Bible Stories, True or False?

Bible stories are an enigma. Some of them are so intimate, private and personal. Some of them are so extraordinary, hard to believe, supernatural. So many are so alien to life as we know it. And who could have originally accounted for each story? When John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb upon a visit from Jesus’ mother Mary, who recorded that story to be passed on for centuries? When Moses encountered the burning bush, when the Hebrews followed a pillar of fire and smoke, when a touch of Jesus’ robe healed a bleeding woman, who wrote down these things? Who told the story to others? So private, so personal. So hard to believe that they came to be part of a book that we read. I don’t think Jesus told these stories. Was it a disciple? An apostle? Who passed it on? Did leaders in the first churches started by Paul tell these stories in church? Before there was a written record from the Catholic Church? So many questions, so many unanswered doubts. The Bible stories are so foreign to life as we know it today. How could they have really happened? Isn’t it more likely that they were made up to enhance the power of the church over its followers? And the synagogue over its faithful people? Other religions have stories that we assume are just literature made up by followers of a religion to give power to their leaders. Why don’t Christians believe the same thing about their own religious books? Is it too terrifying to consider that these stories could be false, made up, simply literature to build up a myth?

The Uncertainty of Truth and a Leap of Faith

Knowing the truth is possible but being certain of the truth is not possible. Certainty is a luxury of the ignorant. There is an argument that can be made against the existence or presence or activity or feeling of about anything. Claiming certainty is possible only for those who ignore some or all of the facts. What is truth? Well, that depends on who you are, where you come from, how you were raised, etc. there is not one truth that is superior to all other truths. That’s ridiculous. The only thing certain about truth is that truth is not certain. It must be accepted by a leap of faith.

Can You Doubt It?

Pools of blood

Gathering beneath

The hanging body.

Breath goes out,

But doesn’t come back in.

Skin separated from the bones.

What is the truth?

They’ve washed their hands

Of any responsibility.

But can they wash away the blood?

Nightmares come

To remind the guilty.

Can you grit your teeth

And bare this torture?

Can you escape the horror?

This man was truly

From God.

Those who witnessed,

Cannot deny it.

Those who saw him later—

Walking, talking…

Breathing, eating—

Cannot shake the image

From their memory.

Restored but still wounded.

Put your finger

In my wrists and in my side.

He is alive!!!

Miracles: Yes or No

The central belief that all of Christianity hinges on, that of the resurrection from death of Jesus of Nazareth, is a slippery slope, at least. If one chooses to believe that miracle happened, it isn’t too far a stretch to believe in the feeding of the five thousand, or in the healing of the sight of the blind man, or the other miracles that Jesus was supposed to have performed in the Gospels. If you can believe in the resurrection, everything else is on the table.

And there is no shortage of miracles in the Old Testament either. The production of the stone tablets on the mountain after witnessing a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire, the plagues of Egypt before Pharaoh sets free the Israelites, the parting of the sea for the Israelites as they flee Egypt, the production of mammon in the desert to feed the Israelites, and so many more.

So if one believes in all the wonders of the Old Testament, is it such a stretch to believe in the resurrection? Not really. Or if one believes in the resurrection, why not believe in all the miracles of the Old Testament? It is a leap of faith on both counts, no matter how you look at it.

Can one be a Christian without believing in miracles? Well, if you don’t believe in the resurrection, it’s hard to claim that label. But if you do believe in the resurrection, you have no case against the miracles in the rest of the Bible. One can believe in Jesus’ moral teachings, and so be a follower of Jesus in a way, but some of the things Jesus is quoted saying, and the wonders he is recorded as performing, would have to be overlooked.

A Reflection on Juneteenth

Crimes unimaginable

Sins unfathomable

Wrongs not righted

With an apology,

A soft word,

Or the stroke of a pen.

Pain to the deepest parts

Of the heart and soul,

The very fiber of one’s being,

A wound that doesn’t heal,

But rather cuts deeper

With every smile,

Every handshake,

On every pay day,

Every trip to the grocery store,

Every night at mealtime,

When they look at their children,

When they look at ours.

Privilege continues

Despite the lip service,

Despite the promises,

Amidst the meager gifts,

The dregs of easy charity

From the tatters of a bursting purse,

The guilt trip laid on thick

To the middle class and even

The working poor.

Those that lack for food,

Clothing or shelter,

Living barely day to day,

Not knowing where one’s next

Meal will come from.

And at the church the preacher

Says try harder, pray more,

Save your dollars

So you can send your little ones

To a good college,

Make them study,

Keep them out of trouble,

Tell them you love them,

That you’re proud of them

For that report card.

What do you say

When the white kid

Calls them the n-word?

What do you say

When you don’t have a job

Because you refused

To kiss your supervisor’s butt

When he would talk to you

Like you were nothin’,

Just a cog in his machine,

A disposable, replaceable,

Optional, neglectable,

Insultable, disrespected,

Used, abused, tossed out

To the street

Like so much garbage,

Black man?

Courageous Relationships (link to video)

www.saintpaulsumc.org/sermon/new-places-for-new-people-courageous-relationships/

Click on the above link to view a sermon by Rev. Dr. Kandace Brooks in which she challenges her congregation to step out of their comfort zones and reach out to others, to ask for help or to be of help, specifically to the mentally ill, suicidal, etc.

In the Presence of Everything

Are you the hand

That I shake in the pew,

Or on my way out the door,

To the parking lot?

Are you the presence,

In the plate and cup,

Upon the altar,

That is given for me to consume?

Are you the dirty, scarred face,

Of an abused, homeless woman,

Begging on the street,

Around the corner from the grocery store?

Are you the gentle face and eager voice

Of the elderly man

Who comes to my front door,

Struggling to use an iPad to show a video?

Are you the pastor at the soup kitchen,

Who tells me the administrative position

I’m interviewing for requires someone

Who can shmooze with the volunteers?

Are you the book with all the stories

Spoken a long, long time ago,

Written a long time ago,

For people who lived a long time ago?

If so, I’m wondering:

What is your name? Who am I

In relation to you?

Why do you appear differently to all?

I’d like to pin you down,

Put your number and your address

In my contact list.

I’d like to feel you.

I know that’s not how you operate,

If you did, you wouldn’t be God,

Or would you?

Sometimes I wonder.

A Miracle

Gliding along the currents of air,

I’m lifted by the light that shines on me.

Love permeates my being,

Like a spear piercing my side.

The nails are hammered through

My ragged wrists. I cry out,

My God, my God, why?

Have you forsaken me?

The dusk descends and they lower

My cross, loosen my body

And carry me to my tomb.

I stand on a mountaintop.

Throw yourself down!

God’s angels will save you.

Turn these stones into bread.

You are hungry. Go ahead.

Freedom! I am set free by God’s hand.

Risen at last and the tombstone

Is rolled away.

Nothing Anymore

I came close,

Or at least I thought.

 

I prayed.

I read the Bible.

 

I went to church.

I worshipped “Someone”

 

Whom I believed to be God.

I “fellowshipped” with other believers,

 

Or I tried, anyway.

I read devotional books,

 

Yearning to improve

My spiritual relationships.

 

Over the years, it happened,

Slipping through my fingers,

 

I lost touch, I lost Him,

Then, nothing.

 

 

Carry on Tuesday #109

 

Trust

Faith comes at the strangest times:

When I read a good book,

When I am touched by another’s actions,

And, yes, when I go to church.

 

I pull back, though, in mistrust,

As if to say to myself:

“Don’t start that again!”

For the many times I’ve been burned,

 

And the many doubts I’ve had,

About the bible, the church and God.

Rocking back and forth

In a spiritual quandary,

 

I struggle so much,

And I hesitate

Before jumping in.

Who or what can be trusted?

 

 

(Poetic Asides

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 135)