Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bible Challenge, Day 10: Genesis 25-27; Psalm 9; Matthew 9

Family Drama, or, Church is a hospital for sinners, not a resort for saints....
Reading Genesis, I am moved-perhaps a bit provoked-by the recounting of the drama of the family of God that we are experiencing in the story of Abraham, his wives and his children. Hard to believe that these are the people God has chosen as exemplars of faith, the well-head of our self-definition as the people of God. Both Abraham and Isaac pass their wives off as their sisters when traveling among strangers in order to avoid being killed because their wives are beautiful. Both men profit from the "mistake" in identity, as the rulers who sought to bring their wives into their own households realize the mistake and, scandalized, bribe them to go away to avoid more scandal and sin. Jacob steals his twin brother Esau's birthright with the bribe of a pot of lentil stew, and then conspires with his (their) mother to steal Isaac's blessing as well. Rebekah then sends Jacob away to her brother Laban for protection, but also to avoid Jacob marrying Hittite women (as Esau had done), because she despises them. Wow, and you thought your family drama was intense, right?

Jesus encounters a lot of the same levels of drama as he begins to draw people together into the ersatz community of disciples that will eventually be referred to as his "family," his "body." We experience a challenging encounter when a group of people bring him a paralyzed man lying on a cot. He tells the man to be encouraged, for his sins are forgiven." Folks immediately begin to murmur accusations. Jesus is insulting God, claiming power and authority above his station. To which Jesus responds with a question; is it easier to forgive someone their sins, or to tell a paralyzed person to get up and walk? Clarifying his authority, he tells the man to get up and walk. And, the man walks. The crowd's response? Joy? No, fear. Later he sits down to eat (teach) with tax collectors and sinners. More scandal. Jesus tells the offended that he came to call sinners, not the righteous. MORE scandal. Could he offend anyone, any more?

Of course: Set aside the scandal of allowing himself to be touched by, and to touch, unclean....women...(the woman with the issue of blood and the dead little girl). He then proceeds to heal the blind and then to exorcise a demon-possessed man who was mute. Scandal without end, and the Pharisees decide all his "good" deeds are actually being accomplished because he "throws out demons with the authority of the ruler of demons."

Why all this scandal? Family drama. Look at your families of origin...your biological and your ecclesiological...and reflect: Given that the families God has worked with for ages have been so rife with drama, why do we despair when our churches and nuclear units are not quite so perfect? Why do we think things should be perfect, when it is God who continues to work through us to use imperfection to give testimony of perfecting grace? Our families are not, and cannot be perfect, nor can our churches, and yet we still insist after all these eons, that somehow we should reject the idea that these systems are ones that God would use as "hospitals for sinners" instead of "resorts for saints." May God continue to bless us and make use of us in our imperfect, drama-filled lives. THAT action on God's part is what brings meaning and sense to the drama, and to our mutual calling to be the Body of Christ TO the world as well as in it.

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