1st Sunday of Lent
Talk: March 5th 2017 Why read the bible?
So, if you are sitting comfortably, we will begin! What are you expecting as soon as I say that? Once upon a time... story! Do you remember when... story!
Year of the Bible.
Our Bishops want us to encourage each other to read this book!
Home Group is 6 weeks looking at differing genres in the bible. The session the home groups are looking at the moment is an overview to the bible. Not going to look at overview so much as to ask why bother with reading bible in the first place!?
What are your answers? Why read the bible?
Out of interest, what was the last book you read and you told a friend that it was a really good book and why it was such a good book? So, what makes a good book good?
Plot; story; has to connect somewhere... Empathise with characters. You want badies to lose and goodies to win!
Favourite authors: David Baldacci; Ben Elton
Stories are really, really, important! We make sense of our lives by telling stories to each other. We each have a family story.
Programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’ which explore the family stories of so-called celebrities. In making sense of our family story we can often make more sense of who we are! We use fictional stories not just for enjoyment, but they help us to explore differing situations and issues. Ever find yourself so emerged in a story its like you are there? You are not just enjoying the story, rather you are ‘in it’ and unconsciously you are drawing stuff from it? A good writer has the ability to influence you!
Not just writers, but likewise our family stories shape us. I’ve got quite a strong work-ethic. I get that from my dad – working class man who lived in Edmonton, north London. Work hard and better yourself!
His ethic, which he drew from his story had shaped me – and I guess we can all tell such stories, too. And we are constantly telling stories. Down the pub, over coffee we share our life-story with one another. Basically, we make sense of the world around us, all that we can see, all of our experiences, as well as all the bits of life that we can’t see, we make sense of that through words, through stories.
Now, when you hear someone say: oh, you don’t understand me! Its invariably because that the other person doesn’t feel their story has been listened too. Ever had that experience when you speak to an official of some description when you’ve left and said – that was too rushed, Didn’t feel she was interested in my story! That’s because you don’t feel you’ve been listened to. Stories are so important!!
And in using the word story, it doesn’t necessarily man a made up fantasy, our lives, our experiences, our ‘truths’ are conveyed as stories. I wonder why this is so? Its the way we are designed to be!
And in that sense, it can be of absolutely no surprise that God reveals himself through a story. Okay, humans have written this down, but God’s story is divinely inspired. So, the bible. God’s story. How God reveals himself to us is through a story! Or, rather, through a library!
The library contains 66 books – 39 in the older part (the Old Testament) and 27 in the newer part (the New Testament). The writing of them took over 1,000 years. And the history they cover runs more or less from the beginning of time (creation) to about 100 AD.
Of course, NT captures Jesus’ time of earth. It speaks of people, the early church, making sense of this encounter with God; with Jesus. And for those who are part of God’s family, well, its our family story. It makes sense of who we are. It helps make sense of the human condition. Yet, more than that, it provides the opportunity to shape us to. It should be shaping us, influencing who we are, what we will be. Influencing us as a church, driving us forward, as its God’s story.
And yet, biblical literacy within our churches is not great!
If it were, we wouldn’t be having a year of the bible!
But it is our story!
And it raises the question. Why don’t that many like to read this book? What do you think some of the responses are? For some, it will be because they simply don’t see the point. Happy to come on Sunday and to enjoy meeting with people. But to read bible during the week – well, that’s just taking things a bit too seriously!
Yet, if your doctor said ‘read this book and engage with it – it will help with your stress levels; help make sense of who you are…” you would – and you see the evidence of that in the rise of self-help books in books shops and supermarkets.
You see, humans are in need of a big story to help make sense of their lives. I mentioned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs a couple of week’s ago at 11am. Some will have seen this – base line needs to be secure for individuals to flourish and that baseline includes having a big story like the bible story. He says: “The tendency to have some religion or world-philosophy that organizes the universe and the men in it into some sort of satisfactorily coherent, meaningful whole is also in part motivated by safety-seeking (2013, 16).
We need a big story to engage with and if we aren’t reading that story, we’ll have problems! That base line is unstable, built up on different stories. And that’s not that secure! e need a big story to make sense of life and God’s given us one!
For some, the bible is too big a book with too many long words! That’s why the Lent Course is going to be helpful, to make sense of how the bible holds together. Its actually not that scary a book! Although, unlike most books I wouldn’t start reading at the beginning!
If you’ve never read it before, begin with a Gospel – if you want the shortest – read Mark, If you like stories, read Luke. If you are a deep thinker try John and if you like laws and lists, read Matthew. Actually, why not set yourself a challenge, to read a Gospel over the next week and a bit?! Read it in big chunks if you can. Let the character of Jesus both stir and annoy you! Let him get under your skin a bit! And also wonder, too, at why he put himself through it all – because, bluntly, he loves you!
Then read Acts. Think about how radical and dangerous what those first church builders did was! That is was the Holy Spirit that propelled them to act. Read it as a story and let it get inside you a bit! You don’t have to be like Dot Cotton! Quoting old English bible verses! But getting what Jesus says about peace, for example, that can be life changing. Wrestling with the bible, asking difficult questions of it; holding on to the promises it makes and pursuing them. Its robust enough to do so! So, get a copy that makes sense as you read it!
Yes, there are bits of the bible that are troublesome – Book of Judges is one key book many wrestle with, but that shouldn’t be an excuse not to read it! Rather, read it, wrestle with it and join the conversation!! You see, having that divine edge it will stir and challenge as well as giving great confidence in life as well. And as Mark Twain is reported to have said: It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
And so right!
Because loving one another like Jesus wants us to, frankly is challenge, isn’t it! And that was the experience of Cleopas and friend who were walking away from Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday. Without knowing they met the risen Jesus. They talk with him and Jesus gives them a super-charged bible study looking at OT parts of the bible – simply sharing stories with them!
And the reaction of the two when they realise that Jesus is speaking to them: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?”
And that’s the thing – we read it not just as story. We read it so our hearts can burn! That’s God’s activity in you and you have a choice to run with that or to ignore that, which, frankly is a daft thing to do!!
That’s the thing – it God stirs us through what we read, and we react to that, then, we’re reacting with God’s story. And that’s God beginning to bring shape to our lives. And our corporate life together – that is, church – God shaping our church. And I bet you, that as you read that sense of burning, of stirring, of force has been experienced by you. And if not, prayerfully bring that in to your reading:
“God – I want this! – Reveal something of yourself to me!”
Find somewhere to be still for a bit – have a coffee if you need one!
Maybe pen and paper.
Before you read it, prayerfully ask God to join in your reading session. And try and build it into your daily routine. So, good book worth reading! How are you doing in reading it?
What can we do as a church to encourage you?
Its your story – be encouraged to get stuck in and read it!