithfulness are incisions that cut to the heart of the experience of captivity. The books encourage a people at the darkest point to remember how in the past God has blessed them. This is a call to turn away from disobedience and return to God as their ancestors did.

Context 3. As we read the history of the Israelites and their struggles with God, let’s not be too hasty to rush to judgment. Do we not see more of ourselves in these pages than we might care to admit? Are we not a people with genocide in our history? Does not our history of the institution of slavery continue to disturb and disrupt the security of our identity as a people? As the greatest military superpower, is there not a deep contradiction between how we see ourselves and the perception other nations have of us?

The text is often an uncomfortable mirror.

Reading Joshua and Judges provides us with a larger context that aids our introspection so that better prepared and forewarned, our own primitive Israelite likeness, lurking just beyond sight, will not so easily ambush the unwary.