This Bible Belongs To:

41MzMyUzY6L._SX300_

 

I have inherited another Bible.

At our 11am Sunday service, we have a basket with free bibles for people to take.

One Sunday after church a young woman, an awkward, occasional attender, brought up one of these Bibles and a pen.

“Can you sign my Bible for me?”,  she asked.

I wasn’t sure what to do.  Was this like an autograph situation?  That would be kind of weird.

Would signing this Bible make it feel like I wrote it?

Still, this struggling parishioner wanted my name in her Bible, and so I opened the front page and wrote:  Pastor Mitch Todd.  Who knows?  Maybe it will help her remember who her pastor was.

She thanked me and headed towards the door.

– – –

Somehow, In the twenty feet between where we were standing and the exit, she must have misplaced her new Bible.  Because on Monday morning, guess what was in my office mailbox?

Yep.

Somebody found the book, had looked inside for a name, and there was mine.

I couldn’t think of anything to do except to keep it.

That was several weeks ago, and I haven’t seen the young woman again.

I already have a good 15 Bibles.  I didn’t think I needed another one, but apparently I do.

– – –

This Bible is sitting on my desk right now.  I decided to consider it a gift from a parishioner.

I pray for her when I hold it.  She’s had a very difficult life.

I flip open the front page, and right beneath my name, I write hers.

There.  This book belongs to both of us now.

It’s here whenever she needs it.

 

Have a great week,

Mitch

BibleBirds-300x297

Terms and Conditions

tacma

This evening, I thought I’d sit down for a couple hours…

and review all my Terms and Conditions.

Are you caught up on yours?

Let’s see.  Where to start.

I think I’ll start with OS 8, the latest update for my Iphone.  When I installed the software it brought up pages of tiny text that I clicked past without even looking at it.   I wonder what I agreed to?

Then there’s Facebook.  People are always concerned about Facebook stealing their privacy.  I guess I’ll have to review all the fine print to find out.

Of course, this isn’t just a matter of computer stuff.  I’m pretty sure there were terms and conditions when I bought my last car.  I should probably read them.

And don’t forget that super-fast voice at the end of just about every commercial on TV!  Terms like “Void where Prohibited”, “Use only as directed”, and “Do not attempt” all come to us from this netherworld of tiny print.

Mostly I think of all of it as lawyer-speak, and easy enough to ignore.   And that’s probably what I’ll continue to do.

But should I?

Some folks will point out this is how we give our rights and our privacy away.  One update at a time.

Others will say we’ve learned to ignore how litigious and bureaucratic our society has become.

I hear all that.  But truthfully, I know me.  I probably won’t change how I treat all that fine print stuff.

I wonder, though, if I need to pay attention to how I treat the Bible.

Sometimes I forget that Christianity comes with its own Terms and Conditions, too.

Virtually every page instructs us, sets boundaries and asks for accountability.  I’ll admit there are times when I flip past all that legalistic or jargony sounding stuff without a second look.

Is that okay?

Nope.  I don’t think so.

You and I can wrestle and argue with scripture, and seek to interpret it and apply it, but we’re not supposed to ignore it.

Even the tough spots!

So, when you come upon a text that seems dense or challenging or makes you uncomfortable,

picture the following disclaimer written along the bottom of the page:

By all means, Do Attempt!  DO ATTEMPT!

Maybe this evening, I’ll pick up my Bible and read a little.

Even though my Study Bible has a ridiculously small font,

I’m reminded that there’s not one chapter in the Good Book

that should be relegated to the category of

Fine Print.

Have a great week,

Mitch

fine_print

The Bible Part III

download
So, I really liked parts I and II (The Old and New Testaments),

but do you think it’s time to reopen the canon?

The canon is the collection of writings that have come to be known as The Bible.

Hundreds and hundreds of years ago we closed it up and declared it sufficient.

But then again…

That was before cloning.  Maybe we could use some instruction on that.

It was before technology of any sort, really.

It was before talk of global warming, or gay marriage, or reality television.

Should we commission a supplemental volume —

to clarify what Jesus really meant?

Who would decide what goes in to a Bible Part III?

Would scholars?  Pastors?  You or me? Would we have a 1-800 call in voting system?

I wonder.  Would we come to blows over what constitutes The Word of God?

Probably.

Come to think of it, we already do that with the Bible we have.

Okay then.  No Part III.

No point in adding to the “canon fodder”.

But here’s a thought:

If God had intended the Bible to be the last Word — why give people the gift of writing?

Sure, the Bible may be the most important book on the shelf, but that doesn’t mean you ignore the whole library around you, right?

No, I think God inspires people even today.

From NT Wright to William P. Young (look em up), the written word has the power to enlighten and instruct.

Someone, right now, may be writing words on a page that will one day convey a life-changing insight, one that may cause you or I to revise even the most die-hard opinions we’ve had about The Bible.

I’m going to stay open to that possibility.

I firmly believe that The Good Book points me to a relationship with God, through Christ.  It shows me what salvation means.  It welcomes me into a life of Kingdom-living. It is the foundation by which I try to live my life.

But just the same…

When it comes to something like cloning, or global warming, or even gay marriage…

I’m just glad to remember that God

is still speaking.

Mitch

 

Kansas-City-Public-Library-Missouri_2

Literally.

bible-Sunlight

You know what I’m a little tired of?

The word “literally”.  I am literally tired of the word literally.

But so is everybody else.  Especially when it’s misused.

“It was so funny I was literally dying!”   No you weren’t.  You were laughing.  Use better English

So yeah, overusing “literally” in common speech is annoying.

But you know what concerns me even more? (And will possibly get me some hate mail…)

Overusing “literally” when talking about faith.  More specifically, the Bible.

There are many Christians who read the Bible “literally”, like a book of facts.  Like the answer key for everything.  A Book that has no discrepancies and no falsehoods.

I understand  why people are attracted to that form of faith.  It means putting your faith in one source, one place in the whole world where human infallibility can’t corrupt.

The Bible becomes an anchor of singular truth, cast down from God to keep the faithful from drowning in a world of chaos.

I kind of get that.  It sounds easier than the doggy paddling my faith must do from time to time.

But here’s what I wonder:  What use is imagination if the Bible requires none?  Or doubt, for that matter, in the face of the literal truth?  Why did God give us discerning brains but then lay it all out for us at face value?

Why, after all, do human beings need the Bible to be, from cover to cover, literally true?

I, for one, think the Bible is indeed inspired by God, but written through many different people, in a variety of cultures and settings.

I think the Bible contains life shaping instruction and wisdom, but that it has to to be fleshed out with my whole being.  My mind, my traditions, even my experiences.

I don’t think of the Bible as a Fact book, filled with one unerring detail after another, but rather as a Truth book–to be uncovered and interpreted–even argued with!

By reducing my use of the word “literally” when talking about the Bible, it means the Good Book is to be used in conjunction with the rest of my life, not hovering over it, set apart from it.  It becomes the supreme faith tool, not just an answer key.

Living faithfully without the “literal” tag means a life with more uncertainty, more wrestling, and more searching for God throughout the world.

And I literally wouldn’t want it any other way.

Have a Good Week,

Mitch

misuse-of-the-word-literally-jar

God Speaks From Mars!

565782_10151381911740126_1329309309_n

It’s our first communication with people from another planet!

In crude, telegraphed messages, we ask them, “What’s your life span?”

They answer: “About 300 years.”

We learn that they have superior agriculture, and unlimited free energy.

We ask: “How did you keep from blowing each other up?”

And they answer with what sounds like a passage from…the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)

What?!!!

Sound like a cheesy sci-fi movie premise from the 50’s, doesn’t it?  Well it is.

The movie is “Red Planet Mars,” from 1952, starring Peter Graves.  You can watch it on Netflix here, if you’re a subscriber, but be forewarned, it’s no Star Wars!

It’s a cold war propaganda piece that takes a sudden right turn into matters of faith.  And I kind of loved it.

Here are these unseen Martians quoting us passages from the Bible (King James version, I might add!)  The whole world is astounded and comes back to the church in droves.  The iron curtain is torn down.  Every last no good bum finds their way to God, and the world is saved!

Do you think it would really work like that?

If we picked up distant radio signals from another world, telling us to love our neighbor and abandon our sinful ways, do you think the world would change overnight?

Not very likely.

Why would the Good News, coming from so far away, be able to accomplish what the Good News struggled to accomplish when it walked right here among us?

Jesus delivered the message of all messages, about God’s love for us, and our need to love our neighbors and practice servanthood as clearly as has ever been stated.   The actual Sermon on the Mount is an unparalleled collection of words to live by.

The words are available in every church and book store and hotel room from here to the North Pole, but let’s face it, even die-hard Christians have trouble heeding them.  

I suppose a voice from the heavens would carry some outside authority, some confirmation that God really means business.  Maybe we’d all take this Jesus business more seriously. For a while.

But until each human receives and decodes God’s message in their own hearts,

The Good News threatens to remain,

Alien.

sermon_on_mount (1)

Have a Good Week,

Mitch

Duel-istic


It started last week.

I was standing in the produce aisle, inspecting peaches.   An employee standing next to me was humming along with the music from the speakers.  Absent-mindedly she said, “I just love Kenny G”.   I chuckled and said, “To be honest, I’ve never liked him.”

Almost immediately, she turned and glared at me.   She took off one of her latex gloves, and slapped me across the face with it.

“Choose your weapon,” she growled at me.   I sized her up briefly, looked at the pricing gun in her hand, and then bolted for the exit.

Two days later I was talking with somebody at the ballgame.   He said he hated the designated hitter rule.   I told him I thought it made the game more exciting.   Wham!  He slapped me across the face, whispered “Pistols at dawn”, and turned and left.  I’ve decided to start rooting for a different team.  Just to be safe.

What is going on?  I’ve been invited to four duels in the past three days!   I told someone I voted for Obama, and she pulled a sword!  I mentioned to someone else that I was against Capital Punishment and before I knew it we were arm wrestling.

Has the world gone mad?  It’s as if anyone who has an opinion contrary to yours is suddenly an enemy!  This sort of all or nothing thinking is dangerous…and contagious.

I’m worried.  This morning a parishioner told me they hated the Harry Potter books.  It took three people to hold me down!

It’s been shown time and again that dualism can lead to duel-ism.   Remember Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton?  They took their political frustrations out with firearms! While I don’t see that kind of violence on C-SPAN, who could deny the divisive, violent undertones in modern political rhetoric and legislative debate?

Come to think of it, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter came to “magical” blows during a dueling lesson at Hogwarts.  It’s true, the Slytherins and the Griffindors seem to be at odds much of the time.

What about you?  How do you respond if someone picks the other side of an issue you’re passionate about?  Do you rush in to argue? Do you challenge your “opponent” to a battle of who is superior?  Do you feel compelled to fight for what you think is right?  Hmm. But what if the fighting part is what’s wrong?

Here’s some advice from the writer of Timothy:

Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness.  –2 Timothy 2:23-25

This doesn’t mean you’re can’t choose to like (or not like ) Kenny G.   It doesn’t mean you can’t choose to approve (or disapprove) of some elected official.   It doesn’t even mean you can’t state your opinion, make your case, and try to share some of your accumulated wisdom in conversation with somebody who disagrees.

But the next time you feel like it’s time to take the gloves off…

Think twice before getting Slap Happy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch