You know, I always wonder what people are thinking when they tell me that they read the Bible and find comfort and solace. I wonder about the TV commercials for church and Christianity that present the Bible as having clear cut answers and hope. I bet you wonder too. What Bible are they reading?
The Bible we read does have hope and comfort and solace, but boy, isn’t that just one facet of what we find? The Bible we read shows us comfort and hope and stirs things up, unsettles our lives, forces us to go places we often don’t feel ready to go. That’s the Bible we read. And it is definitely the Bible we read today.
Vida Scudder, a professor and social activist wrote, “Who can really read the Gospels [the Bible] and fail to find them a disturbing force?”
It is a religious paradox, God is love, and God’s word is at the same time the most profoundly disturbing, unsettling force we will ever know. Our faith comes contrast, not through uniformity. Thanks be to God.
Our faith comes through contrast. The story of Hagar cannot be summed up with the platitude “God will provide,” This text is a painful reminder of the errors made by faithful people, of the wrongs committed because we feel the need to protect our turf, save what is ours. The story of Hagar and what is done to her is unsettling. It should be.
And the lectionary text giving voice to Jesus doesn’t bring us any relief. Today’s reading from Matthew makes me wonder about those nice ads on TV that proclaim, “Family, isn’t it about time?” Maybe they missed this section of Matthew.
The life of faith, despite what the commercials may lead you to believe, is not neat and tidy. Like a work camp trip, the life of faith can be messy and tiring and even dirty. But it is when we open ourselves to the paradoxes, when we open ourselves to the cries of Hagar and the possibility that family can be an idol, it is when we open ourselves to the complexities that we see the true God. Not the one we want to see but the one who Is. And who has been. And who will be. And that God is greater than anything we can imagine.