Saturday, January 22, 2011

the greatest story

It's been a while since I've posted.  I wrote this column for yesterday's newspaper.

I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. I’m going to read my Bible more. Shocking isn’t it? A pastor who needs to read his Bible more. I read the Bible plenty, but it’s for work. I read the Bible when I’m preparing a sermon or a confirmation class lesson and we read from the Bible in worship, but I don’t very often just read the Bible for me. So that’s what I’ve resolved to do.

So it’s a few weeks into the New Year. How am I doing with my resolution? I don’t read the Bible every day, but I do more than I did before. I’m not beating myself up about it. Just because you slip doesn’t mean you give up. You can start over and over again and I intend to keep on keeping on.

The Bible is an amazing book, written and assembled by many different people over hundreds of years. It contains ancient mythologies, histories, laws, teachings, prayers, liturgies, love poetry, wisdom literature, prophetic messages, letters, strange visions. There’s a whole lot of variety in the various parts of the Bible.

Some people actually find the Bible frightening and intimidating. That’s understandable. The Bible is an old book written by people living in times and places very different from our own. The language and images used aren’t contemporary so it can be hard to understand. That’s okay, though. You don’t have to be an expert to start reading. It’s okay to have questions, to be confused by some things.

In our church we’ve just started a course called “the greatest story.” It’s an introduction and big-picture overview of the Bible, its story, and how that story connects to our own personal stories and lives. From now until early June we’re going to discover what this strange, sometimes frightening and intimidating book is all about.

I’ve studied the Bible quite a bit over the years, some parts of it more than others, and I always find it fascinating. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a history book like the ones you might read in a history class, it’s not a science textbook like the ones you’d read in a biology class. The Bible is a book of faith. It’s a book written by human beings about the relationship between God and humanity, about God’s experiences with the Jewish and Christian communities.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Bible is a living book. A good book can be life changing, any good book. The words in the Bible are the living word of God that is life changing and life saving. Martin Luther taught that the Bible is like the manger that held the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. The scriptures hold Christ, the living word, God’s address to us.

The Bible holds the living Christ who, as the scriptures are read and proclaimed, lives as God’s address to us. As we read and hear the words of scripture the Holy Spirit opens our ears and our hearts to help us believe the living word and illusions are shattered, old ways are rejected, new life is born, enemies are reconciled, a family is created, and disciples heed the call to follow Jesus.

That’s amazing. It really is the greatest story. I just have to keep reminding myself of that and it’ll be a lot easier to stick to that New Year’s resolution.

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