Introduction to ‘Twists & Turns’ forthcoming Resource for SU missions.June 3, 2012
Welcome to Twists and Turns!
Is your brain turned on?
Are you ready to take the thrills and spills of some tight twisty corners?
Are you feeling flexible and limbered up?
Because if we are going to read the Bible seriously, open to God’s transformation, we need to be ready for God to Spin us round a few times, in fact to spin us out a few times too.
We come to read the Bible with our faith, our ideas of God, not already set in concrete but still twisty, bendy and flexible – ready to be changed, transformed, re-formed. John the Baptist would have asked if we were ready to take a turn around, using that old word ‘repentance’.
The inspiration for this book came from reading the Bible with a wonderful young thirteen year old called Mim – and thus I dedicate this book to her.
Mim is not a big time reader of the Bible, and hasn’t been dragged to church much over her life time, so she comes to the text with a really precious freshness. One day we were reading the story of Miriam from Exodus 2 together and we got to the part where Miriam suggests to Pharoah’s daughter that she finds a wetnurse for the baby Moses from among the Hebrew women slave.
Mim put down the Bible, and rolled her thirteen year old eyes in despair.
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding! How dumb does she think the princess is? Surely the Princess knows biology, and she’ll figure out it’s the baby’s mother who is going to look after it!! Puh-lease!”
“That’s right.” I reply. “Of course the princess knows this. It’s the subversive part of the story. Everyone can see what is happening right under the nose of the Pharoah; the baby, instead of being killed is going to be brought up by his own mother, and be given the privileges of the Pharoah’s palace.”
Mim looked at me, then rolled her eyes again.
“Oh, I really don’t think the Bible is capable of that kind of a twist.”
I faked a stab at my heart and a stage death.
“Oh, you cut me real deep there. This is why I love the Bible! Every story in the Bible has that kind of Twist. The whole Bible is a book of subverting power, written by people who are slaves, or nomads or refuges or prisoners of war. All of it is written with unexpected twists and turns in the plot as the strong are shown to be futile and the wise are shown to ignorant, and that God is not on the side of powerful winners, but is in the business of showing love to all, especially those who get pushed aside and written over.
And that was the beginning of Twists and Turns.
I don’t know if I convinced Mim.
But it made me realize that so many people think the Bible is shallow and facile, and read it only on the surface for a simple moral or just one point. Even some Christians read it this way.
If the Bible is to continue to serve us (and by “us” I mean all in our world) in hearing and encountering God , we must not read it for the one simple moral, but read it ready to be bowled over by the spinners. To be giddy after all the twists and turns , and to be ready to have our whole world turned upside down.
As I have written Twists and Turns, I have realized that some who use this book might find it challenging. If you haven’t noticed that there is more than one creation passage, more than one flood narrative, more than one set of stories about David, that the story of Abraham doubles back on itself several times to tell the same thing a few different ways. – if you had thought that the Bible worked itself along in one straight line, you will need to let go of the linear lifeline and pay attention.
If you haven’t noticed any of these wonderful twists and turns in the Bible before, I can hardly blame you. Mostly in our churches and Bible studies we take just one small part of one story, so we don’t get too troubled by the differences in the other versions, or we don’t see how a particular episode upsets the chronological order of what we thought was happening.
If this is you, to an extent it is all of us – for who really has the whole of the Bible under their belt? I know I don’t and I’ve been going pretty hard at it for over 4 decades. If this is you, my advice is this. Remember that reading the Bible is an act of faith, not an act of certitude, an act of risk not an act of comfort, an act of discovering, not an act of knowing.
God is God – so be prepared for God to surprise and upset you. God may blow you out of the water, as much as he teaches and comforts you.
Think of Paul, who was blinded by encountering Jesus.
Jacob, who went away limping the rest of his life.
Zechariah, who was left mute.
One of the most compelling things about the Bible for me, is not that it is easy to believe, but like all the best and truest things I’ve ever seen
- someone promising to love me for the rest of life
- giving birth to a child
- being addressed by God
it is almost unbelievable in its goodness, and yet somehow draws me to believe.
May God stop us in our tracks, disarm us and leave us with a story to tell that has an incredible twist in it’s tale.