Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Although I like to use the publication Forward Day by Day for my devotional reading and reflecting (hey, they're in the back of the church for us to take is always good), I have to confess that what I get out of the daily passages never seem to be what the guest author for the passage does. Today's passage is Luke 14:5: Then he said to them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?”

The context of this verse is that Jesus had been invited to a Sabbath meal at the home of one of the high muckety-mucks of the Pharisees and someone was there with dropsy (congestive heart failure, which untreated can cause massive edema of the lower limbs). Jesus healed the man. The result of this action was not particularly well recieved by the Pharisees but they just sort of sat there with their tongues in their mouths. It was one of those moments late grandmother had a wonderfully down home graphic way of describing those sorts of moments. She would have explained it like this: "It was like someone threw a turd in the punchbowl."

Jesus had gone and healed someone on the Sabbath. The collective gasp at the dinner party must have been something, and the tension afterwards must have been so thick you could have cut it with a knife.

Perhaps I've been around my Jewish friend Mitch too long (he is a retired medical school professor/physician who has been in my extended family for a long time) but my mind immediately raced to the concept that you can break any of the 613 mitzvahs to save a life. Surely the Pharisees knew that. The Talmud is quick to point this out in myriad ways. I do not know exactly when the wisdom of Talmudic sages actually made it to manuscript form, (again, I am no div-school person) but I find it hard to believe this would not have been discussed by the Jewish illiterati of Jesus' day. But of course, if you follow the Gospel story, one of the things that eventually leads to Christ's undoing in the public legal sphere of the day is that "healing on the Sabbath" stuff. Basically, I get the feeling the Pharisees were ignoring their own collective wisdom to promote their own legalistic agenda.

Now let's fast forward. All over the world today, and even among Christians, there are those who have some degree of religious power and influence in the public sphere who seem intent on inflicting their own theocratic legalism on everyone, yet ignoring the wisdom that is present in their own holy writings and commentary on these writings. In Missouri, we have just survived a very contentious election season that included the narrow passage of the now nationally famous Amendment 2. Amendment 2 assures that, as long as embryonic stem cell research is federally legal, it will be legal in Missouri and that no state law can "trump" that.

Most of the money to oppose this amendment came from groups whose main agenda is to legalize their view that the moment a sperm hits an egg and their 23 chromosomes become 46, that constitutes a human being. In other words, they want to make it the law of the land for everyone to think exactly like they do about a situation where there is no truly scientific answer.

They are claiming the authority of the Bible to make this judgement; however, I have talked with these people many times in the spirit of understanding, and for every Bible verse they have thrown at me to support their opinion, my interpretation of the same verses in the context they have been written is slightly different. I am more inclined to believe that the moment we become truly "a human being" is at a point in time known only to God and that exact point in time is of no consequence to us, and should not dictate how we treat the human beings who definitely are here. I prefer to show my care and charity and compassion to folks that we know for a fact are humans in need.

Furthermore, their opinon is based on a premise that I do not share, namely that of an absolutely inerrant, historically accurate Bible where every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed. Personally, I cannot accept this premise for what I believe are many good reasons of which would make several other posts' worth of blog space. For me, it is too risky to base my salvation on the accuracy of a book composed of several books that were chosen by committee. For me, it is the message of the Bible and the hope within the message of the Bible that is a better anchor of my faith and my salvation.

What I do not understand is that the people who do not want to allow me that, and want to force their interpretations as Missouri law, often belong to denominations where the concept of the "priesthood of the believer" is very important. I find myself very angry that they will not accept the priesthood of my beliefs.

Even if I were to accept their premise that conception = personhood, would not the promise of embryonic stem cell research and cures fall under the category of "breaking a mitzvah to save a life?" Is sacrificing a 50 some cell blastocyst dying of freezer burn in an in-vitro fertilization clinic the same as allowing a person with Parkinson's disease to slowly die in such a way that they and their entire family suffer greatly? These are all questions that I believe society should have the freedom to ask. Should these cures ever come to pass in my lifetime, I would rather allow people the option to accept or deny these treatments based on their beliefs than to flat-out ban them and give no one the option.

I am obviously not advocating lawlessness; I believe one of our Christian duties is to obey the law. However, that does not mean we should not question some laws and work towards their change. I believe it is also our duty to help prevent the passage of laws that serve nothing except to enforce rigidly held theocratic ideas which all citizens may not share.

Thanks be to God.

Dear Lord, help us in our study of Your word to recognize what is law and what is Gospel, and to understand the difference. Give us the courage to break mitzvahs to save lives, should the situation ever come upon us. Finally, teach us to stand boldly in the light of your promises rather than to hide behind the complexities of your law. Amen.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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