27 November 2009

Time Like a Never Ending Stream

If you got a message or your reader shows another new post this morning named simply, "Time" my apologies. I encountered an odd malfunction and guessed wrong trying to clear it.  Oooops

I like that image: time is a river. Time erodes the soft stuff leaving the beautiful structures below. In the Bible class I had been attending, I (boringly often I understand) suggested that in reading ancient texts, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, one must look for that structure below. And, of course, one needs allow for the context then and now.

Ruth goes out into the fields, seduces Boaz and saves herself and her mother-in-law. In the process she becomes an ancestor of king David. When we look for the underlying structures what do we find?

Back in grade school, where the story was cleaned up rather a lot, we were told about how Ruth's willingness to keep her commitment to her mother-in-law was the inspiring point of the story. Why then is her slipping into Boaz's bed roll a tale to tell? And what of her getting her husband using aggressive unmarried sexual conduct? That qualified her as an ancestor of the great Israeli royal house.

Flip over to Judges and Samuel. Read of David and Jonathon and Saul's anger because their relationship. What is the underlying structure of that story that we should seek? Well one clear answer is that God is not a homophobe! He did not side cwith Saul.

I think that one part of the structure we need consider as we are confronted by the AC-NA, GafCon, FIF and other Chapman Memo attacks on the church is this: God is not in the human purity business.

God is holy. God seeks relationships with us. But God does not expect us to be pure in the way the homophobes and misogynists proclaim. Nathan calls David to account crying justice to power not condemning  his sexuality.

God loved Ruth and David. Both are commended as part of the great stream of God's love and salvation  plan. Neither qualifies for the sort of pristine removal from humanity that the Romans with their celibacy fetish, or they and the self-styled "orthodox" of the Anglican community demand.

The beautiful substructure shows God loving us not for being pure or asexual or even for trying. Rather it shows God loving us as God's creative process makes us. God calls us to cry justice to power. We are not called to celibacy, imagined purity or monogamy (a concept that would have made David giggle I think) or for that matter any particular sexuality. We are called to loving relationships, valuing the other, and equity.

Where we went astray was not getting the expiration date on the desert holiness code.  The Hebrew explanation of how they could find God and liberation in Babylon was flawed. Jesus clearly knew the stories. Faced with the pharisees, he certainly would have understood the Chapman Memo. He preached the kingdom of God -- love and justice not purity and legalism at hand. That is what time shows us under the soft stuff.



Christal said...

It's interesting to see which ways the river will take us, isn't it?
Through life and through death, God is with us until the very end. There is something in that which comforts the depths of one's soul.

Bottom line: we are all God's children, fundamentalists, and gay rights activists alike, and we as the world would do well to remember that.

JimB said...

Ah well, I at least try not to claim anyone is not a part of God's creation and salvation plans. Then along comes someone like Pol Pot and I have to pause.

It is true that we are all offered the kingdom. We are all capable of acting as God's children. But it is also true that some decline the invitation.

My favorite Hebrew Scripture tale is Nathan confronting David over the killing of Uriah. Uriah who was not a Hebrew, whose character and religious path we know nothing about, is the victim for whom Nathan cries justice. Some of us do decline the invitation, some forget its requirements.

Living into the kingdom reality Jesus proclaimed is hard. It is not about being 'religious' but about Nathan confronting David, Isaiah denouncing the king's policy and a long line of followers.

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