(1 Samuel 17:1-11, 19-23, 32-52 ; Mark 4:35-41) – J G White
11 am, Sun, June 17, 2018 – UBC Digby
Perhaps you have a spiritual practice each day of your life, and you spend some time in quiet. Praying. Reading the Bible. Maybe using a devotional guide like The Daily Bread. I don’t use The Daily Bread, but if you do, yesterday you read this story, by Xochitl Dixon:
During a vacation, my husband and I signed up for a leisurely rafting tour down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River. Dressed in sandals, a sundress, and a wide brimmed hat, I groaned when we discovered — contrary to the advertisement — that the trip included light rapids.
Unlike the tour brochure, which clearly left out a key detail about the trip, Jesus explicitly warned His disciples that rough waters were ahead.
This comes out of yesterday’s reading from John 16, in which Jesus says In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Like the lesson here, using the Holy Bible will get us into troubled waters. There are both stillwaters here, and rapids. The challenges are worth facing.
I wonder if any of you happen to be reading the whole Bible right now? Booklets like The Daily Bread have a plan: what to read each day to get it read in one year. So, yesterday you read Nehemiah chaps 4, 5 and 6. Sanballat & Jobiah intimidate Nehemiah, as the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt.
Remember that? Well, that story is surely more obscure that the well-known Bible saga I read earlier. The Story of David and Goliath. Here is a tale told in classes of Sunday school children. Some of you have known this story for 85 years. And what you did with this story back in childhood was likely different from what you do with it today.
Today, I raise this question: How do we use the Bible? We people have many methods. So much of what we have in these pages is story, narrative. David & Goliath! And story is powerful. Humans tell stories. We love to do so. The Hebrews of old told their stories as a way to express their life with God. Now, what we do with a story, even a true story, has great variety. The waters of the Bible get rough with rapids when we people emphasize different parts of the stories we retell. It really is true that we can make the Bible say whatever we want it to.
The Holy Bible gets used, from time to time, in the public eye. This past week, the Head of the US Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, quoted Romans 13:1 regarding lawmakers. “Obey the laws of the government because the Lord has ordained the government for his purposes.” Responding to the plan Sessions was defending, of separating illegal immigrant parents from their children, late night show host Stephen Colbert, countered with the same chapter. Romans 13:10. “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I think one thing about love is it comes out in stories more than in rules or laws. Love is about action, the stories of our days in this life. For instance, when we remember our fathers, and grandfathers, and generations back, it is stories that we tell. Stories have an impact. Stories we remember and that influence us.
On this day of pondering the Bible, we also sang a scripture Song: Jesus’ Parable of the Banquet. It is said that when the church sings it is like praying twice. Well, it can also be like telling a story twice.
The song version we sang is one I learned when I was a young teenager. Twenty years later I was at the Seminar in Truro, in June, with the author as our guest speaker, Sister M T Winter. A Bible song that seemed a bit silly and Sunday-schooly took on more seriousness when I met the composer. And there really is great power in Jesus parable. It has a simplicity, it is short, and it is itself a story.
When we sing stories, or Bible poetry, or prayers, or whatever, we remember in a different way. We get it into our minds and hearts in a deeper way. How often we find people with serious memory problems – dementia – who brighten up, and move, and remember when music is sung and played.
Years ago, living in a nursing home in Windsor, was Mrs. Jodrey. She had suffered a stroke: could not walk, could not talk, save the occasional single word. But every Sunday her daughter visited, and sang hymns with her. Mrs. Jodrey could still sing hymns!
Question: What is the meaning of the Bible? When we have the words deeply ingrained, with song, inside us? Or even when we simply memorize significant pieces of scripture – then its impact is greater. When we know it and it comes out of us without even thinking, then the Word of God has meaning.
So what does Jesus’ parable of the Banquet mean for you? In one sentence.
Along with the scroll of the Hebrew Bible that I brought out today, is this artwork by the late Wanda Handspiker: Calm on the Sea. Something visual, some artwork, has an impact upon us. The Imagery of Jesus stilling the storm comes to us even without a painting. In the imagination the Bible story comes to life and has power.
As we take time, through life, for the scriptures, and it touches our creative mind, we ask the Question: What is the Bible’s influence on me? I have been wondering lately if this is a better question to ask. Better than: what does it mean to us? Or: what did it teach me? Or: how do I apply this to my life? What is the Bible’s influence on me?
What would you say? In one sentence.
We do well to ask: what are the basics of the Bible? As adults, what do we do with this text? Not what we did as children. Often, we learn to do by doing.
Compare this experience: when you get a new smartphone, or tablet, or laptop computer. How do we learn to use it? There’s not comprehensive user’s manual! We have to fiddle around with it, play with it, get confused by it, and ask others for advice, before we can do much with our new tool. Am I right? And as we use our new computer, or phone, months later we still are learning how to do something new. Even years later, we figure out an app or program and how it works. Some things your technology does we never do get around to using. So it is with the scriptures.
Bible Basics. It is simply a matter of using it as adults, and using it together. Read it. Talk about it. Study it. Wrestle with it. Sing it. Imagine it. Be creative with it. Pray it.
Then we shall know it as Wonderful Words of Life.