Notes from Jan

On Good Authority.

September 13, 2015

Yesterday marked a day like no other: September 11, 2001.
Our Bible study group gathered and talked of where we were and what we were doing when we first  learned the dreadful news.
Unless the mind goes, one remembers.

Not long after the news broke in 2001 and folks realized this was really happening, Jud got word out to the community to gather in the Gordon Chapel  This was before seemingly everyone on earth owned a cell phone.  We came like the frightened sheep we were, silently shuffling from dorms, classrooms, and parking lots to a true sanctuary. We heard a few words from Jud, more from the Bible.   We sang hymns, then formed small groups to pray.  Soft sounds of bleating sheep, interspersed with silence and whispered words brought a sense of the holy on a very dark day.

I sat with a couple of students, numb and silently chiding myself for not taking the lead in praying.  After all, I was the adult. But I stopped rebuking myself as Hillary, a new student, began to quietly recite the Beatitudes from memory.  You know the ones.  They all start with, “Blessed are those who…”  Like Hillary, I’d learned them as a child.
Remember?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. . . .
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5)

Recalling that sacred moment blessed me again yesterday and reminded me to be grateful for parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, pastors and priests, and others who somewhere, somehow helped Hillary, me and many others memorize verses from the Bible.  Made us do that which we’d probably not have done without some reward like a star, a pat on the back, peppermint or piece of bubblegum.  But we who “took the bait” have been blessed.

Over these past four years since Jud’s diagnosis, verses long ago memorized or freshly read continue to speak comfort to me when I’m troubled.  Truths remembered sometimes while driving along route 128 with the radio off,  or at random moments when God knew I needed a word not of my own making to speak courage to my soul.

Now and again, I hear a phrase that sometimes makes me cringe: ”This is all about protecting the authority of the Scripture.”  Sometimes I feel like those words are used like a club, sort of like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wields his power to “protect the integrity of the game.” I believe the Bible is the Word of God and inspired by the Holy Spirit. But how do we demonstrate to a word-weary culture what we really believe about the Bible and its authority?  I wonder sometimes what we really mean when we wield those words like a protective shield. What’s the battle really about?

Yesterday, four year old Kate and I spent the better part of the day together.  She, belted into her carseat, sat behind me as I drove.  Kate had her copy of the Children’s Living Bible in her lap. She loves to “read” that book. It’s full of wonderful pictures and thoughtful questions at the end of each Bible story.  All of a sudden Kate began commenting.
“Momo, do you know this book is all about God?”
“Yes.”
“Momo, do you know why there’s blood on this picture?”
I thought quickly, “Are you looking at a picture of Jesus on the cross?”
“Yes.”
“Well, remember when they nailed Jesus to the cross.  He bled.”
“Yes.
I know.
He died so nobody else has to.”
I almost veered off the road as she continued.

After awhile, I pulled over and said, ”Kate, would you like me to read to you from your Bible for awhile?”
“Yes.”
And we pulled into a parking space by Panera and read.
Maybe the best protection of the authority of the scriptures is to love them because we’ve read them and because, along the way, somebody loved them and us enough to help tuck some of those words into our hearts. That just might honor the Author more than God’s children sitting around arguing over verses we passionately agree or disagree with in defense of or challenge to “the authority of scripture.”

Since September 11th, 2001, many of you have experienced personal terrors like Jud and I and our family and friends.  So much suffering around this world that “God so loves.”  But, as we did in that chapel service fourteen years ago, Jud and I often took comfort in words not our own, God’s words.  For example, on September 12, 2014 at MGH, I was reading The Message and noted these words from Colossians 2 in the margin:  “You’re not in this alone.”

Not my words, God’s.
True for Jud and me at MGH on September 12, 1014.
True for me today, September 12, 2015.
True for you.
“You’re not in this alone.”
I have it on Good authority.

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