I am scheduled to serve tomorrow morning as a lector/chalice bearer. And being the good little Eucharistic Minister that I am, I looked up my assigned reading and practiced aloud a couple times to make sure I wouldn't stumble and bumble my way through the Scripture (that has happened to me before and it was not pretty.)
So, I was all prepared to share with the congregation the story of our often miserable and complaining Israelites telling Samuel that they want a king. I remember when I encountered this passage the first time, I had an image of these folks gathered round, pouting and pleading, and noting that all the other tribes in the area had kings...
And--yeah-- we know from this perspective that they clearly weren't seeing that they had a king, only one that could not be seen. But I digress...
I'm not reading that passage after all. I got a note from the man who does the scheduling that I am instead to read the alternate track for this Sunday from Genesis, a portion of the Adam and Eve creation story. And the Scripture geek (that would be me) let out a long sigh.
Really? OK, I thought. That's the call of the clergy, and so onward into reading aloud.
In this particular part of the Adam and Eve story, we meet our characters in the Garden of Eden after they've already succumbed to the temptation to eat of the tree of knowledge which then led them to realize they were naked and they needed to cover themselves up. We pick up at the moment that God is walking through the garden in search of his two delightful human creatures. When he finds them with fig leaves, he's not a happy God. Adam and Eve start doing the blame game; God curses the serpent and Adam and Eve, and now we have "The Fall" which is often cited as proof that we human beings are hopeless sinners and are bad, bad, very bad.
I don't buy into all of that because I know that in the other creation story that starts the Book of Genesis, we are part of what God made and sees as "very good." Bad, or "The Fall", or sin happens when we choose to ignore our goodness, or abuse that privilege. Being human is not a sin. If that were the case, then there would be no hope at all because--hey--we, or the we reading blogs on the internet, are human.
My one regret in switching the readings is that there is a feeling among some that we Episcopalians don't get a good sense of the Bible. And that's due, in part, to the snippets of Scripture we get on Sundays. Those who are choosing to stick with Track One (as it's called) will go on a steady diet of 1 Samuel, which is where we get the whole "We need a king" whine, and eventually they'll get a very handsome young man named David as the King of Israel. Going through a single book gives people a chance to see the build of the history that is the ancestry of Jesus and the foundation of our own Christian tradition.
Track two is supposed to be "thematically-relevant" readings. So, in looking at what else we have... 2 Corinthians... our "earthly tent" is wasting away... these things are temporary, God is eternal... and the Gospel of Mark... where does he get the power to cast out demons? He must have a demon himself... house divided against itself will fall... finishing with who is my mother and who are my brothers and sisters? Answer: anyone who does the will of God.
Theme? I guess it could be summed up in the Collect of the Day:
O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your
inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by
your merciful guiding may do them...
If we had had the 1 Samuel, we would have Samuel going to God with his worries about this clamor from the people for a king. In his own head and heart, Samuel seemed doubtful about the wisdom of this move. And yet God, recognizing the folly this would be, reportedly tells Samuel to go ahead and listen to their cry and give them a king. That is their choice; God will respond to that choice. In contrast, Adam and Eve make a choice, too. But their decision gets them in a whole heap of trouble and booted out of Eden. Skipping over to the gospel lesson, Jesus seems to be encountering those who think he's got an evil spirit in him; hence he's able to cast out demons. As he says, that's wrong-headed because evil isn't going to drive out evil. And as for who is his family, the crowd sees his earthly family and says, "it's them!" But he sees the whole of humanity and says, "it's them!"
Theme? I would say it's we all have choices to make: we can look at our immediate surroundings and get fixated on what will give us the most pleasure and gain now... or see ourselves in the big picture as part of a living, breathing organism called, "The Body of Christ". And then do good, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.