Friday, January 16, 2009

Life saturated word

Typically, I'm more of a traditionalist when it comes to Bible translations; it's probably the allure of the familiar. I love the King James Version around Christmas; most of my early memorization was in the old RSV; I've been using the New International Version from day-to-day for the best part of twenty years; and now I'm beginning to go to the NRSV more routinely, because it's my publisher's "go-to" translation.

The danger for me, in spending too much time re-reading passages in the exact same set of words, is growing a comfort level that limits itself to responding to the words as an echo rather than a first hearing, and there's a consequent sense of already knowing what God was going to say before the Holy Spirit can even get a nudge in.

That's why, as a discipline, I often turn to unfamiliar phrasings - and sometimes even paraphrasing - as a way to jump-start my curiosity, prime my spirit, break through patterned rote, and willingly open myself up to learn anew.

That's what happened this morning when I was reading Hebrews, chapter 12. Translator Eugene Peterson (The Message) recasts these familiar words (for example: "
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God" - v 15) - utilizing language that called to the deep and literally burned in my spirit. Read the following aloud, and listen to the voice of faith...
  • "Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears."
Today's blog, then, is about doing all we can to get God's word not only in front of us but seriously inside as well. Allow that much, and I promise you that God will begin a good work on the inside that will be timeless. The Holy Spirit breathes life through God's good word. Dare we saturate ourselves, and see what might happen?

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