Saturday, August 29, 2015

How Can I Give You Up?

A slow start this week.  Forgive me.  Just too many things, too many images, too many ideas, too many questions spinning around in my head this week.  Not just me, though.  Someone came out of first service last Sunday morning and said “are we done with questions yet?”  I know the feeling.  I’ve been living with them for months now, preaching them for weeks.  It gets to you, all these questions.  Makes you wonder if it was a good idea in the first place.  Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie.  Most of the time it is better.  But something’s bound to come along and rile them up again.  Barking, barking, barking at nothing.  Neighbors in the yard, traffic, low flying planes, bunnies invading their personal space.  Stirring up those sleeping dogs seems awfully easy.

Sorry, got distracted there.  Had to go rescue the neighborhood from no longer sleeping dogs.  Where was I?  Questions.  For some reason that made sense at the time, I saved the hardest ones for the end.  The questions that have no answer.  At least no answer that will satisfy all the hurting hearts in this life.  They are the “why” questions.  Why did this happen, why did God let that go on, why, why, why.  Hard questions.  Ones that I used to think I could answer.  See, I know stuff.  I’ve studied, I’ve read, I’ve thought about all of this and have answers that make logical sense, theological sense.  Answers that are true to the nature of God, at least as I perceive it.  All sewn up in neat little packages.  

Except that when I used to trot out these answers, hand over these neatly wrapped packages, they were invariably received as the proverbial lump of coal.  They didn’t fit.  They didn’t make sense.  They didn’t heal the hurt behind the question.  They were unsatisfactory to the moment.  No matter how logical, how biblically sound, how theologically tested and tried these answers were, they were not the answers that were needed.  Most of the time.  In a classroom, a small group discussion, a disconnected intellectual inquiry, they were great answers.  But the why questions don’t usually come in those dispassionate moments.  They are ripped from broken hearts, they are wept out of red and swollen eyes, they reverberate from souls shaken, echo out of spirits emptied of meaning.  And logical answers don’t wipe away tears in my experience, they don’t bandage wounds, or bring light to personal darkness.  Only love can do that.

Hosea 11:1-9   When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.  2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.  3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them.  4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.  5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.  6 The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes.  7 My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.  8 How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.  9 I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. 

Lat weekend I took both kids back to college; Rhys for the first semester of his final year, Maddie for the beginning of her junior year.  Where did the time go?  How did we get to this stage?  Where they are almost unrecognizable sometimes, becoming something that was only hinted at for all those years when they were in our care.  When we lifted them to our cheek, when we held their hands as they tested the strength in their legs, when we held them as they hurt and healed.  I know this is what is supposed to happen.  I know they aren’t really running away from me and from my love.  But it feels that way sometimes.

But there are some who know the deeper pain of losing that child.  That is where some of the questions for this section have come from.  Why did God allow this?  If Hosea is right, if God is so loving, if God would set aside judgement, would not execute wrath, but only want to embrace the child, then why?  Why?

I sat feeding my mom like the babies I raised.  She can’t hold a fork any more, doesn’t know how to grip it, how to use it.  She wants to feed herself at times, picking up beans one by one, a finger full of mashed potatoes, a piece of the chicken patty I cut apart for her.  Other times she let me feed her.  She did ok, got more in her than on her usually.  Single-minded focus moving each morsel to her mouth, no dinner table conversation, no asking about my day or hers.  One afternoon when I was with her, the daughter of another resident came to visit her mom.  There was a lot of in and out, I didn’t pay much attention at first focused on the task of caring for mom.  But she asked me, “are you Mizz Weber’s son?”  When I told her I was, she said, “I had her in school.  She was my favorite teacher, she was so smart, but kind and helpful.  I loved Mizz Weber’s math class and I didn’t particularly like math!”  We laughed about that, and she told me a bit more before she turned back to her own mother seated at another table waiting for her supper.

She was smart, and kind, kinder than anyone I ever knew.  Every now and then she breaks into tears and try as we might we can’t seem to figure out why, or do anything to make her better.  We just tell her we love her while the sobs shake her shoulders.  Maybe there is some physical reason, something happening in her that scares her or hurts her.  But I tend to think that every now and then she realizes what she has lost and she mourns that loss in the only way left to her.  

Why?  Why do such things happen?  Personal things, family things?  Loss and pain, disease and injury, why?  Why do such world things happen?  Disasters and tragedies, wars and rumors of war?  If God is really God, couldn’t it all be stopped, couldn’t the world be designed in such a way that terrible things didn’t happen?  If God loves us like Hosea says, like Jesus says, why do we hurt?  Why do we weep?  

Because we do.  Because things happen.  I know, horribly satisfactory, right?  Things happen because things happen.  Not a lot of comfort there, I know.  We live in a world where things happen.  Terrible things, unspeakable things.  But also wonderful things.  We live in a world where love can happen.  That’s the gift.  That the promise and the presence.  Love can happen.

It doesn’t always, that’s the tragedy.  Even those who are supposed to love us, don’t love us the way we need all the time.  Don’t recognize us for who we are and hurt us unthinkingly.  But then we don’t always love like we should either.  We’re shaky lovers at best.  But how wonderful even that shaky love can be.  How healing, how sustaining, how enriching.  That’s the gift, that’s the possibility in this risky world, that we can love and be loved.  That we can know what it is to love and can revel in it, even if it is only temporary, momentary.  It’s still a gift.  It is still a glimpse of heaven.

See, the why questions aren’t really why questions.  They are, deep down, who questions.  Who will love us now?  Who will see us worth loving?  Who will love us when we are broken, when those we love are broken?  Who will be with us when we feel so alone?  Who will see us as having value when we are told we are worthless?  Who will gather up the ones that the world loses through accident or neglect or willful disobedience?  Who will speak for those who have no voice?  Who will stand firm and say there is hope still.  There is possibility still.  The sun will rise, the world will turn and you will find love again.  It rings hollow in our ears at times.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.  We will find love again.  We will be reunited with those we’ve lost.  The wounded will be made whole, the broken will be mended, the lost will be found.  Maybe now, maybe today.  Or maybe in God’s great Someday.  Until then, as Steve Curtis Chapman wrote, “while we’re waiting for that day to come  / We’ve got a little more time to love.”

There’s a day that is coming / When all the last will be first / Every orphan will be home / And all will be filled who hunger and thirst / It’s gonna be a celebration / All of creation longs for / And while we’re waiting for that day to come / We’ve got a little more time // To do justly and love mercy / And show the love we’ve been shown / For we can only be the hands and feet of Jesus ‘til / He leads us home / He will lead us home


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Departed and Hid

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it really was a question as general as was presented.  Maybe it wasn’t a statement of dissatisfaction, or complaint, or contempt hidden behind a supposedly generic query about the thinking of preachers in general.  Maybe.  But it felt like an attack.  Like a finger pointed.  “Are preachers afraid...?”  That was the question.  “Why don’t we hear the church’s position on social issues of the day?”  That was the context.  “Are preachers afraid of upsetting people?”

We’re asking questions this month.  All sorts of questions, if you’ve been following along.  Bible questions, church questions, faith questions.  I suppose if you’re going to open the door to questions you have to be prepared for questions that just might bother you some.  Might get under your skin a little bit.  “Are preachers afraid?”  Well, maybe, if we’re thinking.  Or maybe we know something about time and place.  Maybe we know something about  how people think and learn and grow and come to understanding of how faith works in their lives and that just handing out answers isn’t really going to accomplish the task of making disciples, but instead is bound to launch an opinion based response that will only cause people to react out of their prejudice instead of digging down into their relationship with Jesus to come up with a way that allows them follow the great commandment and still live in a complex society.  Maybe.

Huh?  What was that you said?  Not sure, really.  Kinda was ducking the question.  Running for cover, as it were.  Hiding.  Taking a powder and keeping my head down.  Cowardly?  Maybe.  But it has great biblical precedent.  Take a look.

John 12:35-47  Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  36 While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light." After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.  37 Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.  38 This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"  39 And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,  40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn-- and I would heal them."  41 Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.  42 Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue;  43 for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.  44 Then Jesus cried aloud: "Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.  45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  46 I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.  47 I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 

I picked this passage for our second week dealing with Christian Living Questions because of the last verse. “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”  But once I started reading, it was latter part of verse thirty-six that jumped out at me.  “After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.”  Wait, what?  He left and hid?  Was he afraid of offending?  That doesn’t seem like a very Jesus thing to do, does it?  

And to make it worse, it sounds an awful lot like John thinks that God enjoys making sure we don’t get it.  That God goes out the way to make us dumb.  Or thick.  Or opinion laden and unable to listen or see or understand anything that really matters.  Isaiah claimed this outrageous behavior on God’s part and John shouts an “Amen!” from his corner of the New Testament.  

So, let me get this straight, God doesn’t want us to understand, God doesn’t want us to turn to God and be healed, God likes us messed up.  And Jesus drops a sort of zen bomb and then ducks and covers.  Have I got that right?  John?  Is that what you’re saying here?

Yep, he grumbles.  See, here’s the deal, he tells us, Jesus keeps trying and folks just won’t get it.  “Although he performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.”  He gives us every opportunity and we just don’t get it.  

“Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believe in him.  But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it.”  OK, John, which is it?  Do we not believe because God won’t let us.  Or do we believe but don’t act on it because we’re afraid?  Yes, says John.  Exactly.  You got it!  

No, I don’t get it.  I don’t get anything.  I feel as though someone is being consciously obscure.  As though someone wants me to be confused.  As though God is slamming the door on understanding, or Jesus is hiding from me and my prayer, my need for Him.  As though ... oh.  Oh.  I get it.  My goodness.  

See what I did there?  Maybe what John and Isaiah are doing is telling us what our experience is and not what the plan is.  Maybe they are describing the human experience that says I don’t get it and God isn’t giving it to me for some reason, must be because God doesn’t want me to have it.  And when Isaiah asks God, rather plaintively, how long is this going to go on?  As long as there are humans, is the response, it seems like.  

God indeed wants us to turn and be healed, don’t think that isn’t true.  Jesus does want us to walk in the light, to become children of light.  But the how and the where and the when we have to puzzle out on our own.  On our own, not my own and your own.  We are supposed to work together.  We are supposed to share and teach and learn and mentor and cheer-lead and lift up and turn around one another all the time.  That’s the Christian Living that we are looking for.  A living that is guided by the Spirit (a plug for our fall series beginning Sept 13th!) and surrounded by the cloud of witnesses we have around us all the time.  A living that has to deal with the experienced hiddenness of Christ and the experienced opposition of God.

In the end, John says, our worst enemies are ourselves –  our egos (“they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God”), our fear (“for fear that they would be put out” of the community they loved and that gave them their identity) and our confused sense of checks and balances and being proved right and others wrong and we want Jesus to take our side and not their side (“I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.”)

God seems against us, Jesus seems hidden because we don’t always speak the language of salvation.  We speak of us and them, of sinners and saints, of included and outcast.  And that makes God hard to understand.  Jesus seems hidden from us because we want right more than we want relationship.  We want a convenient faith, a no demands  follow Him when it fits in our schedules, in between the dog eat dog and climbing to the top of the heap and the just getting by.  And Jesus seems to hide behind our busyness.  Hide from our self-centeredness.  Our faith journey seems less like training for an Olympic marathon and more like a game of hide and seek in the twilight, with an elusive Jesus who defies our best attempts to nail him down.

Which, come to think of it, is sort of his modus operandi.  Don’t you think?

Or do you?


Saturday, August 15, 2015

He Bent Down

I’m back.  A long awaited family vacation, at least in part, is what took me away.  I also took some time to go to Tennessee to see my mom and dad.  Then a week of doing family things, eating out, playing games, taking short trips and then an overnight to Pokagon State Park.  Just simple stuff, fun stuff, not too stressed stuff.  Even though there were stressers aplenty.  After getting back from a few days with my mom and struggling with her continued decline but trusting that she is getting the care she needs in a difficult situation; I then learn that my dad was rushed to the hospital there in Paris with some sort of heart incident.  He is still there and we are waiting for information as to the exact nature of his condition.

While that was going on, we also got news that my uncle, my mom’s younger brother, suffered a massive heart attack and died Wednesday night.  Uncle Bill was my mom’s only sibling, and a retired United Methodist pastor.  Like mom he had diabetes pretty severely, and lately had had a number of amputations as a result.  Yet, it seemed like nothing would slow him down, until now I guess.  No slowing down, just a full stop.  My brothers are there or on their way to represent the family for us.

Whew, almost makes you wonder if getting away is worth it.  Well, yes, of course.  I had a chance to be with family, with La Donna and the kids, with mom and dad, and my older brother who drove down to Tennessee on his Harley while I was there too.  Even though I suggested he wait and go another time, so we can spread out our visits.  He didn’t take my suggestion, but went anyway.  And I was glad he was there.  Being with people is better than we realize it, every time.  Even in difficult times.  Even when there is trouble and disagreement and brokenness, being with is better than we know.

At least Jesus seemed to think so.  Take a look at this event in Jesus’ life that got stuck here in the Gospel of John.  Scholars have pointed out how this passage interrupts the flow of the narrative in chapters seven and eight, and how some manuscripts of the Gospel don’t include this story, and how it seems like a later addition.  Yet, it seems so quintessentially Jesus, I can’t believe it shouldn’t be there.  I can’t believe it was made up by John or the community he formed who wrote down all the stories he used to tell them.  Anyway, it may be out of place, but it must be a real moment in Jesus’ life and ministry.  It must be.

John 8:2-12 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"  6 They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."  8 And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  9 When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  11 She said, "No one, sir." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."  12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." 

We are still in our Questions series in the month of August.  We started with Bible Questions the first week, and then last week while I was away, Chuck Scott and Ellen Rhoades helped us reflect on Church Questions.  Now, for two weeks we’ll be looking at some difficult questions under the category of Christian Living Questions.  These are the sticky ones that make us think about how our faith gets lived out.  These questions are not just about what to think, but about what to do.  How then should we live?  These questions include those ethical stumpers that seem to have no easy answer, no clear always right and always wrong kind of responses.  Next week we’ll turn to the big picture kinds of things, those social issue kinds of topics that seem to divide even close friends.  So, stay tuned for that.

This week I want to talk methodology.  Yawn.  No, seriously.  I can’t anticipate every question, every issue, every incident and give a step by step response on how we should act each time.  So, instead it makes sense to look at some general principles.  It makes sense to find a model by which we can shape our actions, our responses.  Right?  And what better model than that of Jesus?  

So, we have this story, suspect as it might be, it still seems to give us some handles on how to follow Christ.  Even when things get sticky.  What can we learn about how Jesus approaches complicated ethical issues from this story?  

First of all Jesus rarely approaches issues as issues.  He is much more concerned about people and about relationships.  He is much more concerned about how we live together in community than he is about making issue oriented statements.  The Pharisees came to him wanting a ruling on adultery, No, that’s not right.  They wanted to challenge his popularity, his authority.  They wanted to take him down a peg or two in the eyes and hearts of those who came to follow him.  They were using the woman as an object to get at Jesus.  She didn’t matter so much to them.  She was only a means, not an end.

Jesus refused to play their game.  Instead of letting the woman be the object standing in the middle, he drew attention to himself.  He bent down, he drew on the ground.  No doubt this was frustrating to the accusers, they kept hurling questions at him.  But he kept drawing.  Drawing their attention to him, away from her.  When they wouldn’t relent, he says “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.”  

They wandered off, unsatisfied, but also unable to respond.  He didn’t resolve the issue to their satisfaction.  He changed the focus from issues to people.  So, one by one, they left not wanting to deal with people, with themselves and their own sin or with the woman they dragged there and her sin.

So, Jesus then turns to the woman and says “Where are they, has no one condemned you?”  And she says “No one, sir.”  Because in Jesus she didn’t find condemnation.  But acceptance and freedom, forgiveness and a challenge to live differently.  First of all Jesus doesn’t deal with issues, he deals with people.  Secondly, he stands with people and does not condemn.  

Be careful here, however.  Not condemning is not the same as not caring.  Or not wanting change in behavior.  Jesus asks her to sin no more. Meaning that there are things that keep us from communion with God.  There are behaviors, there are decisions, there are choices that keep us from living in relationship with God and with others in a way that is healing and whole.  There is still such a thing as sin, Jesus says.

But we attack sin and sinful behaviors not with condemnation, not with accusations, but by standing with.  By standing with.  This is what the world is asking us.  Not whether we have standards or values.  They want to know will we stand with those who have fallen?  Will we approach those who are accused, not with further condemnation but with love and with hope and with the possibility of redemption?  Will we make them jump through hoops in order to be forgiven, or will we forgive in order that they might be transformed?

The methodology for walking in this world is to do what Jesus did.  He bent down, all the way down, to where we are, and he didn’t make us feel smaller for it.  Rather we felt lifted up, we felt bigger because of his bending down.  Did the woman change her life after meeting Jesus?  We don’t really know, John doesn’t tell us.  Instead he asks did we change after meeting Jesus?  That’s the question before us.  Are we different because of Him, or not?  What does the world see when it looks at us?  Accusers?  Or sinners who know what forgiveness means?  He bent down.  How can we do less? 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Searching the Scriptures

Questions.  That’s what we’re about for the month of August: Questions.  Questions about our faith, questions that you long to ask but might be embarrassed because you figure you ought to know already.  Questions about stuff that just never made sense to you.  Questions that came from someone who doesn’t share our faith and wanted to quiz you, and you weren’t sure how to respond.  Questions that came during a difficult moment and the easy cliches no longer satisfy, but you were afraid to ask for fear that cliches are all we have.  Questions.  

Specifically, there are questions that the community submitted a few months ago and that I’ve been living with for a while.  Some were very challenging questions that touch on the core of our faith and theology, our practice and our understanding of who God is and who we are to God.  Some were wrenching questions of tragedy and confusion.  Some questions that made me smile because of the faith inherent in it and the desire to go deeper, live more fully.  And, frankly, some were questions about my own courage as a leader and pastor of a flock full of questions.

I took these questions and put them in general categories.  This week we will look at Bible questions.  Subsequent weeks will look at Church questions, Theology questions and what I called Christian Living questions.  We’ll take two weeks on those, because they were so many and various it was hard to do justice to the variety in one week’s worth of worship.  There is a certain arbitrariness to the categories, I’ll confess that.  Some questions could have been in more than one category, some weren’t clearly in any.  (Hence the “Christian Living” category which sounds so much more profound than Miscellaneous!)  But I wanted to find a place for them all.  I don’t promise detailed answers to every single question, but what I hope to do is to open a dialogue that might lead to further conversation, more answers and, yes, more questions.  I’m still a little nervous about how this will work on the fly in the worship service, but I’m all in.  Let’s do this thing!

But we start with the Bible.  A very good place to start, I thought.  There were some very deep and profound questions that I don’t know I’d be able to answer in a week’s worth of lectures on the Bible.  And there were some simpler sounding questions that just might be hiding something deeper underneath.  For example: “Was Jesus a rabbi?”  In the garden on Easter morning when Mary is startled by the recognition that the One she thought was dead and gone suddenly standing there talking to her and loving her, her exclamation is “Rabbi!”  Yes, Jesus was a rabbi in the sense of a teacher, of having followers, disciples who were committed to learning from him.  But his authority wasn’t recognized by the hierarchy of the time, he didn’t meet with the Board of Ordained Ministry and get voted on and handed credentials by the overseeing body.  Things were different then.  Sometimes we forget that.

No, we don’t.  Really.  The Bible is picturing a world so radically different from ours that it is sometimes hard to read, certainly hard to apply in our day to day life.  We call it a guidebook, with rules for living, and it is, in a way, but not like we usually mean.  There is an interpretive process that has to take place in order for us to understand and apply the wisdom of the Bible.  Sometimes that process is easy and straight-forward.  Sometimes the Bible is a “duh” book, so obvious that we wonder how anyone could miss it.  But the other times it feels like a different world, certainly a different way of using language and image and metaphor and story.  We hardly know how to approach some of the things that Jesus says let alone try to apply them faithfully to our complicated lives.

That’s why we wrestle with the Bible.  It keeps throwing curves when we expect slow pitch, a fastball when we aren’t even in our stance. Even those who claim to follow every word choose which words are more important, which words are worth our time and energy, and which we just let slide by.  Even people in the Bible did that!

The question is really what is it for, this Bible thing?  What are we supposed to do with it?  What purpose does it serve.  Well, Jesus had an idea about that.

John 5:39-47   "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.  41 I do not accept glory from human beings.  42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.  43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.  44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?  45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.  47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?" 

The Bible, Jesus says, has one purpose, and that is to bring us to Him.  The Bible points to Christ, and our job is to go through, go beyond the printed page to a deep and sustaining, living relationship with Christ.  The problem is we can hold a Bible in our hands but we can’t hold Christ in the same way.  We can see the pages and the words, we can flip through and read and reread, but standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand with the Savior is a much harder, less tangible thing.  So, we expend a lot of energy on the book and not as much on following Him.  Understandably so.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Bible.  I love the study and the examination.  I love reading and rereading.  I love the stories and the songs, I love the characters, as flawed as they all are, but I love them.  They feel like family.  Every time I spend time with the Bible, I feel like it is a reunion with the colorful part of the family.  It is, powerfully, like going home.  I also think there is great wisdom there, guides for living that if we only paid a little more attention we could avoid some of the pratfalls that our family members had.  If we took seriously the descriptions of a godly life, we might be a little closer to the One we want to be like, the One we want to follow.  The One who said “love one another as I have loved you.”  He told us to copy him, to emulate him.  How can we do that if we don’t spend time with the Bible?

But we are not worshipers of the Bible.  We are not “Bibliolaters!”  We are Christians, worshipers, followers of Christ.  Which means that we have to listen and learn and grow in our use of the Bible.  And one of those growing points is to ask ourselves what is there in our reading that doesn’t reflect Christ?  What representations of God in the Bible do not present the God that Jesus wanted to introduce to us?  And if the God being revealed does not match why is that?  Is it a problem of interpretation, do we just not know what it is really saying?  Or is it something else?  And what might that something else be?

What do we do with words like “inerrant” and “inspired”?  What do we do with ideas like the end of Revelation that seems to say if you add or take away from the words in the Bible, God will punish you eternally?  What do we do with ideas like the end of the Gospel of John that implies there is more to the story than what is printed in the pages of the Bible?  What do we do with the idea that our own article of religion states that the Bible contains everything necessary for salvation, which I now consider to be an unfortunate choice of words?  

Questions.  You’ve got them.  I’ve got them.  The Bible is a wonderful and confusing book, containing puzzles and insight, “aha’s” and “huh’s?” alike.  And I think that is just great.  It is not my goal in this series to simply answer all these questions in a definitive, take it or leave it kind of way.  My purpose is two-fold.  One to proclaim that to ask questions is not the antithesis of faith, not a sign of weakness or failure, but a part of the journey toward Christ that never ends in this life.  The bigger worry is when you stop asking questions, because that is a sign that faith is no longer important to you.  So, ask away.  And I want to help point toward answers, not to just give them, because if you don’t find them for yourself they won’t be your answers.  The second part is to say questions aren’t barriers or handicaps to faith, but the means by which we grow and stay alive in Christ.  Even when there aren’t easy answers.  So, keep asking.  You’ll be glad you did.