Posts Tagged ‘The Word’

PLEASE don’t ever say, “Because the Bible Said.”

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

We live in bridge times.  Many but not all of use were born into some knowledge of the Bible-the stories, the themes, the Book.  And increasingly those assumptions around biblical literacy are inaccurate.  Likewise the starting point that the Bible is somehow inerrant falls most often on deaf ears these days.

So please, if your interest lies in growing and sharing Christianity, please don’t ever say “Because the Bible said.”  That will appeal to an increasingly narrow and often more fundamentalist slice of the broader population.  And (this pastor says with a bit of trepidation) it might be a very good thing that that line no longer works.

The original 12 disciples who followed Christ did not do so because he was a great author.  They followed him because he said “Follow me.”  They did and their lives grew from death to resurrection in a few short years.

The 100′s who made up the first Christian churches did not even have the New Testament. Yes they held letters floating around as well as oral traditions describing  the life of Christ.  But they did not a have a book they called “The Bible.”  Most could not even read or write.  What they held, what they hosted in their hearts, was “The Way.”

“The Way” was how Christians first described themselves.  This opening movement centered on living communities of love, sharing, humility.  Such communities, revolutionary then, revolutionary now.  Such communities virally grew the church from 100′s to millions.  And no one was exclaiming “Because the Bible said.”  Their pronouncements were their lives.

The does not mean to stop reading the Bible.  In the New Church we believe strongly that reading the Word critically serves both humanity and heaven … that it forms a newer bridge between God and humankind.  And we read it to wrestle with faith and expand our understanding of God.  Not to craft pronouncements that prove others wrong and prove ourselves right.

It is about living “The Way.”


Alive To The Word

Friday, July 6th, 2012

A blessed place to be in life is when we “are alive to the Word.”  What does that term mean?

To be alive to the Word means to be alive to the deeper poetry, the heart and soul within the words themselves.  It is when we move from listening to the music to losing ourselves to the music.  When we allow ourselves to see beyond the surface of things, we find God’s song.

The Bible often is pigeon holed as a do-gooder guide to sanctimonious, self righteous judgment.  But that is at best an unfortunate way to use the Word.  Being alive to the Word means being alive to the ebb and flow within the language and story, a story far from the pristine or perfect but more closely anchored in all the faults, doubts, and foibles of the human condition .  As one Catholic author noted, there are precious few biblical characters worthy of even remote consideration for sainthood…. thank goodness!

Again and again that aliveness calls us to a simple process of spiritual growth.  As Emanuel Swedenborg phrased it, “Actual repentance is examining oneself, recognizing and acknowledging one’s sins, praying to the Lord, and beginning a new life.” (True Christianity #528)  So we look “in” and the look “out.”  We clean up the engine and move forward. The Bible is there to help us with that very process.  New Church theology gives us another layer of clarity, another way of seeing into that every life, that internal sense, the poetry of God’s Word.  Place those two within the context of a church anchored in living that “new life”, and life moves in some refreshing and unanticipated directions.

Christian Evolution

Friday, September 24th, 2010

New Church theology posits that the growth of faith, historically, moved through several “churches” – groups who had a deep understanding of God and His Word.  Some of that was specific to a given church body.  Other elements were far more broad, more shared as it were, constituting a church of the heart, a universal church that crossed denominational boundaries.

Each phase was inaugurated within God’s plan to uniquely serve humanity at that time.  Within the Christian tradition, that means the Old Testament was to serve humanity at that time as was the New Testament and as is New Church theology for this time.   Each builds and adds on to what went before, adding its own unique layer of meaning to what preceded.  As each sows itself together, married with experience, it constitutes for a Word for now.

The author Parker Palmer wrote: “All of our propositions and practices are earthen vessels. All of them are made by human beings of common clay to hold whatever we think we’ve found in our soul-deep quest for the sacred or in its quest for us. If our containers prove too crimped and cramped to hold the treasure well, if they domesticate the sacred and keep us from having a live encounter with it—or if they prove so twisted and deformed that they defile rather than honor the treasure they were intended to hold—then our containers must be smashed and discarded so we can create a larger and more life-giving vessel in which to hold the treasure.”

At a certain point we do outgrow the older forms he references. losing touch with the treasure within.  We then need to find “a more life-giving vessel.”  That does not change the sacredness of revelation.  It does however call us to be aware of the “pots” we place it in, including worship and Christian community.

Just as revelation “moves”, so much churches.    The trouble  is “when any religion insists that the treasure cannot be carried except in their earthen vessels ….”