My summer sabbatical’s coming to an end. Flying home tomorrow. Already missing these Colorado Rocky Mountains that surround our little one-bedroom condo here at Granby Ranch. But I like Ohio, too. Still no place like home!
Time for one last blog post. Have been reading a lot these last couple weeks, but for me the most helpful read of all is still the Holy Bible. My way of reading it is based on two things: how I was trained at Ohio State as a clinician, and how I was trained at United Seminary as a theologian. In reverse order, here’s how it goes. My own theology places Jesus squarely in the body of God’s Holy Trinity. Father is God’s mind, Holy Spirit is God’s soul, Jesus is God’s body. As God’s body whose behaviors are recorded in, appropriately, “the (good news) Gospels,” Jesus is “the way” to come closest to seeing God, understanding what God is like. In this sense, Jesus is God’s living Word even as the Bible is God’s written Word. Both are born of the same Holy Spirit, and yet come to us through human authors and the womb of a human mother. God loves to use our human abilities. Even that is good news, isn’t it?
How we understand the Bible depends on how we understand God. I know, it’s really circular, chicken and egg kind of stuff. But think about this: if God reveals Himself through Jesus, we know that God speaks in symbols, parables, allegories, metaphors, abstractions, and poetry. If God speaks that way through Jesus, then God consistently speaks that way through the Biblical writers of even the Old Testament (Hebrew) Bible as well. In other words, God is not a literalist in His communication with humans. We humans misunderstand both God and the Bible when we take Him literally. God speaks an abstract and not a concrete language. To know God’s language is to know God. Thank you Jesus! Thank you Holy Bible!
All that said, here’s how I read the Bible based on my training as a clinician. Every passage of the Bible is a solution to some universal human problem. All of my preaching of the Scriptures as a pastor can be summed up in one standard outline: 1) What’s the common human problem these people in this passage were having? 2) When have I had that same problem in my own life experiences? 3) When have others had it? 4) When have you (congregation) had it? And, 5) if we’ve all experienced this same problem in life, then what is God’s solution for us according to this passage? How do we see this solution in this passage, and how do we see it best of all through Jesus in the Gospels? That’s always my bottom line if I’m doing a sermon. Clinically, I must assess the problem, socially relate to it, and then uncover God’s prescription as our Great Physician and ultimate Healer. No other book does this as well as God’s Holy Bible.
If Jesus could summarize the entire Old Testament with the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” then my attempt to follow Him with a NT summary is this: “Do not fear. Do love.” Can’t break my own faith down any simpler than this. Not my own theology. Not my own psychology. Not my own joy and happiness and meaning and purpose in life. Nothing beats loving God and others, and using that love to cast out fear. Next blog from Ohio will be about what we have to let go of when our fear is cast out by love, and why we sometimes mess up and choose to let go of love and hold onto fear instead. I’m inviting you to follow.