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Eucharist: Word - An Offensive Word

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13.12

When we gather around Scripture at the Eucharist, when we read our Bibles at home, or in study groups, we should not just expect to hear things which are easy and comfortable for us. Nor just seek to enforce our doctrine, or prejudice, by taking what we like from our Christian Scriptures. If we are attentive there will be times we will be deeply disturbed by what we read and hear in our Scriptures - sometimes we will be disturbed by the offensiveness of what we hear: prejudice, violence, intolerance, genocide and a God who seems to be angry and vengeful much of the time! These passages take time and study and consideration, they need to be examined in their context and to be aware of the concerns of the original writers.  They can’t be explained away, these passages need to be confronted and held up to the principles of Jesus, and indeed of human decency!  Scripture contains within itself the keys of its own unlocking…  But this takes time, and effort, and examination and is best done with others - learning from the teachers, traditions and thinkers within and beyond the Church who have grappled over many years with these writings.

We can begin by remembering that our Bibles were not written in the same context and comfort that we find ourselves in today.  Our Scriptures come from a Tribal culture desperate to survive and desperate to maintain their tribal indentity. We see the development of thought - religious rules, regulations, and rituals - that come from that.  We also see that the understanding of the writers and compilers of our scriptures changes over the time of the putting together of our Bibles.  We see radical shifts of thinking as time goes by - we see Jesus confronting the structures that have built up around these holy texts and reminding his followers that these writings and traditions exist for the benefit of humanity, not that human beings exist to conform to certain rules and structures.

We can choose to pretend that these verses and passages don’t exist, or we can open ourselves up to the struggle with Biblical texts that each generation has undertaken. To truly get to grips with the nature of our Scriptures, we need to take the bad with the good, and seek the voice of God behind the words.