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Friends in Christ Weekly Message
January 19, 2001

The Bible
An Invitation to Dialogue with God

In my experience, the Bible as a static, one dimensional document ceased to speak to my condition years ago. However, when I came to know it as a window into the ongoing dialogue between God and people struggling to know and to understand God, it began nourishing my faith once more.
Jay Marshall, Dean, Earlham School of Religion

...what once looked like immutable cement blocks of words and meaning are more truly shimmering layers that need to pass through the human heart before comprehension can begin.
Judith Tyler Dancy, Pastor, Winston-Salem Friends Meeting

There are so many different ways people think about the Bible that sometimes it seems like they aren't talking about the same book. Some people have been turned off to the Bible by it being presented in a way that made it seem to them cold and distant. People often need to re-orient their thinking about the Bible in order for it to have real meaning in their lives.

Much of the Bible consists of stories - stories of how people understood their history as a community, stories of how a variety of people lived their lives, stories (often called parables) used as teaching devices, etc. The stories seek to communicate how God manifests the divine presence in the lives of individuals and communities - and indeed in all creation.

We use stories in teaching children because stories catch their interest and open them up to things we want them to understand. Bible stories have similar value unless the way they are presented closes off people rather then opens them up.

A beautiful thing about most scripture is that it has a number of layers. You can read the same scripture a dozen times, and find a fresh insight each time. To read scripture as having just one narrow thing to teach is to miss much of the great gift scripture is to us if we really take it into our hearts and lives.

The Bible not only shows the dialogue between God and humans in centuries past, but it invites us into that dialogue. It shows people facing timeless issues, ones that we face every day in somewhat different contexts. When the Bible is used well, scripture illuminates our lives and our lives illuminate the scripture. The history of God's interaction with people and our interaction with God today are just different dimensions of the same basic story.

For the Bible to truly speak to us, we must read it not only with our minds but also with our hearts. Jesus rebuked those in his day who took a legalistic view of the Hebrew scriptures but failed to live out the deeper messages about mercy, compassion, forgiveness, etc. He often pointed to those who had not always kept the rules but whose hearts cried out to God as much better examples for us. If we truly open our hearts to God, we find God speaking through the scriptures in ways that we can not even imagine if we read the Bible with a legalistic mind.

God will transform our lives if we let Him. If we approach the Bible in the ways suggested by the writers quoted above, we will find God speaking to us through the scripture and using it in this transformative process.

Bill Samuel

Quotations at the top of this column are from ESR Reports, Vol. II, No. 1, Fall 2000, published by Earlham School of Religion.

©2001 Friends in Christ, Inc.

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Document last modified on Saturday, 27-Dec-2003 11:57:08 EST