This is the Last Sunday after Trinity – Bible Sunday. An easy question to start – What is the Bible? No tricks, no intellectual potholes to negotiate – just one simple question – What is the Bible?
- A very special book.
- The most influential collection of literature in the history of the world.
- 66 books – 39 – OT; 27 – NT.
- 66 books written over a period of 1200 years.
- ¾ million words shaped into different genres –
- and, of course, Gospels
- Accounts of God’s interactions and relationship with humanity.
- The story of God himself sharing in the totality of human experience – from birth to death.
- AND – far too often – the Bible is reduced to a compendium of familiar stories and handy catchphrases.
So – back to my opening question – What is the Bible?
The Bible is certainly a collection of 66 books written over a long period of time. Even its collective name (The Bible) reinforces that fact – Bible derives from the Greek word, biblia, which means ‘books’.
BUT – rather than being a holy encyclopaedia, the Bible is a story.
It is the story of God’s relationship with his people – a relationship that will not allow itself to be reduced to some handy logical formula.
The Bible is a story of support, encouragement, guidance – and discipline; the Bible is not a textbook, even though it is a book of texts!!!
Sometimes, the Bible challenges us to put aside our questions, our logical arguments, and our preconceived ideas in order that we might let God himself speak to us through its words.
The Word of God (the Bible) only comes alive when we actually read it, and begin to pray about what it means in our everyday lives.
We need to engage with Scripture in a contemplative and prayerful way – and that means being prepared, at times, to hear what we do not want to hear.
So often, familiar stories from the Bible are quoted to me – usually inaccurately.
What that inaccuracy tells me is that the person speaking to me is not really engaging with scripture – rather they are relying on their memory of scripture.
Like most priests, I have got a file with all the sermons I have ever preached in it.
- Despite my diligence in saving the final version of each week’s sermon – I know that I am wasting my time.
- I can, and will, never re-use any of them.
- Every single time I come back to a passage in scripture – I find something different.
- Each time I read a passage, no matter how familiar it might be, I hear God saying something different.
- Very often it is something totally new and unfamiliar.
Sometimes just one or two words can take me on a whole new journey as I seek to encounter God in my life.
And when that happens – in that split second – the living God breathes through the words of scripture anew.
Of course, none of that excitement can be experienced if the Bible stays on the shelf or the coffee table – and never gets opened, let alone read!
Today is Bible Sunday – a day when we are called to recognize the importance of scripture in defining who we are as a community of faith.
Today we acknowledge that this collection of writings is for our instruction, and for our encouragement –
it is also the source of sure hope – a true gift from God.
Today and every day we are called to read and pray so that the word of God may become so familiar that the ears of our hearts may be tuned to the unfamiliar and the unexpected – AND that we may be ready for the unexpected possibilities the God of Life and Love offers to us all.
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