Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope_md_cI was privileged to provide a monthly post for Coracle before I became the Uniform (which beginning in 2016 will be Connections, but I’ll write about that later) Curriculum Editor with Smyth & Helwys. Now I write three monthly Coracle posts; in addition to my preexisting column I also write columns offering additional resources for the upcoming Sunday’s Uniform Series lesson. It could be worse; my Assistant Editor Kelley Land, who is an excellent writer in addition to being a fine editor, shares the Uniform blog post writing responsibilities with me so I only produce that column every other week.

The Oak Ridge Boys encouraged us to thank God for kids. I thank God for Kelley.

Up to now, the monthly column that I started before coming to work at Smyth & Helwys and that I have continued since coming here (thanks to Coracle Editor Katie Brookins for allowing me to do so) has had neither a name nor a theme. That changes with this post.

As you can see, the column is now called “Kaleidoscope.” Let me explain why.

Most of us probably had at least one kaleidoscope during our childhood and so we know what one looks like and what it does. It’s a tube with a lens at one end through which someone looks, telescope-style. At the opposite end of the tube is an “object chamber” holding pieces of colored material. There are mirrors (usually three) in the tube. When the viewer looks through the lens and rotates or shakes the tube, light, the shifting colored materials, and the mirrors interact to produce a changing pattern. The resulting images can be quite beautiful.

It’s an interesting phenomenon: one person can look through the lens but, by changing the position of what’s at the other end of the tube, see different patterns and designs, almost of all which are quite pleasing to the eye.

I want to apply the image of a kaleidoscope to our reading of the Bible.

I come to the Bible with certain inescapable realities in play. I am me. I have my genetic makeup. I have my experiences. I have my familial, religious, educational, cultural, vocational, and ethnic backgrounds. I approach the Bible as who I am. My identity is as valuable as anyone’s. My perspective is necessary and even vital. But I am just me. Therefore, my perspective, valid as it is, is inevitably limited.

You also come to the Bible with certain inescapable realities in play. You are you. You have your genetic makeup. You have your experiences. You have your familial, religious, educational, cultural, vocational, and ethnic backgrounds. You approach the Bible as who you are. Your identity is as valuable as anyone’s. Your perspective is necessary and even vital. But you are just you. Therefore, your perspective, valid as it is, is inevitably limited.

So we come to the Bible in the same way and in a different way, simultaneously.

So does everybody else.

It’s really very exciting!

I’d like to suggest a few presuppositions as we use the image of a kaleidoscope to think about our reading of the Bible.

First, each one of us stands in a unique place.

Second, since we are Christian readers of the Bible, the lens through which we read, interpret, and understand it is Jesus Christ. So we use a common lens, even though the uniqueness of our place means that we might look through it differently.

Third, there are lots of ways in which the pieces can fit together, and most of them—maybe even all of them—are beautiful.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit functions like the mirrors in the kaleidoscope. Those mirrors are set at an angle to one another; that positioning combines with the movement of the colored objects to create an infinite number of unique images. Similarly, the Spirit and the biblical text work together with us in our commonalities and differences to shed new light on the Scriptures.

Fifth, our goals in reading the Bible are formation and transformation; we want to be formed in the image of Christ and transformed into the people that God wants us to be. We gain much information in our study of Scripture but the information is a means to the ends of formation and transformation. The mirror of the Spirit and the patterns of the text show us the possibilities for ourselves.

Well, that’s enough to get us started.

I hope you’ll join me next month for the next exciting installment of “Kaleidoscope!”

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra and father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin). A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. You can visit and communicate with him at MichaelRuffin.com. He is the Uniform Series Curriculum Editor.

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