Practical spirituality ~ how to really use the Bible….a sermon for Trinity 11

The following is my husband’s sermon for today the 11th Sunday in the season of Trinity.

 

The Bible is a practical book!

How?

A big old fashioned one could help short people like me reach things on high shelves.

Butthat’s not what I mean.

I have a book somewhere with a title like, “Bible answers for life”.
I couldn’t find it when I looked.  It may have been lost in the last
move.  But what it has is lots of life situations and simple
questions  –  With a Bible ‘answer’ attached.  

It was our reading from Romans that reminded me of the book.  For
example, you could look up “alcohol” and you would get one or two
verses from the Bible like, “let us live honourably as in the day,
not in revelling and drunkenness.”  Then there would be a brief
commentary on the evils of drink, you would be told that the Bible
forbade you to drink and so no real Christian drinks alcohol.

It was a very Calvinist book given to me by a well meaning acquaintance. But, I have seen similar books produced by Roman Catholics.

In some ways the point is not whether or not the advice is true.  There is a fundamental problem with most such books –  the problem is that they take the rich and diverse word of God and make it into a rule book.  

The Bible has poetry, it has history, it has myth, it has good stories
and it has advice but these books try and reduce all of that library
of experience, collected over millennia into cold hard rules. 

They try to make the faith simple but in doing so they squeeze out God.  And the easy faith that they present is so often their
easy faith and I suspect says more about them than it does about God.

But the Bible is practical. 

The Bible has practical advice.  Like the advice given by Jesus about dealing with conflicts in a Church.  But don’t make them a rule. 

Our Gospel reading has harsh words about treating an unrepentant sinner like a Gentile and a tax collector, an outcast like a tramp or a drug addict.  But if you turn that into a rule you end up missing the fact that Jesus spent much of his ministry with tax collectors and sinners, and even seemed to prefer their company to that of most ‘respectable’ people.

If you made a rule about expelling the unrepentant Church member; you would also be forgetting the very next verse.  You see the next two verses after our Gospel reading say this:

21 ¶  Then Peter
came and said to {Jesus}, “Lord, if another member of the church
sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
22  Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you,
seventy-seven times”.

Also, it is strange but those who make the Bible their rule book avoid
mentioning King David’s example of having many wives; they also tend not to recommend bashing your enemies babies against rocks!  At least they don’t put such advice into print!

So love the Bible, make it your friend and companion through life.  But that means letting the Holy Spirit speak through it all.  Let the
Bible come alive and inspire.  Don’t make a rule of even the most
obvious passage, otherwise you close the door to God’s Spirit and may miss what he wants to teach you. 

For years people justified slavery and the inferiority of women as being Biblical.  But thankfully, all people didn’t hold onto these Biblical ‘rules’ and we now appreciate that enslaving another human being is wrong and that women are not weak minded inferior beings that should be spared from important decisions like voting.

But it is so tempting to want to make the Bible into a rule book.  It
really is.  

Life is complicated so we want certainty.  But that is the temptation to make the Bible into the book we want it to be, to try make God in our own image.  

Rather, the only way is to let the Spirit use the Bible to guide us in our decision making.  So that we may see the unique person and situation in front of us.  

So that we may, just may have some hope of our decision being the right decision, of being God’s decision.

If God had wanted to give us a rule book, Jesus would have sat down and writenn one before he returned to heaven.  But Jesus did not write a word for us. 

So we must work with the Bible that God has chosen to give us, with its ambiguity, but also with all of its richness and wonder.

After all he is God, not me, not you.  And, I may be foolish I know, but I believe that God knows what he’s doing.

 

 

In the name of the Father, the Son
and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

(ps. he’s not that short actually.) 

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2 thoughts on “Practical spirituality ~ how to really use the Bible….a sermon for Trinity 11

  1. I agree that it is not a rule book and that God knows what he is doing.
    We are free from the law but as my Pastor says ,” We are free to do what
    we ought ,not what we want.” .
    The trick is to walk with God and be in His will so what we want is what we ought
    to do anyway. 🙂

    thanks for sharing!

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