The sheer activity of reading scripture … is itself an act of faith, hope, and love, an act of humility and patience. It is a way of saying that we need to hear a fresh word, a word of grace, perhaps even a word of judgment as well as healing, warning as well as welcome. To open the Bible is to open a window toward Jerusalem, as Daniel did, no matter where our exile may have taken us. ~ After You Believe, N.T. Wright
A temptation in the contemplative life is to step away from our theological and Biblical underpinnings and become self absorbed in one’s own experience of God. Prayer, meditation, and contemplation are important practices, but without turning and returning to the Word of God in scripture we may lose our bearings. The witness of those who came before us, which we find recorded in the narratives, histories, wisdom literature, and poetry of the Bible forms us in the mystery of the human experience of the Holy One.
Yes, the Bible is sexist, racist, contradictory, bound by historical events, political realities, tribal animosities, tedious, nonsensical, and a host of other limitations imp0sed by the motley crew of human beings, who have put their hands on it. The Bible also has the hands of the Holy One on it. It is shot through with the sublime and transcendent Holy Spirit, who has chosen to associate with our species (only God knows why) and expose itself to all our messes, as it calls us and holds us accountable to a Being greater than we ourselves.
Reading the Bible is like opening up a dusty old trunk in the attic full of family records, dim photos, grade cards, farm records, yellowed newspaper clippings, diaries, bills of sale, and baby booties. Why did they save this? What was so important about this clipping that someone put it away so carefully? Oh, look, there is great great grandpa by the old homestead. Hey, listen to this entry. It’s about great uncle Harry’s trial for stealing horses, “They led the disheveled man in chains into the courtroom…”
In scripture we learn about our roots, who God is and who God calls us to be. We come to know the nature of God, the limitations and weakness of the creation and what it means to be in right relationship with God, with ourselves and with one another. Scripture is a privileged place of meeting the Holy One and a powerful means of spiritual growth.
The discipline of daily Bible reading and reflection holds our feet to the fire. We are unable to squirm away from confronting difficult texts, hard sayings, and truths we may not want to hear. Being moored to scripture keeps us from floating off into philosophical abstraction and metaphysical flights of fancy, by anchoring us to the specific ground of God’s revelation in time and space in particular communities and individuals. Likewise reading scripture encourages us to pay attention to God’s revelation in the concrete messy details of our own lives.
Here is a resource for daily Bible Study I highly recommend.
Disciplines – A Book of Daily Devotions 2013. Find light for your daily walk with God through The Upper Room Disciplines. In this best-selling devotional book, 53 writers from diverse Christian backgrounds and locales help you explore the Bible’s message for your life.
New in 2013: Each week opens with a Scripture Overview, followed by four questions or suggestions for reflection for personal or small-group use. Widely available online and at your local bookstore in Kindle and paperback, Disciplines 2013 makes a thoughtful gift for Sunday school teachers, pastors, or anyone who wants to mine the rich treasures of scripture.
I am honored to again be invited to contribute a week of reflections on the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. But don’t buy the book just to read my thoughts. You will discover fifty three other writers, waiting to guide you into the transforming encounter with the Word of God. ~ Loretta F. Ross Take and Read
Here is a little story about the power of reading the Bible.
I was . . . .weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighboring house, chanting, and oft repeating, ”Take and read; take and read.”
Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words; nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon.
For I had heard of Antony, that, accidentally coming in whilst the gospel was being read, he received the admonition as if what was read were addressed to him, “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.” And by such oracle was he forthwith converted unto Thee.
So quickly I returned to the place where . . . . I had put down the volume of the apostles, when I rose thence. I grasped, opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell, — “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended, — by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart, — all the gloom of doubt vanished away. ~ St. Augustine, Confessions