Faith Works 8-29-15
Telling A Biblical Memoir
If I were to review my life in the form of scriptural passages that mark each stage, I would have a Biblical memoir of sorts, an autobiography of how the Bible has written the story of my life.
My earliest recollection of knowing a verse as being a verse, as having the stature of being part of the Holy Bible in sum, is looking through car windows at a large Christmas display on a Chicago street corner, which said in flowing letters "Peace on earth, good will among men!" (Luke 2:14)
I saw that, at five or six, and thought "that's in the Bible, and they're here in this public place, telling everyone good news."
It wasn't much later that I was sitting at a table with other kids for a Sunday school lesson, and out of the booklet, we had a story, a picture to color, and a figure on the facing page to cut out, then glue a piece of yarn onto. It was Paul the Apostle in a large basket, and the verse "They were watching the gates day and night, to kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket." (Acts 9:24-25) That story gripped me, about the hazards and risks Paul and his friends faced to be able to share the Gospel with others.
When I began actually reading the Bible on my own, there was a carryover from a book of Bible stories I'd been given one Easter that kept me turning back to Genesis, the last few chapters, and the story of Joseph. That dramatic moment the whole story so masterfully builds to, when the steward of Pharaoh reveals "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt." (Genesis 45:4) What a story, what a lesson of humility and faithfulness.
I began to think about bioethics, thanks to a faithful Sunday school teacher in junior high school and a biology teacher in ninth grade who encouraged me to ask questions, and they came together for me in Deuteronomy 30:19, where Moses says "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live."
As a Boy Scout, it was probably the tent reference that most caught my attention in 2 Corinthians 5:1, "For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." But the image of who we are and how we are constituted that has stayed with me, the life within the tent being the heart of the experience God is seeking to transform.
In college, after some digressions and diversions that are a narrative of their own, but that mostly wandered away from the Bible as sacred text, there was a tug towards ministry, and a book I read that called to mind the mystic celebration at the end of all things that was described as a celebration, a nuptial feast, a party to which Jesus wanted to invite us. At Revelation 19:9, there was something compelling about "And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are true words of God.'"
I resisted the idea of ministry for a while, but then I heard Dr. James Forbes preach, and I realized that sermons could be something completely different than what I thought they had to be. He came to Lafayette, Indiana, and preached at "Seeds of Vision" for almost two hours on two verses, and he barely had gotten halfway through the second of the two in Revelation 21:1-2: "Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations."
It was only in beginning pastoral work as a student minister that I started to understand what those words from the next and final chapter meant, when at 22:17 it is written "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price."
That only gets me to 1985! But what would your Biblical memoir look like? What verses mark the passages of your life?
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your turning point passages at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.