Can’t I Have It Both Ways?
I like having it both ways, you know? I like having my cake and eating it too. I like southern gospel music and George Frederic Handel’s “Water Music” and Widor’s organ “Tocatta” and the musical colorings of Josh Groban and my CDs of the Kansas City Chorale and the Heartland Men’s Chorus. I love cats AND dogs!?! I like hamburgers and hotdogs and salad and quinoa and Chester’s cheese corn and apples. I like going for a run ‘til I feel like my lungs are going to burst and my legs are going to fall off, and I like taking Bud for a meandering walk and looking at the sky and the trees and the birds and the other people walking on the path. I like preaching and teaching and being with people; and I like reading and writing and being alone. I like talking to kids about kid things and adults about adult things; and I like talking to kids about adult things and adults about kid things.
I like having it both ways and everything in between. That’s just a hot mess, isn’t it? Things need to be one way or the other. Things need to be clearly good or bad, right or wrong, male or female, saved or condemned, heaven-bound or hell-bent. America, love it or leave it, but by God don’t try to change it. The Bible: God wrote it, I believe it, every jot and tittle, every i dotted every t crossed just as God penned it. Well, maybe not a pen exactly. And well, I’m not sure Aramaic and Hebrew exactly had i’s to dot and t’s to cross. And if God wrote it, and well, God is God, why didn’t God write it in other languages besides Hebrew and Aramaic? The King James version with the King’s English is still a translation of Hebrew and Aramaic – just sayin’. And well, there is that whole deal where there are two creation stories, and one of them has humans created toward the end and the other has humans created toward the beginning (Genesis 1:1-2:3 and then Genesis 2:4-25). I know, right? Who knew? And were there dinosaurs on the ark? Because if there were, it must not have included the velociraptors that I saw in the movie Jurassic Park because they were definitely NOT kid friendly. Am I pushing the limits of nonsense a little bit? Probably. Am I allowed to do that for illustration’s sake?
When we decide things are either/or rather than both/and, we’ve shut down the possibility of learning new things in new ways. And if I might be so bold, we’ve decided for God the way things are supposed to be, rather than allowing God to lead us into the way God wants things to be. Do you suppose it was by mistake that there are two creation stories in Genesis? Do you suppose it was by mistake there are four gospels that have some similarities, some differences and yet all unified, in their own ways, to witnessing to the life of Jesus? Could it possibly be that God, from the genesis of creation,*snort* orchestrated these ways of keeping us from locking down and legalizing and limiting these particular words so that we might remain open to the MOVEMENT of God in these words and in the midst of the ongoing movement of life? God cannot be locked into a book. God cannot be locked into a certain set of words (that we’ve already translated a plethora of times, btw). God cannot be locked into the limitations of our ability and more times than not, our inability to completely and clearly articulate God’s presence and power and yes, movement in every generation including our own.
So what does all that mean, that anything goes? No, that is not what all that means. I think it means we ask ourselves what God was communicating through the “whole” of the scriptures. That as imperfect as we are as human beings, God trusted human beings to communicate who God is through the words they had available to them in the language that was their own. So it is both the word of God AND the human understanding of how to put that word into oral and then written form.
Who cares? I mean yada, yada, yada, right? Um well, when we use scripture to lock people out of our presence because they are not living our particular version of God’s intention in terms of how we’ve understood scripture, then it means a little more than yada, yada, yada, I think. I cannot find Jesus hating anyone, I just can’t. I can find Jesus drilling down to the essence of his understanding of the two greatest “laws” of God: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And then he gives the illustration for the neighbor as being the one who shows mercy (see Luke 10:25-37).
It’s called proof-texting – finding particular scriptures to support an already held opinion. Faithfulness to scripture calls us beyond our opinions and proof-texting to look for consistencies in Jesus’ language and behavior across the gospels to sift out an overall understanding of God’s vision, expectation, and ongoing work with us for the sake of the world.
We come together across races, classes, religious systems and even borders to respond to Hurricane Harvey to offer aide in rebuilding and healing from a natural disaster. We prepare ourselves to respond again as Hurricane Irma wreaks havoc on the Caribbean and now, at least at this time, is taking aim toward Florida and maybe up the eastern seaboard. I prophetically predict we will respond again to help those in greatest need. We see with our hearts our common humanity in these situations as opposed to fearing our differences. Is that biblical? Is it ‘merican? Is it Christian? Or maybe is it just recognition that we are humans together struggling to make our way through this amazing, heart-wrenching, hot messiness that is life?
I still want things both ways. I want to have my passionately held opinions and beliefs and I want to walk and worship with people who have other passionately held opinions and beliefs, yes, EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD AND I DON’T LIKE IT. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to hum, or maybe even sing with great volume, in our stairwell, where I sound very much like Jessye Norman, “Jesus loves the little chil-dren, all the little children of the world. Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” And I want you and everyone else in the world to join me. That’s all. Is it that hard? I’m okay if we sing it in different languages. I’m okay if we sing it in different keys. I’m okay if we sing it in harmony or out of harmony. I just want us to sing it…together.
Am I a dreamer? Hmmmmm.