It has almost been a month since my arrival upon the mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee. Today was the first official day of classes. Prior to classes actually starting, we had already received reading assignments and emails indicating that we should be prepared for discussions during class. We went through diversity and safeguarding training. Personally, I don’t know that there is enough of that training to prepare someone for all that life may throw at them in different situations. I can only hope that I may never have to deal with some of the scenarios that came up during discussions. God help me.
Class took place under a tent and it was a bit strange but, not that bad. I like the recorded lectures. With recorded lectures, I can go back and play the lecture over again and capture what I may have missed the first time. I honestly feel like I receive more time to learn.
Right now, I need to be reading and preparing for class but, I felt to write something for my journal. Exegesis was a new word for my vocabulary this week. There is so much interpretation of scripture that is taken for “face” value within many sermons. I suppose my past is what I reflected upon the most in my lessons/readings. Contextual analysis is not a matter of interpreting the meaning of scripture as much as it is actually deciphering what the text is saying, specifically. In the English language, alone, there are many words that can have varied meaning depending on their context. It leaves a lot of questions about the intricate process of deciphering the texts of long ago to gather the books of the library known as The Holy Bible.
Last week the Gospel reading was Matthew 15:21-28. I have pondered this scripture more than a few times. It is one that is a bit controversial because of how Jesus may or may not be viewed within its context.
…a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.Matthew 15:21-28 NRSV
I love this scripture because it exemplifies faith in the intangible, supernatural element of healing and it exemplifies a teacher using a moment to teach all those witnessing the moment. The latter part of my statement would be and is argued by many! This is a controversial scripture and it is one that I think would have to be carefully preached. I can have my opinion and I am allowed to have my own belief but, that does not become what someone else would be required to believe.
I discussed this scripture with my spiritual director many months ago. It was the first time that Christology was explained to me involving different levels or categories. It was described to me that my Christology was very high, which means, the way I view Jesus in the level of Divine and in the level of human. Some may interpret this scripture to suggest that Jesus messed up and this Canaanite woman corrected him. Well, ok, maybe he messed up. Maybe he was new to his ministry and made an “oops.” Ok, but, I don’t think so. For now, I still don’t think so. I journal this in order to note it. Perhaps my Christology changes in the next three years. Perhaps it doesn’t. We shall see.
For now, when I look at Jesus, it is not in an extreme exegetic kind of way but, by way of the general stories within the Gospels. Some examples I look to are the woman at the well and the woman who touched the hem of his garment and within both contexts, Jesus knew what was not obviously known. How did he know about the woman at the well? (John 4:4-26) How did he know in a crowd that someone touched him? (Matthew 9:21) And these are just two examples that pop into my mind.
For now, I see this as Christ, in his Divinity, at work. Jesus taught by example. He taught by parables. There is a lot to digest in those concepts alone. The parables are powerful when understood but more so are one’s actions. Jesus degraded the Canaanite woman by comparing her to the dogs. Her response was not that of a typical person. How many people would respond like that today? Anyone? I would be amazed to meet one person (including myself) who would take that kind of judgement and answer it with the level of humility and faith that she did. It is an amazing example of faith.
Give us this day our daily bread…
Seminary will change me but, I don’t know if it is so much “change” as it is enlighten. Now that is a good word, in whatever context.