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"More Light and Truth" and other Dissenting Ideas!

It's been a busy day, and now I am bunking the evening service after morning worship and two lots of visiting.  All of it has been good, but I am tired, and need to rest (yes, I am FINALLY learning :-) )

After some serious wrangling, this morning's sermon came together pretty well, and seemed to engage people - just as well as it ended up being a tad on the long side.  A sermon - or more properly reflection - on reading the Bible, on the place for diversity of interpretation and difference of opinion, on the inherently partial and contextual nature of Bible reading, a bit of a plea for more group Bible study and some cheeky references to assorted bits of popular theology.

I chose the hymns carefully, with one exception coming from dissenting traditions, and expressing ideas that seem important.  So we had Caryl Micklem's "Give to me, Lord, a thankful heart", Bonhoeffer's "By Gracious Powers", George Rawson's "We Limit not the truth of God", Doddridge's "great God we sing your guiding hand" and Sydney Carter's "One more step"... but not in that order!

All in all, it seems to have been a good day.  And, just in case anyone is daft enough to read it, here is the first bit of the sermon, before it morphed into pure prose...


Before the beginning, God:


Before Wisdom,

Before the Word.


In the beginning, into chaos, darkness and void

God's Wisdom came forth from the mouth of God

God's Word announced, "let there be light…"


God's Spirit hovering over the yet formless creation

God's Christ proclaiming eternal truth before time began


The Word became flesh and lived among us

The Word:

The source of all life, bearing light into the continuing chaos, darkness and emptiness of creation

The inextinguishable Light, penetrating, dispersing, absorbing the darkness

Bringing enlightenment and lightness, order, meaning and purpose



Scripture is rich in metaphor and symbol, human writers inspired by the very wisdom of which they speak employ inadequate human words to express mystery beyond comprehension, sometimes in parable and prose, sometimes in poetry and prophecy; always attuned to listen for the word of the God, always aspiring to express the inexpressible, to fathom the unfathomable and to share the story of the God who is love..


The Bible:

A library of wonder

A treasure trove of stories

A window into things beyond


Sometimes viewed as an example of ancient literature

To be dissected and analysed

Critiqued and commented upon

An interesting but ultimately largely irrelevant enterprise


Oftentimes reduced to little more than a text book

A rule book

An instruction manual for those heaven-bound

(Who has not heard the contrived, late C20 'acronym' Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)


Among believers, a sacred text,

Exalted above all others

Used, misused, abused


Deemed infallible by some

Source of proof-text to prohibit or permit

Silences employed inconsistently

To prohibit "that which scripture does not explicitly permit" or

To permit "that which scripture does not explicitly prohibit"

Or any variant upon this theme


Other believers recognise

Internal errors (incorrect references to Hebrew scriptures from the New Testament)

Discrepancies, inconsistencies and contradictions

Seeking not for detailed rules and precise instructions

But searching for principles and patterns


So many ways to approach it

So many alternative readings and understandings

None intrinsically definitive

Even if some are clearly wrong-headed

Most, if not all, sincere

In their quest for truth and light



The Bible is a wonderful, complicated, easily ridiculed, and aggressively critiqued set of writings…


And yet…


And yet for half the world's population this quirky, bewildering, frustrating collection of ancient religious writing continues to be regarded as a source of truth; that contained within it is something that will help dispel the darkness, and order the chaos.  That here may be found wise words, helpful principles, comforting and encouraging thoughts.  That there is still "more light and truth" to be released from this book of books which enables us to seek the word of God as, guided by God's wisdom, we read, reflect, study, discuss its contents.

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