|Pen and Ink Reflections||
For some of my early years, my heart would sink when I was invited to join a bible study group. My mind would start screaming, and my body sometimes even began twitching. Maybe you, or others you know, have had that kind of experience - of bible studies, or another avenue of faith exploration? For me, it wasn’t that the people who asked me were often a little unctuous, or patronising about my existing faith. Sometimes they were wonderful, beautiful, humble, with an open and expansive love of God and others. It was just that so many bible studies seemed so very narrow. Where they weren’t working with extraordinary assumptions about sin, God, and the way the world is created, they were often, frankly, simply a little boring. My experience in many Christian groups was that the scriptures were typically read as if they were flat in nature: straightforward and easy to interpret. This was because simplistic frameworks, or sets of formulae, were constantly applied to every passage. After I’d been to one bible study, I pretty much picked up the central message. Just repeating it again and again seemed neither interesting nor life-giving. When it was full of shame and guilt-inducing misdirection it was particularly alienating. Yet what an awful misuse that is of the Bible, and not least, Jesus’ own use of Scripture…
A few weeks ago I invited us all to address the question of Jesus: ‘who do you say that I am?’ This is central to the Christian spiritual pathway. As I affirmed, the answers to that question will differ, as they have differed, subtly or significantly, down the centuries. Today, on St Luke’s Day, Penny and I want to ask three more questions, which also feed into our community visioning day. They seek to open up three important areas of life: firstly, healing; secondly, hospitality; and thirdly, how do we hand on hope, as we experience it in our spiritual lives. Penny and I will do this together as a conversation. For, after all, isn’t one of the most beautiful stories in Luke’s Gospel that of the conversation between the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as they rediscover the living Christ in new ways?
Before all that however, I want to ask Penny about our relationship to St Luke. For we’ve had a bit of history with St Luke, haven’t we?...
“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” How fascinating! – the writer’s conviction that the second coming is at hand does not result in a plea for evangelism, or even for love, but rather for gentleness. So, what is to be gentle? The dictionary suggests, kindly, amiable, tender; or with more of a class nuance ‘of good family’ ‘noble’ – from the Old French from which we derive genteel. It is also a verb – ‘to gentle’ means to make less severe or intense, or perhaps to soothe by stroking; to treat with kindness and not cruelty. Gentleness is listed as the eighth of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5;22. As such it translates the Greek word prautes, which is sometimes rendered ‘meekness’, which has unfortunate connotations in modern English of servility. The Full Life Study Bible defines the word helpfully as ‘restraint coupled with strength and courage’...