Friday, August 22, 2014

Real Bibles Don't Bend

It was a few days into Vacation Bible School, and I had led my third session of the evening. My video lesson took place in the Lord’s Worker’s classroom which I delightfully shared with Brenda and Fran who prepared and served the snacks. I knew that my lesson would always take a back seat to the snack, and I was ok with that. On Sundays we serve coffee and donuts. In worship we have communion. In church, there has to be food in some form just about every time we meet. So the kids had had their snacks and their lesson, and we were just waiting for the bell to tell us to go to the sanctuary for closing activities. I was sitting in the teacher’s chair at the front of the classroom and noticed an attractive looking softbound leather Bible at the podium. I picked it up, and it opened to the first chapter of the Song of Solomon (also called the Song of Songs). I started to read it somewhat absentmindedly. It begins with “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth – for your love is more delightful than wine.” A young girl noticed what I was doing and asked: “What are you reading?” There was no way that I was going to tell her exactly what I was reading so I said, “The Bible.” “Are you sure?” she replied. “Yes, I’m sure,” I said and turned to the front of the book, pointed to the title page, and read “Holy Bible.” “What does ‘Holy’ mean? she asked. I was beginning to think that I should try to get her another snack, but I told her that “Holy” meant sacred or special. She thought for a moment and proclaimed, “That’s not the real Bible.” “Sure it is,” I said. “Nope,” she replied. “Real Bibles don’t bend.” Just then the bell was ringing to end the session. And I knew that I had probably heard the most profound and provocative thing that I would hear all week. At some level, I knew that she was referring to the fact that that particular Bible was softbound rather than hardbound. And I assumed that the Bible in her home was a hardbound one. But at another level, I knew that she had shared an important truth for all of us. And I didn’t have to dig that hard to find the treasure in her words. Many people try to manipulate the Bible to fit their own goals, agendas, and viewpoints. Rather than the Bible informing and shaping their beliefs, they already know what their beliefs are before they open their Bibles. They search for just the right verse(s) to justify their actions. They try to bend the words of scripture into the shape that works the best for them. But “Real Bibles don’t bend,” do they? The Bible does not bend but the Bible is alive. I believe that the Bible is not just a rigid set of outmoded rules but is the living Word of God which brings new life and guidance to every generation of believers. The Bible is both ancient yet fresh at the same time. The purpose of the Bible is to change us and bend us to God’s will rather than giving us ammunition to back up our own self-centered perspective. I always learn something valuable at Vacation Bible School, and it usually comes from the children. Jim

Your Children's Children

I was reading Psalm 128 this morning which contains this blessing: “May you live to see your children’s children.” Since our granddaughter Abigail Joy was born on July 23, this is the first time I had read this passage and heard it as a blessing realized for our family. Abigail is Jacob and Heather’s first child and the first grandchild for Holly and I. Some of you have a lot of experience in being grandparents or even great grandparents, but it is all new to us. One of the things that I am noticing about myself is that I am thinking longer term than I did before. I certainly cannot predict the future – what will or will not come to pass – but the year 2032 has gained a new meaning for me. That is the year that Abigail will turn 18 and likely will be graduating from high school. I don’t know what the world will be like in 2032, but the fact that someone I love will be turning 18 that year makes me feel invested in it more deeply than I previously was. Whether I am around by then remains to be seen – by then most of my future will be in my past – but I want the best possible future for Abigail. I was thinking of my grandmother recently and how she took her husband’s paychecks from Republic Steel in Niles, Ohio and used some of the funds to buy stocks and bonds. She was a strong willed woman, and I am sure that my Pap didn’t have all that much to say about the matter. The regular bills including house payments got paid on time, but funds were regularly set aside for the future. I am not sure how long Grandma Bane invested in the future, but I am certain that it was way before my birth in 1956. When I went to Harvard Divinity School in 1978, funds were available from her to pay my way. My grandfather’s labor and my grandmother’s stewardship of his wages made sure that one of their “children’s children” could become a minister. And when she died, more funds were there to help a young couple cover some of the costs of raising their first child Jacob – one of her “children’s children’s children.” So often there is so much immediacy and urgency in so many parts of our lives that it is really hard to think much beyond the day, the week, or the month. But children and grandchildren and great grandchildren are reminders to us that there is a future to be lived - if not by us then by those we love and care for. This future is in God’s hands yet I know that God invites us to invest what we have to make it the best possible future for others. JIM