Monday, March 11th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 11th: 1 Chronicles 21:1-17; Psalm 17; 1 John 2:1-6. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
It is all right to raise your eyebrows and your blood pressure when reading the Holy Scripture. It doesn’t make it any less holy when we read the Bible as thoughtful people of faith and find ourselves less than inspired by some passages. God has blessed us with minds to think not only to memorize.
Appreciation for the Word of God is not a blind devotion to the Bible’s literal, inerrant, unchanging words. The Bible is a person’s and a community’s struggle to express Mystery, and that expression of Mystery continues to unfold through our engagement with those biblical words and the eternal Word behind them. I hope it has not become colloquial within the United Church of Christ for truly “God is still speaking.” This unleashes the ever-present mystery of the Bible’s inspiration.
Let’s take today’s reading from 1 Chronicles as an example. Chronicles is a later work within the Jewish Scriptures. Its purpose is to retell the earlier histories of the Books of Samuel and Kings, but with a more rarefied theology that reflects the concerns of Temple priests and functionaries.
They were troubled by the words of 2 Samuel 24: 1-9 so they told it again, but with a slant toward their current perspective. The older book professed that Yahweh was the one who incited King David to take a census of the Israelites. God, in other words, provoked David to act so that God could then punish David for acting.
The priests and Temple authorities were troubled by this divine set-up. They, therefore, created Satan to take the onus off of God. The inspired author of 1 Chronicles interpreted the earlier inspired author of 2 Samuel.
There remains, however, the unsavory message that the powerful man responsible for the act that God judged sinful emerges unscathed while the innocent and powerless suffer by the tens of thousands. History repeats this travesty constantly. The powerless too often end up paying the price for the faults of the powerful. It doesn’t help me to feel any better about this injustice to see it in the pages of the Bible, and this is why the Bible is a mystery that needs to be continually read and interpreted.
I appreciate the corrective found in the verses of 1 John. God, in Christ, is now our advocate more than our judge. Rather than being tempted into sin, we are called upon “to walk just as [Jesus] walked.” Rather than God’s angel with unsheathed sword, Jesus is our “atoning sacrifice.” And each person is judged on his or her own merits, and power or position do not protect from the divine accusation of “liar” when the righteousness claimed simply does not match-up with the way a person lives.
Lent is a perfect time to go back to the Bible and read it again and not expect to know already what it says, but to let its mystery keep speaking to us and guiding us.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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