“We live life forward, but we understand it backward.”

The Bible is not like a news report. Events in the plot of the story were not being recorded in the moment or even in the days to follow. Rather the Bible is a collection of stories that are told in the present about the past but have the luxury of knowing the future up to the present. 

If you are telling a story about the present in the present, it is very difficult to know what is important and what matters and what is not important or what can be dismissed. This is why we have 24 hour new cycles that can say that every little bit of news is "breaking" because we don't know if this newest bit of information is important to the story or not. Because we don't know the future we don't know what is important to hold.

However if you are telling a story that is set in the past, you have the ability to edit the story and change the story in order for it to make sense in the present. You can leave things out that don't matter as much. You can edit what is said or what was done in order to "get to the good parts". It is like when we DVR a show on television. We can fast forward through the commercials because they do not pertain to the story - but we cannot fast forward in the present. 

It is important to remember this when reading the Bible. The authors of the stories are writing with a luxury of knowing the future in relation to the setting of the story. 

So when a character in the Bible looks like they are predicting the future, in a sense the can because the person writing the story down knows the future that the character did not know. This does not mean that Isaiah or Jesus were any less "prophetic" it means that the storytellers are doing everything they can to convey a message that is more important than "this person could predict the future." 

How being naked enhanced worship

Image taken from here

Image taken from here

There is a story in the Bible that conveys King David dancing before the arc of the covenant. And in the middle of this worship and joyful expression of a king dancing, many pay attention to the interpretation that King David may be wearing nothing more than an apron and his backside exposed. It is also understood that in this “surgical gown dance” David does is so full of joy that he literally throws his inhibition to the wind and dances near naked.

That is a sermon that I have heard more than one time and it is not a bad sermon, perhaps one that needs to be heard our “joy desert” culture.

However, I want to submit that David dancing near naked is actually enhancing worship and a form of social disobedience.

We have to remember that in the time of David, and even Jesus, it was shameful to see someone naked. It was more shameful to see someone else naked than to be naked. This is why Noah curses one son that sees him naked while blessing his other sons who were not exposed to this shame. It is also why it is political protest when Jesus says that if someone takes your clothes you should give them your cloak as well. Your nakedness will heap shame upon those who forced you into unjust nakedness.

David uses this naked/shame system as a form of social disobedience in order to enhance worship. When the King comes back into the city and everyone wants to hear the great story of the armies of David, David comes up with an idea to force people to literally turn their gaze to something else. By being naked (and one can imagine also that his whole staff might be dresses as the King) the people have a choice to make – make King David and his military the center of their worship celebration or look upon the arc of the covenant and make God the center of their worship celebration.

We do not have this same system of shame like David had. In fact today there is more shame to be naked than to see another naked, so it is difficult to imagine David’s culture. But if we can move beyond the puritanical impulses of our Puritan past, we can see a King who used a system of shame and his own nakedness to draw attention to God.

Sort of a genius move if you ask me.

What words are your go to words?

Have you paid attention to the words a teacher uses over and over again in their speech? I am not talking about the verbal mnemonic devices employed, nor the words that function as fillers - like the works "like" or "um". I am talking about the words that the teacher uses time and time again that underpin the teachers overall philosophy?

Richard Rohr's book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi brought to light that Francis of Assisi used some words more than others. According to Rohr, "Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time."

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Doing, heart, love and mercy were, perhaps, Francis's go to words that functioned as his philosophical and theological underpinning. I understand that the sheer number of times a word is used does not mean this word is important. For instance, a political candidate may use the name of an opposing party more than they use their own but that does not mean they are secret members of the opposing party. Nonetheless, the frequency of words to the frequency of other words in a given teacher's lexicon is interesting. 

There is this blog that makes word clouds of the different books of the Bible. And when you take a look at that you can begin to see some common themes. The first thing you may notice is how the Bible is often taught as a book about people and how to live - like a Christian version of Hammurabi's code or a moral document. However, the Bible's main protagonist is not humanity but God. This is a collection of books and stories written by people in order to try to put language and understanding around the indescribable and fully unknowable. 

What words are your go to words? What do these words say about where your heart is? If someone were to examine all your writings what would your word frequency be for words like "love", "I", "welcome", "peace", "sorry", "forgiveness", "truth" or "joy"?