Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
-Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 (NIV)
Week before last, Rev. Brian Daoust preached and talked about the Jewish tradition of the Mezuzah (Muh zoo zah). For those of you who might have missed it, the Mezuzah is a parchment called a klaf a specially tanned skin of a kosher animal contained in a decorative case and is inscribed with specific verses in Hebrew from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. It is affixed to the door post according to the Jewish Law. Whenever passing through the doorway, people may touch a finger to the mezuzah as a way of showing respect to God. Many people also kiss their finger after touching it. Brian shared that he had a Mezuzah as a reminder to listen to others upon entry, the Message Bible translation reads “attention”.
Brian’s sermon really peaked my interest as recently in our Monday Men’s group, while listening to a lecture by Rev. N.T. Wright on the New Testament theology of Paul, Rev. Wright made a particular reference to this passage. The verses 4-5 are part of a prayer called Shema Israel or simply known as the Shema. Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of their daily prayers and teach their children to say it before they go to sleep. Shema is recited aloud beginning with "Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One” and continues with the above referenced passages from Deuteronomy as well as with Numbers 15: 37-41.
Rev. Wright as one of the foremost Biblical scholars reasons that Paul’s theology is not an elite activity it is an every-member occupation. He testifies that in his experience of teaching scripture “that once you get into this stuff you will never be bored again”. Rev Wright urges that Paul’s theology has to be reworked for each generation to apply our 21st century circumstances to 1st century Christianity and not the 15th century. In this process, at its center is prayer, as prayer and theology are not two separate things. They have got to flow in and out of everything.
Rev. Wright believes that Paul has taken the Shema prayer and in writing in First Corinthians he has discovered the crucified risen Jesus in the heart of it. In other words the heart of Christian prayer is rooted in the Jewish tradition and is reworked as the heart of Christian theology.