Sunday, 19 February 2017

Beginner's Guide


When I was still a youngster my parents gave me a Bible, illustrated (in Dutch of course). A largish volume, hard cased in brown leather and gold embossed. Apparently it belonged to my great-grandmother. That would have been published at around 1890 or close to it. Not that I cared at that age (I was about 9/10 years of age). But I do remember still today vividly the story of the Flood, pictures of a large wooden ship with flocks of crows flying above it. The sky engraving was brilliant, wild and stormy! Then the story of David swaying his sling and Goliath falling down. Another engraving was of Samson pushing against two great columns and collapsing the Philistine temple. Brilliant, you don’t see engravings like that again unless you will be lucky on one of the antique book markets.
But more importantly, you can think of a book like that as a beginners guide! The mind will dwell on the beauty of the engravings but also the meaning – why was this done in that way, what does it all mean? Is it possible to turn water into wine? How do you feed 5,000 people with a few loaves and 5 fish? Well, if miracles are possible then these are just a few. However, I tend to think about alternative possible explanations. Perhaps there weren’t 5,000 people at all. The problem with the Bible is there have been many writers, many additions and above all the writings were done at a much later time. There is a tendency with human beings to want to describe occasions of importance to fit the writers’ viewpoint and faith but not necessarily entirely accurate in detail.
I fell away for a long time as many youths do. But still even then the seed germinated. I tend to be pragmatic, that is to say practical and focused on reaching a goal, being matter-of-fact and not let emotions distract me (much). So, I look at issues with a second look, not just dismissing what I read, hear or see but questioning it. This does make me less of a team person. As a matter of fact I am not a team player at all. Even so, God calls everyone, all of the time. But as Jesus said, those that have ears, let them hear! I heard. It still does not mean I believe every thing I hear, see or experience. I have great misgivings about parts of the Bible. It doesn’t matter because God is still God and even if they found the bones of Jesus (not likely I think) it would not dent my faith one little bit. The Universe is gynormous, God is even bigger. We are part of the greatest happening in this universe, the act of creation! We might be alone or we might be part of a great throng of life and action! Our problem is as always, we are short-sighted. It does not help that we have not found ways of overcoming the tremendous distances. Even our small solar system (by comparison) takes a multiplicity of years to get to the outer reaches. To reach the stars would take multi lifetimes! But for now we think we are alone and this makes it all the more important to sort our problems. The Christian faith is about love, compassion and justice but this world does not seem to accept this readily. Greed and mistrust is rife, corruption a daily norm. Yet, there is hope, there are signs that more and more see a way forward. The political upheavals of the past year show without any doubt that people have had enough of the short-term thinking, the get-rich-quick attitudes. It is why I think the Christian Church should play a much wider role than it is today. Especially when the present political malaise has reduced the influence and effectiveness of Her Majesty’s Opposition! This is not to advocate the Church to become a political party but it should not be silenced on the important issues of the day.

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