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cross posted on Pioneer’s Year of the Bible

Early in our Atlanta days, Jeff and I took my folks to Mary Mac’s Tea Room.  What an experience.  In addition to the menu, we were given little slips of paper with golf pencils to mark our orders.  Oh the giggles ensued.  We were indeed in a different world.  The best item on the list (other than navy beans) was the congealed salad.  In the other South (that would be Southern California) we called congealed salad Jell-O Salad.  Or just plain Jell-O!  Open that can of fruit cocktail, drain and pour it into the soft set Jell-O for a delectable treat (at least I thought so when I was younger!). 

But congealed salad just sounds nasty (and maybe more fitting for some of those potluck combinations we’ve all endured).  I think my mom was brave enough to check congealed salad on her slip of paper.  I’m sure she has it in her trip notes in addition to the rest of what we ordered.

Congealed – formed, shaped, solidified, done.

This image came to mind as I was reading in preparation for a sermon on 1 Samuel for Pioneer’s Year of the Bible.  As usual, Walter Brueggemann has challenged me to read the texts more deeply and let my imagination flow.  He quotes from Gail Godwin’s novel, The Finishing School (p. 4)

“There are two kinds of people, ” she [Ursula] once decreed to me emphatically.  “One kind you can tell just be looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves.  It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it.  Whereas the other kind keeps moving, changing.  With these people, you can never say, ‘X stops here,’ or ‘Now, I know all there is to know about Y.’  That doesn’t mean they’re unstable.  Ah, no, far from it.  They are fluid.  They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young.  In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive.  You must be constantly on your guard, Justin, against congealing.”

Brueggemann goes onto to say: 

The live word resists our congealing, in life and in interpretation.  That does not mean interpretation is unstable.  It means, rather, that we may continue to expect surprises and can never say, “Now I know all about the text.” 

So the challenge before me – how do I open the text for us to engage, imagine, live and not close down the conversation so that we can check this story off the list?

I’ll keep you posted and would love to hear your thoughts (especially you who will hear the sermon tomorrow!)

quotes from Brueggemann are from the Interpretation Commentary Series, 1 & 2 Samuel, WJKP