Monday, 14 July 2008
Here's What You Do With This Stuff
My readings for this morning continue: Joshua 18-19, Psalms 149-150, Jeremiah 9 and Matthew 23. In terms of living the day, I shall probably get more sustenance from the two psalms than from the continuing story of Joshua's division of the booty with his fellow Hebrews, and Jesus' warnings about various spiritual traps will certainly give me pause for thought. But there is something edifying about today's complete set of writings: it's like a core sample down through the layers of scripture. In these four passages is seen the development of spiritual insight down through the centuries. In this progression of understanding and revelation is the beginning of the trajectory which leads from Joshua in the second millennium bc through to me at the start of the third millennium AD.
All things evolve: it seems to be one of the fundamental properties of the universe. Things change, grow develop: individual things, and groups of things such as solar systems and galaxies and species. The things that we sentient beings create - civilisations, relationships, families, technologies, ideas - also evolve. We ourselves evolve - bodily spiritually, emotionally, intellectually. It just seems to be the way things are.
So why be surprised to notice the evolving scripture? Why did I not see this a couple of days ago? That in scripture's evolution is great hope and the promise of redemption. Of course Joshua was a brigand and a despot. Of course he behaved in ways which would have had him up before a war crimes commission in our own century. But he is the beginning, not the end. He's where we started from, not where we're going to. I remembered this morning that he is the one after whom Jesus is named. What begins with brutality and lust for land ends with the golden rule and the sermon on the mount. In that remembering there is, for me, great hope. Joshua, the leader who embodied much that is wrong in the human condition is nevertheless the source of a stream of blessing.
Joshua tells me that there is nothing that can't be redeemed. There is no person so far gone as to be outside the possibility of salvation.