This week the Renewal Capital Campaign Committee made their first official “ask” of the campaign. The elected leaders of the church were invited to dinner at the MacGregor’s, where – after being softened up by Mary’s Turkey with Cranberry Chutney, Angela’s Special Salmon, and a Honey Ham – they heard more about the campaign, read helpful and handsome materials, and were given pledge cards to take home, prayerfully consider, and fill out by July 15.
To begin the evening, we paired up to reflect on various Bible passages that were related to stewardship. The passages were provocative but – sadly – none of them contained a formula to help us figure out what to put on those pledge cards. Some of them spoke of the creation of the world, others were hymns of praise, and others told stories or gave instructions about money and possessions which seemed unrealistic, dangerously utopian, contrary to some other Bible passage or just plain unappealing. As one person put it, “in our group we kept looking for reasons why this passage didn’t apply to us – and we found them!” Despite our resistance, however, reflecting on scripture deepened our conversation and opened our hearts.
Centering our lives on God’s Word in scripture is no easy task. If we took all of it “literally” women wouldn’t speak in church, slaves would still be with their masters, even more violence would be done in God’s name, and we’d have to dismiss the scientific understanding of evolution. We’d also be confused, as much of scripture –literally– contradicts itself. On the other hand, when we recognize the role of human beings in its creation, interpret it in its historical and literary context, look at every passage in light of the whole Bible and recognize that God’s Word needs to be interpreted anew in every time and place (all good things) we run another risk. We risk using the complexity of scripture as an excuse to ignore it or dismiss its demands. I believe that all of us – liberals and conservatives, literalists and scholars, Presbyterians and Pentecostals - tend to read scripture in the same way. We quote the passages that seem to support our views and ignore the others. We take the easy road! (Matt. 7:13).
But we aren’t left to face the challenge of interpreting the Bible alone. We have the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit – which is why we pray for illumination every Sunday and why prayer should accompany all our reading. We also have each other, for the Holy Spirit works through the holy catholic church: through fellow members of our Bible class, through the community of biblical scholars and theologians, and through the voices of Christians past and present, from every corner of the globe. We won’t all agree on what God is telling us, but together we will come closer to understanding it. And then the Holy Spirit will give us the strength and courage to not only hear God’s word, but to obey it.
So this summer I encourage you to read scripture. I invite you to look at the passages on stewardship; you may find them on our website and they are listed above in the left corner. I invite you to read the Gospel of Matthew, from start to finish, and then join the “Matthew in Depth” Bible study that begins on September 15th. You will not understand, agree with, or like everything you read. But (in the words of June Cairns, who led our discussion) the Bible offers comfort when we need comfort and challenge when we need challenge. Blessings on your summer reading!
Grace and Peace,