Thursday, September 8, 2011

God and everybody

I am co-facilitating a Disciple 1 class with my wife on Wednesday nights, and it is always such a delight to watch people engage the Bible in a new way. I do not know how much the class gets from my facilitating, but I always get so much from their learning.

Last night, as we studied the flood narrative in Genesis, I asked them a question straight out of the leader's guide: what does this passage tell us about the relationship between God and us? I think it is a clear enough question, even if the answer takes some investigating. And it is a fair question. The Bible tells us all kinds of things about how we relate to God.

One of the members of the class asked me this question: "Is this about the relationship between God and me? Or God and everybody?"

I had to think for a minute, and I think I gave some garbled reply about trying to see if there were different answers to the different questions, or some such nonsense. But the question stuck with me, and at the end of class, I came back to the issue. Disciple, after all, is an exercise in communal Bible study.

For that matter, so is the church. We come to the church and participate in it because none of us has a corner on Truth. This communal endeavor--the work of tempering the "me" against the "us"--is the best argument I have against the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd. Of course you have your own truth. So do I. To simply embrace my own truth is to to simply embrace myself. I'm all for self-care and self-regard, but it is not such a far leap from embracing my own truth to worshipping myself.

It is in community that my beliefs are tested, or confirmed, or sharpened, or blunted. It is in community that I can be reminded that I am not so important, or that my experience of God is not the only experience of God.

In fact, community is WAY harder than having my own truth. It is not easy being told that I am wrong; it is even harder facing the fact that I may actually, in fact, BE wrong. I get frustrated with worship songs that are all about me, all about my experience. I am not surprised those songs are popular; it is much easier to have it just be, as the song says, me and God.

But the tempering process of community is important. This process ensures that the church is one, that we are in relationship with others and in relationship with God.

It is maddening, this business of being the church, but it is a holy madness. After all, what a miserable life it would be, just me and my truth.

(image (c) David Hayward,

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