Making Room for the Scriptures
I think that everyone has parts of the Scriptures that they wish really were not there. There are some places in the Scripture where the meaning hides, where we wonder why the language is so harsh, where we confront lasting confusion, or where we assume that everyone around us has missed the interpretative mark. As much as I try to blog regularly and get things posted in a timely fashion, sometimes I struggle with coming up something meaningful to say regarding the Gospel. Additionally, it can be hard to find an already prepared sermon on the particular Gospel lesson at this time of year because we’ve hit obscure dates like “the 13th Sunday of Matthew.”
Yet, we can find ourselves in places and seasons of our lives where our immediate reaction to the reading is to shut out the voice that tries to speak to us. So often, we have little space for things that cause us to ask different sorts of questions. Additionally, we can encounter broader challenges when the Scriptures appear to be speaking into a more public discussion than the one that occurs in the quiet places of our hearts. Whether Christ talks about forgiveness, divorce, love, mercy, judgment, or His crucifixion, we find Him fundamentally speaking to what it means to be human beings in relationship with ourselves, with each other, and with the divine.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom had this to say about how to hear the Gospel:
The first thing we must do when we approach the Gospel is to take it with reverence, with the sense that we are not only handling a book, not only going to read the words, but that this book, and the words which we read are THE Word, God speaking, speaking through human words; and it is important that it should be through human words, because we cannot enter into the mysterious mind of God. Did He not say through Isaiah the Prophet ‘My thoughts are above your thoughts, and my ways above your ways’? But in Christ, it is in human words that He addresses us.
And then we must listen to what He says and look into what He does, look in to all the situations which are depicted in one or another passage of the Gospel with reverence, with interest, with devotional awe, because it is He Who speaks to us; it is Him we see moving, acting, saving. And we must try to find our place in the crowd that surrounds Him, listen as though we were present when He actually spoke, listen as though we stood in the crowd while He was healing, saving, calling to repentance the people who came to Him, and listening as though the words He spoke, as Saint Peter puts it in the Gospel, were words of life — not words of death; words capable of awakening in us all that is alive, both humanly and eternally, divinely; words of life and not the words of death, in the sense that His words are meant to bring us to life, not condemn us even before our death.
In this way, we may find the Scripture to be a bit wider than we first expected. Even as Jesus teaches on marriage and divorce, He discusses that some may not marry for any host of reasons. Using such a Scripture in the public square to discuss marriage should also include discussions of divorce and singleness. It is much easier to take pieces of this particular passage to heart if it do not apply to your own situation as you can use the Scripture to formulate a rhetorical argument. If the Gospel carries the good news of Christ to all people, then how do we open them so that all people can hear Christ saying, “THIS is the way wherein you should walk,” especially when we realize that not all lives are marked by the same events and opportunities?