Sometimes I wish we could take the “Holy” out of the words “Holy Bible.” Often, it feels like the word “Holy” has made the Bible nearly unapproachable for many people. Too often, I’ve seen people keep the Bible and what’s inside it at a [safe] arm’s length distance. It’s almost as if we’re afraid it will “zap” us if we get too close. We might respect it, revere it even, swear on it, but never really read it and allow its stories to shape our lives. And that’s too bad, because if we actually read the Bible, just read it, we would learn a lot about ourselves.
Let me give you a little example. A week ago, one of the appointed Bible lessons for the Seventh Sunday of Easter we read this little story from the book of Acts that talked about finding a replacement for Judas. [see: Acts 1:15-26] The story takes place after Jesus’s Ascension but before the Day of Pentecost. The disciples of Jesus are sitting around and they realize that they’re one person short. Jesus picked twelve disciples but they’re down a man. It then goes on to describe the end of Judas’s life [which, in the more sanitized version we read on Sunday morning, had been excluded]. The story talks about Judas’s body bursting open and his bowels gushing out. Now that’s a story! And one we, in our holy approach to the Bible sometimes leave out. As we read the whole of the story, we see that the church has a complicated relationship with the character of Judas. For me, one of the reasons it is good to read this is because nearly all of us have complicated, and a little messy, relationships with God and the church. The Bible tells us these stories and acknowledges these messy relationships, if we only allow it to do so.
But there’s another part of the story, toward the end of Acts 1 that is at least as interesting as the story about Judas. So, they need to pick a new apostle and the story describes how they get down to two guys; Justus and Matthias, and they have to make a choice. Notice how they do it. They roll dice! Do you believe it? Something as important as choosing a new apostle is done by rolling dice. What a crazy story!
I’m not proposing we make choices in our lives by rolling dice [although there have been a few people who have read this story, applied the “holy” moniker, and decided that this is a good way to make a big decision – to each their own]. What I am proposing is that we see in this story a whole bunch of very human emotions and decision-making processes. God works with us where we are, and with whom we are and not who we fantasize or wish we were. The books, the stories, are holy because God is in there and we are in there with God. All of the glory and beauty and mess and chaos and ugliness of life are in there. I highly recommend you read it, you’ll be amazed by what you find in there. If you need a little help getting started, let me know. It’s one of the things I do.