Psalm 119: 49-72; Deut. 9: 13-21; Heb. 3: 12-19; John 2: 23-3:15
“If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” These words, spoken by Jesus to Nicodemus, leapt off the page for me when I read the readings assigned for today. I had finished reading the scriptures from Psalms, Deuteronomy and Hebrews, and I had plenty of questions about them. Like Nicodemus, I wanted to know how these things can be taken literally and applied to my own life. Should I really be seized with “hot indignation” when wicked people forsake God’s law, as it says in the Psalm? And which law is that – the endless restrictions in Leviticus or just the Ten Commandments? Would God really intend to destroy people for what I would consider a character flaw (“I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people; let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven…”)? And where is the line between questioning and being rebellious, an action that the author of Hebrews suggests will keep me from the living God?
We all know that there is room for differences of interpretation, particularly when it comes to God’s law. I’m pretty tired of hearing people using their understanding of God’s law to control the lives and actions of other people. Maybe Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he’s missing the point, that he is focusing too much on the literal. And maybe Lent is a time for all of us to set aside our own interpretation of the rules and listen harder for what God is telling us to do about our own lives and our own faith. I intend to try.
Becky Hensley is the wife of Lane Hensley, the Rector of St. Margaret’s, and the mother of the church’s two tallest acolytes. She sings with the Adult Choir and the Chamber Singers and is one of the organizers of the Outreach Bonus Bags program.