What If?.2*

Luke 17:5-10 – The 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, October 6, 2013

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)

Call me a daydreamer. A curse? A blessing? I’ll pass a person, overhear a snatch of conversation, or read a few verses in the Bible and imagination will be triggered. I am afflicted with the “what ifs.”

This happened when I opened the Bible to Luke 17:5-10. I know why . . . because when I read and contemplated and prayed about Luke 17:5-10, it frustrated the heaven out of me. What a muddled collection of verses. I’ll sum up these six dreary verses so that you can happily agree or strongly disagree:

a. Jesus and his disciples were together.
b. The disciples requested, “Increase our faith!”
c. If they possessed even mustard seed-sized faith, Jesus said, they could toss a mulberry tree into the sea.
d. And then Jesus talked about how a good slave acted.

There ya go: today’s Bible lesson. Six dumb verses. Well, actually verse 5 (or “b” in the above list) kept pestering me, but more on that later. However, perhaps you’re a brilliant, scholarly type (likely Presbyterian or Lutheran) that comprehends the life-changing truth of this whole and holy passage. Good for you. Go forth and save the world.

But on I daydream.

Suddenly, I was back in a seminary classroom . . .
Suddenly, I was back in a seminary classroom . . .

What if I’m dragged, kicking and of course screaming, back to the seminary where I received enough degrees to prove I could follow directions and study the Bible? What if I’m hauled into a first year class on hermeneutics (which, when I looked it up in the dictionary to make sure I spelled the old Greek word properly, appeared above Hermes, the Greek god of invention . . . of what if!)? Let’s say that in that pretend class, I’m shoved into a chair with a seatbelt strapped around me so I can wiggle but can’t escape.

Some students glance nervously in my direction. Most ignore me (seemingly unfazed by my inexplicable appearance). Then, the professor steps toward me and demands, “Tell the truth, you who we once sent forth to proclaim the Good News, do you interpret the Bible exegetically or eisegetically?”

Please no, don’t ask that!

The learned professor waits, eyes narrowing. The seminary students mutter and fret, sensing I am the future they must avoid. I squirm.

Exegesis and eisegesis . . . such fancy, creaky, geeky Greek words. Do I interpret the Bible’s words by openly seeking to discern where or how a passage speaks to me, how God’s spirit moves me? (Three cheers for exegesis!) Or do I force my manipulative ideas into a verse and then convey my narrow-minded perspective onto an unsuspecting, gullible congregation? (Boos and groans for eisegesis.) Continue reading →