Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Church we are often, especially, in the Free Church Tradition, pulled by the call of sola scriptura. A call back to the Bible, the touch stone as it often seems of the reformation. Yet, in our desire to return to the pure traditions of the scriptures, and especially for those of the Church of the Brethren, to return to the traditions of the early Church, those who had walked with Jesus, to recapture the wonder, the power and the purity of the purity of the church before it became corrupted by the influence of the world.
       The impulse toward purity and renewal is a wonderful and beautiful expression of devotion to Christ and his Church. Yet, at the same time it is easy for this impulse to drive into person areas of temptation or vulnerability. The Spanish Inquisition and the Salem Witch trails originate in this impulse for purity, but something went wrong. Often these purges of the church seem to grow from a righteous impulse toward purity, but it become corrupted along the way, this is clearly an extreme form of this corruption, but it happens at a personal level as well when pious well meaning followers of Jesus strive toward purity and end up in their own personal witch trial or inquisition.
      We tend to assume that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all knowledge, and this is indeed a reality of the Christian life. Yet, being lead into all knowledge is different than being given all knowledge. Jesus lead the disciples followed, Moses lead the Israelites, the Israelites followed. The disciples needed to pay attention to heir leader, as did the Israelites. Following takes conscience effort and attention, if the leader goes one direction that the followers another, there is a problem. Sometimes those problems emerge simply because we do not pay attention with any great regularity.
      At times we don’t want to do the hard work of following. Following is hard work. Something as simple as preparing for a Bible Study means that I need to spend time in prayer, but I also need to spend time with the text of scripture as well as the doing honest research and adequate preparation. Jesus said come follow me, he didn’t say he would bring the Limo give us a ride, he said follow. As we follow Jesus and engage the scriptures, one thing becomes very apparent. It is easy to read our own culture and history into the text, and so we have many problems that emerge in interpretation and application because we haven’t done the hard work of following Jesus, of reading the scripture, exploring the history, the language and the context in which it was first spoken.
      We often read our own context directly into the passages that read. So as we read the gospel accounts of Jesus birth we often will make assumptions based not on good following, and good research but on the many Christmas pageants we have seen and participated in over the years of our Christian life. Consider if you will, the Christmas pageant has Jesus born in a barn, with no one by Joseph and Mary, then after Jesus is born the Shepherds and the Magi make an appearance. However, how many of us would let a young couple give birth in our garage and not help them out in some fashion. And, if the account of Matthew is correct, the Magi arrive and ask King Herod about he new king, and he has all male children two and under killed in Bethlehem. How many of us would let that same young couple live in the garage for two years?
       We mash the stories together, and never stop to think about them in any significant fashion, how can that be following Jesus. We can’t follow the Holy Spirit into all knowledge if we are off doing something else, creating our own story for example. Step into the story of Christmas, read the stories, and engage them, not just the pageant script, but the story itself. Read a decent commentary, explore the history a bit, find out about how people lived in the first century and engage your God given gift of the mind and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into a deeper relationship with the Christ this Christmas Season.