Biblical stories enjoyable because they're great literature
The Rev. Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:
This may sound simplistic, but the way to make connections with the ancient stories in scripture is to just read them. Yes, there are some sections of the Bible that are confusing, technical and even tedious. However, the stories themselves are great literature and rank right up there with the stories that draw us to the box office, the Internet and the local bookstore.
David's affair with Bathsheba and his subsequent unwillingness to deal with his sexual and family dysfunctions easily compare with the stories of Bill Clinton, Ted Haggard or whoever might be the latest political or religious leader to fall to sexual indiscretions.
Currently, I am preaching through the gospel of Mark, and Mark's ability to tell the story of Jesus constantly amazes me. Too often, people get so caught up arguing about the interpretations of particular teachings they forget the Christian faith is primarily focused on the story of the person of Jesus. God intends this story to draw us into relationship with his son who calmed the sea, healed the sick and raised the dead. He also battled toe to toe with the religious leaders of his day so intensely that they resorted to killing him.
Now to me, that sounds like quite an intriguing story line, but don't take my word for it. Investigate it yourself. Stop trying to analyze it and take an hour to just read the Gospel of Mark. Allow your heart to ask, "Who is this man?"
You might be surprised how well you connect to the story. You might also be shocked to find out what happens when you stop trying to figure out the "it" before you know the "who."
- Send e-mail to Darrell Brazell at email@example.com.
Scriptures source for new insights, even in modern times
Debbie Stiel, rabbi, Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive:
Rabbi Ben Bag Bag (1st century CE) said of the Torah (Pentateuch): "Turn it over and over, for everything is in it."
Since then, Jews have grappled with the text, debating its meaning and writing stories based on the text. We look at the text again and again to see what new insights it has for us. Our understanding about the biblical stories has always been that they are there to instruct us.
From this perspective, the stories of the Bible speak to us just as they spoke to people 500 or 2,000 years ago. This is because the issues that appear in the stories are, for the most part, timeless. Whether it is the issue of sibling rivalry that we see between Jacob and Esau, the question of keeping faith as grappled with by those Israelites who created the golden calf, or trying to discern what God wants of us as the prophet Micah does - the topics are still relevant for us today.
It is interesting to note that the rabbis of old often did not take the Bible so literally. For example, when it says in Genesis that God walked in the Garden of Eden, rabbis 2,000 years ago explained that that was simply a metaphoric way of saying that God was with Adam and Eve in the garden.
So, too, I believe that many of us today will get more from the Bible if we look to its deeper meanings rather than ask of each story - how did this happen and where is the scientific proof. As human beings we want to understand our role in the world and how to give meaning to our lives, the Bible and its stories continue to give us great direction for these important questions.
- Send e-mail to Debbie Stiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.