Category Archives: parables

How I read the Bible

The Bible is not a flat book. It’s all God’s word, but every verse is not equal to every other verse. Love your neighbor is more important than don’t eat shrimp. 

I’ve heard many people say, “I don’t interpret the Bible, I just read it.” I may well have said it myself. But, that’s simply not possible. All of us read through the lens of who we are and what we’ve experienced. 

We all have a perspective. Everything we read or hear comes to us through the filter of our background, influences, preconceptions, and worldview. 

I have to listen deeply when I read scripture or hear a sermon or lecture. When it comes to the Bible, I’m learning to ask questions – How do we know that’s true? What’s the context of this passage? What kind of literature is this? To whom was it originally written? What do I know about them? How would they have read and understood this text? How does this passage point me to Jesus? How am I to apply this passage in my life? What do a wide variety of commentators say about this passage?

When I scan the collection of books in my library, I notice a commonality. The majority of commentaries and books on Christian living were written by affluent heterosexual men of northern European decent. That’s because those were the only people who had the means to gain the education, the time to write books, and the connections to get them published. It’s not that there was necessarily any overt plan to exclude others, nor any conscious racism. Nevertheless, as a result, the only voices available all shared the same perspective. I never thought to ask how a biblical text might look through the eyes of a Native American, a descendant of African slaves, or a woman.

Moreover, there’s the danger of reading our favorite theological position into the text. The original authors knew nothing of Calvinism, Arminianism, Catholicism, or Pentecostalism. 

Over the last decade or so, I’ve made a conscious effort to expose my mind to brilliant scholars from widely diverse backgrounds. The result is amazing. When the rains fell on the rich soils of the northern plains, the farmers in my congregation used to say you could hear the corn growing. I can almost hear myself growing spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually because I’m listening to voices across the ethnic, economic, gender, cultural, political, social, and theological spectra. Diversity is a vital divine gift. I’m trying to learn to listen to and learn from everyone I meet. 

But then, how does one sort out the true from the false? 

We have to start with who God is. God is love. Jesus is God incarnate, God in human flesh. God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. We have an amazing and historically accurate record of what Jesus spoke and did.

When reading the Bible, I try to filter the text through Jesus, through the loving incarnate God. I’m learning to read the Bible with a cruciform hermeneutic, to look at every text in light of the cross. 

I read the Bible this way because Jesus said to. All scripture is divinely inspired, and all scripture points to Jesus. Jesus challenged the religious scholars: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39)

Jesus changed everything on the cross. All evil was absorbed and obliterated. Perfect self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving love conquered sin and satan. 

Eternal life is not in reading the Bible. It is in Jesus. The Bible points us to the true, eternal, infallible Word of God, whose name is Jesus. Every passage in the Old Testament bears witness about Jesus. The Gospels are the stories of the life of Jesus. The rest of the New Testament points us back to Jesus. What does this passage mean in light of the cross? How can I see the love of God behind every Bible passage? 

Doing so takes a great deal of deconstruction. I’m learning to recognize and set aside my biases, to acknowledge my natural lenses. I’ve dispensed with a lot of dogma. 

And, I try to be humble – to keep an attitude of teachableness, of recognition that I have a lot to learn, and some of what I think is true may need adjusting.  

Sexual Integrity – a look at 1 Corinthians chapters 4-14

What happened on Sunday of Holy Week?

Should “Left Behind” be Left Behind?

Pulling it all together: An overview of the book of Revelation

All Things New! Revelation 21 & 22

Earth Swept Clean: Revelation 20

Why is it so hard to follow Jesus? Revelation 17 & 18

How Will God Make All Things New? An Overview of Revelation chapters 6-16

Spheres

Spheres in an Ocean of Love

Like all of us, they live in a 

Bubble called “Me,” which is

One of a handful of bubbles inside a larger bubble

We call “Family,” which is one of many bubbles

Inside the still larger bubble of “Our Tribe,” nested 

In “Nation,” which is nested in “World,” inside

“Galaxies,” inside “Universe,” which could be one

Of many inside “Ultimate Reality.”

The narcissist lives only in “Me,” 

As if that contained all.

The parochial live in “Family;” 

The fundamentalist in “Tribe;”

And the Christian Nationalist in “Nation.”

It is all idolatry.

The Spiritual Person lives in “Ultimate Reality.”

The Spiritual Person lives in the

Heart of Source,

The Secret Place of the Most High,

Under the shadow of the Divine Wings,

Without the loss of any lesser bubble.

The Spiritual Person lives in Freedom.

The bubbles, in defiance of all efforts to

Fortify them and incarcerate their captives,

Are all permeable cell-pods.

Pods within pods like nesting dolls

Self, me, myself, I, within

Clan, tribe, nation, within

Worlds unknown where

Fluorescent notes harmonize 

Into as yet unimagined 

Orchestration, all revolving around

Love.

It is, after all, a strange planet called

Sphaera, a vast and beautiful

Landscape mostly covered with bubbles – 

Round pods like so many soft marbles

Scattered unevenly in a garden –

Each one a translucent universe

Unto itself.

He lived in one of them, where,

For the most part, things were

Comfortable and felt reasonably 

Safe, and yet, he didn’t really 

Like it, in fact, at times, he

Hated the place but didn’t know

Why.

It was semitransparent like all the

Other pods – through blurry dreams

He could see others in their marbles, 

Some of whom looked happy, 

Others sad, some angry or even

Violent, thrashing about shadow boxing 

Nothing visible.

Sad people never left their pods.

How old was he when he discovered the

Door, its hinges disguised to blend with the

Rounded walls of melted glass? With trepidation he

Ventured out into the garden-world where

Others like himself danced and debated and

Learned and fought and 

Made up.

Here, nearly all humankind lives.

It was many years later when he

Realized that the garden filled with

Pod Bubbles was itself a pod – pods within

A pod; marbles inside a large

Marble; and years after that – years

Filled with meditation – that the shocking

Truth emerged:

The soft marble that contained his pod, 

Along with many others, inside a giant

Bubble, collectively was one of innumerable

Bubbles floating in a beautiful darkness, 

Ever vibrating, rotating,

Dancing slowly, waltz-like to 

Ethereal symphonic strains.

A force held it all together in 

Harmonious Orbit – an unnamable 

Force, a strange, mysterious

Foreign force that reminded him of

Something he had 

Forgotten many

Centuries ago.

Spheres within spheres, all

Within the ultimate eternal

Sphere. Most lived their lives 

Unaware of anything outside

Their own tribal garden – 

Oblivious of all the other

Gardens;

Or, if they were aware of the

Others, that awareness elicited

Fear that too often erupted in

Hatred, power, coercion,

Oppression, enslavement,

And jingoistic 

War after war after war.

How old was he when he 

Happened upon the door

Out of the tribal pod and 

Into the vast garden where 

All the clannish marbles

Orbited in fear of 

One another?

He discovered the key to

That door within his own

Heart and gingerly with

Trembling dared to 

Open it decades before he

Had the courage to

Step out

Into the music.

%d bloggers like this: