Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
There is still a teaching function for the followers of Levi. It is one thing to be high and lifted up, repeating holy words, and another to walk among people. Without the last part of verse 7 and all those named in verses 4 and 7 we lose the teaching function and only have the ceremonial left.
It is this ceremonial function, even of good words from the past, that so often gets us in trouble. Eliciting emotion is the key here - ritual crowd behavior (raising hands or lighters), corporate confession and moaning, and expectation of prosperity get us to lockstep. Standing only on ceremony we don't stand outside the judgment of the past, so easily revised, moment by moment, until we no longer know ourselves. We don't claim any worth for today qua today, as that is for the magic book to decide for us. We don't dare risk what little we have or a lot that we dream about and play the lottery for.
Of course the teaching of the Levites might well simply support the ceremonial. But the integrity of teaching may also allow us ask for background information, corroborating evidence, and rational expectation of consequences for mass behavior.
For the moment I will hope that even though my tongue doesn't wrap itself smoothly around Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah that they will receive some mention for doing what they could to humanize past laws understood to be from a holy one. To help people understand their situation can be revolutionary and liberating.
= = = = = = =
word by word
phrase by phrase
sentence by sentence
paragraph by paragraph
chapter by chapter
book by book
and back the other way
we look for the key perspective
is it a word?
what is the unit of meaning?
does it come in a blinding flash?
a day-long sermon?
how do word folk
interpret to sentence folk
book folk to paragraph folk?
one of these days we may yet stumble across
a universal solvent for communication
perhaps a babble fish
perhaps an understanding heart
until then we walk among ourselves
proclaiming and muttering
may we do it as well and as kindly
as we can