This past weekend I spoke about myth as a helpful starting point in biblical interpretation. I invited us to reach back into the original meaning of the word, to get at the nature of scripture as a a history of a people that explain social as well as religious phenomenons.
We are descendants of such a people, the people of Israel and through them the people called the church. The bible is our story and a story that reflects the hopes and dreams, the prejudices and habits of its writers. We see this reality especially when it comes to the ways that the text understands the roles in society and family (men as leaders and decision makers-women and children as submissive and belonging to the men), its treatment of government (centered at first on theocracy then on a religiously based monarchy), and its many rules regarding eating, purification, and duty.
From the beginning we notice that demanding a literal interpretation or “absolute historical accuracy,” does not do justice to the text itself and certainly not to the purpose of the text as a theo-literary collection that seeks to contain “all things necessary for salvation.” Instead it can become a hindrance to seeing the larger narrative at play, a narrative of God’s redemptive work for all of creation through a people, a people who struggled to be faithful, a people who failed, a people who at times did horrendous things in the name of God. Again and again it was God who in spite of everything continued seeking, calling, and in the end became one of us.
The truth found in the bible is not limited by continued revelation, by communal interpretation, and by our consistent struggle to hear God’s word in the text. Instead it re-centers our source of authority for the Christian life in the work of the Spirit through accountable community. That accountable community roots itself in the biblical narrative, and like other myths, it is in the conversation that meaning begins to emerge and the community finds its identity.
It is my claim that myth is actually the most truthful of narratives. Reading the bible through this lens opens us to the movement of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be shaped into rehearsing the story of salvation. Its authority rests on the way that the Holy Spirit continues to use it to tell us about the human condition, creation’s longing, and the hope of peace (wholeness) for us and for all of creation. More importantly in the ways that it gives us a glimpse to God’s incessant creative and reconciling work. This glimpse is to be trusted while recognizing that it will never be complete until we meet God face to face at the end of time.
Till then we continue hearing the old story, our story, God’s story. We continue our shared struggle with that story and our dependence on the Holy Spirit’s continued work in us as God’s people as we seek to be agents of God’s reconciling love in the world. Always remembering that:
“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Let us remember this amazing story and let it join with our own encounter with God as we continued living our life together, as we continue hearing God’s voice, as we encounter the living Word in the bible, in the world, and in the community of faith!
Let’s keep on struggling! I look forward to the weekend.