Friday, 23 May 2014

Finding The Way, Part 1

I love the Bible.

I do, I love the Bible.  There are many reasons, but that's
probably for another time.  One of the most important is that at the heart of all those stories, prophecies, words of prayer and praise, songs and letters is what is essentially true about how we should live.  And however we each, in our own unique way, come to the Bible - believing it to be the literal word of God, a history, or just some myths and stories - that essential true-ness must be what speaks to us.  That which is true is right, filled with love and grace, compassion and respect, it is relational with all creation, creative and life-giving.  To be clear: that truth is found in how the Bible speaks to us, not in how we might use it to justify our actions or substantiate our own claims.

I believe that the Bible is the Word (the "logos," that wisdom, creativity and truth that was with God from the beginning), as told and written by people, inspired by the Spirit.  That's my perspective, unique to me.  Even if it has a label or others think that, too, it's still unique to me because I'm unique, as each of us is.  I hope that perspective means that I come with an openness and receptivity to how the Word might speak to me.  I hope, too, that's what I reflect in how I live, as best I can, acknowledging, like all of us, some very real moments of failure.  That, I think, is my relationship with the Bible.

Coming to what is true is sometimes comforting, sometimes challenging, sometimes both, juxtaposed in a single story.  In John's gospel, Jesus shares some final words with the disciples (known as the Farewell Discourse), beginning with words of comfort: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2)  Familiar words often heard when we celebrate a life just ended.  Comforting words to remind the disciples, and us, that we shouldn't worry, there's a place for us with God.  There are many places, of course, because God's love and grace is for all, many "dwelling places" or "mansions," the King James Version says.

Won't it be interesting to see who are neighbours are?  I hear words of inclusiveness here, not exclusivity.  If we hear these words being spoken to us as much as the disciples, we surely hear them in the context of Jesus proclaiming God's grace for all people.  All are loved and forgiven in God's house.

So too, I think, we might hear inclusivity in words that follow a few verses later, words that have so often been used to exclude.  Jesus tells them the way to this place of comfort: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).  Perhaps there was a time when we could hear this with the chest-thumping, finger-pointing exclusivity of "the only way."  Certainly it would have been helpful for the disciples and the earliest christians (the often persecuted community who first heard John's gospel, for example) to hear strong words of reinforcement when things were hard.  But in our vast, complex, multicultural world, I wonder if this is a moment to wonder at the life, not the label.

The "me" Jesus describes is "the way, and the truth, and the life."  It's why the earliest followers of Jesus referred to themselves as The People of the Way.  It's The Way that's most important.  They lived the life Jesus taught in living his life: The Way is true and life-giving.  The Way is inclusive.  The Way is open to all. 

This is why I believe that we all come to God by our own path, our own spiritual or faith tradition.  I love Jesus and my way is Jesus, but even among the followers of Jesus, we learn about The Way in a variety of ways, from different denominations and different traditions.  And if other paths are travelled following The Way, perhaps the question to ask isn't about the exclusivity of Jesus being the only way, perhaps it's to wonder: just what is "The Way?"

Next: What is The Way?