Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Finding Faith in the Midst of it All

Our lectionary texts this week are Jeremiah 2:4-13, Luke 14:1, 7-14, and Hebrews 13:1-8 and 15-16. To give them a read-through, check out this Lectionary Website.

Sometimes when you read scripture, you can tell it is the product of a radically different time; it might talk about kings when you live in a democracy, or use agricultural images whne you live in an urban area, leaving you wondering how you can connect with a narrative that comes from another culture. Othertimes, however, scripture comes to us in ways that sound eerily familiar. As I read our passages for this week, I was struck by the way that the forms of these passages sounded, at times, like they could have been plucked out of scenes from our everyday lives.

Jeremiah's words (well, actually, God's words) take the form of a lawsuit--they could be a Prosecutor's opening address to a jury straight from an episode of Law and Order. God has a great flair for the dramatic; after beginning with an introductory summons (v. 4) that names the "house of Jacob" and "all the families of Israel" as the defendants, God launches right in with a series of rhetorical questions interspersed with evidence of grave offenses. Occasionally God even directs God's language to the jury: "Can you believe this? Have you ever seen anyone with the gaul to do such things?" A judge would probably object to some of God's language as inflammatory, but God is both Prosecutor and Judge in this trial, launching a full investigation into what has happened with God's people, reaching an irrefutable conclusion of the charges that must be leveled: the people have forsaken the Lord and dug out cisterns that will not hold water. The implications of these charges, as we will see as they unfold in the remainder of the book, are grave indeed.

Luke uses an even more familiar setting to frame his narrative: a meal complete with a lesson in table manners. Anyone who has ever been to a fancy dinner at an important person's house can almost feel the tension in the scene: people jostling in a way they hope others won't notice for the best seats at the table. One brazen person at the table--Jesus--has the gaul to point out the bad table manners of the others, even though, according to Greco-Roman Emily Post, what the people were doing was totally acceptable and even encouraged. Jesus, however, wants to insert another standard of etiquitte--of behavior that reflects the upside-down, non-status seeking values of the Kingdom of God.

In Hebrews, we get a scene that unfolded all over the country the past couple of weeks--it is reminiscent of a parent rolling down the window as they prepare to drive off and leave their firstborn at college, calling out the last minute instructions of the things they really need to know. For 12 chapters Hebrews has been laying out systematic theology for the people; but now the author shifts to the practical things that should be part of the people's lives as a result of their formation. If you're going to survive as the people I've shaped you to be, the author writes, here are the things I hope and pray you will remember to do--that are a byproduct of your careful upbringing.

I love how close to home each of these passages feels in their forms--how linked they are to everyday things like meals and parental instructions, like navigating social settings and entering into legal proceedings. The form of these passages, rooted in everyday life, point us also to their content--for each will teach us about the struggle to live faith in the midst of everyday life. They are passages that speak into the midst of lives that don't stop to give us time to be spiritual and Christian but require us to live and move and respond and pause to ask questions that link us back to God and one another right in the midst of it all.

How do we hold onto faithful living in the midst of it all? Tune in this Sunday as, with the help of Jeremiah and Luke and Hebrews, we ask this question together.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I'll be interested to see what comes out of these passages. Of course, in relative isolation they seem kind of unrelated (to me, anyway).

I wonder how much of these passages help us to gain/keep perspective - of ourselves as individuals and as the various groups we represent.

Maybe I'm thinking of this because the staggering loss of perspective I see in the words and actions of people like Glenn Beck. And because a God-centered perspective is something I struggle with daily.