Tag Archives: interpretation

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Song 4:1-5:1

Song 4:1-5:1
A short lesson on method of interpretation, what is an Allegory, “My Sister, My Bride” – what does this mean?

[Short note, I realize now that if you look at the Lutheran Service Book Lectionary, I forgot to take the jump after Pentecost to the appropriate date. I just kept moving down the column. Since I’ve started Song of Solomon, I’m going to keep going down the assigned readings until the book is complete. At that point I’ll skip ahead to the proper date. I now also get something else. Since the only time these days that we are reading would be normally be read would be when Easter is the earliest is could possibly be, the vast majority of the time Song of Songs would be cut out. You’d read it something like once every 20 years. My inability to read has stumbled me into the book the lectionary is designed to skip. Sigh.]

Postmodern Ditches & The Narrow Way

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Biblical Text: Luke 4:1-13
Full Sermon Draft

The first Sunday in Lent brings the temptation of Jesus as the text. The text is usually turned into a moral lesson about knowing your bible. And there is some of that here. But as I worked through the text and the various inputs this week, that fit less and less easily. Especially given Luke’s text. The temptations come in a slightly different order here, and the Devil and Jesus flip-flop words. Jesus goes from “it is written” to “it is said” when the devil picks up quoting scripture. This is no sword drill bible quoting one-up-man-ship.

The postmodern world tells us that everything is interpretation. There are authoritative interpretations made so by power. There are deviant or subversive interpretations. But, there are no facts; there is no truth. In the first two temptations Jesus clearly refutes that as he both takes as true and binding the Word of God and refutes a power and authority’s ability to assert interpretation against fact. In the third temptation Jesus turns to the opposite problem. Instead of thinking that everything is interpretation, its opposite is often a too great a certainty. When the devil starts quoting scripture the temptation is to put a very precise interpretation on a poetic verse.

Applied to the modern church or would you have both the church that has abandoned the law because they hunger after the approval of the world, and you have the church that is uncomfortable with faith and hope and mystery. The narrow way lies between the two ditches. Letting the secret things be God’s, but claiming surely those things that have been revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29

This is an attempt to preach the text by connecting roots of post-modernism with how we see it playing out in events today. As such, as David Foster Wallace would once quip, I’m attempting to point out the water to the fish (what’s water?). It is preaching directly at a space that is probably never in questioned. As such it might have zoomed right past.

How do you read the Bible?


This was a short article from the WSJ that explores some of the background behind a few recent news stories. The stories I’m thinking of most recently are: the Calvin College professor named in the article, Michelle Bachmann and the pope/antichrist or on submission, Tim Tebow, and World Youth Day.

Think for a second of all the people behind those stories – a college professor, a congresswoman running for president, a quarterback, a pope and thousands of largely western (i.e. wealthy) Roman Catholic Kids. All those people are Christian. One of the easy ways to tell that is look at the coverage they all got in the standard media which usually boils down to, “look at these kooks, we don’t get them, but there seem to be a lot of them, look at all the Tebow Jerseys and they guy has played 3 games”. My guess is that if you put the professor, the NFL quarterback and the pope into a bar you’d have an interesting discussion. They’d all agree on the life of Jesus and in slightly different words what it means. (Boil it down to Incarnation, Ministry, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and atonement or salvation.) But ask them about Adam and Eve, or modern Jews and Israel or the military or even sports and watch the differences.

The big word behind this is hermeneutics. That is the big word for how one interprets meaning from any source: written, verbal, or you name it. We read and interpret the Bible. Christians find Christ at the center of that interpretation. That is why the pope, Tebow and the professor actually have more in common together than with most of the journalists covering their stories irregardless of their many differences. At least for me (and Irenaeus who I’m stealing from/leaning on) that is the central role of the creeds. These are the things we all agree on. They lay out the boundaries of hermeneutics. If you read the bible and come up with something that breaks what the creeds say…go back and read again because you got something wrong. At the center of those creeds is the life of Christ and its meaning.

I also wanted to link to this story because of the picture. That is a 1993 work of art – so it is modern. And it was visually striking. There is a physical Adam and Eve, and I suppose that could be a blanket, but in a certain manner it looks like a burial shroud or a veil. In the middle of garden, death was coiled and things hidden. Coming at that picture with Christian eyes you would interpret a whole different set of things than if you were biblically illiterate.

Back from Vacation to meet the “Living Creatures”

Text: Ezekiel 1:1-4, Ezekiel 1:24-28

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I read the Scriptures and just fundamentally go, “huh?!?! What the Heck do I do with that?” It is not just the OT either, but some scenes in the NT like this one – Luke 22:36-38. No other gospel writer records the talk about swords although they do mention the cutting off and healing of the ear of one of those arresting Jesus. Ezekiel can be the OT version of Revelation – apocalyptic literature filled with figures and strange signs. In the texts above we have the 4 living creatures with four faces around the the throne. I’m not kidding here, in trying to interpret passages like this one I’ve seen everything from very elaborte allegories (four levels of meaning for each face and everything in the passage) to just dismissal as not God’s Word to claims that this “vision” is proof of UFOs.

If you spend any amount of time reading the Church Fathers which the easiest place to do so is through these books you eventually pick up on the fact that they liked allegory, but that allegory had a consistent interpretation key – Jesus Christ. The world is full of a lot of “isms” and each one wants to look at and interpret the world through a particular starting point. If you were a Marxist it is the dialectic or the class struggle. If you are a feminist is it gender. If you are a capitalist it is the dollar (or yen, or pound…). You get the point. There is some point in existence that is taken as constant, unmoving or of supreme importance. For most of us, we are really just hedonists or narcissists and that point is our own gut.

Here is Irenaeus of Lyon, a second century bishop, on the living creatures.

…For the cherubim have four faces, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God…the lion, signifying His active and princely and royal character; the ox, showing His sacrifical and priestly order, the human face, indicating very clearly His coming in human guise, and the eagle making plain the giving of the Spirit who broods over the Church. Now the Gospels, in which Christ is enthroned, are like these…

For the Christian that reference point is Jesus Christ. The question that all people must eventually ask themselves is – “Do you have the unmoving reference point?” The confession of the church in all times and places has been that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is that true point. Everything else will melt away, but the Word of the Lord stand forever.