Monday, August 17, 2009

My Dance with the Bible

I remember buying my first Bible, sometime in late high school – a huge thing it was, a Thompson’s Chain Reference, King James Version, of course and leather bound, all nice and black – took a front-end loader to carry the thing.

I remember pouring over the indices, with all of their numbers and cross-references – it was my first dive into the cool and murky waters of Scripture, and Acts 4:16 was the first ever Bible verse I memorized. Well, not exactly the first. You see, in Vacation Bible School, we all had to memorize a daily Bible verse, and all the boys, of course, “memorized” the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” – we relied on that one to get us through the day.

Over the years, we’ve danced – sometimes cheek-to-cheek, at arms’ length sometimes, and even in separate rooms sometimes.

We’ve been lovers, some might say … and in the worst times, I’ve turned to its pages for solace and healing, and it’s always been given. I’ve not always understood everything, and sometimes I’ve misunderstood. But that’s like any relationship in life, isn’t it? And there’s always more to discover.

As of late, I’ve been doing a series of Sunday messages on King David; I’ve been diving deep into the remarkable stories that lay out for us the life and times of David, and like most any biography anywhere, this is no fairy tale. It’s filled with everything the human drama can serve up – love and lust and loyalty; betrayal and bitterness; forgiveness and healing; tears and treachery and torment and terror; darkness of soul and despair of spirit; loneliness and longing; hatred and murder; war and wantonness, and then some.

And a still quiet voice woven into the stained and tattered fabric of life: God is present; God is at work; at work within the world we manage to give to God; at work for good; our good, and the good of all the world.

Over the years, it has weighed heavily upon my spirit – the life it calls me to, a life of trust and radical reliance on God; a life devoted to love and the reformation of soul and the healing of the nations; a life lived in Christ, for Christ and with Christ; a life of compassion and mercy and kindness and gentleness for the down-and-out; and a life willing to stand up and be counted when the powers and principalities of darkness assert their will and way – the ways of death and war and poverty and disease; the ways of Babylon, Revelation 18.

To be covered in the dust of the rabbi – to walk so closely with Jesus, that the dust of the pathway upon which he trods covers me – that his words soak into my soul like beet pickling juice, coloring my soul with his passion for the crowds wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of plenty and prosperity.

So, here I am tonight. I spent a good deal of time of today reading a Jewish New Testament scholar, Amy Jill Levine – about a good Jewish boy named Jesus and a faithful Jewish Pharisee named Saul, later to become Paul the Apostle.

Dancing with the Bible.

Sometimes I lead, but most of the time, she leads … as it should be. For who am I to set the pace for a life I barely understand, a world that seems mostly beyond my grasp, issues that defy analysis, intractable sin and the deepest, darkest mysteries of love and death and hatred and beauty.

It took me a long time to learn that much of the Bible is simply a mirror of life – this is the way we are, and this is the way it is – sometimes glorious and sometimes so ugly we’re surprised it’s in the Bible.

But that’s the point, I suppose – I’m in the Bible, and so are you, and sometimes I’m beautiful, and sometimes I’m ugly, and much of the time, I’m somewhere in between, and not a day passes without the grace of God holding me close and getting me through and guiding me over, as the days of my life race onward to whatever the end will be, an end I can only dimly sense, as it makes my stomach churn from time-to-time when I really think about, an end that will really be the end of me, at least here and now …

But a promise in its strange and obscure pages – a promise of life beyond life, life beyond death, and even life beyond life beyond death, as the love and wonder of God unfolds the yet untold glories of who we are in Christ, and what we shall become.

Well, that’s about enough for now.

That’s the news from Lake Wobegon, and the news from your town and mine … because every town belongs to God, and to God, we all belong … like Willie Nelson singing now as I write, “Livin’ in the Promised Land.”

To God be the glory … and to this remarkable book we call the Bible, a blessing – thank you God for every bit of it, and thank you for your amazing grace.

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