Sunday, 7 September 2008

Musings of a bored Priest

I took myself down to St. David’s in Englewood this morning. This is the parish, some 45 minutes drive south of Sarasota where I help out from time to time.

The Rector is a good man, and the congregation is wonderfully friendly. But the Liturgy drives me crazy.

It is all so low key; so lacking in energy. It drags on and on. At one point this morning I thought “If this gets any slower it will go backwards”.

I was seated up front behind the Altar, all decked out in my vestments, so I had to look engaged and interested.

But my mind was not in the same place as my body!

I was thinking about the first Lesson and the Psalm for the day. Here are a couple of extracts:

Exodus 12 v12For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals;

Psalm 149 v6Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, 7to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,

I began to muse. And I mused about the approved violence in the Bible.

In Exodus the Lord says that he will kill all of the first born in Egypt, as a means to let the Hebrew people escape from slavery. The text suggests that the Lord approves of infanticide.

In the Psalm the people sing the praises of G-d with their voices, whilst they slaughter their enemies with a double edged sword.

St. David’s good Rector ignored these passages in his sermon, preferring to preach from the Gospel reading alone. Fair enough. I too might have done the same thing.

But the two violent passages were left “hanging out there”.

Had I been preaching I would have felt compared to de-construct them, to “let G-d off the hook”, so to speak.

(I would have suggested that the passages project the honest and violent thoughts of the people, rather than the will of G-d).

But maybe G-d should not be let off the hook so easily. After all, even the Book of Revelation in the Christian Scriptures speak of a fearsome G-d of vengeance.

All this is to say that “G-d sanctioned violence” is a part of the Jewish and Christian “Sacred Texts”.

I believe that we should treat these texts with caution and suspicion.

I also believe that we should be honest enough not to castigate Muslims for the approved violence in their “Sacred Text” (The Koran), whilst ignoring the violence in our own scriptures.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, darling, might it be possible that you retired too soon? You are entirely spot on.

    I often wonder, as I sometimes look out in my congregation and see a retired priest or two, that they aren't making similar comments under their breath about me.