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Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary and/or the Narrative Lectionary

See older posts from 2006 to 2014 on the blog archive site at blogarchive.kairosucc.org

Text from the Narrative Lectionary: II Corinthians 5:11-21

Sometimes one simply doesn’t know what to say. It’s almost beyond words. Too often we go beyond our lack of the right word and simply pile word upon word, maybe in the process avoiding the central reality.

The front page of our Sunday newspaper, The Oregonian, this week, was basically a sheet of black ink, with these words printed across the middle of the page in white: “’We know enough to say that this was an act of terror and an act of hate. And as Americans we are united in grief, in outrage and in resolve to defend our people.’ -President Barak Obama”

One is tempted to say that too much has been written about the various shootings, sometimes clearly terrorist acts that have taken place across the country and world. There is no safe haven---no school, no nightclub, no theater, no mall, no airplane, no Israeli or Palestinian home, no remote highway or busy town square in Iraq or Syria or Lebanon or Afghanistan or Pakistan or anyplace else in the world.

Words aren’t going to bring such attacks to an end nor are they likely to help us understand them any better. At the same time, with or without words we are near to becoming desensitized so that we react with a shrug as if to accept this as the new normal.

It was clear that our breakfast group this morning has not yet reached the point of desensitization. The question that focused our discussion for a time started with II Corinthians 5:16-17: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view . . . if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” How does one apply these verses to the Orlando shooter?

Text from the Narrative Lectionary: II Corinthians 4:16 – 5:10

I can remember a time in my history when it would hardly have occurred to me to argue with scripture.  Today I sort of revel in arguing with scripture.  It's not just for the sake of argument, nor do I argue with all scripture.  It is not an argument about the universal truth of this or that verse; it is an argument that enters into dialogue with the passage and tries to find with it what is truth for me.  I find much in this week's reading that inspires that kind of argument and dialogue.

Lectio divina is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading.  It does not treat scripture as texts to be studied; rather it focuses on meanings which come alive in the reader's being, sometimes spoken of as "finding Christ in the passage."  I have experienced it mostly as a method in which the scripture is read in a quiet meditative way, noticing words or phrases that seem to connect with one's inner being---eliciting sometimes positive (or negative) response, inspiring, calming, challenging, the whole range of human being and becoming.  I encourage you to approach this week's reading in a similar manner.

In the meantime, I'll share some of the points at which this passage touched me, both positively and negatively.  They are things I wondered about, using both definitions of "wonder"---to "be curious to know something" and to "feel admiration and amazement; marvel."

Text from the Narrative Lectionary: II Corinthians 4:1-15

We are still following the Narrative Lectionary, but we’re a little out of sync for a couple of Sundays. We have a guest preacher next Sunday, so Pastor Jeanne is skipping one of the texts in the present series on II Corinthians. That means she already preached (last Sunday) on the text that is the focus of this blog entry. I hasten to say that we each do our own work and bring our own insights. I find Pastor Jeanne’s preaching full of life and thoughtful, helpful, reflection. I offer my thoughts as an independent supplement. We trust that the Spirit is at work in what we both offer, and in your life as you listen and read and go about your daily living.

There I have a perfect opening for my initial observation. Those who are sometimes labelled “progressives” (“liberals” was the label a generation or two ago) often rail against literalism in the interpretation of scripture. In fact, some are prone to saying, “We take scripture seriously but not literally.” I agree with that sentiment, but I find that “progressives” are almost Fundamentalists in their seeking of an exact, literal, translation of biblical texts, as if that were any more possible in all cases than an exact literal interpretation. I’ve often sat more loosely to rigid demarcations. At some point in my history I was introduced to what was described as a “Hasidic principle”: “You haven’t exhausted the meaning of a text until you’ve found 40 different meanings.” I’ve searched high and low for the source of that comment (including extensive research on the internet) and can’t find it. Nevertheless, wherever it came from, I like it and believe it conveys a truth. So, let’s live with it, at least for today.

So, I am led into the wanderings that lead to my approach to this week’s text. Many people who read this section of II Corinthians focus on verse 7, as did Pastor Jeanne on Sunday, and as I will do here. “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” I remembered that, somewhere in my history, I had heard the phrase “cracked pots” rather than “clay jars.” My wife, Margie, concurred; she had heard it too. After another nearly fruitless search, I came upon only on version of the Bible which uses that translation. (This just doesn’t seem to be my week for productive research.)

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