What's the Meaning of This?

. Posted in Pastor's Blog

As one of our adult classes is learning as they view and discuss Vanderbilt biblical scholar Amy Jill Levine’s lectures on Old Testament stories, the Bible is chock-full with myth and metaphor.  

We were reminded of this in last Sunday’s gospel lesson from John 3 that told of a religious leader adept at concrete thinking but who had a hard time understanding what Jesus meant when he spoke of being born from above and of the wind blowing where it wills. In the coming weeks we will hear about a Samaritan woman (John 4) who struggles with what Jesus is talking about when he offers her “living water” (John 4), and religious leaders who can’t get their heads around what Jesus is saying when he tells them that because they think they can see they are blind (John 9). Huh?

We can never fully grasp the awesomeness of God, and the realities of the spiritual life cannot be reduced to a few slogans. So it is that writers of scripture, as well as people of faith to this day, use myth and metaphor to paint a picture of truth too deep and too expansive to be described in a neatly worded definition or explanation.

The beautiful thing about myth and metaphor is that they open things up, inviting us to question and to wonder. What does it mean to be born from above? What is this living water that Jesus offers? When are we blind and when do we really see? Such questions cannot be easily answered and dismissed as we move on to other concerns. They invite us to be open to the mystery that is at the heart of the universe and at the heart of who we are. They invite us to think and pray, to ponder and discuss, and finally to enter into the reality that is God with us and calling us.

Our faith is so rich and deep and wondrous. It’s a shame that literalists and fundamentalists try to reduce it to something that often turns out to be bland and shallow and legalistic—bullet points that can be slapped up on a Power Point presentation. But ours is a faith that continually reminds us that we “know only in part” (1 Cor. 13:9), and invites us (often through myth and metaphor) to be open to our wondrous God and these wondrous lives of ours in this wondrous world that come to us as both gift and challenge.

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