Lenten Field Guide // Week 4: Battling for the Bible
In the story of Jesus fasting in the desert for forty days, as Jesus is fasting and praying, the devil tempts him– not using some unfamiliar text, but actually using scripture. A frequent, ever-present conflict in the Church is biblical interpretation. Some people feel that they read the bible literally though some passages read literally would be pretty tough. Some folks do not read literally and yet believe the scripture is still inspired by God but has mistakes. Some folks do not give any authority to scripture. How do you read scripture? How do you understand the Bible’s authority? Do you believe that God is still speaking or that God has spoken all God will speak as it was recorded in scripture?
Though the conflict in the United Methodist Church is commonly associated by the general public with LGBTQIA persons, it is important to note that it is actually a conflict over biblical interpretation. That is a very important distinction, especially for persons who identify as LGBTQIA* persons. New Testament scholar AJ Levine once said: “the Bible should be a rock upon which our faith is built rather than a rock that is thrown at others.” The stances we take, whatever they are, have implications in our everyday lives and how those lives interact with other lives. It is important to see and understand how those play out in daily living as we seek to be accountable to our theologies and biblical interpretations.
Scripture to consider: Matthew 4:1-11
Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. 2 After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.”4 Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.” 5 After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, 6 “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”7 Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”8 Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” 11 The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.
Mark 12:13, 38-40
They sent some of the Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap him in his words… As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. 39 They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. 40 They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”
Acts of Devotion and Spirituality: Read the above scripture, Matthew 4:1-11, and practice Lectio Divina with it. Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of reading a scripture a few times over and mediating on it in prayer. There are many ways to do this; here is one!
-Go to a quiet place and ready yourself to listen to the Word of God
-Read the scripture passage out loud, once through
-Pause and recall if a word or phrase stood out to you. If so, pause and sit with it in meditation and see what it is, what it feels like, what it shows you. Wonder about it.
-Then go back and read the passage to find a fuller meaning.
-Pause again and see what came to you.
-Meditate longer. End in prayer: talking to God about what came forth.