Friday, June 02, 2006

God? In the Bible?

Peregrini gatherings are enlightening, challenging and often a little rough. The questioning of God in the Bible evoked all kinds of ideas and emotions. The challenge of the conversation was in every way invigorating and was not disappointing in the least. As is always possible, a God moment appeared in the midst of the evening. It almost went unnoticed, as maybe should be the case.

Lori was our cook for the evening. She made this fascinating and wonderful dish she calls "dirty rice." Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds. We had salad, fruit, garlic bread, chocolate chips cookies and of course, wine. It was quite the feast. We always seem to have more that enough food to feed the hungry pilgrims.

Deep into the evening's conversation, Lori got up and slipped to the door of our downtown coffee shop. She had noticed one of the young homeless men who we often see near the shop. As quiet as an angel she invited him in and with her warm smile prepared him two heaping plates. He went on his way and she returned to her place around the table without saying a word. I'm not sure who else noticed; it seemed so natural. Lori was being the very Presence of God; for the hungry pilgrim and for us as well.

Discussing God seems to always unfold the mystery in our midst. Talking about the Bible, however, for some reason, evokes the theological trail to be followed. Our question for the evening had to be narrowed to "can you find God in the Bible, and if so, how?" So many passionate gifts of insight were offered by our band of pilgrims. Here is some kind of collection of our thoughts.

The Bible is story and narrative. It is a living text. Brought to life by the openness and the processing of God; in our lives and God's experience. The vivid stories (and our wild interpretations of them) of Abraham and Moses and their encounters with the living and dynamic God brought a lot of laughter and questions to the table.

Jesus' as a Jewish rabbi understood the text through his own worldview. His critique and context informs ours. Yet, God continues to speak to us in and through the word of the Bible in a way that is fresh and meaningful for our times. A biblically guided life can constantly be relevant yet connected to the ancient world in a uniquely invigorating manner.

The Story is sacred and authoritative. It contains all things for salvation. Yet, we still are drawn into conversation with it; to challenge and seek out all the possibilities of meaning from within this living text. We can ask questions of the writers of each text. Who were they and why did they write these words are questions that help to educate us as we struggle to find the bridge from their time to ours.

We find ourselves touched by the stories of women and men through the scripture. Our lives are moved through and with the pain of the Psalter. Daily we grapple with the lectionary text. Confronted by words that make us laugh, cry, get mad and often confuse us; still yet, we come back again and again, day after day, seeking the face and mind of God. What is here in this ancient manuscript? We ache to know.

Genuinely, we know that we don't hold the "right and only" view of the Bible. It is clear we don't reflect a literalist or fundamentalistic construct of the Bible. We are not the spokes persons for the conservative church, nor do we want to be. No one would confuse our band of pilgrims with being on the "right" side of much. But, without the eye, hand and foot of the church, we are not the complete body. The Bible is the sacred text that the band of Peregrini look to and it is also the sacred text of the conservative church. If we are to be followers of Jesus we have no other choice than to recognize and respect our fundamentalist brothers and sisters. As well, we must honor the sacred text as they understand it. They have a lot to teach us and we seek to listen and learn, though at times it is a great strain.

To engage with God and to be spiritually formed by God, we have few other options than to engage the sacred text. The Story beckons us to read, study and inwardly digest the meat and marrow of the lives on the pages of the Bible. God whispers and we lean into the narrative trying to find our own place among the pictures painted for us by Ruth, Esther, Isaiah (all three of them) Amos, John, Peter, Mary (all three of them), Paul and Jesus.

The stories are alluring and we spend the time to discover their meaning. Personally, we crave to hear. But, we know that our true learning is done in community. For without community we could find ourselves in a blind gully on the trail. Worse yet, we could do the unthinkable and wind up "creating God in our own image (swearing and all)." Scripture is understood with reason and tradition of which we are obligated to contribute. Yes, we are part of the past for the future.

Do we all need to stop now and go to seminary. God save us all - NO! We are called to live our experience in who we are and how we hear and to share that with our fellow travelers. Some times we are even needed to pick up the pack of our weary companion as we walk up the steep hills of the mount on which God will speak to us. And, we must recognize the need to lay ourselves down and rest in the field of the Good Shepherd. We are pilgrims traveling together.

All this rhetoric is just that unless we can be aware and be present to those who need a meal. Thank you Lori for providing action to our questions. You embodied the living text in a sacred way.

The next Peregrini is June 15 at Fair Trade Cafe in downtown Phoenix.

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