Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Smorgasbord of Scriptural Fun

Our lectionary passages this week are Leviticus 19:1-2, 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23, and Matthew 5:38-48. You can read them, as always, here.

Gosh...okay, there's too much fun in the lectionary this week to stick with one idea for this blog. So this week will be a buffet of biblical reflection...a veritable smorgasbord of subjects to think about. Take your pick:

Dish #1: Leviticus? Really? Yes, friends, you are seeing correctly. This is Leviticus' one shining moment in the sun, the one time in all three years of the Lectionary cycle that we read from this third book of the Hebrew Torah (or five books of the law--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy...just in case you were wondering). Given much of Leviticus' nature, it's not surprising that only once in 150+ Sundays does this book show up: after all, it includes such lovely topics as why it's bad to eat shellfish (see chapter 11), how to properly sacrifice a goat (see chapter 16) and the grossly defiling effects of mold (chapters 13 and 14...real page turners). is also in the heart of Leviticus, here in chapter 19, that we find what Jesus named as one of the two greatest commandments: the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. I keep reading this passage for today and wonder if we've lost something in throwing Leviticus out with its strange litany of laws...yes, this is the book in the Bible where most of our New Year's Resolutions to read the Bible through hit a terrible wall. But what clues about the nature of God and God's desires from us might we have been missing in our omission? (And, just for the record, I don't think what we'll learn if we draw near to Leviticus is that God hates shrimp...)

Dish #2: Resisting Evil In our Saturday morning Bible Study, a serious question was raised: when Jesus says in Matthew 5, "Do not resist an evildoer," what is Jesus saying? What is meant by "resistance" here? I've done a lot of reading around this this week...and most commentators seem to agree that "resist" is an incredibly weak and probably not fully accurate translation of this statement by the NRSV (the translation we use most in worship). The word used here for "resist" is actually a term, in most of its other usages, that references warfare--it literally means "to stand against," naming that moment in battle when two armies have marched towards each other until they are literally face to face, standing against each other, and bloodshed is commencing. So what Jesus is saying here, it seems, is "do not go to violent battle against an evildoer"--do not take the same tactics that they take. What Jesus offers here are alternate forms of "standing against" evil that do not involve violence, it would seem. (Theologian Walter Wink has a lot to say about this, and is a great person to read if you are interested in learning more).

Dish #3: What Jesus REALLY Meant, Redux: In response to last week's blog post about ways to interpret the Sermon on the Mount, Nancy Lively (a member of our congregation currently teaching at a seminary in Prague) sent along some great words about the ways the student community at International Baptist Theological Seminary is seeking to base their life together upon the tenants of the Sermon on the Mount, and the stories they are uncovering of people who have chosen to live and act according to Jesus' words. Many of her students come from nations across Eastern and Central Europe that have seen great conflict throughout their lives; yet here, in community with one another, they are learning to live in peaceable ways, and to speak with great conviction that these teachings of Jesus are not just livable--they are vital if we are going to know the life that is truly life. I'm encouraged to know that a new generation of Christians and Christian leaders coming along are wrestling seriously with these questions along with us...any of you who are interested should get Nancy to share with you some of the things she has been learning from her students. Remarkable.

So there you go...enjoy, and see you Sunday as we dig into this scriptural feast, seeing how it might nourish our life together...

No comments: