Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 12:4-12.
One of the first concepts a student of Scripture interpretation learns is how the sacred texts we have came to be. The stories present in our sacred texts existed first as oral tradition – stories told around campfires, as friends worked in the fields, as mothers tucked their children into bed.
These stories were told to keep the faith alive and fresh in God’s people – so the young would learn and the old would not forget. Moses spoke specifically of the royal law – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” when the following words were shared, and I believe they are applicable to the whole of our sacred text – “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut 6:4-9).
At a later time writers inspired and guided by God’s Holy Spirit captured on paper – or scrolls – these oral traditions. The scrolls circulated through faith communities and were further committed to the heads, hearts, and hands of God’s people.
The formation of the Synoptic Gospels – synopticmeaning same or similarlike the word synonym– is of particular interest because unlike other biblical texts, we have access not only to the particular gospel text, but also to its sources. The earliest gospel we have is the Gospel of Mark; it serves as the source document for both Matthew and Luke. They share many stories in common, with Matthew and Luke often adding additional details or descriptions to concise Markan accounts. Additionally Matthew and Luke have stories they share that Mark does not have, which some scholars attribute to Q– short for Quelle, which is German for Source– and they have independent material (called Mand L) that neither of the other Synoptics share. All of these sources – Mark, Q, M and L – provide us with the gospels we cherish today.
The presence of these shared or common sources between the Gospels is why students of Scripture interpretation may experience déjà vu…didn’t I read this already? In fact, you probably did. So…is it worth reading again? In fact, yes it is – for a number of reasons. Among them are
- The meaning of Scripture grows in depth and meaning as our life experiences change. As we age, as we experience more, how Scripture guides and resonates with us changes to ensure our grounding and growth in the faith.
- Certain sayings of Jesus are not always “attached” or “linked” – if you will – with the same stories or circumstances across the gospels. Remember, the gospels are not “eyewitness accounts.” As such, it is important to read the sayings of Jesus in context with surrounding material because the surrounding material will shape and yield different and deeper learnings. Sometimes the contexts are the same, and that agreement between the gospel writers adds greater emphasis and importance to the Jesus saying. At other times the contexts are different, which reveals the individual gospel writer’s specific message to his intended audience.
So as you read and study Scripture, stay alert and resist temptations to slip into “auto pilot” or “auto reader mode” when you read a passage that sounds familiar. If you experience déjà vu while reading Scripture, then invite that feeling to guide you into a greater state of presence and awareness as you study. Scripture is a gift. That we are able to hold it in our hands is a gift. That we are able to read it in our heart language and dialogue about it freely is a gift.
Treasure Scripture. Keep these words in your heart. Share these words with your family and friends. Live in response to Scripture through the actions of your head, hearts, and hands.
Prayer: “Thy love divine hath led us in the past; in this free land with thee our lot is cast; be thou our ruler, guardian, guide, and stay, thy Word our law, thy paths our chosen way.”* Amen.
*”God of the Ages,” The United Methodist Hymnal 698.