Thanks Be To God?

At the end of each of our readings on Sunday morning the reader says “hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.” We reply “thanks be to God.” But how many times have you had a hard time saying “thanks?” How many times have you wondered what you’re supposed to be thankful for in this reading? Many of our holy texts are confusing or even disturbing. Some are so disturbing we never read them in church. If you haven’t read the whole Bible, there are many stories you haven’t heard – and you may not want to. So what do we do with them?

The temptation is to ignore them – to focus instead on passages that we can more readily understand, passages that more obviously point to God’s love and care for us and all creation. Passages that offer comfort and encouragement. But if we really believe the Spirit speaks through scripture, we need to wrestle with these difficult passages just like we wrestle with difficult life circumstances. Because if God is love, and if we practice listening for the Spirit in difficult scriptures, we will be better equipped to hear the Spirit when our life isn’t so easy or comfortable.

I invite you to let me know – in person, or by email or phone – what passages are problematic for you. The near-sacrifice of Isaac? The flood? The plagues of Egypt? Jesus saying he came not to bring peace but a sword? Ananias and Sapphira? There are so many, it’s hard to know where to start. What’s been bugging you?

Beginning this fall, I plan to offer a periodic series on these “Thanks be to God?” texts, where we can wrestle together with them. Why are they in the Bible? What did they mean in their contexts, and how does the Spirit speak through them today, to us? I look forward to rich discussions. We will find blessing, even if we can’t find clear answers.