I love when Jesus is smart and edgy—when he trips up the Pharisees, puzzles them, mystifies them. They know the scriptures, but he knows God. They’re well schooled; he’s subtle and deft and wise. They live by the letter; he lives by the Spirit.
Too many Christians have weaponized the Bible, using it to defeat and exclude, sometimes to destroy. Too many have driven honest seekers away from faith by making its sacred stories into traps or tests.
After being subjected to some of those tests and caught in a few of those traps, I have come to see the great legacy we have in the Bible as an invitation: Dwell in these stories. Explore them. Wrestle with them. Imagine your way into them. Talk about them with one another. Seek the wisdom of scholars, and let the words speak to you across the ages in your own language, in your own heart. Listen for the word or phrase that stops you. Let the Spirit breathe in the sentences and the spaces between them. Carry the stories in your heart. Remember the tax collectors and sinners, the wise virgins and the sheep, the ravens and the angels. Treasure them and let them teach you. Never use them to browbeat others. Don’t reduce poetry to pious pronouncements or parables to rules. Let them mystify, invite, unnerve, and delight you. It’s all yours to enter—this many-roomed mansion—but not to own or control. All may enter and dwell and learn by going.
When I read the Bible in that spirit, the passages can enliven me. I find what I need and sometimes what I didn’t know I needed: bread and breath and song.
Loving God, teach me to treasure your Word and to read it with generosity, holy curiosity, and humility. Open my eyes and ears and heart to your mysterious, living Word. Amen.
The end of Deuteronomy completes the story of the life of Moses. Although he led the people out of Egypt, he is not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he lost his temper in the desert. The difficult task of leading the people back to the land will fall to Joshua. The psalmist calls out to God for mercy because the people have been suffering as a result of their disobedience. Paul defends himself against the charge that he has been preaching out of a desire for fame or money. The approval he seeks comes only from God. Jesus has yet another confrontation with religious leaders attempting to trick him. He avoids their schemes and emphasizes that love of God and love of neighbor summarize the entire law.
Read Deuteronomy 34:1-12. When has a leadership transition in your faith community been difficult for you? When has it been sacred?
Read Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17. How do you make God your dwelling place?
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8. How can you strive to love those whom you have never met? How can you meet new people with love as siblings?
Read Matthew 22:34-46. How do you wrestle with the Bible? When have your questions strengthened your faith or revealed something new?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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