|Twenty-two hours of driving allowed for a full book’s listening on the way to west Texas. Another twenty-two hours back, another book finished. I loved listening to the snippets of other languages and immigrant accents and that made these books by first generation American authors come alive. Some texts are meant to be read aloud for lively listening.|
What would it have been like to listen to Jesus read the Bible aloud in the synagogue? Or to hear him quote Hebrew scriptures to church leaders?
Sometimes, while preparing a teaching, I hear in my mind a particular voice from our fellowship, and hope they will consent to read for me. Other times, I am surprised by a new thought or interpretation of a familiar scripture that emerges from hearing it read aloud.
I am fascinated by the perspective of other Americans whose insights come from a different insider/outsider identity of being born American citizens in homes that straddled languages and cultures. They see things I don’t. They experience culture and religion differently, for a myriad of reasons.
Jesus occupied a unique space within Jewish culture, an insider/outsider identity with his people and religion. He taught new perspectives on shared scriptures. Honor the Sabbath. Honor your father and mother. Jesus upheld these commandments in ways that ran counter to religious rules. Loving one’s country, one’s people, while also articulating a critique on how traditions often contradict the spirit of the law.
The challenge of a loving critique is often hard to hear. It is easier to dismiss the speaker- as not American, not Jewish- than to hear their authentically American voice calling us out, or their Jewish rabbi interpretation as more true to scripture than accepted practice.
I was surprised by insights about our financial system- corporations, consumers, capital- that I thought ubiquitous, but ran counter to other cultural systems. Our religious assumptions and financial habits are intertwined often beyond our recognition. Jesus called this out in his culture- the tradition of telling parents that any monetary support they would have received is instead being given to God- as the appearance of holiness that went against the spirit of the law. (Mark 7:1-13)
What religious financial aspects of American cultural Christianity might Jesus call out in our time? What appears holy to us, but abhorrent to God? I suspect that we will need believers with insider/outsider perspectives to shed light on our unknown assumptions. May we listen for Jesus’ voice, that loving critique, from our brothers and sisters who shine truth in our darkness.