The Dress was Headline News and My Friend Died

So yesterday was something else.The Dress

It seems a huge amount of people were vehemently arguing over whether this dress was blue and black or white and gold.

It made headline news and drew scientific explanations as to why people were seeing different colors.

Oh, yeah – and my friend Bill died.

There’s no other way to describe him than to say he was grand. I met him when I moved to town almost four years ago. He was one of the most senior seniors in the church – a Veteran of World War II. His time in the Army was an immediate bond with this Army Reserve Chaplain and, even though he had been out for decades, the military never got out of him. He would salute me every time he saw me in uniform. He was incredibly active with our local chapter of the VFW honor guard, which meant he and I did several funerals together in uniform. One Memorial Day he was tasked with dropping a wreath in the local lake during the Memorial Day Celebration in honor of the fallen. He was a man of deep patriotism. Bill Nash

Bill was an avid carver and whittler. He was always working on projects and had who knows how many little pieces stashed away. He delighted in giving away various whittled creations. Over the years my family received several whittled Christmas Tree ornaments. He also made me a wall hanging of the cross and a cut-wood version of The Last Supper that I kept above my office door.

Though he didn’t play, Bill was an avid supporter of the church softball team. If the weather permitted and he knew about the game, he was always there. He brought bubblegum for the whole team – the Bazooka Joe gum that you can only chew for 90 seconds before it gets hard and you risk chipping a tooth.

Bill had hearing aids that had to be cranked up for him to hear, but he was faithfully in worship every week. Every once in a while Bill would comment about the volume but it wasn’t a complaint – just a comment. Drums and guitars didn’t seem to bother him. I remember one Sunday I preached a little longer than usual. That usually irks some people. As I was saying goodbye to people at the door, Bill came through the line. I apologized for running a little late and he said, “Sorry?! Why are you sorry?!” (most everything Bill said was sort of half-yelled, probably because of his hearing loss) I said, “Well, I know some people get upset about running late.”

Bill’s response: “So what?! Say what you gotta say!”

He was always encouraging and helpful – doing whatever he could to support every ministry of the church (yes, even the kids ministry!). My wife just talked with him a few days ago, and now he’s gone. My heart is heavy and the world is a worse place losing men like Bill.

But please, let’s keep going on and on arguing about a dress.

There are things in life that matter and things that really couldn’t be less important. People matter. Eternity matters. I’m reminded of the simple prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
(Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)

We worship God.
We embrace His kingdom and His will.
We ask for His sustenance and provision.
We pursue reconciliation with others and with God.
We seek His continued help and deliverance.

That’s it! That’s the only prayer Jesus taught, but it shows us where our focus should be.

There is an eternal perspective that we are missing when we get caught up in ridiculous stories and arguments about colors of dresses. I don’t think Bill would have care one whit about the color of a dress. I KNOW Jesus wouldn’t have cared. Jesus had that long-range perspective – a focus on what really mattered.

The death of friends and family usually makes us take stock of our own lives. What matters? Who matters?

The Dress doesn’t matter to me. I can’t even bring myself to read through an entire article about it. Bill mattered.

Today my prayer is that we can shake ourselves free from the inane things that plague our every day and begin to live lives that matter.

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 2

shock1

Here we are with Episode 2 in my series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!

The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.

I once joked that there are two kinds of people who take the Bible 100% literally: Fundamentalists and Atheists.

Fundies hold that the Bible is 100% literal or else you can’t trust ANY of it. Atheists hold that the Bible is 100% literal to shoot holes in Christian faith. I doubt either group would ever think they have anything in common with the other.

But here’s the truth: the Bible is NOT meant to be understood literally.

Well, parts of it are. But parts of it aren’t.

The keyword for today’s episode is Genre.

Merriam-Webster defines genre as: a particular type or category of literature or art.

The various books within the Bible represent different literary genres, and each genre is interpreted a bit differently from the next. Genre cues us how to read and what to expect from the literature.

For example, when we read a story that begins: “Once upon a time…” we are automatically cued as to what kind of story is going to follow (fairy tale) and our brain processes the story as such.

The Bible is filled with histories, parables, poetry, letters, and even this funny genre called Apocalyptic Literature.

Sometimes we understand the Bible to be communicating literal truth. Sometimes the Bible uses symbolism and poetic language to make a point.

Reading the Bible honestly means that we ask the questions: What genre of literature is this passage I’m reading? How should that genre influence my understanding of the text?

I had a Bible teacher who was fond of saying: If we took everything literally we’d have a faith that believes God is a great cosmic chicken (see Psalm 91:4).

Is the Bible true?

Yes.

Is the Bible to be understood 100% literally?

No.

Related Posts:

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 1

p.s. If you are interested in additional reading, check out “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 1

sermon

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone over what a particular part of the Bible meant? Maybe you were talking about the meaning of an Old Testament story. Perhaps it was one of the Apostle Paul’s passages in his letters. The funny thing is that good Christians who take the Bible seriously as God’s revelation to humanity can arrive at different understandings.

The different understandings of what the Bible means does not mean that one person is a “bad” Christian and one is “good.” In fact, there are some instances where both understandings are valid – they simply represent different perspectives; different lenses through which we see things.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a blog series called “The Bible Does NOT Mean That!” The goal is not to tell you definitively what the Bible does or does not say. The goal is to talk about how we can look at the Bible with intentionality and understanding. Since it is God’s revelation to humanity it’s not supposed to be filled with secrets locked away to all but the elite. It’s designed to guide us ALL!

The problem is that many of us are simply never taught how to read it.

So here we are – Episode 1. The buzzwords for today are prescriptive and descriptive. These words cause a lot of fights between faithful Christians.

Simply put, a prescriptive interpretive lens looks at a passage and says, “This is the way things are SUPPOSED to be.” The story prescribes the behavior or life we’re supposed to live.

A descriptive interpretive lens looks at a passage and says, “This passage simply describes how things are then.” The story is not saying how things are always supposed to be.
Let’s take an example from the Bible, shall we? Look at Gideon.

In one of the most famous stories from Gideon’s life is that blasted fleece. You’ve heard it. God told Gideon to go defend Israel and Gideon says:

“Look, if you’re gonna do what you promised, I’ll put a wool fleece out overnight. If the fleece is wet with dew tomorrow morning but the ground is dry, I’ll know that you’ll keep your promise.”

SO GOD DOES IT! But Gideon says again:

“Look, this time I’ll put out the fleece and you make the fleece dry but the ground wet with dew tomorrow morning.”

SO GOD DOES IT!

A prescriptive reading of this passage might say:

When you’re going through troubled and puzzling times and you’re not sure what God is telling you to do, throw out a fleece and seek God’s direction.

A descriptive reading might say:

Gideon’s kind of a blockhead. God has made promises, spoken to Gideon through an angel, and Gideon still is fearful and doesn’t trust God to keep his promises. Gideon should have had faith to trust what God already told him. This passage doesn’t tell us to throw out fleeces before God.

See the difference?

One of the difficulties in understanding the Bible is that it takes discernment. We need to ask: is this story/passage simply describing something to me or is it trying to tell me how I need to do things?

When we can ask that question every time we approach the Bible we come a long way in getting down to a proper understanding of the meaning of the text.

Even still, there will be times when we disagree on which lens through which we ought to read a passage. In those cases, as always, I advocate love and grace. We can disagree and still love each other. After all, we serve the same Lord.

Until next time….

p.s. If you are interested in additional reading, check out “How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

– Related Posts:
The Bible Does NOT Mean That! – Episode 2