Mary Schertz is a professor of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
Our Bible study group was looking at the women at the tomb, and I joked, “We don’t need Jesus today, he’s not in this story.” I was unprepared for the wave of grief that washed over me.
Working with this week's apocalyptic Gospel text evokes memories of childhood experiences and teachings in a Mennonite congregation with a fundamentalist understanding of Bible and life. Within that setting, however, my family was solidly Anabaptist in outlook and rooted in social justice concerns. My public school was, for a community in the middle of rural Illinois, a virtual hotbed of ecumenicity, with all the major and many of the minor denominations represented. All this made for some interesting tensions, especially in a family with an ethos of discernment rather than rules.
Reflecting on the Benedictus gives us an opportunity to reflect on the place of memorization and repetition in our formation as people who read the Bible as if our lives depended on it. Ellen Davis calls reading the Bible as if our lives depended on it confessional reading. She does not mean reading the Bible in light of a denominational confession. She means reading the Bible as an "indispensible word."
For the healing we need, we cannot do better than to rely on the ancient assurances of Zechariah's hymn. Written in a time of occupation and economic disarray that eclipses our own in its uncertainty, the hymn proclaims that we are indeed free, whatever our brokenness, to worship God without fear.
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