Reclaiming Christian Language – 2

“Reclaiming Christian Language,” part 2 – Jim Turner

If you were not here last week, I would like to catch you up.  Some of us at NCC have expressed concern that some Christian language has become difficult for us in the 21st century.  Donella and I are seeking to respond to that unease.  Last week I talked about a process Donella and I have termed “hospitable discernment.”  It is a method for re-viewing, re-evaluating, and re-framing. A way to take a literal interpretation of a word or concept from an ancient time and context; and reclaiming the word or concept with an honest elucidation in our current era and milieu.  

This week we are abbreviating worship into a brief meditation; a time to practice “hospitable discernment;”  and personal reflection around the Welcome Table.  Next Sunday we will bring our three week journey to a conclusion with a reflection by Joe Graball.   Joe will deliberate from a historical point of view on an exceptionally thorny Christian concept, atonement.

Let us begin this morning by considering the parallel between John 8:3-11 and “hospitable discernment.”  The Scribes and Pharisees are said to be testing Jesus.  Jesus turns the test into a discernment process.   He causes them to re-evaluate their use of ancient Hebrew Scriptures in light of their own contemporary experience.  The Scribes and Pharisees were focused on the literal interpretation of the Law as defining merit and judgment.  Jesus invites them to reflect upon their own worthiness and culpability.  They each in turn walk away with new insight into the old scriptures.  Discernment is the process of distinguishing between old understandings and new awareness.

Turning to Genesis, in the Hebrew Scriptures, Chapter 19, we find a metaphor for hospitality.  In the story of Sodom, Lot invites two male travelers into his home for the night.  As they prepare to settle in for the night a crowd of men surrounds the house.  They insist Lot send out the two men so they can “know” them.  To “know” is the closest English word for sexual intercourse in Hebrew.  The crowd of men want to rape the two male visitors.  

For obvious reasons this Scripture passage is frequently sighted in judgment of the GLBT community.  However, the gender of the individuals involved was not the issue of the story.  The best of Biblical scholarship has determined this ancient story to be a metaphor of the radical hospitality expected by God.  As the host, it was better that Lot send out his virgin daughters to be violated than to send out his guests.  This radical hospitality God requires of us is a significant theme in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This morning we want to practice this kind of hospitality as we discern the deeper meanings of Christian language.   Through this “hospitable discernment” we might just reclaim some of that language.  



For five minutes, Donella will invite you to share a word or concept from our faith which has become difficult for you to understand.  We don’t need an explanation, just the word or concept. We will list these on the flipchart for later reference.


We will divide into small groups, with each group choosing just one word or concept to discuss for no more than ten minutes.  Donella will lead you through this time as well.  


We will give you an opportunity to quietly reflect upon what meanings you found, for yourself, at the end of the discussion.