Do you know about the Jefferson Bible?
My mom bought me a copy of it for my birthday — continuing my family’s trend of interesting and unique gifts tangentially related to the Christian faith — and it’s a great edition, showing Jefferson’s edits and rearrangements. You see, Jefferson rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ, entirely. He literally cut up the Gospels, cut out the feedings, healings, exorcisms, and otherwise miraculous, and rearranged it into one, long narrative. So when it starts with the Christmas story, it’s essentially, “There was a census ordered by the Romans. A man named Joseph, and his pregnant betrothed, Mary, went to Bethlehem, and there she had a baby, which she wrapped in cloths and put in a manger, for there was no room at the inn. On the eighth day, the boy was circumcised per the law. He was later lost in Jerusalem at age 12, but they found him.”
No angels or shepherds, no guiding star, no cosmically evil Herod, no “Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men,” no dreams and visions, no exciting escapes, and most frighteningly, no Magnificat. Do you know about the Magnificat? In Luke’s telling of the Good News of Jesus Christ, Mary starts a speech with “My soul magnifies the Lord,” and proceeds to explain that through Jesus, every system and empire will be overthrown and every hungry person will be fed. Mary, who we establish in the more divine narrative as a favored one of God, who accepts challenges and social stigma to seek God’s Reign. Mary, the classic unwed teenaged mother.
Honestly, I think Jefferson may have gone a little overboard with the pruning shears. The Jefferson Bible is subtitled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth,” but the life and morals of Jesus of Nazareth, even if you reject all claims and statements about Sonship and divinity, are tied pretty heavily to the Reign of God. If we say Christ is Lord, we also say Caesar, Herod, or anyone else, is Not. The teachings, the golden rule and beatitudes, the parables and calls to love your enemies and neighbors and everyone — those fulfill a divine prerogative that can’t really be separated from humanity.
This Sunday, we’ll talk more on Mary, and on her predecessor who sounds really similar to her, Hannah. Check out the first chapters of Luke and 1 Samuel if you’d like in advance, and I’ll see you Sunday.
P.S. After the snafu on Sunday with the hymn drawing, let me again repeat that the bowl will be emptied on Sunday mornings after the drawing, but you can enter at any time once the bowl is emptied. Sorry for the confusion! Power to the People!