Second Sunday After Epiphany- January 14, 2018

Texts for the Day

Dialogue

It is commonplace to hear assertions of the sort, “The Bible says…” followed by the quotation of a single verse. It’s a compelling way to use the Bible, one that puts full trust in it as the word of God. However, it has its limits. If we widen the lens beyond the quotation of single verses, we discover a landscape that reveals an ongoing dialogue regarding the nature of God’s promises. Parts of the Bible talk to each other, and they don’t always agree. We have one such example this week.

Read Deuteronomy 23:1-8. Fear not. This is not the reading for next Sunday, or any Sunday. It’s a strange text, outlining communities of people who are excluded from full participation in the community. Were there good reasons for this? Perhaps there were. Perhaps there weren’t. We don’t really know.

Now read Isaiah 56:1-8. This is a description of the restored community returning from exile. Notice how the invitation is widened to all people willing to participate. The prohibitions against eunuchs and foreigners in Deuteronomy 23 are explicitly contradicted. Here we have a record of a community grappling with questions of who is in and who is out, in ways not dissimilar from our own.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you respond to the ways in which the Bible dialogues and disagrees with itself? Do you need to harmonize it into a single message? Or can we pick and choose which verses to believe in? Or is there a middle way that respects the complexity of the debate?
  • How would you continue the dialogue? What modern questions are left unanswered? What would you like to add? Here are two examples:
    • Many people these days recoil from the exclusive claims of Christianity, believing that the magnitude of God’s love for the whole world makes it impossible for only Christians to be saved. In what ways does Isaiah 56 reflect this view? In what ways does it differ or fall short?
    • Do you see this text as a prophecy about Jesus? Why or why not? If so, was the author aware of this or was the connection only clear in hindsight?

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