Tuesday, 1 October 2002
Funny at the Time
Have you ever had that sinking feeling, whilst telling a story to a group of people who are totally unmoved? You can well remember how your sides were splitting as were those of whoever was with you at the time. But now the light of day seems horribly cold and you realise that you just ‘had to be there’ and no amount of explaining can really get people into the spirit. Your story dies a death and you rather wish that you could too.
On the other hand we sometimes find ourselves in completely the opposite scenario – tears running down the face as an experience is re-lived along with friends. Then as the laughter dies away someone will acknowledge the grimmer reality that “of course it wasn’t funny at the time!”
Over recent months I have preached a number of sermons on the theme ‘What is the Bible?’ Two points in particular are very important to remember.
First, is that each of the writings that make up the Bible was written at a particular time (remembering that the Bible is not really a single book but a library of books). This has many implications for us and means, in particular, that entering into the spirit of the Bible’s message involves more than just reading it at face value. We have to try and understand something of the situation at the time it was written, what the influences were and what the author was trying to convey – not always easy.
Secondly, as we read the scriptures more intelligently, we find within them the process of their own transformation. Some parts of the Bible are funny, though since we tend to read it with our ‘serious hat on’ we may miss this. Other parts of the Bible seem nonsensical or even offensive (divine instruction to destroy whole nations including women, children and animals for instance). Supremely, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ But I say to you … turn the other cheek.” Even that doesn’t give a final answer for every situation, but it shows the tradition behind the scriptures reflecting on itself and seeking transformation, to increasingly witness to the fullness of God’s life for every generation.
As we read the Bible in this way, I think we find it a much more fascinating and relevant book. We also find that we have both the freedom and the responsibility to bring the transforming power of its message to bear on every part of life.