Being the boss has its perks, like being able to break from routine. This isn’t my usual blog post, but it’s been in the making for a full year, so I’d like to share. Comments are welcome, if you decide to read through the whole thing. No lazy internet flaming, please. If this isn’t your thing, it’s no big shakes, and I’ll be back to talking about organizing and design soon.
(BTW, Organizing tip: Make time for the important stuff, like this class I took, on your calendar first, before others fill your schedule.)
This isn’t a book review, but more like a book report. Remember those? Three paragraphs, telling what the book was about, why you liked it or didn’t, and whether you would recommend it to your friends. Hmmm, this might be longer than three paragraphs.
Every Wednesday for the last year, about fifteen of us met to read through and discuss most of the Bible in a Disciple class. I’ve read the Bible before, but never with a group, which I really recommend. The most important book in the world, which is so timeless, is also shrouded in layers of history that just don’t make sense to most of us modern people. I loved having people who are really fascinated by history point out why certain things show up the Bible.
It took having lunch with a friend to sum it all up for me. Weeks after class ended, I was sitting across from a childhood friend sharing mom experiences, when somehow we started talking about our faith and churches. It turns out she goes to one of those wacky Unitarian Universalist churches where, as she put it, their theology is mostly, “I don’t have this life figured out, and you don’t either.” Anyway, sitting with her, I just knew that what we needed from each other wasn’t to say what we did or didn’t know. We just both needed the relationship. We were there for each other, and to revel in the crazy miracle of our families and shared history.
That’s what the Bible is about. Relationships. Ours with God, and ours with each other. Yeah, there are a lot of hard to pronounce names, laws and rules, and passages that I just plain don’t understand in the Bible. But reading the book through from cover to cover (or nearly so), I got the context from one generation to the next, one period of history to the next. Throughout the ages, God was there saying to us, like I say to my kids (but He, with more patience), “Now that wasn’t a very good choice, was it? Let’s try again. Maybe another way.”
The cool thing I learned this time around from reading the Bible is that it actually does tell one long, epic story. Call me a slow learner. I mean, I knew all the stories we learned as kids, like Noah and the Ark, Daniel and the lion’s den, Jonah and the whale, Jesus feeding the multitudes with just a few fish (did you know that happens more than once?), but I didn’t realize that the whole Bible really just told one big story. It is the recounting of one family tree, from Adam through Abraham through King David and through his lineage all the way to Jesus Christ. That’s right, if you read it carefully, perhaps with some help, you can find that Jesus’ story wasn’t just that of a cool dude who showed up just when they decided to start numbering the calendar from year one, but he’s actually the biggest name in this story of really famous people. Kind of like the TV miniseries Roots, but waaaaaaay longer. When Israel was a really small group of people, it was easier to explain who belonged to who. When the population expands and settles into its own country, it gets a bit harder to follow the family relationships, but they are there.
We also spent a lot of time on why God does some of the wacky things he does. The story of Job, a nice guy who gets tortured by both the devil and God for no good reason, makes no sense. I have a bad habit of reading literally and wanting answers, gosh darn it. But when I’m reminded by others to read for central questions, themes, and lessons, it makes more sense. What does God want us too know about Him? I’m grateful that I have the Bible to remind me what God is really about.
He isn’t about the rules and laws that are in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Those He just had to spell out for us because we are slow. And dumb. C’mon, admit it. We shouldn’t have to be told not to kill or steal or sleep with the wrong people. But as a community we need rules, because those acts still make the front page every day.
What He is about is in the climax of the story. Admittedly, it’s a very, very, very, very, very long build up to the climax of the story. He starts telling us that he loves us way back at the start, in Genesis. But we forget or stop hearing him, he tries to get our attention over and over again. That’s the part of the story where the Jews get tossed out of their own country. It doesn’t just happen the one time when Charleton Heston brings them out of Egypt. It happens again and again. It’s all here in the middle and back half of the Old Testament.
That’s where sin comes in. Sin isn’t a concept that I think about much. But now that I have preschoolers, I’ve been seeing it first hand on a daily basis. Um, mine and theirs, to be honest. Sin isn’t just the top ten rules not to break. Sin is just anything that gets in the way of God and I having a really cool, deep, and loving relationship. Sometimes sin is something that is done, something it is something left undone, and sometimes it is just a contrary or mean thought that plants itself in my head. The whole Bible is trying to explain that there is a God and he loves us- loves me- and He’s willing to do some extreme things to get my attention and help me stop sinning.
That’s where Jesus Christ comes in. (Oh, and by the way, Christ isn’t his last name, but his title, calling him out as the Savior. Yeah, good to know.) I totally don’t get the whole He died for me so I didn’t have to die. It seems too gruesome. Too unnecessary. Too over the top. But God wasn’t playing. He was playing for keeps. This is where I could start spouting scriptures, but I’m no good at that. Really, this was an Extreme Sport. The stakes were high in this event, and Jesus went all out to win us as the prize. Gulp. Most days I’m not really much of a prize, but He wanted me anyway.
We also learned that the Holy Spirit is the part of God that hung around for the early Christians after Jesus ascended into Heaven to be with God, and the Holy Spirit is here with us in the modern day, to help us deal with our sin. The idea of a three-in-one God is a really tough one. I guess that’s why they call it a miracle. I still don’ t understand it, but now I get it. Kind of like electricity, if you ask me. I can’t explain how it works, but I sure know how to apply it to my life.
So, after reading the Bible, I think it gets as close as anything to answering the age old question, “Why am I here?” The short answer is to worship God. He made us, and he wants to hang out with us in perfect love all the time. I used to think that was a silly answer, but not anymore. I mean, all I want to do is have a Best Day Ever with my kids every single day, but every day they do something that requires me to parent (i.e. discipline), and that makes me grumpy, and I’m not even running the rest of creation at the same time. God, however, wants to love us all the time in a way that we really can’t understand because, well, we aren’t in control like God is. Yeah, I forget that all the time.
It was a long year, but we just scratched the surface. Even though I often arrived late and left early for my class, even though the reading load was grueling and I often didn’t do the written homework, I can’t wait for the class to start again next year. I would definitely recommend this book to my friends. I have read the ending and, although it gets a little fanciful and -ok- weird at the end, the good guys win. Even better, I’m reminded that I’m on the winning side. Praise the Lord.