Thursday, February 19, 2009

God's Tapestry, by W. Eugene March: Chapter 4 "Hearing with Our Hearts"

With March's fourth chapter we move from Part One A New Context: Opening Our Eyes into Part Two A New World: Opening Our Ears and in particular in his fourth chapter we consider anew what it means to hear what God is saying to us through the Bible with our Hearts. I think one thing that March wants us to do is move beyond the preconceived notions we have of the Bible; preconceived notions that are largely the result of what others have told us what to believe about the Bible and not really digging in and letting God speak to us today and tomorrow.

He accomplishes this by reminding us in the first words of this chapter "The Bible, in many places, is shocking!" Now, if you are tempted to say, "Well, yes the Bible is difficult to understand" then you don't quite get the gist of what he's saying hear. It's not that the Bible is difficult, it is that it is shocking, as in, it makes you do a double take. Take for instance Isaiah 29:9-10

Stupefy yourselves and be in a stupor,
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not from wine,
stagger, but nor from strong drink!
For the LORD has poured out upon you
a spirit of deep sleep;
He has closed your eyes, you prophets,
and covered your heads, you seers.

March goes on to point out that this is not a very complimentary passage, especially when you take it at face value: the religious establishment and the people, including the leaders of the people are without vision or the ability to see? But I think March's deeper point is that for too long this passage and others like it have not been applied to us, but have been used by the religious establishment and political leaders to talk about others, those who may be different from us.

And it is from that perspective that he outlines three new ways to begin to "Hear with Our Hearts" what the Bible is saying to us:

1. What does the Bible say to me versus how do I think the Bible applies to you? This changes things pretty drastically doesn't it? Taking Isaiah 29 for example in what ways am I missing the point? How, as part of the religious establishment, have I misrepresented the Gospel or God's intentions?

2. We need to remember that God always sought to keep hope alive rather than our old standby of leaning on despair or incomplete memories of the past. When considering the Bible and Isaiah 29 in particular: what new thing is God bringing about in this increasingly diverse world we live in? How does God want us to respond to the richness that is spreading across the globe?

3. In the midst of difficulty we are to seek discernment we are to ask God to help us open our eyes. That is, just as God originally spoke the words of the Bible to a particular people in a particular time and place, how do these words speak to us in our time and place? In what ways do difficult passages convict us once more?

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