Last night I sat in a church and was asked to “get inside the skin” of those Jesus came to following His resurrection. John 20 – 21 were the verses.
Verses I know better than I would usually. Because John 21:1-18 are the verses for this coming Sunday’s service – the service and sermon He has been preparing me for.
And I found out something more last night. That “getting inside the skin” of the dusty peeps is a wonderful way to read the bible. It is a wonderful way to share the bible. But it comes with the same opportunities to “not get it” as any other way.
That we can still be so busy “getting inside their skins” we end up defending our preferred interpretation against others’ preferences. I found that it is simply a variant of having a “verse off” – a “slice and dice” – a “drive-by death from proof verses” – if we allow.
(now obviously I am aware as I write that … I am defending my own preference – but bear with me awhile)
The verses that “got me” were John 20:11-18 –
“Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.”
Be still and know that I am God.
The still small voice of God can be very loud sometimes! “Be still and know that I am God” thundered in my mind as I read those verses. And as much as “getting inside Mary’s head” … understanding (speculating?) why she saw the angels when Simon Peter and John had not … understanding (speculating?) why she did not immediately recognise Jesus … discussing how the “go and tell My brothers” went down with “the brothers” … having a very lively and good-natured discussion that went ever and ever deeper into “understanding” (speculation?) – with the energy and passion causing ever more and more “but I think” responses …
“Be still and know that I am God” – for me – WAS the voice of God.
And yet, amongst the good-natured interaction and participation in that space, all the focus was on “busily understanding”: was Mary so distraught her grief … was Mary frustrated that she was still unable to dress her Lord with burial spices … did the angels wait till the boys had gone – or did the boys not see them … grief counselling has taught me … Mary had already run from the tomb to the boys and back again – she would have been knackered! … Mary was always crying … Mary just wanted to know where He was …
It taught me something – He showed me something more: The Word of God – the Living Word – the reading His word with Him – and with Him in others … we can so easily drown Him out for the best of reasons. We can so easily NOT get it (even as we think we are).
Be still and know that I am God.
Even when we are breaking into the bible, breaking apart our familiarity, our accepted understanding, our “been there, seen that, got the t-shirt” stuff, breaking into our way of approaching the repetition of reading the bible. Even when we do that together, with a fresh eye, with a lot of love, without winning or losing, without a wrong or right answer … we can still make too much noise to hear Him.
Because no matter how exciting the bible is, no matter what insights I have, have been given, have all lined up and ready to share, can share, want to share … no matter how much God speaks to me (or not) … when I get so excited that I stop listening FOR HIM…
I drown Him out.
There was no tension in the church last night. There was no “proof verses” stuff. There was no “slice and dice”. There was no badness at all. Just a lot of enthusiastic loving noise. And He showed me this …
No matter my bible knowledge, no matter how much fun it is to break into the familiar and find something new … if that does not draw me closer to God – then I am not listening. And if I am not listening I will not “know God” any better than before. And if I do not l know God any better than before, all that has happened is …
I am (or: I think I am) a bit cleverer than before.
For someone about to stand up and give a sermon … He settled all of the to-and-fro He has been doing:
“Hearing the voice of God” (threaded inside “Unconditional Love is always the answer – if I allow” (threaded inside (getting inside the skin of) Simon Peter (threaded around John 21:1-18)))
But yesterday He also showed me this:
“Don’t get too excited with these verses, Paul. You looked around – great! You will show up – wonderful! So don’t forget to get out of My way. And not just as you speak for Me – but as I speak to each one there in My space this coming Sunday.”
Thanks Don (Merritt)! Thanks GSHJ. Thank you God in each of you. Thank you God in each of us!