The Great Scripture Challenge of 2007
by Charlie Leck
I had lunch with a dear friend last week. She means a great deal to me and she has been a faithful, wonderful person during some of the rough moments of my life. Our connection is certainly not made secure through common feelings about religion. She is a fundamentalist of the first order and a literalist about scripture. I am a bit of a Universalist and I certainly take a very liberal position when it comes to interpreting scripture. I try to avoid conversations about scripture; however, she never allows it.
“What are your favorite verses from scripture?” She stared me hard in the eyes as she asked the question and her mouth gave evidence of a wry smile. I could sense that she didn’t think I would be able to recite a single verse. She’s wrong about that. I can recite a lot of scripture. Verses here and there, learned in Sunday School and in theological school, just hang in my brain and won’t fade away. I sometime stumble over the names of my children and what I did yesterday. I try memorizing things these days and I find it impossible. Yet, scripture lingers in my mind and floats to the surface at some of the oddest times.
And, I do have a couple of favorite verses. If I were to build a theology from scratch – a universal one that did not adhere to any of today’s known religions – I would begin with these two verses.
I took a sip of iced-tea and smiled back at my friend. I paused just a bit to allow her the feeling of delight that I did not know a single verse by heart. Then, just as she was about to speak in triumph, I reached for my deepest bass voice and rattled them out with good pace.
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them,and the peace offering s of your fatted beasts I will not look upon.Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.(Amos)
I couldn’t tell my friend the chapter and verse. It was so apparent that she was waiting for that declaration. So I moved right on as if it wasn’t important.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
(First Letter to John)
My friend sat looking silently at me for a long moment. I saw no sense of wonder in her eyes. She cleared her throat and spoke with significant volume and very distinctly: “That is not King James!”
I felt a huge laugh rolling over me and working its way toward my lungs. I stifled it and sat silently, wondering if I should ask if that mattered. It was silent for some time. I realized my friend had loved me for a startling number of years and I certainly loved her. Did that mean that God was present? Was this a spiritual moment?