I have spent the last 5 weeks teaching an overview of the Bible. Preparing for that class has consumed most of my time, but it has been a labor of love. I had a deep desire for people who really knew nothing about the Bible, but who wanted to know more, to obtain a good overview. So, we discussed what was in most of the books, and how they were organized. There were lots of handouts, such as maps and tables and some important verses to remember, because it’s nearly impossible to get everything that’s critical into just 5 lessons. I also wanted to give voice to some women’s stories that are either overlooked or interpreted badly. But, more importantly, I wanted people to fall in love with the God I know and love, because I have discovered that a lot of people have come to some negative conclusions about God, and, because of that, have given up on God. You can listen to those 5 classes, and download those handouts here. (Check back in a few days for the final posting of lesson 5.)
What we learned is how hard it is to pin God down, how hard it is to describe God. And, we learned how the men who authored the pages of the bible, did their best to do so, using as a reference point what they understood of how the world worked, given the historiographic complexities of their time. We learned how words will always fall short with such endeavors, and that no matter the choice of words we end up putting to paper, God will always be more than what we say God is. We were reminded that those men, although inspired by the same Holy Spirit that lives in us, possibly, quite possibly, were limited by their biases and their understanding. But also, we learned that the God about whom they wrote trusts us enough to be found in these pages, nevertheless. And we hopefully came to a realization that maybe God didn’t actually cause all of those awful things the writers assumed God’s hand was behind, but that, without God, we humans can be very brutal, and in need of someone, or something, upon which to lay the blame.
Hopefully we realized that the God who cares so much about us is the God whose handiwork is the beauty and miracle that is this planet. We saw a God who relentlessly pursues us, who longs to be in relationship with us, who is always with us, despite our being the ones to do the leaving … or ignoring. We saw a God who is faithful, who is a rock, who is quick to forgive, who will actually forget our acknowledged and confessed screw-ups, who loves us eternally, but especially likes it when we are willing to admit we are wrong … be vulnerable, pliable, honest, repentant. We saw God’s lovingkindness, or chesed (חסד), or grace, from cover to cover. We saw a God who, at the very beginning, loved to walk and talk with us in the garden, who came to dwell among us as a man, and who lives in us to this day through the recreating feminine-wind-breath of Spirit. Hopefully we learned that our ever-present, unchanging God has never left us, despite our blaming God, still to this day, for every bad thing that happens on this plant and in our lives. And, we were left to admit that maybe we have been the ones who left, or who failed to open our eyes and hearts, to see that God is really everywhere, still … the same.
We remembered back to lesson one, how the Bible opens with a female, the Spirit of God, “mother-henning” the newly-birthed creation. We learned about women throughout the bible who were named and nameless but nevertheless were strong, resilient, wise, powerful, and faithful. We saw these traits displayed in women who were the first to name God, or the first to understand that Jesus was God-among-us … Emmanuel. We saw these traits in women who were mostly considered property, who had no choice but to follow and obey their owner-husbands, whose bodies were considered worthwhile only for producing male offspring. We talked about women who gave of their livelihood and lives in order to follow Jesus, a pattern that would continue long after his death. We talked about women of influence who were quiet leaders and were reminded that #metoo is nothing new. And, we noted that the Bible closes (Rev.21:2) with a woman, depicted as the New Jerusalem, the church, you and me, coming as a bride to her wedding.
And then it says (Rev. 21:3-5, my paraphrase)
God, like our mothers, wiping away every tear from our eyes
God-with-us, Emmanuel, even in the face of death and mourning and crying and pain
God, showing us a new way of being in this world
God, recreating us, a continual resurrection
God, the beginning and end of everything
God, the thirst-quencher who gives free water from the water-of-life spring
This is our inheritance, our hope … all of it, because
God is ours, and we are God’s
God bless you as you enter into the Easter season.