Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Discovering the Word

I grew up in a Christian family, both immediate and extended.  Some of my earliest memories are of Sunday School and Vacation Bible School.  I even still remember snipets of sermons or personal testimonies that I heard as young as 5 years old-- little sections that resonated with me somehow or piqued my curiosity.

As I grew older that curiosity sparked a passion for research. I studied a lot and dug deeper and deeper into root words and learned about the culture and customs that influenced the people in the Bible.  I studied with ministers and rabbis, friends and family, and often I studied alone.  When I take notes in church services I often write down the actual names of the "characters" the minister references.  By 'actual' I mean, what their names were in the original semitic languages (namely Hebrew and Aramaic) versus Greek translation.  To me, it has significance and helps me connect to what I am learning.

Recently, I was listening to a new friend talk about Ananias (Hananyah) and Sapphira (Shappirah).  In Acts 5, it is written that Ananias and Sapphira sold some of their property and decided to keep some of the profit for themselves and give the rest to the church.  Seems simple enough, right? 

{Bear with me, I'm going to do some major paraphrasing. . .I suggest you read Acts 5}

Instead of simply giving the remainder of the profit and stating that they were choosing to keep some for themselves, Ananias and Sapphira told the church that they were giving ALL of the profit.  When questioned by Peter (Kefa), Ananias is adamant that he is offering up the full amount.  Peter, who knows that Ananias is not being truthful says something like "Why would you profess this to us and ultimately to the Holy Spirit?  The property was yours before you sold it and the profit is yours afterward.  You are under no obligation to give all of your profit, so why claim to be doing so?" Then, Ananias falls down dead. 

Three hours later Sapphira enters.  She has no idea that Ananias is dead.  Peter asks Sapphira if it's true that she and Ananias were in fact giving ALL of the money to the church, basically giving her a chance to be honest and simply say something like, "Look, homies, I gotta eat!  So, we kept some of our profit and we are giving the rest."  Instead she tells Peter that she is giving the FULL amount of the profit.  She falls over dead.

As we were studying this passage, of course the focus is on sin and the consequnces of sin.  Even though it is not common to hear of someone falling over dead immediately after lying, it is relevant to say that sin causes death in both the spiritual and physical sense.  I scribbled down "appearance" and "pride" because it seemed obvious to me that Ananias and Sapphira wanted others to think they were generous and selfless; they wanted to impress others with their giving but also remain comfortable.  My scribbling and jotting were suddenly interuppted when this friend exclaimed,

"They fell. over. DEAD!  Did you miss that?"

The rest of us watched him apprehensively. Ummm...isn't he missing the deeper point of the story?  No, we didn't miss that. We've heard this story 8,000 times over the course of our years on the planet.  Falling over dead is crazy but I'm digging deeper, here. . .hence my notetaking. AND I've told a lie before and did not fall over dead so. . .

Interrupting my thoughts he said, "I didn't grow up going to church.  I didn't experience the Bible, Sunday School, camps; we didn't pray.  I grew up godless and when I started in on my relationship with the Lord, at the age of 17, and I read this story I was like, 'What!?  Wow!' and that's how I felt after reading every story, every parable, every account.  This," he pointed at the passage in Acts, "is still amazing to me!  After 25 years of being a Christian, I am not desensitized to how incredible this is, how serious, how wonderful."

It was then that I realized that he was no longer specifically talking about Ananias and Sapphira instantly falling over dead for their sins.  He was talking about discovering the Word. He was talking about being in a lonely and hopeless state and finding Light.  He didn't have the opportunity to be taken to church every Sunday (or later forced to go as a teenager), to get bored with Bible stories growing up, to memorize songs, to debate hymns versus praise bands, if the punctuation used in one translation of the Bible versus another changes the meaning of the passage.

He experienced pain, darkness and weakness and then discovered Omnipotence, Light and Love and because of that, every word is sacred to him. Fresh.  Real.  Awe-inspiring. Every account, good and bad, wonderful and terrifying, is relevant to every facet of his life.  He came to the knowledge of something many of us have always had and tend to take for granted.

I want to be more impressionable and less theological.  I want to be awed instead of complacent. I want to re-discover the Word like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment