They Related Their Own Experience

 "Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. "

                                                                                                                    Luke 24:35 RSV

My personal favorite Biblical commentaries are the Interpreter's Bible 1952. They look so gray and dusty, but there is no better resource in my library than these books. Here, for example, is what the expositors wrote about Luke 24:35:

They Related Their Own Experience- So Moffatt translates the words they told what had happened. Entirely apart from what it was (in this case) that had happened, the secret of the whole Bible, from cover to cover, is wrapped up in those five words. Moses and Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, none of these men were engaged in speculation, trying to set up some workable philosophy of life: they had been in the places where we have been and found every one tenanted!

I'm intrigued by this proposition, that we need to see the Bible as an ongoing series of people relating their own experience. It seems to me that if those five words are the secret of the whole Bible, then maybe we should pay attention to it.

One of the scary and reassuring truths of story of the Resurrection is that Jesus' friends and followers are not sure that they can trust our own experience, much less the experiences of others. It's something with which I can sympathize. What if we get it wrong? And what if we relate our own experience and people either don't believe us, criticize us, or mock us for our experience? 

The challenge for us -- especially those of us who are called to the ministry of teaching and spiritual formation -- is that we need to be willing to listen: to let people relate their own experience without instantly measuring that against the expected narrative, the proper response. And we need to be willing to relate our own experience, even when it goes outside the lines.

9 Point Problem solutionBecause as I think about the Bible, I begin to see how many times those whom we now know as the founders of our faith, its greatest teachers and leaders, did exactly that -- went against the expected narrative and the proper responses. The only reason we think they're the right responses now is because they are familiar to us. 

The good news in this (among other good news) is that when we relate our own experience, not yet processed, not yet clear about its meaning, not yet sure what really happened, we are not alone. 

One of our sessions, A Mad Dash Through a Good Book, gives an overview of the Bible. Among many other things, one of the points we try to make is that "the Bible is full of people—smart ones, evil ones, courageous ones, honest ones, beautiful ones—and they’re just like the people you know or can imagine." Or like ourselves. And when they are in the middle of things, they have no more clue about what is going on than any of us do today. It is only because they (or someone near to them) related their own experience that we can know anything about it. 

Perhaps one of the lessons of this Easter season for us is to have the courage to relate our own experience to one another, to listen with love and care, and to see how God can be working new things in the world that slip beyond the bounds of what we expect. Who knows what new life might be in store if we do?

[The image above is a solution to the 9 point problem: How do you connect 9 points with only 4 straight lines? The answer: go beyond the end of the points.]