I was listening to a podcast this morning called The Bible for Normal People. It is billed as “The only God ordained podcast on the internet.” The hosts, Pete Enns and Jared Byas were interviewing Emilie Townes, a professor at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. The topics were wide ranging, but one topic caught my attention. Professor Townes spoke about reading and interpreting the bible. She said the bible’s authors were writing to people in a point in history but of course the stories, poems, songs, rules and so on are still relevant to us today. She said one problem is when we latch on to a verse and use it to make a point that supports a position we have already claimed. This can cause division because the bible is full of contradictory statements. If we understand that we are meant to live in community and read the bible in community and discuss the bible in community, we gain a much richer understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to God. As an example, here are some bible verses that tell us something of the nature of God’s temperament:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth;
‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression;
But You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness;
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,
Well, never mind what I said before. The message is pretty clear. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.
Father / Mother, Holy God, thank you for loving us before we loved you. Teach us to be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. Amen.