Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Exploring Scripture

Kari Jo Verhulst shared a brilliant message last week about creating places for meditation. She also cited how easy it is for us to wander in our thoughts and not get down the business and how meeting together can help us in our meditation and reflection. I say, “Amen.” So, given that personal Bible study can also get bogged down or never done because of distractions, how could we ever get people at MIT to break into small groups that meet to do just one more thing: explore the scriptures? And if we were ever going to do it well, we would have to get through difficult passages like the one just quoted.

Any diverse group of people is going to find some level of discomfort with a passage where people are called murderers and then their city is destroyed, and some are thrown out of wedding parties. So for this idea of meeting in diversity to work you might have to telegraph certain notions ahead of time: like, if from time to time you run into a leader complaining about other leaders, the complaint is probably timeless and would apply to today’s leaders too. So even though Jesus sounds pretty bad-assed and mean, he really was in alliance with the man on the street who just happened to be getting a raw deal from the leaders of the day. So, I think that Jesus would just as assuredly come after Christian leaders in the 21st century, if He is truly aligning himself with the man in the street opposite corrupt leadership. Now, I wish we wouldn’t have to do any telegraphing, but for now, such might be the case. So, back to the issue: if we set up meditation pods, as Kari Jo and many of us might like, I’d like to set them up for scripture study as well, and have enough food and drink on hand to get us through the rough patches. Food and drink do not distract, in fact, they focus. Hungry and thirsty people are no fun, and it’s hard to hate someone you’re eating cake with, or downing a beer with.

And wouldn’t this be a great passage to fiddle with in a meditation and study pod? What does it mean: many are called, but few are chosen? Why does the king call the man not dressed in wedding clothes, “Friend”, and then still toss him out? Is “the outer darkness” code for anything? And what’s with the wedding clothes, why are they such a big deal? The thing I like best about the king is that he’s going to have this party one way or the other, and he does! And why? And even with good and evil alike at the party! And why’s that the case? Sure, I speculate that Jerusalem is the city that Jesus is referring to. But what about Rome? Constantinople? London? Berlin? New York? What city’s kings have ever understood respect for other kings? We’re all pretty self-centered and think we have it all together, and we’re all likely to mistreat anyone who tries to tell us that we’re not the only ones worth celebrating. That’s why we need to take breaks from our businesses and our farms, and meditate together, and study together, and eat and drink and party together, no matter whether we’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or Agnostic, good or bad, and from New York or Boston or Jerusalem or Tehran. Amen.

David Thom
Coordinator, Cambridge Roundtable
on Science, Art & Religion