Earlier this week, I talked about changing some of our language as regards Christian education. We are beginning to use the phrase "Faith Formation" rather than the school and education focus that have been used for years.
In this respect, the forming of our faith is not limited to our time as children. It is about more than just learning about the Bible, but entering into conversation with the Bible.
The study of scripture does help to give us insight that we might not otherwise have. It is important to know the context in which something is written - for instance, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech or Lincoln's Gettysburg address hold more power and significance when they are read in the historical context of their day. The same is true for scripture. Such as, it is helpful to know that many of Paul's letters were written to particular communities of faith where he was addressing particular concerns.
Other important things to learn about the Bible are the relationships between various people and groups. Our high school English classes come in handy as we look at the variety of ways in which God's message is conveyed through metaphor, poetry and hymns, parables and the like. We look at passages in the ways in which they relate to other parts of scripture - for instance, Jesus often quotes from Isaiah and much of Peter's sermon on Pentecost consists of prophecies from Joel and Isaiah.
In the forming of our faith, we cannot stop our relationship with scripture in just studying about it. Information is one thing, but formation goes farther. A question that I will often ask of a biblical text - whether in sermon or bible study preparation or in my own devotions - is So What? In this simple question, I am seeking both the central message or purpose of the passage, often looking at what was the writer's intention in the reading. And then, So, what does this then say to my own life, the lives of others or the world. What word is God speaking to me, to us?
I mentioned previously that Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God" is a passage that I have returned to again and again. The earlier verses of this psalm reflect a time of great upheaval with shaking mountains, foaming seas and nations in an uproar. There have been times when my life did feel as if it was being thrown upside down to which verse 1 reminded me that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.". Other times, I have been overwhelmed with just a full schedule, too much to do and too little time to do it. These times I needed the reminder of stillness and more importantly that I am not God, but God is God. This is the So and the What that I needed to hear in those times.
It is in this kind of way that we enter into a relationship with scripture and more importantly with God. We might know the Bible, but how are we known by it. What Word does God have to offer us? In this, we go from information to formation.
What scripture passages have informed and formed your life?