Saturday, April 30, 2011

Listening to the Bible

My friend Ben Curtis introduced me to this poem by Bill Collins titled “Introduction to Poetry”:

I ask them to take a poem   
and hold it up to the light   
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem   
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room   
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski   
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope   
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose   
to find out what it really means.

As I listened to and then read this poem about the perspective necessary to appreciate poetry, I was convicted of the fact that this is often the way that I have treated the Bible.  Too often I have approached a passage of scripture seeking to “beat it into submission” as I sought the kernel of truth contained therein so that I could teach or preach it.  Using the best tools that I had, I sought to wring something out of it that was new, fresh, and relevant---something that I could share with my congregation or study group.  In so doing, I failed to appreciate the real message embodied there.

I am not saying that hermeneutical studies are unnecessary or irrelevant, but I have come realize that scripture can speak to me if I give it the opportunity.  If I can suspend my presuppositions for just a little while, I may hear something that I need to hear at that moment in my life.  This means that I move beyond many of the traditional ways that we see scripture—rule book, sociopolitical document, the history of God’s revelation to God’s people—to the word of God for me.

 On most days, I am not sure that I am ready to do what it takes for that to happen.  Such a stance requires humility, vulnerability, and perception that I do not possess.  Perhaps that is where the Spirit of God intervenes and speaks through the Bible in such a way that I can hear.  I don’t think I have it in me to accomplish that on my own.

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