I don’t even want to talk about this. There is so much violence in our world that why would I ever want to use the language and words that I am about to use. But, I’m not sure how else to describe what happened to me earlier this week in a phone conversation.
A man called the church with a question about the Bible. His specific question was how can I (speaking for the entire Lutheran Church, and really all protestants and Catholics) justify the understanding of the Holy Trinity when he can’t find it in his reading of scripture. He then began to “shoot” me. Not with bullets but with individual verses of scripture. When I tried to speak about the beginning of John’s Gospel and how the Word was there at creation, he again began shooting his verses at me. He said he could point to 20 but then he kept shooting me with the same two verses over and over again.
My adrenaline rushed and I became an incoherent person on the other end of the phone. When I had finally had enough of his shooting at me, I walked away shaking because I know more than I said and I feel like I had let all of you down. So I write this with a little of that shake left in my body because scripture is not meant to be turned into bullets or even weapons for that matter. And, whenever we pick and choose which verses are more important we start down a slippery slope that makes us god.
He wouldn’t have listened to me but here is what I wish I could have said. To understand scripture and what God is trying to say in scripture it’s really important to start reading at Genesis and finally put the book down when you have read the final verses of Revelation. Please do not do this in one sitting!
As you read, it becomes clear that God longs to be in relationship with us. And, God is willing to try new ways when the old ways don’t seem to work. When you read the New Testament, you see that God sends the Son, the eternal Word, the Word spoken at creation, the Word that finds its voice in Jesus. Jesus promises another. One who will sustain us after he is gone. He breathes the Holy Spirit onto his disciples and out into the world. This Spirit is the wind that blew over the chaos before the world had it’s shape. This Spirit is the dove that descended on Jesus at Baptism. This Spirit drives us to faith and without the Spirit, we cannot know the Son and without the Son, we cannot know the father.
In his bullets that he kept firing, he pointed out that Jesus and Paul talks about there being one God. Therefore no room for the Trinity. We do not believe that there are three Gods. But to use Tertullian’s latin phrase we believe: una substantia — tres personae (one substance — three persons). But, by the point my brain went there, I was too badly bleeding to have that argument (he insisted that he didn’t call to pick a fight and yet he kept shooting at me). What he wanted from me was a “gun fight”. He wanted me to shoot back but I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. And finally, I told him, “I’m not having this conversation with you.” And, I hung up the phone.
But this was never a conversation, nor could it ever be a conversation. When one person is shooting bullets it doesn’t really make room for give and take. I challenge all of you, if you haven’t done it, to read the whole Bible. Listen for how God speaks throughout it. Underline the verses that mean a lot to you but promise me that you won’t shoot them at anyone. It’s just not a good way to have a conversation.