Unconditional Love – (XI)

Grandchildren and their bugs!  Why are their “bugs” less precious than their smiles (hack splutter hack splutter hack …)?  And after a couple of days recuperation – it’s good to see you all again!  Let’s go …

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I wonder if deconstructing “The Bible” (as I was taught it) requires more confidence than I was taught (to have in God).  Because the God I was taught – the bible I was taught – is very black-and-white.  Both are very easy to “get” – although wrapped up in the (taught) mystery of God.  The simplicity is this:

I am a sinner and always will be. We are all sinners and always will be.  Adam and Eve were the cause.  Jesus was the cure.  God is a bit remote and black-and-white.  God is quite happy for Jesus to do all the talking.  God requires us to be saved.  We do that in Church.  We obey and serve God.  We go to heaven when we die if we are saved.  When we are saved we don’t ask questions – unless they are the “right questions” – God doesn’t like the “wrong questions.”  I am different after I have been saved.  I will live and behave differently because I have been saved.  The bible tells me how to be different.  And because love is never enough – we need the bible to tell us how to behave.

And “the mystery”? We don’t know why.  God never said “why” (explained by repeating above until one of you gives up).

I understand that different people will have different variations on that.  We all seek the “why” and we find our own answers.  Maybe.

But that list is what God is and was over quite a few decades of my (present-absent-present) Christian life.  And it is the reason why I walked away from it.  Because as much as I was a religious toddler, I was also a fully functioning human being – and the two were not compatible for me.  Free will, choice, invitations, desire, unconditional love, grace – all of that is/was pretty cool and personal.  Except for the reality.  The reality is must and should and will and do – the bible says so – because the church says so – that is how God and the bible was/is taught.

And lately I have found the concept of “making disciples” to be applied in regular church attendance, willing agreement to those who know better, volunteering for as little as I can get away with, bible studying in some shape or form, having a prayer life (ditto), enjoying academic theology (and if not – bowing to those who do).  Of differentiation.  Of saved and sinners.  Of this behaviour (publicly) but not that behaviour (publicly).  Of “sheep” who will always be sheep (unless they are called and take the prescribed route in God qualifications).  Of “shepherds” who will always be shepherds (and who rarely ask whether their original calling still applies).  In short – that this “deconstructed hierarchy” Jesus walked and taught and just “is” has become another “God mystery” for disciples – so we all ignore the reality/mystery.

Which is why deconstructing the bible – as I was taught “the bible” – is life changing in the best of ways.  Nothing is now off-limits. Nothing is “bad or good” – everything is up for grabs again (and again and again). And THAT is what good Christians seem to struggle with the most: Change.

The inerrant and infallible bible requires a static God and a static bible. An answer for all circumstances. A checklist. A legal list. A book of laws. A book of compliance. A God of condition. All of this with a “parallel belief universe” of validating those conditions with “the mystery of God”.  The very same God who created this universe zillions of years ago.  This God to whom we have been attached for a few minutes of that time span.  This Bible written by those who spent only a speck of dust in this same time span.  This bible written by those whose speck of dust was zillions of years before our current specks of time.  The bible has become inerrant and infallible because we have (man)made it so. We have applied our current “speck of dust perspective” to satisfy our need for a black-and-white answer to every question we will ever have in the minutiae of our own (short) lives.  Which is odd.

Because if God is God and Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit is God then THIS is (also) God:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today .” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Isn’t this the One True God taking a black-and-white “them” perspective (as illustrated nicely by “all who saw it began to grumble”) and trashing it.  Time after time God trashes every addition to the list of black-and-whites of their time as their answer to their own “life’s minutiae”.

So just why am I still taught this “unchanging bible that is a factually accurate history of God” (complete with the (parallel) mystery of God)?  Because I read these verses today and see neither them nor us.  Not through God’s eyes.  Through God’s eyes I see individuals.  Just not me.  No one can ever be me, nor me them.  But neither do I see ministry and kingdom work either.  I just hear His voice and question for me today:

“Who are you, Paul – what are you, Paul?”

And much as I would like to – I know that I won’t find the answers in the bible – nor will I find them in church.  That is where I will find contradictions, amendments, and reversals.  That is where I will be able to prove whatever I wish to prove.  But is that what we really want of our bible – is that what we really want from our church?  Because – if so – just how does that allow God to change me?  How does that allow God to change you?  How does that allow God to allow any of us to be His creations?

We do live in a world of change. That is the only constant. And when we insist the bible doesn’t and mustn’t … I have a question …

Who are you – what are you?

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And on that note …  I have more antibiotics to take – one of God’s major miracles right here and right now!  See you tomorrow (hack splutter hack splutter hack …) …  

Where is unconditional love – (I)

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.

Why?

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 … )