May the words of my mouth and the mediations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
A Story is told of a young couple who went on honeymoon and due to a flight delay arrived at their hotel in the early hours of the morning
when they eventually woke they complained to the manager that their room was ridiculously small, had no windows and was furnished by a single bed settee. Having booked a honeymoon suite they’d been given a box room.
The manager accompanied them upstairs and asked if they had noticed the double doors, which the couple assumed was a wardrobe. He opened them to reveal a sumptuous room complete with four‐poster bed, a balcony with a sea view, flowers and bottle of champagne in an ice bucket. Mr and Mrs Glum had spent their wedding night in the lobby of the best suite in the best hotel in the country.
It can be the same with our Bible if we have never effectively sat down and read it properly. we might have experienced a few of the stories or books but never explored beyond what was sunday school stories we we taught in our youth. We haven’t discovered the treasures of the whole of scripture - of this book which sits on our book shelves
We might look at the Bible as a big heavy tombe that seems in-accessible to the ordinary person but actually there are many, many tools we have access to today which break to the Bible down into managable chunks, lots of Bible reading notes, lots of courses, lots of books which help explain what is going on in the passage.
In church here there are sets of Bible reading notes which you can sign up for, in any of the christian book shops there are many sets of notes which you can use - wether you are starting off, going deeper into the Bible. We all need help - so ask for it.
In this parish we have our Parish Bible Study to discuss the Bible each wednesday evening. Myself and the rector are also happy to chat to people, to share resources which we have found helpful - I know in my study there are many books which have helped me in terms of apply the Bible text to various situations I have found myself in over the years.
As I have chatted to parishioners over the years both in this parish and also other parishes - I have heard the comment that they find the bible difficult to understand in terms of Language it uses. As I have chatted to them I have discovered they have been using an older translation of Scripture. If you are interested in reading the Bible - why not treat yourself to a modern translation with study notes included. Some of these have maps and modern links included in them.
Recent surveys highlight that there are difficulties in reading scripture
27% of churchgoers say they read the Bible at least once per week outside of church attendance.
57% of church goers believe the Bible should shape their daily life ‘a great deal’.
In the Lord’s prayer we pray - give us today our daily bread - that bread is of course physical provision but it is also much more - it is the spiritual food. We sit down and have meals what importance are we placing in the spiritual food of Bible reading?
Whilst I was growing up my home rector used to quote a chinese parable - a Book unopened is but a block of paper. Are we content in leaving the Bible unopened? or are going to try and step into the Bible as source of wisdom, as a rule to apply to our lives, of getting into an adventure of discovering who God is and how he can use each one of us?
Remind yourself that the Bible is a Library of books - different writings, written over a considerable period of time
Why not set yourself a challenge over the next while and begin to read a book of the Bible. Perhaps begin with a epistle or gospel, perhaps read some of the psalms. If you need help ask us or any friends you know who are reading.
Nike has a great slogan - just do it - On this Bible Sunday why not commit this week to open your Bible and start reading a wee bit over breakfast, at coffee break, over lunch time or whenever suits in your day.
As I conclude we remind ourselves why we read the Bible at all .... from our epsitle reading today ... “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
The first and greatest commandment as Jesus told his followers. At each Holy communion service we revisit it - But it is a complete challenge to us today - it is saying that we need to place God as number one in our heart (that is the seat of our emotions, our soul deepest part of us and our mind - that is our intellect, the part that does the thinking).
This evening, being Bible Sunday I would like to think about our Scriptures as having an impact on our whole selves, not just on our heart, not just on our mind, not just on our souls but on every single part of us intertwined
We can read the Bible as we do a newspaper - nice stories but no impact, we could read them as a piece of ancient literature - studying it with our intellect as we would any other historical text - but the words not going deep into us, not apply the truths to our lives, or we can read the stories of scripture as things to make us happy - a set of spiritual writings taken straight off the page - but not actually making any impact on our minds, not asking any questions of the text. None of these should sit contently for us as Christians.
How should we read the Bible so that we satisfy our whole selves? Mind, soul and heart - Each passage we read should cause us to ask questions
- What did this passage mean to the original audience?
- What links are there between the original audience and us?
- What does this passage mean to me as I read it today?
To answer these questions takes a lot of work on our part - we need to set time aside, we need to read, we need to work, we need to be honest, we need to be open and prepared to make changes to our lives on the basis of what we discover. We may need to repair relationships, we may need to apologise to people, we may need to make life changing decisions. That is the adventure of reading God’s word and applying it to our lives.
When we take a passage of scripture - there may be things which we do not understand - that’s OK! (after 3 years of theological trainning, and many many years of reading for myself I will be the first to put my hand up and say that there are lots of things in the Bible I don’t understand), perhaps we find difficult, perhaps words, phrases disturb us, perhaps they challenge us to change. When we read the Bible we do so not as dispassionate observers but people looking to find out what God is up to , what God was and is saying to his people. in the past. present and indeed future.
I remember clearly one such time, in third year, sitting in the Lecture theatre of Banbridge High School - when all the teachers were telling us why we should choose their subjects for GCSE, why art would be necessary for this or that, why geography is the key to the future etc etc. At that time I remember clearly recalling a passage of scripture which I have taken and owned - That of Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Yes I knew it in my head - I had memorised this verse from Sunday School years before but once it impacted my heart then I knew throghout my whole being that God did indeed have plans. The adventure is living those out every day.
The prophet Jeremiah, wrote those words long ago to a people needing comfort, a people needing direction. But God, by the Holy Spirit still uses those ancient words today - To encourage, to direct, to guide his people
In our Old Testament reading this evening we have been reminded The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.
We are so fortunate here that we have so many resources for studying the scriptures - Bible reading notes, Bible Translations, courses, study groups and other methods. This morning I was speaking on the same topic - that of the importance and as people were going out various parishioners asked me about Bible notes and Bible Translations which would be useful to them. I hope to have a chat about Bibles with them.
If anyone here would like to find out a bit more about Bible study notes please do get in touch with me or E P who is the Parish rep for Bible Study notes.
If we do neglect our Bible Study, we are missing out on a huge part of God’s Blessing - can I encourage you to do what we prayed in our collect today -read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the pages of the Bible - so that your relationship with God may grow. Yes you will be challenged, yes you may well come up with questions which you never thought of before. But as a people whose worship is centred upon word and sacrament we need to take the Bible seriously in order to grow.
But also remember that it is not just head but also heart and soul as well.
Let us pray...