Question the Bible. Don’t Worry, It Can Handle It.

As part of my work with sparkhouse, I was involved with the launch of lectionary-based website several years ago. The brainchild of the irascible Rev. Russell Rathbun, it’s called The Hardest Question, and we’ve posted two lectionary posts every week for three years, covering the entire cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s been great, hosting the thoughts of commentators like Phyllis Tickle, Lauren Winner, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and many, many more. This week, the posts are by Mike Stavlund. The site itself has been the indefatigable work of David Schoenknecht.

With the end of the lectionary cycle, THQ is coming to an end. But, happily, Russell Rathbun’s midrashic zestiness is not. He has launched a new site, Question the Text. So far, it’s looking awesome.

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Picking and Choosing Your Bible Verses (or, Why To Abandon the Lectionary)

I led the sermon discussion last night at Solomon’s Porch.  The text was Galatians 3, one of the oddest chapters in the Pauline corpus.  Therein, Paul argues for grace over law based on this verse from Genesis:

And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.

The word for “offspring” is actually “seed,” at least in the Septuagint.  Paul argues that since this word is in the singular (σπέρμασιν – spermasin) instead of the plural (σπέρματι – spermati), it must mean Christ! (It reminds me of the old saw: The Sunday school teacher asks, “What is gray and furry and climbs trees?”  The little boy raises his hand and says, “It sounds like a squirrel, but I’m going to say Jesus!”)

What Paul writes is,

The promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It doesn’t say, “and to the descendants,” as if referring to many rather than just one. It says, “and to your descendant,” who is Christ.

It seems that Paul is straying from the traditional interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant.  And that’s what we wrestled with for about 40 minutes last night, with no great conclusion.

So it was no great surprise to me that the first 22 verses of Galatians 3 isn’t included in the lectionary, from which many mainline churches choose their Sunday texts each week.  The fun part of the chapter (“there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female…”) is in the regular three-year lectionary cycle — specifically, Proper 7, Year C — but you’re can spend your whole life at a Lutheran, Episcopal, or UCC church without ever hearing your preacher struggle to understand Paul’s arguments in Galatians 3: 1-21.

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Working on Your Sermon?

If you’re preaching tomorrow, you might be looking for a little inspiration.  Well, let me recommend The Hardest Question, a lectionary-based website that I curate, along with my friends Russell Rathbun and David Schoenknecht.  This week’s posts are by Russell, on the week’s lectionary texts in the Gospel and the Psalm.  Plus, as always, Russell and I have video musings on the Gospel text:

Preaching Forgiveness on 9/11

The Gospel text in this week’s lectionary is — also the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — is about forgiveness.  Happy coincidence?  Maybe so.  At The Hardest Question, Nadia Bolz-Weber has some thoughts on how she’s going to preach it:

Any of the above would be great candidates for most disturbing question for this text. But this isn’t “The Most Disturbing Question” blog. It’s “The Hardest Question.” And when it comes down to it none of these is the hardest question, these are red herrings—ways to distract ourselves from what’s really hard here. And what’s really hard is forgiving people who have sinned against us. What’s really hard is to know what to do when out hearts are filled not with forgiveness and mercy but with rage.

On this, the 10th anniversary of September 11—something that for many marks us Americans as people who have been sinned against in a profound and unforgettable way—a text on forgiveness, the likes of which we have here in Matthew 18, might be the perfect opportunity to speak a little truth about what is really in our hearts.

The hardest question is this: From where will we attain this forgiveness for those who have caused us harm? I’ll tell you one thing for sure. It ain’t in my heart. No sir. It’s kinda dark in there.

via thehardestquestion.com » Kinda Dark in There.


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