Too convenient to be literal chronology

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Churches love christenings in my experience.  The “ooh-ahhh” factor is high. The wee baby squirming in the arms of the minister .. a gurgle or a scream … the water moment and how will this wee one take the sprinkling?   Not only it is another soul saved – but the extended family and friends always bring “new people” (who might just come back again … “if they like us enough”).

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“Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.” Matthew 19:13-15

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I have never understood why politicians love to work with babies so much.  That show-biz adage of “never work with animals or children” has a truth.  And the thought of our “babies” being awkwardly held … with possible trauma to our baby … all for a photograph to be used in this moment by the celeb, and in future years by us as a “do you remember” moment … neither fills me with glee.

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We are a Jewish audience. Dealing With Sin in the Church … The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant … Divorce … The Little Children and Jesus … The Rich and the Kingdom of God … The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard …

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I wonder if we do Matthew … or the audience … or even Jesus and all this God Stuff … a great disservice in seeking the literal ALL the time.  We seem to salivate over the literal.  Or why each tour bus in the Holy Land seeking out the exact spot, the exact stones, the exact same air that Jesus walked on, preached from, inhaled and exhaled?

Do we need the literal because the literal is fact?  Do we need facts to walk in faith?   Because without facts where is faith … ?

I wonder if these verses are literal or imagery (again).  I wonder if the Jewish audience needed the literal as much as we seem addicted to it … these christening services and verses entwined forever … these parallels with temple times and christenings (without the snipping) … the emotive links to the Garden and tree and grace freely given … theological links to the dunking and “the dove” alighting …

The literal and imagery embroidered together just as all good story-tellers “embroider”.

But coming after “sin in the church” … then “how to be forgiven (and screw it up)” …  and why “divorce law (is used and abused)” … now we have “Here is how you guys should be operating AND thinking AND living” … And now take THAT imagery into the next lesson of “personal wealth and getting saved” … apply it to what you have to do to earn your salvation (and guess what – you have STILL missed the point) … Taking all that sequencing – the “babies bit” seems too convenient to be literal chronology.

And on top of that, I now wonder why we crave the literal so much.

On a personal note I find myself needless in that direction.  I have my own store of personal “literals” – none as magnificent as the righteous flagstones and pure air of the Holy Land – but neither are they as divisive.

My “literals” are of love … of connection … of relationship … of choice.  My literals are unlikely to change anyone but me. And maybe that’s how it’s meant to be – how it should always be: my change not yours … my relationship not yours … my journey not yours – intersecting maybe but NOT required.

I find myself now reading the bible and seeing love rather than literal.  Seeing sense rather than incense.  Seeing storytelling rather than documentary.  Seeing personal rather than corporate. And the consequence for me is …

I don’t need your approval.

And with that I am free.  Free of expectation and conforming.  Free to explore the discrepancies in my “taught” literal.  Free to see imagery where I was told it is factual.  Free to be me rather than something I was “taught”.  Free to love without restraint.  Free to (literally) “welcome all”.

And when I started questioning my “corporate” bible teaching as taught …

I never saw THAT coming!

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