42 Days: Processing Sunday

The voice of God is in the force.

Psalms 29:4

The Midrash on this verse comments, “It does not say that `the voice of God is in His force,’ but in the force; it `is in the force of every individual.’ `’ What God demands of every individual never exceeds the capacities He gave that person. Similarly, the Midrash notes that when the first of the Ten Commandments states: I am Hashem, your God, it uses the singular possessive form, because every Israelite felt that God was addressing him or her individually.

The stresses of life may be extremely trying, and the burden some people must carry may appear to be excessive. Yet, we must never despair. Rather, we must believe that regardless of how great our burdens may be, we have the strength to bear it. This faith should give us the courage to struggle with and master our struggle.

Sometimes circumstances become so taxing that we believe we are at our breaking point. This is when a righteous person will be sustained by the faith that although his or her burden may be heavy, it is never too heavy.

Today I shall…

try to remember that God has given me enough strength to withstand the stresses to which I am subject.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Kislev 4”

OK, so a relatively gentle dressing down by a Sunday school teacher isn’t the end of the world, nor does it require a tremendous about of strength to “endure.” Still in reading Rabbi Twerski’s commentary and in recalling my own experiences on Sunday, I can’t be sure anymore that anything in the Bible before about Acts 10 (this may be a slight exaggeration, since I think there are a few parts of the Old Testament that actually mentions the nations) can or should be applied to anyone who isn’t Jewish (i.e, “me”). Even thereafter in the New Testament, there are a series of “trap doors” as to who is being addressed, and the intended audience of the writer makes a great deal of difference in determining who can use the message.

For instance:

I must share this: I thought Matt. 24:45-51 was just about how we live our lives and how we can die any second. But after reading places like Malachi, it dawned on me that (while it may in fact be true secondarily that it is about our faith duties), the Master might be talking about the Levi in the Temple in terms of servants and vineyards and stewardship, etc. When you take the universality out of it, suddenly it makes sense why early Messianic Jews sacrificed if or if not the Shekhinah were there. And that absence of Shekhinah or Temple does not invalidate sacrifice; the Master is simply on a walkabout.

I didn’t see that one coming, either.

The venerable sage Yoda once told a talented but stubborn pupil, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

I thought what I have learned in the past ten years or so was actually going to be helpful and useful when I went back to church. Now I realize it’s just getting in the way. Or maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut, but I’m discovering that’s easier said than done.

But if my past experience can’t be my teacher, is this all I’ve got left?

The greatest teacher in the world is known as: “Trial and error.” This has given more people more wisdom than any other teacher possibly could. “There is no greater wise person than someone with experience.”

What does it mean to have experience? It means that one has learned from trial and error. If everyone would get it right the first time, experience would not be needed.

Having the courage to try — even though you might make a mistake — enables you to learn from trial and error. This is a valuable reframe.

Instead of becoming overly frustrated or discouraged when you make a mistake, realize that you are now becoming wiser.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #642, Learn from Trial and Error”

Wiser, huh? That’s like learning the layout of your brand new house by going in blindfolded and walking around, bumping into walls and furniture until you have everything, including the bruises, committed to memory.

If “unlearning” and “relearning” by trial and error (I think I know the “error” part fairly well) is going to be my primary method of “learning church,” then it’s going to continue to be very uncomfortable. It wasn’t that long ago that I said getting a few metaphorical bruises in church wasn’t the worst thing that can happen, and that’s still correct.

It just isn’t all that much fun, either.

I’m writing this on Sunday and still trying to process Sunday. If it seems like I’m repeating myself, that’s just me trying to find my way out of this loop of thought. I think I’ve said this before, but I didn’t realize how far it extended. I used to think that the entire Bible had something to say to just about anyone. Now I’m really realizing huge chunks of it probably don’t speak to me at all. Scripture then, is like a vast field full of treasure, but only certain bits and pieces can be utilized by me. The rest is intended for others and perhaps, even the parts that are meant for me, only tell me how I am to serve those others.

The lesson I learned at Sunday school may be more pointed than I first realized. Not only do I take the seat furthest from the head of the table so that the groom (Messiah) may have the best seat, but it is only for the purpose of serving the groom and his guests (the Jewish people) that I have been invited to the wedding feast at all.

Humbling to be sure. It is clear that I have much to learn…and unlearn. Dust and ashes indeed.

2 thoughts on “42 Days: Processing Sunday”

  1. “Scripture then, is like a vast field full of treasure, but only certain bits and pieces can be utilized by me. The rest is intended for others and perhaps, even the parts that are meant for me, only tell me how I am to serve those others.”

    Just got back from watching “Lincoln” and the thought that kept coming to me was how the framers layed the groundwork for that inevitability, abolition, to eventually come about. And Lincoln was put into place for that time. I was reminded of the men who formed this (once) great nation (not saying they were perfect) and how the spread of Judeo -Christian concepts that they were so influenced by spread all the way from the holy land to America. Where did they, and William Wilberforce, get the idea that slavery was wrong?

    I think there is a certain universality of much of the scriptures. Because they illustrate the highest thinking there is (God’s) its transformative to those who partake. I don’t want to remove the universal reading of scripture, I just don’t want it to be the first reading, or one that excludes the very people it was given to (Jews).

  2. The Bible is a document that, on the surface, seems relatively easy to grasp, at least from a Christian point of view. Then, as the layers are pulled away, more is revealed. But just when you (I) begin to think that you (I) have a grasp on what it’s actually saying, something new appears. Wonderful and disheartening at the same time.

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