At my church, Seaford Baptist, our pastor has started a new series examining different passages that people often claim as their “favorite scriptures.”
I do remember several weeks back, he conducted a social media poll asking folks to share their favorite Bible verse. In fact, he referred to that poll this morning at the beginning of his sermon–and he spoke of how most people shared a favorite verse, but a couple of people completely disregarded the rules and shared, um, several. I have no idea who that might have been.
Except, of course–yeah, guilty. I have no favorite passage. There are scriptures that I gravitate to more often than others–John 6:68, the end of Habakkuk 3, John 20, Psalm 4, Psalm 38, the verses I read each morning during study/prayer time–the list is long.
I wonder if part of the reason my list is long, is because it bugs the heck of me when one verse is yanked from scripture and slapped on a coffee mug, t-shirt, or cross-stitched and hung on the wall. I’m probably way-too-judgemental and critical about that.
But, here is my reasoning. When we cherry-pick words that make us “feel” something, we can completely and totally miss their meaning. Without understanding the context surrounding words, and the overall environment in which they sit, serious errors can be made. Or, maybe it isn’t always a serious error, but overarching truths can be missed, or truth can be watered down.
Have I been guilty of this? Absolutely. I imagine that even the most astute theologian has fallen prey to this at one time or another. Maybe early in their relationship with God–but my guess is that even, on occasion, after they have been at their theological pursuits for a while.
It takes careful thought and consideration not to be pulled in the direction of the tendency. And I certainly do not always take the time to put in careful thought or consideration. I get lazy. Or I get in a hurry. Or, I’m searching for something in the moment to ease my soul, so I’ll grasp at words and apply them like a band-aid. But those kinds of reactions do not produce long-lasting or effective work on either my brain.
But, I have also found that when I take the time to carefully consider not just the words themselves, but also the audience, the environment, the situation, and the words surrounding the words I am reading (in other words, context), then I end up experiencing true soul work–the kind of scripture work that produces lasting surgery on the sin and griefs and doubts and cold-heartedness in my soul. And mind. It’s the difference between setting a broken ankle and slapping a band-aid on it and thinking that will “make it all better”.
Surgery hurts. But it is also necessary sometimes, in order for health to occur.
What does any of this have to do with mourning ostriches?
Not much, really. Absolutely nothing, actually, except that our pastor shared a fantastic verse from Micah that had my girl and I giggling up in our balcony seats. He shared it as an example of a verse that probably is not anyone’s favorite. The passage, actually, is quite, quite serious. Found in Micah 1, it’s a prophesy of coming destruction. Not giggling material. But goodness, ostriches are funny creatures, and the idea of an ostrich in mourning struck us both as hysterical. I suppose you had to be there.
And, stemming from that, we’ve effectively used the term “mourning ostrich” 4 times throughout the day. I believe it will become a part of my odd crew’s regular vocabulary. As in, “Stop your whining, you mourning ostrich!” And, “Quit moping, mourning ostrich!” And, “I wanna bury my head like a mourning ostrich.”