Friday, November 20, 2015

Words and context

I find communication difficult.

Not words so much.. I mean, I think I'm pretty clear.

But I am married to someone who perceives the world much differently than I do.

When I say the sky is blue, he will agree that the sky is blue.


His definition of blue is not the same as mine.  Even though we both think we are very clear :-)

This is where I think Scripture gets us into trouble.

Stories from an oral tradition.... picture all those ancient nomads sitting around a fire retelling their histories..

I know in my own family... those stories... our particular stories grow and change over time.  The nuggets are the same - the characters and the basic jist.... but the details grow and warp to make the story better.. until, while everyone remembers the incident, we all have a slightly different take on it.

Anyway, that is how the Scriptures began.... because that is how communities began.

And when the nomads began to settle... and scribes began to write.... the stories were gathered and written as accurately as possible...... and gathered into a format that was agreed upon.  By those still living.   Much like when I try to gather those baby stories of my children.. and I run them by those old enough to remember and take all their memories into consideration... we come to an agreement of the story.  But truly, can we be certain of the veracity of all the details?  For us, it was 20 or 30 years ago.

For the nomads, it was thousands of years.... and many stories heard at their elders' knees.  Even doing their best, what is the truth of the details?

Even once written...... the translations began.   And the New Testament Scriptures went through multiple translations as they were begin formed...  Languages evolve... and stories changed... even to a few hundred years ago.  And people are attempting to re-translate... ie explain.. scripture to this day.  Can we be certain of exact details?

Even if we could..... societies change.  Without education, I myself have no context for Samaritans.  Or government oppression.

I try to read Scripture as if I were there.  Clearly I would be a Mary not a Martha.  And I would be the one getting into trouble for not cleaning and cooking! 

But trying to understand the FEAR experienced by the establishment.  That is what I see in my world right now.  

I think about the people living under Roman martial law who had long awaited a king to deliver them.  Their stories and their Scripture tell them that.  How easy it would be to believe that the king - when he came - would overthrow the Romans and free them!

I think about the Romans trying to enforce civilization on this unruly rabble with a weird religion.  I'm sure they would be really wary of the rise of that king also!

And then the Jewish religious leaders of the time.... also awaiting the arrival of the king.  Good men upholding a true tradition.  Working hard to recognize and verify the king.... and making sure that an imposter didn't slip through.

Even the best of people - the most good-hearted intellectual people clearly thinking things through with the best of intentions - in each of those situations.... has a good opportunity to mess things up.

So we come back to Jesus... the most unlikely king of all in that scenario.  And his message was love.  Clear, right?  Not so much.

But Jesus' recorded behavior IS clear.

I never read about Jesus give a test of religion before he gave aid.
I never read about Jesus hold back because he was afraid of a stranger.
I do remember him chiding his friends for keeping the children from him.
I do remember him getting angry at people who used  a worship space to make it harder for people to worship.

So my prayer today is.... to try to be like Jesus, to be compassionate and try to understand my brothers and sisters.   Their motive behind their words.  Their fears.
And failing understanding, to be kind.  To listen.  To love.  And to retreat into the wilderness for a while when it all gets to be too much and I can't be like Jesus.

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