In 2008, a young writer, an officially, though non-practicing Jew struck out to live the Bible. Literally. Every rule and admonition. Old and New Testaments. A.J. Jacob’s book, The Year of Living Biblically, is an honest and humorous telling of his experience of living the Bible in the context of a 21st century world. While I laughed out loud at some of it, I most appreciated some of his closing thoughts reflecting on his year of living the Bible in conversations he had with his rabbi friend. The conversation is found on pages 328 and 329. Rabbi Robbie says:
“We can’t insist that the Bible marks the end of our relationship with God. Who are we to say that the Bible contained all the wisdom? If you insisted that God revealed himself only at one time, at one particular place, using these discrete words, and never at any time other than that – that in itself is a kind of idolatry.”
Jacobs says, “You can commit idolatry on the Bible itself. You can start to worship the words instead of the spirit.” How do we meet God in the middle? How do we hear the words in the spirit of their meaning without hurting each other and harming the church?
The spirit of the words is different than the letter of the law. Faithful discernment includes measuring the words alongside what we know is the nature of God. What we know about God is also Biblical: God is good. God is love. God is a covenant maker. God keeps promises. God does not leave us alone, but shelters us in the storms. God’s Living Word calls us over and over into right relationship – with God and with one another and all creation. How then can we justify the rancor and discord we are living today across the spectrum of culture and church?
God’s word is dynamic, never static, but always blowing through us and all creation the breath of life that is love and mercy, justice and grace. This is the spirit of the living word; this is the nature of God that is revealed in Jesus the Christ. Count me as one who hopes to hear a word of life from the Bible and from the trees and flowers that praise God from my back yard this morning. Let us see with new eyes and open hearts how we are called to sing a new song. We who believe that the living word is a loving word will rise up to tell good news that is for everyone born!