15 November 2009

Thorns in the side

Posted by Jane (from the Stranzblog) :

I first heard the passage below being read aloud in the chapel in the Predigerseminar in 1989. In the midst of the huge political upheaval of East Germany's peaceful revolution, Gabriele who led that morning's "Andacht" simply let the text speak for itself.

I was surprised and pleased to find it again the other day at the beginning to Stephen Cottrell's splendid little book "Hit the Ground Kneeling". I'm not sure I've come across it in any of our Sunday lectionaries, which is a shame. I have used it in some youth work and training sessions with elders though.

Reading it through again now I wonder about whether bramble or thorn bush would be my favoured translation and I must go and check whether the Hebrew word is the same as the bush which burned and was not consumed in Exodus and whether the Septuagint translation for thornbush is then picked up in the gospel term for crown of thorns. This is how linguists think I suppose - even when they have a bus to catch and must write fast!

None of the other trees wanted to give anything up in order to sway over the other trees - not the olive its oil, not the fig its sweet fruit, not the vine its glorious juice and wine. So the thorn bush, the bramble, accepts. The thornbush is an uncomfortable symbol of humility in the Bible, it is about a different kind of leadership. Today reading this text I was struck rather by the way the supposedly greater trees don't want to take up office, they want to hold onto their current roles and riches and place in the scheme of things and not chance the risk or humility of leadership. Them holding on to their power and riches and roles makes the leadership role of the brambly thorn bush yet more difficult. Easier to be a celebrity than a leader? Easier to hold on to riches than follow vocation?
A fascinating and powerful parable which is deeply prophetic.

The parable and prophecy of the trees in Judges 9

The trees once went out
to anoint a king over themselves.
So they said to the olive tree,
“Reign over us.”
The olive tree answered them,
“Shall I stop producing my rich oil
by which gods and mortals are honoured,
and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the fig tree,
“You come and reign over us.”
But the fig tree answered them,
“Shall I stop producing my sweetness
and my delicious fruit,
and go to sway over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the vine,
“You come and reign over us.”
But the vine said to them,
“Shall I stop producing my wine
that cheers gods and mortals,
and go to sway over the trees?”
So all the trees said to the bramble,
“You come and reign over us.”
And the bramble said to the trees,
“If in good faith you are anointing me king over you,
then come and take refuge in my shade;
but if not, let fire come out of the bramble
and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”


Post a Comment