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Reading for Restoration: Bible Remixed

Why is it that so many people
find the Bible to be, well, a little bit boring?
Or, if not boring, then downright dangerous,
fuelling violence and domination?
Could this have something to do with
how the Bible is being read?
Could it have to do 
with the lenses we use to read the Bible?
Or the way we enter this story?
Perhaps looking at a popular Sunday School story
might give us some clues. 
Daniel 1 describes how King Nebuchadnezzar
gathered the elite Jewish young men that he had captured.
They were handsome, smart, and good at sports,
and Nebuchadnezzar had plans for them.
They would show how success would follow
those who bought into the story of Babylon,
and forgot that they were Jews. 
These young men would be educated for three years
in the literature and the language of their captors.
They would be given the food of the empire,
and they would be given new names.
As most of us know, four of these young men resisted. 
First, the young men asked permission not to eat the king’s food.
But that isn’t the part of the story that is usually emphasized.
More important in our Sunday school classes 
is that three of the young men 
refused to bow down and worship a golden statue.
Even more often, 
one of the young men, Daniel, 
is held up as an example of how we
are to resist against those who would pull us away from God.
For Daniel continued to pray to God, not the king, 
even when such prayer resulted in his imprisonment with a lion.
We usually read these stories in light of individual obedience
to God’s commandments.
God commanded no idol worship
so these young men did not worship an idol.
God commanded prayer only to God,
so Daniel prayed only to God. 
But what if we read these stories of resistance
as being not about individual commands,
but about participating in a community
and in a story. 
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
began by resisting the king’s food.
They knew that in the story of their people,
the food they ate was all about the God they served.
Together they recalled that they served a God
who provided food in the desert
for rescued slaves.
They recalled that the food they ate
set them apart, as a people holy like their God.
Not eating the king’s food grounded them in their story,
reminded them that their God would free them once again,
recalled the God that they were to image. 
They were able to resist 
not because they followed rules,
but because they knew the story to which they belonged.
And they knew that this was a story
about a community that they were a part of.
Reading through the lens of story and community
reveals that this is a text of resistance to a whole culture
and the story that culture tells about God, ourselves and the world. 
But there is something else we need to notice
about the beginning of Daniel 1.
Something that is (literally!) unsettling. 
You see, we most easily identify
with Daniel and his friends in this story.
But if we look at the actions of the king
towards these young men
we see that they are to be given
—a new language
—new stories
—new names
—new food
Sound familiar?

These are the actions of an empire.

And they are the actions 
of many Canadian and American churches
in the residential schools
where Indigenous children were cut off
from their language, their stories, their names and their food. 
If we place our community in this story,
we realize that perhaps we should not be identifying
with those who are captives.
Perhaps we are the oppressive rulers.
Perhaps we are those whom the text judges. 
Perhaps this text is calling us to repentance
in our relationship with our Indigenous siblings. 
Perhaps this is a text of liberation
for the victims of genocide in our land.
Entering the story in a different way
results in a different sort of reading. 
This fall I am launching a new learning initiative
called Bible Remixed: where biblical depth meets radical discipleship.
It provides opportunity for anyone to join me online
to read the Bible together
as a story that shapes a community of restoration and healing,
a community of liberation and forgiveness,
a story of resistance and hope.
We will read the text in a way 
that addresses the challenges of our world,
the heartbreak we see around us,
and the places where God’s kingdom can be seen. 
We will read in hope that the story found in the Bible
can provide the nourishment we need 
to feed ourselves
and our hungry world. 

The first course, “A Life-Giving Story: How to Read the Bible” begins this Sunday evening.
For more information on this and other courses offered this fall go to

Photo by rikka ameboshi from Pexels

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