DCC News

 

Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church

 

April 18, 2008

                                                           

                                      

These Words...

“Here ends the reading of God’s Holy Word, these words are in the Bible and these words can be trusted.”

I am not certain where I got that phrase and just why I/we use it right after the reading of the Bible every Sunday morning. I imagine some Biblical/Church History scholar can tell us that words are used to put a more formal ending on the reading of the sacred words of the Bible. It does sound more proper to say that phrase rather than just finishing the scriptures and rushing to announce the “10th Annual Chili Cook-off in the Fellowship Hall next Saturday.”

The phrase, “Here ends the reading of God’s Holy Word.” ends the Scriptures in our worship service. It sounds good, formal and respectful. I think that I picked up the phrase “These words are in the Bible and these words can be trusted” from seminary days.

My seminary in Berkeley is a consortium of six Protestant seminaries (one is historically UCC) and three Roman Catholic seminaries and we all cross-register, take classes in each other’s seminaries and get to know one another or at least, are exposed to other historical traditions. (There are also a Buddhist study center, Jewish Study Center, Swedenborgian center and a GLBT study center connected with the consortium along with the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School…if one is so inclined to study there too.)

The beauty of it all is that a kid who grew up UCC in Ohio is suddenly confronted with some of the rich traditions, liturgy and prayers of the Franciscans and Jesuits, or the Lutherans or just plain confronted with the whole in-your-face Berkeley-experience. It’s really quite wonderful. But when you are exposed daily to a dozen other traditions, it is easy to mingle them in your mind and meld them with your own theology. In time, you begin to see things like a Roman Catholic or a Presbyterian or Unitarian…or UCC. You become schooled in the sensitivities of gay and lesbian seminarians through the GLBT study center and you just might be seated next to a Buddhist or Hindu during an ecumenical worship service on the campus that day. Lots of good karma at coffee hour.

God forbid that we should let down our guard and begin to adopt some of the religious nuances of others. Shouldn’t we be schooled in “our” way of religion, lest we hit that “slippery slope” and begin to adopt some other religious practices? But, considering it was Berkeley, we should be thankful that we were even studying religion at all.

So, somewhere in the years of seminary I must have heard someone in chapel give a morning service and read the Bible and conclude with “these words are in the Bible and these words can be trusted.” Now, that is what I use. I like the sound of it. I am not exactly certain why, but there is something that appeals to my sense of the Creator and reading words of Holy Scripture which connect with that Creator…and recognizing that they are from our Holy Book and that these words “can be trusted.”

“These words can be trusted.” Frankly, I have been trying for 30 years to figure out why that phrase has such a hold on me. I have yet to understand, but it seems like a prayer, which I (and the church) lift up each week, and that appeals to me.

 

One time I heard that someone had some problems with that phrase in the worship service. I thought it was interesting that someone should have trouble with a minister inserting the phrase of “trusting the words in the Bible,” into the worship service. I could understand if I insisted on concluding the scriptures with “and that’s all we have time for this week.” Or “Go Bucks!”…but trouble with “these words can be trusted” ??

There is a sense of irony that an Ohioan should have trouble with a religious phrase which I first heard in Berkeley, which refers to the Bible and God and trust. There is no figuring what it is that brings us closer to the Creator or what alienates us.

Many years ago when I lived and taught in Africa at the mission school in Kafue, Zambia, we would have chapel in the mornings. We would pack about 600 Zambian high schoolers and faculty on wooden benches in a brick church with an old corrugated tin roof. We would read from the scriptures. In the rainy season you were soaked and mud-caked. In the cool season, the broken windows of the chapel offered little respite from the 50 degree temperatures outdoors and in the chapel itself. In the hot season, you were lucky if at 7:15 am the temp was still below 80 degrees. It was not like our climate controlled, seat-cushioned well-lit sanctuaries. (though I will admit that the bat which has been found to fly around our Dublin Community Church sanctuary takes me back to the tropics in certain ways.)

We would have announcements, sing hymns (no, never sang Kum Bah Ya! Though we had many rousing choruses of “Bashuka”!), read the scriptures, had an inspirational message and head off to our first classes. I seem to recall that the chaplain, a Canadian minister was quite good at reading the scriptures, concluding with a fitting ending to the reading of the scriptures and adding an inspirational message for the day before the tropical sun began to heat things up. But, most of us teachers (this was prior to my seminary experience and minister days) who read the scriptures just concluded with a short Biblically based conclusion to the reading, “He who has ears, let him hear.” That comes from Matthew 13:9.

Granted, the phrase was not inclusive and could be made gender-neutral these days by saying, “those who have ears, let them hear.” Which is fine with me. But the point is that Jesus said this to the disciples just after a parable of “The Sower” where the seeds fell on the path and the rocky ground and the thorns and the good soil. At that point, Jesus said, “he who has ears, let him hear.”

The Oxford Annotated Bible says that Jesus used parables because “it led those who heard to reflect on his words and bear responsibility for their decision to accept or oppose his claim.”

In other words, YOU figure out what Jesus said and fit it into your life. In Zambia, I would say, “he who has ears, let him hear,” because I had nothing else to say at that point in my life and so I was throwing it back at the listener to let them figure it out.

But today, I say, “these words are in the Bible and these words can be trusted.” And actually, now I have lots more to say, but I am handing it back to the listener to let them figure it out.

Not only do I trust the words of God, but I trust that you will take responsibility and make of them what you will.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing