Friday, April 25, 2008

Sabbath Midrash

Very soon now I will be heading off on a month-long sabbatical, graciously offered to me by my church family. (Nice bunch of folks, they are!) My plans are to get in lots of reading and thinking time, and hopefully get back into a solid running routine. In all truth, I am REALLY anticipating this time of rest and reflection.

One of my desires during this sabbatical time is to focus upon the Songs of Ascent, taken from Psalms 120-134. Those songs of the community of pilgrims as they made their way to the city of Jerusalem for any one the annual Holy Days. I am going to endeavor to walk with the ancients, journeying with them as we seek to enter into worship and celebration. The Hebrews understood that the journey was meant for community, and that is where this blog comes in.

My desire is to approach these portions of God's Word in a manner which the Hebrews call "Midrash." Midrash can be defined as an ancient approach to Scripture interpretation that employs imaginative tools such as story, metaphor, argument and wordplay to search out the meaning of the text. It is a hermeneutic that understands that God gave us His Word not just as a text to be studied like a history book or a science text, but it is meant to be interacted with as one would face-to-face with another person. It is in God's Word that we not only read God's Word but we have a living encounter with a living person through His living Word. (Hebrews 4:12)

So, I invite you to join me on my journey. From time to time I will post the Psalm with which I am "journeying," and will share some of my thoughts of the journey, and I welcome yours as well. But, as we read the Word, I encourage us to live in it as well. Ask it questions, respond to its answers, be challenged and comforted with its truth.

If you are interested in learning more about the midrashic hermeneutic, there is a book I am presently reading, and finding helpful in the journey. It's entitled, "The Burning Word: A Christian Encounter with Jewish Midrash," by Judith Kunst.

So, let the journey begin. And as it does in the Psalms, we begin with Psalm 120. I'll post my thoughts come the first of the week. But feel free to join the conversation anytime.

1 I call on the LORD in my distress,
and he answers me.
2 Save me, O LORD, from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
3 What will he do to you,
and what more besides, O deceitful tongue?
4 He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom tree.
5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshech,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!
6 Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.
7 I am a man of peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.

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