The Bible Tells us Things We have Never Heard Before
One of the best things about being a preacher is that I have to grapple with passages from the Bible every week. As I reflect on biblical texts, something amazing happens: I rediscover what I believe! Yes, in my case it only takes the week between Sundays to completely forget what my faith is all about.
What I have discovered again and again is that the Bible isn’t good advice, a little wisdom for the journey, or interesting historical facts. The words of the Bible are much more than that: they open my eyes to things I simply wouldn’t see otherwise. Swiss Theologian Karl Barth put it this way: “The Word of God always tells us something fresh that we had never heard before from anyone.” I come to the text with one sort of vision and leave with another.
What sort of “vision” do I bring to the text? I bring a vision shaped by the “bad religion” that dominates our society. The “bad religion” is the consumer society. In a consumer society, I am trained every day to see life as something that can be bought and sold, and my life as just one more commodity on the shelf. In such a society, the church is too often just another store trying to get as many customers for its goods as possible. In this kind of society, it is all up to me to get my fair share of the goods and the end result is anxiety. Life is about survival and making ends meet. Furthermore, the society trains me each day to be realistic about the flawed nature of society. The world is screwed up and that is just the way it is going to be, world without end.
But when I come to the biblical texts something astonishing happens: I am told “something fresh” that I have never heard before. For example, last Sunday the teenage youth group and I read Isaiah 65: 17-25. This prophetic vision announces that God is going “to create new heavens and a new earth.” What will this new world be like? This passage tells us that eventually God will so reorder the socio-economic environment that one day there will be no more “cries of distress” because people are suffering. Infant mortality will be a thing of the past. The elderly will not be neglected but live out their days and then some. The laborers of this society will build houses, not just for others, but also for themselves. Everyone will have meaningful work. Not only will societal relations be reordered, but the community’s relationship with God will be so intimate that God will answer the community’s needs even before they make their requests. There will be peace among all people, and war shall be no more. If you don’t believe what I have said, just read the text.
As we read these words in the Youth Group, you could see the eyes of the teenagers literally opening wide. You could see hope arriving in that room. And here is the rub: The church can’t do what it can’t see. Because these teenagers—and the adults in the room for that matter—had been offered an alternative vision for the future of the world, the teenagers began to look at what they could do to help God make this vision a reality. Words like these inspire people to act. The same thing happens at our Tuesday morning Bible study. Our eyes are opened to things we have forgotten or have never seen. We then leave the study more able to live in sync with this vision.
The Bible isn’t good advice; it is Good News. Good News about what God is doing in the world. Good News about how much God loves and cares about us. The Bible constantly reorients us to what will bring us life. If you want to us join us on Tuesday mornings, 9:30—11:00am, just show up whether you are a member of St. Timothy’s or not. If that doesn’t work for you and you would like to start a Bible Study at another time, contact me at email@example.com and let’s see what we can do.