Are you interested in seeing how the Bible can be important and meaningful even for those of us who do not believe?
Glenn Siepert is one of our Blog Volunteers, who provides graphics for our public posts; he has just published a very interesting book for which I wrote a blurb (endorsement) for the cover. Glenn Siepert has an interesting background and story to tell, and he uses his book to help others think about their own stories in light of the biblical narratives, showing how this is a crucially important way to read the Bible – even for those who don’t (or no longer) believe in its literal truth.
Glenn’s moving book is called Emerging from the Rubble: Thirty Stories about Grief, Shattered Dreams, Broken Relationships, and Finding the Courage to Keep Going. I’ve asked Glenn to provide us some blog posts explaining the book and its background in his own life. Here’s the first:
A little about me – I grew up in the world of Christian Fundamentalism. How “fundy” was I, you ask? One time I got a huge piece of paper from the local butcher (you know, that brownish paper that comes on a gigantic roll that they use to wrap up steaks, hamburgers, and chicken) and I taped it to my wall so that I could chart out the End Times.
Yup – I was “butcher-paper-on-the-wall-homemade-end-times-chart”-fundy.
Anyways, as a Fundamentalist I believed the Bible to be inerrant, infallible, perfect – all the things – while books by guys (never women) like Josh McDowell, Wayne Grudem, and Tim LaHaye filled my shelves and my brain. For me, the Bible was not just a guidebook for my life, but a weapon that I was called to wield against anyone who dared push back on “our” kind of Christianity.
I’ve since left Fundamentalism behind (amen) and have exchanged my McDowell, Grudem, and LaHaye books for ones by people like Bart Ehrman, Diana Butler Bass, Brian McLaren, and others. Although I still consider myself a Christian of some sort, I no longer see the Bible as the inerrant and perfect “Word of God”, but rather as a collection of ancient texts that (for some mysteriously fascinating reason) have endured the test of time to find a home on many of our bookshelves today.
Why have these texts endured time? Why have they found relevancy in the lives of so many people throughout history? Why do they continue to captivate people who are 2,000+ years removed from their context? How might they have spoken to their original audience? How might they speak to us today?
These are the kinds of questions that I think about on most days and they are the kinds of questions that lay the foundation for my book, “Emerging From the Rubble”.
I started writing the book in January 2022 shortly after my father was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer and I finished it about 2 months after he passed away in March 2023. What’s the book about? It’s an exploration of various stories from the Gospel of Matthew where we assume that his original audience was the Messianic Jews who were living in Antioch in the wake of Rome’s destruction of their Temple – the very center of the Jewish universe – and then wonder (if that’s the case) how that audience might have received those stories.
Is that who his audience was?
Were those his original readers/listeners?
I have no idea. No one does, really. Right? None of us were there and so we can’t know with 100% certainty. We can make guesses, though; and we can look to scholarship where we find some support that these may have been the people that Matthew’s Gospel was written to.
And so IF this was his audience then my mind begins to race with all sorts of questions – why did Matthew choose to tell this set of stories? And why did he tell them so differently than Mark, Luke, and John told their stories? And how might his readers who had recently lost their Temple have received these stories?
The reality is that the writer of Matthew’s Gospel wasn’t out to give us 2023 readers a play by play of the life of Jesus. Nor (I’d argue) was he out to give his original readers a play by play of Jesus’ life. Instead, I think, he was writing to a specific group of people who found themselves in the midst of a specific set of circumstances to give them a specific kind of teaching.
The assumption I’m making then is that Matthew was writing to challenge this community and encourage them to grieve their loss and then stand up amidst the rubble, brush off the dust and the ash, and find the courage to take a step forward all the while being mindful of the Way of Jesus.
What would it look like for them to move forward without the Temple? What would it look like for them to move forward apart from their Mother Tradition that didn’t honor Jesus as the Messiah? What would it look like to start anew, some 300 miles away from Jerusalem? How would they move forward?
The idea of my book is for us to get in touch with OUR fallen Temples, the centers of our universes that have been met with destruction (divorce, death, loss, a positive test result, the end of a season of life, etc.) and wonder how we might receive Matthew’s stories in the context of our own universe imploding moments.
My collapsed Temple is the death of my father; and the 15-months or so that our family watched him suffer was an onslaught of horror that I knew would inevitably land me in a pile of rubble that would cause me to wonder how on earth I’d ever find the strength or courage to move forward. As his diagnosis worsened, it felt like a giant meteor was hurtling towards my life – I saw it coming, I knew it was getting closer, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it.
The morning that he passed away was the moment that the meteor struck the Temple and the whole thing came down. My mom called me at 2am on March 5 and asked me to get to the ER as quickly as I could and after a couple of hours of being there I watched him take his last breath while he held my hand and my mom’s hand.
For me, the Bible is important during these universe imploding moments not because it’s “God’s words to me” or because it can tell me what to do or how to make it through, but because it has a mysterious knack for helping me see things I didn’t see before as I read stories penned by living, breathing people who experienced losses similar to my own.
The genealogy of Jesus? The temptations of Jesus? The story of the rich ruler?
If these stories (and more) were written to encourage and/or challenge a group of people who had lost what mattered most to them … how might they do the same for me as I face the loss of someone who mattered so deeply to me?
This book means the world to me and so I hope you’ll pick one up. All the links to the book and my work are below, I’d love to connect with you.
Over the next couple of posts I’ll share some excerpts from the book to give you a taste of what you might expect.
CONNECT WITH ME:
Emerging From the Rubble: https://www.amazon.com/Emerging-Rubble-Stories-Shattered-Relationships/dp/B0C7T5TJD4/ref=sr_1_1?crid=17S7I6ZHPHNKL&keywords=emerging+from+the+rubble&qid=1687121837&sprefix=%2Caps%2C231&sr=8-1
What If Project: https://www.whatifproject.net
Email (I will answer!): [email protected]
 I consider myself more of a mystical type of Christian. In other words, I steer clear of definitive answers, embrace questions, am fascinated by the Jesus story, and think the Scriptures (those in the Bible and those not in the Bible) are meant to inspire wonder and awe as opposed to win arguments and/or tell us how to live our lives.
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