I’m reading RevGal Wil Gafney’s new book Womanist Midrash, which — if you haven’t yet purchased it — should be considered essential for your bookshelf of exegetical resources. Wil leaves no stone unturned in her examination of the told & untold stories of women in Hebrew Scriptures, and it is Womanist Midrash‘s (and womanism’s and midrash’s) spirit of honest questioning that lingers with me as I read through this coming Sunday’s Revised Common Lectionary texts. I have so many questions:
+ If the LORD repented of the urge to burn & consume the ancient Israelites for their worship of a golden calf, why didn’t Moses repent of the same? Exodus 32:19-29, if we put Exodus 32:1-14 into context, describes Moses’ wrath against the people and the slaughter 3000 people as punishment for idol worship (for which Moses blesses the sons of Levi and says that they have thus “ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD”).
+ A related question, cross-referencing Exodus 32 with Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23: Why do we remember Moses for his intervention with God and not for his violence against his own people?
+ How do we contend with God who is both destroyer and refuge? Isaiah 25:1-9 praises God for both. If your theology maintains God’s reputation as a holy refuge, how long must people wait on God to show up as a refuge? Waiting is called for in Isaiah 25:9, with the added admonition in Philippians 4:6 not to worry as we wait, but what is gained while refugees wait for shelter, while mourners wait for laughter, while Caribbean islanders wait for drinkable water, while the impoverished and those with mental illnesses wait for society’s disgrace to be lifted, while the disenfranchised wait to have a seat at the banquet table?
+ Why didn’t Jesus challenge the institution of slavery? Matthew 22:1-14 is just one of Jesus’ parables that includes violence against those enslaved; Jesus also healed a centurion’s slave in Luke 7. Why didn’t Jesus speak out against slavery in any of these moments?
+ Are we tired of shepherd metaphors yet? No joke, I’m heretically bored with Psalm 23. Are the shepherd images in your church (whether in paint or in stained glass or in children’s bibles) sacred cows from a prior generation?
+ Which sends me back to Exodus 32:1-14, what are the idolized sacred cows of the Church — the whole Church and your own particular faith community? Is it a hymnal or songbook? Is it a certain theological perspective? Is it a program that no one is willing to bury for the sake of something new? Is it a white Jesus or a male God?
God is ever-creative and eternally-resourceful in unveiling good news that gives us hope, but we hold onto our hard questions on the way to hope. We even hold onto our hard questions alongside of hope.
What questions are you bringing to the Revised Common Lectionary texts this week, RevGals and Pals? What questions are stirring within your own life and which ones are stirring within your faith community’s life? Share your sermon prep & questions & encouragements with one another in the comments!
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