With nothing can one approach a work of art so little as with critical words...
- Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I have a friend, o such a friend, who received a comment the other day to something said friend had created. My friend had voiced something about the spiritual life which o friend felt was true. As is always the risk when speaking of things like this, someone heard this and felt the need to comment on it. But, you say, it's a free country, right? You say, if you put your stuff out there, you've got to be able to field a few questions, defend the hope that is within you, right?
Anyway, the comment came in the form of a chapter-verse response: well you know, in Heraclitus 12.4, it says blah, yada prada, bippity boppity boo. It's possible that every once in a Haley's comet, responses like that come from some pure place. However, I believe most of them come from a lording-it-over stance (a.k.a., fear), something the Lord clearly cautioned against, but we just love to do regardless. And it usually always comes from the mouth of a But Some.
Allow me to introduce you.
There is more than one occasion in the gospels when Jesus is speaking or teaching or doing that gospel magic on a paralytic or something, and the very next verse contains these two words: but some. Those two words are then followed by someone(s) critical response to what Jesus just said or emphasized or healed. The But Somes. Do you know these people?
O vast readership of two or three gathered here, please lend me your ears. If you are speaking or teaching or writing or drawing or singing or dancing or preaching or posting, any creative endeavor, and you're seeking to contribute to the spiritual common good, then please, please, prepare thyself for the But Somes. If you've not heard from them yet, they're just getting their rucks in a dow.
The But Somes respond from one center. There are legion of nuances, but all the responses have this in common - the Bible. A response can come as a question: where do you find that in the Bible? or it can come as a teaching statement: well, I'm sure you know that James, chapter 5 clearly reveals something different than what you've suggested. Both nuances indicate the supposed error of your ways, usually voiced with those ever-so-humble-Puss-N-Boots eyes from Shrek.
This, dear reader, is what I call the Bible is Flat theory. Do you recall a guy named Columbus? There is a landscape known as scripture and this landscape has borders, Genesis and Revelation, or two leather covers, maybe even something called orthodoxy. This is where life is lived, where all truth resides. But there are some among us, questers, lovers, dreamers, sangers, dead poets, seekers, knockers, hope-to-finders, who load up the Santa Maria and sail beyond those borders and discover that God's word is round, it has shape and heft and texture and an endless horizon, worlds yet to be discovered. And, we have found, if you sail off the edge, you don't die. The love of God is deeper still...
John 5.39-40 - You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you'll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren't willing to receive from me the life you say you want.
This gravitas scares many folks to death. Little do they know it scares most of us dreamers as well, but we keep on sailing. We've no choice. They cannot imagine anything beyond the flat scripture and the tales we tell, to them, are nothing more than fiction, legend, fairy tale at best. At worst? Well, our tails are toast.
I've seen a But Some draw a person out in a Bible study and cause all eyes to fixate on them and their seeming jello spirituality, immediately sewing the equivalent of a scarlet H, for heretic, on their lapel. I've witnessed pastors do this in a sermon, using phrases like sola scriptura and such. It can get rather loud and messy, if not deadly.
John, please get to the point.
Alright. The heart of this homily is that I pray you learn to guard your heart without resorting to hiding your heart. Trust me, it's a dance. As that sometime theologian Kermit used to say: It's not easy being green. You can respond to the But Somes if you choose; it's always a hard call. I've not known many to be convinced; while I don't believe history repeats itself, it certainly resembles itself quite often. But there are moments, always approached with fear and reverence, when I believe you can and must respond to a But Some comment. You must tell of the dreams you've had, the visions you've seen, the land of milk and honey you've tasted, the hope that is within you, the deep and wide of God. Tell 'em about the rabbits and how it's gonna be -
"'Well,' said George, 'we'll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we'll just say the hell with goin' to work, and we'll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an' listen to the rain comin' down on the roof...'"
-John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men