We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Matthew 2:13-23

The back end of Matthew 2 is not the world most of us live in, not even on a Sunday morning.  It is full of dreams, symbols that don't mean much anymore (esp. the whole fleeing to Egypt scene, which harkens back to the Exodus), and especially the use of Old Testament prophecies to explain why things happen.

In our world, we would go see a therapist if we had all of the dreams Joseph had.  In our world, we look to economic, political, and other "real" factors for the explanation of contemporary events.  Now, we might avow that God is involved in things that happen to us, but God's involvement is limited to working through "worldly means."  We don't go back to prophecies or claim to be directed by dreams filled with heavenly messengers.

So, how do we deal with these fundamental differences between Matthew's world and ours?  Many simply avow that, "The Bible is true.  I believe it.  So, things happened just the way it says they did." That's fine, but it also makes the Bible itself an object of faith, which is OK as long as we don't confuse putting our trust in the literal (which language?) words in the Bible (which translation?) with our faith in Christ.  They are different things entirely.  If that difference is not recognized, we are in danger of falling into the trap of bibliolatry, the false worship of the Bible as an idol.

Another approach is to focus on the story line contained in Matthew rather than individual events.  We understand that it was written in a different world so that the manner in which the events are explained differs from our iPhone-world as radically in some ways as do the technologies of the 1st and 21st centuries.  But what about the story line?  Is IT something we can trust?  By that I mean, do we detect in it the presence of God's Spirit reaching out toward us?  Is it inspired?  The question is not whether or not each and every word (which language, which translation?) is inspired.  Rather, do we detect in the story God's presence, a presence that makes sense to us in 2017?

If we trust that there "is" a Divine Spirit that beyond all understanding "is" both Beyond and Present—if we have that faith, then it is not a difficult step to say that, "yes," we do sense that Holy Spirit inspiring us through the stories of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.  Amen.