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Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Bible

I have treasured all my life an experience I had, at the age of 18, of singing the musical setting of Newman's Dream of Gerontius. At the end of the piece, as Gerontius settles into his unspecified period of cleansing prior to being able to enter heaven, the song of the saved people of God wafts across the gloomy marshes of Purgatory in the long night watch:

Lord, thou hast been our refuge in every generation
Lord, thou hast been our refuge in every generation
Before the hills were born, from age to age,
Thou art God. Thou art God.

And those words and the ones that follow it in the Psalm of Moses seem to me to encapsulate the relationship with God which the Bible is about. The story - not just in the Bible - but the one the Bible tells.

I've no time for people who try to tell me that the  first three chapters or so of the Bible form a literal and true account of the creation of the universe in scientific terms, and none for those that tell me it's been disproved by La Maitre and Darwin. Because the people in that pointless argument are rowing over a category error. You might as well argue that the Wind in the Willows is a poor zoology book.

I'm not that keen on people who take one verse of the Bible to prove their view. It may be a bit silly to counter the idea that the Bible has a verse that says homosexual acts are wrong - by pointing out that the verse next to it condemns eating prawns. But then it's only meeting silliness with silliness. Because it's generally countering a claim made on the basis of that one verse. It's much harder, but more more important, to work through what the whole Biblical and Christian witness leads to.

I've also no real time for people who tell me that the Bible is true because the Bible says so. All Spirit may be a God-breathed, as the man said, but you've got already to believe that, to believe in the sense of that verse in that way. It's a circular argument.

But those words of Moses the man of God capture, for me, the essence. The Bible is the account of how God has always been heen the refuge of the people of God. From the days of a wandering Aramean, to the days when a bunch of Hebrews made the risky trip across the Sinai desert. From the coalescing of a bunch of tribes who gathered that their various "El"s and "Lord"s were one and the same God. From the annihilation of rival tribes to the injunction to care for the foreigner in their land, to the calling to be the Light for the Gentiles.

The tangled, sometimes confused story of how one group from within that people of God stumbled upon a man who came from God in a new, and special way. The disparate collection of tales he told and things he did. The tale of a dark Friday and a bright Sunday morning. And the strands of the letters the Church wrote, as it lived in the new power of the Spirit and tried to understand what he had said, what his life meant.

And as we live in the gap in the latter collection of books - between the end of Acts and the end of Revelation. We inhabit the story - we are part of it, because God has breathed us into it. Because I do believe that the story is God-breathed, not because it says so itself, but because it is the story of the life of the Jews and the Church, as we reach to hear from God in the words that his people have written. As we enter into worship, or struggle, or as parts of the church face persecution and oppression and death - this is our story as well. An odd collection of poems, old laws, history, myth and aspiration. This is our story, the story of our lives. We can cry "alleluia" with the psalmist, or "how long, O Lord?" We can lift our crosses, be filled with new life, look for the End to come. The Bible isn't an old, closed story written in dead languages - because we're still living in it. The last chapter isn't over, yet.

Until it is, and all the way into the never-ending glory that is the song of the love of God, we can turn to face our God, and sing with Moses.

Lord, thou hast been our refuge in every generation
Lord, thou hast been our refuge in every generation
Before the hills were born, from age to age,
Thou art God. Thou art God.


4 comments :

  1. This is dangerous common sense here. Has the Archdruid been having a change of heart towards wisdom?

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  2. I thought this was supposed to be an oasis of fuzzy thinking? This is clear and pertinent!

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  3. I have tried to explain that the bible didn't end at Acts and Revelation, that it has continued to this day, and we're the ones writing the story of God in our own lives and in the lives of others. Now, I get a Pagan Arch Druid coming over all Christian and putting into words some heart felt thoughts of my own.

    I'm seriously worrying that the Anglican Sabbatical that the Arch Druid undertook the other year, was in fact a compressed Alpha/Theology PHD and crash conversion course with HTB and she might have even swallowed a couple of bible dictionaries as well.

    The alternative is that CMS (aka Us) has successfully spirited the Arch Druid away to never, never land and has planted an Anglican Clone in her place......... Whatever next?

    ReplyDelete

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