Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lectionary | At The Coal-face

One of the most positive things about using the lectionary is that it exposes us to the Bible, not just our favourite parts of the Bible, or those parts we look to in order to build up a case for or against a pet or topical issue. Rather than mining scripture for what we can get out of it, the lectionary helps open us up to being mined by scripture, for what it can get out of us – the hopes and fears and assumptions and prejudices and expectations and devices and desires of our hearts, which need to be laid out in the open, brought out of darkness and into the glorious light of a God who longs for our broken selves to be made whole.

Today’s readings for Morning Prayer were 1 Kings 3, and Acts 14:8-end. And what they exposed for me were the ways in which the complexity of the Bible confounds our – confounds my – attempts to prescribe living…and therefore proscribe the lives of others.

1 Kings 3 – in which Solomon asks God for wisdom, and then is shown exercising it:
Solomon makes an alliance with the Pharaoh of Egypt and marries his daughter; and is seen to be worshipping God at the High Places. These actions would seem to defy God’s warnings in regard to ethnic/religious purity; and indeed lay a foundation for the concerns behind the warnings to come true, as Solomon goes on to take many foreign wives and ultimately displease God by establishing places of worship for their deities. But, this is the context in which God appears to Solomon in order to extend the offer, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” God’s motive may be his covenant with Solomon’s father, David; but his timing is problematic to a neatly nailed-down view of how he relates to humanity…
Solomon asks for wisdom, and we are given a case-study to demonstrate how he applied that wisdom in administering justice, resolving the dispute between two prostitutes. It strikes me that these women were outside of the support-structures of their society – both gave birth without the presence of a midwife – and yet had the right to stand before the king to plead their case. Solomon displays unconditional justice for all, as opposed to prejudice. And he cuts through the dispute by piercing the heart, in order to expose what is within. What we discover is that the one who calls for justice without compassion isn’t interested in justice at all, but is motivated by self-interest…

Where am I demanding justice over compassion, and especially in relation to my own people? How can we ensure that in the sometimes heated dialogue between those for and against the emerging church or the ordination of women or homosexuality or charismatic gifts or mission-shaped-church or whatever it may be, that we are willing to give up what we hold dear (and I don’t mean as a means to getting it back again) in order that mercy triumphs over judgement?

Acts 14:8-end – in which Paul and Barnabas get in a spot of bother:
Missionaries exercising the gift of healing, and rain/crops/food/joy – the supernatural and the natural; the extraordinary and the mundane – are both testimony to God’s kindness. And both can be misinterpreted. And both need to be interpreted, or explained…
When malicious trouble-makers opposed to Paul’s gospel – Paul’s articulation of good news – come from Antioch and Iconium to Lystra, Paul initially moves on somewhere else; but then returns not only to Lystra but on to Iconium and Antioch: which seems to me to illustrate darkness trying to engulf light, only to be driven back itself…

Do I hold the breaking-in of the Kingdom of God and its ‘already-there-in-the-background’ with equal regard? Do I attempt to ‘resolve’ what is a paradox; to make an ‘either-or’ of a ‘both-and’?
Am I making trouble for anyone proclaiming Jesus, because I don’t like their particular emphasis, or don’t agree with them on every point of doctrine?
Conversely, am I allowing anyone making trouble for me, or those I would consider fellow-workers, to distract me from my sense of calling as I seek to follow Jesus? Or am I pressing on, accountable to the community that sends me out and supports me?

, , , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment