This is a very pertinent question for today Aaron. What makes God’s Word relevant to today? Perhaps even more telling, what makes God’s Word relevant to me?
I think you are right in identifying that many people end up memorizing a few specifically selected texts which they deem as the essential plot and in the process end up applying them as the foci of THEIR gospel. Unfortunately I think that is a crippling affect to the reality of God’s and Jesus’ true gospel.
For God’s Word to be relevant we must recognize it and relate to it not as a “text” but rather as a relational identity (John 1:1-18). The moment we approach scripture as a doctrine, dogma, or creedal practice is the moment we let our own biases and prejudices misalign who Jesus really is and how we truly relate to him as our Lord and God!
It is funny to think then how the Israelites of the OT and the first century church might have approached the stories of the NT. Neither had a “Bible” to read from. They were stories which they told their children; personal and ancestral accounts which the adults and communities would sit around the fire sharing while laughing and interjecting with commentary over the evening meal. When they spoke of the time when Jesus healed the blind man or when he baffled the Pharisee’s they reveled in his life. They dreamed of the moment, yearned for more encounters with THAT Jesus and the parables which he shared! In any sense they wondered… “Where am I in this story?”
I can’t help but think of a quote by George Adams, “There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” How much greater can we be as followers of Christ then to truly acknowledge that HIS story is a part of our lives, a part of who we are!
I don’t think we should approach the Bible any different today. It is not something which we can theologize, executively comprehend, or apply as the step by step “guidelines to the path of life.” They are the stories and memories of those who walked beside Jesus as he came in the first century. I can only wonder about what they might have experienced, revel in the fascination of their lives, acknowledge the perplexities of its pathologies, and grapple with the question, “Where do I find myself in the midst of this today?” “What is different and what is the same in the here and now?” “What part of my life are you speaking to now God?” “What are you saying to me?”
Don’t just answer with unintentional remarks! Wait, imagine, and for God’s sake… be creative!
Tonight Bonnie and I are getting ready for our Expressions Movie Night. We are watching ‘The Second Chance’ which is about a pastor who really begins to ask the questions of what does it mean to follow Jesus and just what is the church? We hope that afterwards the movie might generate an enriching conversation around the theme of Redemption and perhaps… inspire what we might want to have a second chance at. Some how I know and always have faith that Jesus is going to show up!