We’ve all seen it…a scripture reading with verses 1-8, 14-19. Hey, wait a minute–there’s a hole in there! And dollars to donuts those holey verses were difficult, too hard to look at, too hard to say out loud. So we just conveniently skip them.
When I started preaching here, I made a commitment to not skip the hard bits of scripture. I don’t want people to be reading scripture at home, and choking on the gristly parts saying, “This is crazy, I don’t know what to make of it. How come I’ve never heard this in church?”
I remember when I was around 12, I was reading through part of the Old Testament, and I came across Judges 11, where the young girl is sacrificed by her father Jephthah. I was hopping mad about that story. I marched straight into Sunday school the next week, Bible in hand, and asked my teacher, “What is this story about? Why is this story in the Bible?” She told me that Jephthah’s daughter wasn’t really sacrificed, she probably just went to live in the temple.
I nodded and closed my bible, but inside I was going, “Yeah, right.” I was unconvinced. I knew my bible stories. Samuel went to live in the temple, if this girl had gone to the temple, they would have said that. And besides, only men were allowed to do anything in the temple; no jobs for girls there!
I know my Sunday school teacher was trying to help me, but I think it would have been better for her to say, “That’s a hard story. I don’t really understand it myself. We’ll have to really study it to figure out what it means.”
This week I’m continuing my series on I Thessalonians, preaching on chapter 2:14-16. They’re ugly verses, where Paul expresses some very harsh words against Jewish people. I felt like skipping them and moving on to chapter three, but I’m not going to. They are hard verses. I don’t really understand them. We’ll have to really study them to figure out what it means.
This week’s prayer: “Thy word is like a garden Lord, with flowers bright and fair…” but God there are some thorny parts in this garden, that don’t seem to serve any good purpose. Help us read with clear eyes, and help us to learn what we need to learn.