“…we write to make sense of out of chaos. Through our stories we come to find the patterns in a random universe and from those patterns we find comfort.”

I read that statement this morning as I prepared to write today’s Lenten thought. The author, Laraine Herring, was writing about the importance of curiosity. If the writer approaches the work with the answers firmly in mind, there is no humility, no room for surprise or for something new to emerge.

What if we approached the Bible that way? What if we saw the Bible as a container waiting to be opened rather than a final document to be figured out?

What if the Biblical writers were trying to make sense out of chaos? What if I read it with that perspective?

The creation stories. These were never intended to be scientific or historically accurate descriptions of the beginning of human history. These were stories passed along orally from one generation to the next about the work of God with the people of Israel. The stories were intended to make sense of things, not give factual answers.

Biblical writersThe first five books of the Bible were all about the questions, “Who are we? Where are we going? How will we survive? How are we to live together?” We have the advantage of the documents to read and conclude that it all worked out. Those in the midst of the chaos had no such perspective. They were lost in the wilderness. They had no idea what was ahead.

The same sorts of things can be said about any part of the Bible. The books of history and prophesy are all about searching for order in chaos. Each book poses the questions, “Who are we, how did we get to this place (usually a desperate place), what are we to do now?”

Even the gospels, the stories of Jesus are not merely biographies. These were stories written by the guys who had been with Jesus who later met together and asked, “What the hell happened? This still doesn’t make a lot of sense.” One way to make sense was to tell the story. That’s what we humans do.

What if we read Jesus’ parables and teachings, not as his final understanding of the kingdom of God, but as his emerging understanding? His words take on new meaning if we allow him to be human, to be curious, to learn from his life the way we all should do. If we read his stories as his own attempts to make sense of the world that failed to understand him and was gradually turning against him, we may see something new.

The letters of Paul, Peter, James, and all the rest were clearly their attempts to make sense of things for the sake of their readers. And finally, John’s revelation, that enigmatic final book of the Bible. People continue to interpret this as a factual description of the final days of the world. John was using soaring metaphors to try to make sense of his own world in his final days. Attempts to turn that book into a factual document takes the Bible seriously rather than meaningfully.