Saturday, August 13, 2005

Pretend you haven't heard this one...

Three years ago I was called in as an emergency substitute teacher for fifth grade Sunday School.

I had the ten-year-olds act out the story of Joseph. They were into it. We went through all of the highlights of his complicated life. They eagerly acted out their parts as Joseph was thrown into the pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused, and thrown into prison, and eventually ended up as second-in-command in Egypt.

They were jittery with anticipation when I spoke of Joseph's brothers coming to ask for food. They were positively bouncing when I told how Joseph cleared the room of guards just prior to his revealing his true identity.

"And do you know what Joseph did to his brothers after they found out who he truly was?"

"KILLED THEM!" Came the gleeful, joyful shout. The girls were jumping up and down, fists were thrusted into the air; the boys had wide smiles pasted across their face.

I was shocked. Kill them? Joseph killing his brothers? No! Where did these murderous desires come from? That's not how the story goes. What type of sick stories do they think we have in this Bible? Don't these 10-year-olds know the basic stories of Genesis?

My shock quickly turned to jealousy. While I knew more about the bible than these kids, they had the priviledge of being surprised by grace. I know these stories a little too well. I know things like how when the "Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time," it was not in order to smote him.

I'm jealous of their "fresh eyes." I cannot read with new eyes. I know the ending. I know what happens.

After some contemplation, I am realizing that perhaps there is freshness in the text for me. My first theology class in seminary consisted of reading James Cone's God of the Oppressed. The following summer I read the gospel of Luke. I'd read this gospel numerous times but had never before noticed the social justice elements that were now glaringly obvious. Same story. Same eyes. New lenses.

There is something to be said about revelation--a living revelation, that is. This is not simply a story I learn, but a person with whom I enteract. Jesus Christ cannot be contained in black and white text.

Even as I type, I can feel the triteness creeping up in this statement, but I appreciate the Holy Spirit. The ever-present counselor--the one who is sent from the Father to tell truth about the Son.

It's okay that I already know the ending. There are still so many angles to see.


The Cubicle Reverend said...

I have heard it said that once we entirely grasp a piece of scripture is when it loses all meaning. How many times have we heard the tale of the good samaritan? If you ever get the chance read "Diary of A City Priest" by John Mcnamee. He is from Philly and works in one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. I'm hoping to get the chance to meet him in the near future. He talks an awful lot about the good samaritan while attempting to actually live it.

pk said...

Great thoughts Amanda! A few months ago I read through Luke in a long sitting, and I wrote down every occurence of marginalized people being involved in the story. It was amazing how my notebook filled up! Sometimes we get confused and think that God is a God of the blessed, maybe he's more a God of the oppressed. Or maybe both?