So, here we are with winter coming on, COVID infection rates rising, and hospital rooms filling. In most places in the USA this year we’re not even supposed to gather with our families for our traditional Thanksgiving celebration on November 26. Our politicians on both sides of the proverbial aisle are blustering contradictory messages about the situation because that’s what politicians do. These are not exactly the kind of circumstances that stir us to give thanks. But where does it say that thanksgiving is only based on favorable circumstances?
Insistence on awareness of contemporary culture begs a crucial question. How can we apply the Bible to current cultures if we are ignorant of the ancient cultures from which the Bible originates? The text doesn’t mean today what it never meant then. As the publishers of BIBBC put it, We are far removed from the time and culture of the biblical world, and this distance easily leads to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Our understanding and appreciation of God’s Word increase exponentially when we know the historical and cultural context in which the biblical books were written.
Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) may be the most important reformer you’ve never heard of. At least that was the case with me until several weeks ago when I was preparing for a Zoom seminar with believers in Italy on how to study the Bible. I soon learned of the importance of Diodati’s translation of the Bible into Italian. In fact, Diodati’s entire life and ministry exemplified Sola Scrittura, the basic protestant thesis that the Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.
In my experience we Christians tend to be pretty hard on Peter. When we read of his brief walk on water in Matthew 14, and remember how he sank when he realized how hard the wind was blowing, we shake our heads and say “There he goes again.” Easy for us to say when we’ve never ventured out of the boat.
Doing Church during COVID-19 is a challenge. I recently had the opportunity to reflect on Matthew 14 at Genesis Church in Coralville Iowa. Jesus’ feeding the multitude teaches us not only about his power but also about our responsibilities during these difficult days.
I like comedies better than tragedies. Stories with warm, fuzzy endings where they all live happily ever after get me every time. I shy away from stories that end in defeat, death-beds, and despair. What about you? There are lots of warm, fuzzy stories in the Bible—the grand epic or meta-narrative that we call the Bible is the greatest comedy of them all. But there are some tragic episodes in the biblical saga of redemption, episodes like the one we find in John 5. Evidently we need tragedies too.