Note: A slightly different version of today’s letter is the sermon I gave at our first parking lot “stay-in-your-car” worship service, that happened at 10 am this morning.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
When I was eleven years old, I was presented with a copy of the Bible.
I still have it, and I’ve used it occasionally through the years.
Strangely, it was never the main Bible I used.
There were other copies of the Bible at home with larger print
And with pages that did not stick together.
Later on, when I started reading the Bible in my late teens, I started with an easier translation. After that, I moved on to other copies of the Bible with more footnotes and study guides. If you were to inspect my first Bible carefully, you might assume that I never became much of a Christian. There are pages of that copy of the Bible that haven’t seen the light of day since it was printed.
I am a devoted reader of the Bible, but I didn’t start out too well. I tried to start with Genesis and read my way through, but I don’t think I made it very far through Genesis before I skipped to the book of Psalms which seemed easier to read and understand. The truth is that the Bible is a portable library that is best read not front to back, but from the Gospels outward.
These days, I find daily readings from the Bible extremely helpful and comforting, but I don’t expect to do so forever. You see, I really believe in the promise of salvation in Jesus Christ, and I trust his goodness to get me to heaven. And I don’t expect that there will be any need for Bibles in heaven. Once you find your treasure, the treasure map loses its usefulness. Once you arrive at your destination, you don’t need you’re the instructions on how to get there.
The Bible is an extremely important tool, but it is not God and it is not heaven. When a Bible is unread, it is just ink and paper. An unread Bible has the same value as an unread novel or dictionary. What makes a Bible, “The Holy Bible” is that its guidance leads you to holiness in a very personal way. It leads you to the one who gives you eternal and abundant life.
In the Book of Order of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church [I’m paraphrasing here] that we believe in the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. God is the only source of our life and salvation. The Bible is the sole standard of the doctrine and faith of our Unity and therefore shapes our life. The Unity recognizes the Word of the Cross as the Center of Holy Scripture and of all preaching of the Gospel.
This echoes the Apostle Paul’s words in the first chapter of first Corinthians: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both the Jews and the Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
So, we say that there is one point in the Bible that is particularly important: The death of Jesus on the Cross. The image of Jesus laying down his life for us… that’s where we live. It is the moment that makes it possible for us to be restored to an eternal relationship with God. It is told in four chapters: Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. And it informs everything that we do. It even shapes how we read the rest of all those chapters of the Bible.
That is why the cross is the symbol of our faith. It is what Saint Paul called the foolishness of God: The loving God who allowed himself to be killed to set things right and prove the redeeming power of love.
We are living through hard times right now, and the cross is a strange comfort to us. It is helpful to know that our Savior knows the threat of death. It is helpful to know that our Maker understands rejection, persecution, and pain. It is especially helpful to know that Jesus is devoted to us. It is a blessing to know that Jesus has destroyed the power of death to end us forever.
In the reading form Psalm 31, we get another strange word of comfort and emotional support.
The Bible is a tool that brings us into direct relationship with God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But the Psalms tells us that God is more than a human friend or Father to us. God is a true source of comfort and strength. From our vantage point of the Cross of Jesus, we see that this passage is clear that God is also our home. Psalm 31:1-5 describes God as a hiding place, a refuge, and a stone fortress.
“In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”
And there, in this Psalm we have words that Jesus quoted on the cross. Luke 23:46 “Then Jesus, crying out with a loud voice said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
Today, we are still in the midst of a pandemic. We are still in need of hiding places. But God is our real hiding place and fortress. We live with the knowledge of God who made everything, who died for us, and who lives for us, so that we can live forever. We do not need to be afraid, because we can be confident that God is not only our hiding place, but he is also our home. God is not only our home, but our eternal home.
When we were very small children, walking with parents and other grownups,
There is something we would do, when we faced something frightening or unexpected.
We would rush behind the grown-ups and hide from what scared us.
Try to remember looking around your mother or father to get glimpse of what you were afraid of.
But you felt secure because they stood between you and the threat.
That’s the way we are today, we may get scared, but God is our refuge and strength.