This Sunday we continue our sermon series based on the Adam Hamilton book Half Truths. Learn more about the full series here.
This week’s half-truth is, “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.” Hamilton’s book brings me no small amount of joy in singling out this verse from Deuteronomy to highlight the way we could take some of our Biblical laws farther than God might intend for us today. Put that together with searching online for pictures of outhouses (see above), and I’m a happy Pastor!
In his 2007 book, The Year of Living Biblically, author A.J. Jacobs attempts to spend a year exploring the laws of the Bible literally – yes, hundred of them. While he generally doesn’t attempt to follow all these laws at once, his attempts result in both humorous exchanges and helpful learning. What would it be like if we tried the same thing? With this Sunday’s scripture in mind, we’d have to give up indoor plumbing and carry a shovel…
12The latrines must be outside the camp. You will use them there, outside the camp. 13Carry a shovel with the rest of your gear; once you have relieved yourself, use it to dig a hole, then refill it, covering your excrement.
14Do these things because the Lord your God travels with you, right in the middle of your camp, ready to save you and to hand your enemies over to you. For this reason your camp must be holy. The Lord must not see anything indecent among you, or he will turn away from you.
I think part of what we must consider in our Christian faith is the approach we take to our sacred text. Is our Bible written directly and exclusively by the hand of Almighty God? Is it a collection of fiction written by random world citizens that was curated in such a way as to manipulate on a massive scale? I suggest these two things: there are people that believe each of these statements; and the reality is likely somewhere in between. Don’t miss this important exploration…
Consider these questions:
- What is your understanding of our Biblical texts? Do you read the Bible as literal, as allegory, as fiction, as something else?
- How do you make decisions about what passages to take in varying ways?
- Does your approach to the Bible differ from others in your family and/or circle of friends?
- What’s the most critical Biblical rule/law to you?
Post-sermon Update on 5/23
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
This past Sunday, we spent time asking difficult questions about how we think of our Bibles in terms of their origin and translation and also in terms of where God might be present in these understandings. In particular, we considered Paul’s description of scripture as inspired by God, and how we could come to a deeper understanding of this inspiration.
As a part of going deeper into this exploration, consider these passages:
- 2 Timothy 2:14-15, 3:15-17 – Paul writes to Timothy on the usefulness for scripture, but doesn’t necessarily say that we’ll find all the answers to all the questions.
- John 1:14-18, Hebrews 1:1-3 – Both texts highlight the idea of Jesus as the Word made flesh.
- Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 38-40, 43-45 – In the sermon on the mount, Jesus reminds listeners that God is bigger than rules and regulations.
- Luke 15:11-24 – The parable of the prodigal son shows us what grace can look like.
- Leviticus 20:10, 21:9, John 8:2-11 – The law about adultery is clear. But what does Jesus do according to John?
- John 4:7-10, 15-18, 25-26 – Even though Jesus had spoken out strongly about divorce, Jesus showed grace and compassion to a woman who had been divorced a number of times.
Consider these questions
- Who or what is God’s ultimate word? Is it the Bible? Is it Jesus? What do we do when the Bible says one thing and Jesus says another?
- Have you ever been in a position to “throw the first stone,” to be the first to enact some kind of punishment or consequence in the face of wrongdoing? How does Jesus’ treatment of the adulterous woman inform situations like this?
- Some people live out faith as a set of clearly laid out rules. Do you see it this way? Did Jesus describe faith this way? If you don’t see Jesus’ description of faith as a set of clergy laid out rules, does that make it easier or harder?
- What tools are available to you to figure out how to understand Scripture and what God calls you to do?