“The “Readers” did not come to the Bible because they had been convinced by theological and dogmatic discussions of its inerrancy and infallibility. They came, and continued to come, because they had found life and inspiration for themselves. They knew that speaking about food could not satisfy hunger and that speaking about thirst could not quench thirst. They trusted the Bible to be its own defense as well as their own, not by speaking about it, but by proclaiming its message in testimony and sermon, song and living…they spoke of themselves as gathering around the Word as if to encircle it, like gathering around a campfire on a cold day or a dark night.” (Eric Hawkinson, Images in Covenant Beginnings)
Our particular theological history with the Word of God is unique, rich, and inviting. Metaphors abound of satisfied hunger pangs and quenched thirst, of a garden of life and fragrance. We come to the scriptures for life! For life! And What gives us life is not doctrines, or dogmas, but living experiences of grace and mercy, of Jesus’ own presence that causes our hearts to flutter, of a Holy Spirit in and around the words that speaks to us about the Kingdom of God, and calls us into New Life.
This is what I often saw come to life in the watery eyes of otherwise stoic Swedes during church coffee hours, when conversations about the goodness of God would overwhelm. This is what I heard from the pulpit week after week when invited into the wonder of the Good News of Jesus.
An example of this pietism, this strangely warmed heart living with simple faith comes to life in these words from a sermon of C. A. Bjork, given at a mission meeting in Bethesda, Nebraska, July 7, 1876: “But now, thus says the Lord, he who created you O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.‘” (Psalm 43) Listen — Now, now says the Lord, your Lord and Creator. Oh, all you who are comfortless, who have sought after comfort and found none– now, now, you are offered the solace of comfort. And you do not need to wait until you because so and so and so. No, now, now, now says the Lord — just now, in this moment! — sinful as you are and lost as you are, unclean as you are– now God has a word at the right time for you…While you are still far away — far away from you ought to be, far from the kind of repentance which you ought to have, and everything, everything is far from what it ought to be. Oh, you are far away! And all this you think about, and this causes your steps to be so slow, your knees so weak, and you trudge home so slowly…In this distress your Father sees you. He sees that if he does not come to meet you, to take you in his arms and carry you, you will never get home. Oh, hear his urgent concern for you. You walk–he runs! See how much more concerned he is about your rescue than you are yourself. But what will the meeting be like? You think he has the rod near him, that he will reproach you because of your sins, that he will see if you are properly anguished and if you mean it seriously…but No! This is only a distorted judgment about your Father which the serpent has given you. The right portrait his Son has given us. He has been with him and knows him from eternity. He has given us the parable of the prodigal son. And he was not even taken to the water to cleanse him of his filth before he kissed him. No, not a word about sin, or amends, but just as he was, he embraced him and kissed him. The Son did not even have time to tell him that he did not expect to be received as a son but would be glad if he could remain as one of his servants…. Now, do you have anything against this, if he does the same with you?Now, then, listen, “But now thus says the Lord…he who created you…’Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.'” What does this mean? You are redeemed, and you already received a name, and this name is “You are mine.” See, this is the way it happens. While the son was still in the strange country, the father prepares ed clothing, ring and shoes, and the fatted calf. Think, if the son had known this and believed this, how sift his steps then would have been.
May we never lose our love for the good news of this gospel, and may it find a place to dwell, to come and stay, in our hearts. For Life!