When we read the scripture on Sunday morning we are not just reading stories about people who lived two thousand years ago. We are “proclaiming” that the stories that we are reading our also our stories. We are “claiming” them as our own. We are saying that the themes, plot lines and narratives of the Bible are the themes, plot lines, and narratives of our own lives. We are very much like the people in our scriptures, capable of the same tenderness and violence, love and hatred, generosity and greed… We read these stories because they shed light on our own lives and because the “truth” that lies beyond the “details” of the stories are as true for us today as they were for the people in the days that these stories were told around campfires, in the synagogues, and finally, written down for the generations to come.
When we read the scriptures on Sunday morning something else is happening as well. We hear the stories in a way that makes those stories present here and now. We aren’t “remembering” something that happened long ago. We are recalling, bringing into our reality something that is alive and present in and for each of us. When we gather for the Seder Dinner on Maundy Thursday we will hear a prayer that says, “In every generation, a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had left Egypt. It was not only our ancestors whom the Holy One, blessed be He, redeemed from Egypt; rather, He redeemed us, as it is stated: “He brought us out from there, so that He might bring us to the land He promised our fathers, and give it to us.” This is the “stance” from which we hear, read, mark, and inwardly digest our scriptures on Sunday mornings. We are reading the scriptures in a way that allows us to inhabit them and which allows them to inhabit us. The technical term for this kind of “recollection” is “anamnesis.”
This proclamation and recollection, the anamnesis and the claiming of the text that it makes possible, work to inform our interpretive strategy, the lens through which we see and experience the world around us. This shouldn’t sound foreign or strange. There are all kinds of pressures on us all of the time pushing us to adopt someone else’s interpretive strategy or lens. How do you experience people who are “different”? Do you interpret that individual through the lens that has been ground and polished by the media’s portrayal of that person, or of persons of that nationality, skin color, or socio economic status? How do you interpret the news of the day? Do you interpret through the strategy and lens of Fox News, NPR, or MSNBC? We read the texts on Sunday morning, we recite the stories because we want our lens to be ground and polished through our reading, preaching and teaching of the scripture, through our proclamation and claiming of the texts, through our participation in common prayer, and through the hymns that we sing together.
In just a few weeks we will all have a wonderful opportunity to participate in this highly formative process in a very focused and intentional way. Palm Sunday, April 13th will mark the beginning of Holy Week. We mark this special week with daily worship opportunities which culminate in the Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. It is during this period when we recall and make present the events of the Last Supper, Christ’s arrest and trial before Pilate, and his crucifixion death and burial. All of this leads us to the glory of the new dawn, the new creation which breaks upon the world on Easter Day.
Of all the opportunities we have to be formed and shaped by our scripture, by our tradition, and our common prayer, this is perhaps the most focused and intense. Four days, Thursday through Easter Day when we come together as a community, as the Body of Christ and live into and through the story that makes us one.
So come enter into the story. Let it mold and shape you as you experience first hand the circumstances, people, and events of Holy Week. Prepare yourself for that new light that will dawn when we reach the other side of this Lenten Wilderness. Grind and polish your interpretive lens so that you will be better able to see the truth that is illuminated by that wonderful light. Join us as we “inhabit’ the story and the story, God’s word, “inhabits” us.