I ran across this essay – Stick Figure Theology – about incredibly simple pictures.
It was pretty much by accident. The church of my childhood had a stand of books for sale. It was mostly various books on hot topics (I think, but none of them were that interesting to an 8 year old). But on that shelf there was one gold bible with pictures. It was the “Good News Bible – Today’s English Version” and if you’ve seen that gold cover and those stick figure drawings you remember it.
While I was memorizing verses in the KJV, our sunday school had a separate book of “scripture to be memorized” that was taken home each week, the first Bible that I asked my Dad to get me was that everyday translation. While I’ve got those UR-texts rattling around in KJV, I’ll be blunt, the Good News is how I understood them. I’d look it up and read it, and then memorize the KJV. And I’d love staring at those pictures. Stark minimalist icons. Pictures of everyman and woman. Pictures that drew me into the story. That put me in the middle of the crowd of witnesses carrying the cross.
The first day I walked into St. Mark’s I saw on the shelf about 10 copies of the Good News. Most of them were black, but a couple had that gold cover. One of the various coincidences that said, “you’re home”. Somewhere in the past there was a member or a pastor who stepped out and said “this is ok, we can understand this”. That was a risky but fundamentally pastoral decision at the time. In our Thursday Bible class there is a member who uses one of them. A member strong in faith. An echo of that long ago – “this is ok”. It is one of the gorgeous things about that class. Most groups, if you don’t have the same translation everything blows up, but that group has multiple translations and still functions.
I’m sure there are some – including Concordia Publishing House who exclusively backs the ESV (the modern equivalent of the KJV) – that would probably be nodding, “well that explains a lot”. And I guess my response would be I guess is does. Because my first understanding of the Word was through the invitation to place myself in it given by those pictures. The Word isn’t read as an academic exercise (although that might be part of it). The disciple reads the Word as the very Word of God…for you…today. Can that be abused? You bet. That is why you read it together with the church. That is why you have called and ordained servants of the word. But the disciple is always trying to become a simple picture. An icon of the love of Christ for this lost world.