Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Treasure in Earthen Vessels

¸.•´¯*)¸¸,ø¤* ¸.•'´¯) A Treasure in Earthen Vessels: An instrument for an ecumenical reflection on hermeneutics | Faith and Order Paper 182 | November 1998 ¸.•´¯*)¸¸,ø¤* ¸.•'´¯)

This afternoon while I tried to organize and throw away some stray papers, I discovered hard copies of several things from a couple years ago (not unusual), but I did find it unusual that I hadn't blogged any of them! Unlike now, in those days I wasn't quite so quick to blog almost everything for storage and safekeeping. However, I'm delighted I discovered them, and here's the first. File properties gave Monday, 14 March 2005 as the date I created the original, which I did to help prepare for moderating the discussion at Faith, Order and Witness.

Some of my ideas:

A friend who'd seen the traveling Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit emailed me she felt she'd touched "the hand of God!" In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul explains, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels…" During the Coronation ceremony the British monarch receives a Bible, given with the words: "to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the rule for the whole of life and government of Christian Princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God." Touching the pages of scripture with our own hands, actually feeling the pages of God's grace-filled rule for covenantal living, the commandments, together with the Gospeled Good News, in a tangible intimation of the way Jesus of Nazareth's birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension brought the Good News texts into real-life! We can look at Divine wiseness, living revelation and prophecies in the same way we'd read any current book or magazine, and in a way concretely and actively related to our actual everyday world.

As someone recently observed on a theology site I belong to (my paraphrase):
The Church is in fragments; the contemporary situation of the church reminds me of our faithful predecessors in biblical times carrying those earthly treasures necessary for daily sustenance (water, wine, grain, etc.) in earthen vessels. Sometimes one of the vessels would fall and break; under similar circumstances, we would throw the shards away, but they found a use for them: with paper not yet invented, and papyrus expensive, they used the fragments as writing material! Those fragments, which we call ostraca, still exist until this very day, providing us with insight into the culture and thought of those early times. We might say: "The jar is broken, long live the pieces!"
My own notes, continued:

In the Reformation tradition an objective and sensible sign is sufficient for the presence of the Church, and that is the Means of Grace—Word and Sacrament; God chooses the Earthen Vessels of Church, Scripture and Sacraments to proclaim His presence in our midst, and within the physical pages of a book we find a living witness of God's past activity at the same time we discover hope for our future--a Word of resurrection from death: a Word of Life! The Holy Spirit creates Christians by acting upon the subject – as in the relationship between Potter and clay – by our living in a community formed by Word and Sacrament.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Touching the hand of God! I like this Leah! Yes indeed, when we read the Bible, we are touching, connecting with God. This reminded me of a story I've heard variations of before, but with a slightly different twist this morning at church...

A boy expressed his desire to be baptized. This body of believers practiced baptism by immersion in a nearby pond. The pastor led the boy out and explained on the way that he'd dunk the boy and then ask him to say a few words about this faith step. Well, the pastor dunked the boy and upon pulling him up asked "did you see Jesus," to which the boy replied "no sir." So the pastor dunked him again, this time holding him down a bit longer, and again asked "did you see Jesus" upon his re-emergence from the water. Again, the boy breathlessly said "no sir." A third time the pastor dunked the boy down hard, and held him down for some time. Upon pulling the struggling boy up, he asked "did you see Jesus?" The boy responded "no sir, are you sure this is where he went down? If you want me to look some more, I'll need my scuba suit." How many times do we touch the hand of God...or more aptly get touched by Him and not even know it, not even know that's what (more correctly, WHO!) we're looking for? Love these thoughts my friend! --Karla