Marvin Repinski: Sometimes we turn to the Bible

Published 5:12 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

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In writing about Holy Scripture, I begin with a quote from Irving Berlin: “You can’t write a song out of thin air.” 

You have to know and feel what you are writing about. I wish to make a calm claim that I do know, after a lifetime of reading, reflecting, and applying many of the Bible’s directives, that I have become a searching person. That search has been edifying and a source of both comfort and challenge.

There are special verses in the Bible that early in my life, became a reality for me. Possibly it was because of the diligence of my home life — just enough to get by, but with application, kept my parents with five children, away from complete want. We survived! So maybe that’s why the verses in Deuteronomy 10:17-18 became real to me. “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

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Added to this refrain is the experience of Psalm 46:1,5, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble … God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.”

Added to this testimony, one can extend its meaning, recalling the words of Louisa May Alcott: “Far away there in the sunshine, are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”

In his book,” The Bible Makes Sense,” Walter Brueggemann has written: “When we read the Bible we need to learn to pay attention to the understanding of reality which permeates the text … one reason why we read Scripture is so that we may not settle easily for any other notion of life. One of the most important gifts the Bible can give us is a frame of reference for our lives. Given that frame of reference, we are still left with major decisions to make about our world, our freedom, and our responsibility.” 

What is common to most lives, what is proclaimed in so-called “civil religion,” and what is a very present hope is present in the Bible. A study of the following expectations are not foreign to our dreams. We wait and dream for a community of justice, fairness, and truth-telling. The imagery is in some sense, poetic: “the last ones will be first (Luke 13:30).

The dream of the future includes statements like, “the humbled ones will be exalted “ (Luke 14:11), or the promise the hungry ones will be fed (Luke 1:53). The expected future is one in which the ones who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

From the earliest days that preserve the history of people  — often tribes, the Israelites, a promise may be claimed in every period of time. “And I will give them a new heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take away the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh … and they shall be my people.” (Ezekial 11:19-20).

As an illustration of how a human being can evolve from hostility toward the creation and our Creator, bitterness, dishonesty, cruelty, deceit, ungratefulness, revenge, abuse, and a host of other behaviors, the Bible grants us goals and encouragement. Just like Henry Oettinger from Chicago of some years ago, we can apply to his view of a productive, proud and uplifting life.

 “I marched in the Armistice Day parade in 1918. I was six years old. Those were beautiful,

Decoration Day and Armistice Day Civil War veterans. The old boys, were still around;. 

some in wheelchairs. I was the high school orator, I’d give the Gettysburg Address. 

As a kid, I was patriotic with all my strength.”

For this week, a similar recognition of Memorial Day will claim my attention:

In speaking of “turning to the Bible” as I am suggesting, we may note how one person, Wilmer Kindle, responded to a Biblical verse, Hebrews 4:15. It is a bit of autobiography that reveals what insight and strength may be experienced in applying the Scriptures. 

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to

sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one

who in every respect has been tested as we are.”

“As an interracial family, my husband, daughter, and I have definitely known our share of rejection. In fact, if we had ignored the positive in our lives and focused only on the negative, we could have easily become hopeless outcasts; our family could have even been destroyed.”

Jesus also was no stranger to rejection. While he was teaching in his hometown, those who knew him could not see beyond the Jesus whom they knew only as the carpenter, the son of Mary. After Jesus’ arrest, even his followers left him and denied him. Our Lord was mocked, beaten, humiliated, and finally crucified.

Christ understands the pain of rejection, and yet, despite being rejected by so many, he was beloved and fully accepted by God. When we feel rejected by people, we can remember that Christ understands and reaches out to us, reminding us that in God we too are accepted and loved. God’s great love will never let us go.”