Greetings to the Church in Orlando that meets with Seth and Emilie! May the hope of glory increase and overflow from your hearts as you seek the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.
First, I wanted to express how grateful I was for your last letter. Seth's pen was filled with wisdom, and I truly hope that I may hear more from you in the future. You've been a faithful source of encouragement for our family, even though we still reside three thousand miles away. I am indebted to your gift of prayer and encouragement.
I want to relay to you an urgent matter, one that lays heavily upon my heart, ignited through conversations and personal research. Friends, we must understand the importance of oral tradition and scripture. Much of Bible was originally kept safe through community recitations. They memorized the words of God and spoke them to one another throughout the ages. This wasn't merely to preserve the truth of the text. It was also a means of bringing these words into the soul- making them living and active in the community. Before modern times, it was common practice for young men and women of faith to have large chunks of scripture memorized and readily accessible in their minds. These words were their very life and speaking these passages was a pivotal key in their learning, experiencing, and understanding of God.
But then came the invention of the printing press and everything changed. Mass production of literature allowed us instantaneous access to new ideas and old ideas at an alarmingly exponential rate. A lot of good has come from this. Numerous breakthroughs in intellectual discourse and discovery have been made possible due to this advance in information sharing. But unlimited and instantaneous access has also struck a fatal blow to our faith. Today, we can pull a bible off the shelf or download passages from the Internet and so we assume that there is no need to maintain oral traditions and memorization in our own time.
This could not be further from the truth! We do ourselves a great disservice when we allow these words to live on the page instead of within our hearts. If scripture is not being spoken among us and hidden in our hearts, we'll be deprived of its influence. In order for a living and active word to permeate our hearts and minds fully it cannot live solely between a binding or in a data file somewhere. It must be on our tongues and in our thoughts. I urge you therefore; make it your endeavor to keep the words of our Lord flowing continually in and out of your mind and your hearts.
One way to do this is through memorization. Don't simply read the Bible as a book, but seek to engage the word fully by bringing it to life through continual meditation. If we put half as much effort into memorizing the scripture as we do into memorizing the words to our favorite songs and lines from our favorite movies, I think we'd see a different attitude emerging.
Secondly, we miss out on the meaning of words when we merely read them in our private world, cut off from others. The majority of history is filled with community reading. It wasn't only because there weren't enough manuscripts for everyone to have a copy. There is something about actually hearing words, aloud, in the midst of community that makes them fuller and more meaningful to us than when we read them alone. It's the difference between reading a poem and hearing a poet voice his prose aloud. It's the difference between reading a play and seeing it performed in the company of friends.
To sum up, I'd point you toward a quote from the Talmud. The Talmud was second only to scripture, considered an operating guide of sorts for interpretation and worship. The instructions are as follows: "a person should complete his portions of scripture along with the community, reading the scripture twice and the targum once." (for further instruction on the use of targum, please consider Seth's insight or instruction from another elder in your community)
Friends, another issue that is weighing heavily on my heart is the economy. In my last letter, I urged you to rely on God's provision through relationship with one another rather than seeking refuge in the kingdoms of this world. Recently, we've seen one of these kingdoms fail- the kingdom of finance. Unfortunately, our lives are intertwined with the economic systems, and so I wanted to take a moment to speak candidly about money.
Above all, please remember that although the markets may sway us, effecting where and how we work, they are trifles. Wealth does nothing for our soul and nothing for our mind. Our foundation and our salvation are found solely in Christ- not in financial stability. So, even if the economy collapses and the housing market shrivels, even if we lose everything we own, we are Christ's. He is Lord in good times, and bad, in rich times, and poor. The marriage vows He makes to His bride are not contingent upon the economy or the banks or government bailouts. He is our kinsman redeemer and He will care for us fully, just as He cares for every flower and every bird.
But do not misunderstand me, this trusting-in-God-to-provide does not mean that we should foolishly quit our jobs or be negligent with the resources that are given to us by His grace. Let no man deceive you into believing that it's a good idea to spend ruthlessly or make rash decisions about your employment. If you have a job, keep it. For God has not called us to idleness. In fact, many of God's servants spent their lives in seemingly "worldly" occupations. Christ Himself was a carpenter and his disciples were fishermen and tax collectors. Moses tended sheep. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did too (so did David until God called him to be a warrior-king). Joseph was a slave and later, an administrator. Paul made tents. So, employment is not to be despised. Rather, we should see it as a means that God uses to provide for His people.
In the same way, do not be foolish with your spending. In practical terms, do this- make an account of your income and what you spend. Then, do your best to spend less than what you make. And pay back your debts as quickly as you can, too. For those who are burdened with debt are never free to drop everything and do God's bidding. They are under obligation to the one who lent to them. Now, this is not to say that you should never take on debt, for there is certainly nothing inherently wrong or even evil with borrowing. But, avoid debt when you can, and especially avoid borrowing for things that have diminishing return. Let no one run up bill for trivialities that have no lasting significance or meaning.
One more thing before I end this letter- we live in a society that is wrought with consumption. Curb these urges at all cost.
Pray for us as we explore our future for we eagerly desire to return to Orlando. Pray also for one another, that you will seek out new ways to be Christ to the people who live in community with you.
Faith, Hope, and Love be yours in abundance, Nathan Key