Sunday, May 04, 2008

John 17:1-11 NMCRV

Today's sermon was delivered by Mary Cat. She began by describing the journals she has kept over the years and the prayers written therein. As she explained, writing and keeping a journal have been her favorite methods of keeping, organizing, and understanding her thoughts and prayers.

When Mary Cat spoke of her journals, I naturally thought about bloggers. Blogs are a form of on line journal with the difference that blogs are available for public viewing and comments, whereas journals are usually personal to the point of being kept under lock and key. All of our personal thoughts, or our penciled thoughts kept in journals or on blogs, are raw and unrefined until they have been sharpened by the helpful comments of others. Putting your sermon in print before delivery has been suggested in these pages as a helpful way of providing clarity and shortening our parish's services. Likewise, our Bible study, sermons, and prayers need editing. The problem is, often these personal thoughts and ideas when shared collide with the ideas of others, and we sense hurt or experience conflict. Should we keep those thoughts secret, and also keep our prayers private, just between us and God? Or should we open our journals and our inner selves to others? Is preaching or blogging a form of exhibitionism? What did Matthew 6 have to say on the subject?

After revealing her personal secrets, Mary Cat then paraphrased Jesus' prayer in John 17:1-11. Now, I think Mary Cat did a pretty good job with her paraphrase, but I wonder what John would have said? When we read or study the Bible, our minds do this kind of paraphrasing all the time and we are usually totally unaware of the process. This type of exercise is different from translation and can be helpful for some, but there are dangers when you share your personal paraphrasing with others;
"...if he is right, it can be a useful tool, but if he is wrong, and we believe it, he has done us no favor by making his error understandable!"(Warren Wilcox, Versions of the Bible: Their Strengths and Weaknesses)

So when we paraphrase the Bible in public, we must be very careful to not insert new meanings lest we lead others astray.

P.S. Any guesses as to the acronym in the title of this post?


  1. Instead of the New Revised Standard Version, could it be the New Mary Cat Revised Version?

  2. So when we paraphrase the Bible in public, we must be very careful to not insert new meanings lest we lead others astray.

    True. I think that if one is truly called to teach or preach, by necessity one must paraphrase as part of the teaching or preaching. Therefore, one must be mindful of the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to make sure that it is God who is paraphrasing and not the speaker.


  3. Cato is correct and wins the Kewpie doll.
    r. sherman touches on the problem of when are we to know when we are listening to divine inspiration? The desert fathers suggested that if when listening for God, and we should hear our own voice, we should stop listening.