Lectionary Readings for |June 2: 1 Kings 8:22-23, Ps 96:1-9, Gal. 1:1-12, Luke 7:1-10
King Solomon is a conundrum, a puzzling character to grasp. While he is renowned for wisdom, (see 1 Kings 4:29-34), many of his actions seem to blatantly contradict that reputation. David could not build the temple because of his wars, so Solomon has the task during peaceful times, one he does using forced labour (5:14). Maybe that was normal for the times, but I can't imagine the workers felt warm and fuzzy toward Solomon. It takes several chapters to describe the ostentatious design and decoration of the building. This is a hugely expensive project-where does all that come from? Heavy taxes and tribute poured into this kind of project doesn't tend to endear leaders to the rank and file-is this wise? Solomon is reported to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (Chap.11). This was definitively dumb and led to his demise.
Solomon's prayer for the dedication of the temple in chapter 8, is beautiful, but I can't get past the contradictions in his life. His reign was one of riches and glory for the Hebrew people, but there is rot at the core too.
The Galatians piece identifies some core rot too. Paul derides the Galatians for quickly turning away from the gospel they had recently converted to, to go back to the ceremonial laws and practises of Judaism. Paul mounts a defence of the new 'liberties' and understandings of Christianity-something that frees the people from some old traditions and strictures and encourages a personal connection and faithfulness to God. This creates some interesting thought paths for contemporary society. Where are we clinging to old, binding traditions and understandings that prevent us from openness to new things God is doing? How do we encourage faithful and open thinking without becoming an "anything goes" church?
I am interested in open and honest discussion, changing ideas, and new understandings. However, I come at these in our church community, at times, with significant concern. I worry that we don't have enough familiarity with our scripture to engage faithfully in good discernment. Often people assume they know what the scriptures say and what the church teaches, but their information is anecdotal and (unfortunately) gleaned from popular media instead of Bible reading,discussion and informed study. Then, when an issue requiring new thinking comes up, we have no good starting point, and assumed platitudes, old understandings, and prejudices end up stifling us. We can't all think about the Bible and faith as a job, life and interests don't allow it, but we must all find some bits of time to keep our faith muscles in shape. A bit of spiritual/scriptural exercise is a must if we are serious about God, each other, and the world. How else can we ever learn, grow and remain relevant in a world needing the good news we are entrusted with?