There are lots of ways to study scripture. But two ways have been bouncing around in my head as being particularly important for me. One is the serious academic study of a text, long or short. Investigation into what the language researchers say about it, what the cultural anthropologists know about the culture it was written in, what the comparative literature people know about other texts that might have been written in a similar time or culture, what the historians that can talk about how that passage has been read and interpreted over time, etc. I think that type of reading and study of scripture is very important. I do not do enough research into scripture like that. (The Lost World of Genesis One is one of the recent books I have read that is along those lines.)
But the second type of scripture work is illustrated quite well by this book. The author does a lot of the type of study that is part of the first type of study, but the focus is not the study, but the retelling. The author’s research is to understand the text deeply, so that she or he can tell others about the text in a way that is modern and appropriate for the culture and people that are hearing it. And even more important, to use the “Theological Imagination” (as Eugene Peterson puts it) to help those of us that have heard the scripture before rediscover it in new ways. Some Christians look down on this type of work, but it is the essential work of teaching. Teaching takes an idea and learns to communicate it in a way that is understood, and hopefully can be acted upon.
Glenn Packiam a pastor in Colorado takes on the first part of the Sermon on the Mount from Luke, the “Blessed are the…” statements. In Luke there are four of these statements. The first couple of chapters of Lucky are background and story to set the stage for why Packiam thinks that these statements could be properly translated as “Lucky are the…” in modern English.
Packiam wants the reader to see that Jesus really is trying to turn our understanding of the world on its head. For me the point where my understanding was most turned on my head was a section about want and desire. It was in the midst of the “Blessed are those who hunger…”. The author tells a story about riding in a cab. The Cabbie tells of his recovery from alcoholism and Packiam is profoundly moved by the change, but the continued struggle. I get understood that, but the following lines….”When you’ve been eating junk, hunger can be a good thing. For the addict, hunger is proof that he is recovering”.
It is difficult in a prosperous country to understand that lack, can actually show growth. If I was a runner or enjoyed exercise I might understand the joy that comes from the pain of exercise (I really don’t like running so I don’t understand that joy that comes from that type of pain.) Intellectually I get it, but being open to the pain and struggle that show growth is tough. But that is the way the gospel works. Those things that are true are not always easy.
This is a very good retelling of the sermon on the mount. But even more important is the epilogue that encourages us not just to hear, but to be changed and to then go out and do likewise.
This book was provided by the Amazon Vine program for purposes of review.