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Reading the Ancient Texts 103013
Reading the New Testament, the Gospels, makes instant sense to us; we can read through and pick out the words of Jesus himself, and I must admit I still prefer a Bible that has ‘the words of Jesus in red’. On a page of text, the clear, prominent words in red jump out to me, and speak clearly to me. Even though the words of Jesus are 2,000 years removed from now almost, and Jesus was a Mediterranean Jewish peasant (and most of us are not) the words, the characters, the events speak out loud to me, and have become a foundation of our culture.
The Old Testament is more problematic. The morals, the stories, the characters and the teachings sometimes just do not speak to me, or to many disciples. We are not pre-Christian, Jews living in a Roman, a Babylonian, or a Jewish kingdom. I’ve never lived the life of nomadic shepherds or seen what the temple was like. Neither have I lived a life such that family, community and the temple were the key features of my identity, and actually, my identity as a disciple of Jesus does not easily tie into the ancient, Semitic language and culture. Sure, we are all human, but there is much I just don’t understand.
But, if I read the Old Testament and make allowances for it—such as, ‘well, it is the honest voice and history of God’s people‘ even if I don’t understand it completely, then what should I say when I read an ancient Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu text? Are those texts also the honest voice and history of God’s people?
There’s much to consider here. If an old Buddhist text recommends I wear an orange or ochre robe, pray and burn incense, should I? No, but then neither do I slaughter lambs, and doves and pigeons and make burnt meat offerings to God in the temple.
So, I’m left confused. Do my beliefs and faith as a disciple of Christ compel me to behave like an ancient Jew, and does reading an ancient text from any ancient religion or philosophy compel to practice as the ancients practiced? Perhaps, but remember that burning incense is a primary cause of home fires. Be careful.
Pray for peace,
Prayer List: Peace Mennonite Church keeps a prayer list for those in need. If you need prayer, or want to e-mail our pastor, e-mail billd @ peacemennonitechurch.net (Take out the extra spaces to use this e-mail—the spaces confuse spam generators).
Pray with us!
We are praying as a church, and attempting to follow the centuries’ old tradition of praying with other Christians three times a day. We are following the prayer liturgy at www.commonprayer.net
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The Message (MSG)
8-9 God-of-the-Angel-Armies, listen:
O God of Jacob, open your ears—I’m praying!
Look at our shields, glistening in the sun,
our faces, shining with your gracious anointing.
10-12 One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship,
beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God
than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.
All sunshine and sovereign is God,
generous in gifts and glory.
He doesn’t scrimp with his traveling companions.
It’s smooth sailing all the way with God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
The Message (MSG)
13-16 So Daniel was called in. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel who was one of the Jewish exiles my father brought here from Judah? I’ve heard about you—that you’re full of the Holy Spirit, that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you are incredibly wise. The wise men and enchanters were brought in here to read this writing on the wall and interpret it for me. They couldn’t figure it out—not a word, not a syllable. But I’ve heard that you interpret dreams and solve mysteries. So—if you can read the writing and interpret it for me, you’ll be rich and famous—a purple robe, the great gold chain around your neck—and third-in-command in the kingdom.”
17 Daniel answered the king, “You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else. But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
18-21 “Listen, O king! The High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and a glorious reputation. Because God made him so famous, people from everywhere, whatever their race, color, and creed, were totally intimidated by him. He killed or spared people on whim. He promoted or humiliated people capriciously. He developed a big head and a hard spirit. Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame. He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind, and lived like a wild animal. He ate grass like an ox and was soaked by heaven’s dew until he learned his lesson: that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts anyone he wants in charge.
22-23 “You are his son and have known all this, yet you’re as arrogant as he ever was. Look at you, setting yourself up in competition against the Master of heaven! You had the sacred chalices from his Temple brought into your drunken party so that you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, could drink from them. You used the sacred chalices to toast your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone—blind, deaf, and imbecile gods. But you treat with contempt the living God who holds your entire life from birth to death in his hand.
24-26 “God sent the hand that wrote on the wall, and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean:
“Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don’t add up.
27 “Teqel: You have been weighed on the scales and you don’t weigh much.
28 “Peres: Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Belshazzar did what he had promised. He robed Daniel in purple, draped the great gold chain around his neck, and promoted him to third-in-charge in the kingdom.
30-31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.
The Message (MSG)
The Story of Two Sons
28 “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’
29 “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went.
30 “The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.
31-32 “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said, “Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’
kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe him.
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