theology

A Different Way of Reading Scripture

I was contemplating on my last post about how the Benedictine monks would read scripture, and it spawned a whole lot more words, so I’ve rewritten, and added to it…

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In my history class last week, we were studying the Benedictine Order, and I was struck by how they read scripture in Mass or Liturgies. When reading scripture aloud, there is no animation or expression in their voice. This is to avoid imposing their interpretation onto the listeners, as expression or animation would imply interpretation.

The early Catholic Church was not, nor is it now, fond of personal interpretation of scripture, so I found it interesting that they would approach the readings this way. On one hand it makes sense, in that the homily will provide the interpretation, but on the other hand, it is giving freedom to interpretation by the individual.

Lately I’ve been struggling with where I fit into the church, not my church locally, but in the grand scheme of things. As seems to be the story of my life, I’m a jack of all trades, master of none, and the same applies to my theology. I grew up going to United and then Alliance churches, but also went to a Catholic school though the latter part of elementary school until high school. This included liturgies at school, and going to the occasional mass at the local parish. So I have this mix of protestant and catholic background and I’m somehow trying to merge in my head.

I really love the liturgical elements of the Catholic Church, and I’ve almost come to romanticize it in my head. It’s been years since I’ve been to mass, though I am actually hoping to go this weekend. The problem is that in most evangelical churches, they have turned their backs so completely on their Catholic roots and have totally removed all trace from their services.

There is also a lot about the Catholic Church that I’m not a fan of (though this might be just because I don’t understand it fully) such as: their focus on church hierarchy, the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and their view of sacraments. These are things I believe the Protestant church has improved on, but it isn’t as though the Protestant Church is without its faults, a major one being how fractured and separated the church has become.

The Protestant Church (universally) that I grew up in was a loving, caring, kind place, if you subscribed to the rules and guidelines they interpreted the Bible as laying out. As soon as you didn’t fit that mould, it didn’t seem like such a loving, caring, kind place, and while there are pockets that are a little more accepting, by and large, there is no room for you at the inn.

Now with the emergence of the emerging church, it brings a new view of things, but I see it as the pendulum having swung too far (isn’t that the case with so many things?). It has gone from something the originally seemed reactionary, to something more revolutionary, and not necessarily always in good ways. Often the emerging church comes across very wishy-washy, much like the Baha’i faith, or in other words, a giant cop-out. Many of the ideas and concepts the emerging church is putting forth, I am on board with, and are similar to those I grew up with in the Protestant Church, that of love, caring, kindness, etc., but without the mould. It is much more about personal experience, and less about metanarrative. It is more about the Holy Spirit, and less about Scripture, though I’m not as sure about the demotion of scripture as a source of authority. I’m still torn on that one.

The concept of personal experience really resonates with me though. Just because what is right for me, means it has to be right for you. I don’t think God is only working in Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam. So while I think Jesus is the one true way to heaven, I don’t think that has to be true for everyone. For example, Genesis 1-11 focuses on creation as a whole, where as Genesis 12-50 narrow the focus to the story of Abraham and his descendants. This isn’t to say that when the focus of the stories narrowed to Abraham, that God stopped being at work in the rest of creation. This is the story the writers of the Pentateuch chose to focus on, as it was the story of their lineage. I believe God was just as much at work in the lives of the Babylonians, and the Philistines, and the Moabites as he was in the lives of the Israelites. No, they didn’t call him Yahweh, but does that mean he wasn’t at work? I don’t think so.

I just want to find a middle ground. I want to find someplace where I can immerse myself in the liturgical elements of the Catholic Church. I want to worship among believers who aren’t tied down by the guilt of sin that often comes with a Catholic heritage. I want to worship in a place that is not judging, and loves, and accepts everyone, and doesn’t just subscribe to the adage, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I want pastor in a church like this. Does it exist? Or am I just setting myself up for disappointment of spending 4 years and racking up more debt to come out and find there isn’t a place for me in ministry of the Christian Church.

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