Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Seriously or Literally???

So, this is one of the things that has been troubling me lately. I was in our church's Lenten bible study a couple of Sunday nights ago and we were talking about this passage in the Bible from Matthew:

Matthew 14:25 - 30

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

29"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Our discussion question seemed simple enough, "Why did Peter sink?" A few folks said things like - Peter was fine until he took his eyes off Jesus and let the wind distract him. It's analogous to our own lives - we do so much better when our focus is on God and can sink in the muck when we take our focus off of Him.

One lady, though, started talking about how she has struggled with passages like this and understanding how a real person could walk on water. In other classes she's learned that it probably happened because they were in a part of the lake that wasn't very deep or had rocks under the water that Peter & Jesus could stand on and just "looked" like they were walking on the water.

Now I've heard this before, so it wasn't new, but what got me thinking was that I felt like I should have some kind of response to her that would respect her opinion and yet, still be able to say to her, "But what if it's true? What if it really was a miracle? Why is it so hard to believe that the God of this universe could WALK ON THE WATER?" Okay, in my head I was ranting, but I kept my mouth shut. I am insecure enough as it is and believe that I am viewed as "a bit of a religious nut" even for most of my church friends, so I didn't say anything. I wanted to, though. I felt somehow I was missing an opportunity for both me and this lady to share in something meaningful.

I mean, I love the Bible. It is truly God's word to me. Now does this mean I have to choose sides? Am I a Literal Bible studier or a Serious Bible studier? The thought that comes to my mind is - "So, what if Jesus was just walking on rocks? So what if the water was just shallow? Don't you get that you are missing the point???"

I realized later than in a way I felt sorry for this lady. She seemed to truly be searching and my ability to both accept the fact Jesus & Peter were just rock-hopping AND still see the miracle in the point of the story is a gift. I do have a gift of faith and sometimes I want so much to share it with others, but experience has taught me that not everyone gets it the same way I do. Not my friends who take the Bible seriously and literally or my friends who would say they take it seriously, but not literally. I fall somewhere in between maybe????

Rev. Trudy said something in her sermon Sunday morning that really spoke to me about this after I'd wrestled with it in my head all week. I'm paraphrasing what Rev. Trudy said, but it went something like this: Trudy had a class in seminary where the students were having a discussion that got rather theological and academic until one student who had been very quiet the whole time spoke up. This student said that she had no need for a God who was powerless. She said she had been brutally abused as a child and when she suffering the most she needed to know that her God was capable of being down in the dirt and suffering right along with her. I wanted to jump up in church and say "Yes, that's what I needed to respond to the lady in the Lenten study." Of course, I didn't actually jump up in church. But it got me thinking some more. I, Kathy, have no need of a God who can't do miracles. I need one who is capable of things beyond my wildest imaginations. When life is tough and hard and seems impossible I need a Savior who can walk right next to me and rise above all that. I don't need to understand how - I just need the faith that He literally can do whatever it takes - seriously.

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