Saturday, November 07, 2009

reading our R-rated Bible

The Bible has some appalling moments: R-rated stories of violence and violation. In preparing for worship for this Sunday, the Lectionary reading suggested is Isaiah 24. To use that text then demands almost a sermon in explanation. However doing a sermon (thus making 2 for the service) was not the task given to me as curator of worship this Sunday. Instead, I chose use the Psalm of the day as the Lectionary reading. And felt guilty all week. Then read this from Maggi Dawn.

Pretty often I edit our lectionary very liberally on the basis that the unthinkable, unimaginable horror stories in scripture should only be read in services where there is an adequate space to address them, and when it’s a read-sing-pray service, the readings have to be selected appropriately. That’s not at all the same thing as editing out the dodgy bits – it’s about choosing when and where they are read, with the possibility of addressing the strange and difficult readings.

So that’s two options for dealing with the R-rated:
1. edit when there’s little time
2. make time to deal with the tough texts. Like I hope we at Opawa have tried to do with our Bible days this year. As we start a new Bible book, we offer a 2 hour Saturday seminar on tools for reading that book and how to deal with the tough texts. The feedback has been very positive over the year and we’ll continue the pattern in 2010.

Maggi has a great 3rd suggestion, changing the congregational response. Rather than “Thanks be to God”, she suggests: “This is an outrageous story to our ears – what does the ancient text have to tell us about what they thought about God then, what we think now, why we still read it at all?” I like. It allows us to be honest. It names the two horizons – that ancient world and our world. It affirms that this text is important enough to keep reading and in a way that invites curiousity and question, not outright rejection.

So that’s 4 options:
1. Steve Taylor’s choose the easier reading
2. Maggi Dawn’s keep but edit the hard bits
3. Opawa’s offer Bible days
4. Maggi Dawn’s change the congregational response.

What do other reader of the Bible text do when they hit the R-rated bits?

Posted by steve at 11:10 AM

1 Comment

  1. Yesterday, I preached on Ruth and spent some extended time on the ‘threshing floor’ scene. I explained honestly, I think, what seems to be happening – an act of seduction. The response was positive from many people who read their bibles with ‘victorian’ era spectacles (it all about good morals) and couldn’t make sense of all the strange stuff. The end result was a sermon on the ‘Strength of women in a patriarchical context – creative responses’. I think we heard God’s word for us mined out of ancient material.

    Anglicans (my tradition) are, honestly, too good at editing – dropping the bits we don’t like e.g the hard texts (violence etc) down to the resurrection and calling it sensitivity. So I’m not keen on editing. Anglicans (but some do!) tend not to go to anything too Christian during the week. So Sunday is the day and I think grab them while you’ve got them. I like Maggie’s fourth option as long as we struggle with the text. It forces the preacher & congregation to do the hard work!


    Comment by Chris McLeod — November 9, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.