Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 17, 2009 As You Liken It

READ: Matthew 13:44-52
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,
46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.
48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad.
49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous
50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things? They said to him, Yes.
52 And he said to them, Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

Okay class... can anyone tell me what a "scribe" does?

Yep. **pat pat**. Good. A "scribe" writes things down.

Now that that is out of the way, have you ever noticed that Jesus seems to often lump the Scribes and the Pharisees together when he's pronouncing class judgment? I wouldn't say I've done an exhaustive search yet, but I don't think there is a single example I could cite of Jesus saying something nice about the Pharisees or even intimates they could do something good. The closest we ever get is the discovery that Nicodemus was a Pharisee who also believed in Jesus. He and another member of the ruling council (probably also from the party of the Pharisees) named Joseph were the ones who buried Jesus.

But here is Jesus saying that a scribe can be good. That's because scribes weren't a political party, they were a function. A young man became a scribe while studying to be a rabbi. Remember that rabbis were those who knew Tanakh (the complete Hebrew Scriptures -- our Old Testament) and the Midrash (the body of interpretations of the OT) the best. They were also responsible for memorizing what we might call oral legal briefs as handed down by famous rabbis over the years and which were later written down and called the Mishnah. I don't know if you've ever tried to memorize a large portion of a book, but it isn't like memorizing a script for the theater. One of the best ways to memorize and keep the information sharp in your head is to transcribe the work by hand. And so these scribes did just that (and little else during their waking hours) as they worked toward becoming rabbis themselves.

One of the problems of transcription work is that there's nothing original going on. You are absolutely bound to the text you are copying. In fact, until Guttenberg's day ALL transcription work, particularly that done on sacred texts was so carefully checked for accuracy that if one of the people checking the work found even the slightest error the entire page was thrown out and the scribe was told to start it over. Jesus is, therefore, saying something really revolutionary to these scribes. They had been trained in the letter of the law... or perhaps I should say they had been trained in the law of letters. What Jesus is telling them is that the Kingdom of Heaven demands of a person a kind of original thought that is exegetical (meaning "interpretive"). Yes, it is right to repeat the facts, the truths of the Word of God. It is also right to look deeply into that Word in order to find the hidden treasures that someone who is merely a scribe would pass right over because they weren't thinking beyond what was immediately on the page.

Jon

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