Here is the sermon text from Sunday, September 16’s worship service. I like to point out, I don’t read it word for word, so if you listened to the sermon or watched it, this will not be exact. After a couple of days, there sermon only is posted at the link above plus the entire service. The basic sermon manuscript is printed below. This was a fun quick series to do, I think as I said in my earlier blog, I’d like to repeat it only add a couple of Sundays. There is so much information to share about this book or collection of books we call the Bible. It never gets old to read and study and ponder what it has to say to me. This Bible reminds me that I am graced to serve.
The Bible is rich in story and in verses and proverbs that point to truth for living and life…
Some of what is in the Bible is insane….crazy…. and if you don’t believe me, you haven’t read the book of Joshua, or some of the battles in 1st and 2nd Kings…In Joshua God’s people were told to go into the land and kill every man woman and child and all their cattle and livestock, obliterate entire people races and cultures…or in the Torah a person being who has any sort of handicap or deformity is considered not acceptable and outcast and Jesus encouraging people to pluck out their eyes and cut off their hands….because it is “ancient words” if you will, the Bible must be deciphered for the 21st century, and with all going on in our world and nation wrestling with this text, with these books within a book is critical if we are to respond as Christians. This is a tough book, one that if read deeply and thoroughly requires some prayer, meditation and thoughtfulness
PP 1: 2014 Gallup Poll on biblical interpretation
28% believe the Bible to Be the ACTUAL word of God, to be taken literally
47% Inspired Word of God
21% Ancient fables, tales, legends
4% no opinion
UMC’s would fall in all four catergories of the Gallup polls….but most probably in the 1st or 2nd around 75 % of people that believe the bible is the inspired word of God….some do fall in the 3rd group and see it as a book of stories, legends…interesting, but not inspired, helpful in certain ways, but not binding. In 2 Timothy it states that scripture is inspired and useful for teaching and training…says nothing about being inerrant or infallible or literal….The author of Proverbs talks about treasuring wisdom and learning wisdom and keeping close to the teachings of one’s parents and one’s faith…again, there is nothing about the books or what would have been scrolls being infallible or without error. Back to 2 Timothy, this verse particularly “All scripture is inspired by God “Is used to defend and support an understanding that the bible is infallible, every word is true and one can find ways to make it all fit in a nice and easy package….except you can’t, not really. There are parts that may have been experiences that were recorded, but scientifically not possible: like in Joshua 10 where the sun stood still for day so that Israel could defeat their enemies. In our 21st century we want to make it out as not true instead of understanding that the writers of the Bible were recording their faith and where they saw God at work in the world. No one takes the bible literally, every word, instead everyone of us takes bits and pieces and makes that our infallible Bible.
If I give you a few moment, I bet you could write down those verses that you think are the most important part of the bible…the verse you live by and the ones you probably figure are the ones everyone should follow. In fact I want you to do so right now.
A few, alright more than a few years ago, I was a young clergy and the District Superintendent was requiring us to as a district to go on retreat together. Our opening time of worship and devotion was an invitation to share our favorite bible verse and the other instruction was the favorite bible verse that helped us most in our ministry. You can imagine, preachers are the worst for being holy and trying to one up each other in our righteousness, the Pharisees got nothing on us! Any way you can imagine the verses: The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want, I can do all things through him who strengthens me, May the words of my mouth and the meditations in my heart be acceptable in thy sight Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer. You get the picture, you probably have your own that pops up in your mind as think about what helps you in your work and in your life. Lois Lenz…man I loved her. She had been a pastors wife for a very long time and she and her husband Milt served years together before she explored her own call to ministry. She came in under the local pastor option. She was almost last when it came to her turn. She looked around the room at all those pastors, some very important and had served a long time. She said, the scripture that has helped most in my ministry is “Thou shall not kill.” Yup, that’s exactly what happened, every one of us roared with laughter. How true. Maybe that should be one of the few we take literally!!!!
The author of Timothy writes: All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
The Bible is inspired, it is useful and far too important to attempt to make it all work or not question or wrestle with it’s context and what it says too us in the 21st century. It’s too important a book to use as a fortune cookie or a quick spiritual answer book, you know when we to need to make a decision so we open it up to the first text and see what it says Which almost never works….it’s just more confusing.when we are trying to decide what to do about that neighbor that is driving us nuts and we open it Joshua where they are instructed to kill every man woman and child in the land…or our child our son is just making us crazy and we open it up to Deuteronomy 21where it says to take a disobedient son to the town square and stone him…Taking us back to last week…remember that scripture was actually written over a short period of time….Old Testament over a 1000 year period between 1400 and 400 BC give or take a hundred years and the New Testament between 49 AD and probably 100 or 110 AD. Paul’s letters were the earliest written before his death in 65, then the gospels and then these other letters and Revelation written last. The reason I want to remind us of this is when the author of 2 Timothy writes about all scriptures, he is talking about what we refer to as the Old Testament…if Paul was the author and there is some question about that, when Paul was writing there were not any gospels or anything else. Even if this was written late in the 1st century, there was still no new testament as we understand it. 2 Timothy is written to encourage a young leader in the church who is being reminded that the scripture as they had it was good for study and understanding and knowledge and to grow in the faith. That Timothy had what he needed to live as a follower of Jesus. The bible as we have it today was put together and made the canon sometime in the 390’s to 420 range. There were several councils. Google biblical canon, because what you are holding is not the only Christian canon. In those early days there were several groups of churches and believers that still exist and have slightly different texts in their bible. But I digress.
Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching or the author of Proverbs:
When I was a son with my father, tender, and my mother’s favourite,
they said to me, Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight: Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever else you get, get insight.
Neither the Old Testament, nor the New Testament author speaks of making others live by those standards…..Only those who choose to live under the law if they are Jewish or follow Jesus if they are Christian are required to live according to the Bible. The scriptures are inspired by God they offer wisdom and understanding and according to Henri Nouwen:
PP 2 The Word of God is not a word to apply in our daily lives at some later date; it is a word to heal us through and in, our listening here and now.
Don’t always get it….often confusing and sometimes downright crazy….but it is our story…in so many ways….We are Moses making excuses, We are Sarah laughing at the impossible, we are Gideon afraid and hiding in a wine press, Hannah pouring out our deepest desires, Peter shifting here and there one minute hot and another minute cold, Martha worried about many things The Bible at it’s best challenges me to live in a way that honors God, honors God’s creation, honors other human beings….Jesus challenges me to love….not in some sentimental easy way, but the difficult the path that demands love of neighbor, love of enemy, love of the poor, the outcast and the hurting…..It might sound easy to love God and love each other, but to live it out requires every bit of faith I possess….The Bible challenges me to put aside my own selfish wants and needs and ambitions and look to my neighbors true needs and the worlds needs…The Bible reminds me that faith in not learned and seen in isolation, but must be formed in community. A community that creates space for disagreement, for questions, for arguing even to go deeper into what the reign of God looks like…. The letter to Timothy is that scripture is inspired by God AND given that the people of God might be equipped for every good work The bible begs to be studied and tasted and seen and heard and smelled
That’s why I write a study guide, so we can dive in deeper after Sunday morning or we have copies of the daily Upper Room, or you can access it online, there are multiple online tools for devotions or apps for your smart phone or tablet…This Bible, this word, this wisdom These wise inspired words are here to change me and change you….changing and challenging all of us to grow in grace, grow in love, grow deeper into the likeness of Christ in this time and in this place….in the words of a corny phrase….you may be the only Bible some people read….and what Bible will they read …judgement, anger, bigotry, or will they see love, grace and mercy? Will our community of faith been seen as one of closed hearts and closed doors and closed minds or an open place to learn, to discover and find God…. Michael W. Smith wrote a song called Ancient words:
Words of Life, words of Hope Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam Ancient words will guide us Home.
Ancient words ever true Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts Oh let the ancient words impart.
That’s our prayer as we come to bless these books, these inspired books of God for us to get wisdom, to get understanding, to be taught and challenged and our faith be deepened in Christ. For ultimately, that is what this is all about, that we might know about Jesus, but more importantly to love Jesus and follow him. When we have faith then we will be blessed for every good work that we do in then name of Jesus Christ.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.