The compost pile called the Bible

I recently listened to an episode of the podcast “The Bible for Normal People” in which they interviewed Walter Brueggemann. At a point in the discourse, Walter referred to the Bible as a “compost pile.”

 

At first this may come off as an offensive statement to anyone who holds the Bible to have authority and worth.

 

But I think it might of been the best description of the Bible I’ve ever heard.

 

According to dictionary.com, compost is defined as “a mixture of various decaying organic substances, as dead leaves or manure, used for fertilizing soil.

 

When it comes to composting the important aspect isn’t so much what you put into the pile, as long as it is organic. But the real impact of it has to do with what it is used to fertilize.

 

Both thistles and flowers grow better when fertilized.

 

The impact of composting is not about what goes into the pile. It is about what results.

 

Now, in the case of the Bible, the issue shouldn’t be as much what stories, myths, or facts are present within the text as long as they are authentic. When I say authentic, I don’t mean necessarily true, although it could be that. Rather, I am referring to the author trying to reveal something true about his or her experience of the world, of God.

 

Authentically a believer.

 

Authentically a non-believer.

 

Authentically happy.

 

Authentically angry.

 

Authentically atheist.

 

Authentically doubtful.

 

Authentically arrogant.

 

Authentically joyful.

 

It doesn’t matter so much what they are openly and honestly trying to get across but rather that they are open and honest.

 

God is openness. God is honesty.

 

I’m sure I’ve written it before on this blog, but I am not taken with the Bible because I believe it happened thousands of years ago. I read the Bible because I believe it is happening now.

 

The abuse of power.

 

The neglect for the poor.

 

The deification of certainty.

 

All of these things can be seen (pretty easily I might add) in our lives today.

 

So, for me, the Bible is a compost pile of authentic stories, written by real people, at real times, about some real experiences of this life, some experiences of God that they are trying to communicate to others.

 

Just as a compost pile is foul and offensive to smell, the Bible can be offensive to read. There are stories that definitely should cause us to be angry, to doubt, to question, to contemplate, and to grow.

 

And that is the key.

 

The Bible should cause us to grow.

 

But just as compost can fertilize thistles, so can the Bible be used to inseminate hate, anger, injustice, greed, racism, blindness, and fear.

 

Yet, that same fertilizer causes flowers to grow and bloom.

 

It can bring forth plants that bear delicious fruit.

 

It can bring life and life to full when used to fertilize the right ideas.

 

I personally believe the compost pile that is the Bible is made up of stories, poems, and myths that, although they seem outdated and foul to some, hold the potential to bring new life to this world.

 

They hold the potential to evoke mercy and inspire grace.

 

When implemented properly, they have the vital nutrients for feeding peace and growing love.

Sometimes…

Sometimes the first candle doesn’t light.

The wax has built up over the wick, depriving it of oxygen. 

Sometimes the first shot misses the target.

The mark was in view but the shooter unskilled or confused. 

Sometimes what was thought to be, isn’t.

The data extinguishes the belief, the belief revealed as insecurity.

Sometimes in a crowd of many, one can’t be. 

The ignition of the others is the darkness of the one.

Sometimes we force it.

The force is met with opposition and pressure.

Sometimes what is needed most is to not be needed at all. 

The expectation of the other crushes the will of the self. 

Sometimes forgiveness comes before a fall and sin before elation. 

The grace of the moment is the judgement of all.

Sometimes the practice kills the performance. 

The masks of shame and guilt removed. 

Sometimes justification comes by death. 

The loss of that which was held as essential, viewed as sacred. 

Sometimes the clouds part to reveal an empty sky. 

The security of knowledge is the sin of the certain. 

Sometimes authenticity is found in a lie. 

The truth is the enemy of the deceived soul. 

Sometimes the need is met with the void. 

The contemplation of deprivation creates the abundance. 

Sometimes the first candle doesn’t light. 

An effort wasted,

A bitterness tasted.

But there hope lies, just to the right. 

In its purest form

Murdering a man for the sins of many doesn’t seem like justice. 

Yet, one man taking on the punishment owed to many others is grace in its purest form. 

Love in its purest form. 

Christ in its purest form. 

God in its purest form. 

To have faith in Jesus is to have faith that even when the punishment is death, love is the only way forward, love is the purest action, the purest motive, Christ in action, the manisfestion of God. 

This is the leap, the jump in consciousness that Jesus brought forth for humanity and is that which we are still struggling to find. 

Redemptive violence is too tempting. 

Too easy. 

Too easily excused with the word “justice.”

But while there exists someone who will choose to take advantage of another’s grace, we will continue to crucify Christ. 

We will justify our violence. 

Yet, the only justification we need, we have always had. 

Through grace we have been justified. 

Through grace we are granted our innocence. 

Through grace and mercy love will emerge, the myth of redemptive violence will be dismissed for the lie that it is and peace will be its successor. 

In its purest form:

Grace and Mercy. Love and Peace. 

It’s just not that complicated

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:5-6

 

I could stop right here and leave this passage to speak for itself. How often do we overthink, over analyze, perhaps even over do the “rituals” or “commands” of our faith? How often are we focused on the aesthetics or whether or not we are acting in the “right way”? When, really, what we see as the thing that God cares about is the way we treat our neighbor. In this passage God does not even mention what we traditionally think of as fasting, He simply implores the reader to speak out against injustice and break the yokes keeping people oppressed and enslaved. It has nothing to do with acting “humble” or performing a ritual correctly. Are you helping to lift the burden of others?

In Matthew 11:30 Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” And then in Mark 12:30 we have Jesus summing up all of the Law and the Prophets with this, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength.” Jesus then finishes with this in Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We make things so complicated and live in anguish analyzing whether or not we are doing what God wants or what his plan is for us. It’s just not that complicated.

Love yourself.

Know that you are worthy.

You are enough.

You belong.

Then spread that knowledge, that love, to everyone you encounter.

Stand up for the weak, give a voice to the voiceless, carry others burdens. I would say that he or she who understands this understands salvation and in fact has it. God desires mercy not sacrifice. This is what it means to die to yourself. This is what it means to live a “Godly” life. This is how we pursue God in our relationships.

And this is not all about literal slaves or people oppressed by systems and governments, although it is certainly that. But we are afflicted and oppressed by many things. We are oppressed by thoughts of inadequacy, we are afflicted by a pursuit of pleasure that will inevitably end in brokenness and hurt. We are oppressed by religion when it tells us we are not good enough, that we are hopeless, broken, or evil at our core. If religion will not make known to us the Truth of our being, then we must find other ways. For we were created good in the image of God, therefore, what is true about God is also true about us. What we believe about God will be evidenced in us.

When we choose to believe that God is Love and Love is for us, all of these things will follow that revelation.

 

Grace and Mercy ⇒ Love and Peace