More from the heart than by the book

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I’m reading a book by the late, great Fr. Thomas Merton called New Seeds of Contemplation*. I’m on page 141 of 304 and am noticing something…

Fr. Merton — one of the most esteemed contemplative monks in modern history — has not used one Bible quote yet.

I. Love this…

I’m of the belief that it’s great for clergy to understand theology at a super deep level, but when it comes to sharing their ideas, testimonies, accounts, and confessions for the general populace, they’re better off using their own unique God-given words.

What if clergy spoke more from the heart than by the book?

Especially nowadays in our postmodern world. We’re so far removed from the historical context of biblical times. Even for someone like me who loves geeking out on this stuff and is dedicated to studying it, it’s a stretch for the brain box.

I believe the stories, poems, and accounts shared in the Bible are timeless (even the horrid elements of it), but it’s such a stretch for people living in 2019 (let alone in America!) to be able to decipher it without strain. It’s almost like clergy and theologians need to speak two languages, each at the appropriate time.

In our church, we have 2–3 short readings (just enough to stay rooted in tradition — which is fantastic) and then the sermon is a very human, personal account from the pastor. It’s a sermon, not a technical Bible study or teaching, per se (it’s a subtle difference at times, but important).

For example, when I go see a doctor about my knee, it’d be weird if, during my appointment, she pulled out her huge textbook from medical school, plunked it down on the table, and started reading from it in order to get me to believe that she knew what she was doing.

No, doc… I’m already here. And I don’t want you to teach me how to be a doctor. My time, attention, and trust are valuable. Connect with me on a human level. Let me know you care. Make me feel safe. And then… fix my knee. I’m not here to be dazzled by your book knowledge. I’m SO glad you understand this stuff, but it’s not my role. My role here, as your patient, is to be healed.

(It’s a rough metaphor, so please hold it loosely.)

Now, of course, there are folks who want to go deep into biblical texts. For them, yes… Make space for them to bust out the good book and geek out.

There’s a difference between a personal reflection on the text and biblical inside baseball.

Most of us want our hearts moved instead of being brought up into our heads more than we already are in life.

[This is another note-to-self; not a critique of any particular individual.]

  • This book is blowing my mind, btw — methinks it’ll have to be a book study for Patreon supporters soon (link in bio).