This blog provides a meditation n te Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
The Depravity of Sodom
19The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and bowed down with his face to the ground.2He said, ‘Please, my lords, turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you can rise early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the night in the square.’3But he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.4But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house;5and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, so that we may know them.’6Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him,7and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.8Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’9But they replied, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came here as an alien, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near the door to break it down.10But the men inside reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.11And they struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they were unable to find the door.<!– 12 –>
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
12 Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city—bring them out of the place.13For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’14So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up, get out of this place; for the Lord is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.
15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.’16But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city.17When they had brought them outside, they* said, ‘Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.’
This is not a pretty tale. The people of Sodom are not as is often said, homosexuals looking for gratification, they are thugs looking to humiliate foreigners by rape. “So that we may know them”. The euphemism is common in Hebrew, but confusing in English, especially in this context. If the translation cannot say, “so that we may bugger them,” it ought to use the term, “rape.” Lot’s offer of his virgin daughters instead of his guests, especially his words, “do as you like with them” is a horrendous expression of the partriarchal spirit: Lot’s honour as a host comes before his parental love. I think the narrator wants the reader to note Lot’s betrayal of his daughters. He wants to emphasise that Lot is tainted by his life in Sodom and only escapes because of Gods regard for Abraham, who has argued against the destruction of the city, on the grounds that the innocent should not be punished with the guilty. The luxurious, amoral, xenophobic life of the cities of the plain is condemned while the frugal nomadic life of Abraham and his family is (implicitly) commended. Those who woud turn back, half-regretfully towards the cities, are given the comic image of Lot’s wife to consider. (But Lot is the one who has lingered most, why isn’t he turned into salt? More patriarchal thinking?)
27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’28Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’29Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’30So they said to him, ‘What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing?31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’32Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.33For the bread of God is that which* comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’34They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away;38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.40This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
The desire which creates unjust cities like Sodom and Gomorrah is a perverted desire for abundant life. Those who have always lived careful lives are sometimes incapable of understanding the urge for plentiful living which finds substitute satisfactions in wealth, power and lust. John’s Gospel shows Jesus explicitly attending to this desire when he says he has come “so that they should have more abundant life. This fulness of life is depicted as bread: Jesus says he is the bread of life. The life he shares with the Father is fruitful, satisfying, even lavish and he makes it available to all who trust him. This is the true miracle of Jesus: he offers the abundant life of God to people. That’s the meaning of his miracle of feeding 5000; in comparison the miracle of the Manna is trivial. To trust Jesus and to share God’s life is to commit to a love that will not let go.
Rather than making easy condemnations of the urban welath and squalor which possesses the earth, people of faith might be better to see the desire for abundant life which is travestied by that lifestyle and to point to the real source of abundance.