The Times reports today of the Archbishop of Canterbury's first visit to Pope Francis:
The Archbishop said: "It was a personal visit and the private conversation with Pope Francis was very personal indeed — a private discussion about the nature of our faith and about our spirituality, of the experience of the mercy and grace and love of God.
"The conversation was about how you feel when you get up in the morning and you have got these extraordinary days, and where do you go in prayer? We weren't saying, 'How do appear on television?'
I'm really blessed, encouraged and excited to think of all that God is doing right now with these two leaders who not only speak of the mercy and grace and love of God, but are experiencing it for themselves. Thank you Lord.
Shot almost entirely in monochrome black-and-white, one little 3-year old girl dressed in a striking red coat stands out to the viewer. We later see the same girl being piled onto a cart of corpses to be incinerated. Warned by Spielberg not to watch the film until she was 18, Oliwia Dabrowska saw the 1993 Holocaust film as an 11 year old:
"It was too horrible. I could not understand much, but I was sure that I didn't want to watch ever again in my life." She also said she "really regretted" not paying attention to the director's suggestion that she "grow up into the film", and not watch it until she was older.
"I was ashamed of being in the movie and really angry with my mother and father when they told anyone about my part," she said. But, having revisited the film as an 18-year-old, she said she realised "I had been part of something I could be proud of".
The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer which has been going on for millennia, and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent non-Psalmic ‘worship’ based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoilt child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy.
Joe King recalls his band's big break to tour with U2:
“A lot of people talk about this tour as the biggest tour of all time, the biggest stage production ever, the biggest grossing, the biggest band in the world, but never has U2 made decisions by trying to be the biggest. They make all their decisions trying to be better, not bigger.”
I was keen to read quite a bit of scripture as part of the talk and honed in on Psalm 22 and Mark 15. As part of this, I also reference the following (by no means exhaustive) references to the Psalms in the gospels:
Sufferings of Christ
- Stone the builders rejected: Ps 2:8; 118:22-23 - Matt 21:42
- The Garden of Gethsemane: Ps 40 - Matt 26:42
- His close friends would betray him: Ps 41:9
- Jesus’ last few words “into your hands I commit my Spirit” quote Ps 31:5.
- His bones will not be broken: Ps 34:20
- He will rise from the dead - “you will not let your faithful one see decay”: Ps 16:8-10
Glories of Christ - the God depicted in Psalms fit Jesus like a glove
- Kings bow down to him: Ps 72:10 - Matt 2:11
- Descendant of David: Ps 89:3-4; 35-36
- Beatitudes blessed are the meek: Psalms refer to the meek Ps 37:11
- Jesus calms the storm: Ps 107:29; 65:7 - Mk 8:24; Matt 8:26
- As Jesus is clearing the Temple, the disciples remembered that it was said in Ps 69:9: “zeal for your house will consume me.”
I sought to avoid giving the impression that these are 'proof texts', but rather convey the frequency with which the gospels draw upon the Psalms as it processes what is going on in and through the life of Jesus. The frequency with which Jesus himself quotes or draws upon the Psalms cannot be ignored. Interpreting scripture through the lens of Jesus does not mean that we read every passage as pointing to Jesus. But that the story of Israel, and our story, only begins to make sense as we read scripture with new eyes. The story only hangs together with Jesus.
... the New Testament continually uses the book of Psalms to fix our gaze upon the excellencies of Christ, upon [his] majesty, beauty, and glory.
– Michael Morales
A thought provoking piece on how debates around interpreting the Bible can be used to avoid the hard reality of applying it to our lives:
If we don’t know how God’s word exercises authority over us, and how to take what it says and apply it today, then we end up fudging the whole kit and caboodle. In the old days, people used to come right out and say that they didn’t submit to the Bible. Thomas Jefferson had the good manners to cut out all of the bits that he didn’t believe. But these days, the opposition to the authority of Christ is more creative.
As Mark Twain said, “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”
The really tough bits of the Bible are far less to do with the ins-and-outs of the πίστις Χριστοῦ debate1 and far more to do with things like “how do I really love my enemy? Is it realistic? How am I doing on that front?”
Complexity can be used as an excuse. Often a phrase like “Ah, but there’s lots of ways of interpreting the Bible” can belie a deeper resistance. Our very approach to the scriptures can set us up for spiritual blindness by choosing to supplant the purpose of reading the Bible to meet with Jesus, with looking for academic arguments and ‘proof texts’ in what we are reading. When we read and interpret the Bible, the purpose is encounter with the Living Word.
And it’s usually the bits about what is sinful, and what is not, that lead people to play the “ah, but that’s just your interpretation” card, which turns out to be a joker in more ways than one. That’s the oddity of the discussion: the texts over which people are most likely to drop the I-bomb (these days, they’re often the texts about sexuality) are the ones over which there is the least disagreement amongst scholars, and amongst teachers throughout the ages.
A key interpretive principle for me is that the interpreter should never see himself or herself as sitting ‘over’ scripture as judge, but rather coming to scripture and being willing to ‘sit under’ its authority because the authority of scripture derives from God’s authority. There is always more to discover - we will never exhaust the depth of mystery and treasure to be found in God’s written Word. We read scripture with the intention to obey, and to give us a language and framework for relationship with the divine.
For me, hermeneutical humility is about recognising the vulnerability of the interpreter as an influential factor in interpretation. Hermeneutical humility is about recognising that you as an interpreter are fallible, and any conclusions you draw are provisional. God has spoken, the rest is commentary. That is not to say that we cannot - and indeed absolutely should - be willing to lay a stake in the ground for what we feel the Bible clearly teaches. Again, we read the Bible to meet with Jesus and to obey. Not to satiate our desire for debate or get ammunition to avoid obeying what we think it says.
There is something, though, about the tone of Andrew Wilson’s article that I find unsettling. Having questions about the interpretation of scripture - even on orthodox issues - does not mean that the questioner is not prepared to ‘sit under’ scripture. I want to live in an environment where honest, heartfelt and soul-searching questions are encouraged and valued - not chided or pulled apart for any hint of heresy or false motive. We don’t need to always be trying to sniff out the hairy liberal lurking behind each interpretative corner.
Applying truth to our lives often has to be done prayerfully, tearfully and with vulnerability - especially in the area of the brokeness of our sexuality - and any hint of belittling someones view because it differs from our own isn’t on. That said, his closing paragraph is a good corrective:
Lest I be misunderstood, let me say again: as a statement, “ah, but there’s lots of interpretations of the Bible” is quite true. That’s why we need to work hard to understand what the original authors intended; it’s why research matters; it’s why theology matters; it’s why I do what I do. But if that card gets played with unrepresentative frequency when people start talking about what we do with our genitals, then we may be excused for wondering whether something else is going on. It often is.
Whether Paul’s language of pistis christou refers to “faith in Christ” or “the faithfulness of Christ” ↩