EXCERPT FROM BIBLE SERMON

Sunday I preached what might have been my favorite sermon in my DOUBT ABOUT series.  In the sermon I grouped our doubts about the Bible  into scholarly type of doubts, experiential doubts, and doubts which arise from misuse.  One part of the sermon was when I talked about the different types of doubt people have as to whether or not the Bible is authoritative and reliable; I grouped these loosely as “scholarly doubts” for lack of a better phrase.  I have included a couple of these in today’s blog.

Another scholarly type of doubt people often have about the Bible is that it is divine in origin.  In other words, folks might believe we really have the texts and we can understand the texts but they do not believe God had anything to do with it.  It is more, in their eyes, about myth, stories, and culture. 

There is not a whole lot a person can do to counter that, but let me try for a second.  If God was real (and he is, but for point of argument let’s start with that), and if God revealed himself to human beings over time and space and geography, and if people were literate and could write down what they had encountered, what would we expect to have?  Would we not expect the literature that was derived from that experience to look something like the Bible looks?  What we have is what one would expect. 

We do not believe the Bible was written by God himself.  What we believe is that human beings like me and you have recorded what God revealed and did and said.  That is why the Bible is more like a witness than it is a history.  It records the ups and downs of human beings in relationship with God. 

Okay, there is one more kind of scholarly doubt issue that can be lumped in here.  That is the phenomena of other so-called “holy books.”  We saw this acted out before us earlier this year when a moron burned a Koran in Florida.  This caused such a reaction in the Muslim world that innocent people were killed. 

But people have doubts about the Bible because, they say, what makes the Bible more important than the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Mormon, or even The Iliad

Well, there is one obvious difference.  In all the other major sacred texts what I find is that the claim of being from God or being divine is usually transmuted in one encounter.  The Bhagavad Gita, as I understand it, is encounter between Krishna and Pandava just before a battle takes place.  The Koran, of course, is the writings which Muhammad said were given to him by Allah.  Almost the same thing can be said of the Book of Mormon which was invented by Joseph Smith. 

While I respect these different faith traditions and readily want them to have the freedom to practice their faith,  there is a radical difference in their claim to authenticity and the one of the Bible.  These individuals represent portals, perhaps bottlenecks of the information.  Muhammad, Krishna, and Smith might be thought of as filters for who can know what.  Compare that with the Bible.  The Bible is messy, splayed out over thousands of years, cultures, languages, and types of people.  When a person reads the Bible, one of the first things an inquiring eye will find is that much of the material in the text is clearly ‘unfiltered.’  The other “holy books” are dictatorial while the Bible is egalitarian.  The Scriptures have many human authors all encountering the same God.  For my taste, the messy account of God and human beings in the Bible is far more reliable than other cleaned up and neat, or filtered accounts.

WHY I LOVE ADVENT

Yesterday our church (www.fbcpo.org) started our annual journey through Advent.  I freely confess Advent is one of my most favorite times of the year.  So often we confuse Advent with the season of Christmas.  The two are designed to be separate.  Advent prepares us spiritually for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter.  Through the years there are five things that I have come to particularly enjoy about the season of Advent.

  • Prophecy—The first Sunday of Advent usually carries a heavy emphasis upon prophecy.  Jesus Christ came the first time, according to Hebrew Bible prophecy, and he will likewise come again.  I like this emphasis because in my usual teaching and preaching ministry I really do not spend much time on the subject because it is never one of those ‘urgent’ issues.  However, the sacred time of Advent brings the issue to my thoughts ever year and I am blessed because of it.
  • Candles—Advent is observed with the lightly of candles.  I love ‘smells and bells’ and am kind of a closet Episcopalian on this particular issue.  Baptists—my particular tribe, are not usually much of a aesthetic group of people but this time of year even the most practical and functional folk will give in to the ritual and beauty of a candle.
  • Scripture—It is impossible to properly observe Advent without a strong dose of Scripture.  Indeed, the whole season revolves around the lectionary.  I am celebrating this year by translating the gospel readings from Luke from Greek into English.  When I finish each week, I may post my translation here on the blog.
  • Focus—Advent’s key job today is to take our mind away from the slavish service to the marketplace and focus us back onto the real emphasis of Christmas.  My perception is that this is why the observance of Advent is making its way into many non-liturgical Protestant and free churches.   It is truly sad to me that our sacred time has been hijacked by people hocking electronic gadgets.  If it were not for Advent and the traditional focus of this time of year; it would likely give up on Christmas and just let the heathens have it.  In the midst of the pagan abuse, Advent keeps me grounded on the gospel.
  • Climax—As a storyteller nothing is as thrilling to me as rising action that culminates in a dazzling climax of action.  This is what Advent does with the Christmas narrative—it provides the rising action.  Without this sense of dramatic unfolding the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day events are a little flat.  It’s like skipping the whole book and just reading the last chapter.  You might know what happened, but you don’t necessarily know why or why it is significant.