Jesus consulting his “Sermon Team” of 12 to see what they can come up with.
I opted to lie abed this morning for another hour since I don’t sleep through the night anymore, so then, being so late and lacking any inspiration whatsoever, I consulted my “Blogging Team” of
eight…sorry no one…to see what they had come up with for my daily blog but all they had was a bunch of links of other people’s blogs. But feeling a certain caution in my spirit about how it’s not nice to take other people’s blogging and passing it off as my own, I’ve decided–because the daily lection is Jephtha being one of the prime examples in the Bible of someone as obtuse as a bag of hammers–to quote from myself rather than anyone else. Here is entry #54 on Nailed It: 365 Readings for Angry or Worn-out People with some notes at the end [and remember! I am quoting myself…with a nod to an ancient way of reading this text from the Fathers, apparently, that I didn’t know about it because I haven’t read all…ok barely any of them, I came to this in the usual way of glaring at the text with my own eyes]:
So she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: leave me alone two months, that I may go up and down on the mountain and weep for my virginity, I and my companions.” Judges 11:37
Let it be done for me? Let me go off into the mountains? Let me travel a way off to be with women who will console me for all I am about to lose? I won’t lose just my life, but my respectability, the peaceful future hoped for the world over.
That’s the call. Whenever God gets involved in the mess of your life–in your expectations and the promises you make to yourself–it means a horrible letting go of everything you thought you were owed and thought should happen to you and for you. It’s completely acceptable to retreat for a bit to “mourn,” or at least wrap your mind and heart around whatever it is God is going to do to, or rather with, you. It can almost be compared to something another young woman says hundreds of years later: “Let it be to me according to your word.”
In this tale of woe (Jephthah had only to read the law to see he didn’t have to carry through with his hasty and injudicious oath), it is not you going off to die, to sacrifice your life as some act of martyrdom that decimates you, that annihlates you, that sends you down into Sheol forever. But it certainly points to the One who goes all the way down to the grave in your place, so that your death, when it comes, is only a shadow, the merest sorrow, forgotten the moment you behold his astonishing mercy.
So anyway, to quote myself from morning prayer, Of course, it’s fine to be shocked about what happens here in the Bible. That’s the point. Jephthah is an AntiFather. He is not like God. He does the wrong thing. You should notice that he tries to bargain with God, even though God has already given him everything he needs. Whereas his daughter responds in the correct way–the Christian way–like Mary. Because, and I know this is pretty disappointing, the call to the Christian is to die, in many different kinds of ways, to the self. This is very hard and painful. No one should suggest that it won’t be. But God isn’t like the Bad Bad Father Jephthah, just killing you off because he’s too stupid to figure out a better way. No, God calls you to die to yourself, which means to put yourself into his own providential care, and then the Son, Jesus, takes your place and dies instead of you, saving you from the death you should have had. So you choose to die, but then you discover that actually it was always going to be life.
And now, if you excuse me, I need to drink some more caffeine and yell at my “Cleaning Team” of six…oh who am I kidding, there is no teamwork here.