Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’
So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.
‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
If I try hard enough, I can manipulate scripture to fit my specific needs. I can write myself into the stories of our faith from any angle or time, and preach a sermon that is well received in my congregation. I can frame my own theology and experience to present myself as the lost sheep, one of many within the flock, or the shepherd who is searching. Such eisegetical manipulation is done by many of us when we read scripture.
However, the reality is that I often get away with this manipulation because of who I am in relation to others. I am a privileged, white, heterosexual male who can manipulate parts of scripture and place myself in the midst of its stories even when I have little to offer, often passing it off as a true proclamation of the Word.
This Lent I am committing to read scripture with my privilege as my hermeneutical lens. As privileged Christians, we need to realize how often we co- opt the message of Jesus for ourselves, leaving little room for the Other to be found in Christ’s story. It is easy for privileged persons to preach sermons or teach bible studies while placing ourselves, or allowing others to place themselves, in the story as the shepherd or the lost sheep. To seek new growth outside of our comfort zone, we must try to envision ourselves as simply a part of the flock, waiting for Christ to bring back into the body those beloved people we have driven away.
How do we read scripture in a way that clearly allows for the Other to be center of the story? How do we learn to be comfortable with the reality that Jesus is not always talking to us, looking for us, or inviting us to the table? How can we co- create spaces of reconciliation by learning to wait and be silent, as the forgotten and exploited Others take center stage in the Gospel story?
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