Pursuing the Peculiar

Pursuing the Peculiar September 18, 2014

Rev. RussellThere is of course the notion that we all want to find points of connection—we want a big tent, we want a broad-way. It has been a hallmark of this thing of ours, that it is okay to be you, and it is okay for me to be me and we will find a point where we connect and let us celebrate that.

And I celebrate that.

But what I am really interested in is the points where we diverge. Where we do not quite line up. I want to see the peculiar and the particular in you and I want you to see the particular and the peculiar in me.

I am a cofounder/co-pastor of a church in Saint Paul, Minnesota called House of Mercy. We have been around for a while—since 1996. So early that we didn’t know we where Emergent/emerging until Tony Jones and Doug Padgett suggested the possibility.

What is peculiar about House of Mercy—and me, maybe—is we are really, very, sort of into the Bible. Some communities take their cues from culture, some from art, music or a historical monastic practice. So, I write about the Bible and the Bible’s intersection with popular culture and literature, in my sermons an at questionthetext.org, a lectionary blog that asks of each weekly gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary the hardest question we can find in it. We ask questions in light of our current cultural context, through the lens of our pop culture obsessions or tug on strings that remind us of some song stuck in our head—but it starts with the Biblical text.

The Christian Biblical cannon serves as an agreed upon vocabulary/arena/pallet for some of us to wrestle with the elemental questions that draw us to write or talk or make art. But it is not a purely inherited interpretation of the Biblical text. It is only the agreed upon arena. The text is always fluid and in question.

Questioning the text is important, because the Bible is the witness to the Living Word of God. We are called into relationship with God through Jesus the Christ, The Word. Relationships, at their best, are dynamic, growing, deepening, revelatory, generative and transforming. A primary way we pursue relationship with the Living Word is through the study of scripture, so it must be taken seriously, approached with a robust confidence and a passionate vulnerability. We ask the text the hardest questions because we can. It does not break, it is not offended, and it does not judge our desire for understanding. The ancient rabbis say that when we study the Bible we release God’s mercy into the world. It is important to question the text, because the world needs as much of God’s mercy as possible.

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