Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Blind Faith, Faith of the Blind

Preface for a book of devotional meditations on Scripture for the season of Lent, produced by The Pilgrimage at St. James' Episcopal Church, Marietta, Georgia.

Blind leading the blind – is that a fair way to describe commentary on scripture, product of lay people, by lay people, for lay people?   If so, The Pilgrimage at St. James’ might do better to assign forty essays to our clergy. Certainly, that would be easier than herding thirty-plus parishioners to the deadline, though Fr. Roger and Fr. Daron might lose sleep.

When it comes to seeing God clearly, the blind and untaught sometimes have the advantage in scripture. “One thing I know,” says an exasperated beggar to a panel of learned religious leaders, “that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9.25).   His experience of God’s healing power makes him an eloquent witness, though he knows nothing about Jesus, not even his name.   The church in its first couple hundred years grew on little more than hearsay and a network of relationships and correspondence.  Early Christians’ “Scripture” was Torah and the Prophets, and their re-interpretation of that scripture is the scaffolding of our New Testament.   

This booklet’s volunteers did go into this project blind, in that none knew in advance what might be contained in the passages assigned them for a particular day.   Yet several write about the pleasure of having their eyes opened to connections between readings and personal experience. 

On the other hand, parishioners of St. James’ are hardly "untaught."  Several writers refer to the four-year theology program “Education for Ministry” (EfM).  Others cite our Adult Formation programs, including “Looking for God in Literature.”   Writers also cite sermons and lessons learned directly from liturgy.  

But the most important offering this booklet can make is what healed that blind man in John’s gospel:  a personal encounter.   Time and again, Scripture tells us that the church itself is the body of Christ, all of us “members” of that body, and Jesus present wherever two or three gather in his name.

So enter into this booklet with eyes wide open for insight to scripture and to fellow parishioners.   Next time we ask for volunteers to write responses to the lectionary, consider your own experience prime material!
 - Scott Smoot

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