Lev 19-20; 1 Cor 6; Psalm 87-8
As we have made our way through the scriptures thus far, no doubt we shall be gradually coming to the realisation that we cannot master them. Much leaves us confused, or from our perspective seems alien. We may wonder if it can be reconciled with Christian life – do we have to reject parts of it? Yet what we miss is that the Scriptures, and uniquely perhaps in ‘religious writings’ we encounter a life giving encounter between the word of man and the Word of God.
The Scriptures are not handed down on tablets of stone – and in reading them we are drawn into that strange participation with the life of God. For our lives are here in their manifest ambiguity as the Life of God in its manifest holiness. All of it.
The Scriptures are not a set of rules rather they are a dialogue – in which at one side the Holiness of God is displayed, as our goal, and on the other our place as learners of Life. For this Life is to be learned.
In this regard I make three points from todays readings. Firstly we often forget things which previous generations knew and those things are light and life to us, so we read in Leviticus ‘You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.’. Profound respect for elders is all but lost in the age of Youth which we inhabit, and manifested in the poverty of what are labelled ‘Care homes’, or worse, ‘end of life facilities’. The Elderly along with small children should be the heart of our focus as communities, and the church needs to learn this as much as anyone else. In both the elder and the child we see our future . . .
Secondly we see the teaching aspect of scripture in play in 1 Cor 6 – the goal of the Scriptures is not the killing word, but the Word of Life and so lives need to be redirected – ‘do you not know that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?’ asks St Paul – speaking to those who have known the very apostolic ministry amongst them still need to be taught – indeed without that we would not have any of his epistles. Thus we are constantly reminded by the scriptures that we are all learners.
Finally we come to Psalm 88. Here, in the Psalms above all we see how clearly the Scriptures are the words of humans and at the same time the Word of God. Psalm 88 is the only Psalm in which there is no hope. It ends in darkness. It expresses the deadly sin of despair, in effect the sin against the Holy Spirit. We may well ask, ‘how can we, indeed should we pray such a Psalm??’ Something I heard recently from a Benedictine monk was most helpful in terms of the difficult Psalms – that a we pray these Psalms (including the so called imprecatory Psalms) we stand with those for whom these are THEIR prayers. Those whose situation seems to them beyond Hope. Those who have suffered so much from others that they cry out in desperation that the heads of their children should be smashed against stones. The church does humanity a dis-service in removing such Psalms from the Word. Ironically to do so is to deny that the scriptures Are the Word of God revealed in the words of men, and reduce them purely to human centered words.
God in his infinite Mercy and Love knows All of the human condition in Christ, and thus his Word accommodates every one of us, however low we have fallen. Thanks be to God