Summer is over, and the First Presbyterian Church congregation has lived through another foundational sermon series on “Bible Stories You Thought You Knew.” It’s a teaching/preaching series through the Torah, the Books of Moses. We all know the stories: the Creation, the Fall, Cain killing Abel, Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, The 10 Commandments, Water from the Rock, the Wilderness Wanderings, and so on. Most church-type folks, or at least people who went to Sunday school when they were young, know the stories. We remember these stories and the folks who taught them.
Through the years of sharing the overall story, the story of God’s grace fixing up people’s hearts, souls and lives, I’ve discovered that there is a lot more in Bible stories than believed. The stories of life bring meaning, because we are not the first folks who struggle with tough times, with sorrow, with difficult choices, with the results of poor choices, with the celebrations of new life, with needed additional refreshments for a wedding celebration, with misunderstandings, with new beginnings in life, with life after death, or with care for the needy and vulnerable. The list of our life experiences goes on and on, and many folks are surprised that the Bible stories actually deal with our day-to-day issues.
The reality is that most adults are limited in their interpretations of Bible stories to their Sunday school or elementary school level. This is true for those who accept the stories as foundational, inspired facts and to those who reject them as simplistic or archaic superstitions. Many believers think it’s wrong to ask questions about the stories. How can the best science of millennia ago speak to our society today? What insights for life does the formation of Israel in the Exodus bring to us? Do guidelines of care for the poor, the open invitation to strangers and the notion of holiness still hold in modern society? Can Biblical stories be twisted to fit political or social bias?
One of the most exciting and terrifying facets of my life is watching my children mature and deal with life on many different levels. It would be very tragic if they simply dealt with life situations on an elementary school level. Yet it’s very popular for believers to find contentment with simplistic, elementary school interpretations of the most sophisticated stories in life – stories that catch us off guard; stories that push our simplistic understandings of relationships with God, one another, and this world.
Remember the stories of your family when you were a child? How many details and twists and turns have you learned about your family stories since then? The additional contexts, information and the voice of your relatives reshape the story in ways a child could never understand. This applies of the stories of faith, too. I encourage additional familiarity with the stories of faith, because they really do have more to them than you remember.