Magazine article The Christian Century

Reflections on the Lectionary

Magazine article The Christian Century

Reflections on the Lectionary

Article excerpt

Sunday, October 3

Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26; Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-9; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10

THIS WEEK'S READINGS include sentiments that appall me: dashing children's heads against rocks; applauding the idea of Jerusalem as a woman abandoned and abused because she had it coming; accepting the idea of slavery and the "proper place" of inferiors. I cannot go where these texts would lead me. I will not follow them.

My reaction may seem unorthodox, even unchristian. How dare I blatantly and unapologetically reject God's word yet still identify myself as Christian? My defense leans on the texts themselves, on my faith in a living and loving God, and my belief that God has entrusted to us boundless powers of intellect, spirit and heart.

There is biblical precedent for challenging the word of God. To challenge God is not so much a rejection as a passionate embrace or a fierce clasp of tradition and authority. To challenge the texts is to engage with them. Our reaction of refusal and even disgust is evidence of God's power to continue a conversation that the texts have started.

Refusing to incorporate destructive ideas into the ways that we think and live, even when their source is the Bible, is to say yes to God, who is alive and at work in love in the world today. It is to acknowledge not only the dynamic and radically free character of a living God but also our own potential and power. It is to accept that we have been wonderfully made--inquisitive and intelligent, with capacity for sympathy and compassion, and invested with the spirit of God.

Consider Job. He didn't quietly accept the sufferings foisted upon him but railed against his friends and against God. He named the injustices and demanded explanation. He bore the burdens of grief, pain and humiliation, but under protest. He demonstrated a commitment to integrity--his own and what he understood of God too. In the end, God praised Job for speaking of what was right and true about God.

Consider Lamentations, with its grief articulated out of the chaos of great destruction and expressed in the voice of an unwavering faith desperately seeking understanding. These are not platitudes or easy declarations of "everything's going to be all right." Lamentations is page after page of woe.

Then there's Habakkuk, a guy who observed terrible trials and the destruction of his people and place. He could not reconcile that depth of misery with the justice of God and wrestled to make sense of it, pitching his challenge to God and then waiting for God's response. …

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