This Sunday, we looked at a difficult reading for modern ears (Matthew 5:21-37) and talked about some ways to approach such a reading.
One thing to do is to explore what makes the reading difficult.
-is there one word that catches you off guard? Perhaps it a translation issue (e.g. “Hell” vs “Gehenna” – the rubbish heap)?
-is there a concept that might be culturally particular (e.g. Divorce in 1st century vs 21st century)
-Are you reading the passage out of context? What is the author really getting at if you re-read the whole section?
If our goal is to read the scriptures to hear the voice of God, it is good for us to read with a generous ear to the text and to ourselves. While we listen to the spirit’s resonance in our life, we also check our reading to hear what the text is saying in its own time, and where the crossovers exist with our own.
If we do come to a place of having explored the text, but still find it difficult, there is the possibility that we may just find it a difficult teaching.
Maybe you know the story of the rich young man to whom Jesus said: “give up all your possessions to the poor.” He went away sad, and presumably unable to do the work.
Few of us have been faced with such request, but we may be reading the scriptures and be challenged to something like – loving someone who is difficult, not responding so quickly in anger, or becoming a man/woman of their word (making ‘yeses’ and ‘nos’ count). There is a moment where we are asked, “will you do this?”
The simple virtue to develop for these moments is courage.
These are the moments where we are faced with our life as it is and shown a new way to be. We may be ready to make the step, or God may be showing us where he is calling us to go in good time. It is scary and will demand change, but it will be a good change. God speaks not to bring us down, but to bring us up. God speaks not to take away our identity, but to add flesh to our bones and make us real. Through the Bible, we are invited to follow the path of love – love that exists through all things, in all places, and at all times.
May we be conscious of the moments of courage we are faced with this week, in the scriptures, and in the ways we are called to live through them into the fullness of life.