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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Holy Scripture In Four-Part Harmony


Last Sunday's four lectionary texts again reminded me of the amazing diversity we find in the authoritative writings that make up the Bible.

The Psalm 15 lesson, for a start, shows us that we earn God's favor by living a blameless and sincere life. If we avoid doing harm to others, keep our promises even if it costs us, fearlessly speak out against evildoers, and lend to the poor without charging interest, we can be assured of God's forever blessings.

In the Micah 6:1-8 text the prophet declares that simply obeying rules and offering costly sacrifices are not enough. What God really requires is that we live by heart-felt principles of justice, mercy and humility.

The text from the first letter of Paul to Corinthian believers focuses entirely on the work God has done for us rather than the work we do for God or for others. The apostle doesn't emphasize the life or message of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (which weren't yet in written form) but celebrates the gracious gift of the crucified and resurrected Christ in enabling us to become "cruciformed" into his likeness.

In the Gospel text, from the first part of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus brings all of these elements together. We are thoroughly blessed and graciously received by God, Jesus says, by recognizing our neediness and dependence on God's grace, then practicing mercy, engaging in peacemaking, and willingly suffering persecution as Christ and the prophets did.

The image that came to mind as I led our house church Bible study was that of a musical score. On the top line of the treble clef is the dominant soprano line, which mostly carries the all-important melody. I see this as a metaphor for the ultimate revelation of God's truth Christians see in the life, deeds, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The next supporting line is for the alto voices, comparable to the words and acts of first century apostles and church leaders, with their vision of Jesus of Nazareth as the exalted redeemer given for people of every tribe, language and race everywhere.

The tenor line in the bass clef I picture as one representing the voice of the Biblical prophets, urging us to live above and beyond a mere conformity to rules and in accordance with God's original vision of shalom, in which "nothing is marred and nothing is missing".

The bass line (and baseline) in this lower clef could be seen as representing the foundational laws and decrees in the Torah, as advanced by judges, priests and kings who were a part of God's covenant people.

These diverse voices aren't meant to be reduced into one unison-sounding monotone. They are meant to each enrich and corroborate a body of truth that is multi-faceted, that is rich in its harmony and in its power to move us. Sometimes we may still be jarred by some of the dissonant chords in the chorale, but we'll keep singing together until all heaven breaks loose and God's purpose reaches its final crescendo, where all tears are wiped away and God's will is accomplished here on a renewed earth as it is in heaven.

Soli Deo Gloria
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