Really, Really Old Stories
I have a friend from Toastmasters, Sheila who is a professional speaker. In presentations in our club she can hit me right between the eyes in 5 minutes. She got this idea that we would be better off in our smallish city of Fredericksburg, Texas, if we had a project to read the Bible from Genesis through Revelation out loud, in several locations around the city, in the days preceding Easter. She uses a very efficient sign up program to get a lot of people to volunteer to participate. I did this last year, so this time I signed up early to get my favorite spot in town: Cross Mountain. It sits at the north side of the city and is now a park. My border collies poke their noses at me at sunrise and sunset every day, prodding me toward a walk there. The story is that a German pioneer found a wooden cross on the mountain in 1847, presumed to have been erected by the Spanish hundreds of years before. About 40 years ago a local welder fabricated a steel cross on top of the 120 foot tall hill. My assignment was to read Genesis 15-26 on Cross Mountain. I went up the mountain not long after sunrise with a copy of the Bible (RSV) given to me by my father on my 7th birthday. I actually remember receiving it. (I am a preacher’s kid, a PK).
I don’t read the Old Testament much; from my point of view as a (progressive?) Christian, it is not relevant. But I have a lot of friends who have found real value in those ancient books. The story was wild and wooly, including sex, incest, greed, lust, animal sacrifice, people showing up to speak for God (angels?), and real estate transactions. I wondered how much of this story really happened. It was likely passed down in an oral tradition before being written down several thousand years ago in a language now only understood by scholars. A few years ago I read a translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh in a book by Thomas Cahill, which was very difficult to wrap my mind around. Genesis is not like that – the story is easy to understand, the people even seem real, the themes are familiar.
You have to get past the style and the lists of children to begin to get a sense of the story. Now I can see why a screen writer would want to tackle the story of Noah. They are people we can understand engaged in struggles we can appreciate. When I finish my current writing project, maybe I’ll take one of these stories and put it in a modern setting.
Do I believe that what I read this morning really happened? I doubt it, but I don’t care. What interests me is that it was written in a time long, long ago, when the earth was fresh, and civilization was new. What do I care about? The four Gospels later in the volume. The Beatitudes. Matthew 25:36.