Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

[CHPC] Matthew 5:1-20 [2008-01-23]

Karl said people tend to focus on the first halves of the Beatitudes. I said I'm actually far more interested in the second halves, 'cause the first halves get thrown around as these cheap platitudes, but What is being promised you as a reward? Karl said he doesn't like the Beatitudes being presented as reward, that he prefers to see it as God's response, possibly as antidote/comfort. So that's interesting to me, to look at the "for they will"s as God's gracious response.

We went through them one-by-one.

Karl talked about how "poor in spirit" can mean any of a number of things -- can mean the despairing etc. but can also mean those who are aware of how far (from perfection or whatever, though he didn't use the word "perfection" -- as soon as I typed, it, though, I thought of Wesley) they are. He talked about how one of Jesus' big themes was putting aside ego and talked about emptying yourself so God can fill you, recognizing your emptiness so you can better accept what God wants to fill you with.

Karl said that "kingdom of heaven" (or "kingdom of God," in Luke) is never defined in the Bible, and suggested one definition of it as relationship with God and other people.

He said that mourning doesn't just have to be about grieving after a death, that it can include being saddened by the state of the world, being saddened at one's own brokenness, etc.

Karl said that "meek" is a bad translation, that it implies timidity which is really not it at all. He said "humble" isn't quite right but is much closer. I said now it always makes me think of "The Meek Shall Inherit" from Little Shop of Horrors --
They say the meek shall inherit
You know the book doesn't lie
It's not a question of merit
It's not demand and supply
They say the meek gonna get it
And you're a meek little guy
You know the meek are gonna get what's comin' to 'em by and by
Neither Karl nor Randy was familiar, and sadly, I really can't sing -- though I'd also had a lot of milk with dinner, so surely the dairy wasn't helping.

We talked a little about what it might mean to "inherit the earth." I said I always think of "a new heaven and a new earth" 'cause obviously the meek/humble/whatever do not necessarily inherit material wealth here on earth in our lifetimes. Karl said one could interpret "earth" a number of ways, that it could mean heart and home for example. This was one of those times when I sat and absorbed the interesting information but my strong initial reaction was that he was interpreting out of the text to a ridiculous degree.

Karl said that we think of "pure in heart" as some sort of moral purity, but it really means single-mindedness. I said I'd never thought of it that way but that made sense given Jewish holy=whole and the purity laws being about separateness, impurities being ruptures and mixings. Karl talked about the idea that you're never going to see God if you're always chasing after all sorts of other things.

After peacemakers, Randy said something about doing that at work all the time, personnel matters. Karl said something in response, and I had a mini-explosion. I said that the interpersonal level is one place where you actually can do peacemaking, that people get all het up doing anti-war stuff but they're all bitching and griping and making fun of their opponents and I'm like, "You're not making peace. Maybe you're stopping some death and killing -- nevermind if it causes other death and killing, you're stopping one certain kind, the kind you feel personally responsible for -- Sorry I have Issues. I spent four years at Smith; it was a bad scene." Karl said that shalom means well-being, so peace-making isn't just about ending conflict.

Karl said that it's the last one/two that trouble him, 'cause they're so easy to breed wanna-be martyrs, which he doesn't think is what the passage intends, though maybe's he's wrong. I said one could interpret around that by pointing to the "for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" line and arguing that Jesus is strongly implying that if one is persecuted for being like unto the prophets of old, then yours is the kingdom of heaven.

I insisted that the way the Beatitudes are structured, they really seem to be read as reward statements, and even if they're God's gracious response, we know God doesn't always respond that way. Karl said God doesn't promise things will happen when we want them or how we want them or anything, that all God promises is that "God will be God." I said these did not seem like "sometimes" or "maybe" statements, that I was fine with a theology that God's ways are not our ways and all that, but that if that was the theology behind the Beatitudes then I disapproved of the Beatitudes -- and I was like, "Who sits on a mountain and says 'God will comfort you, sometimes, maybe'?!" I also conceded that I am (tend to be) Absolutist and literal-minded. (I had made peace with fitting all this together by the end of the night but wanted to sit on it a bit longer before actually admitting that to him.)

Next we read the Salt & Light bit.

Randy asked about what resonance "salt" would have had for the people of that day. (I thought of my fic -- "No one wants to hear about Carthage." -- but didn't say that.) Karl said for one thing it was very valuable, was the most expensive commodity in the ancient world.

I said that we talk about the Light passage a lot, but not so much the Salt passage, and said that it's hardcore -- You are the salt of the earth, but if you lose your saltiness you are good for nothing but being trampled on by men. I reiterated Karl's Children's Sermon from Sunday where he demonstrated with a candle, hovering an extinguisher over it so you could only see the light a little, and then putting it all the way down and showing how that made the light go out, and said that what I was most struck by was the idea that hiding your light could actually make your own light go out.

I also said that the salt ties in to the light somewhat because when salt is in food, you taste it, and I mentioned the "How Meat Loves Salt" folktale. Karl and Randy both gave me blank looks.

(Speaking of cultural references I assume people have, when Michelle was over last night she mentioned Heath Ledger's death and in conversation she mentioned his daughter's name being Matilda and how that was kind of unfortunate. I said she'll get Roald Dahl jokes forever, and Michelle had no idea what I was talking about. She knew who Roald Dahl was but didn't know that book at all.)

Karl said that the Pharisees were a reform movement in Judaism -- that they were like, "You can't just go to the Temple once a year and sacrifice an animal; there's this whole code of behavior." And then Jesus takes that further. Karl said that some people believe Jesus was a Pharisee, that that's how he was trained -- that that's why gets on their case so much, because he's one of them, because he knows their strengths and their weaknesses.

After I got home, I put next month's on my calendar and was reminded that I have a conflict with ASL 3. Sigh.
Tags: church: clarendon hill: bible study

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