Bible Sunday

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5.39)

Scripture is not God! It points the way, sheds light on the journey. It is not the destination. We will not rest until we rest in the living God, who is not the character in a book but Life itself! But let’s step back a moment on what the Church calls Bible Sunday and contemplate our Holy Bible.

An atheist might argue that the Ancient Hebrew understanding of science and geography, reflected in the Bible, is wrong and so the Bible is not true. Atheists often do argue along these lines. The Hebrews described the earth fixed on an axis, the land was floating in a giant bowl of water with monsters in the sea and people on the land. The sky is the roof of a dome and the stars are the light of heaven coming through holes in roof. God and the angels are up there somewhere on the dome literally looking down on us. Rationalists might argue that Jonah couldn’t have been swallowed by a whale and lived, a serpent couldn’t have goaded Eve to eat the forbidden apple, the apple couldn’t give her knowledge anyway…the arguments go on ad nauseam, you get the picture… On the other hand, ultra-conservative Christians might argue (and sadly they do!) that God wrote the Bible, God doesn’t make mistakes, so everything in the Bible is literally true. Then the Atheists and the Right Wing Christians battle out a “yes it is”, “no it’s not” style argument until one or other finally gives up the will to head-but the wall anymore! Well, not literally, you understand. Other argumentative types might corner themselves and have to start picking and choosing what to believe and what to ignore.

Surely to take the Bible literally is not to really take it seriously at all! Why would the Bible be so limited? Who would think of taking the Mabinogion or Aesop’s Fables, the Tao Te Zing or countless other works of profound literature literally? Surely anyone with a mind to read them would undrestand they are metaphorical in nature and the wisdom they convey could not be written in literal language. Metaphor takes us way deeper than any straight reporting could even begin to hint at. So why would Hebrew writers be limited to literal thought patterns? Well they were not!!

Frederick Buechner – “… in spite of all its extraordinary variety, the Bible is held together by having a single plot. It is one that can be simply stated: God creates the world, the world gets lost; God seeks to restore the world to the glory for which he created it. That means that the Bible is a book about you and me, whom he also made and lost and continually seeks, so you might say that what holds it together more than anything else is us. You might add to that, of course, that of all the books that humanity has produced, it is the one that more than any other – and in more senses than one – also holds us together.”

The Bible is not a God given tool for the righteous to bash their religion over the heads of the infidels. That would be no gift at all. No. That is an abuse of the Word of God, abuse of Holy Scripture. But the Bible is a gift. And if we accept it graciously it has the power to heal and help us grow into our true selves. When that happens, we have the power to bring healing and God’s peace into the world. The kingdom of heaven is within us and will flow from us into people’s lives.

The law of the Lord is perfect and revives the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent (Psalm 19).

The Bible is about God and humankind and Creation, Jesus, death and resurrection…true…but the Bible is about you and me. When I read the Bible, any part of it, it teaches me much about all these things but its most challenging gift is that it shows me myself, with all my struggles, my hopes, my dreams. It shows me the light and the darkness within me and without. Now this is a wonderful gift but it comes with a lot of pain and it compels me to go through the pains and challenges of change and growth, of transformation from child of earth to child of God. Through the peeling away of the programmed skins and defences of ego, the true self emerges in my consciousness and it is only then I can truly come to Christ and receive life. In this way all Scripture leads us to the Christ who is closer to us than our own breath.

But the Bible can also shroud this realization. It is much easier to deflect the Bible than to let it work inside the self – treat it as historical, poetic, mythical literature, for example. It is all of these things but they are like doors through which wisdom may be encountered but they are not the wisdom itself. It is easier to read Revelation for example and see coded messages about the prophecies and signs of the end times for all humanity than it is to let it work on our own mind and heart and soul –

having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths…(2 Timothy 4)

It is tempting to hide while holding up the Bible like a mirror to the world and even supplying the interpretation.

In Port Eynon last week, Bishop John spoke to us very briefly but I think with deep wisdom about Scripture. I simply ask you to do what he asked of us. That is to take today’s readings home with you and read them again during the week, maybe 3 or 4 times. Do it slowly, prayerfully. Suspend what you think you might know about the words and let the words make their own way into your heart. Take time. Pray for God to reveal Godself to you. Pray for God to reveal yourself to you. Pray the Lord’s prayer to finish. Pray for God’s kingdom to come. Let the shift from “my will be done” to “your will be done” BE DONE. If you do this, you will know the peace, the absolute life, in Christ, that all Holy Scripture is leading you to.

Amen.

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~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on November 3, 2015.

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