"Who's this Herman Neufeld they keep talking about?"

(A cheesey joke about hermeneutics from Katie Funk Wiebe's humour column in the old Gospel Herald, or some such publication. It always gives me a chuckle.)

I've been reminded recently (sorry, can't cite the source) that the books, letters, etc., that comprise the Bible were generally written to communities, and that we also, as readers of the Bible, should receive God's word in community, asking not "what does the Bible say to me?" but "what does the Bible say to us?"

It fascinates me that Christianity bestows great value on individuals, but demands community. Some religions prize the collective to the extent that the individual does not matter at all; others prize certain individuals, but not others. Jesus died for each human being, and Paul tells us no human-constructed category of person has more value than another. Yet, in his prayer in the garden, Jesus' foremost concern for his followers is that they be united -- not merely a bunch of pious individuals, but a group of people transformed by love and working together with each other. Not merely a bunch of individuals who are periodically present in physical space with one another, but differently gifted people who together operate as a body.

What caused me to ruminate on this point at this particular time is the Psalms. Ah, we love the Psalms: so many quotable lines, such comfort they offer us. I think present-day Western Christians love the psalms so much because they are individual. Not all, of course; many were written for corporate worship, but many others are personal cries of joy or anguish or both. The Psalms are about me -- albeit me and God -- and my feelings.

Not that that's so terrible. But do let's keep it in balance. For Psalms is but one among 66. Let's read together; as we study and apply the Word of God, don't forget to invite Herman Neufeld.


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