Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Now hear. . .


Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, 
they defiled it by their conduct and their actions.  
Their conduct was like a woman's monthly uncleanness in my sight."  Ezekiel 36:17

I'm not sure why but we've been reading Ezekiel now for quite some time.  Finishing dinner with a Bible passage is a habit we have, a tradition, a good one, something we've been doing for all of our 40 years together, something each of our families did throughout each of our childhoods.  "Laat ons lesen," my father used to say as he opened the Bible I have right here in my drawer.  Those words were about the only Dutch words I ever heard him pronounce.

What that means is that together my wife and I have been at reading the Bible for more than 120 years, which itself sounds biblical.  

I don't doubt that one reason for this daily altar of ours is some kind of residual, ancestral guilt--both of us would feel our days somehow incomplete if we wouldn't read the Bible, so we do.  But reading scripture isn't simply a way to assuage guilt, it's also formative. I learn. We learn. I'm enough of a fundamentalist to believe that believers need to stay "in the Word," as the Pentecostals say, even though my guilty heart reminds me I probably should be there more often and more fully than I am.

That having been said, this Bible reader (and sometime writer of meditations) occasionally thinks reading the Bible isn't good for one's faith.  Take this passage from Ezekiel, last night's offering.  Am I some kind of atheist if I say that I  find it impossible to believe that, as Ezekiel insists, we're listening to God's own voice?  I'm supposed to believe that God almighty, maker of heaven and earth, is mortified by women having their periods, the way he created them? My God actually thinks them "defiled"?  

That makes zero sense.

Am I supposed to read a passage like this and simply buy the proposition that this particular prophetic vision of Mr. Ezekiel was all God and not a whit him? Seriously? Does God turn up his divine nose at half the world's menstruation? This Ezekiel guy might, but I can't believe God gets grossed out by what's perfectly natural?

And if I don't buy this proposition, then the whole vision thing--the whole basis of the book's inclusion in the canon--loses its currency and begs the obvious question:  how many of Zeke's  "visions" were created by God almighty and how many were simply projections of his own human perceptions of the state of the world, the kind of doom-and-gloom e-mail posts I get weekly from end-time Republicans.

Those questions hurt because, in a way, they really do defile my own perceptions of the nature of scripture.  Still, I find them unavoidable.  I have some kind of faith that God wants me "in the Word," but I can't imagine that he wants me to buy every last thing I read.

The Bible is a wild montage of vivid imaginings, unforgettable stories, world-class poetry, and doomsday utterances sufficient to drive all of us to drink (ever check how much of it is OT prophecy?). At some level, it's divine because the story it tells in a thousand obtuse ways is, paradoxically, forever simple: we screw up, but for some divine reason He just keeps lovin' us and takin' us back.

I believe in the Incarnation. I believe that divinity we call Jesus once upon a time slipped himself into flesh as if it were a wet suit and came to dwell among us.  I believe that when he died, he carried a great deal more with him to the grave than his own mortality; he carried our sin.  And I believe that he actually rose again, Savior of mankind and Lord of life.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a ton I don't get.  

But we'll stay at it, I'm sure, just as we have for years.  And tonight--viola!--Ezekiel 37, what I've been looking forward to for a long, long time:  tonight, the famous "valley of the dry bones."  You know. . .

Dem bones, dem bones--dem, dry bones.
Dem bones, dem bones--dem, dry bones.
Dem bones, dem bones--dem, dry bones.
Now hear the Word of the Lord.

Sometimes, maybe, it's just that simple.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Doesn't God speak to us through His Creation on an hour by hour, day by day basis? Very few hear and understand, because most are convinced that they are really in control. God speaks to us through "His Word" in the context of our human understanding and our need to control. My next breath is a gift from God. My body and its workings are gifts from God and His creation. He shed His "Blood" for my sins. I would not exist without the sheding of my mother's blood. Ezekiel was just trying to be grandiose, a typical human characteristic. He got a "my goodness!" response now and then, and God laughed.