12 October 2007

Friday Five: The B-I-B-L-E

Does everyone remember the old Sunday School song?

The B-I-B-L-E,
Oh, that's the book for me.
I take my stand on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E

I have been working on an expansive language version of the Psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office/Breviary. (For you non-liturgical gals and pals, that's a set of prayers for morning, noon, evening, etc., mostly consisting of Psalms and other biblical texts).

So I have been thinking a lot about the Bible recently, and how we encounter it as God's Word--or don't--in our lives, prayer, and ministry. (Great minds think somewhat alike this week, as yesterday's Ask The Matriarch post dealt with ways to help as many people in a community as possible engage with a scriptural text in preparation for Sunday worship).

So, in that spirit, I offer my first Friday Five. I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's experience and reflection on these B-I-B-L-E questions:

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
This is going to sound really funny, but I my earliest memory is the Zacchaeus story and, of course, the song that accompanied it in Mrs. Eaton's Preschool Sunday School class. The reason I remember it, though, is that my middle brother was always small for his age and I always thought of MidBro when I thought of Zacchaeus (because they were both wee little people in my young mind).

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).
I'm a dedicated user of the New Revised Standard Version. I think it balances scholarship, vernacular and poetry as best as one could hope. Sometimes it gets a little clunky, but proper reading and attention to context (not to mention a good dose of Biblical education on the part of we pastors for our congregations) should alleviate any serious problems.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
Romans 8 has been my "life passage" ever since Pastor Roger, the executive director at Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, spent an entire summer preaching on it, especially verses 31-39. Today, I'm also challenged by and enamored of Ecclesiastes, that wonderful Eeyore of an Old Testament text.

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
I don't have as much problem with the Bible as I do with the way we interpret the Bible. I think Luther overreacted to James, to be perfectly honest. If one book DID make me want to scream, it would be Revelation - so many people think it's a puzzle or mystery to solve, rather than a word to comfort, challenge and sustain us as we look to the creation's fulfillment in God's good time. The millions upon millions that have been wasted on the Left Behind series and other such nonsense makes me scream, for sure!

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?
I'd say neutral on the whole. I have no problem with the NRSV (which OT Professor Makr Throntveit of Luther Seminary has been known to joking refer to as the "Neuter Revised Standard Version") replacing "brothers" with "brothers and sisters" and the like - I think that's a responsible rhetorical move. But I'm not so wild about removing every gendered pronoun in reference to God - sometimes the result is clumsy and actually draws more attention than the original. I do agree with one of my homiletics professors that God the Holy Spirit seems beyond gender, and God the Creator might be a more accessible title than God the Father, but Jesus as Son of God doesn't leave a lot of room for debate. :-)
I will say this about liturgical proclamation: I do scream when people in my denomination think that there's some sort of conspiracy on the part of our liturgical writers to lead people into heresy by seeking non-gendered language. One gentleman accused our new hymnal of being "intentionally inaccurate" by using a Psalm translation that tries very hard to be non-gendered. The intention, of course, is to be accessible to the widest possible audience. Do we miss the mark sometimes? Possibly - but wouldn't the forgiving response be more fruitful? If I remember right, Paul had something to say about the fruits of the Spirit, and gossip-mongering was not on that list!

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?
Oh, so many to choose! Do I go with Psalm 121, my grandmother's funeral psalm? How about Psalm 46, on which Brother Marty's great hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, was based? Maybe Psalm 8 with its wonder that God should even notice humankind? For today, though, I'll go with Psalm 139, Beloved's favorite and mine as well. I've always thought that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was the best of Lewis' Narnia Chronicles because of the way it alludes to the image of "sailing past the edge of the sea;" for a landlubber like me, it seems a most exotic voyage, and one I wouldn't want to take without my God to watch over me.

The image is the frontispiece of the Gospel of John from the Saint John's Bible.


  1. great play! i completely concur with you about the misuse of Revelation and the Left Behind crap--ugh!

  2. Wonderfully, marvelously played, Scott!

  3. While I was doing research for my own answers to these questions your blog popped up twice on Google, just FYI for you.
    I like your bonus answer, with the CS Lewis reference.

  4. Love the Zacchaeus story. Is your brother still a wee little man?