Bible offers insight into relationship with God
June 16, 2010 - Let's pretend that you have never heard of the Bible. Someone hands you a copy and lends it to you promising that it's "a really good read."
It's summer, and you have the time, so you settle down with a tall glass of lemonade and open the book…
"In the beginning…" What a lovely start, you think. Almost as good as "once upon a time."
Clearly this has all the indications of a good novel. By the time you get to the Book of Leviticus, though, you're ready to put an end to this investment of your time since your eyes have grown bleary with all the prescriptions, legal language and unfamiliar obligations that seem to be being imposed upon the people in the story.
It's starting to read more like a textbook, so you put it down. The end.
Now let's pretend that you do know something about the Bible.
You know that it isn't a novel, something meant to be picked up and read from beginning to end, necessarily.
It's a collection of books, with many literary forms from which to choose. Its authors were gifted with the spiritual insight necessary to reveal truth by writing in a style that appealed to the people of the time.
Want a funny short story? Try the Book of Jonah.
Want to read a really good debate? Look to the Book of Job.
How about some religious history? Move toward the center of the collection and read through the Book of Kings.
Letters? No one did it better than Paul.
Poetry? Try Psalms.
Even myth, understood correctly, as an imaginative and symbolic story about a reality that is beyond our comprehension, is present in the book of Genesis.
Knowing something about the Bible opens us up to understanding something about mystery.
The Bible reveals a two-thousand-year process of people reflecting on their experience and on the significance of their experience in the context of their relationship with God. And to make it even more interesting, these insights increased as the years went by.
This makes a lot of sense to me and helps me put in perspective some of the stories, especially in the Old Testament, that don't necessarily put God in the greatest light.
Reading the Bible with an understanding of the beliefs of the people of the time, an understanding of the type of literature I am reading, and knowing that the Bible developed as a process of revelation is a big help. Back to that lemonade.
When read as a collection, the Bible becomes your own personal banquet of inspiration!
And so, I return to the beginning and the truth revealed in the book of Genesis, that everything that exists is here because a loving God created it.
Lately I've been pondering this truth and have come to the rather blatant reality that this includes everyone, including me! Rather obvious, you might say, but I would counter that at times we sell ourselves short and forget how special we really are in God's eyes.
I've also centered on the word "beginning" and allowed it to work upon my heart. Have you ever considered that beginnings and endings seem to blend to the point where it's hard to know which is which?
This is the last article I'll write for the Clarkston News since I'm ending my position at St. Daniel.
Thanks to all of you who have not only inspired me, but have affirmed me in this work. But sometimes endings are stirred into being by beginnings, and this is the case for me.
I'll continue to write because I have faith that this a Godly purpose for my life. Where it will lead I can only imagine, but I find comfort in the words of Jesus at the end of Matthew's gospel, "I am with you always, until the end of the age."
Have a great summer, and happy reading!
Cheryl Smith is director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Daniel Catholic Church.