Passages That I Hate

Passages That I Hate

Scripture Passage: Matthew 17:1-13 I want to pose a question that you might find too disrespectful to answer:  Are there any passages in Scripture that you absolutely HATE?   I have a number, especially those that have been used as a weapon against other people in God’s creation.  But I suppose my all-time favorite to hate is that one from Genesis, when Abraham is asked to take his only son up the mountain and kill him (Genesis 22:2).  [I can’t even stand to post the most common depictions of it]. I learned many of the interpretations of this passage as I’ve wrestled with it over the years.  Paul uses it to point out Abraham’s great faith (Romans 4).  Or you can view it as the supreme test to see if you are obedient to the Almighty and can count on His goodness no matter what He requires you to do.  Then there’s the real possibility that this passage was put into Genesis to call an end to child sacrifice to gods who had altars in the high places.   Christian writers were eager to point out that God’s son was not spared like Abraham’s was—because of our terrible sins that needed washing away with blood. But once my wife and I had a firstborn son, this passage went right to the top of my all-time hate list.  I could understand the terrible possibility that something might happen to him.  I used to listen to him breathe at night in his basinet, just to be certain he was okay.   Being conceived, born, and growing up are all miraculous, given the number of things that can go wrong.  I could only hope my faith would be strong enough if the unthinkable happened.  But being told to end his life as if the answer were needed for some high stakes loyalty test—well, that would be too much for me.  I hesitate to write, but it’s true, that I can’t believe in a God who would ask that. So, you may legitimately wonder:  Well, then, how can you believe in a God who requires His own Son to suffer a criminal’s death so that YOU might live eternally in happiness, instead of in perpetual torment? To answer that, let me explain what all this has to do with the Transfiguration, the story in Matthew 17 and in all three synoptic gospels: I always thought the Transfiguration was a great story!  It’s so visual!: there’s a mountain, a transformation that involves Jesus’s body and his clothes, there are appearances of two prophets long dead (well one of them, at least), and there is this thunderous voice from heaven claiming Jesus as the Son of God whom...

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Comments on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes

These two books offer many temptations: for example, to discuss the pros and cons of spanking as a form of discipline; or to expound on the dangers of taking every word of Scripture literally as if it were addressed to us in 2012 directly by God; or to take Proverbs at least as a rule book, as if we were a CPA and got the tax book dumped in our laps with the injunction: “Learn this and you won’t be penalized.” Some cultures have a lot of proverbs. German is certainly one of them. I still remember a few, such as “Arbeit macht das Leben suess” (“Work makes life sweet”) which comes perilously close to the saying over Auschwitz in Poland and other concentration camps: “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes one free”). Surely the placing of this proverb is an example of how a positive sounding sentence can be converted into something ideologically and morally perverse. Can you live your life by proverbs? What can you do with a proverb such as “The early bird catches the worm?” It surely states a truth that can be used to educate, say, a young person who insists on sleeping in every morning and coming late to school? The structure of the book of Proverbs seems to indicate that their purpose WAS education, either as passages of instruction or as one or two-line statements. A father is addressing a child; an elder a young initiate. The book fits right in with Rev. Richard Rohr’s contemporary writings on the first half and the second half of life. In the first half of life, we all need rules and discipline. Without training and structure, the rest of our life is a mess. We have no foundation to stand on, to jump from. In the second half of life, we have less need of rules. Hopefully, we can come to some of the wisdom we read about in these two books of the Bible. One question educators ask is whether wisdom is transferable. Information can be passed on; facts learned; skills acquired. But wisdom? Can quoting a proverb to someone have a positive effect? Or do we have to have the experience to lead us to say when we hear a proverb: Yes! That’s right! I know that to be true. But surely there’s no harm in trying one out—to try getting up early to see if the old proverb is true for us, or whether another hour of sleep makes us much more efficient. Generations and generations have believed in passing along wisdom and virtue to the young. The old McGuffey Readers were full of stories with a moral. The morality plays were the same, and when novels were first written, people were scandalized when the good guys didn’t win. Some of us would like...

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