It Goes Without Saying
Before we start this service I want to thank two writers, Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien for their book, Misreading Scripture, and a concept that they put in my head.
And the concept is, that there are things that just go without being said…
Things that everybody knows about. So you don’t need to say them.
There is only one problem…the things that ‘go without being said’, are things that everyone knows and agrees on, without being said.
And because they are not said they are not passed on.
And because they are not passed on, the next generation, or the generation after that may have different things that ‘go without being said’.
Fore instance..when I was a child one thing that went without being said, was that gays were just wrong, they were up there with paedophiles and mass murderers. If someone was like that then they had to be imprisoned. At best they were mentally ill and had to be treated.
For my children something that ‘goes without being said’ is that people who are gay are equal and valid human beings who deserve the same privileges and rights as everyone else.
Now I use that illustration because that ‘goes without being said’ has changed so rapidly.
Because this social norm has changed so quickly we feel the change…but usually that wasn’t the case.
The way one person reads the Bible with one ‘goes without being said’, ’is different from the present generation that would read the bible with a different ‘goes without being said’.
Some ‘goes without being said’ lasted generations and generations, that’s why everyone knew it, that why it went without being said.
But that can cause problems as these ‘goes without being said’s are filters which we read the Bible with, and that can lead us down an understanding that might not be wrong, but it might not be complete.
The real trouble is that the people who wrote the Bible, missed out bits, they missed out the bits ‘that went without being said’, because there was no reason for putting that stuff in, because everyone knew it and understood it so why waste expensive paper on stuff that everyone knew.
And we presume, wrongly, that their ‘goes without being said’’s are the same as our ‘goes without being said’s.
Like this bit,
In the book of Ruth, Boaz falls in love with Ruth, but by custom someone else has the right to marry her, but if this other person marries her, then the children will not count as his, but as Ruth’s deceased husbands.
So Boaz uses this threat to get him to rescind his right to marry Ruth.
And this is how it is shown
Ruth 3: 7 Now in those days, to settle a sale, or an exchange of property, it was the custom for the seller to take off his sandal and give it to the buyer. In that way the Israelites showed that the matter was settled.’
How did that work?
Did the buyer keep the sandal and then if there was a dispute about whether it was sold or not then the buyer brought out the sandal.
Or once the sandal went over to the buyer did he give it right back so the seller could walk home?
You know why we don’t know?
Because no one told us. Because everyone in that time knew, so there was no point in explaining why they did what they did.
Now I would argue that that doesn’t really matter all that much…
But what about something we know all too well.
The parable of the Prodigal son.
What I want to do is let you tell me the parable of the prodigal son.
Just give the really important points
Who was involved?
What did they do?
And what do we think the main point of the parable is?
(If you are reading this from the website then write out the main points of the parable without looking at the Bible first. Then read Luke 15: 11-32)
Right first of all, everyone probably has a good gist of the parable.
But there are some things that we just don’t notice, because we don’t think that they are all that important.
For instance, why does the elder son get so het up about the younger brother?
When he says that the father hasn’t ever given him a goat to share with his friends, has he forgotten what the father did? Quoting word for word the Bible here, ‘So the man divided his property between his two sons.’
What also went without being said in those days was that the elder son would get more than the younger son because he was regarded as the one responsible for the estate. So in fact the elder son would get a double portion. So two thirds of the farm went to the elder brother at that point.
That’s interesting, but not that important.
What is really important is the forgotten famine.
If I was to ask why the younger son went back home then most folk would say, ‘Well he squandered all the money. That’s why he had to work feeding pigs.’
But that’s not what the Bible says.
The Bible mentions that he wasted the money, but the defining event that forced him to work feeding pigs was the famine that we forget was even in the story.
Verses 14. He spent everything he had. Then a severe famine spread over that country, and he was left without a thing.
Why is that important?
It is important because in our culture we kind if believe that people get what they deserve. So if people are struggling then it must be because they deserve it.
We have people in this church that will adamantly not give to the food bank, because they believe that people who are good people will work and get a decent job and not need a food bank. So all those people using a food bank must be people who are wasters, who aren’t trying. People who are wasting their money on drink and drugs and bingo. So why should they give food to help them waste their lives?
That’s why they side with the elder brother.
The younger brother comes back and the elder brother goes in a sulk because the father is having a party to celebrate the younger son being safe. But to the elder brother the father hasn’t even checked to see if the younger brother has changed his ways. So to the elder brother, to us, the younger brother has got away with it. And we may even be annoyed at the father for being so soft.
So the message they take from this passage is that God is a forgiving father who is so generous to those who he really shouldn’t be generous to.
And we kind of agree with that reluctantly, but deep down we really wish the father had been sterner with the younger brother. Because we usually aren’t the younger brother, we are the elder brother that has all the duties and responsibilities and is taken for granted.
Mark Allan Powell, did what I did to you, only he did it in Russia.
In St Petersburg, and he got very different results.
In St Petersburg 84% of the people remembered the famine.
Because in the Second World War, while they were fighting the Germans, they had a bad winter and a famine resulted that killed 670,000 people.
They know how bad a famine can be, how devastating. So they pick up on things like that because their parents and grandparents had strong memories of what that famine meant. They all lost people to that famine, people they loved, people they cared about, it left and emotional scar that isn’t easily forgotten.
So their interpretation of this story is different.
To them this story is about how sometimes life’s events can conspire against us.
Sure sometimes we duff things up, but the real problem is when life hits us with something that we can’t cope with, could never cope with, something bigger than us…like a famine.
When that happens then we need to know that there is a loving father waiting for us who can help us. And we need to go to him.
This story isn’t about a wasteful son, it is about a loving father.
That when life hits us, like when a spouse dies.
Or when our child dies, or when we are given a diagnosis of cancer, or when we have a series of heart attacks, or when we are made redundant, or when we have a spouse that has an affair…
In those times, what we need to remember, is not that we are the son who took things for granted and it is all our own fault…because maybe it isn’t,
and even if it is, that isn’t the most important thing.
The important thing is remembering that there is a loving father we can go to for help.
And when we go to him for help he greets us with open hands.
The story then stops being the story of the prodigal son that we can hear, but doesn’t really concern us because we don’t really believe that we are that son.
And starts becoming the story of the loving father, that we all need to hear, because at some point something will hit us in our life that we don’t expect and will overwhelm us, and we will need to remember that we need him, and that he is there for us.
I love the Bible.
But I have to be careful,.
I have to be careful because I read it with filters, I read it thinking that I know what it already says, and because of that I can skim over it, and miss what it really is saying to me.
Sometimes we need to be open to what is not said.
Sometimes we need to be aware of what we might be reading into it that isn’t there.
And maybe sometimes I need to remember the truth that we often forget, is that it has been written so that God really can speak to us.
It is meant to be speaking to us; to help us, guide us, correct us, encourage us, discipline us…but it can only do that if we are truly listening to what it is saying to us, and not to what we think it is saying to us