The Canon Reborn
Hey there, church! I for one am REALLY glad to have some rest after this weekend, how are you all doing? Did you do something fun with your family this Christmas or spend it alone? (Well, sorry you're never truly alone - God likes to keep you company) For this week our blogs will focus on the themes of reflection and looking ahead. 2022 will be a liberating year - I can just feel it. I hope you're feeling hopeful and loved. Because that's just what you are :)
While reading this morning's news I first came across the sad news of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's passing. "Arch" Tutu was a legend for the church with a laugh that gives life to weary souls and teachings that reflect God's love better than any other teacher since Jesus himself. Demond Tutu had such a gift for speaking uncomfortable truths and challenging unjust systems in such a way that won the evil over for the good rather than permeating the dissent. He strongly fought against the apartheid, was not afraid to be critical of even his good friend Nelson Mandela when he needed correcting, and never stopped preaching that "we" are all one. There is no you or I. There is we. In his own words he says the following on the matter: "A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu you will be missed.
However, there was some exciting news in the sphere of religion as well that I wanted to share for our conversation and consideration - The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible was just updated for the first time since 1989! The NRSV is the go to version of the Bible for religious scholars, theologians, and many pastors. Our church uses the NRSV in our Sunday readings, for example. The NRSV isn't "sexy" (can I call the Bible that...?) it does not embellish the original text at all. Surely some like the sound of the King James Bible with all its thee's and thou's and whatnot, but not a soul would call that translation accurate. It wildly evaluates the role of the King to something that makes them almost God like. Obviously! It was commissioned by a king after all. The message translation is probably one of the most poetic version of the Bible, and is actually the version I recommend for new Bible readers, but again, it lacks the depth and omits the more boring parts of the text while making the exciting parts a little too colorful for academic scrutiny. The NRSV is crafted by a large team of scholars across Judeo-Christian teachers and preachers by getting the text as close as possible to the original greek and Hebrew. In the truest sense of the word - this is the Word of God for the people of God.
The New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition, or, NRSVue (not a fan of the name yet) has over 20,000 revisions (one of the largest in the history of the updates) The primary intent of the project was to reflect "modern sensibilities" without changing the context or meaning of the word. In other words, it makes the Bible a little bit more inclusive. Some of the changes were "wise men" in Matthew's account of the birth narrative now says "magi." Another example is wherever an account is speaking about a "slave" they are now referred to as "enslaved." The same is true for "demonic" is now "those afflicted by demons." It's a small change, but it suggests to the reader than these people are more than their situation or afflictions. At their core they are still people first.
This is not just an inclusivity update however, it's a textual update based on some important findings in newly uncovered Dead Sea scrolls that help give more "meat" to David's story in 1 Kings. Further, many of the Jewish holidays were not given proper capitalization in the previous edition - this one corrects that error.
But, if there is one thing people can get really attached to is their favorite Bible translations, and if there is one thing that upsets people more than anything is when the Bible is "changed" to be more appropriate for culture. I admit even for myself that I felt a twinge of doubt about this news when I opened the article fearing it would lose some context in an effort to be more inclusive. While I'm all about being more inclusive, I'm not in favor of being inclusive for the sake of inclusion. Fortunately, from the 36 page sample I read before writing this, I can say this will be a powerful step forward for the church to use, and I believe will go a long way towards mending and healing relationships of those that felt hurt by the church.
The 7 chief editors released a press statement saying that they hoped this released would provide space for healthy discussion to occur in churches, families, and among church leaders. So, let's honor their hard work by using today and tomorrow to ponder how we feel about the "changes" to the Bible. Do you find yourself excited by this? Resistant? Indifferent? If I could take a position of privilege - I would suggest that you do not land on "indifference." Archbishop Demond Tutu is most well known for a powerful quote that says the following "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." It's likely that wording about "slave girl", "harlot", "demonic", or "cripple" will not harm you or make you feel different or less than others, but some it very does. These changes lift the elephants foot all the mouse and give it the freedom to live.
So let's take some time today and tomorrow to simply with God in meditation about our relationship to the Bible, our favorite translations (and why they are), and how we left the text guide and influence us.
For Inspiration, Consideration, and Honor...
Does the Bible has inherent "power" or do we give it power and authority? (why do we swear on the Bible when barely anyone has even read it?)
Should the Bible be "changed?" (Note: Understanding full well that the English version of the Bible is a significantly flawed version of the original. An original that can never be replicated or full articulated in the English. This is why pastors are so keen on referring to the Hebrew or greek translations for certain words or phrases.)
How have you seen the church change (for good and bad) in response to culture? What has your reaction been?
Does God change in response to culture in the scriptures?
Praying with Praise
This song gets me weepy eyed every time I hear it. It's so beautiful. This version might take the cake for being the best yet. Tutu was a legend for the people of South Africa and you can feel the emotion is this song. Best yet, it's sung by the youth - the same dreamers that Tutu embodied his whole life. I invite you to listen and sing along as you give praise for this wonderful saint.
"Precious Lord, take my hand, take thy child unto thee with a dream of the world that is free." Absolute chills. Speak it Lord, SPEAK IT INTO EXISTENCE. Amen and amen.