Some people think the Bible isn’t a funny book. They’re right. We’re not reading The Big Christian Joke Book here. The Bible is, however, a book with funny parts. Perhaps none of it strikes you as particularly amusing, and I certainly can’t fault you for such a reading of it, but there are certain passages that can be humorous when viewed in a certain light. Take, for example, a scene from today’s chapter.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you there are no elephants in the Bible. And no, I’m not talking about implied elephants on the ark. Nor am I referring to Solomon’s importing of elephants’ tusks in 1 Kings 10:22. Did you know that ever since Genesis 12, Abraham has been traveling with an elephant? In Genesis 12, as you recall, God promised to make a great nation out of Abraham and to bless the entire world through him. But Abraham’s wife is well past child-bearing age, apparently infertile. How will he become a great nation if his line of descendants ends with him? The elephant Abraham is traveling with is the elephant in the room.
Welcome to the Sheep Chapter. Here, Jesus famously declares himself to be the good shepherd and develops the sheep-herding metaphor at length. I had forgotten that it continues directly from the previous chapter. I’d thought chapter 9 was the Man Blind from Birth Chapter, then the last verse of chapter 9, and scene, and then the curtain opens on a new section where Jesus teaches about his relationship to his sheep. But no! All this sheep talk comes hot on the heels of a handful of Pharisees asking Jesus if they are blind, and Jesus responding: yes. Yes, you are.
Let’s just pull off the band-aid right away: today we’re opening the Theodicy Can with all its Theodicy Worms. Apparently someone put a band-aid on the Theodicy Can. I’m not sure what they thought it would do, if they thought the can was injured or maybe the band-aid would help it stay shut, but we’re tearing off the band-aid and opening up the can. All mixed metaphors aside, today’s chapter of John features Jesus healing a man blind from birth, and right off the bat his disciples ask why the man was born blind.
The last chapter ended with Jesus reassuring Peter that the sacrifice of discipleship is worth it. In the age to come, he promises, the disciples “shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28), and anyone who has to leave their family and their world for him is stepping into a bigger family and a bigger world. So, today’s chapter turns to matters of the kingdom of heaven, and it opens with a parable in the vein of chapter 13’s.
I’m writing this post on Monday night, and I’m tired. I can hear all the parents in my head asking me what right I, as a single person, have to be tired, as I imagine all these imaginary parents incensed that I have the audacity to be tired and not have kids. But adulthood tires you out no matter how you do it. As you grow up, you grow more aware of yourself, and that includes an awareness of how much time you spend being tired.
So if yesterday’s verse forced me to admit what I don’t believe but maybe I should, then today’s verse forces me to admit what I don’t do but I definitely should. Man, God’s Little Instruction Book is eating my lunch.
Welcome to our last day on this passage and portion of the Triad study. The study workbook recommends that on this day I go ahead and read Matthew 12:46-50 from my own perspective, as a disciple of Jesus. It occurs to me that I’ve done that every day this week, necessarily, even as I imagine what someone else’s perspective on the verses might be. By design, I am always in my own head. But some days I write with a point in mind, and other days I just read the passage, start writing, and find out what there is to say. Today? I suppose it’s a little of both.
Remember Walter Brueggemann’s classification scheme for the Psalms: orientation, disorientation, and new orientation? I feel like you could apply the same scheme to my blog here. You’ve got your (i.e. my) posts of orientation, posts of disorientation…and sometimes a move from one mode to another. Take yesterday, where I took a step back, looked at myself and Ephesians 1:3-14 here, and moved from disorientation to new orientation. I’ve got a feeling I might manage a post of disorientation before we close out the week, but man, sometimes I get so tired of trying to whip up some thoughts for the blog. Sometimes I just wanna rest.
Real talk: I often come away from Paul’s words here feeling obligated. In my mind, it’s as if Paul is trying to get us to worship God, or to make us feel like praise is the proper normative response to the blessings he describes, and thereby to make us feel compelled to praise. And that’s odd, because the passage is far more about what God has done for us than what we should do for God. Why do I react to it this way? I think we might get something out of this, so let’s sit me down on the couch with this slice of Ephesians 1 and talk about my feelings.