The administration, trustees, faculty, and staff of American Baptist Seminary of the West send our condolences to the family and friends of William R. (Bill) Herzog, II. Bill served on the faculty of ABSW as professor of New Testament from 1974-1988 and as a core faculty member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU). He went on to teach at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and Andover Newton Theological School and served as Dean of the Faculty at various seminaries. In addition to his work in the seminary environment, he also served as an interim pastor at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. Bill authored three books exploring the public work of the historical Jesus. They are: Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (1994); Jesus, Justice and the Reign of God: A Ministry of Liberation (2000) and Prophet and Teacher: An Introduction to the Historical Jesus (2005) in addition to many articles and studies. He is fondly remembered as a scholar, friend, and mentor.
Posts by Carolyn Matthews
American Baptist Seminary of the West
and Graduating Class of 2017
cordially invite you to
Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm
Rev. Michael McBride
Pastor, The Way Christian Center, Berkeley, CA
Director of Urban Strategies & LIVE FREE Campaign, Faith in Action
First Church of Christ, Scientist
2619 Dwight Way
(across Dwight Way from ABSW)
Additional details including reception, parking and
information for graduates available at: http://www.absw.edu/commencement-2019/
The Rev. Dr. James E. Brenneman, President, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, CA
Swaddled to Earth
8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
Heaven has been swaddled. Swaddled to Earth. And heaven doesn’t much like it. Heaven is that other world up there, far above earth, where the biggest, baddest, strongest gods rule and reign from heavenly throne rooms gilded in gold, silver, rubies and glitter. Heaven is nothing, if it isn’t, well, heavenly.
But our Christmas lesson does a number on such otherworldly notions by swaddling heaven to earth forever. The heavenly angel says to flummoxed shepherds, “this will be a sign to you: you shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (2:12). “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God,” (2:13) after which, the angels leave the shepherds behind and go back to heaven (2:14).
On this Christmas morn, when we with the angels sing of “Christ the newborn King,” who is “true God of true gods,” we proclaim to all who hear it, the fusion of horizons between earth and heaven. We sing of a God whose infinite divine presence narrows laser-like to swaddle itself to refugees – to a newborn baby lying in a manger in occupied territory in a backwater town in Palestine. We sing of a Heavenly King, whose crown is made of thorns, whose way is love that “stoops to rise.” On this Christmas morn, we run with haste as did the shepherds of old to the manger where God in Christ comes swaddled to earth in love. And having visited there, we “make known what was told about this child” (2:17,18,14), that “all who hear it may be amazed by what [we] proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to all people on earth!”
On this Christmas morning, Lord of swaddling infants, help us now some two thousand plus Christmas mornings later, to embrace the vulnerable, the poor, the refugees, the children and their parents, who are a sign to us of your amazing love for the least among us and so, for us all. Amen.
Carol Wheeler, member Board of Trustees, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, CA
Finding a New Song
1 O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in holy splendor;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”
11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth.” (v.1)
It is Christmas Eve, and Christians worldwide are filled with anticipation as we await the celebrations of the arrival of the Baby Jesus. The events narrated in Luke 2:8-14—the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night—are thought to be reflective of the spring of the year by many Bible scholars. Lambing season, sowing, birds nesting, earth reawakening from winter are all signs of the promise of new life. It is thought that early Christian communities of the northern and western regions of the Roman empire re-imagined these events “in the bleak midwinter.” Yet, in spite of dire, dark circumstances, they dared to hope, to sing a new song.
The Jewish people navigated a perilous course, under the suspicious eye of the Roman empire. The Romans were in charge, King David’s dynasty was a distant memory, so who could dare believe, let alone “Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns’”? (v.10) After all, what would Caesar do if he heard? Herod slaughtered innocent children to maintain his power (Matthew 2:16-18).
What about today? What must the victims of war and violence be thinking today? What must the refugees and separated families be feeling today? Yet, on this holy day we dare to “Say among the nations, The Lord reigns.” With hope we “sing to the Lord a new song” (v.1) and proclaim “He will judge the peoples with equity” (v.10).
May your Spirit enable us to sing a new song. May your Spirit enable us to continue to sing through the dark mid-winter. Amen.