“God says it—I believe it—that settles it!” Bumper sticker Christianity is so tempting, but so wrong.
“The God’s Must Be Crazy” is about a man from an extremely remote village in Australia who discovers a soda bottle that was dropped from a passing plane. That simple act of tossing an empty soda bottle unleashes a chain of events driven by the assumption that the mysterious object must be from the gods. Although it is initially welcomed as a great gift, before long it becomes a source of conflict among the people of his village. The rest of the movie is the story of the bushman’s attempt to find its owner and return it. Who would want an object that created so much conflict?
Some Christians treat the Bible as if it, too, fell from the sky. One day, Moses, Mark, or Paul was walking along, and “thud,” there it was: The Bible, air express from heaven. As Geoghegan and Homan say in “The Bible for Dummies,” “These holy men then gave it to their followers, who, in turn, passed it on to their followers, who eventually passed it on to us. And we’ve been on a quest to find it’s Owner ever since.” For many of us, we want to find the owner so we can return it, because in so many ways it has been a source of incredible conflict among those who identity themselves as followers of Jesus, i.e., Christians. What is a great gift, when used as a way of justifying our beliefs and actions, becomes so destructive. For me, it is not so much I read the Bible, as I am open to the Bible “reading” me as an instrument of the Holy Spirit.
The story of the Bible is messier and complex. The word Bible comes from a Greek word, “ta biblia,” which means “the scrolls” or “the books.” Divided into two sections, the Old and New Testamenst, while traditionally bound in one volume, the Bible is the collection of the sixty-six books that the Church has deemed worthy to be included in the Bible: the thirty-nine books of the Hebrew Bible, and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. But it’s even more complicated than that. The Jews also had books which were included in the Greek translation of the Bible that weren’t included in the original Hebrew translation. St. Jerome included these books (the Apocrypha) in his translation of the Bible into Latin, the Bible that would be embraced and used by the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Protestants, led by Martin Luther, rejected these books in the Protestant versions that emerged during the Reformation. A side note is Martin Luther wanted the book of James tossed as well. And I’m just scratching the surface of the story of how we’ve come to have what we call the Bible in our possession. Suffice it to say, it didn’t fall from the sky.
The Bible is a diverse collection of legal texts, history, poetry, philosophy, personal correspondence, and prophecies. Those who wrote the many different books of the library, were an equally diverse crowd, and include shepherds, kings, farmers, priests, poets, scribes, prophets, fisherman, and even an IRS worker. Subjects covered range from the six hundred and thirteen (613) commandments that were deemed binding on the Jews who lived according to the Old Testament Law to the sensuality of the Song of Solomon. There are genealogies and accounts of wars and jarring violence. There are murderers and adulterers like King David as well as the “recovered” Pharisee Paul who supervised the execution of St. Stephen.
Yet through it all, there is the voice of God emerging through the myriad divine interactions and the inadequate human words that try to record and understand that experience in the sixty-six books of our Bible. Through the centuries, passages like Micah 6:6-8 ring true, along with Jesus’ summary of the great commandment:
Micah 6:6-8: With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Luke 10:25-28: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
It takes courage and discipline to first read the Bible, but then as I said, even more importantly, allow the Bible to read you. The purpose of the Bible is never to create theological belief systems in our heads—it was and is always to live lives of faith as we live God’s way. For us as Christians, that means reading the Bible as a means of discovering what it means to follow Jesus. Even though Paul was talking about the Old Testament at the time he wrote to Timothy, we’ve come to understand his wisdom includes both the Old and New Testaments.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed.
More Sunday…Here’s what I have on my desk…
THE ST. ANDREW YOUTH GROUP WILL CONTINUE TO COLLECT PRE-ORDERS FOR THEIR ANNUAL WREATH SALES THIS SUNDAY! Sunday, October 23RD, and again on October 31ST, the youth group will be in the fellowship hall taking orders for Christmas wreaths, garlands and centerpieces. These greens are a great gift for everyone on your gift list and will be available for pickup on Sunday, December 4TH! All money raised will go toward their Caravan mission trip the summer of 2017. Thank you for supporting our youth group!
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH: NEW MEMBERS INFORMATIONAL CLASS —11:30 AM in the Conference Room. Join Pastor Rich for a light lunch and discussion on what it means to be a member of St. Andrew.
RSVP for your lunch and to request child care on your Communication Card this Sunday
NEW “FAITH IN ACTION” OPPORTUNITY: Woodland Star Charter School has requested help with three different projects. If you haven’t yet participated in “Faith in Action”, maybe one of these opportunities is a fit for you.
(1) a 3-hour sewing project. Need 2-3 people. (2) Commit to one-half hour per week for “Schools of Hope.” This is a United Way program that constitutes reading with children and helping with homework one half-hour per week.
(3) some gardening projects. If you would like to participate in any of these projects, please tell us on your Communication Card.