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  • Pastor Ralph

Understanding Context

I used to think that all of Nova Scotia was like Peggy’s Cove: a large bald rock beside the ocean. Living there soon put that notion to rest. Nova Scotia is an absolutely beautiful treed province that presents sharpe, steep shorelines, with protruding rock and sand beaches and absolutely gorgeous scenery. On the Bay of Fundy side, you have the tidal effects that make for incredible scenes and dynamics as the tides go in and out but also present some unique nautical dangers. Living there brought a whole new understanding to the actual topography of the province and the way of life of the residents, especially those in the fishing villages along the Bay of Fundy.

My thoughts have gravitated lately to Digby Nova Scotia and the sinking of the scallop boat/ dragger there. We sometimes hear of these tragic events in central Canada but fail to understand the dynamics that accompany them. Often times fishing is a family affair – often generational in nature so when a boat goes down it can include several generations of the same family. These are tragic events that leave a devastating void in the community for years to come. These communities are deeply knit socially and what affects one family affects them all. I think, in this case, it was not a family business and the men that are missing were not related domestically but certainly related as brothers who made their living from the sea. Scallops are fished all year round, in good weather and in poor weather. It is a dangerous business manned by courageous and hard- working fishermen. My heart and prayers go out to the community of Digby in their tragic loss.

I mention this tragic event today, in part, to highlight the importance of understanding the context in which they take place. By living there, I came to see life first hand and understand what it was all about, especially the dangers of being at sea. It was a truly educational experience for my whole family, living in Nova Scotia, that, I think, made us better people in many ways. We came to understand the culture and how these proud and gracious people lived. It was a culture that highlighted church in community. It was a sad Christmas this year in the province and the local Church (Hillsburn United Baptist Church) was there, amongst others, to bring aid, comfort and care.

To properly interpret the Bible, we also need to understand the context in which these people lived and in which it was written. We cannot go back in time and live there, but we can use many good helps, like Study Bibles, to understand how life unfolded and what the authors had in mind as they wrote. As someone has said, “Context is King.” As we understand the social setting, the historical events that were often transpiring, the language and by grasping the larger picture by looking at the setting of the book and other scripture, we come to a better understanding of what the author intended to say. As the old adage goes “A text without a context is a pretext.” Pastor- teachers can help us explore the context of scripture and encourage us as we seek to understand God’s word.

As we travel through God’s word, may the context be a catalyst in helping us have a smooth and rewarding journey. Please keep the people of Digby Nova Scotia in your prayers and especially those families who have lost loved ones to this disaster at sea.

In a shepherd's love – Pastor Ralph

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