The Bible in just six words

Hemingway’s “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” is the most famous six word story, but others have also tried to tell an entire story in just six words:
“Hmm, that’s new,” the doctor said.
Python eats porcupine. Regrets it later.
Convicted hacker escapes using hidden file.
Only child, but never the favorite.
My headstone was a participation trophy.

What if we tried to tell the stories in the Bible with only six words?
God makes good stuff really fast. (Genesis 1)
Sly snake. Sneaky woman. Stupid man. (Genesis 2-3)
Should have created more brotherly love. (Genesis 4)
Rain. Boat. Animals. Noah gets drunk. (Genesis 6-8)
Tall tower falls. No United Nations. (Genesis 11)
Abraham leaves for God knows where. (Genesis 12)
Isaac starts to hate Father’s Day. (Genesis 22)
Momma’s boy tricks slow big brother. (Genesis 27)
Climbing Jacob’s ladder makes great song. (Genesis 28)
Jacob is, surprisingly, a big-time wrestler. (Genesis 32)
Joseph dreams, tells brothers, road trip. (Genesis 37)
Potiphar’s wife acts like desperate housewife. (Genesis 39)
Pharaoh’s dream gets Joseph early parole. (Genesis 41)
Baby in boat. Questionable parenting decision. (Exodus 2)
Blood. Frogs. Gnats. Flies. Six more. (Exodus 7-12)
Charlton Heston parts the Red Sea. (Exodus 14)
Ten things you should not do. (Exodus 20)
Aaron learns to make golden calf. (Exodus 32)
Ikea style instructions for a tabernacle. (Exodus 35-40)
Ten cowardly spies. Two James Bonds. (Numbers 13-14)
Poisonous serpents. Bronze pole. Confused commentators. (Numbers 21)
Talking donkey smarter than the preacher. (Numbers 22-24)
How’d they know where Rahab lived? (Joshua 2)
Jericho’s thin walls can’t handle trumpets. (Joshua 6)
Sun stands still. Explain that, Copernicus. (Joshua 10)
Samson becomes argument for long hair. (Judges 13-16)
Cute foreigner seduces rich old farmer. (Ruth)
King Saul is candidate for recall. (1 Samuel 16)
David doesn’t need a ten-foot pole. (1 Samuel 17)
David and Jonathan, Batman and Robin. (1 Samuel 18)
King David dances in his skivvies. (2 Samuel 6)
Absalom’s hair gets him hung up. (2 Samuel 18)
Solomon passes on cash, chooses wisdom. (1 Kings 3)
Solomon says, “Cut the baby!” “No!” (1 Kings 3)
Ahab marries Jezebel, should’ve dated more. (1 Kings 16-22)
Elijah sets off big fireworks display. (1 Kings 18)
Dogs lick up Ahab’s blood, yuck. (1 Kings 22)
Elijah takes fast and furious chariot. (2 Kings 2)
Naaman bathes in muddy river, spotless! (2 Kings 5)
Beauty pageant winner takes down anti-semite. (Esther)
Job’s wife gets raw deal, too. (Job)
Daniel refuses meat. Lions refuse Daniel. (Daniel 1-6)
Whale eats upsetting prophet, throws up. (Jonah)
Christmas: only cold day in Bible. (Luke 2)
King Herod has no Christmas spirit. (Matthew 2)
Simeon stops looking for blue blankets. (Luke 2)
Twelve-year-old Jesus gets lost at church. (Luke 2)
John the Baptist, Willie Nelson’s haircut. (Matthew 3)
Jesus gets baptized. Father attends ceremony. (Matthew 3)
Satan tempts Jesus with temple bungee-jump. (Matthew 4)
Jesus calls, Zebedee loses free labor. (Matthew 4)
Jesus heals mother-in-law, son-in-law mostly relieved. (Matthew 4)
Nazareth congregation unhappy with the preacher. (Luke 4)
Blessed are the who? For sure? (Matthew 5)
Jesus suggests fasting, church potlucks nonetheless. (Matthew 6)
Jesus tells storm to shut up. (Mark 4)
Jesus brings Sauvignon Blanc to party. (John 2)
Nic at Night, prominent minister flummoxed. (John 3)
Jesus takes a little boy’s lunch. (John 6)
Adulterous woman caught, where’s the man? (John 8)
Jesus walks on water. Don’t try. (Matthew 14)
Good Samaritan makes priest look bad. (Luke 10)
Fatted calf wishes prodigal stayed away. (Luke 15)
Lazarus waves at wealthy weenie in hell. (Luke 16)
Leper comes back, provides Thanksgiving text. (Luke 17)
Sycamore tree in Jericho becomes famous. (Luke 19)
Jesus misses Lazarus’ funeral, makes amends. (John 11)
Jesus rides donkey, but crowds cheer. (Luke 19)
Jesus curses defenseless fig tree, huh? (Mark 11)
Jesus ruins stewardship day at temple. (Matthew 21)
Widow’s two pennies, stewardship day saved. (Matthew 23)
Jesus washes feet, doesn’t catch on. (John 13)
Peter promises to be brave, fails. (Matthew 26)
Jesus promises the cross, then delivers. (Matthew 27)
Men hide, women go to tomb. (Luke 24)
Christ is risen, is risen indeed! (Luke 24)
Spirit interrupts first church business meeting. (Acts 2)
Stephen should have rotated off diaconate. (Acts 6-7)
Fire-breathing Saul knocked off high horse. (Acts 9)
Paul in prison: favorite hymn night. (Acts 16)
Old Jerusalem done, New Jerusalem upgrade. (Revelation 21-22)

What if we try to sum up the whole Bible in six words?
We mess up. God loves anyway.

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Christian Flag Breaking

An excited patriot handed me one of those ten inch flags that you stick into your lawn on July 4th . The plastic red, white, and blue was intact, but the pole that once held it together was broken three stripes from the top. I did not ask for an unbroken one. I do not like flags.

I grew up in small towns in Mississippi where confederate flags flew in front of church-sponsored all white private schools. When I became the pastor of a country church I hid the American flag in the basement, but it miraculously made its way back to the sanctuary in time for Vacation Bible School. The children pledged to “the republic for which it stands,” as well as to the Christian flag “and the kingdom for which it stands.” The words ran together.

We saluted these flags because everyone on our side saluted these flags. No matter how much well-meaning people want to pretend otherwise, flags say, “I am this, and if you’re not, then you can go to hell.” If you do not think that is true, try to imagine an Alabama fan with an Auburn flag on the pick-up, a U.S. presidential candidate wearing an Iraqi flag lapel pin, or the Mexican flag flying over Trump Tower. Half of the point of a flag is to let people know they are not part of the group.

Rudyard Kipling’s poem, We and They closes with a stanza that could have been about flags:

All good people agree, and all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We and everyone else is They

But if you cross over the sea, instead of over the way,

You may end by (think of it!) looking on We as only a sort of They!

I do not like flags, except for the broken one I was given. A broken flag says that we, like they, are not all we should be. The broken flag has lost its sense of superiority. The broken flag says “I am cracked, wrecked, smashed, shattered, and fragmented just like whatever I might represent.”

The broken flag is contrite. We should break all our flags—maybe three stripes from the top. Breaking our flags would turn a symbol of power into an act of repentance. The pledge to a broken flag might include a more honest “not with liberty and justice for all, but with that hope calling us to change.” We could skip “one nation under God” which must make God’s eyes roll anyway.

We should make flags with flaws, like Navajo weavers who put an imperfection in each rug as a “Spirit line,” a break in the border to allow the Spirit to be free and a reminder that all of creation is flawed.

On July 10, South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia, because that flag is more than broken; it is evil beyond reclaiming. What makes me pause is that as the color guard removed the flag, the crowd chanted “U.S.A.” as though the hockey team had just beaten the Russians. This occasion to confess the racism that pervades our country may have been, for some, yet another moment of triumphalism, us defeating them.

The United States Flag Code states that when a flag is worn or damaged it should “be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” Directions are given on how to fold the flag and how big the fire should be, and suggests reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as the flag burns.

Instead of disposing of torn and tattered flags we should run them up the flagpole and see who salutes. The broken flags are the ones we need to keep.

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