Saturday, June 15, 2013

Shalom and Hesed

I've been thinking about this post on Living Lutheran.  The post wonders how our communities would be different if the book of Ruth was our central faith formation document.

Some of us might recoil at even playing with this idea.  Are we not verging on blasphemy?  Some of us might argue that we've crossed the line into blasphemy.

But I could argue that many Christian churches are rooted in books other than the 4 Gospels.  Many churches offer a much more Paul-centric theology than Christ-centric.  And some are downright Old Testament based, especially the law-as-cudgel part of the Old Testament.

I have a friend who loves going to Mepkin Abbey because she prefers the central place of the Psalms that monastic traditions often offer in their worship.  She feels that the Psalms are so much more honest than the feel-good theology that she encounters in her local church.

I find my thoughts returning to this part of the blog post about Ruth:

"An Old Testament professor of mine defined 'shalom' as that state where 'You have everything you need to live and be happy and I know it. And I have everything I need to live and be happy and you know it.' The word shalom does not (to the best of my knowledge) occur in the book of Ruth, but that sense of mutual concern for each other’s well-being seems to undergird the entire narrative.

If the Hebrew word shalom does not occur in Ruth, the word 'hesed' certainly does. Hesed signifies something like 'extravagant, faithful, merciful, kind, loving, loyalty.' It is a rich concept and an important theme in this book. It is an attribute of God but also a human attribute modeled by Ruth in her treatment of Naomi, and Boaz in his treatment of Ruth. My imaginary community of faith would be a community of hesed."

A community based on shalom and hesed is not something I've experienced often or for long periods of time.  I'm much more likely to be rooted in the soils of fretting and anxiety and needless worry.  What would my life look like if my faith formation texts had stressed the shalom and hesed aspects of God?  What would I have learned if I had lived in communities faithful and fiercely committed to these ideals?

And here's the question that's even more important to me this morning.  I'm only halfway through my life.  Could I consistently change my inner narratives?  Could I commit to shalom and hesed and reject fear and anxiety?

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