This week all across the world people are journeying with Jesus to the cross and will awaken on Sunday to find an empty tomb. The disciples ran when hearing word that the stone had been rolled away. Immediately after seeing the emptiness of the tomb, their thoughts took them to the most reasonable answer, Jesus body was stolen. Only later would they receive clarity to help them truly have their eyes opened to a new understanding of faith. Just as the disciples we have to interpret what that empty tomb means for us and our spiritual walk.
I think the experience of the disciples is similar to many going through a faith transition or crisis. Faith Transitions are painful! What we once clung too is now a hurtful remembrance of the changes happening in our beliefs. We feel alone, and lost. Our mind goes back and forth on what to actually live out in our lives. We fear the unknown. Often we feel others seem to not understand forcing us to continue to deny the questioning taking place in our heads.
Just as the disciples found, faith is a journey with ever changing knowledge and experiences that lead us to places far beyond our imagination. The empty tomb symbolized new growth as their faith transitioned into something greater.
So let's explore the empty tomb and how it relates to faith transitions. This may be small changes in our beliefs to major overhauls.
A Journey Of Questions
Jesus resurrection always brings many questions. For some its a matter of how the events transpired for others they ask did it really happen. Was this just a way for the early Christians to carry on Jesus' name or was Jesus really the son of God that resurrected on the third day?
No matter your stance, the empty tomb brings questioning. When we begin to question our beliefs or ask why we do certain things it can cause uncertainty. Our brains are wired for routine and assurance. It provides stability and safety. However curiosity is a natural part of our spiritual journey and should be upheld rather than discouraged. When it is upheld spiritual communities support and guide individuals to find answers.
Here is a short video by Mike Licona who tries to answer the difficult questions presented above with historical evidence giving us one way of how to work through difficult questions in our faith.
The Empty Tomb Brings Growth
Faith journey's call us to move out into the unknown world beyond our comfort zone. God is the great mystery! So when we find the empty tomb in our life, we are also given a new opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes from seeing with new eyes and responding with faith.
Whenever we gain knowledge we grow as individuals. Natasha Helfer Parker's article, "What is a Faith Transition?" provides 6 suggestions for people working through faith crises. She reiterates "shifts in faith are a normal part of the journey."
In July 2018, I wrote an article titled "Stages of Faith" reviewing Fowler's 6 stages of faith development. Many times our faith transitions have to do with our own personal development of faith. Thomas Wirthlin McConkie also discusses the development of our faith in this article "In A Mormon Faith Transition." He is the author of the book, "Navigating Mormon Faith Crisis."
Interpreting The World Through Jesus
It's important to remember the Christian faith is built around Jesus and the life he lived. This defining moment in essence tells us God loves us and will never leave us even through death. It is through Jesus and the interactions he had with others that lead us to know who God is and what we are to be about in this world. It is through the inclusion and welcomeness of Jesus that we interpret the world and our beliefs.
Jesus listened, radically welcomed, and questioned the unjust systems in place. He ate with sinners, upheld woman, and spent time with the poor. It is through his life that we learn about God and how to be in relationship with others. Whatever beliefs you have about the empty tomb I find it imperative for you to remember and uphold Jesus and his teachings.
This Easter we get the opportunity to interpret and define our lives through Jesus. The empty tomb brings meaning and hope of growth to us all! The divine becomes real and moves us past our original thinking. If you are struggling with your faith, I sincerely hope you find a welcoming community so you can discover and figure out the next steps on your journey. Remember it's a natural and healthy part of our personal development.
May we all experience the living Christ in our lives!
Happy Holy Week and Easter! I hope this Easter brings you joy!
This week identify what the empty tomb means for you and your walk.
This month's focus on spiritual practices is Dwelling in the Word.
Dwelling in the word is a spiritual practice developed by Dr. Patrick Keiffert and Pat Taylor Ellison. It is a way of reading scripture that intentionally focuses people on listening to each other and discerning what God is up to amongst us. It does not seek to provide answers that arise or historical insight about the text. There is no correct thoughts or right answers but welcomes all thoughts and experiences as equal. It asks us to be present in the moment, aware of our thoughts, patient with others, and listen deeply to the spirit.
Welcoming and Discerning the Spirit
Dwelling in the word welcomes the spirit to breathe among those gathered and opens our imagination to what is being stirred. Keiffert states, ‘The Spirit uses whatever space we give to create an environment of spiritual discernment."
Bishop Mark Beckwith briefly talks about the spiritual practice and how it opens us up to conversations with others and deepens our relationship with God. He believes it helps us ask more questions about life and the purpose we have individually and collectively. Please take a quick listen before we describe more thoroughly how to use the spiritual practice.
How to Dwell in the Word
There are many different versions and ways to Dwell in the Word but all of them have the same focus of openness and allowing the spirit to be present.
1. Welcome the Spirit - Ask the spirit to be present with them through prayer, silence, or another way.
2. Read a Scripture - Have someone read the selected scripture aloud for the group. Sometimes two people will read the scripture with silence in between allowing more time for people to become familiar with the text.
3. Sit Silently and Reflect - Ask yourself 1). What captured your attention and/ or imagination? A word or phrase that jumps out. 2). What would you like to find out more about?
4. Share with a Partner - Find a partner in the group you can share your thoughts with about the scripture passage and what stood out to you about the questions above.
5. Share with the Group - Have people report out as comfortable what they learned from their partners with the larger group. This might be what was felt, thought, and experienced during the reading.
6. Wrestle Together - Take time as a group to discuss what God might be up to in this passage. Are there any key themes that stand out for the group and how does that impact the group today?
Why Dwell In The Word
If you have been bored with reading scripture or have no idea where to start, this might be a great starting spot. I believe this spiritual practice makes the text come alive for this day and age. Dwelling in the Word is spiritual practice that allows for openness in discussion and experience, thoughtful engagement with the text and a welcoming of the spirit in our lives.
Another aspect I like is that it develops community and deepens relationships when practiced with others. When we invite the Holy Spirit to be present among a group of individuals our response as a group can be powerful.
So go out there and Dwell in the Word!
Please follow us on Instagram or Twitter so you get notifications of our new posts. This week try dwelling in the word with a few people you feel comfortable with.
I briefly wrote about how others have been hurt by scripture in my first post in August. I feel like scripture especially interpretation of scripture is extremely important to revisit. As with any religious organization, scripture is what grounds our foundational beliefs about the world and who God is. The Bible is the primary scripture used in Christianity. It is known as "God's word" which contains the history of the Hebrew people, the writings of the prophets, the gospels, the beginning of Christianity and many other stories about God's interactions in the world. Since it was canonized it has provided great guidance and direction to people across the world. At the same time it has caused much pain and division based on the interpretations used. I believe one of God's greatest gifts is in allowing us to interpret scripture responsibly.
Let's explore scripture interpretation together and see if we can answer a few questions.
Using Our Flaws
I have heard so many arguments say "That's not what the Bible says." It's important to note the Bible was translated from Greek and Hebrew into other languages such as English. Some of the words do not match the English language and some of them lose the meaning depicted by the original author. The Bible as we know it is an interpretation based on translation. Now there are many people that strictly adhere to the literal words written because they believe the Bible is inerrant. What I find interesting when thinking about the Bible this way is that almost every character aside from Jesus was imperfect. Abraham, King David, Peter, and so many others had flaws and yet God used them. Why must we think the authors of the Bible or their writings must be inerrant as well? God uses our imperfection to make powerful, improbable things happen. It is through the mistakes, imperfections, and challenges in life where God works. Thinking about the Bible this way helps me understand I am reading through someone else's perspective which may have errors and misperceptions. However God continues to speak through it using what there is to create good in this world. Historically the gospels were not written until way after Christ's death which means the people were recalling what they could from the experiences.
When we take the Bible literally we end up pushing people away instead of bringing them closer to Christ. Literalism is looking at scripture in its most basic sense instead of diving deeper into the text. Specifically thinking there is only one meaning for this scripture or the interpretation has to be this way. I think it's important we are open and honest acknowledging we do not have all the answers. God is a mystery and with the Bible we catch glimpses of who God is and can be. And for some reason I do not believe God ever intended to have others judged and condemned in a church for their prior decisions in life. Despite my belief literalism surfaces. The best way I can think of expressing literalism is from the 2004 movie "Saved" starring Mandy Moore. If you haven't seen it, please rent it. It's a comedy about taking the Bible literally. Here's a small gif from the film. If you can't tell Mandy Moore is throwing her Bible at the girl.
So how do we interpret the Bible responsibly? I think this is a personal struggle for many of us however there are some things we can do to help us get a deeper look at the text. 1. Look at the genre of the text. This will pull out the reasoning behind the writing. What was the purpose for this text? What was the writer intending? 2. Historical criticism. This a a method trying to picture what the world was like during the time of its writing. It helps us identify the context of the passage? 3. Meaning/ Discernment of the text. What is the obvious meaning and the writer's intended meaning? What words stick out to you. Words carry many thoughts that connect us to other experiences. What theological themes stick out to you? 4. God Revealed. Scripture unfolds who God is. What does the text reveal about the nature of God? How does that apply to our relationships today?
Whenever we look deeper at scripture we find the richness of the stories, the beauty of the characters, and the relevance for today.
The great thing about scripture for those in CofChrist is that it is still being revealed to us. We believe God is still shaping who we are as a prophetic people through continued revelation. This is guidance for how our church and people should act in the world along with God. It's a belief that God is continually revealing God's self to the world. I love the imagery of God breathing in us to take action into the world, to fight against poverty, to uphold other's worth, to live community in it's wholistic essence.
How has scripture shaped your journey?
What ways do you interpret scripture responsibly?
How do you work through scriptural literalism?
How is God still revealing God's self to you?
I hope all of you had a wonderful Labor Day Weekend. This week please open your Bible and study a paragraph of your choosing. Search through the text and find meaning for yourself and your journey.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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