“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
Sometimes I think we need to remember the Star Wars opening crawl when we approach ancient texts to “get a message.” Find an analogy between then and now, is the advice we often get. But maybe a better piece of advice is to look for the disconnect between the author and his or her audience and ourselves. This seems to me to be a sign of respect for the text, its otherness, its “alien ness.” People don’t like it when we say “I know just how you feel.” Why would a biblical text like it any better?
I was working with (better language than “working on” ) 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 for the first sermon of a series I’m preaching at a Presbyterian women’s conference this June. In that text Paul is groaning in his tent (his earthly body, his earthly sufferings and limitations). It occurred to me, after a couple of hours of trying to connect with his pain, that maybe middle and upper middle class Americans like their tents. Maybe rather than groaning and wishing for the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” we are happily putting up dry wall on the inside flaps of our tents, and spackling over the seams that would let the cold wind in. Maybe we are humming to our Ipods as we attempt to make the impermanent permanent.
Once we admit that we are not where Paul is, we can begin to hear his message to where we are.