For a brief period of my life I was the minute-taker for our Church Council (official) meetings. The following council always began with a review of the minutes of the previous council. Spelling errors were highlighted. Recorded “points” were corrected. Occasionally something was queried as being “best left out of” the minutes. And then – when all was done – the ritual of closure in formal record keeping:
“Do we all, therefore, approve the minutes as a complete and accurate record of … “
We like our official meetings to be true and accurate. They never are. They are always the record we want. Which always has me wondering: Just what is the Godly purpose of this whole “formal record keeping road-show”?
It is certainly a legal requirement – each church (in this denomination) being its own legal entity. And must, therefore, satisfy the accountants and charity commissioners that it is being operated legally and lawfully. But just what is the “Godly purpose”?
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:1-12
I have always read my bible as “minutes”. A “complete and accurate record” of the Word of God. It’s how the bible is taught, how it’s passed on from generation to generation, from believer to believer. And every Sunday the bible is taught just like agreeing the “minutes”. With one massive difference.
The bible is a transcript. The bible is taught as “that is what Jesus (or God in the Old Testament – if we must) actually said”.
And like a good Christian I never realised I was questioning that. I just spent years “hearing” the tonality of the speech, the rhythm, the timbre. I just spent years trying my utmost to “hear” my God Soft Hands Jesus in this “transcript” – and He worked with me (I later found out). Yet all that assumes the “transcript of the bible” – assumes that the Word of God is “the words of god” in the bible.
I would never view the “minutes” (particularly the minutes I had taken) as a “transcript”. The minutes always present someone’s version of how the meeting was conducted: “No need to minute this Paul … “ and “Make sure this is how the minutes read, please … “ or after the minutes have been tidied and are being previewed … “I can’t remember who said that or not – so just delete that bit …” and even “I am sure we didn’t mean it that way – please write it this way …”
And yet here we are today …
Examining the very sentence construction of Jesus’ words: “THE Beatitudes!” Slicing and dicing the very syllables. Dismissing each other for not agreeing with my version of my transcript. Taking issue with someone else’s version of their transcript. We read the bible as a script for a play. A script we dare not change.
Other than the multiple versions written and rewritten over the years. “That” does not count as “rewriting the script” (unless we hate “that version” in preference to “this version” – because (oddly) the version we prefer is always the one “true to God”)
And because of “that” we read the very words of God (or Jesus – who is easier on the ear) with total awe and reverence – we teach the bible in that same way (I know – I was in training) – we teach the bible as we explain a precious museum piece: You can look but not touch – I am the expert – I am qualified in God. And we do a script reading every Sunday – all are welcome!
Where is love. Where is unconditional love.
Where is love without all those conditions we so “lovingly” add to the purest most fulfilling love of all? Doesn’t that simply tarnish what is ALREADY available and waiting for each of us in its purest loving form?
(to be continued … )