You know the game. A picture is filled with things and people, and somewhere hidden therein is red and white striped-beanie-capped, with matching pullover shirt, redheaded, bespeckled, Waldo. It’s hardly the Pearl of Great Price, but finding him is still fun.
All the other items and characters and surroundings are secondary. The single most important thing is to find Waldo. Everything else in the picture is supporting Waldo. And why not? Waldo is the reason for the picture, the book and the whole Waldo world. Finding him is all that matters.
It may be a stretch, but I think the Bible is often treated like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. Only in this case, it’s where’s a doctrine of God. When God, or some idea about God is found in one place, everything else in the picture (the context) is irrelevant.
Take for example an oft quoted passage from Jeremiah 1:5. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Add to that Psalm 139:13 which says, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” If you are looking for scripture to prove when life begins and you use these, you have found Waldo, nothing else matters.
This is also true if you use apposing scripture, such as Genesis2:7, which says God formed man “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Or Job 33:4 which says, “The spirit of God made me; the breath of the almighty gives me life. Also there’s Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones where it says, “I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (33:5)
If you do some research you will find these two opposing views are used to prove, by the Bible, when life begins. They both find Waldo, and nothing else in the picture matters.
The problem with all this is that finding when life begins gets limited to the Biblical passages never intended for that purpose. Both sides claim they have the God-given truth on the subject and have the scriptures to prove it.
If you think I’m choosing sides, you’re wrong. I think both sides are wrong because they ignore the whole picture. The Biblical picture is often abstract. It’s not always literal. For example, the conception process does not involve God “knitting” anything together. If you asked the Psalmist if God “knit” together the children of their enemies, you’d get a “No way!” If the language is literal, then God isn’t a very good “knitter.” Because some children are born conjoined, some with their hearts on the outside, some with part of a would-be twin attached on them somewhere. The list of birth defects is almost endless. In the case of these passages, the language is both metaphoric and poetic.
The same is true with God “forming” Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. It is a way of telling Jeremiah he was “set apart.” If all humans are “formed: by God, aren’t all humans also “set apart” as was Jeremiah?
The connection between breath and life’s beginning can be understood by observation. If it wasn’t breathing, it wasn’t living. The opposite was also true. However, no one saw God blow into a baby’s mouth to give it (life) breath. However, it could be that someone may have done that at birth and saw the result. It is also probable that the mysterious and invisible thing called “breath” (spirit) was easily seen as being from God.
On the subject of birth I could include Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The doctrine of original sin hangs on this verse. To me, it’s a Waldo surrounded by context and hyperbole.
What all this is about being how the Bible is used to prove a preconceived goal, i.e., to find Waldo.
For example, The Old Testament says not to kill. Some are quick to point out it actually says not to murder. Which is probably a valid point, especially when you could be” killed” for working on the Sabbath, rebelling against parents, committing adultery, among others. On the other hand, Jesus didn’t seem too thrilled about either murder or killing.
If we add to that the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself, we find ourselves stumbling over “killed” people from Egypt to Jericho and beyond.
The abuse of the Bible is to use it for something for which it was not intended. For example, John 6:53ff Jesus said,”I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” Who takes that literally? Those who believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation. Which is that in some divine way the bread and the wine become the actual flesh and blood of Jesus.
Admittedly, that conclusion was an attempt to find (Waldo) a deeper relationship with God. However, it is based on a literal interpretation of Jesus’ words, which most of Christendom rejects. But the words are still there, so for some a case can be made for a literal understanding, along with the “twist” about the moment the change actually happens.
What do we want to find in the Bible? That list is the subject of hundreds of books, many of which are bad, to say the least. The question we need to ask is what does the Bible want us to find? The answer is relationship with God. How do we do that? By looking at those in the Bible who had a relationship with God. In this sense it’s like looking for Waldo, except we aren’t looking for what we want, but what brought others, and hopefully us, closer to the Creator.
We also look for Jesus and his moral and ethical teaching. As we do, we fight the temptation to make he and his teaching look like us, rather than we like him.
CONCERNS: Joanne Elder’s job is being eliminated. She will have 60 days pay before she has to take unemployment benefits. Martha Foy is also seeking a new job due to cutbacks at CHIP. Teresa Robertson has asked for prayers for her aunt, Patricia Hall, also another aunt, Reva Almond, and her son’s girlfriend, Kayla. Remember Carol Jones, Jim White’s mother. Sheila Jansen and daughter, Amber Weaver. Marjorie Wilson, Melanie Gentry, Joni Beach’s family as they deal with their grief. Also, Joni’s aunt, Pat Voss, and a niece, Jamie Cole. Wayne Phlegar, David Albert, Leena Bolin’s aunt, Lee Nicklas, a cousin, Tolly Nicklas, and a fried, Chris Campbell. Ray & Darnel Barns, Gil Richardson, Deana McRoy, Stephanie Rigney, Jim and Mary Smith and Tim Elder.
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 17-22
Monday: Malachi 1:1-14
Tuesday: John 3:1-15
Wednesday: Psalm 65:1-13
Thursday: I Peter 2:1-10
Friday: Matthew 4:1-11
Saturday: Exodus 15:1-18
OUR DAILY BREAD: OCT. 24-29
Tuesday: Matthew 20:1-16
Wednesday: Amos 3:12-4:5
Thursday: Hebrews 10:19-39
Friday: Ephesians 5:3-20
Saturday: Psalm 148:1-14
Because today is the third Sunday of the month we will have a special service, rather than the usual sermon. Today we will hear from Susan Jordan and her sister, concerning their trip to Guatemala and the work of Health Talents at the Ezell Clinic.
Another feature we will enjoy today is the ability to see the videos and pictures Susan brings on the new video monitors.
Today is Super Sunday. Please plan to stay following the service for the meal in the annex.
THE HIKE AND PICNIC
The Peaks of Otter Hike and Picnic was undecided as of bulletin time. Several options are available, and they will be discussed. The number interested this year was down, and scheduling conflicts for others caused the event to be rethought. It will be discussed today.
We have several people who are away. The Halls are visiting children. Del and Leena Bolin are on a medical trip for a week. Martha Albert will be visiting family and friends in Texas until early November.
With regard to the Halls, we were happy to hear they are putting off moving to North Carolina until spring
Congratulations to AC (Branch) Fuller upon graduating from Virginia Western with a nursing degree. She has also passed her INCLEX test and is a now an RN. She starts tomorrow with Carilion Hospital in the mothers and children section. Way to go AC!
Thanks to all of you who brought peanut butter for Feeding America.
The black walnut tree behind the annex has an pretty abundant year. If you want to do the work to get the meat out, go get all you want.
If you haven’t visited the church website in awhile, you need to drop by and see it. Also, the Facebook page is another place to go to find information.