Bible Sunday 2016
Sermon for Bible Sunday 2016.
It just so happens that this week the Reith Lecture given by Kwame Anthony Appiah touches on the way scriptures have done, and continue to, give identity to religious believers.
I felt he gave a balanced account of the situation most of the world’s major religions find themselves in, in today’s world, and one of course which we in the developed western world and privileged part of society face probably daily.
Today is Bible Sunday and it behoves us to reconsider the part the Bible plays in our daily lives. One way or another, either by being drawn to it or repelled by it the question is one we cannot dodge as Appiah explains in his lecture.
Appiah says it would be impossible to adopt all the beliefs and practices set out in holy books such as the Bible, the Torah or the Qur’an in abstract. All of these religious scriptures give ambiguous, and sometimes contradictory guidance.
Religious fundamentalists argue no interpretation is needed to apply religious scriptures to day-to-day life: books such as the Bible and the Qur’an contain one version of the truth that all those practising Christianity and Islam must live by.
Most Christians, Muslims and Jews do not seek to try to apply a literal interpretation of the Bible, Qur’an and Torah to the way they live their lives. Many religious scholars have long stressed the importance of interpreting religious scriptures to ensure they make sense in the contemporary world.
The Ethiopean Eunuch in Acts asks of Philip, how can I understand unless I have an interpreter?….. the thought that any scripture can be “understood” just by reading has long been thought impossible, and yet we are so easily tempted to take parts as is the words were penned by God for exactly the situation we now might find ourselves in.
I would like now to take this opportunity of repeating to you words which I delivered to Diocesan Synod last year when we looked biblically at the question of single sex marriage and relationships.
In 2007 A J Jacobs published the book “The year of living Biblically”, an account of one man’s aim to live life as biblically as possible. He even tries to stone and adulterer and to offer animal sacrifice. The book is categorized as “The bible in popular culture” and also “comedy”.
The Bible plays a vital and stimulating role in our relationship with God it helps us learn about God and to grow closer to God ourselves. For me the Bible helps me to understand that God loves us and that God wants us. For me the Bible shows that God is always reaching out to us.
“Unless and until you understand the biblical concept of God’s unmerited favour, God’s unaccountable love, most of the biblical text cannot be interpreted or tied together in any positive way. It is, without doubt, the key and the code to everything transformative in the Bible. People who have not experienced the radical character of grace will always misinterpret the meanings and major direction of the Bible. The Bible will become a burden, obligation, and weapon more than a gift.” (Rohr)
If you try to find the word “marriage” in the bible you quickly discover that a divorced man cannot marry another woman and that it is best only to marry once(Mtw 5:32, 1 Tim 3:2) you also find that it maybe better not to marry at all (Mtw19:10). Questions of intermarriage are also spoken of and Paul has interesting advice in 1Cor 7 which is lightly walked around today
As we live our Christian lives out. trying with the Bible’s help to live lives more worthy of the Love of God, it is always going to be necessary to enter into a “relationship with the words of scripture” and not to get distracted by the word by word as we can easily read. There is little help in questions of genetics, or of abortion, or of social media, todays understanding of mental health issues, dementia, and epilepsy are very different to how people of even Jesus time thought of them. We no longer cast out lepers from our society but they are healed and included.
We know so easily that within the Bible you can see change and development as society moved on. Issues were and are constantly changing.
It is foolish and short-sighted to treat the richness of the bible as if it were a work manual. The Bible is with us to help us understand more our relationship with God. The more I read and ponder the bible the richer it appears to be and I am very excited about the way it can challenge me to love God and my neighbour, and to forgive those who hurt me.
The church has a wonderful opportunity of witnessing to God in our midst, please may we do this for or society and not help others to look upon us as if we were either building an Ark or living a comic life.
I believe the Bible is crucial to our understanding of our faith, it has shaped for good and ill who we are, and it will continue to do so.
I believe that its pages thoughtfully and prayerfully considered using all the scholarly tools available to us today are life giving and breaths God into us as well as at the same time being seen as inspired by God.
As has been noted before God and ourselves do not exist in isolation from each other… that was never the case and Genesis opens the debate more or less by saying this.
Love, ..covenant, …promise, …life,… calling,… being …
are all words that imply relationship…..
and we share this sense of discovery with God and with all the sources of knowledge we have explored about our life in faith.
Therefore let us read mark learn and indeed inwardly digest them that we may embrace the Life God gives.