More Things in Heaven and Earth (Jan. 23, 2013)

…Opening To…

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means. (George Bernard Shaw)

…Listening In…

When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” (John 6:12-14; context)

…Filling Up…

The fourth thing not to do when you read the Bible is to read only the “ordinary parts.” This practice is similar to the third in that it warns against removing parts of the text. But rather than removing the parts that make us feel uncomfortable because of violent imagery (like Psalm 137), this practice removes the things that we can’t understand. It removes the “miraculous” stuff from the Bible. Thomas Jefferson did this when he published an edition of the Bible. His Gospel was full of holes because every one of Jesus’ miracles was missing.

The trouble with this approach is that it lacks humility. When we edit out the parts that we can’t understand simply because they don’t fit into the way we think the world works, we set ourselves up as the final judges of that world. But as Hamlet reminds his friend, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Act 1, Scene V). When we decide on our own that miracles can’t happen, then we will automatically miss the miracles that do happen everyday. Truly, miracles aren’t aberrations in the natural order: they are part the natural order, just a part that we can’t explain except through faith.

So don’t excise the miraculous from your Bible like Thomas Jefferson did. You may have trouble believing that they happened, and that’s okay. Just don’t get rid of them. Over time, let the miracles wash over you and fill you with hope. Let them open you up to all the possibilities that God has for this world, all the things that have yet to be dreamt of in our philosophy.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you infuse the natural order with your miraculous presence. Help me to be humble in the face of the unknown and unexplainable. Help me to locate all of my answers in you. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you will grant me the patience to study the Bible slowly and keep my eyes and heart open for your presence in my life.

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