Across the Pastor’s Desk: What is the Bible all about?
Published 8:00 pm Friday, September 16, 2022
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Todd Walsh
What is the Bible all about? The simple answer: God. Sometimes people will ask me what my sermon is about. Sometimes my answer should be categorized as snark, “God.” If that be so, what is God trying to tell us in the Bible?
Three Bible passages stand out for me. You can probably guess where I’m going to run to first: John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
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God’s operative emotion toward the world is love. And just what is the “world?” For John’s gospel, the “world” is that which is opposed to God. Our Lord Jesus is acting on his own words to his followers: “Love your enemies.” One can quickly come to the conclusion that if love is God’s way then love is our way.
There is not much wiggle room on the final sentence of my last paragraph. It is said plainly in my second passage in Leviticus 17: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The words are attributed to our Lord Jesus once each in Matthew, Mark and Luke. The wiggle room is fading.
My third passage goes to the parable of the good Samaritan of Luke 10. We get this story of a Samaritan living out the word of the Lord to love one another. The good Samaritan is described in contrast to upper-crust of that time — religious leaders. The good Samaritan is the bottom of the bottom.
There are challenging implications for what I have just written.
Note that there are no exceptions to “love one another.” There is no passage that says, “except…,” and we are given the option to fill in the blank with someone in a group of people. And the parable of the good Samaritan covers all humanity. The wiggle room is gone.
Then how do we fix our attitudes and actions that have gone so wrong?
Six days ago was the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack on America. The perpetrators were filled with hate. They are ashes. Those they killed live in light eternal and our remembrance of them is recall each day the life that comes when we reject hate and live in love.
Schools are open for another term. Classes, homework, arts and sports train and mold young minds to be live as vital members of the community. Yet we must fear for the safety of our young and those who educate them. We talk of hardening schools against those with hearts hardened by hate. We can live together to nurture our children and raise them to live in love and help them when they turn to ways that belittle and despise life.
Today we can read headlines about the largest country in the world (whose population is dropping) needing more land. So Russia pulverizes Ukrainian cities, kills innocents and imprisons soldiers and civilians alike in reeducation camps.
Why? Because they speak the wrong language? Why not trade with your neighbor and win favor through fair trade and mutual respect? Why not be a vital part of the community of nations rather than murdering your neighbors and your own youth in uniform?
I’ve heard it said that some of our neighborhoods are changing. I’m tempted to say, “How is that? You painted our house?” A neighbor who is a minority is a neighbor. A neighbor who is white is a neighbor. I recall the foolishness of being told as a kid that I was not supposed to play with Catholic kids in the neighborhood. At least they knew what you were talking about playing football and talked about a “Hail Mary” pass! A neighbor is a neighbor.
Albert Lea has been blessed of late with one of the best laboratories of human relations in the world. It is the construction zone at the intersection of Main and Garfield. There is no rushing through the intersection. We need to look. We need to wait. We need to be patient. We need to give others a little space and a little more time. We even have time now to give a little wave.
I suppose the preceding 696 words sound like a dream? Then why do we cherish the dream that is our hope, our inspiration and our reality? “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” — John 3:16
Todd Walsh is director of spiritual care services at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community in Albert Lea.