Tag Archives: Light

Love is the only Torch We carry

Love is the only Torch we carry

By Nathan Decker

O, Virginia… watching the events of this weekend in Charlottesville brought me pain.   To see torches again used as beacons of hatred in my lifetime, Lord, have mercy on us.  When a group of white nationalists with anti-immigrant beliefs rapes the torch of Lady Liberty, the irony should not be lost.  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” has once again been trampled on by members of the Know-Nothing party of the 1800’s.  We shouldn’t be afraid of the light.  The flame of torches usually represents people coming together.  In the past, I have proudly watched the torch represent efforts for peace at the Olympics, hope for new discovery in Education, and the eternal flame of Wisdom guiding us.  Shame on us for making it symbol of division and fear!

Much of what transpired this weekend was based in fear and grief.  The city of Chartlottesville’s decision to take down a statue ripped off the band-aid on the surgical wound our nation has been dealing with ever since the Constitution told African-Americans they were 3/5 human.  Our nation’s history is complex and up for interpretation and retelling.  Each generation takes up the momentous task of looking back with guilt and pride in an effort to plow a new path into the future.  There are always attempts at shouting the loudest to diminish the voices of others.

As we stand up against the evil of white supremacy, we have to acknowledge the grief that is being expressed.  The way history is told in this nation has mostly been from a white perspective as if whites were the only leaders and contributors.  In recent years this wrong is being righted.  Those who were silenced and oppressed have had the opportunity to add their story to the history of our nation.  White nationalists and supremacists see this as diminishing white history.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Adding missing slices to the pie only makes the pie more full and does not require us to make other slices smaller.  Yet, this is the fear I see in the eyes of those carrying torches of darkness and yelling hate.  They believe they are losing their part of the story.

We can bravely shine brighter than the faces of fear.  We can learn to build relationships with those carrying torches of hate so that we might show them light, love, and the Christ who welcomes all tribes and nations together.  We can, as friends of mine did in Charlottesville, have peaceful conversations with those with whom we disagree.  We can listen to their concerns as well as make our concerns heard.  Through the conversations that lead to relationships, we can admit that all lives matter to Christ, we are one nation made up of many, and love shines brighter.  Love is the only torch we are called to carry into the dark night of hatred and apathy.  We shall overcome by letting peace on earth begin with each of us lifting up love.  After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

 

Goodness is stronger than evil;

                Love is stronger than hate;

                Light is stronger than darkness;

                Life is stronger than death;

                Victory is ours through Him who loves us.”

                                -Bp. Desmond Tutu

“But I don’t want to take a Bath!”

from Isaiah 42:1-9

The little boy and girl were as close to heaven as they were to the earth.  Jessica and Jerome: fraternal and inseparable twins they were.  At age seven, they looked at the world through double lenses of reality and fantasy.  It didn’t take much in their eyes to turn a play house into a castle or a tree with low hanging branches into an attacking dragon, and behind the castle, a puddle of mud into a swimming pool.

They each took turns cannonballing into the mud and the muck.  She first noticed that you could turn it into a slip and slide if you ran first.  He figured out that you could ball up the mud and throw it (even at her).  They were in the ecstatic giggles and youthful joy when mother’s voice called them to dinner.  “Lord have mercy, how did you two get so dirty? You both will have to have a bath before dinner.”

That’s when the buts showed up.   “But mom, we don’t want to.”  “But mom, do we have to?”  “But mom, we look alright to each other.”  And in a tone that warned her that teenage years were approaching far too quickly, “Mother!”

And we understand these feelings all too well in our spiritual journey.  As Christians we see the word through double lenses.  We see the world as it is.  We see the racism that persists in our nation from generation to generation.  We weep at the funerals of police officers that have been ambushed while striving to serve and protect.  The greedy horde while the poor starve.  Nations are shutting doors to immigrants and refugees in irrational fears based on the same nationalism and prejudice that fueled the Nazi party almost 100 years ago.  The world seems to be playing its own version of Hunger games and we are all in the arena.

But as Christians, we also see the world as God believes it could and should be.  Love that sees difference of culture and skin tone not as a bad thing but as an a reflection of God’s own diverse love and color.  Righteous anger at those who abuse power, manipulate crowds with fear, and use tragedy as a means to fuel their own agendas.  Compassion for moms and dads who just want a safe place from war, rape, and unrest for their children to grow up and have it better than they did.

And in all of this God asks us to take a bath.  Our Lord invites us to awaken within our baptismal waters and be transformed by them.  Jesus wants us to be changed by his Grace, to be transformed in his Compassion, to use these waters shared with us as a gift.  God invites us to be more than a people who worship in wishes?  God invites us to be love in action.  God calls us to raise our voice for the voiceless, give our strength to the weak, and lift up those who have been pushed down.   

And that’s when the buts show up.  “But God, we don’t want to.”  “But God, do we have to?”  “But God, we look alright to each other.”  And in a tone that warns of our tendency to rebellion, “Father!”   

Isaiah preaching to the people about the Messiah speaks of who God is.  “He will bring justice to the nations.”  Our Savior brings peace and wholeness to the world.  “He won’t cry out or shout.”  Our Lord doesn’t call attention to himself. God doesn’t have an ego or need all eyes on him.  “He won’t break a bruised reed; he won’t extinguish a faint wick, but he will surely bring justice.”  He won’t brush aside those who are bruised and hurt. The smallest and most insignificant light is still precious in his eyes.  The weak will be made strong, the poor will be rich: this is God’s Kingdom, a revolution through spiritual practice.

Isaiah, preaching, gives a word from God about who we are.  God is an all-powerful God who has chosen to share that power with us.  “I, the Lord, have called you for a good reason… I’m giving you as a promise to the people, as a light to the nations.”  The Lord who created the heavens, the one who stretched the sky from east to west and north to south, the one who breathed life into your lips wants you to be the change.  God calls us to be the life in this world of death.  God calls us to be the hope in this despair.  God calls us to be the new beginning in the end of endings.

We are the folks who have taken a bath.  Jessica and Jerome didn’t want to take a bath.  So their mother gave them a different option.  A little liquid soap up into water balloons, a two water guns, and mom with the hose and bath time was no longer a chore but had become a transformed moment of joy, love, and memory.

We are the folks who have taken a bath.  We’ve been given a gift in our baptismal waters.  We are God’s promise to the nations.  We are God’s lights of joy, love, and testimony.  As we remember our Baptism today, let’s not just be wishful worshippers.  Let’s be the changed, the transformed, the renewed, those who have been washed in God’s love.  Amen.

When will We Shine?

from Isaiah 60:1-6

Harry was terrified of the light.  It wasn’t the light itself, but rather what if the lamp went out.  Harry worked in an old lighthouse, the kind that ran on oil.  The great light came from an Argand Lamp.  The oil was put in the reservoir at the top, and then it came down through a sleeve to the wick in the glass cylinder.  That meant to light it you had to lift up the glass.  All the fumes from the oil mixed with the air.  When you lit it, “WHOSH,” it came alive with light reflected through the lens and out to sea.

Harry’s job was to keep the light lit. To keep the light lit, you had to refill the reservoir every four to five hours.   Harry rarely missed a refill, in fact, he was usually early.  He hated relighting the lamp.  The whosh always scared him.  Harry was scared of the light.

A lot of us are scared of the light.  We don’t mind basking in it, feeling the warmth and the comfort.  But don’t ask us to reflect it into the world.  Don’t ask us to allow the light to shine in the dark places in our lives.  Don’t ask us to have the light shine bright enough that we stand out.  And many of us are afraid of sharing the light with friends, neighbors, and coworkers.   

In our passage from Isaiah, that was the issue with the city of Jerusalem.  She had been so long in the darkness that she was now afraid of the light.  She had seen good times.  Remember back in King David’s and Solomon’s day the city had been a jewel for all Judah.  The temple had been built alongside the palace.  Trade was booming, everyone was filled with good feelings

She had seen bad times.  She had seen times without gold and frankincense.  Times that were as dark as they had ever been.  Exiled from their land, the temple had been destroyed, and the dynasty of King David had come to a disastrous end.

She had seen ugly times of darkness.  It felt as though God’s light no longer shined.  Adrift at sea.  Alone.  I don’t have to tell you, in today’s world, the darkness is real.  In the midst of all of this, God commands Jerusalem to reflect his light, his glory, his grace.

God created us to reflect God’s light into the world of darkness.  That means we feel the warmth and the comfort of Emmanuel.  But that also means we have to “Arise or Get Up and Shine.”   It means we have to allow the darkness within our own lives to be found out by the light.  It means we have to be brave enough to stand out in our spirituality.  It means we shine the light for others.   

Harry was terrified of the light.  One night during a storm, Harry found himself snuggled so deep in sleep that he slept through the time to refuel the lamp.  He awoke with a start to the sound of a ship’s bell.  Over the waves, the wind carried it’s clanging sound.  As Harry ran up the spiral staircase, he could almost hear the worried yelling of the captain to his men on board the ship.  “Find the light! Search the horizon!  The shore must be near!”

Harry shook and quivered as he quickly refilled the reservoir.  He took the glass cylinder off of the wick. The smell of oil mixed into the air. Harry looked beyond the lens out into the darkness. There was a world of darkness counting on him to share his light.  Counting on him to be brave, to have courage.   What was it the preacher had told him when he confessed of his fear. “There is a world of darkness out there, arise and shine!  You will see and you will be radiant, filled with joy!”

Harry lit the light. Whosh!  He carefully put the cylinder back onto the wick.  He bravely walked out onto the catwalk from where he could see the light piercing the darkness and reaching out to warn the ship of the shore rocks.  In spite of the cold rain and chill of the wind, Harry found himself warm and comforted. The light was shining.  The boat was safe.   

Arise and Shine is God’s call on us.  God shines light upon us all, just as the Star of Bethlehem shined upon all humanity.  Bringing together the multitudes, bringing together the diversity that is our nation and people.  It would be so easy to bask in the warmth of that light and continue about our business as usual.

The Wisemen did no such thing. They saw the light.  They reflected it back into the world through their actions.  They couldn’t remain where they were (they had to find the Christ child).  The light caused them to worship and the light caused them to share (they brought gifts, offerings, generosity).

Church, it is too easy to be a dim wit Christian or a low watt disciple.  When we lay down on the beach of our spirituality and simply absorb all the rays of sunshine God is sending us, we are not fulfilling our calling.  God called us to be mirrors: to reflect his love, to reflect his grace, to reflect God’s light to the world in darkness.

For a mirror to do what it’s intended to do… it has to let the light shine on all of it – no dark hiding places.  It has to let the light be reflected – it doesn’t keep it for itself.  The mirror has to be willing to be a bright spot in a crowd of dark spaces.

For us as Disciples of Jesus Christ, it is very much the same.  We have to be willing for the light to shine on our own darkness.  We have to be willing to let the light be reflected.  We have to be willing to stand out in the crowd.  We have to be willing to welcome the multitudes.

We’re called to be like the Wise Men… to see God’s light, to be changed by God’s light (we can’t stay where we are), to worship and share God’s light.  Don’t be afraid of the light.  “Arise, Shine!” Isaiah says.  “God’s light is on you.  See it and be radiant!”  Amen.

“Traditions that won’t die – Christmas Trees” from Luke 1:76-80

There are some traditions that just won’t die – like decorating the Christmas Tree.  Some of my favorite Christmas memories revolve around the Christmas tree.  I’d watch impatiently as my father cussed and fussed with the artificial tree we had growing up. He’d be kneeling on the floor in front of the beaten up box that still had the Sears Roebucks sticker on the side.  He looked like he was paying homage to a giant green monster that was about to devour him in one colossal bite.  In the dim light he’d look for colors that had long worn off on the ends of branches, trying to decipher them like an archaeologist staring at the Rosetta stone. Reds and oranges looked like twins as did blacks and grays.

Meanwhile, mom would be sitting in the couch entrapped by miles of lights. She’d go light by light checking to make each strand work and blink at just the right rhythm.  Replacing bulbs and fuses in monotonous fashion.  She would giggle at my father’s frustration, humming songs about Rudolph, St. Nick, and Frosty.  Finally, when the tree was up and all the lights were on it. Mom would look at it once more.  She’d go up to each bubble light and encourage it with a tap.  She’d bend branches and add green fluffs to places where time had taken toll.  Then she’d turn my sister and I loose.

To say that we decorated the tree was to say that two midgets had the ability to slam dunk on the basketball court.  We decorated the tree from about midway down.  We were little after all.  With Burl Ives singing about mistletoe kisses in the background, we decorated the tree with those shiny balls (breaking two or three in the process).  We decorated the tree with arts and crafts that we had made at school and at church. Mom would smile when we hung our clothespin reindeer, our paper Santa with cotton ball beards, and of course our latest arts and crafts projects from school.  Then she’d politely ask, “Do we have to put your clay Freddie Kruegar on the Christmas tree?” Yes, even though I had never seen the movies, I had made a clay man with a claw for a hand and painted him bright bloody red.  “Mom, Freddie needs Christmas too!”

I never understood why ma and pa would let us decorate the tree.  She knew we were going to break some of the ornaments.  She knew we couldn’t reach all the way to the top.  After Sis and I went to bed we knew she was going to re-decorate the tree to her specifications.  And yet, she invited us to participate in this sacred moment, creating memories and experiencing love.

Christmas Trees are so much a part of our Christmas these days.  It’s no surprise I think that Christmas trees weren’t always a part of the Christmas holiday.  While people have been gathering around trees and decorating them for centuries, the first record of a decorated Christmas tree is not in Bethlehem. It happened in Riga, Latvia, in 1510.

Christmas Trees give life.  An acre of Christmas Trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people daily.

Christmas trees are a part of our nation’s story.  Christmas trees have been a part of the American Experience for a long time. In 1856, President Franklin Pierce was the first to place a Christmas Tree on the White House Lawn.  This tradition has been carried out since then with the exception of Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, who banned the National Christmas tree for religious and environmental reasons.

Christmas trees are a part of our faith story.  I can still remember sitting in the dark with my mother, watching the bubble lights glow and the twinkling reflections.  In the darkness, in the waiting, in the cold and bitter winter, Christmas trees remind us of God’s eternal love and the Light of Christ’s birth.  As Luke states, “God’s deep compassion, the dawn of heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.”

Times are dark.  Most of the trees have lost their leaves.  The world of nature is stark with dying colors – Fall’s parade of reds, yellows, and orange have given to bland browns.  Our community weeps as Suntrust bank closes down in town.  Life in winter struggles and slows down.  Sometimes the cold infects our hearts and our behaviors reflect selfish desires and sinful intent rather than generous giving or self-sacrifice.

Into this picture, Luke’s gospel introduces John  the Baptizer.  His Father, Zechariah, preaches in song about his life.  (Remember Zechariah, the old guy whose old wife suddenly has a baby?)  Now as a proud father, he preaches in song about his Son, John.  “You child will be called a prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.”  For Zechariah, John’s message is one of hope, love, peace, and joy.  John brings a message that the light is coming.  John brings a message that forgiveness is coming.  John opens the gate to the way, the truth, and the life in Christ Jesus.  In this Gospel he wears his faith for all the world to see, and it is more than long hair and camel skin!

In a winter season, John is the Christmas Tree getting decorated for Christ’s birth.  He reminds us of God’s eternal love.  He shows us the way to Christ’s light being born in the darkness.  What’s more is that we are called to be like John.

We are called to be the Christmas Trees in the world today.  Like John, we are to remind the world that there is still life in these branches of green.  Like John, we are to point to the Christ light being born in the darkness.  Like John, we are called to come and prepare the way. Like my mother and father, God is trusting us with decorating the tree.

I never understood why ma and pa would let us decorate the tree.  She knew we were going to break some of the ornaments.  She knew we couldn’t reach all the way to the top.  After Sis and I went to bed we knew she was going to re-decorate the tree to her specifications.  And yet, she invited us to participate in this sacred moment, creating memories and experiencing love.

I don’t understand why God would trust us with sharing the news about Jesus.  God knows we’re going to break some of the commandments and be called hypocrites.  God knows we can’t reach heaven on our own let alone bring God’s kingdom here through our efforts.  After we’ve made a mess and failed, God is going to have to rework all the bad to recreate this world new, resurrected, reformed.  And yet, the Lord invites us to participate here, at this table, in this sacred moment, remembering, observing, creating new and experiencing love.  

There are some traditions that won’t die.  God’s love is one of them.

Call to Worship for Advent 2016

As a church family we gather round the tree.
Lord, we need your hope, joy, peace and love.
The green branches remind us that your love never fails.
Summer and Winter, your love doesn’t change.
Lord, remind us of your love.
The lights on the tree remind us of your gift of hope.
Hope shines through the darkness.
Lord, remind us of your hope.
The ornaments remind us of the joy you share.
Giggles of children placing them there.
Lord, remind us of your joy.
The star on the top shines for peace.
Peace through justice and acceptance of diversity.
Lord, remind us of your peace.
As a church family we gather round the tree.
Jesus, this Advent, we wait for thee.

Rising above Terror from Daniel 7:1-7, 15-18 (Sermon for All Saints Sunday 2016)

Rising above Terror from Daniel 7:1-7, 15-18

When I grew up, the dinner table was a sacred place.  If dad was not working, my sister and I knew that meant we would be eating at the table.  No TV trays.  No watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy.  No musical background to jam our food into our mouths to.  If my Pa were home, we’d be sitting around the table and no one was allowed to leave until everyone was finished eating.

And it was a good thing, it was a great thing, it was a family event that made it sacred time.  Around the table I learned about family connections.  I heard stories about my parents’ days and lives.  But every now and then the sacred would become scary.

Every four years an outside force would come in and the conversations around the table became about these strange creatures called candidates and this process called an election.  My parents are independents.  My parents for most of my life have always seemed to vote for opposing candidates.  And yet, no matter how heated the discussion got, no matter how disgusted they became with one another, they never left the table until everyone was done eating.

In any election year, our nation gets divided; to the winners go the spoils, etc.   What if we looked at it a little differently?  What if we looked at today through the eyes of the Saints who are already fully in God’s kingdom?

 

In today’s lectionary scripture reading (as in I didn’t pick this out just for today), Daniel has a dream or as the message translates it, a Nightmare Vision.  Daniel was known for his dreams and his ability to interpret them.  In this vision he sees the whole world in a storm of chaos.  Wind from all four directions is coming at the same time.    And four beasts rise up from the sea doing ungodly things to the people of earth, devouring, raping, and stomping on them.

Daniel and the Jewish nation in captivity grieve the realization that their political situation is not going to improve.

When looking at the Biblical Imagery it is often helpful to consult scholars and historians. Scholars tell us this portion of scripture was written in the middle of the second century before Jesus during a Jewish revolt against the descendants of the Greek King Antiochus.  In other words, the community that wrote this was in a political pickle.  Historians help us see there are nations and kingdoms attached to these four beasts that rise from the ocean.  The four beasts are meant to be representations of four kingdoms that will rise and fall in succession.

The lion with eagles wings is Babylon.

The bear with ribs is Media.

The leopard with four wings and four heads in Persia.

And the beast with iron teeth is Alexander the Great and his Greek-Macedonians empire that eventually becomes King Antiochus.

 

 Daniel and the Jewish nation in captivity long for the Kingdom of God.  They desire a return to the Promised Land.  They desire a return to the way things were.  Daniel weeps because his vision doesn’t show the best options.  Daniel weeps because his dream offers little choices.  Daniel weeps because he doesn’t see God’s kingdom on earth.

And then he consults with “one of those standing beside the throne.”  He asks:  “What does this mean?  Where is God in all of this?”  And there Daniel is given the word of hope.

In the end, the holy people of the Most High will be given the kingdom, and they will rule forever and ever.

Church, every four years we’re given anxiety by an outside force – earthly politics – and perhaps this year is worse than previous.  There will be calls for prayers for God to help pick the right one or the best one or at the very least, the least crooked one, the least racist one.  There will be promises to be the Christian candidate, the pro-life candidate, the pro-middle class candidate, I’m sure there is even a pro-Methodist candidate.  What they really are about is power and influence.  What the candidates really want is power and influence.

Church, I know that makes you weep…

  • Because we don’t see the best options
  • Because we seem to be offered very little in the way of choices
  • Because no matter what, this doesn’t seem like God’s Kingdom on Earth

 Church, I know that makes us all feel like Daniel – captive and hopeless – but remember that’s not the end of the Scripture

 Remember there is Good News!

If we look today through the eyes of the Saints who are already fully in God’s Kingdom…

If we, like Daniel, consult with those “standing beside the throne…”

If we really take a breath, and allow the Holy Spirit of Peace in our hearts…

 We realize that we are first and foremost not of this world.

We’re the holy ones… God’s people… Citizens of the Kingdom of God!  Holy here doesn’t mean perfect.  Holy in this text translates as “other” or “set apart.”

We realize that we are not of this world, but we are called to participate in the salvation of this world through Jesus Christ.

“Kings and Kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.”

 God calls us to have a Kingdom vision for this world.  Christ’s Kingdom will not come about through elections, nations, and power struggles.  Christ’s Kingdom will come through the lives we’ve touched by handing out candy at a parking lot and inviting them to experience God’s love.  Christ’s Kingdom will come through our raising up our voices to make sure our community has the best possible school system that offers hope and opportunity to those in poverty.  Christ’s Kingdom will come as we gather at the table, talk through our conflicts, and refuse to leave until everyone has been fed.  Christ’s Kingdom will come through serving, loving, and showing the light that cannot be extinguished by the darkness.

Someone will win this election.  Some laws will change or stay the same.  Yet, God’s Kingdom will continue marching on…  Christ’s salvation will continue to break open hearts and change lives…  The Spirit of God will continue to guide…

Today is All Saints Sunday.  Allow the light of these candles to glow within your living for Jesus.

God is still God.  And Grace will still be God’s gift to the world on the day after the election.  Amen.

Liturgy for Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve

This may be used all together or spread out within the service among the carols, prayers, scripture, sermon, and communion.

LIGHT THE FIRST CANDLE

The countdown began long ago
from within our darkness we heard a sound… Hope.
Hope is being born in the world!
LIGHT THE SECOND CANDLE
War has raped our world of lives, memories, and resources.
We’ve left everything behind to follow the angel’s song… Peace.
Peace is being born in the world!
 
LIGHT THE THIRD CANDLE
Emptiness and Death have stolen life’s creation.
Yet, the pregnant promise reveals a purpose… Joy.
Joy is being born in the world!
 
LIGHT THE FOURTH CANDLE
Apathy and Hatred have ruled to long.
This light calls us to a new rule… Love.
Love is being born in the world!
 
LIGHTING OF THE CHRIST CANDLE
This is no ordinary night.
This is not just the birth of a baby boy.
This is God with us.
This is God within us.
This is God refusing to let darkness rule!
Among the abuse of power,
In the midst of pain and suffering,
Hope has conceived.
Peace has given a birth cry.
Joy blinks his eyes out on the world.
Love has come down this Christmas.
Christ is being born in the world!

Evening Prayer for Christmas Eve 2015

Lord of light,
the dark is not dark to you
for you are a God who births light into the world.
We are a people who live in darkness.
We seek your light in our life
to give us sight
to give us meaning
to give us salvation.
Be born this night in us Christ-light.
Coo in the manger of our hearts.
Glow so bright that day overcomes night
and all the world may see you, Christ Child, Amen.

Because – Call to Worship for Second Sunday of Easter 2015

Because of the Darkness

We can see the Light.

                   Because of the Doubting

We begin to Believe.

                   Because of the Pain and Suffering

We become Your Hands.

                   Because of the Injustice and Broken Systems

We rise up with Voice.

                   Because of Your Selfless Life and Sacrifice

We can overcome Sin and Death.

                   Because of Who You Are

We know Who We Can Be.

                   Because of What You’ve Done

We can Be Free.

-(C)2015, Nathan Decker, Worship’s Wake

Spiritual Disciplines – Reading the Bible

Spiritual Disciplines – reading the Bible from Matthew 5:13-20

 

What do you do with an old Bible?  Not too long after becoming a preacher I was asked this question.  My mother asked me on the phone that day.  Keep in mind this is the person who taught me not to write in it lest the curses within be added to my life!  This is the one who told me not to put it on the ground, but to treat it with respect.  This is the one who told me that I should avoid putting other books on top of it.  In her words I heard the desire to offer respect and honor in the same way we do when it comes to the American flag.  And now she asked me, “what do you do with an old Bible?”  She had a used bible, pages falling out, binding unwound, cover tattered.  This wasn’t something that you would want to hand off in charity.  What do you do with an old Bible?  So I answered, “You very gently, and very respectfully put it in the recycling bin.”

 

The Bible is just a book.  There is no magic in the words themselves.  There is no secret divine code that mathematicians can decipher like some episode of Numbers.  Reading this book like any other book will not get you into heaven.  The Bible is not a history book.  The Bible is not a science book.  The Bible is not an ethics book.  It’s not a book of rules and morals for life.  It’s not even a road map for life.  It’s God’s story book for his children.  The Bible is a messy book of a people struggling to understand God, God’s direction, God’s expectations, God’s hopes and dreams.  The Bible is God’s story of and for his children.

 

The Bible is just a book, unless you read it with the Holy Spirit.  As Christians, we’re called to read this with the eyes of Jesus, the heart of the Father, and the nudges of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus challenges us to be a people who have salt within.  This is God’s story.  God wants us to take in God’s story to become our Story.  The Bible is one place (among many) that we can receive salt from God.

 

Jesus challenges us to be a people of light.  When we read the Bible, it should enlighten us.  We should gain insight and hope.  We should gain encouragement.    Reading the Bible should be like walking out into the sunshine on a sunny day.  Reading the Bible should give us light so that we can reflect that light into the world.  We are who God choose to partner with to transform the world.  Terrifying the thought, we are God’s hands, feet, voice, and Good News in the World.

 

Tragically, many of us are not salty.  I once heard the story of a man who read the Bible every day.  He was a scholar.  He could argue all the theories and theologies.  His head was filled with knowledge and verses.  Yet, he never let what he read change him.  He spent a great deal of time in brothels, gambling joints, and doing drugs.  He had horrible relationships with his friends.  He didn’t even acknowledge his family.  No one felt this man was happy.  He was a shell, hollow when God wanted him to be hallow.

 

Many Christians are really good at quoting and doing commentary on the Bible, but when it comes to being the living Word – we fail.  The Incarnation was intended to be from Heaven all the way to the roots.  We are a part of Christ’s continuing presence in this world.  Reading the Bible as a Spiritual Discipline should cause change.  First in us and then through us in the community.

 

Tragically many of us are in the dark.  Recently, Rev. Jeux Simmons shared a story with me.  She was asked, “Are you a real Christian?”  To which she replied, “Yes.”  The man looked at her with great suspicion.  “Then you should know that women are not suppose to preach.”  How horrible!  What darkness.  God speaks through men and women.  Unfortunately, this man had been taught to read the Bible only one way.  He had latched onto someone else’s interpretation instead of doing the work for himself.  When we don’t read God’s story for ourselves and hear the Spirit speak to us together, we live in the dark.  Reading the Bible should be a communal effort as much as a personal effort.  We hear God more clearly when we are open to correction.  Open to the light.

 


 

When we read it as something more than a love letter from God, we get ourselves in trouble.  Pharisees of Jesus day had turned the Bible into an idol.  They had lifted up the Torah and the Law as God.  Obeying the Law was obeying God.  They lorded over the people as experts, controllers, and masters.

 

We don’t do that do we church?  I had a professor of the Greek Language who said, “when you read the word Pharisee  in the Bible, insert Church member.”  We’ve been guilty of lifting up the Bible into a magical idol.  “If we could just make all the children in the school system read the Bible, all our problems would be solved.”  The Bible is not a magic cure all to our society.  God didn’t partner with a book.  God partnered with the church to change the world.

 

We’ve been guilty of laziness in our reading the Bible as a law book, a science book, a history book.  “The Bible says it, that settles it.”  Let’s be honest.  The Bible was inspired by God and written by and through people.  So let’s treat it as such.  To really hear God within the Bible, we have to seriously listen to the context of where God was speaking and how God is speaking today.

 

I confess on behalf of all the Pharisee Preachers and Pastors that I don’t have all the answers.  For too long pastors and preachers have acted as though our interpretation was ‘the’ interpretation that everyone else should live by.  The more I read, the more I understand how big and unimaginable God is.  Mark Twain was once asked if the Bible scared him because he didn’t understand it all.  He responded, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that scare me.  It’s the parts of the Bible that I do understand that scare me.”

 

Jesus says, “your righteousness, your justice, needs to exceed that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.”  A disciple reads the story to hear the Father’s heart beat.  A disciple reads the story to follow Jesus.  A disciple reads the story to experience the Spirit’s nudge.  The Bible is the most bought and least read book on the planet.  Today, God is challenging us to hear God’s story, to make it a part of our story, so that we are in God’s story.  Amen.

 

(C)2015 Nathan Decker, Worship’s Wake