Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scouting the Divine

Margaret Feinberg's Scouting the Divine is a novel of pursuit, a tale of a woman chasing after the meaning of texts more than a thousand years old, in hot pursuit of the passion and love of God that is woven into texts that had once been covered with dust but now shimmer in the afternoon warmth found in the depth of God's love.

In this book, Feinberg describes the time she spends with a shepherdess exploring the meaning of Christ as the Good Shepherd. What does a shepherd do? What can we learn about God from knowing what a shepherd is? We don't spend much time in the fields watching over our sheep; how might a conversation with a shepherd shed light on this dusty old metaphor?

She does the same with a beekeeper, exploring the idea of a land flowing with milk and honey. A farmer sheds light on the numerous agricultural references of God and Christ. A vintner in California reframes what it means for Christ to be the vine while we are the branches. Each interaction opens Feinberg's eyes a little wider in awe of God's love and infinite wisdom.

What's the first thing I learned? Loving God takes work. Not simply in the work we do in reaction to God's amazing love, but also the work we must do in studying the text. We are all called to spend time in the Word, but Feinberg shows the importance of truly studying the text, of digging deeper and getting dirty, finding morsels of wonder that we skip over when we simply skim the text so that we might check another item off a to-do list.

What else did I learn? I learned that a sheperd knows the voice and needs of every sheep and loves them more fiercely than I might have imagined. The sheep are to be protected, even when it means doing something the sheep might not like. I learned about the importance of community in farming, about how important it is to focus on the task at hand or else begin to suffer inconsistencies in the result. I learned about how we all must work together in order to be a faithful hive so that the land might flow with milk and honey. I learned that pruning a vine requires tiny shears, not a weekwacker.

Each of these things I learned was based on Scripture interpreted through hard work. Each of these things brought me this much closer to God. Each of them makes me stand in wonder at the incredible God we worship and adore.

Thanks be to God for those who love the text and open our eyes to its wonder in our lives.

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