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Archive for the ‘Bible study’ Category

The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his Letters to a Young Poet, “…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and…try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Jesus, though divine, was born into a fallen human world and had lived a life of questioning and being questioned from the moment of his conception. His mother asked the angel, “How can this be?” As Jesus grew, he questioned the elders in the temple, he questioned his parents and they questioned him. John the Baptist questioned Jesus when he came to him for baptism. So it was probably no surprise that after forty days in the desert, he would be questioned once more.

Surely Satan’s questions were no more challenging than the questions he had been asking himself about his ministry, his mission, his message. The questions of the desert would prepare him for a public life of questioning in the marketplace, in the temple and finally on the cross. Jesus is able to respond to the questions of the Tempter because he knows the genuine love of God supported by a faith made strong in suffering, in need and in questioning.

Like Jesus, we must live both the struggle of the questions and the faith of the answers. Our temptations aren’t likely to come to us from a mysterious figure in a deserted place. But often they revolve around the same basic human drives: hunger, emotional security, safety, status, ambition.

Some lie awake too many nights wondering if they’ve made the right choices for their lives, their careers. Others question whether a successful position with a company engaged in questionable ethical practices is a compromise they’re willing to make. Many people fight against the demon of self-doubt and insecurity, afraid they don’t deserve more than the bad hand they’ve been dealt in life.

Sometimes the questions themselves are coming from God, asking us to make life-giving changes in our lives. It’s the easy answers that are the temptation, the decisions that seem to bring happiness and success but are really driving us further away from our center. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, if we reach for the first thing that promises us health and wealth, we might be in bigger trouble than we imagined.

The responses Jesus gives to his tempter are deeply rooted in the words of Scripture. He’s not rattling off memorized verses. He’s speaking out of a lived awareness of the power of the word of God.

Lent is the perfect time to deepen our own immersion in Scripture. The story of God’s undying care for the people he has chosen as his own can mirror the stories of our own lives. The Psalms are a good place to begin. Let the words wash over you. Let them speak to the situations and emotions of your daily life. The words of the Gospels challenge us to a life of Christ-like compassion. The prophets of the Old Testament remind us to put God first before anything else.

The Word has its own power to move us and inspire us and to remind us of God’s presence. It is this power that is, in the end, the answer.

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We look to the stories and mythology of our culture for answers to the big questions about life: How did we get here? Why are we here? What do we learn from the stories of our past? How do we shape the stories of our future? For Jews and Christians, the Bible is the primary place we look for these answers, beginning with “Who is God?” What is our relationship to this God? How has that shaped our stories, our history, our very lives?

This past weekend, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky opened to the public. Steve Bogner had a great post on it last week. Because it’s quite close to Cincinnati, our local paper is giving it a lot of play. But it even made the New York Times. The Times article called attention to one display that I have to say I found quite amusing:

We learn that chameleons, for example, change colors not because that serves as a survival mechanism, but “to ‘talk’ to other chameleons, to show off their mood, and to adjust to heat and light.”

Who would have thought?!! I find that I can’t even put myself into a mindset that would look to one book of the Bible for literal answers about God’s immense and wonderful creation. At times it seems as through the whole creationist debate takes place somewhere far removed from the Scriptures of my faith. And yet because extremists at the other end of the philosophical and religious spectrum will use this absurdity to reject all belief in the Bible, I find that I can’t just ignore it.

The story of the Bible is the story of our creation and redemption, an activity that is ongoing, a neverending story that continues after the written word ends. The incarnation of Jesus so completed the original story begun in Genesis that our tradition could close the canon of revelation, but we find new and fuller understandings of that story as we grow in knowledge and wisdom as a people of God. I’m reminded of a saying by theologian and storyteller Megan McKenna: “All stories are true. Some of them actually happened. ” The stories in the Bible tell me a special kind of truth and through them I can listen for the word of God. But then, come to think of it, I listen for the word of God in everything I read and hear and experience. Maybe that’s the difference.

P.S. Because all of this talk of truth and facts is bringing me dangerously close to the concept of truthiness, I leave you with this reflection on the importance of learning new things.

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It’s the rare Friday evening that I curl up with a Vatican document, but I suspect I’ll be doing just that today. The Vatican released the Lineamenta for the upcoming world synod of bishops today. They missed the feast of St. Mark by two days. That would have been a nice touch. More when I’ve had a chance to read through the document and reflect on it a bit.

Just a random quote from the preface:

The Word of God, then, casts its rays on every aspect of the Church’s life and, by its presence in society, also acts as a leaven for a more just and peaceful world, devoid of every kind of violence and open to the building of a civilization of love.

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