Monday, December 15, 2008

Subversive Scriptures and Banned Bible Verses

This week's scriptures are Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 1:46-55.

I was intrigued as I began reading and preparing for this coming Sunday's sermon to find that in the 1980's the government of Guatemala prohibited the public reading of the Magnificat, or the Song of Mary.

Listen to the word and you will not find it particularly difficult to understand why:

He has scattered the proud in the
thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from
their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good
and sent the rich away empty
. (Luke 1:51-53)

I found myself remembering the little cards that we would get at Vacation Bible School. They had five to ten bible verses on them and we would get a gold star next to the ones we memorized. Some of you may remember them as well. The were filled with verses like "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" and "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" and other verses that spoke to the need for salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus. Now I believe that a deep and personal relationship with Jesus is what we are invited to; but I also believe that this relationship calls us, among other things, to acts of justice and mercy. This is part of living as God's people in imitation of our Savior.

I don't remember any verses on those cards that said, "He has brought down the powerful from their thones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" or "I take no pleasure in your sacred cermonies...Spare me the sound of your songs, I shall not listen to the strumming of your lutes. Instead let justice roll down like water and rightousness like an everflowing stream." (Amos 5:21 and 23-24).

I deeply appreciated Jeremy and Susan's singing of Rebel Jesus on this past Sunday. They reminded us that it is too easy to let this wild, subversive, 'turn the world on it's head' Gospel be co-opted as a tool for the status quo, the oppressor, the systemic blindness to the cry of those around us who suffer.

Mary knew in the depth of her being that what was growing in her was a new world. The baby she welcomed as "the handmaiden of the Lord" would bring about a radical change in creation.

Next time you hear the Magnificat...listen to the words. Enjoy the music; it is truly beautiful. But listen to the words of this marvelous young woman who knows in every fiber of her being that something new is about to happen.

And so the questions come to us this season: Are you and I that open, that willing for God to use us? Do we see something new and radical and powerful about to happen in our world because of how we have said "yes" to God's invitation to give birth to some new part of God's work of redemption?

God broke in at Christmas in a unique and marvelous way...becoming flesh-one of us. But God also continues to break in to our world; birthing freedom, and redemption, and healing whenever and wherever we raise our voices like Mary and say, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."

See you Sunday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uploaded 1-5-09.

We were glad to share that song with everyone. We laughed that there aren't that many churches were such a song could be even considered at Christmas! Many of us (sometimes, me included) dwell a little too much on the infant Jesus instead of the rebel he was to become, and that song was a strong reminder.

The words to the song:

All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They'll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all gods graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in
From a temple to a robbers den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus.

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgment
For Ive no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.