(NOT a sermon – well in the strict sense)
“I killed a Bible study once.” Those were the words I had planned as the opening to my sermon on Hebrews – until the attack on Paris – and that event made this opening sentence completely inappropriate. Between Friday night and Sunday morning, I set myself to a rewrite. The story I was going to tell was of a time when a small group of American women in Germany (some 30 years ago now) gathered to have a study on the book of Galatians. The leader of the study was going verse by verse asking us how that particular verse could be applied to our lives. I looked at her rather stunned when she asked me that. The verse she gave me was the first part of a longer argument – at the end of which the author was saying that that verse (and those around it) should NOT to be applied to our lives. So I answered her that I thought we should read to the end of the argument to see what the author says we should do. The leader was shocked that I would counter her. When the other ladies agreed with me, the leader threw up her hands and declared us unteachable. We never met as a group again. I was sad about that, but I was right about the text.
Chopping up a book into bits can lead us straight down the path to misunderstanding (nearly every extreme right religious group is guilty of this). Whenever my children tell me that they have ‘read a book’, and then I find out they actually didn’t read to the end, I respond with, “You cannot tell me you have read the book if you did not read to the very last page!” Why? Because everything can change with that last word. The whole meaning of the book or passage can be turned on its head. My son recently said to me about a book he was reading, “But it was so depressing, and I could see where it was headed.” My response was, “Really, how do you know for certain? Everything can change on that last page.”
Just like we shouldn’t chop up scripture, we should also not chop up our lives. My story (and yours if you are reading this) is still being written. If you were to cut one area out of my life and knew about that one area only, you would be misunderstanding quite a lot about me. There are several intertwining storylines in my life – some are very depressing and others unbelievably inspiring. But my story is not finished. And neither is yours.
I can choose to focus on the negative – or get busy doing positive, choosing encouraging words, choosing love, choosing to author my own story as much as I possibly can. That, my friends, is where hope is found. Yes, things can go wrong, but they can also go right in ways you could not even imagine. Don’t get stuck on page 32 of your own story….