Tag Archives: bible

For the Love of God

At Advent Vespers this week we heard how an angel came to Mary to tell her that even though she was a virgin, she would bear a child (who turns out to be Jesus, BTW).

It’s an incredible story. (As in –  it’s entirely difficult to believe and entirely awesome at the same time!)  And my favorite part is when Mary completely embraces everything that is happening and says things like: “My soul keeps shouting out how great You are Lord!” and “You clearly love me and have blessed me  – let’s DO this!”

It’s totally absurd, and it makes me wish I could be as confident as Mary in the wackiness of my own faith.

But that’s not what this post is about.

There came a moment in tonight’s reading when those same words that bring me such joy made me want to vomit.

To Mary’s question about how she could be pregnant since she is a virgin, the angel replies:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” Luke 1:35

As these words were spoken, my mind suddenly interrupted with another declaration.  It was jarring and was spoken in voices I had heard before.  It claimed: “The Holy Spirit raped Mary.”

I heard my atheist undergrad professor say it mockingly, and my seminary professor saying it nonchalantly.  I heard my classmate saying it matter-of-factly.  And I heard no one taking these words seriously enough.

Rape is not a word I use very often. I know it can trigger all sorts of emotions in people.  That fact alone tends to outweigh any need I felt to use the word, regardless of how correct the usage might have been.

But this isn’t just about word choice. 

In what goes down as God’s most creative plot turn in all history, God comes to the world as a baby.  How does God pull this off?  With the help of one strong, determined, faith-filled woman named Mary.

In a Bible full of stories about men, this is truly a story about a woman.  It’s the story of a woman whom God chooses as a partner in making the most incredible happen.

I hate to think that we’d have such a hard time with a powerful woman that we’d try to disempower her by raping her through our exegesis.

Let me be perfectly clear.  If this horrific hypothesis is true, we have a God who could think of no better plan than to have Mary raped in order to birth our Savior.  If this horrific hypothesis is true, the beloved Magnificat is a song of a woman graciously and exuberantly submitting to brutal violence.

Do you see why I wanted to vomit?

Here’s an idea: If you feel the need to be shocking or contrary – save it for another text.

For the love of God, take your sassy attitude where it can do some good. There are plenty of other stories in the Bible that could use a new interpretation.

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Practice Being Impulsive!

There’s something about improv that has always frightened and impressed me.

It’s amazing what people can come up with on the spot, with no time to analyze what would be the smartest or funniest or most helpful thing to say.

I’ve always preferred acting in plays, where there is time to practice over and over again.  This explains why when it comes to ministry I’m comfortable preaching a sermon but I get anxious when asked to say an impromptu table grace.

In her book, Engaging Technology in Theological Education, Mary Hess uses the analogy of preparing to perform a play to describe how we might work toward having the biblical witness at the heart of our teaching and learning.

She describes learning the character and the script as just the first step.
We learn the biblical stories and characters, get to know the background, and gain insight on what the story is saying.

Next comes practice performing.
We move from knowing the stories to knowing how to share them, from knowing what is being asked of us, to knowing how to begin living into such a way of life.

Then the script must be enacted in multiple contexts.
We know that we can only fully understand in as wide a circle of learners as possible.

Finally, we must begin to improvise.
Once the stories are at the heart of our story, they exist so deeply within us that we can live and share them, even as the context around us shifts and changes.

The Christian church has an old, old story to tell in a radically different time than when it was written.

As we find ourselves engaging in ministry through social media and in various online communities, we are like improv actors seeking to share our stories in new and exciting ways.

It’s still a little frightening.

It’s also entirely impressive when it’s done well.

Works Cited:

Engaging Technology in Theological Education: All That We Can’t Leave Behind.Mary E. Hess. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2005.