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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

September 25, 2009

The Bible in a Lifetime

My seminary studies were to begin around the middle of September some years ago. We moved to Berkeley from Ohio and got settled in. But a week before the formal beginning of classes was a week-long elective course. It was called (I think) The Bible in a Week. And what it consisted of was…reading the Bible in one week.

It was a great way to start three years of seminary education but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who wants to get the “facts” of the Bible or someone who wants to get all the timelines and personalities in order. That’s too much to do in five days (and, now that I look back on it, I am not sure if it was one week or two for the reading, and does it make any difference?). But I would recommend it for giving one confidence that you are “allowed” to grapple with the scriptures and not have all the answers. It’s rather like taking driver’s training on the freeway at rush hour. If you make it through an hour on 315 and 270 North on Friday night, you are not a certified driver, but your confidence level has increased. And that is good.

When you are in public school, you begin the year and the teacher tells you that you are going to learn a lot and that it is time to start. College is a bit different in that the professor puts the assignments out there. She will lecture on parts of the readings and assume you have read through the rest because you will be tested on it at some point. Seminary is like the university in that one is given plenty of assignments and it is assumed that you are doing the reading. And the number of papers a seminarian writes. Never ending.

But I think that somewhere in those early weeks of seminary I thought I would get the facts about the Bible in the coming years and I could use those facts throughout my ministry. The course on Reading the Bible in a Week (or two) changed all that for me. I was introduced to the sweep of history and the settings of the Biblical writers and that the Bible was not written in linear fashion. I learned most of all that we bring our own lives into every Biblical situation and view it through our own particular prism.

That is what I am seeing in the Sunday Morning “Bible in Nine Months” and the Wednesday Evening 25/35 Bible Study. We seem to be spending more time on our own stories and listening to others stories than we are on “getting facts.” And that is good.

The Bible was not written to hand down facts to people in the 21st Century; it was written because men and women could not experience God alone and had to hand down the stories orally and then somehow in written fashion. The writers were not trying to give us all the answers but rather to show us how they were seeking and answering their questions about the Creator God and later about Jesus.

More than ever, I have noticed that when our studies are over on those Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights people have more questions than answers. And it seems to me that we are very much in the Biblical tradition because of those questions we hold.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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