The Agitating Word

The Bible is not always an easy companion

The Bible is not always an easy companion. The parables can be disturbing, the behavior appalling, the words strange and uncomfortable, and God hard to find, let alone grasp, within. Its multiple edges and textures render it unruly and unyielding to simple formulas, and leaves wide room for each reader, each community, each age to read into and out of it, rarely arriving at the same conclusion. Yet the Christian community is grounded in these texts we have read and re-enacted throughout our history, encountering in this shared life the living Word of God.

The gift of the lectionary is that it compels us to engage with texts we might just as soon skip over. These weeks, I encountered the word as agitating and confounding, feeling the indigestion the prophet Jeremiah describes after he eats the words of God. Watching news reports of our nation's mounting arrogance, all of those endless cycles of violence, I wanted my Christianity to console me, but it just increased my sensitivity to all that is wrong. Where I wanted Jesus to be warm and attentive, he was combative and single-minded; when I wanted to hear that suffering and pain could somehow be overcome, I heard that the kingdom requires that we enter into it. As Archbishop Oscar Romero wrote:

To each one of us Christ is saying, "If you want your life and mission to be fruitful like mine, do like me. Be converted into a seed that lets itself be buried. Let yourself be killed. Do not be afraid. Those who shun suffering will remain alone. No one is more alone than the selfish. But if you give your life out of love for others, as I give mine for all, you will reap a great harvest. You will have the deepest satisfactions. Do not fear death or threats. The Lord goes with you."

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2002
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