During our time of post worship reflection, we focused on the themes of identity and division evoked within the readings.
Within the reading from Deuteronomy, we saw the main details were prescriptive and legalistic (this is what you are to do), it was grounded in extending grace. Following the text offers gifts of grace to the Levites and the foreigners, and the reason given for following this practice is to honor the historical identity of God’s people. It is a reminder of how God cared for their ancestors when they were foreigners in Egypt, and the way God was faithful to them in the time of famine and the persecution in Egypt that followed. We pondered how we might write our own paragraphs describing our historical identities, and the ways these shape our present.
In the text from Romans, we were very interested in the nuance of the word saved. Is this to be understood in a personal dimension for each individual? Or is it closer to the authors intention to read this more fully as “delivered” and to cast it in a social or political light? What if being saved means to be “made well,” as in a form of healing? How one understands what is happening in that verb greatly shapes the meaning of the passage.
In the author’s claim, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,” we heard both an assertion of inclusion, but also a subversive tension. On the one hand, if national differences are removed then there is no barrier towards welcoming one another. However, within societies where power structures enforce behavior based on a person’s nationality, the removal of such distinctions overturns the social hierarchy. We reflected together on different social barriers that we have seen or experienced within our communities, and pondered how this passage is still speaking to us today.
We got to the gospel text pretty late in our time together. Our thoughts on that passage revolved around the nature of the temptation. Was it tempting, or testing? What are the themes behind the three different questions the devil puts to Jesus? Why does Luke present the temptations in this order, but the author of Matthew flip the second and third temptation? We noted how insidious it was for the devil in Luke’s rendition to use scripture as the basis for the third temptation, after Jesus had used scripture to strengthen himself against the prior two temptations.
If this summary has piqued your interest, share your thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to join in tomorrow evening at 7pm as we continue the conversation through Google hangouts. Click here to open a window to the hangout we will be using. Email Joe (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions about the text study, or are interested in getting involved. Blessings on your Lenten season.