Thursday, April 06, 2006
Those of you who have been reading my blog know that in January I embarked on a mission to read the entire bible, cover to cover, in 90 days. I don't know what possessed me to undertake such a thing, (Holy Spirit, perhaps?) but I can tell you that so far, it is one of the best things I have ever done. Seriously. The up side is that you get a real sense of the length and breadth of the relationship between the God of Abraham and mankind, in all it's various manifestations. I definately struggled with the Hebrew scriptures. There were pages and pages on how to build a temple. Hundreds of verses on why the City of Jerusalem is a whore. Lots of geneological lists of who was begat by whom. But every once in awhile, amazing and wonderful stories. Stories of love and compassion. Of a faithful, if cranky, God. And in the end, a real sense of what the ministry of Jesus was about. By the time I got to the Christian scriptures, believe me, I was ready!
So, last night I read the Letter of Paul to the Romans in a single sitting. (The nature of this kind of reading plan is to blaze through at a relentless pace. Which is, incidentally, the down side...) Romans is one of the most dense pieces of writing I have encountered so far. It is just PACKED with stuff. I am planning to join a Bible Study Fellowship this fall and we will be spending an entire year studying Romans. What a contrast! But after reading it again last night, I can absolutely understand why a whole year would be valuable. Even a casual reader could fruitfully take this letter sentence by sentence. I love Paul's style in this letter. Since it is the first of his letters in the bible, it is the first time we encounter him in his own words. He askes a lot of questions and then answers them.
"Does this mean we should go on sinning to increase our grace? Not at all! "
I know that in recent years, Paul has sometimes gotten a bad wrap by liberal Jesus scholars. I have heard him called all kinds of things, including a snake oil salesman. I completely disagree. Yes, I think he was astute. (The way he takes advantage of the tension between the Jews and the Gentiles was pretty smart, if you ask me! It was a little like using a rivalry between soccer teams to improve the performance of both.) But I find his commitment and his faith to be incredibly moving. And though it will take me some time to truly understand his theology, there is no question in my mind that as a Christian, I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
On to I Corinthians...
Beloved, in all places and at all times you speak to us through your servants. Grant us the ears to hear and the eyes to see. Let me be open, my Lord. Let my heart and mind be open to you.