Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Biblical Scholar In The Pew

Yesterday, I led my weekly bible study and during the study, I was reminded of something I touched on in the New Atheists blog I did last week. In that posting, I made mention of the secret nature of reason. All of the advocates for reason as religion were all white and educated. I contrasted that education with the gospel that is publicly proclaimed from pulpit and font. I wrote,
... we need to be forming people now to be the type who can proclaim the gospel, who know that Christianity is not just a religion that binds us to some hierarchical structure, but a way of life that binds us to the God of the universe. We rely on reason only after having had the gospel revealed to us, not secretly as much of reason is revealed to the specialists who can afford the education, but openly and publicly from the pulpit, the altar and the font.
The public nature of our liturgy is such that the good news of God in Christ Jesus is proclaimed to all. Our hymns, liturgies, sermons, and sacraments are all about informing and forming people to be the Church, the holy people of God. There are times we rightly place our confidence in biblical scholars, those who are educated specifically for the ministry of interpreting the texts of the bible. But we should not forget that our liturgy forms us all to interpret the message of Scripture.

Case in point, yesterday. The bible study is populated by the older ladies of the congregation. And I love that it is, because they ask the best questions, and now I realize that they have sat through many liturgies to be formed to read the Bible. We were studying the gospel text for this upcoming Sunday, Nov. 12, Mark 12:38-44. We read through the text and focused on the widow's mite. As we talked I mentioned that I just didn't think the text was about giving everything to God, or trusting that God will give us a good return on the investment.

The text's placement in chapter 12, is near the end of a great deal of Jesus being questioned and tested by the scribes, Saducees and Pharisees. And so at the beginning of the passage Jesus warns us of the scribes, and those of great wealth, because they "devour the widow's houses." And as we were talking one of the ladies speaks up, "Well, if the wealthy were devouring widow's houses, the wealth out of which they were giving did not belong to them in the first place." I think she makes a correct reading. I could have read that passage a thousand times in the upcoming week, and not have seen that point.

If we pastors ignore the readers in the pew, we do so at our own peril for they have much to teach us, and much to proclaim. Now, her contribution is not the only point of the passage, but it does give us a good starting point. It is in the Church that the bible is interpreted correctly. Yes, that does mean it can be a messy affair at times, but the Holy Spirit works in all of us who are united with Christ.


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