Been immersing my self in the Old Testament trying to come to grips with the struggle between make believe or make a belief. I have been challenged by a phrase I read recently – “quit taking the Bible literally and start taking it more seriously”.
I was always one who used to believe that if it all isn’t literally true than none of it can be. I have come to embrace the Anabaptist approach that the Bible is not a flat book, that the red letters trump the black ones. So I look to Jesus for guidance, and he offers through example permission to find a bigger truth. Many of his stories aren’t Literal, but there true. Was there a women who lost a coin?, Was there really a farmer who through his seeds on the road?, of course not, but in spite of them being fiction they are every bit true.
Is it possible to abandon the argument of whether every story I read in the Old testament is literally true and instead embrace that their is truth in them. I will be honest much of the Truth I am discovering isn’t about God, it is about Humanity. But it’s truth none the less. Much of what I think I am discovering is we project on God what we want and expect. Yet he perseveres and shows up through our misconceptions.
I have been reading about Moses recently. The Exodus is perhaps one of the most outrageous stories we find in the Hebrew literature. I honestly think that whether you believe it happened literally or figuratively it is possible to come to the same conclusions. I know there are those who abandon it as fiction and see no value in it. That is too bad. As Jesus demonstrates even if it is Hebrew Mythology, or even the exaggeration of literal events there is truth in it that transcends culture and time. This is evidenced by the civil rights movement in the United States led by Martin Luther King Jr. This exodus story was highly influential in his mission and cause. There was a truth that found him in the narrative, a hope a glimpse of something bigger. And it fueled and still fuels one of the greatest liberations this world has seen.
As I read this story I recalled the Dreamworks animation and the childhood flannel graph images. The movie playing over in my mind didn’t help my suspension of belief.
But something happened as I was getting lost in the fanciful storytelling. I found myself. Several thoughts grabbed me and I realized whether or not it this story is true, there is truth.
God tells Moses he has heard the cries of his people and “he will come down and deliver them”. God’s modus operandi in doing this is Moses. God uses people to accomplish his plans. Suddenly this story wasn’t as fanciful as it could have been. Why does God choose to use human agents in his salvation work? Jesus again demonstrates this in his three years of ministry, one of his primary concerns is calling a group to teach and train to join him. Salvation work is participatory work. We have been enlisted to join in this freedom work.
God speaks to Moses in a Burning Bush. How pedestrian. Moses would have seen a many bush in his day, possibly even burning bushes, but this one was different. This one was never consumed. What stands out to me is this idea that God showed up in the mundane. He could have appeared as an angel, a glowing orb, but a bush? God shows up in the secular not the sacred. What makes it sacred is his presence. It makes me wonder how many ordinary things in my life God has set ablaze. There are tokens of his presence trying to tell me something. But I am too busy looking for his voice only in the sacred. I need to be more aware. Elizabeth Barret Browning says it best:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest just sit around and pluck blackberries.
What if we took serious our role in the God’s work. What if we realized that God’s desire to deliver the oppressed is to use us to do it. What if we realized that he is trying to get our attention by setting ablaze the mundane ordinary things in our lives. The secular things. What if we began to realize those moments when we recognize God speaking to us through a coworker, through the radio, through Obama, or Oprah or Madonna….those are sacred moments. We should take off our shoes and realize God has come down, and is with us.