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When Scripture Perplexes

When Scripture Perplexes

Deuteronomy 3:18-28

Romans 9:19-33

Matthew 24:1-14

I don’t have much to say about any of today’s Scripture passages. Whether it’s Jesus speaking of end times or Paul talking about the objects of mercy versus the objects of wrath or God planning with Moses how God is going to have Joshua mow down the peaceful inhabitants of the Promised Land so that the Israelites can claim it, the God of love doesn’t seem to be very present here.

It is tempting to explain these readings away. Maybe Jesus didn’t really say what is recorded here in Matthew. Maybe instead the early church, as it was becoming more and more estranged from its roots in Jewish religion and culture, put these words into his mouth. Maybe the passage from Romans has a different meaning from the one I get at first reading, or maybe it is out of context. Perhaps the ancient Hebrews had a limited understanding of God and the destructiveness of God’s plan as described in Deuteronomy was projected by them onto God. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

If I instead just let myself be flummoxed by these passages, two thoughts emerge. The first is somewhat facetious. It is that perhaps intercessory prayer really is of vital importance. Perhaps our petitions remind God that God has promised compassion and mercy to everyone. Perhaps without us God does not remember that.

But hard on the heals of that thought comes the real truth of the matter: God is not an entity that I can ever fully understand. God’s love, God’s peace, and God’s ways are all very much not the same as mine.

There is another approach I can take. If I empty myself of my self-centered preferences and ideas and slip into that space below reason and thought, that dark emptiness where God lives, the Holy Spirit may flow in and bring understanding. And even if that doesn’t happen, having gotten beyond my mind, I will be in a place where I am not as attached to all my churning expectations and fears. I will experience the spaciousness of resting in God.

How do these passages sound, I wonder, from the point of view of Holy Indifference? What sense do they make from there?

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.

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