Friday, May 6, 2011

Do I love Scripture?

Pastor Nadia was here for the Book of Faith Jubilee last week, and she did a plenary on experiencing the text (i.e. all the awesome stuff they do at HFASS to make Scripture come alive) and presided over a HFASS Eucharist.

And it was fantastic, in an anti-excellence pro-participation way, and I loved it.

But something she said during the plenary has stayed with me, and troubled me.

She said:
“I love Scripture.”

And it troubled me because I don't.

I knew when I was young that I was supposed to love the Bible.  Especially when I was going to an AoG church, I would have said "Yes, I love the Bible."  But I learned to carry it and quote from it like a teenager - to impress others.  Not to be impressed with the story.

And after leaving the AoG congregation, I spent time fearing the Bible.  Whenever I opened it I had to protect myself from the passage, contextualize it, say "Well, that's meant for a different place and time" - because how else does a seventeen-year-old girl theologizing on her own learn to explain Romans 1:26?

(This is how a seventeen year old Emmy handles it.)

When I became a religion major, I learned historical criticism.  I learned to turn my Bible upside down and shake it till the "real truth" of the story fell out - and I shook hard, because that seventeen-year-old was still pretty sure that if she didn't shake hard enough, she'd get hit.  I think I was taught well, but I applied it wrong.

And when I became a Sunday School teacher, I learned to find the pertinent passage for the day, and puzzle over how to explain it to small children in a way that didn't dumb down or over-sweeten the message.

And all the while I was so afraid to love the Bible - because people who talk about loving the Bible, about the beauty of the Word, about the inspiration of Scripture, about the saving Word, are not the kind of people who ask me to pastor them.  No, Bible-loving is for Bible-thumpers.  I stay away from that kind of language because I am not that kind of girl.

So when Nadia said, "I love Scripture," I realized how much I don't - how much, when I come to the text, I'm still turning it upside down, shaking it, saying "What's it really mean - and how am I supposed to teach that?"

This isn't a bad question.  But it can't be my starting point.

I know that I love the Bible - that I love the stories, and the Story, and even the messiness of it.  I don't love all of it - some of it is Law to me, revealing my failures and shortcomings; some of it is Straw, Martin Luther's metaphor for how the Bible holds Jesus just as the manger held the baby.  But this book holds the story of my people - of God liberating us at the Red Sea, of the prophets calling us back to righteousness and justice and mercy, of the pain of Job and the psalm writers and the Lamenter, of Paul trying to explain this crazy idea of Christianity to both Jews and Greeks -

of God who was so sick of us making stuff up about how to worship properly that he showed up in human form and walked among Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles and revealed the radicalness of God's love.

I want to learn to love Scripture, to not be afraid of it, to dwell in its images and stories, not because it is Truth but because it is the closest thing I have to it.

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