I am in the midst of reading Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Walsh and Keesmat. In part of the book they use a genre known as Targum, one that I had heard of in seminary but had never utilized. A targum is basically a text-based interpretation of a text that speaks to contemporary culture. As Walsh and Keesmat say, the key to a targum is that it speaks with the same force to comparable issues and subjects in the contemporary culture but that it is held with some humility. There can be numerous targums on a given text that are faithful and accurate.
So this week I am preaching on Micah 6:1-8 (in part reporting on our Jr. High Youth Group’s week at the Pittsburgh Project) and came up with this attempt at a targum on that text:
Notes on Micah 6:1-8
- Listen! Listen to God, the creator of all things: Sue me! Take me to court! Get your lawyers and file your lawsuit against me if you think I, the Lord, have been unfaithful. In fact, tell your story to the mountains and hills of the earth.
- Let’s have them decide if I, your God, have been unfaithful to my promises. Actually, on the other hand… how about I share my complaints? Mountains of the earth, listen to me. Here is my complaint with my people:
- Dear people of the earth, what wrong have I ever done to you? Have I put excessive burdens on you and worn you out? Come on, answer me! What wrong have I done to you?
- I created the world for you to be stewards of – but your first ancestors turned away and rejected my love. But I didn’t reject you then – in fact, I chose a man named Abraham to be the Father of a nation – and when that nation rejected my commandments, I sent prophets to remind them of my commandments, and you rejected my prophets. But even then I did not turn away and reject you, but instead I sent my only son as Jesus of Nazareth. He showed you the way to live, teaching peace, love, and a lifestyle of self-sacrifice but instead you rejected him and sent him to die on the cross. But I raised him from the dead, and he commissioned prophets and apostles to spread his message to the whole world – yet the world as rejected his messengers as they rejected him. Yet, despite all your unfaithfulness, I have not rejected you.
- Instead I have continued to send you prophets proclaiming my message – prophets such as William Wilberforce who called for an end to slavery, Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke out against the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany, Martin Luther King Jr. who spoke out against the evil of segregation, or Mother Theresa, who modeled self-sacrifice in her care for the rejected and down-trodden. I have done so much for you – blessed this world with countless blessings and sent you teacher after teacher to remind you of the way I want all to live. Take a minute and remember all that I have done for you!
- The Teacher Responds: “What is it that God desires? What can I offer? Should I go to church more often and sing louder? Should I give all my money away? Should we paint the sanctuary a different color? Should we sing different songs in church? Will that make the Lord happy? Would the Lord forgive me if I offered my firstborn child as a sacrifice?
- No, none of those things will make the Lord happy. But God has shown us what is good and right – he has shown us what is pleasing to him. And what is it that the Lord requires of you?
- The Lord wants you to act justly and to seek justice wherever you are. Look out for those who get stepped on and taken advantage of – make sure things are fair and right. Whether its your legal system, your election system, your economic system, or your company make sure no one get taken advantage of or cheated. Become lovers of mercy. Learn to love being merciful to people – don’t do it out of guilt or obligation, but do it because you love to help others. Show mercy to those who are disadvantaged like the orphans, the windows, and the poor. Finally God desires humility from all. Live your life knowing that you belong to God, for he has named and claimed you as his own. Model humility in your interactions with others – do not become boastful, self-promoting, and arrogant. Do not consider yourself superior to others, but put others before yourself.
A number of weeks ago I posted my list of “Top 20 books” and at the beginning I said I was going to leave the bible off the list because it was in a totally different category. One commentor asked what category I would put the bible in. So, here’s my attempt to answer that question:
The books on the list are all very good books – or I would not have included them. However, none of those books are “my book”. The bible is “my book” as it has become part of my story, or more aptly I’ve become a part of it’s story. I’ve had a long relationship with the bible, better at some points, not so good at others. There was the time when it was just intimidating, then the time when it began to open new worlds, then the time when it became a book of theological data, to becoming a living testimony to God’s work in the world. Lately, it’s become the later and now a story book. The bible is the story book of the Christian family – it’s not something you read once and then put away, it’s something you pull out and read often, because it tells the story of those who went before you. Like the old family stories you read them and tell them over and over again because reading them helps you understand who you are. What makes the bible more than just a story book is that our ancestors in the faith have taught us that God still speaks through these old old stories. For me the bible is something to be wrestled with, to be challenged by, and to see into new worlds with. John Calvin described the bible as the spectacles through which we see God, and I love that description. I do not “believe in the bible” nor am I a “bible believing Christian.” I put my faith in the one to whom the bible points – Jesus of Nazareth and his Father in Heaven and his Spirit poured out in the world. The bible helps me understand where as a follower of Jesus I’ve come from and where, as a follower of Jesus, I’ll be going in the future. The bible excites me, angers me, challenges me, and intruiges me all at the same time.
Even the genuius of Karl Barth cannot compare…