Sermon for July 1, 2018
Shocking title, but it is the truth. This isn’t meant to have shock value simply to gain the reader’s attention. There is no trick here just to get ‘clicks’ on a website. This is about your salvation.
The Bible does not, and cannot, contain the truth of Jesus Christ, nor God if there needs to be a distinction. Even if you do accept this, how could it possibly be a good thing? Read on and you will see how you’ve always known these things even if you weren’t consciously aware.
Seeing that the Bible is not the actual truth, our true salvation, really isn’t that much of a stretch. I’m sure there are some who won’t be able to get beyond the idea that saying something like this is irreverent or sacrilegious- that’s ok. Hopefully you will see that this is not the intent, or the reality, of what I’m saying and that it is actually the opposite- stopping with the words of the Bible is an affront to the true spirit of Christ.
Taking the Bible for truth is very much like mistaking a sign for a destination. It’s like reading a description of Mount Everest and assuming you know the experience of the peak, and all that it took to get there. Although these comparisons can seem very clear, even simple, the ways that we allow more subtle substitutions for actual salvation are much more ingrained and complicated. While we can accept, intellectually, that the words of the Bible are not themselves the truth, it is incredibly easy to become involved in the concepts, the teachings, and apply them to life in a way that almost creates two ‘you’s’. There is the you that seems to understand the incredible truths expounded in the Bible, and the you that then goes back out into the world- now feeling almost like an orphan. You wind up feeling like your true home is in the deep and profound teaching of Christ, only to find yourself out in a world that just doesn’t seem to mesh with the you that is grounded in the lessons of the Bible.
How can these divine truths be so difficult to hold onto in the face of the world? Does this mean the world has some kind of power that is greater than the spiritual truths that are supposed to be transcendent? This can be a real test of faith. We can begin to question the value of spiritual endeavors if the world can so easily overwhelm us. Haven’t we all had an absolutely transformative experience in Church, or even on our own, that faded? Maybe it took an hour, a day, a month but that thing we thought would sustain us was eroded away by the inertia of the world. Let me assure you that this is normal, and that it can never happen with the actual truth- it only affects our memory of our experience of a truth. Your true salvation in Christ cannot ever be eroded by the world. This can be a important kind of ‘truth test’ because anything that we find fading, no matter how attractive to us, could not be the ultimate salvation promised. The things that fade are just markers, pointers for you along the way, and you must keep going.
Part of the reason for this almost dual personality, spiritual and worldly, is that you have begun to build a world through the concepts of the Bible. When we construct an intellectual, conceptual, understanding of spiritual truths that are meant to literally transform our very being, in a way we actually take ourselves further away from real salvation, from a true experience of Christ within. We build two kinds of people- and neither is real. It’s easy to do this because it can be so hard to actually do what it takes to find the experience beyond just the intellectual understanding. It’s like placing rocks across a wide stream to get across. The other side seems so far, you don’t know what’s under the surface, and so you build rock steps to rest on, to support you, while you make your way across.
To get some understanding of these tendencies, think of a place, and experience, that is totally out of your realm of experience, but that isn’t so far off that you have no sense of it whatsoever. Maybe that is reaching the peak of Mount Everest as mentioned before, maybe it’s going to space as an astronaut, maybe it’s an entirely different part of the universe. Just make sure it isn’t something you have much, if any, real experience of, but that you feel you can formulate some idea about. Now imagine reading EVERY single thing you can about this place, this experience. You leave no person’s account of this experience left unread, but you still haven’t actually gone to this place for yourself.
Now imagine an experience where you actually did something you had always read, or heard, about. Remember the incredible things that you could never have imagined? Now imagine the place you visualized above again. You have read and heard everything there is about it. Could you possibly imagine just being satisfied with that and moving along to the next thing? NO! How could you imagine such an absolutely incredible thing, read and learn everything you could about it, and then walk away believing you don’t really need to experience it for yourself? If you take the Bible for truth, this is paramount to what you are doing. You are giving up on Christ, not following Him as he calls you to do.
The Bible can be compared to the body of Christ in a very literal way. To reach God, even as the Son of God, even after a lifetime of preaching truth we all hope to find, Christ had to give up his body, his worldly vehicle. Unto the last moment, even Christ held on to the body, to the world- as an example to us. His feeling of being forsaken was in the flesh, and of the world. When he was able to give up the illusion he endured for us all, the final barrier to God was removed.
In much the same way, the Holy Bible must be given up. ALL of its words, concepts, teachings, truths must be crucified and allowed to fall away. Just as the body of Christ, the very medium that brought us the teachings of the Son of God, had to be given up in order for ultimate salvation to be realized, the worldly medium of truth, the Bible, must also yield to our experience of Christ within, and not be forsaken by holding on to a book- no matter how highly we may regard it in a worldly sense.
None of this is meant to make you feel a sense of guilt or anxiety. Christ had his time in the body, in the world, and you will have your time with the Bible. Each thing has its purpose and its time. However, you must remain mindful, vigilant, aware of the ultimate need to let go. Buddhism has a beautiful way of describing the teaching as a raft that brings one from one shore to another. You must actually get off the raft, let it go, to really reach the other shore.
What awaits you when you let the words go, let the experience of being a separate person go, of being an isolated body in the world go, is beyond expression. It is your promise from Christ that it is yours, there when you are ready. You needn’t become anything other than what you already are. You are never, and were never, an orphan in a world where Christ’s promise of salvation is yours forever, and always has been.