Reading the Bible Mythically
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Multiple Speakers - August 30, 2020
Reading the Bible Mythically
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This sermon was written and delivered by Tim Basselin and JR. Forasteros
Welcome, everyone. My name is Tim Basselin. I’m on the preaching team here at Catalyst, and y’all know my partner today, JR. We’ve finally made it to the end of this series on genres. It’s been a LONG series, JR. I thought when you said a series on biblical genres, it would be like 3 weeks. But we kinda dug in and took each one pretty seriously. And we’ve heard from some of you that it’s been a little overwhelming. As we’ve taken each genre seriously, we’ve developed tools for understanding each type of literature. And you may feel like you now have a heavy bag of tools you have to carry to scripture every time you crack open the good book.
That’s a totally valid feeling, and it’s one that I think in some ways is unavoidable when we start to take Scripture seriously. It is, after all, a library. It does have a bunch of different genres in it, and – like we’ve seen this summer – they become incredibly rich when we read them carefully.
But it’s a lot. And, partly because it’s a lot, when we read these different genres, it’s easy to get caught up in the methods, to make understanding the genre the main goal.
Hey. Have you ever heard the joke about seminaries really being cemeteries? People come to seminary with a call on their lives, with a passion for the church and a love for scripture, and then they learn all these methods, these ways of understanding, and they get overloaded with tools, and they lose that passion. Many an excited youth pastor has gone off to seminary and then returned to their home church a rather different person. And that’s unfortunate. And that’s NOT what we want to have done with you this summer.
Understanding genres and methods of how to read scripture is NOT the goal. As we’ve said all summer, transformation is the goal. My favorite essay by C.S. Lewis provides a very helpful analogy here. The essay is called “Meditation in a Toolshed.” And it’s best if we just let Lewis introduce this idea, so here’s how he starts this essay:
I WAS STANDING TODAY IN THE DARK TOOLSHED. THE SUN was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place.
Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.
Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.
We’ve given you a bunch of tools this summer to look at the beam of light that is scripture breaking into our dark world. And they’re helpful for our understanding, but with all our tools, we run the risk of a being a group of scientists walking around the beam, measuring its width and length and checking the temperature of the air in the light vs outside the light, and we never look along the beam to see all that is larger than the dark shack, all that is beyond us, full of light.
We want to remember that Scripture is an invitation to the God who is beyond our comprehension. Even with all the tools of the whole world gathered and spent a lifetime learning how to use, God is unmeasurable.