Pondering Connections within God's Story and the Biblical Story and Our Various Human Stories
Author: Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
Charlotte lives and blogs in Paris TX. She is ordained within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and developed Living in The Story while doing doctoral work at Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth. Charlotte also blogs about intersections of faith, politics and culture at CharlotteVaughanCoyle.com.
There is a bright Elijah thread that weaves throughout the Bible.
The book of Sirach names him as one of God’s greatest proclaimers and prophets.
Then Elijah arose, a prophet like fire, and his word burned like a torch.
He brought a famine upon them, and by his zeal he made them few in number.
By the word of the Lord he shut up the heavens, and also three times brought down fire.
How glorious you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
It is the Old Testament book of Kings that continues Israel’s story of the lineage of David and Solomon.
By Elijah’s time, Israel’s story had become a sad history of rebellion and civil war. David’s united kingdom had fractured into two separate nations: the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.
In 1 Kings 16, the storyteller of the northern kingdom says this:
Now Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.
Ahab was breaking bad and his queen Jezebel may have been even worse. Elijah was the prophet God sent to stand against them and challenge their wickedness. It was a thankless dangerous job and King Ahab disdained Elijah as the “troubler of Israel.”
I don’t know about you, but conflict and confrontation wear me out.
I can’t imagine how it is to be William Barber. I watch his Moral Mondays Movement and his Poor People’s Campaign. I admire his stinging critique of the policies that privilege the privileged and compromise the most vulnerable among us.
I wonder how Rev. Barber finds the courage to keep on keeping on.
I can’t imagine how it was to be Martin Luther King Jr.
How did he find the stamina to continue his work when the vast power of the status quo resisted everything he did, opposed everything he stood for, despised everything he was?
I can’t imagine how it was to be the ancient prophet, Elijah.
Day in and day out, Elijah brazenly confronted powerful and dangerous people because of their abuse and misuse of authority. Elijah went up against some of the worst offenders of human rights and common decency in ancient Israel.
Elijah knew well the personality disorders of unfaithful unscrupulous leaders.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord and on God’s law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does he prospers.
The wicked are not so but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
When our children were young, my husband created a lively tune for Psalm 1 so we could all memorize it. They are in their 40’s now and still can sing this RSV version of the anchor psalm of the psalter.
The anchor psalm
I call it the ‘anchor psalm’ because the editors of Israel’s hymnal organized the 150 psalms quite meticulously into five books, each with their own internal theology.
The creators of Israel’s hymnbook understood that Psalm 1 sets the tone not only for Book I but also for the entire collection of poems that sing the life of Israel.
The woman is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus
The anointing oil is pure nard, “a costly perfume”
Mary anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, a provocatively intimate act
The anointing triggered Judas and propelled the narrative towards his act of betrayal
In John’s narrative, the story is placed just after John relates the death of Lazarus in chapter 11. He includes Jesus’ encounter with this same Mary and the strong confession of resurrection faith by her sister Martha.
The story is set just before Jesus’ passion and so John’s Jesus says explicitly that the anointing has to do with “the day of his burial.”
The story continues with this odd bit of information:
…the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Jerry and I were reading to our second graders one time and they were excited to tell us about the newest word they had learned: “genre.”
These are such smart, clever children!
Back when you and I were in the second grade, even if we didn’t know the term “genre,” we still knew there were different categories of the things we were reading.
We knew the difference between comic books and history books and biographies; we learned how fiction, non-fiction and science fiction works.
The ability to discern between different genres still comes in handy for adults. For example, we know how important it is to notice the difference between objective news reporting and commentary or opinions; between science and poetry; between history with documentable facts and the stories that interpret and make meaning of facts.
This is not to say that some genres are better than others; that some categories are necessarily “truer” than others.
But it is to say that finding meaning and discerning what is “true” requires understanding a big picture, not just one small piece of reality.
Look at our music, for example. We wouldn’t say that only classical music is “right;” or country or rock or bluegrass. We see all those different genres of music as rich and interesting and beneficial as we seek to experience life more fully.
All this variety makes us better and bigger as we share life together with all our different tastes and preferences.
In much the same way, we appreciate the numerous genres of Scripture.