Growing in Faith Advocate Rev. Ann Perrin continues a conversation about the nature of revelation, looking at it through the lens of Wesley’s quadrilateral.
I now read and listen and reflect upon scripture looking for God, to see what learning, inspiration and prompting there might be for me. However, it was not always so.
In the 10 years between receiving a call to ministry and beginning as a candidate I was never really sure what to do with scripture. I did not understand the authority given to this collection of books that are foreign, ancient, alien and different worldly.
Scripture was read in church and used as bible study material, but my secular experience of this book and the way I watched it being used by the church only reinforced my doubts about it.
While revelation through scripture has now become part of my life, I remember having an opinion of this book that was coloured by the way it was used. I now know this is not the book’s fault but the way in which people use what they understand God to be saying.
In my naivety I could only see a book used to justify causes that have diminished, disenfranchised and abused people causing bodily harm and death. This is the rhetoric the world sees – a controlling device rather than revelation, offering us the freedom to discover a path of wisdom for the well-being of our lives and our planet.
I have to admit to being nervous of how I was to make sense of this collection of books. It was not until I learned that the Word of God is Jesus Christ, the Word lived through our lives that I finally felt ready to be a candidate. It was an enormous relief. This I can live into! Alleluia! This is lens with which I could approach scripture. Knowing Jesus of the gospels first would help as I began reading the bible cover to cover.
My first experience of revelation through scripture was reflecting on the Friday morning prayer service from the Anglican A Prayer Book for Australia: the great high priest set over the household of God (Hebrews 10:19-22). I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband to finish work and I decided I wanted to know the broader context of this reading within the book of Hebrews to understand better the pull this prayer service was having on me. I became aware that the household of God was the universe and I was enfolded and connected to every part of the universe. Nothing happened in the universe that did not affect me or anyone else. This is the work of our great high priest set over this ever expanding household. The seeds of my early understanding of the Uniting Church in Australia as a Christocracy were sown.
However, too much certainty makes me nervous. It speaks to me of knowing the unknowable God. I look for the divine mystery that provokes my curiosity about wanting to know God more. Perhaps we can receive the text as a window looking onto and into God rather than being God. Sometimes windows get stuck and they need to be rattled to open by sharing fresh thinking with others.
When we look at the text, we see the possibilities of truth meeting us on the pathway to wisdom, constantly changed by the circumstances of our lives knowing that the text is big enough to hold anything in one’s life: comfort and pain, clarity and confusion, wisdom as a guide or something to bring us up short. In this way scripture offers us a guide to wisdom rather than fact checking and truth. We are not called to pin God down, to keep the Holy Spirit under control.
How we present this text to the world is an enormous challenge for us today. We are now the people who continue God’s story in the world. As followers, we stand ready to be transformed. Our conversion continuing by the invitation to come closer in our relationship to God through Jesus. Our understanding of Jesus is shaped by his proclamation being brought to life in the time in which we live. I believe we now need to listen first then share how the bible shapes what we do.
Scripture gets entangled in my life and my life in scripture. At different times I see myself as different people in the stories I hear and read over and over again. Yet, everyone holds their own experience of the gospel, and all the stories of our sacred text. That is why we test our understanding with others in the body of Christ knowing that no one person or group holds supremacy.
Jesus offers us the way to see ourselves in the stories and calls forth from us how his stories resonate in our lives. Sharing those experiences of the text with others is part of how we come together and continue building the Kin-dom of God. This is also I believe how we dispel the alien, other worldliness of scripture and promote its place in our lives today.
And so it has a place of authority in my life. In the text I find the confidence to return to it time and time again knowing that within the text I will find the spirit of God speaking to me and I will respond, speaking to it with the spirit of Christ within me.