Today was my Rahab sermon. I had worked quite hard on it, felt that I had something worthwhile to share and that it could speak to each of us about the ways in which her life mirrors our own - her life on the margins, her easy dishonesty, her fears for the future, her faith in God, and so on. I had distributed red threads to each person as they arrived, to be used within the service as a symbol.
Two minutes into the sermon and my 'lighthouse sweep' landed on someone pointedly showing her Bible to her neighbour with that 'look she's wrong' expression in her face all preachers love (not). Alas the timing meant she got my best Paddington hard stare before my gaze moved on. After the service she came to tell me that Rahab was not a whore but an innkeeper since that was what the word 'prostitute' meant in those days. Not that she was telling me I was wrong (much) but that actually generations of Sunday School teachers had been right to call her an innkeeper. One does wonder why the scholars King James employed failed to use the correct terminology when they came to do their translation, but hey. I will clearly need to very careful not to mention Boaz' feet next Sunday! Years ago I was a Sunday School teacher. It saddens me that so many loyal Christians switched their brains off at age seven and are therefore blinded to the wonder of a God who works with and through people like Rahab... and us.
By contrast, someone else (ironically the other poor woman who'd also come under my icy stare) said she'd found the story and sermon very helpful in facing a difficult family situation, so all was not lost, even if I left feeling rather deflated.
It was one of those Sundays when you find your paranoia gets fed as you are told that certain people are very unhappy with what 'you' are doing and are leaving the church. It was one of the those Sundays when you get a glimpse of hope when someone else who has been on the periphery for a decade after being offended by a church decision comes and asks for a copy of the material circulated at the church meeting on ideas for mission and the way forward.
It was one of those days when the red thread symbol was perhaps as significant as the bread and wine we also shared. Rahab was given the red cord to hang from her window both as a reminder of the promise and so that the spies would know where to look for her. Well, God does not red threads to find where I am, but the piece of red wool currently tied around my wrist is a good reminder of God's faithfulness. It was good to see a few other people leaving with red threads tied to their person - I hope they at least found something of God's hope in what we shared today.