But Is It A Tree -- Part Two
Continuing from last post....
When we place the bits and pieces of a tree in one place, we don't have a tree; we just have bits. They may be interesting, but they are not alive. My fear is that we might have done just this with our faith and worship. We might have scrubbed it clean, dissected it, and brought it into one place, but is it alive? Is it worship?
We sometimes hear that we should "just read the Bible and do what it says." This is problematical on several levels. What if Joseph, when troubled at finding his brothed pregnant and possessed of a non-standard explanation for said pregnancy, got the advice from others to "just read the Bible and do what it says"? He would have had to take Mary out into a public place and stone her. (for more, see the sermon Josh Graves and I gave last Sunday. It is at joshgraves.blogspot.com) Instead, he listened to God via the angel and Mary was spared, Jesus was born, and you know the rest of the story.
Don't respond by saying "The Jews had lost the right to capital punishment by this time. It was against Roman law for Joseph to kill Mary..." The rejoinder would be that we have always taught that God's law supercedes all laws of man so Joseph is not off the hook!
But I'm glad that he didn't just gather the rules in one place and declare it God. Instead, he was still willing to hear what God wanted done in his life, in his situation. I am comforted by this, but also troubled: in what other situations may we go with the spirit instead of with the truth? (I am using these terms loosely, as has been our tradition)
Or how about this one? I grew up with the teaching that not only was standard among us -- it was one of the reasons we existed! It was that we were never allowed to tweak or modify anything, anytime, anywhere and the flannelgraph figures employed in the teaching were those of Nadab and Abihu. They just switched types of fire -- we were told -- and God killed them. So don't be adding... (fill in the blank here). This was in the Jule Miller filmstrips, VBS literature, and sermons. It was foundational.
But... what about the synagogue? When the Jews couldn't get to to the temple (sometimes for the very good reason that it was gone, kaput, kicked over by the invader du jour) they developed -- without any authority that we can find and certainly none in Scripture -- a whole different way to worship. It set aside pretty much all of Leviticus as priests and sacrifices weren't part of it. People gathered in an egalitarian sort of way and the Bible was read, songs were sung and, when Jesus came, he joined in! Never, ever, can we find God getting upset at this. Makes you think Nadab and Abihu's problem was deeper than getting their fire from Wal-mart rather than Sears.
Maybe it was a heart problem? Maybe their spirits were dead? I've heard some speculate that the boys were involved in some pagan practices. Maybe, but so were a lot of people in the Bible whom God did not kill with fireworks. What was the difference?
It seems to me that the answer to all of this is in our "spirit and truth" discussion. Keith had a very good point in his comments to my last post in that we tend to read the Scripture as law rather than story. He is correct, of course. Is this why we don't have a Book of Worship that lays out which songs are acceptable, when or if raising hands or clapping is all right, etc?
Let's keep this going. Kindness all around, please. Extra points for humility. If I don't comment as quickly as you'd like it is because I am recovering from some tummy troubles. I either had a bug or I ate some Democrat food. Why 'Democrat'? Because it had no problem going in but immediately insisted on finding an exit strategy. I'll say no more than that....