Midweek Message October 19, 2022

The God of the Bible


Our worship dive into the Narrative Lectionary1 has been a challenge and delight. Engaging biblical stories too-often glossed over makes us pause, check our assumptions about our faith or the history of its interpretation. It also helps us reconsider some of what we’ve learned, either from our upbringing or our broader culture.


For example, one widely held critique of our bible has gone something like: “the Old Testament God is so angry and vindictive, while in the New Testament God is loving.” This interpretation has done a disservice to Christianity (and Judaism) by making such a sweeping—and I believe inaccurate—statement.


First, you know that I take scripture very seriously, but not literally. I believe our sacred text is one that illuminates human relationship with the Divine in different times and places. These ancient stories help clarify and interpret our own relationship with the Divine in this moment. They also grow with us, revealing new insights as we learn over time.2


In taking scripture seriously, I consider who finally wrote the stories of our bible—what people passed them down around campfires and in sacred ritual; whose interpretations stuck; whose emphases captured hearts and minds? I believe the people who shared ancient stories were telling about God as they understood God. How did I get through that experience? It must have been God! And here’s why… Over a long period of time, followers of the Divine shared their stories of connection.


Maybe God gave special insight to some storytellers in some way, but I can’t know how nor to what extent. In addition, stories get changed over time (think about the various renditions of fairy tales, from the terrifying originals to the cleaned-up Disney versions), and assumptions about God would have been tweaked by the surrounding cultures of that time (again, consider what our culture says around us and how it seeps in to our theology). Finally, I wouldn’t expect them to be any more perfect in their interpretations of God than we are.


It's also hard to compare multiple story-tellers of the Old Testament to Jesus’ telling about God in our New Testament stories. Four different storytellers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) give different emphasis and, sometimes, entirely different stories. And if you want a judgy God with rules and retribution, consider some of the Epistles (letters) in the New Testament! (Again, I believe these are the experiences of the New Testament writers trying to interpret their relationships with the Divine).


All of this is to say that I believe our biblical texts—all of them—can teach us and help us grow in our relationships with God, other people, and creation. God is still speaking, after all, and there is much more that will continue to “break forth” from her Holy Word.


May it be so,



1The Narrative Lectionary is a 4-year cycle of scripture readings that begin each fall with a creation story and “beginnings,” moves through ancient prophets, and then, around Christmas, enters one of the 4 Gospels, leading us toward the beginnings of the early Christian church.

2As Congregationalist forebear Rev. John Robinson said, “I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of his Holy Word.”