Monday, July 15, 2013

The Word is the Story

I often have youth who want to know how I consider the Bible. Is it something we are supposed to read as a story? Is it something we are supposed to take as literal truth or we are not faithful? Or is it something that I have to choose to not believe because I believe in evolution? I love these questions because I have been resourced with someone else's very wise answers.
photo by Kim Prucha

Eugene Peterson visited our church two years ago and I hung on his every word. He is the author of the semi-contriversial translation of the Bible called "The Message". After his visit, I dove into all the introducations and explanations in my dusty Message Bible and was floored by the wisdom that was shared in those pages.

Peterson first talked about language. He is a linguist and was one before he became a pastor. It was studying Greek and Hebrew that he began to know God's love because he had to dive into some of the best preserved ancient manuscripts from those languages. The copulation of those manuscripts is now called "The Bible". Peterson loves words. Words create the story because it is from those words that we create a relationship to them and they create a relationship to us. This relationship is probably where story lovers first discover God's presence.

If you look at Genesis 1 right at the very beginning this is what you will read:

1-2 First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.
3-5 God spoke: “Light!”
        And light appeared.
    God saw that light was good
        and separated light from dark.

God spoke and then something happened. God is the Word. The living breathing word that creates life. That is the first thing that we can take from this ancient story of creation. Then when you skip ahead several thousand years you can read an account by the John (a follower of Jesus) in The Gospel of John

 1-2 The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.
3-5 Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
    and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
    the darkness couldn’t put it out.

This Word that brings life and light to the world is the present breath of God. This Word creates the story of mankind. We are created in God's imagine; we carry the word in us. We create with the Word just as God does because we too were created by the word. Do you see how we are created by words even still? We create goodness and life with our words just as we create darkness and evil. We create the truths and stories of who we are and who other people are. We name and are named. Our words are powerful. Peterson suggests that once we realize that our words become our stories then we sooner or later realize that our stories are connected to God's story. This is where faith begins. This connection is our relationship to our creator.

photo by Jessie Hunt
Peterson gets us off to the right start in his introduction of Genesis:

Genesis uses words to make a foundation that is solid and true. Everything
we think and do and feel is material in a building operation in which we are
engaged all our life long. There is immense significance in everything that
we do. Our speech and our actions and our prayers are all, every detail of
them, involved in this vast building operation comprehensively known as
the Kingdom of God. But we don’t build the foundation. The foundation is
given. The foundation is firmly in place.
Jesus concluded his most famous teaching by telling us that there are two
ways to go about our lives, we can build on sand or we can build on rock.
No matter how wonderfully we build, if we build on sand it will all fall to
pieces like a house of cards. We build on what is already there, on the rock.
Genesis is a verbal witness to that rock: God’s creative acts, God’s inter-
vening and gracious judgments, God’s call to a life of faith, God’s making
covenant with us.
But Genesis presents none of this to us as an abstract, bloodless “truth” or
“principle.” We are given a succession of stories with named people, people
who loved and quarreled, believed and doubted, had children and married,
experienced sin and grace. If we pay attention, we find that we ourselves are

living variations on these very stories: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and
his sons, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and
his brothers. The stories show clearly that we are never outsiders or spectators
to anything in “heaven and earth.” God doesn’t work impersonally from space;
he works with us where we are, as he finds us. No matter what we do, whether
good or bad, we continue to be part of everything that God is doing. Nobody
can drop out — there’s no place to drop out to. So we may as well get started
and take our place in the story — at the beginning.

When my kids come to me and ask me what I think about the Bible, I can honestly say I believe it is the Word of God. It is the story of God and it is the story of Claire. It is the relationship that comes from the words in this story that feed the faith that I hold dear. 

God is the Word and the Word is God. All words are God's just like all of creation is God's. We are all part of the intricate woven story of His words so therefore, I believe that I encounter the Word of God all day long. The Bible affirms that encounter and helps me to recognize God's presence in the daily story of my life.This is why this book has transformed lives for centuries.

The stories in scripture are the stories of other people who have tapped into their relationship to the Word. All of our stories collide into a reality that is so very true: we are all connected through and by God who is still creating everything.

That does not mean I believe that everything in the Bible is a stone, hard fact. The Bible is story. God's story. There are many stories of God. What I believe is truth is that God is the Word and this word is the very fabric that made me. No matter what, there is meaning and truth to nourish my soul all the days of my life. 

There are many, many words. There are many, many stories. I know God in the relationship that has happened within those stories and it is in that relationship that I experience belief.