September is a high energy month in the life of our local churches. People are returning from fish sites, non-stop camping experiences, and world travels. Summer worship schedules give way to fall and winter times. And Sunday School kicks off with excitement and anticipation. It is also the time when many churches give Bibles to their third grade students.
I want to use this moment to highlight the need for Alaska United Methodists to deepen their understanding of the Bible. Specifically, I challenge pastors and lay teachers to be honest about teaching a view of scripture that moves people beyond literalism. There is a huge difference between biblical literacy and biblical literalism. The first is about Bible education while the second is about a particular view of scripture that holds the Bible to be historically true in the actual words. There is a view that holds to the truth of scripture but not in the literal words.
I heard a story in my home conference of West Ohio when Bishop Judy Craig was speaking to her clergy. With her finger pointing she said, "You are not teaching your people what you know." There are ways to ask questions that lead us to want to know of the truth of scripture without assenting to the historical accuracy of scripture as it is written. Here is a link to an old sermon I preached at St. John in 1997 when I was pastor of Soldotna UMC and a guest preacher at St. John.
Click on this link to check out a one-page resource on biblical literacy from our General Board of Discipleship. If you have stories or ideas on Bible education that have helped your people grow in their understanding of how God acted in the stories of scripture please share them with me and we'll find ways to share them with everyone.
Now to a different topic. At worship at St. John last Sunday Rev. Jo Ann Schaadt delivered a sermon called "Holy Meddling." She talked about the ways we are called to meddle (hold each other accountable) in each others' lives. This includes debt. When all pastors are ordained we are asked historic Wesley questions and one is "Are you in debt so as to embarrass yourself?" Whether you are clergy or lay let me ask you, "Are you in debt that is causing undue stress and anxiety for you and your family and perhaps affecting the ministry of your church?" St. John offers a regular class called Financial Peace University which is helping many families look at money from a spiritual and biblical perspective. So I want to encourage us all to examine our personal stewardship in light of the teachings of Christ when it comes to money. We are called to lead by example in each of our local churches.
Grace and peace,