July 2011: Inspiration: it’s a dangerous thing!

Earlier on I was looking at the story of Naaman, a foreign army commander who comes to the prophet Elisha in 1 Kings 5. Naaman was looking for healing, and found new faith with it; he then takes what he has found back to his native land, including some of the soil so that he can practice his new faith even there. There are many layers in the story; but out of ancient time it speaks to me urgently today of commitment, of gratitude, of following the path of Jesus amidst a world that decries faith, and of a God who cares about all people - enemies or not. It is a story that inspires me.

Looking back over my life, there are people who stand out at various times because they inspired me to do something - to try harder, change course, or look at myself. Inspiration comes in many guises. To inspire originally meant to ‘breathe into’, or ‘give life to’. Christians talk about the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; this means that we believe God ‘gives life to’ the message of the various books of the Bible, through the Holy Spirit - and the original meaning of ‘Spirit’ was ‘breath’, or ‘wind’. God breathes life into the books of the Bible. This does not mean that it is dictated, word for word! Rather, it means that God breathed life into the stories, chronicles, laws, poems, songs, visions, and all the rest that we find there. More, it means that God did this for those who originally made note of what happened, for those who compiled words and notes into books, for those who edited books to make them make sense for later audiences, for those who assembled ancient manuscripts and copied it all out again, for those who chose which of the often-flawed copies to follow in later times, and for those who translated it all again and again! And God still breathes life into the books for us today as we encounter Him in the text again and again, and respond with our lives. It’s all inspiring! Even the genealogies have purpose and meaning, once we have our eyes opened.

And so the story of an almost-forgotten army general nearly three thousand years ago can inspire us today, as we reflect on what happened in the story and what happens for us today, as believers amidst a world of disbelief. We find resonances between the story and our lives, and we hear a message for us, amidst the ancient words. The message breathes life into us, and this is a dangerous thing - for it is God’s message for us, here, today, and it changes us. We don’t like change! Yet the message of the Bible inspires people to ask questions, to challenge assumptions, to seek that which sustains the universe and brings new life, to examine human nature, and to recognise the one who has opened the way for us; and it invites us to open our eyes and respond from our hearts and souls. Oh yes, it is dangerously inspired. Dare you hear it?

If you’d like to talk about this, or similar matters, come along to our Sunday evening gatherings (7-8pm) or on a Wednesday evening (Around Arthur's Table, 6.30pm-8pm). You are not alone.

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.