"Got a minute?" I'd not yet met the young man, but for some reason I knew who he was. The son of a couple who were members of my congregation, he had left the church for another because, in his words, he "wasn't being fed" here. I figured he had come to check out the new pastor (me) to see if anything was going to be different.
We engaged in polite conversation, sort of like boxers who are tentative at first, looking for openings. And advantages. At one point he said, "You know, we have the Truth!" I responded, "Funny thing about the truth is, you have to be willing to let everything you believe to be true be turned upside down in order to find it."
His look said he was curious. And interested. I explained.
"In seminary I had a professor of Old Testament studies that had been one of the first American scholars invited to translate one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Discovered in 1946, they were a discrete library of a Jewish sect that lived communally near the Wadi Qumran in the Jordanian Desert. When the Romans destroyed their community in the late First Century the scrolls were hidden in caves where they remained for almost two thousand years.
When Doctor Sanders arrived in Jerusalem he was given a scroll to translate. It took him two weeks to unroll the scroll, which was about ten feet long. As he began to translate it he realized he was reading what was to be later called Psalm 151."
The young man stared at me for a moment, letting this all sink in, and said, "But, there are only 150 Psalms."
"My point exactly," I replied.
It turns out there are many more psalms that were never included in the scriptural book. Until the discovery of Psalm 151 (You can find it in most study bibles) everyone thought there were only 150. And that was a fact.
The young man and I have been good friends since that day, and whenever we see each other there is a moment when he will look at me and say, "Psalm 151!" A reminder that we are, each one of us, living into a truth that is unfolding, always new and challenging.
Just think how dull it would become if we had all the answers to all the important questions all the time. If we had all the answers then there would be nothing new to learn. Or, worse, we might come to believe there was nothing new to learn.
When Doctor Sanders told us seminarians the story of his discovery of Psalm 151 we were riveted to our seats. You could have heard a pin drop. My heart soared. "Thank you God!" I prayed, "for opening my eyes and ears and heart to your unfolding truth, your continuing challenge to us to be seekers, lovers of knowledge, knowing that we know so little."
That is the the irony for me, the counter-intuitive nature of faith. When we are able to admit that we really know very little, our senses are opened up to a whole new horizon of knowledge, and our notions about truth become richer and even more meaningful. We grow. We become aware of all that was before us, unrecognized until now. And was there all the time.
Patiently waiting. Like a two thousand year old scroll hidden in a cave in the middle of nowhere. Discovered by accident by a Bedouin shepherd trying to get out of an approaching storm. Opened and read by someone who had no idea what he was about to read.
Like Psalm 151.