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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why isn't the Bible a living document?

My sermon for this week was based on Matthew 25:14-30.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

I have always thought it a little odd that the Bible, of all documents, is not considered to be a "living document".

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term (as it is buzzwordy), a living document is a document which is updated and edited on an ongoing basis to reflect changes in the organization/topic it addresses.  So for example, a mission statement, constitution, scientific or legal document may be considered "living" as it can be changed to reflect new findings or situations.

The Bible, on the other hand, is a "dead" document, like a novel.  No changes are needed, required or welcome.

But this is what Jesus indicts the Pharisees for in today's Gospel passage.  The slave who buries the money his master entrusted to him is supposed to be the Pharisees.  Rather than trade, invest and grow the money he was entrusted with like the other slaves did, he played it safe.  By burying the money, he protected it, but it did not grow to the benefit of others and of God (the erstwhile landowner).

The Pharisees wanted to freeze the law.  They wanted to conserve it, bury it, strangle it so that it never changed.  They could not accept new thoughts or directions.  And for this, they are rebuked by the landowner.

The proof that Scripture and faith must be allowed to move, grow and change, and indeed are supposed to, is contained in the Gospel for today.

No one could disagree that Martin Luther King Jr. was a man inspired by God.  No one could disagree that the Civil Rights movement was good and Godly.  No one could disagree that the abolition of slavery, and the elevation of all men and women to a state of equal rights is perfectly in line with Christian principles.

And yet Jesus mentions slaves very casually in today's parable.

He mentions them in other parables very casually,  They are messengers, couriers and stewards, which was perfectly in line with Jesus' culture, which is why he did not speak out against them.  That was the culture he was raised in.

Are we to reason that simply because Jesus did not thunder against slavery from the mountaintop that he A) endorsed slavery or that B) we should endorse slavery?

Surely not.

The abolition of slavery, the equality of women, the right to same-sex marriage are all products of our ever-increasing and expanding consciousness, of our growing ethics, faith and morality.

Our faith, like Scripture should be allowed to breathe.  That requires a little bit of risk on our part.  It is a risk to share, to give, to sacrifice.

Last week I recommended we all do something a little foolish.  This week, I recommend we all take a risk.  We might lose something in the gamble, but we have so much to gain, and so many ways to grow.  If we do not take that risk, we will always get what we have always gotten.

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