Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home away from home

I'm just reading (or rather skipping through) Erich Gruen's excellent book, Diaspora: Jews amidst Greeks and Romans (Harvard, 2002). In it he suggestes there were two ways in which the Jews related to their situation as diaspora, i.e. living being away from their homeland. The first was negative, to think in terms of "exile, a bitter and doleful image, offering a bleak vision that leads either to despair or to a remote reverie of restoration." Or a positive approach, to seek "refuge in a conforting concept: that Jews require no territorial sanctuary or legitimation. They are "the people of the Book." Their homeland resides in the text." (p232) And how did the diapora Jews "make their home in the text"? Well, primarily by meeting regularly with each other, to read and interpret those texts in their diaspora locality (p116).

I think this is an important concept for us Christians given how much pressure, traditional forms of church, and especially the 'sermon' is currently under. As a diaspora ourselves we need to maintain our emphasis on making our home in the text and not the world. We need to ensure that in the desire to do something different we do not lose that diaspora imperative to regularly meet for the reading and interpretation of the text that gives us our identity, that we don't stop being 'people of the Book.'

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