From the Epistle lesson for Wednesday in the week of Proper 5B (Pentecost 2, 2015)
21b But whatever anyone dares to boast of – I am speaking as a fool – I also dare to boast of that.
What a way to start a bit of Scripture! The second sentence of a verse which begins with the exclamation, “To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” Because I read the Daily Office, as the name suggests, daily, I know what comes before and to what the writer of the epistle is referring, but still and all . . . as a reading for the day, this is a strange place to have put the dividing line between lessons. It gives me, as a reader, the sense of coming into the middle of a conversation. ~ My spouse is in the habit of continuing conversations started days before. Just a few days ago she walked into our dining room, where I was working and concentrating on some financial files spread out all over the table, and the first words out of her mouth were: “And, anyway, the chipmunks eat tulip bulbs!” Excuse me? What? It turns out that she was referring back to, and continuing, a conversation we had had while gardening the weekend before. She’d replayed that conversation in her memory and now was continuing it out loud with me who, of course, was not privy to the rewind in her head. So I was lost. Only after stopping her and getting her to replay her memory tape out loud could I join in. ~ I often find reading the Bible to be like that, like I’m coming into the middle of a conversation and, indeed, that is what the reader of Scripture is doing. This is why study and paying attention to context are so important. Søren Kierkegaard called the Bible a love letter from God. That’s a lovely image, but I find Scripture even more dynamic than that. It’s a conversation and, like any conversation, it requires our full attention and participation. Otherwise, we will be left constantly in an attitude of “Excuse me? What?”