Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Leap


If you're not living on the edge
you're taking up too much space
Anonymous

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Paving the Way?


An old friend was talking to me last week. She is not a Christian, and when I knew her, I was not a Christian. We stumbled onto the topic of religion and spirituality, and she believes all people worship the same God, just in different ways and with different understandings. It is hard for her to believe that God would put us all in this world and expect us to find one certain way, when there are so many options to choose from and so few direct answers.

My first inclination was to point to the one Way, using some apologetics to set up the case for Christianity. Instead, I did what I felt was the better and right thing to do; I remained quiet. I simply listened to her and admitted to myself how I too had these same thoughts time and time again. This certainly seems like a logical conclusion. I admitted that if I were born in an Islamic country, I’d likely be a Muslim. If I were born in certain Asian countries, I’d likely be a Buddhist.

I believe deeply in my faith, as others likely do theirs. I believe deeply in my faith, that it is the fullest revelation of God. Yet I do not think it is the most obvious choice. At the same time, I do not believe all paths lead to God. I do believe that we need to be humble in our beliefs. We are never to hold elitist attitudes, and we are never to forget that what we have is the certainty of faith, which is indeed a strange type of certainty.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Thoughts on Community



“It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person. We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer to anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life. Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well.”

-Henri Nouwen

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Family Bible

Who is allowed to interpret the Scriptures? This question is nagging me. I know reading isn't as easy as we first assume. Just because we are literate, doesn't mean we know how to follow a plot, theme, or line of reasoning. Also, since the King James translators took the liberty of mincing the text into tiny morsels, that we endearingly call "verses," it's all the more difficult to see a letter as, well, a letter...or a narrative as a complete whole. Is it any wonder we have a hard time seeing the context?

Still, the Scriptures belong to the Church community. They are to be a living, vital member of that community. An authoritative member no doubt, but a member all the same. Yet when we go to Church, we often find that our interaction with Scripture is a monologue rather than a dialogue. Usually one person expounds upon the meaning, and the rest of us become passive listeners. The community has little chance of interacting with the text as a group. Sometimes the interaction is purposely limited due to the fear of misinterpretation.

After two-thousand years of biblical interpretation by scholars and learned men, we have discovered as many interpretations as were interpreters. What are we afraid of? I suggest that we give the text back to the community. Yes, there will be people who misinterpret or take certain passages out of context, but that's where the rest of the group comes in. Rather than having one person, sitting alone in a room, determine the meaning of a text, we will have a community, filled with checks and balances (including the trained interpreter, a.k.a. pastor) interpreting the text for one-another and balancing each other's interpretations as we enter into a relationship of dialogue. We will have our perspectives stretched and challenged, and be allowed to challenge others. We will have opportunity to hear from others how the story of God, Christ, and the Church is realized in their lives, and be able to derive implications for our own lives.

One church does this by having a tuesday night group, where the pastor meets with a group of people from the congregation to go over that Sunday's Scripture passages. Together they explore the depth, meaning, and personal implication of the text. Come Sunday, rather than quoting some famous Christian, the pastor uses examples and quotes from those within the congregation, and often has people from the congregation share thoughts on the passage, which they had shared during the group meeting. The congregation is allowed to come along-side-of the pastor to learn and develop the message for the body. ...This is one idea, and surely we could come up with others.

After five hundred years of pulpit preaching, if our communities haven't learned how to do basic interpretation, then what more can we expect from our scholar's and preachers? It's time for hands on. Heresy is more apt to develop from an individual interpretation than an inclusive discussion.

-For further thoughts on this topic see Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt

-For a basic guide to biblical interpretation see How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth by Fee & Stuart