For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:12-13
One of the early titles for my newspaper column was “Thinking Out Loud.” It suggested that readers were invited to enter my stream of consciousness as I wrestled with whatever issue of the day. This was why I was known to publicly refute or disagree with myself a week or two later. Sometimes I even tried out and then discarded opinions and ideas during just one column.
Today’s post is absolutely a “thinking out loud” post. I don’t necessarily disagree with myself halfway through, but if you read carefully you can trace the evolution of a thought or an idea.
This is how I have always grappled with faith and thinking in general. I was already a “reformed” theologian even before I met Rebekah and came to love the Presbyterian Church.
Chewing on Scripture:
I am not sure there is a better text for underscoring the validity of a solid Reformed Theology than this short passage from Hebrews. It came up on my radar first thing this morning, as Bible Gateway’s “verse of the day,” and I have been chewing on it ever since.
It’s one of my go-to practices with scripture, chewing. Chewing is qualitatively different from breaking down or “overthinking” (which is also something I tend to do if I’m not careful). Chewing is more about extracting goodness – less formal exegesis and more resting, meditating, mulling, simmering – a kind of slow cooking.
As I let this scripture rest, I found myself thinking about what it means that Jesus is the Living Word (John 1). Jesus is God both with us and in action. When we “ask Jesus into our heart” we are literally inviting the Living Word of God to take residence in who we are, and to help shape who we are becoming.
The passage refers to God’s work in us as “sharper than any double-edged sword”. But God does not fillet me so much as infuse me. God seeps in, and as I marinate in the love and the truth I am penetrated by the Holy Spirit far beyond the invasive butchering metaphor of flesh being separated from bone. “Everything is uncovered and laid bare” because we do not stand apart from God but we invite God in.
To be a “Reformed” (and reforming) Christian means to understand that our relationship to God in this way is “alive and active”; not stagnant, not confined; not limited or preempted by pre-conclusions. The word of God is not restrictive but it is activating!
Not restrictive but activating!
The fact that the word of God is a living document, and that the Word of God (Jesus) is a living teacher and guide means that we are constantly invited to be open to learning and guidance and rethinking and reimagining and recalibrating how God is moving in and through us.
This journey is ongoing – it has to be!
- We are finite, but God is infinite;
- We are flawed, but God is perfect;
- We have limited capacity, but God is all wise and all knowing;
- We live in shifting times and cultures, but God is willing to meet us exactly where we are;
- We write and think in a muted vocabulary, but God’s thoughts are beyond such confines;
- Our interpretations are compromised by our prejudices and inadequacies, but God’s love and grace and mercy are beyond the scope of understanding or doctrine…
– So, how could we possibly presume to close the door on an issue or an idea, how could we so rigidly codify our interpretations that we elevate them beyond question or prayer or debate?
“Nothing is hidden from God’s sight…” I worry sometimes that we miss the fact that God is not trying to catch us out so much as to live in our day-to-day lives with us, to see through our own eyes, and to be the very ground that we stand on.
God does not say, “You are wrong!” or, “You have it right!” God says, “I want to be with you, and to soak into the ground of your being, and fill your thoughts with my thoughts, and to work compassion and love and healing both in and through you.”
What Jesus says is – like he does with the bread and the wine – “Just come…”
Still chewing, mulling, digesting, and living into God’s good word. – DEREK