First United Methodist Church, Lewistown, PA 17044  ~  717-248-4618   ~  fumc200@outlook.com

Good Advice

September 22, 2018

    For many reading this, we can remember the scene in Indiana Jones, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when he tossed the date into the air ready to catch it, chew it up, and swallow it.  Instinctively, his friend Sallah, reached out and snatched the date our of the air as he watched the monkey die from poisoned dates. With a startled look on his face, Jones looked at his friend and heard him say, "Bad dates."

    Our lives are always bombarded with information. Some information is good, vetted, and able to be trusted.  Other information is often piecemeal, not verified, and can lead to heartache. Case in point the other day.  I was hiking the 1,000 Steps over in Huntingdon county on my day off and happened to meet Reeny and Chris who were there hiking the steps for the first time. 

    The sisters had already been on the steps for about ten minutes when I arrived and caught up with them around the 275 step level.  They were both sitting on a large rock, winded, and resting.  I arrived and they offered greetings. They mentioned the struggle they were experiencing and how they had, on a whim, decided to hike the steps. They did what most people would do, they googled the steps and sure enough , there was a person who said the steps could be navigated easily in around 15 minutes. (I've been hiking the steps for some time and it hurries me to finish the steps in 15 minutes and that is without stopping.)

    The sisters seeing the 15 minute hike time decided they didn't need any hydration and came from a distance to complete the climb.  Now ten minutes into their adventure, they were questioning their decision and the advice given on Google. They jokingly asked if I would share my hydration bottle with them. I said I had already used it and community water bottles would be a little weird. They laughed. I laughed.  I remembered I had a smaller container of coconut water in my backpack. I offered it to them and they gladly received the gift.

    We chatted and shared a little of our lives with each other. I mentioned my personal best up the steps was around 14:55 and that I had been hiking them for some time.  They then mentioned the misleading information on Google for the second time and commented that whoever had posted that info was not considering novice hikers or those who have never hiked the steps.

    In this case, the sisters were sort of in a bind having brought no form of hydration. They had based their decision on the 15 minute hike time. How hard could it be?  1,037 steps in 15 minutes seemed like a hitch. Unfortunately, the Google information didn't mention the 700 foot elevation change in less than a half mile.

    Long story short, the sisters continued upward, sharing the coconut water, reached the summit about 10 minutes behind me, and got to enjoy the views of the mountain and valley below. This episode got me to thinking about information and how it can be either solid and or misleading.

    Holy scripture can be interpreted in many ways. Doing so without strenuous work on our part can lead to misinformation. We were always trained to never make scripture say something that God didn't say in the first place. Ideally and more correctly, we begin with the original text and work outward from that point. Relying on the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, we ask questions like, "Can we know the author? Who was the audience?  What was the message God was delivering?  How did the audience receive it?  Can we apply the text message to our own current situation?

    "But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be

    led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches

    a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you

    received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough."                    

    (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, NIV)

Scripture, much like information on the internet, carries the potential to be good, vetted, and helpful.  Or, these two sources of information can be blunted, misrepresented, and or the cause of heartache.  The tipping point for information and how we deal with the good and bad of it, depends on how much work and digging we want to invest into it. 

    For Reeny and Chris, they simply relied on the post of an avid hiker. What he shared was fine for those who are always running, hiking, and in fair physical health.  Perhaps several points of rating from multiple hikers might have been a better approach. Or better yet, they could have contacted the PA Game Commission and or the State Park system to seek hiking information.

     How do you use holy scripture?  Where do you get discernment about what scripture is trying to accomplish and how it is used to inform?  Does the occasional TV drama or sitcom formulate your ideas of holy scripture. Maybe you watched a big screen movie once that was loosely based upon the Bible.  

    Carefully navigating steep steps or ancient texts will require some due diligence on our part to discern and identify possible issues.  A person who has walked the steps before or studied the texts can be a good resource as well. Where are you journeying today?  Prepare. Enjoy. Share you coconut water.

 

A Musing Pastor

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