Important Work

(This is my first foray into the world of mid-week blogging, so I apologize for turning it into a late-to-mid-week blog instead.  If you’re anything like me, the weekend still feels far enough away that it might as well still be midweek. I welcome your comments.)


A couple weeks ago in Sunday School, I was caught off guard by some of the youth in the class I am co-teaching.  We typically structure our time together to begin with snack and getting-to-know you activities then move toward digging into the scripture lesson for the day.  On this particular Sunday, when we started to transition to the time for the lesson, there was a sudden outpouring of moaning and complaining.  One young person mustered all of the pre-teen attitude that he could and asked, “Why do we always have to read the Bible?” 

In that moment, I was caught off guard, so I think I just muttered something about how that is what we do in Sunday School.  That’s the point. 

The class went on and we got through the lesson without too much complaining, but the scene stuck with me. “Why do we always have to read the Bible?” 

I think this moment stuck with me because I feel like I missed a really important teaching moment.  There are a lot of reasons why we “always have to read the Bible,” but the more I thought about the question the more I started to feel the urgency of a being able to articulate a better answer than “That’s just what we do.”

I need these youth to learn to read the Bible.  As someone who has had to live through both explicit and implicit subjugation by those claiming scriptural authority, I feel the urgency of teaching youth (and all people) better ways to read the Bible.  Every time I hear about another Westboro Baptist picket, every time I read about another political leader using the language of religion to justify acts of violence, and every time another guest at the community kitchen I serve tells me something like “God helps those who help themselves,” I am reminded that I need the youth in my Sunday School class to learn to read the Bible. 

We all do. 

During the month of October, in response to the 12 Scriptures Project, we are going to be looking at some of the scripture verses that people named that are troubling to them.  It is somewhat telling that we were not able to narrow it down to 6 specific passages because the verses that people named were all over the board.  There is a lot within the 66 books of the Bible that is so beautiful and inspiring, but there is also a lot that makes us squirm.  And it should.  But this just shows how important the work that we do in interpreting the Bible truly is. 

“Why do we always have to read the Bible?”

We keep coming back to the Bible because it is part of who we are.  It is a part of our history and our identity and our hope.  There are a lot of different ways to think about the troubling verses (and I look forward to hearing about some of them during October), but what has become so important for me is remembering that I cannot escape my own responsibility or deny my own agency in the act of interpretation. 

As we go forth into this time of wrestling and allowing ourselves to sit in these places of uneasiness, may we all feel the urgency of becoming responsible interpreters of the Word. 

[Here is the link to the sermon from last week at retreat:]