February 16, 2015

God, Jesus, the Bible and Change

When I was in the sixth grade or so, I read through the entire Bible chapter by chapter. I especially remember reading the Gospels and finding Matthew, Mark, and Luke difficult. In those Gospels, Jesus was a little more enigmatic, a little harder to grasp. I loved John, however. John confirmed my beliefs and comforted me.

Now, a few decades later, I am writing a series of reflections for Forward Movement, which requires me to read many passages from the Gospel of John again. I’ve found the task more difficult than I expected. I miss the elliptical storytelling and the ambiguity of Mark and Matthew and Luke. John’s Jesus challenges me. His pronouncements about heaven and the bread of life now trouble me more than they comfort me. I can’t say that I’m enjoying it all that much.

The Scriptures, as we all know, contain a multitude of voices and surprises. Not only are the lessons found in the Bible varied, but what we take from them will change as we change. Something that once reassured us can later shake our understanding.

In this way, my relationship with God, with Scripture, and with Jesus is like any other relationship: It changes over time.

While I still have strong relationships with people from throughout my life, some of them have grown more tenuous and others have grown stronger over the years. Expecting all our relationships to remain exactly the same over our lifetime is setting ourselves up for disappointment.

This applies to communities of faith as well. I can’t go back to my childhood church and expect it to be the same, although I sometimes wish I could. Even my current congregation is changing and growing as people arrive and others move away. It’s a different place than the church I joined years ago.

Nothing is static because we are always moving and growing. Even the ground we stand on is moving through space, circling the sun. So I have no choice but to wrestle with this Jesus for a while, the Jesus I find in John, and hope that I am changed for the better. 

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